Ryanair prides itself on its budget flights to Europe, with its tagline being ‘Low fares. Made simple’.
When it was announced that the budget airline would be allowing passengers to take two carry-on items onboard, a bag for the overhead lockers as well as a handbag or rucksack, the love around Ryanair grew. And with the expensive luggage issue out of the way, we were all able to achieve low-cost travel – especially if we bypassed the extortionate onboard sandwiches.
It was devastating therefore when news broke earlier this year that our time was up, with the airline changing its hand luggage rules – and unsurprisingly not for the better.
The new Ryanair baggage policy is two-fold, with an obvious emphasis on getting people to pay to check in their luggage instead of packing light and just using the complimentary carry-on.
It seems however that Ryanair might be about to go back on its policy, set to review its luggage rules.
The January policy for check-in bags seemed positive at first, with the focus being cheaper and bigger. The size of check-in luggage has increased from 15kg to 20kg and the price has actually gone down from €35 to €25.
When it came to cabin bags however, it all went downhill, with new rules implemented at the beginning of the year.
‘Only customers who have purchased priority boarding, flexi plus, family plus or plus can bring both their bags on board,’ the airline announced. ‘Non priority customers can bring one small bag on board and put their normal bag in the hold at the boarding gate free of charge.’
They were quick to point out however that priority boarding only costs €5 at the time of boarding – or can be added for €6 up to one hour before the flight if you have the Ryanair app.
Now however, Ryanair might have to go back on its policy, after too many customers have been checking in bags at the gate.
After originally making the changes to prevent delays, the airline’s CEO Michael O’Leary has admitted that it is instead ‘creating a handling issue, particularly at peak periods.’
‘There are many flights where we’re now having to put 100, 120 gate bags free of charge into the hold,’ he explained. ‘If that continues to build it’s something we may have to look at again.’
It’s just as well, with the new policy unsurprisingly not going down well with the public, with passengers even taking to Twitter to voice their outrage.
‘There was a time when baggage was free so we all checked it in,’ tweeted Derek Jones (@Degsycom). ‘Then they charged to check it in so we took it on board. But there’s not enough room so they charged for that too. So we go back to checking in our bags… but now we pay for it. See what they did? #Ryanair #Genius.’
‘Just had my bag taken off me for not coughing up more money to @ryanair under their new bag regime,’ live-tweeted @SanMiguelMalaga from the airport. ‘The Mr. Nice guy act was never gonna last. It didn’t suit them anyway.’
If you want a side of excitement with your suntan…
There’s no denying that the Bahamas’ famed white beaches are absolutely worth flying over for, but there’s a lot to do in Nassau that goes beyond a sun lounger. As the capital of the sun-drenched region, it’s teeming with things to do if you’re in the mood for a more active holiday. (Not that we don’t love lying about with a Piña Colada in hand.)
We’ve done the digging and rounded up three thrill-seeking highlights in the region below. And if you’re feeling the travel bug, you can always head on over to BA.com to book a flight to ocean paradise. We’re just saying, a flight goes out five times a week to Nassau from Heathrow Airport…how much annual leave do we have left again?
If you’re looking to get some use out of your old PADI certificate and you don’t scare easily, Nassau is the ultimate shark diving destination. With several dedicated scuba centres, most guided diving tours will take you to Shark Wall or one of three other shark hotspots. You’ll be accompanied by a professional shark feeder who’ll coax the predators out of their hiding places with bait – don’t panic when they get too close for comfort…
Ride the waves
This isn’t your standard boat trip. Head out to Ship Channel Cay to join Powerboat Adventures, where you’ll hop on board a speed boat and live out your aquatic The Fast and the Furious fantasies. The thrilling tour will zip you around a stunning private island at speeds as high as forty miles per hour (so hang onto your hat) and eventually drop you off on Ship Channel Cay’s crystal shores. Once you’ve recovered from your windswept journey, you’ll take things slow with a Nassau-style barbecue lunch and thrill seekers will also have the opportunity to snorkel with nearby reef sharks.
Join the Junkanoo celebrations
These bold national carnivals give the likes of Rio de Janeiro a run for their money. The popular consensus is that it dates back to times when slavery was still rife in the region and enslaved people were given three days to party as hard as they could. The main Junkanoo Carnival takes place on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day, but throughout the year you can definitely expect dance troupes dressed in bright costumes, sick rhythms beaten on traditional Goombay drums and elements of the world-famous Junkanoo Parade sweeping a path around your hotel or through the streets. Not there at the right time? You can always head over to the Junkanoo Museum to get a taste of the festivities – bring your dancing shoes, you’ll want to join in.
