In an archived statement from Shakespeare and Company, the scribe states: ‘Be not inhospitable to strangers lest they be angels in disguise.’ And so we’re greeted as angels at The Townhouse in Shakespeare’s birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon.
It ticks all the right notes from the off: it’s accessible by both train and car (with easy and discounted parking); the lighting is not electrifyingly bright; and the receptionist is friendly.
Located in the town centre, it’s a two minutes’ walk from the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, five minutes’ walk to Shakespeare’s birthplace on Henley Street and five minutes in the other direction to the Holy Trinity Church. Shakespeare’s school, which is still open to young students today, rests beneath the hotel’s typically white façade.
My partner and I recently stay over in one of twelve bedrooms, each offering super king sized beds, en-suite bathrooms, Nespresso machines, and complementary WiFi.
We’re not newbies to Stratford-upon-Avon – we’ve both visited as children with our schools. We know where to go and head to Shakespeare’s birthplace on nearby Henley Street maintained by the Shakespeare’s Birthplace Trust (shakespeare.org.uk).
Here, on a beautiful spring afternoon we watch short outtakes from Hamlet played out by local actors (a man and a woman) in Shakespeare’s verdant garden. It’s camp. And fun, and witty too.
That evening we take dinner at the hotel’s restaurant. We’re told that all food is freshly prepared in the kitchen and the chefs work closely with local suppliers to source the best produce where possible.
Lunch is also available 12pm – 3pm in the restaurant, and dinner starts early for the pre-theatre crowd. There’s a pre-theatre set menu every day 12pm – 3pm & 5pm – 7pm with 2 courses for £12.50 and 3 courses for £14.50, too.
We take dinner at 8pm. I go with the Cotswold Mozzarella with Honey, Balsamic Figs & Prosciutto (£7) and the Cotswold Lamb Rump, Cream & Garlic Cannellini Beans, Red Wine & Anchovy Crumb (£17.50). The Cannellini beans are a highlight. My partner’s Todenham 10oz steak (£28) is very succulent, too.
There’s a great terrace out the back for a cigarette afterwards and a thin slice of coutyard with enough room for several tables and chairs.
Bed beckons, and we both sleep well.
The following morning I am smoking in the terrace and see the fresh produce waiting outside for the kitchen.
After we have breakfast at 8am – my partner has homemade bread with butter and I take a full-English.
From arrival to departure, The Townhouse is delightful in that it brings to life some of the wit, charm and romance of Shakespeare. The view from the third floor where we stayed overlooks other Tudor cottages in their white with black striped get-ups. It’s hard not to feel some of the magic of a great writer of times gone by here.
The Townhouse is located at 16 Church Street, Stratford upon Avon, Warwickshire, CV37 6HB. For more information or to book visit www.stratfordtownhouse.co.uk
Unlike the Thomas Hardy novel, Wessex Tales, The Red Lion Bar & Kitchen located in the novel’s title is far from a tale of unrequited love. The home-made bread served at breakfast is in direct opposite to Hardy’s style – instead it’s full-filling, nurturing and satisfying.
Dating from 1612, The Red Lion Pub & Kitchen is a characterful and charming 17th century Inn with 3 rooms, hidden away in a quiet corner of the ancient village of Blewbury which lies at the foot of the Berkshire Downs in south Oxfordshire, also known as Wessex.
Chef and proprietor Phil Wild and wife, Arden, took over this dining pub a little over a year ago and re-opened in March 2016.
The menu for me is the clincher for a visit and this, without a doubt is a well-hidden food destination – a deserved hit among locals, yet to be discovered by tourists.
“We didn’t want it to be over the top, but we have items on the menu that are quirky,” says Phil.
Take the Frog’s Legs as a case in point. A first for me, and astoundingly good. The starter is awash with a succulent and tasty garlic sauce and caper-combo served with the most delicate of green salad leaves.
