Luxury woodland glamping in hand crafted yurts, tipi and shepherds hut. Adult only tranquil atmosphere with great attention to detail. Woodland sauna, wood fired pizza oven and communal traditional games yurt.
Easily accessible from central London (by tube, or overland rail from Liverpool St) the forest offers vast areas of walking and biking with beautiful dense trees, particularly the 'Up and Down Walk' which is a great leg stretcher in an otherwise pretty flat part of Essex. The Forest Information Centre is a good place to start, where guided trail maps are available. Take a map if you can and a compass is always helpful - as it's easy to lose your sense of direction in the forest!
This beautiful area of the Caledonian Forest in the Cairngorms is managed by the family owned Rothiemurchus estate and is a must for all lovers of the outdoors. Hire a cycle from Bothy Bikes or walk the forest paths, study the wildlife and just breathe and smell the wonderful pine forest. End the day with great food (with a kiwi twist) from the Mountain Café in nearby Aviemore and contemplate your next day in the Cairngorms. From this forest you can walk in some of the great glens of Scotland or climb some of the biggest Munro peaks.
It's the only museum that has a dodo, the stars of a flea circus and finches that Charles Darwin collected. The Victorian showcases full of stuffed animals are charming and children love exploring and endlessly going back to the collection of dogs and butterflies.
The downhill’s just get better and better and the new ‘Surface to Air’ trail will be ready soon at the Aston Hill mountain bike trails. If you are a beginner, or more experienced downhiller, this must be the best play park to cut or hone your teeth on. There isn't a posh trail centre, more amazing trails in a friendly helpful atmosphere all set within the fab Wendover Woods, which also has more gentle off-road cycling options.
The Mill Cafe and Supper Club is tucked away in the oldest part of Lyme Regis within the beautifully renovated Town Mill which has a pottery, a micro-brewery, a milliner and galleries. The Supper Club (you don't have to join anything to eat there) has a set price menu of genuine Italian food that is simple, good value and delicious. There's no choice but there's always a vegetarian option. It's something quite different to anything else in Lyme and the room is one of the cosiest I've ever eaten in. We had a lemon risotto to start with, then a slowly braised pork done in milk from the Emilia-Romagna region. Finally a wonderful chocolate, hazelnut and mascarpone cake. All for £20. The homemade bread to soak up the pork juices was the thing that really made it for me. Real Italian home cooking - not the stuff that normally tries to pass itself off as Italian.
It's maybe not an obvious destination but the stunning range of colours in Kelvingrove Park, Maxwell Park, Queen's Park and Pollok Country Park is well worth an autumnal visit. Spend some time at the Glasgow University cloisters, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum or, if you head south, at the Burrell Collection. When it gets darker and chillier make sure you find yourself a wee table at cosy Kember & Jones on Byres Road - their coffee and cakes are to die for!
134 Byres road, Glasgow, G12 8TD
+44(0)141 337 3851
Google map: bit.ly/QODgQ4
Veterans of roads less travelled will not mind the one hour ferry crossing of the Pentland Firth to the Royal Burgh of Kirkwall, capital of the Orkney Archipelago. Those in a hurry can take the flight from Glasgow, Edinburgh or Aberdeen (connections to London). The city’s architecture tells of a grand Norse past. The formidable red and yellow stone St Magnus Cathedral dates from the C11th and is one of Scotland’s finest. Those favouring earlier times will find tours from Kirkwall of Orkney’s ancient Neolithic sites, the greatest concentration in all Europe. Autumn is the time to visit in particular for nature lovers when the whole archipelago thrives with migratory birdlife, which can be seen on walks along wild and sometimes stormy headlands, or on organised boat tours. In the evening the harbour is the place to be with a good mix of bars and friendly island locals. Whiskey lovers will be interested in Kirkwall’s Highland Park Distillery, the northernmost distillery in the world.
Google map: bit.ly/POIHvy
Three superb cottages hand restored by Richard and Lois Livett. Great location with beautiful views over Loch Sunart. Every need considered and catered for; private yet very generous with space, light and spirit. Beautiful gardens full of trees and bird life, and a very productive vegetable patch. You really feel a special guest in a special place.
A beautiful remote peninsula on the west coast of Scotland. Great views north of Eigg, Rhum and Skye and south across Loch Sunart and out to Mull. Take a walk along the beach from Portuairk to Sanna Bay, or the round trip from picturesque Castle Tioram along the Silver Walk then over the top of the hills on the way back. When the weather is clear, go up Ben Hiant to see the lot. Plenty of wildlife: eagles, deer, otter, and birds in the natural oak woods.
Viking remains have been found here, there is a famous volcanic geological feature and the element Strontian was first discovered in the local mines.
Go to Salen Hotel for drinks, and the local community cafes in Kilchoan and Archaracle when the weather closes in. And there is the lighthouse at the end of the peninsula too.
Google map: bit.ly/Stz8Bv
The most westerly point of mainland Britain, about an hour from the Corran Ferry south of Fort William.
