Careertraveller takes to the hills of Derbyshire where dales, peaks and caverns reveal epic countryside in the heart of the Peak District National Park.

A journey through quintessential classic English villages leads us to Castleton, a chocolate box hamlet whose character stone built houses sit perfectly amongst dramatic White Peak countryside. Situated amongst limestone cliffs, and layers of wide-open moorland, YHA Castleton Losehill Hall provides a grand entrance to England’s first National Park, established in 1951.

Driving through the estate’s grandiose Squires Lane is the trigger for our YHA adventure, which set in 27 acres of prairie like parkland brings nature home. Space for parking makes for a quick and easy check in, located in a modern log cabin-like reception buzzing with tourists and travellers.

Whilst the teenagers head for the hot spot wifi zones with reputable YHA cake and hot chocolate in tow, the adults take a wander round this extraordinary gothic mansion and uncover the roots of Castleton Hall and Losehill Hall. Freshly decorated corridors display billboards that recount the building’s origins with timelines that transport us back to the Middle Ages and 1943, when YHA first opened Castleton Hall in the village and housed wartime evacuees!

Expansive airy rooms with tall ceilings entertain guests with a mix of old and new furnishings including stone fireplace and leather sofas in the careertraveller favourite Lounge. Large, sociable and bright, we enter an oasis of relaxation with mix of contemporary coloured tub chairs and vintage chandelier that shines above windows that bring the outdoors in!

It is here we detour for a walk around the stunning grounds and make friends with the estate’s goats and pigs using the hostel’s bespoke hand written map that smacks of author AA Milne’s woodland characters and famous Hundred Acre Wood. Inspired by Winnie-the-Pooh artist EH Shepard’s original 1926 illustration, YHA Castleton Losehill Hall brings outdoor adventure alive with an ingenious twist of literature and nature.

Steeped in history we admire the former Victorian Losehill Hall built in 1882 and discover it became the new home for YHA Castleton in 2011. As a hostel housing 146 beds in 36 rooms, many en-suite, YHA Castleton Losehill Hall also offers self contained West Mews, whose 28 beds in 7 rooms with private lounge and kitchen accommodates exclusive hire to groups.

A rustic 8-minute walk into Castleton village brings us to independent shops selling treasure in the form of home made ice cream, old-fashioned sweets and gifts that sparkle with jewellery and antiques. Things ramp up as we pass a trail of tearooms and pubs whose renowned homemade produce and local ale provide sustenance to over 2 million tourists a year.

Captivated by this picturesque village dating back to 12th century we take a stroll along the Peakhole Water stream, which overlooked by Norman fortress Peveril Castle is a panoramic introduction to Hope Valley. A haven of rugged moors and peaks fit for hikers and cavers to rock-climbers and hang-gliders we take stock of the wildlife and landscape that beckons birdwatchers, artists and photographers galore.

Back at YHA Castleton Losehill Hall, hunger directs us to the Restaurant where dinner is a menu of traditional and modern from pizza and pasta to pie and mash, not forgetting desserts for the sweet toothed after a day on the dales! Served in a stylish room with wooden floor and modern furnishings is a luxurious touch enhanced by candles that make our stay unique and welcoming.

A cheeky bottle of wine from reception is an introduction to Peeping Tom, a stone statue and rescued YHA relic from Derwent Hall, the region’s former youth hostel demolished in the creation of Ladybower Reservoir. Evening entertainment is a round of blow football and scrabble in front of the fire before retreating to our en-suite room, whose signature lime green bedding and bedside lamps induce a fashionable slumber.

Morning brings fuel with a choice of hot or continental breakfast in the canteen or independent use of the Kitchen where guests have the choice of making their own in sparkling modernity! Plentiful appliances are a joy for families and those keen to maximise their time outdoors, with of course the hostel’s 3D maps.

A giant wall map is our impetus for climbing Mam Tor aka Shivering Mountain, which on our doorstep involves a leisurely hike up Lose Hill to Great Ridge where between the vales of Edale and Castleton we embrace mother nature. 517 metres high, we separate the Dark Peak stone clad edges from the White Peak fertile grassland and work our way down to Winnats Pass, a breath-taking mountain pass whose limestone valley is a Site of Specific Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Scattered with old mine shafts and caves we go underground into Treak Cliff Cavern one, of Castleton’s four renowned caverns, and uncover the history of rare semi precious mineral Blue John, unique to the Peak District. Our expert tour guide Andy takes us back in time through a door that replicates Dr Who’s tardis and as we enter a spectacular show of caves we learn about this working mine, whose story goes back to the 18th century. One of only two working Blue John Stone mines in the world; we experience the work and tools of a miner and see veins of Blue John by torchlight.

We time travel further with an introduction to fossils, which engrained in the ceiling of hillside limestone rock is a journey of 330 million years! Exhilarated, we make our way deeper to the Witches’ Cave where limestone formations reveal bands of the purple-blue and yellow mineral.

Our final part of the 40-minute guided tour ends in the Dream Cave where stalactites and stalagmites bring geology alive and despite no sight of bats and cave spiders, we feel fully inducted to subterranean life beneath the Peak District National park. Exit is a view of sweeping hillside scenery that sweeps us down to the Visitor Centre for a coffee and peek in the Treak Cliff Gift Shop brimming with Blue John ornaments made on site. Dazzled by this exceptional tourist attraction, we step into the Treak Cliff Cavern Museum and examine real stone specimens and the legacy of Derbyshire’s mining industry that makes this district unique.

