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.

Gin Festival Maidstone

Gins a bit trendy isn’t it? I must admit I’m quite new to the pleasure of a nice cold G&T but with all these creative craft gins popping up all over the place, it’s sure to become my tipple of choice.

So when the lovely peeps at Gin Festival invited me along to one of their events, I thought that would be my perfect opportunity to discover some new favourites. Along with my gin loving hubby, we went to the Saturday afternoon event at the Kent Showground, Detling, Maidstone. Although the Gin Festival has been going since 2013, this year was the first year it came to Maidstone – and it completely sold out!

Gin Festival Maidstone

When you arrive you are given a guide to the festival as well as your very own copa gin glass which you can keep and take home. I thought this was particularly good and wins some eco-friendly points from me on that! There is a cashless system in place so you are also given a wrist band which you can load up with money before or during the event to ensure a smoother process at the bars rather than faffing about with money.

What to expect

There were four brands giving out free tasters, they were: PJ Gin from Belgium – available exclusively from ginfestival.com, Tinker Gin – based in Yorkshire and launched in 2017, Anno – a Kent based distillers whose delish cranberry gin tasted like Christmas and Brockmans – an English gin ‘like no other’.

Well, I quite liked them all with a bit of tonic (which was from the Schweppes 1783 premium range).

Anno Gins at Gin Festival Maidstone

Beyond these tasters there were five bars to get your drinks at, as well as a cocktail bar, snacks, food and live music. There were also masterclasses on. We attended the one held by Dan from Tinker Gins which was really quite funny (and full of swearing hehe!). It definitely adds something when you meet the people behind the drinks and learn about their passions.

Tinker Gin masterclass at Gin Festival Maidstone

Mr QLP loves a G&T and enjoyed a Brockmans Premium Gin followed by a Tinker Gin. I chose a Boe Violet Gin which was very light and sweet, followed by a Marula Gin which was garnished with peach. We also tried the Elephant Gin because 15% of proceeds go to support African elephant charities, which is enough to make me want it, but its also garnished with the winning combo of apple and ginger – yum!

The UK's biggest gin festival

The guide book given out tells you about all the gins on offer and what they taste like as well as what kind of garnish and mixer you should pair them with. There were so many gins to try it actually made it difficult to decide what to go for! I was certainly intrigued by the Hidden Curiosities gin with peppercorns and the Sweet Potato Plum gin liqueur but I’ll have to try those out next time. My only niggle was that I had really wanted to try the Zymurgorium Sweet Violet gin as its supposed to taste like parma violet sweets but it had sold out just an hour into the event. Disappointing.

Gin Life

We ended the day feeling rather tipsy but bought ourselves a bottle of Brockmans to take home! I would definitely recommend Gin Festival and I’ll be sure to keep my eyes peeled in future for some of the gins I didn’t get chance to try!

Disclaimer: I was given free tickets by Gin Festival but all thoughts are my own.

Update: Unfortunately Gin Festival have since gone into administration however if you’re looking for Gin Festivals then check out www.eatdrinkseek.co.uk/gin-festivals

Alphabet Dating - T is for Tasting Tour

Alphabet Dating – T is for Tasting Tour

Copper Rivet Distillery Tour

There are many kinds of tasting tours you can do for alphabet dating letter T – tapas, street food, beer, chocolate… We chose to do the Copper Rivet Distillery Tour which is situated in the historic dockyard of Chatham in Kent.

The distillery is set in the Victorian Pump House No. 5 and brews vodka, whiskey and gin. Although the dockyard itself has a long history, Copper Rivet Distillery didn’t come into planning until 2005 and didn’t open for tours until 2016, so its relatively new.

Pump House No.5 - home to the Copper Rivet Distillery Tour

When you arrive at Pump House No. 5 you walk straight into the bar which proudly displays some of the awards that Copper Rivet have won. There’s a nice relaxed atmosphere there with a vibe of old-meets-new. The bar acts as a waiting area before your tour so if you’re early enough you can have a drink beforehand.

Dockyard gin - bar display

The tour was interesting. We learnt about the process of making the alcohol, the Russell family who set up the distillery and a guy named Abhi, the head distiller at the Copper Rivet Distillery and a bit of a genius in his field from the sounds of it!

The stills at the Copper Rivet Distillery Tour in Chatham Dockyard

The stills are all named after members of the Russell family who are no longer with us (but here in spirit. Pun intended). ‘Sandy’ the whiskey still, ‘Joyce’ the column and ‘Janet’ the gin still. Janet is a bit of a special one (I think our guide may have even said the only one like it!) and is a patented design. The other thing Copper Rivet are immensely proud of is that they are one of only a handful of distilleries in the UK who control the whole distillation process from grain to glass!

Janet the gin still

After being shown the stills and learning the history and processes, we were able to sample the vodka and the gin. The whiskey is busy maturing so won’t be ready until around 2020 so whiskey fans may wish to wait! I must admit I didn’t really enjoy the vodka, but vodka is not my tipple of choice. However the gin was pleasant and what we were really there for anyway. The Dockyard Gin is flavoured with 9 botanicals too – orange peel, orris root, lemon peel, elderflower, angelica root, green cardamom, coriander seeds, juniper and grains of paradise.

