Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Off the Beaten Path: Hawes/Leyburn

County: North Yorkshire/Area: Wensleydale

Heading west from places like Ripon, Kilburn, and Knaresborugh lie the small towns of Hawes and Leyburn. Not only is Hawes a wonderful market town with lots to see and do, it sits in the North Yorkshire Dales National Park – only a stone’s throw from the English Lake District. You can easily reach both towns by rail (an added bonus), by car, or other modes of transport.

When I arrived at Hawes, I was impressed by the beauty of the area in which it sits. It’s the highest town in England at 850 ft, and has a magical setting with a river, stone bridges, and plenty of history.

Hawes (credit to Helen Alexander)
My first trip to the area was on an expedition of sorts. A friend of mine is a spinner and asked me to find her sheep’s roving (who knows what that is? I didn’t!). Another friend of mine (the spinner’s son) made rope and I noticed there was a Ropemakers museum (I wouldn’t lie to you!) so I thought I’d have a look around for souvenirs for him.

Much of what they made is used for bell pulls and other fanciness. I was able to buy samples and a book for my friend there. But, the Ropemakers wasn’t the only site to see in Hawes.

Wensleydale is the seat of cheesemaking for Yorkshire, and you can find out all about the process on your own tour! My first experience with Wensleydale cheese was through the Wallace and Gromit’s telly show for kids. Now, it’s become a part of the Wensleydale cheese tradition with W&G producing a cookbook and promoting various Wensleydale cheese products.

I highly recommend a tour of the creamery and a visit to the gift shop!

The Dales Countryside Museum is well worth a visit and is set up to inform the public about life in the Yorkshire Dales. They have some lovely exhibits to include many on the subject of sheep! So, I geared myself up to ask the docent if he might know where I could find sheep’s roving.

That’s when I found out about the Wensleydale Longwool Sheep Shop in the nearby town of Leyburn.

If you head east from Hawes on the A684 for about 30 minutes, you’ll find the town. There are a few shops along the main road to include a Chocolate Factory and Ceramic Inspirations (both very interesting!).

The old Wensleydale Longwool Sheep Shop was located next to the farmhouse, but they’ve since opened a shop in town. The shop is now located in the Market Place off Kelberdale Court.

Rows and rows of pretty yarn, sheep fleece, and sheep roving abound! As a sometimes knitter, myself, I was amazed at all the pretty sights. I came away with not only sheep’s roving, but some gifts for myself as well.

Near Leyburn are the ruins of Bolton Castle, one of the country’s best preserved medieval castles and over 600 years old!

This is just a small taste of what awaits you in the area of Hawes and Leyburn. It’s a fantastic place for sightseeing, shopping (Market Day is Tuesday in Hawes), and outdoor activities.

So, get out of London and take in the fresh air of Wensleydale. And save some cheese for me!


A Facebook friend who lives in Hawes has mentioned the following:

There is a place where they make homemade jams and chutneys called Raydale Preserves, based in Countersett just outside of Bainbridge, in between Leyburn and Hawes. You can taste before you buy and there's a cafe.

The Forbidden Corner is also a great place to go. It is near Wensley.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Off the Beaten Path: Knaresborough

County: North Yorkshire

Rick Steves once said that travel writers overuse the word “quaint.” While that may be true, I don’t think you could find a better word to describe Knaresborough.

Set high above the River Nidd, Knaresborough tumbles like a force of nature from high cliffs to riverside. It’s inspired photographers and artists – and recently, I even went into Barnes and Noble here in Austin where they sold a jigsaw puzzle of Knaresborough! So, the village has a lot to live up to (and it does)!

Mother Shipton’s Cave

Mother Shipton's Cave

Mother Shipton was a prophetess who lived from 1488 to 1561 on the banks of the River Nidd. She made various predictions to include the end of the world! You can see the forest and cave where she lived as well as the wishing and petrifying wells. The Petrifying Well is best known for hanging articles of clothing so that the water (of high mineral content) flows over them, eventually turning the items to stone!

Petrifying Well

At the Wishing Well, you can make your wish, but the wish is based on following a series of rules very carefully. Be careful, though. You may get what you wish for!