Educated, energised and elated, we head back to YHA Castleton Losehill Hall for a night of heavenly green belt slumber and feel privileged to have had 48 hours of pure adventure and discovery.

Further Information:

YHA Castleton Losehill Hall
YHA
Visit Peak District & Derbyshire – The areas’s official tourism website
Treak Cliff Cavern

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Kenwood House, London September 2018

by Emma Bumpus on September 30, 2018

Autumn brings seasonal colour to London with a trip to Kenwood House where careeraveller steps into the land of pure English heritage and verdant Hampstead Heath.

Perched on a hill in wide open parkland stands this majestic 18th century former stately home, which situated in 112 acres of rolling landscaped gardens is a playground of family picnics, kite flying, joggers and gentle woodland trails.

Our tour begins through the north front of the house where commanding pillars and a statuesque portico unfold the history and aristocracy of Kenwood House dating back to the 17th century.

Access to the Entrance Hall is a grand affair of detail, decoration and dignity where the likes of Lord and Lady Mansfield entertained guests in a room once used for formal dining. Redesigned by Scottish architect Robert Adam is a chamber of intricate beauty and symmetry where sky blue walls and Wedgewood blue doors smack of Georgian elegance.

Floor to ceiling is a storytelling mix of European and far-flung eastern travel, featuring showy decor in the form of embellished Oriental rug to ornate ceiling panel, which painted by Venetian artist Antonio Zucchi, blends harmoniously with the archetypical marble chimney piece.

Captivated by Kenwood’s splendour unwinds a tour of elaborate interiors, sculptures and artwork which reveals a fascinating past of significant people from Earls and Viscounts to architects and artists. Included is Judge Lord Mansfield who acquired and expanded the estate from 1756 and commissioned Adam to remodel it between 1764-1779.

Opulent rooms form a trail of ‘Adam style’ interiors that display a show of striking colour schemes, elaborate stuccowork and curved walls and domes. Layer upon layer of history brings the arts alive with frescoes and wall paintings inspired by Adam’s travels in Italy.

The Careertraveller favourite Library is a show stopping Great Room full of antiquity that sits beneath a coved ceiling decorated with Zucchi neoclassical paintings. Redecorated with over-painted gilding and reinstated colour schemes is a tribute to Edward Cecil Guinness who bought Kenwood in 1925 and later bequeathed it to the nation.

Now managed by English Heritage we view a vast collection of artwork containing world- famous artists including Turner, Rembrandt and Gainsborough in rooms that echo England’s story.

From Music Room to Dining Room we encounter 18th century portraits to old master paintings including Rembrandt’s Portrait of the Artist that sweeps us south to the Orangery. It is here we inhale Kenwood’s intoxicating gardens from large fronted windows overlooking the work of landscape designer Sir Humphrey Repton. Considering Kenwood more of an ‘elegant mansion’ than country estate, Repton designed a pleasure garden with side walks and southern borderline trees to create an elongated valley effect to the city. Sublime!

A stroll around the grounds brings art and architecture close to nature with striking views of Kenwood’s south front façade, whose ornamental creamy white brickwork and engravings define this neoclassical villa. Romantic, inspiring and free to the public, Kenwood is much more than a walk in the park and a distinguished location for concerts and films, including Notting Hill and Sense and Sensibility.

Surprises come in the shape of alfresco sculptures by celebrated British sculptors Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth, who both had a connection with Kenwood having lived in Hampstead in the 1930s.

We take a seat to admire Moore’s bronze Two Piece Reclining Figure, No. 5, (1963–19640 and peer at London’s skyline above sloping treetops before strolling down to Thousand Pound Pond, an oasis of calm. Formed with the dreamy Sham Bridge we admire Hampstead’s ancient woodland, which approximately four miles from Greater London makes a great day out.

Further Information
Kenwood House
English Heritage

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Hitchin Lavender, Hertfordshire July 2018

by Emma Bumpus on July 9, 2018

Summer puts Hertfordshire on the Careertraveller radar for a visit to Hitchin Lavender, a perfumed Mediterranean oasis of lavender fields bursting with essential oil, wildlife and magnificent blooms ready for picking.

Captivated by rows, approximately 25 miles worth, of sun loving varieties is a mix and match bouquet of colour bursting with hues of purple, lilac, mauve and blue. Complemented by the likes of neighbouring gentle Hidcote Pink and elegant white Edelweiss, paradise unfolds into an aromatic haze of silvery grey leaves and blue-green evergreen stems under a mass of ornamental flower spikes. This place is stunning!

Roaming fields of early, mid and full bloom lavender peppered with butterflies and bees is a calming introduction to pollinators, who aid crop production and help us get lost in nature! The climb uphill delivers stunning countryside views of Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire with shades of rural green to striking violet that create an impressionist painting.

Lost in what feels synonymous with Provence and Lavender explains why this Lavender Farm is such a popular attraction with locals, tourists and photographers. Within easy reach of Cambridge and London, it is no surprise Hitchin Lavender is a venue used for music events, bringing bands and Barn Nights to this sweet scented backdrop.

Summer Sundown Cinema Nights are a vintage mix of Blade Runner, Top Gun and Dirty Dancing, which played on a giant inflatable screen amongst the lavender and midsummer giant sunflowers, brings the stars beneath the stars!

