I recently saw an unbelievable offer for a Sunday night break in Northamptonshire and thought I would treat my husband to a night away. I was trying to re-invent the Sunday evening in our household as being fun rather than suffering going back to work blues! The offer was just £60 bed and breakfast per room and included a three course dinner on the Sunday evening for two! The house and surroundings are beautiful; you can see why it’s so popular for weddings - there is a wonderful view of the fantastic countryside from the hotel. The rooms were charmingly traditional, with beamed ceilings and lead lined windows. Definitely a place to go for a romantic weekend or Sunday night away!
Please get out beyond the shopping malls (which aren't even that cheap these days - HKers all go to Shenzhen!) - the new territories are a superb, rich, diverse habitat full of cultural heritage.
This is a 9.5-acre luxury eco-resort that is 450 feet up a volcano overlooking the Caribbean Sea. 10 mins from the town of Portsmouth and 5 mins from the beach.
A fresh water river runs along one side that has amazing swim holes and mini waterfalls. You can walk all the way up the river to its source.
The London couple that own it have built the most incredibly stylish and elegant wooden houses from trees from the land. The best time to be there is at sunset when the glow hits the Red Cedar of the houses and set them on visual fire.
The 320 degree views from the decks take in Morne Aux Diables to the French Islands of Les Saintes and Guadeloupe. The furniture that has not been made on site is super chic Roche-Bobois. This resort is unspoiled with only one access road and foot paths through the layers of woodland, from sub-tropical to mini forest higher up.
The houses are cool and very spacious with full kitchens and private bathrooms. They have huge extra-king sized water beds that add to the nature experience.
They are just opened so have a really good cheap deal at the moment. The cheapest in the area and best value on the island.
The resort is off grid & uses filtered rainwater.
Take time out from the whirl of Istanbul's Grand Bazaar by stepping out on to its beautiful rooftop, and admiring the rows of domes from above. Climb the stairs in the courtyard opposite Cebeci Han.
Secondly, a totally authentic and cheap place for late breakfast or lunch in the bazaar is Onur Pilic (meaning "Honour Chicken"). This hole-in-the-wall serves delicious "menemen", scrambled eggs with tomato, cheese and green peppers served with French bread. Even better - ask for slices of chicken from the doner above to be placed on top, add chili flakes and enjoy.
Cebeci Han, Grand Bazaar.
Onur Pilic, Kavaflar Sokak 49, Grand Bazaar.
Google maps: bit.ly/9FKauZ
Widely available from tourist offices in Tartu and the region in a number of languages including English, the 2.5 hour self-guided walking tour takes in all the main sites with just the right amount of information about each stop.
Free leaflet from Tourist Information in Tartu and elsewhere in Estonia.
The distinctive red sandstone ruin of Edzell Castle in Angus is perfect for exploring, but the real treasure is finding an Italian Renaissance garden nestling at the foot of a Scottish glen. This walled garden or pleasance was originally built in 1604. Triangular beds of dwarf box hedging create amazingly intricate designs while the wall is home to 16th century German carvings using heraldic and symbolic imagery, plus flower-filled recesses. You won’t meet one of the former guests – Mary Queen of Scots – but will you encounter the ghost of the White Lady?
Castell y Bere is a Welsh castle built by Llewellyn the Great in around 1221. It was besieged by the English in 1283 then later abandoned. It is a fabulous ruin with remains of towers, walls and a barbican. It is like walking back in time when you walk up the path to the castle entrance. The views from the towers are peaceful green hillsides that rise to heights above the castle. It is easily accessible, completely free and often deserted.
A childhood favourite, Carreg Cennen Castle is unique in Wales as it is the only castle built by the Welsh, for the Welsh. The other castles you are likely to recognise and visit west of the border were instruments of subjugation, used by English (or, more accurately, Norman) rulers to keep the Welsh under control.
Carreg Cennen is all the more interesting because of its isolation and spectacular location, perched on a ridge in the remote west of the Brecon Beacons national park, its romantic setting has inspired generations of artists, including Turner.
