Tag Archives: short breaks

Tewkesbury Park Hotel and Golf Club

A Dog-Friendly Short Break in Tewkesbury

We dog lovers are really not that hard to please. For the ideal dog-friendly break, we only require a few things:

  • A comfortable, grown-up hotel where dogs and their traveling companions are not made to feel like pariahs, relegated to the smelly room next to the laundry.
  • Lots of outdoors to run around in; fields, forests, or sandy beaches will do – we’re not fussy.
  • A good choice of attractions, at least some of which welcome dogs as well as people

A few dog-friendly coffee shops or pubs don’t hurt either.

Last month Lulu the Westie and I, along with her Westie pal Darcy and his human chums, discovered Tewkesbury, a medieval market town at the confluence of the Rivers Severn and Avon. Just two and a half hours northwest of London, the Gloucestershire town beneath the Malvern Hills sits on the Northern edge of the Cotswolds.  It has, we discovered, everything needed for a dog-friendly break and then some.  

Where to Stay

Tewkesbury Park , was named”Fido’s Favorite – Best Pet Friendly Hotel”  in the 2017/18  bestlovedhotels awards. What better recommendation for a Westie outing?  We went (at the invitation of the owners) to check it out.

The family-owned hotel in a converted 18th and 19th century manor house has been undergoing a dramatic programme of refurbishment.  In late 2017 a series of glamorous “heritage suites” (lovely but not dog-friendly) and a wing of ground floor, dog-friendly rooms were launched.

Public areas, including an informal reception, a dog-friendly piano lounge, a bar and several comfortable sitting areas, are spacious and airy, decorated in soothing combinations of French blue, mellow yellow, grey and taupe. Have a look:

Photo courtesy of Tewkesbury Park Hotel
Photography at Tewkesbury Park Hotel, Spring 2016
One of several cocktail bars.

Rooms in the dog-friendly wing are comfortably furnished in a contemporary, country house style – tartan carpets, memory foam beds (one for you and a memory-foam doggy bed for Fido). Ours had plenty of closet and drawer space, two comfortable chairs, a table and a dressing table with enough power points for all my chargers and devices.

Dog friendly rooms at Tewkesbury Park overlook the golf course
Dog-friendly room overlooking the golf course. ©Ferne Arfin 2018

The hotel sits on what seems to be the highest hill in Tewkesbury, with views of rolling countryside in all directions. It’s surrounded by an 18-hole golf course which is  “Highly Recommended” by Golfshake and gets good marks from UKGolfGuide and Leading Courses.

Great for golfers but less so for travelers with pets. The dog-friendly rooms are all on the ground floor with French doors onto the golf course (which are unusable, as you can exit but not re-enter through them).  As soon as we arrived, Lulu found the doors to the grassy lawns madly exciting.  And the golfers, who pass frequently in close proximity to the hotel, found Lulu – her nose pressed against the glass – entertaining as well.  So much for rooms with views, privacy or morning daylight.  The curtains had to remain firmly shut through our entire stay.

On the plus side:
  • the staff are universally helpful and welcoming.
  • the hotel’s peaceful spa has a reasonably-sized, heated pool, steam room, sauna and outdoor hot tub (a bit of a challenge to get into on a wintry evening though) as well as a gym. A variety of treatments are available too.
  • the breakfast buffet is generous and varied (but leave Fido in your room because the buffet is laid out in a separate room, down a corridor and a short flight of steps, from the piano lounge where dogs are allowed. It makes for a bit of a juggling act and someone has to stay behind with your pooch).
  • if you opt for a dinner bed and breakfast package, Fido gets a special meal, cooked to order in the hotel kitchen.
Chef prepared meals for Fido at Tewkesbury Manor.
Party manners – Lulu is attentive and on best behaviour as food and beverage manager Leon puts the finishing touches to her room service meal of chicken, rice and gravy.

The Canine Retreat package costs £199 for two plus one pampered pooch and includes a welcome pack of doggy treats with suggested walks, bed and breakfast accommodation,  a traditional afternoon tea, a £25 spa voucher and a three-course dinner for two as well as a dog’s dinner. Lulu enjoyed her generous chicken, rice and gravy supper. As is common in the travel industry, we were guests of the hotel.

