Places to relax

Screaming children, looming deadlines, cars that won’t start and dogs that won’t stop – every so often we all need an escape. We all need a place to unwind.

So swap the school run for coastal walks, exchange lunch at your desk for a scone-stuffed tea-room and trade the paperwork for that novel you’ve always wanted to read. It’s time to relax. Here are a few great places to take it easy.

    Brockhampton Estate, Herefordshire

    At the heart of this 1,700 acre estate lies Lower Brockhampton, a romantic timber framed manor house and moat. Bring a book, sketch pad or a picnic to while away the day amongst our orchards. In spring an explosion of blossom will greet you, followed by trees laden with damsons in autumn.

    ‘The area around our moat and orchards can be very relaxing, especially on quieter days. There is a nature trail through the woods too. This is about one and a half miles long and takes you past the bird hide and ancient trees. The walk finishes at Lower Brockhampton. Here you can reward yourself with a drink at the little café.’
    - Nicholas Hinchcliffe, ranger

    Claremont Landscape Gardens, Surrey

    Claremont has always been somewhere to escape everyday life and enjoy simple pleasures with family and friends. This green sanctuary was once a princess’ playground and is within easy reach of London. We challenge you to resist the array of homemade cakes and tempting light lunches in our tea-room.

    Walk around the gardens to discover the turf amphitheatre, Belvedere Tower and the camellia terrace. Over summer you can also enjoy a gentle row around the serpentine lake.

    * We try to run the boating every Saturday and Sunday until the end of September, but it’s always worth calling head to double-check: 01372 467806.

    Flatford, Suffolk

    Flatford is a charming hamlet, nestled in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This is the landscape that inspired John Constable and you can see an exhibition of his paintings at Bridge Cottage, until winter 2013. The area is featured in a lot of Constable’s work so you might notice that you’re walking along famous paths and rowing down a strangely familiar river. Rowing boats can be hired just next to the bridge or from The Granary.

    ‘This is a very beautiful place and the walks around here are hugely popular, especially the one along the river to Dedham – a picturesque village. You can also walk around the outside of the mill, once owned by the Constable family.

    'If you like a glass of lemonade and a scone then this is the place for you. We’re so serious about scones that we have a ‘scone of the month’ and a scone club.’
    - Tim McGregor, staff member at Flatford

    Formby, Merseyside

    Get away from it all with breathtaking sea views and bracing coastal walks at Formby. You can enjoy the sea air all year round with our selection of walks, including an easy woodland stroll and the red squirrel walk. Or why not bring along a picnic to watch the sun set from the sand dunes.

    Gibside, Tyne and Wear

    Escape the confines of city and explore a place with valley views, winding paths and elegant ruins. There are loads of different ways to unwind at Gibside. You can relax with a beer in hand amongst our historic walled garden, discover the orangery, spot wildlife or take a stroll around the local farmers market. And if that’s too much to fit into one day you can stay overnight in one of our cosy Mongolian yurts – complete with a wood burning stove.

    Greys Court, Oxfordshire

    ‘We have nine acres of walled gardens here and they are always praised for their peace and tranquillity. That’s what Lady Brunner really wanted – for people to be able to come here and relax.

    'There are five separate interlinking walled gardens, including the white garden, the rose garden, cherry garden, orchard and kitchen garden and the wisteria walk. The walls surrounding them are the remnants of a medieval ruin.

    'It’s beautiful here in spring, with the wisteria, peonies, roses, clematis and fruit blossom all in bloom. In summer the orchard and kitchen garden are brimming with fruit and veg and later in the year the small arboretum is full of autumn colours.’
    - Rachel Edwards, head gardener at Greys Court house and estate

    Llanbedrog, Llyn Peninsula, Gwynedd

    ‘This has been my destination of choice for over 40 years. My childhood was spent here. Now my children's is too and one day their children will discover this secret gem; a place to relax, a place to play, a place to escape to.’
    - Simon D, visitor

    People have been coming to Llanbedrog beach to relax since 1890. It is still a popular destination today, with vast expanses of sand, shallow water and a café.

    If it’s too cold for a dip in the sea you can wander along the network of paths that wind their way through the woodland and heath that cloaks the headland. Coastal birds, such as oyster catchers and curlew, can be seen probing the uncovered sand at low tide. Don’t miss the walk up Mynydd Tir y Cwmwd to the tin man, for amazing views over Cardigan Bay.

    * Many thanks to Simon D for his photo of Llanbedrog

    Murlough National Nature Reserve, County Down

    Overlooked by the Mourne Mountains, this is an excellent area for walking and watching the world go by. Take things at your own pace, amongst the ancient sand dunes and busy wildlife. This is Ireland’s first Nature Reserve and well deserving of the title.

    If you want to turn your visit into a longer stay take a look at Murlough Gate Lodge, at Keel Point. This charming stone cottage is located on the edge of the Nature Reserve, with the village of Dundrum within walking distance.

    Saltram Gardens, Plymouth

    ‘This is my place of reflection. I even visualise this scene when I close my eyes at night to relax. It’s a treasure of tranquillity.’
    - Fiona Walsh, visitor

    Fiona has uncovered a place that is still largely undiscovered. Saltram has been home to the Parker family for nearly 300 years and the house provides a fascinating insight into country-estate life throughout the centuries. But it’s the garden, with all its roses, fountains and picnic spots that really makes this an ideal relaxation spot.

    * Many thanks to Fiona Walsh for her photograph of Saltram

    St Michael’s Mount, Cornwall

    St Michael's Mount is an absolute jewel. The views of it across the bay are breathtaking and that’s before you've even walked the causeway or chugged in the little boat to get there.’
    - Angela E, visitor

    This small, rocky island is crowned by a medieval castle and church. You can visit the castle, take it easy in the tropical gardens and tuck into a cream tea at the Island Café.

    There are also coastal walks aplenty and beautiful beaches, waiting to be explored, around Mount’s Bay:

    ‘This is a beautiful place in easy reach of lots of other beautiful areas. We watched a raft race and will never forget seeing the sun set, whilst locals played guitar and sang on the beach. Bliss.’
    - Kirsty F, shares her memories of the bay around St Michael’s Mount

If you know of a relaxing spot please share it with us. The only catch is we can’t promise to keep it a secret…