Set within a loops of the river Severn, Shrewsbury is home to striking half-timbered Tudor and Jacobean buildings. With more than 650 of the edifices listed, many of them, including Shrewsbury's castle, are medieval. A wander through the winding streets is a joy at any time of year. Home of a vibrant music and arts scene, this compact town is far from dull and makes a wonderful winter weekend destination.
At the heart of the town-centre life of Shrewsbury with its shops, bars, cafes, art galleries and medieval streets is the Lion & Pheasant boutique hotel. Housed within an historic 16th-century inn, the hotel mixes original character and beamed ceilings with contemporary décor and eclectic furniture. Here, you can enjoy a romantic fine dining experience in a relaxed and comfortable setting, or sip your drink of choice in the stylish bar. Walk off your lunch with a stroll along the riverside, only a short distance away. Make the Lion & Pheasant your base to explore the fascinating country town of Shropshire.
The Cotswolds are magnificent at any time of year, but in autumn the rolling hills are truly breath taking. When thinking of picture-perfect Cotswold villages, they don’t come much more picturesque than Upper and Lower Slaughter in Gloucestershire. These villages with their charming riverside cottages, stone bridges crossing the River Eye are hard to beat for autumnal walks. Take a turn around Eyford House. Crunch through the fallen leaves on your riverside walk before repairing to a delightful country pub to warm up.
Travel further afield to one or both of the best-known Cotswold towns, Stow-on-the-Wold and Moreton-in-Marsh. Stow is an important shopping centre and has many fine antique shops, art galleries and craftsmen. Once the scene of huge annual fairs where as many as 20,000 sheep were sold at one time, Stow remains a fascinating market town entered across a bridge over the river. Moreton-in-Marsh is one of the principal market towns of the Cotswolds, situated on the Fosse Way Roman road. Full of 18th century houses and coaching houses, Moreton-in-Marsh still holds a market every Thursday around the Redesdale Market Hall. Wherever you go in the Cotswolds you will be surprised and delighted by the golden stoned towns and picture perfect villages.
The Slaughters Country Inn in Lower Slaughter is a great choice for exploring the footpaths and bridleways. In the evening, settle down by the roaring fireside enjoying a pint of local ale and the Inn's excellent gastro-pub fare made with the finest local produce. The Slaughters Country Inn is part of the AA Hotel Group of the Year 2017-18.
Blending traditional features of the oldest part of the house with contemporary design, the Inn’s 25 guest rooms and six charming cottages are all designed to reflect the property’s unique character. The friendly and rustic bar welcomes guests with sofas and shelves lined with books and board games. All in all, the perfect winter retreat from the hustle and bustle of Christmas preparations!
One of the most complete medieval villages in England, Lavenham was built by wealthy wool merchants of the Tudor era. Stroll through the historic town with its half-timbered houses, the Guildhall, the market cross, quaint shops, pubs and restaurants for a memorable visit. Notice the large oak doors, wide enough to allow the wool sacks to be unloaded during the halcyon days of the village. Despite its bustling past, Lavenham has remained small, making it an easy place to get to know.
The birthplace of the painter Thomas Gainsborough is in nearby Sudbury. Here you can wander through the museum and gallery then view the garden. An ancient mulberry tree still stands as the garden’s centrepiece, just as it did when it was planted in the early 1600s. Sudbury is also home to ancient water meadows which make a great walking option. Or follow in the footsteps of Queen Elizabeth I and Beatrix Potter at Melford Hall. This charming brick mansion is a great day out for all the family. If you have more than a weekend you could go further afield to charming Bury St Edmunds, the National Trust's Ikworth House or West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village for a living history experience.
The Swan is a stunning 4 star hotel with high quality dining, located in the heart of the historic centre. The afternoon tea is a must and there are frequent lunch and dinner events so make sure you check what's on. The hotel has 45 perfectly appointed bedrooms with all the little luxuries you need. Each room is utterly individual as they are all slightly different and as charming as they are comfortable. Any stay at the Swan comes with style and flair built in.
Faversham, the oldest market town in Kent, is a must for those in search of a great place to unwind. Located on a winding creek, Faversham is bursting with history. With an eclectic mix of independent shops, nearby places to visit, great walks and a reputation for fine food.
Faversham was the centre of the nation's explosive’s industry for 400 years so you can pay a call to Oare Gunpower Works or the 18th century Chart Gunpowder Mills. If you prefer the outdoors why not visit the national fruit collections at Brogdale or Mount Ephraim Gardens. If you book enough months in advance you could treat yourself to a table at The Sportsman pub, the Michelin starred restaurant. Lovely Whitstable and its oyster restaurants are a short drive away too. There is so much to see and do around Faversham you will be spoilt for choice.
