A Kentish Mini-Moon
With elaborate multi-day weddings on the rise alongside the combined pressures of our professional and social lives, our time, resources and energy for expensive and lengthy honeymoons can be a little sparse. Enter our welcome saviour: the mini-moon. A fairly new and very much welcomed expression, the mini-moon describes a shorter honeymoon that is just as sweet. Although many of us still embrace the tradition of jetting off somewhere distant and exotic to enjoy some precious moments with our newly-wed other half, the allure of a mini-moon offers couples that much-needed respite after potentially exhaustive wedding festivities with much less pressure and without the sacrifice of lots of time and energy.
By Olivia Riccini
Typically a long weekend and spanning up to five days, mini-moons are most popular in the form of a staycation. Although they might be shorter, less expensive and home-country-based, this does not mean they have to be any less romantic, fun or luxurious.
With Kent’s divine concoction of blissful beaches, captivating countryside and award-winning hotels and retreats, it comes as no surprise that the Garden of England is one of the UK’s most sought after mini-moon choices for couples. Whether you’re looking for ultimate relaxation, undisturbed one-on-one seclusion, or simply wish to carry on the fun and frivolities of the big day itself, Kent is sure to have something to suit your every need and desire.
One for… Romantic Seclusion
The closest you can get to your own private island this side of London, the Isle of Sheppey offers acres of flat grass and marshland that teem with wildlife and offer total escape from the roar of reality. A beautiful quiet stillness descends on the isle, which also consists of sweeping shingle beaches, vast estuaries, meandering rivers and of course, glorious views. Elmley Nature Reserve invites guests to ‘escape into nature’ during their stay as well as having the exclusivity of being the only nature reserve in which one can stay overnight. Describing themselves as ‘a vast wilderness,’ Elmley’s spectacular landscape, soul-stirring skies and breathtaking wildlife provides a truly inspirational escape for any couple looking to get away and spend time together. Choose from sweet and solid comforting cottages, cosy intimate cabins, or stay in one of the main farmhouse’s exquisitely designed rooms. Each with its own individual character, every place has been created as a retreat so couples can make the most of their time away and utilise the restorative power of nature.
Guests can also enjoy exquisite meals and delectable drinks at Elmley, either at The Kingshill Barn Bar, The Cowshed Café for lunch or breakfast in the Farmhouse. From seasonal locally sourced food to the unforgettable wildlife experiences and huge open skies, expect an extraordinary stay at this serene slice of Kent.
One for… Amorous Adventure
Utterly unique and undoubtedly destined to be a break you will never forget, Port Lympne’s variety of lodges and newly created ‘bubbles’ are sure to entertain and enthral even the wildest of thrillseekers. Referred to as ‘stargazing on safari’, The Bubble is an opportunity to get back to nature from the comfort of your very own bubble. Set on an escarpment in the reserve, this special setting offers 180-degree panoramic views, which are striking at both nighttime and during the day, providing a wickedly exciting yet romantic getaway. Perfect for stargazing while surrounded by nature, the transparent walls and ceiling offer breathtaking views over the 600-acre reserve.
After a day filled with adventures such as safaris and animal experiences, couples can relax with a luxurious bubble bath in the freestanding tub overlooking the natural landscape of the reserve, or simply sink into the cosy king-size bed to gaze at the constellations. Perfectly designed for a luxury romantic retreat, The Bubble has a king-size bed, freestanding bathtub and separate ensuite wetroom. Complimentary Bamford toiletries and sleep kit are provided to ensure you have a truly relaxing experience. In the adjoining living area you’ll find a Nespresso machine, mini bar and high speed WiFi, so all the amenities you could possibly need are provided for. Visit the Garden Room (as featured on pages 79-80) just a short walk away for a truly special meal which is also set under the stars. Venture out to the nearby town of Hythe for a little more variety, as featured in our guide on page 49.
One for… Lovers of Luxury
Sometimes you can’t beat a bit of straightforward spa luxury. After the whirlwind of wedding organisation, parties and preparation, unwinding with pampering treatments and sumptuous surroundings might be exactly what you need. An award-winning four-silver-star hotel and spa, Rowhill Grange sits in convenient proximity to London, teetering on its edge yet in all the beauty of the Kentish countryside in Dartford. Describing itself as ‘an oasis of calm’ Rowhill Grange is part of the acclaimed Alexander Hotels Group, priding itself on its pièce de résistance: the Utopia Spa. Crafted from a desire to transport the senses away from the everyday, Utopia is a spa destination like no other. Featuring 19 treatment rooms, including two couple’s treatment rooms, iconic Romanesque split-level pools, saunas, steam rooms, whirlpools and more, guests are invited to nurture and fortify their bodies with heat, water and scent. Reconnect with your centre and find equilibrium with a range of bio-nutritional therapies from OSKIA of London and deeply aromatic treatments from Temple Spa along with Rowhill’s own unique Utopia rituals.