Guests, tourists and mini-breakers, you are cordially invited to Windsor for the wedding of the year. Here’s what to know
Windsor will have the eyes of the world watching next weekend when the Royal wedding rolls into town. Here’s everything you need to know about the Berkshire market town, including where to shop for the best Meghan and Harry commemorative mug and whether or not Prince George is tall enough to ride the Dragon’s Apprentice mini rollercoaster at Legoland on the way home.
On Saturday 19th May, thousands of people are expected to gather from all over the country to line the procession route and catch a glimpse of the Royal couple as they get married at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. So much so that the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead has released a handy guide to make the trip as smooth as possible. We also did a recce of the town, so that you can make the most of your time there.
Where to stand for the Royal Wedding?
Your best bet is to pitch up on The Long Walk to catch a glimpse of the castle and the bridal procession, or if that’s too busy, head for Kings Road. There will be plenty of refreshments stalls and toilets along the route, though don’t expect to bump into Charles and Camilla in the queue for the portaloos – official Royal wedding guests will have been holed up in the chapel since 10am, despite the ceremony not kicking off until midday. We sincerely hope that there are some posh portaloos (Mobile Thrones, perhaps) inside the grounds, otherwise that is an exceptionally long time for one to cross one’s legs, especially if Meghan goes all out bride on us and arrives half an hour late.
Don’t forget your Royal wedding souvenirs…
How to get to the Royal wedding
Firstly, set your alarm clock for 4am. Seriously. Train companies have issued travel warnings urging wedding revelers to set off early to avoid disappointment. Roads in Windsor will be closed from 10pm on Friday 18 May but Windsor Racecourse is providing a fun-times ‘park and float’ car park so you can ditch the wheels and cruise into town on a return riverboat (£10), presumably so that you can make like the Queen on her Diamond jubilee when she took a flotilla along the Thames. Royal wave optional.
Where to stay in Windsor
If you manage to find a hotel in Windsor that still has availability we’ll eat our elaborate feathered fascinator. That said, if you’re planning a trip to Windsor at any other time, check yourself in to the historic Castle Hotel Windsor. A chic boutique hotel perfectly positioned within a cobblestone’s throw to Windsor Castle, Meghan’s Stateside rellies and even some of Prince Harry’s Eton chums could do far worse than book a superior deluxe suite (rates start from £108) at the Castle Hotel. Opposite Sir Christopher Wren’s Windsor Guildhall, the hotel dates back to 1528 when, known then as the Mermaid Inn, it was a humble brewery. Later, in the 1700s, the innkeeper Richard Martin was awarded the first of the hotel’s eight Royal Warrants – to provide horses and carriage for the royal household – and the hotel went on to become the grandest in Windsor. Naturally, today they will be celebrating the Royal wedding with a bespoke cocktail named A Ring For Her Finger (Stiggins’ Pineapple Rum Aperol and Scottish Ginger Cider, £10, in case you’re wondering).
Fit for Royalty: The Castle Hotel, Windsor
The suite interiors are all muted sandy and grey tones, with high ceilings, huge Georgian sash windows and gigantic king-sized beds (appropriate, no?) with Egyptian cotton sheets to sink in to. Downstairs, in the lounges and restaurant, much of the original Grade II listed detail remains – the floors are delightfully wonky – but the décor has a clean, contemporary feel.
The in-house Marco Pierre White Restaurant is just the spot for a Chateaubriand and a full-bodied red from the extensive list. But don’t over-indulge, the buffet breakfast next morning is one of the best (and largest) in town. Who knows? You might even bump into a hungover wedding guest, perhaps David Beckham or one of Harry’s chums from the Mahiki days, tie around head Rambo-style, the morning after the night before.
What to do in Windsor
If you didn’t get a Royal wedding invite or, y’know, it’s just not your scene, head for The Three Tuns on Market Street, a traditional boozer for a pint of London Pride. They have renamed the pub The Prince Harry in honour of the Royal wedding and you can expect street party-style celebrations. You know that scene in Titanic where, sick of mingling with the aristocracy, Rose heads down to steerage for a proper Irish knees up and it looks way more fun than the posh party? That’s the laidback vibe of this place, so expect cheery chat with locals and a decent jukebox.
