Granny Apples knits Twiddle muffs! Easter 2019

When I am not out enjoying myself eating, drinking and reviewing places to recommend on my food and travel blog I am generally kept well occupied with my other hobby which is hand-knitting! I usually knit fashion accessories as gifts for friends but last November I asked the Volunteer Office at my local hospital (Addenbrookes) if they had any knitting projects I could get involved with. I was delighted to hear that they were looking for volunteers to knit Twiddlemuffs for patients suffering from dementia. I wasn’t unfamiliar with the concept as I was aware that a Fidget Blanket is a lap quilt that provides stimulation for the restless hands of someone with Alzheimer’s. Knitted by volunteers, Twiddlemuffs are used in lots of NHS hospitals throughout the UK and given out to dementia patients to take home, so a supply is always needed.img_20190303_1258207

So what is a Twiddlemuff? A Twiddlemuff is a decorated hand muff which in addition to keeping hands warm provides a wonderful source of visual, tactile and sensory stimulation. The muffs are decorated on the outside with haberdashery bits and bobs like buttons, ribbons, sequins, and beads. The exterior of the main body of the muff should ideally be knitted in a variety of textured yarns to give added interest. This is an excellent way to use up any odds and ends of wool, which is what appealed to me about this project.

People with dementia often have restless hands and like to have something to keep their hands occupied so knowing that I am creating something useful for a good cause gives me the feel-good factor! Since I started knitting Twiddlemuffs the word has spread amongst my friends and family and consequently, orders for my muffs have now been sent to other places far and wide (including Denmark). I don’t accept any payment because the muffs don’t cost me anything to make, but I do accept donations of wool and haberdashery which I can use to make and decorate more muffs.

If anyone reading this post is interested in making Twiddlemuffs to donate to their local hospital the best part is, you don’t even need to be a good knitter as they are actually very simple to make and it’s hard to get it wrong as each one can be different. To decorate you can add anything from wool to buttons, beads to zips or ribbons, which most craftspeople already have in their sewing box. Just make sure that all the attachments are sewn on firmly and that the finished muff is machine washable.

How to make a Twiddlemuff

Materials needed:

  • A selection of leftover and odd balls of wool (DK or Chunky) 
  • Needles: 8mm circular or 6.5mm straight needles

Instructions

Cuff:
Cast on 45 stitches using 2 strands of double knitting wool or 1 strand of chunky wool (one plain colour works best). Work in stocking stitch (knit a row, purl a row)
for 11 inches.

Muff Body:
Continue with stocking stitch, but use up oddments of various textures of wool such as chunky, mohair, ribbon etc until the work measures 23 inches. Top tip: two strands of double knit for two rows each gives a lovely assortment of colours. Cast off.

Finishing:
If working with straight needles, lightly iron the long strip of knitting, then neatly join the sides together using edge to edge stitch along the seam with the finished side on the inside. When completed turn the muff inside out so that the finished side is now on the exterior and push the cuff up inside the muff body. Sew the two ends together, again using a neat edge to edge stitch.

Decoration:
Now you can decorate the outside of the muff in any way you choose with ribbons, beads, flowers, zips, loops, pompoms, buttons, etc. For an added extra you could knit a separate pocket for a favourite photo, a key or a hanky. Be creative, but it is important to ensure that each item is securely attached!img_20190216_1846232.jpgimg_20190303_1309154-2img_20190303_1310540img_20190303_1310354

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These are just a small selection of the different Twiddlemuffs which I have knitted over the last few months. I have made so many now that I stopped counting after donating 50! They are very quick to make and I find that I can knit a muff in a few hours but the finishing and decorating is more time-consuming. I can only hope that my muffs have given as much pleasure to the recipients as they have given me to make!

Finally, the above Twiddlemuff is my latest creation which I was asked to make for a ten-year-old autistic boy who has restless hands in class and finds it hard to concentrate.

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Mothers Day Afternoon Tea at Quy Mill

Once a historic watermill, Quy Mill Hotel and Spa is a secluded haven of peace and tranquillity only a few miles outside Cambridge city centre. My daughter and I celebrated Mothering Sunday a day early this year by taking Afternoon Tea at this lovely location.

