Hotel Review, mini break, Travel, Travel inspiration, UK, Uncategorized, weekend break

Sheffield: A stay at the Psalter Hotel and how to get around during the pandemic

It’s pretty clear that we’ve moved into a new phase of bizarre normality. We have found ourselves once again in a national lock down. With the rule of 6, hands, face, space dominating the news a few weeks ago and a tiered system set to continue dividing our communities after the 2nd of December; it’s hard to fast forward to a time when things will be ‘normal’ again. But, we have to hold on to hope that these restrictions to our lives, no matter how difficult, will at some point fade away. Until that time, we must support our communities, small businesses and the hospitality sector where we can particularly in this run up to Christmas.

For the first time I have teamed up with guest writers, Kate Boddy from Hydracreative and Harriet Dolphin from the Psalter Hotel, Sheffield. They have written a brilliant guest post on vising the Northern city of Sheffield, focusing on getting around this Northern powerhouse and a stay at the gorgeously boutique hotel, the Psalter.

Sheffield City Centre re-opened its streets and shops in June following the national lockdown, and since then the city has been working hard to make sure it is COVID-19 safe. The city is set to do the same again come the end of lockdown two. With new signage, socially distanced shop queues and pedestrian systems, and new hand sanitiser stations installed in places with high footfall, Sheffield is ensuring it remains a safe city for both its residents and visitors.

Sheffield has many great places to stay: here we’ll look at how hotels are handling the ongoing changes, and what they are doing to remain welcoming and above all, safe, places to stay.

With so many great sights to see when visiting Sheffield and the surrounding areas, it’s useful to be aware of the best ways to get around. Here are some of our top tips on how best to get around in Sheffield to make sure you get the most out of your trip.

Hotels

Government guidelines on COVID-19 have required hotels to adhere to certain precautions to make sure they are keeping their guests and staff safe during the pandemic. Over the past few months, many of Sheffield’s hotels have reopened their doors and have followed guidelines set by AA’s COVID Confident and Visit Britain’s Good To Go standards and have gained accreditation.

The Psalter is a boutique hotel tucked away in Nether Edge, a well-connected area of Sheffield. They have re-opened their doors in adherence to the strict government guidelines. The hotel offers its visitors contemporary, luxury accommodation which is in no way compromised by the restrictions in place. Offering en-suite shower rooms and a café bursting with local produce, as well as a modern bar offering cocktails, wines and beers, it is a home away from home for anyone wishing for a relaxing stay.

Here in more detail, are a few ways in which the Psalter and Sheffield hotels are staying COVID-19 safe.

Social Distancing

Social distancing measures have been put in place to help reduce the amount of contact between staff and guests. Reception desks have transparent screens to separate staff and guests, with guests now required by law to wear a face mask in public areas. Check-in and check-out processes have been made as contactless as possible, with some hotels asking guests to prepay. Keep an eye out for signage informing you of social distancing, as some hotels may have a one-way system or queue points for you to follow.

Cleaning procedures

Hotels are employing further cleaning measures to ensure all areas of the hotel are sanitised to reduce the risk of the virus spreading. Deep cleaning now involves using a high-grade disinfectant at more regular intervals. This includes rooms, public areas, door handles and communal bathrooms. Many hotels will have hand sanitising stations located at various points, and staff in public areas will be wearing some form of PPE, whether this be gloves, a mask or a visor. Some items that you would usually find in a hotel room might have been removed, such as pens and pads, as these are viewed as non-essential. Measures have also been put in place for any external deliveries to ensure they are handled safely and in accordance with the safety guidelines.

Guests with COVID-19 symptoms

Hotels have identified procedures for guests that have symptoms of COVID-19. Many of these include the guests self-isolating, and staff will assist them to the best of their ability, providing them with food and drink, fresh linen and any other items they may need. However, these will be left outside their door, and when guests retrieve these, they are asked to wear a face covering.

Flexible Cancellation Policies

Many hotels have introduced a flexible cancellation policy so that if you can’t make your visit, you can cancel at shorter notice. The time period will vary from hotel to hotel, so make sure to check before booking.