My partner and guest for this trip went with the waiter’s recommendation of octopus and wasn’t disappointed either. Perhaps it’s something to do with the freshness as fish deliveries come to the Inn at 1am the previous morning, I’m told.
Service, like the food is impeccable.
The two staff (in smart uniforms) have been here for over a year and live on site. They’re professional and attentive without the over the top-ness that’s also avoided in the menus.
With original features, The Red Lion Pub & Kitchen has been decorated using vintage, country antiques and quirky finds with just 3 beds completing the Inn for an intimate touch.
It’s understated here, warm and cosy.
But you really should come here for the food and service, with the rooms being a comfortable place to rest your head (my partner and I slept very well here) and sundry to the dining experience.
Phil’s locally sourced, seasonally-changing menu is modern and unique. It features British dishes with French influences. There’s also a cosy, oak-beamed bar with additional dining space, a working Inglenook fireplace and flagstone floors. Outside, an orchard garden for summer dining and drink with views over neighbouring fields to complete your eating experience.
The village of Blewbury is also well-known for its literary and artistic connections. Kenneth Grahame who penned Wind In The Willows was a regular at The Red Lion Pub & Kitchen. Barbara Euphan Todd writer of Worzel Gummidge, and the ex-jockey and thriller writer, Dick Francis also lived here, while Agatha Christie lived in the nearby village of Cholsey.
The bookishness is reflected in the snug while we take a night cap for the evening by the ample fire – there’s a full book shelve to peruse.
We take a spring stroll around the village before leaving. Daffodils jostle against a backdrop of thatched cottages and a church keeps compass for our freestyle trek as it’s centred in the village.
With top-notch food and cosy rooms in a little known literary spot like Blewbury, The Red Lion Bar & Kitchen is well-worth a visit and with room prices starting at £95 it provides value for money too.
Accommodation was provided by The Red Lion Bar & Kitchen, Chapel Lane, Blewbury, Didcot. For more information visit theredlionpubandkitchen.co.uk or to book call 01235 850403 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Ay up! It’s a ‘boot time for a winter tipple…. from the back growths of Northern Yorkshire!
Yes, that’s right. The proud Yorkshire business, Raisthorpe Manor, has produced a gorgeous Gooseberry Gin Liqueur that bagged a gold star in the Great Taste Awards last year – made with love from scrumping in nearby hedges.
The drink boasts the flavour of gooseberries and the character of the fruit, and it also comes through with little bursts of green acidity – adding a splash of colour and tutty fruity to the bleak winter landscapes.
Movers and makers (and cocktail shakers?) Raisthorpe Manor Fine Foods is run by husband and wife Julia and David Medforth in deepest darkest North Yorkshire. The conception of their food and wine venture started out with humble (or crumble?) beginnings: with Julia foraging for fruit in nearby hedges.
Raisthorpe’s Damson Port was one of 125 British products out of nearly 10,000, that picked up a trio of Gold awards at the as ‘the Oscars of the food world’ last year.
The Gooseberry Gin makes a good after drink for a roast dinner and a more luxurious and knowing nod to the North than your average Yorkshire pud.
“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.” – Albert Camus.
For me, the invincible summer can be found in Lesmahagow, some 25 minutes south-east of Glasgow, just off the M74, writes ERICA CROMPTON, in Positively Scottish.
Here I discovered a spiritual eco-farm retreat through Worldwide Opportunities for Organic Farming (WWOOF), a global collection of farms where you can work the land in exchange for accommodation and food.
The Krishna Eco Farm in Lesmahagow, or Karuna Bhavan, is home to a community of over 30 people, made up Hare Krishna monks, families, volunteers and the wider Krishna community.
It sits atop a steep hill. If you’re coming by bus and walking here, expect to feel the burn as you reach the entrance. To begin with, you’ll find a navy and white sign letting you know you’re in the right place and acting as a gate to the women’s ‘ashram’ (ashram meaning home in Indian, where the Krishna religion originates). It’s in front of the men’s ashram (the two houses are divided as that sort of thing isn’t allowed here on the sacred grounds).
