Living in the Lap of Luxury

I like to think that I’m not very picky. Give me cotton sheets over silk, custard over creme brûlée, or cava over champagne and I’ll be just as happy. And, until last weekend, I would have chosen a trip abroad over a staycation in a heartbeat. Yet, last weekend changed all of that.

It was only my staycation in the Cotswolds that made me realise that I hadn’t yet witnessed true luxury. In fact, last weekend was very special indeed. Tim and I treated ourselves to a luxury location, a luxury place to rest our heads, a luxury car, and I honestly don’t think we’ve ever eaten better in our lives… Let me tell you more.

Luxury area

The Cotswolds

The Cotswolds is an area of outstanding natural beauty, spanning 6 counties in the west of England. It is known for its rolling hills, quaint little villages and farmland, and visitors flock in their millions to visit it every year. It’s also home to magnificent country hotels, private mansions and .. We certainly felt like we were in the right place for our luxury weekend away!

Our hotel was set in the outskirts of Evesham, a small market town to the north of the Cotswolds, but we didn’t actually visit the town itself.  The view out across the hills from our hotel window was treat enough, and we had our fair share of pretty market towns, with visits planned to Bourton-on-the-Water, Moreton-in-Marsh and Stow-in-the-Wold. Side note: I have no idea why so many towns around here have long, hyphenated names, but there’s something quite luxurious about it, isn’t there? They’re even trying to make Staines sound a bit more upmarket by changing its name to Staines-upon-Thames, but unfortunately it just doesn’t have the same ring to it!

Bourton on the Water

Bourton-on-the-Water is certainly my pick of the bunch. Characterised by its small, shallow stream running through it and little footbridges helping you cross, it’s one of the cutest and quaintest little towns I’ve ever been to. And there’s a surprising amount to do there! Get lost in the Dragonfly Maze, meet bright pink flamingos at Birdland, feel like a giant at the model village, and see hundreds of vintage cars in the Motor Museum (also home to kid’s favourite, Brum!)

Bourton on the Water motor museum

See what else there is to do at Cotswolds.com

Luxury accommodation

The Wood Norton, Evesham

The Wood Norton is a luxury hotel set in a 19th century building that used to belong to exiled French Royalty – so it certainly has some stories to tell! There’s a variety of rooms, from standard rooms in a separate annex, to upgraded rooms and suites in the main hall. They’re all comfortable, clean and stylish with huge beds that you can just sink into. Guests can also take advantage of the bar, restaurant, gym and, my favourite, games room where we played pool until the wee hours.

Wood Norton room

The inside is beautiful, but the grounds are even better. In front of the hotel is a sweeping lawn overlooking some of the best of the Cotswolds’ scenery. To the side is a beautifully laid out garden designed by English Heritage full of rosebushes and other British classics.

The only downside of the place was the wedding that took place on Saturday night. Though they had their own private area, the guests overran the main bar as their dance floor was rolled out, yet we were the ones that felt like we were gatecrashing. I can only imagine how the poor bride felt when we rocked up in chinos and day dresses!

None of this would have been possible without Secret Escapes, where we found an incredible deal. Two night stay in an upgraded room, full English breakfast, 5 course dinner on the first night, a jug of Pimms and 25% off Afternoon Tea, all for under £250!

Check out the latest deals on secretescapes.com. I certainly will!

Luxury transport

BMW i8

Probably our favourite part of the trip, and the most luxury of them all, was our transport. I was lucky enough to win a BMW i8 super car for the weekend, thanks to a last minute raffle ticket at a charity quiz night. It’s my favourite win ever, followed a close second by a year’s supply of cheese!

We felt like rock stars in that car, our bright blue hybrid turning heads at traffic lights and becoming the subject of photos in car parks. And it was an absolute dream to drive – so comfortable, light, fast… I’ve fallen totally in love.

Why not rent your own for a weekend? It’s something I think everyone should do, just once in their lifetimes.