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The charming rear view of Quy Mill Hotel from the garden
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We enjoyed the traditional Afternoon Tea which was served on a three-tiered stand

img_20190330_1524068-2The sandwiches were freshly made with tasty fillings including smoked salmon, chicken, and curried egg, except the Mozzarella and watercress filling which we found rather bland

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The scones were exceptionally good and served warm. We chose fruit and cheese from a selection, served with an excellent rhubarb jam and clotted cream
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My daughter loved her warm cheese scone served with butter

img_20190330_1523469-1.jpgThe sweet tier consisted of crispy hazelnut and cocoa mousse lollipops, baked passion fruit cheesecake, layered sponge and opera chocolate slice, white cafe cappuccino souffle, praline macaroon, and coconut shortbread biscuit.

The traditional Afternoon Tea was reasonably priced at £18.95 per person and was good value.  For the man in your life, it’s worth noting that a Gentlemen’s Afternoon Tea with a delightful savoury selection is also available at £22 per person.

Minor niggles were that the crockery wasn’t bone china which I always look for when sampling an Afternoon Tea anywhere. The sandwich fillings were an odd twist on the usual selection and the Mozzarella and watercress one was too bland for us. These small criticisms were outweighed by the pleasant and relaxed surroundings, the prompt and friendly service, and the fact that it was altogether an enjoyable experience. Finally, the scones were exceptionally good and the rhubarb jam and baked passion fruit cheesecake were different and delightful additions to the sweet feast.

This is a popular destination so book in advance. Highly recommended.

Quy Mill Hotel and Spa

Church Road
Stow-Cum-Quy 
Cambridge
Cambridgeshire
CB25 9AF
England

 (01223) 293383

http://www.cambridgequymill.co.uk

 

Valentines Day meal at Atithi, Cambridge

The previous week we dined at newly-opened Atithi Indian restaurant and were so impressed with the cuisine that we chose to return for our Valentines Day meal. Atithi offered a seven-course tasting menu with a vegetarian option from £35 per person. On arrival, guests were greeted with a glass of Prosecco which was a lovely welcome.

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Atithi Indian restaurant is located on eclectic Mill Road in Cambridge which is a magnet for foodies
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A single rose at each table was a nice touch for Valentines Day
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To start we enjoyed the Amuse Bouche of Broccoli, honey cumin and ginger. As Steve commented it was incredible how much taste and flavour chef had packed into a small bite!
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The second dish was Kale Chaat, which is deep-fried kale, spiced chickpeas, sweetened yoghurt and tamarind chutney. An unusual and delicious mix of taste and textures served cold.
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My veggie third course of Beetroot Tikki was my favourite dish of the evening. Deep-fried beetroot, with lentil, ginger and smoked apple raita
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Steve enjoyed his third course of Grilled Scallops with peppers and smoked aubergine mash
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A refreshing Sorbet for the fourth course

For the fifth course, Steve’s next dish was Malai Tikka, chicken fillets with cream cheese, ginger and mace and my veggie dish of Stuffed Paneer, cottage cheese, pickled dried figs and five Indian spices.

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The sixth course was the main dish on the taster menu and Steve relished his Railway Canteen Curry, a Lamb curry finished with classic South Indian spices and potatoes, and my dish of Baigan Bartha and Aloo Zeera – smoked aubergine mash with ginger and turmeric. Both were accompanied by pulao rice, garlic naan and daal.

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And to finish this Valentines Day feast what could be nicer than Rose Kulfi with a strawberry dipped in chocolate!

Atithi

52 Mill Road

Cambridge

CB1 2AS

Tel: 01223 662102

http://www.atithi.co.uk

 

Atithi Cambridge for an Indian feast

Last week we enjoyed sampling the delicious food at Atithi, the new Indian restaurant on Mill Road in Cambridge which offers contemporary Indian cuisine with a sophisticated twist. (The premises were formerly known as Kebabish.) Cooked by Kamaladasan, the award winning Michelin star background head chef, I knew we were in for a treat as we know his food from Navadhanya and the The Tiffin Truck. Atithi features dawat sharing options, vegan and vegetarian menus, a 6-course tasting menu, a la carte and lunch at weekends. With the tandoor oven at the heart of the kitchen, the menu draws inspiration from flavours and techniques used from all over India using the only finest and fresh ingredients. In fact we enjoyed the food so much that Steve and I are returning this week for the special Valentines Day taster menu!

