Is it time to get away?
Fed up of the same four walls and local headlines with complaints about shopping store's music, parking problems, contaminated food and toilets not being open? You just want to get into the car and go. But where? Is it safe? We are told not to let our guard down and be alert 24/7. There must be places out there that no one else is thinking of right now.
Well, we've been hunting around and thankful we do have plenty to report. If it's abroad you're thinking then a&o Hotels have venues across Europe and each feature "social distancing specialists". For some venues, that would mean someone stood at the entrance announcing "enter via the right please" and "hand sanitiser is available on the left", but not here. These social distancing specialists are here to to ensure guests feel confident to explore the surrounding areas and know where to go to avoid the crowds.
Now this is something we can get behind. Using their own insider knowledge, the specialists have each identified a list of the top spots in their respective cities which allow for social distancing. The social distancing specialists are based on the front desk of each hostel and are available for a&o guests to approach upon arrival and throughout their stay to provide information that is updated regularly in line with re-openings of restaurants and venues.
The lists of secret social distancing spots include an abundance of activities such as walking trails away from bustling city centres - including the botanic gardens in Köln - secret cycle routes, secluded picnic spots and even the best location to watch the sun set. For culture vultures, the specialists have incorporated must-see historical landmarks and the best museums, such as the Forum of Contemporary History in Leipzig, that allow for social distancing as well as the best time to see them. The specialists will also be able to share information on the top hidden coffee shops like Mary’s Coffee Club in Munich, restaurants, drinking and dancing spots for social distancing as well as venues to watch intimate gigs once they are open.
We asked Phillip Winter from a&o Hotels about this "“We wanted to launch an initiative that would enhance the guest experience and empower our staff members by inviting them to share invaluable insights from each city that travellers would not have access to if they were staying at another property. Understandably, the concept of exploring a city may seem overwhelming following recent months so we have appointed specialists to reassure guests that they can travel safely by exploring off-the-beaten track experiences in each city to avoid the crowds.”
Guests can also feel reassured by a&o’s robust hygiene and social distancing measures that are in place, which include: Plexiglas protective shields that separate guests from hostel staff, hand sanitiser stations in all key areas, a designated hygiene officer in each hostel who is on hand to answer guests’ queries, face masks for all hostel staff, contactless water taps, open doors in public areas so no contact is necessary, and the hostels have implemented a distance of 1.5 metres between all chairs in dining areas. Each room included in the offer has its own private bathroom.
But for some, the fear of having to 'self quarantine for 14 days' will still be at the back of your mind, and the buzz-word right now is Staycation, meaning stay in the UK for this year's holiday. So what options do we have?
A summer isn't complete without a picnic, but with people flocking to tourist hot spots such as the Cairngorms and Portobello Beach to enjoy an alfresco meal after months in lockdown, you may be finding it difficult to find a picnic spot which allows you to comply with social distancing guidelines. Armed with their trusty Liberty water filtration bottles, we tasked the team at LifeSaver to scout out some of the best secret picnic spots in the UK so you can enjoy the countryside far from the madding crowd. They agreed, as long as we mention their LifeSaver® Liberty™, which is only fair.
Super portable and with the ability to filter a minimum of 99.99% of dangerous viruses, bacteria and cysts out of any water you want to drink, the LifeSaver Liberty is an invaluable piece of kit for picnicking in remote locations. It allows you to collect water for drinking, cooking and rinsing dishes wherever you are, meaning you don’t have to lug lots of heavy water with you to these stunning locations. Plus, as the advanced internal filter has the ability to purify an astonishing 2,000 litres of dirty water before it needs replacing, this reusable BPA and BPS free water filtration bottle is also an environmentally friendly alternative to single-use plastic water bottles.
Perfect for families, couples and outdoor enthusiasts, the unique 2-in-1 design means you can drink directly from the LifeSaver® Liberty™ bottle or use it to pump water into other clean containers. A 5 foot scavenger hose also allows you to access hard to reach water sources without getting wet and the FailSafe design stops water from coming through when the filter reaches the end of its life, making it impossible to accidentally drink contaminated water. The addition of an activated carbon disc removes any unpleasant tastes or odours, meaning the purified water that the Liberty produces tastes great.
Enjoy your alfresco meal alongside the upper reaches of the River Wharfe in Langstrothdale surrounded by limestone rock pools, sloping valleys and hay meadows. If you’re looking for a way to work up an appetite before your picnic, there’s a great circular route starting at Yockenthwaite Bridge which takes you past a stone circle and a number of caves on your way to this idyllic picnic spot.
Just a few minutes’ walk from the Pont y Pair car park on the west side of Betws-y-Coed there is a gorgeous riverside picnic area, shaded by trees. There’s a wooden walkway so wheelchair-users and families with pushchairs can easily enjoy this peaceful spot.
Set in ancient woodland, this spectacular cascade of water provides the perfect backdrop for a picnic. Mostly consisting of oak and ash trees, the surrounding forest supports a variety of rare lichens, liverwort and mosses, as well as a variety of wildflowers. Birdwatchers will also be pleased to hear that the area is home to over 30 species of birds, from nuthatches to buzzards.
Just six miles from Trafalgar Square is a secret overgrown Victorian reservoir just off the south bank river path. Settle down under over-hanging trees on the sloping man-made banks of this hidden Leg o' Mutton reservoir nature reserve and watch the nesting herons while enjoying your lunch. The entrance is in trees between Barnes Railway Bridge and Hammersmith Bridge.
From Blairgowrie, head to Craigisla Bridge and walk through the woods until you reach the 24 foot waterfall. For the best views, clamber above to the top where there’s a few places to set up a picnic. Sometimes there are two waterfalls, but after heavy rains this becomes one ferocious cascade of water which sends a misty spray into the air. If this is the case, head to the banks of the river where it's a more peaceful and drier place to eat.
For more information about the LifeSaver® Liberty™, please visit: https://iconlifesaver.com
To book a stay at a&o or for more information, please visit here.