Other changes to look out for

Depending on the hotel, there may be some other changes to look out for and check before booking. Some of the food and beverage options will have changed as buffets are no longer permitted, and table service is required by law. Other measures to look out for relate to gyms, pools or spas. Some hotels have kept these facilities closed, but others have re-opened them but with some limitations.

Travelling around Sheffield

Public Transport

With Sheffield being a green city, it benefits from excellent public transport routes. Before travelling, plan your journey to make sure your trip runs as smoothly and efficiently as possible. Visit Travel South Yorkshire to see which mode of public transport will work best for your trip, plan your journey, and find out about ticket pricing. If using public transport, remember to take a mask with you as this is required by law.

Bus

Sheffield benefits from a variety of bus services, getting people around the city and surrounding areas. With the main bus station right by the train station and lots of stops situated around and about, it is an easy option to get you from A to B. Fancy a trip to the Peak District? No problem; Sheffield has plenty of buses that can take you there, whether you’re looking for a scenic walk or to explore one of the local villages, such as Bakewell, where the Bakewell Tart was invented!

Scenic walks in the peak district…

Tram

Sheffield’s tram system extends all over the city and surrounding areas, linking to some key attractions. Connected by the yellow route tram are Sheffield Arena and Centertainment, which has a cinema, bowling alley and children’s soft play, as well as an abundance of restaurants. It is within walking distance (or short tram ride) of Meadowhall, a shopping centre with around 290 stores and a vast food hall – a must-visit for anyone who loves to shop. To check out which tram lines get you where, visit StageCoach Supertram.

Train

Sheffield is on many direct train lines and the train station is located right in the city centre. As a major city, Sheffield has many links to nearby towns and cities, including Rotherham, Barnsley, Huddersfield, Wakefield and York. So, if you fancy a day trip to a surrounding town or city, the train links make it an easy, direct journey.

Other ways to get around Sheffield

Although the public transport links in and around Sheffield are excellent, there are other ways for you to get around with ease. These include:

Walking

Sheffield is a beautiful, green city with many attractions within walking distance from the city centre. Whether you want to do a spot of shopping or enjoy one of the many parks, everything is within a doable walking distance. In high footfall areas, such as The Moor or West Street, it is recommended to wear a mask as social distancing is harder to keep in place.

The Botanical Gardens is a stunning collection of gardens situated near Ecclesall road. It’s easy to get to on foot from the city centre and if you’d rather just walk around the gardens it is well connected to by bus. The glass pavilions are currently closed due to restrictions but are just as impressive from the outside. There is no parking at the gardens which is why walking or public transport is advisable – if driving it is best to park on the surrounding roads, but be aware they may be busy. Disabled parking spaces are available at the top of the drive of the Thompson Road entrance.

Cycling

Many of Sheffield’s main roads have cycle lanes so it feels a safe way to get around. Cycling is a great way to see the sights around the city and helps beat the traffic in rush hour, though just to make you aware – Sheffield has a lot of hills!

Taxi

Need to get somewhere quickly? Although not the cheapest option, there are a lot of taxi services around Sheffield, such as City Taxis or Uber. If you do choose to get around in a taxi or Uber, remember to take your mask with you, otherwise, you might be refused service.

It is recommended to check visiting times and transport times before setting off to avoid any delays in your day.

Stay safe & happy travels!

Written by Kate Boddy & Harriet Dolphin

Hotel Review, mini break, Travel, Travel inspiration, UK, Uncategorized

Hotel Review: Storrs Hall Hotel, Lake Windermere, Lake District

After five months of lock-down and having to put our more adventurous travel plans on hold, we decided a change of scenery was needed. Both my husband and I have been lucky enough to continue working throughout the pandemic. Whilst we have loved having the time together and the time to be at home, it’s been exhausting and work has been intense. When there is no defining boundary between work and home, we fell into the trap of working 24/7. So, like many people this summer we set about a booking a UK staycation.

We formed a bubble with my parents at the end of July and began looking for a break close to their home in North Yorkshire. Cue, a furiously busy morning with my mum calling hotels across the north and finally finding the gem that is Storrs Hall in the Lake District. Luckily, they had two rooms available for the dates we were after. Booking confirmed we were all systems go.