Don’t leave town without a stop off for tea and cake at Lillibet’s, The Great British Café – named so because of the Queen’s nickname. And on such a truly British occasion, it would be rude not to, frankly. Opposite, swing by Windsor Gifts and Souvenirs for a Meghan and Harry 2018 commemorative mug, which hopefully you’ll be able to flog on EBay in thirty years’ time for double the price. #winning.
The Royal Wedding, as immortalised by Legoland
And once the party is over and the prospect of a long car journey home with grumpy kids in the back has you reaching for the Alka Seltzer, do yourself a favour and book a family ticket to LEGOLAND Windsor (tickets from £32 on selected dates). We’re pretty sure that’s what Kate and William will be doing to avoid George and Charlotte’s endless choruses of ‘are we there yet?’ There’s a brand new, 60,000-piece pop-up Royal Wedding scene in Miniland (complete with ginger groom) that took 752 hours to build. There’s also a brand new LEGO Ninjago 4D movie – Master of the 4th Dimension – and the LEGO Reef, a digital aquarium.
So don’t forget to pack your brolly, Union Jack flags and a hip flask of something celebratory for the big day. We’ll see you by the sidelines.
It’s no surprise that next week is going to be the biggest weekend of the year (maybe even the decade) for diehard royalists. Major Meghan Markle and Prince Harry stans are turning out in full force from all over the world and it turns out that if you’re planning to stay in Windsor or London for the festivities, it’s going to get a little crowded.
Airbnb released data recently that revealed Windsor bookings for the weekend were projected to rise by 194%, a welcome tourism boom if not a little inconvenient for the people that live there. Given that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding will be taking place in Saint George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, the city’s biggest landmark, it makes sense that people want to be as close to the action as possible.
According to the Windsor Observer, The Royal Borough be raising prices to a steep £30 at a 6,000 bay car park for all those driving in on the day and unfortunate residents. Airbnb hosts are also predicted to make a killing over the weekend, as projected collective earnings for Windsor over the weekend could exceed £126, 000.
It’s not just Windsor getting a major boost, as it’s expected that 40,000 people will be flocking to the capital to join the inevitable London street parties. Generator Hostels have revealed that London has seen a huge spike in bookings and especially from millennial fans. In fact, an eye-watering 72% of all their reservations over the weekend were specifically from the age group and 62% of those were made by women.
While British royalists made up a quarter of Generator’s bookings, funnily enough the hotel chain saw the biggest surge in bookings from France with numbers up by 170%. (There must be a lot of Suits fans out there.) Germany followed closely behind with an increase of 126%, followed by Canada (120%) and America (100%).
Generator’s Jason Rieff said, ‘Here at Generator we are really looking forward to the Royal wedding. It’s becoming a global event with people from all over the world travelling to London to stay here and be able to say they were a part of it. Sales of beds are up YOY for the wedding weekend and excitement is growing by the day.’
If you’re over the Royal Wedding and just want to get out of England, you’re in luck though. Couples who are called Meghan and Harry can score a free night’s stay at any of Generator’s hostels across Europe if you email firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you just can’t tear yourself away from royalty, British and Canadian couples can also score a 30% discount on any food and drink in Generator London over the Royal Wedding weekend.
If you don’t like leaving your pampered pooch behind when you go on holiday, check out one of these stylish, dog friendly hotels
Dog friendly hotels that look chic and feel boutique are the next big thing in travel. Cue: an Instagram feed packed with dogs on their jollies. Surfboard optional.
The travel industry has cottoned on to the fact we now take our pooches everywhere with us, from the office to the pub, so why would a mini-break or holiday be any different? Thankfully, a wave of cool dog friendly hotels have cropped up to make taking your dog on holiday a breeze. No more budget, cat-hair-on-your-pillow B&Bs just because you can’t afford the kennel fees and need to drag the family pet along for the ride. These stylish dog friendly holiday ideas mean you don’t have to compromise on chic just because you’ve got your four-legged friend in tow.
Whether it’s a weekend away in the Great British countryside or a week-long trip to the coast, hot-paw it to one of these dog friendly hotels because doggy holidays just got a seriously stylish upgrade.
