From the village of Lehon, with its fantastic open air swimming pool, you can walk 2km along the River Rance, to the Medieval town of Dinan. The walk is shaded by trees full of mistletoe, and along the way is a cottage, where you may find a lady carving intricate Pre-Raphaelite figures into sicks of chalk. The river flows through a gorge as you reach Dinan, and you pass under the majestic viaduct. From here, you can walk up the steep cobbled streets into the walled town, or stop at the waterfront restaurants, and hire a boat from the little port.
Google map: bit.ly/riW1w0
Mont St Michel is much visited and for very good reason, but visiting with three small children we had to find a new twist to add to its appeal. So we used the Disney-line: the excitement of catching glimpses of the mount as we approached as this was the very location of Mickey Mouse's dungeon from The Three Musketeers; the crowded streets the place to buy beignets like Tiana made in The Princess and the Frog. But the best find of all were the mussel and oyster bars which stretch along the coastal road along the edge of the Bay of Mont St Michel. Cheap, child-friendly and with fantastic views of Mont St Michel - our three devoured bowlfuls of mussels and oysters dug fresh from the sandy bay - without even a mention of what Sebastian from The Little Mermaid might make of it all!
Take the D155 from St Malo, then onto the D797 at Le Vivier-sur-Mer heading towards Mont St Michel.
Google map: bit.ly/ojp0gQ
During summer afternoons, four circuits of churches and chapels in central Brittany in which contemporary artists have installed their work. Visit by car. Free. Triple pleasure of lovely countryside, quaint chapels and astonishing art. The red circuit is particularly charming. Look out for acephalic Breton saints such as the cleavered St Bieuzy and the spring located near each chapel. The signposting of the circuits is a bit minimal, so keep a sharp eye open.
It's a 45 acre historic cemetery close to the centre of Bristol, "where the history of the city is told in a leafy and tranquil setting." Don't be put off by the idea of visiting a cemetery - this place is beautiful and so peaceful. Among beautiful monuments, there is an abundance of plants and flowers. And bird song to lift the heart! The guide book says there are about two dozen species there. Also, exhibitions about the history of the place, and a lovely gift shop. A real, and unusual, treat.
If you're enjoying a family holiday in Fethiye, Hisaronu or Olu Deniz, you really have got fun, sun and sea on your door step. What's not so obvious, is that you also have one of the most beautiful and moving historic sites in the world a few minutes away.
Kayaköy was, until 1923, a hillside village populated by Greek speaking Christians. After the Greco-Turkish war, the Greek and Turkish governments agreed to a population exchange. The village has been uninhabited ever since, and is now preserved as a historical momument. There are hundreds of houses and other buildings all more or less untouched in nearly a hundred years.
When you're there you will need to pay a nominal entrance fee. Walk up through the village to the top, enjoying the beautiful Greek Orthodox churches and the view from the top. The sense of peace and tranquility is wonderful.
Dolmus buses go through Hisaronu every half hour in the summer season, and cost just a couple of lira. The journey to Kayaköy takes about ten minutes.
It gets very hot so, if you can, go early or late. And when you get back down, enjoy a refreshing tea from one of the small, local cafes in the beautiful village before returning to the real world.
Google map: bit.ly/lKtpOz
From Cadiz city to Tarifa you will find miles of white sandy beaches with beautiful turquoise ocean backed by pine forests and dotted with laid back fishing villages where you can find bars with the freshest seafood accompanied by chilled sherry from Jerez. Places to check out are Tarifa - the windsurfing capital and gateway to Africa; Bolongia which is a well preserved roman city; Canos de Meca - a hippy hangout since the sixties where little has changed; and Conil a tuna fishing village and summer holiday destination for northern Spanish. Finally you should see the capital Cadiz - old Spain with Spanish colonial vibes. You could be in Havana! It's old Andalucia at its best!
Google map: bit.ly/kvR1cC
La Taha de Pitres is a collection of small villages high on the southern facing hills in the Alpujarras in the Sierra Nevada Parc Natural. Just a few hours’ drive from Malaga, this location offers a window to a different Andalucía, one that feels like a million miles away from the resorts on the Costas.
