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.
This Suffolk institution has been in the family for generations, and is the town's biggest attraction. (Oh all right, there's a nice church and a castle too. And the sea. But it's the smokehouse which makes Orford unique.)
As you crawl from Adnams pub to Adnams inn, past dinky rose-covered cottages and half-timbered homes, don't forget to pop in for a gander at the rows of fish, chicken or cheeses being smoked on the blackened trays. There are no signs, but it's easy to find: just follow your nose (or the smoke) down Bakers Lane, and it's set back on the right. A narrow marble-topped counter in a small room next to the smokehouse has a selection of pâtés and cheeses on top, while the chiller units below display rows of oak-blackened fish, sausages and chickens.
Fed up with losing money on the mountains of kipper pâté she produced and had to throw away (because of the enormous minimum quantities of fish she was forced to buy), Roni has just introduced a new flavour to her range: herring roe pâté. We tried one of the first batches and nearly passed out from its deliciousness. It's strong, so a small tub goes a long way (that's about an hour in my fridge before it is all gobbled up.)
Don't leave without some hot smoked chorizo sausages; home-made and gluten-free, they'll blow your head off and impress (or kill) the neighbours.
My Earl Grey order appeared in a small glass tea pot, from which it was poured into a mismatched bone china cup and saucer in hues of green. This is not the kind of family-run café to serve bags filled with factory sweepings; my tea had been made from the finest leaves in the eastern Himalaya, then massaged with bergamot oil by local virgins. But the full fat blast of texture and flavour from my "Pastel de Nata" (egg custard tart to the rest of us) swept away any pretensions. My partner's mocha was "the creamiest mocha I've ever tasted; 60% chocolate," and his pastry had the right balance of short, cake and chocolate. The waitress – who seemed to have taken a break from the local bridge club to come and help – topped up my pot and chatted to us about sailing round the world and the Royal Bombay Yacht Club.
This is a lovely little bakery-cum-café-cum-restaurant. Don't miss it if you're ever in Orford.
Willow is a lovely vegetarian restaurant - we went on Wednesday evening which is their "Indian night" which means delicious curries.
It is one of many lovely independent eateries in Totnes - so there will never be a need for the Costa which is threatening to open there.
87 High Street, Totnes
Google map: bit.ly/NV8wO4
Most people stop at the National Trust of Scotland centre and walk up the hill behind it for the view of Loch Shiel, the 1745 Monument and the railway viaduct, have a cup of tea and move on. No problem with that but if you want to spend a little more time in this beautful area and get away from the "crowds", take the forest trail on the left after crossing the road towards the monument. After 30 minutes along a well signposted path you are at the top of "Loch view" with a beautiful view of Loch Shiel all to yourself. Stunning in the sunshine!
Glenfinnan, Highland, Fort William PH37 4LT
+44(0)844 493 2100
Google map: bit.ly/P9Grh3
Boutique B&B, superb breakfasts, wonderful dinners.
Sean and Suzanne are charming hosts, and Sean's culinary expertise is well up there with the likes of Nutter and Oliver.
The Black Bull Inn is located in the heart of Conniston. While this does mean it is on the main junction in the village (but what does 'busy' in the Lake District really mean?), you can happily watch the world, and their dog, go by in the sun-trap beer garden, get a bit more cosy in one of the many rooms inside, or grab a seat at the bar.
The Black Bull does good grub, but the reason you should stop off here is for the beers - as the Conniston Brewing Company brews next door (spy their hydrometers and tanks from the car park if you are a real real ale fan) and so they serve lots of their beers on tap or by the bottle.
We were luckily enough to stop for a pint the day after their Barley Wine had been crowned Champion Beer at the GBBF.
Lovely tranquil setting with an idyllic garden facing the mountain of Melbreak. Off the main tourist track but still very busy in the early evening, although you can get away from the hustle and bustle in the cosy dining room. The food is freshly cooked mainly from local ingredients, from steak and ale pie (small portions available) to pork tenderloin and fillet steak. The pub has its own brewery, now based in Hawkshead, producing a range of very drinkable ales, including the long-established Melbreak Bitter, Langdale and Esthwaite Bitters and the award-winning Loweswater Gold. There are many walks surrounding the Buttermere Valley and the Honister Rambler bus service is very useful if you only want to walk in one direction. Less-crowded walks are possible in the Loweswater Fells and on Melbreak and the smaller Hen Comb, or even just along the shores of Loweswater or Crummock Water. Comfortable rooms each with their own individual characteristics and good views.
