Mansio Suites Leeds – Why staying in an apartment is better than a hotel

Mansio Suites, Leeds

Choosing a serviced apartment over a hotel is fast becoming a preferred on-trend choice when booking a mini-break.

And having stayed at the luxurious Mansio Suites apartments in Leeds – I can see why. You get more space, privacy, and they really are like a home away from home.

Staying in an apartment was a concept first geared towards business travellers but increasingly is being used by holidaymakers as a base for city breaks.

Essentially, a serviced apartment – known as an aparthotel is like any other holiday apartment, with one or more bedrooms, but you get the extra little luxuries that are usually found in hotels, such as toiletries, fresh linen and room cleaning.

Here’s some reasons why you might choose an apartment over a hotel:


  • You are charged per apartment, opposed to per room – so often you can get a cheaper deal if there’s a few of you.
  • You will save money. If you’re staying in a hotel you might get room service, take drinks and snacks from the mini bar, and spend a fortune in the hotel bar. If you stay in an apartment you can take drinks to chill in the fridge, you can cook if you want to, and take your own snacks, and breakfast for the next day – saving you a fortune.
  • You have your own space – an apartment will have a lounge/diner area, a fully equipped kitchen and a separate bedroom.
  • They’re better for hosting – if you’re travelling with a group of friends you can meet up in one apartment with space and sofas, instead of crowding around a hotel bed.

Why the Royal London Lancaster Hotel should be on your to-do list 

Mansio Suites have two locations in Leeds, and we chose a one-bedroom apartment at Mansio Basinghall – which opened two years ago in a lovingly restored Victorian building.

They’re located right in the centre of Leeds, within a short walk of the train station and also a stone’s throw from the Albion Street car park if you’re taking the car.


The spotlessly clean apartments have been decorated to a high standard, and feel “expensive.” Interiors are contemporary and stylish and just ooze an upmarket feel.

There’s a 24-hour reception and a cosy lobby area. Staff were friendly and helpful and knowledgeable about the local area.

The amazing new ROOFTOP spa in Yorkshire 

The apartments range from studios to two bedroom apartments. The bedrooms are sumptuous with a super king bed and the bathroom was spacious with Molton Brown toiletries and a rainfall shower. Fluffy bathrobes and slippers were also included so you really can make yourself at home.


The apartment had everything we could have needed and more, from and smart TV with Netflix and a Nespresso Coffee machine to complimentary WIFI.

It certainly made a fabulous change to staying in a hotel.

Rockliffe Hall – so much more than just a spa 



Why the Royal London Lancaster Hotel needs to be on your list for 2018

There can’t be many hotels in London which guarantee a “far-reaching” view across the capital from every bedroom, but at The Royal London Lancaster that comes as standard.

Due to the fact there aren’t any guest rooms or suites lower than the first floor, and with its perfect central location overlooking Hyde Park, the bedroom views are spectacular.

The 18-storey hotel, which opened as one of the most chic hotels in London in 1967, reopened 50 years later, last November, following a massive £80m renovation to once again be one of the most stylish hotels in the capital.

Rooms with a view

2. Park Suite View - Royal Lancaster London

All 411 charming rooms and suites have been renovated and there are different types to suit all needs, from the classic double room at £219 per night to suites with their own living and dining areas.

Every room has bath robes, slippers, The White Company toiletries, waterfall showers and underfloor heating in the bathrooms.

We got the chance to look around the hotel and I was amazed by the views, and how quite it is once in your room, looking out over a busy, noisy capital city.

Stylish and finest Hyde Park hotel

Royal Lancaster London - Exterior

As soon as you step into the opulent lobby you know you’ve entered somewhere a little bit special. The showpiece is a palatial sweeping staircase, made of white Carrara marble, which wraps around to the first floor.

The hotel was built in the swinging Sixties so, externally – apart from its new stunning entrance façade – the hotel remains a Sixties tower block.

But that retro feel has somehow been captured inside in style with luxury golds and sumptuous browns.

Every part of the renovation has been thoroughly thought out. Even the carpets with their subtle Sixties design.

Our room, on the fifth floor had extensive views out over the city in all its glory. At night we didn’t want to close our blinds because it was such an amazing sight.

I was really impressed to find a “handy phone” in our room, which guests can take out into London with them and enjoy free calls.