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We started our feast with Poppadoms and chutney
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Stuffed Paneer – Cottage cheese, pickled dried figs and five Indian spices
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Beetroot Tikki – Deep fried spiced beetroot with lentil, ginger and smoked apple raita
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Hariyali Scallops – Tandoori grilled scallops, curry leaf, pepper with smoked aubergine mash
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Masala Fried fish – Grilled seabass, ginger, carom seeds, gram flour and chilli
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This Awadhi Lamb Dum Biriyani was the star dish of our evening!
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Diced lamb and rice cooked with pastry lid served with smoked apple raita
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The Naan bread at Athithi is perfectly cooked

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We shared a side dish of Kale Aloo – Potatoes with cumin, garlic and puréed kale
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Two of our party chose this Butter Chicken Masala for our main course. It was a lot hotter and more spicy than I expected!

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We sampled Gajar Ka Halwa – Home made heritage carrot fudge with mango kulfi for dessert

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The taste and presentation of all the dishes was exceptional which is a hallmark of Kamaladasans fine dining style. The menu at Atithi is reasonably priced too and the service overseen by Manager Jose is very attentive. We drank a selection of bottled beers and wine from an interesting list. My only gripe is that they don’t serve any draught beers.

Atithi is a welcome addition to the vast range of eateries on Mill Road and I am more than happy to recommend it. By the way Atithi is the Hindi word for guest which is the way we all felt we were treated!

ATITHI

52 MILL ROAD

CAMBRIDGE

CB1 2AS

Tel: 01223 662102

http://www.atithi.co.uk

 

A Winter sojourn at Cley Windmill, Norfolk

The story starts here with this model windmill!
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This windmill was a surprise Christmas gift from Steve and a major clue to where we were going to stay in January!

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Here! Cley Windmill is a spectacular conversion into a guesthouse which I first spotted several years ago when we were staying at a campsite in the village of Cley next the sea in Norfolk. Since then it has been on my wish list of iconic places to stay so this Christmas gift was a lovely surprise.

Cley Windmill dates from the early 18th Century and is a well-known landmark on the North Northfolk coast. It commands breathtaking views over the salt marshes to Blakeney Point and the sea, nestling comfortably by the old quay and alongside the flint-walled cottages of the village.

In 2006 it was a brilliant idea to turn this old windmill into a B and B and a very successful venture it has proved too, especially as it’s licensed for weddings.  A fabulous restoration in a sublime location the windmill sits among the reedy marshes on the edge of the village of Cley and the interior is simply charming. The guest rooms are attractively furmished in a country-chic style with whitewashed walls and set beneath ancient beamed ceilings. We stayed in the Millers Room which is on the ground floor but the upper rooms of the windmill in particular have spectacular views over the coast and marshes. img_20190109_1026478img_20190108_0948261

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Steve enjoyed a hearty meal of gammon, egg and chips at The Kings Arms in Blakeney

During our stay we enjoyed eating at two pubs in the nearby village of Blakeney in the evenings. The meals were hearty, reasonably priced comfort food but Cley Windmill does provide an evening meal for guests if required and if the superb breakfast we enjoyed there is anything to go by the food is exceptionally good!

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Cley Windmill is situated right on the edge of the National Wildlife Trust reserve of Cley Marshes and perfectly placed for exploring the delights of the North Norfolk coast. This is one of the most imaginative places to spend a weekend break at any time of the year, but it is incredibly popular for its location and originality. Highly recommended, so if you want to book a room for a special occasion take my advice and book your date early!

Cley Windmill

The Quay

Cley-next-the-Sea

Holt

Norfolk

NR25 7RP

http://www.cleywindmill.co.uk

 

Afternoon Tea at The Ivy Brasserie, Cambridge

Last month I enjoyed a delicious Afternoon Tea at The Ivy Brasserie in Cambridge to celebrate a friends birthday. 
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We chose the traditional Afternoon Tea which included a selection of savoury delights, warm fruited scones and unusual sweet treats served with pots of tea or coffee.
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Served on a three-tiered silver stand we tucked into a tasty and unusual selection of savouries which included truffled chicken brioche rolls, marinated cucumber and dill finger sandwiches, and smoked salmon on dark rye bread with cream cheese and chives. On a separate cake stand we were served warm fruited scones with Dorset clotted cream and strawberry preserve.  The sweet treats of Raspberry cheesecake, Chocolate and salted caramel mousse and Crème Brulee doughnuts completed a splendid Afternoon Tea. The mousse was amusingly served in a miniature ceramic plant pot and decorated with fresh flowers which was a surreal touch.