Luxury food

Wood Norton dinner

Warning: This will make you very hungry.

The Wood Norton’s Fleur de Lys restaurant is renowned for its five course tasting menu that we were lucky enough to try. My meal of pea amuse bouche, tomato starter, quince sorbet, fish main and passion fruit souffle dessert was incredible. Everything was delicious and oh-so-beautifully decorated. If the saying is true that you eat with your eyes, I was full before even opening my mouth.

With five courses to eat, I was petrified that I would have to be removed by a stretcher, but what they don’t tell you is that the courses aren’t very big. In fact, I even ordered cheese to finish.

The next morning, I ate a vegetarian Full English Breakfast with yoghurt and pastries, and filled up on lunch at Bourton-on-the-Water. For dinner, I ordered pasta with a side of pasta at the hotel bar (yes that is most definitely double carbing). My final breakfast was scrambled eggs and smoked salmon.

I haven’t eaten since.

Wood Norton dinner

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All in all, I would thoroughly recommend a trip to The Cotswolds. It’s a beautiful and interesting place that’s well worth a visit. But if you do go, do it in style. I’ve certainly gotten a taste for the high life and I think I’ll struggle to go back to normal.

Yet, this trip gave me more than just a taste of luxury – it reminded me that you don’t have to go abroad to have a great trip. In fact, I’m already planning another UK trip and I can’t wait to take it.

Have you ever been to the Cotswolds? Do you find that a little luxury helps or hinders a trip?

My Big Fat American Road Trip

Way back in 2009, I landed in Los Angeles ready for an adventure. I was nervous, but with 3 USA stamps already in my passport, the country felt strangely familiar. In fact, I had even visited Los Angeles before, but this time, there was one key difference. I was on my own…

…Well, kind of. I was going to be staying with friends and then heading out on a Trek America tour of the West, but that was as solo as my travel was going to get with my parents’ permission.

The itinerary would take me through California, Arizona and Nevada. They say you never forget your first time, so I was determined to make this (almost) solo trip one worth remembering. Here’s what I got up to on my month long adventure:

Las Vegas

Las Vegas

You might be surprised to read this, but I genuinely think Las Vegas was the highlight of my trip. I was definitely in the right demographic – aged 21 so I could drink, aged 21 so I didn’t care how much. Granted, I spent the whole of day 2 immobilised by a hangover, but the night before was worth it.

  • See a show
    The theatres in Vegas are the perfect place to shelter from the heat and soothe that headache. Las Vegas gets more than its fair share of unique performers, but I was more taken by a West End classic – The Lion King. But if that doesn’t take your fancy, why not try Cirque du Soleil, Blue Man Group or a riqsue cabaret? There’s bound to be something you like!

Bellagio fountain

  • Bellagio fountain show
    Ever since watching Ocean’s 11 (the remake of course – big Brad Pitt fan here!), I wanted to visit the Bellagio, and it did not disappoint. The fountains at the end of the movie are even more moving when you see them in person, and with the water movements set to “Time to Say Goodbye” by Andrea Bocelli, I couldn’t hold back the emotion. The lights, the music, the water… everything was perfect… except I was hungry so my next visit was to…
  • Bellagio buffet
    Wow, wow, wow. I have never seen so much food in one place, all delicately arranged, all tastefully designed. My biggest regret in life was that I had a hangover and paid $40 to eat just one slice of pizza before feeling too sick to continue. And so my recommendation to you, dear readers, is this. If you go to the Bellagio buffet, for the love of god do it on an empty stomach and well before you’ve had too much to drink.

