If your passport is stuck in the backlog then why not try a holiday in the UK? There are a host of areas to visit, offering natural beauty, historic buildings, comfortable accommodation and great local food.
Although my passport has another few years to run my doctor had advised me not to fly for a while, so in need of a short holiday, I started to look at suitable places in the UK. The area I eventually chose was the Peak District in Derbyshire. It ticked all the boxes, beautiful scenery, quaint towns, stately homes and it was under a three hour drive from London.
The accommodation for my two night stay was the picturesque Cavendish Hotel in the charming little village of Baslow. The mellow stone hotel is on the estate of Chatsworth House and the building is still owned by the Duke of Devonshire.
A late afternoon arrival found me in a very comfortable room and the beautiful scenery box immediately ticked. The view from the window was simply stunning, with lush green meadows and rolling hills and dales stretching into the distance. After a leisurely drink in the bar I chose to eat in The Garden Room, a light airy space offering the same glorious view.
An informal menu offered hearty dishes like ham hock and chorizo potato cake and potted shrimp with smoked salmon to start followed by mains of a luxury burger or beer battered haddock as examples.
Next morning, after being fortified by one of the best 'Full English' breakfasts I have eaten, it was decision time as to where to go and what to see. First stop was the pretty town of Bakewell and the tourist office. It was there that I found out about another two historic houses nearby, Haddon Hall and Hardwick Hall, other towns to discover, Ashbourne, Buxton and Matlock and a whole range of walks, caves and caverns that make the area so enjoyable.
My other quest in the town was to discover the origins of the Bakewell Tart. It is apparently a modern invention, very loosely based on the town's real delicacy, Bakewell Pudding. This is a large confection featuring a flaky pastry case filled with jam and an almond flavoured egg custard.
I decided to drive over to Matlock and nearby Matlock Bath, again mellow stone buildings give the area an attractive look. Matlock Bath has evolved from a place to take the waters into a haven for baby boomer bikers and has not got the same feel as the rest of the area, but the gorge it sits in, carved out by the River Derwent, is very dramatic.
It was then onto the 'Palace of the Peaks', Chatsworth, a truly splendid stately home. The exterior of the house is impressive and inside it is packed with a priceless collection of art works and artefacts.
In the grounds there's a maze, massive greenhouses and a rockery designed and built by Joseph Paxton, who was the architect of Crystal Palace. If you are hungry during your visit the extensive stable block has been converted into a restaurant and cafe.
It had been a long day and with the Cavendish on the estate I was soon back enjoying a well earned beer on the terrace appreciating the view.
On my second night I decided to eat in the more formal restaurant, The Gallery. The name of this elegant dining space is very appropriate as the walls are lined with paintings on loan from Chatsworth House, as are many of the other paintings in the hotel.
I had been impressed with the food on the first night and this meal confirmed my opinion. As well as being well cooked and presented the quality of the ingredients really did shine through. My starter of hand dived seared scallops with black pudding and cauliflower was a great marriage of flavours and the main of roast loin of lamb with smoked aubergine caviar, marinated courgettes and feta braised lamb shoulder was highly imaginative.
After dinner I reflected on my visit and realised that only one full day in the Peak District was not nearly enough time to see all the sights. I had not been able to fit in the Castleton caverns with the largest natural cave mouth in Europe or taken in a performance at the Buxton Opera House. Another miss was the Eyam Museum which tells the tragic story of the village wiped out by the bubonic plague in 1665 after a parcel of flea infested cloth was delivered from London.
I was very pleased with the location of the hotel, with time and energy I could have walked to Chatsworth in about 20 minutes across the fields and all the main attractions were only a short drive away. An added bonus was the highly level of service during my stay and the comfort of the room.
My final conclusion was that it was a relaxing break, well up to expectation and I wished that I could have stayed longer
The Cavendish Hotel
A 3 night Autumn Break at the Cavendish is £79.50 per person per night sharing a double and including full country breakfast, Sunday to Thursday nights from Friday and Saturdays (plus either a Thursday or Sunday) are £83 per person per night.
All the best rates and last minute deals are on the website www.cavendish-hotel.net
Entry to Chatsworth House and garden prices are adult - £18.00, concessions - £16.00, child - £10.00 and family(2+3) - £49
Full price list and opening times are on the website www.chatsworth.org
Peak District Tourism Informationwww.visitpeakdistrict.com