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Christmassy Weekend in Copenhagen

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Christmas Weekend Copenhagen

Last weekend we visited one of the most Christmassy cities in the world, Copenhagen! We had a wonderful time, and packed a lot into our short break! Have a read of what we got up to below

Day One

Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen

We arrived in Copenhagen at lunchtime, and after checking into our hotel we headed out for a wander around the city.  We had a look around Amalienborg Palace, the winter residence of the Danish Queen.   We then wandered down Nyhavn, the very picturesque harbour area and stopped for a Julebryg (Danish Christmas beer) and a Gløgg in one of the Christmas markets. In the evening we explored Tivoli Gardens for more festiveness. Tivoli is the oldest theme park in the world, located in the city centre, it’s transformed into a Christmas wonderland for the duration of December.

Day Two

Christmas Market in Malmö

On day two we got the train across the Øresund to spend the day in Malmö in Sweden.  Malmö is the third largest city in Sweden but is considered part of the Copenhagen metropolitan area. Skåne, the southernmost county in Sweden, was actually under Danish control until 1658. As a side note, it is Skåne that gives its name to the whole of Scandinavia. As we spent the day in Sweden we had meatballs for lunch, we think it is the law.

In the evening we headed back to Copenhagen to explore Vesterbro, the former working-class district that is now a fashionable area to go out in the evening. There are lots of great bars and restaurants, we chose a cosy looking basement bar that had good beer and burgers.

Day Three

Kronborg castle in Helsingør

Today we’ve got the train up to the north of Zealand to Kronborg castle in Helsingør.

Famous for being where Shakespeare’s Hamlet is set, Kronborg is a gorgeous renaissance castle overlooking Øresund straights to Sweden, just 2.5 miles across the water. It is a fascinating place to visit, and today the castle had a Christmas market on to add to its charm.

Helsingør is a wonderful and jolly little town. It was busy today with Christmas shoppers enjoying their community. There were carol singers, a marching band and all sorts of shops and market stalls doing a roaring trade. 

Copenhagen Christmas Market

In the afternoon we headed back into the city to do a bit more exploring. We went to Torvehallerne, a food market with lots of exciting offerings from around the world. We then climbed the Rundetaarn, a 17th-century observatory with great views over the city.

This evening we had a couple of mugs of gløgg with friends that live in the city before having dinner of Danish roast pork followed by æbleskiver, a sort of spherical pancake eaten at Christmas.

Day Four

We decided to take things easy today after cramming so much into the last few days. This morning we went on a canal boat tour around the harbour, things like this might be very touristy but they are popular for a reason! We managed to get some great shots of Nyhavn, one of the most picturesque bits of the city!

We then went and had a look around the royal reception rooms at Christiansborg Palace. The palace is not actually The Queen’s residence but is instead the home to the Danish parliament. The royal reception rooms are however where The Queen undertakes most of her duties as the constitutional monarch. 

After a spot of lunch, we did some Christmas shopping in the upmarket department stores, and had a look round the gorgeous Christmas decoration in the Royal Copenhagen shop. In the evening we headed back to Tivoli gardens for more Gløgg, julebryg and æbleskiver! We really got into the Danish Christmas traditions!

Day Five

Copenhagen Weekend

Bye bye, Copenhagen, this was our second visit to the city and again we are struck by just how livable the city is. It is beautiful and charming, it is fashionable but not aloof. It is a big enough city without being overwhelming.

The city also really comes into its own at Christmas time. Decorations are everywhere, Lights are put up in every window and candles and lanterns are so prevalent it’s surprising there aren’t more fires! The Christmas markets may not be as old as their Germanic counterparts but they are still fun to walk around with a mug of Gløgg. Tivoli gardens really sparkle with its Christmas decorations and make us feel just like big kids. The city, in general, is completely in the Christmas spirit, and who can blame them!

To those that haven’t been we cannot recommend Copenhagen at Christmas time enough! We’ll be back, we are sure of that.

Find out more about Christmas in Copenhagen at Visit Copenhagen

Christmas Weekend Copenhagen

10th December 2016

Orchard Escapes | An Autumn Break in Bruges

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Bruges in the Autumn

A couple of years ago we headed took a mini break to one of the loveliest northern European cities, Bruges. Located in Flanders in western Belgium, Bruges is a charming medieval city that has been attracting visitors for generations. We visited in October and were blessed with some glorious autumnal weather and relatively light crowds.   We think Autumn is one of the best times of year to visit.

