Mandy Charlton - Photographer,Writer,Blogger

Photographer of Families, Small People and Delightful Places, Travel and Lifestyle Writer and Blogger, Lives in Newcastle, Loves the North, Often Accompanied By A Beagle Named Holly Bobbins

Monday, July 25, 2016

A dog friendly stay at the King's Head Inn, Yorkshire

Holly Bobbins, now a dog friendly four pawed travel expert, the canine equivalent to Alex Polizzi, was invited to stay at the dog friendly King's Head Inn, Newton Under Roseberry in Yorkshire, the sister Inn to the Kings Lodge Inn, Durham where Holly and I have given our dog friendly stamp to!

Now I think somewhat Holly and I might have been spoiled by the amazing experience we had when we ate there last month as I would say that although the food at the King's Head Inn was delicious, hearty and the portions large it wasn't quite as good as the King's Lodge Inn.  

Our room at the Kings Head Inn was functional, quite small for two grown ladies and a dog, very hot with a lack of air conditioning but again, it was good but just not as good as other places I've stayed with Holly, the desk for instance was scratched and stained, the beds were hard and the pillows even harder.  There were no little touches like stationary or toiletries just a functional pump dispenser on the wall.  It's just the little things for me that make a hotel stay stand out, those little extras really can turn a stay into a magical experience.

I think though that the staff were so lovely and I don't want you to think that this was an unpleasant experience because really it was lovely, it's always lovely to be able to go somewhere your dog is openly embraced and I loved that there was a big jar of dog biscuits on the bar and masses of water bowls around the inn, the seating in the bar is brand new and dogs are allowed anywhere there's no carpet which is fair enough, the outdoors and courtyard were pretty in the sunshine and the real joy of this inn is that it's location is right in front Roseberry Topping and so what else was there to do on a whim after a 3 course meal than decide to climb it...

When you look at Roseberry Topping from afar it does seem a little intimidating, when you get up close I think it's even more intimidating and when I say that it's not an easy climb it's a total understatement although Harriet and I did bump into a man who was making his 3rd descent of the week, 3 times a week, why on earth would you want to climb it 3 times a week, I can honestly say here and now that it's a magnificent hill and the views are superb, there's also a Pokestop on the top but having climbed it once I can safely say that I don't think I'll ever feel the need to climb it again for when I stumbled upon to the precipice I thought I was surely to die, my heart racing at 161bpm, my body shedding all of it's inner fluids upon my brow and chest, sweating buckets is an understatement, thank goodness then for the endorphins you feel as you realise you've climbed higher than ever before, that drug that keeps us running, climbing, a natural painkiller, the reassurance that this time I was not to die just yet.

I would return to the Kings Head Inn again, my dog and I like to be in the countryside so why wouldn't I go somewhere that would welcome us with open arms, the rooms seemed to be around £100 per night including breakfast which isn't too bad and I assume it gets very busy with walkers and climbers who bring their four pawed companions, what I'd like to see though are just those few extra touches which can make a night in the countryside feel like a magical experience in the countryside.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Clarty Hen Launch Party, Bells of Hemscott, Northumberland

The Clarty Hen is a new collaboration between Clarty Events and my favourite Bells of Hemscott so when an invitation to the launch at Calico Barn, Bells of Hemscott, in Northumberland came my way mentioning the words, cake, party and Alpacas I thought it would be a splendid way to spend a day and I took Stacey and Harriet along for good measure.

Calico Barn is the newest addition to the thriving Northumbrian business Bells of Hemscott, where as the bell tents are still available to hire for the summer season, Calico Barn, a swish bunk barn will operate all year round with the Clarty Hen stepping in for hen weekends, it's a move in a different direction and as the wedding market in Northumbria continues to grow and thrive I think it's a valuable addition, something different to do.  I've noticed a trend over the past few years of hens wanting to do something a little different from the old style going out, getting dressed up and often falling down because of tipsy shenanigans.  The Clarty Hen is a much more exciting prospect.

The Clarty Hen is a weekend spent in a luxurious bunk barn,  for just £175 per person (minimum 12) it includes a continental breakfast each day, a lunch on the Saturday, an activity pack  for the Friday nigt and 4 organised activities on the Saturday, Clarty activities ranges from team games like Sheep herding (don't you think that Harriet and Stacey make a good sheep and sheepdog?  I have blindfold anxiety so I was the shepherd herding the blind sheep to safety with the help of a blind sheepdog) to clarty arty, a crafts based activity or if neither of those are your thing then why not add on an alpaca walk, I'd like to just say at this point that I've seen alpacas at farms but until last week I'd never cuddled one and now I have and I can tell you it's the most special experience, they are like a cross between a 3 year old child and a huge teddy bear, they are adorable and gentle and time spent trekking with them is a magical money can't buy type experience, Alpaca walking is available at £20 per person for an hour and you don't even have to be a Clarty Hen, the bunk barn is also available for events,  families and individuals throughout the year and I'm going back during summer so I can give you a full low down on the experience of sleeping in a bunk barn, something I've never done but now I've seen the luxury I really want to try it.

