Standing in the lobby of the Balmoral, it is impossible not to be in awe of the beautiful surroundings and exemplary service, which is perfectly orchestrated from the moment that you arrive. Here nothing’s too much trouble and everything is done with a smile and a large dollop of Scottish charm- a refreshing change from the stuffy and rude staff that can often be found at establishments of this calibre.
Luxury in the heart of Edinburgh
The ultimate in luxury, this commanding 5 Star Rocco Forte landmark hotel consisting of 188 rooms and 20 suites, is conveniently located on bustling Princes Street in the heart of Edinburgh city centre, making it an ideal base for exploring the iconic city.
Upon arrival guests are welcomed by a cheerful porter donned in a smart Scottish inspired suit, (complete with a cape and tartan hat), where they are ushered inside an impressive lobby, which would be intimidating if it weren’t for the warm glow of the fire crackling away in the fireplace, creating a cosy ambiance and a welcome respite from the chilly Scottish weather.
A place where nothing is too much trouble
After checking in, a polite, yet unimposing porter is at hand to assist you with your luggage and whisk you to your room where upon request, he’ll unpack your luggage and provide you with a quick in-room demo of how to use the lights and TV (skills that are obviously presumed guests forget as soon as they leave the familiar surroundings of home and step out of their day-to-day routine and into the lap of luxury).
Scottish design and luxuries fit for the Queen
Tastefully restrained Scottish décor and artworks featuring iconic imagery of beloved Scottish actor Sean Connery is another nod to the Scottish roots of the hotel. Guest rooms are large and airy and feature comfortable beds, Italian marble bathrooms featuring an oversized marble bath, relaxing rain shower and complimentary REN luxury toiletries- providing an extremely relaxing overall experience.
Extra touches also include 24-hour room service, complimentary robe and slippers and a concierge service to provide recommendations to suit your every whim.
Indulge in delicious cuisine
If you can pry yourself from the comfort of your room, you must try one of the three restaurants located at the hotel. Options on hand include Hadrian’s Brasserie, Bollinger Bar at Palm Court or Michelin-starred restaurant Number One. For those seeking a livelier atmosphere, the stylish Balmoral Bar is the perfect place to enjoy a stylish cocktail.
Enjoy the sumptuous spa
Offering five treatment rooms, a 15 metre swimming pool, sauna, steam room, gymnasium and exercise studio, The Balmoral Spa is the perfect retreat for frazzled guests who want to recharge their batteries in style. A designated spa lift takes guests to the spa area- perfect for those who wish to pad around a robe and slippers (without the scrutiny of other hotel guests).
Cool blue mosaic tiles and muted lighting create a sense of serenity, providing the perfect retreat for rest and relaxation. Enjoy lazy laps or for the more enthusiastic, a vigorous swim in the pool or sweat out your toxins in the Finnish sauna or menthol scented steam room.
For those wishing to indulge in pampering sessions, a wealth of spa treatments are available for an additional cost. Guests can choose from a dizzying array of treatments certain to impress even the most seasoned spa goer including hot stone massages, facials, manicures and pedicures and detoxifying body wraps.
If you’re not sure which to choose, the helpful spa attendants are on hand to happily guide you through the options to provide the best recommendation based on your individual needs. Men’s and women’s day packages (which also include champagne afternoon tea or lunch at Hadrians) are also available and are the ultimate treat for couples really wanting to spoil themselves.
Take in the city sights
If you can bear to leave the luxuries of the hotel, no trip to Edinburgh is complete without taking in the majestic, internationally renowned Edinburgh Castle, which rises from the rocks high above Princes Street Gardens and is only a short walk away from the hotel. Once you’ve seen the castle, head to Princes Street or over the North Bridge to the Royal Mile for a spot of retail therapy.
It’s hard to fault the place, however, there is a distinct lack of modern technologies such as an iPod docking station and free in-room Wi-Fi.