Wishing Well


Across the river from Mother Shipton’s and under the viaduct are boat rentals, cafes, and shops.
Boat Rental

Relax by the water with an afternoon tea or partake of the river’s natural magnetism and paddle down its scenic waterway. There’s never a bad day for enjoying this lovely area.
Shops and Cafes

Knaresborough Castle

Knaresborough Castle only stood from the 1100s to the English civil war in 1648. At this time, Parliament took action to destroy many of the royalist holdings of which Knaresborough castle was one. Much of the stone that was removed created current city buildings, and the grounds are well-tended gardens that belie the castle’s sad tale.

Relaxing at Knaresborough Castle


From the top edge of the castle, you can get the picturesque view of the Knaresborough viaduct. Mother Shipton predicted that “the bridge across the Nidd shall tumble down twice and on third building stand forever.” After the railway viaduct at Knaresborough fell twice, it was rebuilt in 1848 and still stands.

Knaresborough Viaduct

Market Day

There’s a small market in Knaresborough on Wednesdays, and a few shops besides. The market is located in the city centre near the Castle grounds. On the day we were there, the town Cryer was announcing the Great Knaresborough Bed Race was to be held soon.

Market Day

The Great Knaresborough Bed Race

In June, the Lions club puts on a charity bed race. You heard right! A bed race. There is a parade of beds and awards for the best dressed bed, but it’s really all about the race.

Bed Race

Since 1966, teams from all over the world have met the challenge. With six runners and one person designated to ride on the bed, the race stems from steep,grassy banks through parks, along the water side, over cobblestones, and across a bridge. The finale is getting the beds across the River Nidd. A 20-yard push that regales the crowds and pushes the teams to their limits!

Getting There

Knaresborough is easily reached off the A1(M) and the A59 (if you’re driving) or via train, bus, bike, or foot otherwise. If you’re traveling by train, you’ll disembark at the base of Kirkgate which leads to the city centre. The hill is a steep climb, so you may want to take the bus or an alternate route to get to the market place. The only way to get to the Market Place without walking up Kirkgate would be to walk to the High Street via Station Road and turn left. Walk down the High Street until you reach the Council Offices and then cross the road to the bus stop. The number 1 bus takes you up to the bus station next to the market place. Buses normally run every 7-8 minutes.


All-in-all, Knaresborough gives a lot of bang for the traveler buck. It also lies within a sightseeing circle I always recommend (see map). If you are looking for a true “Off the Beaten Path” experience, you couldn’t do better than this *quaint* Yorkshire town.

Just Do It!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Off the Beaten Path: London

“Oh, but you were trying to get us OUT of London,” I hear you say. Not necessarily! London is a maze of main street shopping, historic sites, hair raising crowds, car horns, and traffic of all kinds. I mainly try to stay OUT of London, but I’m usually there for at least a day coming and going. So, what do I do to escape the mayhem?

There are some out of the way sites that most folks don’t know about or think about when in London. Tired of the same old sites like Westminster Abbey or the Houses of Parliament? Let’s go for a walk, shall we?

Hotel: Reprise

I've mentioned this before, but a friend of mine turned me on to a budget hotel just outside Tower Hill underground. I’ll give you the name just because I like you and there’s no reason for me not to! It’s the Travelodge. Don’t expect frills, but the rate is cheap, the showers are large, and the rooms decently clean. It’s also located just outside the Tower of London! How convenient! Which brings me to my first off the beaten path moment.

My Favorite Pub

Just outside the Travelodge is my favorite pub in London called the Minories. It’s literally about 50 feet from the front door of the hotel. The fish n chips are darn good and it has a cozy atmosphere (hard to find in London). It’s cavernous and lies below shunting trains of the underground. Go in one door and walk up to the bar. Walk out the opposite door and the Tower of London is in front of you!


My Favorite Shopping

Everyone seems to like Covent Garden or Portobello Market for shopping. I’m never in on a weekend long enough to see what Portabello offers! However, I was pointed early on in my London adventures to Camden Market. I always try to visit when I can. Now, it’s still full of crowds and such, but you’ll find street after street and building after building of shops. All kinds of shops! From luggage to records and from antiques to custom art and jewelry… Camden has it all. You can even watch the canal boats as the slip through Camden Lock while you're resting from that spending spree! Just hop on the Northern line and alight at Camden town. Make a right and you’re at the market!

