This 10 mile cycle way follows the path of an old railway line from the main car park in Dolgellau (park in the cheaper long stay section near the rugby pitch.) It ends with a 3/4 mile trip across the beautiful Barmouth rail bridge (small toll.) The route is fairly flat and utterly spectacular, with views of the surrounding mountains and down the river to the sea. It is great for kids, not too strenuous and no real hills. At the end of your trip you can reward yourself with a delicious ice cream at Knickerbockers - beside the Anchor restaurant and facing you as you ride into town before setting off back to Dolgellau, or stopping off for dinner at the George the Third hotel beside the toll bridge in Penmaenpwll.
Two iconic lochs, one symbolic steamship and a 20 mile ride through scenery to drool over: bike rides don’t come better than this.
For an epic, eco-friendly bike day, take the magical West Highland Railway www.scotrail.co.uk from Glasgow to Tarbet, then the ferry www.cruiselochlomond.co.uk across Loch Lomond to Inversnaid. Cycle three miles to Stronachlachar on the banks of the bewitching Loch Katrine, head clockwise and enjoy the twelve miles round to Trossachs Pier, on a well-surfaced, traffic-free route. Savour the stunning scenery and admire the skills of Victorian engineers who transported clean water thirty miles from the loch to rid Glasgow of cholera in the mid nineteenth century.
At Trossachs Pier board the historic steamship Sir Walter Scott, www.lochkatrine.com/steamship.htmlone that has plied the loch for over 100 years, and relax on the cruise back to Stronachlachar. From here, retrace your route, stopping off for coffee and cake at the quirky Inversnaid Bunkhouse www.inversnaid.com
Full details of tour: www.bootandbike.co.uk/2010/10/a-loch-katrine-odyssey
Google map: bit.ly/H3Bwgx
Further info on Loch Katrine:www.lochkatrine.com/
Head to Rutland, England’s smallest county for a great bike ride for all ages. This 23 mile circular cycle ride follows the shores of the Rutland Water Reservoir - for the young and less able, missing out the reservoir peninsula reduces the ride to 17 miles. The cycle track is mainly off road across a varied terrain - from tarmac paths, to gravel surfaces, to dirt tracks through woodland - there are a few hills, which are occasionally steep in places. The views are spectacular as the route passes through woods, nature reserves and a bird watching centre at Egleton - home to the first ospreys to breed in England for 150 years. Go in April and cycle through Barnsdale Woods when the ground is covered in a blue carpet and the air is heady with the scent of bluebells. Cycle hire is available at Normanton on the south shore and Whitwell on the north shore and there are lots of opportunities for picnics and refreshment stops on route.
The Camel Trail has nothing whatsoever to do with the animals that you might find crossing the Sahara. It’s a cycle trail along a disused railway track running alongside the River Camel in Cornwall (Wikipedia says that the name comes from the Cornish language and means, “the crooked one.”)
It’s a good few years since we pedalled the five miles to Padstow along the trail from Wadebridge. However it was the highlight of our camping holiday in Cornwall. Our daughters were at the upper end of primary school and the flat ride beside the estuary provided a day without the constant cries of, “What shall we do next?” There was plenty to see along the way and Padstow itself provided lots of choice for refreshment (along with a ferry trip across the estuary and a short spell on the beach).
We hired our bikes from:
Download a leaflet from:
Google map: bit.ly/H3qOr6
Mountain bike rides don’t have to feature steepness. Kielder Water is the biggest man-made lake in northern Europe, surrounded by the biggest working forest in England. It’s also the UK’s biggest outdoor art gallery. You’ll never get round all the sculptures in one day on foot. So, hire a bike at Kielder Village and take in art works ranging from a fairytale cabin to a stone hut the shape of a pinecone, before returning to Kielder Castle tearoom for coffee and cake.
Collect your bike in Aberfoyle and head north on the A821. It's a little rough on the way there. Lots of hills but you'll soon forgive Scotland, because it's unbelievably beautiful. 15 breathtaking miles and two national forests later you'll find yourself at Loch Katrine where you can take a well earned break. I wish I was there now. Heart popping. Oh, and on the way back make sure you stop at The Wee Blether tea room. Super nice cafe with an Americana vibe. Ace.
