48 Hours on….The Wales Way

Recently launched, The Wales Way is a group of three national touring routes crossing the country’s most epic landscapes, showcasing its fascinating history, coastlines and attractions. The routes demonstrate how Wales is a destination for experience-seeking travellers, willing to explore off-the-beaten track locations along The North Wales Way, The Cambrian Way and The Coastal Way, all year round. Here we take a look at how to spend 48 hours across the Cambrian Way, a north to south journey of the country, stretching 185 miles (300km) along what is known as the ‘mountainous spine’ of Wales.

 

DAY ONE

09:00 Begin your journey in the vibrant capital city of Wales, Cardiff, and gain an insight into the country you’re about to traverse with a visit to the National Museum of Wales. Discover Wales’ national art, geology and natural history collections as well as major touring and temporary exhibitions…and it’s all for free! Visit from now until 24 February 2019 and explore the world-renowned Artes Mundi, a biennial international art exhibition and prize.

11:00 Travel on half an hour out of Cardiff to the Royal Mint Experience in Llantrisant. The Royal Mint makes and distributes British coins and official medals for around 60 countries every year and visitors can take a guided tour of the manufacturing areas to discover how coins are created, plus the chance to strike your own coin. The experience concludes with an interactive exhibition.

13:00 Did you know that more than 20 different grape varieties are grown in vineyards across Wales? Stop to discover seven of those varieties, as you arrive at the Brecon Beacons National Park and a tour of the Sugar Loaf Vineyards near Abergavenny. The vineyard produces three whites, a rosé and, if the weather is in its favour, a red. You’ll also be rewarded with lovely views of the Usk Valley and be sure to stop for some lunch in its coffee shop – any non-drivers should, of course, order a glass of wine to go with it!

15:00 Another hour’s drive will take you to the stunning Farmers’ Lavender Fields near Builth Wells, which produce the scented oils that are used in the Farmers’ body care creams and lotions range. The farm is open year-round (although peak time for lavender is midsummer) for visitors to embark on self-guided tours and, out of season, the distillery is open for visitors see how lavender flowers produce essential oil. Stock up on body care products and a range of beautiful gifts in its shop as well as enjoying some tea and cake in the tea shop.

17:00 45 minutes from the lavender fields is the pretty market town of Llanidloes, a beautiful spot at the gateway to the Cambrian Mountains and also, intriguingly, that lays at the heart of Arwystli, an ancient medieval kingdom. It’s a pleasant spot to stop and settle in for the evening.

19:00 Dine out in town, which boasts a range of eateries. In the mood for homemade pies or succulent steaks? Check out Bistro Hafren. Fish and chips take your fancy? Head to the town’s Evans Fish Bar. And, for some after-dinner drinks accompanied by live music, take a walk to the Old Mill Bar, a café-bar set in a former flannel mill.

 

Time to check in

Llanidloes is well-served by charming bed and breakfast accommodation. Among them are the prettily named Unicorn Hotel, which offers six classic rooms, and The Whistling Badger, a historic pub that has been operating for more than 100 years, which offers three rooms. 

DAY TWO

09:00 Just over an hour’s drive from Llanidloes and you’ll hit the start of Snowdonia National Park and the amazing viewpoint Bwlch y Groes. Meaning ‘Pass of the Cross’, this mountain pass stands at 1,788 feet/545 metres above sea level and is well worth travelling through for some epic views.  

10:00 Take advantage of being in the adventure playground that is the Snowdonia National Park and check out some seriously thrilling activities to get the adrenaline pumping! Ever wanted to try surfing…inland? Surf Snowdonia (due to reopen in Spring 2019) is a 300-metre lagoon in the heart of the Conwy Valley countryside where, along with surfing, you can try out a watery assault course and have fun at its Crash & Splash Lagoon. Alternatively, Zip World, near the historic mining town of Blaenau Ffestiniog, is the place to go to bounce and slide through a huge underground net adventure, climb through a unique underground course in a disused slate mine or zip down Europe’s largest zipwire!

12:30 To wind down after all that adventure, explore somewhere a little statelier; Gwydir Castle, half an hour from Zip World and sitting on the edge of Snowdonia National Park. Once the ancestral home of the local, powerful Wynn family, it has a long tradition of entertaining royalty and is regarded as one of Wales’ finest Tudor houses.

14:00 Travel on 40 minutes and you’ll arrive at the splendid Bodnant Estate, set in picturesque countryside with wonderful views across to Snowdonia. Explore the magnificent Bodnant Hall, its terraced gardens, lawns and wild garden, admire the stone cottages (that you can also stay in) and farm buildings that were restored using traditional techniques and materials, as well as its Garden Centre and Craft Centre.

17:00 Head north on a 20-minute drive from the Bodnant Estate and you’ll arrive in the seaside retreat of Llandudno in north Wales. Its beautiful beaches have made this a popular resort since the Victorian era, while fans of Alice in Wonderland will enjoy taking part in the town’s Alice in Wonderland trails (the real Alice, Alice Liddell, spent time at her family’s holiday home in Llandudno). The town is also home to Wales’ longest pier (built in 1876), which stretches 2,295ft/700 metres out to sea. Just 15 minutes’ drive away is the seaside town of Conwy – home to the spectacular medieval Conwy Castle, built by England’s King Edward I; climb up to its battlements for incredible views across the sea and the town.

19:30 Time to feast on local delicacies such as pot roast of Welsh beef or slow-braised shoulder of Conwy Valley lamb, a sample of dishes that can be found at the town’s Bistro Bach. For dining at a proper Welsh country pub, try The Cottage Loaf, a charming inn of wooden beams and log fires serving a menu of seasonal specials and pub classics created from ingredients that are as locally sourced as possible.