Nectar comes in the form of blazing red corn poppies, which situated in a cleverly designated wildflower open space of a meadow, is purpose fit for bees. Clearly Hitchin Lavender buy into conservation and nature’s food supply chain and as a family farm business spanning over 100 years celebrates lavender in Hitchin with an onsite museum. Inside is an apothecary of original 18th century artefacts from the famous Perks and Llewellyn pharmacy where chemist Edward Perks first introduced lavender as a product to the high street.

Inside the farm’s 17th century barn is a lavandula playground of paraben free lavender treats, including luxury skincare and bath and shower products with lavender harvested from their very own fields.

From luxury hand wash to bath melt it is no wonder the word lavender derives from the Latin word lavare, to wash. Used by the ancient Greeks and Romans in public baths is a journey back in time where it was cultivated for essential oil extraction to produce perfumes as well as having aromatherapy, medicinal and culinary purposes.

Other inspirational products include, lavender filled pillows, Augustifolia essential oil and lavender chocolate, the sort that makes lunch worth staying for with a mouth watering range of home made cakes.

Amongst a vast amount of species from Hidcote and Grosso to Vera and Folgate, Hitchin Lavender is a soothing fragrant locale offering variety to everyone. Summer workshops include yoga and meditation to creative writing and antenatal classes and if you want to really make memories you can use the field as a location for photographic portrait shots for a small fee.

Further Information:

Hitchin Lavender

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YHA Snowdon Pen-Y-Pass, North Wales, June 2018

by Emma Bumpus on June 11, 2018

Adventure travel and amazing landscape spark the careertraveller wanderlust for YHA treasure in the heart of the Snowdonia National Park at YHA Snowdon Pen-y-Pass.

Located 1,000 ft above sea level at the base of Snowdon we enter a world of hiking mountaineering and wildlife fit for discovery and exploration. Surrounded by giant rugged crags, terrain and rolling green hills we step into this harbour of a hostel, which brimming with like minded fellow travellers seeking sustenance, tourist information and accommodation, credits the likes of famous Pen-y-Pass climbers Aldous Huxley and Geoffrey Winthrop Young.

No surprise therefore is the hostel’s Mallory’s Café named appropriately after English mountaineer George Mallory, whom we discover stayed in this former Gorphwysfa Hotel as a base for climbing Snowdon in the early 20th century.

A generous portion of carrot cake and coffee from the bustling bar lead us to the stylish Lounge where modern furnishings including fashionable tub chairs and pendulous pendant lights provide comfortable respite amidst the notable stack of YHA family favourite Trivial Pursuit, Chess and books galore.

A wander round the hostel leads us to the hiker essential Showers and Drying Room, not forgetting the Conference and Games Room that proudly hosts a snooker table amongst walls modishly decorated with Snowdonia facts!

Equipped with local trail details, up to date weather forecast and tourist information we discover this hip and popular hostel owes its success to a £1.3 million refurbishment dating back to 2014, all part of the YHA mission to: To inspire all, especially young people, to broaden their horizons, gaining knowledge and independence through new experiences of adventure and discovery.”

Further treats appear in the form of a trendy upmarket Kitchen full of all mod cons for the independent with well organised recycling coloured bins that show YHA has a grip on environmentally friendly 21st century hospitality. A connecting side room provides a space for those who choose to make or order in their own cuisine as opposed to eating in the café or restaurant.

We enter our Bedroom, one of 16 en-suites, which delivers stunning landscape views of sheep grazing in the hills and the legendary Miners Trail, that sparkles with Snowdon charisma. A wardrobe divided in sections or lockers for storage is a backpacker’s necessity with modern partitioned contemporary toilet and eco friendly shower, whose push button offers a regulated temperature with no water wastage. Brilliant!

The customised YHA lime green bed linen radiates a positive energy most befitting for adventure and gives the room a fresh appeal for inspirational travel. Compact wall sockets and bedside wall lights are unobtrusive and add a swanky touch that make bunk bed slumber fun and cool.

Breakfast in the Restaurant is a choice of hot or cold, fit for all. We opt for the hot traditional breakfast that comes with tea, coffee and juice and toast to kick start our Snowdon ascent. Colourful, tasty and abundant, we enjoy sunny smiley food in the restaurant with impressive views of Snowdonia’s rocky PYG Trail amidst a dedicated wall display of historical Pen-y-Pass climbers and parties that makes this former coaching inn special.

With the option of ordering a pre packed lunch offered by the hostel, we make our own in the Kitchen and head for Snowdon, the daddy of peaks and the highest mountain in Wales and England standing 1058 metres high.

As we step out the hostel and cross the road we step into the land of Welsh fresh air and dramatic scenery, encountering primal jagged rocks and serene lakes whose colour in beautiful hues of green and blue change with the weather. Opting for the 8 mile Miners Trail we pass lake or ‘Llyn’ Teyrn and begin a gentle ascent in the elements and face mist, rain and sun. Mesmerising geography introduces us to a world of new skills and challenges from rock climbing to orienteering and we embrace the freedom and independence that comes with travel and youth hostelling.

