The official blog for Harlow Garland Weddings and Events. To search for posts or view all posts, head over to our library which is searchable and categorised! 

Honeymoon Venue: Magic Cottages at Takou River

When considering an overseas honeymoon (or even a destination wedding), the venue selection can be rather harrowing with an entire world to consider. As part of our #honeymoonhumpday series, we're going to be bringing you a variety of venue profiles, honeymoon styles and tips every Wednesday to help you narrow your options down to somewhere truly amazing.

Today's venue is Magic Cottages at Takou River, right here in New Zealand.

Located just outside Kerikeri in the beautiful Bay of Islands, Magic Cottages is a beautiful riverside retreat set on the banks of the picturesque Takou River. Voted one of the Top Ten Luxury Lodges in New Zealand, Magic Cottages offers a secluded honeymoon haven, four private cottages, a lodge and a luxury 'Glamping' site among 150 acres of certified organic pasture, native bush and sub-tropical gardens.

Close your eyes and just imaging the indulgence of a private cottage complete with alfresco claw-foot bath, cosy wood fire, pampering spa treatments and delicious gourmet meals all in the privacy and luxury of this hidden locale, just moments from the Bay's sandy beaches.

If you find yourself venturing out of the room, take the opportunity to explore the acreage or borrow one of the lodge's kayaks or canoes to see the location from the water. Just upstream, you'll find the Maori Waka Mataatua monument and downstream, the deserted Takou Bay beach where you can hunt for shellfish or enjoy a romantic picnic.

If you find yourself venturing further, you'll encounter Kerikeri township about 20 minutes from the lodge with all manner of cafes, farmers markets, wineries, contemporary arts and crafts and award winning restuarants on offer. Also around the same distance away, you'll find the beautiful beaches at Matauri Bay, the majestic giant Kauri Forests and the famous ninety-mile beach.

A little further away, you'll find the historic town of Russell, the marine attractions at Paihia and the House at Waitangi. For the avid golfers, you're close to the world class Kauri Cliffs Golf Course or if viticulture is more up your alley, you'll find a plethora of stunning wineries including Marsden Estate and Ake Ake to name a couple.

For the more adventurous, the Twin Coast Cycle Trail offers 84kms of striking scenery including a section of the historic restored steam railway between Kawakawa and Opua or if your preference is to go by foot, there are a number of tracks of various lengths in the area which the lodge can provide maps and guidance to. For something a little extra exciting, opt for a jet boat ride around the islands to the Hole in the Rock, try kite surfing, parasailing or head to Action World to take on the Flying Trapeze, Tarzan Swings, Jousting and Climbing.

Whatever you're looking for for your honeymoon, whether it's a secluded couple's cave hideaway or a chance to explore together, Magic Cottages makes for both your perfect home base and home away from home, all in one.

Honeymoon Venue: The Palm Grove Villas, Nusa Lembongan, Bali

When considering an overseas honeymoon (or even a destination wedding), the venue selection can be rather harrowing with an entire world to consider. As part of our #honeymoonhumpday series, we're going to be bringing you a variety of venue profiles, honeymoon styles and tips every Wednesday to help you narrow your options down to somewhere truly amazing.

Today's venue is the Palm Grove Villas on the island of Nusa Lembongan, Bali.

A supremely speedy speed-boat ride from Sanur on one of the many commercial speed boats available will bring you to Lembongan Harbour on the island of Nusa Lembongan.

The island is one of a cluster that form Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan, and Ceningan islands.

As part of your boat fare, you'll be transported directly to your accommodations so there's no need to panic about how to find your way once you're there.

We were lucky enough to visit this hotel a couple of weeks ago and as we drove through the streets dropping off guests, noting how each little place looked wonderful, I recall saying 'Oh I hope this is our place' just as the truck stopped to let us out.

Situated 100 m from Lembongan Beach, The Palm Grove Villas features private villas with private entrances and traditional Balinese thatched roofs. The resort offers an outdoor pool and garden.

The villas themselves are so cool thanks to the new air conditioning units and provide outdoor bathrooms which are incredible - standing in the sun (with adequate privacy, don't worry) in your outdoor shower is rather liberating!

The hotel is one of few villas meaning the level of customer service is extremely high. The villas are all situated around the main pool area making the pool and poolside restraurant the place to congregate when you're not off exploring the island.