Paris Hotel, Las Vegas

  • Walk the strip and wander through hotels
    My favourite thing to do in Vegas was just wander aimlessly. The heat of the city can make this impossible to do but, lucky for you, this city doesn’t sleep! So that jet lag is no excuse – get your “I can’t sleep because it’s 10am where I’m from” butt outside and wander the strip. My top picks are the Venetian – where you can have a ride in a replica gondola down a replica Venice Canal; New York New York – where you can ride a rollercoaster that whizzes past the Statue of Liberty’s face; and Caesar’s Palace where you can ride a spiral escalator! It’s worth it just for that. Go on, get exploring.
  • Gamble!
    Except don’t gamble, because I can’t be seen to encourage that kind of thing around here.

Grand Canyon

Oh yes… Perhaps USA’s most visited natural wonder, the Grand Canyon is somewhere that photos seriously don’t do justice to. You have to go. Now! Here’s my pick of the bunch of things to do while you’re there:

Grand Canyon sunrise

  • Get there in time for sunrise
    Our TrekAmerica guide did something amazing. She got us all out of bed at 4:30am and tied blindfolds around our heads as she guided us to the edge. No – this wasn’t some kind of ritualistic ceremony, but a fantastic way to help us appreciate the shock and awe of seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time. As soon as our blindfolds were released, we saw it. And it was amazing.

Grand Canyon helicopter

  • Helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon
    I cannot recommend this enough. Back then, I considered it a once in a lifetime experience, and that still rings true. I haven’t been on another helicopter since, partly because I don’t think any others would even come close, but mostly because they’re bloody expensive. Still – that feeling of seeing the Grand Canyon after watching the earth disappear beneath you is something I’ll never forget.

Los Angeles

I’ll be honest – Los Angeles is probably one of the only cities that I wouldn’t make the effort to go back to. I found it grubby, overcrowded and, quite frankly, not very interesting. But, there are some gems to see if you know where to look.

Walk of Fame

  • Walk of Fame, ending up at Mann’s Chinese Theatre
    Like most of my adventures in Los Angeles, you could take or leave it. It’s fun trying to find your favourite star, or the celebrity with the same sized hands as you but, beyond that, the Walk of Fame isn’t that entertaining. However, I did enjoy a guided tour of Mann’s Chinese Theatre (the home of the Academy Awards), where we got to sit in the front row as if we were Oscars nominees. Though be warned – it’s much smaller than they make it look on TV, so you’ll never see the Oscars in the same light again.

Saddle Ranch, Los Angeles

  • Saddle Ranch restaurant, Sunset Strip
    Forgive me. It’s nearly dinner time and I’m hungry, so I couldn’t not mention food, right? And the Saddle Ranch on Sunset Strip is definitely worth a visit. I can’t remember what the food was actually like, or even how the service was, but what I do remember is the experience. I had such a great time talking to the cowgirl waitresses, soaking up the Western atmosphere and having a go on the Bucking Bronco. Yes – they have one dead centre in the restaurant for all to see… I’d recommend having a go before you eat. We tucked into barbecue classics, and by finishing with smores in the back yard, you couldn’t get much more American than that.

Hollywood Sign

  • Hollywood sign (from a distance!)
    You see it on TV and in all the magazines, but is it really that special seeing it up close? No – I don’t think so. I hiked a bit of the mountain to see a massive H, but the real magic is being able to read “Hollywood” in its entirety, and for that you need to be at a distance. The sign isn’t ready for its close up just yet.

Universal Studios

  • Universal Studios
    Yes, it’s tacky and probably way overpriced these days but it’s so much fun. And if you’re a blockbuster movie fan like me, you’ll love it. You can come face to face with Jaws, float down a dinosaur infested river and meet Homer Simpson all in the same place. It’s somewhere I think you should go at least once in your life, and to prove it, I’ve been twice.

San Francisco

Despite the fog, it’s a pretty wonderful city – probably my favourite in the USA actually. It’s got a very different feeling to it than most other cities: it’s quite laid back, eclectic and dare I say it ‘alternative’. I felt more comfortable here than anywhere else, and I can definitely see myself going back.

