7 September 2016

Summer Blooms at Hill Top Farm

With everyone heading back to school this past week and the rain coming down relentlessly outside my window, it really does seem like summer has indeed come to an end for another year. However, since I'm still not officially back at uni until the beginning of October, I'm very happy to pretend otherwise for the moment. I'm also very pleased to report for the first time since I've been at university in the North West, this summer I feel like I've finally taken full advantage of the fact I live within such close proximity to the Lake District.

As I've said before, the Lake District isn't an easy place to manoeuvre around on public transport at all, which has really limited the number of places I've been able to visit in the past. However, now that I have my car I've been able to explore the area a lot more and I've finally been able to visit somewhere I've always wanted to see: Hill Top Farm, once the home of childrens' author Beatrix Potter. As a toddler I'd had the Tale of Peter Rabbit read to me so many times that I knew it off by heart, so it was a dream come true to experience the place that inspired so many of her stories.

I did take quite a few photos of the interior of the house, which is more or less exactly how Beatrix left it when she gifted the property to the National Trust in the 1940s. However, they didn't turn out quite how I wanted so I think I'm going to have to save the inside for another time. Nevertheless, Hill Top's beautiful garden had just as much to offer on the day of our visit, particularly as it was in full summer bloom. As you'd expect from any garden owned by the National Trust, it's magnificently landscaped and immaculately maintained.

As it happens, this past 29th July marked the 150th birthday of Beatrix Potter, so I really don't think I could have picked a better time for my first visit to Hill Top- though I do hope it will be the first of many!

What have you been up to this summer?

3 July 2016

A 21st Birthday Treat at Castle Leslie, Co. Monaghan

Hello there, remember me? I know it's been a little while once again. There's been quite a lot going on these last few months so apologies for the radio silence. Though, as I alluded to in my last post, while I've been away I did in fact hit somewhat of a personal milestone by turning 21! My birthday is actually in April so admittedly a fair bit of time has passed since then. I've not been very on the ball lately, but I did have such a lovely day. 

Planning for birthdays, especially big ones, can sometimes feel a little overwhelming to me so I decided to keep this one quite low key with a trip to of my favourite places, Castle Leslie in County Monaghan with my cousin, Jenny. Castle Leslie is a country house estate turned hotel and spa and is only about an hour away from me at home so my family and I quite often go for a drive there at the weekends for a cup of tea and an amble around the grounds. I actually spent my birthday there last year and enjoyed it so much I couldn't imagine a better way to spend the day again this time around!

Despite all our visits, I'd never actually stayed at Castle Leslie before. So, considering that this year was a relatively big birthday, I thought it would be a nice little treat to do just that, and maybe get a treatment or two as well. So, on arrival, after a quick spot of lunch we dropped off our bags and headed to the castle's beautiful Victorian treatment rooms for a bit of relaxation.

When we got there we were given the choice of a facial, a back massage or an Indian head massage and I ended up opting for a back massage since I'd never had one before. I don't know whether this is something I regret as it was both amazing and terrifying in equal measure. Though, after a couple of hours spent lounging in the relaxation rooms, we still emerged feeling thoroughly zen and decided to go off for a little exploring.

The grounds at Castle Leslie are very extensive and include a church, a lake, a variety of outbuildings and an adjoining equestrian centre, which admittedly is probably my favourite part. First port of call though, was the castle itself, which I've never really had a proper look inside. As you'd imagine, it's quite a big place! And provided there isn't any sort of event on, visitors are allowed to roam around relatively freely which was very exciting. My mum always tells me I must have been a Lady in a former life because I could spend all day wandering around big old manor houses like that. It's one reason why I'm such a National Trust fangirl, for sure.

Once we were satisfied that we'd exhausted every nook and cranny the castle had to offer, we set off for a walk in the garden and grounds, finishing with a long-awaited visit to the stables where we met the fine fellow pictured below! Finally, we ended our day at the estate's bar restaurant with a late dinner before heading back to our room and getting tucked up in bed with a movie. A very relaxing end to a very relaxing day! That being said, we did watch 'We Need to Talk About Kevin'. It was pretty dark and definitely set a slightly different tone for the evening, but I still really enjoyed it.

I think one of the best things about our whole stay was our room. It was really amazing! We were staying in the Lodge, which is a separate building from the castle that contains the restaurants and spa. It also backs onto the equestrian centre so the hallways around the accommodation are equestrian-themed with artwork and pieces of antique tack hanging along the walls. Incidentally, this also meant that we had a balcony overlooking the stables! I was in my element.

It was certainly a birthday to remember, as well as a lovely end to my time in Northern Ireland before heading back to Lancaster!

What have you been up to recently?

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