A year in review – where Heather travelled in 2015

We’re in that lull between the feasting and celebration of Christmas and the fresh starts and new plans of New Year. It’s the quiet time when we can reflect and review the year that’s gone, the time to reminisce and consider what the year brought us: the adventures and challenges, the excitement of visiting new places, the holiday times we enjoyed with loved ones. Here’s a look back to the travels I enjoyed in 2015.

Where Heather travelled in 2015 Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

January – A cottage stay and fossil hunting in Devon and Dorset

The ammonite pavement at Lyme Regis Photo: Heatheronhertravels

The ammonite pavement at Lyme Regis

We started the year with a weekend at Red Doors Farm in Devon through Premier Cottages, a collection of 500 year old thatched cottages, set around a cobbled farmyard. My teenage son and friends made good use of the indoor swimming pool and proved that you’re never too old to feed the goats and chickens. We climbed up to the hill fort near the farm and enjoyed a bracing walk along the beach at Lyme Regis where we spotted fossils on the ammonite pavement that was revealed at low tide.

Read More: Fossil hunting and a weekend in the country at Red Doors Farm, Devon – video

February – A charity visit to India

Meeting sponsor children in India Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Meeting sponsor children in India

In February I flew with Jet Airways to India for a week that was off the tourist map, although I spent a little time exploring Bangalore at the beginning and end of the trip. My purpose was to visit a local charity that I support in Andhra Pradesh and see some of the projects that we had funded. Together with one of the charity trustees I was treated to Bollywood style dances in all the local schools, had endless cups of teas with the nuns who ran them, cut the ribbon on a new water purification plant and presented a womens’ tailoring class with their new sewing machines. It was a week that made me realise more than ever that when you give to those in need, you come away much richer from the experience.

Read More: 13 stories from my charity visit to India – going off the tourist trail

March – A weekend by the sea in St Mawes, Cornwall

St Mawes Harbour in Cornwall Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

St Mawes Harbour in Cornwall

We spent a weekend with friends at the magical Dreamcatchers house from St Mawes Retreats with a view over the Fal estuary in Cornwall. From the bedrooms we could see the tankers passing St Anthony’s lighthouse and the St Mawes ferry heading for Falmouth. We’d stayed at another St Mawes Retreats house before (read my review of Stargazers here) so we knew that we could expect gorgeous Designers Guild fabrics and luxurious furnishings, with sea views to die for. This time we wandered around the harbour and took the St Mawes ferry across the estuary for a Cornish pasty and ale pub lunch in the quaint streets of Falmouth.

Read More: Sea views and springtime in St Mawes – our weekend in Cornwall

April – Venice with the family

Gondola on the Grand Canal in Venice Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Gondola on the Grand Canal in Venice

I was lucky enought to win an apartment stay with Go with Oh through the Passports with Purpose fundraiser and decided to use it for a few days in Venice with my family. Although we visited a few tourist highlights like the Doge’s Palace, we found that the neighbourhoods away from St Mark’s square were much more enjoyable to wander around. We loved the modern art at the Peggy Guggenheim and saw Venice from the water on our boat tour with Walks of Italy when we climbed up the campenile of San Georgio Maggiore for views across the lagoon to San Marco. The only disappointment was the food, but hopefully you’ll do better than me with my tips on How to not eat badly in Venice.

Read More: Join me on our Venice boat tour – with Walks of Italy

April – A weekend in Wiltshire and a sunrise visit to Stonehenge

Stonehenge at Sunrise Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Stonehenge at Sunrise

I stayed at Sarum College inside the close of Salisbury Cathedral for the Social Travel Britain conference and part of the weekend included a walking tour of the cathedral, a private viewing of Magna Carta and a visit to Edward Heath’s old residence of Arundells. The highlight, though, was a sunrise visit to Stonehenge during which we were allowed to walk within the stone circle. This access is only allowed on special guided tours and most tourists can’t get up close to the stones, so it made the experience much more magical.

Read More: Sunrise at Stonehenge – inside the stone circle

May –  Lloret de Mar in Costa Brava, Spain

Seafront at Lloret de Mar Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Seafront at Lloret de Mar in Spain

Lloret de Mar is one of those coastal resorts on the Costa Brava coast of Spain that was built up in the 1960s as one of the first places to welcome mass tourism from the UK. I was there as a speaker at the TBEX conference but took some time out to explore the town and discover its history. While the Lloret de Mar of recent years has gained a reputation for 20-somethings looking for nightlife and older couples seeking a retirement in the sun, I enjoyed walking around the older squares and along the rocky coast path on the edge of town.

