... and leave the train at Pisa Central. From the station walk towards the river and cross the Arno by Ponte di Mezzo. Explore the narrow streets and squares of this historic university town. Eventually you will arrive at the Leaning Tower in the Piazza dei Miracoli (Cathedral Square). Make sure that you walk back to the station exploring a different route – there’s so much more to discover than the buildings close to the Tower (which is all that you are likely to see if you book on an organised excursion).
From the main car park there are a variety of routes that take in paths through woodland, moorland along with the banks of reservoirs and streams. The simplest is a circuit of Jumbles Reservoir (just under two miles). But this can be extended to a route which leads up to the B6391 and then passes Turton Tower (a listed building dating back to the 1400s – open to the public). The track continues round moorland moorland and drops down to Turton and Entwistle Reservoir, which you can walk round, or just cross the dam and walk up to the railway hamlet of Entwistle. From here it’s a short walk through woodland to Wayoh Reservoir. The path then leads to Edgworth from where it’s a stroll along the road through Turton Bottoms and then a woodland track back to Jumbles Reservoir.
Refreshments are available from a kiosk by the car park, from Turton Tower (during opening days) and from pubs at Entwsitle and Edgworth.
You must book a room with a view of the dale. The spectacular view alone would be enough to make this pub a contender for the best in Britain. On our first visit we only stopped for a drink in the beer garden – but then couldn’t resist the homemade soup. Since then we have returned a number of times and stayed overnight. We’ve never yet been disappointed with the food, drink or the welcome.
This is a walk with a bit of everything: woodland, waterfalls, open fells fantastic views – and a pub with open fires at the half way point! Leave Ambleside by walking through the woods by Stockghyll waterfalls. Emerge from the woods to climb Wansfell Pike and then descend to Troutbeck. To return directly to Ambleside turn right – but if you want refreshment turn left and walk along the road to the Mortal Man. From the pub return along the road, pass where you joined the road and then follow a footpath on the right by the Post Office. This path leads over the shoulder of the fell and through Skelghyll Woods. It’s worth diverting to the viewpoint at Jenkin Crag, before descending to the road between Waterhead and Ambleside.
This is a truly welcoming pub – we’ve visited in autumn when the open fires provided much needed warmth after a day on the fells. Our last visit was earlier this summer, when the splendid garden proved a sun trap (yes we were there on one of the few days the sun shone this summer.) The bar area is made up of three small, cosy rooms and there is a good choice of refreshment – in both food and drink.
The gardens of Chatsworth House must be ranked among the most magnificent in Britain. It's worth a visit just to see the water features (though there is much more): the Cascade has been voted the best water feature in any garden in Britain; the Emperor Fountain was the highest in the world when it was constructed; on a smaller scale, the Willow Tree Fountain can't fail to amuse (it reputedly amused the young Princess Victoria). There is a choice of free, downloadable guides or you can join a guided tour.
For me the highlight of Catalonia is a person – or perhaps the places he created. Antoni Gaudi’s masterpiece is usually considered to be Barcelona Cathedral, Sagrada Familia. But I prefer his more human scale creations: the Park Güell and the Casa Milà were the highlights of our visit to Barcelona. The former is a wonderful garden built on a hillside, providing splendid panoramic views of Barcelona. Within the garden are several intriguing structures and sculptures designed by Gaudi, who lived in a house by the park entrance (now a museum). Casa Milà is an amazing apartment block, constructed without a single straight line. The public are admitted to much of the building and on to the roof terrace – the high point of a visit in more senses than one.
There are spectacular views from the elegant lakeside promenade to the Borromean Islands while the restaurants and bars have a more relaxed, less “touristy” atmosphere than the larger resorts on Lake Maggiore. Baveno may not be as famous or as fashionable as its larger neighbour, Stresa – it’s probably as well known for the red granite quarried behind the town as for tourism, but it was good enough for both Queen Victoria to stay and as the destination for Winston Churchill’s honeymoon. It’s also an ideal centre for exploring the lake, either to visit the nearby islands or to sail to the Swiss towns at the north of the lake.