The pretty villages are interconnected by ancient donkey tracks called Caminos, which, along with the long distance GR7, make this an excellent base for some stunningly scenic walks. The area also boasts exhilarating mountain biking, although going with a guide would be recommended.
Visit in late September to early November to escape the worst of the heat and make the most of foraging the glut of wild almonds, walnuts, chestnuts and figs that festoon the trees at this time of year. And if there in early November, don’t miss the annual Fiesta de Castaña, where you’ll no doubt be filled with freshly roasted chestnuts and sweet potatoes as your tapa by the lovely Marissa, the land-lady of the bar in Mecinilla.
Google map: bit.ly/mbUHQN
The Cabo de Gata Natural Park contains some of Spain's most beautiful, wild and unspoilt beaches and Rodalquilar is a gem of a place to base yourself while there. An old mining town might not sound the most appealing of places to stay but with its stylish Moorish houses, a couple of boutique hotels,some fantastically good tapas bars and a very friendly laid back atmosphere you'll feel you've stumbled upon somewhere very special indeed.
Rodalquilar, Parque Natural de Cabo de Gata
04115 Níjar, Spain
+34950 389 836
Google map: bit.ly/iMbVOE
Alhama de Granada is one of the most beautiful locations in Spain, in the fertile land of the Poniente Grandadino in Southern Andalucia. This is the 'real' Spain - incredible light, authentic fabulous food, great people and hardly any English spoken. It isn’t far from the airport at Malaga, but it is a million miles from the pubs and full English breakfasts on the coast. There are churches, lovely squares, a spectacular gorge, a red Moorish fort, an Arabic quarter, fresh food shops and 38 cafe bars and restaurants all in easy walking distance. Perched nearly a thousand metres above sea level on the edge of Tajos Gorge. Famous throughout Spain for the thermal baths - hot therapeutic water bubbles up in to four thermal pools next to the river. 12km from town is the spectacular Bermajales lake with sandy beaches. There is great walking, sailing, abseiling, kayaking, quad biking, mountain biking and skiing activities all within easy reach of the town. Granada and the spectacular Alhambra are a mere 45 minutes car drive or an hour on the bus. There are a number of good quality yet inexpensive hotels and hostels in the town.
This small museum celebrating the history of interior design and the home is found within a terrace of charming 18th century almshouses. The dark stone buildings lie in the shadow of the new Hoxton Overground station; reminding Londoners of what London used to be and what it is now. Behind the museum lies a walled herb garden and a colourful and peaceful stretch of flowers and wildlife. To see the newly restored almshouse rooms check the website for special opening times; these rooms give visitors an idea of how the building would have been used before it became a museum. The permanent exhibitions are free.
Howick Hall was the home of Earl Grey, former prime minister and tea supremo. Although the hall is closed, the gardens are open to the public and are perfect for a wander in late spring. They include wild flower meadows, the woodland garden, rockery, herbaceous borders and bog garden. After a pot of Earl Grey tea in the old Ballroom, we like to finish by taking 'The Long Walk' through the arboretum which leads down to the beautiful Northumberland shore.
The Egyptian Centre for Culture and Art has its base in a 1930's corner building and live music performances take place in a smallish (capacity 80 max) but double height room with a balcony. The acoustics are extraordinary and the atmosphere intimate. We saw a vibrant and inspiring performance of 'zar' ritual music by the Mazaher ensemble and afterward we shared a refreshing khakadee (hibiscus) drink with the tamboura player, who was 87!
