*This post contains sponsored content but as always opinions are my own

Front of Chicheley Hall Hotel, Milton Keynes

Recently I was invited to stay for the night at Chicheley Hall, a grade I 18th century mansion, based in 80 acres located in Chicheley, just off the A422 and fifteen minutes away from Milton Keynes. The hotel is run by the De Vere Hotel Group and is a popular wedding venue and also been the set of films and TV programmes such as Pride and Prejudice and Black Beauty.

Initially the hotel belonged to the Pagnell Family of Newport Pagnell (the town Newport Pagnell is about ten minute drive away). During the Second World War the house was used as a base to train Polish agents, was used by the Special Operations Executive as a training school and was a FANY wireless telegraphy training school.

In 2010, the Royal Society acquired Chicheley Hall with support from The Kavli Foundation. The Kavli Foundation is dedicated to advancing science for the benefit of humanity by promoting public understanding of scientific research and supporting scientists and their work.

Bed inside the Blackett Suite

There are 48 individually furnished rooms and I was lucky enough to stay in one of the ‘superior’ rooms called the Blackett Suite. Patrick Blackett FRS was awarded the Noble Prize in Physics in 1948. The suite was what I can only describe was amazing, it was huge.

View of the Blackett room where you can see the bed and sofas.

It was very clean and plenty of windows offering fantastic views of the grounds. Beyond the grounds you couldn’t really see any property for miles around! The bed was very comfy and I still couldn’t quite believe that I was sleeping underneath a coat of arms!

View of the sofas in the Blackett room.

Once we got settled we went for a walk around the grounds. There wasn’t anyone around and it was quite special to be able to stroll around. We saw geese and peacocks walking around!

View of the trees in the Chicheley Hall Hotel.
Chicheley Hall from the side.
Chicheley Hall from the side.
Geese swimming at Chicherley Hall Hotel
Rebecca in front of the mansion
Tapestry placed above the fire place.

We also had an explore around the inside of the Hotel. Then it was time for a three course meal, My starter was a brie tart whilst James had the chicken goujons. For the main I had a gourmet cheeseburger with homemade chunky chips. The chips and cheeseburger were filling but the chips really tasted amazing whilst my partner had a 8oz steak which he really enjoyed.

Strawberry Lime cider in a Stella Artois 'Cidre' glass

For pudding James had a chocolate brownie with honeycomb ice cream and I had a chocolate cheesecake. The burger and tart had finished me off by then so I got the cheesecake packed in a tub to take-away.

Image of Rebecca Merchant.

I should note there is a bar at the hall with an assortment of drink.

Brie tart.
Chicken goujons
Image of a burger with chunky chips
Image of the breakfast room with wooden panelling, chairs and a painting.

The next morning we had breakfast in another drawing room. The breakfast was a buffet. It was a usual hotel breakfast in that there were cereals, toast and croissants as well as a cooked breakfast you could have. I chose muesli and a slice of toast with marmalade.

Image of jars of jams, marmalades, nutellas and croissants.

All in all I loved my time at the hotel, it is a lovely place if you want a special couple of nights away. Being fifteen minutes away from Milton Keynes there is plenty to do in the local area, and although it seems like it you are not completely isolated. It gave me the opportunity to visit Bletchley Park which is home of the codebreakers during World War Two which I have wanted to see for years!

I have spent a week in the lovely Lake District, this hasn’t been my first time in this lovely part of England having visited the Lake District a couple of years ago. Last time I stayed at Ambleside but this time I am staying in Blencathra just ten minutes away from Keswick. If you are looking fo r things to keep you entertained for either a weekend or a week see what I got up too.

Keswick Town

Obviously our first stop was around Keswick town centre. There are lots of little tourist shops, vintage/antique shops and activewear/camping shops. There were also plenty of food places, we had ice cream at Casa Bella because every blog on Pinterest recommended the place. I can confirm the ice cream is worth getting.