We never expected to find any refreshments on our circular walk from Stainforth. The map showed that Feizor was the largest settlement that we passed through: but it was just a hamlet, with a cluster of buildings quite literally at the end of the road. We weren’t surprised that there was no pub marked on the map: there was no church, chapel or even a telephone box. We were surprised when the footpath emerged opposite something like an oasis. Elaine’s Tearooms came as a complete surprise. A little more research on the web before the walk would have showed that Feizor sits across the Pennine Bridleway – a very well used route for cyclists – and the tearooms provide a very popular refreshment stop. But this is no “transport café” for cyclists. Yes it caters for mud-caked customers but the quality and choice of cakes on offer would do justice to the most upmarket establishment.
Home Barn, Feizor, North Yorkshire, LA2 8DF +44(0)1729 824114
Google map: bit.ly/KJBlXl
Preston’s Avenham Park has been the scene for Easter egg rolling for well over a century. Last year was the first time we had visited this event, and couldn’t believe the huge numbers of people that it attracted. This year’s Easter Monday event promises to be bigger and better than ever as it coincides with the Preston Guild celebrations. From mid morning until late afternoon there will be mass egg rolling down the grassy hill on the hour every hour. Between egg rolling sessions there will be a variety of entertainment, including an Easter bonnet competition, music, fairground rides and plenty of other family friendly activities.
The Camel Trail has nothing whatsoever to do with the animals that you might find crossing the Sahara. It’s a cycle trail along a disused railway track running alongside the River Camel in Cornwall (Wikipedia says that the name comes from the Cornish language and means, “the crooked one.”)
It’s a good few years since we pedalled the five miles to Padstow along the trail from Wadebridge. However it was the highlight of our camping holiday in Cornwall. Our daughters were at the upper end of primary school and the flat ride beside the estuary provided a day without the constant cries of, “What shall we do next?” There was plenty to see along the way and Padstow itself provided lots of choice for refreshment (along with a ferry trip across the estuary and a short spell on the beach).
We hired our bikes from:
Download a leaflet from:
Google map: bit.ly/H3qOr6
The Peak District is a great place for flat, family cycle trails, with a number of disused railways having been converted to multi-use trails. The most exciting has to be the Monsal Trail, with its recently (2011) reopened tunnels. The trail runs for 8½ miles between Blackwell Mill and Bakewell following the course of the delightful River Wye. There are three car parks at former stations where you can also hire bikes (if you don’t take your own). There is a further car park just off the A6 at Wyedale, linked to the western end of trail by a bridleway (no cycle hire here). As well as taking you through the six tunnels, you cycle through deep limestone cuttings, along high hillsides with splendid views of the river and former mill buildings. Bridges carry the trail across the river a number of times – with the most spectacular crossing being the Monsal Head Viaduct. Between the Litton and Cressbrook tunnels there is a listening post which allows you to listen to, “Monsal Memories,” a series of six podcasts covering aspects of the railway’s history (these can also be downloaded from the link below).
All of the Borromean Islands are magical – but Isolo Bella is the crowning glory. The Borromean family employed only the most accomplished architects and gardeners to transform a rocky crag into the setting for a magnificent Baroque palace and Italianate gardens. A visit will provide a taste of how an aristocratic Italian family lived in the 17th century.
As well as admiring the grand architecture and decoration, the palace contains a wealth of treasure including valuable paintings, sculptures, musical instruments, Flemish tapestries and gilded ornaments. However, on our visit we were most fascinated by the collection of marionettes and the grottos on the lowest floor. The audio guide was very entertaining and informative.
We didn’t really do the gardens justice on our visit, as it was pouring with rain, however we did brave the rain to admire the terraces and the Giardino dell’Amore.
Castlefield in Manchester is a great starting point for waterside walks in Manchester. It’s across the road from Manchester Science and Industry Museum, an exciting place to visit even before you start walking! Follow the Bridgewater Canal south west as far as Old Trafford (where a stadium tour is available), and then walk across to the Manchester Ship Canal. On the Trafford side there is the Imperial War Museum, or cross the footbridge to visit the Lowry Gallery and theatre complex (and outlet shopping mall). If you don’t want to walk back, you can always take the tram. In the other direction from Castlefield, follow the Rochdale Canal to walk under central Manchester’s busiest streets whilst watching barges negotiate locks. There is plenty of choice for refreshment with the bars and restaurants at Deansgate Locks and along Canal Street. At Piccadilly Basin you can either return to Castlefield by walking through the city centre, visiting museums, art galleries (or shops) along the way – or continue walking along the towpaths of either the Rochdale Canal or the Manchester and Ashton Under Lyne Canal. The latter leads to Manchester’s other football stadium.