Where to Eat

The Tewkesbury Park Hotel  has a competent restaurant with a menu based as much as possible on locally sourced ingredients as well as a varied, reasonably priced and well-chosen wine list.  Quite a few wines – including champagnes – are available by the glass and the selection of moderately priced bottles is very good. Most of Europe is represented on the list as well as a few New World wines from South America and South Africa. 

But my oh my what gorgeous desserts. Go if only to finish your meal by sampling the genius pudding efforts of Chef de Patisserie Dinesh.

White chocolate and passionfruit panacotta with blood orange sorbet, gels, meringues, nuts and bits of greenery. Divine.

A white chocolate and passion fruit panacotta, topped with tangy blood orange sorbet, was wobbly and sweet yet interestingly astringent. A companion’s dark chocolate and praline mousse looked both light and rich – how is that possible? He reported that the balance of flavours worked very well.

The restaurant at Tewksbury Park is fully licenced, so you don’t have to be a hotel guest to dine there. Elsewhere in the town, pickings are pretty slim though we have heard good things about My Great Grandfathers and The Abbot’s Table.

Things to do in Tewkesbury

We don’t know if Tewkesbury is trying to attract dog lovers but there certainly seemed to be a lot of “dogs welcome”  signs on the doors of coffee shops, cafes and pubs around the town.

Other things to do with your canine companion:

  • Visit Tewkesbury AbbeyMore than 900 years old and a Benedictine Abbey before the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII,  the Abbey Church was saved from total destruction when the townspeople bought it from the King for the price of the lead in its roof. It’s now a monumental parish church with seven impressive medieval stained glass windows and, at 14 metres square and 45 metres high, the largest Norman church tower in existence, anywhere. Remarkably, it is completely dog-friendly. Your well-behaved pet is even welcome during services and concerts.
  • Explore this ancient market town. It has 379 listed historic buildings, a photo op around every corner. There are at least 30 interesting alleyways worth a look including Old Baptist Chapel Court, leading to the 17th century Old Baptist Burial Ground and Meeting House.
  • Enjoy the rivers. The upper reaches of the Severn and the River Avon come together here. There are peaceful, dog-friendly walks along the mighty Severn, Britain’s longest river, and boat trips on the Avon with views of medieval cottages and an ancient mill.  Severn Leisure Cruises offer ferry services and half hour pleasure cruises around the town and between Tewkesbury and Twyning from April to September.
  • Follow the Battle of Tewkesbury Trail – The Battle of Tewkesbury in May 1471 was a turning point in the Wars of the Roses, putting the House of York in power for the next 14 years. Much of the battlefield remains undeveloped rolling meadow and woodland, perfect for dog walking leavened with a bit of history. Pick up a map leaflet in the Tourist Information Centre on Church Street, near the Abbey, and head out.

Tewkesbury  Gallery

Tewkesbury Abbey, a 900-year-old Abbey saved from destruction by the locals and now a parish church.
inside Tewkesbury Abbey
The vaulted ceiling of the nave of Tewkesbury Abbey.
Ceiling above the high altar
One of seven medieval stained glass windows at Tewkesbury Abbey.
17th century courtyard in Tewkesbury, site of a historic Baptist Chapel.
Old Baptist Chapel Court. Courtyard in Tewkesbury, site of a historic Baptist Chapel. The town was a center for nonconformists in the 17th century.
Old Baptist Burial Ground at the end of Old Baptist Chapel Court. The court is one of 30 ancient lanes that wind through the town.
Listed historical buildings in Tewkesbury
Evocative of 17th and 18th century – or much earlier, these houses are a typical sight around the town. Tewkesbury has more than 370 listed historical buildings.

Explore the region on a two-day tour of the Cotswolds with Get Your Guide

Things to do nearby

Toff Milway and visitors at his Conderton Studio
Potter Toff Milway explains his working methods to visitors at his Conderton studio, near Tewkesbury.
Visit the Conderton Pottery 

Shop for beautiful and original salt-glazed pots, jugs, platters and planters at ceramic artist Toff Milway’s studio in Conderton,  about 6.5 miles on the B4080 from Tewkesbury.  Milway is friendly and generous with his time.  If you are genuinely interested he will take the time to explain the mysteries of salt-glazing and how the subtle colours, gentle iridescence and interesting textures of his work are achieved. The Old Forge, Conderton Near Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire GL20 7PP.

