This is one of the most beautiful castles I have ever visited. It has an action-packed past. Look it up and try to work out how its past has impacted on the stones; it has barbicans that still inspire a closer look and inner baileys with mysterious buildings you can argue about for years. Even better it is rarely visited and overlooks the Tweed. Some of its more illustrious neighbours don't come close. Turner painted it, Scott gave it a verse in his poetry and Mons Meg helped to bring it down.
This is one of my favourite places. You will not be disappointed. Take a picnic. Not sure if English Heritage let people in anymore (they stopped employing people to spend hours twiddling their thumbs) but it's an open site, impossible to restrict - the Sheep Gate is closest to the car park. Just find your way through a gate - no one else will be there!
A childhood favourite, Carreg Cennen Castle is unique in Wales as it is the only castle built by the Welsh, for the Welsh. The other castles you are likely to recognise and visit west of the border were instruments of subjugation, used by English (or, more accurately, Norman) rulers to keep the Welsh under control.
Carreg Cennen is all the more interesting because of its isolation and spectacular location, perched on a ridge in the remote west of the Brecon Beacons national park, its romantic setting has inspired generations of artists, including Turner.
Approached through a farmyard, you will need decent shoes for the steep path and, unusually, a torch. The latter is necessary to follow the tunnel which starts within the castle walls and descends deep into the cold, wet rock below - a spooky climax to the visit for children and grown-ups, where it is believed prisoners were held captive for months on end in the pitch black.
Once you step, blinking, back into the daylight, the downhill trek will return you to the farm and car park where lunch, snacks and cream teas can be bought.
Nearest village is Trapp. Nearest station is Ffairfach on the Swansea - Shrewsbury line. Llandeilo, Carmarthen and Swansea are all 20-45 minutes away.
01558 822291, carregcennencastle.com
Adults £3.70, children 5-16 £3.30
Google map: tinyurl.com/3yznou3
A beautiful, tidal island with a majestic castle on a rocky outcrop above the North Sea. The castle faces the imposing Bamburgh Castle, and has views of the farne islands. You can only cross at low tide, so make sure you check the timetable! Miles of sand, rockpools and rugged walks, it is amazing at dawn seeing the sun rise over the sea and castle. I love it so much I got married there.
Liddesdale was described by George McDonald Fraser as the bloodiest valley in Britain. It was at the nexus of the murderous clan feuds which fed the Border Reiver conflicts, which rent this lonely, stunningly beautiful and largely untouched part of Britain for 400 years. The Hermitage stands as a lonely reminder of that bloody past: massive, sinister, brooding, a dark H-shaped monument to power, politics and cruelty. It was there that Sir Alexander Ramsay of Dalhousie was starved to death by Sir William Douglas in 1342. An earlier Lord, De Soulis, was boiled to death at the castle because he sold his soul to the devil. The Hermitage's history feels soaked into its cold stones. It has no roof and is effectively a ruin. There remains, however, a grim evocative beauty about the building and its wilderness setting. The landscape roundabout is beautiful and deserted, perfect for walking and silence. Few day-trippers, little by way of tourism. A truly special place where the the past feels very, very close. The Reivers bequeathed us the words 'bereave' and 'blackmail': Liddesdale still whispers those words today.
Liddesdale, 5.5miles north-east of Newcastleton off the B6399.
OS Ref: 74 NY 494 961.
Google map: tinyurl.com/3xzw5zq
It is open from April-September, 7 days from 9.30am-6.30pm. During October and November it is open from 9.30am-4.30pm and closed on Thursday afternoons, all day Friday and Saturday mornings.
Barretos is a friendly small Portuguese village virtually untouched by time. A place of olive groves, cork oak trees, ancient pathways and unique medieval stone round houses called choças, where in the last century families still lived.
It is our home from home, where we can slow down, relax, listen to the birds sing, sheep bells clan and rise to the beautiful Alentejo morning light.
The wonderful views are to Marvão, an imposing castle and whitewashed town perched on a hill and Castelo de Vide with its Gothic doorways, famous Jewish quarter and castle. Reminders of the arduous battles and life of the past, now places of peace and beauty.
Barretos, a place where we always regret leaving and count the days until the next stay.
Perched on top of - and carved out of - a huge lump of rock, Carreg Cennen is one of the most surprising castles there is. From the fantasy medieval walls down the passage cut in the edge of the crag into the cave below, it's like something out of a wild fantasy story. Kids will love attacking the walls and being repulsed by evil parent defenders and we can all lose ourselves in the darkness below. Spooky!