Time to check in

Llandudno offers a good accommodation mix of hotels, townhouses and B&Bs. One of the most elegant and luxurious is Bodysgallen Hall & Spa, just south of the town centre; a romantic hotel set in a Grade I-listed country house with stunning gardens to match, guests will also love its gorgeous views over both the mountains and the sea.

The Quay Hotel & Spa located on the Conwy Estuary, affords amazing views over the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Conwy Castle and has fantastic leisure facilities, while if you’re looking for something a little more central to town, the luxurious rooms at St George’s Hotel overlook Llandudno’s glorious seascape, which are particularly good from its rooms with balconies on The Rooftop.

Getting there: Cardiff, at the start of the Cambrian Way, has an international airport and is 2.5 hours by train from London. Llandudno, at the end of the journey, is a two-hour train journey from Manchester, and three hours from London. 

Ten cool hotels to have on your radar in 2019

Suitcases at the ready – some fabulously cool hotels are set to open in Britain next year, each bringing their own unique vibe as they set to join the ‘hottest properties to stay at’ lists.

The Hard Rock Hotel, London

Get ready to rock – located on the corner of Oxford Street and Park Lane in the conversion of the existing Cumberland Hotel, the legendary Hard Rock Hotel is scheduled to open its new London property in Spring next year. With 900 rooms and suites, together with two bars and a Hard Rock Cafe®, Hard Rock Hotel London will pay tribute in its memorabilia collection to former residents such as Jimi Hendrix, Diana Ross, Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder and Madonna. The lobby will house its world-famous Rock Shop® featuring Hard Rock merchandise, and guests seeking the ultimate experience will have the opportunity to elevate their status and become Rock Royalty®. These luxurious Rock Royalty rooms and suites will offer extra perks including a personal concierge and access to a lavish lounge.

The DogHouse, Aberdeenshire, north Scotland

Beer lovers rejoice; independent craft brewer BrewDog has announced plans to build the world’s first craft beer hotel – wittily called The DogHouse – and will launch this immersive craft beer hotel and brewery expansion at its headquarters in Aberdeenshire, north Scotland. Set to welcome guests in the first half of 2019, the 26-room hotel will feature beer taps in the rooms, a built-in shower beer fridge, while the rooms will overlook the brewery itself. Guests will also be able to watch brewers at work from rooms overlooking the new facility.

Vineyard hotel at Denbies Wine Estate, Surrey, south-east England

If wine is more your favourite tipple, look no further than England’s largest single estate vineyard, which, come Spring 2019, will have converted its existing farmhouse accommodation into what is being billed as the UK’s first vineyard hotel. Set on the Denbies estate in the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and offering panoramic views across the vineyard and North Downs Way, the new hotel will have 17 en-suite bedrooms, an Orangery-style garden restaurant, outdoor dining cabanas and its own ‘Enomatic™ wine dispensing machine’ – meaning guests can taste and purchase Denbies wine by the glass. Plus, there’ll be complimentary wine tasting tutorials. Cheers to that!

art'otel Hoxton, London

What could be cooler than staying in a hotel with its own art gallery? art’otel plans to open its first property in London in the neighbourhood of Hoxton, which will be an 18-storey, 350-bedroom contemporary hotel. As well as an art gallery located in the publicly accessible arts centre, plans are said to include a top-floor restaurant and bar and luxury spa. Another art’otel property to have on your radar is the one the hotel group is said to be opening near the historic Battersea Power Station in the new Nine Elms district, south London.

Grantley Hall, Yorkshire Dales, north England

When Spring rolls round, the doors are set to open on a new five-star luxury country resort hotel and spa, set in a grand 17th-century house on its own island! Situated between the elegant Yorkshire towns of Ripon and Harrogate, Grantley Hall is being restored to its former early 20th-century glory and guests will be able to choose from 47 rooms and suites, four restaurants, three bars, a private members club, a spa pool, state-of-the-art gym and elite performance centre. The elegance continues outside; explore gorgeous landscaped gardens, which including a 1910 Japanese Garden that features on Historic England’s National Heritage List.

Stock Exchange Hotel, Manchester, north-west England

If you’re a football fan, the newest hotel owned by Manchester United legends Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville should be on your hotel hot list. The former footballers-turned-hoteliers are transforming Manchester’s beautiful old Stock Exchange building into a five-star boutique hotel, with 40 bedrooms, two presidential suites, two restaurants and private dining in the wine cellars for up to 100 people. The hotel is due to open in Spring 2019.

The Pig at Bridge Place, Kent, south-east England

Joining the litter of Pig Hotels, The Pig at Bridge Place in Kent is due to open in Spring. Its home is within a 17th-century manor house that may once have been the refined Bridge Place Country Club but was also host to some legendary parties and gigs in its time – Led Zeppelin even played here in the 1970s. Its 28 bedrooms will be enhanced by period features such as large fireplaces, secret stairways and panelled rooms, and there’ll be a further 12 bedrooms in its new Coach House. As with all Pigs, the kitchen garden and restaurant will be at the heart of this new property, and anything that can’t be supplied by the gardens will be sourced from the best producers within a 25-mile (40-km) radius. Also keep an eye out for another Pig opening towards the end of 2019; The Pig at Harlyn Bay, Cornwall, south-west England.

Market Street Hotel, Edinburgh, Scotland

Early 2019 will see Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh, welcome a property from the Carlton House Collection, called Market Street Hotel. Situated on the edge of Edinburgh’s gorgeous Old Town, the historic nature of the building means lovely high ceilings and plenty of historic references, although the 98 bedrooms will be contemporary, urban-styled rooms with ante-room bathrooms. Its top floor is intriguingly being described as a ‘Champagne city residence’ and will offer wonderful vistas across the city.

