60 minutes from…Belfast

Northern Ireland’s lively capital is renowned for its mix of art, culture and history, and you’ll find a wealth of exciting attractions to keep you busy. But beyond the limits of Belfast’s rich cultural cityscape, only an hour or less away, lie even more remarkable destinations that can enthral and excite. What’s more, eagle-eyed visitors will spot filming locations from the HBO epic Game of Thrones at nearly every turn, many of which are set to open to the public in 2019 to coincide with the airing of the show’s final season.

Birdwatch at Castle Espie

Drive eastwards from Dublin towards Strangford Lough to discover Castle Espie, an extensive wetland reserve managed by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust. Found three miles to the south of Comber, County Down, it is home to an abundance of native and exotic water birds, stunning estuary views, as well as habitats for plenty of other incredible wildlife. Castle Espie is also an early wintering site for the vast majority of the world’s migrating pale-bellied Brent geese, while Kingfishers are a regular sight in the Saline Lagoon.

From Castle Espie, head south for 20 minutes to take in the picturesque Killyleagh Castle with its conical roofs and imposing battlements, which stands proudly over the village of the same name. Alternatively, head around Strangford Lough in a clockwise direction to reach the National Trust site of Mount Stewart, a splendid collection of award-winning gardens alongside a beautifully refurbished neo-classical property. The characteristic gardens have a strong exotic and Mediterranean feel, while wooded areas support plants from all over the world, ensuring there’s something to discover all year round.

Slightly further south are the ruins of Grey Abbey, a former grey stone Cistercian priory. You’ll also find the Grey Abbey House and Gardens, which hosts an annual steam rally by the County Down Traction Engine Club in addition to numerous classic car meetings.

Head north from Mount Stewart to the centre of Bangor and the North Down Museum. This insightful exhibition explores the pivotal role that Bangor Abbey had in early Christian Ireland and the impact of the Viking invasion. Full-sized versions of a Viking Longhouse and Monk’s Cell accompany a range of exhibitions on the Bronze Age, plantations and more.

Boat on Lough Neagh

Drive westwards from Belfast and bask in the tranquil atmosphere and unspoilt scenery of Lough Neagh, Northern Ireland’s largest freshwater lake. An Area of Specific Scientific Interest, its internationally recognised wetlands are a haven for wildlife and numerous viewing points can be found dotted along its 125km of pristine shoreline. Hire a boat to experience the calm waters or try out a number of more adventurous water sport activities.

Go full-steam ahead in Whitehead

Venture in a north-easterly direction for 25 minutes to uncover the Whitehead Railway Museum, on the east coast of County Antrim, which offers a fascinating insight into the world of steam travel and the history of railway in Northern Ireland. Children can dress up in Victorian costume, watch as restoration work takes place and climb on board several iconic locomotives and carriages from the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland’s collection.

Uncover the beauty of Lisburn

Immerse yourself in the historical importance of Castle Gardens, in Lisburn, by travelling just 20 minutes to the south west of Belfast. Once the home of a fortified 17th-century manor house and now a beautifully kept public park, the city is also home to the spectacular 300-year old Lisburn Cathedral. Delve further into the history of the region with a visit to the Irish Linen Centre and Lisburn Museum, which explores Ireland’s industrial heritage, tracing the history of linen through its award-winning Flax to Fabric exhibition.

Bask in the splendour of Hillsborough Castle a short distance further to the south west, an 18th- century Georgian country house that is also the Queen’s official residence in Northern Ireland. Take a guided tour of the castle and state rooms, before venturing outside to explore its ornamental grounds, woodlands and waterways.

Around an hour from Belfast to the south west is the city of Armagh. See St Patrick’s Cathedral, which stands on top of the hill from which the city derived its name. Gaze at the stars at the Armagh Astronomy Centre and Planetarium and listen to a show on the night sky, before exploring its beautiful landscaped grounds. Finish your visit to the city at Armagh County Museum. Designed like a Greek temple, the museum is home to numerous artefacts that detail the rich history of the region dating back to prehistoric times.

Discover the mesmerising Mourne Mountains

Some 50km and an hour to the south of Belfast by car, in County Down, is the immeasurable beauty of the Mourne Mountains, the country’s highest and most awe-inspiring set of peaks. Explore the summits, complete with their granite tors, via a network of criss-crossed tracks and trace the old smuggling routes from Newcastle to Hilltown, taking in views of the Mourne Wall along the way. Built to keep sheep and cattle away from the Silent Reservoir catchment, the 22-mile long wall has stood for close to 100 years.

If there is time to explore a little further from Belfast, then start with the stunning scenery and natural sights of Country Antrim to the north. The striking coastline is home to an abundance of wildlife, as well as the majestic Giant’s Causeway and the impressive Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, near Ballintoy. Other popular destinations include Bushmills Distillery – Ireland’s oldest working distillery – and nearby Dark Hedges, where Arya Stark made her escape from King’s Landing in Game of Thrones. Dunluce Castle, a cliff top ruin, also starred as The House of Greyjoy in the hit TV show.