On two separate occasions I got the Smarties ice cream (which tasted just like the McFlurry!) and the stracciatella ice cream (vanilla ice cream with lots of flakes in). We also ate at the Es Tapas bar, again the food there was incredible, we had the ciabatta, meatballs, chorizo piealla and goat’s cheese tortillas. I had the mojito which was good as well.

Whinlatter Forest Park

Ran by the Foresty Commission, Whinlatter Forest Park is England’s true mountain forest. Myself and my partner decided to go there for a morning of mountain biking! We hired bikes and helmets for £42 for three hours. There are three purpose built trails (Grey, blue and red). We decided to opt for the Quercus Route which is the blue route as we hadn’t been mountain biking for a while and with not having the right clothing (I was terrified of shredding my legs in my gym shorts!) and with not having our usual mountain bikes we thought it would be a good substitute.

It is a really good technical course with berms, rolling jumps and these wooden bridges. They are so so good! Me and James were done after two and a bit hours but if biking isn’t your thing there are numerous walking trails and also a Go Ape which is a ropes course. There is a lovely sculpture of an Osprey at the front.

Castlerigg Stone Circle

In the afternoon, we didn’t want to go far as we were knackered from the mountain biking and decided to go to Castlerigg Stone Circle. It is free entry (although you can leave a donation to the National Trust) constructed in 3000BC it is one of the earliest stone circles in the country. There are beautiful views of the Thirlmere Valley. After having a nosy we had a walk down one of the public footpaths. There was an ice cream van from Luchini’s which I tried because that is the other ice cream place that was raved about. I had the vanilla ice cream but I didn’t see much to rave about.

DerwentWater Launch

If you want a trip around the lake of Derwentwater I recommend the launch. £11 for a 50 minute round trip, you can hop on and hop off at any point around the lake. We hopped off at Hawes End as we decided to walk the CatBells and then got back on, dropped the dog off back home (as he was so noisy, we didn’t want him to disturb other customers) and then went on again for the rest of the round trip. It is a commuter boat, therefore you won’t get any history. But it is a lovely fifty minute route.

CatBells

Catbells is one of the walks to do in the Lake District, which doesn’t take an entire day out (unlike Scafell Pike which I walked a couple of years ago). We walked the route from Hawes End and on the way up, it offers stunning views of the DerwentWater. We took our dog with us and it was a really hot day, so it took us a bit longer than usual as we were stopping to make sure he was drinking. There was a couple of scrambles but as long as you take your time and wear adequate footwear (I saw someone walking barefoot!) you will be fine.

Blencathra

Also known as Saddleback, this hill walk is just outside Keswick and coincidently a stone’s throw away from my accommodation. It is quite an easy walk and fairly short about 4-5km up. On the day we went up we were about ten minutes away from the summit but we had to abandon as the cloud cover was so bad. You can approach the hill from many routes and the one we chose was via Blease Fell as it was close to where we stayed. Afterwards we went for a pub meal at the Horse and Farrier which was a lovely country pub with quite a wide ranging menu.

Buttermere

When I was googling places to go in the Lake District, Buttermere came up over and over again. You do need a car to get up there and you have to be a pretty fearless driver but this little village tucked away.

We had a wander down to Crummock Water and on the way back had the most amazing cake and tea at Syke Farm Tea Room.

St Bees

If you want something a bit different to the hills and forests then you can head to the coast. St Bees is famous for the Coast to Coast walk, a walk devised by Alfred Wainwright which spans the UK from St Bees to Robin Hood’s Bay in North Yorkshire. It is a pebble beach but we just dragged our fold up outdoor chairs and was fine!

Carlisle

Carlisle is a city about forty minutes away from Keswick. I hadn’t been shopping in a while and wanted to browse the main high street shops such as Primark, New Look etc.

Have you been to the Lake District? Send me your suggestions in the comments below.

Collage showing pictures of Nashville.

