Top 7 sustainable travel experiences


The ethos of sustainable travel has made leaps and strides over the last couple of years. With travellers’ becoming more interested in eco-friendly experiences, the number of innovative and luxurious sustainable experiences on offer are on the rise.  From positively impacting the local community to supporting conservation projects, it’s time for travel to make a difference.

Tree dining in Sweden

Treehotel is built on a genuine experience of nature, and the hotel fully embraces sustainable and ecological values. It’s also a member of Bee + Hive, a not-for-profit association that unites hotels offering sustainable experiences, making it easier for travellers to choose activities that help protect the local environment, community or economy. The hotel is now quite literally taking their love of sustainability to new heights with their new guest experience: tree-dining. On a wooden terrace ten metres up, amidst the canopy of the forest, guests are served a three course dinner inspired by forest flavours. Poised between land and sky, with the swaying trees and magical White Nights of Swedish summer, this is a dinner in total harmony with nature.

Sustainable travel experiences

Marine learning experience in the Maldives

Luxuriating on a Maldivian beach is a holiday fantasy for most of us. But what if you could relax in paradise, and help protect the Maldives’ marine life to boot? The Four Seasons at Landaa Giraavaru’s Marine Discovery Centre aims to do just that. It enriches the guest experience through once-in-a-lifetime encounters with a variety of marine creatures; all while learning about their life and habitat, and even participating in some of the Resort’s conservation projects. Think snorkelling with a marine biologist, heading out on turtle safaris, and enhancing marine life with build-a-reef sessions. Paradise just got even better.

Loris watching in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is blessed with an abundance of wildlife. From leopards and elephants to sloths and monkeys, this island is a veritable utopia for animal lovers. Guests at Jetwing Vil Uyana’s can get up close and personal with a range of creatures at the hotel’s private nature reserve. It’s the country’s best site for Loris watching, and guests may even spot the elusive Grey Slender Loris on the hotel’s dedicated night time Loris Tour conducted by the resident naturalist. The Slender Grey Loris, one of world’s smallest primates, is found only in Sri Lanka and parts of India. This tiny creature is under threat through loss of habitat, but thanks to conservation efforts at Jetwing Vil Uyana, numbers have gradually started to climb again on the reserve.

Coffee experience on organic farm in Costa Rica

Started in 1985, Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation Resort is one family’s passion project. For over 30 years their mission has been to provide the finest hospitality services to guests, whilst also offering authentic experiences with a local flavour.  As well as a luxurious inn with 100% local staff, the resort is perfect for coffee lovers, as it has a 30 acre plantation of Arabica coffee plants. Guests can tour the plantation with on-site naturalist Manolo, and discover the amazing interdependence of coffee with other flora and fauna. Birdwatchers are also in for a treat, as the plantation’s neighbouring forest is home to over 130 species of birds.

Ride bamboo bicycles in London

When you think of sustainable experiences, the sprawling, vibrant city of London may not come to mind. Despite the urban environment, the Hilton London Bankside has cleverly teamed up with Bamboo Bicycle club to offer guests the use of six custom-built bamboo bikes to tour the city. More environmentally friendly than standard bicycles, these beautiful modes of getting around were constructed entirely from scratch by hotel staff themselves, under the careful eye of experts. Robust and easy to ride, this is definitely one way to see the city in sustainable style.

Jaguar spotting in Brazil

Another member of sustainable tourism association Bee + Hive, guests staying at Refúgio Ecológico Caiman can spend a full day and evening with the Jaguar Habituation Team to spot these amazing big cats in the wild wetlands of Brazil’s Pantanal. The conservation experience helps protect wild jaguars, getting them accustomed to safari vehicles so guests can respectfully witness these beautiful animals while ensuring their environment in the Pantanal is preserved. Refúgio Ecológico Caiman is a pioneer in ecotourism, with experienced local guides on hand to show guests the delights and wonders of this part of the world.  The refuge is involved with a plethora of environmental research and conservation projects, whilst also priding itself on offering guests excellence in hospitality and gastronomy.

Community visits in Africa

An incredible safari trip can be truly transformational; holding your breath as you spot wild lions, laughing as a tribe of monkeys frolic in trees, or gazing in awe as a majestic giraffe crosses your path. But the wildlife is not the only fabulous thing about the continent, it’s often said its people are Africa’s greatest beauty. Singita, a renowned luxury safari lodges and reserves company, is deeply committed to conservation and sustainability, supporting both wildlife conservation projects and community development. The Singita Community Development Trust helps to initiate Early Childhood Development practices in pre-schools, and guests can meet local children and learn about this vital programme, as well as witness many other areas of interest and cultural significance on the community visit.

Tom Marchant is Co-founder of Black Tomato. Black Tomato is an award-winning luxury travel agent and part of The Black Tomato Group, with partner brands including Studio Black Tomato, The Black Tomato Agency and Epic Tomato.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.



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8 Charmingly Eccentric National Trust Buildings | Where to Stay


In 1895, three wealthy English social reformers founded a nonprofit corporation with the lofty ambition to preserve the natural and manmade heritage of the United Kingdom for future generations. Today, the National Trust owns roughly 613,000 acres in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, including 59 historic villages and hundreds of culturally significant properties ranging from towering castles to thatched cottages.

To support its preservation efforts, the National Trust rents out many of these properties to travelers. Want to stay at a 17th-century manor house situated on 200 acres of Welsh countryside? How about a Downton Abbey-style country house that once hosted the exiled King Louis XVIII of France? The National Trust can accommodate you.

But the options aren’t limited to such stately piles. For intrepid travelers seeking an only-in-the-U.K. experience, there are dozens of charmingly eccentric National Trust cottages and lodgings scattered across the countryside and lining the seashores. Here are a few of our favorites.

Doyden Castle

Port Isaac, Cornwall

Standing guard on a hill overlooking Port Quin, on the wild Cornish coast, this one-bedroom “castle” makes up in charm what it lacks in size. Arched windows and a roaring fire are among the quaint touches that give this miniature fortress its rugged appeal. If you’re a walker, you’ll enjoy easy access to the South West Coastal Path, which runs for 630 miles along the English coastline.

Doyden Castle
Starting at US$613 for two nights (minimum); rates are significantly reduced for longer stays. Sleeps two.

The Lighthouse Keepers’ Cottage

Lynton, Devon

The National Trust rents out a number of lighthouse keepers’ cottages around the U.K., but none more spectacular than this whitewashed, six-bedroom house perched on the side of a steep cliff overlooking the Bristol Channel. Although the lighthouse is still in operation, guests will be thankful to learn that the old foghorn has been decommissioned.

The Lighthouse Keepers’ Cottage
Starting at US$1,145 for three nights (minimum); rates are significantly reduced for longer stays. Sleeps 10.

The Water Tower

Truro, Cornwall

This cylindrical stone tower on the banks of the River Fal was built in the 1860s as a water reservoir but has since been renovated into a whimsical guesthouse featuring one room on each of its four stories, all outfitted with gothic windows and accessible only by a winding staircase. Explore the area by foot or by canoe, or simply lounge on the nearby beach.

The Water Tower
Starting at US$401 for two nights (minimum); rates are significantly reduced for longer stays. Sleeps two.

Squire’s Loft

Norwich, Norfolk

Few travelers would likely have paid money to stay in the Squire’s Loft in the 17th century, back when it was a horse stable for the nearby Felbrigg Hall. But the National Trust’s sensitive renovation has turned the stable loft, built in the neo-Jacobean style, into a charming two-bedroom flat complete with all the modern conveniences and accented by exposed wood beams. Access to Felbrigg Hall and its grounds is included with the rental.

Squire’s Loft
Starting at US$419 for three nights (minimum); rates are significantly reduced for longer stays. Sleeps four.

The Triumphal Arch

Leominster, Herefordshire

Okay, so it isn’t actually a triumphal arch — this formidable brick edifice is really just the grand gateway to Berrington Hall, an 18th-century Georgian mansion. The gatehouse was employed at various points in its history as a coachman’s house and a shooting lodge, but now the three-bedroom property can be rented out by anyone interested in exploring the bucolic Herefordshire countryside. Guests have free access to the gardens, the final project of the great landscape architect Capability Brown, as well as Berrington Hall itself during its hours of operation.