Both sides of a salt-glazed jug with fish handle, by Toff Milway of Conderton Pottery. Ceramic artwork shown with permission of the artist. ©Ferne Arfin 2018


Admire Roman interior decoration in Corinium 

After Londinium,  Corinium, was the second largest city in Roman Britain. Today it’s known as Cirencester and it’s a 40 minute drive from Tewkesbury but well worth the effort to see the national collection of Romano-British mosaics at the Corinium Museum. 

 If you get the munchies, stop off along the way in the spa and racing town of Cheltenham, where local girl turned world traveller, Emma, of The Gap Life Diaries, recommends a handful of tempting, relaxed, all day eateries.

Above and below, details of mosaic floors at Corinium Roman Museum in Cirencester.

 The mosaic floors, most discovered in Cirencester but some brought from other Roman sites, offer a fascinating glimpse into the lives of first and second century  Romans in Britannia.

There’s a small admission charge to the Corinium Museum which, unfortunately, is not dog-friendly.  But medieval Church of St. John the Baptist, nearby, is.

Porch of Church of John the Baptist in Cirencester’s market square. The English perpendicular Gothic church is what is left of an Augustinian monastery destroyed by Henry VIII

The 900 year old church, built in the English Perpendicular Gothic style, is all that remains of a former Augustinian monastery (yes, Henry VIII at it again).  Cirencester’s ancient street plan includes twisting passages and alleys lined with independent shops. In one of them, The Stableyard on Black Jack Street, we stopped for coffee at Jesse’s, an interesting looking dog-friendly bistro that we later found out has two AA rosettes and is listed in The Good Food Guide, Hardens and the 2016 Michelin Guide. So a return visit is probably in the cards.


Thank Goodness for Days Inn. Really? Yes Really!

My friend, my dog and I had spent a few days in France in May. We stayed in several luxury hotels that were, on the whole, long on charm but (with one exception) very short on space. 

photo courtesy of Days Inn, Maidenhead.

The last day of our trip was a long one with a lot of driving and a late ferry crossing. My friend had suggested we book a room at the halfway mark to break the journey. It’s only 80 miles from the Dover Ferry Port to West London (a two hour drive, the AA rather optimistically suggests) so that didn’t seem necessary. 

But roadworks on the M20 heading out of Dover turned our first hour on the road into a 20-mile, single-lane nightmare of orange cones looming out of total darkness, punctuated by the glare of oncoming lorries.  By the time we pulled into the Junction 8 service area on the M20 in Maidstone,  my eyes were burning and my jaw was clenched. I was thankful I’d taken her advice.

It was a Days Inn.

I’d never stayed in one before and if you’d asked me, before this trip, what I thought of the brand, I probably would have said, not a lot. Their no-frills websites with tiny pictures and lurid colours set in an electric blue background were not very tempting. But it was where we needed to stop and it was cheap (£68 for both of us plus the dog) so I booked it.

We arrived, bedraggled, at around midnight. Because you pay for these rooms online, in advance check-in is totally painless.  I just handed over a printout of my reservation in exchange for a digital card “key” and directions to our room.  That was it. No formalities, nothing to sign, nothing to pay.

The room, after several days on the Continent, seemed huge – a separate king-sized bed for each of us plus a pair of upholstered arm-chairs. There were plenty of outlets for our chargers, extra pillows in the cupboard, tea and coffee-making things, flat-screen television and a large, spotless shower room.

Bags of style? No, just your basic, early 21st century motel room. And maybe the towels were a little on the stiff side. But it was clean, comfortable, quiet and there. As I stretched out on the first bed I’d been offered in five days that was actually big enough to stretch out on, I thought, “Thank God for Days Inn. Who knew?”

My life on the road is just full of surprises.

Check out what other guests think on Tripadvisor and book this hotel.


