Archive for the ‘self catering’ Category

A short tour in Suffolk

August 15, 2011

With the assistance of blogs and tripadvisor, we spent a few days touring Suffolk in June.  I hope others will find some of my tips worthwhile.

We flew directly from Cork to Gatwick and picked up a Hertz rental car.  Our first stop was for lunch at theAngel Hotel in the town square of Bury St Edmunds directly opposite the Abbey.  Aside from the perfect location for wandering around the city, lunch was delicious (a tasty chicken dish followed by sticky toffee pudding).  To walk off the meal, we wandered around the fabulous abbey gardens

Angel Hotel in Bury St Edmunds

Angel Hotel in Bury St Edmunds

 
The Abbey Gardens, Bury St Edmunds

The Abbey Gardens at Bury St Edmunds

and the Abbey itself

The Abbey at Bury St Edmunds

The Abbey at Bury St Edmunds

and explored Bury.  The Abbey Gardens are truly spectacular so don’t miss them.  I particularly enjoyed the rose garden.

We took the A1120 from Stowmarket to Southwold with a few stops along the way.  The Saxtead Green mill

Saxtead Green Post Mill

Saxtead Green Post Mill

 is a three storey roundhouse used for milling corn up to 1947.  It is now a protected structure.

Our next stop was Framlingham, a quaint old market town

Market day at Framlingham

Market day at Framlingham

mentioned as far back as in the domesday book.  Framlingham castle

Framlingham Castle

Framlingham Castle

is a 12th century fortress once the refuge of Mary Tudor.  On the day of our visit the country market was in full swing.

On to Southwold,

Southwold

Southwold

the home of Adnams breweryand a town famous for its pier and seaside.  This is a bustling seaside town with lots of shops, cafes, galleries etc.  We enjoyed lunch at Cellar and Kitchen, part of Adnams.

Cellar and Kitchen in Southwold

Cellar and Kitchen in Southwold

From Southwold we toured down the coast stopping at Holy Trinity, Blythburgh,

Holy Trinity at Blythburgh in Suffolk

Holy Trinity at Blythburgh in Suffolk

an impressive church in what is now a tiny village bisected by the very busy A12.  Blythburgh was a thriving medieval town at one stage, hence the size of the church.

A little further on we reached Dunwich, at one stage the capital of East Anglia (1500 years ago) but now a village due to severe coastal erosion which saw the town disappear under water.  At its height, it was one of the most important ports in England with a population of 3000.  The remains of the franciscan friary

dunwich abbey

dunwich abbey

are still visible though as many as eight churches have long since disappeared into the sea.  The Dunwich museum

Dunwich Museum

Dunwich Museum

is a very interesting stop-off point though take the stairs to the upper floor as two of our party got stuck in the lift!  It’s really hard to believe that such a thriving place in medieval times could be now just a very small village.

Snape Maltings

Snape Maltings in Suffolk

Snape Maltings in Suffolk

is a popular tourist destination a little further south. I had difficulty trying to figure out from the web before my visit what exactly was at the maltings and whether it was worth a stop.  There are a variety of quaint shops, a cafe and galleries so plenty to browse around.  In addition there is a sizeable concert hall with musical events.  In former times the maltings was used for the malting of barley and brewing of beer.  Its transformation seems to be a success and we enjoyed our visit.

Lavenham

Lavenham Museum

Lavenham Museum

is a picturesque medieval village which thrived during the hay days of the wool trade in the 15th and 16th centuries.  Be sure to visit the museum as it’s fascinating.  Also take time to wander around the church.  We loved this medieval village as it is so quintessentially English.

lavenham in Suffolk

lavenham in Suffolk

East Bergholt

East Bergholt

East Bergholt

is a small pretty village in the south of Suffolk and the birthplace of the painter, John Constable.  The village is famous for its church bells which sit in a bell cage on the ground rather than in a spire.  The bells are not run by ropes pulled from below but instead by ringers standing alongside the bells.

