London, with its towering bridges, multitude of palaces and castles, rich history and bustling arts and culture scene, is a sheer assault on the senses. In fact the hustle and bustle of the UK’s largest city can leave one feeling overwhelmed and even slightly stressed. That is why when I found myself in London for one week late last year, I simply had to get out for a day and discover what else lay beyond the high-rises, frantic underground system and busy lifestyle.
My first stop outside of London led me to Windsor Castle. Arriving in the pretty town of Windsor, I suddenly felt like I was really, truly in England. Picture perfect quaint cottages sat outside cobbled streets and bubbling streams, and perched on the hill overlooking it all was the fairytale castle herself. As the world’s oldest and largest occupied castle, arriving at Windsor was a surreal experience. I was standing in a place I had seen a thousand times on TV and in photographs and was walking down the aisle of where Harry had recently wed Meghan. A detailed audio guide introduced my to the intricacies of royal life as I wondered through the estate apartments and castle grounds and even as I marveled at Meghan’s wedding dress (on display for a temporary exhibition). Then suddenly, the guards were marching in their traditional garb to the sound of the brass band instruments. The tunes bounced off those thick castle walls, adding to the fairytale atmosphere. It was hard to tear myself away, but on I had to go as the next adventure was calling.
Bombay Sapphire Distillery
After a busy week in London, I felt like I was in need of a stiff drink, and where better to get my fix than at the Bombay Sapphire Distillery in Laverstoke Mill? Arriving at the red brick building in rural Hampshire, the distillery doesn’t look like much from the outside, but venturing inside is like entering an adult’s version of Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Huge glass conservatories twist and turn and hold within the amazing botanicals that make up this world-renowned gin. Listening stops give unique insight into the making of Bombay Sapphire and a towering wall of wonder showcases an array of weird and wonderful gin drinking glasses. A comedic wander gave us a tour of the distillery as we were amazed at how all of Bombay’s gin comes from just two copper stills, before we put our noses to the test in a fun, interactive gin-cocktail choosing game. Rounding off the tour, we enjoyed our very own cocktail in the tasting room, wishing we could stay all day. But alas, yet again we headed back onto the road for the final stop on our whistle stop tour of London’s countryside.
The United Kingdom’s famed Stonehenge is one of those bucket-list experiences. Driving out into the lush, green countryside of England, I wasn’t expecting much and upon seeing the circle of rocks from the road, I wandered why we bothered getting any closer. However, the sunset visit to Stonehenge was one I was glad I did, as I will remember it for the rest of my life. Marvelling at the gigantic monoliths up close and listening to the various theories behind how this wonder came to be, there seemed a sort of eerie, magic about the place. The area around Stonehenge itself is in fact dotted with remnants of ancient civilisation, all of which you can explore on foot, and as the sun turned pink and orange against the horizon, the circle of stones turned into a photographer’s dream. Inside the Stonehenge visitor centre a small, but fascinating museum gave further insight into the people that once made their pilgrimages here and some of the fascinating discoveries found on the grounds could be seen in the display cases.
And as the sun finally set on my day out from London, I knew one day I would have to return to discover just what other gems lay within reach of this cosmopolitan city.
Janine Avery is the brains behind 5 Star Stories, a digital marketing company offering bespoke content and social media services to the luxury and travel trade. Janine is first to confess that she has been bitten by the travel bug… badly. Raised by a menagerie of Artists, Creatives, Scientists, Researchers, Biologists and Botanists she is a lover of all things travel from basic tenting with creepy crawlies to lazing in luxury lodges. Among her other passions, dabbling in digital marketing, spreading messages on social media, and taking audiences on a journey through her travel stories rank high on her list of priorities.