Wild camping in Scotland is very much accepted. In fact, for many people it’s a way of life, a hobby or a favourite pastime. From Loch Lomond to Loch Eck, people have been making their way north for years in search of a quiet sport, excellent views, and total freedom. The reason it’s so popular north of the border is because there’s no law of trespass in Scotland. In effect you can camp (almost) anywhere that falls into the category of being wild. It’s actually quite a privilege, and one I tend to forget when I camp elsewhere (I once mistakenly camped on farmland on the wrong side of the English border. There weren’t any crops or livestock to disturb, but that didn’t stop me getting thrown off the hill at the barrel-end of a shotgun by an irate farmer. I always double check my bearings anytime I walk near the border now…..)
Loch Lomond is without doubt one of the most popular camping destinations for travellers heading to the west of Scotland. It’s scenic without being terribly remote, warmer than you’re likely to get in the true Highlands, and easy to access by public transport as well as car. And with plenty of quiet laybys and gravelly patches of beach, you don’t have to travel far to find somewhere that’s perfect for pitching a tent.
While camping on the west banks and on the islands in the heart of the Loch is unrestricted by legislation regarding location, heading to the east is a whole different story, with a camping ban that’s legally enforceable and regularly policed. Pitch a tent in the wrong place here and you’ll end up in trouble. The camping restrictions are clearly marked around the area of Balmaha and Rowardennan, and although the only camping allowed in this area is in designated sites that you need to pay for, you can camp further northwards along the West Highland Way without problem.
The camping ban has caused all sorts of outcry from hikers and campers heading here. It’s seen as a breach of people’s right to camp where they please. But people who find fault with this ban are missing one vital point – the right of access for wild campers, really means the spot you pick to knock in your tent pegs has got to be wild, right? The middle of sleepy Balmaha, or on someone’s doorstep in Rowardennan, doesn’t really fall into that category.
There have been attempts made to have the camping ban introduced in the village of Luss on the west of the loch, but so far the National Parks authority has resisted appealing for the change – and frankly, I can’t see why. The village doesn’t deserve to be descended upon in such boisterous fashion every summertime, particularly not where there’s a perfectly good purpose-built campsite right on its doorstep. The Luss Pools are the reason most people visit, that and the fact that they like to be within walking distance of a pub – but again, that sort of defeats the point of going wild.
To understand your rights when you go camping on Loch Lomond, make sure you’ve read the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. It’s a simple and easy-to-understand guide to what you can and can’t do, which land you can cross, and reasons you’re allowed to be there.
All of the above said, there are some fabulous places that I recommend for camping on Loch Lomond. The islands have some excellent spots to choose from, and there are nooks and crannies (that’s a good Scottish phrase by the way) the whole way up both shorelines. If you want some suggestions for places to pitch your tent in this part of Scotland, drop me and email and I’ll let you in on a few secrets….
Scotland is a land of adventure, full of inspiring scenery, imposing mountain ranges and endless lochs. It’s the perfect outdoor adventure playground whether you’re into mountain climbing or gentles strolls along flatter ground. The gateway to the mountains begins at Loch Lomond, a place that hill walkers call home and where Ben Lomond makes an appearance as one of the first Munro’s you’ll meet, but you don’t have to go trekking up a mountainside if you want to stretch your legs and enjoy the view, because Conic Hill is right next door, and it’s worth a climb as well.
Conic Hill sits on top of a fault line, and ancient one at that. It’s not very tall at only 1200ft, so it’s ideal for novice climbers as well (in fact, you get a lot of dog walkers up here on a gentle stroll). It forms part of the West Highland Way, although the route itself skirts the actual summit, and also forms an easy route from Drymen to Balmaha.
The shortest route is from Balmaha car park, where a forestry road takes you towards the bottom of the hill. It’s well signposted at the beginning, and if you do miss the route markers you could always follow the steady stream of walkers going the same way. This route is the steepest, offering sharp climbs and twisting turns but it’s still navigable by most people, regardless of fitness level.
The other popular route starts at Garadhban forest (pronounced Garavan) at the other side, just north of Drymen. It’s a longer walk in but because you’re starting above sea level the actual climb to the summit is nowhere near as steep. From car park to summit and back again, including a few moments at the top for photos, can take around three hours. Ideal for a long walk with the dog and great if you’re looking to get into hillwalking and want an easy place to start.
Things you’ll need to remember about climbing Conic are that the top is a series of three peaks with the actual summit located right in the middle. The climb to the summit from the main track is one of the steepest sections, covered in loose shale and slippery when wet. It’s fine for most walkers but if you need walking aid you’ll need to take care here. You should also be aware that the slopes of Conic are farming land. You have right of access, of course, but you need to take care not to disturb the flocks of sheep that live here, particularly if you’re walking with dogs.
Whether you choose to climb from the Balmaha or Drymen side (Drymen is my personal preference because there are fabulous views for nearly the entire route) you can return to respective villages to relax in their local cafes and restaurants, all of them very welcoming to walkers. This is a great walk for all seasons of the year, every bit as accessible in winter as it is without the snow!
Malawi might be one of the world most under-developed countries, but when it comes to tourism, it’s certainly stepping up its game. Sitting towards the south east coast of Africa, landlocked and surrounded by countries already enjoying an economic boost thanks to their influx of western visitors, this tiny little country already has two UNESCO World Heritage Sites to its name and another seven waiting for approval. Its three major National Parks are also a source of interest for tourists, offering the sort of safari tours and trekking opportunities many African countries are already famous for.