The Triumphal Arch
Starting at US$480 for three nights (minimum); rates are significantly reduced for longer stays. Sleeps five.

Millbeck Towers

Keswick, Cumbria

What better way to explore the Lake District — inspiration for so much of William Wordsworth’s Romantic poetry — than by staying at this former carding mill, which was built in the 18th century and has since been converted into a turreted, six-bedroom guesthouse. Stained glass windows, open fireplaces and checkered tiles create a warm, intimate atmosphere inside, while the lovingly tended gardens offer the perfect spot for an afternoon picnic. The town of Keswick, the Derwent Water and the Borrowdale Valley are just a 10-minute drive away.

Millbeck Towers
Starting at US$833 for two-nights (minimum); rates are significantly reduced for longer stays. Sleeps 12.

The Bakehouse

Isle of Purbeck, Dorset

Situated on the Isle of Purbeck, a peninsula on England’s southern coast, this cozy renovated cottage features a thatched roof, wood-burning fireplace and exposed timber frame. During the day you can ramble through the surrounding heaths or take the road into the small town of Wareham to drink a pint at the local pub.

The Bakehouse
Starting at US$398 for two nights (minimum); rates are significantly reduced for longer stays. Sleeps two.

The Round House

Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

Unlike some of the National Trust properties we’ve highlighted, this former shooting lodge and gamekeepers’ cottage is exactly what it sounds like — a completely round house in a sylvan grove on the Ickworth Estate in Suffolk. With a cozy living room organized around an open hearth, you may think you’ve been transported into a Jane Austen or Emily Brönte novel. If you decide to seek out company, the Porter’s Lodge Cafe is just a short walk away, as are hiking, biking and running trails.

The Round House
Starting at US$672, for three nights (minimum); rates are significantly reduced for longer stays. Sleeps six.



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Spring in the Lake District


It is almost time for brightly coloured Easter eggs, heavily scented Spring blooms and lots of fun family activities. Yes, Spring is just around the corner and here is some of what awaits you in the Lake District.

Daffodils on Ullswater’s shore 

The brightly coloured, cheery and wonderfully scented blooms of the Lake District’s famous daffodils have had visitors under their narcotic spell for centuries. Indeed, the impressive blanket of yellow daffodils dancing on the breeze at Gowbarrow Park on the shore of Ullswater captured William Wordsworth’s imagination so much so that it inspired the penning one of his most famous verse’s: ‘I wondered lonely as a cloud’.

Daffodils burst into colour and their heady scent fills the air between March and April, in formal gardens and natural wooded areas across the Lake District. You know when spring has arrived when you are greeted by these cheery blooms and they are a sight not to be missed.

East egg trail 

The National Trust preserve vast swathes of the Lake District so that generations to come can enjoy the wonders and delights of this magical landscape. At various stately homes and grand estates across the Lake District, The National Trust are hosting activities welcoming families and encouraging imaginations to run wild over this important holiday celebration.

Spring walk

The pastoral valleys of the Lake District are abuzz with life in Spring. Sheep have been brought down form the fells to lamb and graze in warm low-lying pastures. This is a celebratory time of year and it is best enjoyed on a valley walk, passing through pristine conservation farmland. Take in the 17th century farmhouses and architectural dry stone walling. Cross babbling rivers and stop a while at a gastro pub. We’d recommend Hawkshead in particular as a great base for an inspiring Spring walk.

Egg hunt with Peter Rabbit 

Spring wouldn’t be the same without a visit from the Easter bunny.

Visit the Lake District over the Easter holidays and go on an egg hunt with the most famous bunny in the world. Yes,  Peter Rabbit. The floppy-eared children’s book character along with his other mischievous friends, were created by Lake District resident Beatrix Potter. Potter was a naturalist and found her greatest inspiration in a world of creatures living beneath mighty English oak trees, sailing rafters across the lakes and building homes within the craggy mountainsides. There’s treasure all around in the Lake District.

Handmade chocolate

Kennedys Fine Chocolates is a real secret gem of Cumbria and the Lake District. In the heart of the northern village of Orton, a gemstone itself.

There’s so much pleasure in handmade indulgence. Passion, joy and pure fun simply oozes from these divine chocolates that have been made by the same family for over 25 years.

Don’t just come to Orton for the sweet treats, however. In fact, this remote village, located between Kendal and Penrith, is quite the foodie mecca. The monthly farmer’s market is reputedly the best in Cumbria. Orton also puts you a stone’s throw from the Eden Valley, just outside the crowd-drawing Lake District and is filled with tempting delights, such as mythical stone circles, luxurious country spa’s and sprawling castle and gardens.

Paul Liddell is the Managing Director at Lakelovers. Lakelovers provide quality self-catering cottages in the most popular Lake District holiday locations, including Windermere, Ambleside, Coniston, Grasmere, Keswick and Ullswater.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.



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10 of the most exciting new luxury hotel openings of 2018


The luxury travel industry is booming, with surveys suggesting that travellers are keen to explore more and willing to pay a little extra when indulging on their travel experiences. This growing demand is reflected by a number of exciting new luxury hotel openings across the globe. Here are just 10 of the many to look out for.

January to March

Hotel X, Toronto, Canada

One of the most anticipated openings in Toronto for 2018 is Hotel X Toronto (by Library Hotel Collection), bringing a cutting edge mix of luxury, hospitality, sports and entertainment to downtown Toronto in March of 2018 – what will be one of North America’s largest urban resorts. Located just a stone’s throw away from Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport and very close to the amphitheater, the property will be the only hotel on the historic grounds of Exhibition Place, overlooking the Lake Ontario waterfront. With three towers, the hotel will have 404 rooms including 39 suites and 2 penthouses with amazing lake views. Guests can take advantage of all-day dining restaurant and 24-hour room service.

The new Hotel X Toronto is more than just a hotel. The resort will have innovative offerings encompassing entertainment, athletics and dining. For the culinary minded, guests can check out the high-end dining concept Petros 82, a two level Mediterranean restaurant with seasonal patio, a=t three story SkyBar and Lounge, and a beer garden. If you’d like to break a sweat, find yourself in the spinning studio, one of the rooftop pools, golf simulator or on the squash and tennis courts. Vsitors will also find stadium style movie theaters, and elegant ballrooms and event spaces for sophisticated celebrations of all kinds. For the families who travel together, the property also features a 3,000 square foot Play Centre for children with trained babysitters for kids of all ages.The property is surrounded by Stanley Square with lush gardens and fountains to walk through or catch live outdoor events. Just down the road is the brand new outdoor community project, The Bentway, filled with amazing markets, chidlren’s programing and beautiful art projects as well as featuring an ice skating trail in the winter and an amphitheater to be completed this spring.

Pechanga Resort & Casino, Temecula, California, USA

The Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians broke ground on the tribe’s $300 million expansion in December 2015. The slightly longer than two-year project will be completed in March 2018, when the Pechanga tribe, elected officials, dignitaries, celebrities, and Pechanga Resort & Casino team members will celebrate the grand opening of this major milestone. The newly expanded property will make Pechanga the largest resort/casino property on the West Coast. It is comparable to Las Vegas’ style and experience, minus the hustle, bustle and crowds and expensive resort fees of the Strip. Pechanga Resort & Casino’s expansion includes a new, AAA Four Diamond, 568-room and suite hotel wing; a stand-alone luxury two-story spa and salon with 17 treatment rooms, a fitness center and hydrotherapy pool terrace; a 4.5-acre resort-style pool complex; two new restaurants; and an additional 67,000 square feet of event space. Economists from Beacon Economics estimate Pechanga’s expansion created a more than $550 million economic benefit to the region. The respected economics firm said the area’s local economy has benefited from the creation of an additional 560 jobs per year as a result of the Temecula resort/casino’s expanded operations. Perhaps one of the most exciting new luxury amenities is the 25,000-square foot day spa, which is the largest in the Temecula Valley. At two stories, Spa Pechanga features two hydrotherapy pools, 17 treatment rooms, a full-service nail, hair and makeup salon, a full suite of barbering services, a menu serving fresh herbal teas and juices, a fitness center with group or private fitness/wellness classes and its very own yoga instructor/wellness coach.

