Posts tagged ‘British holidays’

October 14, 2013

The Bear and Ragged Staff, Oxfordshire.

On Sunday night, I had the great fortune to stay at The Bear and Ragged Staff, in Oxfordshire.

Last weekend was another ‘Micra Adventure‘. We’d had a great weekend and on Sunday night, at about 6pm, we found ourselves with nowhere to stay. We’d planned to camp, but the weather forecast for the start of our time away was awful, so we’d abandoned that idea and stayed with relatives on the journey out. But the journey home was by a completely different route and so we decided to book somewhere to stay at the very last minute  (using Booking.com) and take the risk that we’d find somewhere nice that we could afford.

And, oh, how that risk paid off. We managed to find an amazing late deal on the one remaining room at The Bear and Ragged Staff, a country inn in Cumnor, Oxfordshire. Our room was the family room, in the Landlord’s Wing, which apparently dates back hundreds of years. Judging by the ancient beams in our room, I can well believe that! The room was actually a suite, designed to accommodate two adults and three children so we had a huge amount of space, as well as no less than three flat screen TVs at our disposal. On entering the first room, ducking to avoid the low door frames, we came to a sitting room, with a sofa bed and little nook off to one side that would have been a perfect child’s bed, had we needed it. Tea and coffee making things were in this room too, with some lovely flapjacks and a tub of mixed nuts, seeds and dried fruit for snacking on.

Bear and Ragged Staff

Then, after this room, there was a little lobby area, with the bathroom in front of us, and our bedroom to the right. The bathroom, with underfloor heating, a deep double-ended bath and giant rainfall shower, felt incredibly luxurious (especially for us, who’d originally planned on camping!) and had pleasant, full sized toiletries, bright white and fluffy towels and a dressing gown. Our bedroom had a king sized bed (one of the comfiest beds I’ve ever slept on) with crisp white bed linen and giant pillows. We were also blessed with a large flat screen tv, but we never felt the need to turn it on!  Looking up into the old rafters was a total treat and peering out of the mullioned windows into the misty morning after our night’s stay, I felt very, very fortunate indeed.

Bear and Ragged Staff

As the hotel is in a rural area, and we’d arrived quite late, we decided to eat on the premises and thoroughly enjoyed everything we had. We’d been told that a couple of items had sold out due to a really busy lunch period, but that didn’t really affect our choices, and I thought it was a good sign that the place was so popular!  I opted for an old favourite, crab and leek risotto, and Stephen had a steak burger which was cooked to medium-rare pink perfection. Having gone for a slightly lighter meal, I felt like I could just about make space for dessert – honey and lavender cheesecake with honeycomb – and I’m so glad I did! The flavour combination was heavenly. I enjoyed a glass of prosecco to celebrate our good fortune and I also rather liked Noble, a lager from Greene King, that was being served on tap. I’ll definitely look for that again. Breakfast was included in the price of our room, and again, it was lovely, with plenty of local produce. I had a full cooked breakfast – I couldn’t not! – and Stephen had Eggs Benedict. It was the perfect way to start the day, setting us up well for the journey home.

We had such a wonderful stay at the Bear and Ragged Staff. Our entire time there was pretty much faultless, and as well as great facilities, the customer service was friendly and helpful throughout, which I always finds makes such a difference, no matter where I’m staying.  I’d love to make a return visit one day…

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August 30, 2013

The Bivouac

I promised a review of The Bivouac, and finally, here it is!

The Bivouac is a selection of yurts, log cabins and a bunk barn, just outside Masham in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales, with a cafe and small shop. Just along from the site is a folly known as Druid’s Temple and it’s also along a long-distance walk route, so attracts plenty of day visitors as well as overnight guests.

We stayed for four nights in ‘Foxglove’, one of the yurts. All the yurts are situated together in a field close to the cafe, toilets and lovely shower block, which is handy when you’ve got small children. Despite it being the height of the summer holidays, some of the yurts were empty and so it was relatively peaceful – even though they’re not exactly soundproof! We had decent weather most of the time which was a bonus too, as it meant we were able to sit outside once the kids were finally in bed, and enjoy the stars, and on one night, watch the lightening flash across the sky in the distance, which was fascinating to watch – until the rain arrived in the middle of the night and woke us up!

Inside the yurt was lovely and welcoming, from the chalkboard with our name on, to the cosily made up beds, rustic-chic furniture and giant beanbag. I loved all the tea light lanterns dotted around the place ( it was off-grid, so we needed them!) and wood burning stove, complete with enough logs to last our stay. It has to be said that one yurt with four people in can get a bit overwhelming. Anyone with small children knows what it’s like to try and get them to bed, and when there are no doors to shut and bedrooms to creep away from whilst crossing your fingers that they’ll go to sleep, it can be tough. But they did love sharing a room!

Our time at Bivouac

Our time at Bivouac

Walking to Druid’s Temple was an easy, short walk, and the thunderstorm we’d had overnight provided sufficient mud for my obsessed son, with the ‘hedgehog hunt’ map keeping my six year old daughter entertained. Druid’s Temple itself is a fascinating, eccentric folly, and we enjoyed looking around it and playing at monsters!

We also paid extra for them both to attend a drumming workshop one day, which they both enjoyed. If there was one problem, it was the sole tyre swing. Which my kids both loved. And you know what one swing between two kids leads to? Yes, endless arguing over taking turns. A few more pieces of wooden, sympathetically integrated play equipment would have been great, although I did appreciate the low-key feel of the place and they did find friends to play with, which helped enormously. I was very happy to see them go off and play in the field and use their imaginations instead of relying on being entertained. That feeling I had of being comfortable with letting them wander a bit was lovely and refreshing too – no ‘cotton wool’ parenting for me!

Once they’d found friends, the kids did settle down from the first day’s over-excitement, which meant, joy of joys, that I was able to go for a shower on my own! The shower blocks in Bivouac are far removed from many camping shower blocks, with warm flooring, interesting slate tiles, hairdryers and wooden doors and luxurious smelling handwash and lotion. There was evidence of lots of environmentally friendly practices being used as well, which was impressive. I’m planning to adopt some of their ideas at home.

We mainly cooked for ourselves, using the gas stove provided in the yurt, but we did eat in the cafe one evening and the food, from superfood salad to burger and chips, was all really great; obviously fresh, interesting to eat, but not too expensive. They have a weekly ‘community supper’ which sounds like a lovely idea. I was happy to see that they had ‘plain pasta with parmesan’ on the kids’ menu too, proof that it’s not just my girl who loves that! Someone who works there clearly understands what many young children will and won’t eat.

The Bivouac is a wonderful place to stay. I’d happily go back for a return visit, though next time I might make it a romantic yurt stay for two, instead of a holiday for four! I think it would make for a lovely, relaxing adult-only holiday, as well as being a great place for kids to leave a bit of the modern world behind and play. I’d also love to stay in one of the wooden cabins, as they looked interesting, with eclectic furniture, more cooking and washing facilities and hidden somewhere nearby is a hot tub! Something for my next visit, perhaps…