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

  • Golden Gate Bridge
    You can’t not, can you? Perhaps one of the most recognisable attractions in the USA, it’s worth taking your time on this one. I walked across it, drove across it, went on a boat under it, all in order to find its best angle. But, truth be told, it’s pretty epic no matter where you look at it from. I’ve never been so excited to see a bridge before, and I think you’ll be surprised by how excited you get too.

Alcatraz, San Francisco

  • Alcatraz
    I love places with stories, and Alcatraz definitely has a few to tell. That’s obvious from the etchings of despair in the walls, the riotous bullet holes in the floor, and the bent cell bars from failed escape attempts. Despite being abandoned for nearly 40 years, the prison on Alcatraz Island still feels used – as if you’ll turn a corner and stumble across Al Capone in his cell. That’s the beauty of the museum – they’ve left it as close to real as possible, with only a few exhibits and information signs to aid your imagination.

Yosemite

One for you nature lovers, Yosemite National Park does not disappoint. I still look back at the photos and sigh at how beautiful it all is. Those waterfalls… that greenery… the wildlife… It’s a bit of a trek from the major cities in California, but trust me, it’s worth the journey.

Yosemite National Park Camping

  • Camping in the park
    Remember that I was young and so could sleep on the roughest of terrains – but I wouldn’t have done it any other way. My group had so much fun sitting around the campfire making s’mores and drinking Coors Light (I’m sorry – I didn’t understand beer back then!) You can get a surprisingly comfortable night’s sleep if you have the right equipment and are prepared to hide from the…

Wild bear in Yosemite

  • Wild bears!
    We were lucky enough to see a bear just metres from us… actually let me rephrase that. We were lucky enough not to get eaten by a bear just metres from us. I vividly remember the “safety briefing” we were treated to upon arrival, which said “If a bear attacks you, make yourself as big as possible, scream and shout and punch it on the nose. Whatever you do, don’t run.” Thankfully we didn’t need to follow the advice, as we were behind trees when we spotted this beautiful brown bear in a clearing. It was a sight I’ll never forget.

Hiking Yosemite

  • Hiking
    The only way to truly see the beauty of the National Park is on foot. Yosemite is known for its waterfalls, and hiking up from the bottom to the top of a waterfall is really special. Some of the sections are troublesome and a bit scary if you’re not steady on your feet, but there are plenty of warning signs and barriers to keep you safe. Remember – this is America – could you imagine the law suit?!

Route 66

I’ll be honest – a lot of Route 66 is dull. But it’s still pretty cool to be able to say I’ve driven some of it. When we weren’t staring at the open road, we were complaining about the person upfront’s music choices, carefully avoiding the donkeys that roam free or admiring the incredible scenery. Keep your eyes peeled – you never know what you might miss.

Donkeys on Route 66

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Can you remember your first solo travel experience? Where did you go and what did you do? Do you have any more tips to share on west coast USA?

Ultimate City Guide: Valencia, Spain

Valencia is, without a doubt, my favourite city in the world. I’ve been there twice in as many years and I can see myself doing the same for a long time to come yet. Travellers rarely visit the same place twice, due to their innate need to tick as many places off their list as possible, and I used to agree with them; until I went to Valencia.

Spain’s third largest city behind Madrid and Barcelona, Valencia is one of those places that really does have it all: beautiful weather, delicious food, incredible scenery and a list of things to do as long as the Túria River Gardens (9km if you’re interested!). It’s that combination that has made it impossible for me to stay away. As soon as I step off the plane at Valencia airport, you can’t wipe the smile off my face until it’s time to leave. The place just feels so much like home, and I am totally completely and utterly head over heels in love with it. So much so that my husband is getting jealous.

If that’s not enough to get you searching SkyScanner for flights, here’s my ultimate Valencia city guide to whet your appetite even more.