The Niyika National Park is by far one of the most popular and frequently visited destinations, boasting a series of dramatic waterfalls, vast Serengeti-style savannahs and twisting rivers that dry to dusty riverbeds when the rains are gone. Safari tours are popular in this part of the country, where leopards can be seen at their highest numbers in the world. Other remarkable creatures often spotted include the wattled crane and the red-winged francolin, both rarely seen anywhere else. Getting to Niyika involves a long drive from the nearest major town at Mzuzu – two and a half hours or so over bumpy, unsurfaced roads – but the park does boast its own grassy landing strip for fly-in safaris.
It’s the sort of landscape where animals reign, and humans are most definitely not top of the food chain, so if you do plan to visit, it’s best to take an experienced guide or join an organised tour. There’s a choice of transportation method, from conventional 4×4 vehicles, to horseback riding across the plains, and the hardiest adventurer can always attempt to cover the isolated 1250 square mile region on foot. When the rains are falling you might be lucky enough to spot wild orchids, and there are over 200 species found here, as well as herds of grazing zebra, elephants and buffalo. Keep your eyes peeled for smaller creatures from warthogs to bushpigs, darting through the brush.
Niyika National Park has seen a real influx in tourism since it was added to the UNESCO tentative list just over a decade ago, and the increased economy has not only benefitted the park itself, but also the local communities that rely on it for their own survival. Money generated from by tourists has directly resulted in developments to local communities, although the country is still behind its neighbours in terms of economic and social growth.
If walking amongst the wild residents of this unique African country doesn’t appeal to you, head for the Mulanje Mountain Biosphere Reserve for a natural attraction of a different kind. Hugging the slopes of Mulanje Mountain, the forests, high plateau basins and unique rock formations are quite an attraction of their own. Its height means it attracts the rains, bringing much needed water to the plains below. Local people still attach magical importance to this area, believing that the mountain is sacred and a gift from the Gods. Rite and ceremonies are still performed on its slopes today, whenever villagers are in need of rain or healing, or are lacking in food.
Malawi might not feature highly on most travellers bucket lists, but if you’re the sort of adventurer who wants to discover the last bastion of early civilisation, where iPads and technology are out and the natural environment is the focal point of community life, then this unique country, with its wild plains and under-developed communities, should be on your list of places to explore.
A credit card is a must have when you go away on your next vacation. It’s the perfect safety net if you’re met with any unexpected holiday expenses and find that you haven’t purchased enough currency in advance, as well as being essential when it comes to charging luxury hotel rooms or hiring a car abroad. But before you go, make sure that the credit card you have is suitable for foreign use. Many credit card companies will charge you huge fees for taking cash out of foreign ATM’s and most also charge you a transaction fee for every purchase you make using it. It’s near-impossible to find a card which doesn’t charge you at all for using it abroad, but still, there are some which are much more foreign-friendly than others.
If you do find one that doesn’t charge for foreign transactions, make sure you check the exchange rate before you go away; they can be subject to change meaning they might actually work out more expensive. In the run up to our holidays this year, we’ve checked out some of the best UK credit card deals available, helping you narrow down the most expensive options. Happy holidaying….
HALIFAX CLARITY CREDIT CARD
This card offers the benefit of not charging any fees on cash withdrawals of foreign currency from ATMs whilst abroad, but there is a rate of at least 12.9% interest charged even if the amount is repaid in full straight away. But this still works out to be quite a good deal, at roughly £1 per month per £100 withdrawn it is actually significantly cheaper than many foreign bureaus de change. And the best thing about this rate is that it applies worldwide, so you are not restricted to the countries in which you can actually make use of it. It’s a brilliant card to have if you are a regular traveller and visit many different places.
As an added bonus, if you already have a Halifax Reward current account and you apply for their clarity credit card, you will receive £5 every month that you spend over £300 on your credit card, either in the UK or overseas. But make sure that you repay in full each month otherwise the £5 will not go very far in paying off the interest you accumulate.
SAGA PLATINUM CREDIT CARD
This is a great card and offers many of the same benefits as the Halifax Clarity. It is, however, only available to people aged over 50. Its offers of no transaction fees on payments and cash withdrawals are also only available in Europe. But it’s a great card to have if you fit the brief. The card also offers you discounts within the SAGA group and only charges you 11.9% APR as opposed to Halifax’s 12.9%. SAGA’s card is a visa and so should be accepted by all major retailers, even overseas.
POST OFFICE CLASSIC MASTERCARD
This card offers you no transaction fees at all when used in Europe, and just 1% anywhere else in the world. It does charge a somewhat hefty 19.9% APR on repayments though. A much larger amount than the SAGA or the Halifax Clarity. But, instead of the standard month you get a full 3 months interest-free before this 19.9% rate starts to apply. The post office has the added benefit of not charging any commission on currency when exchanged. So the rates offered when paying abroad should be much better than those available on either of the other two cards. There is no age restriction on this credit card, it can be used all over the world and is, again, a MasterCard so you should have no problems with it being accepted wherever you go.
Whichever credit card you prefer, don’t let money worries get you down on your next luxury holiday abroad.
