Category Archives: Travel

Tylney Hall: great building but not a great stay

I’ve been fortunate enough to stay in some lovely country house hotels recently – sadly, Tylney Hall was not one of them.

To clarify: as a building, the house is really impressive, a massive 300-year old pile in 66-acres of Hampshire countryside. The ceilings are high, the rooms are oak-panelled and hung with portraits, and as a structure goes, it is everything you could ask for if you want to stay somewhere that really looked the epitome of a country estate.

tylney hall hotel review
It looks really impressive from far away…

Unfortunately, the experience of staying in Tylney Hall was somewhat different. Its website claims, rather ungrammatically, that: ‘Hampshire hotels simply don’t come any grander or offer such heights of luxury anywhere in the UK.’

This doesn’t actually make much sense, which is fitting as a lot about Tylney Hall didn’t make much sense. I had arrived really looking forward to a lovely overnight stay with my mother and left feeling as if Fawlty Towers was alive and well and had just relocated 200 miles east. Continue reading Tylney Hall: great building but not a great stay

The Ampersand and MyHotel Chelsea: stylish sleeping

Staying in a hotel just half a mile from your house inspires some unlikely behaviour.

If I were at home on a Sunday evening, I would probably make myself a drink and something to eat and happily settle down with a good book or in front of the telly.

Check into a hotel however and it’s a very different story. Even though I pass through South Kensington every day on my way to work, all of a sudden I’m infused with the spirit of adventure, of exploration, of discovery. I’m on holiday! Somewhere new! What’s outside? Quick, let’s go and find out!

ampersand hotel south kensington reviews

So when I spent a couple of nights in two of its hotels – MyHotel Chelsea and the Ampersand – I ended up spending my Sunday evening having a very pleasant time walking around the streets of South Kensington, Knightbridge and Chelsea, discovering all sorts of places I never knew existed, and wondering why I would never get inspired to do this kind of thing at home, even though it was precisely 10 minutes walk away.

And what I discover is that South Kensington, far from being the fairly dull district dominated by a tube station that I’d previously dismissed it as, is actually incredibly lively on a Sunday evening.

Continue reading The Ampersand and MyHotel Chelsea: stylish sleeping

The Swan at Lavenham: a pub as charming as its location

The Swan at Lavenham is located in one of those villages where you catch yourself thinking; ‘Is this actually real?’

The chocolate-box gorgeousness of some Cotswold villages for example: Bampton (the real-life Downton Village) and nearby Burford can look exactly as if imagined by an American director making a film about quintessential England, or Clovelly in North Devon which ticks all the boxes of a beautiful fishing village.

The Swan at Lavenham
The Swan at Lavenham – 400 years of charm and a lot of timber beams

Lavenham in Suffolk is much the same. After a perfectly fine if mundane journey along the A1141 or whatever road has taken you there, you suddenly find yourself in a village so packed with crooked cottages and half-timbered buildings that you feel as if you have been suddenly transported back to medieval England.  (Or magical England  – some of the Harry Potter films were shot here).

A short walk down the High Street – in which you expect to see horse-drawn carts and straw everywhere – turns into a succession of picture-taking and marvelling at ‘Why have I never been to this place before?’

the swan at lavenham
The High Street is full of crooked, timbered buildings
the swan at lavenham
Lavenham’s own version of the Leaning Tower of Pisa

Continue reading The Swan at Lavenham: a pub as charming as its location

No skimping on the apres-ski with Mark Warner skiing Tignes

You could never accuse Mark Warner of skimping on the apres-ski hospitality – or, for that matter, the pre-ski and the in-ski.

A three-day trip to French Alpine ski resort Tignes to check out its newly refurbished chalet hotel, the improbably-named Aiguille Percee, was notable for epic amounts of drinking, dancing, eating and yet more drinking.

In between drinking sessions there was some rather fabulous skiing, which also included a fair amount more drinking.

mark warner skiing tignes
Mark Warner’s newly refurbished chalet hotel, Aiguille Percee

The scene was set from the beginning. Even before the tyres had started turning on the 2.5 hour coach transfer from Geneva airport to Tignes the first bottles of wine and beer were being opened. (The return trip was a rather more sedate affair, with several passengers having partied so hard over the long weekend that frequent stops to ‘take in the air’ had to be made on perilous hair-pin bends and people started to worry we were cutting it fine for the flight. To render hard-drinking members of the press and travel industry in such a state is tribute to the press team’s dedication to the cause).

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Continue reading No skimping on the apres-ski with Mark Warner skiing Tignes

Center Parcs Woburn Forest: it’s reviewer-proof

Center Parcs is practically immune from criticism. With occupancy running at a staggering 97.2 per cent all year round, the private-equity owned leisure company is the envy of its peers.

In spite of the recent kerfuffle about high prices during school holidays, there is clearly no shortage of customers willing to fork out for the Center Parcs experience when just three nights in a two-bedroom lodge can cost £900 in August, even before food, drink and any of the extra activities are taken into account.

center parcs woburn forest
The subtropical swimming paradise at Woburn Forest Center Parcs

And that’s the cheapest price available – a four-bedroom luxury lodge for the same weekend in August will set you back £2,699 and rooms are already selling out.  So clearly it is doing something – no, a lot of things right.

Which is why it opened up its newest parc, Woburn Forest, to journalists, suppliers and so on two weeks before it officially opens to the public on June 6th. Chief executive Martin Dalby was in his element as he hiked around the 365-acre site, talking to visitors and seeing his £250 million-parc finally come to life. Continue reading Center Parcs Woburn Forest: it’s reviewer-proof