March 20th, 2018 | Rachel Parry
If ever there’s a much-needed time for a spa visit it’s during these spells of cold, bitter weather when our complexions are exposed to harsh conditions and our energy levels take a hit. We were therefore delighted to receive an invitation for an indulgent overnight stay at the wonderful Macdonald Portal Hotel, Golf & Spa resort in rural Cheshire, back in February.
As we were heading over to the North West to host one of our Luxury Wedding Fairs at the prestigious Chester Grosvenor, we thought tagging this stay onto the weekend of the event would be an ideal way to recharge the batteries. And so, after our successful wedding show came to an end we packed up the car and travelled 20 minutes from city of Chester out into the countryside to unwind in Portal Hotel’s idyllic surroundings.
Upon arrival we received an incredibly warm welcome and were informed that our room had been upgraded – a super nice touch, which saw us staying in a spacious twin room with large veranda looking out onto rolling lawns and woodland. It was perfectly serene and ensured a we had a peaceful night’s rest.
Having checked out the accommodation, we headed to the bar for an early evening drink before taking our seats for a three-course meal in the hotel restaurant. The service from the waiting staff was faultless and we were well looked after throughout. My mum joined me on this visit and we both have identical taste and so we ordered the same starter and main course; a winning combination of salmon, cream cheese and capers to start, followed by beautifully cooked lamb, accompanied by perfectly cooked vegetables and a tasty jus. For dessert I whole-heartedly gave into my sweet tooth opting for the chocolate tart served with a berry sorbet while my mum went for the slightly lighter cheesecake option. Having polished off a bottle of Rioja we headed to our room and, as expected, had a blissful night’s sleep in our comfortable suite.
Keen to make full use of the hotel’s facilities, I was up early the following day for a workout in the gym ahead of breakfast. As with many hotel gyms, it was on the smaller side but had all the necessary equipment for a full work out. I also enjoyed that its large windows gave gorgeous views of the surrounding countryside, making the exercise feel all the more refreshing.
Ready to refuel I joined my mum for breakfast in the restaurant where we had eaten the night before. There was a full continental offering laid out buffet style, including cereals, fresh fruit, juices, and pastries, plus the option to order something hot. As we had time in the spa area to come, we didn’t want to overfill and so enjoyed fresh fruit followed by a comforting bowl of porridge accompanied by nuts and honey. Delicious.
Treatment time was next. As mentioned I felt my skin was particularly suffering from the cold winter weather and so I selected the Elemis Superfood Pro-Radiance Facial, while my mum opted for the Elemis Deeper Than Deep Hot Stones Massage.
My therapist Karen showed me to the cosy treatment room and explained details of the treatment before asking me about any skin concerns (of which I have many!) and then informed me how she would tailor the facial to address my combination skin. All I had to do was lay back, relax and be transported to the height of relaxation. The varying lotions and potions were massaged, tapped and smoothed into my skin before a face mask was applied and the pampering continued with a scalp massage – literally one of the best things in life as far as I’m concerned. When my treatment came to an end, my skin was left radiant and glowing as promised. Certainly, an ideal pre-wedding pick-me-up for brides-to-be whose big days are just a matter of weeks away.
Meeting my mum in the warm and dimly-lit relaxation room, she reported equally good things from her treatment saying that all knots had been removed from her back and that she felt much less tension in her shoulders, so perhaps a good one of any of you ladies out there suffering a little planning stress.
November 30th, 2017 | Rachel Parry
After a hugely busy but absolutely EPIC season of our autumn wedding fairs, we we’re in need of some serious downtime come mid-November. Not only to recover from organising and running more than 20 luxury shows across the north of the country in the latter part of the year, but also to come down from high of them being so well-received and attended by fabulous suppliers and lots of lovely brides-and-grooms-to-be. Big love to all!
And so, an invitation to Cheshire-based spa hotel Mottram Hall, couldn’t have come at a better time; this was one Blissed Out Bride visit we were well and truly going to benefit from.
Nestled amongst peaceful parkland, the stunning hotel is the perfect retreat for those craving a large dose of R&R. And it has something to tempt all – couples, guys and girls – with an 18-hole championship standard golf course, luxurious spa, champagne bar and AA Rosette restaurant all on site. So, you can eat, drink, be merry and sleep (which is exactly what we planned to do).
Arriving at lunchtime, our spa package began with a light lunch accompanied with a glass of fizz, setting the tone for the rest of our stay. Once fed and watered (or prosseco-ed!) we headed straight for the spa – like I say, this was one trip we were more than ready for!
