Last London Date Night In My 20s ft Thistle Hotel Barbican

Last London Date Night In My 20s ft Thistle Hotel Barbican

I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it another few thousand times in my lifetime, but I LOVE LONDON.

 

Despite living most of my life in Essex, my heart has always belonged to the great City I was born in and to the streets my ancestors walked along in centuries long passed by. (Weirdly, back in the 1800s, relatives of mine actually lived on the same small London road I now work on, although the building they called home was long since lost to the war).

 

Thankfully, Ben feels the exact same way about The Big Smoke and despite us both working there, of a weekend we can often be found walking its streets, retracing steps on routes we know so well and rediscovering new nooks, crannies and alleyways we’ve never seen before.

 

So, when I was offered the opportunity to stay in London for the night and review the Thistle Hotel Barbican just prior to my 30th birthday, it seemed like the perfect opportunity for us to have a final London date night whilst I was in my 20s…

 

It was a lovely warm and sunny August Friday evening and I more or less skipped out of the office as I was so excited about the night that lay ahead.

 

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After checking in with the front desk (who were really friendly and made me feel so welcome!) I headed up to the room. Me being typical me, I managed to get confused and ended up having to ask a staff member to help me find my room – I’m honestly the worst at finding my way around places. I’ve been known to get lost in department stores! However, once being pointed in the right direction, I swiped my keycard and let myself in.

 

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Immediately upon entering you walk into the bedroom area which has a huge bed (Ben and I were miles apart while we slept!) as well as a desk with mirror above – perfect for doing my make-up as it had plenty of plug sockets directly underneath it so I could charge my phone and straighten my hair all without moving an inch.

 

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From the bedroom you walked along a wall of wardrobes to this little study and seating area which had another desk area, a second TV, a sofa and a little tub chair with side table.

 

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The bottle of champagne waiting for us upon arrival was a nice surprise too – I sent a photo of it to Ben as I was so touched and he replied immediately telling me not to drink it before he got there. As if I would…

 

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Then we have the bathroom – and what a beauty of a bathroom it was! Good size bath with shower over, his-n-hers sinks with mirrors above, high quality tiled flooring and walls, and an assortment of complementary items (which I didn’t actually try and I’m kicking myself for now!)

 

Having explored the room and taken the obligatory photos, I switched on my Spotify and started getting ready for the night ahead while I waited for Ben to arrive.

 

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I opted for my ripped faux-leather trousers and ox-blood vest top from Lily Lulu Fashion, my Matalan leopard print earrings (which I’ve had for nearly 10 years now!) and a slick of Rockalily lipstick, my absolute favourite.

 

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Once boyo had arrived, we poured ourselves a glass of bubbly and set about celebrating our final London date night before I turned the big 3-0.

 

Something I have to point out here, because I think it’s a pretty important point, is that the location of this hotel is surprisingly good. When I looked at it on the map I thought it may be a little out of the way, but we walked from here to The Oxo Tower on the Southbank for dinner and it didn’t take too long at all, and I was wearing heels! It’s also only a short stroll from nearly tube access, so you can easily find your way around the City whilst using this hotel as your base.

 

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After an evening of good food, fine wine and great company, we had a wander around the streets of London after dark before heading back to the room and collapsing into the giant bed. We were exhausted! I had planned to make use of their bath as I never find time to chill out and relax in a sea of bubbles at home but I was too tired to even do that!

 

The following morning we were up bright and early as we had an engagement party to get to for 1pm, so we ventured down to the restaurant for a cooked breakfast.

 

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I’ll be honest, I’m always a little wary of food when it’s served buffet style rather than being cooked in the kitchen, as it can often be a little ‘lifeless’ after having sat under heat lamps waiting for someone to claim it, but this was actually really nice! The staff were also really helpful and the dining room was spotless too, which is always nice to see.

 

All in all, I can’t fault our stay here. The room was comfortable and clean, the staff were friendly and helpful, and after a peek into the spa area it seems there were plenty of excellent facilities on offer for those staying there.

 

Thank you for having us Thistle Hotels, we loved it!