Bruges in the Autumn

A bit of history

Bruges’s golden age was in the medieval period and was one of the most important trading cities in the world at the time. The city was home to the first stock exchange in the world, and goods from all over Europe and beyond were traded. The city boomed and in in the 15th century, Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, set up court in Bruges adding to the cities prestige.

From the 15th century onwards Bruges started losing trade to the nearby city of Antwerp and went into decline. The population fell and by the 1800s the city went from being the most prosperous in Belgium to the poorest. By the turn of the 19th century, the city started to attract the attention of wealthy English and french tourists, attracted by the preserved medieval architecture. The city capitalised on this new attention and now attracts more than two million tourists annually.  The city is now protected as a UNESCO world heritage site.

Bruges in the Autumn

What to do

The charm of Bruges is to wander around the picturesque streets aimlessly soaking up the architecture and the atmosphere.  The city is not a big place, the centre is charming and where all the main sites are located. To help get your bearings consider climbing the 13th century Belfort.  The 83m climb might prove a bit of a challenge but stunning views make it worth it.   If you’d rather stay closer to ground level a canal boat tour is a great way to see another side of the city, allowing you to admire the canal-side houses.

Everywhere you look you will see stunning buildings, but make sure you check out the gothic excess of the 1420 Stadhuis.  Bruges has museums dedicated to chips, chocolate, diamonds, and beer. Our favourite was obviously the Bruges Beer Museum! If you are after something higher brow head to Groeningemuseum, the city’s most celebrated art gallery.

To experience to best of the city it is best to stay overnight in one of the many gorgeous hotels. You can experience the city after the day trippers have gone home, and enjoy a beer in one of the atmospheric bars, and a meal in one of the many excellent restaurants. We got up early and headed for an early morning walk to experience the city as it wakes up. We were blessed with a crisp sunny weather. The peacefulness of the city in the early morning really took our breath away.

Bruges in the Autumn

Find out more

We think Bruges is a stunning city and a perfect mini break destination.  It is easily accessible from the UK by sea, train or driving.  The city is easy to wander around and has enough attractions to keep you occupied for a day or two. The crowds can get a bit hectic so going off season is a good idea, as is spending at least a night in the city.  For more information check out Visit Bruges. If you have any recommendations let us know in the comments

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Bruges in the Autumn
7th October 2016

Days Out | Winston Churchill’s Chartwell

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Last year we went on a mini-adventure, with our friends Jamie and Liana, to Chartwell. The house is based in Kent and is best known as the country house of Sir Winston and Lady Clementine Churchill. It opened as a National Trust property in 1966, one year after the death of Sir Winston.

The House

On entering the Victorian red brick estate you start through the entrance lobby and follow your way through the house, almost as Churchill left it, to take in the living room, dining room, and the bedrooms, which have been turned into display rooms for the many honours and awards given to the Churchill’s. The stunning reveal at the end of the tour is Churchill’s study on the first floor.  Despite the fact the house was rarely used during World War II due to its proximity to the coast facing Europe, it was an important room throughout Churchill’s political life.

chartwellThe Gardens

Sir Winston loved the estate and he created many of the features in the estate including the lakes and the kitchen garden. A little-known fact about Churchill is that he was an amateur, but very competent, bricklayer and enjoyed building the Marycot, a playhouse, for his daughter. He was also a very accomplished painter and regularly painted across the estate, with some of his paintings hanging in Parliament.   His workroom is full of some great works of art and the room is regularly used for demonstrations. The estate grounds stretch for some good walking routes through the woodlands and through the immediate grounds giving stunning views of the house. Just be mindful of the swimming pool!


More information

Chartwell was bought by a consortium of businessmen in 1946, who bought the estate when the Churchill’s could not afford to run the property.  The estate was to be given to the National Trust once both Churchill ‘s had died.  They continued to live at the estate paying a nominal rent.  The estate was given to the Trust shortly after Sir Winston had died by his wife Lady Clementine.

The estate is a great location to learn more about the private life of Churchill and a great house and gardens to explore.   You can find out more about Chartwell here.

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28th September 2016

Planning our trip to Copenhagen

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Copenhagen Planning

We are very excited, we have just booked for a long weekend in Copenhagen for the beginning of December.  This will be Calum’s second visit to the city, and Rich’s third. We pondered heading to another European city but after going through all the pros and cons of elsewhere we kept on coming back to Copenhagen. We loved it last time we went together and are looking forward to getting to know the city even better.

What to do?

