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).

Six Lake District locations to visit this autumn

Since being awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 2017, the popularity of the Lake District National Park in north-west England has continued to soar. While the summer is, undoubtedly, a lovely time to visit, savvy travellers will find the Lakes and their towns and villages an equally beautiful destination in the autumn. The scenery is ablaze with colour, the summer crowds have thinned out and there’s plenty to see and do, no matter the weather.

Windermere and Bowness

Right at the heart of the Lake District, the towns of Windermere and Bowness boast picturesque scenery wherever you turn. Catch those bright autumn colours from the water itself and climb aboard Windermere Lake Cruises steamers. This cruise can also take you to the neo-gothic Wray Castle; looming over the shores of Windermere, it’s not your typical castle displaying family heirlooms and portraits… There’s something here for everyone, including the little ones – they’ll love the dressing up, castle building and adventure play area available. For a different class of architecture, head to Blackwell House, a brilliant example of the Arts & Crafts movement from the early 20th century, which retains many of its original features and holds fantastic permanent and visiting exhibitions. 

Children’s author and illustrator Beatrix Potter was one of the Lakes’ most famous residents and all ages can enjoy the World of Beatrix Potter Attraction – you’ll feel as if you’re stepping into one of her books.

 

Kendal

A smart, handsome market town, Kendal is the Lakes’ arts and culture centre and is packed with independent cafés and pubs. Catch a play, exhibition, comedy or music event at the town’s thriving cultural hub, the Brewery Arts Centre or get your fix of art at the hidden gem that is the Abbot Hall Art Gallery, set in the Grade I-listed 18th-century building of Abbot Hall. Alternatively, you can experience a dose of history at Kendal Castle, once the family home ofKatherine Parr, the sixth wife of Henry VIII. Book onto a walking tour to hear more of its dynamic history and admire the excellent views from its hilltop vantage point.

Kendal is also a festival hotspot; in November it welcomes the Kendal Mountain Festival, an award-winning adventure film and speaker festival and a must-visit gathering for outdoor enthusiasts. This September will also see the return of Lakes Alive, which will bring contemporary art, activities and performances to Kendal and the wider Lake District National Park. Also in September is the Kendal Torchlight Carnival, followed by the only comic art festival in the UK, The Lakes International Comic Art Festival, which takes over the whole of the town in October. Another way to experience the rich heritage and culture in the Lakes are the Lakes Culture Signature Experiences; four different routes that celebrate the region's art, music and literature in a variety of ways.

 

Keswick and Ullswater

Keswick is close to the lakes of Ullswater, Derwentwater and Bassenthwaite, as well as the mountains of Grizedale Pike, Skiddaw and Catbells, yet it’s not just a walkers’ paradise. Head out onto Ullswater Lake on board Ullswater Steamers for a relaxed view of the beautiful scenery or, if you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, check out Honister, an innovative adventure attraction (and also England’s last working slate mine). Climb the original miners’ route (the Via Ferrata Classic), an exposed adventure climbing course created from cargo nets and wire bridges strung 366 metres above the valley floor. If you’re feeling particularly brave, take the bigger challenge by climbing the Via Ferrata Extreme!

Keswick is also one of the Lakes’ cultural highlights. Professional producing theatre, Theatre on the Lake, close to Derwentwater on the edge of Keswick, is in one of the prettiest theatre settings imaginable and you can catch a play here throughout the year. Travel a little further out to The Lakes Distillery and join an interactive tour to see how its whisky, gin, and vodka are made, which also make an excellent gift to take home. And we mustn’t forget the most niche of museums; the Pencil Museum! It’s more than just pencils (although the collection does include gems such as secret Second World War pencils complete with hidden maps); it also runs art workshops.

 

Coniston

Coniston, nestled between Coniston Water and the Coniston Fells, has a copper mining and slate quarrying history and the village’s proximity to dramatic landscapes – lakes, mountains, waterfalls, tarns and woods – means walking, sightseeing, water sports, mountaineering and horse riding are all prevalent here.

The most notable feature of Coniston Village is The Old Man of Coniston, an 803-metre-high fell. For a slightly easier walk with incredible views, head to Tarn Hows, set more than 183 metres up in the hills above Coniston. A lovely, easy, 1.5-mile pathway shows off the best of the gorgeous Langdale Pikes.

Another lovely way to see Coniston Water and the Fells is by the steam yacht gondola; the trip takes you past Coniston Hall and then on to Brantwood, the home of celebrated Victorian art critic and artist John Ruskin. You can alight here to explore the house, which is filled with many fine paintings, beautiful furniture and Ruskin’s personal treasures. 

 

Ambleside

Ambleside is surrounded by magnificent Lakeland fells and is a town with an energetic vibe. Yet it’s also home to one of the oldest standing buildings in the Lakes, the quirky, picturesque Bridge House, which dates back to the 17th century.

A visit to Ambleside also means you’re very close to Hill Top House, the 17th-century farmhouse where Beatrix Potter lived, wrote and based many of her much-loved stories. When she left the house to the National Trust she left instructions about how it should be shown, so it stands exactly as she knew it and lived in it.

Some of Potter’s works can also be viewed at the Armitt Museum, Gallery and Library – she was one of its earliest supporters – which features the history of life, photography and the fine art of the Lake District. Or for a slice of contemporary art, head to the Old Courthouse Gallery, showcasing glassworks, jewellery, wall art and ceramics, which you can also buy. A great way to spend an evening in Ambleside is at the Jazz Bar of Zeffirellis, which hosts modern jazz and world music performances throughout the week. Want to sample local ale? Try the wares created by Ambleside’s Barngates Brewery, served in the Drunken Duck Inn and Restaurant – although the brewery isn’t open for tours, visitors to the Drunken Duck can request to see inside the adjacent brewery buildings.

 

Ravenglass

Ravenglass is the Lake District’s only coastal village and history emanates from every corner, from its Bronze Age settlements, Roman forts and Anglian crosses to its Viking remains, Norman churches and medieval mills. You can even go back to the Victorian era of steam and experience the Ravenglass & Eskdale steam railway, which takes you on a stunning seven-mile journey through the National Park.

A must-visit in the area is Muncaster Castle. Still lived in by the same family after nine centuries, Muncaster is said to be haunted and, this November, will hold a Scientific Ghost Vigil. If that doesn’t sound quite your thing, the castle itself is fascinating to explore and you can enjoy bird of prey displays at its Hawk and Owl Centre throughout the year.