More out of the Way

Still in the Travelodge area? Get on the Docklands Light Rail at Tower Gateway Station, located adjacent to Tower Hill station. This underground/train takes you from the Tower to Greenwich (about 3.5 miles outside London). There are 12 stops and it takes about 22 minutes to arrive, but when there, feel free to visit the Cutty Sark moored there, the National Maritime Museum, the Queen’s House, and the Royal Observatory. See where time actually starts, and stand on the Greenwich Mean Time/Meridian line! There’s also a lovely park as well a very twee little market. The best part? It’s included in your Oyster card pass and is in Zones 1 and 2.

Favorite New Thing

Sky Garden is a relatively new feature in London. Sitting high atop a skyscraper within a glass shell, you can view as much or more of London than you can purchasing a ticket for the London Eye. The rub is that you have to make reservations in advance if you’re just planning a visit with a few photo snaps. However, there is no entry fee and the views are to die for! You won’t be disappointed.

Favorite Out of the Way Museums

If you haven’t yet, try the British Library. The largest library in the world, it’s there that you can see priceless works of the “world’s knowledge” to include Persian manuscripts, a Gutenberg bible, and the Magna Carta. Fall into a time tunnel of the printed word and enjoy spending an hour or ten in the archives!

The Royal Airforce Museum located in North London is vast and will take you a day to see everything! There are over 100 aircraft on site and a calendar full of free events you’ll really enjoy this trip into Britain’s air history. Don’t forget to see the Battle of Britain Hall were you’ll get goosebumps thinking of how close Britain came to annihilation by the Luftwaffe. But for a few brave men, they would be speaking German in this country!


If this is not your first visit to London or you want to give the main sites a miss on your trip, these gems should keep you busy for a few days! You can also combine this with Chiswick to complete your experience with "off the Beaten Path" London.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Off the Beaten Path: Ripon

County: North Yorkshire

Where It Is

If you’ve watched Downton Abbey or Last Tango in Halifax, you may have heard the city name of Ripon mentioned. The town is located along tributaries of the River Ure in North Yorkshire and is a wonderful place to use as a hub to visit the Yorkshire dales and moors. The following map would be my suggested itinerary for your stay in Ripon. You’ll either need a car, a friend and a car, or a bus/train to get around these locations. Of course, there’s plenty to keep you busy just in the city of Ripon!

Touring around Ripon

Market Town

Ripon is a lovely market town located in the borough of Harrogate. I’m writing this from a fading memory of having lived there and having revisited a few times since. There are things I’m only now discovering about Ripon which makes it an even more enticing destination in Yorkshire. I’ll feed you what I know from experience, and then give you a few things that I’m only just now learning about the town.

Why did I want to live in Ripon? Well, Harrogate is just too busy a place. Ripon, like Knaresborough, is a very quaint market town. On Thursdays, you can get what you like at the vendor stalls in the square. Everything from socks to meat and electronics to dairy. I love a good market town, and Ripon is about as good as it gets.

Ripon Market

The Wakeman

The market square is the nightly scene of an historic event when the Wakeman of Ripon blows his horn from the four corners of the obelisk in the market square to announce the beginning of curfew at 9:00 pm. The Wakeman has belted out this alarm for centuries and, in fact, the horn is a part of Ripon’s coat of arms!

Food and Shopping

Ripon is rife with quaint stores and small restaurants. I especially enjoyed the Royal Oak Pub who turned me onto a new delight… a goat cheese, fig, and honey sandwich!  Try it - I'm not kidding.  Like heaven on earth!

The Cathedral

Ripon is a quiet town on most days. It’s not on any rail route. But, it beckons welcomingly with its ancient cathedral dating back to 962 AD! Only the crypt remains of the original church, but can you imagine? People have been worshiping there for 1350 years! When I studied history with my favorite professor from the University of Leeds, he took us here to view the cathedral with an historian’s eye.

