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Updown Farmhouse Deal Kent +

Girl

Cheesy puffs; pumpkin ravioli with sage butter; potato, Lancashire and chanterelle pie; clementine polenta cake with whipped cream. And Updown Cooler: Dolin Blanc, Cocchi Americano, Muscadet and a splash of Crème d’Apricot. The walled garden of a 17th century farmhouse on the edge of Deal, the prettiest salty aired town in Kent by a country kilometre, is the serene setting for sampling a new Anglo Italian seasonal late night dinner menu. Grade II Listed Updown Farm was bought by couple Oli Brown (Chef) and Ruth Leigh (Hostess) in 2021 who had both built their careers in hospitality in London.

Over to Oli, “We looked in Somerset, we looked in Norfolk, but it just felt like we had roots here in Deal and we knew the area. It’s so close to London too. Also Deal is just such a cool place. It’s thriving and this property is just unbelievably beautiful so that made our minds up for us. The garden is enclosed by incredible woodland so it feels very remote and peaceful. Updown Farmhouse is unusual but it’s going to be a lovely place to be in, eat and to stay.”

Kent isn’t exactly short of upmarket places to be in, eat and to stay, but there’s always room for one more. Here’s a completely authenticated list so far of the Garden of England’s finest. Friendliest pub: The White Horse, Dover. Most atmospheric pub: The Lantern Inn, Martin. Oldest pub: The Rose Inn, Wickhambreaux. Best pub with restaurant: Fordwich Arms, Greater Canterbury. Best pub with rooms: The Rose, Deal. Best binational restaurant: Frog and Scot, Deal. Best cheesy restaurant: The Cheese Room, Rochester. Fanciest restaurant with rooms: The Pig, Bridge. Most seaswept restaurant: Deal Pier Kitchen, Deal. Most London-on-Sea restaurant: The Table, Broadstairs. Most exclusive restaurant: The Dining Club, Deal. Most missed: The Black Douglas, Deal. Boy.

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Hôtel du Petit Moulin Paris + Christian Lacroix

We’re Here for The Ride

“Welcome to the Hôtel du Petit Moulin! We would like to thank you for your confidence and for choosing our hotel during your visit in Paris. Le Marais is full of history, wonderful shops, galleries, museums and restaurants. In fact, the building in which the hotel is set was originally the first Parisian bakery. This is where Victor Hugo would come to buy his baguette! Today, the original shop frontage remains, reminding guests of its former past as a ‘boulangerie’, protected under French Heritage. Make yourself at home, relax and enjoy a quiet drink at the honesty bar open from noon to midnight or head to the spa of our sister hotel, the Pavillon de la Reine, situated in Place des Vosges, just a 10 minute walk away from her and available to all our guests. Have a lovely stay with us.” Luc Guillo Lohan, The Manager.

Heaven’s in the detail and the Hôtel du Petit Moulin delivers from bookmarks and business cards to brass door keys and petite boxes â picorer. Highlights of the room service from Restaurant Chez Nenesse on nearby Rue de Saintonge include entrées: salade des queues de langoustines (Dublin Bay prawn salad); plats: fillets de bar aux fines herbes (sea bass fillet, sauce with fine herbs); and desserts: mousse et sorbet chocolat sauce pistache (chocolate mousse and sorbets with pistachio sauce).