Another new luxury amenity is the high-end retail shops. Pechanga now offers three retail shops and one Swarovski boutique. Two of the retail spaces are high-end women’s boutiques featuring name-brand apparel, handbags, fine jewelry, home décor, watches, and much more from such brands as Versace, Frank Lyman, Burberry, Prada, Michael Kors, Dooney & Bourke, Gucci, and Waterford Crystal. The 4.5-acre pool complex, named “The Cove,” is nearly the size of four football fields and will open to guests on March 5 during the official Grand Opening. The pool area consists of five pools and four whirlpool spas, one with a natural rock waterfall feature. The center pool encompasses 7,600 square feet and features a swim-up bar with underwater seating and a Baja ledge for chaises and daybeds that skim the water. Another large pool at 2,400 square feet features a family friendly setting with two twisty waterslides that splash guests into a beach-entry pool. Next to the pool, kids can run through sprinkling water at the splash pad. A third pool is a 1,200-square foot VIP pool. Two smaller pools (520 and 650 square feet) offer more spots for guests to soak. Thirty-two comfortable cabanas will be available through the entire pool and spa complex. Encompassed within The Cove is a large grassy field available as an outdoor concert venue, a beautiful space for outdoor parties, and more. Within the new pool lagoon area, Pechanga also will open an indoor/outdoor restaurant and bar serving a variety of appetizers, salads and choice sandwiches and burgers either in the restaurant or poolside. This will be Pechanga’s 13th property restaurant and its 20th restaurant or bar venue. After a trip to the spa, some boutique shopping and an afternoon at the pool with signature The Cove drinks featuring fresh fruit and locally grown ingredients, relax in one of Pechanga’s 1,090 rooms and suites. The expansion added an entirely new hotel wing, which doubled the size of the resort. While those rooms are brand new, the existing hotel wing has undergone an extensive renovation to its suites. Rooms are designed to be plush, contemporary, warm, and inviting. Along with those rooms and suites, Pechanga features luxurious spa suites and two palatial executive suites resembling Las Vegas’ presidential suites.

Sheldon Chalet, Denali National Park, Alaska, USA

The Sheldon Chalet is a true five star Alaskan wilderness experience. The longtime dream of Don and Roberta Sheldon, homesteaders who claimed the land in the mid-50s, this five bedroom property is nestled on five private acres within Denali National Park. Perfect for experiencing the northern lights, heli-skiing, snowshoeing and hosting feasts of the finest Alaskan seafood, this property is designed for ultimate seclusion. Perched 6,000 feet above the wilderness and overlooking some of the most dramatic vistas in the Alaska Range, it is only accessible by air from Anchorage or Talkeetna and is the only private land in the national park. JG Black Book will work with the property to increase travelers’ aspirations to explore the destination and ultimately raise the profile for the resort.

Located on five private acres, the Sheldon Chalet sleeps up to ten guests in five bedrooms featuring unique panoramas of the Alaska Range from every angle. The vision of Alaskan pioneers, Don and Roberta Sheldon, the Sheldon Chalet is a platform for the adventure of a lifetime and offers guests guides, gear, a chef and a concierge to experience this exclusive destination on the flanks of North America’s highest mountain. Robert Sheldon, his wife Marne and sister Kate have made the Sheldon family dream become a reality. Serving delicious Alaskan fare, Sheldon Chalet provides a crown-jewel Alaskan experience with activities including heli-picnics, guided glacier trekking, heli-skiing and aurora borealis viewing.

Headlands Coastal Lodge & Spa, Pacific City, Oregon, USA

After two decades of planning and more than a year of construction, Headlands Coastal Lodge & Spa in Pacific City, Oregon, opened its doors to guests in January 2018. The lodge celebrates hospitality, Oregon-style, offering visitors luxury amenities against the backdrop of Oregon’s beautiful North Coast. It’s the first property of its kind to open on the Oregon Coast in over a decade. The main lodge comprises of 33 king and two-queen rooms, and there are 18 adjacent cottages. The guestrooms are oceanfront, and have views of the Pacific Ocean and iconic Haystack Rock, with private balconies to get even closer to the sand, surf and fresh ocean air. All rooms have pillow-top mattresses and include an HD flat-screen TV, mini fridge, Bonavita brewing system with freshly-ground coffee, Smith tea and kettle, Bluetooth lantern speaker, in-room safe, in-room iPad, gas fireplace and custom bike and surfboard racks. Select rooms have cast-iron soaking tubs. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner daily is Headlands’ restaurant and bar, Meridian. Customers can savor their food in the stylish oceanview dining room surrounded by exposed beams, Oregon hardwoods and sky-high windows. Meridian’s menu focuses on Northwest coastal cuisine, with ingredients sourced from the ocean, local purveyors and Headlands’ own Mary’s Herb Garden. A full vegan and vegetarian menu is also offered. An extensive wine list focuses on Oregon wines with featured selects from Washington and beyond. On tap are beers from Pelican Brewing Company, located just down the beach.

At Tidepools guests will find a full menu of spa treatments and an innovative indoor and outdoor wellness program. In the serene setting, guests can enjoy their treatments, steam room and an outdoor hot tub with ocean view and fireplace. The Tidepools wellness offerings include an airy fitness studio with free weights, treadmill, elliptical, Peloton bikes and Precor equipment. Complimentary exercise classes range from beach yoga to meditation to Pilates. Additionally, guests at Headlands can pursue unique outdoor adventures, organized through the Adventure Coach program. The on-staff Adventure Coaches are experts in everything North Coast. They are available to plan a personalized itinerary for any experience, from food, beer and wine to biking, hiking and crabbing, or any mix of activities a visitor could desire. At Headlands, visitors are invited to “Stay In” and immerse themselves in all the lodge has to offer, and “Head Out” to explore the rugged, breathtaking beauty of the Oregon Coast.

April to June

The Source Hotel, Denver, Colorado, USA

Anticipation is building for The Source Hotel, Denver. In January, The New York Times’ Elaine Glusac named the forthcoming 100-room property as one of the new hotels to check out in 2018. Opening in May, The Source Hotel, Denver takes the luxury boutique hotel experience to the next level. A key ingredient is location. You’ll find The Source Hotel in what is perhaps The Mile High City’s most exciting neighborhood – the River North Art District (RiNo, for short). This formerly industrial part of Denver is just moments from downtown, and in recent years has seen an explosion of activity, including art studios, restaurants, creative businesses and craft beverage makers. The hotel’s sister property, The Source opened in 2013 and quickly became a must-visit RiNo destination for locals and visitors alike, offering a carefully curated collection of artisans and retailers. The Source Hotel will complement the adjacent market hall, showcasing independent local vendors and artisans, who will give guests a taste of Denver’s vibrant creative community. The lobby check in experience will be home to craft beer pioneer New Belgium Brewing Co.’s first Denver small-batch brewery, which will feature a 10-barrel system that produces a constantly rotating tap list (with an emphasis on sour, wild and experimental beers) for the Woods bar and restaurant. As if that’s not enough for beer lovers, the local favorite Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project is right next-door at The Source, and the beloved Great Divide Brewing Co. is across the street. Woods is located on the hotel’s rooftop terrace, upon which guests will enjoy spectacular city and mountain views (stretching from 14,000-foot Pikes Peak to the south to Long’s Peak to the north), as well as a cantilevered pool and hot tub. The hotel is the RiNo neighborhood’s only high-rise structure – so its rooftop offers a whole new perspective on the Denver skyline and the Front Range panorama.

