A spot of luxury in County Durham

To say I fell head over heels for Rockcliffe Hall is pretty accurate. This Victorian/contemporary amalgamation is charming, comfortable and offers five-star luxury along with five-star service, on a beautifully presented plate.

Rockcliffe Hall

A little later than planned, my boyfriend Jamie and I hurriedly enter the grand lobby of this beautiful Victorian pile before I topple over my suitcase and land flat on my face. Slightly pink, I am grateful to be scooped up by the kindly concierge, along with the contents of my handbag. Half an hour later my embarrassment evaporates into contentment as I sink into the steamy open-air hot tub, munching frozen grapes and admiring the view. We spend the next couple of hours slipping back inside to the glass-walled sauna, curling up in front of the firepit and being pummelled by the jacuzzi before accidentally falling asleep on the warm, body-shaped beds in the tepidarium – a kind of low-lit sauna that relaxes the body and mind.

Delicious plates
Set in the quiet village of Hurworth-on-Tees, Rockliffe Hall is a stone’s throw from the North York Moors. There’s a long list of outdoor pursuits on offer, from horse riding to stargazing, but we decide to pad back for some R&R in our spacious room. Contemporary and with views of the grounds, it’s my very definition of luxury. King-sized bed and mood lighting? Check. Dressing room and lounge seating? Check. Marble bathroom with double sink and TV above the bath? Check. So, after yet another bath and an episode of Countryfile, we head to the cellar to sample wines with sommelier Daniel. Speaking as someone who only really knows the difference between red and white wine (the colour being a giveaway), this kind of exercise has been a bit lost on me in the past. But Daniel’s passion and knowledge is so infectious, I leave for dinner rosy-cheeked and with a greater respect for the drink I’ve been quaffing for well over a decade.

Dinner is served in
The Orangery, Rockliffe Hall’s flagship 4AA Rosette restaurant, whose extraordinary tasting menus come with optional wine pairings. We choose the whole shebang and eat our way through 10 delicious plates, including venison with savoury granola and pickled brambles, Landrace pork with charred carrots and marigold, and plum with sheep’s curd and lemon balm. It’s a menu that takes us foraging through the English countryside. By the last course we feel fit to burst but sad it’s coming to an end, as with our time at Rockliffe Hall generally. I have fallen head over heels for this place, literally
as well as metaphorically – I have the bruises to prove it.

Rooms cost from £220 per night, including breakfast and spa access (rockcliffehall.com)




For more information visit rockcliffehall.com and visitwiltshire.co.uk


 

Getting cosy in Wiltshire

I haven’t set foot in a stables since my schoolgirl riding days, but my boyfriend Jamie and I ended up having supper in one during our stay at this charming 14th century inn deep in the heart of Wiltshire’s Nadder Valley.


‘With bags in tow and the sun in our eyes, we trundle up the path to the quaint Compasses Inn. After a quick, rather squinty selfie, we push open the black wooden door and are immediately transported back to the 14th century. Tankards and lanterns hang from original wooden beams on the low ceilings and rusty horseshoes, leather tack and old farming equipment adorn the stone walls. A rich, smoky smell that’s hard to place but oddly comforting fills our noses. History wafts all around us, yet the pub feels surprisingly up to date.

It has all the charm of the old stables without the horses or, dare I say it, the muck. Apparently a stream once ran directly through the inn so animals could drink alongside the customers, but today, with no horses around to join us for a tipple, we enjoy a local ale in a cosy alcove before being shown to one of the four rooms above.

Our room is contemporary but with a country cottage feel; modern fixtures mixed with wooden furniture, and a plate of home-made biscuits to accompany our cups of tea. The bathroom is glossy-magazine perfect, with gleaming white wall tiles and gold detailing and, although there’s no bath, the luxurious shower more than makes up for it.

With glorious countryside on our doorstep and English Heritage sites Stonehenge and Wardour Castle a short drive away, we have every intention of heading off to explore. Instead, we end up conking out on the comfy bed. Oops.