The Crescent, Buxton, Derbyshire, north-west England

Get ready for some serious indulgence as the historic spa town of Buxton, Derbyshire, welcomes an 80-bedroom, five-star spa hotel to the Grade I-listed architectural masterpiece The Crescent. The hotel will be part of the overall transformation of The Crescent – which originally opened in 1789 and is one of the most architecturally significant buildings in Britain – and guests will also have access to the splendid Assembly Rooms, a thermal natural mineral water spa in the Natural Baths plus to the six prestigious retail premises along the front ground façade.

The Grand, Birmingham, central England

The chance to stay in hotels housed in some of Britain’s most iconic architectural sights continues in Birmingham, where one of the city’s best-known, Grade II-listed buildings is to be redeveloped into a luxury, 180-room hotel with a restaurant and bar, a spa and a rooftop infinity pool. While the hotel is scheduled to open in early 2019, several lovely bars and cafés have already set up home in the development - The Alchemist, Gusto and 200 Degrees cafe – that hotel guests will have easy access to.

Britain's favourite festive Christmas experiences

Britain's favourite festive Christmas experiences

The best seafood in Devon & Cornwall

The best seafood in Devon & Cornwall

Foodie Focus on…Manchester

As one of Britain’s largest, most vibrant cities, Manchester in north-west England boasts an ever-evolving foodie scene, from its wealth of cafés, bars and restaurants to well-established food markets packed with stalls selling the best of local produce. The growth in its vegan and vegetarian cuisine offer shows no sign of slowing down, its drinks scene is booming, and its history of global trading has resulted in a wide range of international cuisine choices across the city.

Regional specialities and where to taste them

Eccles Cake – Buttery, flaky pastry encasing succulent, juicy currants – what’s not to like about these sweet treats! Said to originate in the town of Eccles, a Manchester suburb, you can pick up one of these tasty cakes throughout the city but, for a special treat, head to the source itself and order an Eccles cake with a coffee at the Malaga Drift Coffee Company in Eccles.

Manchester Tart – The Manchester Tart it reportedly a variation on the original Manchester pudding, which was first recorded by famed Victorian cookery writer Mrs Beeton. This creamy combination of raspberry jam, custard and coconut flakes encased in shortcrust pastry can be found in many bakeries across the city and its suburbs, although if you’re shopping in Arndale market stop by deli/bakery stall Hansford’s to try its version.

Lancashire Hot Pot – The history of this deliciously warming, one-pot stew of lamb and onion topped with sliced potatoes dates back to the Industrial Revolution, when long work hours meant women would take a stew or pudding to a baker’s oven and leave it there to cook while they were at work. For an authentic taste of this hearty dish, order one at Annie’s Restaurant and Tea Shop, (owned by Coronation Street actress Jennie McAlpine) which specialises in a menu of traditional local and British dishes.

Vimto – Originally sold as a health tonic when it was created in Manchester by John Noel Nichols in 1908, this fruity soft drink of raspberries, grapes and blackcurrants mixed with a blend of herbs and spices became a cordial in 1913. Now you can find it on supermarket shelves but innovative Manchester-based restaurant Grafene has created a Vimto-inspired cocktail called Vimto Gardens, a blend of Manchester’s Bramble’ Sipsmith Gin, Grafene’s Vimto purée and lemon.

 

5 must-do food and drink experiences

One for all the gin lovers; Three River’s Gin School has been designated number one of the best things to do in Manchester, according to TripAdvisor. This interactive gin experience is based in the City of Manchester Distillery, the city centre’s first distillery and home to Manchester Three Rivers Gin. The experience begins with a gin and tonic while guests learn about the distillery’s short history and the history of gin, before embarking on a distillery tour, sampling four complimentary gin-based drinks along the way and creating your own personalised bottle of gin in its mini copper pot stills to take home.

The word ‘scran’ is a popular term used in the north of England to describe food – one embraced by Scranchester Tours, a gastronomic, multi-stop tour that reveals the untold food and drink stories of the city through a series of tastings during a four-hour tour. You’ll learn how the city’s food and drink offer links to its history, discovering interesting gems such as what the diet of a Victorian mill worker would have been, and the back story to the neighbourhood of Ancoat’s Little Italy and its myriad ice-cream vendors. You’ll also taste some of the best ‘scran’ the city has to offer…come hungry!

Manchester is home to a raft of craft breweries, and one great way to experience several is by booking onto one of Manchester Brewery Tours’ experiences. Check out its Microbrewery Experience, where, for four hours, you’ll explore and learn about four of the city’s taprooms and craft beer venues, as well as the brewing process, and enjoy several tastings. Alternatively, book onto its Manchester Beer Tasting Tour or its Manchester Beer Pairings Masterclass, where local beers are matched with cheese and meats.

Explore the brilliant mix of street food, craft ales and live music that takes place at the GRUB weekly food fair, held at Fairfield Social Club in the regenerated Mayfield area of the city centre every Friday and Saturday, with every Sunday given over to all things vegan –  #PlantPoweredSundays. It’s a great place to meet the locals as there’s a real community feel at this food event. GRUB’s whole ethos is to support new traders and independent businesses from Manchester, so you’ll certainly find an authentic Mancunian foodie experience here.

Based in the well-heeled neighbourhood of Didsbury, Food Sorcery & Barista School offers cookery experiences led by expert chefs and local suppliers. Classes offer everything from world foods to steak masterclasses and cheese-making, as well as ‘fit food’ classes creating delicious meals to stay healthy. Coffee lovers should check out its coffee courses, suitable for upskilling your barista skills or learning how to make the perfect brew at home.

 

Hot restaurants you have to visit

The French – A fantastic example of British fine dining at its best, The French is located in a Grade II-listed dining room at the luxury Midland Hotel. Led by Manchester-born chef-patron Adam Reid, who has worked across many Michelin-starred restaurants, the four-, six- and nine-course menus combine seasonal produce with modern British flavours, such as Cumbrian red deer with pickled quince, girolles and bilberries, and Tunworth cheese and broccoli custard.

