I've travelled to Italy every year since childhood as my father lives in the mountains of Asti. I couldn't believe we happened on yet another beautiful idyll last year. Varigotti is just west of Savona on the Ligurian Coast. It's one of many coastal towns but has no railway station of its own so has managed to hide it's magical beauty from much of the tourist world. There are holidayers but mostly local. We stayed at San Martino campsite in an incredibly reasonably priced chalet where we cooked pasta and ate outside on moonlit wooden tables. The site was in among the trees behind Varigotti. You could walk from the site down a steep path, well worth it for the breathtaking views and to work off all that sumptious Italian food! There are walks to be had to fairy bridges and the caves of Toirano are something to behold. I found this one of my most inspiring trips of all my travels around the globe, it's inspired writings and illustrated worlds I never would've otherwise created.
Località Le Manie, 17029 Varigotti (SV)
Google map: bit.ly/I3EQZr
Serious roadies could cover the 70 miles in under four hours but why rush round this Lochinver-Drumrunie-Ledmore Junction-Kylesku-Drumbeg loop when it can be a leisurely day ride soaking up the stunning landscape with some great out-of-the-saddle climbs. Added bonus is that for the most part, you’re cycling on some of the quietest roads in the UK. Poet Norman MacCaig was inspired by this area. You will be too.
Google map: bit.ly/HgLnSr
If you live in London and only have time for a half-day ride, take a train down to Petersfield and get out on the South Downs Way. A 15 minute ride from the station to Buriton and your tyres will be rolling along the undulating tracks of the latest National Park. Ride from Buriton to South Harting and back for a 10 mile route with spectacular views all the way to the North Downs. Pedal on to Cocking and loop back for a brilliant 25 mile ride through woodland and the chalk-white tracks of the downland fields before catching the train home from Petersfield. Don't forget a camera for the views, some lights just in case and some zip ties for every mechanical eventuality.
This 170 mile circular route dips in and out of the lovely Chiltern Hills, home to chalk downs, red kites and the ancient Ridgeway. What I love about this trail is that you can do a little or the whole lot if you feeling up to it. Hilly, but with wonderful fast downhills, the scenery is lovely, so take a picnic or refuel at one of the many pubs on route.
Mostly on-road, but there are plenty of off-roads tracks to tempt you if you fancy playing under the beech trees.
An immensely popular, 102 mile national trail, that takes you from Winchester in Hampshire to Eastbourne in East Sussex, via the most stunning countryside that the UK has to offer.
We took a three-day cycle on mountain bikes (with front suspension), though the route is suitable for any bike. A mixture of flat country-lanes and more difficult mountain slopes takes in a route used by traders for centuries. If the water-taps along the way do not suit your tastes, there are a number of rider-friendly pubs. Likewise, there are at least six bed and breakfast's for you to choose from before you finish at Beachy Head, which overlooks the English Channel.
This must be one of the most beautiful, varied and satisfying of all cycle routes in Britain. Moderately challenging (at 46.5miles, taking 5-8 hours) for most to be able give it a go, the dramatic seascapes on route are as exhilarating as they are soothing for the soul. There are many opportunities for fuel stops; independent cafe’s, bars with sea views, country pubs, farms selling their wares via an honesty box, are all plentiful on route.
Begin at Penzance train station and head straight along the seafront following signs for Newlyn/Mousehole/Lands End. Climb up through the harbour town of Newlyn (with perfect views across Penzance from here). Through the next harbour town of Mousehole and into the picturesque Lamorna Cove.
Climbing out of Lamorna Cove you head inland turning left at the T junction for Lands End/Porthcurno/St Buryan. As you ride through Boskenna on the B3115 look out for the Tregiffian burial chamber and the perfectly formed Merry Maiden’s stone circle in a passing field. Then turn right, signposted St Buryan. Then turn left, signpost for Logan Rock/Porthcurno/Land’s End.
Climbing out of the valley around Crean you make for Lands End. The visit to the last stop in England is an optional detour. Alternatively, follow signs for Sennan, surfers paradise and one of the loveliest beaches in Britain with dramatic, rugged cliff tops in the backdrop.
