Akbar’s ‘City of Victory’ stands alone on a rocky plateau overlooking fields of dust and rocks. In 1569, Akbar built Fatehpur Sikri close to the residence of Shaikh Salim Chisti, the Sufi saint who helped him produce a male heir. It remained the capital of Akbar's Mughal Empire until 1585. Today women still tie a length of wool to the marble lattice windows of the saint’s tomb, in the hope that they too will fall pregnant with a boy child.
Sculpted from blood-red sandstone, the audience halls, palaces, astronomer’s kiosk and Panch Mahal were a powerful reminder to his subjects of Akbar's strength. As masculine as the Taj is feminine, Fatehpur Sikri is an exquisite and unique example of Mughal architecture and enterprise.
Chand Baori is a 10th Century step well on 11 levels and 20 metres deep. Absolutely marvelous and the place to yourself. The village of Abhaneri has a has a small palace and a temple, the villagers live in mud huts, are very friendly and will proudly show you their home.
It's a detour off the road from Jaipur to Agra close to Fatehpur Sikri on the Golden Triangle route. Ignore driver resistance that its too far etc as most have never been there!
Amristar is the home of the Sikhs and a welcoming place to all travellers who take the trouble to go up to northern India. The famous Golden Temple is the main attraction, a real eye opening building that rises in the skyline of this affluent, bustling city. Eat with the locals at dahbas, informal tapas-like snack bars. The best is Brothers Dhaba in the small streets of the centre where delicious delicacies can be sampled for around 80 rupees - £1.50 - each.
Escape the madness of the city to a strange place, like an ancient lost city, damp and shaded, hidden on South Park Street in Kolkata. The gatekeeper to the British Cemetery will open the huge metal gates for a small donation and let you into a different world, a quiet tree filled oasis, where the huge graves themselves will tell the story of the Raj and The East India Company.
Here you will find Anglicised versions of Cenotaphs dating back to the 17th century. More than 800 old tombs remain of the original 2000, which will take your breath away. Wander through this eerie place and think about the many British who eventually succumbed to accidents, illness and disease, often at a very young age while the early Imperial outposts were being established.
Take time to ponder about how difficult their lives must have been before emerging back into the chaos of Kolkata.
65 Park Street, Park Street, Taltala, Kolkata, West Bengal 700016, India
+91 33 2217 2861
Google map: bit.ly/SDsIRn
This Hindu temple, dedicated to Meenakshi, is the centre of Tamil Nadu's city of Madurai, built between 1623 and 1655, attracting thousands of people each day. It contains 14 gopurams, the highest reaching 52m which are decorated with brightly coloured stone representations of gods, goddesses, animals and demons. It's enormous, about 45acres in size so you can spend a good few hours wandering around, taking in the sights, smells and sounds but I found it particularly tranquil late evenings. If you can handle large crowds then the Meenakshi Thirukalyanam(Chithirai) Festival which celebrates the marriage of Meenakshi and Shiva every April/May would be an incredible and unique experience as the Gods are led in procession blessing the devotees. The city is also home to an amazing tailor's market, the Ghandi Museum and Thirumalai Nayak Palace.
In 1948 'Bapu' was murdered at the Old Birla House. The beautiful building and gardens are now a museum and memorial to Gandhi. His spartan furniture is neatly displayed in his light-filled room. On the wall is a cabinet of his “worldly goods”, among them his specs and a spoon.
Following the concrete footsteps which trace the Mahatma's last walk is a moving experience. Before he reached his daily place of prayer he was shot, and today an unassuming memorial to the great man marks the exact spot.
Inside the house, his last days are documented by text and photography displayed on wall panels, including images from the great Henri Cartier-Bresson, one of the last people to meet Gandhi before his death.
There is a multimedia museum on site, with plenty of exhibits to keep the children interested.
+91 11 2301 2843
Hours: Tues.-Sun., and 2nd Sat. of every month, 10-5
Google map: bit.ly/S9hxiK
Where else in the world would you find religious monuments adorned with sculptures so boldly erotic that they have earned the moniker The ‘Kama Sutra’ Temples? Constructed in 950-1050AD, these Hindu and Jain temples honour deities while prominently displaying striking scenes of an erotic nature worthy of an ‘18’ certificate. Aside from the erotica, these UNESCO World Heritage temples are worthy of a visit as wonderful examples of well preserved monuments of antiquity in a town that feels like something of a haven from the rest of manic India. As with the rest of the country, go with open eyes and an open mind, but whatever you do just go – you will not be disappointed.
Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh, India
Google map: bit.ly/Q4wrM2
From 1893 Henry Oakley created these labyrinthine paths which twist around above and below ground. James Pulham & Son constructed the man-made dark mysterious grottoes, interspersed with caverns into which natural light filters allowing water lilies, fuchsias and begonias to flourish. After WW11 the gardens were neglected, to the extent that the grottoes were earthed up. More recently they have been re-discovered and renovated.
There are ponds, a fountain, a bog garden with an Indian bean tree and giant rhubarb. Magnificent pine trees are dotted about, formal flower beds and fairy signs for children to seek out.
They sell a small selection of plants next to the friendly cafe where our sandwiches were made for us. A lovely day out in an extraordinary setting.
Varanasi, Benares or Kashi, the holy Hindu city on the banks of the sacred Ganges. The last stop before release from the endless cycle of birth and death. We arrived at sunrise from the overnight train, making sense of the sounds and sights that swarm the mind. The river is full of wooden rowing boats and candles floating in lotus leaves for the dawn puja. We stayed in an old building overlooking the ghats. As we walked by the river we were reminded of the sacredness of life and death, as it was played out around us, we could not remain separate. The next morning before dawn we too took a boat down the Ganges and once ashore again played the violin to the rising sun and Mother Ganga!
Uttar Pradesh, Northern India. Main station Varanasi Junction. Also airport 15 miles to the west.
A garden designed and built after the 1923 earthquake. Five minutes walk from Oedo line station Kiyosumi-Shirakawa exit A3. The garden dates back to 1721 but was rebuilt by the founder of Mitsubishi. It is beautiful. Wherever you look you see something beautiful. It's the epitome of garden design where the path leads you to gorgeous vistas. Take your camera or painting equipment and visit at different times of day to enjoy the different light. The pond contains tame carp, terrapins and ducks who expect to be fed. It's an oasis of calm in a busy city. 150 Yen for adults, children free.
3-3-9 Kiyosumi, Koto, Tokyo, Japan
+81 3 3641 5892
Google map: bit.ly/WhOUHD
Breathtaking vistas and surprises round every corner await those who walk the Via di Roma/Via Francigena from Assisi to Rome, which passes through idyllic, hidden corners of rural and historic Umbria and Lazio. The route winds along ancient pathways and through pristine natural environments brimming with rare flora and fauna. Abundant sunshine and flame-hued woodlands make October a truly magical time to hike this trail.
Uniquely, the Saint Francis Walk in the Sacred Valley of Rieti guides hikers through a thousand years of history to six sublimely peaceful mountain sanctuaries and all the key sacred sites associated with San Francesco's own life.
Friendly and welcoming local people and delicious food make for an enchanting and unforgettable experience. A full range of services is available to facilitate the smooth running of visitors’ trips.
If you object to or can't afford paying to visit these great churches, you can always attend evensong at them. They are non-communion services which take place daily at around five in the afternoon (three on Sundays when the choirboys get off early) and last about 45 minutes to an hour. The singing is beautiful and you can see the church in action, lingering afterwards or beforehand to enjoy the architecture.
20 Dean's Yard London SW1P 3PA
+44(0)20 7222 5152
Google map: bit.ly/VKQrQE
St Paul's Churchyard, London, EC4M 8AD
+44(0)20 7236 8350
Google map: bit.ly/Pv4GuK
Have you ever felt that you spent half your summer holiday physically travelling on planes, trains and automobiles - obsessively packing in the ‘must see’ sites, sitting for hours on a bus and then being told, when you arrive at a ‘must see’ spot, that you only have ten minutes to take photos, have lunch, walk around and ‘enjoy’ the atmosphere?!
This is why I loved Malta – at only 25 miles across, my husband and I found we could leisurely explore the whole island in a week.
