Browsing Tag:


Days Out | Belton House

Posted in Explore by

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.


Belton House7Belton House6Belton House5Belton House3Belton House1

Belton House
19th August 2016

Day out | Hidcote Manor Garden

Posted in Explore by

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

Days Out | Sissinghurst Garden

Posted in Explore by

Last weekend we visited the beautiful Sissinghurst Garden in Kent. The garden was created in the 1930s by the writer Vita Sackville-West and her politician husband Sir Harold Nicholson and now is managed by the National Trust. As members of the Bloomsbury set, Vita and Harold were an unconventional couple for their times. There is currently an exhibition about their marriage in one of there barns, well worth visiting to get in an incite into their lives.

Sissinghurst was built from the 15th century onwards but by the 1930s the estate was practically in ruins. About this time the couple looking for a new home, despite some misgivings about the scale of the project they bought the estate and set about revitalising the house and gardens.  What visitors see now is testament tho their hard work and vision for the estate.  The Sissinghurst garden is an outstanding example of early 20th century english garden design.  There are lots of formal elements that Harold designed and then romantic and informal planting schemes devised by Vita.  The whole garden is beautiful and our particular highlights included the world famous white garden, the cottage garden and the nut walk.  Make sure you go up the old tower to get a bird’s eye view of the designs, it puts it all in perspective.

The garden is very popular and can get busy so time your trip accordinally. The Sissinghurst Estate has wonderful views of the Kentish Weald and their are signposted walks if you want to explore further. Being a National Trust property there is a lovely cafe and interesting shop.  They also have a good supply of plants for sale if you are feeling inspired by what you have seen.

Find out more…

Sissinghurst Garden 10Sissinghurst Garden 9 Read more…

6th July 2016

Days Out | Hardwick Hall

Posted in Explore by

A couple of weeks back, when driving north for the weekend we stopped of at the gorgeus Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire for a look around. We wanted to break our journey north somewhere and scouring the map we discovered Hardwick Hall, it was about halfway on our drive and only a few minutes away from the motorway junction. It made a very welcome break, it was a perfect bit of escapism!

Hardwick Hall 7

Hardwick Hall is an Elizabethan country house created by the indomitable ‘Bess of Hardwick’ one of the richest women in the country. Bess was born into a minor gentry family but with a succession of advantageous marriages ended up an incredibly wealthy Countess residing at Hardwick.

At Hardwick there are two building, the ruins of Hardwick Old Hall and the breathtaking Hardwick New Hall.  The old hall, started in 1587, was built on Bess Father’s estate. The new hall was started in 1590 before the old hall was even finished. They were intended to compliment each other, akin to being two wings of the same building.  Over time the old hall went to ruin, and was partially pulled down, it is now a romantic ruin.  Despite it being in ruins there is still plenty to see, including climbing to a timber viewing platform to view some of the surviving plasterwork and to enjoy some spectacular views.

A short walk away at Hardwick New Hall, Bess’ wealth was on display for all to marvel at.  The house has an abundance of glass windows, an expensive luxury at the time. The turrets are topped with the initials ES for, Elizabeth Shrewsbury, the Countess of Shrewsbury, Bess’ full name and title.  Such a grand house takes time to appreciate, there are many highlights including the long gallery and the High Great Chamber.

Looked after by The National Trust there are a couple of well presented exhibitions about previous residents of Hardwick Hall.  This first is about Lady Arbella Stuart, Bess granddaughter with royal blood and a potential heir to Queen Elizabeth. The second is about Evelyn, Duchess of Devonshire the last lady to reside here. Evelyn saw the world change from stuffy Victorian society into the swinging sixties. She was an hands on countess and a lifelong friend of Queen Mary, acting as her mistress of the robes.  We loved finding out about the history of these two fascinating ladies and their time at Hardwick.

The gardens and grounds surrounding the hall offer plenty of excuses to get outside.  There are various marked walks around the estate, offering beautiful views off the Halls and of the Derbyshire countryside beyond.  We also stopped off at Standby Mill located on the estate, which shows how a 19th century flour mill would have worked.

We found a beautiful spot on the estate near the mill to have our picnic, but being a National Trust property there looked to be a very lovely cafe near the house. If you are in need of something stronger, Hardwick Inn, a traditional pub is located by the south gate to the grounds.

Hardwick is a fascinating and beautiful place, situated in a glorious location.  It has easy access from the motorway and plenty of things to see and enjoy. We loved it.