The climb out of Sennan and towards St Just is practically a straight road where you can lock out and pick up some real speed. The sea breeze as you whizz along, as refreshing as supping a citron presse on a summer’s day on the banks of the Seine. You're heading for St Just now, passing through the town itself following the B3306 towards Pendeen and Zennor. On route you will pass the now symbolic tin miles dotting the landscape, the Geevor Tin Mine is worthy of a stop.
Pass through Pendeen, continuing on the B3306 straight onto Zennor. Turn right just before Zennor towards Newmill and Penzance. Heading inland following signs for Trythall, Tredinnick/Bodrifty/Ding. The journey has more rural feel to it now as you pass farms, derelict buildings and idyllic Cornish homesteads. The narrow country lanes invite you to slow down and take a more reflective, ponderous tone with your bike. Turn right at the signpost for Tredinnick/Bodrifty, entering moorland and rocky paths. You pass on old engine house close to the road on the right, take a grassy track here. Continue pass houses on the right and onto a well defined track, passing a mine shaft warning sign post. Continue along this track as it swings left in front of another engine house to rejoin the tarmac next to Bosiliack Farm.
Turn left at next T junction, and then head for Newbridge. Then turn right onto the A3071, following signs for St Just/Newbridge. Stay on the road for a mile or so before turning left onto a bridleway just past Jericho Farm on your right. Continue on the bridleway as it descends through farms back onto tarmac. You’ll pass the Carn Euny settlement (inhabited 500BC to 300AD) which contains the best preserved underground chamber in Britain. Admission free and generally open all year.
Turn left at bottom of road (effectively straight on).
Turn right at T junction and on towards Penzance, signposted all the way for the next 5.5 miles home. The final stretch is a chance to unwind along the harbour, St Michael’s Mount visible in the distance, and if you're lucky, the spray from the waves adding to the gentle breeze cooling and refreshing you as you look forward to that well deserved pint to celebrate what has been the most delightful bike ride in a long time.
Begin at Penzance train station, all day parking available and reasonably priced.
Fancy an adventure? Don’t have the time or money to go abroad? You don’t have to. Just get on your bike.
We cycled from Manchester up the Rochdale canal on the Sustrans Route 66 and continued until we met the Route 68, which goes from Derby all the way to Berwick upon Tweed, and we went all the way to Edinburgh.
Mine was a spur of the moment holiday my kit was not ideal. I had a single speed bike, so don’t worry if you think you need perfect equipment, you don’t. What you may lack in bike you can make up for in spirit.
The views throughout the route were always beautiful with ever changing scenery but my favourite areas were the lovely Yorkshire Dales and the wonderfully pretty Northumberland National Park. The route is mostly on quiet roads but also includes towpaths, old railway lines and other 'no car' tracks.
We chose to wild camp the whole way and always found a spot, careful to leave the area as we found it. We treated ourselves to a hot shower in a hostel and a cold beer in a pub in Edinburgh and then got the train back to Manchester. A fantastic adventure for not a lot of money and back at home in seven days.
It is clearly marked with signs all the way or you can buy a map. Of course you don’t have to do it all, just pick a section and start pedalling.
Although the Crab and Winkle line (Canterbury to Whitstable) is a lovely route, I much prefer the mainly traffic-free and flat Viking Way along the coast. Join it at Herne Bay and cycle all the way to Margate, passing through marsh land, having a sandwich on one of the sweeping sandy beaches, and finishing with a cup of tea at the amazing Shell Grotto – NB there’s no cycle parking directly outside the Grotto. Both Herne Bay and Margate are on the same train line - perfect for a linear route like this.
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/
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
The "Toy Train" was the first to be built of its kind, and is still considered by UNESCO to be 'the most outstanding example of a hill passenger railway' in the world.
Rather than taking the full bum-numbing eight hour journey from New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling, I recommend the half day "Joy Ride", a comfortable return journey from Darjeeling to Ghum. We were lucky to purchase a ticket for the same day, but if it's a busy time you may need to book in advance. The 83km journey costs 360rupees each and includes entry to the railway museum in Ghum.