Where the Light Gets In – A British restaurant using foraged ingredients across its menus, Where The Light Gets In – based in Stockport half an hour outside Manchester city centre – brings storytelling to its dishes. There is no set menu available; instead, chef Sam Buckley creates a dining experience from the day's catch, harvest and slaughter, all served within the eclectic décor of a Victorian coffee warehouse.

  • The award-winning and trailblazing Allotment restaurant has moved from Stockport to a bigger site in Manchester city centre. Led by chef-owner Matthew Nutter, the Allotment’s innovative and unpretentious menu has won it plaudits such as The Times’ ‘Best Vegetarian Restaurant in the UK’. Choose from its signature menu or from either a seven- or ten-course tasting menu, which includes mouth-watering dishes such as braised celeriac with golden beetroot, rosemary, sun-blushed tomato and bechamel or Thai Squash Pie with gingerbread, tamarind toffee and salt-baked pineapple.

El Gato Negro – discover a taste of Spain in the city centre at this tapas restaurant located in a converted historic town house. The dishes are influenced by the seasons and, while they use traditional Spanish flavours, you’ll find local ingredients are used across its menu. See the creations come to life at the Chef’s Table or gaze at the stars while you dine on the top floor, which sits under a retractable roof.

Bundobust – showcasing Manchester’s strong international cuisine offer, Bundobust serves delicious Indian street food and craft beers, making this one of Manchester’s go-to places for easy, tasty cuisine. This ‘beer & Indian’ joint sits close to the Northern Quarter delivering Gujurat-inspired street food and craft beer from both local and international breweries.

Rudy’s – This little slice of Naples is found in the heart of Manchester. Rudy’s walk-in pizza restaurant makes its dough on site every day, just as they would in Naples. As well as its regular toppings, you could find a delicious innovative creation on the menu available for just that week, such as Ancoats Speciale, which served up pizza with pumpkin cream, scamoza, coppa, rocket and black pepper.  With two locations, one on Peter Street in the city centre and one in Ancoats, the pizzas are both tasty and Instagrammable.

The Refuge by Volta – nestled in the Grade II-listed Principal Hotel, this restaurant and bar serves up beautiful small plate dishes such as salt cod croquettes, Merguez sausage with spiced puy lentils and crispy egg yolk, and beetroot pakora with tamarind ketchup. Run by DJs-turned-restaurateurs Luke Cowdrey and Justin Crawford, AKA the Unabombers, there’s also the People’s Lunch on the menu, which is a changing selection of hearty specials. The food is inspired by world cuisine yet uses ingredients sourced in the north west of England. And with two DJs at the helm it’s not surprising that, come the weekend, its bar plays awesome sounds.

Mackie Mayor – A major refurbishment saw this Grade II-listed market building on the edge of the Northern Quarter become two floors of eateries housed under one huge glass roof. Up to 500 diners can be seated along the rows of long bench tables and seating, with customers choosing from Taiwanese steamed buns at Bao House to sustainable, British-caught fish cooked whole over chargrill at Fin Fish Bar. There’s also pizza, rotisserie, Italian cuisine, coffee, wines and beer.

 

A 48-hour foodie itinerary

 

Day One

 

07:30 Start with an early breakfast at Ezra & Gil, an urban coffee hangout in the Northern Quarter, housed in a former clothing showroom. Choose from a comprehensive menu that includes smashed pumpkin on toast, house-baked granola and Greek-style green omelette.

 

10:00 Time to work up an appetite again on the Northern Quarter Taster Walk led by Manchester Food Walks, where you’ll discover Manchester's history and culture with food from some of the city's best providers. One of the walks available (which could be taken over lunchtime) is a roving feast of five small plates in Northern Quarter eateries. The guide talks you through the historic district’s markets, curry cafés and cult destinations such as Afflecks Palace.

 

13:00 Still hungry? Grab a table at the Northern Quarter’s Trof to munch on burgers, sandwiches and salads and sample its extensive beer menu. Make plans to return in the evening to enjoy its dedicated bourbon bar or come back on a Sunday for its ‘Roasts & Records’ event, dining on a succulent traditional Sunday roast dinner accompanied by music played on vinyl.

14:00 The Runaway Brewery brews its ‘modern-tasting, recognisably British’ beers by hand in small batches at its microbrewery. Head there for its core range of Pale Ales, IPA, Smoked Porter and American Brown Ales – there’s always seasonal ales to try out – and book onto one of its brewery tours that take place every Saturday.

17:00 Witness a different type of Manchester creativity with cocktails at Apotheca. Opt for brilliantly named (and tasting) drinks such as Bacon and Brown Sauce Bloody Mary, Hazy Memoirs of a Geisha, or Selfie Inflicted, where ingredients such as lychee liqueur or wasabi peas might make an appearance. The décor is just as innovative as the cocktails – think antique apothecary cabinets and comfy leather sofas.

19:00 Taking residence inside an impressive, four-storey, wooden-framed building in the centre of commercial district Spinningfields, The Ivy is bringing the infamous London celebrity hotspot to Manchester when it opens in November. The café-style brasserie features an all-day dining menu, will be open seven days a week, and promises a mix of modern British and international dishes.

 

Day Two

09:00 The district of New Islington is home to Pollen Bakery, a bakery of Scandi-influenced design and counters groaning with freshly baked loaves and cakes. Start the day with one of its famous sourdough loaves (which come in forms such as five-seed, oat porridge and Pollen rye) or one of its Viennoiserie baked goods, ranging from cinnamon buns to Manchester tart cruffins and seasonal treats such as British strawberry pistachio bakewells.

