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“Get out there and seize the day!” is the motto of 74 year old McCarthy & Stone homeowner Sylvie Morgan.
At the beginning of this year, Sylvie and her partner Bradley, 81, set out to plan a road trip of a lifetime. A trip that would take them all over the UK so they could relive old memories and meet up with friends and family they hadn’t seen for many years.
However, rather than stay in expensive hotels or B&B’s, Sylvie had a rather better solution up her sleeve that would mean she and Bradley could travel to all the places they wanted to go – 15 places in total over 19 days, for as little as £25 per night.
The idea came to Sylvie after chatting to Jackie, the House Manager at Paxton Court in Tenby where she lives. Last summer Jackie and her husband took a weeks’ holiday visiting a number of places as far apart as Newcastle and Anglesey, staying in McCarthy & Stone guest suites.
“You mean we can book into other McCarthy & Stone developments like a holiday?” exclaimed Sylvie!
Jackie went on to explain that McCarthy & Stone homeowners were afforded the convenience of being able to book into any development guest suite anywhere in the country, simply by calling and speaking to the House Manager.
Sylvie comments: “The guest suites are a fantastic facility for when you have visiting family and friends, as it means they can stay over and you don’t need to worry about it being too much of a squeeze.
“The thought that you could also stay there and enjoy such a value for money holiday never crossed my mind. Once I heard about it I was straight onto Bradley as we’d been talking about planning a trip, but now all of sudden, it made it seem much more do-able.
“At £25 per night it also made it very cost effective – we thought what do we have to lose?”
From here, Sylvie opened up a map of the UK, spread it out on the kitchen table and began to pinpoint the different places they’d like to visit.
“There was no time factor involved”, says Sylvie. “We knew we wanted to go in the spring but we’re both free agents so the length and breadth of the trip was really up to us. It was amazing to have the freedom to choose and to make the trip our own.”
Sylvie admits she was the master planner though.
“Bradley and I discussed and we knew roughly where different friends and family were but it needed some thorough research online to work out what the sensible drive times would be each day. We agreed on two to three hours maximum, although one day we did stretch this to four hours as we made our way down from York to Norwich but it was very do-able.”
From Tenby in Pembrokeshire up the west coast of Wales and England, north to John o’ Groats in Scotland then back down the east coast to Sussex and along the south coast, Sylvie and Bradley covered an enormous 2,532 miles by car in total.
“It was absolutely amazing”, says Sylvie.
“I have never been up through the highlands of Scotland but is was so wonderful to see all the glorious countryside and the changes in scenery as you enter different parts of the UK. We were forever pulling over to take photographs – absolutely nothing about our trip felt rushed. It was easy travelling just opportune time to take in our surroundings and wind down the windows!
“The weather was also incredibly kind to us and made the whole trip very special, seeing the UK at its best.”
Sylvie did most of the driving, she laughs, to keep stress levels (hers) to a minimum. However, Bradley was an excellent map reader by all accounts, although shouting at the sat-nav on a number of occasions!
Their journey started in Tenby and took them to Cwrt Gloddaeth, Llandudno where they spent their first night, then on to Queen Elizabeth Court in Kirby Lonsdale in the Lake District. It was here that Bradley quite by chance was able to meet up with an old pal, Trevor Thomas. Trevor and Bradley had always kept in touch but because Trevor had since moved away they hadn’t seen each other for several years.
Bradley comments: “When we checked the address of Queen Elizabeth Court and realised it was the same as Trevor’s it was such a happy coincidence. We hadn’t planned it that way – the development was simply on route and we’d been attracted to it by the photographs on the website. Of course it was lovelier still getting the opportunity to enjoy some tea and cake with Trevor and hear how he was settling in.”
The couple also stopped off in Gretna Green, at its Blacksmiths Shop ‘The Old Smithy’. Renowned since the 1700s for being a place where lovers would elope to marry there, Sylvie and Bradley enjoyed playing a joke on family members teasing them with photos and texts from the infamous spot (and no they didn’t!)
After this, Sylvie and Bradley made their way to Glasgow and Inverness via Fort William. They booked in for two nights travelling up through the Highlands to Bettyhill, the most northerly part of Scotland. This was the only part of the trip they needed to stay in a hotel as being so rural, there wasn’t a McCarthy & Stone development nearby.