Where to stay

There’s a huge variety of places to stay in Valencia, and somewhere to suit every budget. I think the best areas to stay in are the Old Town or Eixample as you’re close to everything and the streets are incredibly safe at night. Here are my top picks for a great night’s sleep:

  • Private apartment (Airbnb) – On my most recent trip, I stayed in the most fantastic apartment. It was comfortable, perfectly located within walking distance of all the major sights, and – better than gold dust – it had air conditioning! It was also incredibly reasonably priced, so I’d definitely recommend checking out Airbnb first before even thinking about a hotel.
  • Hotel – Set in a bustling area of the Old Town, the Vincci Lys is a bit of alright. It’s luxuriously decorated, the rooms are super comfy and the breakfast buffet is delicious. It’s a bit more expensive than other hotels in the area, but you can’t always put a price on perfection. Well, you can, and it’s worth it.

How to get around

Valencia is an incredibly easy city to get around. Most of the sights are in the Old Town, which is a neat and compact diamond in the centre of the city. Beyond it, Valencia’s residential neighbourhoods, beach town and remaining sights are all within easy reach, thanks to the wide variety of transport available:

  • Walk – In my opinion, the best way to get around Valencia is on foot. How else could you get lost in all the back streets? You can walk across the Old Town in less than half an hour, but with something beautiful on every corner, the city deserves a bit of a linger.
  • Bike – Valencia is incredibly bike friendly. You can rent a bike from numerous points across the city with Valenbisi, and with cycle lanes all over, it’s a safe, affordable and healthy way to travel beyond the Old Town.
  • Metro – Definitely the fastest way to get about, a single journey will cost max. €4.90 (including a reusable ticket) but there are deals to be had if you buy multi trip tickets from kiosks. All the trains and stations are clean, and the best part? It has air conditioning! Just be careful because you can’t get everywhere with the metro, but you can get close.
  • Bus/tram – Best for the places you can’t get to by metro, buses and trams are a great alternative. You can get closer to the action, and with a single costing only €1.50, it won’t break the bank either. The only downside is that it can take a long time to get somewhere, the buses tend to be busy and really hot.

What to do

It would be easy to come to Valencia and do nothing – there’s something incredibly relaxing about that climate and the laid back way of life. But there’s so much to do and see in the area that it would be a sin not to make the most of the opportunities available:

  • School – Not a traditional holiday past time, but one of the best things I’ve ever done, why not spend a week at school? The International House school Españole offers intensive Spanish lessons in the heart of Valencia. You could spend your mornings learning this beautiful language (much more fun that it sounds) and the afternoons exploring the city, relaxing or partying with your new Spanish speaking friends. Seriously, think about it.
    Espanole school, Valencia
  • Turia Gardens – The Turia Garden is my absolute favourite spot in the city. Filling the gap left behind by the rerouted Turia River following disastrous floods, the garden is full of walking paths, palm trees, delightfully smelling plants and flowing water features. It’s a wonderfully serene area, and the trees offer some welcome shade from the stifling power of the sun. It runs to the north and east of the Old Town, and a leisurely walk through it to the south will find you at the City of Arts & Sciences.
    River Turia Gardens, Valencia
  • City of Arts & Sciences – Being a bit of a cultural hotspot, Valencia is full of museums, none more appealing than those at the City of Arts & Sciences. This is home to the largest aquarium in Europe, a fascinating science museum and a spectacular Opera House. They are all housed in real feats of modern architecture that would look more at home on a movie set than in an ancient Spanish city, but it works. The City of Arts & Sciences is one of the most visited attractions in Valencia, and it’s easy to see why. Even if you don’t go in the museums, you have to at least see them.
    City of Arts and Sciences, Valencia
  • Cathedral – For those with more traditional tastes, the spectacular Cathedral should be on your list of things to do. Built in a Gothic style in the 13th century, it’s absolutely beautiful both inside and out. If you’re brave enough (and have enough water with you – it’s hot!), take the steps of the Miguelete tower all the way to the top. The views are stunning and definitely worth the climb. Just remember to hold your ears as the bell starts to chime – it’s deafening!
    Valencia Cathedral
  • Flamenco show – Being Spain, there are flamenco shows popping up all over the city. Some shows are free at restaurants, but the best one I came across was Cafe del Duende – just 5 minutes’ walk outside the Old Town in Carmen. For €10, you are treated to a 1 hour flamenco show and two drinks on the house. The performers are super talented and will completely shake the stereotypical vision of flamenco you have in your head. Give it a go.
    Flamenco at Cafe del Duende, Valencia
  • Beach – The Malvarossa beach is a 1km stretch of beautiful white sand just begging for your footprints. But if sunbathing isn’t your thing (I’ll be honest, it’s not mine either) you can take advantage of the water sports, walking along the promenade or eating and drinking at any one of the restaurants and bars on the seafront.
    La Malvarossa beach, Valencia
  • Shopping at Central Market – The Central Market is a beautiful art nouveau style building, filled to the brim with traditional food stalls, souvenir shops and places to eat. Even if you don’t plan on buying anything, you could spend hours just browsing the stalls and soaking up the atmosphere as the locals bustle around you.
    Valencia Central Market