Le Touquet, France's most glamorous Channel beach.

Seven great reasons to choose Pas de Calais for the weekend

Pas de Calais, for too long overlooked and underrated, turns out to be a great place for le weekend. 

On my first trips to France, my guide was a little red, white and blue (now out of print) book called “French Leave” by Richard Binns. He offered all sorts of irreverent observations about short, off-the-beaten-path visits and quick, cross Channel hops. With my copy of Binns’ latest book tucked in my pocket, I traveled by ferry to the closest French ports then drove on to discover most of Normandy and a bit of Brittany.

As I recall, Binns didn’t much rate Pas de Calais so neither did I. It was Flanders, a featureless landscape flattened by two world wars and centuries of conflicts before them; a place to race through along the way to Paris and beyond. With the arrival of Eurostar and cheap European flights, I never gave Pas de Calais nor, frankly, the ferry another thought.

Then, at a travel industry gala, I bought a raffle ticket that changed my mind.

Taking a chance on France 

The raffle prize, provided by DFDS Ferries, Pas de Calais Tourisme and Najeti Hotels, was a ferry crossing, accommodations and meals for a few days exploring this region of Northeast France…and yes, I won.

Westies and boat trips in France go together like love and marriage.
Lulu on her first trip to France.

In May, joined by an American friend and my new best mate, Lulu the Westie (France is mostly dog-friendly), I set sail from Dover on the short crossing to Calais and discovered what I should have known long ago. Pas de Calais is a great, easy to get to short break destination.  Here are seven reasons why:

1.Glorious beaches and seaside resorts

La Manche may be just another name for the same English Channel, but somehow the water looks more blue and inviting on the French side. It must be the beaches. At both Le Touquet-Paris Plage, pictured above, and Wimereux, below, endless stretches of soft golden sands are irresistible. We had to kick off our sandals and wiggle our toes in it.

Le Touquet, southwest of Boulogne was founded in the 1880s and was a turn of the century magnet for wealthy Brits, Belgians and Parisians. It had its Jazz Age heyday in the 1930s and it shows in the many Art Deco homes  that mingle with the rest of the feast of fantasy architecture – Belle Epoque, Empire, Napoleanic.

Beach house with coloured tiles
Colourful houses by the sea give Wimereux a frivolous, holiday feeling.

H.G. Wells once eloped here and it’s where the new French president, Emmanuel Macron has his voting address.

You can ride a horse through coastal forests and along stretches of beach here, bet on the horses or gamble at a casino said to be Ian Fleming’s inspiration for Casino Royale. On a short break like ours, the pedestrianized crosshatch of streets around Rue St Jean, crammed with chic little shops, patisseries, chocolatiers, cafes and bars, is very satisfying and a good place to celebrity spot in season.

Peaches and apricots
In Le Touquet, even the greengrocer is elegantly turned out. © Ferne Arfin

Wimereux, northeast along the coast toward Calais, is smaller but a bit more crowded with its wall of apartments and hotels along a promenade facing the enormous sandy beach. Go inland a block or two and you are back in architectural fantasyland  – mock Normandy-style half timbered cottages, bright pink Victorian gingerbread or shiny, multi-colored ceramic tiles. Stop for a drink on rue Carnot – also good for shops selling regional produce – and watch the passing scene.

For the best variety of coastal towns, steep wooded hills and long Channel views, give the A16 Autoroute between Calais and Boulogne  a miss and take the more scenic D940.

2. Forests and marshes to explore

It is surprising how much and how varied the forest environments of Pas de Calais are. This once heavily industrialized area is the least forested region of France. Only about 8% of the land is covered in woodland. Yet what there is, is wonderful. Pockets of dense pine and deciduous forests break across grass covered dunes surrounding the towns of the Opal Coast and stretch inland along steep river valleys.  Château Cléry, our hotel in the village of Hesdin-l’Abbé on the edge of Boulogne, was surrounded by a woodland park, screaming with birds.