Dinner is a hearty, unpretentious affair with the emphasis on seasonal and local produce. The menu changes daily but you can expect to find elevated pub classics with the odd wildcard. We opt for the rolled pork belly, chorizo and sherry sauce with mashed potato, plus a butternut squash risotto cake oozing with fontina cheese,and a bottle of Argentinian Malbec. But the real showstopper is the dessert: a sticky ‘cola’ pudding with bourbon toffee sauce and clotted cream. Truly inspired and certainly better than the cheese-and-pickle sarnies I used to eat after my riding lessons all those years ago…’

Doubles £110, including breakfast (thecompassesinn.com)




For more information visit thecompassesinn.com and visitwiltshire.co.uk


 

Exmoor ramblings

Welcome to the first of my travel blogs – because I can’t just waffle on about food all the time. So if you fancy a bit of escapism or just want to know what happened when I got lost on the Moors then read on. Normal service will resume next week after I have been paid and can actually afford to cook something…

View from the funicular railway to Lynton from Lynmouth

Getting dropped off in the middle of the moors and then realising you brought the wrong map isn’t the best start to a hiking adventure in Devon but, as I found out, there are worse places to get lost.
‘Jamie and I had been craving a bit of country air for a while. So we dig out our walking boots from the back of a cupboard and plot a few days exploring the Two Moors Way, a coast-to-coast route that links Dartmoor and Exmoor. After a five-hour drive from our home in north London, we find ourselves in a blissful hydrotherapy spa at Home Place Farmhouse in Challacombe, gazing out at Exmoor’s rolling hills. Nestled in a valley, our cosy adults-only self-catering cottage is a short stroll from 16th-century village pub The Black Venus Inn, a friendly, characterful bar with beer for dogs (yes, beer for dogs). After three delicious courses and a bottle of red wine, we’re ready to turn in, our bellies full of homemade apricot and raspberry crumble.

Walking the walk
The 102-mile Two Moors Way runs from Ivybridge in South Devon, across Dartmoor and Exmoor national parks to Lynmouth on the North Devon coast (visit-exmoor.co.uk). As we are only staying two nights, we focus on the last leg, walking eight miles from Prayway Head to Lynmouth. After being dropped off in a taxi, the wrong-map situation sinks in and we are relieved to find that our destination is signposted and the terrain not too challenging. The path flits in and out of woodland as you drop into the valley, and the views are extraordinary. Lynmouth is a vision nestling in green hills – it’s easy to see why visitors call this area Little Switzerland – and the bright green of the forests and deep blue where the East Lyn River and Hoar Oak Water meet is stunning. We stroll into town, past the pretty harbour, to the landmark Rhenish Tower, which was built in the 1860s to store salt for indoor bathing.

After a late fish and chip lunch admiring the harbour views at The Ancient Mariner Restaurant in The Bath hotel, we hop on the Victorian funicular railway to travel 500ft up to Lynton, Lynmouth’s little twin, an unspoilt town with a handful of independent shops, an impressive town hall, and home to Highcliffe House, our next overnight stop. With gorgeous panoramic views of Exmoor and the North Devon coastline, this luxurious boutique B&B is the perfect place to put your feet up after a long day’s walking. Dinner is a delicious meal at The Vanilla Pod, where, for a very reasonable £22 per head, you can share a mezze starter and have a main course each.

Home Place Farmhouse Spa in Challacombe
Lost on the Moors
A room with a view at Highcliffe House
Soaked after The Valley Off The Rocks walk

The next day we stay local and set off for a shorter coastal walk to the well-known beauty spot The Valley Of Rocks. Despite the weather taking a turn for the worse and soaking us to the bone, it didn’t detract from the spectacular landscape. Five miles and two soggy sandwiches later, we find our way back to Highcliffe House, where we dry off and enjoy a well-deserved cream tea. In the car heading back to London, our GPS efficiently sorts out our route home, but I rather miss the romance of our mapless amble across the moors, not knowing what lay over the next hill, or behind the next tree. And, of course, we still have another 94 miles to go…’


WHERE WE STAYED
Home Place Farmhouse Spa
Each cottage at these converted barns is cosy, charming and well equipped. A selection of cooked farmhouse breakfasts are served in your cottage or you can opt for a continental self-catered breakfast. Prices from £250 for a two-night weekend break for two, with use of the spa facilities. (farmhousespa.co.uk)

Highcliffe House
With stunning sea views and luxurious bedrooms, this period B&B offers complimentary cream tea on arrival, tailor-made breakfast and opulent décor.
We wanted to stay forever. Prices from £115 per night, based on a two-night stay for two people, including breakfast. (highcliffehouse.co.uk).


Exmoor ramblings


For more information about walking the Two Moors Way, Exmoor or the North Devon coast visit visit-exmoor.co.uk.