This is my third visit to The Ivy which is a vibrant and sophisticated addition to the Cambridge dining scene but each time my experience has been rather let down by some minor niggles about the service. On this occasion we had to ask twice for some milk for my friends tea and it was a very long wait and when I asked for a second pot of tea it didn’t arrive until I had asked for the bill! I must add that having spoken to friends about this they were very complimentary about the service at The Ivy so it must be that my experience is not the norm. As it was a birthday celebration my friend was delighted to receive a mini cheesecake with a candle as a surprise from a member of staff. A nice touch and highly recommended for at £18.95 per person this is probably the best value Afternoon Tea in Cambridge. Served daily from 3-5pm. 

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The Ivy Cambridge Brasserie

16 Trinity Street

Cambridge

CB2 1TB

Tel : 01223 344044

http://www.theivycambridgebrasserie.com

 

Crete revisited, a Greek Odyssey: September 2018

Last month Steve and I revisited the beautiful island of Crete. Here is a small selection of his wonderful photographs which capture the spirit and essence of this magical place. When I think of Crete I can always summon up memories of that incredible light, with endless days full of hot sunshine, the splendour of the mountains and the bluest of blue seascapes and skies, with vistas of outstanding scenic beauty, colour and historical interest around every corner.

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Pretty town house in Chania with rooms available for rent

We decided to base ourselves in the beautiful town Rethymnon with it’s picturesque Venetian port,  primarily for it’s central location to tour the island. We stayed in an apartment in the Old Town within sight of the impressive ancient Fortress which dominates the landscape. On this trip we particularly wanted to explore the east side of Crete and in our second week we drove to Elounda, which is one of the loveliest and most popular resorts and stayed there for two nights so that we could take a ferry to the island of Spinalonga, a place that has long been on my bucket list to visit.crete 12

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The picturesque harbour of Elounda
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Two fine examples of the pristine churches which we found dotted all over the island

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The Windmills of the Lassithi Plateau, Crete were a spectacular sight

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The joys of al fresco dining late into the warm evenings was a highlight for me. Eating out and the price of food and drink generally was less expensive than the UK, apart from sparkling water which is very costly here as in most European countries. We enjoyed frappes every morning which cost 2 euros at most places and a large beer was 3.5 euros.

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Moussaka is one of my favourite Cretan dishes and it’s on the menu in most restaurants

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To accompany the food we enjoyed sampling the local Cretan beers which were always served in ice-cold glasses!

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Afternoon Tea at PARKER’s Tavern, University Arms Hotel, Cambridge: September 2018

 

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PARKER’s Tavern restaurant is located on the ground floor of the University Arms Hotel on Regent Street in Cambridge

After more than two years of renovation work costing £80 million, Cambridge’s most historic and iconic hotel re-opened last month and I couldn’t wait to visit to sample the food in PARKER’s Tavern restaurant. I had enjoyed a splendid lunch there within days of the hotel opening and returned this week to experience Afternoon Tea with a friend.

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The PARKER’s Tavern creative and stylish Afternoon Tea was served in the hotel library on a traditional three-tier stand
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We started with the savouries which included a selection of sandwiches, warm sausage rolls and Crayfish pastry boats

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The Plum Pudding scones were served warm and accompanied by caramelised apple butter, plum jam and clotted cream

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The bespoke china is full of interesting images which reflect Cambridge history
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The top tier held an unusual selection of sweet treats – Parkers Football truffles, Sir Isaac Newton’s Apple, Rice Pudding Macaroon, and Iced saffron and rose cake
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We were too full to eat all the scones and cakes so we took a ‘doggy bag’ home
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I also took my slice of Duke of Cambridge tart home to enjoy later

This Afternoon Tea is innovative and offers a whimsical take on the traditional and clearly a lot of thought has gone into the invention of it. Every sweet and savoury treat created by chef Tristan Welch was inspired by the city’s literary legacy which is explained in the interesting Afternoon Tea menu booklet.