London’s hot shopping spots

London is one of the best shopping destinations in the world; its iconic department stores, retailers ranging from luxury to high-street to vintage to the downright quirky, plus its abundance of independent stores, food traders and drinks emporiums have always been crowd-pleasers. Never a city to stay still, the capital’s shopping scene continues to evolve, with boosts to its major shopping hubs happening right now and over the next couple of years. And the beauty of London is that there are still smaller shopping havens to discover along with the big guys.

 

The Big

West London

Already officially open, the huge shopping destination that is Westfield London has boosted its shopping and entertainment capabilities by another colossal 740,000 square feet/68,748 square metres! Many new shops and restaurants are already welcoming customers, but the openings will continue into the autumn. New stores include the ever-popular Primark, Heal’s, Boden, Space NK, Adidas and H&M, which also boasts the first-ever in-store H&M nail bar, in partnership with Go Gorgeous London. Also new to Westfield is sister company to Zara, Stradivarius, with its huge range of fashion choices for young women.

 

North London

Like it predecessors in Shoreditch, east London and Croydon, south London, Boxpark will be popping up in Wembley at the end of this year. Featuring its signature black and white look – although housed in a permanent building rather than shipping containers – this will be a food lovers’ shopping heaven; you’ll find some of the best independent and established food traders from across London, and around the world here, and look out for pop-up specials along the way. Boxpark Wembley will also be hosting more than 200 events throughout the year (large-scale events will find a home at its 2,000-capacity arena), turning it into both a cultural and foodie destination.

Just before then, autumn 2018 will see the unveiling of a monumental new shopping experience in the capital. A collection of warehouses of a former Victorian coal store has been reworked into an incredible architectural feat to create the retail destination Coal Drops Yard. Top names that have announced they will open there include Paul Smith, Lost Property of London, Cheaney, Sweaty Betty, Cubitts, Space NK, Manifesto as well as Tom Dixon; the design brand will not only open a flagship store, but a restaurant and café too.

 

South London

Battersea Power Station will reopen as a retail and leisure destination in 2020, creating the third largest retail destination in central London. Think high-end and contemporary shopping experiences in a jaw-droppingly awesome location. International brands will be stocked in stores throughout the Power Station’s two historic turbine halls; Turbine Hall A – a gorgeous Art Deco creation built in the 1930s – will house the Premium Collection, while contemporary, cutting-edge brands will find their home in Turbine Hall B, a building completed in the 1950s.

 

Discover these secret shopping neighbourhoods

Gabriel’s Wharf, South Bank

Just behind the South Bank is hidden treasure Gabriel’s Wharf, a cornucopia of independent shops, bars and restaurants. International contemporary style and handmade designs dominate the lines; think colourful and creative knitwear, such as that available at Joanne Plumb, where each garment is individually handmade. You’ll also find a superb collection of accessories shops in the wharf; Studio Hop creates fun and chic contemporary designs, while the team at Vendula London produces distinctive accessories with a funky twist. Shopping at Gabriel’s Wharf means discovering something unique to take home – this is not about high-street finds.

 

Neal’s Yard, Covent Garden

Turn down one of the ‘dials’ of Covent Garden’s Seven Dials neighbourhood, and find yourself in the secret, multi-coloured courtyard that is Neal’s Yard. Logically it’s home to the well-known organic skincare products from Neal’s Yard Remedies and just around the corner you can buy delicious British cheese from Neal’s Yard Dairy. But it’s also the place to stock up on sumptuous Sicilian delicacies at deli and wine bar Casanova & Daughters, as well as have your hair and nails done at the brilliantly named Hair by Fairy. An ‘English coffee house’, Jacob the Angel, has recently opened in the yard, created by the people behind its neighbouring restaurant The Barbary. Jacob the Angel is a blessing for those with a sweet tooth – fill up on its treats such as mini coconut cream pies and peanut butter blondies. 

 

Connaught Village, Hyde Park

A short stroll from Hyde Park is the luxury retail quarter of the Hyde Park Estate, Connaught Village, a shopping retreat of independent retailers that line the Georgian streets with their pretty pastel-coloured shop fronts. It’s here you can buy gorgeous luxury products, whether you’re looking for fine wine, eye-catching fashion or art. Fashionistas will love the selection of high-end, unique women’s clothes stores; blending culture with fashion, Kokoro London designs its ready-to-wear collection in London – in collaboration with internationally renowned artists – and produces them in Japan using luxury fabrics and traditional printing techniques. Looking to pick up a piece designed by a rising star of the fashion world? Check out The Place London for Women, where you’ll find exquisite printed fabrics from British print designer Alice Archer, flawless accessories from Diana Broussard and elegant products from fragrance designer Azzi Glasser.

 

Camden Passage, Islington: Boasting a treasure trove of shops and stalls dedicated to vintage clothes, antique stores, retro chic and cute cafés, Camden Passage is a 17th-century, cobblestoned passageway close to Angel Underground station (and not part of Camden Market!). It’s a fantastic place to find something out of the ordinary; vintage vinyl and classic comics at Atomic, antique and vintage porcelain at Caroline Carrier, art nouveau and art deco jewellery at Esme but also contemporary boutiques such as ladies clothing store Victoria Beau and independent concept store S120.

 

Marylebone High Street

Just to the back of the shopping frenzy that is Oxford Street is the retail paradise of Marylebone High Street. As it’s a little off the beaten track it means it’s quieter yet has bags of character and fabulous shopping. High-end boutiques, such as Matches Fashion, LK Bennet and Comptoir des Cotonniers are neighbours of trendy homeware store Skandium, as well as the only retail store for buttons in the capital, The Button Queen, classic furniture designs at The Conran Shop, artisanal Belgian chocolate at Pierre Marcolini and the wonderful independent bookstore, Daunt Books. Turn the corner onto Chiltern Street and buy from the myriad of beauty products found at the 200-year old, fantastically stocked pharmacy John Bell & Croyden. Nearby Moxon Street is where to go for foodie treats – cheesemonger La Fromagerie, butcher’s The Ginger Pig and Rococo Chocolate all have a home here.

 

Redchurch Street, Shoreditch

Chic boutiques sit side by side with vintage shops and all manner of independent stores at Redchurch Street in central Shoreditch, located just around the corner from Shoreditch High Street. Check out Labour & Wait and Hostem for cutting-edge menswear, and Nudie Jeans for all things denim. Stock up on cosmetics from Aesop and A.P.C or shops for contemporary interior luxuries at stores Monologue and Klaus Haapaniemi & Co.