In the Museu del Mar, I discovered the connections to Cuba where many locals sailed to make their fortunes, returning to build the grand mansions on the seafront. I tasted the Daiquiri cocktails, another import from Cuba and now the favoured drink of Lloret de Mar, and I loved the restful Santa Clothilde gardens, planted in Italian Renaissance style, overlooking the sea.

Read More: Lloret de Mar – sun, sea and so much more…

June – A weekend in Copenhagen with my daughter

Heather and Sophie-Anne in Copenhagen Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Heather and Sophie-Anne in Copenhagen

I’ve visited Copenhagen many times and in June I returned with my daughter for the opening of  the Absalon Hotel which had been newly renovated in Designers Guild furnishings. I was able to interview Tricia Guild, Creative Director of Designers Guild who was there to open the hotel, as well as trying out new restaurants and cocktails with my daughter. We also spent a couple of nights up the coast at the gorgeous spa hotel, Kurhotel Skodsborg where we wafted around the pools and jumped off the jetty to cool off after our sauna.

Read More: Like mother, like daughter – what we loved on our trip to Copenhagen

June – Alpine Sports Week in Wilder Kaiser, Austria

Mountain-biking in Wilder Kaiser, Austria Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Mountain-biking in Wilder Kaiser, Austria

I love being in the mountains in summer so I jumped at the chance when I was invited to try out some of the outdoor activities on offer during Alpine Sports Week in the Wilder Kaiser region of Austria. During this week different mountain sports are on offer, from high rope walking to canyoning, mountain-biking to Via Ferrata and all for the knockdown price of €99 for 5 days of activities with expert guides. It was the perfect opportunity to try something different, since I’m a keen hiker but was able to test myself with the mountain-biking and high wire climbing in the Hornpark tree forest.

Read More: Heather goes e-mountain-biking in Wilder Kaiser, Austria – video

July – A week with the family in Zakynthos, Greece

Anadalis restaurant in Zakynthos, Greece

In July we made our annual visit to Zakynthos in Greece to visit my sister who runs two hotels there with her husband. We spent the week visiting different beaches, swimming, eating, sunbathing and catching up on family news. This summer my niece had returned to the island after training with a leading hotel group and had decided to get involved in the family business, opening a new Mediterranean restaurant in an idyllic setting by the sea. Anadalis, as it is called, is named after the old estate on which the hotel is built which once belonged to an aristocratic family with a house just a little way up the shore, but you’ll have to read to article to find out why the locals thought the old ruined mansion was haunted. If you visit Zakynthos I highly recommend that you book a table for dinner as the sun goes down over the bay.

Read More: Anadalis – a Mediterranean restaurant by the sea in Zakynthos, Greece

August – Our Azamara Greek Island Cruise

Azamara cruise to Mykonos in Greece Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Azamara cruise to Mykonos in Greece

Later in August we were back to the Greek islands again for a cruise with Azamara Club Cruises which took us from Athens to Santorini, Mykonos, Patmos, Kusadasi and finally to Istanbul where we ended our cruise. We absolutely loved the luxurious small ship cruise experience with Azamara Club Cruises where the spotlight is firmly on the destinations you visit, creating unique experiences like our magical evening concert among the ancient ruins of Ephesus as the sun went down.

Read More: Windy Mykonos – Day 2 of our Azamara Greek Island Cruise

September – A walking holiday in Austria with Headwater Holidays

View over Seefeld in Austria with Headwater Holidays Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

View over Seefeld in Austria with Headwater Holidays

September saw me back in Austria for a few days walking with Headwater Holidays who specialise in relaxing walking and cycling holidays. I was accompanied by my friend Julia for our annual walking trip which has become our tradition since we walked the Tour de Mont Blanc together. On the first day on the high slopes of the Gaistal valley I fell down a slope and hurt my ankle but using the Headwater walking guides we chose the less strenuous walks on subsequent days and enjoyed the rest of the holiday. We watched a rifleman’s parade in Seefeld and walked along a Mental Power trail, walked through the wild Leutasch Gorge and round the lakes above the picturesque town of Mittenwald with its painted houses. Each day brought different mountain scenery and things to see, confirming my love of the mountains in summer.