What and where to eat

Beyond the sights, eating is one of my absolute favourite things to do on holiday. It can help you explore the city, give you a delicious insight into its culture, and, of course, fill your belly with amazing tasting food. What’s not to love? Valencia has more than its fair share of great things and places to eat, and here’s my pick of the bunch:

  • Tapas at the tapas bars across the city – Tapas is Spanish food at its best – small, bitesize portions of deliciousness that you can share around a table in a cosy tapas bar. There are three main types of tapas – the traditional sharing plates, montaditos (bruschetta-like tasty morsels on small pieces of bread that come free with your drink) and pinchos (exactly the same as montaditos, just with a different sized stick to denote their price). My favourite restaurants in the city were Mi Cub in Colón Market, Pico Fino in Plaza de la Reina, Mythos VLC in Eixample and Taberna Antonio Manuel on Calle de la Pau (oh my god – the fried cheese!!!). But without a doubt, the best way to experiment is on a tapas tour like the one we went on with Tours in Valencia. Being shown around the best places in the city by a local is something definitely worth doing.
    Pinchos in Valencia
  • Paella at La Pepica – Valencia is home to the paella, so you’d have to be mad not to try it there. There are lots of different types of paella, but one of the most traditional and best can be found at La Pepica on the beach front. All the paellas are cooked from scratch, but the food is fantastic and definitely worth the wait.
    Paella at La Pepica, Valencia
  • Horchata and fartons at Horchateria Santa Catalina – I’ll admit it. I still giggle every time I hear or say or see the word farton. But the Spanish didn’t invent them to make you laugh, they invented them to make you hungry. They’re delightfully sweet, light dough sticks, traditionally served with horchata – a creamy drink made from tigernuts. Both were first created in Valencia, and you definitely have to try them together when you’re in the area.
    Horchateria de Santa Catalina, Valencia

What to drink

There’s nothing quite like a good glass of something cold in the warm Spanish evenings (heck – mornings too, you’re on holiday), and Valencia has a lot to offer:

  • Wine – Of course, Spain is famed for its delicious wine, and if you like the stuff, you’re in for a treat in Valencia. And the best thing about it? I’m yet to have a wine induced hangover, so it must be good.
  • Beer – Weirdly enough, the beers that are most widely available in Valencia are originally from the Netherlands. But if Heineken and Amstel aren’t to your taste, why not give Cruzcampo or Estrella a go, or even try Valencia’s very own Turia?
  • Sangria – No list of Spanish drinks would be complete without a mention of Sangria, and it’s pretty much sold everywhere. Now, I’m not a big fan of it as I think it’s made in bars by the bucketload with cheap ingredients.
  • Agua de Valencia – A much better alternative to Sangria is Agua de Valencia – literally Valencian water – and it’s incredibly tasty and dangerous in equal measure. It is made in a jug with a whole bottle of cava, double shots each of gin and vodka and one cup of orange juice. The best stuff we tried came from Cafe de las Horas in the heart of the city, next to Plaza del Virgen. The bar is ornately decorated with chandeliers, oil paintings and classical sculptures, but you can’t beat a table outside on the street. Even just a glass of their stuff will have you slurring your words and hiccuping home, but it’s ohsoworthit.
    Agua de Valencia at Cafe de las Horas, Valencia

