Stonefield Weddings

Wow-Factor Weddings: What Really Matters?

On average I seem to be going to at least three weddings a year at the moment, and if I am entirely frank while each event is cause for happy celebration, the details of each often blur into one. There’s a white dress, a big building and a sizeable cake. So what separates your bog standard nuptials from something really spectacular?



While the bride is obviously the focal point of any wedding, the setting has a lot to answer for, and some locations have considerably more wow-factor than others.

While whatever constitutes wow-factor is subjective, I don’t think many things beat a potent mix of historic architecture and beautiful surroundings, which to my mind are the things that make the Welcombe Hotel, Spa and Golf Club stand out. The proximity to Shakespearean Stratford-Upon-Avon helps with the whole romantic vibe as well – everyone loves a good storybook location don’t they?

Cotswold House Weddings 1

Cotswold House Wedding

Nibble Issues

One thing that I think can ruin even the most spectacular of weddings is a short supply of sub-par canapés. A wedding that I went to recently bypassed the nibble issue with spectacular class by laying on a full afternoon tea complete with cucumber sandwiches, mini-scones and petit-fours. That was all before the monumental spread that constituted dinner.

The upshot was a thoroughly enjoyable affair through which I successfully ate for around four hours straight. For any bride-to-be considering the allocation of her wedding budget, I urge you to prioritise those canapés and invest in a wedding venue known for its food.  For inspiration consider the likes of the Inn on the Lake in Cumbria or Cotswold House Hotel and Spa in Gloucestershire.

Weddings 1

Say it with style

Finally, location is a biggie both in terms of convenience and style. I have a particular friend who decided to have her reception at a venue that was a good 45 minutes on the train away from the church, and it didn’t offer remotely acceptable parking either. Major off-put when it comes to RSVP-ing.

So style wise, are you thinking country, city or seaside? Will people need somewhere to stay? Or if that guest list is bulging at the bridal seams, would you like to find a reason to discourage a few long-distance travellers? (I am sure you have never thought of such a thing).

For what its worth, as far as city destinations go, I am a real fan of the Prince Regent Hotel in London which combines the best of country and city thanks to its proximity to the 6,000-acre Epping Forest and, rather poetically, is a converted chapel. For something a little more rural however, Pembrokeshire’s utterly regal Lamphey Court Hotel and Spa is pretty hard to beat for upmarket elegance, spectacular grounds and the sense that you are lord and lady of the manor for the day.

So there you go, that’s my ten pence worth on the matter – huge congratulations and I look forward to getting my invite. Here’s to a year of memorable nuptials and ample canapés!

Chic Hotels La Suite West

Crusts On or Crusts Off at Tea Time at Chic Hotels?

The importance of afternoon tea…

There has to be more than cream to afternoon tea at chic hotels to make it the popular phenomenon that it is. It doesn’t seem to matter where you’re from or how old you are, the prospect of an extra meal between lunch and dinner featuring impossibly small sandwiches and disproportionately large scones, is universal.

Chic hotels The Newton, Nairn

The Newton, Nairn

I think one of the reasons for it, is the wide possibilities for interpretation and innovation that this classic British institution allows even in modern chic hotels. Not to mention regional traditions that always provide healthy heated debate. Do you put the cream on first, or the jam? It is a question that has divided families and friends.

Whatever your cakey preference, it may well dictate the destination that you choose. After all, your afternoon tea style says a lot about your personality as well as that of those providing it. At the classically beautiful Stonefield Castle in Scotland a traditional approach of sandwiches and scones is exactly what you are looking for with your view of the loch.

Chic Hotels Risley Hall

Risley Hall Hotel


Others who do great justice to the customary variation on afternoon tea, and even throw in a log fire for good measure include the Lake District’s Inn on the Lake, and Cotswold House Hotel in Gloucestershire. At both hotels you will also obviously benefit from the hearty appetite generated from a bracing walk in the local area – it’s fine, all those hills nullify any calories you may or may not have been concerned about.

To take ‘chic’ to a whole new level however, you can always rely on Anouska Hempel to create great chic hotels. The interior designer who is famed for her high fashion flair and award-winning sense of luxury would no doubt be disappointed with anything less exquisite from the food that’s served on the carefully chosen plates. So when it comes to La Suite West in London, the 100% vegan, three course afternoon tea is just what Anna Wintour ordered, right down to the coconut cream and fresh strawberries. Talk about having your cake and eating it too!

Perhaps in the 50 Shades world in which we live however, the best is yet to come. The upcoming opening of Hotel Gotham in Manchester in April is highly anticipated for its naughty-but-nice humour and serious sex appeal… just imagine what they might be doing with the raspberry jam and the oozing black chocolate Gotham Kirsch cake!?

Bespoke - The Grosvenor Arms Shaftesbury

What Makes Mother’s Day Special?