Quite simply, if you’re looking for luxury and don’t want to have to lift a finger, than this is the place for you. So, what are you waiting for? Go on and spoil yourself with a luxury Scottish weekend that will have you longing for your next visit before you’ve even left.
Prices starting at £425 for a classic room to £1820 for a royal suite.
1 Princes Street
Relax at this stunning property in the heart of the countryside...
Nestled away on 200 acres of lush farmland in North Yorkshire, The Coach House at Middleton Lodge is the perfect retreat for those looking to escape the stresses and strains of city life. As you make your way up the long drive flanked by towering trees, you feel worlds away from any cares or worries.
The stylish and understated décor with its soothing muted palette and emphasis on raw materials that serve as the centrepiece of the design aesthetic, creates a restful haven for guests who want nothing more than to relax.
Here, laziness isn’t guilt inducing, but one of life’s finest luxuries. In fact, the only gripe I have about the place is that it really throws all ambition out the window in favour of curling up for a snooze, enjoying a good book, or taking a leisurely walk. But, if like me, you could probably do with slowing down a notch every now and again, then there’s no better place to be.
At The Coach House at Middleton Lodge and its equally fashionable restaurant, every detail of the impossibly chic decor has been considered, meaning I found myself making mental notes of which finishing touches I’d like to recreate in my own home. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who was conspiring to steal their design ideas and pass them off as my own, as I overheard one inspired woman planning an ambitious re-furb of her bathroom, and saw another cooing over a large hand-blown green glass vase in the dining room.
From the rustic chic wooden beams in the bedrooms, to the claw-footed bath tubs and luxury toiletries from British company Noble Isle in the bathrooms, you’re aware of the love and attention to detail that the owners have bestowed on the estate during the 18-month restoration of the property.
Designed by John Carr of York for a local barrister, George Hartley, the building was completed in 1780. A traditional Georgian estate, it’s comprised of a main house, coach house, walled garden, estate cottages, gatehouse, farm and farmhouse. Country types will love strolling the grounds and taking in the beautiful natural surroundings.
Owners James and Rebecca moved into the lodge in 1980 and since 2005 started restoring the estate to bring it back to its former glory. The couple continue to update the property with the vision to one day restore the entire property.
The Coach House Restaurant
The restaurant's aesthetic, cuisine and the exemplary service of its staff, is all down to owners James’ and Rebecca’s attempt to bring a bit of London to Yorkshire. Inspired by the great dining experiences they’ve had at world-class restaurants in London, they sought to create a restaurant that was both stylish and inviting.
Its urban industrial country chic look (think exposed brick, tongue and groove panelling and purposefully bare plaster combined with comfortably luxe furnishings with wool and velvet upholstery), certainly wouldn’t be out of place in Islington or Shoreditch.
To the right of the restaurant and bar, visitors will find a seductive den with a sexy charcoal herringbone tweed banquet style sofa and mustard-coloured velvet armchairs, which provide the place to relax while sipping a glass of Cognac by the fire. Wile away the hours with a good book or simply settle in for a cosy tête-à-tête. Whatever your choice, you’ll find that it’s amazingly easy to lose track of time doing absolutely nothing.
*During this trip I was hosted by the lovely team at The Coach House Restaurant and Middleton Lodge. All words and opinions are my own.
Beautiful isolation in the heart of the Lake District...
Located near the edge of the Haweswater reservoir, the Haweswater Hotel is the perfect place to relax if you're seeking to combine long mountain walks in a stunning, isolated setting with rest and relaxation in a stylish bolt hole.
The hauntingly beautiful surroundings of the Haweswater Reserve, a protected area of dramatic fells, rivers and woodland, is the perfect tonic for city slickers looking to escape the rat race to indulge in the peace and tranquility of nature in all its glory.
The journey to The Haweswater Hotel...