Close to East Bergholt is the small hamlet of Flatford,

Flatford

Flatford

famous for the mill, Willy Lott’s Cottage and Bridge Cottage all immortalised in the paintings of John Constable.  Parking is available about 200 metres from the area itself and there is a good cafe looking out over the water.

As always with any holiday, we had too little time and there was too much to see.  We spent the three nights of our trip in a wonderful self catering chalet at Badwell Ash.

Badwell Ash Holiday Lodges

Badwell Ash Holiday Lodges

We would highly recommend this haven of wildlife.

This blog has been posted by Catherine FitzMaurice of Kilbrogan House Bed and Breakfast and Self Catering Accommodation.

A winter tour of Bath, the South Cotswolds and Somerset

May 8, 2011

A few blogs helped me plan a winter tour in Somerset in the UK so hopefully this blog will give others tips!

The American Museum of Bath

The American Museum

We arrived at Bristol Airport and drove straight to the American Museum in Claverton Manor House just four miles outside Bath.  We did deliberate about this as we wondered whether it made sense to visit an American Museum whilst on a visit to the UK.  Wow, we were glad we opted for it as it was a real treat.  If you are a quilt enthusiast, a lover of old houses, somebody who loves amazing scenery and somebody with an interest in American history and culture, definitely pay this place a visit.  The house is in a fabulous location with a breathtaking view over the Avon valley.

The collections of furniture, quilts, silver, glass, portraits and exhibitions are all held within the manor house itself so you get to enjoy the displays as well as the fabulous home.  There is an exhibition centre at the side of the house and at the time of our visit, there was a wonderful display of quilts in addition to the quilts exhibited in the house.  There is also a wonderful cafe in the Orangery which had plenty of choice and not too expensive.

pickwick lodge farm

Pickwick Lodge Farm Bed and Breakfast

After this visit, we headed for our bed and breakfast a few miles further on just outside Corsham.  Pickwick Lodge Farm is a 17th century Cotswold farmhouse situated within a 300 acre farm.  We loved this place and it oozed English charm.  Gill, our host, made us feel so welcome and was quick to give us tips as to where to eat.

Castle Combe Village

The village centre of Castle Combe

The following day we set off for Castle Combe village which is about 12 miles from Bath.  This is one of the most picturesque villages in the Cotswolds with all the houses built out of the traditional cotswold stone so don’t miss it as it really is a gem! It has been the setting for a few films, eg Dr Doolittle.

Allington Farm Shop near Chippenham

Allington Farm Shop near Chippenham

We stopped at the Allington Farm Shop near Chippenham on the way to stock up with supplies for our self catering accommodation.  The shop supplies home and locally produced food and also has a lovely cafe and garden centre.  I had to resist buying too much as it all looked so delicious!!

The George Inn at Lacock near Chippenham

The George Inn at Lacock Near Chippenham

After this we headed for Lacock which is another very pretty village totally unspoilt by any modernisation.  It is about 3 miles from Chippenham and is almost entirely owned by the National Trust.  The village of Lacock is mentioned in the Domesday Book.  We had a meal at the George Inn which was to be highly recommended.  This village has been used in numerous television programmes and films.

From Lacock we headed into Bath city centre to indulge ourselves at the Thermae Bath Spa which was a fabulous millenium project.  We had been to this spa before and would never pass up on the opportunity for another visit.  Where else are you going to be able to enjoy thermal springs in the centre of a wonderful city.  You look at the building from the outside just minutes walk from the Roman Baths and you can’t even image what awaits you.  The spa is amazing.    I suggest you start off in the downstairs pool, the Minerva Bath.  The thermal jets around the side of the bath are wonderful.  Progress next to the open air roof top pool.  You can literally swim around in the middle of winter and look over the city of Bath and the surrounding hills – the view is incredible.  After this, head for the aroma steam rooms.  Each of these rooms are infused with a different scent, eg eucalyptus, frankincense etc and in the middle of the room there is a massive waterfall shower that at least 10 people could stand under – It goes on and off on a timed basis.  Lastly, you can always opt for a treatment (we didn’t) or while a way some time in their lovely cafe.  I think this millenium project is out of this world and you will discover that many private spas are not nearly as amazing as this public one!!

