Having a few days away from home always makes the weekend feel as though it lasts longer. It doesn't matter if it's a few days in the countryside or a long weekend somewhere abroad. In the past I've never been much of a countryphile, being a self-professed city girl. But over the last few years, I've found myself increasingly drawn to the country. Which is convenient now my new job has got me travelling across Northumberland and North Yorkshire. When I was younger I hated the emptiness of the countryside. But now I find the raw, harshness of the rural landscape offers incredible headspace. So when I got the invite to visit a luxury hotel in Yorkshire, I wasn't about to turn down the opportunity. A former country home converted into a boutique hotel, Ox Pasture Hall is set on 17 acres in North York Moors National Park. Just a short drive from neighbouring Scarborough and Whitby, it's the perfect place for a weekend getaway.
ox-pasture-hall-hotel
ox-pasture-hall-hotel
ox-pasture-hall-hotel
The first few months of the year always the most depressing. Christmas has come and gone and it's too far away from summer to start getting excited. So it's the perfect time for planning a weekend away somewhere - even if it's not that far away. It should be said though that visiting somewhere like Whitby or Scarborough this time of year is only for the brave. While the weather gets much milder in the spring and summer months, visiting early in the year means the temperature stays pretty low. And the biting wind can chill you to the bone if you're not layered up before you start exploring. Trust me, not even a hot, salty cone of chips from the seafront will warm you up once the chill sets in.
ox-pasture-hall-hotel
ox-pasture-hall-hotel
With its blazing fires and homely feel, Ox Pasture Hall is a stark contrast to the rawness of its surrounding landscape. The rooms are spacious but still feel cosy. There's no denying it's a luxurious hotel with a real sense of grandeur, but it's the sort of place that makes you feel right at home. I'm a firm believer that if there's one thing you can judge the caliber of a hotel on, it's the bathroom. Good bathrooms are a prerequisite of a good hotel. And of course, there is no such thing as a bath that's too big. When it comes to baths, I'm a borderline obsessive. So much so that my flatmate thinks I must be part mermaid. But seriously, after a day of walking along the freezing Scarborough coastline what beats the feeling of sinking into a large tub full of bubbles with a glass of wine followed by a hearty meal at an award winning restaurant?
ox-pasture-hall-hotel
ox-pasture-hall-hotel
ox-pasture-hall-hotel
ox-pasture-hall-hotel
ox-pasture-hall-hotel
There's not many words better suited to Ox Pasture's cosy courtyard restaurant than indulgent. With its simple decor and white table-clothed tables, you'd be forgiven for thinking the menu would be equally as plain. But with its contemporary British cuisine, Ox Pasture Hall's restaurant offers fine dining that showcases local produce in a beautifully presented way. On my visit I opted for the duck which was served with a cherry juice, cooked to perfection, and my mother opted for lamb, served tender and on the bone. The dishes are carefully crafted to offer a unique culinary experience, but the portions still feel generous. That's not to say you shouldn't still leave room for a dessert or three... indulging in the sharing platter for mouthwateringly good bites seemed like the best option to get a little taste of everything. But it didn't stop me ordering a sticky toffee pudding on the side.
ox-pasture-hall-hotel
ox-pasture-hall-hotel
ox-pasture-hall-hotel
With full bellies and a huge bed, we were always going to have an amazing sleep. There's something sinking into crisp white hotel sheets that makes me sleep so soundly that it's almost painful to drag myself up in the morning. I've never been much of a morning person, but breakfast can always tempt me out from the covers, and Ox Pasture's Full English certainly didn't disappointed. Although I might have done a better job wolfing down my eggs and bacon if I hadn't decided to help myself to a huge bowl of fresh fruit and natural yoghurt. Still, that's the way you're supposed to start Sundays, right?
ox-pasture-hall-hotel
ox-pasture-hall-hotel
ox-pasture-hall-hotel
If you're looking for a simple weekend away, Ox Pasture Hall can be on the pricey side with suites going for around £350 per night. But if you're looking for a luxury weekend away without having to leave the country, it's the perfect place to escape the chaos of the city and unwind for a few days. With a beautiful grounds and the seaside charms of nearby Scarborough and Whitby, it's an idyllic place to spend a few days relaxing.
ox-pasture-hall-hotel-scarborough
It's been about 5 or 6 years since my last visit to Scarborough. The little town in North Yorkshire was actually Britain's first seaside resort, and it's been attracting tourists for hundreds of years. It's one of those places that over the years has become more of a tacky seaside town littered with arcades and fish and chip shops. Compared to Whitby, its neighbour, Scarborough lacks the same quaint sort of appeal. But there's something about Scarborough's old grandeur that I've always loved. So when I was invited along to review Ox Pasture Hall hotel, I thought it was the perfect excuse to take a little trip to Scarborough. I rarely go on weekends away in the UK so I thought a nice little trip to a luxury hotel in Yorkshire would be the perfect treat for me and my mother. We got to the hotel around teatime and with the light fading fast, we quickly checked in, dumped our bags and headed back out to explore. Since Scarborough is only a 10 minute drive from the hotel, it made more sense to stay local and have a stroll around the harbour, rather than head into Whitby.
