48 hours in … Cardiff

Europe’s youngest capital city, Cardiff is also one of the easiest to enjoy. The old docks are now a striking waterfront and the compact city centre is packed with museums and concert halls, energetic nightlife, great food, some of the best shopping in western Britain and a vibrant cultural scene. It’s also home to world-class sports stadium, and with Cardiff City FC joining the Premier League this season - for only the second time in the Club’s 199 year history - there’s never been a better time to visit.

TIME TO CHECK IN

With the rapid expansion of tourism in recent years, Cardiff offers plenty of choice for places to crash, but few are as impressive as The Exchange. Housed in one of Cardiff’s most significant historical buildings, this 200-room luxury hotel was once the headquarters of the global coaling industry and where the first £1 million business deal was made in 1904. Another luxury option is the glass-fronted St. David’s Hotel, recently taken over by the achingly-cool Principal hotel group and located on Cardiff Bay. However, if boutique is more your style, The Pontcanna Inn offer just ten wholly Instagrammable rooms, whilst Hotel Indigo has recently expanded into the city with the addition of an impressive roof terrace that offers spectacular views of Cardiff Castle and the surrounds.

DAY ONE

10:30 – FEED YOUR CURIOSITY

Arguably the best way to plunge straight into the vibrant life of Cardiff – and get talking to its people – is to take a culinary tour of the capital’s thriving food scene with a local guide from Loving Welsh Food. Cardiff Tasting Tours will take you all over the city centre, calling in at specialist food producers, retailers and the famous indoor market. Six delicious food and drink tastings include continental meats, cheeses, cockles, laverbread and Welsh beers and ciders, plus along the way you’ll pass beautiful parks, majestic buildings and landmarks including Cardiff Castle and the Principality Stadium.

14:00 – VISIT THE DRAGON’S LAIR

Whilst Cardiff City FC may be joining the Premier League, if you want to really understand the soul of the Welsh people, back track to the Principality Stadium and partake in a tour of perhaps one of the world’s most enjoyable sporting arenas, home to the fierce Welsh Rugby Team – and host stadium for the UEFA Champions League Final 2017. Experience the build-up before the match in the Dragon’s Lair, Wales’ team dressing room and hear the spine-tingling roar of 74,500 fans as you walk down the players’ tunnel towards the hallowed turf.

OR

14:00 – EMBRACE AN ADRENALINE RUSH

Wales has no shortage of rapids on its rivers, but the Olympic-standard ones at Cardiff International White Water roar and tumble through this man-made white water course right in the heart Cardiff Bay. Two-hour coached sessions of exhilarating whitewater rafting are suitable for complete beginners and seasoned experts, and if rafting’s not your bag, you can opt for canoeing, kayaking, stand up paddleboarding, “hotdogging” in inflatable kayaks or bodyboarding. If you still want more once you’ve finished on the waves, you can strap on a harness and cross the high ropes timber structure towering above the white water course – before tackling the Burma Bridge, Monkey Swing, Barrel Crawl and Zip Wire.

16:00 – EXPLORE THE CITY OF ARCADES

It’s 160 years since the first of seven Cardiff arcades – The Royal Arcade – opened, and there has been a recent push to celebrate the collective glory of the city’s “crown jewels”. With over 100 local eateries and independent retailers, the arcades allow for a shopping experience peppered with character, eclecticism, stories and history; all brought together under a roof of classic Victorian and Edwardian architecture. Don’t miss Gin and Juice, the only cocktail-come-salad bar in the city; tattoo and barber shop Sleep When your Dead; and the world’s oldest record store, Spiller Records.

19:30 – GET STUFFED ON COWBRIDGE ROAD

Home to a mind-boggling array of independent eateries, the long stretch from Victoria Park to the River Taff is the perfect place to take evening stroll and decide on where to eat. From pizza at The Dough Thrower to nouvelle Indian cuisine at Purple Poppadom, build-your-own burgers at Time and Beef or delicious Lebanese takeaway at Falafel Wales; this is authentic foodie heaven. If you prefer your dinner with a local flavour, make a beeline for new Pontcanna bistro Milkwood, where you can chow down on dishes like Sewin (Welsh sea trout) with leeks and brown shrimp.

22:00 – ENJOY BEER AND BLUES

Cardiff is one of the best places in the UK to sample the taste bud-teasing pleasures of craft beer. At Porter’s, which contains Wales’ first pub theatre (and has no sign over the door) they serve a honey beer called Hiver and a seaweed ale that goes by the name of Kelpie. It’s also one of many venues offering jazz night’s – albeit more dancing than placid – across the city which also includes industrial-styled Tiny Rebel, Americana speakeasy Bootlegger and the aptly named Café Jazz. Visit in October for Sŵn festival which transforms the city into a musical adventure playground.

LATE – SNACKS AND STORIES ON CHIPPY LANE

When the night is done you might be tempted to grab some late night grub, and where better to visit than Chippy Lane, technically Caroline Street, which is considered to be first place that the eponymous fish and chips were sold in Cardiff in the 19th century.

 

DAY TWO

10:30 – BRUNCH BEAUTIFULLY AT ANNA LOKA

Not the name of the owner, Anna Loka roughly translates to ‘Earth Food’ in Sanskrit, and at this restaurant you’ll find exactly that: a plant-based menu where you can load up on a full vegan breakfast with peanut butter and coffee pancakes on the side. If you’re hankering for a more traditional brunch menu try The Early Bird for must-have French toast or proper café Garlands where you can enjoy a “Good Morning Mumbles” breakfast which includes Welsh Rarebit, laverbread and cockles. For something completely different try the Indian breakfast at Milgi.

12:00 – BREW UP ON A CRAFT BEER TOUR

Explore the art, science and culture of brewing a Cardiff Craft Beer Tour by Brewerism Brewery Tours. Over the course of three to four hours you’ll have the chance to see the full brewing process at Crafty Devil Brewery before hitting 3-4 stops – from trendy taprooms to marvellous micropubs – all within about a 15 minute walk around the hip Canton area of the city.

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12:00 - DISCOVER PROPER WELSH HISTORY

Few places define Welsh identity as profoundly as St Fagans, which opened in 1948 in the grounds of a 16th-century manor house as the very first national open-air museum in the UK. Since then more than 40 original Welsh buildings from different historic periods have been rebuilt piece by piece in the 100-acre park including houses, a farm, a school and a splendid workmen’s institute. Get out of town to visit this glorious architectural treasure house which is deservedly the most popular heritage attraction in Wales.

15:00 – INDULGE YOUR SWEET SIDE

Extraordinary cakes and pastries are worth making the journey north to the Maindy area of the city where Cocorico Patisserie can be found. This is Instagram heaven featuring creative creations including the Banana in Pyjama (banana mousse, pineapple cremeux, mango jelly and coconut dacquoise), Praline Spinner (vanilla dipomate, Gianduju crumbs, salted caramel with Dulcey and Gianduju whipped ganache), and a spectacular array of colourful macarons!

16:00 – PHOTOGRAPH SOME FURRY FRIENDS

Besides the grand splendour of Cardiff Castle, one odd quirk to take note of whilst enjoying a stroll around its exterior is The Animal Wall. Designed by architect William Burges for the 3rd Marquess of Bute, the much-loved wall features models of animals including moneys and lions, a seal, pelican and many more, poking out ready to be snapped.

18:00 – DINE WITH DIFFERENCE

Based at Her Majesty’s Prison Cardiff, The Clink is a fine-dining venue run by prison inmates serving organic Welsh produce has been voted one of the best restaurants in the UK. Taste the very best of Wales while giving a helping hand to those who deserve a second chance in life.

19:30 – CATCH A SHOW

Finish your weekend by taking in a show at the incredible Wales Millennium Centre on Cardiff Bay. This architectural marvel is also a globally significant cultural landmark – a performing arts centre with a mission to “inspire our nation and impress the world”. Home of the Welsh National Opera and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, it also stages musicals, stand-up comedy and art exhibitions.

Day trips from London – must-do experiences in Hastings, Battle & Rye

Jump on a train heading south-east from London and in under 1.5 hours you’re in what is known as ‘1066 Country’ (due to its connections with the famous Battle of Hastings in 1066), in the towns of Hastings, Battle and Rye. Visit for a day of unique heritage, seaside experiences, festivals and much more!