Approached through a farmyard, you will need decent shoes for the steep path and, unusually, a torch. The latter is necessary to follow the tunnel which starts within the castle walls and descends deep into the cold, wet rock below - a spooky climax to the visit for children and grown-ups, where it is believed prisoners were held captive for months on end in the pitch black.
Once you step, blinking, back into the daylight, the downhill trek will return you to the farm and car park where lunch, snacks and cream teas can be bought.
Nearest village is Trapp. Nearest station is Ffairfach on the Swansea - Shrewsbury line. Llandeilo, Carmarthen and Swansea are all 20-45 minutes away.
01558 822291, carregcennencastle.com
Adults £3.70, children 5-16 £3.30
Google map: tinyurl.com/3yznou3
A great walk from Covadonga to the valley of Orandi and back. Most tourists in the summer take the buses from the lower car parks to the lakes, We decided to take a different walk in the Vega de Orandi. Park your car in one of the car parks very near Covadonga, before 11 am as it gets very busy.
On the walk we never met a single soul except for some friendly local cows, beautiful scenery and fresh mountain streams. At the top we had a picnic and fantastic views of the Picos mountain range.
A great family day out in this beautiful region of Spain.
Barretos is a friendly small Portuguese village virtually untouched by time. A place of olive groves, cork oak trees, ancient pathways and unique medieval stone round houses called choças, where in the last century families still lived.
It is our home from home, where we can slow down, relax, listen to the birds sing, sheep bells clan and rise to the beautiful Alentejo morning light.
The wonderful views are to Marvão, an imposing castle and whitewashed town perched on a hill and Castelo de Vide with its Gothic doorways, famous Jewish quarter and castle. Reminders of the arduous battles and life of the past, now places of peace and beauty.
Barretos, a place where we always regret leaving and count the days until the next stay.
The Camargue, a triangular area of flat land between Arles and the Mediterranean coast, is western Europe's most expansive river delta.
It is a dreamscape of ever changing light and mesmerisingly shifting perspectives, comprising shallow lagoons, pastures, salt marshes, dunes, beaches, and saline lakes (called étangs in the Languedoc). It is best explored on horseback or by bicycle.
The area is famous for its Camargue black bulls; the indigenous Camargue white horses; and spectacular flocks of pink flamingos.
The Camargue bulls have been bred for Course Camarguise, a traditional sport where young rasateurs chase a Camargue bull and compete to remove the cockade or rosettes pinned between its horns.
The Camargue horses, one of the oldest breeds in the world, are coloured dark brown or black at birth, but turn white after about three years. Used in rounding up Camargue bulls, they are particularly suited to surviving in the wild.
"I heard a sudden harmony of hooves,
And, turning, saw afar
A hundred snowy horses unconfined,
The silver runaways of Neptune's car
Racing, spray-curled, like waves before the wind."
From 'Horses on the Camargue'
by Roy Campbell
A fantastic family run restaurant, reasonably priced excellent food with a great view. Very helpful staff, lovely feel to it. The best food ever tasted on the Cote d'Azur. It's off the beaten track but well worth the visit. The village is lovely too so you can do some sightseeing and artist and celeb spotting while you're there.
There are not many family friendly attractions in the UK that allow pet dogs within their grounds, but Beeston Castle in Tarporley, Cheshire is one exception.
As a tight knit family unit, we love (to try) and incorporate our canine family member into any planned days out, but alas most things which include an entrance fee normally exclude dogs ( for good reason of course in many cases).
So it's a delight to find one which welcomes dogs (on a lead).
Beeston castle is a picturesque attraction with a real family friendly feeling.
It's super to explore on a fine day and picnics are welcome, a great addition to any family day out, and of course so much cheaper than paying to dine out.
The pretty sloping grounds often host reenactments and interactive demonstrations for the children. Along side this there are woodlands and bat caves to discover and explore.
