Category Archives: Great Hotel Deals

The History of Afternoon Tea

With dainty finger sandwiches, delicate little cakes and delicious scones with lashings of jam and cream, there’s nothing quite so quintessentially British as afternoon tea. As a nation, afternoon tea has been one of our favourite pastimes since the early 19th century.

But the popularity of TV shows like The Great British Bake Off in recent years has given this great British culinary tradition a whole new lease of life. The British aristocracy is said to have introduced the tradition of afternoon tea. In 1840 Anna Russell, the 7th Duchess of Bedford started to dine on bread, butter and tea in the afternoon, as a bridge between breakfast and supper. The Duchess began to invite her friends to join her, and before long afternoon tea was established as a private social function across fashionable society.

Today, afternoon tea is enjoyed throughout the world. From traditional afternoon tea to champagne afternoon tea and cream tea, this treasured tradition has never been more popular. Read on to discover some interesting facts about our favourite pastime…

6 interesting facts about afternoon tea

Scones didn’t feature in afternoon tea until the 20 th century. The correct order in which jam and cream should be spread onto a scone varies according to where you come from. According to tradition, if you’re from Devon, it’s cream first and then jam, whilst people in Cornwall prefer to add jam first followed by cream.

Afternoon tea was introduced as a social event for the upper classes. Unlike afternoon tea, high tea was a much more substantial meal comprising of tea, bread, cakes, meat and pies. Traditionally enjoyed by the working classes, it became popular in Britain during the 19 th century Industrial Revolution. High tea still exists in some parts of Northern England and Scotland. Tasty savory dishes, followed by tea, cakes and scones are traditionally served from late afternoon to early evening.

Britain is known as a nation of tea lovers. In fact, we’re said to consume over 62 billion cups of tea a year. Assam, Ceylon and Darjeeling are major types of black tea and ideal for pairing with afternoon tea. Earl Grey and English Breakfast are two of the most popular black tea blends and firm favourites.

The record for the biggest scone ever baked is held by New Zealander Shaun McCarthy in August 2010. It weighed in at 119.45 kg and measured 117 cm in diameter!

The Victoria Sponge cake, or Victoria Sandwich, was very popular during the reign of Queen Victoria. Known for having a very sweet tooth, Queen Victoria enjoyed many tea parties during her reign, and this delicious sponge cake was said to be one of her favourites.

At one time it was customary to pour milk into a tea cup first, mainly to cool the tea in order to prevent poor quality cups from cracking when adding hot water. Nowadays milk first or last is down to personal preference and taste.

Afternoon tea: a social event for all occasions

A social event for all occasions, afternoon tea is an enjoyable way to celebrate a birthday, a christening or an anniversary. Although why wait for a special occasion when you can get together with friends and family to indulge in a delightful afternoon treat anytime.

With its splendid and ornate period features, the 16th century Billesley Manor Hotel near Stratford-upon- Avon is the perfect setting to savour a delicious traditional afternoon tea.

At the Billesley Manor Hotel, enjoy great company and conversation over a decadent three-tiered serving of delicate finger sandwiches with traditional fillings, mouthwatering cakes and scrumptious homemade scones with strawberry jam and clotted cream, together with the finest tea. Afterwards, take a walk around the hotel’s pretty 100-year- old topiary garden.

There are many Places and Country House Hotels to visit in the Cotswolds

The Cotswolds is one of England’s favourite destinations, famous for its rolling hills and idyllic villages. The quintessentially English towns that dot the region boast fairy-tale names like Stow-on-the-Wold and Moreton-in-Marsh, with Chipping Campden always on the tourist route. You’ll also find thatched cottages, twisting footpaths and honey-colour limestone villages in a beautiful rural setting filled with fabulous country house hotels .

Plan Your Visit

Plan ahead for your visit to this part of the English countryside. You can walk over hills or through idlyllic villages and head out on cycle paths with the family. Stop at a Cotswold pub for lunch or browse outdoor foodie and artisanal markets before returning to your idyllic country house hotel  for a great meal and a good night’s rest.

This part of the gently undulating and seemingly evergreen countryside is enough to send Anglophile tourists into rapture

However, long before the tourist invasion, the Romans left their legacy in Cirencester, and the remains of villas and forts can be seen from Bury Hill to Woodchester.

Chipping Campden – a great Cotswold Village

Chipping Campden is one of the most beautiful tourist destinations in the Cotswolds . It is ideal for that short break. The location in the North Cotswolds is an ideal base for your accommodation for a touring break.

You can enjoy this charming old wool merchants’ town, and the nearby surrounding shire counties of Oxfordshire, Worcestershire and Warwickshire.

Chipping Campden Country House HotelsEvery year, the scenery around Chipping Campden delights visitors to this ‘Jewel of the Cotswolds‘. From snowdrops pushing through the snow in winter; bluebells in the woodland in springtime; to the fields carpeted with poppies in early summer. As summer progresses, you can take some short walks around the hills surrounding Campden and view the fields of lavender.  Finally, Autumn sees the fields of bales of hay and trees and fields turn gold.

“Chipping” means market or market place from the old English “Ceping”. Campden was already established in the 7th century and derives its name from the Saxon “Campa-denu” or “Campadene”, meaning a valley with fields or enclosures of cultivated land.

Chipping Campden was a rich wool trading centre in the Middle Ages enjoying the patronage of wealthy wool merchants. Today it is a popular Cotswold tourist destination with old inns, a country house hotels, specialist shops and restaurants. The High Street is lined with honey-coloured limestone buildings, built from Cotswold stone, and boasts a wealth of fine architecture. In the town stands the Market Hall with its splendid arches, built in 1627. In 1970 the High Street and much of the rest of the town was officially designated a conservation area to preserve the ancient town for centuries to come.

