UK Staycations

Summer is well and truly here and while we aren’t out of the woods yet regarding Covid-19, people are starting to head out and enjoy a little bit of what summer has to offer. If you’re anything like me then you may be beginning to think about UK Staycations – be it somewhere new or somewhere familiar and close to home.

As a Kent girl born and bred, I would recommend my county as a great place for a staycation because it has a little bit of everything – countryside, coast, great pubs and attractions… plus it is under an hour away from the bright lights of London!

Given that the weather is warm and many indoor attractions are still closed due to government guidelines, I can recommend many wonderful outdoor places to go. I recently wrote about a few beautiful countryside gardens which are open for business and have introduced one-way systems to ensure safety for staff and visitors. Some elements may be closed (such as castles and country houses) but there are still lots of walks to enjoy, flowers to admire and ice cream to eat! Kent has an abundance of lovely gardens, which isn’t surprising given its nickname as ‘The Garden of England’.

Hole Park Gardens in Rolvenden

If you’re more of a beach babe than a plant lover, then you can head down to the coast. Of course the likes of Folkestone, Margate and Broadstairs are ever popular but one of my favourite coastal walks is from Seasalter into Whitstable. Seasalter is the quieter, more tranquil cousin of Whitstable so is the ideal place to park up and then take a stroll along the pebble beach and reward yourself with a yummy fish and chip lunch once you reach bustling Whitstable.

Enjoy a stroll from Seasalter to Whitstable

Kent also has an excellent selection of zoos and animal parks for a great family day out. One of my personal favourites (because I used to volunteer there) is Howletts Wild Animal Park where they put in tremendous efforts towards the conservation of endangered species. It is also on the doorstep to Canterbury which is a tourist haven in itself with the cathedral, theatre, shops, cafes and river punting.

Capybaras in the sun at Howletts

I could go on forever about what Kent has to offer for UK Staycations but we don’t have all day so I would say go check it out for yourself. Just be sure to follow government social distancing guidelines and check each attraction’s website for up to date information.

Disclaimer: In collaboration with Hotels.com, but all views are my own.

Where to go in Kent during lockdown

Where to go in Kent during lockdown

Where to go in Kent during lockdown

Hands up who’s got cabin fever! Me!

If you’re like me and still on furlough but not quite sure where you can visit now some places are open and some aren’t, fear not! I have compiled a little list here of where to go in Kent during lockdown to give you some sunny summer inspiration.

Scotney Castle

Scotney Castle

Scotney Castle is a 14th century castle surrounded by beautiful gardens situated in Lamberhurst near Tunbridge Wells. The National Trust have organised the site so it’s a one-way route around the moat so you can view the scenic castle from different angles – perfect for that insta snapshot! At present you must pre-book before you visit (tickets are released every Friday) and you cannot go inside the castle, you can only walk the grounds. There is a little kiosk on site selling drinks and ice cream, plus Bewl Water is a 6 minute drive away if you want to make more of a day of it.

Hush Heath Estate

Hush Heath Estate

Hush Heath Estate is a winery in Staplehurst. Under normal circumstances they would be offering vineyard tours, wine tasting and lovely food, which we wish we could have enjoyed. However, at time of writing, they have opened their doors for FREE self-guided tours of their estate. This basically means you can pop along and wander the grounds (following the designated social distancing route), pre-booking is not essential and you can buy a bottle of wine after your walk if you wish to. Our walk lasted around 45 minutes, we didn’t buy anything but we’d love to come back for some wine tasting once things return to normal.

Mount Ephraim Gardens

Mount Ephraim Gardens

Mount Ephraim Gardens is a lovely estate near Faversham consisting of a country house and gardens. Due to Covid-19 the house is closed at present but the gardens are open to visitors Wednesdays to Sundays. Pre-booking is not required but do check their website (as with all of these places) for the most up-to-date information. We enjoyed a couple of hours here and took a picnic with us too.

Riverhill Himalayan Gardens

Riverhill Himalayan Gardens

Named after some of the plants from the Himalayas, Riverhill Himalayan Gardens is a pretty, historic estate in Sevenoaks. Dogs are welcome and entry is via pre-booked timed tickets available via their website. The social distancing one-way system is a little haphazard in my opinion as we did end up crossing paths with people but as the gardens are fairly large, we weren’t too concerned. There are plants and garden ornaments available to purchase at the entrance, so we bought a peach blossom (which looks like candyfloss!). There’s also a cafe selling a few takeaway items but I wouldn’t bother as they charged me £5 for a Calippo and a Fab. £5 for a bit of what is essentially flavoured ice seems quite steep to me, so pack a picnic instead.