Wish you were here! Brock takes a seaside stroll in Camber Sands
Beach loving dogs listen up – this is your kind of paradise. Golden sands stretch beyond this bijou hotel (it has just 21 rooms) offering dogs a lap of luxury and walks that go on for miles – eight, to be exact. We recommend treating your pooch to a day of lead-tugging in and out of the cobbled streets in Rye, only a stone’s throw from the hotel. The Galivant’s Dog Lovers Escape package includes two nights in an idyllic room, complete with white washed sheets and grey beach hut aesthetics, and plentiful amounts of food for both you and your pup to dig into. Endless free dog biscuits? Now that’s a dog friendly hotel win. Your favourite pet (you can only bring one, unfortunately) can also relax with a complimentary dog rug, toy and water bowl in your room. As part of the package, you also get a three-course dinner on one night and a ‘healthy breakfast’ on both mornings. They even have our kind of happy hour – a giant pot of tea served in china mugs with a slice of freshly baked cake everyday at 4pm. Paw-fect.
The perfect balance between contemporary and rustic, your dog will thank you for the endless sandy walks along the cliff side and the homemade doggie treats waiting on arrival. You can go light on the pet packing as eating and drinking bowls, a blanket and even waste bags are provided by the hotel, leaving you more space for sun hats and kaftans (weather permitting). The sea view bedrooms are as hard to resist as the beautiful food, headed up by executive chef Tom. Although your little pal isn’t allowed in the restaurant, they can find some company with Jasper, the hotel’s whippet, out on the balcony while you work your way through a fresh, seasonal menu specialising in local-sourced fish dishes. And did we mention the spa? This is one dog friendly hotel where your pooch can indulge in the ultimate luxury hotel room – a dog friendly ‘unique’ suite split over two levels with a seating pod looking out over the delightful sea beyond. The Scarlet is also an adult only hotel, giving you and your four-legged friend some uninterrupted QT.
Prices start from £210 for bed and breakfast and dogs are £15 per night extra, scarlethotel.co.uk
Interior goals at Edinburgh’s G&V Royal Mile Hotel
Teary goodbyes at the kennels are set to be a thing of the past as ‘woman’s best friend’ will now be able to enjoy a holiday in Scotland’s historic capital at G&V Royal Mile Hotel, Edinburgh. The dog friendly hotel has just launched a pet package, welcoming dogs into select rooms and suites. Housekeeping services included in the package ensure a dog’s every need will be catered for, whilst a dog bowl, bed and snacks included in the room means owners can leave all their pet paraphernalia at home. Extra room for four legs on that car journey is always a bonus. And don’t tell him/ her but there might be a toy-shaped surprise for your doggy friend awaiting their arrival. Conveniently located between Princes Street Gardens and The Meadows, two excellent spots for running around and making friends, the G&V is the perfect base to explore this historic city.
Stapleford Park’s Doggy Divine package = one happy pooch
Once you have a dog, you become obsessed with being with the little beast as much as possible and so the hunt for the best dog friendly hotel becomes a major source of entertainment, discovers Justine Southall, managing director of fashion and beauty at Marie Claire. There is something particularly pleasurable therefore, when you find a traditional country house hotel – roaring fires, high tea, archery and falconry, if you’re interested (there’s a fantastic spa for those more that way inclined) and a cordon bleu restaurant – that not only welcomes your scruffy, over-bouncy blind pooch, but appears to universally love dogs! All of the staff seemed to be recruited on the basis that they were mad about them and nothing, literally nothing, was too much trouble. Dog sitting at reception if required at dinner, ‘Doggy afternoon tea’ complete with a tiered cake stand of doggy treats and Pawsecco refreshment, a very regal four poster dog bed, and most importantly, my dog Woody was welcome more or less everywhere. The grounds are gorgeous and so walks are fantastic, and on our very cold wet February weekend, we could all go out for a romp and come back and snuggle up for tea and cake. Really importantly, there was no preciousness about muddy paws and rather mucky doggy-ness at all, which makes a stay away with your mutt the truly relaxing and fun experience you want it to be. Stapleford Park is the quintessentially British country house hotel, but it has a relaxed warm, friendly attitude and vibe that belies its impressive scale and history. If you had some American friends who wanted to recreate Downton Abbey (with their hounds) this would be the modern, extremely comfortable version.
Doggy Divine at Stapleford Park includes an overnight stay for two in a choice of four state rooms on a B&B basis, afternoon tea for two, a bespoke handcrafted doggy bed, a new doggy menu, doggy afternoon tea, a selection of doggy toys, doggy walking trails within the hotel’s extensive grounds and dinner dog-sitting. The package is available from £475 per room, based on two people and a dog sharing. To book, visit staplefordpark.com or call 01572 787 000. Stapleford Park is a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World.