En route we locate an abandoned mine that helps us retrace the roots of Welsh miners who once carried copper ore over the mountain. A welcome causeway takes us to turquoise waters in the form of Llyn Lydaw, translated Lake Brittany in English, and on the flanks of Snowdon lays this mystical lagoon which shimmers with King Arthur mystery and legend. Before long we are looking down from the summit of Snowdon where mist, space and natural beauty are a heady mix of triumph, effort and sensation.

Pride and a cheeky coffee in the Summit Café make way for a winning descent amongst troops of inspiring other climbers and as we reach YHA Snowdon Pen-y-Pass we recall the words of George Mallory “The greatest danger in life is not to take the adventure” and we become explorers!

Adventures in Snowdonia come in all shapes and sizes and staying at YHA Snowdon Pen-y-Pass is an education and journey in itself. Superb!

Further information:

YHA Snowdon Pen-y-Pass
YHA England and Wales

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Careertraveller and family take to the Isle of Thanet’s blue flag shores where Margate booty appears in the majestic form of Captain’s Quarters, a luxurious nautical haven!

Imposingly situated at Temeraire Court, a former 19th century hotel overlooking Margate’s famous Winter Gardens and sea, we step into this second floor Regency apartment brimming with history, love and grand hospitality. Light, airy and coastal, corner-to-corner is one big adventure and a tribute to the famous British artist JMW Turner, whose renowned “Fighting Temeraire” hangs perfectly in situ with the building, named in honour of the original painting.

Walking into to the apartment is a sea faring voyage wrapped up in navel history and seaside, which tastefully decorated with Cunard memorabilia and oceanic interiors brings a wave of cruise-like elegance and coastal comfort.

The Careertraveller favourite living room is an admiral’s 21st century sea cabin or Captain’s Quarters furnished with everything including Wi-Fi, sofa bed, LCD TV, restored mahogany naval table and original leather Captain’s chair that make us feel like Captain of our own ship!

Equipped with binoculars, books and a wooden treasure chest of games including scrabble and Trivial Pursuit, we indulge the open planned streamlined galley kitchen, whose sleek white units create an optical illusion of space. Complementary fisherman’s wall lanterns, lighthouse designed cruet set and vintage Treasure Island character toby jugs depict a fun and seriously organised pad fit for all the family, even pet dog!

The pièce de résistance specially commissioned antique wall world map brings travel to the deck and stands stylishly proud amongst the sumptuous paroqueet print cushions, working barometer and tide clock. Everything smacks of maritime wanderlust! Inspiring, clever and fashionably chic we relax and inhale intoxicating seascape from 4 large sash ‘eyes of the house’ windows that in the words of artist Turner himself boom “The skies over Thanet are the loveliest in all Europe”.

Continuing our expedition around Captain’s Quarters, aka home for the next 48 hours, and we venture into the family bathroom, whose canary yellow coloured walls evoke smiles, sunshine and sunblock temperatures of the tropics!

High impact, this is no ordinary bathroom. Tastefully decorated walls adorned with bamboo wall stickers join a trellis displaying humming birds and butterflies, which balance the bamboo accessories and funky plastic pineapple! Ship deck laminate flooring is an ingenious navigational touch that puts us on the bridge of the ship, which looking out to our sun-drenched desert island is a vacation!

Our luxury vessel radiates elegance as we hit the bedrooms, 2 grandiose cabins decked with oceangoing interiors and traces of maritime history including a Cunard’s QE2 40th anniversary print. A blend of fisherman style lanterns and art deco bedside lamps illuminate our on-board experience amongst the rich and velvety hues of regency green, blue and chrome yellow.

Sublimely soft and smooth Egyptian cotton bed linen paired with boldly plump cushions detailing Moby Dick are a deluxe added extra and an on-board sleep oasis, that is after a glamorous shower in the wooden panelled ensuite bathroom that oozes glitz and indulgence.

Whilst inside is a Captain’s playground outside is a scintillating seashore mix of sandy Thanet beaches, trendy retro shops, art, eateries and attractions that pack a holiday!

Dreamland Margate ticks all boxes as one of the UK’s oldest surviving amusement parks with it’s seafront location, music events and thrill seeking restored vintage rides. The Grade II listed Scenic Railway deserves a mention as the oldest wooden rollercoaster in the UK! Inside is a festival of infinite FUN that starts with a retro jaunt in the amusement arcade where authentic pinball mania takes us for a neon light skate in the Roller Disco. Next is the Big Wheel where we take a 35 metre high ride to the sky and inhale Margate Main Sands beach, where poet T.S.Eliot took his inspiration for Journeys with ‘The Waste Land’, currently on exhibition at the Turner Contemporary.

From graphic Mirror Maze to Wedgwood Tea Cups entertainment explodes with regeneration amongst the vintage food shacks, Dreamland Ark of animals and unique art installations including Daniel Webb’s “Mural-By-The-Sea” – EveryDay Plastic display of a year’s worth of plastic collected himself!

Our adventure ends with a jaunt to the Shell Grotto, a mysterious subterranean cavern of 4.6 million shells that plunges 70 feet underground to reveal tunnels ornamented with cockles, oysters and mussels galore! Unexplained and mysterious we capture another Margate gem whose elaborate shell mosaics shimmer with Thanetian art and pride.

Margate rocks and we thank Captain’s Quarters for giving us a unique coastal stay!

Just 85 minutes from St. Pancras International in London with Southeastern’s high speed rail service, we will be back.

