Last summer as I was walking west along the Devizes-Newbury stretch of the Kennet and Avon canal, I came across quite a peculiar pub perched on the bank. Situated in the heart of the Wiltshire countryside, overlooked by the White Horse of Alton Barnes, is the Barge Inn: the ‘crop circle centre of the universe’. The walls and ceilings were crammed with an array of pictures and murals of recent crop circles, all appearing within a 10-mile radius of the pub.
The pub is as old as the canal itself and offered a fascinating and charming rest stop with a refreshing pint and an interesting conversation.
The Barge Inn, Honeystreet, Pewsey, Wiltshire
01672 851 705, the-barge-inn.com
Stopping first to fuel up with the fantastic Boatman's Breakfast at the Lock Cafe (01225 868068, thelockinn.co.uk) in Bradford-on-Avon, take a walk through some of Britain's most beautiful countryside on the Kennett & Avon Canal towpath. On the eight-mile trip west to Bathampton, you pass the dramatic Dundas acqueduct (where we watched a nesting kingfisher flash up and down the river) and a bevy of beautiful canal boats. You can hire canoes or bikes half-way along (Bath and Dundas Canal Company, bathcanal.com, 01225 722292) at Brass Knocker Basin, Monkton Combe, but be sure to finish up with a drink in Bathampton at the floating coffee shop, the Raft Cafe Boat, or a hearty lunch on solid ground at The George Inn (01225 425079) nearby.
Bradford on Avon
Just spent a week in this wonderful five-star thatched cottage. Booked it thinking the website probably wouldn't live up to the pictures, but it was way above what we expected. It is newly built but in traditional stone, so it looked really old. When we got inside it had a real "wow factor", pure luxury. The views were to die for and we spent most evenings outside watching the sunset. It also had a webcam trained on the croft hill, and we saw buzzards and eagles from the comfort of our chair, amazing stuff!
Did lots of walking and looked forward to returning to the luxurious bathroom in the cottage. The water came from a private underground spring and my skin felt amazing after a week, due to no chemicals in the water. Ate out at the Three Chimneys and Old School House Restaurant, both fantastic and nearby. Talisker Distillery was also a must-visit, especially the tasting sessions!
I hate to tell anyone of the cottage in case we don't get in next year but thank you to the owners for an amazing week. And thanks, Ally, the owner for getting us a fresh lobster, straight from the sea!
Can't wait to go back!
Isle of Skye
More than a hotel, Selcuklu Evi is a historic Seljuk house in Urgup lovingly restored, arranged in an Oriental style, combining authentic charm with great comfort.
One word: magical.
+90 384 341 7460
Yunak Mah. P.K. 55 - 50400 Urgup
This is a really beautiful little boutique hotel in Vejer de la Frontera. Its in a converted historic house with interior patio courtyard and there's a roof terrace with breathtaking views over to the coast of Africa. The atmosphere of the place is supremely chilled and the rooms, with their mix of Spanish, Moroccan and 50s chic, are stylish and romantic - apparently one of the rooms is renowned for the number of marriage proposals it seems to incite.
Flights are cheap to nearby Jerez and Gibraltar, so you can consider going for a weekend getaway.
During a family weekend by Lake Como, we loved our Sunday morning spent exploring 17th-century Villa Carlotta. Inside, we were impressed by antiquities and preserved rooms. But the biggest treat was outside: exquisite terraced gardens with magnificent views of the lake, room to picnic and play, a hidden valley of ferns and even some enchanting tiny turtles in one of the fountains.
To say that the Italian lakes are picturesque is a mighty understatement, but if you can imagine that the essence of the beauty and romance of all of the lakes could all be condensed into one small town by the side of one of the smallest lakes, then you can begin to conjure up a picture of Orta San Giulio.
Whilst many of the popular resorts on larger lakes suffer traffic problems, cars are banned from the streets of Orta San Giulio, indeed many of the streets are too narrow for anything other than scooters. Day visitors and residents alike have walk down medieval streets and alleyways, which all lead to the main square and the stunning view across to Isola San Giulio.
www.ortasangiulio.com (in Italian)
The Malvern Hills are fantastic for a gentle walk with really satisfying veiws. From the tops - which only take about half an hour or so to get to you have a 360 degree panorama for miles and miles. Then you can walk along the ridge as far as you want. Absolutely brilliant - maximum result for minimum effort. Although if you're not used to walking up hill you will also feel like you've had a good work out.
Malvern Hills, Worcestershire
Great Malvern Station
Every summer we set off from my family home on Lake Como, for excursions on the pre-Alps surrounding the lake, particularly the branch of Lecco up to Bellagio. Our favourite is the walk to Monte S.Primo, a gentle walk through the woodlands and pastures; eager to race to the top and stop to look at the breathtaking view of the whole lake and Alps. The prize is a family Trattoria where we eat local salame and cheeses, brasato stew, deer and polenta, and drink wines from Valtellina. Beautiful!
Leave the car and use the excellent public transport to the Seiseralm - a fairyland plateau of mountains, water and meadows. Great food, hospitalty and suites at the Lamm. At night listen to the witches lob thunderbolts from mountain to mountain!
Stay in Santa Margherita Ligure (which has cheaper accommodation than Portofino itself) and take a scenic boat trip to Portofino. Climb to the top of Castello Brown for the most amazing views of the Marina and bay. Lunch at one of the many open air restaurants on the quay.
We stayed at Dyfiview in early February, as friends of the owners, as they prepared to launch their B&B business.