The Source Hotel, Denver’s look – the work of Stephen Dynia of Dynia Architects – is a powerful blend of historic and forward-thinking design, paying tribute to RiNo’s rich past. Dynia’s design complements the existing Source’s galvanized metal and brick with concrete and light birch, offset by touches of the brand’s signature – vivid blue represented in the neon market hall sign, custom wallpaper, and subtle details that reveal themselves as guests become immersed in the property. The hotel’s industrial sensibility is offset by warmth, with added touches of wood and other natural elements. The Source Hotel, Denver and The Source are not simply adjacent – an oasis-like courtyard, with a bridge that takes guests seamlessly from the hotel to the marketplace, links them. Overlooking the courtyard is another restaurant option at The Source Hotel, Denver: Smök, the brick and mortar opening of cult favorite BBQ concept helmed by acclaimed chef Bill Espiricueta. Hailing from The Source’s celebrated Acorn Restaurant and a protégé of Executive Chef Steve Redzikowski (the only James Beard-nominated chef from Colorado in 2017). In its guestrooms, The Source Hotel, Denver brings the outdoors in. Floor-to-ceiling windows deliver copious natural light and rooms feature raise-able garage doors so guests can enjoy Denver’s fresh mountain air and private views of the hopping RiNo scene. Further solidifying the hotel’s essential connection to its thriving neighborhood, the city of Denver has invested more than $29 million in the installation of new bike lanes, native landscaping, and pedestrian-friendly infrastructure on Brighton Boulevard, ensuring that eco-friendly human-powered transport in the area will flourish.

Monkey Island, Bray-on-Thames, Berkshire, UK

In May 2018, YTL Hotels’ newest UK property, Monkey Island Estate, will open in the historic village of Bray-on-Thames, Berkshire. The island has an intriguing history that dates back 800 years, and has been frequented by monarchs, aristocrats and artists, along with writers, famous performers and Berkshire locals. The restored Monkey Island Estate is set across seven acres and will consist of 27 bedrooms and three deluxe suites, all designed by the award-winning New York-based Champalimaud Design, who additionally worked on interior design projects for YTL Hotels’ first British property, The Gainsborough Bath Spa. The white bricked Pavilion and Temple buildings make up the main areas of the hotel, surrounded by perfectly manicured gardens and beautiful views of the River Thames.

Monkey Island has a unique history, with early 18th century fishing retreats built by the Duke of Marlborough and famous monkey artworks, and also having been immortalized through a great work of early 20th century literature. Monkey Island has provided British hospitality for the last 180 years. Monkey Island will be the perfect countryside retreat for visitors from London and all around the world, for weekend trips, weddings, romantic escapes and more. The hotel is ideal for those wanting to take a foodie pilgrimage to Bray, a destination for culinary-enthusiasts that is the only village in the world that lays claim to two three Michelin-starred restaurants, including Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck and The Waterside Inn by Alain Roux.

Vista Palazzo Lago di Como, Italy

Family-owned Italian hotel brand Lario Hotels is readying their latest project in the center of Lake Como, Italy. Vista Palazzo Lago di Como, set to open this coming June 2018, will be the fourth luxury property for the group in and around the lakeside celebrity hotspot and the only five-star to be open all year round. The new project, born our of a restored centuries’ old Palazzo, will boast 18 individually designed luxury suites, including a unique 60+ sq m Corner Suite complete with a private Turkish bath. As the name implies, Vista will offer guests unparalleled views of the lake, especially from the rooftop restaurant, bar and lounge. Guests don’t just have to admire the view from a distance. The hotel offers guests transport to Bellaggio by either seaplane or by Riva speedboat.

For the unique design, Lario Hotels has called upon Italian designer Maurizio Maggi who places special attention on celebrating Italian excellence in design and decor. As such, Maggi has chosen to incorporate Dedar fabrics, prized marble and woods, and insists on only Italian craftsmanship throughout Situated in the heart of “downtown” Como, Vista is just a stone’s throw from the lakefront and Como’s top attractions.

July to September

Lanai Tower, JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort, Marco Island, Florida, USA

The JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort, a luxurious Florida resort located along the sparkling Gulf of Mexico on three miles of private, pristine white sand beach, underwent a three-phase, $320 million renovation project to enhance and refine every aspect of the property. The first and second phases are complete and the third phase is poised to be completed when the Balinese-inspired resort opens the doors of its lavish 94-room adult-exclusive Lanai Tower. Designed by a Florida-based design and architecture firm, Edge of Architecture, Inc., the new Lanai Tower is the pinnacle of luxury on Marco Island, boasting gorgeous and unparalleled views of the Gulf of Mexico and establishing a harmonious relationship between the building and its tropical environment – an experiential symbiosis of interior and exterior spaces. The tower features an exclusive rooftop pool, a deluxe gourmet rooftop restaurant, and a 12,000 square foot indoor entertainment center. With the addition of this upscale Lanai Tower, the JW Marriott Marco Island resort now offers its guests 100,000 square feet of innovative and flexible event space – fully equipped with cutting edge technology – and 810 magnificently appointed rooms and suites.

Beyond the new adult-exclusive Lanai Tower, the property boasts a range of signature culinary offerings as well as one of only three SPA by JW concept spas in the United States. Located on the northern end of the resort, SPA by JW gives guests a relaxing and personal spa experience with a range of renewing, calming, invigorating and indulgent treatments designed by world-renowned experts. The Balinese-style spa, with its elegant yet laid back setting, features a mineral tub overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, state-of-the-art fitness facilities, salon services and a Spa Shop. The resort also provides premium outdoor activities, including a guided Wave Runner Tour through the Ten Thousand Islands, a Sailing and Shelling Tour to uninhabited islands, world-class golf at the Rookery and Hammock Bay championship courses, and more. After partaking of exciting outdoor activities and sumptuous spa treatments, resort guests are invited to lounge on the sand in a private chickee hut or unwind in one of the secluded poolside cabanas. In the evenings, enjoy stunning views of Floridian sunsets during the nightly fire-dancer sunset celebrations at Quinn’s on the Beach before strolling over to the trendy Kane Tiki Bar & Grill for a cocktail — Kane has one of Marco Island’s most extensive collections of rums. Those seeking an elegant dining experience should reserve a table at ARIO, the property’s signature restaurant, and try the in-house dry aged steaks and chops or the exquisite local seafood – all beautifully prepared by Gerald Sombright, Chef de Cuisine and Season 14 Top Chef contestant. ARIO even boasts its very own dry-aging room and invites guests to the back of the house for viewings, giving them the opportunity to learn about the dry-aging process and make their dining experience both delectable and immersive.

Vista Collina Resort, Napa, California, USA

Vista Collina Resort is nestled amongst the rolling hills of the Napa Valley and will usher in a new way to discover California’s most celebrated Wine Country. With the resort’s thoughtful, Tuscan-style décor, tasting Village, artisanal market, and a spacious community lawn for picnicking and private concerts, Vista Collina isn’t simply a resort in Napa. It is Napa at its finest. The 145 guestrooms and suites offer a tranquil escape with Frette linens and robes, natural stone bathrooms, Fresh bath amenities and easy connectivity to WiFi and streaming services. 39 one-bedroom suites provide an even more luxurious experience with spacious living rooms, full kitchens equipped with the Hestan Cue Smart Cooking System, and dining areas. A separate king-bedded guestroom includes a private bathroom with deep soaking tub. The in-suite culinary experience in partnership with Hestan Cue allows guests to select the seasonal, farm-fresh ingredients they’d like, have it delivered to their door, then inside their suite, the Hestan Cue Smart Cooking System will help to bring their ingredients—and Napa Valley experience—to life in a delicious meal. All guestrooms and suites feature beautiful views of vineyard lined hillsides, making memorable moments from sunrise to sunset. Additional guest amenities include a sparkling new pool with full bar service, both fitness and movement studios, 24-hour in-room dining and a welcome bottle of wine for every guestroom. The resort is located in the shadow of Napa’s Grape Crusher Statue and just one hour from San Francisco, Oakland and Sacramento. Its convenient location provides easy access to explore both Sonoma and the Napa Valley.