 

 

Penny xx

 

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* Our stay here was provided free of charge for review purposes but, as always, all comments and opinions are my completely honest and my own (and Ben’s!) *

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Ben’s Birthday Weekend

(ft Travelodge Edinburgh)

Ben’s Birthday Weekend<p>(ft Travelodge Edinburgh)</p>

Back at the beginning of July, we celebrated Ben’s birthday and, since it was the first since we got together I wanted to make it special. I ummed and ahhed about what to do and in the end I settled on taking him away for the weekend – I always prefer to give people gifts that create memories rather than material things that inevitably end up lost in the recesses of a cupboard somewhere in their house.

 

I spent a while researching places to go online and, after whittling down my options, settled on Edinburgh. With it’s vibrant night life, copious amounts of places to eat and drink, plus all the history and culture, I knew it was right up Ben’s street and we would find loads to enjoy doing together there.

 

I decided to travel by train (Virgin East Coast) as it worked out much cheaper than flying but took more or less the same amount of time when you took into account driving to the airport, parking and getting through check-in etc. Plus, when you travel by train you get to see so much more of the country – we passed through some really stunning areas that we would have missed out on had we travelled by air.

 

Upon arrival in Edinburgh, it was a short walk from the railway station to our accommodation, the Travelodge on Queen Street. Located opposite leafy parkland, it’s literally only a couple of minutes walk from nearby shops, restaurants and bars, but is positioned well enough out of the way that you’re not affected by revellers leaving the venues late at night. Location perfection!

 

We checked in (with potentially the nicest and most helpful staff member we’ve ever met in our lives – we think his name was Colin or Chris) and ventured up to our room which, upon opening the door, was a lovely surprise – it was HUGE! Even the massive king-size bed looked tiny in the available space! As well as being big, the room was spotlessly clean, the bed was unbelievably comfortable (I miss that thing) and the bathroom came with a over-bath shower which is ideal offering you the option to either have a quick shower before you head out for a day of adventures or take a bath to relax your weary limbs and unwind after a day of exploring.

 

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As our room was at the front of the hotel, the two floor-to-ceiling windows had views over the trees that made it easy to forget we were within a bustling city, and of an evening, when the sun went down, we were treated to some pretty spectacular sunsets over the top of the tree canopies.

 

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Over the time we were there – Friday to Monday – we did a lot of walking, trying to take in as many sights as possible before we had to go home. We visited the castle, Arthur’s Seat (although my dodgy knees meant I only made it halfway up), Greyfriars Bobby’s grave, Mary Kings Close (the underground street) and we went for a night-time tour of some vaults which are supposedly haunted. Although we didn’t see, hear or feel anything, I’d recommend booking yourself on to one of these tours if you’re ever visiting Edinburgh as you learn lots of history about the place as you walk around. It was really interesting!

 

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On our final day I had us booked in to visit Edinburgh Zoo; we’re both big zoo-lovers so I thought it would be perfect to take Ben to this one as they currently have pandas on site, an animal that neither of us have had the opportunity to see in real-life before. You have to book your panda-viewing in advance and I was pretty excited when we got there, however, it turns out that pandas are pretty lazy little critters and very unsociable – all we saw was the arse-end of a sleeping bear. Literally!

 

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 Look carefully to the left side of the photo. See that grey smudge just above the ‘@ap’ of my watermark? That’s a pandas bum!

 

All in all we had a great weekend. We walked loads, we ate good food, we drank whisky cocktails (when in Edinburgh…) and we laughed a lot. Getting to spend time with the people you love and spoiling them have to be one of the best feelings in the world.

 

I 100% recommend Edinburgh as somewhere to visit for a long weekend, there’s so much to do there I’m sure there’s something for everyone. We both loved it and can’t wait to go back one day!

 

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Edinburgh, we love you.

 

 

Penny xx

 

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* Our room at Travelodge Edinburgh was very generously provided free of charge but, as always, all opinions and comments are honest and entirely my own *

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Sleeping In A Prison Cell – Clink 78

Sleeping In A Prison Cell – Clink 78

As part of our London Date Weekend Ben and I were treated by the lovely people at Clink 78 to a stay in one of their converted prison cells. I’d heard about these rooms before and loving anything a little bit different and quirky, I placed it firmly on my To Do list, so having the opportunity to stay there was very exciting.

