European Roadtrips To Satisfy Your Wanderlust

After lockdown, one mode of transport that will make us all feel safe is the car – especially our own. Here are a few road trips that anyone can take:  from Scotland, to the South of France via the Channel Tunnel – and one two-wheeled adventure in London…

SCOTLAND

The Snow Road Route through the Highlands of Scotland

Introduced in 2019, the Snow Roads Scenic Route is a stunner of an itinerary, 90-mile journey a scaling the highest public roads in Great Britain.  This driving route offers everything from castles to distilleries, tumbling waterfalls to free-roaming herds of deer.  It weaves it way through the mystical scenery of the eastern Cairngorms and the charming Highland towns of Royal Deeside including Braemar, Ballater and Tomintoul, with a range of natural and cultural attractions. Three stunning Scenic Route Installations provide new opportunities to stop and explore this wild and beautiful highland countryside. A Cairngorms photo-post is also located at each installation to allow you to capture changes in the landscape.

The Snow Roads are slow roads. The only way to enjoy them is by taking time…to enjoy the views, villages and attractions along the route.  There are plenty of walks to be enjoyed, off the Snow Road; so, park the car and get out the walking boots. 

Recommended vehicle: Land Rover Discovery

Base camp: The Fife Arms, Braemar

The Fife Arms – a fascinating Victorian coaching inn set in the magnificent Cairngorms National Park, whose owners, gallerists Iwan and Manuela Wirth, of Hauser + Wirth.  The hotel brings together Scottish heritage and craftsmanship with world-class contemporary art.   www.thefifearms.com Rooms from £300 per night

NORTHUMBERLAND

Romantic moors, Roman ruins and mystical castles

The Derwent Valley is rich in heritage with stunning woodland gorges.  The small village of Blanchland is perhaps the most attractive in the whole of the North Pennines. Built from the remains of a 12th century abbey the village and the surrounding countryside are well worth a visit. Nearby is Derwent Reservoir which is the second largest reservoir in Northumberland. The reservoir is a popular place to fish for trout.

Set off from base camp, The Lord Crewe Arms (below) and head up onto Meadow’s Edge, a road that winds itself up onto open moorland towards Stanhope. On a clear day the view is endless, with heather and sun clipped hillsides for miles and miles. Sheep dot the landscape and the occasional Red Grouse makes its presence known. Most likely there won’t be a person in sight. There are plenty of sign posted paths and trails so after a leg stretch take a left onto the B6278, towards Edmundton and the Derwent Reservoir. The Pow Hill Country Park makes a welcome picnic spot with views across the water, one of the biggest inland waters in England at 3.5 miles long. From here it’s a short drive back to the Lord Crewe Arms, where a pint of Lord Crewe Brew awaits in the Crypt Bar, a medieval vault.

Recommended vehicle: Aston Martin DB5 (1965)

Base camp: Lord Crewe Arms, Blanchland

The Lord Crewe Arms – dates back to 1165 and remains at the heart of Blanchard, a honey-stone village surrounded by forests and heath. This is a real storybook bolthole – and a true experience of Northumbrian soul. www.lordcrewearmsblanchland.co.uk | Rooms for £199 per night on a B&B basis

CORNWALL

Characterful towns, rugged coastline and flower-filled lanes

St Michaels Resort is tucked away behind Falmouth’s Gyllyngvase beach on Cornwall’s south coast. Falmouth is the perfect spot to explore some of Cornwall’s best loved nooks and crannies. Hop in the car and head out west, glimpsing Swanpool Beach as you wind towards the village of Mawnan Smith. Go steady along the flower filled lanes and stop for a swim if the weather permits at Maenporth Beach. From here head for Trebah Gardens, a 26-acre sub-tropical garden.

Lunch should be enjoyed at The Ferry Boat, a family-owned inn dating back 300 years on the North Helford Passage. The pub has gorgeous views and the nearby Frenchman’s Creek was the inspiration for Daphne Du Maurier’s novel of the same name. The only thing now is to turn around and meander back to the hotel for a spot of spa time in herbal Finnish Sauna followed by a Cornish Cream Tea at the Garden Kitchen.   