Lower Lakes Log Cabin

Lower Lakes Log Cabin near Bridgwater, Somerset

Our self catering accommodation was based at Lower Lakes Log Cabins in Chilton Trinity near Bridgwater.  This place is a dream.  Our open-plan log cabin, Meadowside Lodge,  overlooked a lake (some of the occupants of other cabins went fishing).  It’s such a peaceful place and is an excellent base for touring Somerset.  Our log cabin was wonderfully airy and every detail was thought of.  We stayed here in November and were really warm inside the cabin.  It’s very spacious inside – a real treat.

Longleat

Longleat House

Our next day’s adventures took us to Longleat, near Warminster, one of the few stately homes open in winter.  The sheer scale of this house and the 900 acre estate is breathtaking so take your time going around this place.  The house was finished as far back as 1580 and is now the home of the Marquis of Bath.  It’s absolutely packed with antiques and portraits and you even get to see some of the artwork done by the Marquis himself.  I think it tells us a bit of his character.  We had a really informative guided tour of this vast place.  Afterwards we had tea downstairs in the cellars which was also to be recommended.

On our way back from Longleat, we stopped at Sheppys Cider Museum just outside Taunton but were a bit disappointed.

Wells Cathedral

Wells Cathedral

Our next day’s trip was to the city of Wells and then on to the Cheddar Gorge.  Wells is  mentioned in the Domesday Book.  It is truly a medieval gem with a fascinating cathedral.  We arrived on market day (Wednesday) so there was a real buzz of activity in the town centre.  The cathedral itself is in the heart of the city.

Cheddar Gorge

Cheddar Gorge

From Wells we headed up into the Cheddar Gorge which is a limestone gorge in the Mendip hills just outside the village of Cheddar.  It is well worth a visit.  We stopped in Cheddar village and did a tour of the cheese making facility.  The village looks like it might be a bit trippery in season but in November, it was fine!  The rock formations in the gorge incredible so allow time to get out of the car and explore.

Exmoor

Exmoor

On the next day we headed to Minehead and Dunster and on to Porlock and through Exmoor.  There were many stunning views from various points on our tour of this area.  The Exmoor national park is spread over a wide area. the largest towns being Porlock, Dulverton, Lynton and Lynmouth.  You could easily spend days in this area particularly if you are a keen hiker.

Bridgwater Carnival Road Train

Bridgwater Carnival Road Train

Another highlight of our visit to Somerset was the Bridgwater Guy Fawkes Carnival.  This is a massive illuminated night time procession of road trains all laden down with beaming lights and all kinds of displays.  We were amazed how easy it was to get in and out of Bridgwater to view the carnival.  Definitely visit this if you happen to be in this part of the world for Guy Fawkes. Wrap up well as this procession lasts for a good while.  I was amazed at how many road trains were involved.  They just kept coming.

On our last night we stayed at Pennard House Bed and Breakfast which is situated near Shepton Mallet.  This is a lovely old house brimming with character.

1 Royal Crescent in Bath

1 Royal Crescent in Bath

Our final stop before returning to Bristol Airport for a short plane trip back to Cork was to visit 1 Royal Crescent in Bath.  The house is maintained by the Bath Preservation Society and is a wonderful example of a 1700s town house.  It was the first house to be built in the crescent and originally provided luxury accommodation for aristocrats who came to Bath in the old days to take the waters.  Stroll through the sitting room, bedrooms, kitchen and get an idea of how the gentry in Bath really lived.

We loved our short trip to Somerset and highly recommend this part of the world.  There are many fascinating places in the area that were not open in winter so we’ll be back at some stage for a summer visit.

Water rates even for Churches

June 27, 2008

The councils have recently extended water rates to a wide array of businesses including churches. A recent water rates bill for a local church included euro 1.95 for water over a six month period plus a six month fixed administration charge of euro 49.50! Some churches don’t even have loos so the water rates cover the water used to clean the chalice and that’s it. Clearly in the States eyes, tough times call for desperate measures and including churches for water rates is a desperate measure.

