Martin’s 6 of the Best

Hi – I'm Martin Dunford. I founded Cool Places because after years of travelling the world I wanted to discover the best travel experiences closer to home – from finding a great place to stay to uncovering the UK's best pubs, restaurants, attractions, walks and more. Each month, I'll be sharing stories, tips and recommendations from my travels around the country. So read on to find out what I've been up to…

A Wilderness just an hour from London

Pop quiz time – what was the National Trust’s first ever nature reserve? Points if you knew it was Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire. To mark its 125 year anniversary, the NT are putting on a series of events on May 4th with guided walks, boat rides and – arguably the ultimate child-friendly activity – pond-dipping with pizza! It’s one of East Anglia’s best-kept secrets, with wetland, meadows and woodlands that are abuzz with birdlife, and I enjoyed a lovely stroll here on a rare sunny day a couple of weeks ago. It’s the perfect place to celebrate the arrival of Spring!

Born-Again Boozers

Not a week goes by without gloomy stories of the UK’s record pub closures. And while the figures certainly make for scary reading, there’s plenty of cracking rejuvenated pubs bucking the trend. Last week I was at the wonderful Bell in Ticehurst in East Sussex, whose eccentric refurb and uniquely comfortable rooms and garden lodges fit the bill perfectly – their circular Love Nest is an ideal spot for a romantic weekend, and the 'Pretty Vacant' room will appeal to the rebel in everyone! It even has a pop-up cabin outside that local businesses can use for free to sell their wares, so its heart is in the right place too. 

A Lancashire HotSpot

A trip ‘Up North’ is always an adventure for me, and last month I was in Lancashire. I’ve always felt that Yorkshire got all the good press and Lancashire was a bit ignored. Hence my determination to uncover some of its gems, and it wasn’t hard. The county is brimming with reasons to visit, not least stunning countryside – from the coast to the Forest of Bowland AONB. I can certainly recommend the food and rooms at The Cartford Inn – a wonderful example of Anglo-French creativity, whose spot-on deli sells lots of their own and other local food products, from gin and jam to some of the best chocolate brownies you will ever taste. 

Cool Places in the News

We recently had a double-page spread in The i Newspaper with our pick of places to stay for under £150 a night (all of which can be found in our latest book 200 Hotels). And in other news, The Guardian asked for my two cents on the so-called UK staycation downturn. Spoiler alert: I think reports of its demise are overblown… 

Cool Place of the Month

This is a new feature and a slightly random one, because I like to think all the places I write about are ‘cool’ to some degree! But there are sometimes places that stand out and people who go the extra mile, and for that I’d have to choose The Cookie Jar – a beautiful boutique hotel I stayed in recently that takes its quirky name from owner and experienced hotelier Debbie Cook, who has created a really stylish place to stay in the attractive Northumberland town of Alnwick.
It’s a good time to come, too, because the hotel is right opposite Alnwick Castle and Garden, which has just opened for the summer – home to Hogwarts, and some extraordinary gardens with their unique Treehouse restaurant. 

Hot Deal of the Month

Still in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, the very comfy, convivial and centrally located Brooks Guesthouse in Bath is offering overnight stays from £99 a room until the end of April, including breakfast, a bottle of prosecco and chocolates in your room. At those sort of prices, do you have an excuse not to surprise your loved one with a spontaneous romantic break in Bath this month? 


What Customers say about Cool Places

Everything I needed for a stay

I'm already looking forward to going again and would highly recommend this hotel to anyone visiting the area. It definitely deserves a five star rating!

Nathan, Verified Customer

6 out of 5!!!!

This place was amazing… I could not recommend this place enough, I’ll be singing their praise for many years to come and we are going to book again soon.

Barbara, Verified Customer

Easy to navigate

Great site that offers a really broad range of places to stay across the UK. Easy to navigate and book holidays.

Patrick, Verified Customer

Such a great variety of properties

Found this website when looking to book a staycation for later in the year. Such a great variety of properties and the website is really easy to use. Already shared with my family and friends.

CT, Verified Customer

Great, simple, straightforward

Great, simple and straightforward. I will definitely be using Cool Places again.

SM, Verified Customer