Further information:

Mulberry Cottages
Visit Thanet – The official Tourism website for Margate, Broadstairs & Ramsgate
Dreamland Margate
Shell Grotto

Turner Contemporary

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Orchids Festival – Kew Gardens, London March 2018

by Emma Bumpus on March 19, 2018

As winter sheds it cold and crispy layers Careertraveller takes a speedy 30-minute journey from Central London to Kew’s famous UNESCO World Heritage Site to celebrate their 23rd annual Orchids Festival.

Located in the Princess of Wales Conservatory, is a stunning glasshouse of 10 climatic zones that celebrate Thailand, which home to over 1,100 orchids brings a carnival of colour to this world leader in the study of orchids.

Greeted by a giant floral water dragon and golden Thai cart we step into South East Asia and uncover an exotic paradise of enlightened plant science and Thai culture that smiles with friendly and fun-loving hospitality. Multi-coloured handcrafted Thai umbrellas and pendulous lanterns weave an invigorating trail of wondrous beauty through a botanical forest of flamboyant colour and texture all under canopy.

From the distinctively ‘hot and steamy’ to ‘cool and temperate’ zones awaits a journey of sensory lowland and mountainous orchid species whose blooms spray harmoniously amongst the symbiotic bromeliads, ferns and lichens. Spectacular!

From dry tropic desert cacti to wet tropic jungle, succulent foliage presents a stunning backdrop for bountiful orchids that symbolise Thailand’s’ royal natural beauty.

Careertraveller favourite Paphiopedilum slipper orchid is a captivating genus with it’s unusual looking pouch-like labellum of a flower that cunningly traps insects seeking nectar. Red burning eye candy comes in the form of Anthurium or commonly known Flamingo Flower, whose dazzling show of long, dark green leathery leaves and waxy architectural heart – shaped flowers glisten with bright light loving pride!

Caught in a celestial space of fields and forest we admire the delicate swarms of Dendrobium and Phalaenopsis moth orchids, whose butterfly-like petals gracefully adorn the festival’s centrepiece Bang Pa-In-inspired Orchid Palace. Fit for royalty, this floral display replicates the prominent Thai Summer Palace of the Kings of Thailand and sits elegantly in an ornamental rectangular pond as if on the banks of the Chaopraya River near Bangkok!

Happily lost in this “forest by the sea” we discover Red Mangroves from Phuket Island and unearth their swamp-like protective tidal qualities and buoyant seeds that propagate in far away places. Experiencing Mother Nature, we admire the Elephantine Gardener, a wonderful bamboo creation of Thailand’s Asian elephants who aid deforestation by eating her plants and spreading seeds in dung, producing more plantations. It is no wonder the national emblem of Thailand is the Siamese elephant!

Lunch brings more Thai creativeness outside the conservatory with a pop up tent serving fresh aromatic street food that starts with a winter warmer Orchid Cocktail overlooking Kew’s inspirational gardens. A shaken vodka with ginger liqueur and lemongrass cordial is a winner with fresh chilli and cold pressed citrus, giving just enough spicy edge to indulge a Thai red chicken curry with coriander and jasmine rice. No surprise we discover the plants behind Thai gastronomy and identify their medicinal properties.

Melted by the seasonal and golden butternut squash and fuelled with the flavours of SE Asia we continue our journey inside the conservatory to the tunes of Thai Music Circle who gracefully perform classical Thai music. Amidst the rural rice paddy and cloud forest we soak up Thai life with its diverse geography and strong national identity where local food, celebration and music are prevalent.

Seedbanks are the topic of conversation in the film room, which transports us to the forests and National Parks of Thailand where we consider the effects of deforestation, plant extinction and their impact on the environment. We learn about conservation and Kew’s research of plant species, including their Millenium Seed Bank Partnership, which focussing on endangered plant species introduces us to Kew’s wild botanical garden Wakehurst, home to this seed bank and the largest wild seed conservation project in the world!

In the ‘land of a thousand smiles’ we applaud Kew and this year’s Orchids Festival, hosted in partnership with the Royal Thai Embassy, London and partners, for a wonderful insight to Thailand and the beauty of plant diversity and science.

Further information:

Kew Gardens
Kew Garden Events

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Winter brings a coastal injection of island life to Careertraveller and family as they venture off the Essex shoreline, heading 9 miles south of Colchester to Mersea Island.

Adventure heightens as we drive over a causeway called The Strood, whose silky low tide mudflats introduce us to the Blackwater Estuary, famous for it’s saltmarshes and wildlife feeding ground.

Beach life beckons as we drive through chocolate box villages beaming with pride and stunning countryside, teasing us with interrupted estuary views of the island, spanning just 8 miles square!

Sandy shingle beaches and the Victoria Esplanade is our final destination where we are greeted by a seaside carnival of pristine candy coloured beach huts that twinkle with pleasure, fun and relaxation. It is here we meet Betty, the celebrated award winning beach hut owned by the The Little Beach Hut Company, whose award winning beach huts offers guests a slice of luxury hideaway chic.

Immaculately positioned with front row veranda overlooking the sea stands this tantalising tardis with glass interior doors, presenting a harbour of cheerful vintage paraphernalia built to please. Inside is a boat -like haven of carefully constructed space brimming with essentials including water, gas, cooker and sink. Rainbow coloured tableware and crockery come in all shapes and sizes with a captivating mix of spots and stripes in bone china and melamine, which amongst the deckchairs, windbreakers and electric heater radiates grand hospitality.