The walk up to the castle summit is wonderful, but very steep in part, however the buggy pushers did not seem to falter!
At the top of this "Castle of Rock", the views are incredible and on a clear day no less that eight counties can be seen, from the Pennines to the Welsh mountains.
As a budding photographer, my husband was in his element and the children loved tearing around while the adults marvelled at the view.
The admission price is reasonable enough when you consider the price of some family outings, around £16 for a family of four. It's also worth noting that if you sign up to become an English Heritage member for a year, not only are many places free of charge thereafter to enter, but they will also refund the cost of the entrance fee paid on the day.
We all know that serendipity has its part to play in life, and this was particularly true in finding Godolphin House near Helston in Cornwall. What a great survey of nearly 800 years of English history, starting with a fortune made in tin mining, and a gradual move into the English aristocracy. Backing the losing side in the civil war, but making it back after the Restoration is just a part of the story. The house and other buildings suffered some benign neglect in more recent years, but are now being renovated by the National Trust. The "hard hat" tour is the best way of absorbing all that history. Follow that with a walk up Godolphin hill for a view to the Atlantic in the North, the Bristol Channel in the south and everything in between including tin mines and the Goonhilly aerials.
Three lakes and two passes all by local bus.
Starting and finishing at Keswick bus station, a local bus gives magnificent views of Derwentwater from above, and lakeside views of Buttermere and Crummock together with the dramatic scenery of Honister Pass and the more friendly Whinlatter Pass. By breaking your journey at the numerous beauty spots en route you can have nearly a full day out or if time is short just sit in and get a snaphshot of real Lakeland in an hour and a half! Buses about two hourly in each direction. ( And no parking problems!)
A scenic tram trip to the top of the island, Coca-Cola, vegetarian food and serenity - all for a reasonable price.
From Islay, island of peaty malts and soft woven tweeds, take the Calmac ferry to Colonsay. At low tide, walk across the Strand to the mystical priory of Oronsay, listening for the mournful cry of the corncrake as you go. Feast on local seafood - the oysters here and on Islay are incredible - at the Colonsay hotel, and take the return ferry - you'll get the same views as the Queen will be getting this week from Hebridean Princess.
Southern Hebrides, via Calmac ferries from Kennacraig in Argyll. Accessible from Glasgow by dedicated bus.
Isle of Colonsay, Argyll, PA61 7YU
01951 200 316 or 312
Google map: tinyurl.com/3289hfk
It may not be the warmest place around, but for sheer grandeur of scenery, there's little to beat Skye. Dark, muscular mountains, rising vertically from frothy waters, hauntingly beautiful drives along precipitous coastlines, skies that darken and light up at the will of a wickedly fierce wind. This is a land where you feel Mother Earth is on testosterone - it' s butch alright, but very, very beautiful. With wonderful accomodations (choose from delightfully homely B&B's, hostels and charming, boutique hotels) and great grub (as vegetarians our options were limited to wholesome soups and deliciously creamy jacket-potatoes, but sea-food lovers, I'm assured, are in for a feast), crumbling castles perched on glorious cliff-tops, there's really no reason to go to New Zealand to admire landscapes that haven't changed a jot since the last ice age. Travel to Skye by train (nearest stations - Kyle of Lochalsh, Mallaig or Inverness) after which a choice of bus/ferry will zip you across to the (in my opinion) most beautiful spot on earth.
Take the (free) Staten Island ferry and go to a baseball game. The Staten Island Yankees ballpark is an easy walk from the ferry terminal. For $16 you get over two hours' sport and fun - we laughed for the whole event (3rd base seating is recommended). The sight of men trying to get into frozen t-shirts between innings will stay with us.
Other top tips for NYC:
Travel from JFK - for parties of three or more take a yellow cab ($55ish to your hotel door).
Breakfast - Grand Central Station
Lunch/Dinner - Whole Foods market, excellent value and choice (avoid busy 6pm - 7pm period) 10 Columbus Circle, basement of Time Warner Center. Very convenient for Central Park.
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