The hosts were lovely and so welcoming that they came to pick us up from the station and served us tea and homemade cookies upon arrival. In fact they made everything homemade, from the breakfast granola to the yummy bread, which made the house smell amazing. It's a wonderful place to unwind and have a peaceful break in the country. Nothing to do but walk, eat and sleep. Which is a good thing sometimes.
Lynn Pocket (Owner)
Througham Fields Cottage
Festivals in London have been cropping up more frequently in recent years. Mostly they're one-dayers, like the O2 shows; or events that run in a series of venues on back to back days, like the Stag and Dagger festival or the Camden Crawl. In a sense these aren't really festivals, more a string of back to back gigs in a typically uptight London gig going atmosphere.
The upside of London festivals is how little it will cost you to get about if you're in and about London. That benefit is massively outweighed by watered down, over-priced festival beer.
My favourite London festival is set away from the centre of town, near Hainault Forest. It's a two-dayer, with super-early bird tickets coming in at £35 (and sadly sold out) and early bird tickets going for £45. The line up this year is pretty solid. A Certain Ratio and The Slits playing amid a veritable horde of young talent, and the vibe of the festival is much more laid back than you get in the centre of town. Being out somewhere green and connecting with nature overnight does tend to chill people out, comparing favourably to being stuck in a grimy, too familiar city setting, wondering if you'll get in to see the band that everyone wants to see in a venue that's probably much too small for the entire festival crowd to squeeze into. Some of last years Concrete and Glass patrons were heard to remark that that was all they saw when trying to get in to TV on the Radio at Koko last year.
Also, while Offset still falls into the weak, expensive beer trap, you can drink as much as you like of what you can bring in to the camping area of the site, which is well served for water and toilets too. If last year's experience is a guide, the campsite isn't a Reading/Leeds style warzone either.
It's on over the 5th and 6th September, near the temperate end of the scorching festival season. In my opinion, it's a cheaper, better alternative to the major festivals. Give it a look.
Long gone are the days of coal and steam in the South Wales area. Now, an industry of a different kind is bringing people to Wales – hospitality.
As you cross the new Severn Bridge and follow the M4 towards Newport, The Celtic Manor Resort and Spa looms above you. A magnificent five-star resort that boasts a wealth of amenities. From championship golf courses to a 3 AA Rosette restaurant this is true pulling power. Team that with hosting the 2010 Ryder Cup and you can see why it brings in celebrities and sports stars alike.
South Wales has so much more to offer: excellent shopping in Cardiff with the soon to be opened St. David’s Phase 2; a huge John Lewis and designer boutiques are all in the new centre - and as an added boost, Jamie Oliver has announced that he will be opening his new Italian venture in SD2.
Any visit to the city centre must take in a visit to Wally’s Delicatessen. A Cardiff institution with a fantastic choice available at the Deli counter and all manner of exotic foods to tempt and tantalise.
At the top of Queen Street lies Cardiff Castle. Roman in origin and with Norman battlements it adds real presence to Cardiff’s shopping area.
Stray away from the city and you never know what you might find. Ghost Tours at Llancaiach Fawr Manor House or Tommy Cooper’s statue in Caerphilly town (as recently unveiled by Sir Anthony Hopkins). Caerphilly Castle is one of the largest in Europe and is also worth a visit.
Follow the M4 a little further and you will come across a true hidden gem. Llanerch Vineyard. Fabulous food, excellent accommodation and a truly genial host in Carole. Treat yourself and stay the night and enjoy their food as prepared by Hywel Jones. The cookery school is also available on site and run by the legendary Angela Gray.
There are many restaurants involved in fine dining in South Wales. With so many quality ingredients on our own doorstep. Who could blame so many top chef’s for staying true to their roots and using Welsh produce. Try Calon’s Restaurant at Llanerch Vineyard or Tides at the 5 star St. David’s Hotel.
The Crown at Whitebrook has a Michelin star thanks to James Sommerin and their sister restaurant The Crown at Celtic Manor is Wales’ only 3 AA Rosette. Stephen Terry at The Hardwick in Abergavenny is currently transforming his restaurant into one with rooms. There are so many to choose from now that diners are spoilt for choice.
Don’t forget to try the local specialities either. Penclawdd cockles are a delight and Laver bread (seaweed) is a must. Caerphilly cheese has a worldwide following now and can be found as far afield as America.
Thanks to our rugby team, the Brains Brewery has been getting some worldwide press. Also, award winning Penderyn whisky is distilled here as is Tyrrells vodka and gin. Cardiff market is still going strong in the capital with fresh produce daily. Our lamb and beef are world class and will be found on many a local menu.
What more could I say about South Wales... plenty. But why don’t you come and visit and write the rest of the story for yourselves.
