This is the 'remotest bunkhouse' on the west coast of Scotland situated in a beautiful bay at Ardintigh on the south shore of Loch Nevis with a fantastic view over the sea to the Cuillin mountains and across to the remote peninsula of Knoydart. It is only accessible by walking or by sea and our party arrived by various methods including walking, boat taxi and canoeing via Loch Morar (deepest loch on the UK mainland). It is a wonderful place for adventure or just chilling out. We spent a long weekend canoeing and walking and thinking about swimming! The accommodation is in small wooden bunkhouses scattered around the bay with plenty space for campers too. We cooked in the large bunkhouse by the beach (showers and toilet block under the kitchen and dining room) We went as a small party of 11 but the site sleeps up to 24 (plus extras camping). You can go as a group or as individual at £15 per night for the bunkbed (take your own sleeping bag).
The sunsets are wonderful and the last night we watched the sun go down not long before midnight after a beach barbecue. I almost forgot to mention the whale ...
Tucked away close to St John's Roman Catholic Cathedral close to the center of Norwich, is a sunken garden being restored to its Victorian splendour. An old chalk pit was bought by William Trevor in 1856 and a three acre garden developed. He died in 1897 and the garden, while initially looked after declined, and by the beginning of the second world war was abandoned. It was completely lost until 1980 when it was rediscovered and is being lovingly restored by a group of enthusiasts.
It is now a haven of quiet, contains many original features and has the charm of a bye gone era. No one can visit without being enthralled by the atmosphere.
If you are ever in Scotland during July, you have to head to T in the Park. It is Scotland's biggest festival and it is held in the picturesque Balado. It is a fantastic weekend filled with music, messy camping and the best people. I love it.
Housed in a 17th water-mill in the depths of the countryside, the Bakelite Museum is an extraordinary collection of early plastics and domestic paraphernalia. There are ovens and dentist's tools, Bakelite radios, egg-cups, hairdryers, musical instruments, spectacles, false teeth and even a Bakelite coffin, all beautifully arranged around the workings of the old mill. There is also a selection of vintage caravans that you can rent on-site for the weekend.
Skye is renowned for its wacky geology, and the northern peninsula of Trotternish boasts an array of bewildering natural weirdness; from a massive rock needle to an enchanting 'Faerie Glen'. The most bizarre place, however, must be inside the mind of the eccentric curator of this one-roomed 'exhibition' tucked away on the peninsula's west coast. Upon entering, the first impression is of nothing more than a collection of junk recovered from the beach, but a closer look reveals a surreal and often very humorous story or proverb attached to each artifact ("Life is like the wind- it's not there when there isn't any" is a personal favourite.)
Just outside of the village of Kilmuir on the A885 road north-west of Portree. The exhibition is signposted, but the road itself has no name (towards Bornesketaig on some maps). The exhibition is in a green-roofed shack about half a mile down the road towards the small bay.
Google map: bit.ly/qtW7ab
This church, overlooking Loch Awe on the road to Oban, has a very weird and wonderful personality, and its multifarious design echoes the eccentricities of its architect. On the outside many ecclesiastical styles are blended, such as the grand flying buttresses and stained glass, as well as other more zany features such as the stone-carved rabid hound chasing frenetic rabbits down the guttering. The gloomy interior holds many more delights including a giant effigy of Robert the Bruce, underneath which you can view a fragment of bone belonging to the great Scottish king.
A mile or so from the village of Loch Awe on the A85 towards Oban. Loch Awe is the closest station.
For information- www.loch-awe.com/local_groups/stconanskirk.html
Many people whizz through the borderlands in their haste to get to “Scotland proper” – up north – Edinburgh, Glasgow, the Highlands, lochs and glens. However, if you are travelling on the A697 I guarantee you won’t regret taking a slight detour, a few miles south of Coldstream, to visit this small, imaginative and eccentric sculpture garden.
In the quiet village of Branxton you can come face to face with Lawrence of Arabia on his camel and Winston Churchill with his cigar as well as all the wild animals you could ever hope to meet in one garden - giraffes, wild boar and penguins to name but a few. There are some fantastic teeth on display – (check out the shark) – I think there must have been some deal going on with a local dentist! Created in the 60s and 70s, by John Fairnington to entertain his son Edwin who had cerebral palsy, each life size statue is full of character and very endearing and I’m convinced you will leave the garden with a smile on your face and a spring in your step.
