In just over 2 weeks we’ll be off to England for a month. We’re spending Christmas and New Year there and I can’t wait. We’re absolutely determined that there will be snow and don’t have any room in our lives for the negativity of the statistical probability of that event. And yes, one of my favourite Christmas songs is Pet Shop Boys’ “It Doesn’t Often Snow At Christmas”…
Everything that needs to be booked is booked – flights, car hire, accommodation, Christmas lunch, house-sitters – and everything that needs to be researched in advance has been researched – monopoly board pub crawls, fun facts, the pubs that are open on Boxing Day and New Years Day.
As an aside, did you know that Malmesbury in the Cotswolds has the dubious honour of being the site of the first recorded death by tiger in England and is also famous for a priest who thought he could fly? Don’t worry, there’s much much more where those gems came from.
Some of the trip will be a revisiting of places we’ve been to before and love, and some will be completely new to us.
Naturally, you’ll all be following along on Instagram – you will, won’t you? – but here’s our itinerary…such as it is. While I have booked the things that need pre-booking, there’s plenty of spare spaces for winging it and meandering – exactly the way we like it.
Oh, a note on the pics – all photos were taken during our last visit to the UK back in November/December 2015. If you’re interested in more photos and the posts for that trip, you’ll find them here.
Stage 1 – Yorkshire
We’re staying in a village about 20 kms northeast of York itself. The village has just a few houses and, most importantly, a pub.
From here we’ll be heading into York, checking out the Christmas markets, and catching up with one of Grant’s cousins.
The one thing I really want to do in York this time is to visit York Minster. It will be our third trip to York and each time the minster has been closed to visitors for some reason or another. Last time it was because of university graduations; seriously, couldn’t they have used another venue?
As an aside, I googled the difference between a cathedral and a minster and apparently this church in York gets the honorific title of being a minster because it was established in the Anglo-Saxon period as a missionary teaching church. So, there you go.
We’re also planning to revisit Filey and Whitby on the Yorkshire coast, and explore Robin Hood’s Bay and maybe a bit further up to Staithes – both of which will be new ground for us.
Stage 1.5 – The Peak District
This stage came about purely by accident when we discovered we could save $1000 per air ticket by leaving Sydney a week before we intended. That meant moving the accommodation that could be moved ie York, and they couldn’t accommodate us for the 5 nights we originally wanted. Given that our hotel in London was pre-paid and couldn’t be changed, that gave us 2 nights to fill.
Again, we’ll be staying in a village with just a pub and not much else. This one is in the optimistically named Hope Valley near-ish to Bakewell – the home of Bakewell Tarts. Naturally, we’ll be trying them and it goes without saying that this is one of the recipes I’ll attempt to recreate at home.
I’ve long wanted to visit Derbyshire and the Peak District, and this will be a very quick look around – almost a drive through.
The county has some family connection – Grant’s father played football (soccer) with Derby County back in the day.
Mostly though it’s all about the Jane Austen connection for me. In Pride and Prejudice Lizzie Bennet toured the Peak District, providing some fabulous scenes in both the BBC series and the 2005 movie. I’ve pinned heaps of pics from Instagram and it looks very scenic indeed.
Sadly Chatsworth House, apparently the inspiration for Pemberley, will be closed for the season when we’re there.
Stage 2 – London
We’re looking forward to the Christmas lights, the Christmas windows, the Christmas markets and catching up with our Kiwi friends who will be joining us for the London and Christmas legs of our trip.
We have a pub crawl based on the monopoly board planned and will be setting a challenge to find the most expensive set of Christmas crackers in London. On our last visit in 2015 that honour went to this set (below) from Fortnum & Mason – 1000GBP for 6. Ludicrous…and I bet the jokes inside weren’t even funny. Plus, who needs just 6 Christmas crackers? Although you do get the hamper they come in. #bigdeal
We’d like to squeeze in a visit to the Natural History Museum (and it’s outdoor ice rink), a wander around Camden Lock and Leadenhall Markets and, if we have time, I’d like to check out the National Gallery.
Stage 3 – Christmas in The Cotswolds
This entire trip has been planned around Christmas, so that’s what this stage is all about – Christmas.
We’ll also be calling in on family in and around Gloucester, exploring some villages in the south of the Cotswolds and spending a day in Bath, but other than that it’s all about Christmas.
Our home for the week of Christmas is in Tetbury, a small market town in the southern part of The Cotswolds with a royal connection due to its close proximity to Prince Charles’s residence Highgrove. Somehow, though, I don’t think Charles and Camilla will be calling into The Snooty Fox for a quick pint on Christmas Day.
Stage 4 – New Year in The Cotswolds
At this point, we have no plans for new year’s eve – although that will, no doubt, change.
Our cottage this week is in another small village. This one is about a mile or so away from the nearest pub – in Lower Slaughter – and close to other Cotswolds gems.
We have day trips to Broadway and Cheltenham planned, as well as visits to other chocolate box villages.
From here we’ll also be visiting Blenheim Palace to see the Christmas decorations – albeit early in the new year.
I’ll be posting photos as we go to my main Instagram account @jotracey Any must-do’s that you’d add to this itinerary? Feel free to tell me there’ll be snow…