I won’t lie here. The last few months have been littered with incredible trips abroad and adventures overseas.
I’ve been extremely grateful to have experienced some stunning places far and wide, some of which have been with my partner in crime – and some with fellow bloggers and influencers.
It’s been so much fun. In fact, that’s an understatement. It’s been an absolute dream.
But last year, I made a pact with myself to explore more of the country I live.
To see more of the United Kingdom.
Because as much as it’s very fun to jump on a plane and be somewhere new, there’s also plenty of beautiful destinations right on our doorstep.
Or rather, just a car journey away.
Back in March, we took a lovely little trip to Aldeburgh and as a result, planned out a variety of stay-cation adventures spanning the next few months.
Fast forward a few weeks and we were on route to Devon for a weekend of seeing friends, enjoying the stunning countryside and zipping about in our new ride.
Because while our previous trip was made possible by the swanky MINI Cooper Clubman that we had on loan to us for the weekend, this next trip was going to be a bit more off-road, so we needed a different car to accommodate – the MINI Countryman!
But first, let’s start at the beginning…
Dining wise however, Boringdon Hall should not be underestimated. Their Gallery restaurant (which looks over into the HP-esque ‘Great Hall’, complete with sparkling chandeliers) has been awarded 3 AA Rosettes and offers a delectable fine dining menu.
We were able to dress up for the evening and dine like Kings and Queens. Or should I say witches and wizards. I’ll take either!
But if you prefer something a little less formal, you can book a table in the Gaia Spa Brasserie, which has an equally mouth-watering menu, only things are a little less prim and proper.
Slink on up to the terrace in your dressing gown if you fancy – and choose from the incredible offerings, which range from healthy salads, tapas dishes and huge towering creamy pasta dishes.
Although I have to say, my favourite thing was the cake board that they brought round at the end. As you probably know, I don’t eat dairy or eggs due to an allergy, so dessert is one of the things I miss the most when it comes to eating out.
Usually I have to look on with green eyes as everyone else tucks into a chocolate fudge cake or a giant creamy eclair.
However, at the spa, the waiter didn’t just bring us over the platter for me to sniff and then look at in despair, he said to me ‘pick your favourite and we’ll make tweaks so that they’re dairy and egg free for you’.
This has never happened before.
All my Christmasses had come at once.
And so that concludes the story of the time I ate a fruit tart, chocolate dipped strawberries and a fruit cake, all in one sitting.
As you can probably tell, I have no regrets.
“Slink on up to the terrace in your dressing gown if you fancy – and choose from the incredible offerings, which range from healthy salads, tapas dishes and huge towering creamy pasta dishes.”
Devon is a pretty big place.
In fact, I think if I’m not mistaken, it’s actually one of the biggest (if not the biggest) counties in the UK. And so when it comes to hotels, there’s plenty of choice.
For us, we wanted something countrified, something that had romantic and classic charm, yet all the modern luxuries we come to expect from a getaway.
Something traditionally English, rustic and beautiful, with a spa.
And luckily, we found the perfect place.
Introducing Boringdon Hall Hotel, a five star luxury country manor in Plymouth which I can only describe as a ‘luxurious Hogwarts’.
Honestly, the place is a Harry Potter fans dream because the moment you step through those towering wooden doors and weave your way up the spiral wooden staircases, with low stone ceilings, you are transported into J.K Rowling’s magical world.
The hotel is quite simply, adorably enchanting – with old world ornaments, painted portraits (which you half expect to move when you’re not looking) and tiny, diamond muntin windows which let in thin bursts of light.
It’s beautifully quaint and delightfully intriguing as there’s something new to look at around every corner and yet for a refreshing flare of modernity you need only to turn around the corner and enter the door which says ‘spa’.
We were very excited to be staying in the Royal Suite for the weekend, which you can see a full tour of on my vlog – since words would simply not do it justice.
Not only was the suite absolutely beautiful, weaving traditional features with a huge standalone bath and king-size princess bed, but the finer details were also notably thought-out, with a complimentary mini-bar complete with a fresh jug of soy milk for me – and our own private balcony with a hot tub!
I love it when a place feels like they’ve left no stone unturned in making your stay as memorable as possible. And it really is those tiny details that make the real difference.
Aside from our gorgeous suite, we also explored the grounds of Boringdon, which is a popular choice for weddings and quiet, tranquil hen parties, who prefer relaxing to partying. Girls after my own heart!
Not only is the hotel set in beautiful acres of untouched countryside, but it also has it’s very own garden (complete with swinging chair), outdoor pool and spa. The latter of which needs mention of it’s very own.
Gaia Spa is set in the grounds of the hotel and connected to the listed building via a corridor, yet it offers a completely modern experience – with pine clad walls and huge vast open spaces, juxtaposing the traditional features of Boringdon yet somehow remaining in harmony with one another.
If you’re in the market for complete relaxation, then you’ll need to book yourself in for a massage! Both David and I treated ourselves to one each – and invariably snored our way through half of it.
But hey, isn’t that the sign of a good massage?
Usually when a hotel offers such incredible accommodation and beautiful surroundings, there’s always something that lets it down.
And usually it’s the food.
As mentioned, our trip was made that bit even more special with our brand new ride for the weekend – a MINI Countryman, which was a little different in shape and style than the previous MINI we test ran – but it offered a little more in the way of outdoor living benefits for our countrified break – with a fold-out picnic table in the boot!
The Countryman is a little bit like a ‘grown-up’ classic MINI, with a much larger and bulkier exterior and 4-wheel drive system. I won’t profess to know lots about cars, but it certainly felt much more roomy – and perfect for adventuring. So whether you’re a city-goer or a country girl (or like me, both), you’re equipped for all eventualities.
One thing I adore about MINI’s is the gizmos and gadgets that you can install – creating your perfect snazzy car. Like the ‘sport’ mode, which turns all of the mood lighting inside the car red and makes the gear changes much more seamless. This was David’s favourite part and he noted it was super speedy and nippy, which I can’t comment on myself as I drive like a terrified snail, but the lighting change did feel rather fancy. If you want to maximise petrol consumption, you can stick to ‘eco’ mode, where the interior lighting stays green. I suppose you can guess which mode I stuck to.
As mentioned before, the heated seats is another bonus that I very much miss going back to our regular car. Plonking your frozen bottom onto a toasty warm seat after a day’s walking in the freezing cold is a feeling like no other – and while I appreciate it’s not something I’d necessarily be appreciating a few months down the line, it’s certainly a must-have for UK country living!
Overall, the Countryman is a super snazzy, lavish car with sleek black interiors, mood lighting (including projectors underneath the exterior door handles which shine up the floor below with a MINI logo – it doesn’t get any cooler than this) and an incredible Sat-Nav and music system for the most comfortable and plush of road trips.
While David and I absolutely love whimsical trips abroad, there’s something very relaxing and romantic about a stay-cation in your own home country. Often we forget to be a tourist where we live – and so for this reason – many spots of great beauty that surround us, lay largely undiscovered.
On our journey home, we made a pact to visit even more places in the UK and put a few of our local hotspots onto our bucket list. Our next dream great adventure is Cornwall, because it’s somewhere we both holidayed as a child and we can’t wait to return to. So let us know if you have any recommendations for hotels, restaurants or places to visit!
Do you have any stay-cation’s planned this summer? Or any trips abroad? What do you think of the MINI Countryman?
Our hotel stay was covered by Boringdon Hall and MINI kindly loaned us the car for the trip. However, as always, all words are entirely my own.