A step, leap and stride in front of many ‘spa hotels’ Mottram Hall’s facilities are award-winning, having been bestowed a 5* Bubble Rating by the Good Spa Guide and named ‘Best Country Retreat Spa’ at the Good Spa Guide’s 2017 Regional Awards.
This comes as no surprise really, when in addition to the usual facilities one would expect to find at such a resort, Mottram also boasts the UK’s first Alfresco ThermoSpace. We were super keen to try out all the facilities for ourselves, even if it did mean venturing outside in our swimwear on a chilly November day!
After a quick dip and laze around the indoor swimming pool and hydropool, we wrapped up in our robes and headed outdoors to the ThermoSpace, which is said to incorporate traditional spa therapies with the great outdoors. And we must say, it’s a winning combination!
Experiencing both the Brechelbath and Stonebath, both designed to relax and raise the body’s temperature, we felt wonderfully calm, cocooned in the warmth while enjoying views of the idyllic gardens through floor-to-ceiling glazing.
Next, the outdoor hydrotherapy pool. Just as it was getting dark this was the perfect place for a good catch-up in the open air surrounded by bubbling water as we reflected on the amazing season of wedding fairs and discussed how to raise the bar even higher for our spring 2018 shows (the line-up for which, you can view here).
To complete our spa time, we indulged in a treatment. With the cooler weather playing havoc with my skin I opted for a personalised facial, while Julia was intrigued by the sound of the ESPA Signature Floatation Treatment.
I was led to a softly-lit treatment room where my lovely therapist explained the procedure, which including running a SkinVision lamp across my face to identify needs not visible to the naked eye so that she could tailor the facial to perfectly suit my requirements. Responding to areas of both oiliness and dehydration, she used balancing products that would address both, leaving me with soft, glowing skin.
Julia’s treatment meanwhile was carried out on a ‘floatation bed’ in one of the Alfresco ThermoSpace rooms. The personalised treatment began with a full body polish, followed by a body wrap and relaxing scalp massage. The water-type bed upped the relaxation and Julia admitted slipping into a light sleep during certain parts of the treatment, and emerged with radiant skin, from top to toe!
November 24th, 2017 | Julia Braime
Behind the scenes here at Brides Up North HQ, things are pretty busy! We’re already working a year ahead to bring you almost 40 sensational (and each unique and different!) bespoke bridal shows for 2018 and work has started in earnest on Issue 09 of our gorgeous bi-annual glossy magazine, UNVEILED, out in March. Add an impending site relaunch (yes (!), watch this space), a brand spanking new digital platform for UNVEILED (launching next week people!) and all the juggle that comes with being a mummy of two littles away from the office, and this editor was seriously in need of some R&R.
So, when the lovely people at Seaham Hall in Country Durham waved an overnight spa stay for two my way, I grabbed the husband, set the out of office and used up some babysitting credits. It was time to test out Seaham’s offering to make sure that you lovely Brides Up North stay blissed out in the run up to your big day and beyond.
Now, this place is incredible and some. Recently awarded the Conde Nast Johansens UK Readers’ Award 2017 (and from the facilities and service you can see why) this coastal gem is full of charm.
Pre-stay, the hotel’s website had boasted that, ‘set within 37 acres of delightful gardens in a stunning cliff top location overlooking the sea and the coast of the Durham Heritage Coastline, Seaham Hall is a beautiful Georgian Mansion ideally located in Durham for a luxurious overnight retreat’. They weren’t wrong.
On the menu for us was a stay in one of Seaham Hall’s beautiful suites, decorated artfully in shades of grey, teal and a zingy yellow – with enough wallpapers, cushions and objets d’art to keep this interiors magpie very happy indeed; a spa day for two (is it a bit cringy to read your own magazine by the pool? Maybe, but I don’t care!) with some delightful treatments thrown in; pre-dinner mojitos delivered to our suite (nice touch!) and a fine dining dinner in Byron’s Restaurant, followed by the best night’s sleep that I’d had in a long, long time.
Byron’s Restaurant has recently been awarded a 1st in the Taste Durham Awards, recognising the hotel’s hard work towards supporting and championing local producers and suppliers. My husband and I shared the Chateaubriand, and can vouch for its flavour, freshness and presentation. And although we didn’t try it ourselves, the dishes served in the venue’s Pan-Asian Restaurant ‘The Ozone’ located within the Serenity Spa looked absolutely delightful.
Now onto that spa. As well as a fully equipped gym (which I didn’t try out – my bad!) the sensational Serenity Spa boasts a 20 metre pool with massage stations; hamman with snail showers and jacuzzi, Asian herbal samarium, salt sauna, Indian steam chamber, hydrotherapy pool, ice fountain, plunge pools and my favourite bit – outdoor hot tubs.