When to go 

Valencia, just like any other Spanish city, can get blisteringly hot. But, thanks to the siesta culture, air conditioned buildings and shady city centre, it can be comfortable to visit throughout the year. Here are my recommendations on when to visit:

  • May-June – To avoid the crowds and serious sweat pools around your armpits, try booking in May or June. The weather is still beautiful (when is it not?) but it’s the shoulder season and you could find a decent rate at accommodation.
  • March – The city is famous for its Las Falles festival, which sees the burning of pretty much anything Valencians can get their hands on in the month of March. It’s an awesome sight that I’m yet to witness yet, but I will do one day. If you want to see it too, be sure to book far in advance as prices are steep and availability is low.

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I hope that has got you dreaming of a Valencian trip away. Of course, there’s only so much you can fit into one blog post, so if you have any questions, feel free to ask! Just pop them in the comments below and I’ll be happy to help.

Have you ever been to Valencia? What are your top tips for enjoying the city?

A Right Royal Weekend in Kent

I love surprises. Especially surprises that involve going somewhere. So when Tim told me to pack my bags and get in the car for a weekend away, I couldn’t wait.

Being a bit of a fan of historic cities and mediaeval history, he had organised a trip to Kent which is just full of castles, thanks to its proximity to France and the need to defend against those pesky attackers way back when.

Our weekend would see us visiting the city and castle in Rochester, as well as Leeds Castle.

Here’s my take on them:

Rochester

IMG_4121

Rochester is a pretty small city with a typically British high street, a grand Cathedral and a massive great castle (more on that below). If you’re not a history buff, there are only a few other things to do there – you can stroll through the little side streets, drink tea in one of the many independent cafes or buy trinkets from the boutique shops.

Rochester Cathedral
The Cathedral is a particular highlight. It’s huge, bright and absolutely beautiful. If you’re lucky enough to be there during a service, you’ll be treated to the incredible noise of the organ and choir as they sing traditional hymns.

Rochester Castle

Rochester Castle

Built in the 12th century, Rochester Castle is an imposing example of medieval construction and its keep is surprisingly well preserved. Despite the massive fire that gutted the floors and roof, visitors can still wander up the stone steps and around the corridors into the different rooms. We paid £1 extra to share an audio guide between us, and it really helped to set the scene.

The view from the top is pretty special – you get a great view of the Cathedral, the city and the River Medway. You can certainly imagine the rush of adrenaline and fear the soldiers would have had as they tried to fight away attacking armies.

Leeds Castle

Leeds Castle

We didn’t have long to explore Leeds Castle as we headed there on our way home, but we were still glad to see it. Its tagline is “The loveliest castle in the world” and it’s easy to see why. It is surrounded by beautiful gardens, a moat and contains elegant decoration from its history as a private home to royalty and nobility.

The castle has certainly had its fair share of revamping since it was first built as a wooden structure in 857. Nearly 1000 years later, the castle’s exterior was extensively redesigned in a Tudor style in 1823 and has remained untouched ever since.

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All in all, I would certainly recommend Leeds and Rochester if you’re looking for your castle fix. Kent is a great area to visit, and at only an hour away from London, you’d be silly not to visit too if you’re in the area.

Big thanks to our friends Kat and David for putting us up for the weekend – guys, have you ever considered opening a B&B?!

Would you consider yourself a historical traveller? What’s the best historical site you’ve ever visited?