Filling a pair of 17th century buildings which couldn’t be more pre Haussmann Parisian if they tried, the ground floor was once a bar and a street corner bakery. Victor Hugo’s house on Place des Vosges is just around the corner. As Monsieur Lohan notes, the former bakery still retains a hand painted glass shopfront. There are just 17 guest rooms. One bedroom on the rez-de-chaussée. Four on the premier étage. Four on the deuxième étage stacked in the same layout as below. Four stacked on the troisième étage. One on the étage intermédiaire. Three on the quatrième étage. The architecture is full of original quirks from fragments of timber structural beams to windows floating between floors. The interior is absolutely fabulous Christian Lacroix sweetie darling.The haut couture designer clearly had a lot of fun dreaming up this Louis XV on an acid trip décor. The colourful chaos of the montaged découpaged toile de jouy in the main rooms contrasts with the calm of the white marble bathrooms. Top floor Room 402 is the largest guest suite and angles into the street corner with the best views, taking in a sweep of chimneys rising above the buildings lining Rue de Poitou and Rue de Saintonge. The mirrored ceiling provides an altogether different view, not least of the shagpile carpet. “Early to bed, and you’ll wish you were dead. Bed before 11, nuts before seven,” shrieked Dorothy Parker in her short story for The Little Hours for The New Yorker, 1933.

Nowhere does acronyms better than cultural Paris. MAD (Musée des Arts Décoratifs) is hard to beat. MAHJ (Musée d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaisme) is exhibiting Erwin Blumenfeld’s photography. The Festival of (captured Light in the City of Light.

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Dorinda The Honourable Lady Dunleath Baroness Mulholland + Cathedral Church of the Holy Trinity Downpatrick Down

Music in September

A Service of Thanksgiving was held for Dorinda Lady Dunleath in the Cathedral Church of the Holy Trinity, Downpatrick, County Down on 28 September 2022. The Dean of Down Cathedral, The Very Reverend Henry Hull, welcomed the congregation and noted that like the late Queen, Dorinda had a Christian faith which was reflected in a lifetime of dedicated and joyful duty. He recorded how she had worshipped at Holy Trinity Church Ballywalter, St Andrew’s Church of Ireland Balligan and at times, Down Cathedral. The cathedral is high on a hill clinging to the edge of the town, clearly visible across uninterrupted countryside from Ballydugan House to the southwest.

In 1970, just three years after Dorinda co-founded the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society, along with Peter Rankin and Professor Alistair Rowan she wrote and published the Society’s List of historic buildings in Downpatrick. The introduction to the cathedral’s entry is: “A church has existed here since 530 AD when St Caylan was Bishop: early in the 12th century it was occupied as a house of Regular Canons of the Order of St Augustine, superseded after 1177 by Benedictines. The Church was destroyed by an earthquake 1245; pillaged and burnt early in the 14th century by Robert Bruce; rebuilt; destroyed by the English in 1538, pillaged and burn 1539; incorporated with a chapter by Charter 1609. In the 18th century it fell into disrepair. An Act of Parliament was passed 30 April, 1790, for restoration at the instigation of the Dean, the Honourable and Reverend William Annesley, and of Wills Hill, Earl of Hillsborough, and 1st Marquis of Downshire; ready for divine service 1818; vestibule and tower added, the latter completed 1826; totally disendowed by Irish Church Act 1869.”

The Service of Thanksgiving tributes were by architectural historians and authors Professor Alistair Rowan and Dr Anthony Malcolmson. Both spoke eloquently about Dorinda’s significant contribution to charities and culture in Northern Ireland, and in particular, architectural heritage. There were plenty of anecdotes of fun times too. Professor Rowan recalled Dorinda and her husband Henry arriving in fancy dress one evening at Leixlip Castle, County Kildare. The hostess, Mariga Guinness, was surprised to greet Dorinda in Little Bo Peep attire and Henry in cartoon character costume. Somehow there had been a miscommunication: it was a formal white tie dinner.

One of the readings was Order to View by Louis MacNiece. The poet’s mother and Dorinda’s mother were cousins. The opening line is, “It was a big house, bleak.” Another reading was a verse from St John’s Gospel which includes the line, “In my Father’s house are many mansions.” The organist and choirmaster Michael McCracken led Down Cathedral Choir singing In Paradisum from Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem. The Harty Quartet played three pieces: George Frideric Handel’s Le Réjouissance; Johann Sebastian Bach’s Arioso; and Edward Elgar’s Salut d’Amour.