Getting to Storrs Hall

We travelled over to the Lake District from Harrogate, North Yorkshire by car. We set off on Friday morning, and the journey took around two hours. The journey by road is relatively simple although there were very limited places to stop. I would suggest stocking up your car snacks and having a wee before you go. I noticed a number of the petrol stations had closed their toilet facilities due to the pandemic, this is something to bear in mind as you move away from the main roads and larger rest stops.

If you plan to travel by train, the nearest station is Windermere which is five miles from the hotel. There are direct trains to Windermere from Manchester Piccadilly, Preston and Kendal. Windermere can also be easily reached with one to two changes from Birmingham New Street, Liverpool Lime Street, Leeds, Newcastle and London Euston.

First Impressions

It’s been a long time since I’ve visited the Lakes and do know it is a hugely popular UK destination. But I have to say my levels of anxiety skyrocketed as we drove into Windermere. It was heaving. There were people everywhere and social distancing and the wearing of face coverings didn’t seem to have quite permeated the psyche of these British holidaymakers. However, as we drove out of Windermere towards the hotel, we were wrapped up with country and lakeside views. Not a tourist in sight.

Storrs Hall occupies a lakeside spot about ten minutes outside of Windermere. Close enough if you want to venture in, but far enough away to offer you some space and quiet. The Grade two listed family-owned Georgian manor house crept into view as we swept round the long-curved drive. Nestled in seventeen acres and wrapped on two sides by Lake Windermere, Storrs Hall certainly packs a punch on the first view. With the sun shining and lake glistening we were keen to get checked in and settle down for lunch with a view.

Which Room?

For a relatively small hotel, Storrs Hall has an impressive range of room options.  In the main part of the manor, you have the choice of a Classic room, Classic with a lake view, Superior, Superior with a lake view, Feature lake view, Deluxe, Deluxe with a lake view and a Master lake view bedroom. These thirty rooms have recently been refurbished and had a modern contemporary feel whilst remaining sympathetic to the grandeur and history of the building. The original architecture has been carefully preserved, so each room has a unique character and feel. This helps make your stay a truly exclusive experience for you.

In addition to the rooms in the main manor, Storrs Hall offers six lakeside suites and a boathouse. The lakeside suites are set in woodland just metres from the main building and are incredibly luxurious. With lounge space, hot tubs and sophisticated sumptuous design, these lakeside suites are the perfect hideaway. 

Finally, at the pinnacle of luxury is the boathouse. Set over two floors, the boathouse is an exclusive retreat with a hot tub, fire pit, steam room and lounge.

For our stay, we were able to secure a Classic Lake View, which my husband and I stayed in and a Deluxe room which my parents stayed in.

Classic Lake View (Room 35): What a view! South facing towards the lake and the fells was utter perfection. Even better, our bath was plinth mounted allowing some significant post-hike marinating taking it all in. Our luxurious bathroom was also furnished with a large rainfall shower. Finally, on the topic of luxurious bathrooms, Storrs Hall generously provides a gorgeous range of toiletries courtesy of Molten Brown.

Our room was well appointed with a comfortable king-size bed, tv, wifi, desk and tea and coffee facilities, robes and slippers.  

Deluxe (Room 8 & 9): In the deluxe room you sacrifice the lakeside view for a separate sitting room. The sofa in the sitting room can also be used as a sofa-bed to accommodate small children if you are travelling as a family. The room was stylishly decorated and had all the amenities of the classic lake view. The only drawback of room 8/9 was the lack of a bath. This room, however, is the only Deluxe room without a bath so it might be something worth checking when you make your booking.

Food & Drink

Our stay at Storrs Hall was a bed and breakfast deal but we opted to eat at the hotel for two of our four nights. Lunches and afternoon tea also made an appearance in our schedule. The food was incredible. Locally sourced ingredients, seasonal produce and exquisite presentation made for some sensational meals.

Due to the pandemic, the hotel is offering a reduced menu. However, there is still plenty of choices, and the carefully selected menu should provide something for all tastes and dietary requirements.  