10:00 Here’s your chance to experience urban foraging. Manchester-based cookery school and not-for-profit social enterprise Cracking Good Food, which promotes sustainable, seasonal cooking, offers a rolling programme of wild food forages that take place in the neighbourhoods of Didsbury, Chorlton and Sale. The foraging walks reflect the seasons with special mushroom hunts in the autumn or elderflower picking in the summer.

13:00 Opened in September 2018, Canto is a modern Portuguese restaurant imagined up by the chef patron of city hotspot El Gato Negro, Simon Shaw. Like its award-winning sibling, Canto serves up simple, modern and distinctive dishes, taking inspiration from Portugal’s culinary traditions – perfect for a lunchtime stop.

15:00 Manchester has a fascinating gin history, one which you can discover on the Gin Journey Manchester. The tour includes a distillery visit, a ‘Gin Guardian’ to relate all the stories and history, five samples of gin specially selected for the tour, five gin cocktails and a chauffeur to transport you from venue to venue.

19:30 Dine at the newly opened Peter Street Kitchen, part of a multi-million-pound renovation of the historic Radisson Blu Edwardian Hotel. This destination restaurant is all about ‘shared dining’, with a menu consisting of small plates from two different cuisines; contemporary Japanese and Mexican.

 

Food festivals in 2019

Manchester Food and Drink Festival – 2019 dates TBC but usually runs end of September to early October.

Bolton Food and Drink Festival – half an hour from Manchester, this large-scale festival runs in August.

Indy Man Beer Con – Taking place in October in the gorgeous surroundings of the Grade II-listed Victoria Baths, a short journey from the city centre, this is the place to visit for independent breweries showcasing their wares.

Edinburgh's Hogmanay - The greatest New Year party in the world

Edinburgh's Hogmanay - The greatest New Year party in the world

Where to find the best post-Christmas sales in Britain

Coincide your visit to Britain during one of the major sales seasons and you could make huge savings on shopping during your trip. Post-Christmas is a brilliant seasonal sale period as shops offer great discounts and incentives, usually from Boxing Day (26 December) onwards. You’ll find them everywhere, from major department stores and high-street shops, independent boutiques and outlet centres.

CITY SHOPPING

London

England’s capital is, without doubt, one of the best places in the world to shop! Legendary shopping haunts such as Oxford Street, Bond Street, Regent Street, Westfield in Stratford, east London and Westfield in Shepherd’s Bush, west London, Covent Garden and Knightsbridge, plus pretty much every other street in the capital, are teeming with shops that offer post-Christmas sales. If you’re searching for great prices at high-end stores, why not start at the ‘grande dame’ of them all, Harrods in Knightsbridge. Its Winter Sale is a real show-stopper of an event, opening with great fanfare on Boxing Day – in previous years, the Boxing Day sale event has featured live reindeers and a performance by Florence + The Machine. Also head to Selfridges on Oxford Street where, across six floors, you’ll discover fantastic sales on designer wear (its sale also kicks off on Boxing Day), while over in Knightsbridge, Harvey Nichols is a must-visit for luxury brands at sale price. Homewares, fashion and beauty bargains can be found at the elegant designer department store Liberty on Regent Street and, if it’s a good deal on foodie treats you’re looking for, head to Fortnum & Mason on Piccadilly, where sales tend to start on 27 December. 

Birmingham, central England

Jump on a train from London and 90 minutes later you’ll find yourself in another shopper’s paradise. The city of Birmingham has a wonderful mix of shopping experiences, from luxury department stores and independent boutiques to historic markets and high-street favourites. Check out the post-Christmas sales at its branches of Harvey Nichols, found at the Mailbox shopping venue, which is also home to brands such as Armani and Calvin Klein. The Birmingham branch of Selfridges is located in one of the city’s most distinctive buildings and is part of The Bullring & Grand Central shopping destination, which also boasts upscale brands such as Michael Kors and the British institution that is department store John Lewis, which kicks off its famous sale on 27 December. Close by is Birmingham’s New Street, which has a myriad of narrow streets leading off it where you’ll find sales events at the independent boutiques and high-street favourites that have their home here. And don’t forget to explore the city’s renowned Jewellery Quarter, packed with historic buildings and jewellery boutiques to hunt for that gem of a post-Christmas bargain.

Manchester, north-west England

Whatever style you’re into, you’ll find it in Manchester’s shops – and at great prices too during sales season. Like London and Birmingham, Manchester has branches of luxury department stores Selfridges and Harvey Nichols, each home to a raft of designer concessions. If you’re looking for high-street bargains all under one roof, check out the city’s fantastic shopping centres; the intu Trafford Centre (where Selfridges is located) is home to Zara, Victoria’s Secret, John Lewis and that British favourite, Primark. For shopping in a historic destination, visit The Royal Exchange – once the hub of the world’s cotton trade and a Grade II-listed building – where premium high-street brands (think French Connection and Molton Brown) sit alongside independent boutiques and luxury retailers. The venue is also close to Manchester Arndale, where bargains can be found at leading British high-street fashion stores such as TopShop, River Island and Next. It’s also worth exploring Manchester’s creative, bohemian hub, the Northern Quarter, for vintage boutiques and independent record stores and head to Afflecks, where bargains can be picked up at independent designers trading across four floors – it’s a labyrinth of treasures.

Glasgow, Scotland

Home to one of the UK’s largest retail hubs outside of London, Glasgow is a shopaholic’s dream destination. Its world-famous Style Mile in the city centre means an easy route around all your favourite shops – good news, as hunting for bargains can be tiring work! The ‘Style Mile’ is home to well-loved British high-street stores, as well as luxury retailers, but it’s also the place to go to explore the city’s shopping centres and department stores. More than 80 retailers have made their home at the Buchanan Galleries, including a branch of John Lewis, the classically British Jones the Bootmaker, and beauty shops such as Bare Minerals. The West End of the city is the place to shop if you’re looking for sales bargains in more avant-garde and independent boutiques.