Read More: Hiking in Austria – the views from the cross at Seefelder Spitze

September – A gourmet visit to Luxembourg

View of the Petrusse Valley in Luxembourg

View of the Petrusse Valley in Luxembourg

In September we spent a few days in Luxembourg, a city and tiny country that’s full of surprises. While Luxembourg is known as a centre for international business, we found a charming and easily walkable city with great food, museums and a fascinating history, making it an ideal weekend break location. We also spent some time touring the Moselle wine region where the Moselle river forms the border with Germany, with many wineries to taste the delicious white wines the sparkling Cremant which was my favourite.

Read More: A gourmet walking tour of Luxembourg old town

November – The Christmas Markets of Heidelberg, Germany

Student Kisses in Heidelberg

Student Kisses in Heidelberg

At the end of November we spent a few day in Heidelberg, Germany to see the Christmas Markets and generally get into the festive spirit. We’d visited Heidelberg previously on a day trip from our Rhine River Cruise and were pleased that we could have more time to explore this picturesque and romantic town at our leisure. We took the river boat down to the Neurberg Abbey Christmas Market, climbed up to the castle, learned the history of the ancient university and student fraternities and ate plenty of hearty German food, delicious cakes and chocolates as well as drinking quite a few mugs of hot Glühwein.

Read More: A Food Lover’s Guide to Heidelberg, Germany

December – A weekend in Le Havre, France

Port of Le Havre in France

Port of Le Havre in France

My final trip of this year was a hop over the channel to le Havre with Brittany Ferries to discover what this channel port would offer for a weekend break. Most Brits drive through Le Havre on their way to their holidays in France but I discovered that there are many fascinating things to see here that make it worth stopping to visit the city and surrounding area. The city was reconstructed after heavy bombing in WW2 and the architecture of the new town (now a UNESCO World Heritage site) represents the modern designs of the 1950s. We visited a 1950s show flat which would have been allocated to those who lost their own houses in the bombing, as well as a gorgeous 18th century ship owner’s mansion. Another highlight was the MUMA modern art museum, a light and airy glass building with the largest collection of Impressionist paintings outside Paris, since painters such as Monet loved this part of the Normandy coast. I’ll be writing about my weekend in Le Havre very soon so stay tuned.

Reviewing the year was a fun way to remind myself of all the fun I had on my travels in 2015. There’s much more to come in 2016 and I wish you Happy Travels for the year to come.

Please note that many of the trips were hosted by the companies mentioned and you can find more details in the articles from each trip.

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Read about where Heather travelled in 2015

This article by Heather Cowper is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

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Sea views and springtime in St Mawes – our weekend in Cornwall

There’s something magical about waking up in Cornwall in springtime with a view of the Fal estuary from your bedroom window. “Tide’s in” says Guy as we open the curtains and lie in bed watching a tanker chug past St Anthony’s lighthouse and the St Mawes ferry heading for Falmouth.

Sea Views and springtime in St Mawes, Cornwall

From our luxury holiday house, the aptly named Dreamcatchers booked through St Mawes Retreats, we have a view of the sea over the slate rooftops of the cottages, where people are waking up this fine morning. I can walk out from the living room, through the French windows, onto the deck with a cup of coffee in hand and bask in the spring sunshine, just drinking in the view.

In spring the sea has a wild and mesmerising charm, as little ruffles of white speed across the grey-blue water and subside again. I’ve stayed here before of course, at Stargazers, another St Mawes Retreats property and have been hearing the call of the sea and Cornwall ever since – read about our last visit here.

I hope you enjoy the video below from our spring weekend break at Dreamcatchers in Cornwall with St Mawes Retreats

If you can’t see the video above of our stay with St Mawes Retreats, see it on my blog here or Youtube here and please do subscribe using the button above

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Dreamcatchers luxury holiday house with St Mawes Retreats Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Dreamcatchers luxury holiday house with St Mawes Retreats

Dreamcatchers is one of five luxurious holiday houses in the St Mawes Retreats portfolio, four of which are in St Mawes itself, the fifth in nearby Fowey and all have spectacular views of the sea. The house is beautifully furnished with oversized Designers Guild florals, white walls and a sprinkling of sparkle and glamour. It’s light and airy yet warm and cosy and with those fabulous sea views, you really want to just curl up on the sofa or sit on the deck with a glass of wine and never leave. The houses are perfect for groups of friends like us who want to get away from our city lives for a relaxing short break by the sea.