Cockermouth, Loweswater, Cumbria CA13 0RU
On a recent visit to Keswick, I discovered a delicious solution to the often difficult problem of dining out while traveling with children. I found a courtyard tucked behind a pub (Kings Arms), a sports bar (Casa's Bar) and a pizzeria (LB's Pizza House) that was perfect for family dining. With the courtyard setting, we could dine outdoors, catch a favorite sport on TV, and enjoy a mix of food and beverage from any or all of these three establishments. Our goal that evening was to watch the gold medal Women's football match of the summer Olympics, and the bar tender from Casa's accommodated us by finding the game on the television set near our table. Along with pints of ale and cider carried out from the bar for refreshment, we ate some of the best pizza I've ever had, a thin and crispy, spicy hot Diavolo that had been stonebaked in a wood fired oven (with margherita pizza for the kids, of course.) The meal was so delicious we ordered another pizza and had a second round of drinks to take us through the second half of the football match. My only regret at the end of the evening was that we were far too full to finish the feast with a sticky toffee pudding.
23 Main Street Keswick, Cumbria CA12 5BL
+44(0)800 840 1241
Google map: bit.ly/OIytx8
This stylish and ambient looking bar and bistro has a 'happy two hours' each evening from 5-7pm. As Keswick is heaving at this time booking a night in advance is recommended. The decor is tasteful, modern, spacious and the food arrives freshly cooked carried by staff that look as though coming to work is a pleasure. My starter was a large plate of garlic mushrooms swimming in their own creamy sauce accompanied by freshly made bread and butter. At only £3 it brought a large smile to my face. There was a reasonable selection of main courses so my husband enjoyed the fish and chips (a mere £6) and I enthusiastically consumed the vegetable risotto with accompanying salad. The carefully selected vegetables were roasted to perfection and tasted divine(again only £6) There was a varied selection of beers and wines- including the locally produced 'Cockerhoop'- you will be if you eat here!
25 Station Street, Keswick
Google map: bit.ly/Nw9lwG
The Masons Arms is a what people hope for in a Lake District inn, it’s a quaint old building full of character with dining available in lots of nooks and crannies. They sell an excellent range of beers and offer a full menu with lots of traditional favourites alongside some more unusual options such as ale and cheddar rarebit. In good weather the great range of light bites make it the ideal place to stop for lunch; sit outside on the terrace with the birds singing and take in the fantastic views over the valley.
The Brown Horse is situated in the heart of the Lake District, but slightly off the beaten track in an unspoilt area with great views over rolling fields. The inn has a welcoming rustic atmosphere with wooden beams, a flagged floor and a real open fire. Much of the delicious food is grown onsite or sourced locally, with regional specialties such as Cumberland sausage and Lakeland lamb on the menu. Wash your meal down with a pint of real ale; the pub brews its own and has a great selection on tap.
Guardian-reading canines (news-hounds?) should trot down to the Dog and Gun in Keswick. This old-fashioned and busy pub has an in-house menu for dogs which includes a mouth-watering range of treats and chews at reasonable prices (biscuits 5p) plus FREE DRINKS(non-alcoholic). Tell your human to try the real ales and the delicious homemade goulash. The portions are so large that dogs will get lots of tasty-bites. Slide your spare change into the cracks in the walls to support mountain rescue. A perfect ending to a day on the Fells.
2 Lake Road, Keswick, CA12 5BT
Google map: bit.ly/MXyLBL
The Sawrey Hotel on the road between Hawkshead and the car ferry across Windermere re-emerged from a makeover recently as the Cuckoo Brow Inn. Food is served every day from noon until 9pm and is excellent. They pride themselves on sourcing as much as possible from within a 20 mile radius - and with good local beers to boot. They genuinely welcome walkers, cyclists, wet dogs and noisy children - we often eat there with our muddy Springer after walks across the local fells without feeling like social lepers. In our view, best enjoyed when it's cold outside with a roaring fire blazing in the hearth in the centre of the bar - so July or August then.
This is a truly welcoming pub – we’ve visited in autumn when the open fires provided much needed warmth after a day on the fells. Our last visit was earlier this summer, when the splendid garden proved a sun trap (yes we were there on one of the few days the sun shone this summer.) The bar area is made up of three small, cosy rooms and there is a good choice of refreshment – in both food and drink.
Traditional country hotel offering the best of Cumbrian Hospitality. Excellent breakfast, good beer, comfortable accommodation and luxurious toiletries. We were made extremely welcome and the food was perfect.
If you like a middle-of-nowhere, cosy, traditional Lakeland pub with good food - this is it.
If you like a fell-side pub with comfy rooms and a view - this is it.
If you'd like to sip a local beer in the open air, overlooking the damson-laden Lyth Valley ... you've guessed it.
Beach wheelchairs to borrow free of charge around the Kent coast supplied by a local charity - beach within reach. Fantastic idea, great for us as our son Dylan uses a chair and the beach is usually a nightmare! Available (check first in case this changes) West Bay, Viking Bay, Margate main sands and Ramsgate main sands.
+44(0)1843 296111 for further information.
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