Accommodation is basic, and shared, but often there aren’t many travellers stopping over so you may find you have a room to yourself like me. The heating is on, and my abode for the next five nights is stencilled with elephants and peacocks with plenty of floral fabrics in a rainbow of pastel and primary colours. I could be in India with all this 1970s wicker furniture and wooden floors…although a glance outside at the plump and heavy Scottish rainclouds reminds me I’m not.
You don’t have to be devout or don the tangerine robes to reap the spiritual benefits here, though many do after escaping the rat race or leaving behind troubled pasts. The WWOOF scheme means you can help harvest crops for six hours a day, five days a week in exchange for a bed, and the meals (much of which are made from the crops here).
Volunteers are a staple in the running of the temple. Head gardener Bhakti Vinode (above) says: “Labour on the farm has helped us in a big way and we couldn’t cultivate the amount of land without the volunteers – we’ve been depending on them and they bring life to the farm.
“Personally I feel enthused when I see things growing. I work hard to cultivate the land then plant the seeds, so it’s nice to see the seeds germinate after all the hard work. I feel I’m doing something for the world, like I’m contributing. Everyone needs food so I like to grow food and teach others how to grow food. We can feed the hungry but we also have to educate people how to grow food. Growing food gives me a purpose in life.”
Earn your keep, take a working holiday, or stay as long as you want while you get back on your feet if unemployed or homeless. It can even help those with mental health problems, says Bhakti. “We do some horticultural therapy here too. People with mental health problems come along and we encourage them to grow food as it makes them feel more positive.”
For those who don’t want to do the farming, you can pay £10 a night for the same deal and explore the surrounding areas. However you’ll be still be expected to observe the house rules, such as no alcohol, no meat, and no sex.
Those rules are keenly observed by the monks and you can’t miss them dotted around the grounds in their orange robes, sometimes chanting “Hare Krishna”. They mostly cut lithe, warm figures with their shaven heads fully focused on their work. The farming is also known as ‘Bhakti yoga’. It’s done with devotion for the Hindu God Krishna and forms a crucial part of the devotees’ lifestyle.
Bhakti takes his spiritual name from Bhakti yoga. Of the practice, he says: “Working on the land keeps me fit and it helps regulate my life. I have to be there every morning to water, feed, and weed the seedlings. Most important is I love what I do. Practising Bhakti yoga means I grow food with love and whoever eats the food feels the love while eating.”
You’ll often find Bhakti working in one of two large greenhouses that sit aside the women’s ashram, a little further up the hill and framed by a winding path to the temple right at the top.
Chanting, meditation and yoga take place in this colourful and diminutive temple with intricate carved deities covered in garlands which are made on-site with the marigolds that Bhakti and the volunteers’ harvest.
The marigolds only add to the colour to the site. I also visited this summer for the Hindi Festival of Lights. With monks and friends, we threw coloured paint at each other while singing and dancing. The best part was sitting in the farm grounds around a campfire with sheep until late. But it’s not uncommon for a devotee to rise at 2am to start their mantra rituals.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner follow the early birds at 8.30am, 1.30pm and 7.30pm. The food is all vegetarian and much produced on site, such as the spinach and the potatoes. They call it ‘Prasadam’ and it tastes a little like curry – think saag paneer rather than vindaloo, as it’s all very mild.
Of the food, Bhakti says: “Prasadam means everything to me. It’s spiritual food, and when I eat it, I feel the love! I like to serve Prasadam to others. The Beatle George Harrison said he hopes in the future there will be Prasadam restaurants and takeaways on every corner and I can see that happening in the future, because it’s great food.
“Everyone that comes to the Krishna eco farm gets Prasadam and it’s always such a nice occasion sitting and eating it together – it’s enthusing to see after growing the crops and makes me feel happy and peaceful while bringing the love out in my heart. It’s so easy and everyone can take part.”
