Category Archives: Travel

In defence (and memory) of little yellow photobombing cars

Back in January 2015 I wrote a blog post in defence of little yellow photobombing cars, as the car owned by Peter Maddox, 82-year old resident of Bibury village in the Cotswolds, had attracted the ire of tourists come to photograph Arlington Row, supposedly one of the prettiest streets in England. They were complaining that their photographs of said street were being ruined by Mr Maddox’s cheerful little Vauxhall Corsa.  Now it seems the car has been sent to that great Vauxhall garage in the sky by a vandal who destroyed Mr Maddox’s car beyond repair, while scrawling ‘move it’ on the bonnet.

Not only is this a horrible thing to do to anyone or their car, it totally misses the point of visiting living, breathing places inhabited by living, breathing people (and their means of transport): one of the attractions of Cotswolds villages such as Bibury is that they are real places, not museums covered in dust or protective barriers. If you want an uninterrupted, sterile, pristine picture of something – buy a postcard. Otherwise be happy that you had the privilege of travelling the world and recording what you see – not an artificial, sanitised version of it.

So in defence (once again) and now in memory of photobombing little yellow cars everywhere, here’s my Fiat spoiling (or enhancing) the view at some of the loveliest hotels in the UK.

Not far from Bibury is the lovely Lords of the Manor hotel in Upper Slaughter. It has 8 acres of glorious gardens, a Michelin-starred restaurants, and a bright little yellow Fiat parked outside it…
[click here for my review] Continue reading In defence (and memory) of little yellow photobombing cars

Rooftop cocktails and a basement spa make Montcalm Royal London House a top to toe destination

There is something rather special about a rooftop bar in London. The views might not be spectacular – we’re not taking Rio or Hong Kong harbour here – but to rise above the traffic and gaze down at the crowds from on high feels incredibly luxurious. Good rooftop bars in the capital are few and far between, so the arrival of a new one is cause for celebration. Enter the Aviary, the rooftop bar and restaurant on top of Montcalm luxury hotels group’s sixth and newest hotel, Montcalm Royal London House.

Montcalm Royal London House
The roof terrace at the Montcalm Royal London House in Finsbury Square is one of the biggest in London (and would look even better on a sunny day)

I visited on a cold winter’s evening, so my friend and I had the pick of dozens of comfy sofas and retro chairs on the deserted terrace, while more sensible patrons enjoyed their cocktails in the warmth of the restaurant inside. However there were heaters and thick blankets so we were able to enjoy the delights of the Aviary’s eclectic cocktail list al fresco – a sour cherry bomb with Sipsmith vodka and rhubarb bitters was especially tasty.

montcalm royal london house
The terrace is on top of the Montcalm Royal London House and adjacent to the glass-walled Aviary restaurant

Continue reading Rooftop cocktails and a basement spa make Montcalm Royal London House a top to toe destination

A review of 2016 – a year of excitement and adventure for ALadyofLeisure

It’s been quite a year! It started with an amazing culinary tour of Japan – a week full of sushi, puffer fish and bullet trains –  and ended with a trip to Antarctica (which felt at times like a trip to another planet). During the rest of the year I discovered mermaids in Las Vegas, had lunch (almost) with The Queen on the Mall outside Buckingham Palace, learned to cook at the River Cottage, found my way onto black runs while skiing in Austria and stayed at some of the best hotels in the country.

In 2016 I reviewed just under 50 amazing hotels, restaurants, bars and holidays – which were read by several thousand unique (and travel-loving) readers a month, plus shared across Twitter and Facebook and from now on, Pinterest.

Huge thanks to all the venues that made such an exciting year possible and I’m really looking forward to reviewing the best hotels, restaurants, holidays, bars and all things leisure-related in 2017. There’s a full list of reviews below – lots of inspiration for you!

All the best,


My reviews of 2016

Dormy House Cotswolds
Dormy House looking lovely in the Cotswolds sunshine

Dormy House, the Cotswolds: so snug, you’ll never want to leave
Ellenborough Park, Cheltenham: the perfect place for a day at the races
Burley Manor, Burley: the New Forest’s newest, oldest hotel
Balans, Kensington: it’s smarter, sexier and has its very own tree
It’s Oscar time: but who is going to triumph in my very own awards?
The Levin, Knightsbridge: a calm retreat from the shopping frenzy
The Crab and Boar, Chieveley: classic country foodie pub (with hot tubs)

Japan food tour
Meals in Japan were a work of art as well as a culinary delight

My culinary tour of Japan: sushi, puffer fish and bullet trains
Hambleton Hall, Rutland: warm, welcoming and wonderful food
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, Knightsbridge – food for thought
Hampton Manor, Solihull – top-class food and a step back in time

A view across London from the roof terrace bar at ME London

A room (and cocktails) with some serious views at ME London luxury hotel, London
The Bull Inn at Sonning – possibly the perfect British pub
Is a hotel room complete without a kettle?
Las Vegas – rain or shine, there’s more to do than gambling
Kensington Hotel – luxury in the heart of London’s museum district