It’s very often the case that you need to check out a restaurant menu or read a review to discover what type of cuisine you’re letting yourself in for. Not so at the Kyloe Restaurant and Grill, one of the best restaurants in Edinburgh, where it’s fairly obvious that beef is on the menu. It may be the large ornamental cow standing out front, with dotted lines on its right flank depicting the source of the choicest cuts, or perhaps it’s the giant cow head protruding from the exterior wall one floor up. But should you miss any of these signs, then the interior design is likely to give you a bit of a hint. More ornamental bovines adorn the walls, the booths are upholstered with real cow hide and there’s enough wood to construct a stable
I stepped inside and instantly wished I was wearing cowboy boots and a Stetson. I don’t have any, but if I did this would surely be the place to pass unnoticed. It’s not a tacky restaurant, let me assure you of that. The décor is actually quite elegant, and there’s no straw covering the varnished floor. It’s just, unequivocally, a steak house.
The menu speaks for itself in a ‘who’s-who’ of steaks. Favourite cuts like sirloin and fillet rub shoulders (or rumps) with the lesser known bullet steak. The starters are mostly meat-friendly while the mains are an eye-watering display of red protein, and just when I thought that vegetarians would have long since given up and run for the hills, I spot monkfish, a risotto of beetroot and a chickpea curry, all of which I (as a confirmed carnivore) would have been happy to eat.
Dining at Kyloe is a relaxed experience. The quality of the food is outstanding, the presentation was immaculate and the service was friendly, knowledgeable and courteous. If you don’t know your steaks well, they provide an ‘at the table’ master class where their educated waiters talk diners through a selection of cuts, all nicely presented on a large wooden board.
I started my meal with the steak tartare. Let’s face it, if you’re going to get the best raw beef, you’re likely to get it in a great steak house, right? It was perfectly cut and had just the right amount of salt from the capers and gherkins. Having just devoured a perfectly rounded portion of entirely raw meat, I felt like a fraud ordering a medium-rare ribeye, but since that’s the recommended degree of cooking (I paid attention in my master class) I didn’t want to argue. Clearly the chef at the Kyloe knows his stuff because it was sublimely tender.
The wine list is another pleasure. A reluctant New World wine drinker, a recent trip to London opened my eyes to some of the better estates down under, and with Hidden Bay on the list here it was an easy choice to make. Dessert brought the tasting platter, a selection of smaller sweet things to taste and share – ideal if you can’t make up your mind.
Despite their high standards there’s no pomposity or arrogance here. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. There’s a constant hum of activity everywhere you look, couples chatting, large groups just out of work for the day, family get-togethers, girls nights out and so on. It’s clearly a popular choice. One of the benefits is the short walk back downstairs to the bar when your meal is done – you have a complete night’s entertainment under one roof. So next time you’re arranging a round up of friends and you’re looking for one of the best restaurants in Edinburgh, may I humbly suggest that you ‘cattle drive’ your way to the end of Princes Street where the fabulous Kyloe Restaurant and Grill is waiting…
For more luxury travel ideas check our our hotel reviews here.
RV vacations are an increasingly popular choice of holiday for many Americans. Using a trailer rather than a hotel is fun for all of the family and offers some surprising benefits. Travelling to your destination with your very own home in tow is a great way to save money and bring home comforts along with you. Avoiding public transport also means that you can bring your own sports gear and you can quickly move elsewhere if you don’t like your neighbours. You get to use your own sheets, eat your own food and there are no restrictions on luggage allowances or the amount of stops that you make. The road is your oyster.
Where to Go
North America is a vast continent with an almost impenetrable number of tourist attractions. It’s also conveniently home to a great many RV parks that come in all shapes and sizes. Among the best are Mill Creek Ranch in Canton in Texas, Yosemite National Park RV Parks in California and River’s Edge RV Park in Fairbank Alaska. The entertainment on offer at these RV hot spots ranges from visiting enormous Texan flea markets, to panning for gold in Yosemite. Or you can watch the natural phenomenon of the Northern Lights and visit the reindeer at River’s Edge.
What to Bring
What you decide to bring with you largely depends on what you plan to do during your trip. If you’re heading to the Floridian beachside then you’ll need considerably less than a trip to a northern National Park. A trailer dolly will keep your trailer as mobile as possible. Spare tent parts are essential if you are going to set up camp outside of your trailer for a substantial amount of time. Cleaning and cooking products will also come in handy if you’re going to be making your own food and vacationing on an extended trip.
Make sure that you get the best meals possible by packing the right cooking equipment, as well as bringing non-perishable food items. Sharp knives, a chopping board, seasoning, plates, pans and cutlery are all essentials for self-catering. Napkins, washing-up liquid and cleaning sponges will also go a long way when you’re out in the wilderness. Some camping stores supply gas camping stoves, which are an excellent way to cook breakfast. A small and cheap BBQ should also last you for the duration of your trip and gives you the opportunity to make smores.
Food items that will last include pasta, rice, canned food, biscuits, chips and bread. Most candy, crackers, eggs, fresh fruit and cheeses also keep well outside of the fridge. But these should be kept at relatively cool temperatures and consumed as early as possible. MRE army-style rations may seem like a slightly extreme option, but some are very tasty and they last for years. You can make your meat and vegetables last longer by freezing it before you depart and storing it in a cooler packed with ice. Once you have exposed your meat to normal temperatures, you should cook it and either eat or refrigerate as soon as possible it to avoid bacterial contamination.