Copper Rivet Dockyard Gin

At the end of the tour we were given a full glass of gin and tonic to savour, complete with a slice of grapefruit – how Dockyard Gin is recommended! You can also buy bottles of the spirits to take home too.

After our tour we stopped off at one of the local restaurants in the dockside for some burgers and cocktails to round off a fun afternoon out!

The Copper Rivet Distillery Tour at Chatham Historic Dockyard - excellent idea for a date or fun afternoon out.

The Copper Rivet Distillery Tour lasts for around 1 hour and costs £12pp. If you enjoyed this you might like reading about the time I got tipsy at the XXXX brewery in Brisbane or some of my other Alphabet Dating adventures.

 

Activity ideas for UK holidays

You might be saving up for that dream holiday in the Maldives, or maybe you just think it’s completely out of your budget and you’ll never be able to afford it. Either way, sometimes it’s nice to just have a short holiday in the UK in order to have a break on a budget. Below are three activities you can do to add a bit of interest to your British-bound break.

Head to the beach

It is often said that you are never more than 70 miles from the coast in the UK, so a beach break could be just the thing to help you unwind. You could go for a day trip or opt for a longer stay, either way there are a whole host of things to keep you occupied at the beach. From building sandcastles and digging the obligatory massive hole to a plethora of water-based activities to suit any budget. Skimboards are fairly cheap and can offer hours of fun as you and your family attempt to time your run just right to meet the incoming tide. Be careful though, try and skim on water that is too shallow and you’ll end up finding out exactly what a British beach tastes like. If you are on the South West coast you could even opt for surfing lessons and hire out a wetsuit and board for the week.

sprocker dog enjoying the beach

Go for a walk

It may seem like a simple activity, but most people end up spending a large proportion of their day sat down. At a desk all day working, in the car driving backwards and forwards, and in front of the TV in the evenings. Going for a nice stroll along the cliff tops or into the countryside could be the breath of fresh air you needed to reset. You could even choose to head into the wild and spend a whole week walking and camping through the wilderness. Reading up on some of the top tips when cross country walking could help to give you an idea of what to expect and whether it could be the right break for you.

The white cliffs of Dover

Museums and Wildlife parks

Wherever you choose to holiday in the UK, whether that be on the coast, in a city, or out amongst nature, you are sure to never be too far from a museum. From the usual history and art museums of London to the more specialised offerings such as the tank museum in Dorset, there is a museum for every interest and niche. There is also an abundance of wildlife parks. You could head to a safari or nature reserve, or head to one of the many sanctuaries. Whatever your favourite animal, you’re bound to be able to go and see it up close and personal somewhere in the UK.

penguin at colchester zoo

There you have it, a few ideas for activities you can do on your UK based holidays that will ensure that everyone is kept happy and busy, just don’t forget to leave time to relax in the evenings with your beverage of choice.

Post written in collaboration with Collette Lower. Images my own.

Alphabet dating Q is for quad biking

Alphabet Dating – Q is for Quad Biking

Just what do you do for Alphabet Dating letter Q? Well here’s an idea… QUAD BIKING!

Both newbies to Quad Biking, hubby and I headed up to Tulley’s Farm in West Sussex, home to Southern Pursuits – the ultimate destination for adrenaline-fuelled activity days in the South East of England.

Before we got going on the Quad Bikes, we had a go at archery because neither of us had really tried that before either, plus Southern Pursuits have quite a few activities to choose from, be it archery, quad biking, clay pigeon shooting, air rifles or even axe throwing! (hey if you’re thinking about starting up Alphabet Dating then there’s plenty of ‘A’ date ideas right here!).

Archery at Southern Pursuits - just a short drive from Gatwick airport

Archery was fun but SO TIRING! Particularly for me as I have the upper body strength of a toddler! Hubby did quite well at it, however my archery skills won’t have Katniss Everdeen quaking in her boots anytime soon.

Next up for us was the main event – quad biking! We were quite fortunate that it was just the two of us, plus our patient and friendly instructor Tom. We were briefed on all the safety instructions, shown how to control the bikes and then we were on our way around the nursery track. The quad bikes were alot more powerful than I expected them to be so I felt a little nervous at the beginning. Southern Pursuits actually use powerful Yamaha 350cc quad bikes whereas most activity centres like this only use 125cc bikes.

Driving on the nursery track at Southern Pursuits quad biking day.

However, once we were off the nursery track and into the woods my nerves vanished and I was having a great time! We drove through the trees, along muddy paths, up hills, down hills and through big puddles. By some sort of miracle only my boots got dirty, not sure how I managed that but we had brought along some spare clothes and shoes for the journey home just incase.

Muddy quad biking at Southern Pursuits

Alphabet dating letter Q

The team at Southern Pursuits were all friendly, fun and professional and the place itself is a great day out for stags, hens, team building events or just those looking for alphabet dating letter Q ideas. It’s also just a short drive from Gatwick so great for tourists too.

Quad biking starts at £45pp + VAT and archery is from £17.50pp + VAT but there are package deals to be had too.

Quad biking fun at Southern Pursuits

Disclaimer: we were invited by Southern Pursuits to try out their activities, but all words and opinions are my own. Photography courtesy of Southern Pursuits.