Beautiful floral arrangements by Florestina enriched the stone architectural foil. Dorinda’s brother, Brigadier James Percival, remarked that just a couple of weeks earlier, Florestina, which is owned and run by Suzie Scott, Dorinda’s cousin, was responsible for the floral decorations of The Queen’s Service of Reflection at St Anne’s Cathedral Belfast. A reception was held after The Service of Thanksgiving for Dorinda at the appropriately historic Denvir’s Hotel below Down Cathedral in the town centre. Architect John O’Connell summed up Dorinda subtly and succinctly as being “spirited and singular”.

The Ulster Architectural Heritage Society’s entry for Denvir’s Hotel includes: “Originally 17th century. A date on the post is inscribed 1641, but the present appearance of the building is the late 18th century and early 19th century. A two storey four bay block pleasantly recessed from the street lined and flanked by two projecting three storey wings – all stuccoed with horizontal glazing bars. The east wing gives arched access to the hotel yards; the west has a gable to the street and, in the corner, a good late Georgian door of tripartite pattern, with grooved columns for the jambs.”

In the evening, back in the cathedral, internationally recognised musician Desmond Hunter performed an organ recital accompanied by the Balligan Consort (a nine voice choir founded by the late Norman Finley), celebrating the life and work of the late Lord and Lady Dunleath through their influential Music in May festival (1970 to 1980). Pieces covered four centuries from William Byrd’s Fantasia in C to the first performance of Fantasy-fanfare Ostendite Terram Occultatum by Northern Irish composer Dr Philip Hammond.

Desmond has written a short history of Music in May. Extracts include: “Lord Dunleath’s passionate interest in the organ and the success of the rebuilding of the Conacher Organ in Ballywalter Parish Church were probably key factors in sowing the seed that eventually led to the flowering of an organ festival… The first recital in 1970 was given, appropriately, by Norman Finlay, co-founder of Music in May.” Norman was Headteacher of Music at Belfast Royal Academy. “Each of the recitals was followed by an informal reception in Ballywalter Park, hosted by Lord and Lady Dunleath. This attractive addition probably helped to ensure a large attendance at the recitals.”

“After Lord Dunleath’s untimely death in 1992, it was proposed that an organ trust might be established in his memory. Discussions with Dorinda, Lady Dunleath, and others closely associated with Music in May initiated the process that led to the formation of the Dunleath Organ Scholarship Trust. The Trust was launched at a concert in Ballywalter in 1995.”

The postlude to Dorinda’s Service of Thanksgiving on 28 September 2022 was Wolfgang Mozart’s Laudate Dominum with soprano Lisa Dawson hitting the high notes to perfection. The early autumn late afternoon sunlight streamed through the glass doors of the cathedral, illuminating the vestibule, touching the tip of the nave with its warm glow. As everyone departed, beyond the sea of parked cars, a cross was momentarily silhouetted by the golden sun setting behind a silver edged cloud.

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The Rutland Arms + Castle Inn Bakewell Derbyshire

Last of the Summer Viognier

Jane Austen visited Derbyshire prior to the publication of Pride and Prejudice, and likely stayed at The Rutland Arms in Bakewell. She is said to have revised the final chapters of her novel with fresh material from her holiday including a visit to nearby Chatsworth. A tall commanding presence dominating the landscaped roundabout at the heart of Bakewell, The Rutland Arms was built at the turn of four centuries ago. The author, if correctly reported, would have been staying in a new hotel. It’s a serious looking building of warehouse-like proportions: three tall storeys tower up to high pitched parapet-free hipped roofs. The maximalist interior decoration – school of Martin Brudnizki – is very jolly with a picture hang in the dining room to rival any art gallery. More is more; less is a chore.