As affordable vacations become increasingly hard to come by, more people are turning to RV trips for their precious holiday time. There’s nothing quite like an American road trip for a great family and friends bonding experience. You’ll definitely be surprised at the amount on offer from the USA’s huge pick of RV parks once you have a look online. With your own bed, home cooking and whole of America on offer, it’s tough to go wrong. Just remember to pack the right equipment, plan ahead and settle for nothing less than the best. RV vacations really are the way to go.
For more luxury travel ideas check our our hotel reviews here.
Somewhere beneath the bustling streets of Edinburgh, away from the street vendors and mime artists and out of sight of the thousands of people who live and work in the city every day, lies an abandoned street that was once the very heart of the city: Mary Kings Close.
A close is the Scottish word for tenements, a row of tightly packed high-rise apartments with narrow alleys forming streets between them. Often depressing places, a close was a community all of its own, with a rank structure that saw the wealthiest tenants living in relative comfort in the upper middle floors. Those who formed the lower classes were relegated either to the very top floor, where the howling winds and often leaking roofs made life uncomfortable, or to the lowest flats, where living amongst the grime and faeces was part of everyday life. Most of these closes are long forgotten, buried beneath the ever-expanding streets of a constantly modernising city, but the Real Mary Kings Close has been rediscovered – and what a popular tourist attraction in Edinburgh it is now!
Step inside this unique visitor centre and descend beneath the cobbled pavement of Edinburgh’s High Street, and you’ll find yourself standing in 17th Century Edinburgh as it existed all those years ago. You’ll be led by your guide through the maze of underground homes, some still completely intact and others held up by supports. You’ll discover the legends of the Mary Kings Close in habitants, learn the fate of those who died from the Plague, and meet the ghost of a lost little girl. Tales will be told of everyday living, from working in the slaughterhouse to running the market stalls that once lined this cramped alleyway.
The Real Mary Kings Close is a seriously good attraction, and something that shouldn’t be missed on a tour of Edinburgh. Nowhere else will you get such a first hand, visual experience of how life used to be, and when we visited we were impressed by how well it’s run. The guides are well-informed and incredibly believable, the props do the tours justice, and it’s nice to see a historic attraction that hasn’t gone overboard by masking the realism with the hype. There’s the obligatory gift shop, of course, as you’d expect to find in any 5 star tourist attraction, but the trinkets you’ll find here are a step up from the normal tacky tourist rubbish you get elsewhere. The Close isn’t difficult to find, and certainly not expensive – our opinion is that it’s well worth the trip.
If you want to make the experience even more interesting, why not brave a tour at Halloween. We haven’t been on one ourselves, but we’ve heard they’re to die for!
For more luxury travel ideas check our our hotel reviews here.
As a ski destination Val d’Isere is hard to beat. The resort boasts a massive ski area with an excellent snow record and varied enough terrain to keep everyone – from beginners to experts – grinning all week, authentic mountain restaurants and a rocking après-ski scene for party-lovers. Its traditional resort atmosphere and old town make it a more charming alternative to its purpose built cousin, Tignes, yet skiers benefit from the connections between the two resorts, which amount to the extensive Espace Killy ski area.
To provide you with a true insider’s guide we’ve recruited the help of Charlie Balfour, who has the lovely day job of leading Mark Warner guests out onto the slopes, picking the best runs and lunch stops through the week and recommending the best après-ski spots for continuing the fun off the slopes.
The nursery slope in the centre of town is a good place to start but beware it’s a little steep at the top. For your ﬁrst real run off the nursery slopes try the Madeleine green run on Solaise and progress to Genepy, Borsat and Mont Blanc, which are all rolling green runs with no nearby intermediate runs that might attract faster skiers. As the resort has a reputation for under classifying runs and exposure to the elements can change the terrain to what you’d expect on a blue or even red run, always ask your chalet host or instructor for tips on where to go on the day. From most sections beginners are often best to take a lift back down to the valley. For any beginners we highly recommend taking some lessons with a local ski school.
To get your ski-legs on the first day head up the Glacier Express to warm up on the blue runs of Leissieres and Plan Milet. For nice long runs that push intermediate skiers but have flat sections for recovery head to Piste L or Mangard. For an exciting red run have fun experimenting with different routes down the long tree-lined run of Germain Mattis to Le Lasisinant.
Marmottons and Arcelle offer a little of everything, some un-groomed sections, moguls, wide motorways and some steeper sections.
For thrill-seekers Piste S is open to the elements and unpisted and the Face run provides the added pressure of onlookers from the Gondola and town below.
Off-piste, Val has some hidden gems that only seasoned pros know about so it’s worth hiring a guide for a day.
Val d’Isere is not considered a hard-core resort for snowboarders but has great terrain for freeriders. Beginners will enjoy the easier slopes and lack of draglifts. As usual watch out for flat areas, including a long flat on Santons, where boarders will end up scooting.
Tip: For a spine tingling view jump on the Cascade Chairlift on Glacier de Pissaillas.
Lunch on the mountain
A great place to stop for a satisfying lunch is La Barillon at the bottom of La Daille gondola. L’Edelweiss above the hamlet of Le Fornet serves Savoyard specialties in a picturesque alpine building slightly off the beaten track. If you have non-skiers in your group try L’Arolay for great food and easy access on foot.