 

The first thing I want to say is that if the idea of a hostel turns you off, please carry on reading – Clink 78 didn’t feel at all like a hostel to me. Although I was excited about staying there, having never stayed in a hostel before I was a little worried – I like having my own space and the thought of having communal areas with other people played on my mind a little. I had images floating around my head from Holidays-Gone-Bad-style TV programmes, but thankfully all my fretting was unwarranted.

 

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Externally, the building is hugely impressive. An old court house (hence the old prison cells) it has a rich and varied history having seen band The Clash trialled for shooting a racing pigeon, and even having the one and only Charles Dickens working within it’s walls as a scribe – quite an impressive claim I think you’ll agree!

 

As soon as I walked through the (security coded) doors into the reception, all my hostel-related fears were banished. The space was light, clean and airy with communal seating areas where people could gather to pass the time, and doors leading off to various other areas that residents could make use of – an internet room, dining area, showers and toilets (which were spotlessly clean I have to add!)

 

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The roof of the reception space is domed with beautiful decorative glass, and quotes about travelling and making friends run around the top of the walls.

After checking in (which was really quick and easy with seamless customer service from the staff) we ventured underground to find our room for the night.

 

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As soon as we walked downstairs I was blown away. Although this particular section of the hostel has had the old prison cell doors removed, you can still clearly see the old personality of the building and how it was utilised in it’s former life. I’m a great believer that if a building is converted, some shadow of it’s past should remain. Clink 78 have done this perfectly, adjusting the way this section of the building is used, but the instant you step into the space you can feel it’s history.

 

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Having ventured down to our room we were greeted with an original prison door with all the original fittings (although obviously these are no longer functional for security reasons – access is via keycard). After pulling open the huge, heavy metal door we were greeted with a prison cell as you would expect it to look, although it was definitely smaller than I imagined. Inside there were two bunk beds, a shelf and the old toilet (which has now been repurposed into an uplit table).

 

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This is the view as you lay on the bottom bunk (which was very comfortable, I have to say).

 

As I lay in this exact position, I thought about the size of the room, the tiny window through which there was no view, and the solitude if you were there alone, unable to walk out of your own free will, and when the lights are turned off at night. Although I was here to review the room as a place to stay for leisure, I was very aware that this was a real prison cell at some point, and the thought of spending a long period of time, locked up for the majority of hours of the day, in a space of this size with none of my creature comforts or the people I love, well, it was quite sobering.

 

With a variety of room styles available, Clink 78 can provide accommodation for anything for single parties to large groups which can be housed in their dorms. The accommodation was clean, tidy and the staff were extremely helpful. With prices starting from just £13 per bed, per night, or a stay in a prison cell from £50 per night, I definitely recommend this as somewhere worth staying in London. Just a short walk from King’s Cross it’s ideal for venturing around the City and is somewhere truly special and unique.

 

Check out their website and be sure to add this venue to your To Do list – I’m sure you won’t be disappointed!

 

 

What do you think about spending a night in an old prison cell? Yay or Nay?

 

Penny xx

 

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* In Association with Clink 78 *

Sleeping In A Prison Cell – Clink 78

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London Date Weekend

London Date Weekend

If you know anything about me, then you’ll know how much I love London. I’ve always felt drawn to the City and just being within it’s “walls” makes my soul happy, so the fact that Ben is also a big fan of the place is great for me, as it means he’s happy to spend a day wandering around, exploring and just taking in our surroundings there. In fact, one of our first dates was spent aimlessly walking it’s streets while the sun beat down on us – we got so lucky with the weather that day, it was just glorious.

 

So, when I was offered the chance to review a few London venues, I thought it made sense to have ourselves a little London Date Weekend, so we did! And what a weekend we had!

 

Unfortunately, this time round the weather gods weren’t so good to us and as we left my house to walk to the station it was raining – I was definitely not dressed for the weather and all the time I spent straightening my hair turned out to be a waste – I was damp through!

 

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Me being the absolute brainbox that I am, I somehow managed to lose my umbrella by leaving it on the train, so when we arrived in London and began our walk to our lodgings for the night, we continued to get rained on. Cue curly hair for Penny.