I have a little bit of a gripe with the likes of Mother’s Day. Not just Mother’s Day, but Father’s Day, Valentine’s, even Christmas sometimes. It’s not because I am particularly miserly, it’s because it’s so difficult to really find a way to treat the loved ones involved in a way that adequately expresses love and appreciation.

Tulloch Hotel Mother's Day

Tulloch Hotel

As small children, Mother’s Day was under the guidance of Dad who would find appropriate presents, nip to the florist early on Sunday morning, and write a card for us to graffiti over in illegible handwriting.   Delivering all of this to Mum along with breakfast in bed, and attributing the entire occasion to us as we presented her with toast through jam smothered fingers, as an annual tradition.

But how do you replicate that kind of magic when you grow up? Well, I have come to the conclusion that it isn’t about the gift; it’s about time and spending it together.

Cotswold House Mother's Day

Cotswold House

Over the years mum and I have had some glorious experiences together – quality time when conversation about nothing at all, flows. Those are the best conversations. A mother/daughter spa day at Lifehouse Spa and Hotel involving a leisurely lunch, a chatty swim in the pool and a stroll around the gardens in the spring sunshine is amongst my favourites.

Oh, and seeing Dad being given the pair of marigolds to signify the washing up was down to him, has become part of the ritual.

Meanwhile weekend getaways complete with walks in the countryside and beautiful food at the likes of Cotswold House Hotel and Gleddoch House Golf Hotel and Spa, provided equally happy and leisurely opportunities to simply ‘be’ together. That’s not including the extensive debates on all manner of topics on the drive to each destination – all of which is part of the fun.

Lugger Hotel Mother's Day

Lugger Hotel

We have even been known to go on holiday together. As two total history buffs with a penchant for fine art, access to a little culture accompanied by a warm climate are amongst the key criteria, putting the likes of Italy, France and Spain high on the priority list. Nothing says bonding like trying to navigate a tourist map upside down or reading a new book on a lounger by the pool.

Of course if I want Mum all to myself this year then I will have to battle it out with my brother… which means the only question remaining is whether I invite him along or not?

UK Boutique hotel

What Gives a Spa Hotel its Feel-Good Factor?

It goes without saying that a break at a nice spa hotel has some serious feel-good factors, but a natter with Lifehouse Hotel and Spa’s naturopath Sue Davis made us realise that there’s really a lot more to it than meets the eye. Depending on what your favourite feature of a holiday, mini-break or weekend away, certain sense-simulating factors are going way beyond the aesthetic to stimulate serotonin.

boutique hotel

Good taste

Good food is a joy on so many levels. It is quite literally a feast for the senses, whether it’s something warm and comforting in the winter, or fresh and healthy in the summer.

If you are a fan of seafood however then the particularly good news is that the Vitamin D found in oily fish actually is known as a mood-booster. That must be one of the reasons we are so in love with the restaurant at another spa hotel, The Lugger Hotel in Cornwall then!

Gentle touch

Have you ever heard of cuddle clubs? Groups of strangers get together and pay to have a collective hug because science shows that touch makes us feel better and can also boost the white blood cells.

Well it’s not like you need an excuse to head to a spa hotel, but it turns out that with that thinking in mind, having a massage is about more than getting rid of those knots, it’s about all round happiness.

Spa Hotel

Sight for sore eyes

It always seems incredible to us how much happiness can be generated during a walk surrounded by trees, beautiful gardens and verdant countryside. Well, according to the chakras certain colours can really affect our mood in a positive way.

Violets and purples are optimistic but green is a bit of a whiz when it comes to feeling happy. It is the colour of rejuvenation, it’s neutral and soothing – all the things that one is generally not feeling by the time Friday afternoon comes along and you can’t tell your nose from your elbow, and all the more reason to head to the likes of Cotswold House Hotel.

Sound advice

Not sure about you but for most of us the day is frequently peppered with the sounds of various electronic devices pinging into action – Tweets, voicemails, text messages, emails, phone calls, and app updates galore. It’s a never-ending stream of things and people demanding attention. It is not relaxing.

Sound doesn’t have to be that way though, it can be supremely uplifting. Think about he sound of waves crashing against the shore, a stream merrily making its way through a garden where the only other sound is birdsong. If happiness had a sound it would definitely include a secluded waterside location like Dunollie Hotel on the Isle of Skye.

Bespoke hotels - The Grosvenor Arms Shaftesbury

Smell of de-stress

Did you know that in Japan they frequently spray their factories with citrus essential oils in the mornings to boost productivity? Smell, it seems, makes a big difference to how we feel about life – lavender to relax and unwind, mandarin to soothe toddler tantrums, and citrus to remind us of the heady days of summer.

For some that might mean heading overseas to somewhere like the Pretti Resort to wake up to the smell of lemon groves in the morning. For others it might mean booking a massage or taking a few essential oils with you to enjoy with a good book in a roll top bath or at a spa hotel.