St.Pancras Gardens is surely the quirkiest park in London full of quiet corners and eccentric memorials.
In the middle sits St.Pancras Old Church, one of the oldest sites of Christian worship in Europe. The surrounding park is what remains of the old churchyard cut through from 1863 by construction of the Midland Railway into St.Pancras Station. The exhumation of the graves was overseen by Thomas Hardy, then a young architect, who placed many of the headstones in a circular pattern around an ash tree, whose roots now entangle the stones around what is known as Hardy's Tree.
When the churchyard was re-opened as a public park in 1877 the Burdett-Coutts Sundial had been added as a memorial to all those whose graves had been exhumed and moved elsewhere.
Among the graves that were left in situ are those of William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft and the monument designed by Sir John Soane for his wife. The latter will look very familiar to most people because it was the inspiration for Gilbert Scott's design of the K2 red telephone box.
All this for free in a lovely park with a beautiful fence and gates all recently restored with the help of the Heritage Lottery Fund.
191 Saint Pancras Way, London NW1 9NH
+44(0)20 7424 0724
Google map: bit.ly/mSFivF
It's Europe's first traditional Hindu Temple and part of multi-cultural Britain's unique, eccentric and cohesive society. It is quite stunning.
As it is a house of god, visitors are asked to be respectful and you will be provided with a sarong if you have shorts or skirts above knee length. You are also respectfully asked to remove your shoes before entering the Mandir.
There are beautiful carvings to be seen and interesting exhibitions.
No food or drink is allowed inside but the shop/cafe serves some delicious Indian snacks!
The Kinema is a traditional 1920s cinema showing all the latest films. It is a fantastic place with intermissions, old-fashioned paper cinema tickets, a compton organ (that plays during the interval!) and a fantastic sweetie counter.
David, the landlord at the Barley Mow pub in the pretty Derbyshire village of Bonsall will regale you with ambitious plans to develop the car park as the first UFO Space Centre in the UK or sign you up for one of his Landlords Walks.
However, the Mow’s major claim to fame is as host of World Championship Hen Racing. This eccentric mix of serious racing and training and hopeless enthusiasm means that the thoroughbreds of the hen racing world stand as much chance as any have-a-goer who can acquire a hen and turn up on the day.
Occasional battles between competitors see yellow warning cards for fighting on the track. Hens might take the warning to heart and reform their behaviour, or ignore it, get the red card and be sent off. Competitors have been known to travel from as far afield as Belper (10 miles), Chesterfield (15 miles), Finland and Australia.
A great family day out, the World Championship supports the Battery Hen Welfare Trust, a registered charity which aims to provide a comfortable retirement for battery hens. (www.thehenshouse.co.uk.)
Lovely hotel, originally Charles Waterton's house (19th century naturalist), set in beautiful parkland.
When I'm feeling flush, I like to treat myself to a dinner on the eighth floor of the OXO Tower and marvel at the views of the city from the huge summer terrace - summer weather permitting!
The British-Asian fusion cuisine is pretty tasty too.
A walk along Buckinghamshire's Chess river, through ancient forests, past water meadows, and through fields teeming with wild flowers, lined by cob nut trees and blackberry bushes, is a wonderful way to clear the smog from your brain.
Best of all, it's accessible on the Metropolitan tube line and a round trip will cost all of £7. En route, the Cock Inn at Sarratt and the Rose & Crown at Chorleywood make splendid stopping off points for sustenance and liquid refreshment. We passed a watercress farm too, and a huge bunch of freshly-harvested greens cost £1.50 and tasted a hundred times better than the stuff from the supermarket.
Take the Metropolitan Line from Baker Street or Marylebone Station to Chalfont & Latimer. Follow the river walk along the Chess river to Chorleywood village.
Chorleywood is on the Metropolitan tube line also.
The walk is about 7km.
Chorleywood Common, Chorleywood, Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire, WD3 5LW
Google map: bit.ly/reCtPs
Church End, Church Lane, Sarratt, Herts WD3 6HH
Google map: bit.ly/nI5yiW
The Pillars of Hercules pub dates back to 1733, although most of what we see now was built around 1910. Dickens mentions the tavern in 'A Tale of Two Cities' and the road next to the pub through the arch is named Manette Street, after one of the novel's characters, Dr Manette.