Caged between the free flowing river Mersey and an idling pleasant suburbia on the Wirral Peninsula, Eastham's Country Park offers a haunting shaded respite being the overgrown pleasure gardens of the Victorian era, Asia's' rhododendrons rampage as Autumn approaches. Visit the mossy stoned vacant bear pit or imbibe at either of two pubs hanging above the river at Eastham Ferry's medieval crossing point; from here dream down-river to the Liver Buildings, to Jung's pool of life or likewise observe and imagine the destinations of aeroplanes departing from John Lennon airport directly opposite. You can dream here and for that it is a strange and remote place indeed.
Wirral, Merseyside CH62 0BH
0151 327 1007
Google map: tinyurl.com/3xfac2s
A 15th century castle shaped like a ship on the shore of the Firth of Forth. Steep and scary ruins, rugged and rocky, perfect for clambering around with small children (really!). A small jetty projects into the river and there are fantastic views to the Forth Bridges.
Avoid the organised trips (99 -160 pln). If you do want to go independently, it is 65 plns, plus 10 for taking photos in a poor light. The local 304 bus from Krakow stops outside. You have to go down hundreds of stairs to a depth of 64metres just to start - many more steps ahead! Be prepared for light, long, boring tunnels. Vastly overcrowded. The only highlights were a chapel and a hall with chandeliers. Unlit densely packed miners' lifts back to top. Not for the claustrophic or disabled persons. There are loads of great attractions in Krakow. Put this at the bottom of your list!
I fully endorse Amy Jenkins recommendation of Cadbury Hill (Travel, 14/08/2010) but take a tip from a local: good food and drink is available at the bottom of the hill in South Cadbury at The Camelot (01963 440448, thecamelotpub.com), where a permanent display by Somerset County Council gives visitors a glimpse of artefacts from the hill and insight into its occupation from 4000BC to AD1000. You’ll see reconstruction drawings and paintings of the ancient landscape by Jane Brayne (Meet The Ancestors) and the original designs for the film “Arthur”. It’s a pub which gives a friendly welcome to locals and visitors alike at reasonable cost.
There are not many family friendly attractions in the UK that allow pet dogs within their grounds, but Beeston Castle in Tarporley, Cheshire is one exception.
As a tight knit family unit, we love (to try) and incorporate our canine family member into any planned days out, but alas most things which include an entrance fee normally exclude dogs ( for good reason of course in many cases).
So it's a delight to find one which welcomes dogs (on a lead).
Beeston castle is a picturesque attraction with a real family friendly feeling.
It's super to explore on a fine day and picnics are welcome, a great addition to any family day out, and of course so much cheaper than paying to dine out.
The pretty sloping grounds often host reenactments and interactive demonstrations for the children. Along side this there are woodlands and bat caves to discover and explore.
The walk up to the castle summit is wonderful, but very steep in part, however the buggy pushers did not seem to falter!
At the top of this "Castle of Rock", the views are incredible and on a clear day no less that eight counties can be seen, from the Pennines to the Welsh mountains.
As a budding photographer, my husband was in his element and the children loved tearing around while the adults marvelled at the view.
The admission price is reasonable enough when you consider the price of some family outings, around £16 for a family of four. It's also worth noting that if you sign up to become an English Heritage member for a year, not only are many places free of charge thereafter to enter, but they will also refund the cost of the entrance fee paid on the day.
When the sun comes out, and it doesn't often in these parts, the biergarten at the historic Rheinhotel is the place to go. With a dramatic view over the castles dotting Siebengebirge hills, a daily barbecue and a trampoline for the kinder, it's just the ticket to kick back and quaff a tranquil glass of Weissbier. Just forget the fact that this is where Chamberlain met Hitler to arrange the Munich conference.
We all know that serendipity has its part to play in life, and this was particularly true in finding Godolphin House near Helston in Cornwall. What a great survey of nearly 800 years of English history, starting with a fortune made in tin mining, and a gradual move into the English aristocracy. Backing the losing side in the civil war, but making it back after the Restoration is just a part of the story. The house and other buildings suffered some benign neglect in more recent years, but are now being renovated by the National Trust. The "hard hat" tour is the best way of absorbing all that history. Follow that with a walk up Godolphin hill for a view to the Atlantic in the North, the Bristol Channel in the south and everything in between including tin mines and the Goonhilly aerials.