scarborough-north-yorkshire-english-seaside
scarborough-north-yorkshire-english-seaside
scarborough-north-yorkshire-english-seaside
scarborough-north-yorkshire-english-seaside
A lot of Scarborough is pretty commercial, but the Victorian seaside town still has so much character. Once the heart of the town's maritime industry, the Old Town still holds its charm and remains the home of many local fisherman. Heading away from the newer parts of town, we drove up to the edge of the Old Town, parking up near St Mary's. The 12th century church's graveyard is the home to the resting place of Anne Bronte. Situated just below the castle, St Mary's stands high above the Old Town, offering stunning views of the beach and the majestic Grand Hotel. Although the biting wind meant we didn't want to linger too long admiring the view and headed down the steep winding streets towards the harbour and the neon lights of Scarborough's seafront.
scarborough-north-yorkshire-english-seaside
scarborough-north-yorkshire-english-seaside
scarborough-north-yorkshire-english-seaside
scarborough-north-yorkshire-english-seaside
scarborough-north-yorkshire-english-seaside
The harbour itself is just what you'd expect from a modern seaside resort. Being pretty small, it makes for a nice, if fairly short stroll. Though it's much smaller now, Scarborough's fishing industry is still very much alive. Home to a fish market and small wooden stall selling fresh, locally-caught fish, the harbour is still at the heart of the fishing community. It's also now home to the neon flashing lights of the arcades, novelty shops aimed at tourists and old fashioned sweet shops and stalling selling Scarborough Rock, candy floss and ice cream. And of course, fish and chip shops. Though the daylight had faded fast, wandering around the harbour at twilight felt like the perfect way to unwind before heading back to Ox Pasture Hall for the evening. Although we had our evening meal booked at the hotel, we couldn't resist ducking into one of the fish and chip shops for a cone of hot salty chips laced in vinegar to share as we strolled across the seafront. There's something about the sea air that makes them taste so much better.
scarborough-north-yorkshire-english-seaside
Valentine's Day. The one day of the year where everything comes in a heart-shaped novelty box. The one day of the year where everyone pretends to LOVE red roses. I mean really, does anyone even actually like red roses? Personally I think they demonstrate less of a grand romantic gesture and more of a complete lack of imagination. Sorry. Plus as someone who regularly buys flowers, I resent being overcharged for the sake of a pointless holiday.

When you're perpetually single, Valentine's Day just becomes another one of those pain in the arse days where people doubt your life choices. No, I'm not in a relationship right now. No really, I am totally fine about it. NO, I don't wish I was getting some shit, cheap teddy bear hugging a heart, thanks. And no, I'm not bitter. Even when I was in a relationship, I thought the whole thing was a waste of time. Well, when you're a blogger and you're single, the V-day minefield becomes even more interesting to navigate. This is the one day of the year that motivates PRs to email you asking what you have planned for your S.O. Note, I once emailed a PR back asking what an S.O was. Which in itself is admittedly tragic. When you do get the dreaded V-day spam, you really only have two options. Option one: you lie. Option two: you don't lie, but fail to mention your lack of boyfriend. When Rakuten dropped me a line, I decided to opt for a latter. Because why the hell shouldn't I get a red box of heart shaped goodies and a voucher to treat myself? Surely not settling for any old guy or being stuck in the wrong relationship warrants its own sort of present or celebration...?

For those of you not familiar, Rakuten (formerly play.com) is an online market place. They sell everything from beauty products to games. Since I'm working on my vinyl collection I opted for a few different records. There's a huge selection of vinyl their site, and this Lana Del Rey one was only actually £10! It's actually one of the cheapest places I've found to buy new records. She might be a bit of a moaner, but let's face it, Lana Del Rey has got the perfect voice for vinyl... and since it was a Valentine's Day treat to myself, I figured it made sense to choose someone who made me feel better about my own love life...
With the Easy Jet sale and my holiday booking bug continuing, travel is still taking over my brain. So after booking another trip (this time to Geneva), I took into my head that I fancy myself one of those scratch off maps. Towards the end of 2015, I decided this year was going to be the year I saw as much of the world as I can afford. Why not get myself a little momento to record my progress? So in search of nice ways to record my travels, I found this scratch map and scratch travel journal. (Both of which make cute ways of ticking off places on my list, the travel journal especially.) And in the process I found, Uncommon Goods. Something between an Etsy and a Not On The Highstreet, Uncommon Goods offer unique gifts from artists and small manufacturers. Their approach lets suppliers make products in a more socially and environmentally friendly way. It's all about sustainability. And after getting lost on their site for a few hours, I'm probably going to end up with all sorts! I'm not trying to encourage your spending (because I reckon most of you might be still feeling the pinch after Christmas and a bleak January. But with Valentine's Day and Mother's Day creeping up, it's the perfect place to inspire your gift ideas. There's so many unique pieces, and it's always great to know you're supporting artists and smaller manufacturers.