A dog friendly hotel with edgy interior design, you say? Sign us up!
Leafy green surroundings along the peaceful River Thames couldn’t make for a more serene escape for you and your furry friend. The Great House is in a prime location for Londoners and those in the South – only a half hour train journey from London Paddington (which your dogs are allowed to travel on, FYI) or a 10-minute drive from Reading. Exuding a modern charm from its orange and blue furnishings, which they describe as ‘luxury with an edge’ – design-led furniture, clean lines and a retro decor nod – your dog will love it as much as you when they realise they’re allowed into the hotel restaurant (food passed under the table at your discretion). This picturesque corner of Berkshire will most likely become your dog’s new best friend, with riverside walks and tearooms right under your thumb.
Double rooms start from £110, with a supplementary £5 per dog, call the hotel to find the best package for you and your dog, greathouseatsonning.co.uk
Four-legged friends are given a warm welcome at The Grange Hotel in York with a bed, bowl and a bag of home-baked and healthy pooch treats. Dogs are permitted to dine with their owners in The Dante Room of the Regency Grade II listed townhouse hotel and it is perfectly positioned for exploring the pretty Museum Gardens (dogs are welcome on a lead), the narrow-cobbled streets of The Shambles, walks along the river and the ancient city walls.
Rooms start from £99 per room (two sharing) including full Yorkshire breakfast. Dogs are charged at £20 per stay including the welcome goodies mentioned. Call The Grange Hotel on 01904 644 744 (www.grangehotel.co.uk)
If you’re going to do London’s finest, you might as well do it doggy-style. Mayfair bolthole DUKES London has rapidly become one of the capital’s hottest dog friendly hotels thanks to their VIP service that includes a tasty ‘doggy menu’ with all the trimmings. There’s a 24-hour dog sitting and dog walking service and the ultimate dog grooming package. There’s also an expert Personal Shopper on hand to pick out only the best pet toys for your canine friend – and a few treats for you, of course. On arrival, the dedicated concierge team will keep dogs entertained with the hotel’s toy mascot, the DUKESY dog, and a delicious chew to gnaw on. Upon entering their room, fluffy friends will find a luxurious dog bed waiting for them, complete with comfy cushions to snuggle up in. When hunger strikes, pampered pooches staying at DUKES will be spoilt for choice with two gourmet meals available daily from the delicious Pet Menu, accompanied by plenty of fresh mineral water, provided in-room. When it comes to walkies, the extensive grounds of Green Park are right on the hotel’s doorstep. But really it’s all about bedtime – dogs will benefit from their own personal turndown and a scrumptious dental treat left on their pillow. Pampered pooches, this is officially your happy place.
Nightly rates in a DUKES room at DUKES LONDON start from £320 inclusive of VAT and full English breakfast, with welcome amenities on arrival. DUKES’ dog package starts from £25.00 per night per dog, with other options available at a charge. Maximum weight of 24kg accepted. For more information please call 020 7491 4840 or visit www.dukeshotel.com
The Cotswolds’ finest dog friendly hotel: where peak grey is a good thing
Surrounded by 400 acres of countryside, your little one is not going to get bored here. The Fish welcomes dogs into it’s cosy luxe rooms located in The Stables, complete with bigger beds clad in Scandinavian style comforts – slow living is so in right now. Dogs are invited to the bar as well, where they can chill by the 360° fire after a long day’s walkies across picturesque countryside to the nearby village of Broadway. The relaxed hues continue here, but look a little closer and you’ll find race hats and equestrian nods towards Cheltenham, the ideal historic finishing touch. And if you’re bringing children too, the adjacent games room will provide them with hours of entertainment. Free Wifi is a bonus, obvs.
Cosy Luxe rooms start at £155 a night for two and a charge of £20 per dog per night applies, thefishhotel.co.uk
There are endless walking routes to enjoy with your pet in the grounds of this dog friendly hotel, set in 50 acres of gloriously unspoilt Welsh countryside. The hotel has a resident dog Molly, on hand to show off the sights for fellow four-legged friends. For owners, there’s an award-winning spa with an indoor pool, treatment rooms and an outdoor hot tub.
An overnight stay starts from £195 per room (two sharing), including full Welsh breakfast and use of the leisure facilities. Dogs are charged at £15 per dog per night. Contact Pride of Britain Hotels on 0800 089 3929 (www.prideofbritainhotels.com).
