Join me to take a look back at some of my favourite highlights of 2018 here on SallyAkins.com!
The last few days of the year are always a good time to look back and pick out our favourite bits of the past 12 months.
So as 2018 comes to an end, I thought I’d take a look at some of my blogging highlights. It’s been a fantastic year, and I’ve really enjoyed looking through my posts and photographs.
This year I’ve travelled to some beautiful parts of the UK and Europe, stayed in fantastic hotels and eaten at some truly fabulous restaurants.
My year has taken me from sitting in a hot tub looking out over the Shropshire fields, to meeting one of the country’s top chefs. And from spending the night at a beautiful Welsh country house hotel, to travelling around the West Coast of Scotland by ferry.
And I’ve been able to share some of these experiences with my husband and sons, whether it’s trying out a new restaurant in Birmingham or spending a weekend in a medieval castle.
I’m so grateful to have had all of these opportunities in what has been an amazing year. So join me to take a look back at some of the best bits of SallyAkins.com in 2018!
The year began quietly with a look back at some of the travel that I hadn’t written up yet. I reviewed the lovely Old Brewhouse in Arbroath, which was one of my personal favourite places to stay in 2017.
In February I travelled to Taunton, Somerset, with Mark and the boys to stay in the beautiful Castle House apartment in Taunton Castle.
We all loved the blend of modern comforts and historical surroundings, and there are plenty of things to do in Taunton as well.
Mark and I also got chance to try out the new Yo Sushi! restaurant in Selfridges Birmingham. We’re big fans of Yo Sushi! anyway, but the modern decor and special menu items set this restaurant apart from the others we’ve visited.
In March I spent some time writing up all the great places I visited while I was staying in Taunton.
One of my personal highlights was a visit to Hestercombe House, with its gardens which were designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens. I love the Arabic influence on the gardens’ design, and even in winter they still looked beautiful.
I’m planning a return visit in 2019 to see the gardens in full bloom.
And a trip down to London saw me staying at the design led Moxy London Excel hotel, just a few minutes walk from the Excel exhibition centre. I loved the modern decor and quirky features that this hotel has in abundance.
I also flew over to Berlin to look around the massive travel exhibition at ITB Berlin. It’s a must-see for any travel blogger, and the video above gives you just a hint of what’s on offer.
The show is open to trade for the first few days, and then opens up to the public for the weekend.
April sees the first RHS flower show of the season, so Mark and I travelled down to take a look at RHS Cardiff 2018. Even though the weather was a little grey, the show gardens still looked stunning, and the floral marquee was packed full of beautiful exhibits.
I celebrated my birthday in April with a weekend of relaxation with my family in Barmouth, North Wales. While I didn’t blog the weekend, I did make a video which I hope does justice to this lovely seaside town.
And I slipped away for a quiet afternoon of relaxation at The Belfry in Warwickshire, when I was invited to try out their Fire and Ice Spa experience.
After two hours of steam rooms, ice showers and saunas, I indulged in a delicious afternoon tea, and then followed that up with a fabulous back massage. Definitely my idea of a good afternoon!
May was exam season in our household, so I didn’t travel much for a few weeks. But Mark and I did drive down to the Three Countries Showground in Malvern for the RHS Malvern Spring show.
With the Malvern hills providing a spectacular backdrop, this show is always full of spring colour. The Show Gardens were beautiful as ever, and the exhibits in the Floral Marquee were full of colour and scent.
I particularly liked the Green Living Spaces section, which had plenty of ideas that you could use in small gardens and apartments.
I enjoyed a fantastic day of relaxation at the Hyatt Regency Birmingham in June, when I was invited to try out their Amala Spa.
After a day of relaxing in the pool, sauna and steam room, and getting a summery pedicure, I headed into the hotel’s beautiful Aria restaurant.
There I enjoyed a fabulous afternoon tea, which really showed off the skill of the hotel’s pastry chef.
June is also the month of the BBC Good Food Summer Show and BBC Gardeners’ World Live. I visited the Good Food Show as a guest of escorted holidays specialists Travelsphere.
