Staycations are here to stay! As, with the vast majority of UK holidaymakers this last summer, we opted to stay closer to home and embarked on a Scottish staycation. This year we prepped early, not wanting to fall into the trap of waiting, only to find that everywhere was booked solid. So, armed with the idea of touring the West Coast of Scotland by train (thanks for the inspiration, Great British Railway Journey’s) I set about planning some ideas for a week-long adventure…more to come on the full itinerary!
As our trip started and finished in Glasgow, we opted for the 5* Hotel Du Vin in Glasgow’s West End as a base for our final few days in bonnie Scotland.
Getting to Hotel Du Vin
Hotel Du Vin is situated in Glasgow’s fashionable West End. It’s not far from the Botanical Gardens, Kelvin Grove Park and Kelvin Grove Art Gallery and Museum. Hotel Du Vin is also situated only 30 minutes from Loch Lomond.
If you are arriving by train at Glasgow Central Station, there is a plentiful supply of taxis from the station. The ride is approximately 10 minutes and should cost around £10. If you arrive at Glasgow Queen Street train station the journey is about 10-15 minutes and should cost between £12-£15. Taxis are an easy option particularly if you have luggage.
If you’re not weighed down with baggage, the walk from either main train station is just under an hour. Or you can jump on the number 15 bus from West Nile Street only a 4-minute walk from Glasgow Queen Street Station. The bus route will take you about 22 minutes to Glasgow Nuffield Hospital which is a 1-minute walk to Hotel Du Vin.
Finally, if you are flying into Glasgow Airport your easiest option is a taxi from the airport. The journey should take around 15 minutes and cost in the region of £20-£25.
As Scotland was still a few weeks behind England, in its relaxing of COVID restrictions it was the familiar routine of, hand sanitiser on entry, masks and a 1 person check-in. However, once the COVID formalities were taken care of, Hotel Du Vin makes quite the first impression. Stretching five Victorian townhouses the hotel certainly delivers classical grandeur with a modern interior twist.
Original Victorian tiles still welcome you on entry. Original doors, staircases, stained glass windows cornicing and ceiling roses made a striking impression as we found our way through the stately labyrinth to our room.
Spanning five Victorian townhouses Glasgow’s Hotel Du Vin has forty-nine rooms and suites to all suit a range of budgets. The rooms all boast Egyptian Cotton linen, sumptuous deep baths, hand sprung mattresses, a Nespresso machine complete with pods, L’Occitane toiletries and a plasma TV. Each room is furnished and decorated in the signature Hotel Du Vin style. Stylish contemporary furniture, a beautiful fusion of Scandi/Art Deco, colourful accents, quirky art and wallpaper.
Based on these credentials it’s not possible to make a poor room choice here.
We were travelling with my parents, who happen to have a membership with Hotel Du Vin. Cue an unexpected room upgrade for one of the rooms on our arrival. My husband and I took the Classic Room, and my parents had a Junior Suite.
The Classic Room treated us to a king-sized bed, free-standing bath and excellent shower. Our room was situated at the very top of house 5. As we were right at the top of house 5 our room didn’t have the most interesting of outlooks, simply a view over the back courtyards of the surrounding properties. However, as the hotel was merely a kicking off point, we weren’t too fussed about the outlook.
The Junior Suite was located in house 3. The room boasted a super king–sized bed, bath with a monsoon shower over the bath. Separate showers are available in some of the Junior Suites. If this is your preference then it would be worth checking when you book. The Junior Suite also had a lounge area with a lovely view out over the front of the hotel.
Food & Drink
Unfortunately, our schedule didn’t allow for much dining in the hotel as I opted instead to book and explore some of Glasgow’s other fine restaurants. However, we did secure a table for lunch on arrival and spent some time in the bar before we headed out for an evening. Our booking also included breakfast.
Breakfast: The range of breakfast options was excellent. Cooked breakfast, toast, cereal, croissants, eggs, porridge. You name it the kitchen was happy to oblige. I can thoroughly recommend the porridge with red berry compote, the perfect start to a long day exploring.
Lunch/Dinner: Lunch options were many and various. Soups, sandwiches, scones, light bites or a full Sunday roast. The dinner menus are carefully crafted by Head, Chef Gary Townsend. The dishes are a classic mix of seasonal ingredients and local produce. There was something to suit all tastes, levels of hunger and dietary requirements.
Drinks: Hotel Du Vin offers a wide range of beverage choices. There is an extensive cocktail and wine list with enough choice to warrant more than 1 pre-dinner drink! I can thoroughly recommend the Four Pillars Olive Leaf Gin Goblet…delicious! So much more than a standard G ‘n’ T.