This quintessential English pub and inn nestled in the Hampshire countryside is ready to welcome your dog to every aspect of a relaxing weekend away. With a rustic theme running throughout all of the three dog friendly rooms, larger than life beds (many customers have recalled these as the best part), and a host of countryside to explore, your pooch is guaranteed to feel at home. And how can they resist the doggie beer and free biscuits behind the bar, where they too are welcome to put their paws up and chill. Embrace your full country flare with locally sourced fresh fish and sample an array of whiskeys paired with a house cigar, all alongside your furry companion – dogs are allowed in the restaurant too. The cherry on top has to be the quirky little details like the small chalkboards to hang outside your room, to show you don’t want to be disturbed- and after a day of exploring and indulging, we don’t think you or your doggy will want to be.
Bovey Castle, the dog friendly hotel where your canine is king
Situated in the spectacular Dartmoor National Park, Bovey Castle is an elegant dog friendly hotel. Furry friends are well-catered for with biscuits at reception, sausages for breakfast and a doggy welcome pack – with bedding, bowls and a ‘Day Trips for Dogs’ guide which includes spectacular walking suggestions to dog-friendly pubs and beaches nearby. Dogs are welcomed in all guest rooms from a classic double to the top suite, and can languish with their owners in the hotel’s elegant and rather splendid Cathedral Room lounge.
From £179 per room (two sharing; room only), including access to the Elan Spa. Dogs are charged at £20 per night including the welcome pack. Call Bovey Castle on 01647 445 000 (www.boveycastle.com)
Holbeck Ghyll, overlooking the Langdale Fells and one of England’s most beautiful stretches of water, Lake Windermere, was already a fine choice for a mini break. Now the country house hotel built in the 19th century as a hunting lodge for Lord Lonsdale has become a dog friendly hotel that doesn’t compromise on luxury (and the food. Oh my, the food. It’s fancy but uncomplicated and a must for foodies. The scallops are amongst the best we’ve ever tasted). The ivy-covered Arts and Crafts house stands in the extensive grounds that slope down towards Lake Windermere and the hotel’s VIC (Very Important Canine) package, put together by Mungo & Maud – a swish London-based dog and cat outfitters – includes a cosy bed, matching collar and lead, blanket, bowl, toy and organic treats. The hotel is ideally placed for walks which will satisfy the most energetic of dogs.
Doubles from £125 pp (two sharing) including dinner and a full Cumbrian breakfast. VIC (Very Important Canine) package is £50 per dog. Contact Pride of Britain Hotels on 0800 089 3929 (www.prideofbritainhotels.com)
Beards, tattoos, man buns and coffee art galore, the world is slowly being taken over by hipsters.
But some areas of the world are much more hipster-populous than others, new research has shown. MoveHub has published a list of the top 50 hipster cities in the world, calculated by a ‘Hipster Index.’
While the majority of the top 20 are US cities, Brighton and Hove has been ranked as the most hipster place in the world.
‘Because hipsters have such specific tastes like tattoos and artisan coffee and prefer less bustling city locations, we can map themaround the world quite accurately, which is really interesting,’ said Fred O’Brien, who oversaw the research for MoveHub.
‘You would struggle to find any other group that changes cities at the rate that hipsters do – once a city has been chosen as a trendy area, the hipsters bring in all sorts of new independent businesses and this injection of consumers can really transform these cities.’
Keep scrolling to find out if your hometown made the hipster cut…
Lakes by Yoo is a private woodland retreat near Lechlade, in the Cotswolds. Covering 850 acres of wilderness, forest and lakeside living, it promises to take rural mini-breaking up a notch or ten. I am expecting a posh Center Parcs with beautiful, smiling families riding bikes and picnicking in the woods. It is indeed all of this, I discover as we venture through the trees, but so much more besides.
As we drive on to the site, weaving our way along the narrow, tree-lined roads, we pass the identikit Philippe Starck-designed eco lodges. All boxy, sharp corners and twinkling glass, these are more Scandi modernism than cosy country cottage. No wonder the A-list queued up to land a slice of this action – Kevin Spacey, Jade Jagger and Elle Macpherson all have second homes at Lakes by Yoo. Sale prices start at £810,000 for a four-bed but for the rest of us mere muggles, a couple of nights’ stay as a luxury, forest-bathing tourist is your best bet to experience all that Lakes by Yoo has to offer.
