Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Manchester: perfect for shopping-mad hen parties: Travel Blog plus 1 more

Manchester: perfect for shopping-mad hen parties: Travel Blog plus 1 more

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Manchester: perfect for shopping-mad hen parties

Posted: 09 Jan 2013 05:11 PM PST

If your friend has asked you to arrange her hen weekend, and she’s mad about cocktails and shopping, Manchester is the city to head to. This north-west destination has everything you and your girls could need for a spot of retail therapy.

The city suits all budgets, from those who are thrifty second-hand shoppers to ladies who like to splash their cash on designer labels. Even better, the majority of shops are all in a fairly compact space. This means you can hop from one store to the other without having to pound the pavements for hours on end in order to fit in everything you want to do.

However, the benefits of arranging a shopping hen weekend through tour operators like don’t end there, as you’ll find an abundance of bars and restaurants dotted between stores. This means after a morning of spending your hard-earned money, you won’t have to wander too far to find a refreshing glass of wine, cocktails and a bite to eat.

So, where’s a good place to begin once you’ve landed? I'd definitely recommend Exchange Square, as it’s here where you’ll find some of the most well-known brands in the UK. First and foremost, head to Selfridges. This iconic yellow department store dominates Exchange Square.

As you walk through its doors, you’ll be greeted by an array of designer handbags and accessories. If this is a little too pricey for you and your friends’ budgets, head down the escalator to the Beauty Hall. Here, you can pick up make-up from the likes of MAC and NARS, while you can also get your nails painted, enjoy a spray tan and have a glamorous blow-dry for your night on the tiles in Manchester.

Next to Selfridges lies Harvey Nichols, another popular haunt for ladies in the city. If you think now is the time to indulge in a cocktail, this is the place to do so. On the second floor is a restaurant, brasserie and bar, with the latter boasting one of the most extensive cocktail menus in the whole of the city.

A cocktail-making class will no doubt go down a treat with the bride-to-be, especially as these types of activities tend to result in you getting to sample lots of lovely concoctions – or not so lovely, depending on whether someone in your group has had a little accident with the ingredients! You can book on to one of these classes at Harvey Nichols, while lots of other establishments in Manchester also offer them, including Mojo.
From Harvey Nichols, you can walk down Cathedral Approach, which is home to designer stores such as Burberry, before turning on to Deansgate. The popular stretch of road is where you’ll find some of the most well-known bars, such as the swanky Living Room, while it’s also home to House of Fraser.

This is Manchester’s oldest department store, having been opened in 1835 (it used to be known as Kendals), and is home to brands such as Therapy, Phase 8 and Karen Millen. It’s a lot more purse-friendly than Harvey Nics, but this doesn’t mean shopping here is not as glamorous.

In fact, on the third level you will find a champagne bar, and raising a glass of bubbly to toast your friend or relative’s upcoming wedding will be a lovely way to celebrate the end of a busy day of shopping.

Will Stearn splits his time between trying out extreme activities in exotic locations, and working in London for

Manchester: perfect for shopping-mad hen parties from - Travel Directory

Explore the picturesque city of Durham

Posted: 08 Jan 2013 04:37 PM PST

Durham is one of those places that you need to visit time and time again to see everything it has to offer, as it has so many attractions. While I have been to the northern city before, I have many reasons to visit again – read on to find out what I will do when I visit Durham once more.

1) Walk around the picturesque city

The first thing I would do as soon as I’ve unpacked my bags at my Northumberland cottage from a company like Sykes Cottages is head to the city. Most centres in the UK have large shopping facilities, modern buildings and large office blocks, but Durham is completely different.

It hillside location and old-fashioned buildings give it a quaint atmosphere, and the shops you’ll find here are boutiques, craft and gift stores all housed in Victorian properties. Incidentally, I did spend a lot of time walking around the city on my last visit, but I would happily stroll along its cobbled streets and soak up the Olde English ambience again.

2) Visit Durham Castle

One thing you’ll notice as you walk around is the huge Durham Castle on a hillside nearby, as it looms over the city. The castle is actually where many students of Durham University live, with 100 residing in the halls throughout term-time. Regardless of this, you can come and explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site at any time of the year, and you can take a tour of the building to learn more about its history.

3) Eat at the Black Knight Restaurant

Another castle I would love to visit is Lumley Castle, not least because you can dine in opulent surroundings at its Black Knight Restaurant here. The 600 year-old castle overlooks the River Wear, and it is a great place to walk around. But, if I came here, I would definitely pop in either to taste a few classic dishes on its delicious menu at the Black Knight Restaurant or enjoy an afternoon tea at its Library Bar. This may even end up being the most opulent surroundings I’ve ever had scones, pastries and little sandwiches in!

4) Explore the Bowes Museum

Another historic site I’d love to visit is the Bowes Museum. This building was designed in the 19th century to look like a French chateau and you’ll discover a range of art work and a collection of ceramics.

As well as walk around the extravagant building, I would make sure I left enough time to meander through the gardens and parkland. I imagine this is a lovely way to spend the day, particularly if the weather is nice!

5) Go for long walks

The great thing about Durham – apart from all the sites there are to see here – is that it is surrounded by beautiful countryside. I would like nothing better than to hike through the Durham Dales, but there are also plenty of other places to explore on foot.

Hamsterley Forest, Durham’s Heritage Coast and the North Pennines are just a few beautiful rural areas to visit, and you can spend hours hiking around these regions, soaking up the beautiful landscape. There is an array of wildlife here, and this is definitely something I’d love to see. If you’re the same, you can join a guided tour of the North Pennines, during which you will be led to popular hotspots for wild animals in the area. You may even get to see badgers during your trip, and have a good chance of spotting birds like black grouse and merlin.

Explore the picturesque city of Durham from - Travel Directory