Dreamcatchers luxury holiday house in St Mawes, Corwall through St Mawes Retreats  Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Dreamcatchers luxury holiday house in St Mawes, Corwall through St Mawes Retreats

Luxury and the Wow! factor

While we’re staying at Dreamcatchers for the weekend I reflect on how ‘luxury’ means different things to different people. For the girls in our party it’s the fabulous decor, the huge baths and walk-in showers within the bedrooms that have the Wow! factor. “I want to go back home and paint everything white!” declares my sister-in-law Clare as she dreams of recreating that ‘by the sea’ feeling. “I love all the colour” sighs my friend Penny and reminisces about wet camping weekends in Cornwall of the past that didn’t quite have the Dreamcatchers magic.

Dreamcatchers luxury holiday house in St Mawes, Corwall through St Mawes Retreats Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The bedrooms at Dreamcatchers luxury holiday house in St Mawes, Corwall through St Mawes Retreats

As for the men, the house brings out the cave man spirit as Guy’s eyes light up at the wood burning stove, with logs set by ready for him to stoke it up. Meanwhile, my brother-in-law Andrew spots the enormous gas fired BBQ on the deck, and immediately starts planning our dinner around it, since he’s been known to cook the Christmas turkey on the BBQ before. My teenage son and friends fiddle with the sound system that defeats the rest of us and are duly impressed by the flat screen TVs in every room – there’s even the one above the bath in their own en suite bathroom.

Dreamcatchers luxury holiday house in St Mawes, Corwall through St Mawes Retreats Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The living rooms at Dreamcatchers luxury holiday house in St Mawes, Corwall through St Mawes Retreats

Dreamcatchers is beautifully liveable as a holiday house to relax with friends and family. The house seems to swallow us all effortlessly, with a second sitting room that the teenagers can make their den.  We lounge around on the squashy leather sofas, play cards, drink wine, admire the twinkly lights in the oak staircase, gaze out to sea and generally catch up on everyone’s news.

When it comes to mealtimes, the kitchen has so many cupboards that we spend ages opening them all just to find a coffee cup or a plate. With two large fridges, a wine chiller, a super duper coffee machine to bring out your inner barista and pretty mother-of-pearl mosaic tiles this kitchen is made for a party.

St Mawes in Cornwall staying with St Mawes Retreats Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

St Mawes in Cornwall staying with St Mawes Retreats

Along the seafront

On Saturday morning, we wander down to the harbour at St Mawes that we had surveyed from the deck of Dreamcatchers. The narrow seafront road is lined with whitewashed cottages with blue shutters and daffodil window boxes and further on towards the Tresanton Hotel we pass pretty pastel villas with fanciful sea-faring names. I can’t resist stopping in the Waterside Gallery, filled with lovely glassware, paintings and sculptures from Cornish artists where I give the wooden seagull sculpture that hangs from the ceiling a pull to make it sway hypnotically up and down.

St Mawes harbour in Cornwall staying with St Mawes Retreats Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

St Mawes harbour in Cornwall

St Mawes Harbour

Around the harbour at St Mawes there are plenty of pubs, cafes and gift shops, although in March everywhere is quiet since the main holiday season starts at Easter. I imagine that in August the village is packed out but I quite like visiting places like this out of season before the crowds arrive. A racing gig comes onto the beach since the all-female crew have been out training and we watch them heave the boat out of the water.

In the past these pilot gigs were working boats, used to take a pilot out to a ship coming into the estuary and the race was to see who could get to the ship first to win the business. Now the pilot gigs are raced for sport along the Cornish coast and you’ll spot the Rosaland Gig club in the centre of St Mawes by the vintage petrol pumps standing outside.

By the harbour in St Mawes in Cornwall staying with St Mawes Retreats Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

By the harbour in St Mawes in Cornwall

The St Mawes Ferry

Last time we visited St Mawes, I’d seen the blue ferry passing by, but there were so many other places to explore that we didn’t have time to try it out. The ferry has the appearance of an old fashioned wooden toy boat, only life size, and it runs every day of the year but Christmas (more information here). On boarding the ferry we sat in the sunshine on the open top deck, enjoying the wind on our face and the fantastic views of St Mawes Castle and the boats in the estuary as we made the 15 minute journey across to Falmouth.