We were very impressed. Dyfiview B&B has a superb location overlooking Machynlleth and a short walk takes you into the centre where there is a good choice of places to eat and drink.
Our room (Room 1) was very spacious, newly and tastefully decorated and well appointed with a large en-suite bathroom, a very comfortable bed, roomy wardrobes, a flat screen TV, together with tea/coffee making facilities, toiletries etc.
There are fantastic views over the Dovey Valley from the bedroom and from the large dining room and terrace where we also enjoyed watching a wide variety of birds, which were attracted by the bird table and feeders.
Gill and Mike are most welcoming and helpful to visitors: while relatively new to the area they are very enthusiastic about the many opportunities this part of Wales offers. While we were there we enjoyed some local walks and a visit to the nearby Centre for Alternative Technology.
21 Ffordd Mynydd Griffiths
Telephone: 01654 702023
Mobile 07952 370569
Chanced upon this hotel a few years ago, the AC chain is Spanish owned and there are a lot around Spain. This chain nails it. Modern and chic rooms, in Malaga you get a roof top pool, overlooking the old town which is beautiful. Crisp and clean and uber stylish, and, best of all, very reasonable. You get free beer (in bottles) and small snacks all day too, an incredible find, highly recommend.
Villa Sunrise was amazing. For a very reasonable price we got more than in some 4-four hotels we visited during our stay in Croatia. It was a combination of breathtaking views, being able to relax and enjoy the holiday or walk down to the nearest beach.
It is the perfect place to spend a few weeks, taking trips to other parts of the country , relaxing on the beaches just 300m away and exploring the many islands and attractions in the surrounding area.
+385 98 9666 820
Stunning little town. Good food, really friendly people and a fair amount of ex-pats to talk to. Lots to do too. Hillwalking, coastal walks, boat trips, sea kayaking, an ancient amphitheatre to visit. Simply amazing. Even the drive to the town will blow you away.
A short drive along the coast from Kalkan. Or there are plenty of hotels in Kas itself if you fancy a stay. Dalaman Airport is closest.
Without a doubt one of the finest vantage points Istanbul has to offer. We took the free shuttle service from Taksim Square to SantalIstanbul (a former power station, now the Museum of Energy/gallery space on the Golden Horn, www.santralistanbul.com), spent the morning there, then hopped in a dolmus down to Eyup. A cable car brings you up to the shady, hillside cafe. It's a little touristy, but get a good seat and with cay pretty much on tap, you will be well and truly rooted. The Halic (Golden Horn) ferry snakes back via Haskoy. Look out for the partially submerged submarine, an exhibit belonging to the Rahmi M. Koc transport museum.
Pierre Loti Cafe, Eyup
Karyagdi Sok., EYUP
Phone: +90 (212) 581 26 96
Google map: tinyurl.com/ycz2aee
A beautiful and remote coastal region, amazing roads, quiet and great fun for motorbikes and bikes.
There are also really good places to stay or camp, total variety of eateries, really good local seafood, venison and lamb as well as award winning local beers. Add this to stunning views and you have the perfect area for a meeting of bikes ... actually there are quite a few bikers who already come every year!
Tighnabruaich, and Argyll's Secret Coast lie at the end of the Cowal Penninsula, about two hours west of Glasgow. Visit by Bike, sail into the moorings and Portavadie Marina, let the Waverley bring you in style, or the seaplane from Loch Lomond; just come and see for yourself!
Pokhara to Katmandu, and then just ride round Nepal (maybe visit Chitwan, or check out the mountains)
You can do it in a day, it's without a shadow of a doubt one of my favourite parts of a five month motorbike adventure across North India
I arrived in style in Pokhara on my Royal Enfield Bullet, with its head-gasket blowing, and being towed by my Spanish Comrade's older 1972 Enfield! It was raining I had resorted to 'monsoon surfing'- this is the practice of being chased by a vengeful monsoon - and it was dark by the time we found a hostel. We awoke to a balcony with stunning views over the mountain peaks, (ok I lie, it was monsoon, so there was a massive cloud, but it really is perfect the rest of the year.)
Five days of near peace and perfection in Pokhara, both bikes sorted and 100 dollars poorer, we followed the scent of Raju the mechanic to Katmandu, about 200km west and one of the craziest cities in Asia.
Rock music, nightclubs and coffee and a great, friendly atmosphere. However, after five days on my shoe-string budget it proved to be a little too indulgent and expensive for me.
I headed south taking me through Chitwan to Lumbini, the sacred birth site Buddha.
I spent just shy of £2000 over five months, however you could spend this on a holiday, rent a good Enfield from the Hearts & Tears club, eat well and sleep in luxury. Stay at Chitwan nature reserve, climb some mountains, it's all beautiful.
Tip: Spare fuel! Ran out of fuel a few times, Spanish comrade ran out more times than me, biggest bonus was during the fuel strikes.
Rent a scooter (USD10 per day) to see a striking world of culture, history, architecture and astonishing natural beauty that is a sharp contrast to commercialism of Southern Bali resorts. A two day adventure will take you to the old cultural capital, monkey rain forests, dormant volcanoes, azure blue lakes, terraced rice fields, botanic gardens, waterfalls, hot springs, temples: the holiest one, one in the lake and another in the sea and through villages that changed little in the past 50 years – all that while air perfumed with cloves and roast coffee blows in your face. Or take a bike and the guide for USD30 per day – try Teguh or his brother, hell’s angels with heart of gold!
Gobang Tattoo Studio, Poppies Lane 1, Kuta +62 81 353 376 600, firstname.lastname@example.org
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