We are staying in Barnhouse, the flagship property on the estate, tucked away from the other lakeside lodges it emerges from between the trees, double-height windows glinting in the sunlight majestically humble-bragging about what’s inside. This pad has a lot of unapologetic front, and rightly so.
Barnhouse at Lakes By Yoo giving serious pool goals
Inside, Barnhouse is Grand Designs-goes-bumper, with added stardust. The interiors have been designed by Kate Moss (casual) – bespoke floral wallpaper, Berber rugs, blue and mustard velvet banquette sofas, gold low-hanging lighting. There are five good-sized double bedrooms, all with en suites and the odd artwork by Damien Hirst or the Chapmans jostling for space on the bedroom walls. The epic staircase provides a gallery of black and white fashion and music photography, with original Terry O’Neills. Look closely and you may also spot some little known paintings by Kate Moss.
The Mossy-approved gallery wall
The centerpiece is undoubtedly the vast living/ dining/ kitchen/ partying space – polished concrete worktops line the sleek kitchen and an epic dining table could sit a squad of 12. This is undoubtedly a party pad – it is a drizzly day when we arrive but the heated outdoor pool, sun deck and next-level Sonos sound system help to conjure up Ibiza vibes. Best for chic hen dos, groups of couples on a getaway and, surprisingly, families in search of something a bit special.
We’re here with friends and kids and despite the opulent surroundings and mutterings of ‘Kids, don’t touch ANYTHING’ on a loop, the place is robust and relaxed. There’s an entire cupboard full of toys to keep them entertained in the playroom (I know. We’re staying forever) so we leave them tackling a game of Twister while we flick through the beautiful collection of fashion and photography books, and listen to La Moss’ personally-selected record collection on the Crosley record player: Fleetwood Mac, Patti Smith, Prince and Creedence Clearwater Revival.
The master suite at Barnhouse, with Allen Jones’ s iconic ‘Body Armour’ pop art on the wall.
When the kids start arguing over the gold-plated noughts and crosses, its time to take a hike in the woods. You can run, cycle, or kayak to your hearts content at Lakes By Yoo, but we opt for the zip wire across the lake because: why not? There’s an onsite petting farm, which consists of a giant hutch of the fluffiest bunnies you ever did see. Over at the main communal building, there’s a gym, spa treatments, tennis courts and an outdoor pop-up pizza restaurant in a tipi.
Later on, we head to the pub for a beer and fish n chips. The Five Alls in nearby village, Filkins, is welcoming and buzzy. We’re not far from Southrop, the pretty village, where Kate Moss and Jamie Hince married in 2011. Note to the wise: If you’re passing through Souhrop, stop for dinner at The Swan for their delicious seasonal menu and probably the best scotch egg you’ll ever eat. Bold, but true. If you have time, spend the night at adults-only Thyme and treat yourself to one of their brilliant Pad Thai cookery courses.
Lakes By Yoo: More than just a posh Center Parcs
Back at Lakes By Yoo, in the interests of balance, I try to cast my critical eye for drawbacks. There’s some building work going on as the site is still under development, but I can’t say its a distraction. There’s a faint feeling of cabin fever when you pass security and roll past row after row of identical box-houses, and it can feel a bit Truman Show-esque. But honestly? I’m clutching at straws. This place has pretty much everything covered.
Described as the UK’s answer to The Hampton’s, Lakes By Yoo is definitely not your average holiday camp. It taps in to our time-poor hunger for epic experiences, a weekend slice of luxury within a couple of hours’ drive of home, rather than a two-week jaunt to the Caribbean. And its the little touches that sets Barnhouse apart – sweet family photographs of the homeowners, fully stocked cupboards and fridges (none of that self-catering angst about bringing your own ketchup and tin foil) and Ren products in every bathroom, it hits that sweet spot where boutique spa hotel meets getting lucky (extremely lucky) on Air BnB.
Prices for the Barnhouse (5 bedrooms) start from £ 1500 per night (low season). Bookings can be made online at www.thelakesbyyoo.com or on 01367 254260 / email@example.com
If what you want is utter seclusion and perfect peace, then Tobago’s beautiful beaches are the perfect match.
Imagine unspoilt white sandy beaches cocooned by protected rainforests and discovering beautiful islands where it’s only you (and Hummingbirds) enjoying the famous Caribbean sunshine. Put simply, Tobago is paradise, and a little-known one at that. Because the stand-out reason you should add it to your bucket list is that no one else is there, meaning you can chill to the max (and choose any sunlounger you damn well like).