The hubby and I spent a glorious few hours trying out the various heat experiences, bubbling in the hot tubs and relaxing poolside, before it was time for our treatments.
The Serenity Spa offers unique and bespoke holistic treatment rituals from Asia that deliver luxurious, indulgent experiences. Their therapists are chosen not only for their ability but their intuition to your individual needs and the treatments tailored specifically to you. Just lovely!
To aid my too-much-screen-time and sugar skin, I chose a Sunari Prescriptive Facial, which promised to reawaken and rejuvenate my skin with a holistic techinque customised for my skin’s specific needs. Naturally active ingredients were custom blended for intensive exfoliation and renewal; and Seaham Hall’s signature MarMassage (pressure point stimulation) completed the experience, for newly radiant skin. I was glowing!
The hubby meanwhile was treated to a Serenity Signature Massage, a full body massage which unlocks tension and induces a sense of relaxation, wellness and inner calm.
I’d wholeheartedly recommend Seaham Hall for a pre-wedding break to bliss out with the girls or reconnect with your hubby to be amid the planning madness. This would also be the ideal spot for a “just because” romantic break (we are all about those here at Brides Up North HQ!) or a really delightful minimoon.
And if you’ve fallen as much in love as we have here at Brides Up North, why not really commit? Seaham Hall also plays host to a number of luxury weddings a year. Offering exclusive use weddings and ceremonies, a wedding at Seaham Hall would truly be an occasion to remember.
For more information visit www.seaham-hall.co.uk
September 29th, 2017 | Alexis Forsyth
The historic city of Durham is famous for its cathedral, castle and picture-perfect setting by the River Wear, not to mention its first-class university, which attracts students by the hordes. And the good news is that where there are students, there is typically a plethora of bars, restaurants and other activities all awaiting us visiting hens!
A charming destination steeped in heritage, with glorious bridges and cobbled streets, Durham certainly offers hens something more quaint and compact than the much larger neighbouring cities of Newcastle to the north or York to the south.
The city is also the perfect base for hens keen to get out into the Durham countryside and enjoy something altogether more relaxing. Lucky for you, we’ve rounded up some of this fabulous location’s best bits, guaranteed to make your hen weekend one to remember…
Durham is an affordable destination with a variety of options when it comes to overnight accommodation. You have stylish hotel staples in the heart of the city, such as Radisson Blu and the Marriott Hotel Royal County, and on the cheap and cheerful end of the scale, look out for the likes of Travelodge or Premier Inn.
Want to venture out of Durham for a slice of luxury? Look no further than Ramside Hall, a swish four-star hotel on the outskirts of the city set in 350 acres of stunning grounds, complete with an uber-modern spa and Fusion Restaurant.
A river cruise on the Prince Bishop is the perfect way to soak up the city’s beautiful landmarks and serene surroundings. This tranquil escapade along the Wear lasts a full hour and includes a live commentary, with a sun deck and bar onboard to boot. Alternatively, explore the river at your leisure and hire your very own traditional rowing boats from Browns Boats – just make sure none of your hens drop their oars!
If sublime pampering is more of a squad goal for the weekend, the city is close to a number of fabulous spas including our earlier top accommodation pick, Ramside Hall. This is the ultimate spa resort, with a thermal suite and five pools – including a stunning, Insta-worthy infinity pool.
Is a live performance your vice? Then make a date with the Gala Theatre, which plays host to everything from music and dance to comedy and opera. The perfect outing to kick-start your weekend celebrations and switch things up from the usual bar crawl.
September 4th, 2017 | Alexis Forsyth
Pitcher & Piano
Renowned as a party city and an ever-popular destination among hens and stags – Newcastle is a cosmopolitan city with a burgeoning food and drinks scene to match.
Home to some of the most iconic landmarks in the country (yes, we’re looking at you Tyne Bridge), Newcastle has got it all when it comes to a weekend break – from top shopping and leisure activities, to an eclectic mix of arts, heritage and culture.
Here we’ve rounded up some of the Toon’s many highlights that will make your hen do the most fun, enjoyable and memorable of celebrations with your gals.
So, it’s time to brush up on your Geordie lingo ladies, and leave those jackets behind in the hotel room…
Whether you’re splurging on something extra special or simply looking for a place to lay your head for the night – there’s a variety of hotels to suit all budgets and tastes, scattered across the city.
If you’re looking to stay a stone’s throw from the picture-perfect River Tyne on the lively Quayside, there’s the purse-friendly Tune Hotel, as well as the reasonably priced Waterside Hotel situated in a beautiful grade II listed building.