And a huge part of the region, where Flanders, the Opal Coast and the Artois hills come together is the UNESCO-listed  Audomarois marshes,  a biosphere reserve of wetlands, reclaimed land and canals. It was originally dug by monks about 1,200 years ago and has grown over the years so that today it covers more than 22,000 hectares. With its market gardens and floating gardens, it is the only cultivated wetland in France. It’s also the protected home of hundreds of species of birds and mammals.

Amazingly, the town of Saint Omer sits right in the middle of its core marshland area. From Le Maison du Marais Saint-Omer, a newish interpretation center, you can board a traditional boat, a bacôve, and, for about 10€, spend an hour touring a few of the 700 km of canals. 

Windmill in the Audomarois Marais in France.
Windmill beside a canal near the Maison du Marais in St Omer. At one time this waterscape was dotted with hundreds of windmills. ©Ferne Arfin 2017
Flood gate on the Marais Saint Omer.
Traditional methods of water control keep the cultivated land from flooding in the Marais.

3. A rebirth through art

The decline of heavy industry and mining hit Pas de Calais hard. But it is fighting back with art and culture. Ever since the selection of Lille as European Capital of Culture in 2004 revitalized that city, communities across the region have recognized the energetic boost a lively art scene can create. 

Part of that includes cooperative efforts with some of France’s greatest cultural institutions. In 2012, the Fine Arts Museum in Arras began 10 years of cultural sharing with Versailles. The arrangement required the museum, located in the former Benedictine Saint-Vaast Abbey, to strengthen its floors with steel to support the huge marble sculptures from Louis XIV’s palace.

While in Lens, once a major mining center, the Louvre brought tons of glass and steel to the site of a former colliery to create its first provincial gallery, the Louvre Lens. And it’s wonderful. Cool, modern and spacious – the Grand Gallery is a single, 3000 square meter space – it houses a curated selection of Louvre treasures – a kind of Louvre-lite – that will change every five years. In its first year it attracted nearly a million visitors.

We just loved getting within touching distance of  Roman statues; Indian and Islamic art, carving and calligraphy; Renaissance, 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th century paintings, even an imposing statue of Napolean posing as a classical Caesar.  I was especially taken with an amazing pietra dura table from 17th century Florence.

The museum is open every day except Tuesday, from 10am to 6pm and the Grand Gallery is free. If you are racing down to Paris on the A26, take a quick side trip from the motorway to see it. 

Louvre Gallery in Lens, Pas de Calais
Gallery Entrance at the new Louvre Lens. © Ferne Arfin 2017

4. History written in blood

There is no getting away from the fact that one European and British army after another marched across this northeastern corner of France, fighting for pieces of it.  At the Centre Historique Médiéval d’Azincourt, you can pursue the story of the Battle of Agincourt and search for the battlefield (for enthusiasts only. Really).   

Or you can visit La Coupole, a huge dome-covered bunker from which the Germans intended to launch a massive barrage of V2 rockets on England in WWII. The Allies took it in 1944 before it was operational. Now the dome is a 3D planetarium.

We were most moved after we donned WWI “Tommies” helmets and descended 20 meters underground into the La Carrière Wellington, or Wellington Quarry on the edge of Arras.

The quarries were underground military tunnels and living spaces – including kitchens, space for 700 hospital beds, an operating theater and sleeping quarters – carved out of Arras’s historic chalk quarries by the New Zealand Engineers Tunneling Companies, many of them Maori miners. It was here that almost 24,000 British and Dominion troops lived in hiding for ten days before emerging on April 9, 1917, Easter Sunday, for a surprise attack on the German front. 

The site serves as a memorial to those who built the tunnels and those who lost their lives in the Battle of Arras, in the end a battle with little gain and hundreds of thousands of deaths.  The name, by the way, comes from the street names of Wellington, New Zealand, that the tunnelers assigned to the different spaces and underground chambers.

Realistic tour of the Wellington Quarries, WWI battle site in Arras.
Underground in the Wellington Quarry; 24,000 Commonwealth Soldiers waited beneath enemy lines to launch a surprise attack in the WWI Battle of Arras. © Ferne Arfin 2017

Visits are by guided tour, with audioguides – available in English. The site is open from 10am to 12:30pm and from 1:30 to 6pm. The tour takes about an hour and is wheelchair accessible.