The pub is still popular with London's literatti, including Martin Amis, Julian Barnes, Ian McEwan and Clive James, who titled his second book of literary criticism 'At the Pillars of Hercules', allegedly because most of the pieces were commissioned, delivered or written within its very wooden walls. The beer is excellent, the craic always witty and the Hungarian barmaid particularly charming, especially if you say 'egészsegedre' ... !
7 Greek Street, Soho, London W1D 4DF
+44 872 148 1909
Nearest tube: Northern or Central Line to Tottenham Court Road
Google map: bit.ly/oXSc2Y
Only in the UK could The World Worm Charming Championships be held. A quirky afternoon out, with great excitement when the world record was beat for the heaviest worm found. You would never guess such fun could be had from a 3m x 3m plot of grass.
One of England’s oldest visitor attractions which
opened to the public in 1630, Mother Shipton’s Cave in Knaresborough, Yorkshire contains the only known petrifying spring in England. The cave is the legendary birthplace of a 16th century prophetess, Mother Shipton, England’s answer to Nostradamus. My grandparents used to take me here when I was a kid and since I wished for a bike from the wishing well and then two months later got a bike for my birthday, I was always keen to visit again!
The well water's extremely high mineral content means that everything in its path turns into stone, leaving behind mineral deposits that build up to form a crust of new rock. Visitors to the petrifying well can make a wish by placing their hand in the waters and see all sorts of petrified items hanging from the rock face including shoes, teddy bears, a hat belonging to John Wayne and Agatha Christie’s handbag. Nearby is the Knaresborough viaduct, a museum, parks, riverside walks and boat hire along the River Nidd. A brilliant day out if you like messing about in boats, eccentric quirky places and enjoy a bit of local history.
If strange and eccentric is your thing, then you'll not go wrong in the imposing Camelot Castle in Tintagel. Perched on the cliffs like a giant sandcastle overlooking the ethereal ruins of the real castle, this is a Victorian station terminus hotel of grand proportions. The station and rail line have long since gone, but the owners of the hotel (none other than John Mappin, heir of Mappin & Webb and his stunning wife Irena from Kazakhstan) have maintained the grandiose Gothic feel of this monstrous building in a recent refurbishment. Beware! The owners and the residential artist Ted Stourton are scientologists ... but don't let it put you off. Other than some gently crazy conversations about Super Power around the fabulous King Arthur's round table in front of a roaring fire (and no, I was neither converted nor felt intimidated), this really is a friendly, quirky find. You can just pop-in for coffee or have the full-blown wedding package, but either way, your dogs and your cats will be as welcome as you are. Oh - and the whole place is stuffed full of Ted's original (in every sense of the word) art work. He may even take you down to the bowels of the castle to show you his lightbox. Honest! It's an advertised option. Don't forget to take the whole thing with a light heart and absolutely make sure you go around Tintagel Castle. It'll hurricane the cobwebs away.
The National Trust owned home of the eccentric Edwardian inventor Otto Overbeck, in Salcombe, Devon. Find the hidden room full of dolls and listen to the "polyphon" (a giant Victorian music box). Best of all, see Otto's invention, the "rejuvinator", designed to renew youth through electric shocks. This quirky place (kids can search for Fred the friendly ghost) is in a beautiful location, on the South West Coastal Path (Prawle Point, three miles walk away, is breathtaking) looking down on Salcombe and its bay. Take time to explore the house's exotic gardens, and to have a well earned drink in Salcombe itself, a charming little port.
A deep, bell-shaped, man-made chalk cave beneath the streets of Royston, believed to date from the 13th Century. It was deliberately sealed and forgotten until its accidental re-discovery. Its long concealment may have a lot to do with the bizarre Christian and pre-Christian imagery carved into the chalk walls - Sheela-na-gigs and Saint Catherine, the Holy Family (or are they?), knights, martyrs, magical creatures. They form a sort of frenzied panorama, their stories linked in ways that modern eyes can no longer see. The cave itself has sinister dells and niches and platforms. Royston was a town of the Knights Templar - it is also the place where Ermine Street and the Icknield Way intersect.
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