 

3 MUST-DO EXPERIENCES – HASTINGS

Not only is the Jerwood Gallery set in a stunning glass building on the Old Town’s fishing beach it’s also at forefront of contemporary art with changing exhibitions and home to a fabulous collection of 20th- and 21st-century British art.

Head down to St Clements Caves and embark on a Smugglers’ Adventure. You’ll join notorious smuggler ‘Hairy Jack’ through underground tunnels and caverns on this interactive experience that tells the tales of smugglers through the ages. You can also enter the attraction via the original West Hill funicular railway, which retains its original Victorian wooden carriages.

Stroll around the picturesque Old Town, a bustling haven of cobbled streets, ‘twittens’ (narrow passageways) and a flourishing arts community, which you can explore through its myriad of antique stores and independent art shops. Alternatively, explore off-the-beaten track at the America Ground and White Rock area of Hastings. This cool, creative neighbourhood has a fascinating history and is now home to independent restaurants, cafés and shops, funky clubs and bars, as well as Source BMX Park, the biggest underground BMX park in Europe, which runs its own ‘Battle of Hastings’ in September.

 

Where can I eat?

Fresh fish lands on Hastings’ beaches every day, serving the town’s restaurants and cafés. Head down to The Stade area, the town’s fishing and cultural quarter, and dine at Rock-a-Nore Kitchen, which follows a 'boat-to-plate' philosophy and where you can enjoy locally caught fish dishes, or admire the views of the seafront while munching oysters and other delicacies from the sea at the Old Custom House Restaurant. Round off your lunch with a luscious homemade ice cream from Di Polas ice cream parlour, where flavours range from sea salt caramel to apple and ginger.

 

And if you do want to stay overnight…

Hastings has some genuinely charming B&Bs to choose from. Among them is The Laindons, a pretty guesthouse with five rooms located in the Old Town within a Georgian Grade II-listed building. It’s kept so much of its original character and comes with fabulous views of Hastings Old Town. The Old Rectory boutique B&B is also housed in a historic building and is beautifully designed within, showcasing work by local artists and designers. For hotel choices, check out The White Rock Hotel, a stylish seafront property with contemporary, comfortable rooms and a terrace café/bar, perfect for a meal or drinks while overlooking the coastal view. 

 

3 MUST-DO EXPERIENCES – BATTLE

Re-live the atmosphere and tension of more than 600 soldiers clashing at the annual battle re-enactment of the Battle of Hastings. Held every October (13-14 in 2018), visitors can expect a day being immersed in medieval life and discovering what it was like on this famous date that changed history.

The market town of Battle grew up around Battle Abbey, built by William the Conqueror following the Battle of Hastings as a penance ordered by the Pope. Now looked after by English Heritage, along with the battle site, you can explore the abbey ruins and even stand on the spot where King Harold was said to have perished.

The town of Battle that subsequently spread beyond the Abbey walls is now a charming town to explore and offers cultural gems during the year. Throughout October is the Battle Arts & Music Festival, featuring events ranging from classical recitals, contemporary dance, author events and a range of artistic masterclasses and demonstrations.

 

Where can I eat?

For a light meal of sandwiches, cream teas and homemade cakes, Lavender Abbey Tea Rooms – with its cosy log burner to warm up against during the cooler months – is a popular choice and runs an interesting programme of evening events. A picturesque option is The Orangery at Ashburnham Place, where you can have lunch and afternoon tea in a Lancelot Capability Brown-designed building, which is home to many delicate plants including the oldest camellia in the country. Or stop by The Bull Inn Pub & Restaurant – a 17th-century coaching inn – for English pub classics such as pies, fish and chips, and steaks.

 

And if you do want to stay overnight…

Once a gunpowder owner’s residence, on the site of an 18th-century gunpowder works, the PowderMills is now a gorgeous country hotel in Battle, set in 150 acres of parkland and lakes. Just outside of Battle, overlooking the tranquil village green of Sedlescombe, is the family run Brickwall Hotel, which was built at the end of 16th century for the local ironmaster. And, for a luxury B&B stay, try Boreham House, around a ten-minute drive from Battle and situated in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This Grade II-listed Georgian house, originally the home of the local apothecary, also offers a converted self-catering cottage in what was the house’s original stables and coach house.

 

3 MUST-DO EXPERIENCES – RYE

Made up of attractive cobbled streets and a gamut of narrow passageways, the medieval town of Rye is made for exploring. It’s like stepping back in time as you discover buildings dating back to the medieval, Tudor and Georgian eras. It’s quaint and quirky – Mermaid Street, for example, is home to ancient buildings with unique names such as ‘The House Opposite’ or ‘The House with the Seat’.

Close to town is Great Dixter, the birthplace and home of renowned gardener and writer, the late Christopher Lloyd, and is well worth a visit for its glorious gardens – incorporating a walled garden, the sunk garden and the peacock garden – and for its horticultural events that run throughout the year.

For a true taste of Rye’s countryside, head to the award-winning, 850-acre Oxney Organic Estate, around six miles from the town, for a guided tour of its vineyard, and enjoy a tasting of its organic still and sparking wines, which only use the vineyard’s grapes and follow a natural winemaking ethos. It also has holiday cottages on site and recently introduced renovated vintage shepherds’ huts to stay in.

 

Where can I eat?

A pretty little clapperboard pub on the outskirts of Rye where the Military Canal meets the River Rother, The Globe Inn Marsh has a fantastic menu of locally sourced fish and other local ingredients, plus a bar that stocks more than 40 gins.

Another great fish restaurant is Webbe’s at the Fish Café, located in a listed building near the Landgate Arch in Rye, and was the first completely fire-proof building of its kind in the UK when it was built in 1907. It’s all about fresh local fish here, brought in from the ports of Rye and Hastings,  

Ten minutes from Rye is restaurant with rooms, The Gallivant Hotel, with a superb bistro that overlooks the beautiful sandy dunes at Camber Sands. It’s passionate about using local produce across its menu, with a daily changing menu highlighting the season’s best, and boasts a large list of English wines.

 

And if you do want to stay overnight…

Sloping ceilings, creaky floorboards and a diverting history encompassing 18th-century smugglers make the Mermaid Inn a special place to stay in Rye. History oozes out of every corner – its cellars date back to 1156 and the building itself was rebuilt in 1420 – although you’ll find a very contemporary welcome.

Another fine example of a historic inn is The George on Rye’s High Street, which dates back to 1575. A luxury hotel, each room is designed with its own bespoke furniture and colour theme. Dine at its in-house restaurant and enjoy a drink in its own pub, The George Tap.

Looking for more of a glamping experience? A ten-minute drive from Rye and you’ll find yourself in the village of Beckley, and at Swallowtail Hill, a farm, meadow and woodland where you can stay in either of its charming cottages – the Woodcutter’s Cottage or the Meadow Keeper’s Cottage – or its two cosy wood cabins. It’s a great place for a full digital detox.

 

Getting there: Hastings, Battle and Rye are located in the county of East Sussex on England’s south coast. Trains leave from either London St Pancras or London Charing Cross (depending on your destination) and take around 1.5 hours.

Lost Treasures of Strawberry Hill: Masterpieces from Horace Walpole’s Collection

Lost Treasures of Strawberry Hill: Masterpieces from Horace Walpole’s Collection

Six of the best English country gardens

An English country garden is a sight to behold and there are plenty within an hour’s journey of central London that can easily be visited on a day trip. Here are just a few suggestions of some of the best late summer season gardens to visit before autumn sets in.

 

RHS Wisley, Surrey

The Royal Horticultural Society has a wonderful gem in the heart of Surrey with its gardens at Wisley – there’s a rich variety of areas to visit and it’s a garden that continues to evolve. Last year saw the opening of its new Exotic Garden, a beautiful showcase of plants with a tropical look but which can grow well outdoors in a typical British summer climate. You’ll find a dazzling array of flowers, palms and dahlias, which look their very best up until late summer. Discover pretty mixed summer borders, as well as visit the exciting, vibrant displays at the Trials Field, designed to inspire visitors and demonstrate good environmental practice. The many roses at Wisley are in stunning bloom and August is also a great month to view the vivid blues of Agapanthus. Garden lovers should put the 4-9 September in their diaries for the RHS Wisley Flower Show; expect to see a Flower Bus, Anita Nowinska’s exhibition of floral artwork and more than 100 dahlia exhibitors.

