This year I was fortunate enough to return "home" - my first visit back during the months of summer since I emigrated to Australia (a long time ago!)
The emphasis for this trip was predominantly to catch up with friends and family. Though we also squeezed in a two week self-drive exploration of previously unexplored parts of both England & Wales.
Some of the highlights from our first few days in the South were the fabulous Bombay Sapphire Distillery, just outside the picturesque village of Whitchurch - on the River Test. The self guided tour here is highly recommended (pre-booking essential) and at the end you'll be rewarded with a custom created cocktail!
And a quick stop at Stonehenge - which is always an otherworldly experience.
From here we stayed in the Welsh village of Laugharne (home to the famous Welsh poet Dylan Thomas), the seaside town Tenby (so pretty that I took a couple of hundred photos here alone!!) and of course my home town of Abergavenny.
Definite highlights in this region were the pilgrimage site of St Davids - home to our patron saint (St David) and a pretty unique Cathedral. As an added bonus, the drive here along the ragged coast was spectacular.
The friendly town of Pembroke, with it's magnificent castle. And the little chapel of Saint Govan's - tucked deep in to the cliff side of a sometimes inaccessible Ministry of Defence piece of land. Well worth the trouble to reach it!
I achieved a life long dream (nerd alert) of finally visiting Chatsworth House, Derbyshire (home to some pretty amazing characters - and of course some equally amazing gardens.) It didn't disappoint. And neither did the surrounding countryside which was amongst some of the loveliest that we encountered on our whole trip. Luckily our time here coincided with a great exhibition "House Style", featuring five centuries of fashion and adornment at Chatsworth.
We were staying in nearby Youlegreave. And of course (being a notorious glutton) made time to stop in at Bakewell, just down the road, for some famous Bakewell pudding.
Continuing our journey north we spent some time in the incomparable Lake District. The walks were incredible - and the pub lunches after a just reward! If you encounter a rainy day here and walking is not such an option I could definitely recommend the charming art deco cinema in Bowness Windermere. It's been in operation for over 90 years!!
The home (and garden) of Beatrix Potter at Hill Top was a lovely pit stop on the way to Yorkshire. As was Holker Hall - another property belonging to the Devonshire family (of Chatsworth fame.) We stopped there for a lovely lunch in the sunshine, and then an independent ramble around the Hall and gardens.
Our base in Yorkshire was the village of Grassington. And I wouldn't stay anywhere else. From here you are easily able to access walks in all directions across the Yorkshire Dales. We took a leisurely stroll from here to Burnsall, a quintessential taste of this part of the country. And it's a good position to access the larger town of Skipton (30mins away) for a change of pace if you've had enough of village life. Again, my nerd factor is in evidence - I got to visit the Haworth Parsonage (home to the Bronte sisters.) Google took us on a rather circuitous (but interesting route) through some nail biting back streets (how these are supposed to accommodate more than one car is beyond me!) Especially at 60 miles per hour. The Parsonage was exceptional and would be a must see for fans and non fans alike - if only for the sneak peek in to Victorian life.
We dropped our car off in Leeds and took the train back in to London. Based in the hip suburb of Stoke Newington (Hackney) offered a different aspect of the city from my previous time here. Loved visiting the local L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele (an offshoot of the Italian pizzeria of "Eat Pray Love" fame) as well as the usual city sights (National Gallery, Hyde Park etc etc)
Until next time!