 

We were spending the night at Clink 78, a hostel which is converted from an old court house. A separate dedicated post about this will be going online in the coming week but we spent the evening in one of the old prison cells and it was absolutely brilliant!

 

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As we arrived at the hostel with a little time to spare, we decided to kill a little time by taking shelter from the rain in a pub just across the road. It was one of those good old fashioned British pubs where it’s full of regulars who go in there all the time and all know each other.

 

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The other brilliant thing about this pub was that I bought a pint and a large glass of white wine and it only cost me £6.10! I’d usually pay more than that just for the wine in London!

 

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After our bargain drinks we jumped on the tube and headed over to Covent Garden for a spot of lunch at Shake Shack. I’d been invited to the launch night of their new Westfield Stratford branch but couldn’t make it, so I was very excited to see if all the rave reviews I’d been hearing were right. (Keep an eye out for a dedicated post on this in the next few days too!)

 

After lunch here we nipped to Riley’s Sports Bar just near Trafalgar Square to watch the football. With multiple screens showing an array of different sports and games there is something for everyone here and the place was packed. As soon as the game was over we rushed back to Clink 78 to get changed as I’d booked us in to The Corinthia for dinner that evening.

 

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I hadn’t been to The Corinthia before, but as it’s a 5-star place I knew it was going to be nice, I just didn’t realise how nice – it’s absolutely stunning and is like walking into another world. This right here is how the other half live it seems!

 

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As we were a little early for our table, we settled ourselves in the bar and ordered a cocktail. The barman was really helpful and it was a pleasure to watch him making the drinks – you can really tell the difference between someone who is trained in the art and someone who just knocks up a few of Sex On The Beach’s on a weekend.

 

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This meal was a deal I’d found on Bookatable so I was fully expecting to get a reduced service to reflect the low cost we were paying, but this wasn’t the case at all. There was a good selection on the menu to choose from and the staff were attentive, polite and helpful. Then, something beautiful happened…

 

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A flight of champagne. A glass each of three different types of champagne. You should have seen the joy on my face! Each of the glasses came with a little paper label around it’s stem telling you what you were drinking.

 

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I know this is really silly, but for someone like me who doesn’t live this kind of lifestyle, something like this is really exciting and adds that little bit of magic to the night.

 

Now, on to the food. I’m not even going to try describing it because I can’t, but have a look at this little lot…

 

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Starters

 

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Main Courses

 

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All three courses were incredible and the portions were large enough that by the time it got to halfway through the dessert I didn’t think I could manage another bite for fear of exploding.

 

After dinner, both full to the brim, we decided a little night-time walk would be a good idea to burn off some calories. As I said earlier, I am completely in love with London, but the beauty of London at night is breathtaking.

 

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We wandered past the Houses of Parliament…

 

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… down past Buckingham Palace…

 

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… through St James’ Park (which was pitch black – no lights at all!) …

 

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… and spotted this strange non-moving figure in a window of a building near Downing Street. We assume it’s either a mannequin or a spy…

 

The next morning we left the hostel bright and early to go and find some breakfast and, as we always seem to do, we headed for the South Bank.

 

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Located just a little further down from the London Eye there is a little bank of restaurants, so we nipped into Giraffe.

 

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I opted for burger and chips with a side of onion rings – my second dose of burger and chips in one weekend, but it was good!

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Drinks-wise I went for a lovely lemonade with mint leaves whilst Ben went for a mango, banana and strawberry smoothie.

 

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I had to laugh when I saw the ‘swizzler stick’ that came with his drink! So masculine!

 

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A quick dash across the bridge and through Trafalgar Square and we were heading along Regents Street to ICEBAR LONDON.

 

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A separate blog post will follow all about our time spent here too but, as always, I really enjoyed it. I think this was the 3rd or 4th time I’d been there but was Ben’s first time, so it was really nice to see his reaction to it. Because of the lighting inside it’s not too easy to take photos, but I managed to take a few so will share all of these with you too in another blog post following soon.

 

Overall I had a brilliant weekend. It was so nice to spend some time in my favourite place in the world with someone who is very special to me, making memories and laughing pretty much non-stop. I can honestly say that when I returned to work after this weekend of fun and frolics I had a serious case of the Back To Work Blues!