Spoilt for choice with food


There are three options for dining, including The Park Restaurant, Island Grill or Nipa Thai. Knowing the hotel’s owner is Thai, it felt an obvious choice to try authentic cuisine.

The restaurant has an all-female kitchen team to keep in tune with Thai dining tradition and provides a sophisticated Thai ambience. The welcome was warm and the menu is extensive.

The staff were kind and attentive and open to making little changes to take your meal from delicious, to perfection.

The place to be seen

Hyde Lobby Bar at Royal Lancaster London 1

One of my favourite areas of the hotel is the elegant Hyde Lobby Bar, which serves cocktails, coffee and light cuisine throughout the day.

The cocktail menu has been meticulously created and includes signature cocktails to reflect the hotel. The Italian Job cocktail is made with Beefeater 24 gin, Martini Rosso, Campari and Aperol and is a salute to the original 1968 Italian Job film, which included scenes filmed in front of the hotel.

For a touch of extra indulgence, the hotel has created its own aromatic Royal Lancaster gin, which is served in the bar’s speciality gin martini.

As we relaxed with our delicious nibbles and tasty gins we felt a world away from the buzzing reception area we overlooked. It definitely feels like a prime spot to “see and be seen” in London and is worth a visit even if you aren’t staying at the hotel.

Breakfast in bed


The next morning our breakfast was wheeled into our room on a lovely round table, allowing us to eat casually in our robes, overlooking Hyde Park. It really doesn’t get much better.

If you’re looking for somewhere special, this hotel should be on your list of places to visit in 2018.

The Royal London Lancaster Hotel is located right next to the Lancaster Gate tube station.

Visit the website here for more information and to book.

This is what the new James ride at Thomas Land is like

Just when you think Drayton Manor Theme Park can’t get any better, a new ride is unveiled for the 2017 season. James is now the latest train to get his own themed ride on the island of Sodor inside the much-loved Thomas Land.

The Fat Controller officially opened James and the Red Balloon to a packed crowd of families at the beginning of the month.

My six-year-old son, three-year-old daughter and I were lucky enough to attend the launch event and were among the first to try out the new ride, which sees families fly up and away in their own hot air balloon.

IN A SPIN: The New James ride at Drayton Manor

The £250,000 ride has a spinning wheel inside, so if that’s left alone you can enjoy a gentle flight that goes up and down while going around in a big circle. But if, like my two, your kids want more excitement, you can make the ride spin, too.

The new attraction is the 20th ride in Thomas Land and proudly sits alongside the likes of the Troublesome Trucks runaway train, Terence’s Driving School and Jeremy Jet’s Flying Academy. The new ride is part of the huge expansion completed in 2015.

Thomas Land – which is free to enter once in the Drayton Manor theme park – really is a dream come true if your little ones are fans of the programme, but even if they’re not they will love the variety of rides.

Thomas Land

Outside the Thomas Land gates, there’s also the rest of the Drayton Manor theme park to explore.
It’s easy to see why it is one of the UK’s most popular family attractions with more than a million visitors per year.

The rides are for children of all ages and include everything from the carousel, dodgems and pirate ship to the G Force rollercoaster, splash canyon and the Apocalypse drop tower. There are lots of other attractions, too, including a 4D cinema, dino trail and crazy golf. Animal lovers can also get up close and personal with the park’s furry friends in the 15-acre zoo.

FUN: Oliver and Jasmine Lovell at Thomas Land

Can you stay over?

But Drayton Manor is more than a day out. At the end of a great day you don’t have to make tracks home because the theme park has its own hotel. The four-star 150 bedroom Drayton Manor Hotel features executive rooms, presidential suites and 15 Thomas-themed rooms, as well as two bars, two restaurants plus The Grill Inn, next to the hotel.

I’d thoroughly recommend staying over. The hotel is lovely, contemporary and stylish, and obviously caters well for children. Our family room had a very comfortable king bed and a lovely sofa bed for the kids.

HAPPY: Jasmine Lovell at Thomas Land

In the hotel’s restaurant, my children enjoyed playing with the train tables with other children, which kept them amused while we waited for our food.

While it’s not cheep and cheerful, the food is of a high standard, with duck and steak on the menu, to name just a couple of choices.

We went for the buffet, which seemed easier for the kids, and they loved helping themselves. After eating, we headed to the children’s entertainment, which runs from 6.30pm to 8.30pm and really makes you feel like you’re on holiday.