COVID 19 Response
As with all travel in the current climate, it is important to outline what the hotel has put in place to ensure the safety and comfort of its guests. It is important to note the wearing of face coverings in Scotland is currently necessary unless you have a medical exemption. As such, face coverings were required in all communal parts of the hotel. Once you were sat down with drinks or food of course these could be removed.
Sanitising & Social Distancing:Throughout the hotel, there were sanitising stations and signage encouraging you to use them and reminding guests of the importance of maintaining social distancing. 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 series of Victorian terraces, the hotel had plenty of space to achieve social distancing. Despite the hotel being fairly full, it was comforting to find everyone was respectful and mindful of each other.
Your room: Aside from no turndown service there wasn’t any great change to how your room was cared for 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.
As a base for city exploration and kicking off point for easy access to the West Coast, Glasgow’s Hotel Du Vin was a brilliant option. We thoroughly enjoyed the luxurious comfort it offered at the end of a long day of exploring. I can safely say that if I find myself north of the border in the future, I will certainly consider Hotel Du Vin as an option.
Travel within the UK and supporting our hospitality sector continues to be incredibly important. With the Omicron variant rampaging across the country, we must strive to do all we can within the restrictions to support our local travel agents, business, hotels, guesthouses and b n b’s. It is only with our trust and investment that the hospitality and travel sector can emerge from under the COVID cloud and look to a brighter future.
At the moment I feel as though I am channeling my inner Bilbo Baggins. This long-term literary hero of mine springs to mind when I consider our current emergence from lockdown. I find myself stuck in a perpetual cycle of longing for travel and adventure. I know freedom is waiting just outside my front gate, particularly with Boris’ road map out of lockdown tantalisingly close to full fruition, bring on the 17th of May; but I am simultaneously desperate for a semi-permanent state of Hobbit approved hibernation. So, in the spirit of looking forward to travelling freedom here are fifteen must-visit UK destinations for your summer staycation.
The Scottish Munros are a list of mountains named after Sir Hugh T Munro who set about cataloguing them in the late 1800s. The mountains were classified as Munros if they were over 3000 feet high. Munro bagging is the challenge to climb as many of the peaks as possible. The Munros are scattered across Scotland and are a great way for you to see Scotland’s fabulous scenery or for the more spirited adventurer, Munro bagging will push you to explore some of the more far-flung reaches of the Scottish mainland and Islands. So why not plan a Scottish walking break and bag some of these majestic peaks. If you’re up for a challenge why not snag all 282 in 39 days 9 hours and 6 minutes, the current record – can you beat it?
In my opinion, few English cities can compete with the splendid tapestry of history and literary genius that is Oxford. Some of my favourite stories, worlds and characters have been crafted from this magnificent city. Why not explore the city on foot with a literary walking tour, tours run by Oxford Walking Tours depart 6 days a week from Carfax Tower. Booking is needed. Therefore, whether you want to dive into Chaucer, Tolkien or even the mystical world of the All Souls trilogy; I would get your spot secured for an afternoon of fictional wonder.
A walking tour is the start of the bookish delights on offer in Oxford. If your schedule allows I would recommend a tour of the Bodleian Libraries. For a £12 fee, you can secure a private 60-minute tour of the Divinity School (location used in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone & The Goblet of Fire), Convocation House, Chancellor’s Court and Duke Humfrey’s Library.
After all of that walking, why not drop into Blackwell’s Book shop on Broad Street. The smell and calm of a bookshop are a feeling like nothing else. Take a stroll into the Norrington Room, Europe’s largest room devoted to selling books… Not a bad claim to fame!
Finally, top off your day in Oxford with a cold beverage at the Eagle and Child on St Giles Street. This infamous watering hole was home to the Inklings Literary Group who met here from 1933 to the 1960s. Amongst their many esteemed members were Tolkien & C.S Lewis. So, grab a pint and your pen and let this inspirational city work its magic.
Yorkshire 3 peaks
Most walking enthusiasts will have heard of the Three Peaks challenge but like most things Yorkshire has its version and any Northerner will probably inform you it’s a far more superior challenge. The Yorkshire three peaks comprise of Pen-y-Ghent, Whernside & Ingleborough. The challenge is to navigate and summit all three peaks in under 12 hours. A gruelling task and not one for the complete novice walker, that being said it is a significant physical and mental test and an excellent warm-up for the main Three Peaks Challenge. The entire route is 24 miles and walkers typically start with Pen-y-Ghent before tackling Whernside and finishing with Ingleborough.
Even if the 12-hour marker isn’t on your bucket list tackling these three peaks is well worth it, as individually they are accessible for all regardless of hiking experience. From the cavernous depths of the Hunt and Hull pots on the descent from Pen-y-Ghent to the highest point in Yorkshire on the Whernside summit and the gorgeous limestone scenery and caves of Ingleborough the Yorkshire three peaks are spectacular, however, you choose to conquer them.
