• Archive for December, 2015

    Shop and stay the night

    by  • 04/12/2015 • Country moment • 0 Comments

    Christmas shopping breaksMake an occasion of Christmas present-buying this year with a night away at a super stylish hotel. Our top three are in small cities full of character and charm for the most relaxing of stays. Take a dip in thermal water pools in Bath, enjoy William & Mary-style architecture with private walled gardens in York, or view an extensive art collection and Georgian townhouse elegance in Dublin. Festive shopping trips have never been such a pleasure!

    The Gainsborough, Bath
    Set in two listed buildings in the heart of this World Heritage Site, this recently opened hotel is within a stone’s throw of the Roman Baths. A short stroll towards Bath Abbey takes you to the bustling Christmas Market (daily until 13 December) where you can warm up with mulled wine and find artisan gifts for friends. Or head to the Milsom Quarter for shops among Georgian streets and charming courtyards. Kick back after a busy day’s shopping and enjoy a pampering spa treatment or a soak in the hotel’s thermal water pools. In the evening, treat yourself to delicious Michelin-star food and winter cocktails, then take the easy walk back to your luxurious room for a peaceful night’s sleep. From £310 for a double room with breakfast.

    The Merrion Hotel, Dublin
    This elegant townhouse (pictured) has a relaxed vibe and nothing is too much trouble for the friendly staff. It’s on the doorstep of shops and galleries with lovely green spaces nearby. Designer stores are just around the corner on South Anne Street and Grafton Street, while Powerscourt Townhouse on South William Street offers independent shops selling beautiful art, crafts and interiors goodies. Take a break for coffee (and more shopping perhaps?) at the colourful Avoca café on Suffolk Street. Return to your hotel for an art-themed tea and a tour of the hotel’s magnificent art collection. Choose from garden rooms in a courtyard to spacious suites towards the magnificent front hall. From €275 for a double room, including breakfast.

    Middlethorpe Hall, York
    If you love to shop, but prefer to be a little further from the bustling streets by night, then Middlethorpe Hall, a William & Mary country house hotel, can’t be beaten. Owned by the National Trust, it’s a great base for visiting the Yorkshire Dales, too. A festive feel can be found in the characterful shops along The Shambles, made all the more inviting by strings of twinkly lights glowing from timber-framed buildings. Dart down the side streets to find more independent gems. Then head back to your heritage hotel where traditional-style rooms, period features and magnificent gardens set the tone in this stately Downton Abbey-esque property. Dining here is a lovely experience, too, with drinks before dinner in the most splendid drawing room, followed by a tempting menu of modern English food. From £199 for a double room, including breakfast.
    Do you have a favourite festive hotel? We would love to hear more about it…

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    Festive gingerbread biscuits

    by  • 03/12/2015 • Country food • 0 Comments

    Ready_christmas biscuits

    A Christmas tradition that’s easy to make and great for children to decorate as gifts or decorations. These will keep brilliantly in a sealed container but if you want to hang them on the tree, do it only a few days before Christmas as they will either go soft and drop off or get eaten!

    Makes 40 biscuits

    250g dark-brown sugar
    265g treacle or golden syrup
    55g unsalted butter
    1 tbsp ground cinnamon
    1 tbsp ground ginger
    1/2 tsp coarse salt
    312ml milk
    1 tsp baking powder
    975g plain flour

    1. Combine the brown sugar, syrup, butter, spices and salt in a medium saucepan over a low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the sugar is dissolved, which should take about 10 minutes. Stir in the milk. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.
    2. Pour the milk mixture into a mixing bowl; add the baking powder and flour. With an electric mixer, and beginning on a low speed and increasing to medium, beat until well combined (you can also do this by hand). The dough can be used when cool but for best results, divide dough in half; shape into disks.
    3. When firm, flour the board, roll out and cut out festive shapes. If you are making to hang on the tree, make sure you make the ribbon hole larger than needed as the gingerbread does expand a little while baking. Place onto a baking tray and bake for 10-15 minutes at 180C. Keep an eye on the biscuits in the oven, checking to make sure they don’t burn. Place onto a wire rack to cool before decorating with icing.

    With thanks to Sarah Hughes from www.eatmyflowers.co.uk. For cookie cutters in interesting shapes, try large supermarkets such as Sainsbury’s or any independent cook shop.

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    Meet Hattie Kerrs

    by  • 02/12/2015 • Country business • 0 Comments

    Ready_groupWe’re looking forward to putting our trees up this weekend at Country Days, even more so now we’ve spotted these sweet jumper and stocking decs from textile designer and pro-knitter Hattie – the fun Fair Isle designs are so festive! She shares the inspiration behind her snuggly range of knitted wares including cushions, gloves, hats and more…

    How did you get into textile design?
    I have always loved pattern and repetition, so applying it to textiles seemed a natural choice. Although I originally studied Fine Art at university, textiles is something I have always felt an affinity and warmth towards.

    Describe the design and making process.
    I tend to start with the material, and this usually dictates what I can make with it. The more character a material has, the easier design choices seem to be. I inevitably end up making quite a few wonky samples whilst developing products – these end up in our cottage or I wear them whilst dog walking!

    What inspires you?
    I love the seasons, natural colours and patterns. I am also very interested in folk crafts and different countries’ particular traditions. The love and pride that goes into making traditional folk crafts by hand is always evident in the finished article.

    What materials do you choose to work with and why?
    Wool is the only material I work with. I’m using more and more British wool, undyed and in its natural colours. I think it’s important for us as a nation to support our farmers by adding value and increasing demand for their fleeces, rather than always using merino or lambs wool.

    What makes your products special?
    I make everything myself from my cottage with love and care. I still produce some hand knit ranges that are realistically too labour-intensive to make sense on a business level, but I love making them and customers feel they are getting something really special for their money.

    Sum up your creative style in three words.
    Natural, textural and folk.

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    Winter wonderland

    by  • 01/12/2015 • Country style • 0 Comments

    Country bedroom John Lewis Pheasant Scene Duvet Cover and Pillowcase Set

    If you’ve got guests coming for Christmas, give them a real treat and make them feel special by decorating the guest bedroom with a beautiful rustic-themed country bedroom scheme that’s reminiscent of a Highlands croft.

    Here at Country Days we’re loving this toasty bedroom that’s full of texture, and layered up with sumptuous fabrics that give it a touch of hotel luxe.

    Of course, the exposed stone wall really adds to the mood – if you don’t have one, you can always cheat and recreate natural texture with a faux stone or weathered wood wallpaper feature wall.

    The cottage feel is accentuated with a beautiful traditional wrought-iron bed – just the spot for a comfy night’s sleep. But it’s the bedding that really caught our eye… a gorgeous monochrome pheasant motif duvet cover and pillow cases partnered with pheasant and reindeer cushions, and the snuggliest faux fur throw and hot water bottle cover, all from John Lewis.

    Team with plaid curtains to emphasise the Highland feel and give a nostalgic nod to times gone by with an artisan-style trunk bedside cabinet that blends oatmeal fabric and vintage leather.

    No rustic home would be complete without wooden floorboards, but make them softer underfoot and finish off the look with a natural fibre rug.

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