St Mawes ferry to Falmouth Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Taking the St Mawes ferry to Falmouth

Reaching Falmouth Harbour

Falmouth is a town that faces a deep natural harbour with a history that has for centuries been linked to the sea. As we approached on the St Mawes Ferry, we could see the marina with industrial cranes where they build Pendennis superyachts and the castle on the headland that mirrors the one on the other side at St Mawes to protect the estuary. The tide was out with seagulls making a constant shriek and shrill as they picked over the seaweed while the water lapped against the quayside.

Falmouth which we visited on the ferry from St Mawes when staying with St Mawes Retreats Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Falmouth which we visited on the ferry from St Mawes

From the ferry pier we turned left and passed a range of unremarkable high street shops, but further on these gave way to smaller art galleries and cafes, with plenty of places to buy your Cornish pasty or fish and chips. We thought Falmouth seemed like a great place to live, a proper town with plenty of charm without being too touristy or bijoux. We wandered past the Georgian shop buildings painted in shades of pale grey, lemon and sky blue with bunting strung between them fluttering  jauntily in the wind. From the main street we could follow small alleyways, leading up the hill or down to the sea, giving a tantalising glimpse of blue between the buildings.

Falmouth which we visited on the ferry from St Mawes when staying with St Mawes Retreats Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Down the alleyways of Falmouth with a glimpse of the sea

A Cornish pasty and a pint

This being the heartland of the Cornish pasty we were planning to try one for lunch, preferrably combined with a jug of Cornish Ale and a view of the sea. Down on Custom House Quay we spotted a sign in the pasty shop that said we could eat them in the pub opposite called “The Front bar on the quay” and entered the old style pub with a bar lined with Cornish ales and ciders that made Guy’s eyes light up. To get the view of the sea we had to sit on a bench outside, with a fine harbour view, only slightly marred by the constant stream of cars coming down the lane to park.

Falmouth which we visited on the ferry from St Mawes when staying with St Mawes Retreats Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Lunch with a pint of Cornish ale and a harbour view in Falmouth

Having eaten our pasties, I went to explore the interesting Watermen’s Gallery with my sister-in-law, Clare and got chatting to the artist in residence, Sophi Beharrell who was working on a half finished painting of a cliff scene in Cornwall. There were many lovely Cornish seascapes on the wall, and other artistic gifts, but we made do with buying a few greeting cards of the paintings.

Falmouth which we visited on the ferry from St Mawes when staying with St Mawes Retreats Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Falmouth which we visited on the ferry from St Mawes when staying with St Mawes Retreats

St Mawes Castle

Returning to St Mawes on the ferry, we decide to extend our walk to St Mawes Castle, following the lane of well kept Edwardian villas, pastel pink or bright white with freshly painted blue windows. It’s rather sad that almost all seemed to be holiday homes, with not a light on and no-one at home. I wondered what it’s like to be a local around here, seeing these houses go empty for much of the year.

St Mawes Castle, Cornwall staying with St Mawes Retreats Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

St Mawes Castle, Cornwall staying with St Mawes Retreats

Further on, we reached St Mawes Castle, a petite fortress built by Henry VIII to guard the strategic Fal estuary from invasion, matched by its twin of Pendennis castle on the other side above Falmouth. The castle is now run by English Heritage, although it was just closing as we arrived, so we didn’t go in but continued up the muddly lane with the sea on our left. Here we passed more smart houses, with gardens full of rosemary, hydrangeas and camelias that would withstand the sea air, but again found all the houses in darkness. The path would have taken us to St Just in Rosaland but the fields were muddy and dusk was falling so we returned to Dreamcatchers for the scones and clotted cream tea that had been left for us by St Mawes Retreats.

Cream tea – Jam first or cream first?

If you ever meet a Cornishman be aware that the innocent cream tea has become a hot topic over how it should best be eaten. In Devon it seems that the scone is always spread with cream first then the jam on top while in Cornwall it’s jam first and cream on the top and there’s heated debate over which way is best. I remained impartial, tried both and found it delicious either way.

Cream ea at St Mawes Retreats, Cornwall Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Cream ea at St Mawes Retreats, Cornwall

To the Lighthouse

On Sunday the blue skies and spring sunshine had turned to grey cloud and light drizzle but we pressed on with our visit to St Anthony’s Lighthouse which I’d visited on previous trips to St Mawes. In summer you can get a 10 minute ferry ride straight across from St Mawes, but we had to drive the 20 minutes around the headland and parked in the National Trust carpark at the end of the road.