The Bluecoat is the oldest Grade 1 listed building in Liverpool’s city centre (dating back to 1717). Following a £14.5m redevelopment, it re-opened in March 2008 as a major landmark on the UK map of contemporary culture.
With a new wing of galleries and a state-of-the-art Performance Space, the Bluecoat showcases talent across all creative disciplines including visual art, music, literature, dance and live art, and nurtures new talent by providing studio spaces for artists within a unique creative community.
No visit to Glasgow is complete without a viewing of Dali's Crucifixtion 'Christ of St John of the Cross' controversial for its view of Christ from above, all depictions before this had been from the point of view of an observer looking up at Christ. The work is housed in the newly renovated and re-opened Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery.
Also, if you have time, take a walk in the park next to the Museum. The park is a great spot for Glasgow people watching and a magnet for skateboarders, rollerbladers and stunt bike riders. You cannot not fail to bump into some Glasgow life in Kelvingrove park and like the painting it will be an alternative view.
The park and Museum do Glasgow proud, both a must visit.
Bray, in Berkshire, was thought to have been Bibriocum to the Romans, but this place never existed and was made up by the cartographic forger, Richard of Cirencester. It is now home to two of the top restaurants in the county - the Roux's 3 Michelin starred: The Waterside Inn and The Fat Duck, also 3 Michelin Stars, owned by the renowned chef Heston Blumenthal.
If you are visiting Bray for an evening out, then an overnight stay is a must. And what could be better that a cosy cottage for two nestled on the banks of the Thames. We were lucky enough to stay at Bray Cottages' latest acquisition, Clematis Cottage, and ex-ferryman's home situated directly opposite The Waterside Inn.
Luxuriously decorated in dark purples and aubergines the cottage oozes a quiet sophistication with its decadent crystal chandeliers and romantic lighting. Throw in a smart Bang and Olufsen TV and open fire (gas luckily!) and relax amidst an abundance of comfy cushions with a glass of delicious sloe gin for an afternoon of peace and tranquility.
Both The Fat Duck and The Waterside Inn are easily accessible on foot, as are the local pubs: one of which also belongs to Mr Blumenthal. One former guest had written in the guest book that their Sunday morning lie-in had been interrupted by the close proximity to the restaurant and the associated comings and goings. However, this was not our experience at all. Far from it: we actually slept much later than normal!
Bray Cottages are both charming and elegant and provide an informal yet decadent stay for a peaceful, romantic evening.
A weekend trip to Edinburgh is a must by anyone's standard.
Unless you have to, ignore the modern day Prince's Street which is home to pubs and shops that you can find on any high street in any city in the country.
Instead head to the old part of town with the hidden alleyways and courtyards of The Royal Mile. At the top end, once the burning place for all the local witches, lies Edinburgh Castle perched atop a volcanic crag, while at the bottom lies Holyrood House - the Queen Mother’s imposing former residence.
At the entrance to the Castle is The Witchery Restaurant and rooms - voted in the top 3 most romantic destinations in the UK. Eight incredible rooms ranging from the library to the armoury are Gothic in style and extremely luxurious. I would defy anyone to stay here and not feel like a Lord.
Make sure you have a table booked at the Witchery Restaurant for the evening. My recommendation would be the Secret Garden, very romantic with a totally decadent ambience.
If you feel like working up an appetite before dinner then why not join Adam Lyal on a tour around "Auld Reekies" streets. This long dead Highwayman leads you through the haunted alleys with tales of wrong doings of ne'er do wells from Scottish history. A word of caution, you never know who you might bump into on this tour. ‘Jumper Ooters’ lurk on every corner- not for the faint hearted!
When you make it back to the land of the living make sure you pop into the wonderfully traditional Ensign Ewart for a pre dinner drink. The eponymous hero won a VC for charging the French lines and capturing one of Napoleons Eagles and his story is displayed on the walls of the pub.
There are so many other tours available in Edinburgh. From the Ghostly to the factual they all represent its long (and often bloody) history. The Restaurant scene is fast springing up in Leith, the dockside area of Edinburgh. Leith is currently under regeneration and transforming into a very modern and lively location.
Edinburgh is a very cosmopolitan city and there are some 13 million visitors every year to the Tattoo, Festival and historic buildings. It is also a UNESCO world heritage site, testament to its architecture and history. Superb bars and restaurants blend with the older buildings bringing old and new together on these cobbled streets.
Pay them a visit - just be sure to take a peep round every corner. You never know who or what you might bump into!
Brighton marina is a great place to visit for a family day out. There's Sun, Sea and good ole' fish 'n' chips. The marine has a great selection of pubs, restaurants and shops and there's always something suitable for everyone.
The beaches are great for dogs, whether they like running along the beach after a ball, or going for a refreshing dip in the sea. There is a concrete path which runs between the top of the beaches and the cliffs which is perfect for a nice family cycle to Rottingdean where they do the most fantastic fish and cheerful chips!