Penshurst Place and Gardens

Penshurst Place

Just a 15 minute drive away from Riverhill Himalayan Gardens is Penshurst Place. Under normal circumstances there’s a few different things to see such as the house and toy museum but thanks to Coronavirus it’s just the gardens you can visit at present. Bookings are separated into morning and afternoon slots and must be booked online. We booked an afternoon slot and visited the same day as we went to Riverhill. Despite furloughing most of the gardening team, the gardens were still well kept. We packed a picnic and enjoyed it in the shade overlooking the lovely gardens.

Where to go in Kent during lockdown

Note: due to current circumstances I would advise checking each garden’s website before visiting for the most up-to-date information. Also note that I was NOT given any freebies or anything, so all opinions are fair and my own.

Stay safe x


If you liked this you may enjoy some of my other posts about South East England.

4 of the best UK destinations for nature lovers

For many, holidays conjure up images of jetting off into the sunshine and sipping on a cocktail beside the pool, so it may surprise you to learn that an estimated 41.7 million tourists visited the UK in 2018. There is clearly plenty to love about the UK, so why not consider a ‘staycation’ for your next break? With a coastline stretching over 7,000 miles and 15 national parks covering nearly 9,000 square miles, the UK is the perfect place to get closer to nature and discover an abundance of wildlife.

Anglesey
The isle of Anglesey is one of the UK’s best kept secrets. Accessible via the Menai Suspension Bridge, off the coast of mainland Wales, this island is known for its beaches. In fact, in 1966, the entire coastline of Anglesey was designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, protecting its varied landscape and habitats from inappropriate development. You can actually walk along the coastal path, taking in limestone escarpments and sand dunes on the south coast, with dramatic sea cliffs in the north. From Anglesey, you can also take a boat trip to the uninhabited Puffin Island, a special protection area for wildlife.

Photo by Dil on Unsplash

The Lake District
Home to vast lakes and magnificent mountains, the Lake District in the northwest of England is certainly deserving of its status as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Of the sixteen lakes that make up the Lake District, the largest, Windermere, holds an astonishing 300 billion litres of water! The landscape here varies greatly with the seasons but, regardless of when you choose to visit, you will marvel at the natural beauty the Lake District has to offer. Cosy up in a lakeside café and sip on a hot chocolate as you peer through the mist towards the snow-capped mountains on a winter’s day. Visit in summer and enjoy a lake cruise as the sun glistens on the waters below.

Photo by claire jones on Unsplash

Jurassic Coast

With rocks that record 185 million years of the Earth’s history, this 96 mile stretch of coast from Exmouth to Dorset feels like a walk through time. The fossils and layers of sedimentary rock here can tell us a lot about prehistoric life and how the landscape was formed over time. As a result, this spectacular coastline became a World Heritage Site in 2001. There are plenty of things to do here, from coastal walks and fossil collecting to visiting the museums that delve into our natural history.

Photo by Andy Holmes on Unsplash

Snowdonia

This mountain range in the north of Wales offers breathtakingly stunning views of the open landscapes and valleys below. Whether you choose to climb to the summit of Snowdon at 3060 feet or take a more relaxing journey on-board the mountain railway, you will certainly be in for a treat. Mountains are not the only feature here; Snowdonia is also home to an abundance of Lakes. The largest, Llyn Tegid (Bala Lake), also has its own railway allowing you to take in its natural beauty at ease.

Photo by Patrick Gillespie on Unsplash

Written by Clayton Miller

Alphabet Dating - R is for Relaxation

Alphabet Dating – R is for Relaxation

Eastwell Manor Spa Break

We’ve been taking liberties with the alphabet again but I’m pleased to say we finally got around to our ‘R’ date. R is for Relaxation – something we both deserved after the not-so-great start to the year. We booked a lovely overnight stay spa break at Eastwell Manor near Ashford in Kent for our 5th wedding anniversary.

Eastwell Manor Spa Break

Eastwell Manor is a charming country house set in the Garden of England and was built between 1540 and 1550. In its impressive history of over 450 years it has had many owners, including Royalty! These days it is best known as a hotel offering spa breaks, afternoon teas and weddings.

We checked in to the Robert Curtoys room in the early afternoon – easily the largest hotel room I have ever stayed in! Complete with kingsize bed, chaise longue and Champneys flip flops, robes and toiletries. We headed straight down to the Champneys spa where we enjoyed the facilities and also had a facial each which we had pre-booked. The spa itself features a heated indoor pool surrounded by relaxation beds. There’s also a hydrotherapy pool, steam room, sauna and, my favourite, a jacuzzi.