White washed walls adorned with nautical memorabilia bring the outside in and make this a home for all seasons and a reason to celebrate the good things in life. Amongst the buckets and spades and good old-fashioned dominoes we can’t help but notice a scattering of shells and wooden love hearts. We later discover these have chaperoned 4 successful marriage proposals!

Betty woos us with her fluffy cosy seating, pastel coloured cushions and picnic tables, which enough for 8 people brings on a brew and a pan of hot chocolate for the teenagers after a midwinter game of seashore cricket. Hunger alert is a seafood menu of fresh handpicked local fish and homemade treats delivered beautifully by Hughes Fish Company Ltd who specialise in wet fish, shellfish and seafood platters.

Lunch is aesthetically served in afternoon tea style with a 3-tier high tea serving plate stand just bursting with Vitamin Sea! Top to bottom is a sophisticated abundance of smoked salmon, crayfish tails, smoked mackerel, prawns, mussels in half shell and pièce de résistance lobster. Dressed elegantly with fresh lemon on a bed of salt spraying samphire we inhale the ocean and its invigorating properties before sailing away with the melt-in-the-mouth homemade salmon and chive muffins.

Complementary lemony cream cheese and smoked mackerel pâté add a luxuriously luscious superfood palate to the picnic that justifies the zesty potted lemon posset, whose silky rich texture deserves a Michelin star!

Kite surfing views from our seafront dwelling gets the pulses racing for a brisk winters walk along the island’s coastline, which stretching 13 miles door to door brings us close to nature. Amongst the dog walkers and wading birds we clock the Two Sugars Café before cosying up in Betty’s blankets, board games, magazines and surplus tea and coffee. We get lost amongst amidst the water bottles, playing cards and books and observe nothing is too much for Betty, whose beach front allure and well contained hut is a day-trippers delight.

Smitten with this island, a second visit is definitely on the cards!

Further Information:

The Little Beach Hut Company
Hughes Fish Company Ltd
Visit Mersea Island
Visit Essex – The official tourism organisation for Essex

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Rochester sparkles with history and festivity beneath Medway’s crisp blue skies bringing Christmas cheer and lashings of Dickensian joy to careertraveller and family.

Situated 30 miles from London we enter Dickens Country and cross the River Medway on Rochester Bridge, a striking architectural masterpiece of old and new engineering adorned with four handsome bronze lions.

Rochester High Street is a gala itinerary of sweet treats and ancient treasure amidst a parade of costumed street performers that celebrates Charles Dickens. The author’s childhood memories of the town unleash a trail of characters and buildings including Six Poor Travellers House and grade I listed Eastgate House. As we mingle amongst the likes of Fagin, Sykes and Miss Havisham we uncover a town of hidden gems brimming with pretty tearooms, restaurants and independent boutiques.

Sweet Expectations is a tardis of traditional and locally produced Kentish handmade chocolate and sweets, all 500 different varieties! Guilty pleasures appear at Mrs Tickit’s Pantry, a cosy oasis of old-fashioned afternoon tea with a hint of Mrs Tickit, cook and housekeeper of the Meagles family in Dickens novel ‘Little Dorrit’.

Sweetness brings literary nectar at Baggins Book Bazaar, a 2-storey labyrinth of books bursting with illustrative knowledge and trivia covering all genres. We get lost in what claims to be the largest second-hand bookshop in England amidst half a million books, bringing scholarly wanderlust for a meander to Rochester Cathedral, England’s second oldest cathedral!

Mesmerised by the mediaeval Romanesque façade with skyscraper spires we step back in time to 604AD when the cathedral was founded and absorb Advent and Christmas amongst revellers in the heart of the city. Caught in a rapturous procession of Dickensian fever we follow a trail of intoxicating Christmas Market pleasures including artisan chocolates, mulled wine and bratwurst in a Bavarian style food village.

Gifts galore set in the grounds of Rochester Castle we can not resist climbing the 12th century keep, which all 113 feet high on the east bank of the River Medway, brings English heritage alive with historical panorama.

The melodic sound of City of Rochester Pipe Band in the distance takes us back to the city’s magical cobbled streets for a glimpse of Santa’s reindeer. It is here we discover the Candlelit Parade, a heart warming cavalcade of ‘Christmas’ wrapped up in a bundle of history, tradition and community.

A mist of long lasting entertainment includes a free evening Carol Concert outside the cathedral, where families gather beneath the‘guaranteed’ snow to the tunes of Rochester Choral Society Choir and BAE Systems Brass Band. Stunning!

A Funfair nightcap brings an illuminated playground of pure vintage amusement amongst the tinsel lined stalls and attractions all twinkling with fun. An alpine glide on the Heltar Skeltar is a carnival of skyline sights amongst the winter wonderland Carousel, Giant Wheel and of course customary Haunted House.

Christmas comes early to Rochester!

Further information:

Visit Medway – The official tourism website for the district including Rochester, Chatham and and Gillingham
Rochester Castle
Rochester Cathedral
Christmas In Medway

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Whitstable, Kent October 2017

by Emma Bumpus on October 31, 2017

Autumnal sunsets, unspoilt beaches and lashings of charming fishermen’s cottages entice careertraveller and family to Crab Cottage, a harbour side booty of bountiful elegance brimming with coastal wanderlust.