It’s High Time to Visit the Highlands and Islands: VisitScotland showcases the unmissable sights

Today Lonely Planet announces the Scottish Highlands and Islands* as one of the top regions in the world to go in 2019, leaving no reason to delay a visit. With impressive scenery, world class dining experiences and an outstanding accommodation offering it’s no wonder this exceptional corner of the globe has scooped up such an impressive accolade.

In light of Lonely Planet’s declaration of the region as a “must-see destination” for the coming year, VisitScotland offers just some of the top reasons for travel-lovers to bump the Highlands and Islands up to the top of their bucket list in 2019.

 

Fabulous fare:

Scotland’s variety and quality of distilleries to explore is unmatched and the Highlands and Islands have plenty to offer, from the chance to stay in the first legal whisky distillery on the Isle of Raasay to a visit to Harris Distillery to pick up a bottle of Isle of Harris Gin, which is only available for purchase from the island. Try out the region’s foodie experiences, including the new Mac & Wild at Falls of Shin, which offers a range of Scottish dishes and is positioned scenically close to the falls where guests can view salmon leaping in the summer months, before enjoying a taste of it in the restaurant. Alternatively, head to Alladale Wilderness Reserve for the chance to fish and forage for food, including herbs, mushrooms and plants with a ranger before having a professional chef to prepare and cook them.

 

Wonderful wildlife:

Boat trips are great way to explore the coastline and discover Scotland’s marine wildlife, Hebridean Whale Cruises operate from Gairloch, giving visitors the chance to get a close up look at Orcas, dolphins and sharks. A stop at John O’Groats while travelling along the North Coast 500 offers wildlife spotting opportunities including seals, orcas, oystercatchers, guillemots and, at certain times of year, puffins. Visitors seeking out the latest wildlife adventure may want to explore the Hebridean Whale Trail, set to launch in 2019. For those who prefer to explore on dry land Beinn Eighe nature reserve in Wester Ross, famous for its ancient pinewoods, is an ideal location for spotting wildlife; come here to see soaring golden eagles or red deer.

 

Beautiful views:

For stunning views over open sea walk the Waternish peninsula loop, a beautiful and less frequently explored part of Skye. The Highlands also offer autumn and winter visitors the opportunity to see the incredible northern lights; places with the best conditions of low light pollution include the far North West of Scotland and the Outer Hebrides. Visitors taking in the Northern Lights will be in an ideal location to enjoy a landscape so outstanding that it has been designated as a UNESCO Global Geopark at Knockan Crag National Nature Reserve.

 

Fascinating history:

Discover the site of one of the most famous and dramatic battles in Scottish history at the interactive Culloden Visitor Centre, catch one of the regular ‘living history’ re-enactments of the fray which marked the end of the 1745 Jacobite Rising. Visitors looking to combine hiking in outstanding scenery with fascinating history can head to Glencoe to learn about the tragic and infamous massacre which took place there. Glencoe’s award-winning, eco-friendly visitor centre is a brilliant place to learn about the landscape and soak up the sights.

 

Exceptional accommodation:

There is something for everyone ranging from camping at idyllic and well-equipped spots such as Talla Na Mara in Harris to luxury in a stunning setting at Inverlochy Castle, which boasts views of the surrounding mountains and furnishings gifted to the castle by the King of Norway. Discover unique places to sleep such as Blacksheep House, a contemporary renovation of a traditional Hebridean Blackhouse or The Broch at Borve Lodge Estate, believed to be the first broch** built in the UK since the Roman era. For art-lovers The Lime Tree in Fort William is unmissable, offering guests a chance to stay in a hotel which is also a working studio for artist David Wilson with an attached art gallery on site, housing a permanent collection of this Highland artist’s works.

 

Scotland on the Silver Screen:

The Highlands provide a naturally stunning setting for film-makers and visitors can see iconic locations from their favourite films, including the peak of Suilven, the 731m tall mountain in Sutherland climbed by Edie on her life-affirming journey, or the sweeping cinematic scenery of Harry Potter on board the Jacobite Steam Train, widely regarded as the real life Hogwarts Express. For Bond fans a drive through the atmospheric highland scenery and past the striking Buachallie Etive Mor on the way to Glencoe will set them on the same road as 007 (Daniel Craig) and M (Judy Dench) making their way to Bond’s childhood home in Skyfall.

 

Off the beaten track:

For those looking to Skye for their next adventure consider a trip to Raasay; a peaceful paradise for walkers and nature lovers, the island also offers a chance to visit one of the stops on the new Hebridean Whisky Trail. Or head to Sutherland and Caithness which boast unspoilt, dramatic scenery in some of the most remote parts of Scotland; these areas are the perfect place to explore while enjoying true peace and quiet on the extreme edge of Europe.

 

 

To discover more about the Highlands and Islands visit: www.visitscotland.com.