As there is nothing more frustrating than getting stuck in London traffic in the pursuit of a countryside escape, my friend and I caught the train from London to Penrith, the gateway to the Northern Lakes, and home to the Penrith Castle ruins (where my husband proposed to me during my last trip to the Lake District nearly four years ago).
Once I was done reminiscing, we picked up our rental car from local car rental company Eden Garage (0176-836-1212) and were soon on our way. The drive was only 30 mins away, which gave us enough time to appreciate the rolling countryside. You know you're in the countryside when your nearest neighbours are a flock of sheep!
Along the way, we came across the Llama Karma Kafe, and its takeaway arm, the Deli-Llama. This cute Peruvian themed cafe, sells a variety of interesting gifts and even has a llama in the back garden (as you do). It's a great place for families to stop off at to stretch the legs on a long journey as it has a nice garden with unique seating (see pics below). Llama lovers can also enjoy on and off-site llama treks via their sister company, Lakeland Llama Treks.
Arriving at The Haweswater Hotel...
When we pulled up in front of the beautiful stone clad building covered in striking bright red ivy, I was blown away by the hotel's location perched on the edge of the Haweswater reservoir. The construction of the Haweswater reservoir started in 1929, amid great controversy from locals who were up in arms about the decision as the valley at the time was populated by farming villages, which would be flooded to make way for its construction. Today, the reservoir provides water for one in four homes in the Northwest.
As a gift to the local community, the hotel was built in 1935. Many of the furnishings in the hotel are a nod to the era, with 1930s touches to be found in the dining room, lounge and bedrooms.
The hotel changed ownership in February 2015 and is currently being refurbished throughout. I had the pleasure of staying in Loft Room 1, which has been tastefully refurbished with modern industrial touches and 1930s furnishings, which have been harmoniously combined.
Our room was large with a fabulous view looking onto the garden and the reservoir. The antique bed was exceptionally comfortable with high quality sheets and a thick duvet - the mark of a fab accommodation in my estimation.
The urban chic bathroom with its blue, claw-footed bathtub and a sleek, oversized shower cubicle, is great for couples who want to relax or indulge in a spot of romance. As I was with my friend, romance wasn't on the cards, but I was already planning my next visit with my husband.
Enjoy an invigorating walk in spectacular surroundings...
After we checked in with the friendly and laid-back staff and dropped our bags off in our room, we decided to explore the local area and take in the stunning landscapes. The area is extremely popular with outdoorsy types who love to go on long hill walks, so we thought we'd give it our best go.
We took a left out of the hotel property and walked for about an hour along the reservoir, which was eerily quite and utterly breathtaking. I was fascinated by how the reservoir changed colour throughout the day from a steely, slate grey to obsidian as the sun dipped over the hills.
There is something quite grounding about walking in the vastness of nature with nothing other than your thoughts to keep you company as you reflect on how stunning nature can be.
The Golden Eagle Restaurant at The Haweswater Hotel
At first glance, the disjointed menu didn't look very promising - many of the items seemed more akin to pub lunch offerings (e.g. Cajun chicken sandwich, fish and chips, burgers, Ploughman's etc.).
However, after perusing the menu for some time, there appeared to be some standout dishes on offer including the ribeye steak, the Cumbrian pork served with black pudding and dauphinoise potatoes and the risotto of the day.
The wine list is quite limited and the food pairings recommendations list that they give you with the wine is a bit naff, but that being said, the presentation of the food was superb and the the quality was also fantastic, which quickly dispelled any doubts we'd initially had.
During our visit we also had the pleasure of meeting Head Chef Phil Clarke, who was genuinely lovely and takes great pride in his food. He informed us that many of the dinner menu options were dictated by the hill walkers who make up the majority of the hotel's business, so it will be interesting to see how the menu evolves over the next year.
After a fabulous day, we retired to our room and woke up feel totally revitalised, an amazing feat considering we'd only stayed one night! The next morning my friend and I enjoyed breakfast in the dining room. My friend enjoyed the stewed fruits and coffee and I decided to treat myself to the scrambled eggs (very fluffy) and the local sausage (fab quality and full of flavour).