The children’s entertainers were great with the kids, who loved the Punch and Judy show, juggling and party tricks, which was followed by a disco. The entertainment is all included in the price of your stay.

The kids were so excited to stay at the theme park and could see the rides from our bedroom window. Staying over turned a day out into a mini-break and if you’re having a second day in the park, or stay over the night before, you can get in nice and early without any travelling.

Where is it?

Drayton Manor Theme Park is near Tamworth, Staffordshire. Use postcode B78 3TW

How much is it?

It’s always cheaper to book in advance online instead of paying on the gate on the day. Aged 12-59: on the day £39, pre-booked £25. Aged 4-11/ 60+: on the day £29, pre-booked £20. Aged 2-3: £7 on the day and pre-booked. Under 2’s: free. Other discounts are available. For tickets visit the website or call 0844 472 1950.

The 2017 Drayton Manor Park season runs until Thursday, October 26. The award- winning Magical Christmas event will be on selected dates from November 18 to December 31.

  • Reviewed April 2017

Gulliver’s Kingdom at Christmas

It snows every day at Gulliver’s Kingdom in Matlock Bath during the festive season.

The children who had gathered for the little Gully show were asked to close their eyes and cross their fingers and make a wish for snow – then, as if by magic the white stuff fell from above and the music began to play.

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As soon as that snow began to fall the children who had been mesmerised by the characters could not run over to it fast enough.

Obviously it was fake, but it was white and fluffy and they had the best time playing in it.

Seeing my children stood there wishing for snow then watching their faces as it began to fall was truly magical.

WISH: Oliver and Jamine Lovell wish for snow at Gulliver’s Kingdom

Straight after it was our turn to see Santa. Gulliver’s Kingdom – a theme park which is aimed at children aged three to 13 – is the only place we’ve seen him this year and not had to queue. We were able to walk straight through the lovely winter wonderland during our time slot and admire the displays, then were taken straight to Santa by his friendly elf.

MORE REVIEWS: Gulliver’s Kingdom, Matlock Bath in summer

It wasn’t the best grotto we’ve ever seen, or the most enthusiastic Santa – but the kids did love being invited into his workshop afterwards where they were able to choose their present themselves. They loved searching through the shop and it’s nice as a parent to say you can have anything you like – absolutely anything – and not have to worry about the price!

Seeing Santa is included with all tickets during the festive season and despite it not being in the height of summer, there was plenty of rides open, including the log flume!

The wide range of rides and attraction – from the Western World and pirates play area, to the log flume and Drop Tower – makes Gulliver’s Kingdom one of the best theme parks in the UK for children which is why we didn’t mind the 90 minute journey from Hull.

Children shorter than 90cm go free, yet can still go on 11 of 23 rides and enjoy all of the shows, play areas and interactive experiences.

VIEWS: Oliver and Jasmine Lovell at Gulliver’s Kingdom, Matlock Bath

The theme park is set on a stunning hillside which gives fabulous views over the main street in Matlock Bath. Make sure you’ve got your comfortable shoes on for walking up the hills though! However there is a travellator for one of the steepest hills you can hop onto and also a char lift to transport you from the bottom of the park to the top.

With that in mind I’d say it’s best to start at the top and work your way down to the bottom of the park.

If you want to keep the costs down, picnics are allowed in the park. I was really impressed there’s a warm indoor picnic area upstairs in the party house where adults can also get a hot drink.

GROTTO: Oliver and Jasmine Lovell meet Santa at Gulliver’s Kingdom, Matlock Bath

But it’s downstairs where the real fun happens! The huge house has everything from a cinema room to rides, a massive sandpit, indoor soft play, ball pools, pedal tractors and interactive games. You could actually spend hours in the party house alone, I’ve not come across anything quite like it anywhere else.

Mrs Christmas’ Kitchen is also inside the party house where you will find a very welcoming Mrs Christmas. Due to it being so cold, we spent a long time in the party house and we still had to drag the kids out.

The entire park is decorated very festive and if like us you leave when it closes at 4.30pm it will be dark so you will be able to see all the twinkly lights which light the entire park up.

I loved the fact there wasn’t a teenage crowd at Gulliver’s Kingdom too. It’s very family orientated, there are no bars and no alcohol is permitted. Unlike other large theme parks, you won’t come across groups of teenagers, as not one guest who isn’t part of a family can enter.