We stayed in Sliema - this is a lively town with many modern buildings and restaurants - but the reason I adored it was due to the wonderful views across the Marsamxett harbour to the mystical capital, Valletta. From every point on its east coast, we could see the (understandably) much-photographed Carmelite Church dome in the distance, its colour transforming from a Mediterranean sand to a beautiful orange-pink at sunset. I found that features such as this give Malta its personality – old meeting young, tradition meeting innovation, ancient meeting modern, everywhere you look. I was impressed by how the island has cleverly embraced the modern while valuing traditions in a way that still makes it popular with all ages – young 20-30 year-olds love the new ‘American-style’ malls, but they have been designed to blend in with the surrounding buildings in a way that won’t upset traditionalists. Menus in the majority of restaurants also reflect the mix of old and new – the Maltese loved it when we ordered their traditional dishes (rabbit is a particular favourite on the island) but they are very passionate about the modern presentation of dishes also.
For such a small island I found endless activities to take part in and places to visit. I was particularly eager to see the co-cathedral at Valletta (which people often wrongly assume is the Carmelite Church dome) - this houses Caravaggio’s famously severe The Beheading of John the Baptist. I thought the cathedral was attractively simple outside, but jaw-droppingly intricate within – I think Sir Walter Scott put it perfectly in his description that it was “the most magnificent place I ever saw”.
Our time in Mdina, the old capital, was definitely the most peaceful part of our trip. In this ‘silent city’ I gained a true sense of Maltese life before the innovative (but arguably disruptive!) Knights of St John arrived. We certainly entertained all members of the family in Mdina – my husband’s parents enjoyed getting peacefully lost in the grid-like street pattern (as the town is only mile across, it’s impossible to be lost for long!) while children (in this case, my husband and I!) enjoyed the drama of the Mdina dungeons (think the London dungeons, Maltese-style). There are a set of ‘olde-worlde’ stocks outside which we used to take some comical photographs – I may have left my husband in these slightly longer than he expected!
We adored Malta’s passion for embracing tradition together with the modern, fun side of life.
Wherever you are in London the Regents Canal is never too far. On a crisp autumn day, especially in the morning when the water is so calm there is no nicer way to travel then a walk along here. The east side is my favourite with many snack bars and coffee hubs where you can sit and watch the Hackney posse rock about. Better yet are the charming houseboats that are docked up, especially towards trendy Broadway market which have taken to selling goods and sometimes even having live music. Take bread to feed the ducks and enjoy a piece of real London living.
The best place to start is the opening near Angel tube and the Canal can take you all the way to Victoria park.
“Aaah! He’s going to go in.” We watched in fascinated horror as the next foolhardy person tried to negotiate the Dovedale steps. We’d managed two steps and gingerly turned back as today, despite wearing thick soled walking boots, the great stones strung across the River Dove were slippery as giant ice cubes.
Luckily the man we were watching regained his balance and made it. It was a fun end to a hilly, winters' day walk, which had started at Ilam Hall across Lin Dale to the River Dove, frost glittering in the hollows, sunlight bouncing off the pyramid-shaped, Thorpe Cloud hill as we made our way down the limestone gorge where a walk along the riverside leads to the steps. A circular route back led us over fields, past the Izak Walton Hotel, named for the author of ’The Compleat Angler’ back to Ilam Hall and its welcoming tearoom.
Ilam Hall, Ilam, Ashbourne, Derbyshire, DE6 2AZ
+44(0)845 371 9023
Ilam Hall is a youth hostel, but you can walk over the grounds with parking, toilets, tearoom and visitor centre next door.
Google map: bit.ly/S8ID9Z
The Lea Valley walk is a lovely stroll for Londoners at any time of the year, but in autumn I think the combination of trees, leaves and water is particularly lovely.
For an 11ish mile walk, I recommend heading north from Limehouse to finish up at Ponders End, where you can catch the train back to Liverpool Street Station. For a shorter stretch start or stop at Markfield Park, about 1/2 mile from Seven Sisters and Tottenham Hale tube/train stations.
En route you pass the surprising and stunning Three Mills, the Olympic Park (albeit through security fencing), and breathe in the fresh air of the great green expanses of Hackney, Walthamstow and Tottenham Marshes - and then you're in the countryside with narrowboats and fishermen.
The whole route follows the reflective waters of the Lee/Lea in its various guises - from the Limehouse Cut to the Lee Navigation to the River Lea.
My favourite place to break the walk for a bite to eat is Pistachio's in the Park Cafe in Markfield Park which runs alongside the Lee Navigation.
For a coffee early on in the route, and good food too, you can detour to the Counter Cafe in Hackney Wick - it's on the west side of the canal at the junction with the Hertford Union Canal - which itself offers up a whole host of alternative destinations!