Outside is a 19th century red bricked shell that opens into a whitewashed oasis of contemporary furnishings with subtle oceanic hints, including a paperweight crab that puts the ‘C’ in Crab Cottage!

A sea of authentic boat-like wooden flooring adds a stylishly wow factor welcome that arouses the nautical senses and takes us to the seaside! Trendy pendant lights, white wooden shutters and a beautiful collection of artwork are eye candy, which makes our cottage break special.

Tasteful extras emerge as the kids spot the iPod dock, CD player, flat screen TV and DVD recorder, whilst the adults peruse a rather cool collection of magazines and books relating to art, culture and fiction. As we dip into a mini library, including the likes of Tracey Emin and Banksy, we observe a modern day mix of drama and humour on the shelf, a perfect read for an all year round stay.

Captivated by the vintage suitcases on display we embark on a colourful journey of mod cons including Italian design DeLonghi kitchen appliances that glitter with chic hospitality. Sparkling stainless steel appliances and funky bright mugs bring a fresh and fashionable feel to this modernised fisherman’s cottage that comes fully equipped with dishwasher, washing machine and child friendly crabbing gear!

Rustic finishing touches come in the form of stone floor tiles, natural wood kitchen work surface area and an accent splashback, whose metro flat brick tiles flow nicely into the adjacent downstairs bathroom. Here we enter a harmonious spa-like cabin of coastal chic privacy where crisp white horizontal tiles, punctuated by a porthole-style mirror, add the illusion of being at sea!

A portable funky radio with matching camping aluminium mess tins wet the appetite for some serious beach combing fun whatever the weather, which leads us to the private decked garden of evergreen plants and patio furniture. All seasons covered, the kids play ball and search for shells where a driftwood plaque for the ‘Beach’ summons play and a 2-minute walk to the harbour, where fish, food and fun uncover Whitstable Fish and Food Market, quayside crabbing and Harbour Market Village.

Whitstable comes alive with a plethora of local market traders who display and sell an array of hand made crafts and food from over 30 huts brimming with home made fudge and cheese to driftwood gifts and photography. This active and friendly working harbour presents a creative and enterprising community in a thriving fishing town, which famous for oysters is steeped in maritime history.Fabulous!

An irresistible taster at the nearby Lobster Shack reveals a trendy beach bar of a restaurant, which inside presents a lively menu of fresh lobster, shellfish and show stopping seasonal Fruit De Mer seafood platter. Discovering their oysters are farmed onsite in a purification centre, we explore Kent’s Oyster Bay Trail and cycle towards Herne Bay, a 5-mile cycle ride covering 5 miles of promenade, candy coloured beach huts and wildlife conservation land.

Energised from a piece of Kent’s stunning coastline, we return to Crab Cottage for some well-earned luxury, which comes with a house-warming bottle of prosecco and a slumber in airy crisp white bedrooms. Tall ceilings, vintage shabby chic furniture and white washed floorboards exude space and freedom that come with sash windows beaming with natural light.

Our en-suite is a deluxe wide mirrored space that opens up the interior with dressing table and room for a walk in wardrobe! Modest flat screen TVs remain inconspicuous amongst the fresh white walls and cool statement furniture pieces that range from retro fish crate bedside tables to iconic RAR rocker chair.

Our en-suite is a deluxe wide mirrored area that opens up the interior with dressing table and room for a walk in wardrobe! Modest flat screen TVs remain inconspicuous amongst the fresh white walls and cool statement furniture pieces that that range from retro fish crate bedside tables to iconic RAR rocker chair.

Morning brings joy with a 2-minute walk to Harbour Street, where a playground of cafes, art galleries and independent shops are breakfast! We get lost in a magic of heart-warming friendliness and unique merchandise that smacks of award winning artisan produce, including Kent’s only specialist The Cheese Box and Sundae Sundae, whose homemade salted caramel ice cream deserves a mention!

Quirky, chic, unusual and style led, Whitstable presents an alluring mix of old and new wrapped up in a chocolate box sea world of pebbly beaches, native oysters, smuggler proof alley ways and well-known water sports.

Crab Cottage has it all, one stay is never enough!

Further information:

The Whitstable Cottage Company
Visit Canterbury – The official tourism website for the Canterbury district including Herne Bay and Whitstable
Harbour Market Whitstable

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Lake District, Cumbria England, August 2017

by Emma Bumpus on October 20, 2017

Careertraveller and family take a short break in the Lake District and step into a magical kingdom of lush valleys, imposing mountains and shimmering lakes, that fittingly honour the national park’s recently awarded UNESCO World Heritage status.

Scenic roads, heavenly skies and breathtakingly landscape transport us to a romantic county of poetry, pretty stone farmhouses and tumbling waterfalls amidst a backdrop of infinite peaks and fells. Blown away by nature our adventure begins with a stay at YHA Keswick, a riverside oasis bustling with travellers, hikers and families galore.

A trendy bistro style Riverside Bar and Restaurant is a hearty welcome and introduction to 21st century youth hostelling, whose historical roots steeped in health, education and recreation remain at the forefront of YHA today. Amidst a friendly mix of swish leather seating and fashionable pendant lighting we stylishly check in and discover this 26 room hostel comes complete with modern self catering facilities, free wifi, dry room facilities and unforgettable river facing views. Whilst ground floor aesthetic and light enhancing French doors bring the outdoors in, it is our first floor en-suite bedroom with private balcony that puts Keswick firmly on the Careertraveller roadmap!