If you do head off on foot, there are a number of great walks to be made. Take a saunter down to the beach, have lunch at the Sadeg Lembongan resort or join up with one of the many snorkelling boats, paddle boarding operators and scuba dive boats on offer.

It doesn't matter which one you choose, they all go to exactly the same spots and tie up together so you're not losing anything by choosing a local, less fancypants provider and you're actually likely to have more fun in the experience as you speak in smiles, laughs and body language rather than much resembling English. (This is not a barrier, just go and have fun).

While there's a great restaurant at the resort, we definitely recommend venturing out a bit and heading to Sandy Bay Beach Club for sunset cocktails or dinner - it has the best vantage point for sunset viewing on the island. Follow the directions Google Maps sends you, even if it doesn't actually look like a path because on our walk there, we took the 'local route' as advised by Google Maps and it was actually a far more fun way to go.

For dinners and lunches, we recommend Hai Bar and Grill, situated right on the beach, with incerdible food and at night some dancing to entertain you, the restaurant is owned by an American man who dines with the diners and makes an effort to speak to each and every one of them. He even recognised us the next day and made a point of coming up to say 'hi'.

The Palm Grove Villas is a wonderfully inexpensive option on Nusa Lembongan, the island where you won't encounter bothersome hawkers or loads of tourists, don't need to worry so much about security and where everyone is supremely delightful.

Honeymoon Venue: Ubud Village Resort and Spa

When considering an overseas honeymoon (or even a destination wedding), the venue selection can be rather harrowing with an entire world to consider. As part of our #honeymoonhumpday series, we're going to be bringing you a variety of venue profiles, honeymoon styles and tips every Wednesday to help you narrow your options down to somewhere truly amazing.

Today's venue is the Ubud Village Resort and Spa in Ubud, Bali.

Winner of the Bali Tourism Awards 2015-2016 'Leading Luxury Resort' award, TripAdvisor 'Hall of Fame' award, and winner of the World Luxury Hotel Award 2014, the Ubud Village Resort and Spa is the empitome of luxury and elegance in the heart of Bali's treasured country village, Ubud.

On approach, the sounds of the bustling Ubud village fall away leaving only the faint sounds of the Balinese music being played in the grand lobby of the Ubud Village Resort and Spa.

As you wait to check in, you’re presented with a complimentary welcome beverage and a cold damp hand towel to refresh you. A hotel ambassador sits with you and explains the resort’s location in Ubud, how to get the hotel’s complimentary shuttle and how to get around. As your hotel ambassador guides you to your villa, the grand Balinese doors welcome you, as does the sign, personalised with your name. Inside, you’re overjoyed to see the grand level of luxurious detail afforded to you in your private villa. Two daybeds, an outdoor dining table, private plunge pool, complimentary jandals for wandering the resort and then, you go inside. Through the glass and wood doors, you’re greeted by the scent of jasmine and frangipani wafting throughout the villa as well as the gentle soothing Balinese music and welcome chill of the air conditioning. There’s a birdcage of Balinese fruit and chocolates waiting for you on the side table, all natural organic bath products (and even an organic insect repellent which you’ll use for near every use, just to smell the amazing scent of the herbs and minerals inside the bottle.) You have an indoor and outdoor shower, an expansive bathroom and outdoor sunken bathtub surrounded by fish ponds.

Each evening, hotel staff conduct their turn down service, replacing mosquito coils and readying your villa for rest. Each 294 square metre villa was designed after Balinese traditional architecture with local natural materials like paras stone for walls, alang-alang grass for roof thatching, palimanan stone for flooring, and tanah taro water-based paint for wall-finishing and has spectacular views of the neighbouring rice terraces. Outside the villa, you have 4.5 hectares of resort property – rice paddies, beautiful mature gardens, gorgeous architecture to explore through walkways and bridges like something out of Jurassic Park until you reach the main pool area where you’ll find the largest pool in Ubud, a pool table, sunken bar, gym and restaurants and is also where you’ll take your breakfast each day.

Included in your room rate, the breakfast is a three course masterpiece that changes each day. Choose from fresh fruit, roasted fruit or granola for your first course, a basket of handmade and toasty warm freshly baked breads and pastries, fresh juices and Balinese coffee and then opt for a western breakfast of eggs benedict, French toast or waffles.