MORE REVIEWS: Dayton Manor including Thomas Land at Christmas 

My six year old son loved Western World, where you can explore little buildings, including a bank, a church and a jail. He also loved operating the diggers, which surprisingly didn’t need extra money to operate and my three year old daughter liked the outdoor play areas and the magic carpet.

There’s also Gulliver’s parks in Warrington and Milton Keynes so no doubt we will be trying them next!


Need to know…

LOCATION: Temple Walk, Matlock Bath, Derbyshire, DE4 3PG

OPEN: March to December, excluding November.

PRICES: Children measuring under 90cm go free. £15 if booked online for those taller than 90cm. Prices range at Christmas for various packages.


  • Lockers
  • Wheelchair hire
  • Cash point
  • Dedicated smoking areas


  • Mother’s feeding room
  • Microwave facilities in the restuarants
  • Baby change rooms in each area of the park
  • First Aid point




Sand Le Mere Holiday Park, Tunstall

THEY SAY: Unbeatable caravan holidays in Yorkshire. Enjoy our huge range of facilities, accommodation range and on-site entertainment.

WE SAY: Budget caravaning holiday by the sea. Great for kids.


You don’t always have to go far to feel like you’ve really got away from it all. During the May half-term I took my two children to the Sand Le Mere Holiday Village which is in Tunstall, near Withernsea and only a 40 minute drive from where we live.

It seemed funny staying somewhere so close to home, but as soon as we drove up the sweeping drive towards the caravan holiday park I instantly felt chilled and there was no stress of a long journey.


We were staying in a luxury two-bed caravan by the sea, which was really comfortable and modern.

We opted for the welcome pack so I didn’t have to pack the essentials including tea and coffee and washing up liquid.

I did however forget the bath mat and a hand towel so my top tip is to remember these!

Oliver and Jasmine have stayed in some beautiful hotels, but they get so much more excited when we stay in a caravan – for some reason kids just love caravans.

Once they had found their bedroom they were keen to unpack and settle in before exploring.

The resort is centred around the main complex, which is home to the swimming pool, amusements, soft play and a café.

There’s also a large showbar and a restaurant bar with outside seating and a park with mini golf.


If you need it there’s also a convenience shop, a launderette and there’s fresh water fishing in the well-stocked fishing lake.

Unfortunately for us we chose the worst week – weather-wise – to visit. Not only was it raining and really cold, it was also extremely windy.


The caravan felt like it was getting a battering from all angles and we needed the heating on, which is not what you hope for at the beginning of June.

But we were determined not to let the weather spoil our holiday and so used the entertainment planner we were given on check-in to plan activities for our four-night stay.

We swam more than we probably would have done if the weather was nicer and took advantage of the kids’ indoor activities.

We did everything from science club and art attack to family boules and bingo.

For my son the best activity he did was playing in the turbo paddlers in the pool.

Charactar breakfast and the turbo paddlers

Many of the kids’ activities are included in the price of the holiday and you can just turn up, but there are some paid-for activities you need to book.

Pool empty

They both loved the character breakfast where as well as sitting with all the other children for their own little party to eat, they met the mascot, Sandy Le Meerkat and also sang and danced with the enthusiastic entertainment’s team.

The holiday site has direct access to the beach – unfortunately for us it was too windy to brave it but I’m told it’s beautiful.


And when the sun goes down you can enjoy live entertainment on stage and dance the night away – all included in the price.

On site as well as the static caravans you can also camp, bring your own tourer or stay in a luxury lodge with its own hot tub.

One thing I did must say is that all the staff were very friendly and welcoming.

It’s also a good base to explore Hornsea, Bridlington and Scarborough for a proper family seaside holiday.

© Jolly Family Outings


WHERE: Southfield Ln, Tunstall, Yorkshire, HU12 0JF

Summer holiday prices start from £522 based on a family of four sharing a two-bedroom holiday home for seven nights. Children’s clubs, most facilities and evening entertainment are included.



CALL: 01964 670403.

Trolleybus Museum, Sandtoft

With my five-year-old son learning about transport at school, it seemed like the perfect time to visit the Trolleybus museum for an educational, yet fun day out.

It’s home to the world’s largest collection of well-preserved trolleybuses and when you arrive you really do feel like you’re stepping back onto streets from years gone by.