Find out more at The National Trust and English Heritage

Hardwick Hall 8
Hardwick Hall 6
Hardwick Hall 4
Hardwick Hall 3
Hardwick Hall 2
Hardwick Hall 5

Orchard Blog | Hardwick Hall
7th June 2016

London’s Best Scandinavian Cafes

Posted in Explore by

If you speak to us for longer than five minutes you will soon realise we are complete Nordophiles, our love of anything nordic is strong! Luckily for us London has a sizeable Scandinavian diaspora and with that comes a good selection of Scandi food and drink establishments. In the name of research we set out to discover London’s Best Scandinavian Cafes. Coffee and a cinnamon bun anybody?

Scandinavian Kitchen

Scandinavian Kitchen

Centrally located, Scandi Kitchen is our go to place for meatballs, fika and seasonal goodies. They have very friendly staff, and is often full of expats making this a happy and lively place to visit. The cafe also has a grocery section at the rear. Make sure you sign up to their excellent weekly newsletter to keep you up to do date, and with plenty of insight into all things nordic! (hint: they love Eurovision)



A Swedish bakery located in Covent Garden, Bageriet is tiny but utterly charming. An excellent selection of baked goodies and some wonderful staff make this great little stop off if you are in town. We are just waiting for an excuse to buy one of their mouth watering Princess Cakes!

Nordic Bakery

Nordic Bakery

If you are looking for some Scandinavian cool, head no further than the Nordic Bakery. They have three beautifully designed locations in the West End. Open all day, they serve up both sweet and savoury dishes. As is to be expected their bakery selection is excellent, we are particularly fond to their butter buns.



If you find yourself in Bermondsey be sure to head to Hej.  They serve outstandingly good coffee, best enjoyed with one of their delicious cinnamon buns. And their coffee should be good they are self confessed coffee addicts and run a coffee school on the site! Hej has a nice community feel with welcoming staff, a flower stall outside and pets welcome.



Located on Brick Lane, Fika is a cafe, bar and restaurant. Great for weekend brunches, and Scandi inspired dinner throughout the week. It has a great little roof terrace if you want to dine al fresco. They have lovely staff, it really makes a difference when it gets busy!

Cooper & Wolf

Cooper & Wolf

If you find yourself way out east head to Cooper & Wolf.  Located in Clapton, just across from Millfield park, Cooper & Wolf is a bit of a hipster joint with a strong community feel.  The menu has a selection of Swedish favourites including the classic cinnamon buns and some excellent meatballs.

Orchard Blog | London's Best Scandinavian Cafes
24th May 2016

Orchard Escapes | Mini Break in Bath

Posted in Explore by

This year for Rich’s Birthday we headed down the M4 for a couple of days in Bath. Calum had been previously but this was Rich’s first visit.  It is safe to say we loved the city, and seeing as it is only a couple of hours away I am sure we will be heading back soon. There is lots to do in the city, here are some of our highlights:

Things to do

Audio Walking Tour

Bath|Pulteney Bridge

The City of bath is a UNESCO world Heritage site. To get a sense of the city we downloaded the free audio guide and went on a walk around the sites. We really recommend this, it very interesting and helped us understand more about the history of what we were looking at. The tour takes about an hour, and you can stop off at many of the sites on the way round, or use it as a tool to get a sense of the city and then head back to your favourites later.  They also have a Jane Austin themed audio guide if that is your thing? Download here.

Roman Baths

Bath | Roman Baths

A trip to Bath wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the baths! We headed here later in the day, after the crowds have dispersed, and it was very enjoyable.  The main attraction is the great baths in the centre of the complex but the accompanying museum and audio guide really help you get a sense of the place Find out more.

Bath Abbey

Bath | Bath Abbey

Built as an abbey church rather than a cathedral, but no less impressive. Most of what you see was constructed in the 16th Century in the perpendicular style, making it one of the last flourishes of the medieval gothic style.  The Abbey bridges the gap between the Roman and the Georgian history of the city. Find out more.

The Circus & The Royal Crescent

Bath | Royal Crescent

The jewels in the crown of the Georgian city, and for good reason!  These two complexes were built for wealthy visitors to the city that came to take the waters at the baths. Well worth wandering up to. For a peek inside go to No1 Royal Crescent where they have decorated in a style from the late 18th century. Find out more.

Prior Park

Bath | Prior Park

A short walk to the south of the City is Prior Park Landscape Gardens. You may wish to take the bus out there as it is uphill and there is no parking at the site.  The gardens were developed for wealthy local businessman Ralph Allen in the 18th Century in the fashionable landscape style of the time.  The gardens are situated in a sweeping valley, with views of the city beyond. One of the highlights is the Palladian Bridge, which is one of only four remaining in the world. Find out more.