Overlooking the stony fast flowing River Greta we inhale verdant views of Fitz Park, whose community sporting facilities and neighbouring Keswick Museum sit pretty below the mesmerisingly rugged Latrigg and Skiddaw skyline. Positioned in pure English countryside we take to this northern Lakes market town brimming with life and culture, which on the shores of Derwent Water includes attractions such as the famous Theatre by the Lake and iconic Keswick Alhambra Cinema, a UK picture house built in 1913.

We get lost in the flavours of Cumbria amidst a surplus of cafes, restaurants and pantries that introduce us to a range of ales, cheese and award winning fudge, the type that lure the discerning Foodie to local farmers markets and celebratory food festivals.

Surrounded by a plethora of dog friendly pubs, independent gift and specialist outdoor clothing shops we discover Moot Hall, an imposing grade II listed building that stands proud in the town’s cobbled market square as Keswick’s tourist information centre. Adventure beckons from this exciting former prison and town hall, which steeped in history dating back to 1813, serves an enthusing mix of tourists, country walkers, cyclists and locals.

An irresistible trip to Derwent Pencil Museum, home to one of the world’s largest colour pencil, is a rainy morning excuse to grab a slice of Cumbria’s graphite history. Inside this playground of colour we trace the roots of the first pencil, not forgetting some fun with the kids in an art class!

Enlightened by Keswick’s ‘all weather’ mix of indoor and outdoor hot spots is an appetising reminder of the Lake District’s ‘cultural landscape’, which takes us to Derwent Water, Cumbria’s third largest lake. Greeted by this ‘queen’ of the English Lakes we take a cruise with Keswick Launch and step into the literary world of Arthur Ransome and discover his Lake District inspired novel Swallows and Amazons. An eight jetty hop on hop off tour takes us round National Trust islands including St Herbert’s Island, an acclaimed film location for Ransomes’s children’s classic turned movie in 1974 and 2016.

Whilst Lodore wows us with its 90-foot cascading waterfall called Lodore Falls, the western shores bring Lingholm, whose lakeside access smacks of unique experiences in the form of artisan produce, private walks and Beatrix Potter, all wrapped up in the beautiful Lingholm Estate. Disembarkation is a 5-minute walk to a prominent grade II listed Victorian house, Potter’s favourite Lakeland holiday home whose octagonal Walled Garden crafted Peter Rabbit!

It is here we meet Alpacaly Ever After and embark on an extraordinary alpaca walk that takes us on a quirky private tour of the grounds, which with alpacas in tow, retraces the footsteps of Beatrix herself. Our guide is Terry, whose love and respect for the animals and estate reveals an exclusively innovative and nurturing approach to social enterprise that benefits all.

Lakeside is our chance to paddle with the alpacas who revel in the stunning Derwent Water shoreline, accrediting the likes of Squirrel Nutkin. Discovering these gentle and curious creatures amidst a backdrop commanding crags and fells is a Cumbrian tonic that leads us through enchanting woodland of romance and health. Beneath Cumbria’s inky blue skies we make friends with the Peruvian livestock who we learn are good with children and make excellent pets.

Amidst the sweet pea and cabbage lined Kitchen Garden, nothing phases these calm camelids and as we return them to their pastures for feeding we learn the ropes and feel blessed to have uncovered this natural piece of paradise.

Inside the Lingholm Shop we observe the alpaca gifts including wool socks and hand knitted alpacas and smile in the knowledge that nothing is wasted and that alpaca wool softer than cashmere and seven times warmer than sheep’s wool!

The smell of homemade Cumbrian artisan bread in the café is our cue to take afternoon tea in the beautifully restored 19th century Greenhouse where cake and sandwiches come served on a cool vintage like milk stool. No surprise the bakery made 2017 finalist in the Taste Cumbria Award!

An evening back at YHA Keswick comes in the form of a sunset drink on the riverside balcony and a tapas style meal that brings new choice and modernity to youth hostelling. Chicken tikka skewers and a selection of nachos and grilled Mediterranean vegetables are plenty, which washed down with a family friendly game of Monopoly by the river makes our stay with YHA social, educational and inspirational.

Bedtime is room with a view, which with the usual revitalising lime green duvets and modern comfortable mattresses we slumber to the streaming River Greta, whose rhythm prepares us for climbing England’s highest mountain Scafell Pike the next day. Up at dawn we breakfast in full English style and enjoy an escorted Lakeland Mountain Guides ride to Seathwaite where our leader Matt shepherds us 978 metres high to the summit with sensational Lexi the dog, an experienced working Labrador who brings added value and distraction to the 9-mile circuit!

The Corridor Route introduces us to pools and cliffs including Styhead Tarn and Broad Crag and quite simply we are dazzled be the beauty of Cumbria. As we lunch amidst the clouds and mountain mist it is clear why so many writers and artists take inspiration from the world heritage site and in the words of Lakeland writer Alfred Wainwright we embrace ‘the summit of England’.

Further information:

YHA Keswick
YHA
Alpacaly Ever After
Lakeland Mountain Guides
Go Lakes – official tourist board for the Lake District, Cumbria

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