 

*Lonely Planet defines the Highlands in the book as the area above the Highland Boundary Fault - the topographical feature that divides the Lowlands and the Highlands and which goes diagonally from Helensburgh in the west to just above Stonehaven in the east coast. The ‘Islands’ in this case refers to the Outer Hebrides.

 

**A broch is a prehistoric circular stone tower found in north Scotland and adjacent islands.

 

ENDS

 

Road trip – England’s North West

As the autumn months roll round, thoughts turn to brisk walks in a countryside ablaze with colour, cosy dinners by log fires and exploring cities as they gear up for the festive season. And what’s a great way to experience all of this on one trip? Take to the road! It’s easy to travel by car around regions of Britain, as short journey times between urban and rural landscapes mean packing in a huge amount within a few days. Here we look at travelling through England’s north-west region, driving from the vibrant city of Manchester, through the spectacular landscapes of the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales National Parks and culminating at the historic city of Carlisle.

Journey length: 120 miles

DAY ONE

Take time to explore Manchester before you head out on the road. Love football? This is the home of two of the world’s most famous football teams; Manchester United and Manchester City. Book a tour at their stadiums and then head to the National Football Museum to learn more about the history of the beautiful game. Manchester is also a renowned cultural hotspot; head to its Northern Quarter, the city’s creative hub, to spot awesome murals and visit independent boutiques, bars and restaurants. Into museums and art galleries? Check out the city’s Whitworth Art Gallery and The Lowry as well as the Imperial War Museum North and HOME, a purpose-built centre for international contemporary art, film and theatre.

Visit before the end of 2018 for: the Manchester Literature Festival in October and the Manchester Animation Festival in November.

Drive 45 minutes from Manchester to…Samlesbury Hall

You’re now in the gorgeous Lancashire countryside, home to one of the county’s most beautiful stately homes; Samlesbury Hall, a half-timbered black and white medieval house. Discover centuries of history as you explore the Victorian kitchen and schoolroom and take time to enjoy the autumnal colours in its stunning grounds.

Visit before the end of 2018 for: Spooky tours led by characters such as Witch Janey and ghost-storytellers, throughout October and November.

Drive 30 minutes from Samlesbury Hall to the conservation village of Downham

Downham is one of the north-west’s most picturesque villages and sits in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Its main charm is the gorgeous views from the village, unencumbered by apparent signs of modern life (satellite dishes, overhead wires, road signs). Downham has regularly featured as a filming location for period pieces.

Stay: At the Grade II-listed Assheton Arms gastro pub with rooms. Tuck into hearty meals created from local ingredients in its restaurant, complete with log fire.

DAY TWO

Drive 45 minutes from Downham to Haworth

You’ve crossed over from Lancashire into England’s largest county, Yorkshire, where you’ll be captivated by views that inspired literary classics Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. Head to the attractive village of Haworth, home to the world-famous Bronte Parsonage Museum, which gives a fascinating insight into the lives of Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte.

Visit before the end of 2018 for: a true taste of English eccentricity. In November, to mark the start of the festive season, Haworth hosts the quirky Pipes, Bows and Bells Weekend and Scroggling the Holly Weekend.

Drive an hour from Haworth to the village of Malham in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

A pretty village that’s worth exploring, Malham is also a short walk from the incredible Malham Cove, once a glacier and now a gigantic rock amphitheatre with 80-metre high cliffs. Hike up the steps at this natural beauty spot and be rewarded with phenomenal views.

Stay: 30 minutes from Malham is the village of Austwick, home to The Traddock country house hotel, which dates to the 18th century and offers amazing views of the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

DAY THREE

Drive 45 minutes from Austwick to the city of Lancaster.

You’re driving back into the county of Lancashire and heading to the heritage city of Lancaster. Explore the 1,000-year-old Lancaster Castle, the city’s secret alleyways, historic pubs and Georgian architecture before a spot of shopping in its quirky boutiques and independent art galleries. While you’re in town, journey across the Trail of the Pendle Witches, a driving trail of 45 miles that the  infamous Pendle Witches travelled from as they headed to Lancaster Castle to stand trial in the early 17th century.

Visit Lancaster before the end of 2018 for: Lancaster Live, a three-day music festival in October when the city comes alive with hundreds of musical performances.

Drive 45 minutes from Lancaster to Cartmel

In less than an hour’s drive from Lancaster you’re in the picturesque Lake District, where one of your first stops should be the ancient village of Cartmel. Not only is it famous for the 12th-century Cartmel Priory, but also for the delectable English sweet treat, sticky toffee pudding; pick up your own to take home at the Cartmel Village Shop.

Stay: Cartmel is also home to Michelin-star restaurant-with-rooms L’Enclume, where you’ll have an unforgettable meal created by chef Simon Rogan. Stay in one of its 16 bedrooms located in the village.

DAY FOUR

Drive 30 minutes from Cartmel to Bowness on Windermere

You’re now in the heart of the Lake District National Park at the towns of Windermere and Bowness and gorgeous lakes scenery. Catch those bright autumn colours from the water itself aboard Windermere Lake Cruises’ steamers. 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.

