Its only the 16th and it' already been such a long month at work - it feel forever since I've had a couple of days off to just chill out and recharge my batteries. In truth though, it's only actually been a couple of weeks since a wonderfully relaxing weekend away at Fern Cottage in Butterknowle.
This was a long overdue trip anyway, in that it was supposed to happen well before Christmas but a bit of a mix up and an unfortunte incident involving rollerskates meant things had to be shuffled around a little (and big thanks to Sykes Cottages and the cottage owners for being so helpful and accomodating with that!) In some ways, the timing of a late January visit was a little better anyway - it's nice to have something to look forward to in those cold dark weeks after the excitement of Christmas has worn off a little. A quiet, no-stress weekend was perfect!
We went with my in-laws, which was great (no, honestly!) And not just because BigKC makes sausage sandwiches in the mornings, though that helps. We wanted somewhere cosy that'd be quiet, easy enough for us all to get to, with some things to do nearby. But cute.
Fern Cottage ticked all the boxes - it looked like a lovely base for a few of days, with a couple of nearby towns to visit, a pub or two within walking distance and not much but fields and sheep out the windows!
On arrival we were not disappointed. The house was gorgeous! The accomodation is all one one level, with an open-plan living-rroom/kitchen/dining area - which meant you could be doing your own thing but still be together and social!
The furnishings were all of top-notch quality, from the well-supplied kitchen utensils to soft white towels, but my favourite thing in the whole house was this big fluffy rug in the bedroom - just wonderful for scrunching your toes in!
The in-laws arrived a couple of hours before we did (stupid work!) and not only did they get the lay of the land and find out where all the pubs were - the important information - they'd also got cracking with a fab roast dinner - heroes! After a big dinner and a long drive, no one felt much like doing anything so we just had a nice chilled night in with a bottle of wine or two. It was all rather wonderful!
We did make it all the way to the pub the next night though, brave adventurous souls that we are!
After a great nights sleep in the comfy bed, and the aforementioned sausage sandwiches were done with, we headed out to nearby Barnard Castle to explore. (That's Barnard Castle the town, not to be confused with Barnard Castle the castle, though we went there too!)
These pretty little market towns are my favourite. Cute little tea rooms nestled between historic pubs with open fires, great pies and a selection of guest ales. Just my kind of place!
We didn't actually visit any of the cute little tea rooms - thats the danger with going away with other people who dont share my passion for home baked treats and a proper brew - but now I know Barnard Castle is worth a return visit. We did call into one of the lovely pubs for pie though!
Sadly we had a less successful visit in the Sunday, where we headed no Bishop Auckland. It might just be because it was a Sunday but there didn't seem to be a whole lot open or going on. I did find the world's warmest jumper in one of the charity shops, so it wasn't a totally wasted visit, but I wouldn't go out of my way to go again.
We stopped in the way back to the cottage for a wonderful Sunday Toast at the Eden Arms in West Auckland - HUGE Yorkshire puddings, yum!
All too quickly, as is the way of these things, it was time to leave. The nice big gap between having to leave the cottage and needing to be home meant we had time for one last stop off, and as we were practically driving past Richmond it would have been rude not to swing by!
Richmond is one of my favourite North Yorkshire towns - my affection stems from a combination of merry trips with the youngsters to the castle, and the quality of scones available in the town!
Unfortunately it turned out my favourite place, The Scone Bar, was closed the say of our visit, but the Cross View Tea Room was a cracking back-up, and didn't let me down on the scone front either!
We've booked through Sykes Cottages a number of times now, and I can't see that changing in the future We already have a week away in the summer booked in one of their other properties! I love that cottage holidays give you the change to make you feel at home in that you can be totally comfortable, but without any of the 'at home stresses' like worrying about how full the washing basket is getting or whether that top shelf really needs dusting. In an ideal world my own house would be as spotless and wonderful as the Sykes properties I've stayed in but I can't see that happening any time soon and so in the meantime I'll make the most of my lovely little holiday homes!