Cardiff, Wales

Cardiff’s main shopping area in the city centre is mainly pedestrianised, meaning the hunt for post-Christmas bargains is all concentrated in an easy-to-navigate district. The Welsh capital is well-known for its Victorian arcades and no less than six have been transformed into shopping venues. The Castle Quarter alone comprises three; Castle Arcade, High Street Arcade and Duke Street Arcade, and it’s here you’ll find a raft of vintage shops, clothes stores and jewellery shops worth exploring during the post-Christmas sales. Contemporary British brands, such as Marks & Spencer and John Lewis, have made their home at the St David’s Centre and there are high-street names galore throughout the city centre.

 

OUTLETS

Grab even bigger bargains at Britain's outlet stores – they offer deals all year round, but you can discover even bigger discounts during the main sale periods as items are marked down further.

Bicester Village, Oxfordshire, central England

Only one hour from London, Bicester Village is one of Britain’s best-known luxury shopping destinations and bargain hunters can explore more than 160 famous brand-name boutiques, including Oscar de la Renta, Hugo Boss, Tods and Mulberry. Year-round they offer savings of up to 60% and may often discount further during the post-Christmas sales period. New designer boutiques recently opened at the Village include Roland Mouret, MonnaLisa, Amanda Wakeley and British brand Shrimps. Bicester Village now also offers an exclusive by-appointment-only space where guests can retreat for private shopping consultations and, to complete the VIP shopping experience, can take advantage of valet parking, hands-free shopping and on-site tax refunds and money services.

McArthur Glen

McArthurGlen has designer outlets in six locations across Britain, including York (a two-hour train ride from London) and Cheshire, a 45-minute train journey from Liverpool. Cheshire Oaks is Britain’s largest designer outlet, with more than 145 boutiques, restaurants and cafés, and shoppers can find bargains from popular high-street names such as Marks & Spencer and Next, and high-end brands such as Burberry and Michael Kors. McArthur Glen’s other destinations include Ashford in Kent (40 minutes from London), Bridgend in south Wales (around 30 minutes from Cardiff), East Midlands (around 25 minutes from Nottingham) and Swindon (around 45 minutes from Bath). A new outlet is due to open in 2020 in Cannock in the West Midlands (30 minutes from Birmingham).

London Designer Outlet

Close to the world-famous Wembley Stadium in north London is the London Designer Outlet, where visitors will discover more than 50 outlet stores offering regular and seasonal discounts of up to 70% on top fashion and lifestyle brands – it’s ideal for post-Christmas sales! If you’re into sportswear, this is where you’ll find top sporting brands such as Nike and adidas, while if you’re searching for stylish homewares, check out lifestyle stores that include Villeroy & Boch, Sony and Procook. The outlet also offers services such as multi-lingual staff and overseas shoppers can claim an immediate VAT refund at the outlet’s currency exchange service.

ICON Outlet at the O2

New to the outlet scene – it opened in late October – the ICON Outlet at the iconic O2 arena in Greenwich, south-east London, has brought together a huge range of fashion and lifestyle brands at accessible prices all under the famous tented roof. Retailers that have opened in Phase 1 include Kurt Geiger, Aspinal of London, Jack Wills, Cath Kidston, Hackett, Guess, G-STAR Raw and Ted Baker, with many more due to open in the next phase. Customers can take advantage of services such as a concierge luggage drop and hands-free shopping. 

Our favourite 10 places to see autumn colours

Horse standing underneath a tree in front of a cottage
Our favourite 10 places to see autumn colours

Discover Britain's best restaurants for vegans

Veganuary is upon us, kickstarting a month-long campaign to promote the benefits of a plant-based diet. If you’re vegan - or trying to be - and travelling to the UK, you’ll discover an ever-growing number of restaurants, cafés and bars serving up delicious sweet and savoury vegan treats this January and throughout the year – from high-end healthy cuisine to jaw-dropping junk food. Here are a few of our favourites below.

 

London

Mildreds, Soho

Whether you’re looking for vegan-friendly cocktails or cuisine, London is no slouch when it comes to plant-based restaurants and bars. One of the best is Mildreds. Originally established in Soho in 1988, the restaurant now boasts branches in Camden, King’s Cross and Dalston too. Airy, bright and stylish, the chain is loved for its delicious cuisine which includes warming winter dishes like smoked tofu, apple and white bean sausages and mash, and toffee apple crumble. Diners can also savour vegan cocktails including popcorn martinis and blood orange margaritas and enjoy a special brunch menu at weekends.

Manna, Primrose Hill

Located in leafy north-west London, Manna is one of the capital’s most popular vegan restaurants. With a menu displaying influences as far flung as India, Mexico and Japan, this elegant restaurant prides itself on using sustainable produce throughout the year. Diners can choose from seasonal specials including roasted root vegetable masala or buffalo cauliflower tostada, enjoy protein-rich Sunday roasts or splash out and savour the chef’s special five-course custom menu.

Wulf & Lamb, Sloane Square

“Run with the wolves, eat with the lambs” is the mantra of Wulf & Lamb, one of the newest additions to the London vegan scene. It’s 100% plant-based menu focuses heavily on comfort food, so expect fabulously filling dishes including an open burrito with sautéed ackee, green coconut curry with sweet potato mash and the seitan Wulf Burger complete with cashew aioli and wedges.  Sweet-toothed diners can also choose from deliciously decadent desserts including tiramisu with raw almond cream or dairy-free mango and passionfruit cheesecake. 