Robert Curtoys room at Eastwell Manor

Eastwell Manor Spa Break

Our package also included dinner plus breakfast and lunch the following day, so after we were all fresh and clean after our spa session, we got dressed up and made our way to the Manor Restaurant where we enjoyed a three course meal. For starters I had the rainbow carrot terrine while Nick had the cheese souffle. For mains we both opted for the Eastwell brisket burger which was yummy, if not a little salty. Lastly, dessert. Nick enjoyed the white chocolate and passion fruit ganache bomb sorbet while I had the pistachio, orange and cranberry which included the most delicious ice cream (orange and cranberry mix? I’m not sure) as well as spiced oranges and olive oil cake. It was sooo good!

Pool at Eastwell Manor

After a super comfortable and relaxing nights sleep in our humongous bed, we enjoyed a buffet breakfast followed by a stroll through the perfectly manicured grounds. It was lovely to soak up the atmosphere while pretending you are on a television set.

Big comfy bed!

gardens at eastwell

We then returned to the spa for body radiance treatments which involved putting on an embarrassingly tiny pair of knickers (for me anyway, my husband got off lightly). Luckily it was all very professional and organised so my embarrassment was very shortlived. The spa therapist exfoliated my skin and then left me to shower. Once I was dry and my modesty protected with towels, she then massaged my skin using some gorgeous scented Champneys moisturiser.

Fancy starters in the spa restaurant

We also stopped in the Spa Restaurant for a light lunch prior to our treatments. We could have had several fancy looking courses there too but we didn’t want to be too full before our body treatments so Nick had chicken to start followed by some sensible pasta while I opted for a starter of salmon and then skipped straight to dessert – ice cream… and imagine my delight when I realised one of the flavours was the same as what I had for dessert the night before. Oh yes. You can put the girl in a classy setting but you can’t stop her from ordering ice cream for lunch! Ha!

All in all it was a perfect and romantic stay and one I would definitely like to repeat.

Eastwell Manor - a lovely spa break in Kent

We’re so cool

For more Alphabet Dating Adventures check out my series.

What type of holiday should you head on next?

At this time of year, we’re all thinking about jetting off on holiday. Even though the weather is surprisingly pleasant, there’s nothing quite like heading abroad, switching off, and relaxing. When you lead a busy life, you always need that promise of a holiday to hold on to. And it can be incredibly exciting. Whether you’re a thrill-seeker or someone that wants to lay back by the pool and do absolutely nothing, there’s the perfect holiday out there just waiting to be had. But what will it be? It can be tempting to stick to the same kinds of trips, but this really does limit the travel experiences that you have. So maybe this time, you’ll want to just switch it up.

1. City Break
First of all, you might want to think about heading off on a city break. If you’re someone that loves to explore when you’re away, then heading off to a European city could be exactly what you need from your next break. Even if you want the balance of being able to relax, you could get yourself a hotel with a rooftop pool, so that you have the best of both. Then, you still get to explore the city and feel like you’ve got a sun holiday at the same time.

2. All-Inclusive
Or maybe the idea of exploring is the exact opposite of what you want? Maybe you want to head on holiday and do absolutely nothing at all? And by nothing at all, that includes thinking about what you want to do that day – or even where you’re going to eat! Then an all-inclusive option will be best for you. There are some great all-inclusive resorts across Europe, so be sure to take a look at some of the options that are available to you.

3.Adventure
When you want to go a step on from that, and follow your sense of adventure, then you’re going to want to hit the seas. You’ll find that Croatia is a fantastic destination for sailing holidays, so take a look at the trips available. If you want to enjoy some time of the seas, there are plenty of options across Europe for that.

4. Spa Break
And, of course, you could also head on a good old-fashioned spa break. If you know that you want to relax, enjoy some peace of quiet, and a bit of pampering, then finding yourself at a local spa resort is always going to be a good option.

5. Island Hopping
And finally, maybe you’d like the idea of doing a bit of everything. When that’s the case, you may find that island hopping is a great option for you here. First of all, you’ll get to see a range of different locations, from seaside resorts to cities, and more. But you also get to sail the seas and enjoy time on the boat. And there’s always some adventure and relaxation to be had. So this makes it a great option when you want a varied holiday. Again, Croatia is a great option, but so is Greece. So take a look at different agendas to see what takes your fancy.

This was a collaborative post.