We are visiting on the first weekend of December and are planning on doing our Christmas shopping in the City. Aside from that we have come up with some suggestions on what to do:

  • Wander around Tivoli Gardens to see the Christmas lights
  • Climb Rundetaarn for views of the city
  • Visit Amalienborg to learn about the Royal Family
  • Cross the Øresund Bridge to visit Malmö

Suggestions welcome!

What else do you think we should we do? Do you know of any great bars, pubs or restaurants that we should visit? And what should we eat and drink? Are there any must-see museums or attractions? We’d love to hear your suggestions, so let us know in the comments or drop us a message on any of our social media channels.  We look forward to hearing from you!


Copenhagen Planning

21st September 2016

Days Out | Stourhead House & Gardens

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A couple of weeks ago, on our return drive from our Weekend in Devon, we decided to stop at the majestic Stourhead house & gardens to break up the journey. Located in Wiltshire,  Stourhead was bought by the Hoare family in 1714 and one of the first palladian style houses in the country was built in the 1720’s.  The Hoare family owned the property until is was passed to the National Trust in 1946 after the sole heir to the estate died in World War I.

The estate has over 2,500 of gardens to wander through with temples, ornamental cottages and a tower adding to the many vistas and pathways.  The ever changing view as you walk around the lake adds to the dramatic nature of the estate.  It does feel that any path will open onto an unexplored treasure.  The statues in the pantheon and the grotto are a good place to stop on your walk around the garden.

Over the centuries the house has been expanded and adapted to meet the decor of the time.  The current interior of the house is as impressive as the garden.  The mass space of the library would make any readers relaxed in the comfort of a stylish turn of the 20th century library.  Many of the rooms do look recently lived in, but that is likely to be due to the Hoare’s family current resident who has access to them. Much of the original artwork that the family owned was sold in the late 1800’s due to a member of the family who found himself in some financial trouble.  There is still some very impressive pieces of art and furniture including the Pope Cabinet that was built for Pope Sixtus V and was purchased during a grand tour by Henry Hoare in the 18th Century.  The cabinet has over 150 drawers including one that can not be opened.

As the estate is so large, it never feels busy and is a great place to take a picnic, enjoy the grounds and house at your leisure

Find out more about Stourhead at the National Trust website

Stourhead Stourhead Stourhead Stourhead

16th September 2016

Day Out | Houses of Parliament Tour

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Tour around the Houses of Parliament

For our birthdays we like to do something different and enjoy a day out with each other. For Rich’s birthday we tend to go to a zoo and for Calum’s we usually go visit a historic Palace or Building. This year, Rich chose to surprise Calum with a tour of the Houses of Parliament. To visit the Parliament, you need to book tickets in advance from the House of Parliament website. If you are a British citizen your MP can organise a tour of Parliament with a specialist guide for free.

Houses of Parliament

The Houses of Parliament tour covers the House of Commons and the House of Lords. It is a Palace in its own right and more formally known as the Palace of Westminster. The tour starts at the Cromwell entrance and takes you straight into Westminster Hall. Many historic events have happened in Parliament and most happened here. This is the site of the impeachment of King Charles I in 1649 and where Churchill lay in state in 1965. The Palace is a working building and it is amazing to see how it has evolved over time from its start in St Stephens Hall.

Read more…

7th September 2016

Orchard Escapes | North Devon Weekend

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On Friday morning we packed up the car and headed to Georgeham for our North Devon Weekend. Our friends Ben & Lauren, along with their 18th-month-old little boy Dexter (our godson) were down there so we headed to join them and a bit of adventuring.  We pitched our tent and set about exploring the area, here are some of our highlights:


This is where we were staying, a lovely village a little way inland. It has a fascinating church that is worth exploring, a small shop selling all the essentials and two pubs to choose from. There is The Rock Inn and The Kings Arms. We only had time to sample one of the pubs so we can confirm The Kings Arms is lovely with friendly staff, good beer and tasty food, we’ll have to return to sample The Rock Inn.

North Devon Weekend


A couple of miles from Georgeham is the pretty coastal village of Croyde. The Village has a charming centre full of historic buildings and is perfect for wandering.  Croyde has a wide and sandy beach, nestled between two headlands. The beach is very popular and one of the best for surfing. We had lunch at the Blue Groove, a family friendly restaurant and bar in the centre of the village. Be sure to pop into The Stores, a pretty cool coffee shop and deli. And get Ice-cream from one of the ice cream parlours in the village.

North Devon Weekend Read more…

31st August 2016

Days Out | Belton House

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Earlier this summer we visited the picture perfect Belton House in Grantham, Lincolnshire. A National Trust property that could possibly be the ideal English country house? Built in the 1680s by Sir John Brownlow, Belton House is cited as one of the finest examples of Carolean architecture that flourished after the restoration of Charles II.