Food & Drink…

As we just had a couple of days in Bath we didn’t really get to explore as much of the bars and restaurants as we would have wanted.  There is a huge range to choose from, here are our thoughts.

Burger & Barrels

A short walk from the centre, over the river is Burger & Barrels. A tiny place that serves the best burgers in the city (officially they won the Bath Food Award!) and has a good range of beers. Suited us down to the ground!

Boston Tea Party

So it turns out that the Boston Tea Party is an independent chain of cafes originally from Bristol and now with branches all over the west country.  We went to their newly refurbished Alfred Street location for breakfast. Good atmosphere, good food, good start to the day!

The Griffin Inn

A small pub on Monmouth Street, The Griffin Inn has an excellent selection of craft beers, and very enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff. Well worth stopping off for a pint.

Bath Brew House

A large craft beer pub with an excellent selection of beer including some they brew themselves. The Bath Brew House also has a brewery tour if that takes your fancy. It also has a large garden if the weather is nice.

Pierre Bistro

Another chain that I had never heard of before (mainly because they don’t have any locations in the South East),  Pierre Bistro is a light and airy French style bistro on George Street. Open from Breakfast to dinner, we headed here for lunch.  The food was fantastic, as was the service; it was very good value for what you get!


Bath | Shopping

We didn’t really have enough time for shopping, but on wandering around the city it is clear that Bath has lots to offer.  The High Street chains are clustered around Southgate, there are a good selection of high end interior shops on Milsom Street, and dozens of independent shops scattered around the place catering for every taste.  Might have to head back here for our Christmas shopping!

Have you been to Bath? What were your thoughts, do you have any tips? We’d love to hear them.

Bath | The Circus Bath | Roman Baths Orchard Escapes | Bath

Orchard Blog | Bath Minibreak
17th May 2016

Days Out | Petworth House

Posted in Explore by

The weather was so lovely on Sunday we decided to head out for the day.  Making the most of our National Trust membership we fired up their rather useful app and started browsing where to go.  We settled on Petworth House, it had been on out ‘to visit’ list and was only about 45 minutes away. So off we set!

Petworth House is a rather grand seventeenth century mansion set in the beautiful South Downs. The house was built in 1688 by Charles Seymour, 6th Duke of Somerset. It contains some amazing works of art, including works by JMW Turner who was a frequent visitor to the house. There are many highlights to a tour around the house, but our favourites were The Marble Hall, The North Gallery and The Chapel, which is a remnant of the previous house on the site.

The parkland was created by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown in his typical English Landscape style. As it is the 300th anniversary of Brown’s birth Petworth has a series of events and exhibitions to celebrate. There are mapped walks around the park, and plenty of picturesque places to stop and have a picnic. We did just that, sat in the Pleasure Gardens near the Doric Temple, amongst a carpet of bluebells.

After the house and gardens we had a look around the servants quarters, housed in a separate block. It is fascinating to see the scale of the ‘downstairs’ that was required to keep a house such as Petworth functioning. In the servants quarters is the ‘back door’ of the house into Petworth Town. Well worth a little wander around.  There are plenty of cafes and antiques shops to keep us happy!

Find out more on the National Trust website

Day out | Petworth HouseDay out | Petworth House Day out | Petworth House Day out | Petworth House Day out | Petworth House Day out | Petworth House

Day out | Petworth House
10th May 2016

Days Out | Ightham Mote

Posted in Explore by

Last October we signed up the The National Trust; Perhaps a sign of our impending middle age, but more likely dues to our love of old houses and the countryside. Since we signed up we have been exploring a raft of properties, we are going to share some out our photos and thoughts here.

Day out - Ightham Mote

On Sunday 1st May we made the most of the Sunny weather and headed to Ightham Mote (pronounced Item Moat) in Kent.  The House is a fourteenth century moated manor house, and eludes all the period charm you would expect of a 700 year old house.   The historian David Starkey describes the house as ‘one of the most beautiful and interesting of English country houses’ and who are we to disagree?

The House is sounded by a moat consists of about 70 rooms around a very beautiful central courtyard. Highlights include the great hall, the old and new chapels, a tudor painted ceiling and the only listed dog house in the country. There are introductory talks to help you get a sense of the place, and you can do a tour of the tower to learn even more.

The gardens are very pleasant to walk around, and there are 3 guided walks around the estate. As it is bluebell time of year we opted for the Scathes Wood route.  This being a National Trust property there is a lovely little shop and a cafe for lunch or tea.

Find out more at the National Trust website
Day out - Ightham MoteDay out - Ightham MoteDay out - Ightham MoteDay out - Ightham Mote

A great day out at a 14th Century Manor House./div>


3rd May 2016