On the more decadent end of the spectrum, you have The Vermont – a four-star luxury hotel offering up a dose of 1930s grandeur, and the uber chic Malmaison, which has welcomed many a celebrity over the years and overlooks the tilting Millennium Bridge.
In the heart of the city, budget design hotel Motel One is a hop, skip and a jump from the main shopping centre and is best described as stylish and affordable; meanwhile the newly refurbished Grey Street Hotel is in a prime location on, yes you guessed it – Grey Street, once voted the finest street in Britain.
Like any city – Newcastle has a thriving social scene offering up a mix of activities to suit every style of hen party.
Of course, who doesn’t enjoy a spot of retail therapy with your girl squad in tow? Intu Eldon Square is the go-to destination for all your high street favourites. Meanwhile, Fenwick department store on Northumberland Street is a shopping haven spread over five floors, with its extensive beauty hall (touted as one of the largest in Europe) housing designer brands, such as Charlotte Tilbury, Tom Ford and Chanel, as well as a Nails Inc bar and Aveda blow dry salon. The historic Central Arcade – also in the city centre – dates back to the 1830s and is worth a browse too, with stores such as Space NK, Cath Kidson and independent jewellery shop, Bcharmd.
Keen to get your game on? Lane 7 is a boutique 10-pin bowling alley – think a swish ambient setting, spotlight-illuminated bowling lanes and lots of other activities to boot, including ping-pong, crazy golf and a karaoke booth. Plenty to keep you entertained for a few hours!
Lane 7 – image source
Afternoon tea is always a popular choice among more sophisticated hens (we’re partial to a scone and some fizz ourselves…) and one of our favourite destinations is SIX, the rooftop restaurant at Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art. Thanks to its floor to ceiling windows, you’ll be tucking into its dainty cakes and scones while enjoying some of the best views on offer of the River Tyne and its iconic bridges.
If an indulgent pamper sesh is your idea of hen heaven, be sure to check out city centre spa, the Mineral House at the Crowne Plaza. Along with a 10m swimming pool, there’s a spa, steam room and relaxation area for the most blissful of afternoons with the gals.
July 11th, 2017 | Alexis Forsyth
image source, photography by Brittany Griffin
Planning and organising a bride’s hen do can (almost) be as stressful as the big day in question. Bringing together a host of school and university friends, family members and work mates – who are almost always dotted in various locations across the UK – can be an arduous task.
And then comes the really tricky part – deciding on what you’ll actually do to celebrate the bride’s final soiree as a ‘single’ woman – and in turn claim the crown as best bridesmaid ever (it’s true, we’re all secretly vying for this accolade).
These days, it’s become the perfect excuse to jet away for a weekend in the sun, but for the hen do staying closer to home, there are lots of fun and creative activities to choose from too, that promise something a touch more sophisticated and memorable than a clichéd night on the tiles.
As such, we’ve rounded up some of our favourite alternative hen party ideas, perfect for the bride-to-be up north and her devoted squad of besties.
We love a throwback or two, especially when it involves retro skates, neon lights, a glitter ball and classic pop tunes. Cue the roller disco, which has seen a revival in recent years, with everyone from Kylie Minogue to Kate Middleton getting their groove on in the roller rink. If your bride was born in the 80s, then you can’t fail to impress with this choice! Manchester is a hotspot for roller discos, with Newcastle also recently dabbling in a pop-up rink at city centre venue, The Boilershop.
Another activity that harks back to our youth is the classic slumber party – the ultimate girls’ nights in! Of course, you’ll want to pick a sumptuous setting that’s extra special – think an urban penthouse, private roof terrace (we love The Light Aparthotel in Manchester’s Northern Quarter) or even a beach house or castle (Kate and Tom’s have curated a fabulous selection of UK venues) – and pair the evening with bubbles, pampering sessions and delicious treats.
Zen parties are now a thing, offering hens a blissful, chilled out session in each other’s company. For something a little different from the norm – House of Voga fuses yoga with 80s dance, offering classes up north, in Edinburgh. Meanwhile Secret Yoga Club run private parties that blend yoga with live music (we’re talking the violin, cello and even chamber ensembles), a candlelit three course feast and a post-yoga activity such as life drawing, reiki or floristry workshops. A truly inspired combination, we think!
Cocktail making is like so five years ago, don’t you know? Instead, get crafty in the kitchen with a macaron workshop, which will be sure to hit the sweet spot on your hen do. We’re a little taken by Mademoiselle Macaron, a kitsch little café based in Edinburgh that offers private classes to hen parties, where you can bring along your own drink and even dress up in a Marie Antoinette wig!
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