St Anthony's Head lighthouse in Cornwall Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

St Anthony’s Head lighthouse in Cornwall

St Anthony Head is the site of many Second World War fortifications, concrete bunkers and observation posts with a fine view over the estuary. We walked down through the sheltered pines to the path to St Anthony’s lighthouse, which featured as the lighthouse in the TV puppet show, Fraggle Rock. You can’t get close up to the lighthouse which is still in use although there is a holiday cottage there that can be rented. We retraced our steps and walked along the sheltered path to the beach of Great Molunan, walking past the first cove and scrambling down to the next with the help of a rope. The tide was out with only us and a couple of kayakers on the beach and a view back to St Anthony’s lighthouse.

Walk to the beach near St Anthony's Head Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Walk to the beach near St Anthony’s Head

After our blustery walk we drove back to St Mawes, diverting for lunch at Portscatho at the Plume of Feathers pub in the heart of the village.We installed ourself in a cosy side room and ordered some hearty pub fare – both the fish and chips and the roast Sunday lunch were excellent and ticked all the boxes for a proper Cornish lunch.

Fish and Chips at the Plume of Feathers in Portscatho, Cornwall Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Fish and Chips at the Plume of Feathers in Portscatho, Cornwall

Back at Dreamcatchers it was time to pack our bags again and take a  final look out at the window at those sea views, wishing we could stay a few more days. There’s something therapeutic about being within sight of the sea, the constant motion of the waves breaking on the rocks, the wind blowing away the mental cobwebs, and the rhythm of life on the water with the boats passing by. Our life in Bristol required us back but I know that it’s won’t be long before I feel the call of Cornwall, St Mawes and the sea again.

More information for your short break with St Mawes Retreats

St Mawes Retreats offers luxury holiday accommodation in Cornwall, with 4 properties in St Mawes and 1 in Fowey, sleeping between 4 and 12 guests. The larger houses are ideal for groups of family and friends to share and the St Mawes properties are all close to each other so are ideal for extended family stays and celebration events. The houses are available for short breaks and weekend stays in spring and autumn at surprisingly affordable rates, with special low occupancy rates for smaller groups in the winter, and the cost per person is well below that of a similar standard boutique hotel.

Dreamcatchers where we stayed has 5 en suite bedrooms, 2 sitting rooms, breathtaking sea views from the living rooms and master bedrooms, a south facing garden and is a short walk from St Mawes village on the beautiful Rosalind Peninsula. Dreamcatchers can be booked for short breaks from £952 in spring and autumn with low occupancy discounts in winter.

To book visit the St Mawes Retreats website or ring owner Amanda Selby on 0800 0886622 to discuss your requirements, as there are many concierge services available such as a private chef, beauty treatments, shopping services, childcare and help with organising your celebration event. For news and special offers follow St Mawes Retreats on Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest |

Thanks to St Mawes Retreats for hosting Heather and friends for their weekend stay in Dreamcatchers.

More Cornish adventures

Is this the perfect sea view? Our luxury weekend at St Mawes in Cornwall
Cliff walks and country houses in Cornwall
Just me and the boys down on the farm in Cornwall

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Read about our luxury weekend break by the sea at St Mawes in Cornwall

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

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You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey

Fossil hunting and a weekend in the country at Red Doors Farm, Devon – video

A collection of 500 year old thatched cottages, set around a cobbled farmyard, Red Doors Farm in Devon has all the chocolate box charm that you’d wish for in a holiday cottage. However, we’ve learned from past experience that a centuries-old thatched cottage, picturesque though it may be, does not always mean warmth and comfort. Thank goodness the owners Gill and Adrian seem to have that cracked, with Byre Cottage where we stayed being kept at a cosy constant temperature by the biomass wood-pellet fired boiler.

Our stay was arranged through Premier Cottages who specialise in luxury holidays cottages and this one certainly lived up to expectations. Having arrived in darkness on a Friday night from Bristol, we wake up to glorious views of the Blackdown Hills and spot the red doors of all the cottages that seem to epitomise the cheerful spirit of the place.

A weekend in the country at Red Doors Featured

In the morning while the boys are cooking the bacon and eggs, Gill offers to show me around and tells me their story. She and Adrian gave up busy jobs in London to follow their dream of a calmer life in the country and took over the holiday cottage business of Red Doors Farm three years ago. “If we’d realised how much work it would be, we probably wouldn’t have taken it on!” Gill told me, since they have gradually worked through all of the six cottages, renovating them one by one.