Lochside, Kinlochard, FK8 3TL
Google map: bit.ly/H4m8Px
After a long ascent in the foothills of the Bes Parmak (Five Fingers) mountain range in South West Turkey we arrived at the ruins of Labranda.
After meeting the guardian Ali we explored the site containing the temple of Zeus Labrys (double headed axe)amongst the baths and monumental tomb. Meanwhile Alis wife brewed cay (tea)and made a feast of traditional aegean dishes for us to devour. Our table was set amidst Hellenistic period ruins amid a sublime panorama.
Lunch was followed by Turkish coffee before we continued our hike along Turkey's new long distance footpath 'The Carian Trail.'
The Carian Trail covers the south west corner of Turkey with over 800km of waymarked path. Labranda lies to north east of the town of Milas 650m below in the plain.
Pembrey is made of up of 500 acres of nature reserve. It is an idyllic place, perfect for any family trip. In the summer, it is great for camping and has miles and miles of bike tracks through the forests and fields. You could spend a day in Pembrey and not bump into another human being. It's a wonderful location for picnics and exploring the abandoned WW2 bunkers. It is an easy ride, but the park can also be transformed into a dirt bike dream. Everyone is welcome, as the park is suited for any type of outdoor activity, especially riding your bike!
If you want to get off the beaten track a bit in the Cairo area then Casual Cairo Detours will help you do exactly that.
The tours they organise give a unique insight into Egypt as they use local guides and drivers along with their expat English-speaking guide who accompanies each trip.
Their tours allow you to see and experience parts of Egypt that most travellers would find very difficult to access on their own.
They are really friendly and offer the perfect way of seeing more of Cairo and the delta area.
+2(02) 2415 2726
Alip is our Been there local for Cairo. Her homepage is here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/articles/cairo-local-alice-allsop.jsp and you can follow her tips directly here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/travellers/alip
Siwa Oasis is the place to go in Egypt if you really want to get away from it all. It can be 10 hours by road from Cairo and when you arrive in the unique culture of this oasis you will be far far away from Egypt's capital in more ways than one.
Somewhere Different is a family-run villa in the heart of Siwa Oasis. The villa has four bedrooms and is set up for self catering (including breakfast supplies replenished each morning with fresh supplies) but traditional food and the centre of Siwa is just five minutes walk away.
When booking the villa, Somewhere Different can also arrange your transport between Siwa and Cairo and arrange tours with local guides for when you are there.
I would recommend the tour of the local sites by donkey and cart (a.k.a Siwa Taxi) and the day in a 4x4 on the dunes.
The best thing about Somewhere Different is a beautiful villa and excellent trips that I could not have organised myself. I wouldn't hesitate to go back.
Torontonians know the end of winter is near when the Canada Blooms event is just around the corner. Canada’s largest flower and garden festival is also attended by many out-of-towners, with people booking hotel rooms very early.
Canada Blooms features six acres of gardens created by Canada’s top designers and landscape architects, all with a grand display of colours, textures and scents.
Over 200 hours of free lectures and gardening demonstrations are offered, as well several
design competitions, featuring the floral creations of non-professionals, locals, and international competitors.
Visitors can also participate in daily workshops, ranging from Thai fruit and vegetable carving, seed starting, 15-minute flower arranging, and small scale composting.
Direct Energy Centre
Halls A & Heritage Court, 100 Princes' Blvd, Toronto, Canada
+1 416 447 8655
Google map: bit.ly/xsyT7n
* Giulia is our Been there local for Toronto. You can see her profile here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/places/canada/toronto/index.jsp and follow her tips here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/travellers/GiuliaFalsetti
Italy is all about culture - the place simply oozes with art and history and that fantastically laid back way of life that revolves around food and family. But if you are seeking a more modern cultural experience then I recommend a visit to the Moto GP - Italian style: Mugello in July (half an hour north of Florence) or Misano in September (walkable from the seaside resort of Cattollica, by Rimini). Italians are bike crazy and at Mugello in particular they are just crazy. The noise, colour, smells and sheer passion of the crowds are awesome, contagious and really need to be seen to be believed. The real excitement isn’t on the track – watching the crowd is entertainment in itself and it's impossible not to get swept up in the fun. It’s nothing like bike racing in England, and not just because the sun is shining. You don’t need to know about motorbikes to enjoy it, but you will certainly come to know a little more about Italian people and their culture. Little tip – Valentino Rossi, number 46, is the man to cheer for – wear something yellow if you can!