If you’re on a budget try the central Bellvard Mountain Restaurant for self-service with great views or stock up for a picnic at La Tartine, a friendly bakery in resort next to the ticket office and Saloon Bar.
Tip: To re-live the highlights of your day’s skiing sip your last vin chaud at the cosy Rosé Blanche.
For hearty local dishes La Corniche is a charming Savoyard restaurant in the centre of the old town, or if you’re planning to splash out it’s hard to beat La Grande Ouse for a first class gourmet menu and fantastic setting. For more modest but still delicious grub choose from a wide selection of burgers at Moris Pub or try the sociable spot, Le Lodge, for pizzas and fondue.
Tip: Carnivores make sure you order at least one Pierrade during your stay. There is something deeply satisfying about watching your meat cook after a day on the slopes.
For buzzing apres-ski, Foulie Douce is considered the place to go. The Chalet also has a great atmosphere and for a fun happy hour Café Face offers beat the clock drinks and live music.
If you’re in search of a younger crowd Doudoune plays a mixture of music and has an entertaining ‘21 club’ on the 21st of every month when it blasts out classics from the 70s, 80s and 90s.
Tip: Before you head to the bar, re-energise with a swim and sauna at the Centra Aquasportif or for a mid-week treat book a massage at Bonne Sante.
Charlie Balfour is based at Chalet Moris in Val’d Isere, where he leads groups of mixed ability skiers (from intermediates upwards) for Mark Warner. Mark Warner has led the way in activity holidays for over 30 years. Specialising in family holidays, Mark Warner packages provide superb childcare with kids clubs for all ages and free evening crèche service.
For more luxury travel ideas check our our hotel reviews here.
As a travel writer I often find myself in strange places, seeking out new experiences and learning the deepest darkest secrets a place has got to offer travellers, and it was from this desire to explore that I found myself heading off on a tour of Scotland’s haunted castles, notably (although not limited to) those which are now run as hotels. As a cynical person by nature, I’ve never much believed in ghosts, although I remain relatively open-minded to the whole idea. If only one would appear before me.
Not far from Glasgow, in a sleepy village called Fintry, sits ancient Culcreuch Castle, a 13th Century stone build fortress that’s now a popular castle hotel in Scotland. Built back in 1296 the castle became the seat of the Clan Galbraith before changing between families and Laird’s until its present day. Not only is it a beautifully idyllic location, and frequently chosen by brides-to-be looking for a Scottish castle wedding venue, but it also has an interesting history – and more than a passing fascination with ghosts.
Culcreuch Castle was the first stop I made on my investigative trip to visit haunted Scottish castle hotels. From the outside, this magnificent building does have an imposing look – a large stone facade, small windows perfect for firing arrows through and a parapet just large enough to be intimidating. It sits surrounded by trees on a petite but perfectly tended estate and gives away little sign that’s it’s now a hotel. Inside, and the illusion of a fortress continues, with a hall that’s more suited to an ancestral family home than a lodging and only a visitor’s book to give away its true purpose.
This Scottish castle turned hotel has more than one haunting to its paranormal ‘bow’ so it came as little surprise to find a team of ghost hunters arriving at the same time as we did. My husband and I were greeted with looks that suggested we were clearly too cynical for our new brigade of ghost busting friends, but nevertheless they gamely asked if we’d like to join them as they sought the truth behind the various hauntings that Culcreuch Castle has become famous for. And we gamely agreed.
Our first stop was the grounds themselves. They came armed with a variety of equipment from superdooper cameras to simple divining rods, while I was armed with a notepad and pen that it was way too dark to use. My husband came armed with a smile, and a willingness to try and see things from their point of view. We strolled around the grounds for a while, wandering through the pitch black shadows from the canopied trees and examining the exterior of the building in the gloom. The team were snapping away heavily, ‘oohing’ and ‘ahhing’ over each digital image with increasing enthusiasm. They showed me some of their snaps – black pictures with flecks of bright light dotted across the screen and asked me what I thought the dots were. My answer of ‘dust?’ was less than satisfactory – apparently such things are orbs, living spirits that glow in the dark. (I think I’ve got that right?)
Our next stop was the Chinese Bird Room, one of the most intricately decorated hotels rooms I’ve ever seen, and the real reason I was visiting the castle in the first place. This beautiful room is named after its wallpaper, which was brought from China in 1723. Painstakingly handpainted, it depicts birds and flowers and the owners have taken care not to let it fade too much as the centuries have passed. It’s also the main focal point for haunted activities in the hotel, and over the years visitors staying in the room have reported all manner of eerie happenings, including the sound of bagpipes coming from the walls and the apparition of a woman clothed in white appearing at the end of the bed. I watched as the team set up their equipment – and as my husband backed out of the door and retreated to our room. When the cameras were ready and rolling, and the lights were switched off plunging us into darkness, I waited, ready to see my first real ghost. One of the team began to chant an invocation to whichever spirit might have been there, but despite his sincere pleas none of them seemed interested in appearing before us.
