Thursday, 24 April 2014

Wonderfully weird weekend

Mannequins, leopard print dressing-gowns (and slippers), chocolates in every room, pink radiators, purple carpets, flouncy dresses, stuffed animal heads, genuine Biba fabric, space invaders, shells, old violins and a tiger skin rug....

What more could you want from a weekend away?

I went, two weekends ago, for a few days with friends from university, to Priory House in Long Bennington.

You know, Long Bennington.   Yes, well, it's just off the A1 in Nottinghamshire, between Newark (surprisingly nice) and Grantham (never got there, but Trish can recommend it highly I'm sure) and was chosen on the basis that it was equally inconvenient for everyone (including the one who came, unannounced, from Vancouver.  There were tears), and that it looked, from the pictures on the Oliver's Travels website, brilliantly, extraordinary, surreally, decadently weird.  With added sequins.

We weren't wrong. 

It was all of those things (except the sequins) and more.  The pictures, taken on my phone, don't do it justice at all, but round every corner there was something else unusual, or scary, or interesting, or quirky or, yes, beautiful.

It's a Georgian house so the bones of it are beautiful too and the rooms spacious and very comfy, with ensuite bathrooms (more chocs and oddities) and the aforementioned dressing gowns (we failed to take a team photo, foolishly (though my co-conspirators are probably relieved)).  It is also, quite astonishingly given the sheer amount of stuff, clean.  We also had the run of the medieval brewhouse, with timbered ceiling, small but well-equipped kitchen (I was required to ring up in advance and check there was a cafetiere. There was), and big living room where we could blether into the wee smalls undisturbed.

It's owned by Roger and Carol, equally unusual and welcoming.  She's the blue-haired designer of the dresses (no pictures, because they (the pictures) simply weren't good enough, but think frills and furbelows; taffeta and lace; pink and green and purple and the sort of thing L would design as her wedding dress if I told her money were no object and she could have anything she liked), and wears clothes (even to the supermarket, she told me) to match.  She made one of our number (nameless, to protect the not-so-innocent) scream when she walked out from behind a mannequin unexpectedly.  We ran away in giggles, like a bunch of teenagers, and  had to come back to apologise later.

They were lovely though, kind and friendly: chatty almost to a fault, full of information about the village (two good pubs and a coffee shop which we didn't try) and equally good at leaving us alone to get on with our drinking, eating and catching up.  They even found several spare mattresses so we didn't have to share double beds if we didn't want to (there are four big double bedrooms, some of which they let on a B&B basis too).

I can't say much about what there is to do locally because we didn't do much of it. It's amazing how much talking eight women who haven't all been in the same room since the last one of us got married can do in the space of a weekend.  But we did have a drink and a meal in the pub and a potter round Newark, and those of us that weren't watching the Gherkin run the marathon (he did it in 3:24:36, raised over £12,000 and made the 10 o'clock news!) went for a walk on the Sunday morning.

There are plenty of people who would hate Priory House.  It's cluttered and crazy and has antlers and curios and bits of old toys on every surface, and what look like shrunken heads (I didn't inspect too closely) and a real tiger skin on the piano.  The screamer among us (who is also, as an aside, afraid of peas), refused to go into the main house because she couldn't walk past the mannequins.  We, however, with eight good friends, years to catch up on, the best possible online supermarket delivery, sunshine, no children and something interesting and quirky round every corner, loved it.  C is already planning to take her mum...

Disclosure - Friend L and I found the house online, booked it through Oliver's Travels and paid for it with our own money (and that of the other six people who came with us, we're not that nice).  While there I found a piece of paper saying that Oliver's Travels would pay me for a blog post about our stay there.  So I'm blogging about it, because you would, wouldn't you. But the pictures (taken in advance of realising I'd be using them on the blog - they'd be a bit better if I had) and the words are all mine and are all honestly what I think.  Although really there aren't words to describe it....


  1. I think that's possibly the best 'disclosure' paragraph I've ever seen . . .

    I ADORE these kinds of breaks. I think every parent should have one as it's so good for the soul x

  2. Thank you! The really nice thing is we're going to use the money to go and see friend L and her family this weekend! Woo hoo!

  3. What an extraordinary place! I think my husband would run away screaming (because of the clutter rather than mannequins or peas) so can't imagine we'll nip across for a visit. But it sounds as if you had a a great girly weekend.
    Is it very terrible I don't know Grantham at all? Driven past it plenty of times...

  4. Next time you're in this neck of the woods, pay a visit to Andy Thontons reclamation yard... *Bob* walked round a corner and screamed at the larger than life size resin crocodile, and the vintage guy gave me an attack of the ab dabs

  5. Just to let you know I have included this post in my travel round-up for BritMums which will be published on Monday. The theme is child-free holidays so this was perfect.


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