Getting there: Take the train from London Waterloo to Effingham Junction (45 minutes) then a taxi to Wisley (ten minutes).

 

National Trust Cliveden, Berkshire

The numerous, magnificent gardens of Cliveden – ranging from the Water Garden, Walled Garden, Round Garden, the Long Garden, the Parterre and all the spectacular garden sculptures – are maintained by the National Trust and are as glorious to visit in the late summer months as they are early in the season. All summer long there’s a riot of colour and scents from its Rose Garden, where more than 900 roses bloom until September. The Rose Garden was recreated just four years ago, based on an original 1950s design by famed garden designer Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe, and include various elements of the gardens’ original 18th-century wilderness landscape. A lovely way to top off a trip to Cliveden’s gardens is by booking tickets to an event in its formal gardens. Bring a picnic hamper and enjoy performances ranging from a new adaptation of a David Walliams novel to a reworking of a classic Sherlock Holmes case. And while the historic Cliveden House, on the wider estate, is now a luxury hotel, you can buy a ticket for a short-guided tour available three afternoons a week until the end of October.

Getting there: Take the train from London Paddington to Bourne End, (50 minutes) then walk a pleasant two miles through countryside to Cliveden.

 

Hatfield House & Gardens, Hertfordshire

History emanates from every corner of Hatfield House, the home of the seventh Marquess and Marchioness of Salisbury and their family; the estate has been in the Cecil family for 400 years. As well as the chance to see some of the finest examples of 17th-century architecture in the country, visitors will find Hatfield’s gardens just as impressive. Explore the roses and herbaceous plants in the West Garden, designed more than 100 years ago, and the Sundial Garden that was commissioned to mark Hatfield’s 400th anniversary in 2011. It’s also a wonderful place to discover contemporary sculpture set within the gardens – the new ‘Renaissance’ water sculpture by renowned sculptor Angela Connor, sits on the North Front of the House – as well as attend performances during its summer Theatre in the Park programme. Look out for the unique event on 1 September when the Urban Soul Orchestra performs classic Ibiza anthems in this gorgeous setting.

Getting there: Take the fast train from London Kings Cross to Hatfield, (20 minutes) and walk 15 minutes from the station to Hatfield House.

 

Leeds Castle, Kent

Leeds Castle is perhaps one of the most attractive castles in England – and its gardens are just as spectacular; there’s more than 500 acres of stunning parkland and formal gardens. Its Culpeper Garden – named after the 17th-century owners of the castle – is a fine example of an English country garden, an informal layout with roses, poppies and lupins creating a wonderful colourful display. Its Woodland Garden runs alongside the River Len and is currently being redeveloped to create six magnificent individual gardens to explore. Visit in September (15-20) for its Festival of Flowers; discover floral displays inside the castle and around the rest of the grounds, all themed around ‘Ladies Day’ in 2018. Admire the creativity of award-winning floral designers, participate in floral workshops and watch specialist talks and demonstrations. Fortunately, if you like what you see, your admission ticket allows you to visit as many times as you like over 12 months, so it’s worth returning to admire the gardens in different seasons.

Getting there: Take the train from London Victoria to Bearsted (one hour) and take the coach shuttle service from the station to the castle, which runs between April and September.

 

Eltham Palace & Gardens, south-east London

Eltham Palace has an illustrious history; starting life as a medieval palace, it became a Tudor royal residence and was turned into an Art Deco mansion created by millionaires Stephen and Virginia Courtauld in the 1930s. The palace is a must-visit, yet so are its 19 acres of historic gardens, which, like the home, boast a mix of medieval features in its landscape. Late summer is all about its long herbaceous border that encircles the medieval palace, which becomes a riot of purples, yellows, blues and coppers. It’s also home to 18 different varieties of oriental poppy plus a huge assortment of peonies and clematis. Wonderful scents arise from the plentiful roses in the Rose Garden and the Rose Quadrant, which include several historic rose varieties; late summer is also the perfect time to see the wildflower meadows and colourful dahlias.

Getting there: Take the train from London Charing Cross to Mottingham (25 minutes) and then walk to the palace (ten minutes).

 

RHS Garden Hyde Hall, Essex

Set in 360 acres of land, RHS Garden Hyde Hall was donated to the RHS in 1993 by renowned gardeners Helen and Dick Robinson and is in one of the driest parts of the UK, with an average rainfall of just 600mm. Hyde Hall's Clover Hill is a patchwork of colour, with vast swathes of grasses and herbaceous perennials flowing through its landscape. There are plenty of horticultural highlights; Hyde Hall holds the national plant collection of Viburnum, numbering around 250 accessions; the Dry Garden is one of breathtaking beauty even where there is very little rainfall. Don’t forget to visit the Global Growth Vegetable Garden, which opened last summer and features unusual fruit and vegetables from around the world. Plans for next year include the Big Sky Meadows, an ambitious planting project to create up to 50 acres of perennial meadowland.

Getting there: Take the train from London Liverpool Street to Chelmsford (30 minutes) and take a taxi or bus to Hyde Hall (20 minutes).

48 Hours in… Leeds

One of the only cities outside London to have its own ballet and opera companies, Yorkshire city Leeds is a hotbed of cultural gems, a city with a rich industrial and sports heritage that has become an energetic, contemporary city with a flourishing food and drink scene. Home to its own international airport (Leeds/Bradford Airport) and just two hours by train from London and one hour from Manchester, spending a weekend in one of the north of England’s most exciting cities has never been easier.

 

TIME TO CHECK IN

Leeds has a wide range of hotels to suit all budgets yet if you’re looking for high-end accommodation, check out the only independently owned luxury hotel in central Leeds, Quebecs. This Grade-II listed, four-star property is situated in one of the city’s most impressive terracotta brickwork buildings, located in the attractive Victoria Quarter. Another luxury option is the city’s oldest hotel, The Cosmopolitan, which combines a historic setting with contemporary style. Leeds has some lovely boutique hotels too; in the heart of Leeds, the Malmaison is the place to go if you’re into cool, quirky interior designs while riverside hotel 42 The Calls, located in an 18th-century former flour mill, will soon be undergoing a multi-million pound investment under new management, set to develop it into five-star luxury accommodation.

 

DAY ONE

09:00 EMBARK ON A WALK OF DISCOVERY

It’s common knowledge that to really get to know a city you should walk it – and this is just as true of Leeds, where you can download self-guided walks around the city with a treasure hunt theme! Just over a mile each, Curious About Leeds has devised routes that take you from Leeds Art Gallery to the River Aire, and a second route from the river to Park Square. The beauty of these walks is that you’ll take in not just the city’s famous sights but also the more unusual ones. Expect to see the chic Victorian Arcades, Europe’s largest covered market – Kirkgate Market – former mills whose fortune the city was built on and secret squares to explore. Also look out for iconic street art; Leeds is home to the UK’s tallest mural, Athena Rising, as well as works such as Cornucopia next to the Corn Exchange and the George Street Mural at Kirkgate Market.

 

11:00 DELVE INTO THE CITY’S PAST

The story of Leeds unfolds at the Leeds City Museum, where – through six impressive galleries – you’ll find artefacts from archaeological finds to displays reflecting city life today. It’s also home to the Leeds Tiger… one of the most recognisable and loved exhibits at the museum with a fascinating back story to discover.

 

13:00 TAKE EARLY AFTERNOON TEA

It will be hard to tear yourself away from the pretty period furniture and mismatched crockery at vintage tearoom Just Grand! but try to as there’s plenty to tempt you on its menu. Located in the city’s Grand Arcade – a Grade II-listed Victorian shopping arcade that now boasts a good mix of independent retailers – you’ll reboot energy levels enjoying drinks from its huge assortment of loose-left teas (Yorkshire tea is, of course, on the menu!) and the delectable afternoon tea menu. Why choose a plain scone when you could choose from its wide range of flavoured scones such as black treacle and date, Earl Grey and Lemon, and ginger and apricot. Just Grand has also introduced a Gentleman’s Afternoon Tea – finger sandwiches, locally produced pork pie and crisps along with a choice of Yorkshire bottled beer.