Uig and Bernara are on the western side of the Isle of Lewis, served by a quiet single road, and among the most beautiful areas in the West of Scotland. On a day trip you can taste whisky at the new distillery Abhainn Dearg (phone ahead), go hill-walking, picnic on one of the many white sand beaches, and explore the reconstructed Iron Age house at Bostadh (unattended and very atmospheric). There's even a small museum celebrating the 'Lewis' Chessmen that were found here.
Sail through seals, seabirds and time to the island of Mousa on the eastside of Shetland for an in-your-face archeological and wildlife experience. The 15 minute boat trip followed by a 1km direct or 2.5km circular coastal route takes you to the world’s best preserved iron age broch, standing at over 13 metres high and built more than 2000 years ago. So moved by the Mousa Broch was Will Self that he had a 1:3 replica built in his garden.
Inhabited only by seals, sheep and birds; tick Artic Skuas, Artic Terns, Great Skuas and Black Guillemots off your birdwatching list. Get lucky like Simon King and spot whales and porpoises in Mousa sound. The island is an RSPB nature reserve, a Scottish Tourist Board four star attraction and Historic Scotland cares for the broch on behalf of the country. Boat trips run daily from April to September and are weather dependent.
I’ve been to 63 countries, but the Scillies are the place I have visited most often. They have drawn me back since I camped aged 16 at the Garrison Farm on St Mary’s, waking at dawn in a vine-draped greenhouse after a storm destroyed the tent. In contrast my most recent stay was at Star Castle, an Elizabethan fortress in the shape of a star - where you can sleep in a thick-walled guard room overlooking the harbour.
The Scillies are the farthest you can get from the UK, while travelling the shortest distance. Bird watching, walking, prehistoric cairns, silky, white-sand beaches and coves, any number of prodigious shipwrecks and famously exotic vegetation, they have it all - including trendy modern hotels and fine dining (if that’s what you want). More important: the turquoise sea all around acts as a soothing invitation to unwind, as you explore between the five inhabited and umpteen mini islands.
Even in August there is seclusion if you are prepared to walk away from the harbour landings. I went skinny dipping one August day on St Martins, with only birds and rabbits for company. The wonky circle of St Mary’s cliff path is a day’s leisurely stroll, and if you plan it properly it’s possible to fit in two, if not three, superlative cream teas en route. Then back to Star Castle for a five-course meal followed by an evening in the Dungeon Bar. Nothing can beat the atmosphere of this place. You won't get jetlag, you don’t need jabs, and you’re more likely to get bother from a ghost hanging around a megalith than from an undesirable lurking on a street corner. Fortunate Islands indeed.
Describing this as a museum does not do it justice - it is a place that brings the industrial revolution to life and takes you back over 100 years. You get a chance to experience the life of the masses; giggle at the latest fashions in the shops, change your money in the bank, take a ride on a train or a pony and trap, visit the post office and buy old-fashioned sweets from the sweet shop. Working life can also be experienced in the Foundry. Every child and adult I have ever taken there has loved it. The site is constantly developing, which means you can keep visiting with new generations. What better day out?
Google map: bit.ly/cO645W
Ironbridge is near Telford and has 10 museums in the town.
One of the best British daytrips I ever took was a journey into my nearest main town. I’d visited it as a local resident many times but I had never really seen it and still knew so little about it. I decided to set off to explore and learn, to see the place through new eyes.
You do not have to know where my local main town is because the whole point here is that you explore your own main town and see history come alive for you. Your local library will be a great source of information and you will be amazed at what has occurred on the streets that you have trodden a thousand times before.
People travel from all over the world to visit the UK and one of the many things they love is our history. So take a day out to learn about the lives of the people who trod your local streets before you.
Right in front of your eyes
It has a ruined castle, a rocky coast to explore, its own “king” and best of all it’s small enough to feel like a real island. You can walk from one side to the other in minutes. The island’s only habitation is a pub, the Ship Inn, whose landlord traditionally holds the title 'King of Piel.' In summer it is served by a ferry from neighbouring Roa Island, or you can walk across the sands at low tide from Walney Island. Since the last 'King' was installed the pub has been renovated and there is a programme of events over the summer to tempt visitors who want more than just the splendid experience of being able to explore the coast and castle.
A small gem of an island 15 miles by five and perfect for island hopping to Arran and the Cumbraes. It's green, fresh, there's no light pollution, it's peaceful and the scenery is beautiful. There's also the stunning ancestral home of the Stuart kings of Scotland. The smaller northern ferry is located at the picturesque north-east side of the island, amid the sailing channels of the Kyles of Bute.
We stayed for a short break at the historic Landmark Trust property Ascog House.
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