All in all it's the perfect destination for a superb family day out, all day any day!
I recommend never throwing away your copy of the Guardian or equivalent newspaper. It could save your life at a festival. We made beautiful paper hats to protect us from the Sun - as happened at the Big Chill 2003 Eastnor Castle, Herefordshire. The best atmosphere of any fun festival I've ever been to. Superb location and view, friendly people, great DJs and legendary champagne lushes (those were the days.)
Whether you are exceptionally late or unfeasibly early when you arrive at the festival, never panic pitch your tent. However tired you are, and however much gear you have, avoid the temptation to pitch your tent near one of the the walkways or near one of the stages. If you do and the weather turns to s**t it'll be like camping in a first world war trench. And if the weather is good you'll be living in a dust storm for the weekend with the march of the living dead keeping you awake all night as they tramp right past your front door. Keep your spirits up and keep walking. There are always spaces in the more distant camping fields however full it seems when you arrive. An extra 10-15 minutes trek is worth it to get a great camping spot that you can enjoy for the entire festival and where you can relax when you want a break from the partying. Have a great time.
You know those cool backpacks that cyclists and serious walkers/runners wear on their backs to have on tap refreshment during activity? They are just as effective with any drink you choose. Avoid the queues at the drinks tents and fill the 'water bag' with your chosen vice. We found that mixed summer fruits with a bottle of Pimms and lots of lemonade did a splendid job of refershing throughout the long hot days at the Big Chill. And we did it very responsibly!
Any good outdoors activity shop (and probably at some bad ones too!)
This is a totally preserved preVictorian stone and slate village around the shores of Kames Bay with a lifestyle of 50 years ago. Langoustines are caught here. Kames Castle at one end has period holiday cottages in the Estate. There is a small marina, highly eccentric ancient golfcourse, old tramtrack to Ettrick Bay - a great bit of sand with 200 seals, two pubs, fish and chips, Post Office/shop, a Petanque piste and a Russian Tavern run by Russians serving Russian specialities and Russian beers, wines and vodkas. They have four guestrooms too.
The scenery of seascapes, mountains, forest and islands is simply spectacular. Curlews, oyster-catchers and seals share the beach while wild deer graze the golfcourse. This is a very peculiar place to find in the UK!
Ferry to the Isle of Bute from Wemyss Bay (pronounced "weems") on the A78 between Greenock and Largs at the mouth of the River Clyde. Trains direct to Wemyss Bay from Glasgow and either Glasgow Airport. Ferry every 45 minutes, ferry time 35 minutes.
If you know it's going to be a wet and muddy one take a couple of strong sticks with you to bash into the ground. Put your wellies upside down on the sticks overnight or when not being used. This is such a useful way of letting your wellies dry out without having to have mud everywhere.
Any festival, any where
Roads are closed in the city to make way for over six large outdoor stages dotted on and around the city centre roads.
My favourite tip - take your own beer.
There's all music, not just the Beatles. I was very excited about the Brit pop acts but some of us headed for northern soul dancing fun while my 'down south friends' enjoyed the Beatles/Merseybeat tours.
Watching a Brazilian Beatles cover band. Bands come from all over the world and their performances are superb.
Were you an original mod/rocker? The live bands could have been plucked right from the 1960's, they make the effort to dress the part and banter with the audience as though we're just hearing 'Do wah Diddy' or 'Needles and Pins' for the first time
If you're booked up for Creamfields the same weekend then you can carry on your festival fun on the Sunday as the Matthew Street festival is over Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday (and its only a 30min train ride away.)
If you're not into cover tribute bands then visit the fringe festival that runs at the same time and watch all new signed and unsigned bands
My Personal favourite bars can all be googled:
Korova; I enjoy the bands Hot Club de Paris and Elle S'apelle and they are playing here this year. Check their myspace.
Heebie Jeebies: Dance to Northern Soul all night.
JR's Bar and Grill: right by Central and Lime Street Station for excellent grill food with various heavy and light options. Plus they have live music.
Make your own bunting or flags to mark out your tent amongst the others. Buy some and the chances are others will have too - this leaves you open to flayling into the wrong tent after a hard days festivalling having confidently 'identified' it as yours. Make your own and no-one will have the same! Personally i'm aiming for flamingo and poodle bunting this year.
It is a well established fact that when visiting festivals in the UK one should always take wellies "just in case" it rains. It took a visit to the first Malmesbury Womad, however to teach me the following: never leave your wellies outside the tent for the magic of Womad enables them to walk away. I imagine it's the music that draws them, as they tend to take other items, such as stools, with them this is not to be encouraged. Thus keep your wellies in your sight and always inside your tent.
A second tip: dont try to dance in 18 inches of mud especially if your wellies have strayed. You never know what's down there and it may not be very savory. Instead, use it to gently soothe your skin and choose more sublime music to chillout to.
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