Next, was the dining room at the back of the hotel, a room that had to be haunted on account of the frigid temperature inside? I don’t know enough about ghost hunting to agree or disagree, but the plummeting chill was certainly something I found difficult to argue with. They decided to hold a séance, creating a circle on the floor with cameras set up round the group. I joined them, and for once was glad of the dark because I confess I find it difficult not to giggle. Despite not seeing anything appear before us I still have to admit that it was an interesting experience, sitting there in a haunted hotel, in the dark, holding hands with complete strangers and asking spirits that I’m not quite sure I believe in if they wouldn’t mind appearing before me. I’d like to think my tone of voice was sincere.
With that finished we descended to the basement bar which had once been the castle dungeons. A dungeon is, as most people probably think, where any self respecting ghost would prefer to hang out, so I was keeping my fingers crossed that something would appear before us down here. The group was keen to try direct communication, and in the absence of a telephone opted for an upturned glass on a table top – a makeshift weegie board. One by one we placed our fingers on the glass and the team began to ask questions. And the glass did move. Yep, it really did move. Yes and No answers were flooding out to every question they asked, and it wasn’t long before they’d figured it all out. A young boy had been murdered in the dungeons many years ago for something he said he didn’t do, and here he was chatting away to us and dishing the dirt. I decided it was time to leave, excused myself politely, and went to find my husband who was relaxing in our Keep Room, clearly worn out from all his paranormal investigating.
It was an interesting experience, and although I guess I am a cynic, it’s only because no one has managed to convince me otherwise yet. I would have been delighted to see a ghostly apparition or hear a voice talk to me, and although I can’t explain the reason for the glass moving I’m still not satisfied there was anyone other than the team and I in that room. That said, it was only night one, and with more nights to go, who knows what might be uncovered?
Regardless of whether you’re heading to Culcreuch Castle for a romantic stay in a lavish Scottish hotel or to visit its haunted rooms to see for yourself, what you’re guaranteed to find is superlative accommodation and a fabulously warm welcome in traditional Scottish style. I loved this hotel, and with it being so close to Glasgow, it’s a great choice for travellers looking for a luxury Scottish holiday within easy reach of everything Scotland has to offer. I would happily stay here again, in no fear of being bothered by insensitive ghosts, and I think it’s the perfect base for exploring this beautiful area.
Next stop on my haunted tour…Tulloch Castle near Dingwall, Ross-shire.
For more luxury travel ideas check our our hotel reviews here.
One thing the Americans do well is the Residence-style hotel, and I am continually on the search for a European offering that can match the comfortable elegance of my favourite residence in Aspen. I think I may finally have found it – in Edinburgh – home of luxury travel in Scotland.
The Chester Residence on Edinburgh’s Rothesay Place is a truly remarkable conversion of a traditional townhouse – or four townhouses, as it happens. Taking up much of this block of Georgian -built frontage, the listed buildings have been transformed into luxury self-contained apartments without losing any of that original charm. Inside, jaw-dropping room sizes, designer furnishings and thoughtful touches certainly elevate this five star hotel to the higher ranks of luxury accommodation, and in a city that prides itself on its outstanding hospitality, residents at the Chester can be sure of an indulgent stay.
We arrived on a particularly wet evening in October, having fought the stalling traffic on the M8 and coped with the confusing one-way layout in place for the Edinburgh tram works. The Chester is remarkably easy to find, and although it lies almost at the heart of Edinburgh, a mere stone’s throw from the Castle and the shopping along Princes Street, reaching it by car is far from difficult.
The reception is in the first of its buildings, at number 9, and it’s hard not to be impressed when you’re met by a smiling Scotsman in a kilt, carrying an umbrella to rescue you from the depressing drizzle. As we were led next door, front-of-house Christina explained that reaching the separate residences meant leaving each building by the front door, a necessary requirement since planning regulations wouldn’t allow the listed buildings to be knocked through. While it may not be the best arrangement for staff, as a resident of the hotel it is the perfect set up – you have the freedom of an apartment without the need to pass through public areas whenever you step foot outside – giving you total privacy as you come and go.
Apartment 8/3, also known as the Grand, certainly lives up to its name. The spacious living room, with its impossibly high ceilings, is beautifully decorated in warm woods and chocolate browns. iPod docking stations, satellite television, hidden surround sound and a living flame fire the Georgian’s would have been envious of, are just a few of the touches that adorn the room. My husband settled on the expansive leather sofa to flick through the movie channels, while I headed to the kitchen to become acquainted with my new best friend – the Nespresso machine.
Although residents have a fully equipped kitchen at their disposal, the Chester Residence does offer in-apartment dining if booked in advance. Caramelized shallot and goat’s cheese tartlet, and beef wellingtons or 28 day matured steaks are on the varied and tempting menu. But if dinner out is more up your street, then it literally only have to walk a block or two away to find a range of delicious restaurants with cuisines from around the world.
As a travel writer I suffer from an unfortunate affliction. I don’t sleep well in strange places. It can cause problems on press trips, with sleepless nights one after the other as I bed hop around the country. No such problems at the Chester, and I can boast one of the best sleeps I’ve had in months. The Chester sits on a relatively quiet road, and with the bedroom located at the back of the house, there isn’t any noise to disturb guests. This is a utopian home-away-from-home, and a hotel that certainly comes highly recommended.
For more luxury travel ideas, check our our hotel reviews here.
By Erin Mauger, Contributory Writer
We all want to go travel, and for many of us the eclectic tourism in Italy is a genuine draw. Every year thousands of us make it to this odd, boot-shaped stretch of land where history and culture abound. If you’re looking to schedule some day trips into your Roman holiday, consider visiting the beautiful city of Pisa. Pisa is located in Tuscany, a region influential in terms of culture and the arts and known for its natural charms. This once powerful city was an important maritime republic and is also the birthplace of Galileo, the famous physicist and astronomer.