When I was over in Florida, I decided that it would be a good idea to squeeze a two day trip to Nashville. I have wanted to visit the home of country music since the famous show Nashville and knew this would be one of the only chances in a while for me.

Where I stayed

I stayed in this apartment in this block of flats. It reminded me of an AirBNB but we booked through booking.com. It was about a fifteen minute walk away from Lower Broadway (where the Honkey Tonks are) so was ideal. We wasn’t really looking for an apartment, it was just the cheapest option. The way the decor was set out was really cute and felt very ‘Nashville’.

Image showing a bed in an apartment in Nashville.
Bathroom sink in Nashville.

What I did

The first thing on my list was visiting the Honky Tonk strip on Lower Broadway. The Honky Tonks have music blasting out pretty much every evening. Even on a Sunday where we went, pretty much every bar was open even though it was December and freezing. I went to Robert’s Western World (the Honkey Tonk with the red boot out front), which I wanted to go too after seeing the bar on Pinterest.

Image of a band playing in Robert's Western World, Nashville.

I went on a Sunday where they had a live band playing covers. The food, was reasonably priced, which I was surprised about as I thought being in an tourist area, the prices will stack up and the atmosphere was great.

Jacks Bar-B-Que sign outside the bar in Nashville.
Image of the Honkey Tonks in Nashville.

John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge

Afterwards we headed towards the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge. It is a famous bridge in Nashville that is on all of the Music City promo. You don’t get a great view of the Nashville skyline that I thought you would at night. Mainly because the bridge wasn’t high up. But considering myself and James were turned away from the Honkey Tonks because James had a rucksack with him as he keeps the DSLR camera in it. Probably short sighted of us because usually if you brought a bag in a club in the UK you would leave it in the cloak room of the club. But they didn’t have cloak rooms here so we were not admitted. So keep that in mind.

Image of the Nashville cityscape at night.
The John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge at night.

Johnny Cash Museum

Saturday was crazy busy with my time being filled with going to the Ryman Auditorium, Grand Ole Opry and the Jonny Cash Museum. The Johnny Cash Museum (situated just off Lower Broadway) was the first stop and it was even better then I imagined. It had so much Johnny Cash stuff from vinyls to clothing to grammy awards… I was amazed about how much Johnny Cash accomplished in his life, the Walk the Line movie didn’t do him enough justice! For $20 it was reasonably priced and a must see for Johnny Cash and country music lovers.

Guitar and speaker in the Johnny Cash Museum.
Johnny Cash poster.

Image of the GooGoo shop in Nashville.

Across the street from the Johnny Cash Museum is the GooGoo shop. GooGoo’s were first created in Nashville in 1912 and is famous because it is thought to be considered the first combinational chocolate bar. The bar contains marshmallow nougat, caramel, roasted peanuts covered with chocolate. I found out about GooGoo’s on Pinterest, when I was looking for places to eat in Nashville so naturally I had to find one to try.

Ryman Auditorium

Ryman Auditorium Stage.

After the museum I headed off to the Ryman Auditorium. The Ryman Auditorium has a fascinating history, because the history is so fascinating, I have provided a brief outline below but visit the Ryman site for more detail.

The Ryman started life out as a church created by Thomas Ryman, a prominent businessman in Nashville. The church was originally called the Union Gospel Tabernacle but when Thomas died, the church was renamed in his honour. In the 1920’s Lula Naff, a Nashville Show Promotor, leased the building and ran events for the place which as the place grew in popularity attracted many famous performers such as Katharine Hepburn.

The Grand Ole Opry which was then a radio show was broadcast live from the Ryman from 1943 until the show outgrew the building and moved into its current home in 1970. Due to losing The Grand Ole Opry, The Ryman went into disrepair and in 1990 was facing demolition but eventually the community orchestrated to save it. Today as well as a museum it still serves as a music venue.