The windows in the first class carriage were enormous, giving us close up views of the mountain on one side and the valley on the other.
We stopped at Batasia Loop, where we were suitably humbled by the memorial to the Gorkha soldier and stunned by the view of Kanchenjunga, India's highest mountain (the third highest in the world).
When we arrived in Ghum it was swathed in a blanket of cloud, illustrating the reason for its nickname of “Gloom”.
We strolled through the small railway museum, and learned all about the history of the mountain railway system. When the driver was happy with the train's health we all piled back into the airy carriage and with another surge of steam, hoots, hisses and chug-a-lugs left Ghum, Ghoom or Gloom.
Dotted around the bays and islands of Göcek Bay are a number of family-owned restaurants which flourish during the tourist season. What makes the Yat Muğla Restaurant in Boynuzbükü special is that despite the area being a yachtsman's paradise, you don't have to be on a boat to reach it. Set in the shade of a protected forest of aromatic Oriental Sweetgum (Liquidambar orientalis), and caught between two natural spring water streams, the restaurant is an idyllic place to while away a long lunch of fresh fish, salads, kebaps and köfte. Run by Ali Döndar's family in the summer (they keep sheep and fish in the winter), all the generations get involved in making the area a welcoming and relaxing place to stay. I defy your mouth not to water at the smell of home-made flat bread being cooked.
Boynuzbükü, Muğla Province
+90(0)542 634 09 75
By boat: Skopea Limani (Göcek Bay) 36°42.7′N, 28°54.4′E
By car: the bay is at the end of a gravel road from the Tersakan turning off the Dalaman -Fethiye highway.
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.
Beg, borrow or steal a boat somewhere between Bodrum and Marmaris, because that's the only way you can get to the fabulous wild bay of Bosuk Buku and the ancient ruins of Loryma. You'll know you've arrived when the skipper gently nudges the boat through the narrowest of entrances, beneath the ancient battlements running along the spine of the boulder-strewn headland.
There are no houses or hotels in the bay, but a couple of enterprising local families from nearby villages have set up restaurants. They get their power from antediluvian generators and bring water in by boat every day. The best of these is the eccentric Sailors House in the north western corner. Serving the best mezzes in the whole of Turkey (well, at least the best we found in the four years we lived around the southern coast) Ali, with his son Mustapha, go to great lengths to make your stay memorable. Sublime food, excellent hospitality and ad hoc entertainment combine to make every visit unique.
Nr Bozukkale, Bosuk Buku, Muğla, Turkey
Lon: 028° 01 5 E
Lat: 36° 34 0 N
Beautiful Fethiye is set in a spectacular bay, on the edge of the Lycian coast. With the wild snow-capped Taurus mountains as a backdrop it is one of the dreamiest places to spend the winter. On the harbour, just in front of the ancient theatre by the marina, is Fethiye's best local restaurant. Unlike the fish market and other harbour-side restaurants frequented by Fethiye's summer tourists, Ocakbaşı Iskele stays open all year round. The local community – and holiday makers who want authentic Turkish dishes made from local produce – come here for its tasty meat dishes and the morning's catch. You can sit outside in the summer and watch turtles swimming in the harbour, or go inside where the chef will cook tender şiş kebaps in front of you.
Cheaper than the average over-priced restaurants in most Turkish sea resorts, the best mezzes in town begin at 4TL for the unmissable aubergine salad. Wines are not cheap (but then they are not cheap anywhere in Turkey) and at 7TL for a glass it is better value to go for a bottle. Beer is 5TL.
In the winter they close the floor to ceiling windows and light the log fire, creating a simply perfect atmosphere to while away the cold, dark evenings over coffee and whatever else tickles your fancy. We spent many happy hours here during our stay from October to April lingering over a rakı or two.