Recommended vehicle: 1970 Morris Minor Traveller with a surfboard on top

Base camp: St Michael’s Resort, Falmouth

St Michael’s Resort, Falmouth – on Gyllyngvase Beach, a Blue Flag status beach, one of the most popular in Cornwall, with its wide arc of golden sand and inviting sea. www.stmichaelsresort.com | Rooms from £72 per night

LONDON

Central London by bike – see London like a Londoner

There’s never been a better time to cycle in London, with clean air and very little traffic.  The place to stay is One Aldwych, a contemporary luxury hotel in Covent Garden, one of the oldest parts of the city.  Pick up a red Santander cycle (formerly known as Boris bikes) from the nearby stand. From there it is a short trundle down Surrey Street, past Temple station to the cycle superhighway on the Strand. Turn right, along the Thames and then up through Trafalgar Square and under the iconic Admiralty Arch, currently being converted into an incredible new hotel.

With clear cycle paths throughout you can whizz past St James Park, up The Mall and past Buckingham Palace and Green Park to Hyde Park. Here we recommend a picnic lunch lovingly prepared by One Aldwych, or a pit stop at the Serpentine Café.  Then it is time to head back to One Aldwych for a stiff cocktail in the lobby bar and some much-deserved down time in the Health Club.

Recommended vehicle: A London Santander cycle

Base camp: One Aldwych, Covent Garden

One Aldwych – an independently owned and run boutique hotel in London’s Covent Garden, with stylish contemporary interiors by top London designers, in a stunning Art Nouveau building.  www.onealdwych.com / Rooms from £446 per night

PARIS – BORDEAUX – ST TROPEZ

En route for thee luxury holidays in one – from Paris to the Cote d’Azur

You’ve missed the city break, the country weekend with friends and the beach holiday. Pas de problème – France can do all three.   But this is no ordinary roadtrip. This is spending quality time in some of France’s most stunning destinations, staying in stunning residences – with Michel Reybier Hospitality Private Homes. A luminous apartment in the centre of Paris, an exquisite chateau on a Bordeaux vineyard and a stunning villa above St Tropez – pasting through an array of beautiful countryside towns, vineyards, historic villages, finally hitting the warmth of the South of France. A journey everybody deserves.

Recommended vehicle: 1962 Citroën DS Cabriolet – with the roof down from Bordeaux onwards

Base camps: La Réserve Paris Apartments – best of city ; La Maison d’Estournel in Bordeaux – best of countryside ; La Réserve Ramatuelle – best of beach

La Reserve Paris Apartments – superb location and unrivalled privacy in the 16th arrondissement. All the space and freedom of a private home, with world class hotel service by La Réserve Paris.
 
La Maison d’Estournel in Bordeaux  – an exclusive home from home for 16 guests in the heart of the Cos d’Estournel vineyard in Bordeaux, La Chartreuse de Cos d’Estournel sits on a hill with fabulous views over the estate’s 200 acres of vineyards and gardens.
 
La Réserve Ramatuelle –  with Riviera chic and unforgettable views above St Tropez, La Réserve Ramatuelle Hotel, Spa & Villas, is a haven of understate, laidback elegance.  The 14 private villas come with all the services and facilities of the hotel and the use of La Réserve à la Plage’s restaurant & bar on Pampelonne Beach.  

FRANCE – THE LOIRE VALLEY

Rattle along the river in an iconic Deux Chevaux

On many people’s bucket list and one of France’s true treasures is the UNESCO World Heritage listed, deeply romantic Loire Valley, with its gorgeous châteaux melding into the patchwork landscape of vineyards, sunflowers and picturesque towns perched on the riverbanks of The Loire.

Base camp is Le Relais de Chambord, 50 metres from the Chateau de Chambord, France’s most recognisable chateau – the Domaine de Chambord is the largest enclosed Park in Europe, 5,440 hectares of unspoiled landscape. The vehicle is the Relais’ own vintage 2CV – Citroen Deux Chevaux – available to hire for a half or whole day to explore this extraordinary valley. 

After visiting the romantic Château de Chambord, the largest castle in the Loire Valley, built in the 16th century as a hunting lodge for King Francis 1, the nearest châteaux are Blois and Cheverny.  Blois – with 564 rooms and 75 staircases, 100 bedrooms and a fireplace in each room – is the former residence of seven Kings and ten Queens of France.  It is also the place where Joan of Arc went in 1429 to be blessed by the Archbishop of Reims before departing with her army to drive the English from Orléans. Cheverny is one of the few châteaux of the Loire that is fully furnished and lived in. It has remained in the same family for six centuries. It was also the inspiration behind Hergé’s Marlinspike Hall, the home of cartoon character Tintin’s friend Captain Haddock. There is a permanent 3D Tintin exhibition, wonderful gardens and a labyrinth – fun for all the family. 