I originally brought the ticket just because it was a package deal and I really under appreciated how important the Ryman’s contribution to the musical fabric of Nashville. The tour was self guided, which I was fine with with lots of exhibits going through the performers at The Ryman.

In the afternoon we made our way over to The Grand Ole Opry stopping at the Gaylord Hotel first. The hotel includes boutique shops all within what is essentially a greenhouse full of plants and water features.

Gaylord Hotel.

I wasn’t feeling my best that day, so wasn’t sure if it was that but I was disappointed with the hotel. I thought it would have a lot more shops inside. But it was essentially just walking in a big greenhouse.

Image of the inside of the Gaylord Hotel.

Grand Ole Opry

Image of the inside of the Grand Ole Opry.

The Grand Ole Opry is the home of country music and arguably the most famous music venue in Tennessee. A little bit of history about the Grand Ole Opry, it started out as a radio station called the WSM Barn Dance on the fith floor of the National Life and Accident Company. As audiences for the live show increased, the show outgrew its studios and moved to various places (one of them being the Ryman as I mentioned earlier) before moving to its current venue today.

We were lucky enough that we visited during the season where the Opry shows are performed over at the Ryman (during the winter months the Grand Ole Opry shows move over to the Ryman). Which meant we were able to go to the backstage and see the dressing rooms. The tour covers in general the star entrance to the Opry, and going on the stage and walk around the venue. The tour was around forty minutes long – which doesn’t seem long but it was long enough and very informative.

The Listening Cafe

We couldn’t get tickets for The Bluebird Cafe, which was one place that we really wanted to go to. Instead for the evening, my partner got tickets for The Listening Cafe and their Song Suffragettes night.

I am so glad he got the tickets, the aim of the Song Suffragettes is to let new, upcoming female singer song writers in Nashville play. It seems to have stemmed from a Bill Board article on their website which says just three of the top 25 artists on the Bill Board Country music chart was women and they want to play a part in creating opportunities to change this. We had a lovely evening listening to some very talented ladies: Hannah Bethel, Molly Brown and Jenna Paulette. The food I found was really good and reasonably priced as well. I didn’t like the selection of alcoholic drinks. I do prefer fruit ciders and cocktails but Nashville is a place you really go for beers, I found.

Singers with their guitars on stage at The Listening Room Cafe.

Capitol Hill and Victory Park

Outside bell.

On our last morning before the airport beckoned us back to Orlando. My partner and I decided to go for a run. We love running and I do feel running on holiday is a great way to see places that you may not see on the usual tourist routes. I ran a lovely little route which covered Capitol Hill and Victory Park.

Bridge.

So that is what I did in Nashville. Have you been to Nashville? Are there any places you would recommend?

Switzerland is famous for many things, Lindt chocolate, cow bells and St Bernard dogs with barrels around their necks. But it would be silly not to talk about the many mountains that I have visited. I love the mountains in Switzerland as you can do so much on them, walking, going up and down the cable cars, skiing in winter and sledding amongst other activities. Having visited Central Switzerland for the summer and the winter I have had the chance to experience both sides. Here are some of my favourite mountains around Central Switzerland.

Stoos

Stoos view with a cross

My favourite mountain, it is not as popular as some of the others around Central Switzerland But I love Stoos. Stoos is a mountain resort. You take a small cable car up from Morschach and then you can walk around and visit the shops and cafes. Stoos I found is more of a winter mountain with lots of ski groups skiing and tobogganing in the winter months. The summer months is more for hiking, regardless which part of the year you go there are stunning views at the top. Lots of investment has been put in Stoos since I was last there in 2014.

Stoos vernacular railway

One investment to note, is a new funicular railway with all the cabins that stay level therefore you can stand the entire way, this funicular railway is the steepest in the world and looks really odd as well.