Other attractions include the grand wool church of St James – with its medieval altar frontals and vast and extravagant 17th-century monuments – as well as the Court Barn near the church is now a museum celebrating the rich Arts and Crafts tradition of the area

Hidcote near country house hotelsThere are two famous and historic gardens nearby: at Hidcote Manor Garden, owned and managed by the National Trust, and at Kiftsgate, privately owned but open to the public.

As you can see, the Cotswolds and the area around Chipping Campden make a perfect place to visit. Whether in summer or winter, there’s always something to fascinate you.

Why Inverness Should Be Your Next Holiday Hotspot

Anyone who has been to a hotel in Scotland will have fallen in love with it. It’s inevitable; the landscape, the history, the accent, the people… it’s all the stuff that great literature is made of (no wonder J.K Rowling was inspired in her Edinburgh café), and of course, great holidays as well.

Chief amongst Scotland’s beautiful locations is the Highlands city of Inverness, a beautiful hotel in Scotland,  on the banks of the River Ness, which even by Lonely Planet’s lofty standards is recommended as the area’s chief attraction, providing an idyllic scenic stroll towards Ness Islands.

Bespoke - Columba Inverness
Columba Inverness

Linked to one another and the riverbank by Victorian footbridges, the islands are planted with mature Scots pine and fir trees, and when the weather holds it’s the perfect opportunity to tuck into a decadent picnic basket. Take a tipple in your hip flask and enjoy watching the Anglers catch salmon in the afternoon before completing a circular walk by returning on the opposite bank to your starting point on your way back to your chosen hotel in Scotland.

On that note, I recommend that you start at The Columba Hotel. The historic building dating back to 1881 has enviable views and a charming restaurant where you can refuel at the end of that day pottering about.

Bespoke - Columba Inverness Bedrooms
Columba Inverness Bedrooms

The hotel looks out not just at the river, but also at another of Inverness’s iconic attractions. The hill above the city is capped by the Baronial turrets of Inverness Castle, a pink sandstone confection of a building that dates back to 1847. It’s not open to the public but the views from the surrounding gardens are admirable – such is the theme of this particular hotel in Scotland.

If that heavy emphasis on walking tires you out at the mere thought, the water is your next stop. Loch Ness made its name thanks to legend and a little help from the movies, so a trip on the water with the likes of Jacobite Cruises seems as good an excuse as any to see what the fuss is about. They offer 90 minute cruises from Tomnahurich Bridge, pointing out the various landmarks along the way from the Caledonian Canal and onto the loch itself.

Bespoke - Columba Inverness

The day has to be completed with a little cultural jaunt, and for this there is nothing finer than the Eden Court Theatre. Drama, dance, comedy, film and music fill the calendar so it’s worth taking a peek before you head off, and plan what you want to see.

All in all, a hotel in Scotland offers a rich tapestry of things to do and places to go, but Inverness is most definitely one of the many jewels in its crown, perfect for a weekend getaway.




Chic Hotels: Why 2015 is Right For A London Staycation

When it comes to cities and chic hotels, few are as awe inspiring as London, particularly when the sun is shining. Yet for most of us who live here it’s not often we take the time to really enjoy it. The city has so much to offer, and personally if I had a weekend in London in the sunshine I could think of nothing better than checking into one the chic hotels and exploring it through the eyes of a first-time visitor.

Chic Hotels La Suite West
La Suite West Hotel Hyde Park

While north London has its character and central London has untold
vibrancy, it’s south west London that wins when it comes to charm however, particularly in the summer months and so for this time of year that is where I would focus my urban adventure for chic hotels.

Kensington and Chelsea are almost impossible to beat for elegance and with them come some of London’s most iconic sites. The Royal Albert Hall and Kensington Palace are a living, breathing part of the city’s history while Notting Hill with its array of postcard perfect houses broadly lives up to its romantic reputation as depicted in Hugh Grant’s rom-com classic. It’s probably also got some of the best boutiques in the area (including charity shops that redefine the genre).

chic hotels The Lodge Putney
The Lodge Putney

Meanwhile, there’s also the leafy village of Putney, the large open space of Wimbledon Common (perfect for Wombling), and events including the historic Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge, and of course the upcoming Wimbledon tennis which always inspires excitement, even if you’re mostly in it for the strawberries and cream.

Perhaps one of the greatest joys in South West London however, is simply watching the world go by, so it’s fortunate that it’s brimming with coffee shops, pubs and restaurants with outdoor spaces and gardens. Few things are finer than a leisurely weekend lunch in the sun as the world pootles around you in this little corner of the metropolis – it really is a world unto its own.

chic hotels La Suite West
La Suite West Lobby

When it comes to chic hotels, a favourite is The Lodge Hotel, a contemporary gem and former coach house nestled into a Victorian terrace that’s otherwise characteristic of its home in Putney. It has a conservatory at the back (in case you prefer the quiet of the hotel to the aforementioned pub), and it’s close to the tube should you care to go beyond this little oasis of calm and explore the wider capital.

So many people come to London every year for work and play, and see it through excited eyes, so perhaps this summer is the year for an urban staycation; time when you can look up at the beautiful architecture rather than down into the murky Underground, and instead of thinking of London in terms of job prospects and daily commutes, rediscover is as the beating heart of England, throbbing with culture, stories and exceptionally good food.