 

15:00 EXPLORE CONTEMPORARY ART IN A HISTORIC BUILDING

One of Leeds’ leading centres for contemporary art is at The Tetley, housed in an Art Deco-style former brewery. It’s not just the collections inside that are worth exploring – the building itself is an Insta-favourite; founded in 1822 – Tetley is one of Leeds’ oldest (beer) brewing families – it’s of huge social and industrial significance to the city. As well as changing exhibitions there’s a rich programme of events to take part in, including art workshops.

 

17:00 ENJOY COCKTAILS AND PRE-THEATRE DINNER

A department store might not the first place you think of for cocktails and dinner, but when’s it’s The Fourth Floor brasserie and bar at the city’s branch of the high-end Harvey Nichols, you know you’re in store for a treat. Superb views of the city greet you as you enjoy cocktails in the glamorous bar – think gold dome lights and circular banquettes – and the menu in the brasserie focuses on using the best Yorkshire produce in its creative dishes. It’s perfect for a pre-theatre meal, with the dinner service starting from 4.30pm.

 

19:30 CATCH A SHOW

Take advantage of the fact that Leeds is the only city outside of London to have its own ballet and opera companies and book tickets for a performance by either Opera North, one of Europe’s leading arts organisations, which produces the classics as well as lesser-known works and musical theatre, or the Northern Ballet, where you’ll find original productions as well as new interpretations of classic ballets. 

 

DAY TWO

09:00 DISCOVER HISTORIC TREASURES

Ever fancied seeing a world record-breaking suit of elephant armour? Here’s your chance – at Leeds’ Royal Armouries Museum, which sits on the waterfront at the city’s docks. Five galleries hold more than 8,000 fascinating objects, including Henry VIII’s tournament armour, the five heroic swords based on the prop weapons used in movies Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, and the incredible centrepiece of the whole museum, the Hall of Steel – the largest mass display of arms and armour created since the 19th century.

 

11:00 SET OFF ON A SPORTING JOURNEY

Yorkshire boasts a legendary cricket heritage and, for cricket fans around the world, the Yorkshire Cricket Museum is a must-visit. It’s here that you’ll discover artefacts from Yorkshire’s cricket legends, the bats and balls used by iconic players as well as multi-media interviews with cricket heroes.

OR

SET OFF ON A SHOPPING JOURNEY

A raft of unique independent retailers can be found under one stunning roof at the Grand Arcade, a shopping venue built in 1897 where its fine Victorian architecture – including an exquisite glass roof and beautiful arched windows – is just as much of a draw as the shops. It’s a lovely surrounding in which to explore the stores, which range from luxury menswear retailer Labels, My Vibrant Home for stylish handmade interiors goods, and The Handmade Collective, where you’ll find unique gifts created by 60 local Yorkshire design-makers to take home. You’ll also find a vibrant shopping district at Victoria Leeds, an eclectic shopping destination combining Victoria Quarter and Victoria Gate with traditional the British high-end department stores of Harvey Nichols and John Lewis and more than 90 boutiques.
 

13:00 VEG OUT FOR LUNCH 

Also finding its home in the Grand Arcade is Roots and Fruits, a fantastic vegetarian restaurant that’s recently upgraded its menu to be mainly plant-based. But there’s no compromise on flavour… this Leeds favourite is packed with local, seasonal produce and presents dishes such as Roots and Fruits Jerk Jackfruit with a secret recipe jerk marinade and giant Rainbow Salads.

 

15:00 LOSE YOURSELF IN A CHOCOLATE METROPOLIS

Leeds is home to the UK’s first two-storey chocolate emporium at Hotel Chocolat and it’s here you can learn the delicate art of chocolate-making at its Chocolate School, just one of the chocolate-filled experiences on offer here. Chocoholics may want to embark on its Tasting Adventure and there’s always further opportunity to taste the glorious sweetness in its Mega Café; look out, in particular, for its signature hot chocolate.

 

17:00 GO CUCKOO FOR CREATIVE COCKTAILS

Come to quirky bar Cuckoo for its imaginative cocktails, such as Peanut Butter Martinis and Dirty Grasshoppers, or to sample local craft beers served through ‘Giraffe Towers’, and stay for its amazingly fun décor. Murals, paint-splattered animal heads, cool neon lights and a secret rooftop garden all make a visit to this bar a colourful occasion.

 

20:00 TASTE THE CREATIVITY

Restaurant Man Behind the Curtain – with a name inspired by The Wizard of Oz – offers a magical culinary experience where you’ll be wowed by chef Michael O’Hare’s creativity. The restaurant’s tasting menu of 10 to 14 sequences’ includes hand-massaged octopus with capers and lemon; birds nest and kimchi ramen and cardamom & lemongrass soup with chilli sorbet- a treat for both the eyes and the taste-buds. Other high-end restaurants to have on your radar include Stockdales and Ox Club.

Alternatively, visit Bundobust for delicious Indian street food and craft beer that make this place one of Leeds go-to places for easy, deliciouscuisine. Still hungry? Try Matt Healy x The Foundry. This Leeds institution has recently relaunched with Yorkshire-born chef, Matt Healy (runner-up in BBC’s MasterChef: The Professionals series), at the helm. The interior and exterior was redesigned and rebranded as Matt Healy x The Foundry. In the kitchen, Matt is concentrating on a menu of simple British dishes using up to five ingredients. A sample menu may include baby chicken ‘kiev’, wild garlic and duck fat potato, or pollock, charred leeks and potatoes with romesco sauce. Watch this space as the restaurant is quickly becoming one of the hottest spots in Leeds.

 

22:00 Leeds’ nightlife rivals that of any major British city and it’s particularly good for quirky bars. For a slice of hipster heaven and craft beers head to the cool, vintage-style Outlaws Yacht Club; drink cocktails from teapots at the Alice in Wonderland-themed, eclectically decorated The White Rabbit; while the Belgrave Music Hall is where to go to enjoy craft beers and cask ales across three floors of a 1930s venue that comes with a fabulous roof terrace, live music events, film and comedy or art exhibitions. Beer is also big news in Leeds; why visit one brewery when you can visit four on the Leeds Brewery Tour, and, if you’re coming over in October, look out for details of the city’s Oktoberfest.

48 Hours in… Dundee

Dundee is one of the best destinations in Europe to visit in 2018 according to Lonely Planet and there are myriad of reasons why this Scottish city – just over an hour by train from Edinburgh on Scotland’s east coast – deserves this accolade. Its ever-growing cultural scene, the redevelopment of its historic waterfront, the stunning V&A Dundee due to open this September, a variety of art and design galleries, a diverse range of bars and restaurants, a thrilling music and events scene and the fact it was named as the UK’s first UNESCO City of Design… the list goes on!

 

Time to check in

From boutique to budget, the range of accommodation in Dundee is expanding, with more than 1,200 hotel beds expected to be ready by the end of 2018.

Joining hotels such as Malmaison, APEX, Holiday Inn Express and the recently opened Hampton by Hilton is a new Hotel Indigo, which will reopen in a former jute mill. This 102-bedroom hotel with 12 junior suites is scheduled to open in August. Dundee’s new train station is also due to open this summer following a £14m renovation, with a 120-bed Sleeperz hotel above it, opening on 9 July. Close to the station on the waterfront, the refurbished Premier Inn has also reopened with an additional 60 bedrooms.

 

Day One

09:00 BE THE FIRST TO VISIT A WORLD-CLASS ATTRACTION

One of the world’s most anticipated cultural attractions will open its doors to the public on 15 September. The magnificent Kengo Kuma-designed V&A Dundee is Scotland’s first design museum and will be home to the country’s design heritage, fascinating exhibitions, as well as permanent galleries and exciting features. The opening exhibition will be Ocean Liners: Speed and Style, which will delve into the history of these powerful steamships.