I, too, took part. Healthy eating was welcome on my stay and after five days without coffee, booze, and meat I do feel energised and not a little lighter (it must be all that bending and stretching over the spinach).
Sanctuary and peace don’t cost the earth on the Krishna eco farm. So free-loving, colourful summer vibes can live on through the wildest of winters.
For more information on the Krishna eco farm, go here.
Visit one of two intimate stages and watch the drama of the Lakes unfold.
Kendal Mint Cake
These saccharine sweets pack a punch – except freshness like that of a wind machine and breathe fresher that the country air!
Grasmere Gingerbread Shop
If the mint cake doesn’t give you the sugar kick you need try Sarah Nelson’s ginger bread made in Grasmere! It’s spicy and sweet with biscuit meets cake texture, and is said to be some of the best gingerbread in the world. https://www.grasmeregingerbread.co.uk/
Trains, ships, flights of aeroplanes, dragons, puppets, flowers, faeries and hobgoblins can all be seen lighting up the Lakes this September 17th. See 600 candle-lit lanterns made from willow and paper from 7.30pm.
Sir John Barrow Monument, Ulverston
Be in awe of the 100 feet tall replica Eddystone lighthouse built in memory of Sir John Barrow one of the Lakes District’s most famous sons. Climb to the tower to learn his story and for stunning views of Morecambe Bay.
Both England’s newest and largest whisky distillery has welcomed over 90K visitors since it opened to the public 2014 and is conveniently located 150m from the eye-wateringly beautiful Bassenthwaite Lake.
Beatrix Potter’s House
Enjoy a tale or two or a tall story? Beatrix Potter’s 17th Century farmhouse in Hill Top is for you. It’s filled with all her favourite things, with each room containing a reference to a picture.
Tucked away in a picturesque village between Kendal and Windermere, this 5-star 2AA rosette pub was voted Cumbria’s Best Dining Pub for the last two consecutive years by the Good Pub Guide. In a former life, the inn was an old Blacksmiths shop, too.
The Ullswater Way
A 20-mile route circular route around Ullswater Way opened this spring. It’s a scenic walk that can be completed in a day or broken up over a few days.
With the celebrity cult well and truly on the wellness wagon, scenic social media snaps of hikes in Ibiza and treetop yoga in St Lucia are evoking worldwide workout wanderlust. Letting you in on the celebrity secret, Health and Fitness Travel, the leading specialists in wellness holidays worldwide, share where to holiday like the fit and famous. From a Thailand wellness retreat frequented by the Beckhams, to a health sanctuary in Spain graced by the likes of Kylie Minogue and Demi Moore, add a touch of star quality to your healthy escape.
Spa like the stars at Spain’s pioneering SHA Wellness Clinic, a celebrity wellness hotspot boasting scenic ocean views and sweeping mountain vistas. Frequented by Hollywood stars and music moguls, SHA prides itself on offering distinctively tailored wellness programmes, with healthy breaks to help combat insomnia, stress, weight loss, smoking and more. The world’s first macrobiotic wellness resort, combine a tailor-made macrobiotic nutritional plan with rejuvenating spa therapies and complimentary classes, from yoga to Tai Chi.
Famous Fans: Demi Moore, Kylie Minogue, Simon Cowell, Naomi Campbell, Madonna and Yoko Ono.
Health and Fitness Travel (0203 397 8891 healthandfitnesstravel.com) offers 7 nights at SHA from £2,330pp or £2,775 for single occupancy. Price includes full board, a choice of programmes, return flights and transfers.
Nestled in a peaceful cove on the stunning Caribbean island of St. Lucia, The BodyHoliday, has offered a wellness sanctuary to many celebs in search of a haven to refocus their minds and re-energize their bodies. Inviting guests to be as active or relaxed as they need, a dynamic offering of spa treatments, sports, fitness and wellness activities ensure you’ll soon glow like the stars. Explore your tropical surroundings on a scenic bike ride or ocean kayaking adventure, before making the most of a wide array of group classes, including yoga and spinning in the treetop studio.