Museum of Science and Industry:
Liverpool Road, Castlefield, Manchester, M3 4FP
+44(0)161 832 2244
Google map: bit.ly/qiM1Hu
The Lowry, Pier 8, Salford Quays, M50 3AZ
+44(0)843 208 6000
Google map: bit.ly/oTOCEe
Imperial War Museum North
The Quays, Trafford Wharf Road, Manchester M17 1TZ
+ 44 (0) 161 836 4000
Google map: bit.ly/pDppEq
This isn’t a tip for one place – but rather for a whole host of them! There are many National Trust properties which are close to motorways or major routes. We have used many of them as midday stop-offs on long journeys. There is usually a refreshment room with a choice of freshly prepared food, and often an opportunity to stretch your legs exploring grounds or parkland (sometimes without an admission charge).
The property we have used most (as it was en route to visit one of our daughters) is Clumber Park, just off the A1 in Nottinghamshire. It really offers a much more civilised break than that offered by Blyth services, a few miles north on the A1M: lovely landscaped parklands and lake, a restaurant which uses food grown in the walled garden – even an opportunity to hire bicycles (if you really want to blow away the cobwebs). There is also the chance of a surprise – we once arrived on a Saturday to find a Georgian re-enactment in full swing.
Before planning a long journey we always take a look at the map on the Trust website to see if there’s a property close to our route. The disadvantage – well Trust properties aren’t open 24 hours, 7 days per week – though the restaurant at Clumber is open every day except December 25th from at least 10am to 4pm.
Not a gallery in the accepted sense, nevertheless a Georgian square in Edinburgh's New Town has been transformed into an outdoor gallery displaying amazing, giant sized natural history photographs. The exhibition is part of the city’s Science Festival and runs until May 1st. Many more people were admiring the work displayed in this setting than I’ve seen visiting more conventional galleries.
Staying in a self-catering apartment in Barcelona? The tapas bars may be tempting, but we were even more tempted by the variety and quality of the food on sale at this vibrant market. Being on the coast there is a wide selection of fresh fish and sea food, as well as meats, chorizo and other sausages, fruit and vegetables, herbs and spices – in fact just about every type of food imaginable. It’s easy to find, about half way along Las Ramblas, the most famous street in the city. And once you’ve found it you’re bound to be tempted to buy some of the mouth watering food on offer.
There are a wide variety of routes which can be followed from the small car park near Hartsop – from challenging hikes over the high fells to gentle strolls around the lake. We chose a short, easy walk that took us along the beck to the western shore of Brotherswater. At the end of the lake the field paths led to the Brotherswater Inn, where we enjoyed warming soup and bread rolls (next time we visit here we won’t pack sandwiches: we’ll enjoy something more substantial from the bar menu). We then followed the eastern shore of the lake (the path isn’t marked on the map and is easy to miss) before crossing the road to follow the path to Hartsop. From here we walked up the fellside, before dropping back to the stream, which we crossed at Deepdale Bridge, then followed back to the car park.
Last winter, during the height of the worst winter Britain had endured in decades, we were more or less marooned in a holiday cottage on the outskirts of the city. We couldn’t have been stranded in a better place! We were within walking distance (along picturesque riverside paths) of all that this compact city has to offer in terms of bars, bistros and boutiques. For its size Durham packs a lot in – with magnificent historic buildings, plenty of independent shops and restaurants, an interesting market hall as well as the usual high street stores and eating places. Make sure that you check out the Durham Deals to get the best value from your stay (see the website below).
Exploring the woodland at either side of the River Wharfe, where if flows through this spectacular, narrow gorge, is a splendid experience at any time of the year. In autumn it is even more magnificent. The round trip from the Bolton Abbey estate’s Sandholme car park along one side of the river to Barden Bridge, then returning via the path on the opposite bank is about 5 miles. There are other shorter routes, some of which are wheelchair-friendly or the walk could be extended by starting at the main Bolton Abbey car park. Refreshments are available at the Cavendish Pavilion which is close to the Sandholme car park.
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