Quaglino’s and The Meet, various locations

If you’re looking for cocktails over cuisine, Quaglino’s Bar in St James’s is offering a Science of Sustainability cocktail menu. Divided into past, present and future, the menu reveals the history of sustainability via a range of delicious drinks including The Green Revolution, which combines Matchers Rye, yellow chartreuse, lime, beer, honey and matcha tea served with a pistachio foam. Alternatively, head to The Meet, a stylish pop-up that offers vegan cocktails, including a delicious rhubarb and vanilla custard martini, comfort food and even a bottomless vegan brunch, all in a memorable setting under the railway arches of Clapham North.

 

Manchester

The Allotment, Lloyd Street

Named best vegetarian restaurant of 2018 by the Times, award-winning restaurant The Allotment offers 3, 7 and 10-course tasting menus in the heart of Manchester. All its dishes are also 100% gluten, dairy and egg free, making it perfect for coeliacs in addition to those following a plant-based diet. Visit during the holiday season and you can also enjoy its Christmas menu featuring festive delights including cranberry and red wine parfait and pan fried cauliflower roast with all the trimmings.

V-Rev Vegan Diner, Edge Street

A mecca for vegan junk food lovers, V-Rev offers gloriously greasy delights at a price that won’t break the budget. From loaded southwest fries with smashed avocado and southwest chipotle mayo to buffalo mac and cheez made with homemade cheez sauce, beacon and buffalo sauce, this is the perfect venue for post-party pick me ups and cheat days. Can’t decide between savoury and sweet? Look out for Donut Stop Me Now – a mouth-watering medley of buttermilk fried seitan chckn, cheez, baecon, maple syrup and crispy fried onions between two fried donuts, for a decadent burger experience with a difference.

Greens, Didsbury

Set up by Simon Connolly and Simon Rimmer, now one of the UK’s top TV chefs, Greens has been ‘terrifying carnivores’ since 1990 with its inspiring menu of delicious plant-based dishes. Influenced by cuisines from around the world, the menu features dishes including deep-fried oyster mushrooms, pancakes with plum sauce and sage gnocchi with roasted squash and horseradish crumb. Visiting this winter? Enjoy a festive feast of dishes including red lentil and walnut loaf and vegan Christmas pudding, available throughout December.

Edinburgh

Holy Cow, Elder Street

Located in Edinburgh’s New Town, quirky independent café Holy Cow prides itself on using organic local produce to create its 100% vegan menu. Dishes change according to the season and you can expect tasty treats including spicy butternut squash soup in addition to staples such as vegan burgers, open sandwiches and seasonal salads. Much loved for its cakes, the café has an ever-changing selection of sweet delights including chocolate and peanut butter cake, pumpkin pie and spiced pear and walnut cake.

The Ivy on the Square, St Andrew Square

One of the newest restaurants in the city, The Ivy on the Square has swiftly become a staple on the Edinburgh dining scene. Its specially designed vegetarian menu features vegan-friendly options, while non-vegans can also choose from the à la carte menu. With delicious dishes including sweet potato Keralan curry, warm Asian salad and roasted butternut squash with grains, this chic and stylish restaurant is the ideal spot for vegan and vegetarian celebrations while in the Scottish capital.

The Auld Hoose, St Leonard’s Street

Home to some of the best rock, metal and punk music in Edinburgh via their legendary jukebox, The Auld Hoose is also one of the city’s best venues for vegans in search of a little comfort food. From huge plates of nachos dripping in vegan cheese to crunchy onions rings, vegan falafel burgers and even a vegan sorbet sundae, this is the ideal spot for meat-free visitors and music lovers alike.

 

Brighton

Purezza, St James’s Street

The UK’s first vegan pizzeria, Purezza take animal-friendly Italian cuisine seriously. Having spent two years developing their dairy-free mozzarella (made from brown rice), the restaurant uses innovative recipes and ingredients to create delectable vegan pizzas, pastas and desserts – from meltingly moreish macaroni to cheesesteak calzone and vegan oreo pizza. With a second branch in London and many gluten-free options available, it’s the perfect pit-stop for vegans looking for a taste of Italy in the UK.

Food for Friends, Prince Albert Street

Established in 1981, the award-winning Food for Friends is one of Brighton’s longest-running vegetarian and vegan restaurants and a favourite with locals and visitors alike. Boasting a seasonal menu made with local and organic produce, diners can enjoy Middle Eastern, Japanese and British-inspired vegan dishes including courgette kofta and black olive polenta in addition to a selection of mouth-watering desserts and vegan cocktails.

Terre à Terre, East Street

A haven of vegan indulgence, Terra à Terra prides itself on its marvellous meat-free creations made with ethically sourced ingredients. Playfully named dishes range from KFC, Korean fried cauliflower with sweet and sour sesame, to Snap, Crackle and Choc, a rich chocolate mousse with praline and chocolate shortbread. With a range of organic vegan wines, beers and ciders on offer as well as cocktails and non-alcoholic options, this is the perfect spot for special vegan suppers by the sea.

48 Hours in the Peak District & Derbyshire

Spend two days combining city style with country walks, first-class restaurants with cultural treasures, all of which you’ll find in and around the UK’s first-ever national park, the Peak District, and the surrounding county of Derbyshire in north-west England. The area boasts show-stopping attractions, such as the stately home of Chatsworth and the fascinating World of Wedgwood, but look a little deeper and you’ll encounter a whole raft of must-do experiences.

DAY ONE

09:00 GO UNDERGROUND

Part of the Peak District’s charm is its enviable landscapes and stunning geological make-up. Discover this is more depth by heading into Poole’s Cavern, an ancient natural limestone cavern with colossal illuminated rock-sculpted galleries to explore. Book onto a guided tour to understand the history of this magnificent underground scenery.

