Living in London can be overwhelming from time to time. It's a busy city where you tend to feel the stress of the environment.
An overseas trip is always great, however when you don't have the time or the annual leave, a UK Countryside getaway is the best choice for a breath of fresh air. Literally. Here are my top 3 favourite UK weekend destinations!
Many people assume Cotswolds is one particular destination, however it's a whole area of rolling hills and charming countryside 40km across. We stayed in the area Stow-on-the-Wold at the Wyck Hill House & Spa, a gorgeous place centrally located for us to base ourselves for day trips.
First on the list had to be Castle Comb Village, a pleasant 1 hour drive from our hotel. The picturesque streets and no signs of modern technology makes Castle Comb a favourite set for Hollywood movies such as Dr Do-little, Stardust and Warhorse to name a few. They don't call it the 'Prettiest Village in England' for nothing, it's magical, like stepping back in time.
If you're a HP fan like myself, you're in for a magical treat. A 45 minute road trip from the centre of Cotswolds and you will find Gloucester Cathedral; the very Cathedral that was transformed into the corridors of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the Philosopher's Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Fun fact: The producers scouted the local primary school kids in Gloucester to don the wizarding uniforms and fill the halls in the Hogwarts scenes. Wishing I went to that school right about now. So jealous.
We also visited the birth place of Shakespeare in the near by Startford-upon-Avon; 40 minutes from Stow-on-the-Wold. Shakespeare's birthplace is an old market town steeped in history, culture and quaint cottages fit for SamWise Gamgee and Frodo. Pay homage to Shakespeare and visit the Royal Shakespeare Theatre to see a play and explore the house where he was born and grew up.
Oxford may be small but it is packed with magnificent universities, a range of restaurants, boutique stores and charming hotel stays which makes for a lovely weekend away.
JK Rowling chose the most stunning locations in the UK to film HP, Oxford being another famous landmark for the film franchise. The first point of call would obviously be the University of Oxford, Christ Church Cathedral. The Cathedral and grounds are not only beautifully designed but this is also where the famous Quiddich pitch scenes were filmed and based on. Also inside the Cathedral is the very hall that attracted the makers of the Harry Potter films to build a replica in the London studios!
Once my partner and I had exhausted the sightseeing, dining and shopping in the centre of Oxford, we headed to the outskirts to visit a few wineries. The vineyards scattered across Oxford specialise in white, red, rose, beer and sparkling; plenty of choices for an afternoon of tasting. Chiltern Valley Winery and Brewery, Bothy Vineyard and Brightwell Vineyard are some of the locals in Oxford.
On the way back to London, we set aside 2-3 hours for a tour of Blenheim Palace. Blenheim is a world heritage site and home to the 12th Duke and Duchess of Marlborough and birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill. The palace is stunning and the tour is very informative - though you don't need to necessarily book a tour, you can choose to stroll through at your own pace. After the tour we spent a couple of hours walking through the equally stunning grounds and gardens, stopping off at one of the cafes for a bite to eat before leaving. At £25 each for the entry fee, spending the whole day here makes it worth while and a lovely day out.
Brighton one of my favourite place to get away from the London hustle and bustle, for a weekend or even a shorter day trip. With it's beachside vibe and picturesque pastel houses, it's almost a world away from London.
We caught a short train ride down to Brighton early Saturday morning and started off the day with a walk along the beach, heading towards the pier. Brighton Pier was opening in 1988 and features rides, games and amusements with free admission. A few flashing lights and game noises and I'm like a kid at Christmas! Tons of arcade games, food stalls and some pretty fun looking roller coaster rides (although I was too chicken to go on any of them).
Afterwards we headed to the Royal Pavilion with our 2 for 1 tickets for £18 (offer available if you catch the train in to Brighton). Built as a seaside pleasure palace for King George IV, this historic house mixes regency grandeur with the visual style of India and China. The Pavilion has many rooms to see with beautiful architecture and interesting facts about King George's way of life in the 1700's.
The Lanes was another favourite spot in Brighton to roam for some retail therapy! This small area is famous for its (obvious) narrow lane ways and shops, from the retail giants (Zara, Reiss) to smaller independent and unique stores.
Take some time to refresh your soul and plan a trip to one of these lovely UK destinations!