While there are many restaurants in Ubud for a romantic dinner, or even the choice of an expertly prepared and decorated dinner for two in your private villa, Angkul-Angkul (Balinese for Entrance Gate) restaurant is a sumptuous Balinese style two storey open pavilion surrounded by lush tropical landscaped gardens, terraced rice paddies and water features located at the main pool area is also the perfect location. The staff decorate the pool area each evening with candles, the pathways with fire torches and the rice paddies with hanging lanterns and at your feet, an incense burner giving off that same incredible jasmine scent of your villa. If you’re lucky like we were, you’re afforded the entire area to yourselves with course after course served at your leisure by wait staff who are all but invisible until the second you need them. We recommend the seafood platter entrée which was a fine dining experience in itself.

Retire to your villa via a romantic candle-lit and lantern-lit walk back through the gardens and have a bath drawn and awaiting your return by the hotel’s willing staff.

Every aspect, every touch at this resort is thoughtfully crafted and applied to make every element of your experience, one of considered opulence. Such a large resort could easily mean that the small details are forgotten or the cleanliness hard to maintain and yet the Ubud Resort and Spa has a concentrated focus on the details. Nothing is overlooked, nothing forgotten, everything considered.

Ubud itself is a stark contrast to the rest of Bali. While the other villages are bustling with the sounds of tourists and hawkers, Ubud is more of an arts and crafts town out of the way in the middle of field after field of rice paddies. The ambience there is far more relaxed and the streets emit more of a Parnell or Newmarket vibe with the clean storefronts and higher end stores on the main street.

Take the hotel’s complimentary hourly shuttle into ubud Village to the resort’s sister hotel, the Ubud Village Hotel, a central location for your day’s events and wander to nearby temples, the Royal Palace, the Monkey Forest or the Ubud Markets. While the temptation to hire a driver or wait for the next shuttle may be hard to resist in the Bali heat, we recommend walking back to the resort. It’s about a half hour saunter but you get to see and experience so much more of Ubud than you would by car and it’s such an easy village to navigate.

If you head out to town to eat, we recommend ‘Kebun’ for a French bistro feel and ‘Oops’ for the best burger you’ll ever eat in Bali and a constant stream of Bintang beer.

Back at the resort, you’ll find on offer, local activities such as dance lessons, woodcarving, painting, making offerings, rice planting, and cooking classes as well as the two-storey Kama Karana spa for ritual treatments and relaxation.

If you’d like to venture a little further out of the village, hourly, half day and full day programmes can be arranged for you to ride elephants, go white water rafting or hiking or to take a trip out on the water for various watersports like snorkelling, diving or paddle boarding. Between 5 and 6pm each day, take a trip to Petulu, a village which is home to thousands of white herons and egrets who return each day to roost about this time.

If you’re an early bird, take a morning trek accompanied by resort staff at 7am to explore the river valleys and village life.

At 4pm each day, take in a complimentary yoga class at the resort or have a complimentary high-tea style afternoon tea served to you poolside.

One thing you’ll find everywhere in Bali, no matter where you go, is the overwhelming happiness and friendliness of the Balinese people. Constantly smiling and willing to help you in any way possible. Consider the Ubud Village Resort and Spa for your honeymoon and you won't be disappointed. This was the most beautiful, most opulent resort we'd ever laid eyes on and we wish we could have stayed far longer than our time allowed.

Honeymoon Venue: Hilton Imperial Hotel Dubrovnik

When considering an overseas honeymoon (or even a destination wedding), the venue selection can be rather harrowing with an entire world to consider. As part of our #honeymoonhumpday series, we're going to be bringing you a variety of venue profiles, honeymoon styles and tips every Wednesday to help you narrow your options down to somewhere truly amazing.

Today's venue is the Hilton Imperial Hotel in Dubrovnik, Croatia.

Having stayed here myself, I can attest to the luxury and spectacular location of the Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik. With its ornate golden yellow balconies that look over the main street, the city walls and the fort which stand just metres away through the gates to Old Town Dubrovnik, it is a truly beautiful hotel and what I hadn't realised until a few days after I checked in was that this very hotel was very near entirely destroyed during the war in the 90s, being subjected to a direct hit that destroyed the top floors and lit the rest of the hotel ablaze. The Grand Hotel as it was known then was refurbished into the beautiful Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik you see today and has remained as true to the original as it could be.