Visit Bowness before the end of 2018 for: an exhibition by Turner Prize-winner Grayson Perry at f Or drive 20 minutes into Kendal for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival in October and Kendal Mountain Festival in November.

Drive 45 minutes from Bowness-on-Windermere to Keswick

A lovely market town, Keswick is close to the lakes of Ullswater, Derwentwater and Bassenthwaite; catch the beautiful autumn colours from the lake on board Ullswater Steamers. Or, if you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, check out Honister, an innovative adventure attraction (also England’s last working slate mine). Climb the original miners’ route (the Via Ferrata Classic) an exposed adventure climbing course 1,200 feet/366 metres above the valley floor or take the bigger challenge by climbing the Via Ferrata Extreme!

Stay: Ten minutes from the centre of Keswick is Whinlatter, England’s only mountain forest and home to the Cottage in the Wood, a beautifully restored 17th-century restaurant-with-rooms.

DAY FIVE

Travel 45 minutes from Keswick to Carlisle

Known as the ‘Border City’, for its location just 15 minutes from England’s border with Scotland, Carlisle is a bustling city with a legendary history. Dating back to the Romans, who settled here to serve the forts of Hadrian’s Wall (just a 30-minute drive away), the city is home to artefacts of their occupation and influence, which can be seen at the Tullie House Museum & Art Gallery. And, for nine centuries, the medieval fortress Carlisle Castle has stood majestically overlooking the city; visit for a glimpse into medieval life and the castle’s turbulent past.

Visit before the end of 2018 for: the Carlisle Fireshow in November, one the largest of its kind in the north of England.

The Highs & Lows of London

From skyline spectaculars to subterranean secrets, London presents a raft of thrilling experiences to showcase its sights.

Up High

Sky Garden

The view across the capital from the stunning glass dome of 20 Fenchurch Church – which Londoners affectionately refer to as the ‘Walkie-Talkie’ building – is jaw-droppingly awesome, delivering iconic views of the city and far beyond...and it’s all for free! Space is limited at its beautifully landscaped Sky Garden, so tickets must be booked online, but you can also soak up the views while enjoying fine dining at its Fenchurch Restaurant, Darwin Brasserie or Sky Pod Bar.  

ArcelorMittal Orbit

Soaring 114.5 metres high above the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford, east London, the ArcelorMittal Orbit is the UK’s tallest sculpture. Head up to its observation deck for a spectacular 60-degree view of London and the legendary sporting arenas of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (home of the London 2012 Olympics), including the impressive London Stadium, now home to West Ham United FC. That’s not all – with views of up to 20 miles across all angles of London, you’ll catch sight of famous London landmarks as well as five of London’s football grounds. And the best way to descend the Orbit? Via the world’s longest and tallest tunnel slide where you’ll whizz down 178 metres.

Frank’s Café

A hidden gem in the buzzing south-east London neighbourhood of Peckham 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 Frank’s Café for gorgeous panoramic views of the capital’s skyline while you enjoy a drink or two.

Greenwich Park

Head to the UNESCO World Heritage Site Royal Maritime Greenwich for magnificent, sweeping views over the capital. Climb to the top of the hill in Greenwich Park and outside the Royal Observatory you’ll find a fantastic viewpoint in front of the statue of General Wolfe that offers incredible vistas, taking in the beautiful architecture of the Royal Museums Greenwich buildings and the Old Royal Naval College, the River Thames and out across to the City of London. It’s also a perfect spot when the sun sets and the city lights illuminate the view.

Up at the O2

Yes, you’ll be climbing onto the actual roof of the iconic entertainment venue, but climb guides will be with you throughout the 90-minute climb and, as you reach the summit, 360° views over historic Greenwich, the Olympic Park and Canary Wharf await you; on a clear day you’ll be able to see 15 miles away. As well as daytime climbs, you can set off on this high-scale adventure as the sun sets or at night for extraordinary night-time views.

The Tower Viewing Gallery – Westminster Abbey

One of the newest ‘high points’ to launch in the capital, Westminster Cathedral has opened its recently refurbished Tower Viewing Gallery, standing 210 feet/64 metres above street level. Add to that an exhibition of stunning drawings illustrating the design and heritage of the Cathedral in its Viewing Gallery and ground floor lobby and you’ll gain a full sense of the tower’s perspective.

Also worth heading up for outstanding views: The View from the Shard, the London Eye, the Tower Bridge Exhibition, restaurants SushiSamba and Duck & Waffle, as well as the OXO Tower.

 

Down Below

The Mail Rail

Descend into the former engineering depot of Mail Rail – the one-hundred-year-old Post Office railway – and set off on a 15-minute underground exploration via miniature train into the original tunnel below Royal Mail’s Mount Pleasant sorting office. The experience is fully immersive; you’ll discover original station platforms and secret parts of the underground railway that once transported mail through the capital.