The House

To enter the house you ascend a grand sweep of steps into the grand marble hall. It is from here that you start your tour of the house. There is no set route, you can wander around the rooms at your will. The interiors feature a range of decorative styles, including: restoration, regency, victorian, and 1930 styles. The various styles are a product of ongoing refurbishment by subsequent generations of the family. Of particular interest is the friendship between Perry Cust, 6th Baron Brownlow and Edward, Prince of Wales. Bolton House was one of the locations in which the Prince of Wales’ affair with Wallis Simpson was played out, resulting in the infamous abdication crisis.

The Gardens

Once outside, the gardens include formal Italian and Dutch styles near the house, leading into informal gardens and small boating lake. There is a wonderful orangery showing lots of lovely exotic plants. Near the orangery is a 12th-century parish church, the church of St Peter and St Paul, where many of the Brownlow and Cust families are buried. The gardens are surrounded by a further 1300 acres of deer park, perfect for exploring, adventuring and picnicking.

More Information

Belton House has been used as a location for several films and tv programmes, possibly most famously used in the 1995 TV adaptation of Pride and Prejudice as the house of Lady Catherine de Bourgh.

The National Trust have made sure there is plenty for families to do. There are both indoor and outdoor adventure play areas which we have to say looked awesome! At the Discovery Centre there are craft activities and dressing up.

Belton House is a great day out, whether with kids or without. We really enjoyed exploring the house and garden and wish we had more time to explore the grounds. Find out more about Belton House at the National Trust website.


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Belton House
19th August 2016

Total Guide to Alderney

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Total Guide to Alderney

Rich’s family have been visiting the channel island of Alderney for decades and have many friends on the island. Rich’s first visit was when he was just six weeks old, returning annually until he was a teenager and sporadically heading back there ever since.  Alderney was Calum & Rich’s first holiday together and we are planning on heading back for our third joint visit to the island soon.  This is our guide to the island we hope you find it helpful!

Total Guide to Alderney | Braye Beach

The Basics

Alderney is the third largest of the Channel Islands. Located a few miles of the French coast the Channel Islands we part of the historic Duchy of Normandy.  The English kings lost control of their French territories in the early  13th Century but the channel islanders chose to declare continued loyalty to the English crown.  Alderney’s strategic location made it an important location for the British military, there are several victorian forts still on the island.  During the second worlds war the channel islands were occupied, Alderney itself was completely evacuated of civilians. After the Nazis moved in they developed the existing forts for their own use and set up a forced labour camp. Read more…

27th July 2016

Day out | Hidcote Manor Garden

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There can’t be a much more quintessentially english garden than Hidcote Manor Garden in the Cotswolds? And is so often the way it took an outsider to distill the essence of English garden design, the garden was created in the early 20th Century by the American Major Lawrence Johnston. Johnston was an anglophile and moved to Britain with his mother around 1900, he took British citizenship and joined the British army, fighting in the Boer war and reaching the rank of Major. Johnston’s mother, Mrs. Winthrop purchased Hidcote Manor in 1907, and so started the process of creating the famous gardens.

Located in the north of the Cotswolds, not far from Chipping Campden, Hidcote Manor Garden is a perfect example of Arts and Crafts garden design. Johnston was inspired by the gardens of Gertrude Jekyll. The garden is designed around a succession of garden rooms, it mixes a formal layout with romantic planting that are characteristic of this of this style of garden (see also Sissinghurst Gardens).  Some of the garden rooms include a white garden, a maple garden, the red borders and the pillar garden. There are plenty more to explore including an excellent kitchen garden, a rose walk and a peaceful wilderness.

Johnston was a keen plant hunter, traversing the world to bring back the perfect plants for Hidcote.  Many plants have been named in Hidcote Manor Garden and Johnston’s honour, the most famous of which probably being Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote’ and Penstemon ‘Hidcote Pink’.

Although the garden can get very busy the garden room structure means the garden doesn’t feel overwhelmed. As with many National Trust properties they have an excellent cafe and a lovely little shop (we love a little shop!)  Also be sure to visit their plant centre to bring back a piece of Hidcote Manor Garden for your own patch at home.

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to the garden on a beautiful summer’s day, we love the Cotswolds in general and it is great to visit such an important and inspirational english garden.

Find out more at the National Trust Website.

Hidcote Manor Garden 15Hidcote Manor Garden 14Hidcote Manor Garden 12 Read more…

20th July 2016