Titlis

Titlis Mountain

This is the largest mountain that I visited in Switzerland. Based in Engelberg. There is so much to do at Titlis, there is an adventure park, a glacier park (where you could walk through a glacier, which as a Geography graduate I was mega excited about) and areas to go skiing, tobogganing and tubing (you could go tubing in the summer as well, but it wasn’t as good obviously with the lack of snow!) as well as numerous suspending platforms where you can take pictures. This mountain was high enough that there was snow in parts.

People looking from a platform in Titlis

You will find in Switzerland each mountain has a ‘unique’ feature to try and distinguish themselves from each other. Titlis’ unique feature is its rotating cable car called the TITLIS Rotair. As Titlis is a popular mountain, it gets really busy, so the platforms are quite full of tourists most of the time.

Pilatus

View of Pilatus

Pilatus is a mountain located just outside the city of Lucern. The logo of Pilatus is the red dragon due to legend saying that in 1421 a dragon flew into Pilatus and crashed into the mountain. A farmer had seen the dragon crash and had fainted due to the shock. When the farmer came round, he found a lump of clotted blood and the dragon stone which was legally declared as having healing powers in 1509.

Bunting hung up in Pilatus

You have to admit that is a pretty cool story! Pilatus isn’t a skiing mountain but like Titlis there is an adventure park, cable cars as well as the usual cafes.

Stanzerhorn

View from Stanserhorn

Stanzerhorn is famous for two things the world’s first open air cable car (costing CHF 28.1 million with the capacity of holding 60 people) and the rotating cafe. The rotating cafe is quite clever because it is quite a simple idea. Essentially as you walk in the cafe there is a platform and it is the platform itself that rotates. The open air cable car is also 90% swiss made, which I like.

Stanserhorn Heidi hut

There is also a funicular railway that is 125 years old that operates at the bottom of the mountain upwards for 45 minutes which takes you to the cable car for the rest of the route up.

Rigi

Lamp post in the Rigi

Rigi is a lovely small mountain situated in Central Switzerland. It is well known for having a cog wheel railway but like all the other mountains there are also numerous cable cars going to different places. It is a great mountain if you want to go for a short walk and spend either the morning or afternoon and not a whole day!

Wooden cross on the Rigi

Have you been to Switzerland? What is your favourite mountain?

Five mountains to visit in Switzerland Pinterest image

Image of the countryside near Tywyn with the words 72 hours in Tywyn in a circle

A few weeks ago when it was blistering hot myself and my partner decided to book a short weekend away in Tywyn, North Wales with our dog in tow!

Image of the Tywyn Coast

Tywyn is a coastal town and we spent a lot of time at the beach whether that was laying down reading, walking the dog or running along the shore. The Tywyn Leisure Park which is about ten minutes walk away from the beach front is brilliant. The leisure park offers loads of outdoor games such as tennis, bowls and my favourite game, crazy golf! Crazy Golf cost us £2.50 each and it is great way to kill an hour. It was open until eight as well so there was plenty of time. On the Sunday there was a boot sale along the seafront, I managed to bag myself a couple of board games!

Image of beach front houses in Aberdovey

If you fancy another beach, Aberdovey is another coastal town about nine minute drive away from Tywyn. I didn’t get much time to spend in this coastal town as it was difficult to park and quite expensive (in Tywyn the car parking near the beach front was free and you could always get a parking space even in the middle of the day). There are plenty of restaurants and cafes if you wanted to stop by for something to eat.

Countryside of Tywyn

I love the countryside, and I stayed in a lovely little cottage located just a ten minute drive away. Most fields have public walkways which we used to  I didn’t get to do much walking as it was during the heatwave but we did visit Dolgoch Falls. Dolgoch Falls are about a fifteen minute drive away, the falls are easy to get too and had plenty of parking (you do have to pay and display) the falls are beautiful to look at and there was even a small cave that you can wander down.

Image of the Dolgoch Waterfall in North Wales

So that was my 72 hours in Tywyn Wales. Have you been, if so what was your favourite part?

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