Hidden London – London Transport Museum

Hidden London is the London Transport Museum’s exclusive programme of tours and events at disused stations and secret sites across the capital. It’s a fantastic chance to discover locations rarely seen by the public and experienced guides will divulge unique stories about the stations’ different histories along the way. Hidden London is offering tours between October and December 2018 at locations such as ‘Down Street: Churchill’s Secret Station’; ‘Euston: The Lost Tunnels’; and ‘Clapham South: Subterranean Shelter’.

The Vaults at Waterloo

Located in a maze of disused railway arches under Waterloo station, with some incredible street art right in front of you, The Vaults is a haven for immersive theatre and alternative arts. Check out its weird and wonderful programme of unique events that take place throughout the year; future events on the bill in 2018 include an immersive dining experience called Divine Proportions and a Hidden Jazz Club.

Churchill War Rooms

This underground bunker beneath the streets of Westminster was the secret location where Winston Churchill and his war cabinet planned the allied route to victory during the Second World War. Explore its intriguing maze of corridors and rooms, discovering where history was made, as well as visit its Churchill Museum to learn more about the wartime leader’s life.

Cahoots

Channelling a retro theme, Cahoots is a Soho-based bar where you’ll find delicious cocktails, sing-alongs and swing dancing, all housed in a disused Underground tube station and decorated to transport you back to post-war 1940s London. Drinks are all served in vintage milk bottles and tins, hip flasks and crockery that wouldn’t look out of place in your gran’s kitchen. Kitsch and fun, there’s also live music and entertaining experiences such as the ‘Squiffy Picnic’.

Silver Vaults Chancery Lane

Did you know that hidden on Chancery Lane between the City and the West End are London’s Silver Vaults, a subterranean labyrinth of antique silver dealers? It’s one of London’s most unusual shopping destinations; the underground location is home to 30 specialist silver retailers, selling British, international, and antique silver from every period, in every style. Whether you’re window shopping or looking to buy, it’s a lovely place to explore.

Also worth heading down to: St Paul’s Cathedral Crypt, the Greenwich & Woolwich Foot Tunnels and bars such as WC Clapham and Basement Sate.

 

 

Ten cool and unique ways to see Britain’s cities

Searching for an alternative to a walking tour of Britain’s cities? Here’s how you can turn city sightseeing into an immersive experience, whether it’s via watersports, from the sky…or even in a hot tub!

In a hot tub – London

Yes, you read that correctly – you can now step into a freshwater hot tub that sails down London’s River Thames, passing by some of the capital’s most iconic sights. The 90-minute HotTug experience sets sail from two different locations; its original site in Angel, north London, takes you through the cute and calm waterways of Regent’s Canal and, just last month, a new experience launched in the Docklands area around Canary Wharf/West India Quay. Book the VIP Experience and receive sailors’ hats, robe and towel rental and an essential ice bucket to keep drinks cool.

Kayaking by night – London

London’s landmarks are emblazoned with light come nightfall, delivering an atmospheric glow as you view them from double kayaks on the River Thames. On board the Night Kayak Tour you’ll paddle past the Houses of Parliament, St Paul’s Cathedral and Tower Bridge, a journey that takes you from pretty Battersea and ends in the historic maritime neighbourhood of Greenwich. Waterproof clothing, paddles, buoyancy aids – and instructors – are included.

By group cycle – Belfast, Northern Ireland

Chat face-to-face with your friends at the same time as cycling around Northern Ireland’s capital, on a specially adapted cycle with Wee Toast Tours – and enjoy a drink or two en route! An hour or two allows you to cruise around the city centre at gentle speeds, taking in such sights as City Hall and the Opera House. Wee Toast Tours also offers a Cathedral Quarter tour, through Belfast’s cultural heart, and will soon be launching a tour of the Titanic Quarter, home to the world-famous Titanic Museum, SS Nomadic and HMS Caroline.

Stand-up paddleboarding – Bristol, south-west England

Bristol is renowned for its historic harbours and waterways but why not explore its iconic waterside  via the contemporary watersport of stand-up paddleboarding with SUP Bristol? The professional team there will show you the ropes and take you out to float past Brunel’s SS Great Britain, the historic dockside and the multi-coloured houses of the leafy and elegant neighbourhood of Clifton – as the sun rises is a particularly lovely time to head out.

Singing in the back of a taxi – London

Black cab taxi driver – and professional singer – Aiden Kent had been driving customers around London for 20 years when he decided to combine his love for singing with his love for performing. The ‘Singing Cabbie’ fitted out his cab with a red carpet, Italian red leather seats and a bottle of champagne for guests, and a specially-adapted PA system to experience an extraordinary performance as you zip past London’s sights.

From a bird’s eye perspective – Cardiff, south Wales

Wales’ capital is packed with legendary landmarks – and one thrilling way to experience them is from the air! Hover Helicopters fly you to more than 1,000 ft/300 metres above Cardiff and over the Cardiff Bay, Cardiff Castle and the majestic Principality Stadium. Flights take place between March and October and the company can also take you over south Wales and its striking coastline. City skyline flights are also available over Manchester and Liverpool in north-west England.