Located onsite, The Village at Vista Collina Resort curates the best of Napa into a unique Wine Country experience. The centerpiece of the Village will be its nine tasting rooms featuring boutique wineries from the Napa Valley, creating a convenient way to taste wines without getting in their car between tastings. Beyond the tasting rooms, The Village includes Fivetown Grocery, a market with farm-fresh, seasonal and local items for guests to enjoy with their favorite wines, while picnicking or in the comfort of their suite. Fivetown Grocery features a variety of fresh-made pastries, gourmet coffees, sandwiches with preservative-free meat smoked onsite, artisanal breads, and packaged pastas and sauces, all made from scratch in small batches by acclaimed chef, Vincent Lesage. The Food & Wine Center is a professional cooking school offering cooking classes for up to 20 or baking and wine tasting classes for up to 40, all led by a member of the resort’s executive culinary team. Outside, the 16,000 square foot Village Lawn is the perfect location for an afternoon picnic, wines by the bottle, concerts and other local events. The Village is a destination all its own. And with a robust, curated calendar that’s always changing, you’ll want to visit often to experience all the Napa Valley has to offer, all in one place.

October to December

Limelight Hotel, Snowmass Village, Colorado, USA

Scheduled to open in November 2018, the Limelight Hotel Snowmass is located in the heart of Snowmass Village and at the bottom of Snowmass Ski Area — the resort’s epicenter. The front door is just steps away from two lifts that serve the mountain, the Elk Camp Gondola and the Village Express Chairlift, ensuring year round access to skiing and snowboarding, on-mountain dining, an alpine coaster that shushes you down through the woods, and a host of summer activities in The Lost Forest located at the top of the gondola. The hotel features a five-story climbing wall in the lobby and an ice skating rink and summer events lawn just outside — all of which is open to the public. Many longtime community members and visitors envision the ice rink/events lawn will become the town square for Snowmass Village. The lobby is designed to be a community living room, with food and beverage service and live music that is open guests and residents alike. The hotel will have 99 rooms and 11 luxury two- and three-bedroom condominiums, ranging in size from 1,367 square feet to 2,627 square feet. The condominiums have lofty, open floor plans with large windows that highlight the most impressive design detail of all — views of the peaks of the surrounding Rocky Mountains. The condominiums are also designed so that bedrooms can be locked off, allowing owners to participate — if they choose — in the hotel’s rental management program. Condominium owners will have privileges at the exclusive Snowmass Mountain Club, which will also be located in the Limelight Hotel Snowmass. Club members will have access to parking, a lounge, lockers and member services at the base of the ski area. The Limelight Hotel Snowmass is the third Limelight Hotel, with the other two located in Aspen and Sun Valley, Idaho.

Limelight Hotel Snowmass is part of the Snowmass Base Village project, a $600 million, 10-building development that is currently being constructed by Vail-based East West Partners in partnership with the Aspen Skiing Company and KSL Capital Partners. The development includes residential, commercial, hospitality and public amenities that will be built over the next 10 years. Three buildings, including the Limelight Hotel Snowmass, are currently under construction and two more are slated to begin construction in early 2018. Snowmass Base Village and the Limelight Hotel Snowmass are located in Snowmass Village, Colo., a 50-year-old community that opened for business in 1967, the same year that the ski lifts went into operation at Snowmass Ski Area. Snowmass Village is a tranquil community located just seven miles from Aspen, Colo., surrounded by some of the most beautiful peaks in the central Rocky Mountains. In the summer it is a destination for hikers, mountain bikers, fly fishers, kayakers and rafters, horseback riders, hot air balloon aficionados and music lovers who can attend free weekly concerts on the hill and the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Festival which draws some of the biggest acts in the country. In the winter, Snowmass Village is the base of Snowmass Ski Area, one of the largest and most family-friendly resorts in North America. With skiing and snowboarding on one of the largest and most highly regarded mountains in North America, it includes expert runs, long blue groomers and multiple beginner areas, boasting vast terrain for every ability, an abundance of deep snow and one of the longest vertical descents (1,343m or 4,406 ft.) of any ski resort in North America.



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6 luxurious trains that’ll spoil you


Trains are one of the oldest means of long-distance travel. They do a good job of providing an uncluttered, simple and straightforward travel experience where the problems are few and the advantages many. However, for those of us who’d like a touch of sophistication added to this seemingly simple mode of transport, what are the choices? Plenty, but here are the best among them. Many of these are well on par with the most luxurious of hotels, despite being quite old.

The Venice-Simplon Orient Express

The name instantly reminds you of the very famous novel ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ by renowned novelist Agatha Christie. Interestingly, the Venice-Simplon Orient Express by Belmond has quite a few similarities to the fictitious creation by Christie. The most distinctive being the opulence and magnetism as it is described in the book. This is achieved by the old-school charm of the restored early 20th century vintage cabins.

The train begins at London and runs through Paris, Innsbruck and Verona ending in Venice. The Belmond British Pullman is used for the UK leg of the journey and the ‘actual’ Orient Express begins only from Calais since the train is not licensed to travel through the Channel Tunnel. Intricate attention is given to the smallest of details. This is immediately apparent as soon as you step foot on the platform at the Calais Station. You’re greeted by a full regalia of 1930’s uniformed staff, your own carriage attendant and welcome drinks. The train has a mixed variation of single cabins, twin cabins and cabin suites. The train regularly runs full.

The Indian Pacific Trans-Continental

This 774 metre long embodiment of luxury is one of the very rare truly transcontinental trains, transcending across a staggering 4352 kilometres at a leisurely pace of 85 km/hr. The leisurely pace is perhaps the most luxurious thing the train has to offer as it subtly yet extremely effectively allows you to enjoy the breath-taking scenery of the Great Australian Outback cutting through everything from the mountains to the forests to the desert. Nonetheless, you’ll find yourself in ‘the middle of nowhere’ more times than you can count.

The platinum cabin which features a twin bed, long windows and an en-suite bathroom is the most opulent of the offerings. You also get access to an exclusive lounge and there’s also a fully stocked, partially self-service bar to indefinitely indulge in. The service is top-notch with a hint of friendly hospitality to it, consequently exuding a very warm atmosphere.

Royal Scotsman

Yet another exemplary offering by Belmond, this is one train which stands out on any list. More so since the addition of the Bamford Haybarn spa car (a dedicated spa carriage for the train). The setting is finely intimate, with a maximum of just 40 passengers on board which allows it to boast a remarkable passenger to staff ratio of 3:1. The vintage ambience is completely authentic owing to the 1960s equipment carefully preserved and used to this day.

The five sleeping carriages contain a variety of cabin configurations which include twin-bedded, double bedded and single bedded cabins. All the cabins contain compact en-suite bathrooms along with a dressing-table, full-length wardrobe and any other basic bedroom paraphernalia you can think of. Also, you’re guaranteed to sleep like a koala since the train stops on quiet sidings during the night-time.

The train’s trump card though is the observation car. It can accommodate all of the 40 people at once and provides an enthralling lookout to the amazing Scottish landscape scurrying past the Royal Scotsman.

Maharaja Express

This burgundy coloured kilometre long five-star hotel on rails is insanely luxurious; and that’s putting it mildly. It’s the most expensive luxury train in Asia. The services and amenities are said to remind oneself of a by-gone era, making you wonder how well the higher officials were served during colonialism. This train compromises on nothing. It’s almost the perfect train. The train travels from Mumbai in West-Central India to Delhi in the North passing through Rajasthan (Eastern Frontier).

There are various configurations of suites available with twin and double beds, all of which contain a full-size en-suite bathroom and a private butler who apparently doesn’t even need to be summoned. Service is impeccable. The signature offering however is the Presidential suite which essentially comprises of a whole carriage complete with its own sitting room, two bedrooms, two showers and a bath.

Dining on the Maharaja Express is unlike any other, the standard is such that even the best of hotels would be outrun single-handedly by the extremely talented chefs of the two restaurants on-board who have absolutely no qualms in going to any extent to meet the expectations of their esteemed guests.

Eastern & Oriental Express

Belmond knows their stuff pretty well. The Eastern & Oriental Express is the third one in this list which is an advent of Belmond. This train is spectacular in its own right not just for the luxury, but also owing to the fact that the train passes across three glorious nations in just two days; from Singapore to Thailand through Malaysia. You’d be challenged to find a more fabulous way to travel across three phenomenal different countries within two days.

The cosy cabin includes an elegant en-suite bathroom stacked up with every creature comfort you might ever need. Food is exquisite, to say the least and the chefs have no hesitancy in fulfilling any ‘special’ dietary requirements. But the most enticing is how the formal dress code in the dining area give way to create a royal air all over the carriage. The Eastern & Oriental is stark, beautiful and immensely satisfying at the same time for some stately reason which you can’t pinpoint as to why.