It was such a truly beautiful place to stay with such an incredible outlook over Old Town Dubrovnik.

The hotel itself is truly stunning, but the views are really the drawcard. Request a room that looks out over Old Town and your French doors will be filled with the incredible view of the medieval forts and city walls.

As well as the plethora of dining options in the hotel itself, you're afforded a veritable sea of dining options just outside. Restaurants and clubs line the city walls including the amazing Nautilus Restaurant. Inside the city walls you'll find even more options as well as the elusive Buza Bar that takes a bit of effort to locate but the hunt is definitely worth it to take in a drink on the side of the city walls' cliff face right over the water.

If you're going to Croatia, we recommend flying into Zagreb and driving down to Dubrovnik to really get to see the country down the coastal motorway, a truly beautiful sight to see.

Honeymoon Venue: Filly Island

When considering an overseas honeymoon (or even a destination wedding), the venue selection can be rather harrowing with an entire world to consider. As part of our #honeymoonhumpday series, we're going to be bringing you a variety of venue profiles, honeymoon styles and tips every Wednesday to help you narrow your options down to somewhere truly amazing.

Today's venue is Filly Island in the United Kingdom.

If you've ever watched 'The Holiday' - and let's face it, what girl hasn't watched it on repeat over the holiday season to see Kate Winslet discover gumption, shake off the messy ex and fall in love with Jack Black or to hear Jude Law with those incredible eyes and utterly wonderful accent tell Cameron Diaz he's in love with her - after what, a week? - but if you've ever watched it, other than for those things, you, like us, probably fell in love with the cosy wee Surrey cottage of Kate Winslet's character where Cameron Diaz goes to stay for the holiday.

A romantic, quaint, cosy epitome of everything you'd expect from the quintessential English hamlet with its low ceiling (too low) and size-too-small bathtub. That to us, is the ultimate romantic nook. Of course we love the splendid luxury lodges or even camping out beside the beach with our love (in fact, best holiday yet!) but if you're going to head away on a honeymoon (sans tent), a cosy cottage with its character and rich history, the smell of leather-bound books and the romance of spending a few days surrounded by beauty, beside a roaring fire with a glass of brandy, a good book and your love's arms encircling you in a loving embrace - sounds just perfect to us.

Our pick, is Filly Island in Cirencester, Gloucestershire.

Filly Island is a truly magical step back in time, from the quaint Saxon village where it's located to the small humpack bridge you walk to get there to the upcycled furniture and decor harking back to a simpler time, this cosy English cottage is just the treat you deserve. Filly Island began its life as a store for the cart which the neighbouring mill's horse dutifully pulled upstream in the 1700s. Today it's a mix of traditional English heritage and industrial elements, located on its own tiny island among this glorious village.

Located in South Cerney just three miles from Cirencester and one hour's drive from Heathrow airport, Filly Island site on a tiny triangular island between a millstream and the River Churn. Vintage elements have been upcycled to create truly unique furniture and decor, a labour of love by the owner.

The charming Cotswolds villages in close proximity offer splendid farm to table shopping and bakeries where the items are handcrafted with love and surrounding the villages lie stunning rolling hillscapes and glorious meadows to frolic in.

If you're lucky enough to visit in winter, you'll be greeted by the log burning fireplace, a cashmere hot water bottle cosy and waffle robe for each of you as well as the roll top bath tub to enjoy a long soak together.

The upcycled kitchen with its industrial influences is a unique backdrop for your romantic dining creations and the dining area and sitting room offer the perfect spot for those long chats with a glass of brandy, for reading a book together or talking into the wee hours.

If you'd rather not cook, the owner can provide catered meals to take the effort out of dining or why not venture out to find a dining experience that suits within the adjacent villages. Whether that's fine dining or good old British pub fare, there's something to tempt even the most discerning palate.

With so many cultural treats - the arboretum, the art galleries, medieval churches and village life, you won't be at a loss for things to do, though we wouldn't blame you if you chose not to ever leave this magical little haven.