Salen, Acharacle, Highlands and Islands PH36 4JN
Google map: bit.ly/SXL3Yc
The Burrell, Kelvingrove, Mackintosh, lots more free galleries/museums, amazing architecture, sensational shopping, vibrant culture and cafes and a suburban transport network that takes you to the shores of Loch Lomond and the slopes of the Arrochar Alps - where else but Glasgow?
Glenuig is a little village on the Moidart peninsula in beautiful Lochaber. The main attractions? The stunning views out to Rhum, Eigg and Skye; the products at Macdonalds Smokehouse; the events at Glenuig Hall; and a lovely inn that is leading the way going green. Then of course there is walking in the hills; sailing or canoeing along the coast. Highlight for me though was the display by the local history group in the grounds of the Glenuig Hall.
There are lots of ways to enjoy this beautiful part of the west coast of Scotland, whatever the weather.
Moidart History Group: www.moidart.org.uk/
Glenuig Inn: www.glenuig.com
Glenuig, Inverness-shire, PH38 4NG
+44(0)1687 470 219
Macdonalds Smokehouse: www.smokedproduce.co.uk
Glenuig, Lochailort, Inverness-shire, Scotland, UK, PH38 4NG
Google map: bit.ly/R6jahx
Time was that when the Edinburgh Festival finished at the end of August the city quickly slipped back into its famous genteel torpor. No more. Nothing matches the city for vibrancy in the famously rainy month of August but September and October in Scotland's most enigmatic city are often drier and sunnier. Walking hand-in-hand down the old cobbled ginnels (alleyways) of the Old Town or sipping cocktails on any number of rooftop terraces like that of Harvey Nichols, the place is full of romantic possibilities. Wrap up well, there is a chill that blows in from the North Sea. There is plenty of culture from the newly refurbished Scottish National Museum and Scottish National Portrait Gallery to theatres and concerts, not to mention fine dining from the likes of Tom Kitchin and Mark Greenaway. And Edinburgh must be unique in that in the middle of the city there is not only a castle sitting on a volcanic plug but a little patch of the Highlands in the shape of Arthur’s Seat and Salisbury Crags. With the Scottish independence debate high on the agenda there has never been a better time to visit the Athens of the North.
A well established vintage fashion fair running one Sunday per month in Primrose Hill. The fair is the perfect way to spend a leisurely Sunday afternoon and find some amazing vintage pieces.I got a really beautiful 1950's lace dress for under £30!
The fair has a great selection of stalls with a range of vintage clothing, shoes, accessories and textiles from a variety of decades with stallholders that really know their stuff and are approachable and happy to help. There is something to suit most people with clothes ranging from really affordable to some really special designer pieces and menswear. The pretty little cafe downstairs is also great for a cup of tea and slice of cake afterwards.
Imagine a combination of healthy herbs, flavoursome flowers, juicy fruits, alcoholic tipples and a little night music thrown in and you have London’s hottest pop-up cocktail bar.
Lovely Lottie, the ‘Cocktail Gardener’ has created a fabulous roof-top paradise with botanically-infused drinks straight from the garden.
Last year, Lottie completed a one-year horticultural course at Capel Manor with honours and was looking for a vacant plot she could transform.
She found the neglected circular plot on the roof of the Brunel Museum, just across the road from her home.
In spring, with the help of fellow students, Lottie transformed the plot into a beautiful, edible garden with six raised beds radiating out from a central sundial.
By day, this rooftop cottage kitchen garden can be visited and enjoyed by all, while on Saturday evenings in September, Lottie places shimmering, coloured birds and flares among the plants, puts out the deckchairs, takes off her gardening gloves and rustles up the most amazing ‘prescriptions’ – her cocktail creations.
Visitors sip divine drinks amongst the foliage; honey and basil daquiris, whisky mint juleps, raspberry mint martinis and lavender gin fizzes with lavender sprigs as swizzle sticks.
Lottie uses borage blossom as decoration and also creates inspired, imaginative – and potent – creations such as lovage with brandy, gin with thyme or chocolate mint in whisky.
As Lottie says ‘Although we use lots of herbs and flowers, our cocktails really pack a punch.’
The marvellous Midnight Apothecary will only last until the end of September, so visit soon and reap the benefits!
Midnight Apothecary is going on till Sat 29 Sept, but then they have two specials - for Halloween (Sat 27 Oct) and Bonfire night (Sat 3 Nov.) In between, Lottie will be doing the bar for the Royal Horticultural Society's harvest festival event on 9 October.
Free entry, cash bar
Every Saturday in September 5pm-10.30pm
Brunel Museum, Railway Avenue SE16 4LF
Nearest tube: Rotherhithe
Buses: C10, 188, 381
Tours of the Grand Entrance Hall at 7:30pm (£5)
Google map: bit.ly/RVPDWG
* Lucy is our Been there local for London. You can read her profile here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/articles/london-local-lucy-mallows.jsp and follow her tips here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/travellers/LucyRM.jsp
With its skew-whiff half-timbered houses, thatched roofs, rolling hills and ancient church, Lavenham is every American tourist's idea of little England. All of this medieval Englishness is encapsulated in one building: the Guildhall. While it won't impress you with its size (it's quite small compared to many National Trust buildings), the higgledy-piggledy arrangement of its rooms across a number of buildings, lends it a magical Grimm's fairytale atmosphere.