Seven Stars of Kyushu

This dark burgundy modern contemporary creation encompassed by handcrafted woodwork and delicate artwork is Japan’s triumphing answer to Belmond’s best. The interiors showcase the very finest of Japanese craftsmanship. Walls of rosewood and maple, walnut floors, shoji paper screens for window coverings and sliding glass doors etched with all sorts of contemporary patterns and artwork. It’s all very, Japanese; enkindling a soothingly exotic vibe.

The train contains just 12 en-suite rooms and 2 luxury suites. The occupancy of the suites is decided by a lottery and things tend to get pretty tense. Talk about exclusivity! The dining experience on this one might just be the best of all the avenues listed here. It deserves a separate article all by itself. The texture and appearance are as important as the taste. The dishes served are consistently photography worthy with immensely rare and extremely high quality ingredients being used. Every meal is a celebration.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but these can very much be considered the best of the best even though there are a lot of luxury trains out there offering wildly varying experiences. Every train in this list serves alcohol on-board. All the products mentioned here do of course have their shortcomings but they are highly subjective. Nevertheless, every journey listed here is guaranteed to gift you a once in a lifetime experience and a lot of things to reminisce on. Chug along now!



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Scenic train journeys in the Lake District


There are several scenic train journeys that take you an alternative tour of the Lake District. Pass through England’s highest mountain range and some of the oldest landscapes in Britain aboard a miniature narrow-gauge Steam Train. Wind your way between Ye Olde hamlets, where white-washed cottages with pretty gardens are clustered around merry traditional pubs. Puff alongside the water of Lake Windermere to catch a Steam Cruise vessel or take a sprint across the region and through the longest tunnel in Northern England.

The scenery from a train ride takes you away from the crowds, off the beaten track and cuts through the heart of the Lake District countryside. Hop on and off to delve deeper into the history and charm of this special place.

Journey back in time  

Ravenglass is the only coastal village in the UNESCO World Heritage site, the Lake District National Park. And it is from here that miniature Steam Trains take passengers on an ultra-scenic 7-mile route into the park’s very core to the village of Boot, passing alongside England’s largest mountains. In 1879 this was a journey made to transport iron ore. Today it is one of the most scenic travel experiences in England.

Before the drama of heading into the wilds of the mountainous Eskdale Valley, this 40 minute journey follows a picturesque route across the estuary and alongside the River Mite. Look out for red squirrels and birds of pray.

So, all aboard! Sit back within miniature-size carriages and puff gently along the longest narrow-gauge track in the Lake District, past a patchwork of green fields, drystone walls and idyllic countryside at the foot of the Scarfell Pike range.

Ravenglass, on England’s western coast is beautiful itself. The village is home to a once very important Roman Port as well as some of the most impressive Roman building remains in northern Britain. The walls of the Ravenglass Roman Bath House, owned by English Heritage, are impressive, at almost 4 metres high – the tallest standing Roman remains in northern Britain. Muncaster Castle and Gardens nearby is also well worth a visit where you can experience the impressive hunting skills of England’s native bird of prey, the hawk.

Luxury cruiser and carriage

The 3.2-mile route on a heritage Steam Train from Haverthwaite to Lakeside in the South Lakes, is perfectly complimented by a jaunt aboard a restored Steam Cruiser around the southern end of England’s largest lake, Windermere. Haverthwaite to Lakeside is a preserved section of Furness Railway giving passengers insight into a bygone era of English Victorian tourism.

Revel in the majestic power as your beautiful Steam Train pulls you masterfully through broadleaf woodlands and the picturesque countryside of the Leven Valley. Low, stone bridges fill with steam as you pass underneath, coming to a gentle stop at quaint stations, beautifully restored and featured on several TV series. You follow the River Leven to the final and most scenic stretch, travelling along as it and you join Lake Windermere. From Lakeside, transfer to a beautifully restored Windermere Lake Cruiser to continue your car-free day trip, exploring the sublime South Lakes scenery in style. The Lakeside Motor Museum and Lakes Aquarium are also popular attractions that are only a walk away from this railway journey.

Scenery, viaducts and tunnels  

And finally we must include ‘one of the most scenic train journey’s in England’ – the Settle to Carlisle Railway.

On this route, diesel sprinter trains cut effortlessly through 3 great mountain ranges of Northern England. Passengers are elevated to enjoy some of the most spectacular scenery and breathtaking views in Britain. Before finishing in the great border city of Carlisle, this 73-mile long journey takes passengers through the Yorkshire Dales, along the Lake District National Park and into the Eden Valley, north of the Lake District. This is a lush and quiet landscape where you can see the towering peaks of the Lakeland mountains in the background.

As well as the scenery there are lots of attractions along this route that makes it world-famous. From castle’s to mythical stone circles; mountains, rivers and waterfalls; to majestic Victorian architecture and remote stations. There are 11 stations,  14 tunnels and over 20 viaducts to take in on this sprint up northern England.

The Settle to Carlisle Railway experience is known for its viaducts, most famously the magnificent Ribblehead Viaduct with 24 grand arches cutting into the landscape. These can be enjoyed by getting off at one of the 11 stations and joining a network of walking trails. There are over 20 viaducts to look out for including Arten Gill, which featured in the Miss Potter film. Not long after the bend of the Ribblehead Viaduct is Blea Moor Tunnel, which is eerily 2,629 yd (2,404 m) long and the longest on the line. There are 13 other tunnels to look out for along this route.

Spectacular scenery, enjoyed the old-fashioned way!

Paul Liddell is the Managing Director at Lakelovers. Lakelovers provide quality self-catering cottages in the most popular Lake District holiday locations, including Windermere, Ambleside, Coniston, Grasmere, Keswick and Ullswater.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.



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London to New York: now more comfortable than ever


Thanks to a partnership between national carrier British Airways and leading lifestyle brand The White Company, travellers on the airline’s flagship route between London Heathrow and New York JFK are enjoying exclusive luxury with a better-than-ever sound night’s sleep in the sky. (New York also happens to be where The White Company has opened its first international flagship store, at 155, Fifth Avenue, in the city’s Flatiron district.)

In the air Club World passengers are treated to luxurious bedding and amenity kits from the iconic British retailer thanks to a £400 million British Airways investment overhaul which has focused upon not only excellence in the premium cabins but also more choice and quality for all travellers.

Club World customers are provided with a luxuriously soft large pillow and white cotton pillowcase to provide maximum comfort, along with an elegant day cushion, which can double up as a lumbar support when working or relaxing on board, a super-soft woven blanket with satin trim, a bespoke luxury duvet, and a padded mattress cover to give an extra layer of comfort and improve sleep quality, all courtesy of The White Company.

The new Club World amenity kits come in a bespoke bag from The White Company and contain products from the retailer’s ‘Restore & Relax Spa Collection’ offering a further touch of luxury in the sky. Each kit includes: Spa Relax Pulse Point Oil; a soothing treatment oil to help you unwind during the flight; Spa Restore Gentle Moisturiser; skin-conditioning cream with Vitamin E and jojoba oil to leave skin feeling soft and rejuvenated, and Spa Lip Balm to keep your lips soft and hydrated on board. The products have been specially selected to help counteract the effects of long haul air travel, with each item designed to provide a relaxing boost whenever needed during the flight.

And the news isn’t confined to the LHR-JFK route – this luxurious offering for Club World travellers is being gradually rolled out across British Airways’ long-haul network and will be completed by the Summer of 2018.

These little extras to the Club World experience have been inspired by feedback from customers and cabin crew alike. Now you can truly snuggle down and enjoy a good night’s sleep, arriving at your destination fully refreshed and ready and raring to go.

But also emerging from this feedback was the importance of quality food and drink, and a new restaurant-inspired dining service addresses this. Travellers are now able to select their choice of freshly prepared starters and desserts from new display trolleys, which will be served by crew on to new table settings.

All this will be without disturbing your sleep, of course. Breakfast cards are given out so that passengers can select if they wish to be woken for breakfast, or prefer to enjoy the comfort of their new luxurious bedding…

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by British Airways.