On a ghostly tour – Edinburgh, Scotland

Enjoy the thrill of a fright? Ghost Bus Tours in Scotland’s capital takes you on a spooky theatrical experience around one of the UK’s most haunted cities, on board a classic 1960s Routemaster bus. Both entertaining and educational – it’s billed as a comedy horror show – you’ll learn all about the city’s former grisly sites where historic executions took place and hear eerie tales of supernatural occurrences.

Out on the river – Liverpool, north-west England

The legendary landmarks of Liverpool – the Liver Building, Albert Dock and the two stunning cathedrals that tower above the city skyline – can be seen from a different perspective from the River Mersey, on board the Dazzle Ferry, itself an attractive sight. The ferry was created by Sir Peter Blake, as part of the First World War centenary commemorations, with the design commissioned by Liverpool Biennial, 14–18 NOW the First World War Centenary Art Commissions, and Tate Liverpool in partnership with Merseytravel and National Museums Liverpool. Learn about the city as well as the history behind the ‘dazzle’ ship.

On the run – London

Don’t just walk around London – run through it! City Jogging Tours offers both specially designed tours or customised versions; all you need to do is bring your running shoes and be ready to explore. An experienced guide leads you to the city’s attractions and the tours cater for all running abilities, from newcomers to endurance runners. A great way to keep fit and fit in essential sightseeing.

Meandering through canals – Birmingham, central England

Did you know that Birmingham has more miles of canal than Venice and that they are lined with beautifully restored industrial heritage landmarks and intriguing contemporary buildings? See all of this on board a canal boat tour; there are several to choose from, ranging from tours of the more modern developments of Birmingham to the city’s pretty suburbs and out further into the countryside.

 

Adrenaline adventures in South West Britain

For an adventure filled autumn, all roads point southwest. The region holds countless opportunities for air, sea, shore and cliff activities to challenge even the most active tourist...

 

Swinging from a height 

Where better to experience an adrenaline hit than at Adrenalin Quarry? This adventure centre near Liskeard in Cornwall is guaranteed to raise the heartbeat - while turning the great outdoors upside down. Visitors can test their mettle on The Zip (billed as ‘the UK’s maddest zip wire’) and go from G-force to freefall on the Giant Swing. They can also throw an axe at a tree stump to relieve stress.

 

Coasteering sessions here offer wild swimming, climbing, tombstoning and The Blob — a huge bouncy cushion in the water. Speaking of inflatable cushions, new for 2018, is a huge aqua park with runways, trampolines, monkey bars and balance bars plus all the hoops and loops fun seekers can squeeze through.

 

As the day draws to a close, the barbecues fire up — a burger tastes so much better when gravity has been defied to earn it.
 

Rushing and whirling

For dedicated coasteering fans, Xtreme Coasteering (or, as they define it, “everything you weren’t supposed to do when you were a kid”) offers swimming and scrambling in some of the ‘best waves the Atlantic throws’. People can enjoy adventures in Cornwall, North Devon and Exmoor under huge cliffs and skies, with the possibility of encountering smuggler’s coves, rapids and whirlpools.

 

Surfing and bodyboarding

If that’s not enough of a dunking, the surf capital of Cornwall welcomes buzz seekers with open arms — and a surfboard. At Newquay’s glorious beaches, novices are transformed into dudes with a few lessons and a bit of practice. Fistral is one of Newquay’s most famous beaches, with thrilling western swells, and there are plenty of nearby campsites for quick access to the dunes — when visitors are tired of gazing at the surf, they can turn their attention to the stars.

 

Fossil hunting and rock pool rambling

This part of the world delivers what it says on the tin. The UNESCO World Heritage Jurassic Coast covers over 95 miles of shoreline between Devon and Dorset, and with over 180 million years of history, it’s a bona fide hub for fossil hunting. New remains are regularly dislodged from the cliffs and you can seek them out with the help of wardens from the Charmouth Heritage Centre. Rock pool rambles are also on offer from the centre, and there’s a chance to see the ichthyosaur fossil (of an extinct marine reptile), discovered by local collector Chris Moore and featured in the documentary Attenborough and the Sea Dragon.

 

Rock hopping and shore exploring

Those in search of a further adrenaline rush can absorb millions of years of geology into their own bones by coasteering, rock-hopping and scrambling with Dorset adventure company Lulworth Outdoors. The sessions, which pass spectacular landscapes like Lulworth Cove and Stair Hole, also provide the chance to learn about the history and wildlife of the area. 

 

Hiking, sliding and swanning around

Chesil Beach is one of the most famous shingle beaches in the UK, and this 18-mile stretch and the Fleet Tidal Lagoon are part of the Jurassic Coast UNESCO World Heritage Site. Hike up the sliding pebble ridge near the Chesil Beach Centre for fabulous views (and 180 billion chances to pick out the perfect pebble) or go crabbing along the ever-shifting shore. Approximately a ten-mile drive from the centre, the network of trails at Abbotsbury Swannery offer the chance to see territorial displays of nesting swans in May.