The museum is open to the public many times a year for event days, generally between Easter and November, when you can ride on a selection of trolleybuses.

The kids loved jumping onboard and climbing upstairs to take their seat ready for the ride.




The buses drive a large loop around the site, which gave an experience of what it was like when they were in service and, while the bus was moving, the conductor came to collect the tickets with his old-fashioned machine.

We were surprised by what good condition they were all in – from the seats to the paintwork, they’re pristine, and you can hop on as many as often as you like.

The day out is perfect for enthusiasts, but also for families with children who love to explore.


We also enjoyed a half-hour motor bus ride off site around the local area with interesting commentary.

There’s also a number of trolleybuses under shelter to view and climb on – all from different regions.

It’s interesting to see original features, including signs displaying rules such as ‘Smokers are requested to occupy rear seats’.

The museum is a charity and run entirely by passionate volunteers who are more than happy to share their knowledge and help – I can’t remember when I last felt so welcomed at an attraction.

The kids particularly liked the small outdoor play area with slides and swings and we also enjoyed a nosy in the 1950s prefab home.

Belle in the prefab 1950s home

It’s not somewhere you might spend a full day, but there is a café and picnic areas and plenty of open space.

There’s also an indoor fun room with games and a smaller summer house to play in near the outdoor play area.

The indoor games room

Five minutes up the road is the Reindeer Inn, which has a lovely beer garden and kids play area if you want to extend your day out. We had the most gorgeous Sunday lunch whilst sat outside and ended up staying at the pub for a few hours which was a perfect way to round off the day.


The Reindeer Inn beer garden



LOCATION: Sandtoft, Yorkshire.

OPEN: Several weekends of the year. Check online.

PRICES: Children five to 15: £6. Anyone over 16: £8. Under fives free.

CALL: 01724 711391


Boat trips with Pennine Cruisers, Skipton

I had no idea driving a boat would be so much fun. For my Dad’s birthday I surprised him with a trip to Skipton, to drive a narrowboat for the day, hired from Pennine Cruisers.FotorCreated2

We’ve never done anything like it before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I can highly recommend it if you are looking for a fun day out with a difference.

Pennine Cruisers is a family-run company based in North Yorkshire, on the picturesque Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

There isn’t a ripple of the water the family don’t know and they provide everything you need, whether you are an absolute beginner, like us, or an experienced boater.

On arrival, we were given an expert boat-handling instruction on the simple controls on one of their six day boats, so we could head out for the day with total confidence.

The kids loved putting on their life jackets and climbing onboard. My kids are only young too – my four year old was just desperate to help and my 16 month old just loved exploring.


I’d say it’s a trip where the more is the merrier, because it’s not actually as easy as it looks.

Driving the boat is one thing, but when you’ve got bridges to open before you can pass through it’s literally all hands on deck.

Ideally you need a driver, someone to jump off and operate the bridges and then a third person to jump off and tie the boat up once you’ve passed through the bridge while you wait for the person operating the bridge.

First up for us was a swing bridge – we had been warned if we took too long we would cut off an entire village, so speed was key.

Oliver loved helping to steer

My mum was the designated bridge operator in our party and she did a fine job while we sailed through – waving at the traffic we were holding up.

If you are as inexperienced as us, you are bound to get it wrong, but near-misses brought us the amusement.

They say canal life is addictive and I can see why. We had the boat for a full day, but next time we might book a short break because the company also does weekend and midweek boat hire.

Pennine Cruisers has five luxury boats in its fleet for the season and all are available for short breaks, weekly and fortnightly hire.

A holiday onboard one of Pennine Cruisers’ narrow boats includes a top-class and specially built boat with full headroom throughout.

All boats have fully equipped kitchen areas with a full-size cooker, grill, hob, fridge, sink and drainer, storage cupboards, crockery, cutlery and cooking utensils.


All boats have one or two flushing toilets and showers over 4ft baths.

Plus, they all have full central heating and three of them also have traditional solid-fuel stoves.

Full lockside instruction is given to all holiday boaters to ensure hirers are confident in the operation of locks and know how to operate them safely so they can enjoy all aspects of their holiday.

A typical weekend break would take you from the base in Skipton either eastward to Saltaire or westwards to Foulridge and back again.