To explore this destination in the flesh, you can easily travel into Pisa by train from Florence, or Siena if you’re coming from the other direction. Pisa Centrale is the main railway station in the city. It’s equipped with all the amenities, and it’s here where you may want to buy a map if you haven’t already. Buses are readily available for your use, and, if you want to head straight to the main sights, locate the one that goes to the Piazza dei Miracoli or Field of Miracles.
Having the Leaning of Tower of Pisa on the itinerary is probably a given. Go ahead; go there first if you want to cut straight to the chase. This famous freestanding bell tower began construction around 1174, the design of which has been attributed to Bonanno Pisaro. Once the structure was about half its height it began to sink into the ground, giving it its iconic lean. Work on the tower was abandoned for almost a century before construction resumed.
Tickets are 15€ or slightly more if you book them in advance. It’s probably worth the extra convenience fee, particularly if you go during the high tourist season between May and September. Climb the 300 stairs to the top and check out the view, surveying the remainder of the architectural wonders in the square.
The Cathedral is another attraction that seems worth giving a bit of a look. The admission price is only a couple of euros so it’s not much of a strain on the pocket. Also known as the Duomo di Pisa, the Cathedral was built in Romanesque style and set the aesthetic standard for the other buildings in the Piazza dei Miracoli. Take time to note the intricate details on the outside such as the bronze doors decorated with biblical scenes or the interior with its mosaics and gilded ceiling. There was a lot more artwork displayed inside the Cathedral but much of it burned in a fire in the 16th century.
When you want a break from all the sightseeing, there are a number of restaurants and eateries to choose from. Keep it simple by going to places like Gusto Giusto, about a 20-minute walk from the square, and enjoy a sandwich on a fresh baguette. There’s also Il Campano, which has a more extensive menu. Do a little research beforehand or decide according to your whims (or your budget!). When it comes to shopping, you can probably skip it and save the rest for other activities.
Go back to the Piazza to see other things you may have missed like the Baptistery, dedicated to St. John the Baptist. You can also choose to walk down the Arno River to get another vantage point of the city.
These suggestions are only a place to start. It’s possible to get a full-day audio walking tour, which will give you a different feel for your surroundings. If you’re more on the spontaneous side, put away the map and just wander, see what the locals are doing, or observe closely the things that make you curious. When your thirst has been satisfied and you’re done seeing Pisa, flag a taxi back to the Pisa Centrale and get ready for the next stop on your adventure!
There’s nothing worse than heading away on a luxury city break and staying in a hotel miles from everything. When you book a holiday to travel and tour a new destination, you want to be close to the sights. Who wants to walk forever to reach the best shops, or trek for miles to see the best attractions? So when you find a luxury hotel in the very centre of a city, it’s always a great start.
The Rutland Hotel in Edinburgh is one such establishment, sitting on the north west corner of Princes Street Gardens. From here, everywhere is accessible within minutes; the delights of the gardens and their ancient cemetery, the shopping along Princes Street, the castle perched loftily on the dormant volcano, and infamous Rose Street, legendary for its pub crawls, are all just minutes away.
As hotels go, the Rutland is something to behold. From the outside it’s an interesting layout, with the restaurant and bar taking up the first two floors on the northern side. The entrance to the hotel is found on Rutland Street itself, and as I stepped inside I was taken aback. It certainly wasn’t quite what I’d expected. The lobby is elaborately decorated in bold, dark colours, with fabulous orchid displays and ornate throne-style chairs in rich upholstery. Upstairs, our room was every bit as fanciful, with a large carved bedstead dominating the centre of the room, and a chandelier taking up ceiling space. It is by far one of the ‘dressiest’ rooms I’ve stayed in. But its real feature isn’t what’s in the room, it’s what’s outside – this room is one of two in the Rutland known as the Castle rooms, and as well as the royalty theme running throughout, they also have simply outstanding views of Edinburgh Castle from their panoramic windows.
Most of the other rooms in the Rutland are less extrovert in design while still retaining a fresh, colourful appeal. But I imagine that these Castle Rooms would be first choice for hen parties and brides-to-be, as well as those travellers who just want a glimpse of Edinburgh’s most iconic landmark from their bedroom. And while the view is wonderful during the day, the dark nights bring views of the Castle lit up in all its glory.
The hotel is more than comfortable. The hallways and corridors follow the same dark décor, but it’s rich rather than overwhelming or subdued. Sporadic Beckham-style thrones adorn occasional nooks and crannies, and contemporary wallpaper adds a decadent touch. On the ground floor, your bedroom key card grants access to the bar as well as the Kyloe restaurant, one of the hottest eateries in the Capital, and with a young team running the establishment we were looked after on our stay with a pleasant youthful enthusiasm.
The Rutland Hotel is ideal for a luxury city break in Edinburgh. It’s got everything you’re looking for in an inner city property, as well as that all important location, location, location. The next time you’re planning a trip to Scotland’s capital, give serious consideration to booking your room here.
For other great ideas about luxury travel in Europe, check out our hotel reviews here.