Spotlight On – East London

Pulsating with a dynamic vibe, east London is a hotbed of creativity across its neighbourhoods, many of which have been revitalised over the last few years. While cosmopolitan in its outlook, you can still find pockets of the unique Cockney charm, giving this region of the capital a diverse and spirited energy. We show you where to eat, sleep and play in trendy boroughs such as Hackney, up and coming south-east London neighbourhoods such as Peckham and well-established areas such as Shoreditch.

 

Where to… Eat?

Hackney

Yes, it’s about pizzas and beer, but Crate Brewery in Hackney Wick is top of its game with both. The pizzas are hand-rolled, stone-baked and come in an assortment of unique topping combinations (think more along the lines of Middle Eastern lamb or sweet potato with Stilton and walnuts rather than a Hawaiian) and the craft beer is brewed on site. You can book on a tasting tour of the microbrewery while here, or simply enjoy this innovative venue that’s completely upcycled – its bar, for example, is made from old railway sleepers. Plus, its location on the banks of the Hackney canal and DJ sets every Friday and Saturday nights always attracts a young, hip crowd.

From one independent kitchen and bar to another, Grow sits in an old sausage factory by the River Lea and is a sustainable and ethical business working closely with local artists, DJs and musicians. This summer its menu is by Slow Fire London, using British seasonal ingredients inspired by Middle Eastern flavours, sourced locally and sustainably. Don’t just come for the food though; Grow also runs free events, from open mic to art festivals, music from live jazz and blues to reggae.

On the more upmarket side, Hackney is also home to Forman’s Restaurant, a riverside eaterie that specialises in salmon and seafood – it’s run by Forman’s, one of the oldest and most famous producers of London cure-smoked salmon. You can also visit the onsite smokehouse to see how these delicacies are prepared, before tucking into a menu that features treats such as warm smoked eel fillets, poached turbot with scallops and smoked Scottish salmon and Cornish crab salad.

 

Peckham

Part of the creative and cultural destination that is Peckham Levels – a transformed seven empty levels of a multi-storey car park – is newcomer West Kitchen, bringing a slice of California to south-east London. It describes itself as a conscious kitchen – practicing minimal food waste and using seasonal ingredients from sustainable farmers – elements that sing through its menu that includes seabass ceviche and Ayurvedic kitchari. An added bonus is its all-day natural wine bar.  

At the heart of Peckham is the Peckham Refreshment Rooms, a pared-down style restaurant situated in a 1930s Art Deco block that always has a bustling atmosphere. Here you’ll find a menu of European treats, from aubergine parmigiana to bavette steak, brought together from small-batch and artisan producers.

Peckham Bazaar offers customers a menu of pan-Balkan mezze and grill, taking inspiration from across the Balkan region, using traditional recipes blended with indigenous ingredients, all cooked over a charcoal grill. Try dishes such as grilled rabbit with Cyprus potatoes, pork and lamb adana and braised and grilled cuttlefish with Greek orzo.

 

Shoreditch

Proving the Shoreditch scene is still attracting the cool chefs, Brat was opened earlier this year by ex-Kitty Fisher’s chef Tomos Parry, who has brought a bold blend of Welsh and Basque cuisine to east London. So how does that translate onto a menu? Gorgeous dishes such as Herdwick lamb, pork and laverbread salami, wild rabbit with blood sausage and beans, and whole turbots.

Another new kid that’s popped up in 2018 is the Vurger Company –  bringing a slice of vegan heaven to Shoreditch. Once a pop-up restaurant, this is the company’s first permanent site and one that was crowdfunded in less than 72 hours, such is its popularity. All its burgers are made from vegetables, nuts, grains, seeds and legumes – try its Tabasco Auberger, packed with aubergines, chickpeas and red onion – and there’s must-try vegan versions of mac ‘n’ cheese and milkshakes.

You can’t go wrong with a well-established eaterie in Shoreditch; Lyle’s is an innovative British restaurant with a passion for using British produce on its menus but, being at the forefront of the restaurant scene, it also brings the talents of international chefs to its kitchens during its Guest Series. Seasonal produce is also a key focus for the restaurant – come September, for example, there’ll be a focus on game dishes.

 

Where to… Sleep?

Hackney

Located in an old post office – and interestingly still run by the same family who used to run the aforementioned post office – the Avo Boutique Hotel is cosy and chic with varied décor in each room, and it’s just a five-minute walk from Dalston Overground station. While there’s plenty to see and do in the area, if you fancy just staying in for the evening you can take advantage of its comprehensive DVD and games library. 

Looking for a cool place to stay that won’t put too much strain on your budget? Kip, which has a new Hackney Central location, is all about affordable, stylish accommodation. Yes, it’s unpretentious and practical in its style, but you’ll find every type of room spec here, from single, twin, douples and studio rooms to group rooms, family rooms and even a penthouse suite.

 

Peckham

Located in a building dating back to 1878, the Victoria Inn is a boutique hotel and modern gastropub in the heart of Peckham. All 15 rooms are individually designed and range in size from single occupancy to space for a family of four. Then pop downstairs to the gastropub to sample one of its ten locally sourced beers and ciders and its British seasonal menu. 

Describing itself as offering ‘simple, elegant, affordable rooms with a lick of Africa cool inspired by the vibrant multiculturalism of our very special neighbourhood', the Peckham Rooms Hotel is just five minutes’ walk from the neighbourhood’s high street. This independent boutique hotel is run by a family local to the area – great to ask for recommendations of all the places to visit locally and further afield.

And it might be a little further out in Camberwell, although only 20 minutes’ walk from Peckham, but the Church Street Hotel is a quirky treat in south-east London, rocking a Spanish Americana vibe. Hand-painted Mexican tiles adorn its rooms and you can enjoy a drink in either its Havana lounge and Communion Bar.

 

Shoreditch

The Curtain – a six-storey hotel and members’ club by hospitality guru Michael Achenbaum – opened in the area just last summer and remains hot property. Guests can check out the rooftop pool, screening room and spa, plus it’s the first London outpost of soul-food specialist Red Rooster from Michelin-starred Marcus Samuelsoon. Expect classic décor from this trendy Shoreditch property – think exposed brick walls, specially commissioned artwork and hardwood flooring. And its seriously chic bar Green Room opened in May 2018, making The Curtain a destination to see and be seen.