A week’s hire could take you eastward through Bingley Five Rise Locks to Leeds, or westward through the lovely villages of Gargrave and Bank Newton, through the Foulridge tunnel at the highest section of the canal, and then down into Lancashire towards Wigan.

I loved the fact you are never more than a few yards from dry land, and at lunchtime you can simply moor up and stroll down to the local pub.

The children absolutely loved it, one minute they were helping to drive, the next they were at the front of the boat feeding the ducks, and they also enjoyed being inside in the warmth.

Pets are also welcome on board, too.

If you do decide to make more of a holiday of it, there are many attractions in and around Skipton, including Bolton Abbey Estate, Craven Museum, Embsay Steam Railway and Skipton Castle.

While cruising in the Dales you could also just do some walking, exploring the hills and valleys, taking in the fresh air and beauty.

You can definitely feel yourself unwinding as life takes on a different pace and aspect away from the busy roads in the distance.

The earlier you book the better, to ensure you get the dates you want.

  • Reviewed August 2014



LOCATION: 19 Coach St, Skipton, BD23 1LH

OPEN: All year round. Day boat hire is from 9.15am until 4.30pm

PRICES: £4 per passenger for 30-minute public boat trip.

DAY HIRE: Summer trips for ten people:  £155 on weekdays and £190 on weekends. Summer trips for four people: £110 on weekdays and £120 on weekends.

Winter trips are cheaper.

VISIT: www.penninecruisers.comWinter boat day hire from £95. Peak-season boat hire from £110 for four people or from £155 for boats for up to ten people.

CALL: 01756 795478.

Rushmoor Country Park, Louth

THEY SAY: A small and friendly country style farm park. Set in six acres of Lincolnshire countryside.

WE SAY: Small, but good if you like to get hands-on with the animals.

If you want a hands-on experience, Rushmoor Country Park is the place to visit.

Our on recent day out there – the first time we’ve ever been – my children held everything from owls and rabbits to rats and hamsters.


The family-run business has been open since 2001 and are keen for children to meet the animals.

We were particuarly impressed with the hawk and owl display. Joel, the hawk trainer was very passionate about his role and took the time to explain everything you would want to know, before flying different birds and then letting the children hold a little owl.
The daily displays and handling are included in the entry price and was the highlight of our visit.


TIP: If you arrive before 11am the price is reduced to £5.75 per person.

The country park is quite small – it’s perhaps not big enough for a full day out. We spent a few hours there might have stayed longer if it was warmer.
There’s a lovely cafe with a full menu and mouth-watering cakes on display. Apart from that it’s all outdoors so not somewhere to go if it’s raining.

Directly outside there’s a large field with a bouncy castle which is adjacent to another field with swings and a slide. It’s a shame there’s not more to play on here though.
There’s plenty of picnic tables if you want to take your own food and also a large garden where you can walk around the pond.


The main animal farm area makes up the main part of the attraction. Here you can bottle feed the lambs in Spring and feed the goats. There’s also horses, pigs and sheep.

Children can also enjoy a pony ride. However be sure to check the times on the noticeboard on arrival because they only ran once on the day we visited and so we missed them.


There’s also an indoor hut with smaller animals in which is where my children held the rats and rabbits. It was the first time my children have ever held rats and closer than I’d want to be to them. But my son loved having it on his knee and let it hide in his jacket and even my two-year-old daughter was laughing out loud as it crawled across her knee.

Being fairly small it’s perhaps not somewhere we would rush back to, but if you’ve not been before it’s nice for a change. Parking is free.


  • Reviewed April 2016



LOCATION: Louth Road, North Cockerington, Louth, Lincolnshire LN11 7DY.
OPEN: Open every day through school holidays from 10am to 5pm. Oppen Tuesday to Sunday during term time. Closed on Mondays during term time.
PRICES: @ £6.75 per person. Children aged two and under enter free.
CALL: 01507 327184



Rockliffe Hall, Darlington #metime

IT WAS the luxurious award-winning spa that first tempted me to visit Rockliffe Hall.

Yet since returning from an outstanding weekend at the country retreat, it’s actually the culinary journey we experienced that I’ve talked non-stop about.

As truly delightful as the spa was at the five-star golf and spa hotel in County Durham, it was the stand-out exquisite food in the Orangery Restaurant that blew us away.

The food

The 3AA rosette restaurant in the 18th-century Old Hall of the hotel is the flagship restaurant of three at the hotel.