 

Southwest zest and pies

After all that adventure, it’s obligatory to squeeze in one of the region’s most traditional snacks, the classic Cornish Pasty, before heading home, buzzing with renewed energy and southwest zest.

Look out for a Warren’s Bakery — originating in 1860, they’re approved by the Cornish Pasty Association and are reportedly the oldest pasty makers in the world.

48 hours on… a Scottish Adventure

Scotland celebrates its Year of Young People throughout 2018, highlighting the destination’s 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; land yachting can see you build up to speeds of 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 grasp. Plus, 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 1.5 hours’ 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 new 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.

 

21:00 PARTY CITY

Glasgow is fully celebrating the Year of Young People, with several key events. The Glasgow Youth Film Festival takes place between 14-16 September, and the city hosts the Graphic Design Festival between 19-25 October, which will run a celebratory element called the Young & Powerful as part of an exhibition, while Celebrate Art (which runs until November) will showcase visual arts projects from young people in venues across Scotland, including Tramway in Glasgow.

This summer Glasgow will also host a number of events that will keep everyone feeling young! Between 30 July-11 August, Summer Nights at the Bandstand has a fantastic line-up of musical talent that includes The Fratellis, the Pretenders, Van Morrison and Fleet Foxes. The Merchant City Festival comes to Glasgow between 2-12 August, a cultural festival of street art, music, theatre, film, comedy and dance. And, as host city of the European Championships 2018 (2-12 August), Glasgow is running Festival 2018, a programme of cultural events ranging from street art to music, theatre to dance, with the iconic George’s Square as its hub.

 

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 is wholly contemporary in its approach to accommodation, bidding goodbye to trouser presses and pillow chocolates and focusing on elements such cool interior design, rain showers and free WiFi. Elsewhere, the Malmaison Glasgow is a boutique four-star hotel in the city centre located in a converted church, with its fabulous new Chez Mal Bar, complete with quirky towering beer barrel wall, while the Z Hotel is stylish designed and housed in the city’s renovated Old Printworks.

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.

Discover North Wales’ coastal resorts

Whether you want to hit the surf, chill out on secluded beaches, savour ice-creams while strolling along Victorian piers, marvel at medieval castles, or simply soak up the sun this summer, you’ll find it all on north Wales’ gorgeous coast. It’s also the perfect location to team up with a city break in Manchester or Liverpool in north-west England, which are both around an hour’s drive from north Wales.

 

Anglesey

A unique island just off the coast of north Wales, Anglesey is surrounded by 125 miles of coastline that just begs to be explored. Bring sturdy shoes to walk the Isle of Anglesey Coast Path, or take a more laid-back approach and relax on its scores of beaches. Pack up a picnic and head to sheltered bays such as Lligwy Bay – also a popular spot for seal- and dolphin-sightings – gaze out over to the peaks of Snowdonia from Llanddwyn Island, walk for miles with your toes in the sand at Red Wharf Bay, or enjoy the crystal clear waters at Benllech. A visit here, and you’ll understand why the coastal zone of Anglesey is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which also incorporates the town of Holyhead, itself currently in the throes of exciting marina and leisure redevelopment with the Holyhead Waterfront regeneration.

The island is also home to Beaumaris, a pretty seaside town that’s home to architecture stretching from the medieval era to the Edwardian, cute cottages and a historic pier. Standing majestically within the town is the last of medieval King Edward I’s ‘iron ring of castles’; Beaumaris Castle is a World Heritage site and a must-see on a trip to Anglesey. And why not challenge yourself with learning how to say the name of the village that’s the longest in Europe –  Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch – it’s right here in Anglesey.

Go this summer for: Tour de Mon cycle race (19 August), Beaumaris Food Festival (1-2 September)

Where to stay:

Hotel: The French chateau-style Chateau Rhianfa combines a romantic history with stunning design, its waterside location affording awesome views over to Snowdonia’s peaks.

Historic Inn: An 18th-century inn, The Bull is found in the lovely town of Llangefni – spoil yourself and check into its Lloyd George Room with four-poster bed and roll-top bath.

B&B: Right on the promenade at Benllech Beach, Sea View House is a cute Victorian B&B with its own Pebble Bistro overlooking the beach.

 

Llandudno and Conwy

If you’re looking for a quintessential British seaside resort, you’ve found it at Llandudno, which has been a popular retreat since the Victoria era, thanks to its expansive, award-winning beaches – Llandudno North Shore Beach, a sheltered beach with a wide promenade and West Shore Beach, a smaller beach fringed by sand dunes. It’s here you’ll find heritage-style, British seaside activities (think Punch & Judy shows, donkey rides and live music at the bandstand) as well as a vibrant, contemporary town. Fans of Alice in Wonderland will be enchanted with the town’s Alice in Wonderland trails (the real Alice, Alice Liddell, spent time at her family’s holiday home in Llandudno) and you can stroll along Wales’ longest pier (built in 1876), which stretches 2,295ft/700 metres out to sea. Just one way to enjoy a magnificent view of the area is by heading to The Great Orme, a coastal landmark more than 200 metres above sea, which can be reached by the charming Great Orme Tramway.

