Thursday, 15 February 2018

Review: Upper House and Spa A Perfect Getaway

The UK is beautiful. In fact, there are so many beautiful parts of the UK that it's hard to know where to start when deciding on a weekend away or your next holiday. Sure, the weather can be a little 'interesting' any time of the year but as my Mum always says, there's no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes! So pack a coat and wellies and you'll be fine - anytime, anywhere.

For our latest Great British winter getaway we went back to what is fast becoming a favourite location, the Welsh/English border. Whatever location you pick along the border you can be assured of 5 things:
  1. Stunning views
  2. Peace and quiet
  3. Lovely pubs that serve delicious food
  4. Great walks
  5. Sheep - there are other animals roaming free too but always sheep!
We were lucky enough to be invited to visit Upper House and Spa located in Craswell and nestled into the Black Mountains that form the border of England and Wales.

Having taken Friday afternoon off so we could arrive in daylight we made the 1 hour 40 drive from Birmingham to . With the majority of the journey on the motorway it was a quick drive, until the roads leading up to Upper House where the term 'country road' became relevant. We made good time though and on arrival were really impressed as the location opened up around us. The views were breathtaking.

With February weather providing snow, rain and beautiful sunshine within minutes, we unpacked the car hastily and switched from 'work week' mode to 'relaxing' mode as we moved into the Hayloft. The fresh air and views made it an easy transition. It was made even easier by the afternoon tea that awaited us.

Our host, Emily, had kindly organised the afternoon tea for our arrival, set up in a small cottage at the edge of Upper House. The cottage itself was decorated in a way that made us feel like we were stepping back in time. The kettle gently boiled on the stove, there were fresh flowers on the table and homemade cakes to eat. Add to that the quiche and scones warming on the stove and we were in heaven. I mean, seriously, we could have stayed there forever. The food was all delicious and what we couldn't eat we took back to the barn to enjoy over the weekend. It was perfect start to an amazing weekend.

As we walked back to our barn, we were mesmerized by the clear skies and bright stars. We stood until we were too cold, just gazing. Thankfully the area is safe and enclosed enough that Bisbee was able to run free - she didn't have quite the same interest in spotting constellations! We later found out that the Brecon Beacons, a short distance away, became the first area in Wales to be awarded the status of 'International Dark Skyes Reserve' - effectively meaning it's the least light polluted. The darkness means the stars really do perform.

Upper House and Spa is made up of two restored barns, The Hayloft (where we stayed) and The Long Barn. Also on the estate is the addition of a Spa cottage. The Hayloft works perfectly for two but fits 4 and is self catering, oh and dog friendly! We found the downstairs area was great as the split level meant one of us (Laura) could prepare dinner while still being in the same room. The large, comfy sofa was ideal for snuggling up watching the roaring fire and TV. As they had Netflix, we found the new season of 'Queer Eye' and binged watched the whole thing - what are holidays for, right?!

Now, the first thing I do when I arrive just about anywhere is check out the guide book if one is available. For a start, if the host has gone to the effort of putting it together, it usually contains some great info. From the simple 'how do I' to the 'things to check out', the guide book here was great. It even provided a break down of breakfast/brunch/dinner places or places that delivered food. By the time I had read it cover to cover we had the weekend planned.

Saturday: a rainy morning scuppered our plans of a walk so we decided to have a slow start and head to Hay-on-Wye for lunch. A recommendation of 'The Swan' was our first stop to refuel. The food was made fresh and tasted delicious. Bisbee slept at our feet the whole time and allowed us to enjoy the peaceful surroundings.

On the 25 minute drive to visit Hay we actually crossed the border into Wales. It's a small market town most famous for the amount of bookshops it has - and it has a lot! It also has a Thursday market that has run for over 700 years and the Hay Festival in late May. We wandered the town before heading to the Wye River where we strolled the river side path (newly shingled) back to the castle and then the car. After our 3 hour visit we just wanted to get back to the barn.

At Upper House & Spa, both barns have access to the onsite Spa, complete with sauna, walk in shower and beds that allow you to lay out and enjoy the view - or the stars in our case. Thankfully our hosts had warmed up the sauna for our arrival back so it was ready to use. As being pregnant meant the sauna was a no-go for me, Laura enjoyed it by herself while I relaxed and read a book - ultimately falling a sleep due to being so relaxed! The short walk back the barn had, as Laura referred to it as Norwegian effect, as the cold fresh air was a refreshing blast after the heat.

Sunday: In the guide book the walks that were suggested were hard to pick from. As 'all of them' wasn't an option we decided to go with one called 'the yellow route' that took us into the fields above Upper House. The morning started with snow, continued with sleet and had brief spells of sunshine. It didn't deter us though. Wrapped up and with Bisbee in her Equafleece we headed up. The first part was on roads and a drovers lane (that Laura found out was a road they take cattle along, not a lane named drovers). Following the painted poles we found ourselves in a snow covered field with the Black Mountain getting closer. We debated continuing the ascent so we could enjoy the view at the top but alas snow reappeared and while non-pregnant me would have persevered, pregnant me decided it was safer to head back. The views we had already seen made us want to come back when the weather was a little friendlier.

From rolling hills

To climbing mountains

Upon returning to the barn we warmed up by the fire and I enjoyed a nice long bath. Laura and Bisbee napped before we decided we should venture our for a Sunday lunch. Our stop this time was The Bridge Inn at Michaelchurch Escley, a quick 5 minute drive away, or 30 minute walk. A traditional pub that served a hearty roast and a delicious gingernut and white chocolate cheesecake. Bisbee spent the entire meal with her nose in the air trying to get a whiff of the food but had to settle for some leftover carrots.

On the drive home the tired puppy slept and we talked excitedly about how we would love to return in the summer.

If anything we wished we could have stayed longer. Stay. Revive. Experience is the perfect motto for the Upper House & Spa. We would highly recommend it for all or just one of those activities. We definitely had an experience that left us revived after the stay. As a winter break there was so much to do and having an on site spa was an added bonus. We could have easily spent the entire weekend on site and still done plenty, sure some of the walks are a little boggy and the evenings get dark a little too early but they are reasons to take full advantage of the accommodation. I am convinced we should get a log burner to turn our nights at home into romantic escapes.....maybe not with the baby though.

What we would say though is if you are looking for a place to escape that's accessible, then Upper House is it. If you want somewhere to chill out and relax Upper House is ideal. If you want a base that allows you to roam, explore and stretch your legs in stunning scenery Upper House can be that. Or if you want a getaway that provides a mixture of comfort, things to do and an opportunity to relax, Upper House gets our vote. In fact, Upper House would be great for any and all types of getaways.

We can't thank Upper House and our hosts Emily and Adriaan enough, we felt welcomed from the moment we stepped out the car and truly appreciate the wonderful weekend we got to experience.

Disclaimer: We were invited to stay at Upper House and Spa as their guests, however all views, experiences and photos shared in this blog are our own. 


  1. I followed this trip on Instagram and it looks amazing! It's definitely on my list for a UK staycation!

    1. Thanks so much for the comment - we loved it and hope you do too :)


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