5. A Feast of Medieval Flemish architecture

Arras has two massive Flemish-Baroque squares, la Place des Héros and la Grand’ Place, and a late Medieval Gothic Hôtel de Ville (town hall) with a belfry tower known as the le Beffroi. They are all listed UNESCO World Heritage sites and were extensively reconstructed after WWI. But you’d never know it and it’s worth traveling across Pas de Calais just to see them.

Now I could bore you with lots more architectural and historic boilerplate that you can research as easily as I can. But, since this is my blog and these are my photographs, why don’t I just show you.

Continue blog post below slide show

6. Markets

Wherever you are in France, there’s probably at least one market day a week with fresh produce, household goods, clothes, odds and sods on offer. This region has two particularly good ones. We missed the covered market in Le Touquet on this visit but were in Arras in time to catch the market that spreads beyond the  two great squares and also fills Place de la Vaquerie behind the Hôtel de Ville and stretches along rue de Justice and around Eglise Saint Jean-Baptiste.

You can buy almost anything. For me that meant some cheap socks, a rather chic French shopping basket, ripe peaches, dazzling red perfumed strawberries, dried serpolet – a Provencale herb, fat white asparagus and a big bunch of fresh cut chives. I could also have stocked up on plants, sewing notions, sweets, gadgets, meat, poultry, fish, cheeses, eggs and – had I been so inclined – horsemeat. 

Arras Market basket seller.
At the Arras market, a tempting array of baskets to fill up with market goodies. ©Ferne Arfin

The Arras market runs from about 8:30 Saturday morning until around 1:30pm.

7. Regional food and drink

  • Cheeses  It wouldn’t be France without a good selection of locally made cheeses, would it?  The cheeses of Pas de Calais seem to share two characteristics – relatively mild taste and incredibly smelly rinds.  Some to try include Maroilles, Coeur d’Arras – a heart shaped cheese with an orange rind, and Vieux Boulogne, according to the Independent, the world’s smelliest cheese – yet remarkably mild.
  • Beer  With its proximity to Belgium and its Flemish heritage, it’s no surprise that beer is probably more popular here than wine. There are at least 30 artisan breweries within the region.
  • Chips If you have a hankering for chips, french fries and other batter-dipped fried foods, this is the place for you. Again, the Belgian influence is at work here. Whether they are food vans or small cafés,  frîteries are everywhere. Les Friteries, a French web portal that lists  frîteries all over the country lists 835 places in Pas de Calais. The nearest competitor is neighboring Picardie, with only 33. 
  • Flammekueche –  Technically this is an Alsatian or southern German specialty, but it is widely available in the casual
    tarte flambee with creme fraiche and lardons.
    Alsatian specialty now widely available in Northeast France. ©Ferne Arfin

    brasseries of Northeastern France and makes a tasty, quick meal with a local beer. A bit like a pizza, with a much thinner, crisper crust, this is a flame-cooked tarte covered with crême fraîche, thinly sliced onions and lardons.

If You Go:

Getting there

We sailed on a recently refitted and immaculate DFDS ferry from Dover to Calais, the so-called short crossing. It has been a while since I did that and I can highly recommend it. The vessel was comfortable, the coffee and munchies pleasant and the smooth crossing only took 90 minutes to the heart of the action. And it was fun to wave goodbye to the white(ish) cliffs of Dover. There are 15 crossings each way on weekdays. Prices start at £39 each way for a car and up to 9 passengers, though prices vary by season and time of day.


Najeti operates several luxury hotels with nearby golf privileges. We stayed in several and particularly enjoyed the Najeti Hôtel Château Cléry. The 18th century country estate is set in a woodland park in Hesdin-l’Abbé, on the edge of Boulogne-sur-Mer. Rooms and suites spread across the chateau as well as several cottages and “fermettes”, or little farmhouses. Prices are relatively reasonable with the “demi-pension” option – or dinner, bed and breakfast – in a luxury room going for about 225€. 


Do you have any recommendations for things to do, places to stay, things to eat in Pas de Calais? We’d love to hear them so do share your ideas by clicking on the comments link at the top of this post.