 

11:00 CHANNEL YOUR INNER PIRATE

Head out onto the River Tay with Pirate Boats and join an exhilarating one-hour boat trip that brings the history of the city to life. You’ll board in beautiful Broughty Ferry, just a ten-minute drive from the city centre, and take in sights along the revamped waterfront, including Broughty Castle and the new V&A building. If you’re there between May and September, you may also be joined for the ride by some dolphins.

 

13:00 LUNCH WITH COCKTAILS ON THE SIDE

Did you know that Dundee is the original home of marmalade (a citrus fruit preserve, commonly made from oranges)? It seems only fitting that you head to independent café Avery & Co and order a Marmalade Mojito served in a Mackays Dundee marmalade jar to go with lunch. This eaterie has an excellent vegan menu alongside meat feasts such as Korean pulled pork and homemade burgers with roast garlic mayo.

 

15:00 EXPLORE THE CITY’S SOCIAL HERITAGE

Head to the Verdant Works – a refurbished jute mill (jute is a natural fibre) – to discover the absorbing story of Dundee’s industrial textile heritage and social history. Within is the Jute Museum and its range of interactive hands-on activities, and then head to High Mill, which was recently restored and now houses an original and working Boulton & Watt steam engine. It’s then worth jumping in a taxi for the five-minute drive to RRS Discovery at Discovery Point to experience what life was like in the Antarctic with Captain Scott and his crew.

 

17:00 TASTE THE LOCAL SPIRITS
Time for a gin and tonic! Local distiller Verdant Spirits, the first distillery in Dundee for 200 years, and which won Scottish Gin of the Year in 2017, has plans to open a gin school and visitor centre ready for summer 2018.

 

19:30 DINE AT THE HOTTEST NEW RESTAURANT

Brassica restaurant, bar and bakery only threw open its doors to customers in June, so it’s one of the hottest eateries in town. The restaurant has taken over one of the old vault spaces in the ground of the city’s historic Caird Hall building, overlooking the waterfront, and all its produce is sourced within a 50-mile radius of Dundee. Make sure you check out its Champagne and Gin Menu, which lists many local Scottish gins.

 

21:00 BE SPOOKED WITH SPINE-CHILLING TALES

Be brave… and listen to spooky tales of the city’s sometimes gruesome past on a tour with Dark Dundee. These walking tours take you through stories of the city’s past, via places such as HM Frigate Unicorn, and The Howff, a 16th-century graveyard in the city centre.

 

DAY TWO

09:00 EMBARK ON AN ARTISTIC TRAIL

Wander through eight open-gallery spaces that are home to art, history and environment exhibitions at The McManus: Dundee’s Art Gallery and Museum. In addition to the permanent displays, there is a changing programme of exhibitions and events throughout the year. New exhibition Bash Street’s Back, celebrating the iconic comic Beano’s 80th birthday and charting Dundee’s role in comic book history, is open until October – it’s a fantastic example of British popular culture through the decades.

 

11:00 For an example of the city’s contemporary art inventory, head to the DCA (Dundee Contemporary Arts). Converted from an old brick warehouse it combines art galleries, print studio, two cinemas, and a shop with a café and restaurant. If you’re in town before the end of the summer, catch the first major European show of work by acclaimed American artist Eve Fowler. Entitled what a slight. what a sound. what a universal shudder, it’s at DCA until 26 August.

 

13:00 DINE AMONG ARTWORKS

After a morning filled with artistic experiences, where better to stop for lunch than Gallery 48, a contemporary art gallery space with a tapas restaurant and gin bar that showcases art work, often from the neighbouring University of Dundee’s Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design.

 

15:00 TAKE A GUIDED CULTURAL TOUR

Behind the Scenes Dundee is a guided walking tour developed by Creative Dundee and Dundee Contemporary Arts, which takes you backstage to see how the city’s cultural venues work. You’ll also visit public art, creative studios and independent shops. An alternative way to see the city is with Run the Sights. Combine a run with a guided exploration of some of the city’s most interesting and beautiful locations.

 

17:00 EXPERIENCE A UNIQUE ART TRAIL

Dundee’s first street-art project covers the city’s hidden lanes and corners; the idea is to encourage people to explore parts of the city that wouldn’t feature on a usual walking trail. It has matched up unloved doorways with street artists, who have then created a unique piece of street art in a forgotten place. Called Open Close, the trail is available to download online.

 

19:30 FINE-DINING FEAST

Contemporary Scottish food is served up alongside gorgeous views over the sand dunes to Tentsmuir Forest at fine-dining restaurant The Tayberry, in the area of Broughty Ferry. Award-winning chef-proprietor Adam Newth has created an innovative and mouth-watering menu comprising delicacies such as risotto of brown crab with avocado ice-cream and pan-roast cod with sweetcorn bhajis.

 

21:00 HIT THE NIGHTLIFE

Dundee has some fantastic bars to end the evening in. New to the bar scene is King of Islington on Union Street, fast gaining a reputation for quality cocktails and a huge selection of rum; or try out Draffens, Dundee’s speakeasy bar located inside a former department store on Couttie’s Wynd, one of Dundee’s old cobbled lanes.

 

Getting there: Dundee is just under 1.5 hours by train from Edinburgh, 1 ¾ hours from Glasgow and you can take the Caledonian Sleeper train from London overnight (it takes just under seven hours).

Britain – the movie star

Britain is playing a starring role in several new movie releases coming up in the second half of 2018.  Bring your own lights, camera and action and head to the destinations that have either inspired the story or feature as a film location.

 

Robin Hood: Origins – release date: 1 September 2018

According to legend, heroic Robin Hood was a highly-skilled archer and swordsman who robbed from the rich to give to the poor. Robin Hood: Origins aims to give a new spin on the legend, starring Taron Egerton as Robin Hood, Jamie Foxx as Little John, Eve Hewson as Maid Marian and Jamie Dornan as Will Scarlett. Filming mainly took place in Dubrovnik, Croatia, but Robin Hood’s original stomping ground was Sherwood Forest and the city of Nottingham in Nottinghamshire, England, which are both places to have on your must-visit list if you’re a fan of the forest-dwelling outlaw!

Sherwood Forest is the setting for the annual Robin Hood Festival in early August – a medieval gala of entertainment, food and drink, activities, and live-action re-enactments. 2018 will be the festival’s 34th year and, this summer, the forest welcomes the opening of a visitor centre aimed at providing a contemporary perspective into this legendary landscape. It’s a brilliant place to explore either on foot or by bike and don’t forget to visit Robin's famous hideaway, the Major Oak. Elsewhere, between 7 July – 30 September, you can really up your Robin-inspired Insta-game with snaps of a cool sculpture trail coming to the city; Hoodwinked: a twist on the tale, will be a contemporary take on the traditional stories of the legendary outlaw.

Not yet had your fill of Robin Hood experiences? Then head to the city’s Robin Hood Experience for the full interactive journey to the time of the legendary outlaw. The attraction aims to bring to life the sounds, sights and smells of medieval Nottingham – you can even stand trial before the Sheriff of Nottingham! A perfect accompaniment to the experience is a visit to Nottingham Castle, currently undergoing an ambitious transformation due for completion in 2020. In less than two years, the site will welcome a new, interactive Robin Hood Gallery, visitor centre and a Rebellion Gallery – showcasing the city’s rebellious history – will open in the Ducal Palace, plus a year-round events programme will be introduced. Don’t leave without having a selfie with the Robin Hood statue outside the castle. Or, explore the city and its history with Robin Hood himself, on the Robin Hood Town Tour. Join expert of Nottinghamshire history Ezekial Bone to discover how simple ballads over 700 years old grew into one of the greatest stories ever told. There are also several Robin Hood-themed events throughout the year, including the Robin Hood Festival (27 August – 2 September), the Robin Hood Pageant (usually held in March), the Robin Hood Beer Festival (17-20 October) and even the Robin Hood Half Marathon (29 September)!