Failte Ireland registered Bed and Breakfast and Self Catering Accommodation providers now have to pay water rates but the State forgets that there are endless operators existing without Failte Ireland Approval that escape the net. Moreover, there are now countless owners of apartments who are seeking to rent out their accommodation any way they can yet they don’t fall into the water rate regime as they are not registered. What is the difference between renting out an apartment long term and renting it week to week as self catering? Both are businesses and should be taxed equally.

There isn’t a level playing field for this new tax. Tax us all equally or not at all and for goodness sake, leave out taxing churches. If water is such a scarce commodity, why should I look out my window at people washing down their houses, cars, gardens and who knows what else with free water. Even if an accommodation provider only opens for a short season, we are subject to water rates all year around irrespective of whether we are open or not. So to avoid water rates when closed for the season, we either have to use our own wells or move to a private house elsewhere.

Failte Ireland – New Self Catering Approval Process

April 25, 2008

Failte Ireland have designed a new approval process for individual self catering properties. The scheme features a star rating classification system and new online application process.

TAMS (Tourism Accommodation Management Services) will be the organisation responsible for inspecting and approving new and existing properties of behalf of Failte Ireland, the tourist board.

Properties in the scheme will be eligible to use the term ‘Approved to Failte Ireland Standards’ and will continue to have access to www.discoverireland.ie

Failte Ireland South West launches e-business course for small accommodation providers

April 12, 2008

Failte Ireland South West has developed an e-business programme to help small accommodation providers integrate computers and the internet into the daily management and promotion of their tourism business.  The sessions will be run between April and June, 2008 and the locations will include Killarney, Dingle, Cork and Kinsale.  There are introductory courses for those not familiar with the internet and an intermediate programme which will include search engine optimisation, email management, how to book online and how to get found online.

A euro 50 fee applies for those participating in the programme.

West Cork Calling Tourism Group launches blog and revamped website

March 24, 2008

Kilbrogan House is part of West Cork Calling, a co-operative network of businesses spread across West Cork that offers a wide range of courses, activities and accommodation.  The group has been set up by the members themselves who were part of a Mergo initiative put together by Failte Ireland, the Irish Tourist Board.  The West Cork Calling network should enable the participants to market their products directly to the customer without sizeable individual advertising costs and/or costs associated with marketing via a third party.

Many local networks exist within towns in the region.  This group felt that a diverse network spread throughout the region would complement the local networks.  The ultimate aim of the group is to get members to work together to offer packages.

The network allows small and large businesses to participate together as the barrier to entry in terms of financial outlay is low and there is no exit barrier.  All the participants strive to achieve a common goal of attracting tourist to the region and at the same time offering first class products.  It is anticipated that the network will double in size over the next 12 months giving the customer an even wider choice of products and services.

For anybody interested the contact details are as follows:

http://www.westcorkcalling.com  and email: westcorkcalling@gmail.com

Kilbrogan House welcomes guests from Malta

March 23, 2008

Last year a group of six Canadian doctors spent three days with us. During the previous year they had spent their holidays at a self catering property on Gozo, an island off the coast of Malta. They highly recommended their holiday in Gozo so we made a careful note of this tip.

Yesterday we were fortunate to have Jacques and Melanie to stay. They both live in Luxemburg. Jacques is from Gozo so we were thrilled to hear first hand from a local about where and when to visit. His recommendation is to go in April when it is not too hot and when there aren’t too many tourists around.

We asked Jacques about Mintoff and he was most surprised that anybody here would even remember this former prime minister of Malta. Mintoff is still alive and is 91.

Jacques and Melanie went to Cork for the evening and ended up eating at Wagamama which they said was very good. (I didn’t even know that there was a ‘Wag’ in Cork)

Jacques has been using a tom tom gps to navigate his way around the Irish countryside.  He had downloaded irish software for the trip so that the mapping would be up-to-date.  However,  the tom tom let him down around Glencar in Kerry and they had a very tough time finding the way to their accommodation.  Luckily Bandon did feature on the tom tom!!