My boyfriend and I have just returned from Les Deux Alpes. It was our first visit to the resort. We booked a half-board package and were expecting an okay hotel with average food to keep us happy while we enjoyed the slopes - after all we were going for the skiing, not the hotel.
We left on Saturday after a weeks stay and both agreed it was an incredible place to stay. The rooms are a little basic for a four-star (no tea or coffee and the bedrooms need a facelift) but if you want a hotel where the food is consistently incredible then this is the place to stay.
Our half-board transpired to be a buffet breakfast and a five course evening meal including wine. Each evening we were greeted by friendly staff and a very exciting menu. If you are happy to delve into interesting cuisine and not simply survive on sausage and chips then this is a must! Having eaten at some of the best restaurants in London and recently the Savoy, I would easily say that the Hotel Farandole reaches those lofty heights and with the added bonus of the very agreeable price. We can't recommend it enough!
In addition to this we would also like to say this hotel goes to lengths to accommodate your stay: Free shuttle bus into the resort with choice of ski lift drop off with a very friendly and knowledgeable chap called Rainy Day. Free access to pool and spa facilities and a very warm and welcoming lounge area for relaxing with a book. One down side would be the ski locker security, maybe look at one closer to town but the cuisine and service in this hotel makes up for that small detail and more!
This was certainly the highlight of my trip to Buenos Aires! Having never even sat on a horse before,by the end of the day i could say i played in a mini polo match (albeit not very well!). The full day included transport to and from the city, welcome mate (the famous Argentine drink), polo lesson with the wonderful Gaston, delicious asado lunch in the hotel, a swim in the infinity pool, a mini match and then we got to watch the professional club members play in a real match!
+54 11 5279 6893
Polo Days are run at Puesto Viejo Estancia and Polo Club. It is near a town called Canuelas, about an hour away from Buenos Aires city.
The Yarn Cake is a yarn and cake shop, or a knitters cafe, or just somewhere to sit out of the rain, squish wool, or have a hot choc on-a-stick.
It's on Queen Margaret Drive, which is growing into a quirky neighbourhood, a bridge between the arty West End and down to earth Maryhill.
The Yarn Cake itself is bright, the large window revealing three tables, and shelf after shelf of yarn, knitting books, and knitting supply. There's a large loo, unusually for the size of the place, which is easily wheelchair accessible and has baby changing facilities.
You'll usually be welcomed by staff and regulars before you get a step into the place. If you come on a Saturday, you might get press-ganged into helping with the Saturday Guardian quiz.
The yarns range from cheap but good quality (Drops) all the way up to hand-died hanks from local indy dyers.
The teas and coffees are also from local suppliers, with half a dozen teas and two coffee blends, ground to order. The hot choc on a stick can come in anything up to four varieties, depending on how quickly they're selling out that day.
Cakes are home made, on the premises, with German tarts and loaves a speciality (though I love the baked cheesecake most).
All in all it's a very welcoming place for knitters and cake fans alike.
For the best views of India's highest mountain head to Singalila National Park. At 8,586m Kanchenjunga is the third highest mountain in the world, but you only need to reach 3000m to catch the dawn over this spectacular Himalayan massif.
The first leg is the steepest, but once on the ridge the walk is less strenuous. Tiny wild strawberries littered the trail when we were there in May, but we were too late for the wild rhododendron bushes and orchids which carpet the mountains in April. Renowned for its wide variety of bird life, the park is also home to wild boar, black bears and the beautiful clouded leopard. If you are very lucky you might see its most famous resident, the shy and rare red panda.
In the dark, smoky huts dotted along the trek, try quenching your thirst with 'tongba', a millet beer served in bamboo segments. If you want something stronger then the Himalayan hooch 'rakshi' will warm up hands and heart. After a well-deserved hot evening meal a cosy night's sleep under heavy blankets is all you'll need.
The clearest skies are usually found in November when panoramic views will enthuse budding photographers looking for the perfect image to enter in the Guardian's 'Been there' photo competition.
Guides are compulsory and can be pre-booked in Darjeeling. Apart from showing you the way, they have encyclopaedic knowledge of the area's flora and fauna.