Five of the best off-the-beaten-track slices of paradise where you can relax, unwind and recharge without even trying.
Think glowing white sandy beaches with a cluster of shops and eating spots, Tobago’s legendary Pigeon Point is as breath-taking as it is relaxing. Make the most of what this calming coastline has to offer by sampling the famous crab and dumplings from one of the beach-side cabanas before taking in the sunset from the thatched-roof pier.
No Man’s Land
No Man’s Land, Tobago
Located in the far south of the island lies a stretch of uninhabited white sand lapped by clear shallow water and colour-pop dragonflies. As one of Tobago’s most remote and unspoilt beaches, No Man’s Land is perfect for those looking to take relaxation to a whole new level.
Pirate’s Bay, Tobago
For that archetypical deserted island vibe, look no further. The sparkling blue waters may be the ultimate snorkel and surfing playground but it’s just as ideal for sunbathing on the buttery soft sands and lapping up the famously warm Caribbean sunshine.
Turtle Beach, Tobago
You’d think leatherback turtles and horse-rides through the surf would mean an army of beach lovers overruns Turtle Bay. But Tobago’s golden coastline is often empty, meaning you can unwind in peace and (a lot of) quiet.
Englishman’s Bay, Tobago
This get-away-from-it-all secluded beach is the mini paradise you’ve always dreamed of discovering. Embodying the island’s signature rustic charm with a rainforest backdrop, Englishman’s Bay offers that Robinson-Crusoe-meets-luxury flare we all crave from a tropical getaway.
Gone are the days of Bridget Jones’s-style pity if a woman in her 30s chooses to travel alone. Attitudes have changed dramatically in the last few decades, and today we see a rapidly increasing number of fearless females braving the world with the ultimate companions – themselves.
‘I love travelling alone,’ says Mandy Jhamat, co-founder of the UK’s leading yoga retreats company Yogasphere. ‘I spent two months backpacking across India at the turn of 30. It’s such an empowering experience and you’ll be surprised at how much you enjoy your own company and autonomy.’
If you’re undecided about taking the plunge and taking off alone, here’s why the time is now…
The planning is simpler
If you’re in your 30s, chances are within your lifetime that you’ve organised trips with a significant other, your mother, or worse – for a hen weekend. Remember how stressful it was just settling on a date? And don’t even get us started on accommodation budgets.
‘When you’re flying solo you are the captain of your own plane, you choose when, where and how you travel and there is nobody else to consult. No sweat, except on the beach,’ adds Mandy.
While you’re there, it’s your rules
The best thing about travelling alone is that you only have to worry about making yourself happy. ‘Alone, you can go to as many museums as you like, spend a solid day shopping, or if staying in the bed of your five star hotel room all day is bliss to you then go ahead and do it!’ says Mandy.
‘There is no worry about entertaining somebody else, and you won’t be dragged along to see that soccer stadium that you couldn’t care less about. It’s your trip, your interests, your rules.’
You’ll make new friends
OK, so many a little company might be nice. Did you know that when you travel alone, you’re automatically more sociable?
‘Without company, you’re more approachable, and vice versa, you are more likely to make conversation with another single traveller at the bar, workout class’ assures Mandy. ‘You’ll have new friends to make memories with, and it’s up to you to decide if you want to continue that post trip – which most people do.’
You’ll have no regrets
‘Just because my peers had settled down and were busy with family, that didn’t mean I had to follow suit.’ explains Mandy, “There were things I still wanted to do and I set out to do them.
‘We all have a wish list of places we want to see or things we want to try, and when you’re in good health with the means to do it, then do it, because one day it’ll be too late and you don’t want to look back with regret.’
You’ll find your girl power
Spice Girl or not, there is no better feeling than that ‘girl power’ moment, when you feel empowered and truly comfortable in your own skin. ‘At the end of a solo adventure, you’ll have faced your fears, tackled some challenging foreign situations and actualised your own strength’ says Mandy.
‘You’ll also be surprised at how much you enjoy your own company – to not “have” to be with others to feel you are having social time is a great gift to offer yourself.’
You’ll come back more focused
After plenty of space to gather your thoughts and let the clutter in your mind go, you’ll return home with a clearer head.
‘A solo trip can be a powerful and life-changing experience,’ Mandy concludes.
‘You’ll have an honest conversation with yourself, and come back with a clearer vision of where you want to go next in your life.’