It was here that Bradley was able to re-trace some of his naval roots. At Loch Eriboll whilst serving on a royal navy destroyer, they were firing an experimental live torpedo at a mock-up target when something went horribly wrong and it turned and came back towards them! A swift manoeuvre was needed, the torpedo landing on the nearby beach.
Sylvie and Bradley were able to revisit the beach and enjoyed a walk on it, this time under quite different circumstances.
The couple travelled back to Inverness, on to Aberdeen and Edinburgh where they stayed two nights to take in the city and sights before making it to Newcastle. York followed with a stop in Darlington to see Bradley’s cousin, Pam.
“It’s a funny story”, says Bradley. “We had a brilliant time chatting to my cousin. She’s 90 years old and it was great to introduce her to Sylvie. We left and we’d almost got to York before I turned to Sylvie and said, “We have to go back!”
Bradley realised that they’d gone all that way and not taken a photo.
“I was desperate to get a photo of me with Pam”, says Bradley. “I don’t think Sylvie was all too pleased at first but the next day we both got up at the crack of dawn and drove the 65 miles back to Darlington. My cousin thought we were quite mad but I got my photo and that meant a lot to me so it was worth the extra miles!”
Sylvie and Bradley went on to Norwich then Ipswich visiting two friends of Sylvie’s living in Suffolk on route and whilst in Ipswich visited Shotley where HMS Ganges was – the place where Bradley had done his basic navy training.
Bradley comments: “For me it was like going down memory lane. It had always been a dream of mine to go back. To share it with Sylvie was the icing on the cake.”
Then on to Edenbridge in Kent, here again they stayed for two nights to visit Sylvie’s family and friends in the area where she grew up on the Surrey, Sussex borders.
The last leg of the journey saw them stop in Drayton in Hampshire, Shepton Mallett in Somerset before Cardiff completed their stops as they were welcomed home to Tenby.
“Honestly there were too many highlights to pick just one”, says Sylvie.
“For me going to Drayton, where we visited Langston harbour and seeing the cottage that I lived in with my late husband and where I gave birth to my first daughter. That was very special.”
Overall, with food, accommodation and petrol taken into account the trip cost Sylvie and Bradley just £40 per day each.
“Oh it was fantastic value”, says Sylvie.
“We didn’t scrimp, we ate out every night. The money we saved on hotels and B&Bs meant we could afford to have treats. We did the tourist thing and visited Edinburgh castle, and a real highlight was going to the Saturday evening service at York Minster - that was a tick off the bucket list!”
During the day Sylvie and Bradley would make the most of supermarket meal deals with picnic stops on route, and more often than not, a favourite of Bradley’s – a cream tea.
“The House Managers at all of the McCarthy & Stone developments were so very welcoming and helpful”, says Sylvie.
“In fact it felt like a home from home. The rooms were without question very comfortable and spotlessly clean. They had everything you could need and yet were all very unique in their own way.
“That was part of the beauty of it. Meeting new friends and new faces everywhere we went, and getting to know the different ways of doing things.”
Fresh from their trip, Sylvie and Bradley are already planning another.
“We are so taken with it we’ll definitely try to visit other locations”, says Bradley. “Devon and Cornwall are next on our list but of course the UK is our oyster with so many McCarthy & Stone locations to choose from we truly are spoilt for choice.”
When the couple first dreamt of the idea of a road trip, neither of them would have anticipated just how fantastically it would turn out.
“I can’t believe we’ve done it!” says Sylvie.
“The opportunity and the accommodation is right there. My advice to any McCarthy & Stone homeowners is to take advantage of it. Don’t let these wonderful guest suites sit there and go to waste. You’ll be surprised just what a wonderful holiday they can be.”
For more information about available properties, locations and prices please visit: www.mccarthyandstone.co.uk or call: 0800 2014811.
The majority of McCarthy & Stone developments come with a convenient guest suite where family and friends are able to come and stay. Guest suites can also be booked by McCarthy & Stone homeowners choosing to venture further afield for a fraction of the price of a hotel stay, from as little as £25 per night.
Each guest suite comes with en-suite shower room, television, tea and coffee making facilities and access to the homeowner’s lounge and other development facilities.
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