West coast of Ireland road trip
Having family from the west coast of Ireland and seeing snippets of the Wild Atlantic Way on the TV recently I have a burgeoning desire to jump in the car and discover Ireland’s infamous west coast for myself.
The Wild Atlantic Way stretches from County Donegal in the North through to County Cork in the South. The vast 2,600km route encapsulates rugged peninsulas, gently rolling countryside and wind-battered cliffs. With the untameable Atlantic and spectacular views in all directions, it’s not hard to see why this stretch of the Irish coast is getting a lot of attention.
It’s worth considering when to visit as the Irish weather can be unpredictable. Any time between June and September, even early October should give you the optimal chance of experiencing this coastline at its best.
Although Ireland is a small island, it’s worth taking your time on this epic road trip to get the full experience. However, if time is limited then check out these fifteen discovery points for the abbreviated highlights of the journey.
Created in a time of myth and legend by the giant Finn McCool, who tore the Antrim coast to bits to create a path to Scotland to deal with the pesky Scottish giant Benadonner; the Giants causeway is a breath-taking natural basalt rock formation. Over 40,000 interlocking basalt columns litter the coastal path, piercing the foamy sea.
The Giants Causeway visitor experience is run by the National Trust. There are three trails that you can take, each providing a different perspective of the causeway. In addition to the famous pavement, there are some other key sights to take in on your visit. Be sure to check out the Giants Boot, the Wishing Chair, the Camel, Clifftop trails and the visitor centre.
When this fabulous landmark re-opens to the public booking will be essential. Adult tickets are £13, children £6.50 and a family ticket £32.
Full information regarding opening, booking and tickets can be found by following the link below.
If you like your day trips historically bloodthirsty with a side of tea and cake then the city of York does both of these things splendidly. Following a long period of Roman occupation York became Jorvik. York was the capital of Viking territory, and the city truly is a window to the past. I would recommend a trip to the Jorvik centre which provides an unprecedented look at the Viking society which thrived in the city from 866AD.
York is a city firmly rooted in its history, after sampling the Viking delights I would recommend a walk down the shambles and around the castle to soak up the city’s medieval and Roman offerings. After all that history, I would say it’s time to experience the Yorkshire institution that is Bettys tea room.
Located on St Helens Square the York Bettys has been dazzling the patrons with superior hot beverages and delectable patisserie since 1936. However, Betty’s is no secret and there is often a queue for the unprepared visitor. If like me a brew and cake is the highlight of your day trip I would make a reservation. Alternatively, you can check out the smaller Bettys tea room around the corner at 46 Stonegate.
Like many Harry Potter enthusiasts, I go a little bit doe-eyed at the infamous sight of the Glen Finnian viaduct. This stunning stretch of the railway is part of the West Highland Line, Glasgow to Mallaig. The line also runs from Glasgow to Oban or Glasgow to Fort William.
Considered by many to be one of the most scenic railway journeys in the world a trip down these tracks is assuredly a UK bucket list must. As the trains depart Glasgow you are whisked away from the city and carried north along the coast. On your journey, you’ll take in deep loch’s, heather strewn moorland, mountains and the expansive wilderness of the highlands.
To experience this remarkable train journey to its full I would be tempted to initially take the line to Oban, spend a few days exploring the islands of Mull and Iona before heading back to Glasgow to take on the remote and wild route to Mallaig.
This is something I’m so keen to try, despite all my feelings about being immersed in cold water, I’m very much of the opinion that ‘it’s alright once you’re in.’ Across the UK there are some fabulous secluded wild swimming spots from the lake district to Wales and Cornwall.
If wild swimming is going to make an appearance on your summer staycation to-do list then make sure to check the current, depth, temperature and always swim with a companion, just in case of trouble.
Burgh Island, where all your murder mystery, art deco dreams come true. Burgh Island not only hosts a beacon of Art deco design with its hotel but it was the inspirational location of Agatha Christie’s ‘And Then There Were None’ & ‘Evil Under the Sun.’ If you fancy a weekend that casts you back to the gloriously glamorous 1930s then Burgh Island is a must.
Situated on a tidal island and accessed by sea tractor Burgh Island Hotel hosts a myriad of chilled weekend activities. From a dip in the Mermaid pool to tennis and paddle boarding, there are even fishing experiences to be had at this truly one-off hotel. Whatever takes your fancy during the day, your evening should start with donning your black tie and tassels and sipping cocktails at the Palm Court before tucking into some exquisite fine dining in the ballroom.
Britain’s favourite walk: Helvellyn
Like many people during lockdown, my weekend mornings have been accompanied by Julia Bradbury and her wonderful walking programmes. Whilst I was cooped up at home Julia has been filling my head with possibilities and a taste for the great outdoors. Walking has never been so popular! As a permitted activity for exercise, many of us have taken to our local footpaths to explore our surroundings in a new way. So, what better way to develop a newfound love of walking than with Britain’s favourite walk as voted for by the Great British Public.
