The locals use the serpantine road winding to the Northern Beaches (Palm Beach, Avalon, Bilgola, Whale Beach) as almost a last deterrent to mainstream tourism. But after a few turns (and really, its no more than that) you come across the most magnificent and laid back part of Sydney. Awesome village life, some spectacular sites, brilliant food from fine dining to a pie and chips. This is one of Australia's best places to visit and you can spend a long time just chilling out, surfing, eating, walking, watching and it's only about 40 mins from the city (with lots inbetween to see along the way). Not many hotels, but great private villas - most with amazing views.
40 mins north of Sydney, over the bridge. Stayed in Kamekura Residences. A beautiful house and pool overlooking Pittwater. www.kamekuraresidences.com
+61 412 953980
This seaside restaurant is the best I have eaten at in 11 years of travelling around Italy. Fresh fish, stunning scenery, it is Sicilian dining at its best. We were taken here by Sicilian friends, a testament to its excellent reputation.
The first thing that hits you is the view. Located overlooking Isola Bella, a lush island nature reserve below the chic resort town of Taormina, Il Gabbiano makes the most of its setting with several beautiful terraces.
Specialising in "frutti di mare" - fruits of the sea - Il Gabbiano serves up anything your seafood-loving stomach desires. We ate king prawns, sardines, squid, and beautiful fresh fish baked over charcoal and filleted at our table, served with fresh lemon, olive oil and herb dressing.
The service is delightfully attentive, but the atmosphere is completely relaxed. It typifies what I love most about coastal Italy: great food that is simple, plentiful and found in unassuming, roadside restaurants which hide stunning seaside views.
Via Nazionale n. 115, Taormina, Isola Bella, Sicily
+39 (0)942 625128
Google map: bit.ly/ImqaR7
It can be easily reached by car from the motorway, or on foot from Taormina centre via the cable car down to the beach. It is located 100m from the cable car station.
Nearest train station: Taormina-Giardini Naxos (taxi or bus to Isola Bella)
This is iconic Australia, plenty of tours on offer. Our one included a cruise on Sydney Harbour after the tour which was good although it made the day very long. If you're only here for a few days it is well worth it.
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.
There are innumerable books written on bike rides in the UK. But for the five million people living in South London there is a secret corridor into winding, empty country lanes, villages and a place that feels far from London.
Dropping down from Crystal Palace to Elmers End and through West Wickham you arrive at Corkscrew Lane, and suddenly its woods, valleys and rolling fields. The Lane takes you right to the top of the majestic North Downs and on a good day you can see 30 miles. You might touch 40 mph on the exhilarating drop to Westerham. Turn left to follow the ancient Pilgrims way as it winds through vineyards on its way to Canterbury, 70 miles away. Then it’s the big cogs to climb the elegantly named Hogtrough Hill (15%), heading north through Cudham and the pretty Downe to Keston. Cutting left down the steep hill by the Norman church takes you past fields and stables until suddenly you arrive back at West Wickham again. The last push up Anerley hill is helped by the thought of the amazing double expresso at Café Paradou on Crystal Palace Parade – the perfect place to nod to the other riders who meet there.
Begin in Crystal Palace, South London
Cafe Paradou: 10 Crystal Palace Parade
London SE19 1UA
+44(0)20 8670 7600
Google map: bit.ly/GSITc8
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/
Mountain bike rides don’t have to feature steepness. Kielder Water is the biggest man-made lake in northern Europe, surrounded by the biggest working forest in England. It’s also the UK’s biggest outdoor art gallery. You’ll never get round all the sculptures in one day on foot. So, hire a bike at Kielder Village and take in art works ranging from a fairytale cabin to a stone hut the shape of a pinecone, before returning to Kielder Castle tearoom for coffee and cake.
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.
Most people will argue that, while in Turkey, you should eat kebabs in all their different incarnations (İskender, döner, şiş, etc) or the pide, or baklava or any of the other amazing foods that Turkey has to offer.
However, if you truly want to get to the heart of Turkey’s crowning glory, Istanbul, there is no better nor faster way than the midye.
Midye, the little stuffed mussels with rice and lemon juice, are ubiquitous in most Turkish cities. But to walk across the Galata Bridge, eating midye, watching the sunrise, is another experience in itself. The rice in the overstuffed morsel, absorbs the saltiness of the sea and the sourness of the lemon, producing a combination much like Istanbul itself, that in the overcrowding of 11 million people and four empires, you can find peace in the calm waters of the Bosphorus, highlighted by the sharpness of the sun.
On this bridge, at this time, with this food, you can feel the overwhelming sense of beauty of the Queen of Cities.
Sold everywhere near the Bosphorus and the Galata Bridge.
Google map: bit.ly/GACD81
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
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