On this occasion one or two things could have been better as the sandwiches were dry and appeared not to have been freshly made, also we weren’t very impressed with the fillings of Coronation Chicken, Spiced Beef and Smoked Trout. However the sausage roll and crayfish pastry boat were very enjoyable. The still-warm scones were light and fruity and we both loved the plum jam. The sweet treats were all delightful, being unusual and creative and there was plenty to enjoy. A choice of teas are available to accompany the food and fresh pots were offered throughout the meal which is always welcome. Service was polished and professional. I think this Afternoon Tea is over-priced as it’s more expensive than any other I have come across in Cambridge but if you are looking for somewhere impressive and indulgent to take a visitor or for a special occasion then PARKER’s Tavern would fit the bill.

Finally the hotel lavatories are well worth a visit as one can hear the dulcet tones of Alan Bennett reading from the ‘Wind in the Willows’ whilst using the facilities!

The PARKER’s Tavern Afternoon Tea is available by reservation only at least 24 hours in advance and costs £33 per person plus 12.5% service charge.

PARKER’s Tavern

University Arms
Regent Street
Cambridge
CB2 1AD

Tel: 01223 606066

For Reservations, email: reservations@universityarms.com

https://parkerstavern.com

Lavenham Blue Vintage Tea Rooms, Suffolk: July 2018

img_20180721_14314411Lavenham is a very pretty historic village in Suffolk, England, noted for its 15th century church, half-timbered medieval cottages and a circular walk. It’s a popular day trip destination with tourists and yesterday I visited with a friend for the first time and I was astonished at the sheer number of teashops! We had already booked a table at the Lavenham Blue Vintage Tea Rooms because it had been highly recommended and we weren’t disappointed. Housed in a beautiful 15th century building we enjoyed a Traditional Afternoon Tea which included a selection of finger sandwiches, scones, strawberry jam and fresh strawberries, clotted cream, mini trifles, and cakes with a pot of tea or coffee and free refills.  Freshly made food, prompt and friendly service, and great value at £16.50 pp (minimum two people) in delightful surroundings with a choice of eating inside or in the attractive cottage garden at the rear. Highly recommended.

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Lavenham Blue Vintage Tea Rooms are located on a corner of the Market Place in the centre of the village
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I was very impressed with the attention to detail. A lot of thought and effort had gone into creating an authentic retro look in the teashop

 

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Our Afternoon Tea was served on a traditional three-tiered china cake stand. I admired the matching floral tea cosy and place mats
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On the bottom tier we tucked into a selection of finger sandwiches which had tasty fillings of smoked salmon, ham, cream cheese and cucumber and egg and cress
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On the second tier we enjoyed freshly baked scones which were light as a feather with clotted cream, strawberry jam and fresh strawberries

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On the third tier we were treated to a mini trifle dessert, and chocolate fudge cake and slices of Victoria sponge

 

Lavenham Blue Vintage Tea Rooms 

Market Place
Lavenham
CO10 9QZ

Tel: 01787 248295

email : amanda@lavenhambluetearooms.com

http://www.lavenhambluetearooms.com

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Champneys Tring Herts, for a premier spa resort experience: June 2018

Welcome to our latest spa resort experience at Champneys Tring. This month my daughter and I returned to one of our favourite places to celebrate her birthday with one aim, – to indulge in three days of relaxation and pampering and this is the perfect place to do just that!

Tring-garden.jpgimg_20180608_1233216Tring-main-fountain.jpgWe enjoyed sampling the new summer menu with the accent very much on healthy eating combined with the Champneys food philosophy of moderation, balance and variety. Dining here is always a pleasure with excellent service and beautifully  presented dishes.Tring-Restaurant

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These plates of food are typical examples of the starter, main and dessert courses we enjoyed during our stay. Breakfast and lunch are served buffet style with an enormous choice available, and dinner is a more formal three course meal from an a la carte menu.

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The gardens and extensive grounds are beautifully kept and visiting in June we saw the resort at its best bathed in sunshine. We made the most of the outdoor seating and pool areas, and staying in a Ground Floor Garden room on this visit we also had our own patio with chairs, table and sun loungers.

The Mansion House is an elegant building at the heart of the resort with several lounge rooms designed for rest, relaxation and comfort which are tastefully furnished to a high standard.

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Champneys Tring

Chesham Road

Wigginton

Hertfordshire

HP23 6HX


Tel: 01442 291000

email: reservations@champneys.com

http://www.champneys.com/spa-resorts/champneys-tring