11:00 TREAT YOURSELF TO A SPA

Head into the historic spa town of Buxton, where healing waters have been attracting visitors for centuries, and book in for an indulgent spa treatment. For contemporary treatments in a historic setting, try out The Devonshire Spa retreat, part of the resplendent Devonshire Dome (a Grade II-listed building dating back to 1779). Elsewhere, the town’s Palace Hotel is a fine example of Victorian architecture yet one that houses modern-day spa facilities. And, come summer 2019, there will also be the choice of The Buxton Spa, in Buxton Natural Baths, which is being redeveloped as part of the Crescent Restoration project.

13:00 ENJOY A TASTE OF THE PEAK DISTRICT

Book in for lunch at the Columbine Restaurant, situated close to the Buxton Opera House, for delicious dishes created using produce from small local suppliers in the area; the provenance of ingredients is easily traceable. You’ll enjoy creations such as fish crumble tart and a variety of English cheese from its cheese board.

14:00 HIKE THROUGH GORGEOUS COUNTRYSIDE

Drive 30 minutes from Buxton into the Peak District National Park to the village of Hathersage in the Hope Valley, and, from there, hike nine miles north to Stanage Edge. The gritstone edge stretches out to around four miles and delivers impressive views of the Dark Peak moorlands and across the valley. You may also recognise it from a scene in Pride & Prejudice, featuring Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet.

17:00 DINE IN A HISTORIC PUB

Return to Hathersage and enjoy an early evening meal at The Plough Inn, a 16th-century inn located on the banks of the River Derwent. Feast on dishes such as feuilette of wood pigeon and pear or seared scallops, while vegans are well catered for with dishes such as kachoris (spiced lentil parcels) with kachumber salad.

20:00 MARVEL AT THE DARK SKIES

Just above Hathersage is one of the national park’s most magnificent viewpoints – the charmingly named Surprise View. While it’s a great spot to watch the sun set, it’s also one of the official ‘Dark Skies’ stargazing spots, meaning on a clear night you can witness the Peak District skies lit up by millions of twinkling stars.

TIME TO CHECK IN

There are a number of bed and breakfast options in the Hathersage area and you can also stay at The Plough Inn, which offers guests a choice of seven bedrooms and two shepherd huts. Equally charming is The George Hotel, a three-star hotel in Hathersage situated in an old coaching inn that dates back 500 years, and The Old Hall Hotel in Hope, five minutes from Hathersage, once a 16th-century coaching inn and now a cosy B&B.

 

DAY TWO

09:00 STEP BACK 500 YEARS

You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to fabulous stately homes to visit in the Peak District and Derbyshire. A little outside the national park is Hardwick Hall, a National Trust-owned property that was created in the 1500s by one of the most powerful women of Elizabethan England, the remarkable ‘Bess of Hardwick’, and added to over the centuries by her descendants. It’s a house that was built to impress and is said to have ‘more glass than wall.’ Its surrounding estate is also open every day for walks through glorious gardens and woodland trails.

11:00 CLIMB DIZZYING HEIGHTS

Journey just 30 minutes from Hardwick Hall and board an alpine-style cable car to take you to the Heights of Abraham. These observation cars give you the opportunity to admire the breathtaking vistas of the Peak District and the Derwent Valley.

13:00 SAMPLE LOCAL DELICACIES

Head back into the Peak District National Park to the pretty town of Bakewell for a spot of lunch at the quirkily decorated Lavender Tea Rooms. Charming period décor is enhanced by cute, mismatched traditional crockery, on which a range of sandwiches and cakes are served. But don’t forget to leave room for the sweet treat the town is renowned for – Bakewell pudding. Plenty of places sell it but try The Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop – it also offers pudding-making experiences.

15:00 EXPLORE THE NATIONAL PARK

There are a myriad of wonderful walks you can do in the Peak District (and it’s a great way to walk off those pudding calories!), one of which is a walk around the Ladybower Reservoir. Here you’ll experience some of the most perfect countryside views, a mix of moorland and woodland with a stunning body of water. Bamford Edge is a good place to head to for beautiful vistas and the Y-shape of the reservoir means there are plenty of circular walking and cycling routes to choose from.

17:00 DISCOVER THE ‘PLAGUE’ VILLAGE

Row upon row of pretty stone cottages adorned by beautiful gardens make up the picturesque village of Eyam. But what makes this Peak District village profoundly fascinating is its history as the ‘plague village’. When the plague struck the village in the 17th century, the disease spread rapidly and Eyam was put under quarantine for 14 months. A stroll around this picture-prefect English village will lead you to discover the plaques outside houses that state who died there during this terrible time, as well as the ‘Boundary Stone’. This had been set up to transport food and medicine into Eyam safely from the nearby uninfected village of Stoney Middleton.

20:00 FEAST ON FIRST-CLASS FOOD

A short drive from Eyam is Baslow Hall, a gorgeous 100-year-old Grade II listed manor house. Within is the fine-dining restaurant Fischer’s at Baslow Hall, where Head Chef Rupert Rowley creates classical dishes using seasonal, British ingredients. Dine on produce such as Devon crab or Derbyshire pork jowl, hand-dived scallops or Creedy Carver duck from Devon.

TIME TO CHECK IN

Once you’ve finished your meal at Fischer’s you can book in to stay at the luxury Baslow Hall, which offers 11 beautiful bedrooms; the Garden Rooms look out onto their own private walled courtyard garden, while there is also a romantic, secluded cottage close by, Cruck Barn. Also within the area is elegant The Peacock at Rowsley, which also boasts a fine-dining restaurant, and the Losehill Hotel & Spa, a high-end boutique hotel offering spa facilities with Peak District views.

Getting there: The Peak District lies less than an hour from the cities of Manchester and Leeds (both around two hours by train from London), and around half an hour from Sheffield (also two hours by train from the capital).