Another sandstone hostelry in the pretty town is Castle Inn. On a more modest two storey scale, it is close to the picturesque bridge arching over the River Wye. The adjoining wing of outbuildings has been converted to additional guest accommodation. Overlooking the town on a hill – this is after all the Peak District – is All Saints Parish Church. Dating from the 12th century, the Norman style building was restored between 1879 and 1882 by George Gilbert Scott Junior. Cute cottages line the laneways between these landmarks. Bank House, Bank Mews, Coulsden Cottage, The Cottage, Haven Cottage, The Old Forge, Spire Cottage, Splash Cottage, 1820 Cottage.

On the same hill as All Saints Parish Church is The Gospel Hall. The local history is recorded as, “The Gospel Hall was originally The Oddfellows Hall. It was built in 1872 by the friendly society The Loyal Devonshire Lodge of Oddfellows as a meeting room for its members. The Primitive Methodists rented the building for worship from 1879 until about 1892 when they built a new church in Water Street. Around 1800 some Christians in Bakewell also began meeting on New Testament lines in the home of a Mr Sellars in The Avenue, Bakewell. By 1895 they were holding their Sunday Services in The Oddfellows Hall. In 1949 the Christians bought the building and renamed it The Gospel Hall. Between 1982 and 1987 the Hall was progressively altered and extended by converting the two basement garages, formerly stables, into an additional meeting room.”

The moist morning mist lifts to reveal an unclouded blue sky.

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Bagshaw Hall Bakewell Derbyshire +

No Finer County

Fancy living it up like a lord or lady of the manor? Well high up on a hill in Bakewell you can for a night, a week or a bit longer. The rugged Grade II* Listed Bagshaw Hall now includes suites of holiday accommodation. The 1684 symmetrical main block is remarkably intact. An early 17th century range is to the rear of the main block and a 19th century wing extends to one side. The external materials are deep coursed sandstone with ashlar dressings, darkened over time. Surrounded by later development, Bagshaw Hall still holds its own in a commanding position overlooking the town centre.

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Hotels

Monsal Head + Monsal Dale Peak District Derbyshire

The White Peak

Monsal Head is the viewing point to take in the River Wye along the floor of Monsal Dale. Headstone Viaduct was opened in 1863, forming the perfect combination of engineering and nature.

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James Street Restaurant + Brick Belfast

Magic Not Realism

Francis Scott Fitzgerald knew you can’t repeat the past but it’s nice to reminisce. Belfast has a long restaurant tradition. Here are a few that have disappeared… Christies (now occupied by Coco brasserie). The Garden Restaurant (Eighties bling). Larry’s Piano Bar (obligatory table top dancing). Mint (getting haute). Nick’s Warehouse (served the famous Nineties £10 express business lunch). Planks (very wooden interior). Roscoff (Northern Ireland’s first Michelin star restaurant). Saints and Scholars (two storeys near Queen’s University). Speranza (the first Italian in the Province). Truffles (upstairs elegance opposite the City Hall). Happily, there’s been a continuing upward trajectory ever since.

Brick is what Belfast does best when it comes to architecture. And terracotta detailing. And a bit of stone. One of the best brick buildings is St Malachy’s Catholic Church on Alfred Street. Designed in 1841 by master of the eclectic Thomas Jackson, this Tudor Revival work underwent a £3.5 million restoration in 2008. It boasts the ultimate wedding cake plasterwork ceiling. You half expect a gargantuan lump of icing to drop on you mid mass. “Oh holy servant of God, you chose to live life as a poor man to show God’s love shining through the poor. You gave away everything to gain the treasure that only comes from God.” That’s the dedication to St Benedict Joseph Labre in the hallway of St Malachy’s.

A few blocks away, occupying the ground floor of a red brick four storey gabled Victorian corner building which couldn’t be more Belfast if it tried is the restaurant James Street. There’s no need to go à la carte when the concise set lunch menu has such riches. A starter of crispy squid and jalapeno mayo artily sits on a bed of squid ink. Roast parmesan gnocchi main is jazzed up with crisp globe artichoke, butternut squash and date. Toffee tart takes the rough with the smooth: granola and barley ice cream. There’s only one place in BT2 to sip cocktails though and that’s in the nearby Observatory on the 22nd floor of Grand Central Hotel, owned by second generation hoteliers the Hastings family. Linenopolis cocktail, named after one of the city’s historic industries, is a dizzying concoction of mango vodka, apricot brandy, prosecco, passionfruit, lemon, cream, whites and Seltzer.