The restaurant is described as informal luxury – it’s fine dining, but it wasn’t too stuffy.

All the while, a pianist played in the background and it was some three hours later before we retired to the cocktail bar.

For me, it was the highlight of the trip, followed closely by the spa experience, which was the perfect environment to relax.



The Spa

Here you will find a 20m pool surrounded by comfortable seating, heat rooms, a beautiful hydro pool and an outdoor hot tub.

View from my lounger

I indulged in one of the newest treatments – a neom wellbeing treatment, which includes meditation, Shiatsu, Thai massage and reflexology.

For 60 minutes, I was able to drift away while the therapist worked her magic with a candle oil that was drizzled over my body.

The icing on the cake though was our two-hour session in the Spa Garden, which was just something else.


Indoors, there are heated relaxation loungers, a glass-fronted sauna, and fire pit with seating looking out over the two hot pools outside, including an infinity edge pool and a warm Jacuzzi.

Despite it being January, I found myself swimming outdoors in the steaming hot pool, overlooking the rolling countryside.


Anywhere where you can enjoy a Mojito with lunch in your robe gets my vote.


The Hotel

Set in 375 acres of grounds, the hotel is one of a kind – it really is luxury at its best.

It was a country retreat we didn’t need to leave all weekend.



The Room

We stayed in a room in the new hall, complete with mood lighting, a walk-in monsoon shower and a separate bath with its own TV. The room was very spacious, modern, luxurious and spotlessly clean.


We had a balcony overlooking the grounds and golf course.

However, the sumptuous bed stole the show – it was absolute heaven.


Without a doubt, this hotel is deserving of its five stars.

You can also get married at the hotel. One can only imagine how amazing a wedding at Rockliffe Hall would be.

We left after our stay feeling wonderfully relaxed and revived.

The perfect breakfast, and view

I feel lucky to have discovered this wonderful retreat which has now firmly made it onto my wish list of places to revisit.



White Post Farm, Farnsfield

THEY SAY:  One of the East Midlands most popular tourist attractions.

WE SAY: Full day out, plenty to do both indoors and outside.

COME rain or shine, White Post Farm is open 362 days of the year.

While there’s plenty to do outside if you visit on a warm day, you need not worry too much about the weather, because there’s plenty to do indoors, too.

It rained non-stop when we visited in February half term – but we still had a brilliant full day out.

The farm is one of the East Midlands’ most popular attractions and it’s easy to see why.


As well as the farm, there’s mini golf, adventure playgrounds, sand play areas, tea rooms and a walk-in aviary.

Indoors, there’s soft play, the UKs largest sledge run and even a pantomime.

As soon as we arrived, Oliver, Jasmine and Bella ran straight for the tractors to pretend to drive the massive machines.

Next was the outdoor play area, where we had fun on the ride-on tractors, go-karts and trampolines.


When we visited, part of the outdoor play area was under construction and a new adventure fort was being built. However, there was still plenty to go on.

Don’t forget your wellies before taking a stroll around the animal paddocks, where you can feed the goats, reindeer, sheep, cows and llamas, to name a few.

The kids will love using the pulley to send goats some food on goat mountain.

Inside the show barn was our favourite place. It is where the panto takes place and also where the soft play and sledge run is.

There’s plenty of seating for adults to watch because, once the kids get a sledge, it’s almost impossible to pull them away!


Under the same roof, next door there’s also a smaller sledge run for younger children and a lovely play area for under-fives, with summer houses and plenty of toys.

Here, you can get your face painted and also take part in crafting.


One of the highlights of the day had to be feeding the lambs with milk from a bottle in the indoor barn. No matter how many times we do it, the kids love it.



In summer you can see sheep racing and the farm show is also popular. Goat Agility shows off the terrific talents of some of the young nanny goats as they jump, dodge and balance their way around the course.

Parking is free, there are indoor and outdoor picnic areas, smoking isn’t permitted and dogs aren’t allowed.

We can’t wait to return in summer to spend more time outside – this place is now on our favourites list.



  • Reviewed February 2016



LOCATION: Mansfield Road, Farnsfield, Nottinghamshire, NG22 8HL.

OPEN: 10am to 5pm.

PRICES: If booked online: Adults £7.75, children £7.60 Under-twos go free.

CALL: 01623 882977