 

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald – release date: November 2018

The second instalment of the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them series follows the adventures of Newt Scamander, with London used as one of the key filming locations. Highgate Cemetery was reportedly used to depict the Catacombs of Paris and it’s easy to see why; this north London cemetery is a wonderful example of Victorian gothic design. Take a tour of the extravagant memorials that sit among a calm enclave of trees and local wildlife, its East Cemetery well-known as Karl Marx’s final resting place, as well as other prominent figures, while its West Cemetery boasts incredible architectural features and can only be visited by guided tour. Another must for Fantastic Beasts fans is to book onto the Fantastic Beasts - Where to Find Them in London tour, run by London Guided Walks, which takes you to “explore how these fantastic beasts are entwined in our Muggle world”.

Outside of London, Lacock Abbey, found in the pretty Cotswolds village of Lacock, was used to portray Hogwarts. Like Hogwarts, Lacock Abbey was built with a blend of quirky architectural styles. This former nunnery is a fascinating site, with its medieval rooms and cloister court, plus close by is the Fox Talbot Museum, that records the achievements of former Lacock resident William Henry Fox Talbot, a big name in the invention of photography.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was also filmed in the same studio as the Harry Potter series, where you can visit Warner Bros. Studios Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter. This unique behind-the-scenes experience immerses you into the world of filmmaking and features authentic sets, props and costumes from the most successful film series of all time. The first film in the Fantastic Beasts franchise was also filmed in the north-west England city of Liverpool using locations such as St George's Hall, with its spectacular tunnel-vaulted ceiling and gorgeous mosaic floor, and the magnificent Cunard Building (now home to the British Music Experience).

 

Mary Poppins Returns – release date: 21 December

It's been 53 years since the original Mary Poppins popped onto our screens with her magical bag and flying umbrella. And, this year, she's back – played by Emily Blunt – to visit the grown-up Banks children in this Disney musical sequel, which takes the action forward to London in 1935. Meryl Streep, Colin Firth, Angela Lansbury and Dick Van Dyke (who starred in the original film) also feature in the cast. All the original movie was filmed at California’s Burbank Studios, but this time around, iconic London sites were used as filming locations.

Perhaps the most recognisable is St Paul’s Cathedral, one of the most impressive examples of cathedral architecture in the country and not to be missed. Another filming location was by Buckingham Palace – its magnificent state rooms are open to visitors for ten weeks each summer –  and outside the Bank of England. While this isn’t open to tours, check out its fascinating Bank of England Museum, which is. And, once you’ve seen the film at the end of this year, you can visit all of these filming locations and get some behind-the-scenes stories on a new Brit Movies Mary Poppins tour, launching in 2019.

 

Bohemian Rhapsody – release date: 28 October 2018

Fans of rock band Queen will love this film coming out in autumn this year, which tells the tale of their meteoric rise and revolutionary sound, up until their appearance at Live Aid in 1985, as well as touching on the life of their extraordinary frontman Freddie Mercury.

Although the We Will Rock You musical based on Queen’s epic songs isn’t currently touring the UK, there are a few rock tours that Queen fans can embark on to get their fix of Freddie and the band. London Rock Tours runs a half-day tour in the capital that’s fully focused on Queen, taking you to the places where they were formed, recorded and lived. You’ll visit the sites and locations that played a significant part in the band’s history, as well as where some of their videos were shot and the site of the last-ever Queen performance.

Alternative walking tours that include Queen sites along with other historic sites of some of Britain’s most famous rock ‘n’ roll bands, include Rock Walk and Classic Rock Legends tour. You can also walk to Freddie Mercury’s final home, Garden Lodge Mansion in the upmarket neighbourhood of Kensington. Although it remains a private home you can read some of the letters that people have written in memory of Freddie and posted on the wall.

60 minutes from… Edinburgh

If you’re coming to Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh, to enjoy one of its many festivals, you’ll soon see why it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as one of Britain’s greatest foodie and nightlife hotspots! And with gorgeous beaches, romantic castles and the vibrant buzz of Glasgow all only an hour away, you’ll be able to experience the country’s diverse landscapes, history and culture too, all within easy reach of a day trip.

 

The Borders

Picturesque coastlines in the east and rugged hills and moorlands in the west greet you at the Scottish Borders (bordering northern England), all of which is easily reached thanks to the Borders Railway, which connects Edinburgh and the Borders town of Tweedbank in less than an hour. Have your camera at the ready on this lovely rail journey as you pass by iconic architectural gems such as the Lothianbridge and Redbridge viaducts. Alight at Tweedbank to visit Abbotsford House, the home of famed writer Sir Walter Scott. This romantic mansion was built during the early decades of the 19th century and very much reflects the tastes of one of this era’s most prominent authors. Close by is the attractive town of Melrose, which is not only the home of the magnificent 12th-century Melrose Abbey, but also to two National Trust for Scotland gardens. Priorwood houses Scotland’s only dedicated dried flower garden and Harmony Gardens features a beautiful walled garden with breath-taking views over the abbey and the nearby Eildon Hills.

 

Glasgow

Did you know that Edinburgh, the capital, and Scotland’s largest city, Glasgow, are only an hour apart? A lively, creative city, Glasgow is renowned for its mighty industrial heritage and world-class shopping as well as its vibrant arts, culture and music scene; it’s even a designated UNESCO City of Music! Discover why it won this status on a Glasgow Music City Tour, while fans of street art should check out Glasgow’s first dedicated tour to the genre, the City Centre Mural Trail. Football lovers can take tours of the world-famous Rangers and Celtic Football Clubs, while you can discover the city’s artistic and industrial legacy at a host of inspirational museums such as the Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum, the Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery at the University of Glasgow and the Riverside Museum of Transport and the Tall Ship on the banks of the River Clyde.

 

North Berwick

In just half an hour by train you can swap Edinburgh’s cityscapes for coastal relaxation. North Berwick and its stretches of golden sands are spectacular – and if it’s glorious views you’ve come for, you won’t be disappointed. Sweeping vistas look out to Bass Rock, home to the world’s largest northern gannet colony, and to the Forth Islands. Take a boat trip out to the islands for an even closer inspection, while bird lovers should also pay a visit to the town’s Scottish Seabird Centre. Alternatively, if you fancy a game of golf overlooking these wonderful coastal scenes, tee off at either of the town’s excellent links courses, the Glen Golf Club and the North Berwick Golf Club.

The town itself is home to a fine collection of cafés, bars and shops, from vintage-style tearooms to stylish coffee shops…also make sure you hit the fish and chip shops and ice-cream parlours, it’s tradition at a British seaside resort! For heritage seekers, don’t miss the 14th-century fortress Tantallon Castle and Dirleton Castle, which houses some of the oldest castle architecture in Scotland.

 

Stirling

If you’ve ever watched the film Braveheart, you’ll want to visit Stirling. The iconic National Wallace Monument, which overlooks the scene of Scotland’s victory at the Battle of Stirling Bridge, gives a fascinating insight into the world of Scottish hero William Wallace. History pulsates through every inch of Stirling; explore the streets of the medieval old town, encounter intriguing royal history at Stirling Castle, and even see the world’s oldest football at the Smith Art Gallery and Museum. Perhaps one of the most absorbing attractions that tells the stories of the area’s past is the Battle of Bannockburn Experience. This 3D, immersive exhibition takes you into the heart of one of Scotland’s most historic battles, ending with a visit to the Battle Room where visitors can take part in the interactive battle game. And, if you’re a fan of the hit TV show Outlander, take the time to visit Doune Castle. Located around 15 minutes out of town, multiple scenes from the popular series were filmed at this splendid castle, as they were for Game of Thrones and Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

 

Peebles

South of Edinburgh, on the banks of the River Tweed, lies Peebles, a small, attractive town with a distinctly artistic vibe, that’s framed by gorgeous countryside scenery. Scottish novelist John Buchan, author of The Thirty Nine Steps, made his home here and a picturesque 13-mile walking route is named after him, the John Buchan Way. Alternatively, head out hiking in Glentress Forest, which is also brilliant for mountain biking, as its trails are one of Scotland 7stanes (seven mountain biking centres in southern Scotland). Despite its size, Peebles boasts a number of art galleries and studios and its historic past is prevalent on every corner; ancient relics are dotted across town, from the ruined Cross Kirk to an old Mercat Cross (which depicts a town’s right, granted by a monarch or baron, to hold a regular market).