Inside, everyone loves Rammeses the mummified cat, believed to have been interred next to the chimney to guard against evil spirits. The dungeon is too well-lit to be spooky, but the dark cells outside in the yard are home to a man-trap and hearse, enough to send a few shivers up my spine. There are displays in every room which tell the story of the town, but I was content to soak up the building itself: a great place for conjuring stories of a ghostly nature.
If you feel in the mood to "whack a banker" look no further than Southwold's pier.
Despite being completely re-built in 1999, the pier retains a refined sea-side resort ambience, full of places to grab a cuppa or sit in the sunshine and eat ice creams. It is good for a stroll at any time of the year, but when you need some respite from Suffolk's relentless buffeting winds, I recommend the "Under the Pier Show". Full of slot machine games hand-built by Tim Hunkin, the wooden room is fun for all ages. I particularly liked THE BATHYSCAPE which pretended to take me underwater to look at all the poo being pumped into the sea, several radioactive plastic fish, Robert Maxwell's skeleton and finally started leaking as it hurtled to the surface. The psycho-killer chiropodist manipulated my feet far more gently than I expected. Cutting close to the bone of good taste with his MOBILITY MASTERCLASS "Start training for your future today", Tim gives you the opportunity to practise crossing a motorway, lane by lane, pushing a zimmer frame. I was mown down several times.
On the way out I was taken by a mallet and a series of holes in a table, and worked up a sweat whacking several bald bankers as they popped their heads up through the holes. Very therapeutic.
Southwold Pier Limited, North Parade, Southwold, Suffolk IP18 6BN
+44 (0)1502 722105
More on Tim Hunkin's machines: www.underthepier.com/10_current_machines.htm
Google map: bit.ly/TM8Ez3
Buy your whole picnic here, and make pies your centrepiece. If you like pork pies, you'll be in heaven, but they are all delicious. Find a sheltered spot away from the wind and nosh to your heart's content. If you don't have access to a colourful beach hut, erect a wind break on the pebbly beach (I ate mine in the gardens next to the nearby churchyard). There was a sign saying they make up hampers to order. Imagine that.
80a-80b High Street, Southwold, Suffolk, IP18 6DP
+44 (0)1502 722312
Google map: bit.ly/QBnDKR
As I stood in the late summer sunshine on a small wooden bridge over a "dipping" pond, watching the dragon flies (or were they damsel flies?) with my father-in-law, I had one of those identifiable moments of happiness last week. He has been fighting prostate cancer for the past few years and, although his treatment has left him weaker than before, he is back to his old self. We watched the insects, looked for frogs and tried to name the butterflies. The weather was warm and birdsong rattled around us.
Minsmere is a bird watching paradise, and the enthusiasts were out in force when we visited. But you don't have to be an ornithologist to enjoy spending time in this coastal reserve. The wetlands are home to deer, otters, rabbits and all manner of animals and insects.
By the end of the day I had learned that an easy way to tell the difference between damsel - and dragonflies is that damselflies keep their wings together when they land (which doesn't really help you when they are flying.)
+44 (0)1728 648281
Google map: bit.ly/QBoefs
The car park, hides and countryside walks are open from dawn to dusk every day, except 25 and 26 December. The visitor centre and shop are open daily, 9 am to 5 pm. The café closes at 4.30 pm. From November to January, the visitor centre opens daily, 9 am to 4 pm.
The area around the reserve, including some long walks, and to the visitor centre is free. To visit the countryside walks, Wild Zone and hides is free for RSPB members and RSPB Wildlife Explorers. Non-member adults £7.50, children (under 19) £3, concessions £5. Family ticket (two adults and up to four children) £15.
Staying in caravans and tents, particularly on designated "sites", had never appealed to me until I spent a few days last week with my partner's family at this Suffolk coast campsite. They used to come years ago, and we were here because his youngest brother had called everyone together to help him re-live his rosy childhood memories with his new son.
The rows of mobile homes and tents carefully spaced between wooden sleepers on the closely cropped grass, and the ranks of clean, cream static caravans on the other side of the path look neat enough, but it is the endless beach stretching north and south that really impresses. One night we sat on the verandah of our caravan when a muntjac strolled past. Birds hover and swoop all day, and it's not uncommon to see seals playing just offshore. The site is surrounded by woods and there are plenty of paths for walkers and cyclists to follow.
The Sizewell nuclear power stations are a spit away (my partner tells me he remembers swimming in the water close to Sizewell A because it was warm, and I'm still not sure if he was having me on), but with all the fresh air and natural beauty they are surprisingly unobtrusive.
The area is full of families who have been returning for decades.
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