I'm not really sure where the last couple of weeks have gone. Between starting my new job and planning my latest adventure, the days have been a blur. After a lot of lusting over travel blogs and Instagram, I've had it in my head that I'd love to visit Norway or Iceland. So when Helen found some cheap flights to Reykjavik, I couldn't resist an impulse purchase mini break! Hopefully this will be the start of many adventures this year and a whole more travel blogging... But instead of getting hung up on colder climates, let's go back to Boa Vista. Bear with me because this is going to be a very photo heavy post!
bahia-beach-boa-vista
bahia-beach-boa-vista
bahia-beach-boa-vista
bahia-beach-boa-vista
bahia-beach-boa-vista
As far as travelling goes, I can honestly say I don't think I've ever been somewhere as stunning as Cape Verde. The white sand beaches and turquoise waters have all the makings of a real beach lover's fantasy. A spur of the moment sort of adventure, we decided to visit the lesser developed Boa Vista after flights to Sal sold out. Despite a minor amount of researching, I'm not sure I was ready for the untouched, raw beauty of the island. Boa Vista, the third largest of Cape Verde islands, is something of an unspoiled paradise. With only a small tourist to local ratio, and even fewer hotels and complexes, it's the perfect island to explore if you're looking for something a little off the beaten track.
cape-verde-boa-vista
cape-verde-boa-vista
cape-verde-boa-vista
cape-verde-boa-vista
Yeah, there's the Thomson all inclusive (and I'm sure very beautiful) resorts. But if you're happy to skip that, the island's most beautiful beaches are the ones that aren't overrun with people. If you're staying in Sal Rei, Bahia and Morabeza offer the perfect retreats with big beds and bars right on the beach. f drinking cocktails and listening to reggae isn't your cup of tea, the breeze on this part of the island makes it the perfect spot for windsurfing. Otherwise, it serves as the perfect respite from feeling like you're scorching. Both beach bars have nice friendly staff and offer reasonably priced cocktails and great food. But Morabeza definitely tips the scale with the most amazing grilled halloumi salads and lobster pasta served right on the sand.
cape-verde-boa-vista-morabeza-beach
cape-verde-boa-vista-morabeza-beach
cape-verde-boa-vista-morabeza-beach
cape-verde-boa-vista-morabeza-beach
Visiting in April time, the weather is sunny but quite overcast. But then there aren't many places this side of the hemisphere that you can rely for consistent sunshine on early season. Having a few cloudy days and being a quite windy island, meant that the weather varied between quite cool and blistering. Of course, even on the overcast days, we still managed to catch plenty rays in the hazy sunshine. But being an island in the mid Atlantic ocean, the sea temperatures were pretty chilly! The beauty of the beaches more than makes up for it. And while the fine white sand gets EVERYWHERE, it's the sort that's easy to dust off. If you're as much of a sucker for salty skin and hair as I am though, it's a small price to pay.
cape-verde-boa-vista
cape-verde-boa-vista
cape-verde-boa-vista
cape-verde-boa-vista
cape-verde-boa-vista
Despite being one of the largest of the Cape Verde islands, Boa Vista has the smallest population. The main town, Sal Rei is the most densely populated in terms of locals, but still a work in progress. Much like the roads. If you're looking for a week in paradise with white sand beaches, this is definitely the place. But don't be scared of a little off-road action! Most of the taxis are 4x4s and pick ups driven by friendly locals with simple wooden benches fixed in the back. With little in terms of development yet, the decay of the island's colonial past is the most striking part of Boa Vista's architecture. It has the haunted quality of a place that's been abandoned and left to decay. Colonised by the Portuguese, its name comes from the Portuguese 'good view'. And with its sun-bleached colour and softly crumbling buildings, the town still has a certain elegance.
cape-verde-boa-vista-sal-rei
cape-verde-boa-vista-sal-rei
cape-verde-boa-vista-sal-rei
cape-verde-boa-vista-sal-rei
cape-verde-boa-vista-sal-rei
cape-verde-boa-vista-sal-rei
cape-verde-boa-vista-sal-rei
cape-verde-boa-vista-sal-rei
If you're looking for strips of bars and night clubs, or fancy restaurants you won't find them in Boa Vista. At least not yet. The island is a tranquil haven that you can already tell will be taken over by huge complexes in the next 5-10 years. It's one of those places you have to see now. An untouched slice of paradise just off the African coast, with sand so white and water so perfectly turquoise blue it'll take your breath away.

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