Ripon Cathedral

The church has some of the most beautiful stained glass windows anywhere. He particularly pointed out the “misericords” which are small shelves that allowed the choir members to rest without sitting down. Misericords in Ripon Cathedral are very ornate and somewhat pagan! Look at the fabulous carvings on the pews as well.

Dragons in Ripon!

Fountains Abbey

 Fountains Abbey is famous as one of the most complete abbeys left standing after Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries in 1536.  More a way for Henry to fill his coffers than a religious statement, much of Britain's history was also wiped out during this time.

Fountains Abbey is beautifully set in the grounds of Studley Royal Park, an 800 acre landscape complete with a Georgian water garden.  This beautiful setting is located only 8 minutes by car southwest of Ripon and is a must-see on any given day.


How I could have missed the canals along Ripon astonishes even myself. I lived in the town for a year and a half and never knew it existed! These days, canal front apartments command a hefty price and you can go on a canal tour yourself!

Walking and Events

The Sanctuary Walk is a great way to get your exercise while seeing all there is to see around Ripon. Each year, the founder of Ripon Cathedral is remembered on St. Wilfred’s Day with lots of family fun and a procession led by St. Wilfred, himself! The procession takes place The Saturday before the 1st Monday in August and begins at the Market Square around 2 pm.


But, what I remember most about Ripon are the days spent walking my dog along a lovely, hedge-lined lane to the football pitch. If you walked into the grounds and beyond a line of shrubs at the back of the pitch, there was another area of pasture trimmed with a small stream. This pasture had a commanding view of Ripon Cathedral and gave my dog hours of swimming enjoyment! My last memory of living in England was sitting on an old tree stump taking in the view there for the last time. I seared it into my brain and into my heart. How could I not love Ripon the way I do?

Where I walked Sheba all those years ago...
(credits to Google Earth)

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Drowning in a vat of VAT!

What is VAT? Can I Get a Refund?

VAT, or Value Added Tax, is something levied on goods and services in many countries. In the UK, the VAT runs 20% and is included in the of your purchase. So, if you see a candy bar for £1, what you see is what you get! The nice thing is, you can get that 20% refunded to you on certain purchases after you leave the country. This article will clarify a few points on VAT and when you should seek a refund.

Who is Eligible?

  • Non-EU citizens
  • People leaving the UK/EU for a foreign country
  • People traveling with the goods
  • EU citizens who are travelling from the UK to a country outside the EU and will remain outside of the EU for at least 12 months.

What Products are Charged VAT?

Some things are exempt from VAT refund. These include (from the government website):
  • goods (for example, perfume or chocolates) which you have used, or partly used, in the EU
  • motor vehicles and boats
  • goods over £600 in value that will be exported for business purposes (you have to use a form C88 for these)
  • goods that will be exported as freight and goods that need an export license (except antiques)
  • unmounted gemstones and bullion (over 125 grams)
  • mail order goods including Internet sales
  • any services, for example, hotel bills
  • postage stamps
  • financial and property transactions.
The list of goods and services included and excluded from the tax is long and a bit arduous to get through. Basically, if you go in a shop and buy something like shoes, a dress, or gifts they will include VAT and you could claim a refund (but the items can’t have been used and must still be in the original state with tags). If you’re staying in a hotel or B&B, you will be charged VAT, but cannot claim a refund. You can research the government website at this link for more information. Your food, drink, lodging, and transportation are typically not VAT-refundable.

The final refund will consist of the VAT total, minus an administration fee. In some cases, a cash refund fee may apply. This can be direct deposited or placed on a credit card.

What Paperwork do I Need to Get a Refund?

When you walk into a store and purchase an item, ask not only for the receipt, but for a VAT form. This form must be filled out before your departure. Buy from stores that handle VAT-refund paperwork. Most stores that do this post a "Tax Free" or similar sign somewhere on a door or window; big department stores often have special VAT offices.

Where do I Go for my Refund?

You may only get your VAT refund from the Customs/Travelex offices located at Heathrow and Gatwick Airports. At other airports or ports there is a Customs box where the Tax Free Forms should be left for stamping. Follow the signs at the airport to claim your money. For jewelry or electronics worth under £250 , you must get a customs stamp at the Customs office before entering Security. If you’re claiming for jewelry or electrical items worth over £250 and the item can be placed in your hand luggage, you must visit Customs after Security. Be sure to bring a passport, purchased items, and boarding pass with you. Make sure the goods are sealed and unused.