I hope you enjoy my video below of our weekend at Red Doors Farm

If you can’t see the video above of our stay at Red Doors Farm, see it on my blog here or Youtube here and please do subscribe using the button above

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Our cosy cottage at Red Doors Farm

Furnishings have been upgraded, bathrooms modernised and now all the cottages meet Visit England’s exacting 5 star Gold Standard. Although Red Doors Farm is very popular with young families, it seems there’s a cottage for everyone down on the farm. The Swallows Loft is a one bedroom apartment on two floors with stylish mezzanine kitchen, luxurious modern bathroom and a four poster bed with an “Out of Africa” look, which suits professional couples looking for a relaxing country break. Meanwhile Holly Cottage is popular with older couples, or couples with a baby, since it’s all on one level with a terrace overlooking the croquet lawn, perfect to sit with your sundowner admiring the views of the Blackdown Hills.

Master Bedroom at Red Doors Farm in Devon Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Master Bedroom at Red Doors Farm in Devon

We’re staying in Byre which is a 3 bedroom cottage, sleeping 6 people in comfort, a spacious master bedroom for me and Guy and two twin bedrooms for my teenage son and two friends to spread out. No queues for the bathrooms either, since there’s a family bathroom upstairs and a shower room downstairs. We really can’t fault the cosy furnishings, well equipped farmhouse style kitchen and best of all the log burning stove in the sitting room. Since all men seem to love stoking up a real fire, and Guy is no exception, this is something we always love to see in a country cottage and we make the most of it with a fire in the evenings.

Sitting room in Briar Cottage in Red Doors Farm Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Sitting room in Briar Cottage in Red Doors Farm

Feeding the goats at Red Doors Farm

Saturday morning is crisp but sunny with winter-blue skies and views over farmland to the valley beyond. Across the lawn is the swimming pool in a separate building for those (relatively) early morning swims which quickly become a favourite with our teenage boys. After breakfast and the swim we’ve arranged to meet Adrian and Gill for the 10.30 morning ritual of feeding the animals.

Swimming pool at Red Doors Farm Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Swimming pool at Red Doors Farm

For younger guests the farm keeps guinea pigs and rabbits in the covered play area but our teenagers are more interested in the goats, Charlie and Dora. “These are the most spoiled goats in Devon”, Gill tells me, since they have their own heated shed, decking walkways so their feet don’t get wet on the grass and a climbing frame which comes into its own at feeding time.

Feeding the goats at Red Doors Farm Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Feeding the goats at Red Doors Farm

Once Charlie and Dora have enjoyed their breakfast it’s time for the Muscovy ducks to have theirs in the next field. The ducks all have names beginning with D; there’s Dick, the alpha male of the group and Daisy, although we joke that Dyson might be a better name based on the speed at which they vacuum up the grain we hold out to feed them.

Feeding the ducks at Red Doors Farm in Devon Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Feeding the ducks at Red Doors Farm in Devon

Hunting for ammonites at Lyme Regis

Feeding time over, we decide to make the most of the glorious winter sunshine and drive the 25 minutes to Lyme Regis, the heart of the Jurassic Coast. Last time I was here with my blogging friend Barbara Weibel who is a rock hound and fossil lover if ever there was one and am determined to show the boys the ammonite pavement that we visited together.

The promenade at Lyme Regis Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The promenade at Lyme Regis

Lyme Regis is a holiday town that I am continually drawn back to, having just the right balance of Jane Austen charm and fish’n’chips holiday fun, as well as being one of the top places on the Jurassic coast to find fossils. From the harbour, locally known as The Cobb, we walk along the rocky beach, with cliffs looming above us. The cliff face reveals the layers of sedimentary rock that were built up in pre-historic times containing the fossils, especially ammonites for which the beach is famous. “Don’t get to close” I call to the others, since there are frequent and dangerous rockfalls from the cliffs, especially after storms, revealing new fossils that have been trapped in the rock.

The ammonite pavement at Lyme Regis Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The ammonite pavement at Lyme Regis

We clamber awkwardly over the boulders and squish through the black mud until we reach the ammonite pavement, a flat plate of rock where millions of years ago a shoal of ammonites settled on the bottom and were pressed down for eternity. Now at low tide you can see numerous little coils in the bare rock and spot them pressed into larger rocks along the beach. The local fossil hunters are to be seen tapping at the rocks with small hammers, splitting them open to reveal the ammonites trapped inside. As I walk, my eyes scan the pebbles that crunch under my feet and then suddenly I spot it, an ammonite on a smooth round pebble just lying there!