Famous Fans: Morgan Freeman, Charlotte Church and Emma Bunton.
Health and Fitness Travel (0203 397 8891 healthandfitnesstravel.com) offers 7 nights at The BodyHoliday from £2,140pp for single or double occupancy. Price is all-inclusive, with a choice of programmes, return flights and transfers.
Rejuvenate your senses at this celebrity hotspot, a secluded wellness retreat set at the foot of India’s serene Himalayas. With a holistic wellness approach designed to unite mind, body and soul, revive your well-being with Ananda’s array of experiences, from ancient Indian Ayurvedic spa therapies, to meditation and healthy cooking demonstrations. Mere miles away from Rishikesh, the birthplace of yoga, yogi enthusiasts can enhance their practice before immersing themselves in the Himalayan foothills during guided mountains treks, a must-do for everyone, celebrity and civilian alike.
Famous Fans: Uma Thurman, Heidi Klum and Ricky Martin.
Health and Fitness Travel (0203 397 8891 healthandfitnesstravel.com) offers 7 nights at Ananda in the Himalayas from £3,440pp or £4,340 for single occupancy. Price includes full board, a choice of wellness programmes, return flights and transfers.
A newcomer, already a growing favourite of the fit and famous; experience a full mind, body and soul transformation on the Mediterranean island of Ibiza with The Body Camp. The go-to celebrity hotspot for London’s heiress stars; satisfy your workout wanderlust as you shape up in the great outdoors with a variety of fun fitness activities, from beach circuit training to sea swimming and yoga. Take part in educational cookery classes and mindful coaching workshops, before unwinding after an active day with a revitalising dip in the mineral-rich salt water pool.
Famous Fans: Millie Mackintosh, Caggie Dunlop and Madeleine Shaw.
Health and Fitness Travel (0203 397 8891 healthandfitnesstravel.com) offers 7 nights at The Body Camp from £1,890pp or £3,030 for single occupancy. Price includes full board, a wellness programme, return flights and transfers.
Get the VIP treatment when you escape to the Hua Hin coast of Thailand at world-renowned health and fitness retreat, Chiva Som. Dedicated to a holistic approach to wellness promoting overall well-being, celebs from football stars, to supermodels and Hollywood royalty have sought sanctuary at this award-winning retreat. With tailor-made wellness programmes, from stress relief and yoga to detox and fitness, expert health and fitness advisers utilise the best in specialist exercises, spa therapies and nutrition to help you achieve overall well-being.
Famous Fans: David and Victoria Beckham, Elizabeth Hurley, Hugh Grant, Elle Macpherson and Kate Moss.
Health and Fitness Travel (0203 397 8891 healthandfitnesstravel.com) offers 7 nights at Chiva Som from £3,395pp or £4,535 for single occupancy. Price includes full board, a choice of programmes, return flights and transfers.
Holiday like one of the A-list and discover paradise on the private island of Parrot Cay, where many stars have chosen to build their own holiday homes. Guaranteed to leave you feeling like a million bucks, feel the soft sand between your toes as you practice daily yoga and Pilates looking out onto the Atlantic Ocean. Further improve your yoga knowledge as you open your mind and calm your senses through Vedic yogic philosophy group discussions, before raising the pace with mountain biking and windsurfing or unwinding in luxury at the world-renowned COMO spa.
Famous Fans: Donna Karan, Bruce Willis, and Keith Richards.
Health and Fitness Travel (0203 397 8891 healthandfitnesstravel.com) offers 7 nights at Parrot Cay from £2,485pp or £3,885 for single occupancy. Price includes breakfast, a yoga & Pilates programme, return flights and transfers.
Set overlooking the stunning southern coast of Thailand’s Koh Samui island, Buddhist monks once used the cave at the centre of Kamalaya as a place of meditation and spiritual retreat. Now a wellness sanctuary for civilians and celebrities alike seeking long-term health transformations, tailor-made wellness programmes include; sleep enhancement, ideal weight, yoga, optimal fitness and learning how to embrace change. With a holistic approach to wellness, unwind with stress relieving spa therapies inspired by ancient healing traditions and classes, from yoga to Tai Chi.