 

Keep checking back over the coming week to read about my reviews of Clink 78, Shake Shack and ICEBAR LONDON. You can also be updated on new updates via my Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Bloglovin’ or by putting your email address into the subscription sign-up box on the right-hand side of this blog.

 

 

Have you ever visited any of these venues?

 

Penny xx

 

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* In Collaboration with PR/Brand *

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Bishops Castle Barn, Shropshire

Bishops Castle Barn, Shropshire

This world is a big place and there are endless things to see and do, but sometimes you visit somewhere and as you leave, a little of your heart remains. This happened to me when I visited Croatia a few years ago (I would love to go back) and it also happened at the end of March this year when Ben and I went to stay at Bishops Castle Barn in Shropshire.

 

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As it was only converted in recent months we were lucky enough to be the first people to stay there which was really exciting! It felt like such a privilege and – being our first time away together as well – it made the whole thing seem so special, I couldn’t wait to get there!

 

Upon arrival I was lost for words. It truly is “in the middle of nowhere” with the odd house dotted along the valley but not a sound to be heard except birdsong, the neighbouring sheep and the wind in the trees.

 

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I mean, just LOOK at that view out of the kitchen window! Breathtaking!

 

Internally, the barn is equally as stunning as it’s surroundings, finished to a high specification with oak flooring and balustrades, a docking station to play your music from your phone, wifi, TV with FreeSat and even bluetooth bathroom mirrors so you can stream your music through them and have a sing-along in the shower!

 

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The hosts have truly thought of every single detail here, from the living area being on the first floor so you can see the beautiful views to the automatic-closing windows upstairs that detect rainfall. There is also a selection of books, DVDs and video games for guests to use, plus a map mounted under the glass on the coffee table in the living room showing you the location of various landmarks so you can find your way around.

 

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On the ground floor you find the bedrooms, both of which have huge and ridiculously comfortable beds in them, plus a door leading into connecting bathroom and shower room. I think all the ladies reading this will understand when I say I felt utter joy to find a plug socket next to the mirror in the bedroom too – it’s such a bugbear of mine when I stay somewhere and I can’t plug in my hair dryer or straighteners close enough for styling!

 

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One thing I have to tell you about is the sheer luxury of having a hot tub right next to the barn! I have to admit, I am partial to a bit of hot tubbing, but who isn’t, right?

 

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Situated on a raised deck it makes the most of the amazing views and we spent both nights we were there drinking Proseeco and chatting within the hot bubbles . Because of the remote location it’s completely pitch black apart from the natural light of the moon and stars. – living in Essex there’s quite a lot of light pollution so when I see a totally dark night sky it never fails to leave me with a feeling of wonder and an acute awareness of just how small I am in the grand scheme of things. I always find it very grounding.

 

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When we went it was lambing season so we were greeted outside by an abundance of cute wooly little bundles. I spent a huge amount of time trying to work out how I would be able to smuggle one home without anyone noticing but Ben was having none of it so I had to leave empty-handed. Grrr.

 

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As I mentioned earlier, this visit to Bishops Castle Barn was the first time Ben and I had been away together (as we were still very new to seeing each other) and the first real considerable length of time spent together, so it could have gone either way, but we had such a good time and got on brilliantly thank goodness, otherwise that could have been awkward haha! We spent our time eating, drinking, walking through the countryside and went out for dinner with our hosts on the second night we were there which was lovely – they really are such nice people I don’t think anyone would ever fail to get on well with them!

 

Since I came back I can honestly say not a single day has gone by that I’ve not thought about the barn. It truly has got under my skin and I can’t wait to go back and visit – Ben and I are discussing dates for a return later this year and I can see it becoming a regular long weekend break of ours in the future.

 

Bishops Castle Barn Shropshire Review A Penny For Them

 

I left part of my heart at Bishops Castle Barn – book yourself a visit and I bet you do the same.

 

 

Penny xx

 

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A Penny For Them uses affiliate links occasionally. Affiliate links means that sometimes if you click through to a website and register or purchase something, I get a commission from that sale at no extra cost to you. However, rest assured that all opinions and reviews are 100% honest, open and entirely my own.