 

You might also like…

  • Rosslyn Chapel - Discover intricate carvings and unique stonework at one of the most intriguing places of worship in Scotland, in the village of Roslin, 30-minutes’ drive from Edinburgh. Discover its story from its founding in the 15th century to its depiction in the novel and subsequent film The Da Vinci Code.
  • Musselburgh - Step into the past at this historic market town that derives its name from the mussel beds found on nearby shores. It’s also home to the oldest racecourse in Scotland – which hosts many race meets throughout the year – as well as to the historic nine-hole Musselburgh Links golf course, which has royal connections going back to the early 16th century.
  • Linlithgow Palace - Explore royal history at the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots, a palace that was once a stopping point for royalty en-route between Edinburgh Castle and Stirling Castle. Visit in the summer to enjoy its annual jousting spectacle.

48 hours on… a Scottish Adventure

Scotland has an incredible range of adrenaline-pumping activities, unmissable festivals and fantastic family fun, for both the young, and the young at heart! Wherever you go in Scotland you’ll find landscapes and cities primed and ready for adventure seekers – here, we take you to the countryside surrounding Edinburgh and Glasgow…just remember to bring all your energy!

 

Day One:

08:00 CLIMB A VOLCANO

If you’ve stayed overnight in Edinburgh, really kick start your first day of activity by climbing Arthur’s Seat. An ancient volcano, Arthur’s Seat sits 251 metres above sea level, which affords such spectacular panoramic views of Edinburgh that you’ll be glad you got up early to catch them.

 

11:00 HIT THE WAVES

Drive half an hour east from Edinburgh to the county of East Lothian, where you’ll be greeted by long, flat stretches of lovely beaches that come with wind and waves conditions ideal for watersports. Head to the small coastal town of Longniddry and take to the seas – with qualified instructors – on a thrilling kitesurfing adventure, absorbing the amazing views of the coastline as your glide over the waves.

 

13:00 BOOST YOUR ENERGY

Pick up some lunch to takeaway with you on the two-hour drive to your next destination, St Andrews in Fife; you’re by the coast so there are plenty of fish and chips options!

 

15:00 SAIL ON LAND

You’ve mastered the waves, now it’s time to conquer the land as you tackle land yachting, an exhilarating sport that blends the grace of sailing with the thrills of motor racing at speeds of up to 40mph. The beauty of this sport is that you don’t have to have any experience of sailing and the basic skills don’t take long to graspPlus, as you’re racing across St Andrews beach, you’ll catch a fantastic view of the Old Course, the oldest and, arguably, the most iconic golf course in the world.

 

17:00 REWARD YOURSELF WITH A WEE DRAM

You’ve earned yourself a refreshing tipple; head into the heart of St Andrews and stop by at The Criterion, a family run, traditional Scottish pub. Its shelves are crammed with more than 160 whiskies and 50 Scottish gins, as well as a range of local ales, so make sure you’ve booked someone to drive you to your next destination, the pretty city of Perth an hour away, where you’ll base yourself ready for the next day’s activities.

 

19:30 FEAST ON SCOTTISH FAVOURITES

Build up your strength for the next day with Scottish favourites at The Bothy in the heart of Perth. This cosy restaurant uses the freshest local produce in its dishes and you can feast on carbohydrate-loaded goodies such as Isle of Arran haggis, neeps and tatties or beef cheek and ale pie served with buttery mash.

 

Time to check in

Perth is well-equipped with comfortable budget-style hotels and B&Bs, but if you’re looking for something a little upmarket, try The Townhouse. Situated in a charming Georgian property its décor mixes 18th-century style with Art Deco-design, although all its facilities are thoroughly 21st century.

If you want to base yourself somewhere a little more ‘sporty’ then head 40 minutes out of town into the countryside of Perthshire and check into Crieff Hydro. A spa resort, it also has more than 60 indoor and outdoor activities; fly over the treetops on a zipline, explore the surrounding woods via a Segway, smash your way through a game of tennis, try your hand at archery, or gallop through the countryside on horseback. In fact, you could spend an adrenaline-pumping 48 hours right here.

Alternatively, if you want to experience the great outdoors by night, check out Tree Howf near Dunblane, also 40 minutes from Perth. This magical accommodation is built high within the branches of an ash tree and boasts stunning panoramic views over the Ochil Hills. It’s entirely self-sufficient and comes with cooking facilities, shower and a huge star-gazing window above the hand-made king-size bed.

 

Day Two

09:00 TACKLE THE RAPIDS

You’re in some of Scotland’s most beautiful landscapes in Perthshire, so experience its loveliness combined with a heart-thumping activity and spend the morning white-water rafting on Scotland’s longest river, the Tay, half an hour from Perth. These are great waters for beginners – as there are ample stretches of quiet water to practice paddling techniques – as well as for veteran white-water rafters, as the river is home to plenty of white-knuckle rapids too! Another wonderful way to experience the gorgeous scenery of Perthshire is via canyoning, an awesome activity of descending into gorges and being lowered by rope over spectacular waterfalls.

 

13:00 REBOOT WITH A PICNIC LUNCH

Pick up a picnic lunch after your morning activity from one of the farm shops dotted on your next journey, which takes you down to Balloch next to Loch Lomond (around a one-and-a-half hour drive).

 

15:00 CATCH A BIRD’S EYE VIEW

One of the most enjoyable ways to experience the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park is from the air! Arrive at Balloch on the shores of the loch for the Loch Lomond Treezone courses. Conquer its 11 tree-top obstacles and finish the course with a real buzz, zooming down a 19-metre zipline. If you’re feeling particularly energetic, have a go at the Loch Lomond Buzzard, with 17 obstacles to tackle and the chance to whizz down a 65-metre zipline!

 

17:00 HEAD TO THE BRIGHT LIGHTS OF THE CITY

Time to travel on to Glasgow, which is an hour’s drive from Balloch, a brilliant city for the young and the young at heart.

 

19:00 DINE OUT IN THE COOL SPOTS

Glasgow has seen a raft of hip new eateries join its excellent restaurant repertoire this year. Can’t decide what cuisine you fancy? Head to Dockyard Social near the cool neighbourhood of Finnieston, a street food and bar hub hosting a number of start-ups. Here you’ll find everything from wood-fired pizza to Hirata buns and Korean fried chicken. And find a slice of the US state Kentucky in the East End of Glasgow at Van Winkle, a ‘bourbon BBQ grill’, which comes with a superb choice of Bourbon. Or explore the cobbled street of Ashton Lane, home to magical venues including Brel and Ubiquitous Chip.

 

21:00 PARTY CITY

Glasgow is renowned for its vibrant live music scene and you’ll find a variety of gigs of various sizes being staged every day of the week. From the iconic Barrowland Ballroom to more intimate venues such as King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut and Nice n’ Sleazy, there’s ample opportunity to party the night away. The SSE Hydro regularly welcomes some of the biggest names in the music world, while for a more laid back evening, head to one of the city’s dedicated whisky bars and pubs. The Ben Nevis stocks hundreds of whiskies and hosts regular live folk music throughout the week.

 

Time to check in

Glasgow has everything from budget accommodation to luxury properties and it’s also well-known for its chic, contemporary style hotels. Citizen M Glasgow is located in the heart of the city centre and features cool interior designs, rain showers and free WiFi. Elsewhere, the Malmaison Glasgow is a boutique four-star hotel in the city centre set in a converted church, with its fabulous Chez Mal Bar, complete with quirky towering beer barrel wall, while the stylish Z Hotel is housed in the city’s renovated Old Printworks.

Day trips from London – Oxford and Cambridge

Oxford and Cambridge – two of the most famous university cities in the world that should be on everyone’s bucket lists to visit. Fortunately, both are around 60 miles from London – an hour’s journey by train – which make them easy to visit in a day trip from the capital and summer is the perfect time to explore them when the students are on their summer break. How do you choose which one if you’ve got just the one day to spare? Here’s a handy guide to help you choose the first to visit…as you plan a return trip to Britain to visit the other!