Corner of Fevzi Cakmak Cad,
(By the marina, overlooking the harbour)
(Nr Telmessos Ancient Theatre)
+90 (252) 614 94 23
Unspoilt Gümüşlük, stubbornly refusing to allow any concrete tourist developments within its tiny bay, is the prettiest fishing village on the Bodrum peninsular. And just a short walk away, hidden along the road towards Yalıkavak, is Limon Café, the region's most picturesque restaurant. From the road you walk through an unprepossessing series of shacks, past the art shop and kitchen through to the outside bar and terraced garden. Under the sky an assortment of wooden tables, chairs and sofas sit higgledy-piggledy, lit with candles or low lights, and decorated with home-made ceramics. Oversized cushions artfully tumble down the hill, inviting you to lounge and admire the view across the ruins of ancient Myndos. The food, often flavoured with lemons, is predictably fresh, scrumptious and authentic. Try the home-made lemonade or lemon cocktails before you eat. It is all made just that bit more magical by the nightly spectacular sunsets over the Aegean.
Balik ekmek (fish bread). A large fried fish sandwich with salad, pickled chillies and lemon juice all washed down with a glass of Ayran (refreshing salted yoghurt drink) while you soak up the sun and the view of the bay or the natural aquariam in the river and watch the world go by. About £4 for two. Perfect.
A one-track train, the Feve, runs along the coast of Asturias, Spain’s northern shore. From a base in Llanes you can ride it west to Villahermosa and ramble back east, mostly on a coast path. Pass a beach in a field where a 75-metre blowhole through the rocks feeds a crater-like tidal pool, then climb through woodland to the clifftop. Eastward, Biscay’s waves chew the feet of the Picos mountains, leaving bite-mark coves and rocky crumbs as outcrops in the sea.
Behind you – and you nearly miss it, the view ahead is so beguiling – is the perfect lunch spot.
On a whole coastline of best beaches, Playa de Torimbia is the best of all (El Pais even puts it among the finest in all Spain). It’s a half-mile curve of gold held by sheer cliffs; skinny-dipping normal but not compulsory; good Atlantic surf. The only building is a ramshackle bar with paella, raciones, beer and a view of this whole sequestered Eden.
The bar makes the beach, the beach makes the bar; there’s nothing else to intervene. That’s a winning combination.
Google map: bit.ly/AxVDMA
Nearest village - Niembro.
There is a car park high on the cliff at eastern end of the bay, with a steep walk down.
The bar is at the western end.
For the train use Villahermosa, Posada or Poo stations - and enjoy the walk.
Istanbul's skyline is magical at night and one of the best places to enjoy it is from the restaurant on the rooftop of the Adamar Hotel in Sultanahmet. Just a stone's throw from the Blue Mosque and Aya Sofia, the rooftop terrace has a 360 degree panoramic view, great food and a romantic atmosphere. The Bosphorus Bridge twinkles with ever-changing colours, the commercial district sparkles with modern skyscrapers, and the mosques and minarets glow with golden light. High above the rooftops, the sounds of the muezzins' evening calls to prayer echo and collide in the night sky around you.
And If the weather is less than kind, there is an indoor restaurant on the floor below with equally good views.
The National Protectorate closest to Cairo is on the fringes of the southern city suburb of Maadi, built during the 1920s and now home to a large number of expats. Wadi Degla is an ancient river bed that was gouged out of the rock 60 million years ago, leaving marine fossils and dried waterfalls behind in this desert landscape.
Walk between the high cliffs along the flat valley bed, or take a quick scramble up the right-hand side of the Wadi just after the gate. From the top of the cliffs you get views over the southern and eastern parts of the city, stretching over to the pyramids. At the weekend you’ll share Egypt’s ‘Grand Canyon’ with walkers, joggers and picnicking families.
Get the Metro to El Maadi station and then take a taxi. Ask for Wadi Degla in Zahraa el Maadi. You may need to specify you want the Protectorate, as there is a sporting club housing an Egyptian premiership football team called Wadi Degla as well! Look out for the brown signs to follow when you are on the Autostraad.
Wadi Degla costs 5LE to enter and is open from sunrise to sunset. Bring plenty of bottled water, and don’t forget your binoculars.
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