Nobu Shoreditch is another relative newcomer to the Shoreditch scene, opening last year and being the first Nobu hotel in London. Contemporary and elegant, its style is inspired by Japanese architecture and décor as well as east London industrial style. Head to its fantastically cavernous restaurant for Japanese delicacies such as oven-roasted lobster with Hakaido scallops or the exclusive cilantro aioli and Ikura.

Another property to look out for over the coming months is a Shoreditch outpost of Mama Shelter. The French brand is said to be taking over the current RE Hotel; word on the street is that, like other properties in the group, it will be tech-led and offer plenty of social activities for guests, designer bedrooms and open social spaces.

 

Where to… Play?

Hackney

One legacy from the borough’s industrial past is the building space now used by street artists; just wandering around the area you’ll see works from legendary names such as Banksy and Stik Man. Plus, as the area attracts a youthful, party crowd, the nightlife is eclectic, so you’ll find everything from traditional-style pubs, pop-up cocktail bars, late-night drinking establishments and diverse clubs to enjoy. One cool east London bar is The Elephant’s Head – originally serving customers back in the 1890s, it’s been restored and reopened as a must-visit Hackney bar but one that maintains its old-school charm.

Hackney is a haven for markets; as well as browsing the stalls, independent shops and cafés of Broadway Market, which has been running since the 1890s, head a little off the beaten track to the newly opened Mare Street Market. A much more chilled-out vibe here, you can wander this cobbled street and enjoy the craft breweries, cafés, pop-up clothing stores, vinyl record shop and the sounds from the market’s own radio show; TV chef Gizzi Erskine is also opening her first restaurant here soon, The Dining Room.

Time for a spot of culture? Along from Mare Street market is the Hackney Empire, the East End theatre associated with pioneering and avant-garde theatre and comedy. And for something that’s going to get everyone talking, head to the Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities situated in a small Hackney basement. It displays everything that its founder has found fascinating, whether it’s rare or commonplace, from unusual finds from the world of nature to pop art prints and sketches from prison inmates.

 

Peckham

Peckham is creating a name for itself as a hotbed of street artist talent; make sure you keep a look out as you explore the area for its emerging graffiti art scene. And discover diverse creative art events, music, film, comedy and theatre at the brilliant CLF Art Café, housed in a multi-warehouse space, the Bussey Building, which is fast-becoming one of the go-to places for London’s cool crowd and cultural aficionados.

You’ll find brilliant prices for blockbuster films at Peckhamplex, an independent multiplex cinema that shows a range of new releases, with tickets costing a value £4.99 all day every day, and it’s also the place to catch works by independent film-makers as well as art exhibitions.

Right next door is Peckham Levels, a multi-purpose, artistic space created in a multi-storey car park that has also evolved into a foodie and nightlife destination. Head to the top-floor bar Frank’s Café for gorgeous panoramic views of the capital’s skyline while you enjoy a drink or two on summer evenings. Or spend an evening over craft beers at the Brick Brewery, located under Peckham Rye train station’s railway arches, where you can sample brews straight from the source in its Tap Room.

Fancy stepping back in time? Peckham’s Four Quarters is London’s first arcade bar – test your retro game skills on 15 original arcade games dating back to the 1980s, then dance the night away at its basement cocktail bar and club, The Confession Box.

 

Shoreditch

Long a hotbed of emerging talent and hub for creative minds, Shoreditch continues to be at the forefront of critically acclaimed contemporary culture. There are a number of galleries worth visiting, such as Kate McGarry gallery, where you’ll find video artists and performance fine art among its works and the Jealous gallery, where you can buy prints from well-known artists and photographers such as David Shrigley and Russell Marshall.

Theatre-goes looking to expand their repertoire should try out the New Shoreditch Theatre, which features artists from all creative backgrounds, whether that’s plays, live music or art, film screenings and installation work. And a fantastic line-up of gigs take place at independent music shop Rough Trade East, which also offers a sublime collection of music (plus plenty of choice for vinyl addicts).

New bars and clubs continue to open in the area, such as Parisian-style wine bar and bistro Leroy, with its 100-bin wine list and their own Vermouth behind the counter. Quirky takes on classic cocktails are found at The Office on Kingsland Road, which opened at the end of May, and try out the fascinating array of unusual spirits, such as Portuguese fig fire water and Umoshi plum wine, on offer at the Smoking Goat, which opened at the end of 2017.

To blow the cobwebs away after a night out in Shoreditch, there’s probably nowhere more pleasurable than a stroll through the iconic Columbia Road Flower Market, just over a ten-minute walk away. The blooms are heart-lifting and the independent shops surrounding it are a joy to explore; vintage-clothes shops sit alongside small art galleries and antique stores and you can always find a caffeine hit at one of the cute cafés along the way. More great shopping can be found at Shoreditch’s Boxpark – the former shipping container that’s become a pop-up mall, a haven of independent shops, global names and restaurants.

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.

Spotlight on… the Midlands

All eyes are on the Midlands region of England right now, as the city of Coventry starts its preparations to be the UK’s City of Culture in 2021. As well as improved transport links across the city, there are plans to ensure venues and attractions have the best possible setting for the year cultural celebrations and the Coventry Transport Museum has already reopened after a £9.5m redevelopment programme.

Yet Coventry is not alone when it comes to developing landscapes – the Midlands is on a roll. And, with these cities only within one to two hours train journey of each other, it’s easy to visit multiple destinations in this region on one awesome trip.

 

What’s happening in… Birmingham?

Britain’s second largest city, Birmingham, is to host the Commonwealth Games in 2022, which will shine a spotlight on the city as a premier sport and leisure destination. Between now and then several of Birmingham’s neighbourhoods are undergoing a revitalisation. In Digbeth, for example, the architecturally striking 1930s Typhoo building (where tea used to arrive in Birmingham from London) will be converted into artistic spaces, bars and restaurants, while a 13-acre site by Eastside Locks next to Digbeth Canal will be developed into a leisure area along with a hotel and apartments. Digbeth is fast becoming a cool and creative neighbourhood, with businesses utilising the area’s industrial heritage to open independent and unique bars and restaurants. New bar in the area The Ruin, has also unveiled a mural-style map featuring 12 independent and unique neighbours, together called ‘The Digbeth Dozen’. Created by Birmingham graffiti artist Title (Andy Mills) it features venues such as the street-food focused Digbeth Dining Club, brewery and taproom Dig Brew Co, quirky golf and cocktails venue Ghetto Golf, and The Mockingbird Cinema and Kitchen, situated in the iconic Custard Factory.