After your treatments, spend the day unwinding in your soothing, fluffy robe while you enjoy a drink at the bar, delicious dining in the Elements Bar or explore the pretty grounds that surround the hotel. The perfect destination for an invigorating and refreshing break away, a stay at Rowhill Grange is sure to have you relaxed, recharged, recuperated and ready to embrace the post-wedding reality of married life.
One for… Countryside Escape
A generous slice of stately grandeur amidst the elegant parkland surrounding Canterbury’s provincial villages, The Pig at Bridge Place is set in a wing of what was once a historic stately home. Today, The Pig embraces its countryside setting and combines it with timeless elegance – picture heavy oaken beams, intricately carved staircases, huge brick fireplaces and Persian rugs strewn amongst squashy sofas and patterned chairs. Beautiful grounds boast a traditional kitchen garden where you’ll find hidden a pizza oven and place to eat, a sunny terrace bedecked with tapestry parasoles perfect for cocktail sipping, and wooden chairs that bask in the glory of the building while looking out to pastures of grazing cattle and rolling green fields.
The restaurant prides itself on its 25-mile menu, which uses the finest local, seasonal ingredients in an array of divine dishes and desserts and embraces a kitchen-garden theme through terracotta plant pots filled with herbs for decoration, a stone tiled floor, and a Victorian-greenhouse glass roof. Expect rooms just as charming and elegant as the rest of The Pig that share the same far-reaching views. There are seven characterful bedrooms in the main house, 12 light and spacious rooms in the Coach House, and two family friendly lodges as well as The Barn, a rustic and romantic two-storey hideaway in the old stables. The textures of each interior is quintessentially English with soft velvet fabrics and rich colours.
Additionally, seven Kentish Hop Pickers’ Huts on stilts sit alongside the pretty river in the grounds; each has been made from reclaimed materials and has a double-bedroom, a freestanding bath, a monsoon shower and wood-burning stove. The charming village of Bridge is just a minute stroll away and is also home to Michelin-starred The Bridge Arms (www.bridgearms.co.uk) and two more traditional English pubs: The Red Lion (www.redlionbridge.co.uk) serving up homely dishes, and The Plough and Harrow, (www.ploughandharrowbridge.co.uk) a Shepherd Neame pub perfect for enjoying a traditional Kentish ale.
One for… Ocean Dreamers
There’s no place like the ocean for romance. Whether you’re craving sunsets over the sea, stolen kisses among the waves or serene strolls along the seafront, Cabü and its beautiful location are certain to provide. Lying on a natural stretch of privately owned grassland next to the seafront between the wondrous Romney Marsh and the English Channel, this intimate retreat has immediate access to the beach with miles of coastline to explore.
For couples looking for a surreal staycation, select to stay in the Writer’s Cabin, which is formed perfectly for two. Designed for all seasons, guests can snuggle up by the log burner in winter or lounge in a deck chair in summer. When braving the sea doesn’t take your fancy, relax in the seasonal heated pool, hot tubs or sauna. The pool area is open from the end of March all through the summer and ideal for lounging and enjoying a cocktail or two together. The Sitooterie is also a great place for entertainment and alfresco dining. Consisting of a superb outdoor kitchen with barbeque and pizza oven alongside griddle tables to keep you and your food warm, expect brilliant balmy summer evenings that turn into long nights under the stars spent here.
Built around a central Cabü House where guests can pick up groceries, organise picnics or enquire with staff about local attractions, there is plenty to do and explore during your stay. Visit nearby creative Folkestone and its Harbour Arm (www.folkestoneharbourarm.co.uk) which is awash with brilliant bistros and elegant bars, or venture to the wild seascape of Dungeness where Cabü have their own station at St Marys.
The hamlet of Dungeness with its blend of modern, context-sensitive architecture, cabana-style bathing huts and lush green gardens all serving local workers, visiting artists and weekenders to the area is a harmonious mash up of past, present and future. It provides a unique aesthetic to marvel at, as well as lots of rare species of wildlife and some great places to stop for a snack or some traditional fish and chips.