Relax in the garden...
After our lush breakfast, we took a few moments to relax in the private garden before our departure. If we had more time at the hotel, we definitely would have spent a couple of hours in the garden simply reading a book or enjoying a coffee, as it was so magical.
All in all, it was a truly wonderful stay and I would heartily recommend The Haweswater Hotel to anyone in desperate need of a bit of peace and relaxation.
How to book:
Phone: 01931 713232
From £155 (for a loft room).
Penrith, CA10 2RP
*During this trip I was hosted by the lovely team at The Haweswater Hotel. All words and opinions are my own.
The journey to The Rock Inn – All aboard the fabulous Great Western Railway
It was an early start for our weekend escape at the Rock Inn, but we knew it would be worthwhile when we arrived at our destination. The lovely team at Great Western Railway treated me and my husband to complimentary First Class train tickets for our journey from London to Taunton, which was a fabulous way to start our weekend jaunt!
While we were waiting for our train to arrive at Paddington Train station, we checked into the Great Western Railway First Class Lounge. We were impressed by the large lounge area with its comfy leather chairs and complimentary drinks station, where we could select from herbal teas, coffee and juices. We also enjoyed the complimentary fruit, croissants and pastries, a small touch, but appreciated nonetheless. Two televisions and free magazines helped us to pass the time while we waited, and before we knew it, it was time to board the train.
Given that I don’t drive, I travel quite frequently by train, but the First Class carriage on Great Western Railway really was on another level. We loved the sleek leather seats with cushioned head rests and the free WiFi was also a nice bonus.
Travelling in style in the First Class carriage of Great Western Railway
A former forge takes on a new lease of life as a chic, country retreat…
Once we arrived in Taunton (the nearest railway station to the Rock Inn, Waterrow), we were greeted by Ruth Barclay, one of the co-owners of the Rock Inn, who oversees the front of house operations at the property. During our drive to the property, Ruth shared a bit of history about the building, which is more than 400 years old. The building was a forge in its former life and became a pub in 1851 when the forge applied for a liquour license to serve its customers a pint of cider while they waited.
Our arrival at the Rock Inn, Waterrow
A striking Tudor restaurant and pub with rooms in the heart of the West Country…
Rock Inn is located in the picturesque hamlet of Waterrow (halfway between Wiveliscombe and Bampton) in the lovely county of Somerset. Upon our arrival, I was immediately smitten with the Tudor style black and white stucco building, which reminded me of a mini Liberty (the famous London department store).
Once inside, we were greeted by Ruth’s husband, Daren Barclay, a revered chef who cooked for The Goodwood Estate for 11 years and in some of the West Country's top hotels including, the Royal Crescent in Bath, The Castle Hotel in Taunton and Calcot Manor near Tetbury.
Daren’s passion is for making generously portioned gourmet dishes that are big on flavour - without being pretentious. He said, 'With our food, you never have to search for the flavours, they're robust and they really come through in each and every dish.'
At the Rock Inn, the menu changes regularly, according to what is available during the seasons. Daren believes in using local suppliers and farmers and sources the meat from Stillmans butchers in Taunton and Beech Ridge Farm in Hockworthy.
Lunch at the Rock Inn, Waterrow - Casual dining executed with flair...
Once we’d settled in, we grabbed a seat in the warm and inviting bar area with its open fire, which was a pleasant respite from the dreary rain outside. As we were peckish after our journey, we we were looking forward to a tasty lunch!
Lunch options included beer battered monk fish, a falafel burger, rump steak, sausages with bubble and squeak, ham and pea soup, Welsh rarebit (gourmet cheese on toast with a poached egg), and a fish fingers sandwich on a toasted brioche bun with capers and mayo (very fresh and flavorful).