One of Birmingham’s most iconic Grade II-listed buildings, The Grand, set on the 19th-century streetscape of Colmore Row, is currently undergoing redevelopment and is scheduled to open in early 2019 with a 180-bedroom hotel, complete with restaurant and bar, a spa and the city’s first rooftop infinity pool. Several cool bars and cafés have already set up home in the development - The Alchemist, Gusto and 200 Degrees cafe. Other recent developments in the city include the Paradise district in central Birmingham, launching across phases and which will eventually consist of a vibrant mix of shops and restaurants, plus new metro tram extensions are already underway to maximise connectivity around the region.

There’s plenty to enjoy in the city this year too; for a start, it’s foodie festival heaven. This summer (28-29 July), visitors can explore a drinking hall, two live-music stages, a comedy tent, cinema, tasting sessions and talks at the Craft Drink Festival. September welcomes the Birmingham Chilli Festival, bringing live cooking demonstrations together with music and street performances, while October hosts the food and drink joy that is the Wine, Cheese & Chocolate Festival, celebrating the very best in British artisan suppliers.

Birmingham is also a hot location right now for the film and TV industry; Steven Spielberg filmed a large part of his recent movie Ready Player One in the city and the hit TV show Peaky Blinders is set here during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Discover Birmingham’s darker past on Peaky Blinders-inspired walking tour.

Getting there: By train, Birmingham is 20 minutes from Coventry, just over an hour from Nottingham, 45 minutes from Stoke-on-Trent and 1.5 hours from London.

 

What’s happening in… Nottingham

Nottingham is renowned for its legends and historic attractions and is currently in the throes of making those attractions even better. Standing proudly overlooking the city Nottingham Castle is 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. Perhaps just as famous as the castle is Robin Hood’s hideout, Sherwood Forest, which this summer welcomes a new visitor centre, aimed at providing a contemporary perspective into this legendary landscape.

Talking of Robin Hood, between 7 July – 30 September, an exciting sculpture trail is coming to the city; called Hoodwinked: a twist on the tale, it will be a contemporary take on the traditional stories of the legendary outlaw. Artists such as graffiti artist Kid 30, Sarah Manton and Jessica Kemp of Curious? Nottingham are contributing to the trail so expect a real mix of styles.

Also gathering pace is a raft of stylish new bars and restaurants. In the heart of the city’s entertainment centre, The Cornerhouse, GinSecco (a gin and Prosecco bar) is due to open later this year, offering unique cocktails that are inspired by the city’s heroes, such as fashion designer Paul Smith. One of the latest restaurants to hit Nottingham’s foodie scene is Alchemilla, which has a strong focus on plant-based cuisine, and The Alchemist, located in a splendidly gothic-style building. And for a spot of retail therapy, opening in the near future is the Engine Yard at Belvoir, a castle estate half an hour’s drive from Nottingham, bringing a new shopping experience to the area.

Getting there: Nottingham is just over an hour by train from Birmingham, 1 ¾ hour from Coventry, 1.5 hours from Stoke-on-Trent and two hours from London.

 

What’s happening in…Stoke-on-Trent

Best-known until now for the gorgeous ceramics once manufactured here, the 19th-century buildings on the Old Spode Works in Stoke-on-Trent – a city also known as The Potteries, thanks to its abundance of ceramics companies – have been reinvigorated. Following five years of development it’s gradually opening up as an area to eat, drink and visit; the new Potbank Café has already opened and visitors can head to the Spode Museum Trust to find out more about the area’s heritage.

Museum development in town is also continuing apace as work has begun to move Stoke-on-Trent’s famous Spitfire to its stunning new multi-million-pound home, at The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery. When it returns to the museum in 2019 it will be housed in a new glassed-fronted gallery.

The area is home to leading ceramics brands, with many of the factories open to visitors, such as World of Wedgwood – its museum is now free to enter – Portmeirion and Emma Bridgewater. The latter’s factory has also turned a piece of derelict land into an urban garden, which is now stocked with flowers, herbs, vegetables and poultry. Called the Secret Walled Garden, it also hosts garden events. Elsewhere, last year saw an extension to Trentham Shopping Village – ten minutes’ drive from Stoke-on-Trent – with 18 new units opening alongside the existing 63 shops, cafés and restaurants within the Shopping Village.

Getting there? By train, Stoke-on-Trent is less than hour from Birmingham, 1 ¼ hours from Coventry, 1.5 hours from Nottingham, and 90 minutes from London.

48 hours in… Pembrokeshire

2018 is Wales’ Year of the Sea, a year dedicated to celebrating the destination’s spectacular coastline and all that’s associated with it; a coastline that is, in fact, so great for exploring you can walk the entire way around it on the Wales Coast Path. On the west coast of Wales is the region of Pembrokeshire, Britain’s only coastal National Park, making it a memorable place to visit during this year’s celebrations. Discover beautiful, award-winning beaches that stretch for miles, majestic cliffs, pretty harbours and rugged islands, all easily reached in a couple of hours from the Welsh capital Cardiff or five hours from London. Fill a weekend here with beachside walks, adrenaline-pumping watersports, exploring the region’s art and heritage, and feasting on mouth-watering local produce.

 

Time to check in:

It’s easy to find somewhere to stay with a seaview in Pembrokeshire and the region is dotted with cosy self-catering cottages, charming B&Bs and guesthouses, and campsites galore overlooking the coast. And for something special? The Retreats Group has three unique, high-end properties in St David’s, Britain’s smallest city. The Twr y Felin Art Hotel features more than 100 pieces of specially commissioned art and the two Rosette Blas Restaurant, all just a ten-minute walk from the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path. If you have a large-enough party you can book the entire 12th-century Roch Castle Hotel and enjoy its awesome views over St David’s Bay, while the elegant stone-built 19th-century Penrhiw Hotel is located just minutes away from the breathtaking St David’s Cathedral. On the other side of Pembrokeshire is the attractive town of Saundersfoot; check in to its luxurious St Brides Hotel, where you can enjoy indulgent spa treatments overlooking the gorgeous bay below.

 

Day One

09:00 DISCOVER PEMBROKESHIRE’S HERITAGE

Begin your 48 hours in the south of the county to discover a little more about Pembrokeshire’s history. Explore the pretty market town of Narberth and its colourful Georgian and Edwardian architecture and, as it was once the capital of Pembrokeshire, it’s home to the medieval fortress Narberth Castle. It’s also a great place to pick up a unique gift to take home; Narberth is packed with independent shops, boutiques and galleries.