 

Dark Horse Sauvignon Blanc

Dark Horse Sauvignon Blanc… I always judge a book by it’s cover (I’m a designer, that’s what we do) so generally I’m drawn to wine with the prettiest label. Not normally a white wine drinker, I was extra bamboozled to say the least, I mean what’s the difference between a Sancerre and Riesling, a Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc? Oh sod it, I know it’s warm out but maybe I’ll just get red, better the devil you know. I put the joke bottle of Lambrini down I’d picked up to scare Jamie and an interesting label caught my eye. A sleek label with a clever logo that incorporated a wine glass into the silhouette of a horse. SOLD!
“I often find Sauvignon Blanc a bit too floral” said Jamie as he carefully inspected the bottle. “Willing to give it a got though”. So we bought it, drank it and loved it.
It was light, zesty and smooth which ticked a lot of boxes and was most importantly very easy drinking. So much so in fact, we finished the bottle and had to go and buy another. Well it was Saturday night (see pictures below Jamie took of me, they’re appallingly bad but we had drunk 2 bottles of wine.)
So if you’re off to a barbecue this summer and need of a bit of crowd pleaser, then Dark Horse is your man… Or horse. Dark Horse Sauvignon Blanc 75cl, £8.50 available at Sainsbury’s and Ocado.
Oh and please always drink responsibly (unlike me).

(This is not an advert. All products featured in the section are products I genuinely use and like. No money has exchanged hands (unfortunately).

Foundation: Clinique vs Laura Mercier

Foundation: Clinique vs Laura Mercier
Foundation: Clinique vs Laura Mercier

My Clinique foundation was always going to be a hard one to replace, not only for it’s buttery texture but for its anti-blemish formula. However, I do believe I’ve managed to find a suitable premium alternative. Hurrah!
I wasn’t able to find a foundation with an anti-blemish incorporated into it, but Laura Mercier do an anti-blemish primer I could use in addition to my foundation. I always assumed primer was a bit of a waste of money, glorified moisturiser but I was wrong. Since using the primer I’ve found my foundation stays on longer and my skin is noticeably clearer. I’m not sure if it’s down to the anti-blemish formula in the primer, or just the use of the primer itself but whatever it is, it’s working. My skin is almost totally spot free at the moment which is almost unheard of!
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The foundation itself isn’t as buttery in texture as the Clinique but it is silky and has a lovely sheen to it. Considering its thickness, the Laura Mercier foundation doesn’t wear heavy and gives really good coverage, better than the Clinique. It is however £10 more but I’ve found that I don’t need to use as much to get the coverage I desire. The primer also bumps up the price by £29 but if you’re not spot prone, I’m sure you could go with a more affordable primer.
I love my new foundation, my skin now has a healthy glow and is clearer than it’s been in a long time. I prefer the sheen finish apposed to the matt and am enjoying the staying power so all in all, I’m pretty happy with my swap. My purse isn’t (obviously) but I think if it goes on your visage, you should pay the money. Can’t go smearing any old shit on your face after all.
The next product I’ll be looking to replace is my MAC concealer so until then, have a very happy New Year.
Laura Mercier Silk Creme Oil Free Foundation in Cream Ivory, £35
Laura Mercier Foundation Primer – Blemish-less, £29
Clinique Anti-Blemish Solutions Liquid Makeup, 02 Fresh Ivory, £25

faces-flat
Laura Mercier are not certified by the Leaping Bunny logo but I am still satisfied that they do not test on animals… “Laura Mercier is committed to the elimination of animal testing. We are equally committed to consumer health and safety, and bringing to market...”

If you enjoyed this post (or even if you haven’t) I’d love to hear from you @corrieheale corrie.heale@gmail.com.

Sacla’ Fiery Chilli Pesto Pots

1-3-4_fierychilli_pot

Sacla’ Fiery Chilli Pesto Pots… I love pesto but what I don’t love, is a jar of mouldy pesto. Like most people, I have a terrible habit of buying pesto, using one tablespoon and then allowing it to fester in the back of my fridge. Well no more my friends because Sacla’ have cleverly created pesto pots, praise the lord!
I found them a very welcome cupboard surprise when all I had in my fridge was a few cloves of garlic and a jar of Branston pickle. Ten minutes later I was scoffing a bowl of fiery spaghetti with a glass of wine, winning!
They come in three flavours, classic pesto, sun-dried tomato and my favourite, fiery chilli. Sacla’ Pesto pots 4 x 45g from £2 (available at most major supermarkets).

(This is not an ad. All products featured in the section are products I genuinely use and like. No money has exchanged hands (unfortunately for me).