I had a wonderful day, meeting TV and radio host Penny Smith and celebrity chefs The Hairy Bikers.
I was also invited to stay at the gorgeous Puddle Duck Cottage in Ironbridge, Shropshire.
This luxury self-catering cottage is full of modern conveniences and old-fashioned character. We loved staying there, and it was a rare chance for our Chihuahua, Charlie, to travel with us.
The cottage is the perfect base to explore the Ironbridge Gorge. Although I’ve lived within easy reach of this UNESCO World Heritage Site for most of my life, this was the first time that I’ve really taken time to look around properly.
It’s a beautiful part of the country, and one that I’ll be going back to regularly from now on.
I started off the month of July on a National Holidays Mystery Tour.
Over the course of the weekend, we visited the historic town of Stratford-upon-Avon, as well as the pretty Cotswolds villages of Bourton-on-the-Water and Broadway.
And I also headed up to Tatton Park for my final RHS flower show of the year. I took the opportunity to put the Huawei P20 Pro through its paces in the colourful Floral Marquee.
Summer 2018 was all about taking time off to spend with my family. My sons are coming towards the end of their school years, so it’s important to me that I make the most of this time in their lives.
But right at the end of the month, I travelled to Germany for a long weekend exploring the Old Town in Nuremberg.
I headed back to the Hyatt Regency Birmingham for a fabulous evening of fine dining. In the company of some of my fellow bloggers, I enjoyed trying out the new season menu in the beautiful surroundings of the Aria restaurant.
The food, drink, service and company were all excellent!
I also met up with several Birmingham bloggers to try out Sunday Lunch in the Edwardian Tearoom at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. The food was amazing, and I just love the gorgeous decor in the Tearoom.
September is also my blog birthday month, and I celebrated my 6th blog birthday with a fabulous collection of giveaways. They’re great fun and I’m already thinking about how to celebrate this year’s event!
As Autumn rolled around, Mark and I headed down to Ludlow in South Shropshire. We paid a visit to Fishmore Hall, to try out their gorgeous Spa. I loved their outdoor hot tub overlooking the Shropshire countryside, and also had the best back massage of my life!
We were also invited to sample Sunday Lunch in the hotel’s Forelles restaurant. The restaurant was recently awarded 3 Rosettes from the AA, and the food there is magnificent.
In late October, I took Ollie and Lyle on a DFDS mini-cruise to Amsterdam. This was a private family trip so I haven’t blogged about it as yet, but it was fantastic to spend a few days having fun with my boys!
When I got back from Amsterdam, I was soon back off on the road. This time I headed up to Scotland to spend a few days exploring Argyll with CalMac Ferries, and couldn’t believe how beautiful the scenery is in that area.
You’ll hear more about my trip in the New Year.
And on the very day that I returned home from Amsterdam, I headed down to London for World Travel Market. As always, WTM was a hectic, bustling show full of fabulous stands and plenty to see.
It was great to catch up with some blogging friends down there, it’s a real highlight of the travel blogging year. I made some fantastic plans for 2019 while I was there, and can’t wait to share them with you next year.
I was also invited to try out the new season’s menu at Buffalo and Rye, a fantastic smokehouse restaurant in Birmingham city centre. The food and atmosphere there were fantastic!
And of course, as Christmas approached, it was time for the BBC Good Food Show again. I returned to the NEC as a guest of Travelsphere.
As well as spending time exploring the show, I learned about their fantastic charity initiative, Travelsphere Cares.
I also had chance to meet chef Tom Kerridge, and see him in action on the Big Kitchen stage!
And as the year came to its conclusion, my travel still wasn’t over. I was invited to join a small group of travel bloggers staying at the luxurious Bruern Cottages in the Cotswolds, thanks to Michael Paul Holidays.
The cottages are decorated in beautiful country house style, and guests are treated to a luxury welcome hamper full of local goodies. The gardens were beautiful even in the winter, and Bruern Cottages are a very special place to stay.
I also headed down to the Brecon Beacons in South Wales for the first time, to spend a night at the elegant Gliffaes Country House Hotel.
Everything about my stay here was of the highest standard, and I felt very lucky to be given this opportunity.