Just 15 minutes’ drive away is the seaside town of Conwy – home to the spectacular medieval Conwy Castle, also built by English King Edward I; climb up to its battlements for incredible views across the sea and the town. And Conwy may possess a grand-scale castle but it’s also home to the smallest house in Britain on its quayside; this miniature red-painted house is just three metres high by 1.8 metres wide.

Go this summer for: Llandudno Jazz Festival (27-29 July), Conwy River Festival (14-15 & 20-22 July)

Where to stay:

Hotel: It’s enviable location on the coast means the luxurious rooms at St George’s Hotel overlook Llandudno’s glorious seascape, particularly from its new rooms with balconies on The Rooftop.

Townhouse: A classic townhouse on the promenade, Osborne House Hotel offers six luxurious suites elegantly furnished with antiques while right next door is the larger Empire Hotel, with its own spa, which guests at Osborne House can also use.

B&B: The modern-style Escape Boutique B&B offers nine double rooms each designed with their contemporary theme.

 

Abersoch and the Llyn Peninsula

Picturesque beaches, a laid-back vibe and a pleasant micro-climate mean the Llyn Peninsula has also been a popular seaside resort since the end of the 19th century. It’s a brilliant spot for surfing and sea-kayaking, thanks to the considerable swells at Hell’s Mouth (Porth Niegwl) yet it’s also the area home to family friendly beaches such as Abersoch. The waters off Abersoch are great for sailing in too – or go seal spotting on a boat trip off St Tudwal’s Island – its beaches are dotted with brightly painted beach huts, there’s a lovely harbour to stroll around and the village has a vibrant café culture.

On the other side of the peninsula are the famous Whistling Sands (Porth Oer) – where the sand squeaks as you walk on it! The sound emanates due to the stress of weight put upon the sand and this is one of only two beaches in Europe you can experience this. The beach is managed by the National Trust, as is Porth Ceiriad, a great beach for walkers, kayakers and surfers alike.

A unique coastal resort worth visiting close to the peninsula is Portmeirion; inspired by classic Italian resorts, Welsh architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis designed and built the resort between 1925 and 1975. With its Italianesque architecture and multi-coloured cottages, it was famously used as the location for cult 1960s TV show The Prisoner.

Go this summer for: The Abersoch Regatta (August), Festival No.6 (6-9 September)

Where to stay:

Hotel: The country house-style Porth Tocyn Hotel overlooks both Cardigan Bay and out to Snowdonia and also offers a self-catering cottage in its grounds.

Historic house: Set in more than three acres of grounds in the Llyn Peninsula, The Old Rectory offers guests a stay in a Georgian house that was home to the rectors of Boduan since the early 18th century.

B&B: Five-minutes’ walk from Abersoch Beach, the Egryn Hotel is located in an Edwardian villa with most of its rooms boasting sea or mountain views.

 

Rhyl and Prestatyn

Sail, windsurf or simply hang out on the long stretches of golden sands at the beaches of Rhyl and Prestatyn  and meet sea lions at Rhyl’s SeaQuarium, which sits on this stretch of coastline with an open seafront location. Or enjoy the coastline from a different perspective on a hike. There’s around 60 miles of sea views from the north Wales element of the Wales Coast Path and, at Prestatyn, it joins Offa’s Dyke, Britain’s longest ancient monument and a National Trail that follows the English/Welsh border for 177 miles.

In fact, this area is awash with ancient sites and historical attractions, from the well-preserved remains of the Roman Bath House outside Prestatyn, prehistoric sties such as the Gop Hill (Trelawnyd) and England’s medieval King Edward I reared his head here too by ordering the construction of the dramatic Rhuddlan Castle. And fascinating insights into what life would have been like in World War One (2018 is a poignant time to visit as this year marks the centenary of the war’s end) can be found at the 600-year old Bodelwyddan Castle and Park, which has a network of replica trenches at its World War One Trenches Experience.

Go this summer for: Mid-summer night ghost hunt at Bodelwyddan Castle (28 July)

Where to stay:

Hotel: Simple yet comfortable, Beaches Hotel’s seaside location means all of its rooms either offer views overlooking the Prestatyn Hills or Barkby Beach.

Restaurant with rooms: Located in the oldest house in Rhyl, dating back to 1672, Barratt’s at Ty’n Rhyl offers charming rooms to stay in once you’ve dined at its award-winning restaurant.

B&B: Enjoy breakfast overlooking peaceful gardens at Plas Ifan B&B, housed in a building that was built as a chapel in 1770.

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.