We had a week’s self catering booked in June but as we live in Scotland and it is rather a long way we broke our journey both going and coming back.
On the way down ( Friday) we stopped off in Liverpool where we stayed at the Tune hotel in Castle St – inexpensive but very basic, not even a kettle in the room and our room was a long way from reception up and down lifts, stairs and corridors – not something I would want to do with a lot of luggage. On the Friday evening we went to a concert at the wonderful Philharmonic Hall, highly recommended. The concert was part of the summer of love and featured George Harrison’s Indian influences , the boys who played the beatles role left a lot to desire as they could not sing but the Indian musicians on sitar etc were wonderful. The next day we were up early but it was absolutely pouring so we were unable to look for breakfast so set off and got something further down the motorway. The weather improved as we got further down and we saw lots of buzzards, kites and other birds hunting in the sun near the motorway and had a really smooth trip with no traffic problems even on the M25.
We arrived late afternoon at our accommodation Ramsden Farm Oast , near to Tenterden – I will review this one separately but we were disappointed with it though the location was fine and suited us well for the week. The next day we headed to Rye and were surprised to find so much of it closed on a busy tourist Sunday, parking was also difficult even for my husband who is disabled. We had a nice wander however and a lovely meal at one of the pubs off the high street, we found vegetarian and vegan food so much easier to get down south which was really surprising as we had never noticed such a big difference before. We also went down to the Harbour nature reserve which was very attractive. On the Monday we went to Batemans ( NT) the home of Rudyard Kipling which was gorgeous, lovely home, lovely garden and full of Kipling books, illustrations and interesting things he had brought back from India, one of my favourite places of the week. In the afternoon we went to Battle which is nice and then to Hastings which is rather disappointing and run down.
On the Tuesday we drove north to Canterbury for a potter in the morning and lunch and then went to Sandwich and Deal in the afternoon, both of which were charming , with Deal more traditional seaside and with a great castle. Wednesday we went to Knole ( NT) by mistake really as we were headed to another nearby property! This was very grand, not really our cup of tea but fascinating for its long history (from 1500s) and its current renovation programme with some wonderful tame deer in the park also. The afternoon was spent wandering around Tunbridge Wells , quite exhausting in all the sunshine. The lovely scene and traditional buildings in Kent really make it special. Thursday we went off to Great Dixter , a bit hard to find and expensive but the gardens are wonderful, overflowing with colour and shapes and very blowsy – not for someone who likes their gardens manicured. Refreshments were poor though so I would recommend eating elsewhere or taking your own.
Friday was our last day before heading back so we paid a second visit to the divine Sissinghurst ( NT) , which was truly wonderful as ever. As readers may have gathered I am a keen gardener and get much inspiration and enjoyment from visiting other gardens and I do believe this is one of the best in the UK. In the afternoon we had another potter around Tenterden, a lovely town with nice shops, antique centre, cafes and restaurants and two supermarkets so well provided and only 10 minutes from our cottage. Packing when we got back and then a final evening walk around the lovely quiet lanes surrounding our accommodation.
We left early on the Saturday ( 6pm) and had breakfast at on the services ( Patisserie Valerie at a service station – amazing!) and a further stop for coffee at Banbury. Again no problems on the road due to our early start ( we were woken each morning at 5.30am by the neighbour’s dog barking anyway) . We stopped at Upton Park ( NT) for a wander and lunch and then a short time in Stratford on Avon where it was so hot it was almost impossible to walk around. Onto our hotel for the night, Best Western Salford Hall in Abbots Salford, courtesy of my Tesco Clubcard! This was delightful, a lovely old building which had been sensitively converted and we had a great room at the top complete with four poster and a lovely large bathroom with a great bath.
Coming home Sunday was fine until we reached near Preston but there had been a crash on the M6 so one junction was closed and others congested. We had decided to come off anyway at junction 31 to explore Brockholes nature reserve where a vintage fair was being held. Both the reserve and the fair were excellent. There was a nice mix of stands at the fair, lovely live music and a great selection of food including the Green Kitchen, a totally veggie catering van. So we were spoilt, sitting in the sun surrounded by damselflies, eating great food and listening to nice music. We took a more scenic route from Preston, A59 to A65 towards Kirby Lonsdale and joined the motorway at Junction 36 where all the problems had finished so once again it was smooth sailing home, lucky us and not a drop of rain all week!