The beautiful courtyard at Whatley Manor

A treat for the mind and the body, Whatley Manor is one of the best hotels in the Cotswolds
Noble Rot on Lamb’s Conduit Street, a welcome addition to memory lane
Turn-downs, coat hangers and posh loo seats – here’s what I think is essential in a luxury hotel room
The best luxury hotels in the Cotswolds – A Lady of Leisure’s favourite five
Sopwell House, St Albans – a stay in my very own VIP courtyard

Danesfield House review
Danesfield House – a hotel with a top spa to match its top location

Danesfield House hotel and spa, relaxation on the Thames
Which are the top luxury hotel spas around? Here’s some of the best to get you in the mood
Baths in hotel bedrooms and transparent loo doors – treat or travesty?
Lunch with the Queen (and 10,000 other guests) at the Patron’s Lunch
Brooklands Hotel, perfect location for car, spa and plane fans

luxury hotel reviews
The beautiful Slaughters in the Cotswolds, home of Lords of the Manor

Quintessential Cotswolds retreat at Lords of the Manor, Upper Slaughter
Valet parking – it’s supposed to be great but makes me panic
It’s a day of tasty foodie firsts at the River Cottage cookery school
A garden with a view at the Alexandra hotel, Lyme Regis
Corinthia Hotel London: luxury on a grand scale
Something for everyone come rain or shine at Foxhills hotel Surrey

My very grand bedroom at The Gore, Kensington

The Gore Hotel, Kensington: history, luxury and some rock and roll cocktails
A cooling terrace (and a cocktail or two) at The Bloomsbury, London
Rockliffe Hall, County Durham – a relaxing spa escape
My stay at The Marylebone, London: a room with a view and a seriously nice roof terrace
The Montagu Arms, Beaulieu: a New Forest feast
A deeply relaxing day at Lime Wood hotel spa in the New Forest

Some very useful wellies at The Painswick

Cosy Cotswolds charm at The Painswick, Sunday Times Hotel of the Year
A very Christmassy stay at The Royal Horseguards Hotel, London
Skiing on a Mark Warner ski holiday – on your own but never alone
A stay at The Old Swan and Minster Mill, a classic Cotswolds country inn

A stay at The Old Swan and Minster Mill, a classic Cotswolds country inn

If you are looking to start off the New Year with some bracing countryside walks, a hearty pub meal and then a nightcap in front of a roaring fire, then The Old Swan and Minster Mill must surely be high on your list.

Old Swan and Minster Mill review
The Old Swan in the Cotswolds village of Minster Lovell is picture perfect

Located in the pretty Oxfordshire village of Minster Lovell – and set in 65 acres of Cotswolds countryside – the exterior of the Old Swan alone is so picturesque that it could go straight on a chocolate selection box or feature in a Cotswolds calendar.

Its twin, the Minster Mill which is just across the road, isn’t too far behind in the ‘quintessentially English’ stakes. The surrounds here are stunning and perfect for weddings: the River Windrush runs – as you’d expect – right alongside the Minster Mill (there’s even a fish-friendly Archimedes screw turbine which harnesses the power of the running water) and there is outside seating so that guests can fully enjoy the view in warmer weather.

Old Swan and Minster Mill review
The Minster Mill is just across the road from the Old Swan

Of the two, the Old Swan is definitely more of a classic pub inside, with a low roof, flagstones, warming log fires, cosy sofas and classic pub fare served in the restaurant. There are some small but pretty gardens and upstairs there are 15 rooms, some with four-poster beds.

Old Swan and Minster Mill review
The cosy lounge at the Old Swan pub

Continue reading A stay at The Old Swan and Minster Mill, a classic Cotswolds country inn

Skiing on a Mark Warner ski holiday – on your own but never alone

As skiing is such a sociable sport – there’s the long lunches, the dancing-on-tables après-ski, the cosy chalet dinners and oh yes, the skiing itself (who wants to go on a ski lift on their own?) – going on a ski holiday by yourself with a tour operator such as Mark Warner might be an alarming prospect. However sometimes friends or family can’t get the time off work/can’t afford it/hate skiing/hate each other and so it’s either a choice of going solo or not going at all.

mark warner ski holiday
Going on a ski holiday on your own can be a leap into the unknown…

But if the thought of going on a skiing holiday especially for singles is even scarier than a black run on a icy day, then thankfully there are other options. This January I went on a Mark Warner ski holiday to St Anton in Austria completely on my own and rather to my surprise, never once felt that I was travelling alone.

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Check out the Club Mark Warner weeks here: Club Mark Warner

A lot of this was to do with the friendly reps who you got to know the moment you stepped off the plane and ushered onto the transfer bus. The hectic nature of travelling means you never know who’s on their own, who’s with friends, in a couple or in a family group, so there certainly wasn’t a feeling of having to walk down the aisle of the coach all alone under the pitying gazes of smug marrieds sitting in pairs holding hands. Continue reading Skiing on a Mark Warner ski holiday – on your own but never alone