Helvellyn in Cumbria is the Lake District’s third-highest peak. There are various routes to conquer the summit including the infamous Striding Edge, involving a narrow ridge scramble to the top. Other slightly less daring routes to the summit are available too with the easiest route beginning from Thirlmere. The average hike up Helvellyn should take around three hours for someone with a good level of fitness.
As with any hike make sure you are prepared; check the weather forecast and pack water, snacks, map, compass and appropriate footwear. The scree in some parts of the route will require a sufficient amount of grip!
Beneath the well-trodden pavements of London lies an entire network of subterranean gems. The available history beneath the capital’s streets is staggering. From the well-known Churchill War Rooms to the slightly more well-guarded secrets of the Vaults Waterloo or the Chancery Lane silver vaults.
I would set aside a whole weekend to explore subterranean London. I’d kick off proceedings with a few G n’ Ts at the Viaduct Tavern, Holborn. Lurking in the Gin Palace cellars are the former cells of Newgate Prison. If it’s a quiet evening staff are happy to give you a sneak peek. https://www.viaducttavern.co.uk/
Saturday morning, I would head to the Churchill War Rooms. Located near St James’ Park and Westminster tube station the war rooms remained a London secret until the 1980s. Now a glorious step back in time to wartime London you can see the Cabinet War Rooms: Map Room, Churchill’s bedroom & Cabinet Room, Churchill’s Bunker and the Churchill Museum. Upon reopening in May 2021, booking will be essential.
After a morning steeped in wartime history, I would slow things down and take a step back, back to Roman Britain. Nestled deep in the ground beneath the Bloomberg building is the Roman temple of Mithras. The temple and artefacts date back to an intriguing and mystical Roman cult from AD 240. https://www.londonmithraeum.com/temple-of-mithras/
Finally, I would top off your foray into subterranean London with a trip down the Mail Rail. The Mail Rail takes you back beneath London’s streets through the original platforms and stations revealing the unseen 100-year-old story of our post.
St Michaels Mount
Emerging from the sea, this tidal island on the Cornish coast sits proudly as a beacon for adventure. St Michaels Mount is steeped in myth and legend, from Cormoran the giant to the irresistible lure of mermaids. From an ancient monastery to a battle-torn castle there is something to interest all enquiring minds. Now in the custody of the National Trust, the island day trips to the island are easily planned.
If you time your trip with the tide, it is possible to walk across the causeway from the mainland. If you don’t fancy the walk, you can always travel by amphibious vehicle…which I imagine is as fun to travel by as the word is to say.
Fish & Chips with Dracula
The Yorkshire coastal town of Whitby has always been hauntingly beautiful. Perched on the cliffs overlooking the North Sea is the infamous Whitby Abbey. The gothic abbey, the inspiration for Bram Stokers Dracula. Nowadays the Abby ruins, cobbled coastal streets and quirky shops are a lure for lovers of the gothic culture. This is particularly celebrated at the Whitby Goth Weekend, hosted annually at the end of October.
Fear not, if the gothic subculture isn’t your cup of tea then Whitby has a lot more to offer. Whitby has been a fresh fish hot spot for decades so if freshly caught cod and chips with mushy peas sounds like more you’re thing then Whitby’s’ got you covered. Grab a Yorkshire meal deal (Cod, chips, one side and a drink) for £7.75 from Hadley’s on Bridge street find a bench with gorgeous sea views and tuck in.
This one is not for the faint-hearted! Deep in the depths of the abandoned Llechwedd Slate Caverns lurks an enormous subterranean neon playground. Bounce Below consists of over 10,000 square feet of nets with three ginormous trampolines suspended on three different levels. The trampolines are connected by suspended walkways, tunnels and slides. If that’s not enough to fill your adrenaline junkie bucket list then the only way down is on the old mine train culminating a 60 -foot slide straight onto the first trampoline. I can’t wait to check this place out… I might need to summon up my brave first!
The pandemic has inspired many a new activity from baking to home workouts, but it’s stargazing that’s captured my imagination. Across the UK there are dark sky discovery sites where you can drink in the glittering canvas of the night sky minus the light pollution. On a clear night our UK skies offer up over a thousand stars, it’s even possible to marvel at our galaxy, the Milky Way. So, take a walk, pack a picnic dinner and your comfiest rug and lie back for a truly extraordinary show.
Whatever the next few months have in store, let’s keep positive, keep following the rules and get planning some fabulous adventures in and around the UK. As always, I’d love to hear from you about your top UK destinations and day trips.
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.
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 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.
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
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.
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!
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.
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:
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.