Ammonite I found at Lyme Regis Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Ammonite I found at Lyme Regis

A walk on the Cobb at Lyme Regis

We walk back to The Cobb where a broad wall casts a protective arm around the harbour and the colourful fishing boats are lying on their sides at low tide. It’s fun to walk along the broad top of The Cobb wall although the stone pavement slopes like a tipsy sailor towards the sea to catch out the unwary. It’s a steep drop on both sides and our friend tells us that their dog once fell off and rolled down the wall but luckily survived with nothing broken.

Tide's out at the harbour in Lyme Regis Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Tide’s out at the harbour in Lyme Regis

The stormchasers might emulate Meryl Streep with swirling cloak in the film The French Lieutenant’s woman, standing on the end of The Cobb looking out to sea, although it’s not advisable or even allowed. Walking along to the end of the wall there are store houses for the fishing boats and we get the feel that this is still a thriving fishing community with plenty of notices advertising fishing trips and the blue and green nets piled up along the quayside. The notice above the door promises that ‘The Gods do not subtract from the allotted span of mens lives the hours spent in fishing”.

The Gods do not subtract from the allotted span of mens lives the hours spent fishing in Lyme Regis Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The Gods do not subtract from the allotted span of mens lives the hours spent fishing

Back on the quay, we check out the local fishmonger’s where I can’t resist buying some fresh squid while the boys browse in the second hand bookshop next door. Later that evening I fry it up in butter to eat with some of the orange, pepper and chilli chutney that we found in our welcome pack, although the boys turn their noses up at it. Guy has already drunk the bottles of Otter Bitter and Norcott’s Somerset cider without giving me a look-in but we all enjoy the local chocolate fudge and award winning ice cream that we bought from the freezer in the games room, made just across the valley. The fire is stoked up and the boys have a noisy monopoly game in progress, just as it should be.

A country walk on Dumpdon Hill Fort in Devon Photos: Heatheronhertravels.com

A country walk on Dumpdon Hill Fort in Devon

A climb to Dumpdon Hill Fort

Sunday morning and we take a last chance to explore some of the countryside around Red Doors Farm. Armed with instruction found in the Games Room, we walk up the lane towards the Dumpdon Hill Fort, an iron age fort which takes us on a steep and muddy climb up from the road. From the flat area of the top we can survey the many shades of green making a patchwork quilt of fields, then we turn back towards the farm and with rosy cheeks and lungs full of fresh air ready for our drive back to Bristol.

Morning view over the valley at Red Doors Farm in Devon Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Morning view over the valley at Red Doors Farm in Devon

A country weekend in Devonat Red Doors PinterestWhat we liked about Red Doors Farm;

  • The high quality furnishings and amenities with attention to detail and everything you need on the farm (even ice cream and meals in the freezer!)
  • The cheerful and helpful approach of Gill and Adrian who live on site.
  • Feeding the goats and ducks was a fun experience, even for our teens!
  • Lovely to have an indoor swimming pool on site and we made full use of it.
  • The beautiful Devon countryside and short drive to the coast at Lyme Regis or Sidmouth.

What you need to know;

  • The setting is quite rural so you do need a car and we didn’t find any shops within walking distance.
  • The free wifi is provided through a mobile in each cottage and you’ll need to give your credit card details as a deposit.

Booking at Red Doors Farm

Red Doors Farm have six luxury holiday cottages which sleep between 2 and 8 people, in the Blackdown Hills of Devon, set in beautiful countryside and only 30 minutes drive from Lyme Regis and the Jurassic Coast. A week’s stay in Byre Cottage at Red Doors Farm for up to six people starts from £775 and a short break starts from £540. Book Red Doors Farm through Premier Cottages here

Premier Cottages‘ collection features almost 1,000 four and five-star self-catering cottages across the UK. Properties range from small, romantic boltholes to large family-friendly country estates. The collection includes pet-friendly accommodation. It also offers the widest range of accessible properties in the UK and many properties have  onsite facilities like swimming pools, gyms, spas, indoor games rooms and children’s play areas.

Follow Premier Cottages and Red Doors on their Social Media channels below;
Premier Cottages: Website | Twitter @premiercottages | Facebook | Google+ | Pinterest | YouTube
Red Door Farm: Website | Twitter @reddoorsfarm | Facebook

Heather and family stayed as a guest of Premier Cottages and Red Doors Farm in Byre Cottage.

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

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