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The best hotels in the UK for an alternative Christmas


It’s fair to say that Christmas is not a relaxing time of year; families coming together in a cacophony of noise, the enormous pressure of perfecting the Christmas feast to feed the masses, end of year exhaustion… If only there were warm, cosy, characterful sanctuaries, for one to take refuge in at this hectic and frantic time of year. Oh wait, there are! Here we have compiled a list of the most atmospheric hotels in the UK which make for the perfect winter retreats…

Best for a pampering spa retreat: Coworth Park, Berkshire

Luxurious, glamorous and within easy access of London, if you’re looking for the finest service, beautiful surroundings and an effortlessly cool spa, then head to Coworth Park, immediately! The award-winning eco-friendly spa is an architectural delight; a beautiful glass structure that blends into a grassy bank, with a herb-garden rooftop.

There is a wide range of therapies within the eight treatment rooms, an indoor swimming pool, a streamlined gym, steam room and ‘experience shower’. There is a Spatisserie, an airy café which serves breakfast, lunch and snacks, which perfectly combines nutritionally balanced spa cuisine and chocolate cake. By the time you leave, Coworth Park will have you feeling ‘dry-cleaned and polished’, ready for the start of the New Year around the corner.

Best for foodies: Lucknam Park Hotel & Spa, Bath

Roll along the extensive drive that sweeps up to the 18th-century Palladian fronted property, and you will instantly have a sense of lavish grandeur. Lucknam Park is refined British style at its finest, and Michelin-starred Restaurant Hywel Jones emanates just this. Chef Hywel Jones earned the restaurant its Michelin star, and over the last thirteen years has been creating epic culinary wonders. Hywel picks sources the finest ingredients and works with local suppliers to ensure the fullest Christmassy flavours.

Alternatively, the Brasserie is a much more low-key affair, with an open kitchen and a wood-burning stove, and when you’ve pulled yourself out of the comfy armchairs, mince pies and mulled wine are served in the library after Midnight Mass at Colerne Parish Church.

Best for outdoor activities: Gleneagles, Perthshire

Gleneagles, set amidst 850 acres of ravishing Perthshire countryside, is an ideal setting for those looking for a blustery winter adventure in the wilderness of the Scottish Lowlands, and at Christmas it pulls out all the stops. Best known for its golf, with three 18-hole champion courses, other leisure pursuits and activities abound, including horse riding, fishing, falconry and shooting, tennis, cycling, archery and off-road driving.  But it doesn’t stop there, the 5-star country estate lays on an ice rink with Olympic coaches, a grotto for Santa and his elves, and even a Peter Pan pantomime!

Best for urban chic: Claridge’s, London

Claridge’s is London’s most glamorous grand dame, and is a splendidly decadent, if a little unusual, affair at Christmas. The famously fashionable hotel has, for the last eight years, entrusted Karl Lagerfeld to magic up a Christmas tree creation, and this year is no less magnificent and unique. An upended, bedecked tree, resting on a snowy sheepskin, its branches dripping with icicles and the roots twist around a mirrored star.

Other Christmas tree designers at the iconic Mayfair hotel include Christopher Bailey, John Galliano and Dolce & Gabbana. If this tree doesn’t get you into the festive spirit, then we suggest a cosy horse-drawn carriage ride with hot chocolate and marshmallows, followed by Champagne in the Lalique-panelled Fumoir and a decadent Christmas lunch.

Best for a quintessentially British retreat: Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saison, Oxfordshire

Celebrated chef Raymond Blanc’s Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons epitomises the quintessential charming country house retreat. The grandest and oldest house in a small, idyllic Oxfordshire village, it is a wonderfully preserved 15th century Chiltern manor house and straight-up old-fashioned luxury, and it looks a picture too with a Christmas tree in each individually designed bedroom, and two more at the top of the lavender path. And the food is, of course, magnificent with a seven-course Christmas menu including roast goose with apple, black pudding, chestnuts and all the trimmings.

Best for families: Chewton Glen, New Forest

Chewton Glen is one of a kind for children and parents alike. A grand family-owned manor house surrounded by 130 acres of beautiful English gardens and parkland, it is the perfect place to come for some countryside fun. Book one of the luxurious and cosy treehouses for an exciting place to stay for all; each suite with its own terrace hot tub, breakfast hamper, wood stove and gourmet mini-bar. On Christmas Eve join the house party with a treasure hunt for the kids and a cabaret and dinner for parents, and a special falconry display is organised for Boxing Day.

Best for house parties: Aldourie Castle, Loch Ness

For a truly different multi-generational Christmas, the beautiful and ethereal Aldourie Castle, on the banks of Loch Ness, is the perfect choice. Experience a world of pure indulgence and take over the entire castle with your family, to enjoy exclusively and privately, as your own home. Wholly yours for the duration of your stay, there is no limit to the luxury you can experience, and no rules and regulations, other than respect and common sense!

It can be as relaxed or as active as you like; immerse yourself in a book by a roaring log fire, savour a drink and good conversation around the table, embark on exclusive country pursuits or plan a private banquet; great parties needn’t be put off until New Year’s Eve!

What do you think about having an alternative Christmas? Please do comment below, we’d love to know what you think. If you’d like to discuss your Christmas getaway plans with us, then please do get in touch.

James Jayasundera is Founder and Managing Director of Ampersand Travel.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.



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5 Lake District Christmas traditions


The Lake District is home to some of the most beautiful, quintessentially English villages and towns in Britain and is a wonder to visit over Christmas.

In the north, the glut of festive lights of Keswick gives out a merry signal; the welcoming warmth of Grasmere in the central Lake District draws visitors together in top-class eateries and cosy traditional pubs; and the car-free hamlet of Hawkshead is like stepping back in time to a joyous episode of The Muppets Christmas Carol!

Mountain peaks are covered in powdery snow, native deer wonder vast country estates and Victorian steam vessels glide across tranquil lakes, ferrying passengers between festivities. The Lake District at Christmas is full of charm, magic, and wonder.

We look at 5 festive traditions that are very much still at the heart of a Lake District Christmas.

1. Carol singing

On a dark, wintry night the merriment from one particularly idyllic Lake District gastro pub can be heard. During December, the Masons Arms, tucked at the foot of Cartmel Fell, hosts traditional carol singing around the Christmas tree followed by a hotpot supper. This typically English Christmas tradition continues in pubs across the region and shows no signs of fading. Expect some audience participation at the Swinside Inn where the Fallen Angels Choir will be singing classic carols.

For an even livelier sing-song, the streets of the north Lake District market town of Keswick come alive for a Christmas Eve community carol singing service. The jolly sound of Christmas carols can be heard at many of the Lake District’s traditional Christmas Fayres too, such as the Hawskhead Christmas Fair & Beer Festival.

Let traditional English folk carols like Boars Head, the Gloucestershire Wassail and Gaudete as well as singalongs that kids will love like Deck the Halls, We Three Kings, Good King Wenceslas and of course Jingle Bells get you in the festive spirit.

Christmas is also great time of year to enjoy some of the Lake District’s world-class choirs, including the Lakes Gospel Choir, Ambleside Choral Society and the Keswick Choral Society. From the world-famous Theatre by the Lake and ever-growing Keswick Jazz Festival to the Lakeland Sinfonia, there’s lot in the Lake District to get feet tapping this winter.

2. Lavish feasts

The Lake District is famed as a foodie destination, such is the proliferation of artisan producers, award-winning regional wares and Michelin dining based around a source-to-plate concept celebrating the region’s top harvests. And what better time of year to enjoy this than Christmas.

For world-class dining the ‘Yellow Earl’s’ 19th century stately manor house, Holbeck Ghyll overlooking lake Windermere, will impress. Storrs Hall, Armathwaite Hall, the Laura Ashley Hotel, the swanky Michelin-starred Samling restaurant on Windermere or the hidden Forest Side upmarket gentleman’s retreat in Grasmere are top Lake District restaurants for this festive season.

Seasonal menu’s include a veritable feast of Lakeland lamb, salt baked celeriac, smoked potato, charred onions, cured salmon and brown shrimp, followed by the likes of orange panna cotta or a selection of British cheeses. All washed down with a delightful Sauvignon Blanc and 10-year-old Broadbent Maderia – heaven!

