Three long weekends outside of London
London is an incredible place to visit, yet there are plenty of places a couple of hours away that offer the perfect opportunity to escape the crowds - and pollution.
These are just three of our favourites...
Nº 1 - Bath
Georgian terraces, the Roman Baths and a rejuvenating modern bathing resort at Thermae Bath Spa make this South West city one of the most visited in the UK. The Abbey is compelling and the boutiques are enough to tempt many passersby. There's the Jane Austen Centre for those interested in finding out more about her haunts and an overall congenial atmosphere about the place.
STAY: There are plenty of lovely (read: expensive) hotels in and around Bath, but we opted for a gracious apartment (found on Air B&B) in the city centre at a bargain price of £65 per night.
EAT: Circus Cafe & Bar. Although relatively small, this restaurant offers big flavours and a nice atmosphere.
Clayton's Kitchen. We went here for our Valentines Day meal, and each course was divine. A cut above the rest in our book.
The Bath Bun Tea Shoppe. Often busy so you may have to queue for a table, but the cream teas are worth waiting for.
Nº 2 - Stratford-upon-Avon
As literature students and theatre-goers, visiting the birthplace of Shakespeare is something we could do over and over again. The Royal Shakespeare Company puts on professional and brilliant productions year-round in The Swan theatre, quality restaurants with excellent pre-theatre menus line the surrounding streets and the main attractions include visiting period properties and farms (related to Shakespeare) of course.
STAY: Faviere Guest House (£75/night). The rooms are pleasant and they offer a yummy English breakfast. Owners Juan and Louise are very helpful and welcoming.
EAT: The Four Teas. A fun, 1940s-themed cafe with music and staff uniforms to match. Great for sandwiches, cake and hot drinks.
Lambs Restaurant. They offer a well-executed variety of dishes, namely the lamb, of course, but also other gourmet dishes. The service is impeccable.
Loxley's Restaurant & Wine Bar. A lovely ambiance paired with a reasonably priced menu makes this place a winner. Their wine selection ain't half bad either.
Nº 3 - Newquay and the surrounds
The grassy headlands, stunning beaches and hidden coves of Cornwall almost make you forget that you're in England (when it's sunny, at least). The best way to get around is by car, to allow yourself to see the best that the area has to offer. The National Trust beach at Crantock is a must-see, with the River Gannel flowing inland, whilst surfing beaches further up the coast are packed during summer. For gastronomy, head to Padstow for cooking schools and excellent restaurants. There's a number of interesting galleries too.
STAY: At one of the many hotels, B&Bs, apartments or caravan parks in the area. Those closer to Crantock are more peaceful and offer great views over the Atlantic.
EAT: Lewinnick Lodge, Newquay. At Pentire headland, this restaurant-with-rooms offers meals and drinks with a view.
Smuggler's Den Inn, Cubert. An idyllic thatched-roof pub serving local ales and hearty roast dinners. Enjoy the log fire if you're visiting in the colder months.
Cosy Nook Cafe, Crantock. This place is exactly as its name suggests!
Rick Stein's Seafood Restaurant, Padstow. Local celebrity-chef now has four restaurants in Padstow; if you're going to try just one, make this your choice.