 

History & Heritage

Oxford

Founded in 1096, this prestigious university is the oldest university in the English-speaking world. And, if you have a penchant for literature, it also boasts a strong connection with some of the world’s greatest authors; alumni include luminaries such as JRR Tolkien (Oxford was where he penned Lord of the Rings), CS Lewis and Lewis Carroll, Oscar Wilde, T.S. Eliot, Phillip Pullman, Graham Greene – the list goes on!

Cambridge

Cambridge is also centuries old…although this esteemed university can claim to be a little younger than Oxford, having been founded in 1209. The university is renowned for its science legends – Charles Darwin studied here (see his notebooks at the city’s Sedgwick Museum), plus it’s famously where scientists Francis Crick and James Watson discovered the structure of DNA, and where World War Two code breaker Alan Turing and theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking studied.

 

The Universities

Oxford

The university made up of 38 independent colleges, which are dotted across Oxford, many of which you can visit and explore the college quads, gardens and chapels. They’re all worth a visit but Christ Church is probably one you already recognise – its grand hall was used as the setting for Hogwarts’ Great Hall in the Harry Potter films – and its home to Christ Church Cathedral, which contributes to the reason why Oxford is called the city of ‘dreaming spires’. Elsewhere, New College, which was also used in the Harry Potter films, has a gorgeous garden with the original city wall running around its boundaries and its Chapel is home to art such as a two-metre high sculpture of Lazarus. More stunning architecture can be found at Balliol College.

Cambridge

Cambridge University has 31 colleges, so a little smaller than Oxford but no less spectacular in its architecture and grounds. One of the best examples of gothic architecture can be found at the chapel at King’s College – you’ll discover incredible medieval stained-glass windows here as well as the largest fan-vaulted ceiling in the world. If you go along for Choral Evensong you’ll be captivated by some of the most beautiful sounds – the choir sings here most days and its free to visit. King’s College was founded by Henry VI, his queen Margaret of Anjou went on to found the equally beautiful Queen’s College, one of the oldest and largest at Cambridge. Trinity College, designed by Sir Christopher Wren (of St Paul’s Cathedral fame), boasts the incredible Wren Library and make sure you stop by the Corpus Clock at Corpus Christi College; this incredible monument doesn’t have hands or digital numbers and was designed to be beautiful yet disconcerting.

 

Activities

Oxford

Whether you’re in Oxford or Cambridge, a punt on the river is essential! A punt is a flat-bottomed boat, propelled by pushing off the river bed with a long pole. One of the biggest punt stations in Oxford is the Cherwell Boathouse (you can eat at its restaurant too), where you’ll punt down the River Cherwell, underneath low-slung bridges, past the city’s Botanic Gardens and the pretty Magdalen College.

A night at the theatre is also a must; the world-famous Sheldonian Theatre, the university’s official ceremonial venue, is a regular host of classical music performances. Head to the New Theatre Oxford for comedy and West End shows while the Oxford Playhouse is home to everything from family shows, drama, student and amateur shows to comedy, poetry and contemporary dance. And, with Oxford University blessed with so many famous authors among its alumni, it’s only fitting that every year the renowned Oxford Literary Festival takes place (March 30-7 April 2019).

In a city with such a profound history, you’ll also find a museum or two along the way! Everything from contemporary art to Egyptian mummies can be found at The Ashmolean, the university’s museum of art and archaeology, while Oxford Castle and Prison both relates 1,000 years of the murky side of the city’s history and hosts a packed events programme; for eight weeks this summer it’s home to Oxford’s Shakespeare Festival.

Looking for a gift to take home? There are plenty of university themed souvenirs at The University of Oxford Shop or head down to the Oxford Covered Market to browse the cute independent shops, while high-street treats can be found at the large-scale shopping mall Westgate Oxford.

Cambridge

Punting on the River Cam is an excellent way to enjoy the beautiful university colleges – either hire a punt to take out yourself or take a guided tour so you can absorb the city’s history in full along the way. You’ll pass by landmarks such as The Backs (of the colleges), the Bridge of Sighs, Trinity College’s Wren Library and the magnificent King’s College Chapel.

Discover more of the city’s past in its fantastic array of museums. Art and antiquities are on display at the Fitzwilliam Museum, modern and contemporary art can be found at the university’s Kettle’s Yard, or take a journey through 4.5 billion years of earth’s existence at the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences.

Cambridge also boasts significant theatrical and comedic connections – the famous Cambridge Footlights comedy troupe, which spawned great names including John Cleese and Emma Thompson, can be seen performing at the ADC Theatre. Great student theatre, as well as musical events such as free lunchtime concerts, can be found at the Mumford Theatre, the Cambridge Corn Exchange hosts comedy, musicals and concerts, while the Cambridge Arts Theatre offers audiences plays, comedy and musical theatre. And, every summer, al fresco music performances are the order of the day across the city’s green spaces during its Summer in the City event. Come in the autumn and treat yourself to the Cambridge Film Festival (25 October-1 November), which shows everything in the world of film, from shorts to documentaries to a children’s film festival, while its Movies on the Meadows, one of the UK’s largest outdoor cinema experiences, takes place at the end of August.

Shopping is a real pleasure in Cambridge; pick up treats among the stalls on the cobbled streets of Market Square, explore boutique stores and find artisan products and arts and crafts at Saturdays All Saints Garden Art and Craft Market opposite Trinity College. British high-street brands have their home in Grand Arcade and the Lion Yard Shopping Centre, and you can find bohemian-style restaurants and shops along Mill Road.

 

Film & TV locations

Oxford

Oxford was one of the film locations for the biggest film franchise in history; Harry Potter. As well as Christ Church College doubling up as the glorious Hogwarts dining hall, the Bodleian Library was also used and the Divinity School became the school’s infirmary in the fourth Potter film.

Detective drama Inspector Morse was set in the city and you can visit its locations on walking tours. Order a pint at the Morse Bar at the Macdonald Randolph Hotel, the place where Morse himself used to enjoy a drink.

Oxford University played an integral role in the story of Brideshead Revisited – it was where Charles Ryder met Lord Sebastian Flyte while they were students – and some of its colleges were used as film locations during the 2008 movie (author of the book, Evelyn Waugh, studied at Oxford). Wander around the cloisters of Magdalen College and the 750-year old Merton College, both used as locations in the film.

Twenty minutes from Oxford lies the magnificent Blenheim Palace, which has featured in so many films (The BFG, Cinderella, James Bond’s SPECTRE and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation to name a few,) it has its own film trail.

Cambridge

Eddie Redmayne won an Oscar and a BAFTA for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, and much of the film was shot on location in Cambridge, where Hawking studied. You can explore the city’s cobbled streets shown in the film, as well many of the university’s colleges, notably St John’s, which also played a starring role.

Outside the city, the Cambridgeshire countryside is regularly seen on the big and small screen. The Crown used Ely Cathedral (50 minutes from Cambridge) to depict Westminster Abbey, and movies such as The King's Speech, The Other Boleyn Girl and Elizabeth: The Golden Age were filmed on location in the Cambridgeshire countryside.

 

Accommodation

Oxford

A brilliant way to experience life as a university student – and a very cost-effective one – is to stay in one of the colleges outside of term time…you can also enjoy breakfast in their grand dining halls.

However, the city does have some fabulous hotels, each with their own unique history. Luxury five-star hotel The Macdonald Randolph boasts glorious gothic architecture and is also a lovely place to enjoy afternoon tea or a drink in its Cartoon Bar. The city is packed with heritage-style hotels; intimate and comfortable, the Bath Place Hotel is set across five 17th-century cottages near the historic Turf Tavern, while the chic 18th-century townhouse The Vanbrugh House Hotel neighbours the buildings of the university’s famous debating society, the Oxford Union. And for something a little quirky, why not summon up the courage to sleep in a converted prison cell at Oxford Castle?

Cambridge

You can stay in a historic Cambridge college outside of term time too – so you can really be in the heart of university life; eat in the college halls and stroll through the college gardens for a student experience without the studying!

There are also plenty of B&Bs and guesthouses dotted around, one of which is boutique B&B The Duke House; this cosy property is only a few minutes’ stroll from all the colleges. Boutique Hotel du Vin blends history with contemporary style. And visit the luxurious Varsity Hotel & Spa for panoramic views of the city from its rooftop restaurant and bar.