3. Christingle Services

Traditional English advent services take place on the four Sunday’s before Christmas in churches across the Lake District. The Keswick Parish church at the heart of the welcoming Keswick community hosts a beautiful Christingle service on Christmas eve as well as a carol service by candlelight on the 3rd Advent Sunday.

Many Lake District churches start the celebrations of the birth of Jesus with a Midnight Mass, based on the tradition that Jesus was born at night and worshipers return home to a warming mince pie and mulled wine.

Famous English poet, William Wordsworth and his family attended the parish church of Grasmere, Rydal and Langdale in Grasmere. Wordsworth also had connections to St Michael and All Angels Church, Hawkshead (as pictured) where he attended the Grammar school. In St Andrew’s Church, Coniston rest the bodies of eminent writer and art critic John Ruskin and artist W.G. Collingwood. These are beautiful church’s to visit anytime of the year, but are particularly special during advent and Christmas.

4. Wintry walk

The Lake District landscape arose from a violent geological past, but on a wintry day it is a dreamy wonderland of snowy white mountains, crunchy frosted woodlands and ice-covered tarns and waterfalls. With the beautiful low light that comes with this time of year, getting out on a winter’s walk is a Boxing and New Year’s Day tradition that most Brits never fail to miss.

Guided winter walks up the sharp summit of England’s highest peak, Scafell Pike in the remote Wasdale valley must be one of the best ways to celebrate this winter wonderland.

An ascent up Helvellyn from Striding Edge is another tricky climb that is best climbed with assistance during wintry weather conditions. Brave winter walkers in this stunning part of the Lake District are rewarded with dramatic views and often a frozen Red Tarn. From the old English meaning ‘steep place’, the Stickles and tarns in the Langdale Valley also make for great wintry walks and there’s plenty of low-level rambling here too,  so you can enjoy this epic valley in safety. Smaller peaks that offer impactful views include Brantfell, as shown in this picture and Loughrigg from Ambleside.

Walking poles are valuable winter walking equipment, as well as trail boots and a coat designed for four seasons, as you can often get this when walking in the Lakes. Don’t forget a charged mobile, to check the weather and to return in daylight, when walking in winter.

5. Hot toddy

After enjoying a few hours outdoors, return for a warming ‘hot toddy’ is just the tonic. Or so it is in the Lake District!

The ‘hot toddy’ is a Scottish-invented cocktail consisting of bourbon, honey, hot water and lemon and was invented in the 1700s and was said to have medicinal, cold-fighting benefits. Spices such as cloves and nutmeg were often included, making this a very seasonal tipple that is still enjoyed today. We recommend a slice local beekeeper honeycomb for an extra health kick.

Other warming winter drinks that are traditionally enjoyed during this festive period are Eggnog to welcome in the New Year, a 13th century drink enjoyed by English monks, or a creamy Irish Coffee where you can mix up the cream, whiskey and coffee ratio’s to your tasting! To sample some of the finest Lake District festive spirits, we’d recommend a visit to the award-winning Lakes Distillery in the beautiful Bassenthwaite region. We love their Boozy Baubles too!

For ale drinkers, a visit to the impressive Beer Hall at Hawkshead Brewery, just outside Windermere, is blissful any time of year but for Christmas try their 4.5% cask and bottled Jingle Bells – a perfect mix of smoke and spice flavourings.

Cheers and Merry Christmas from the Lake District!

Paul Liddell is the Managing Director at Lakelovers.

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Staying relaxed… with a staycation


We’re all familiar with the travel giant Expedia and how it serves as a one-stop shop for booking flights, hotels, car hire and package holidays. It’s led the way in online travel since before the millennium, having originally formed in 1999.

But did you know that Expedia also has a dedicated staycation section on its website where you can book a hotel and rail journey/flight at a competitive price?  Staycations in the UK have seen a huge surge in recent years, fuelled further by Brexit and a weak pound. In fact, domestic tourism hasn’t had it this good for quite a while. And you can see the appeal – no passports required, no need to get money changed, no need to brush up on the lingo… and so on and so forth.

And perhaps unsurprisingly, London is the most popular staycation of them all, ahead of Edinburgh in second and Manchester third. I took it upon myself to try out Expedia’s website for a recent stay in London to see just how easy the booking process is, and partake in a staycation of my own. I wanted to be in a central location for my visit, entered my dates and found the map a great way of homing in on a good hotel (you can also select by star rating) in an area where I wanted to be.  From there, I could quickly review prices in a visually helpful way.

I picked out the Trafalgar St. James Hotel which was a little more competitively priced than some of its neighbouring competitors. Clicking on the hotel allowed me to find out more about it, see photos and learn about the hotel’s amenities.

Particularly helpful is the option to read reviews from verified travellers who you can be confident have stayed in the hotel.

With high scores all round, all that remained was to book!

Days later, I found myself at the hotel in the late afternoon just as the darkness was falling. The hotel is in a great location and, as the name suggests, right next to Trafalgar Square. It has also recently undergone a refurbishment.

Once inside, one of the things that really struck me was how quiet the hotel was, in contrast to the hustle and bustle outside; it immediately puts you at ease. I was warmly greeted and upgraded to a Trafalgar Suite. The bed was a great size, with quality linen, perfect for a great night’s sleep.

Next to the bed is a tablet and docking station which you can use to find out more about hotel services and the local area, or do things such as set an alarm.

The room is spacious and has a split level, with some comfortable seating a few steps up, separated by glass panelling.

A few treats had been kindly left – some fruit, macaroons and other sweet treats – along with some reading material and a welcome note.

The bathroom is a good size and with a great shower.

The hotel is a member of the Curio Collection by Hilton. Back down on the ground floor, close to reception is a bar and restaurant. (The hotel also has its own rooftop bar and a private lounge downstairs.)

The Trafalgar Dining Rooms is an atmospheric place to dine, though arguably a little on the dark side, so please excuse the photographs! The restaurant is not too stuffy and offers a pleasing balance of intimacy and informality.

The food is cleanly presented and not over-complicated. I had the starter of aubergine, romesco, apple and coriander. Although traditionally a sauce designed to go with fish, the romesco complimented this dish beautifully.

For my main, I went for the grilled stone bass, tomato, samphire and spring onion. The fish was cooked to perfection – wonderfully moist and tender and yet with a delicious, crispy skin on the outside.

And for dessert, a fig tart with almond ice cream rounded things off rather nicely! If you are ever staying at the hotel, I’d highly recommend dining there on at least one evening. You’ll hopefully not only find it convenient, but also a rather enjoyable experience.

The next morning, I could appreciate the location of my room a little better. It was immediately opposite Canada House, the High Commission of Canada to the UK and, as you can see from this shot through the window, had a great view of Nelson’s Column on the south side of Trafalgar Square.

Breakfast also didn’t fail to disappoint. As well as the selection from the breakfast bar, you can choose from an a la carte breakfast menu. I’d heartiliy recommend the wild mushrooms on toasted brioche with a fried duck egg, spring onions and roasting jus.

Venturing outside the hotel, you soon get a feel for how this hotel’s location is perfect for a staycation in the capital city. Following its refurbishment in the Autumn, it will surely bring a new level of excitement, vibrancy and sense of discovery to the capital, capturing the hearts of Londoners and visitors alike.

As well as being close to Trafalgar Square, you of course have the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery on your doorstep.

You’re also just a short walk from the English National Opera and the Garrick Theatre, as well as all the main theatres of the West End.

Charing Cross (on the Northern and Bakerloo lines) is your nearest Tube station, but the likes of Piccadilly Circus (Piccadilly and Bakerloo lines), Leicester Square (Northern and Piccadilly lines) and Embankment (Circle, District, Northern and Bakerloo lines) are all walkable, meaning that you can easily reach any part of the city, depending on what you want to do on your staycation, whether it’s shopping, sightseeing or something else.

Will you be trying a staycation in the next year?  Does the prospect of a staycation appeal?  If so, please tell us in the comments – we’d love to hear your thoughts and plans!

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Expedia.



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