Breakfast: The range of breakfast options on offer was brilliant. Cooked breakfast, toast, cereal, croissants, eggs, whatever your preference nothing was too much trouble. I can thoroughly recommend the vegetarian breakfast; it was the perfect set up for a day hiking through the fells.

Lunch/ Light Bites: Despite a reduced menu due to the pandemic there was plenty on offer for lunch. Sandwiches, salmon plate, burger or just a bowl of chips. Nothing was too much trouble and the service was fabulous.

Dinner: Every dish looked spectacular but my recommendation goes to the Heritage Beetroot starter (There’s a gooey ball of fried goats’ cheese…job done) The pan-fried sea bass and the chocolate slice with sticky honeycomb and cherry sorbet. Whilst the menu is subject to seasonal and producer change it is clear that the quality of kitchen staff will remain. The food was flawlessly prepared and beautifully presented. Dinner at Storrs Hall was perfection.

Afternoon tea: What’s not to love about a hot beverage and cake? The only way to make that combo better is to add finger sandwiches and warm fluffy scones. Coupled with a magnificent view and you’re on to a belter of an afternoon. The Storrs Hall afternoon tea is a must if you are visiting, just make sure you book in advance.

COVID 19 Response

It stands to reason that in the current climate I should outline everything the hotel has put in place to ensure that safety and comfort of the guests. From the moment of my booking, the staff were in contact every couple of days with updates following the latest advice. The main essential of further  information was the requirement for face coverings in all communal parts of the hotel. Once you were sat down with drinks or food of course these could be removed. This open communication from the outset put my mind at ease before we even checked in.

Check-in & check-out: The hotel requested that only one person from the group check-in for each room. This minimised the number of guests in the reception area at any one time. Before check-out, I was emailed a copy of my invoice for checking. Again, this reduced the need to spend additional time in the reception area. In terms of your luggage, the reception staff are happy to help you to your room. However, they will leave the luggage at the door to minimise the number of people coming into contact with the freshly cleaned room.

Sanitising & Social Distancing: Throughout the hotel, there were sanitising stations and signage encouraging you to use them and reminding guests of the two-metre distance requirement. After the checking in the staff talked us through the one-way system in operation throughout the communal areas of the hotel. As a Grade Two listed Georgian manor house, the hotel has space in abundance and social distancing was easily accomplished with the support and planning of the staff. Although the hotel was at maximum occupancy when we checked out, we never felt anxious about running into other guests. Even in corridors and on the stairs, guests and staff were conscious of each other and always moved aside or waited until you had moved on.

Dining: Like many places, the hotel was enforcing a prior booking policy concerning mealtimes. It was no great hardship to pre-book dinner and breakfast. The hotel has a brilliant service system in place. Having reduced the number of tables in the dining room each table was equipped with a ‘service’ table. The restaurant staff would serve the dishes and drinks to the service table and you help yourself from the service table. Once you were finished, you returned your dishes to the service table from which they were collected. This system ensured the staff could stick to the two-metre social distancing guidelines. This new system of dining genuinely didn’t detract from the experience or the high level of service.  

Your room: Aside from no turn-down service there wasn’t any great change to how your room was looked after or your use of it. In the room, there was a comprehensive two-sided document outlining everything the hotel is doing to ensure the safety of the guests. The main thing you needed to do as a guest was to ensure you hung the green service sign on your door each morning. Without the sign, the cleaning staff would not enter your room. Again, this measure ensures a minimal number of people accessing your room, thus reducing risk.

Final Thoughts

Our stay at Storrs Hall felt like a little slice of luxury and calm in what has been a very turbulent time. We felt safe throughout our stay, and the service was impeccable. We really couldn’t have asked for more. If you are considering getting away in the next couple of months, I can’t extol the virtues of Storrs Hall enough. Our short trip has left me planning a return, and I’m looking forward to a more walking focused trip to the Lakes in the future.

Travelling at home and putting money back into our economy has never been more important. So, let’s support local business, private hotels, guesthouses and b n b’s. Everyone is doing all they can to comply with government guidelines to keep us safe. If we want our hospitality and tourism sector to recover then we must invest in it’s future now.

Stay safe & happy travels

Jess