Such attention and care has gone into the decoration of the bunk barn, pretty patchworks hang from all of the walls, a tribute to Alisons mum who made them all over the years when it was her barn, Alison wanted to create something really special in memory of mum and I think she's achieved much more than that, I'm not quite sure what I expected to find in an old barn at Druridge Bay but it certainly wasn't the luxury we experienced last week.  Cosy sofas, usb charging points and wifi, this isn't camping as you used to know it but then that's the Bells of Hemscott for you, it's not camping, it's comfortable camping and all in the surroundings of a working farm, new arrivals in the form of piglets have arrived since my last visit with their little muddy paws and noisy oinks, to spend an hour on that farm you feel like you have left your cares and woes behind you, to spend a weekend in the company of your best friends with laughs and drinks and cakes and activities, well that's got to make for the most memorable hen weekend ever.  I can't wait to go back myself with my daughters and Harriet so we can enjoy the quiet beauty of Northumberland, the lapping of the nearby seas and golden sands that stretch as far as the eye can see, on a warm July afternoon you could be anywhere in the world it's so inspiringly beautiful and oh, oh, oh those huggable, loveable alpacas who stole my heart and calmed my mind, the Bells of Hemscott is truly an escape from the stress of reality.


Saturday, July 23, 2016

Thaikhun, when restaurant reviews go wrong...

Have you been to Thaikhun in the Metrocentre yet?  I didn't even know it was there until a couple of weeks ago when I randomly ended up at the Metrocentre on a Saturday afternoon so when they asked if Looby, Abigail and I would like to go along to sample their Thai street food delights I couldn't refuse.

If you've never been to Thaikhun, they specialise in Thai street food straight from the heart of Bangkok, if you've never had a Thai red or green curry then Thaikhun is a pretty good place to start, the restaurant is dark with ambient lighting meaning it's not the best place for photography but then that's not the reason that people go to restaurants (or in this social media based world, perhaps it is?)

When we sat down we were given a pot of bugs, yes bugs, with every kids meal you get a pot of bugs, I think perhaps just a couple would have done, Looby and I dared each other to eat one, well let me just tell you, they taste like death, I'm not sure who's idea it was to give children chargrilled bugs in pots, it's certainly an interesting talking point but for me, well I won't ever forget the taste of chargrilled bug for the rest of my life and no, I shan't be in a hurry to source some for my cupboards.

Now I should state at this point that there have in the past been a few disasters in my taking the kids out for food and so I'd like to state the following, Abigail had heatstroke, she'd been doing every single event in the school sports day, a whole day event and she'd not worn a hat, suncream or drank nearly enough water and so for the most part Abigail lay with her head on the table and looked particularly ill, in fact she was so ill that her daddy had to come and pick her up and take her home!

I should also state the following - Looby has now worked out that if you get a sauce with your noodles it's probably a good idea to taste the sauce before you pour it all over your noodles just in case you're not so keen on the sauce.  I don't need to tell you the rest of the story...

and in conclusion to my tales of woe I should also state that when it comes to spicy food I am a big girls blouse so when I was exclaiming to the waitress that I needed water, water and more water to cool down my tongue from the burning sensation caused by the Tom Yum sauce she told me that some people don't even think it's hot enough, are those people the spawn of satan, have they no tastebuds?

So at this point you're probably thinking we weren't the biggest fans and shan't be going again but you know what, the food is delicious, the starters were amazing, there's a good selection for the veggies amongst and even Abigail in her ill beyond ill state liked them, she followed by having a veggie pad thai and loved the little that she ate.  Looby loved Abigail's dessert that she didn't want and I loved the starter of tempura prawns, the Tom Yum soup before it all got too much for my tastebuds and the pudding, I'm always a fan of puddings and there's a large selection of puddings you just wouldn't get anywhere else.

Abigail went again this week with her daddy and had a really lovely meal and an enjoyable experience, Looby said she would definitely go back, she wouldn't put the sauce on the noodles and she definitely wouldn't be eating bugs again!  I will go again but if I'm honest I'll probably just leave the kids at home and try one of the steaks which looked amazing on the menu.  The one thing we all loved was the Thai iced green tea, probably the best green tea concoction I've ever had, I also loved the cocktail I had which came served in a Thai takeaway box.

I'm relieved that all we paid for was the desserts, If I'd had to pay £68 for meals which didn't get eaten through no fault of the restaurants I might have cried, in fact I was on the verge of dismay by the time we'd finished anyway!  It's all just proof that even professional writers have disasters when combined with parenting efforts but as always I maintain professional honesty too so I recommend you go and try it yourself and I hope it's not a catalogue of catastrophe or you might just need to sample several more cocktails to get through it.
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