A great choice for a weekend away is The Sun Inn, a beautiful old town-centre inn full of heritage. The pub, in Faversham’s conservation area, is full of original features like inglenook fireplaces and oak beams. It’s one of the most popular pubs in Faversham to drink, eat and stay, providing 12 stylish rooms. Just a short stroll from the Shepherd Neame brewery, The Sun serves distinctive Kentish cask ales of course. In addition to being a haven for real ale aficionados, the pub also offers a variety of top quality snacks and main meals to be enjoyed in the bar, restaurant or (in clement weather) in the courtyard garden. Take you morning coffee and breakfasts in the adjoining No.9 Coffee Shop. Escape the everyday and drink in the atmosphere of one of Faversham’s oldest pubs.
Glorious Camber Sands
Camber, located east of the ancient Cinque Ports town of Rye, has over 2 miles of beach, much of it golden sands. Home to the only sand dune system in East Sussex, it provides a valuable natural habitat to many animals and plants. Camber Sands isn't just dreamy in the summer months. In the autumn and winter months you can take a blustery walk along the beach and over the dunes. Nearby Rye is a 'must visit'. Once a port from Roman times, the harbour silted up gradually stranding the town inland.
Perched on a hill, the medieval town’s unhurried atmosphere and enchanting streets are dreamy. Rye is small enough to make you feel at home but with so much to discover. Antiques, books, records and artisan goods are Rye’s speciality, along with galleries, evidence of the town's thriving art community. Cobbled streets and narrow passages are ready to explore. Mermaid Street is peppered with ancient buildings and the renowned 15th century Mermaid Inn.
Winchelsea is another of the Cinque Ports stranded by the receding sea. The town now stands on an inland hilltop. This stunning village has ancient roots and its picturesque Georgian houses have inspired many an artist.
Romney Marsh - known for its natural beauty, the diversity of its habitats, rich history, extensive coastline and its sheep - is within easy reach of Camber. Even if you don't get to visit it is likely that you will have the opportunity to sample some of the region's fine produce, particularly the celebrated 'Salt Marsh Lamb'.
Once you've been for a bracing walk or done your days out to the local attractions, cosy up at the Gallivant. A restaurant with rooms, just across the road from the dunes, the Gallivant is relaxing hideaway. The 20 beautiful bedrooms have super-soft beds and giant roll top baths. The lounge boasts a log fire and a book-lined snug. The hotel's restaurant has a locally sourced menu that's well worth sampling. This coastal styled accommodation is a great choice for a weekend to recharge your batteries.
Hip Hebden Bridge
On the confluence of two rivers, hidden in a narrow valley alongside the windswept Pennine moors of Cragg Vale, stands Hebden Bridge. Home to my mother's family, this small town of weathered sandstone cottages is quite different to its neighbours, Mytholmroyd and Heptonstall. The reason for this is that it attracted the hippy movement from the 70s onward, thus turning itself into a unique destination.
Hebden Bridge grew up as a settlement on the packhorse route between Halifax and Burnley. Steep hills with fast-flowing streams and access to major wool markets meant that the town was ideal for water-powered weaving mills. The Rochdale canal passing through Hebden Bridge ensured that the cloth manufactured there could be distributed with ease. Now these signs of the town's origins house art, culture and independent shops, selling everything from vintage crockery and luxury soft furnishings to Fair Trade food. Colourful barges now tie up on the canal, once the bustling hub of the "Trouser Town". Hebden Bridge is also a market town so you can browse from Thursday to Sunday each week.
Hebden Bridge is a great base for exploring the local area. Hardcastle Crags is a spectacular place for a walk. Brave the stepping stones over the river or take in the views at the top of rocky outcrops or visit picturesque Gibson Mill - stop for tea at the National Trust cafe there. Also nearby is Halifax with its plethora of activities and places to see. Don't miss the wonderful market, housed in a grand Victorian hall, or the 18th century Piece Hall where local wool merchants used to sell their 'pieces' of cloth. After a massive renovation project, the Piece Hall is now home to high-quality boutiques and unique shops for artisans, it is also an event and festival space as well as housing heritage spaces where you can learn the history of this magnificent building. There is so much more to see funky Hebden Bridge and the surrounding area that a weekend may not be enough!
Why not stay at Croft Mill serviced apartments? Combining comfort and style with the added freedom of self-catering facilities should you just want to cuddle up instead of venturing out to eat. The amenities of Hebden Bridge are a short walk away. This 4 star property comes with secure parking and WiFi. A Complimentary Welcome Breakfast Pack with fresh local produce is provided, full of all the ingredients necessary to complete a unique breakfast experience at Croft Mill. The perfect choice for immersing yourself in this historic and quirky town.
We hope you are feeling inspired to discover wonderful small towns in England this winter. To book a weekend at any of these properties or a selection of handpicked accommodation get in touch now.