Fish fingers sandwich and Welsh rarebit
The casual dining area in the bar of Rock Inn
Retreat to The Snug
After lunch we lounged in The Snug, a lodge style room near the bar where guests can retreat for a bit of reading. Apparently, this room was a stable in its yester years, another nod to the interesting history of the property.
The Snug at Rock Inn
The Snug and country inspired art at Rock Inn
The Copper Bar at Rock Inn, Waterrow
Enjoy a rural walk
After lunch we took a walk in the countryside. The Rock Inn is on the edge of the River Tone. During our walk we saw a lot of pheasants strolling around. Although it is currently shooting season in the area, we didn’t see any hunting parties.
Have a tipple in the bar
Rock Inn has well-stocked bar and cellar with finely kept real ales from two local breweries Cotleigh and Quantock on tap as well as Cornish and Continental lagers and a range of single Malt whiskies and gins.
The dining room at Rock Inn
The dining room at Rock Inn is simple, country chic style. Think Farrow and Ball Pavilion Grey painted panelling, scrubbed pine tables and decorative stags and horns a plenty and you get the idea.
Book in for a superb dinner at Rock Inn
Although our lunch was fab, the dinner options at Rock Inn are what really steal the show. As we’d heard so many wonderful accolades about the dinner options on offer, we saved room for three sensational courses.
There were a wide variety of starters on offer including Somerset baked Brie fondant with a warm melting centre and pickled beetroot; salad of pan fried pigeon with black pudding; Cornish fish soup with crouton gruyere and aioli; Devon white crab layered with avocado and smoked salmon (stylishly presented and incredibly fresh) and the Oriental style tuna loin seared in sesame seeds and marinated in soy and brown sugar with red pepper syrup and coriander (perfectly cooked with a nice balance of flavours).
Mains are all hearty options. Dishes include Guinea fowl breasts wrapped in Pancetta with wild mushrooms asparagus and rosti potato; venison steak cut from haunch with a peppery red wine sauce served with creamy horseradish mash potatoes and Cavelo Nero; or free range Beechridge Farm duck breast.
We had the 14 hr slow roasted feather blade of beef with black garlic and black treacle sauce (exceptionally tender beef and the sauce was divine). and the venison (also tender and the sauce was amazing).
Venison haunch with creamy horseradish mashed potatoes
14-hr slow roasted feather blade of beef in black garlic and black treacle sauce with cheddar mash
As one would expect from a quality pub, the wine list has lots of options and the Riesling and Whistling Pig Shiraz with its ripe berry flavours and eucalyptus finish, was perfect paired with venison and feather blade of beef.
Choose from homemade ice cream (we had the mint chocolate, which was lush); sticky toffee pudding or apple and blackberry crumble (comforting and perfect for a cold day).
The Rock Inn has eight rooms to choose from, all which are unique and tastefully decorated (the influence of Daren’s mum who is an interior designer, we were informed) and have their own private bath or shower facilities. Given the building’s age, the rooms are a bit higgledy piggledy (lots of low ceilings and slightly off kilter angles), but that's half the charm.
We stayed in Room 8, which had exposed stone features, a fire, oak furnishings, a Barcelona chair, and a large bed that was seriously comfortable (If I could have smuggled it out of the property, I would have).
Breakfast at Rock Inn
Breakfast is complimentary with your stay and includes a choice of a hearty Full English or a cheese omelette. Also included is homemade yoghurt and toast with homemade jams. Those wishing for a more indulgent breakfast can order from the Gourmet Breakfast menu (at an additional cost), which includes salmon and eggs amongst other dishes.
Service with a smile
The service at Rock Inn deserves a special mention as both Ruth and Daren were so friendly and really went out of their way to ensure we felt welcome during our stay. If you’re looking for a great night’s sleep and fabulous food in laidback rural surroundings, then this is your place.
Room rates start from £65 per night for a double room for two people on a B&B basis.
*During this trip I was hosted by the lovely team at The Rock Inn at Watterow. All words and opinions are my own.
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