What Should I Really Claim vs. What I’m Allowed to Claim?

There are stores that don’t participate in the VAT refund scheme. Different shops have different minimum purchases (normally about £75 in any one shop). Everything must be in its original packing, must have all the paperwork, and must be carried to Customs.

A lady in front of me in line one day had bought a Rolex and was wearing it on her wrist. Even though she had the paperwork, she wasn’t allowed to claim the VAT for her purchase because it wasn’t in its original box.

TIP: I say claim only high dollar items. Collecting VAT is too much of a hassle otherwise!

Shipping and VAT

You can’t claim VAT at the post office before shipping your purchases. If you’re a business and the purchases are business related, you should check international business arrangements. However, if you’re a tourist, your best bet is to find larger stores that ship to the U.S. These stores won’t charge you VAT, but you will be charged a shipping fee (basically nulling the VAT you would have paid by not shipping). I’ve done this several times from the pottery stores in Stoke-on-Trent.

When Do I Get My Money?

Repayments usually occur within 10 working days and are direct deposited. If you haven’t received anything within 21 days, you may be due a repayment supplement. This supplement is £50 or 5% of your repayment - whichever is the higher amount. For further information about reimbursement, click here.

The Gotchya’s

  • Many times the custom lines are very long and paperwork takes time to process. Remember, without a Customs stamp you’re not eligible for a refund.
  • People who forget and use the object before they leave the country. The items must be “new in box” with all tags intact. Never worn.
  • VAT and the EU was difficult enough with many people losing their refund when traveling to other countries. However, with the advent of Brexit, we’ll see how it affects trading and VAT refunds for your UK visit. According to About Travel, it may take several years to iron out the details and VAT should be the same as it was under the EU in 2017 (the date of this article). Watch this space for changes and be sure to check the government’s website for further information on VAT refunds.
For an excellent document on VAT (especially if you’re leaving from Heathrow), click here.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Off the Beaten Path: Keswick

County: Cumbria

I’ve written time and again about Keswick, but I thought I’d make it a little more formal in this “Off the Beaten Path” series.

Keswick is located in Cumbria (aka Cumberland) in a region known as the northern lakes. I’m trying to recall my first trip here, but it’s been decades. I keep coming back to this area for so many reasons and to Keswick, specially. In this article, I’ll tell you a little about what I’ve found here, why I love it, and why you should go!

The Environment

Derwentwater, that blissful lake, runs alongside one edge of Keswick. It’s approximately 3 miles long by 1 mile wide and about 72 feet deep. This picturesque lake is just the beginning, because as you enter the town from its shores, you notice the local theatre, park, and pathways. Keswick is a market town, and you can find a market there on Thursdays, Saturdays, and bank holidays. The place can get a bit crowded on the weekends and in the summers as Keswick is a hub for all things outdoors. From the local hills (known as fells) to the forests and slate architecture, Keswick is definitely a place you don’t want to miss!


For many years, I’ve stayed at the Goodwin House B&B in Room #6 at the top of the stairs. Great views and it’s en-suite. However, I believe the place has been sold. It’s a great location and if there are new owners, you’d have to check out their reviews on Trip Advisor. I also stayed in Seven Oaks which was well-reviewed. Unfortunately, though I’d reserved WAY in advance, they gave our room to another and put us in a smaller room upstairs. They did say they were sorry and gave us a discount, but I probably won’t be going back. The local hostel is right on the River Greta. Very picturesque and very well run. If you’re on a budget, try this place for a stay! For other places, I’d check TripAdvisor or ask in the forums. The good news for you is that there are so many B&Bs that prices are competitive. You can get a lot for your money here!

Getting There

Getting to Keswick can be a challenge as it doesn’t sit on a rail stop. However, you *can* find rail links to Penrith and then it’s about 15 miles away. There are regular buses from the train station. You might take into account the bus stop and the location of the hotel you’re booking. If you’re driving and heading in from Penrith, try not to do it on a weekend! I got caught in a major traffic jam of folks heading to the lakes and it took me an hour to move seven miles.