James Street’s General Manager Paul Vaughan says, “Northern Irish hospitality is unique. It has such diversity. Belfast has three Michelin starred restaurants. The food offering is very diverse for such a small city. Here at James Street we pride ourselves on sourcing the best quality local produce.” He’s originally from Downings in County Donegal. “The Olde Glen Bar just outside the town is the best place to eat in Downings.”

Owners Niall and Joanne McKenna have tempted Ryan Stringer, the Executive Chef of Ely Wine Bars in Dublin, back to Belfast to take over the James Street kitchen. Dublin’s loss; Belfast’s gain. “I’m absolutely delighted to be back in Belfast to take on this new role at such an iconic restaurant,” comments the Dungannon born culinary star. “I’ve personally admired James Street for nearly two decades now. It has an outstanding reputation for incredible food… I’m keen to keep doing what James Street does well while introducing some of my own style and experience.” That experience includes stints at Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons and Kristian Baumann’s 108 Restaurant. Oxford and Copenhagen’s losses; again Belfast’s gain. A Street named desire. Sometimes, you can repeat the past.

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Bognor Regis West Sussex +

Raving Like Angels

It’s where all the big city hitters are heading for in the heatwave. Heady days. Hot nights. Although determined not to let the slang for bathroom put us off (in the same way we’re sure Grimsby has its charms), we’re bringing the London glamour with us just in case Bognor Regis lives down to its name. We’re not up for making a sequel to Steptoe and Son holidaying on the south coast. We have no concerns. This place oozes it from Hotham Park with its late 18th century stuccoed mansion backing onto a lake in the east of the town to the early 19th century Royal Norfolk Hotel and The Steyne with its bowed terraces overlooking an anticipatory strip of lawn in the west. Next to The Steyne and a smooth pebble’s throw from the Victorian esplanade is The Dolphin Café where the crème of Bognorian society breakfast. Falling outside the usual brackets of English seaside architecture are White Tower and Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church.

Built in 1898, White Tower was designed by John Cyril Hawes as a seaside family retreat. The architect and his two brothers each had their own floor above ground level. He explained, “Instead of a long spread out cottage I would stand it up on end – as a tower.” A vertical terrace capturing sea views. Its casement windows of leaded lights are typically Arts and Crafts. Our Lady of Sorrows dates from the previous decade. Designed by Joseph Stanislaus Hansom in an Early English idiom cloaked in yellowy brick, 1950s additions by Wilfrid Clarence Mangan bring a light modern air to the interior. Bognor Regis is officially Britain’s sunniest town. That’s one reputation it lives up to today.

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Shandon Hotel + Marble Hill Beach Dunfanaghy Donegal

A Country Kilometre

There’s a wee drop of aul’ rain in Lifford and it’s bucketin’ in Letterkenny so it is, but by the time we get to Marble Hill the sun is splittin’ the trees. It’s gone from Baltic to boilin’ so it has. All in good time for a dead on wee bite of lunch in Shandon’s overlookin’ the empty beach with not a wee’ne in sight. It’s dead posh. Not like the Carrig Rua Hotel in Dunfanaghy which is dunderin’ inn. Anyone up for a wee trip in Bert’s boat later on Killahoey Beach?

Running out of Ulsterisms it’s time to enjoy a celebratory pescatarian feast in Shandon Hotel which has had the greatest revivification since avocados were mere vegetables or fruit or whatever they used to be. There are views and there are views and there’s the framed golden strand of Marble Hill with the white tipped frothy spray of waves almost lapping up to our table. Across the water on the far side of Sheephaven Bay lies Downings.