Lunch is a picnic, to be had on the banks of the Loire, prepared by Le Relais de Chambord. Then rattle home in the 2CV for dinner under the stars on the terrace, with drop dead views of the Chateau de Chambord.

Recommended vehicle: Le Relais de Chambord’s 2CV Charleston

Base camps: Le Relais de Chambord

Le Relais de Chambord – a 19th century Relais, given a stylish new look by star designer Jean Michel Wilmotte, this is the only hotel on the Château de Chambord’s extensive 5,440-hectare estate.  Rental of the hotel’s 2CV Charleston EUR120 for a full day.  Rooms from £180.00 per night  |  www.relaisdechambord.com

Influencer Fraud: What It Means and What To Look Out For

Influncer Fraud Cove

Fake it until you make it, a phrase that up until a few months ago would have been the mantra for many aspiring influencers. However, as the influencer marketing industry continues to grow and the cost of a single sponsored post easily costing in the tens of thousands of pounds, the question still remains – how do you know that what you’re getting in return is genuine?

Research carried out last year by CampaignDeus found that out of the 700,000 Instagram accounts which it analysed, with followers ranging from 5K – 5M, as many as 12% had shown signs of buying fake followers.

So as the cost of influencer marketing is increasing, how can brands be sure that their budget is being used effectively and delivering the right results? The answer? Figuring out who is cheating the system and learning how to spot any influencers that are using or buying fake followers to ensure that your next campaign reaches real people and not just bots….

So what should you be looking out for?

Well, the good news is that many social networking sites have already been cracking down on the issue – by actively removing anything that it deems as inauthentic. Last year alone, Twitter purged tens of millions of suspicious accounts, while Facebook (who also own Instagram) began heavily investing in machine learning tools that would help them to detect and remove any suspicious account activity. But despite their best efforts, there are still influencers out there manipulating the system. Therefore, we’ve outline our top tips on what you need to look out for when vetting potential influencer partners…

Step 1 – Closely analyse their profile

When looking at any influencer profile there are a number of red flags which can pop up at any time. Firstly, look at the persons engagement rate. If they have a high number of followers, but little to no post engagement then there is a very high chance that they have previously bought followers. Secondly, scroll through the comments of a couple of their posts – this is often where you can spot any programmed bot interactions. Look for generic comments like ‘nice feed’ and ‘great shot’ as this will indicate that the interactions are unlikely to be genuine. Lastly, have a brief scroll through the influencers list of followers to see if they look like real accounts. If there are lots of accounts with no profile pictures or unusual usernames, then this could be another red flag.

Step 2 – Stick to the stats

It is widely known that many of the sites that sell fake followers operate the fake accounts from places like South America and Eastern Europe. Therefore, before you agree to work with any influencer you should ask for a direct screenshot of their follower demographics to verify that their audience is both legit and relevant to who you want to try and target.

Step 3 – Dig deeper with a third-party site

There are a number of different apps and programmes that claim to have found the ultimate algorithm to spotting fake followers. However, the truth is that no one platform has the answer you’re looking for, but they can occasionally help as part of the wider vetting process. Social Blade is the preferred platform for most, as it allows you to track user statistics across Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and more. Here you can find things like influencer’s engagement rate, their average number of likes and comments and most importantly their daily followers and following. It’s here that you are looking for any unusual spikes in new followers or lots of following and unfollowing. The latter strategy often involves following hundreds of new accounts one day and then once they have followed you back, quickly unfollowing them to leave themselves with a higher number of followers. While this technically doesn’t count as buying followers, it is a way for influencers to manipulate the algorithm and inflate their stats, which again could indicate that you should approach with caution.

Step 4 – Look for external mentions

While painstakingly obvious, a simple Google search of any authentic and well-respected influencer should produce a series of valuable external mentions. Look for published articles or interviews with the influencer to get a feel for their online credibility and history of past collaborations.

Step 5 – Trust your instincts

You can often get a feel for when something isn’t right, so always trust your instinct when it comes to working with influencers. Until an industry wide solution emerges, vetting influencers will rely on brands and agencies being able to closely understand and manage their relationships with social media stars. Therefore, if you’re unsure about anyone and have a inkling that they are up to no good, then keep searching until you find someone that perfectly connects with your brand.