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.
Edinburgh is UNESCO's first world city of literature. Everyone from Burns to Stevenson and Conan Doyle to Ian Rankin lived or wrote here, and a walk with a drink is the best way to find out about them. The Edinburgh Book Lovers' Tour takes you through the Old Town at night, weaving from pub to pub telling stories and reciting extracts. If you're a particular fan of just one grumpy detective, Rebus Tours will take you to the scenes of some of Britain's best-selling crime novels.
Underneath Edge Hill, a quiet district of Liverpool, lie the Williamson Tunnels. A retired tobacco merchant called Joseph Williamson paid to have them dug in the early 1800s, and nobody knows why. He might have been trying to create honest work for the unemployed, he might have been digging a bunker in which he could sit out Armageddon. Visitors can take a guided tour through a section of the vast complex – more tunnels are still being rediscovered.
The Water of Leith is Edinburgh's secret river, winding a 12 mile path from the outer suburb of Balerno right through the heart of the City until it emerges near the docked Royal Yacht Britannia. If you pick up the trail behind the National Gallery of Modern Art then the last few miles are enlivened by spotting five life-sized Anthony Gormley figures who stand in the river bed.
Well signposted nearby, easiest found behind the National Gallery of Modern Art
24 Lanark Road, Edinburgh, Midlothian EH14 1TQ
+44(0)131 455 7367
Google map: bit.ly/p2NMgS
Buy a djellaba, a traditional, hooded robe. My husband bought a black one, charmed into believing he looked, “Like a typical Arab,” in it. It’s been a wonderful dressing gown for the last 12 years. The hood keeps out drafts and means it makes an ideal monk or Darth Vader costume for scaring children at Halloween.
In the souk in Marrakech, and most other North African souks.
Google map: bit.ly/mbyDKc
Chanonry Point on Scotland's Moray Firth is the most reliable spot in the UK for seeing bottlenose dolphins. Between June and August the supply of salmon they feed on increases and they come to fish and play as the tide comes in. You won't need any special equipment or massive long-lensed cameras; just stand on the shore and enjoy the show.
Between Fortrose and Rosemarkie on the Black Isle, north of Inverness. There is parking near the point (though it can get busy) and then it's a short walk to the lighthouse.
Google map: bit.ly/irSv8P
At the Alnwick Garden you can sway across the wooden bridge to Britain's largest treehouse; find out how medieval monks purged themselves on bulbs in the poison garden; admire the thousands of matching purple tulips growing beneath the cherry blossom; get enjoyably soaked by the water sculptures, and still have time to pop back to the castle where you might meet Hagrid and Dumbledore. Tickets last for, and happily fill, two consecutive days and allow you back into Alnwick town for lunch if you don't want to eat in the garden's own restaurant.
Before she bought Airlie house, owner Jacquie spent years travelling on business and finding out what works and what doesn’t, so the mirrors are at the right height for women to use and there are wine glasses to borrow in the sitting room. What really makes Airlie unusual is that one room is fully wheelchair accessible while still being as stylish as all the others, and you can even bring your dog. The house is immaculate, the breakfast large and the beautiful scenery of the Trossachs is right on the doorstep.
Tony and Olga really make guests feel at home at Strumhor, just outside Oban. As well as the huge breakfasts, guests can also arrange to have dinner in the house. You can sit in the conservatory just watching the Falls of Lora below, or if you’re feeling energetic Tony can take you out canoeing. When we asked one night if it was their open fire we were sitting in front of after our day out exploring he said, “Yes, but on Monday you’ll be at work and I’ll still be here.” Lucky him.
The first thing you see as you enter Edinburgh’s Dean Gallery is Eduardo Paolozzi’s huge Vulcan, a seven metre high Roman fire god made of multi-faceted metal striding among the café tables. The gallery also has a recreation of Paolozzi’s studio: you can stand for hours spotting all the little toys and bits of junk he used for inspiration. There’s an excellent programme of temporary exhibitions too, and Scotland’s best brownie in the café.
At Athole House, just a few minutes walk from the centre of Bath, owner Wolfgang makes his own muesli to Bircher's original Swiss recipe. The bread is home made every day too, as are the fruit salad and the buttermilk pancakes. We stayed for three days and ate so well each morning that we never needed food again until five in the afternoon.
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