Things to do in Keswick

This is where Keswick really shines – especially if you are the outdoorsy type. I’m going to list a few of my favorite things here in bullet format:

  • Take a cruise of Derwentwater. The cruise boats also act as “hop on , hop off” transportation for those wanting to hike in more remote locations. You can get off the boat at one stop, hike a mountain/large hill, and return to another stop on the route to be picked up. If you buy your tickets from Moot Hall in the town center, you’ll get a discount on your ticket. Walking to the boat ramp is easy as there are scenic public footpaths the whole way.
  • Try Ye Olde Friar’s sweet shop in the center of town for a diet-busting dessert treat. In business since 1927!
  • George Fisher’s outdoor shop is the best (in my humble opinion) of the local sporting goods stores. They specialize in all things mountaineering, and if you decide to take on a major fell, you can rent your boots and hiking poles from them. Call in advance to make sure they have what you need.
  • Town Market. The real thing is on Saturdays, but there’s a craft market on Thursdays, and the real thing sometimes also extends to bank holidays. I always try to make the market as you’ll never know what you’ll find there! I’ve gotten everything from kitchen towels to a customized slate sign to hang on my door at home.
  • Latrigg. Latrigg is one of the best vantage points of anywhere in the northern lakes. It’s also easily reached from Keswick by foot (it took me about 3.5 to 4 hours and I’ve not hiked much). If you don’t want to take that long, and if you have a car, you can drive to a car park just beneath the summit and walk the rest of the way. The views are beyond spectacular!

  • Wandering the town. There’s just so much (even though it’s a small town). There are charity shops (don’t miss the huge Oxfam store located down an alleyway), gift stores, and all sorts of retail. I’d suggest taking half a day to see the market, wander the town, and get lunch at a nice spot.
  • Moot Hall is where the town information center is, where you can buy those cheap Derwentwater cruise tickets, and find out where you might want to spend the rest of your day. If you like, there are tour guides that take you on hikes in the area starting out from Moot Hall each day. Tip: Contact the local ramblers groups to see if you can join an organized hike for little or nothing!


There are some places that I always end up, it seems. The back garden of Oddfellows pub (because I have friends with dogs). The Packhorse Inn (decent food). Skiddaw Hotel offers a lovely afternoon tea. For something cheap, try Gregg’s bakery (it’s a chain – they have sandwiches and such). For fish n chips, I like the Keswickian – right next door to Greggs.

What Would I Pass On?

They have a local theatre just by the boat launch. It’s modern and looks like it has all the bells and whistles. The play I saw there was Dracula and between the thick northern accents (normally, I’m pretty good at understanding those), the lack of a microphone, and the strange story line… we left at intermission. Not so impressed.

Some shops really hike their prices up for tourists, but others remain reasonable. Pass on those mark ups!

Pass on event weekends. If you must stay over a weekend, try to be in Keswick before the weekend begins and leave after it’s over. Otherwise, traffic can be a nightmare!

Hidden Gems?

On a nice evening, I like to go to St. John’s churchyard and find a bench to meditate upon the hills and the beauty of nature around me. Take a peek inside because the church is lovely, or you can attend a service if you like!

St. Johns

Hope Garden is located next to Derwentwater and you can go through it as a route back to the town. Exquisite flowers and trees, families picnicking, what’s not to love?
Hope Garden

Take the local bus to Grasmere to tour that lovely town and see William Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage. You may also want to visit Hilltop House in Windermere (further down the road) which is the home of Beatrix Potter.


The Lake District is always on my to do list when I come to England, and Keswick is my favorite town in the area. Windermere and Grasmere tend to be VERY touristy (which I try to avoid). Keswick has tourists, but not in the same magnitude. You can walk to some of the most amazing vistas right from the town and it doesn’t even take that long! As far as amenities, Keswick has more than you could ever hope for in a market town built on the edge of a picturesque lake surrounded by lofty mountains and ancient landscapes. What are you waiting for?