1 Saad Zaghloul St. El Dawaween 11461 Cairo
+202 2792 0878
Naxos is a glorious antidote to the Greek beach experience. The largest and most agricultural of the Cyclades, it has an active present and a crowded history, that intertwine offering myriad pleasures. The ferry from Pireaus or other islands stops at the capital, Hora, a bustling port. High above the port is the ancient Venetian citadel of Kastro that has just been restored alluringly with millions of Euros. The central Tragaea plateau is the treat. Here a milder climate and friendly villagers welcome walkers. Aged olive and fig trees shade byzantine churches linked by ancient paths and tracks joining the villages. Halki keeps alive the unique citron distilling; Filoti spreads in the lee of Mt Zeus, the highest mountain in the Cyclades and excellent walking; Apiranthos exhibits the local marble in steep stairs and paving while offering wildflower walks and giddy sea views to the East. The plateau has scattered fortified towers and two of the island’s three 7th century BC, rejected male statues or Kouros, that lie on the hills where they were carved. Forget the moped and hire-car. Travel by local bus to see more and enjoy a warmer welcome.
Google map: bit.ly/j7mJMo
It took us three days to travel to Hydra from Glasgow by train through London, France and Italy, then on to Greece by ferry and finally the hydrofoil from Piraeus to Hydra. Arriving in the silent dark, Hyrda was like a glittering gift. No cars, narrow and steep steps leading high into the island, donkeys, delicious feta saganaki and gyros everyday, peaceful, blue swimming spots, freshly caught squid and our gorgeously charming Kiaffa Cottage where Tracy Emin had stayed before us! Leonard Cohen wrote Bird on the Wire here in the 60's too. A gem of a place, thanks to the old guy in a pub who told us we had to go there above any other place in the world!
Kiaffa Cottage - where we stayed - www.showeb.net/hydra
+61 (0)44 958 3486
The beautiful and peaceful Island of Ithaca can be reached via Kefalonia for a day trip but better to spend a night or two (or longer). Travel up into the cool of the mountains and view the capital Vathi and it's horse-shoe shaped harbour from way up above. Then cool off on one of the island's quiet pebble beaches - the crystal clear waters make up for the lack of sand. Maybe head to the pretty village of Frikes which is about as touristy as it gets on Ithaca- then back to Vathi for dinner at one of the many tavernas on the harbour front where you can indulge in a spot of yacht envy. If travelling back via Kefalonia get the late evening ferry and watch the sun set over the Kefalonian mountains which is just breathtaking.
On a sunny day it is a lovely walk. Those with an interest in ancient history will appreciate the excellent siting of this old hill fort. The top is some old circular mounds. You will need boots.
A beautiful and not too strenuous hill walk leading to the Iron age fort of Tre'r Ceiri with the option of visiting the National Welsh Language centre.
The site of Tre'r Ceiri a name that probably means Town of the Forts, is a sprawling hill top settlement with significant stone ramparts. It has been described as the most 'dramatic and impressive Iron age hill fort in Britain'.
The site is indeed impressive, due to the fact that remnants of around 150 Iron age huts can be explored. The huts are extremely well preserved with some huts standing at over one metre high.
The drama is provided by the setting; Yr Eifl is the name of the highest peak of the mountains that form the backbone of the beautiful Llyn Peninsula.
This site is ideal for those that enjoy combining a walk with an interesting goal. A not too strenuous hill walk at 574 metres along fairly easy terrain through hills covered with heather and gorse will be rewarded with a fascinating historical site and stunning views.
The summit offers views of the Snowdonia mountain range to the north, to the west the Irish sea and at your feet a birds eye view of the beautiful Llyn Peninsula. On a clear day Ireland itself can be spotted.
For refreshments and further interest this exploration can be combined with a visit to the Welsh National Language centre in "Nant Gwtheyrn' a village that closely hugs the coast beneath Yr Eifl. The village housed the families that quarried the Port Y Nant stone quarry that produced granite suare cobbles or sets.
After the decline of the quarry the last residents left in 1959. The village was deserted throughout the 60's and 70's except for a period when inhabited by hippies. In 1978 work started on improving the steeply inclined road that leads to the village and the houses, the chapel and community hall were modernised. The modern facilities now house accommodation for up to 58 educational residents and the chapel is now also used as a local community centre. There is a cafe bar and restaurant in the village and a pub called the 'Tafarn Y Fic' in Llithfaen.