 

11:00 DELVE INTO TENBY’S PAST

Half an hour’s drive from Narberth is the popular seaside retreat of Tenby. Grab a coffee from a coastal café and either head out to discover the town’s fantastic inventory of art galleries, which includes the Tenby Museum and Art Gallery, investigate the town’s spooky past on the Tenby Ghost Tour, or imagine you are in Tenby of the Tudor era as you explore the National Trust-owned Tudor Merchants House.

 

13:00 LUNCH ON THE SEA’S HARVEST

You’re right by the sea so it’s makes perfect sense to dine on Tenby-caught seafood for lunch. Right next door to the Tudor Merchants House is Plantagenet House, a restaurant housed in the oldest building in town – some parts of it date back to the tenth century. Admiring its quirky interior décor, such as the medieval Flemish chimney, will keep you busy until your dishes of fresh seafood have arrived.

 

15:00 TAKE TO THE SKIES

There are many ways to explore Pembrokeshire, but if you want to see it all in just over an hour, book onto a scenic tour with Fly Wales. Take off from Haverfordwest Airport and swoop above the entirety of its coastline in 60 minutes.

 

17:00 WALK ALONG VAST BEACHES

Back down to earth and head 15 minutes from the airport to the seaside resort of Broadhaven in the heart of the coastal National Park. Come for a stroll along its huge expanse of sand and, at low tide, wander down to the village of Little Haven past a pretty bay called The Settlands. Stop off at The Swan Inn to relax with a beer or tipple of your choice while admiring the awesome coastal views.

 

19:30 ENJOY DINNER BY THE SEA

Head back up to Broadhaven for dinner as you watch the sun set over the horizon. Dine on local crab and mussels at the Ocean Café and Restaurant, a perfect spot to end your first day by the Pembrokeshire coast.

 

Day Two:

09:00 DISCOVER BRITAIN’S SMALLEST CITY

Small, yet perfectly formed, St Davids has the honour of being Britain’s smallest city. It’s also a conservation area in the Pembrokeshire Coastal National Park and can trace its roots back to the fourth century when St David – the patron saint of Wales – lived here. Despite its size there’s plenty to explore; St Davids Cathedral is a captivating sight, both its majestic exterior and painted ceilings within. Its neighbour is the medieval Bishop’s Palace; although roofless much of the structure remains intact. Or, if you’d rather be in the great outdoors, the city is fortunately located on the St Davids Peninsula so you’re just steps away from joining the Pembrokeshire Coast Path (part of the Wales Coast Path) to enjoy walks with those gorgeous views in every direction.

 

11:00 SPOT SEALIFE IN THEIR NATURAL HABITAT

See whales and dolphins, seals and porpoises, puffins and razorbills on a trip out to Ramsey Island and other islands further afield. Boat tours will take you out from St Davids and around the islands, sailing through narrow rock gorges and past extraordinary caves.

 

13:00 EAT THE FRESHEST PRODUCE

Delicious local produce is always on the menu at St Davids Kitchen, a restaurant which follows the farm-to-fork initiative. Feast upon Welsh Black Beef, reared just outside the city, Ramsey Island lamb and venison as well as St Davids lobster. Make sure you leave room at the end of the meal for the locally sourced Welsh cheeses.

 

15:00 TAKE AN ADVENTUROUS TURN

Enjoy this National Coastal Park to its fullest and participate in the huge range of watersports activities on offer. You’ll find plenty of surf schools and adventure activity companies based in St Davids. Try your hand at coasteering – where you jump from rocks, then swim and scramble back up them – or how about a spot of sea kayaking, paddleboarding, sailing, powerboating or fishing?

 

18:00 TIME FOR REFRESHMENTS

After all that activity you deserve something cold and refreshing; stop for a drink in The Bishops in St Davids city centre. It’s an exquisite old whitewashed stone building and the interior is charmingly rustic, perfect to relax in with a local ale.

 

20:00 CUDDLE UP FOR DINNER

There’s a lovely word in Welsh that describes a cuddle or a warm safe place; this St Davids restaurant has taken it as its name and has ensured its meaning is prevalent throughout. Cwtch is a cosy, comfortable eaterie where you’ll find divine local food on its menu; Solva crab, Welsh ribeye steak, Caerfai cheeses and Welsh lamb are all there to tempt you.

Stunning Scotland walks to do this summer

Scotland’s majestic highlands and lowlands, magnificent coastline and picturesque national parks guarantee scenery to take your breath away. So why not pull on a pair of good walking shoes, pack up a picnic and head out on an invigorating walk to drink in these incredible views. We bring you just a few of the best to embark on as we look forward to those long summer days.

 

Lady Mary’s Walk, Crieff, Perthshire

Short distance

Verdant woodland and tranquil riverside views along the banks of the River Earn greet walkers along this pretty four-mile track. Named after Lady Mary Murray, whose family were local early 19th-century landowners, the walk steers you past an old railway line, a small sandy beach and cute elements such as benches with poems carved into them. The variety of trees along the walk – some of which are more than 150 years old – is sublime, ranging from beech and oak to lime and sweet chestnut trees. See them in full bloom in the summer or come in the autumn for awesome canopies of burnished red and dazzling yellow. The walks also take you over Laggan Hill – a great stopping point to catch your breath and step back to admire the surrounding countryside.

Bring your camera for: the abundance of wildlife – otters, kingfishers, herons and oystercatchers all call this place home.

How to get there: The nearest rail stations are at Perth and Gleneagles – travel to either from Glasgow within an hour – then take a bus or hire a car to Crieff.

 

Loch Ness 360°, Highlands

Long distance

A new complete trail pathway looping around the entire circumference of this famous loch in the Scottish Highlands is due to be ready this summer, called Loch Ness 360°. The 3.6km section of the South Loch Ness Trail will link up with the Great Glen Way, which heads up the north side of the loch. Approximately 70 miles in total and marked clearly throughout, there are plenty of guesthouses and B&Bs to stay along the way – as well as some fantastic historic sites. The walk begins in Inverness, heads down the Great Glen Way on the north side of Loch Ness via Drumnadrochit and Invermoriston and over to the pretty town of Fort Augustus. From there pick up the South Loch Ness Trail and head back to Inverness.

Bring your camera for: When you spot Nessie of course! Also, for the sheer number of gorgeous views of Loch Ness itself.

How to get there: It takes around 25 minutes by bus from Inverness, itself 3.5 hours by train from Edinburgh.