Off the Beaten Path: Chiswick

County: Greater London

As I’ve said many times, I have a thing for Chiswick. London overwhelms the senses, and Chiswick is a calm respite located about 45 minutes due west of central London by underground. It has great connections into the city, lots of shops, and a country/yuppie/suburban vibe.

The Environment

Chiswick has leafy-lined streets, boutique stores and restaurants, charity shops, underground connections, and is local to some pretty interesting sights! Last year, just outside the underground, Sharon and I noticed a church fair going on in the park. We joined the crowds for live music, craft booths, outdoor food stands, and exhibitions. It was a lovely, free adventure that really centered me in that community soul space. You can walk along the river or visit the local park and immerse yourself in nature and all the amenities of a city in one package!

My Hotel

My hotel of choice in Chiswick is always the Best Western Chiswick Palace Hotel and Suites. In Britain, Best Western is more a collection of private hotels which gives it that personal touch!

The Chiswick Palace has an imposing white front, off street parking, and super amenities. I always ask for a room in the main hotel as they do have an annex that’s a bit run down. Rooms in the main hotel have all been nice and one or two were even luxurious! Traveling as a single, you typically get smaller, single rooms. But I’ve been blessed by unexpected upgrades as well. Plus, with this hotel, you can rack up reward points with Best Western! Not too shabby.

They offer a breakfast that’s a pretty typical Best Western breakfast, but last time I was there, the price was not included in my room fee (which it had been before). You can get better breakfast fare out on the streets than in the hotel for a better price. Just shop around! Check out the local eateries. There are so many great choices!

Getting There and Heathrow

If you Google it, the information tells you that the Best Western hotel is a six minute walk from the Turnham Green underground station. I would estimate more like 10-15 minutes and about half a mile. If you’re hauling luggage, it’s challenging, but doable and you get such a nice space for the short walk.

You have decent connections to Heathrow via the District and Piccadilly lines on the underground. There is usually a change involved at Acton Town, but there is also a mythical direct connection via Piccadilly straight from Turnham Green (I’ve yet to make the direct connection). When I asked someone at the station, I was told that the Piccadilly line only runs very early in the morning. That’s from 6:50 to 7:45 Monday to Saturday and late evenings from 22:30 until the last train. However, I just read that there is a movement to upgrade the line to run all day from Turnham Green after 2018, so watch this space!

Things to Do in Chiswick

Though I use Chiswick as a London base many times on my trips, it is also a destination in and of itself. Within easy reach is Kew Gardens which houses the “largest and most diverse botanical and mycological collections in the world.” Kew Gardens is only two underground stops from Turnham Green or a quick bus ride from your hotel.

Take the District line east and alight at Earl’s Court to catch another branch of the District line directly to Wimbledon. I may have to do that this year to get my mom a tennis shirt!

Kensington Palace, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Hyde Park, and other places of interest are within a 30-minute reach of your hotel by mass transit. As you can tell, Chiswick has a lot to offer!


Most of the restaurants I’ve tried are along Turnham Green Terrace. This street runs just outside the Turnham Green underground and offers so much for the discerning tourist.

There is one restaurant I never miss called the Maison Blanc which is an artisanal bakery and café with a nice menu and elegant desserts. (I, personally, am a fan of their eclairs.)

We had a lovely meal at the Cote Brasserie and can tell you that there is no lack of food for any palate. From burgers to pizza, fish-n-chips and pubs to upper crust bistros – this area has it all!


Everything you need or could possibly want is in this area. From nail salons to Cath Kidson home goods. There are charity shops (I always love a find) to children’s and book stores. Hard to find something negative about such a groovy town.

The Good, The Bad, and The Best

Chiswick is a fantastic base for your London adventure IF you are not bothered that it takes about 45 minutes to get to the center of the city. For those who are short on time in London and want to be near it all, you are probably better served by a hotel closer to the sightseeing spots.

If you’re in town for several days and need a place to de-stress from the manic crowds of London, then I’d recommend Chiswick, by all means! It’s in between London and Heathrow which makes it a great choice if you’re on your way in or out of the country. The country atmosphere so close to the city is charming, and there is always something to see and do. As one TripAdvisor reviewer put it, “[Chiswick] gives you an appreciation of how life can be simple, enjoyable, and peaceful.”