Take the A499 north of Pwllheli. At Llanaelhaearn, take B4417 towards Nefyn. Less than a mile from the junction for the B4417, there is a footpath on your right,
alternatively carry along the B4417 until arriving at the village of Llithfaen here you will see a sign to Nant Gwrtheyrn National Welsh learning centre here you will find Upper Porth Y Nant car park, it is possible to take a different path to the summit and ideal if you want to visit the centre.
Tre'r Ceiri hill fort
NPRN: 95292; Map Reference: SH34SE; Grid Reference: SH3734044670
Nant Gwrtheyrn, Llithfaen, Pwllheli, Gwynedd LL53 6PA
Google map: bit.ly/i0h67u
This 76 mile frontier extended across the width of Britain from the Tyne in the east to the Solway Firth in the west.
Built out of necessity by Emperor Hadrian in 122 AD to mark the Roman Empire's northwestern border in a landscape devoid of natural geographical barriers, it provided a base for soldier patrols to impede the movement of the Picts in the north.
Together with their families military and civilian settlements formed, encouraging traders and associated custom posts and depots. Forts were built at mile intervals accommodating around thirty men. Each of these mile castles were intersected by two observation turrets while a vallum or broad ditch behind the wall was crossed by causeways leading to bigger forts and barracks housing 1000 men.
The scale and traces of these communities has all but disappeared at this UNESCO world heritage site, although archaeological sites and museums can be visited today, notably Chester's Roman Fort and museum near Chollerford and the remains of Houseteads Fort (reputed to be the most complete Roman fort in Britain) around Haltwhistle as well as east of Birdoswald where there are extensive ruins of a fort with a drill hall. Farmhouse-style accommodation and tearooms cater for families while along the length of the wall hiking and cycling routes work in tandem with driving itineraries.
In the region of Northumberland National Park between Housesteads and Steel Rigg is the natural beauty of the dolerite crags at Whin Sill. Here a footpath along the top of the ridge incorporates part of the Pennine Way. Sheep graze in the surrounding green wilderness punctuated by this snaking stone rib.
In less well preserved sections of the wall the expansive unbroken views of undulating low hills absent of prominent landmarks and sight of uniform stones covered in lichens, stacked in an orderly linear fashion is eerily peaceful. The well worn grassy path running parallel to Hadrian's Wall by current footfall reminds us of past division. Reflection of it's historical significance is often as a solitary visitor, away from tourist hoards, watching the wave of grass at its summit ruins move in the breeze. Accessible to all with an interest in history or the great outdoors Hadrian's Wall can also be enjoyed in the bleak winter months when snow covers the landscape and biting winds prevail.
Wuppertal is a midsize industrial city in the Ruhr, within an hours travel of Cologne Dortmund or Dusseldorf, with a large chemical factory as its main employer. Possibly this explains its absence from any tourist itineraries. But it does have the Schwebebahn - a 100-year -old monorail that runs along above the river and roads, while gently swaying 10 metres above the ground, linking all the town districts together. Spend a day or two here, riding the rail and then visiting Wuppertals excellent zoo. All inclusive tickets are available at the stations. The lion enclosure is particularly recommended. We stayed at the ArtFabrik hotel which although not centrally located has decor and a vibe that seriously added to the fun of the weekend.
Avoid the queues - and get treated like a diplomat all for the price of breakfast. Book online at the restaurant Dachgarten.
Go straight to the front of any queue to get into the Reichstag and tell them you have booked breakfast (or I guess dinner), get your name checked off the list by the guards (this is not something you can do on the spur of the moment and that makes the anticipation all the more exciting) and get escorted through security by your personal escort to the lift that carries you to the restaurant at the foot of the Richard Rogers glass dome. Terrific breakfast (and we are vegetarian) and then have the run of the dome and fabulous views over most of Berlin. Awesome. When we went about a month ago the Dome was closed in about three different languages unless like us you were eating in the restaurant!
If you are disappointed by this experience you have no soul!
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