Famous Fans: Sarah Ferguson,Annie Lennox and Oliver Stone.
Health and Fitness Travel (0203 397 8891 healthandfitnesstravel.com) offers 7 nights at Kamalaya from £2,502pp or £2,915 for single occupancy. Price includes full board, with a choice of programmes, return flights and transfers.
The 8th annual West Midlands Vegan Festival will be by far the biggest vegan fest ever staged in the Midlands. Wolverhampton will become only the 4th city in the UK to stage a 2 day vegan festival, after Bristol, Brighton & London, and up to 5,000 visitors are expected over the weekend. The entire Wolves Civic will be packed with attractions throughout the whole weekend and the event has proved so popular that there will also be a marquee full of stalls, a catering van and entertainment outdoors too.
The West Midlands Vegan Festival 2015 will offer all you need for healthy, cruelty-free, eco-friendly living. And you don’t have to be veggie or vegan to attend; everyone is welcome! Organisers are inviting everyone along to see just why people are increasingly adopting a vegan lifestyle.
The festival will include over 100 stalls – everything from clothing, footwear and cosmetics to books, campaign organisations and lots of food!
The show will help answer the question ‘Why Vegan?’ showing how people choose a vegan lifestyle for various reasons, including to save animals, improve their health, reduce hunger and save the planet.
There’ll be more delicious food choices than ever before, with 8 hot food caterers from across the UK, serving food from around the globe, an array of cake stalls including cheesecake, iced buns and delicious raw cakes, numerous tempting chocolate and confectionery stalls, wine tasting, a vegan bar, freshly squeezed tropical fruit juices and a variety of vegan cheeses to die for! Many of the food stalls will offer free samples of their delicious products for people to try.
And if you’re a cruelty-free fashionista, there’ll be more clothing stalls than ever before, offering an array of stylish shoes, boots, clothes and accessories, and a superb array of ethical make-up, perfume, cosmetics, bodycare, skincare and haircare products on sale, with many samples to try.
Other stalls will include vegan support and information; green and ethical products and services; animal protection groups and sanctuaries; and environmental awareness campaigns. Local and national organisations will offer a vast array of information about going and staying vegan, alongside a range of products including books and clothes. There will also be a wealth of information on a wide variety of issues, alongside merchandise to help raise much needed funds.
There’ll be over 40 inspiring talks throughout the weekend, covering a wide variety of issues from going vegan, general vegan health and vegan bodybuilding, to vegan organic crop cultivation, deep ecology and an array of talks on animal issues. Throughout the weekend there’ll be 10 mouth-watering cookery demos, which will demonstrate how to cook vegan lasagne, gluten free meals, Barcelona style, delicious desserts and a vegan cheese making demo both days!
Also, there’s plenty for children too with lots of kids activities over the 2 days and Sparkle the Goblin Wizard, a 50 minute fun-filled children’s show with Dommy B.
There’ll be live on-stage entertainment from start to finish, a range of alternative therapies, plus vegan strength and fitness contests.
This is the Festival’s 8th year, with the first festival staged on 1st November 2008 (World Vegan Day) in the Wulfrun Hall. 1,200 people flocked to the event, which has grown year on year ever since. Last year’s was the best yet, with over 100 fantastic stalls and 3,000 visitors – half of them non-vegans. So, because of the festival’s growing popularity, the 2015 event will be open across two whole days for the first time.
The 2015 event is sponsored by Moo Free Chocolates, with the multi award winning dairy-free chocolate producer supporting the event for the 6th year in a row.
The West Midlands Vegan Festival is being held at the Wolverhampton Civic Hall in the city centre, 10 minutes walk from the train and bus stations and near city centre car parks. It will be open from 10am to 6pm both days, with admission just £1 for adults, payable at the door, and under-16’s free.