 

John Muir Way, central Scotland

Long distance

Scotland is home to the remarkable 134 miles (216 kilometres) long John Muir Way, a coast-to-coast route where walkers encounter both beautiful scenery and a taste of Scotland’s ancient, industrial and urban landscapes. Although a long walk, there are plenty of places to stop along the way and most of the route is flat with easy gradients, plus a few hill climbs. You’ll pass by the Roman-built Antonine Wall barrier, once-abandoned canals and the famous banks of Loch Lomond. Most walkers journey west-east in ten stages, from coastal Helensburgh to Dunbar, where Muir himself (who was well known for championing the USA’s Yosemite National Park) grew up.

Bring your camera for: Views of the incredible engineering achievements of the Falkirk Wheel and Forth Rail Bridge.

How to get there: Direct trains link Helensburgh with Glasgow in 45 minutes, and Dunbar with Edinburgh in 25 minutes.

 

Arthurs Seat, Edinburgh

Short distance

A decent hill walk in the centre of a city is easily achieved in Scotland. Head up on this short walk from Edinburgh’s Royal Mile to Arthur’s Seat in the Scottish capital’s Holyrood Park. An ancient volcano, Arthur’s Seat sits 251 metres above sea level, resulting in amazing, panoramic views of Edinburgh below. You will need your energy to hike up to Arthur’s Seat so if you’re looking for a slightly easier walk with views out over the best of the city, walk the Salisbury Crags. However, if you choose to hike to Arthur’s Seat the rewards are great – as well as the views you can visit the 15th century St Anthony’s Chapel and Duddingston Loch.

Bring your camera for: the stunning views across Edinburgh.

How to get there: Bus or walk to Holyrood Park from the city centre.

 

Falls of Clyde and New Lanark, Lanarkshire, southern Scotland

Short distance

Discover powerful waterfalls and inviting riverside walks at the Falls of Clyde, which you can reach via the historic New Lanark UNESCO World Heritage Site. The route also takes walkers past a wooded gorge, fields and woodland as well as to a peregrine falcon watching area. Make sure you stop by at the visitor centre first to pick up interesting information about the area, as well as details on badger and bat walks and the many species of birds found here.

Bring your camera for: the viewpoint for the Corra Linn. This 27-metre waterfall was described by the famous 18th-century poet William Wordsworth as 'the Clyde's most majestic daughter'.

How to get there: The train takes an hour from Glasgow to Lanark, which is 1.5 miles/2.5 km from New Lanark, and then take the bus.

 

Loch Morlich, Cairngorms National Park, Highlands

Walking the loop around Loch Morlich, set in the heart of Glenmore Forest, offers extraordinary views of the northern Cairngorm mountains. This 3.75-mile route is all the more charming because of the sheer diversity of the natural surroundings; here you’ll experience a mountain backdrop, beaches to relax on when the sun shines, and pine-scented forests to explore.

Bring your camera for: the award-winning Loch Morlich Beach.

How to get there: Train to Aviemore from Glasgow in 2.5 hours and then a 20-minute bus or taxi.

8 reasons to visit Nine Elms, London’s newest district

Welcome to the capital’s newest neighbourhood. Stretching between the south London districts of Battersea and Vauxhall, a vast area of the South Bank of the River Thames is undergoing a revolutionary transformation as one of Europe’s largest regeneration programmes. Called Nine Elms – simply after a row of trees that once bordered the road – a booming cultural, leisure, residential and business quarter is rapidly developing alongside the River Thames. At its heart stand some of London’s most iconic sights – the Grade II-listed landmark Battersea Power Station, New Covent Garden Market (the largest fresh produce market in the country) and the ultra-modern new US Embassy. There’s so much planned for this unique London quarter that it’s set to become a must-see destination on any trip to the city; here’s why.

 

1. A lively food quarter

A new food district is gradually emerging during the first phase of regeneration. Named Circus West Village, both British and international restaurants with riverside views and outdoor terraces have already claimed their spots here. Enjoy a spot of breakfast or lunch created from fresh, seasonal, and locally sourced produce at The CoffeeWorks Project. Dine at the latest outpost of oyster and shellfish specialists the Wright Brothers, where the menu uses ingredients brought in to their business in London’s famous Billingsgate Fish Market. If you’re more in the mood for huge bowls of ramen, stacks of gyoza and a wide selection of Japanese whiskies and sake, try out Tonkotsu. Craving Italian cuisine? Head to Fiume for classic Italian food from Calabria, created by one of the world’s top Italian chefs, Francesco Mazzei.

In fact, top chefs from around the world are fast-taking notice of the area as a destination to do business in; legendary Indian chef Vishnu Natarajan has chosen Nine Elms to launch his first overseas restaurant, Chokhi Dhani London.

 

2.  A cool bar scene

Cocktails while enjoying views over the impressive colossus that is Battersea Power Station? Yes please! The bar scene at Nine Elms is already picking up pace; Vagabond, an independent wine shop and bar, has opened in the area, offering more than 100 wines by the glass, as well as a seasonal food menu and wide range of craft beers… and it’s pièce de résistance is a fully operational winery on site, should you want to explore the intricacies of the wine-making process. Elsewhere on the banks of the Thames is the Nine Elms Tavern, a stylish bar where interior décor combines full-length glass panels – so great views all round – with upcycled materials for furnishings. And head to the river terrace of No.29 Power Station West, a relaxed neighbourhood eaterie and bar for even more of those glorious views.

 

3. A contemporary shopping experience

With the area very much being developed as a leisure and cultural destination, as well as a residential and business district, get ready for some special attractions to launch. Battersea Power Station will reopen as a retail and leisure destination in 2020, creating the third largest retail destination in central London. Think high-end and contemporary shopping experiences in a jaw-droppingly awesome location. International brands will be stocked in stores throughout the Power Station’s two historic turbine halls; Turbine Hall A – a gorgeous Art Deco creation built in the 1930s – will house the Premium Collection, while contemporary, cutting-edge brands will find their home in Turbine Hall B, a building completed in the 1950s. And, when you’ve finished this state-of-the-art shopping experience, you’ll also be able to tour intriguing elements of the Power Station itself; ride the chimney lift for incredible London views and visit the fascinating A and B Control Rooms of the former power station.