Google map: bit.ly/xXcEk9
It's always spectacular to look across the tops of the Cairngorm mountains. This was a trial last summer; a guided walk of the alpine top of Cairngorm, run by the ranger service. After a ride up in the funicular railway, a small group of walkers left the Ptarmigan top station, to walk to the mountain top (not far, not hard) and learn about the special environment, the ecological measures taken to protect the flora and fauna, and the local life including visitor management. The restaurant serves a warm meal which was nice after the chilly experience we had.
Have you ever wanted to be surrounded by snow-capped mountains? To face a challenge where the only path is a 5416 metre mountain pass? To smell the purest fresh air and eat the most delicious apple crumble? The Annapurna Circuit is an absolutely stunning trek through the Nepalese Himalayas. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys the beauty of a landscape. It is a challenge; a physically and mentally exhausting 21 days but it was worth every blister and every tear shed along the way.
I went to Nepal, a lone 26-year-old female, with one goal in mind - the circuit. I was on a limited budget, so decided against a tour company, guide or porter. It was just me and my backpack at the start of my adventure but at the end I was surrounded by close friends and many happy smiling faces.
I am not recommending doing what I did; I was extremely lucky to find a group of travellers and a guide on the bus to the drop off point, Besisahar. Without these people I would not have made it, I owe my entire experience and possibly my life to those friends and Amore, a local guide from Pokhara. Amore had one client on the trek but took us all under his wing. Having many years of experience on the trail he took us to the best tea houses with the cheapest rates, he held our hands and led us down slippery ‘extremely icy downs’, he always had a smile on his face and a tune to dance to and by knowing the mountains he had every confidence that we would make the pass. Making the pass became more and more important each day we walked. Fellow trekkers were returning from the higher altitude with news that snow had closed the pass, making it too dangerous to cross. With this in mind, the group was scared, it seemed impossible to turn around on this path after we had got so far. Amore had no doubt. The pass day included a huge ascent up fresh snow and an early start in the pitch black freezing hours of the morning. Without Amore, if I had got this far on my own, I would have had no idea of what to do or where to go. That day was one of my best and worst days of my life. It was like the weather held out until that very moment when we reached 5416 metres, the beauty of sunlight glistening on the perfect white snow with a clear blue sky and incredible mountain scenery vanished. The descent was greeted by a blizzard and the snow became muddy slush, an absolute nightmare. However, this is not a story of my adventures on the trail. It is a recommendation for you to have your own adventures on the Annapurna Circuit. If you start like I did, then I send you the best of luck but if you want to be a little bit more prepared and make the most of your trek, send Amore a Facebook message- he might even invite you round for some ‘garlic buttered chicken curry!’
Annapurna Circuit, Nepal. Catch a bus from Kathmandu to Pokhara. Here you can chill out, learn Buddhism, paraglide or meet up with Amore for a Rakshi while you sort out trekking permits and snacks for the journey. Then it's a bus ride to Besisahar to start your adventure.
Google map: bit.ly/wOQ4wB
York is a beautiful city, brimming full of history. A different and fun way of experiencing the impact of all the history and blood shed, from the Vikings, through the Romans to Dick Turpin and the the more domestic murders in the pubs and riversides, is to go on one of the many guided ghost walks. You get to hear facts, and more imaginative telling of all the gory history, with all the thrills and jumps from the aspiring actors and story tellers. Great for all ages, but not the over imaginative or feint hearted.
Through out the city you can see meeting points and tour start times.
You don’t take sandwiches when you walk in the Forest of Dean with a good food forager. You harvest your lunch. You graze your way through tangy sheep sorrel, fresh mints, crunchy hogweed and burdock leaf stalks, and snappy bistort leaves. We carefully stuffed nettles leaves into carriers for later soups. Sneaking wild strawberries from the grassy banks and purple elderberries from high hedgerows decided the recipes for puddings to come. The ground beneath our feet was revealed as a continuous carpet of lunch. We learned that locality, season, and ecology make for different treats at different times of year. The Forager guide was amazing. He knew just where to take us, what was safe to eat and how to identify it. He was full of anecdotes and folk wisdom. But best of all he knew that most plants were edible but that only some were worth the bother, and showed us which were which. We even came home with recipes.
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