For me, the hardest thing about doing any of the Lea Valley Walk was working out how to get onto it. If you are walking from Limehouse aim for St Anne's Church - it marks the point where Commercial Road crosses Limehouse Cut, and there's access to the canal there. St Anne's is also one of Hawesmoor's churches and its website is great for directions - you can get there easily on the No 15 bus from central London, or on the DLR (Limehouse/West Ferry stations).
Lea Valley Walk information: www.walklondon.org.uk/route.asp?R=4
A Walk Along The Limehouse Cut Canal (lots of info about what you'll see on the early section): www.imvisitinglondon.com/limehousecut.html
Three Mills: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Mills
Pistacios in the Park: pistachiosinthepark.org.uk/category/markfieldpark
Friends of Markfield Park (good map): www.markfieldpark.org.uk/
Counter Cafe: thecountercafe.co.uk/
St Anne's Church website (great directions): stanneslimehouse.org/location.html
TfL bus route map finder: www.tfl.gov.uk/tfl/gettingaround/maps/buses/
There is no better time of year to explore this beautiful highland glen than the autumn when the notorious midges have gone, the trees are sporting their spectacular autumn foliage, the reds, golds and yellows both above and underfoot are matched by the glorious hedgerows with fruits of the rowan, hawthorn and briar rose glowing in the sunshine.
Start by walking up the main drive to Blair Castle then follow the track to Old Bridge of Tilt, you will likely hear the River Tilt before you see it and this tumbling highland river will be your companion on an easy walk firstly above the river gorge and then joining the river when you cross the bridge onto it’s east bank. Keep an eye out for the red squirrels here, they are busy at this time of year and you should see them!
As you come out from the trees but still following the river with it’s wonderful rock formations, sculpted over the years by the rushing waters, the glen opens out with the views tempting you onwards. The little cottage of Marble Lodge is a good turning point and there are nice picnic spots nearby. Then on the return keep an eye open for the little sign pointing you uphill on an easy grassy track which will lead you back to Blair Atholl via the charming little village of Fender Bridge.
While in the area it is worth visiting the fairytale Blair Castle, ancient seat of the Dukes of Atholl and the Atholl Arms hotel offers accomodation, refreshments and bar meals
This is a one square town, and the restaurants are ludicrously over-priced. There is a dearth of cheap, local-friendly bars and eateries.
We visited Trujillo last week on a tip from The Guardian, and thought best to warn other prospective visitors that this is not a place to visit outside of the warmer months i.e. June-September.
Our October visit was most disappointing - rain meant the beautiful square full of historic buildings was deserted and empty. We then discovered that apart from the square there really is absolutely nothing else in Trujillo - we couldn't even find a grocers, bakery or supermarket!
The historic buildings are indeed stunning, but many of them are abandoned and some derelict. The plaza with its bars and restaurants is pretty and pleasant to sit in on a warm summer's evening, but on a rainy autumn night we had to sit inside. The restaurants were charging silly prices - about 80 -100 euros for a meal for two - apart from the famous La Troya - which is where we went hoping for cheap and cheerful. Sadly however it was not all that cheap and the food was dismal (yes, the portions are enormous, but the food is hard to stomach).
Saddest of all, we couldn't find a single tapas bar to sit in.
In a town where so many businesses have closed down, there is an urgent need for local regeneration, new ideas and a proper strategy for redevelopment. The fact that so many historic old houses are falling into disrepair is really saddening and unforgivable.
We spoke to some locals and gathered that things are really tough economically. Trujillo has the potential to be a bustling and thriving place but to us it felt like a ghost town.
Shame on the town hall and the local government!
Google map: bit.ly/SeLL6L
Autumn is definitely the best time to visit this woodland park, a short train ride from Osaka. As you walk up the gently sloping path alongside a stream, look out for monkeys climbing among maple trees which are a blaze of red and yellow in the autumn months. You pass temples and shrines before reaching a waterfall.
Along the path, stalls sell maple leaves deep-fried in a sweet batter.
Take the Hankyu Railway to Minoh. 30 minutes from Umeda Station in Central Osaka.
Google map: bit.ly/SjQzWQ
Walk up Hardcastle Crags from Hebden Bridge. In the autumn the changing tree colours are fantastic, and following the river upstream you cross stepping stones and reach a restored mill (National Trust) before finally reaching the moors. On the way back detour up the valley side to Heptonstall to see the ruined church and Sylvia Plath's grave.
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