 

4. Green space galore

London is world famous for its array of parks and green spaces – the Mayor of London wants to make it the first National Park City, with a target of making half the city green by 2050 – and Nine Elms is shaping up to be one of the greenest districts in London. Plans for Nine Elms Park include the creation of a green corridor extending through the district from Battersea Power Station to Vauxhall Cross, with open spaces, public squares and gardens, which, in the future, will also be used for outdoor events and attractions. It will offer a new pedestrian and cycle route through the centre of Nine Elms and will connect to the Thames River Path, which will eventually run the whole length of Nine Elms and be a focal point for arts and culture.

 

5. Cultural attractions

You can visit Nine Elms now for unique cultural experiences. Here lies a special National Trust site, one of only three National Trust properties in central London; 575 Wandsworth Road. The Georgian terraced house belonged to Kenyan poet, philosopher and novelist Khadambi Asalache, who turned his home into a work of art – the entire house is adorned in hand-carved, hand-painted woodwork. This is a hot ticket too; visitor numbers are limited to just 2,000 a year and tours need to be pre-arranged.

Looking for a contemporary art fix? The Hayward Gallery – which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year – will bring London’s largest free contemporary arts festival, Art Night, to Nine Elms, Battersea and Vauxhall this July, with an art trail running along the Thames in iconic and off-the-beaten-track venues. Or check out exhibitions of work from Damien Hirst’s art collection at the Newport Street Gallery in Vauxhall.  A good dose of culture can also be found along at the Battersea Arts Centre – its programme is packed with avant-garde theatre, creative sessions, cutting-edge comedy and spoken word.

 

6. The great outdoors

The area already has outdoor space to enjoy. Visit the New Covent Garden Market for a spectacle of floral blooms that will take your breath away. Or enjoy outdoor escapades at Battersea Park, from Go Ape treetop adventures to boating on the lake, walks in the pretty gardens to an entertaining afternoon at its Children’s Zoo.

 

7. Interesting places to stay

While Nine Elms is very much within easy reach of central London, the Battersea and Vauxhall area boast a full range of accommodation options.

Already located on the banks of the Thames in Battersea is eco-friendly, five-star boutique Hotel Rafayel, that takes its eco-friendly policies seriously. Here you’ll find a hotel-wide no plastics policy, recycled leather furnishings, energy efficiency initiatives and rainwater harvesting technology, while its spa and restaurants use organic produce. Panoramic views come as standard at the four-star Crowne Plaza London Battersea, which offers a serene, adults-only spa. Alternatively, there are some great nearby budget-friendly options, such as the Holiday Inn Express London Vauxhall Nine Elms.

 

8. Accessibility

With so many new residents, workers and visitors expected to the area, the London Underground’s Northern Line is undergoing an extension, which will provide two new tube stops, at Nine Elms on Wandsworth Road and another at Battersea Power station. The new stations are due to be up and running by 2020.

Until then, the area is a short ten to 15-minute walk from the well-connected Queenstown Road, Battersea Park, Vauxhall and Victoria train stations. The area is also served frequently by buses and the MBNA Thames Clippers River Bus service stops at a new state-of-the-art pier that has opened at the foot of the Power Station, a 15-minute journey to Embankment Pier for the West End or 20 minutes into the City.

Spend the year by the sea in Wales

Throughout 2018, Wales is celebrating the 'Year of the Sea' by highlighting the huge range of activities and ways to enjoy its white-sand beaches, endless sea views and 870 miles of picturesque coastline. So why not make this the year to indulge in some coastal Welsh adventures?

 

Outdoor pursuits

Wales is the birthplace of coasteering, a way of navigating the coastline without a boat or boards. There are numerous adrenaline-pumping adventures on offer such as rock-scrambling, seal-spotting, sea cave exploring and cliff jumping. The experienced guides at Celtic Quest Coasteering in Pembrokeshire will tailor your experience to be as mild or as wild as you like it.

As a playground for water sports, Wales also offers everything from kitesurfing and paragliding to paddleboarding and wild swimming. Or why not take a boat trip to one of the 50 Welsh islands that lie off the coastline?

 

Nature and conservation

Get to know the local wildlife with a Seacoast Safaris cruise where sightings include the distinctive residents of Puffin Island; keep your eyes peeled and you might also spot seals, porpoises and dolphins along the way.

Visit the Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre, managed by The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales, to learn more about Welsh marine life. Join one of their dolphin survey research trips, and you can even listen to these sociable mammals via an underwater microphone.

Gaze at the Stack Rocks and Green Bridge of Wales where centuries of crashing sea water has carved the dramatic rock arch and pillars. Access is via an army tank range, so check it's open before you visit. 

For an equestrian fix, enjoy a scenic horse ride along Druidston Haven beach with Nolton Stables; the secluded sandy stretch is bordered by cliff formations and rock caves.

 

Soft adventures on land

Walk, jog or cycle the 870-mile Wales Coast Path, the world’s first uninterrupted route along a national coast. Admire the beaches, estuaries, cliffs, and woodlands; wander the urban waterfronts and docks, or explore coastal fortresses such as Manorbier Castle in Tenby.

At the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea, you can also find out about the country's industrial history and the pirates who famously roamed the Welsh seas.

 

Where to relax

Head to Portmeirion, made famous in quirky 1960s drama The Prisoner. Set in a designated conservation area, this charming Italianate-style village on the coast of Snowdonia National Park in north Wales overlooks the River Dwyryd estuary, and is home to numerous independent cafés, shops and Snowdonia’s only spa.

Soak up the sun or enjoy a windswept walk along some of Wales’ 230 beaches. The National Trust look after 157 miles of it; visit the website for their pick of the top shorelines to explore.

 

Savour the sea

If you like your food with a view, book a table at Coast restaurant on Coppet Hall beach near the village of Saundersfoot in Pembrokeshire, which serves up fresh fish and seafood alongside uninterrupted views over Carmarthen Bay.

Langland’s Brasserie in Swansea is nestled right on the seafront and is home to delicious locally sourced food with stunning views of the bay. The fish and seafood platter is a favourite with diners.

For modern bistro food with a side order of sea views, dine at AA Restaurant of the Year for 2017-18 Beach House Restaurant, overlooking Swansea’s Oxwich Bay. 

 

Coastal events

Set up 21 years ago by a group of fisherman who wanted to highlight the local seafood, Cardigan Bay Seafood Festival, which takes place this year on Sunday 8 July, is the perfect event to sample fresh Welsh fare.

On Friday 13 July, join the annual Wales Swim at Tenby’s North Beach, where swimmers tackle a 1.2 or a 2.4-mile course in one of the country’s biggest open water swimming events.