Here at Candidtraveller we love our luxury travel destinations, so we’re lucky to have all the delights of fabulous Edinburgh not too far away. We think it’s one of the best travel and tour destinations in the Northern Hemisphere, although we don’t mind admitting to being a little biased! It’s also the location of one of our favourite hotels, the Roxburghe, a place we’d travel to just for their sweet potato chips!
Just north of famous Princes Street in Edinburgh, and overlooking the green precinct of historic Charlotte Square where the acclaimed Edinburgh International Book Festival takes place every November, the imposing facade of the Roxburghe Hotel stands tall along the southeast edge, rubbing its Georgian shoulders with noteworthy neighbours. On the north side, Bute House is official home to the First Minister of Scotland, and to the south, the birthplace of Alexander Graham Bell is another noteworthy home. So, with such esteemed surroundings, the red carpet gracing the entrance to the Roxburghe is far from out of place.
Inside, the hotel is an eclectic mix of old and new, contemporary and period, but every aspect works well. Walls are painted in warm hues of lilac, the floor is wood with the occasional tapestry-effect rug, and even the pillars have been given a modern look with mirrored facings that brighten the large rooms.
We ate in the Melrose Lounge overlooking Charlotte Square. With the Melrose Restaurant next door and the Consort Bar also serving meals, guests won’t struggle for choice. And the service is friendly too – unhurried, polite, and attentive without being overbearing.
The menu isn’t extensive for lunch, but I like that in a restaurant. Lunches are meant to be simple, uncomplicated meals. Taking a break from work or the strenuous rigours of shopping, shouldn’t be met with a complex menu and head scratching choice. So the Roxburghe has got this one absolutely right. There’s something for everyone here. The heat of a curry, the tradition of battered fish, the meatiness of steak and the comfort of cottage pie – whatever the weather or your personal taste this is a menu to make you happy.
We tried the curry and the Caesar salad, and chatted to Jimmy, probably one of Scotland’s cheeriest waiters while our food was cooked. The curry, with its free-range chicken, perfectly cooked fluffy rice and tangy lime chutney was hot and fragrant. Not the sort of heat that makes you think your head’s on fire, but the sort that demonstrates a chef has a good relationship with his spice rack. Madhur Jaffrey would have been very happy with this.
The Caesar was also very good. A salad can often be a disappointing choice in a restaurant. Invariably on the menu to cater only for guests who either eat little or have an aversion to any sort of calorie intake, they can often be overlooked and disappointing dishes. But not so at the Roxburghe. The chicken was a whole roasted breast, moist and tender and with crispy skin – a far cry from the usual chopped pieces you find strewn over the top of some limp lettuce leaves. Large lengths of parmesan, slivers of anchovies and crispy croutons, with just the right amount of dressing. And they know their wines here too, with the Barossa region featuring as the main attraction. The crisp zing of a good citrus flavoured wine never seems to miss the mark.
The Roxburghe prides itself on its food, and so it should. A plaque outside the restaurant announces its commitment to local and sustainable food sources, and the manager Wilfreid Gendron says their dedication to seasonal fare runs throughout the Macdonald chain of hotels.
We were only there for the food, but a quick wander around the rest of the hotel after lunch told us all we needed to know about its popularity. The courtyard between the old and new parts of the Roxburghe was overflowing with contented wedding guests, although one or two had escaped the cacophony to relax in the sanctuary of the traditional Consort Bar. With rooms that blend the traditional with the new, a state of the art gym open to locals as well as guests, and friendly staff who greet you with a smile, it’s little wonder the Roxburghe has such a well-earned reputation.
We love this hotel for its proximity to everything that Edinburgh has to offer. It’s a fantastic choice if you’re visiting the city, and if you’re looking for a party venue at New Year, there’s an amazing view of Edinburgh Castle from one of the upper floors. This is definitely a luxury hotel in a fantastic city.
For other great ideas about luxury travel in Europe, check out our hotel reviews here.
Travel and tours in South Africa are big business, from their wildlife to their eclectic culture. Here we’ve listed some of our favourite luxury travel locations in the country to help you plan your next trip to Africa’s most southerly country.
Bo-Kaap (Cape Town)
Cape Town’s most colorful quarter is also steeped in history. It was formerly known as the Malay Quarter, and hosts the Nurul Islam Mosque which dates back to the mid 19th century. Walk the cobble stone streets, peruse the shops, and make sure you check out the Bo-Kaap Museum, the oldest standing original house in the quarter. It was built way back in the eighteenth century and is a testament to the Muslim heritage of the area.
Robben Island (Cape Town)
Robben Island is the location where Nelson Mandela served his time as a political prisoner in the blank. Therefore it is an important historical landmark and a must see sight for anyone visiting South Africa. Catch a ferry from the city and take a guided tour through this World Heritage Site.
Table Mountain (Cape Town)
Table Mountain, which is featured in South Africa’s national flag, is an important natural formation for South African culture. This top destination is accessible by a multitude of options, but by far the most popular are hiking and cable car. Taking the latter offers breathtaking views of the city. Once you reach the top of Table Mountain you can explore the many wonders, both natural and man-made, that the plateau has to offer.
Gold Reef City (Johannesburg)
This theme park located in Johannesburg is a family friendly destination sure to please everyone in your party. It’s location on top of an old gold mine makes it a historical experience as well as a thrilling one. Many of the rides are mining themed, such as the apt but frighteningly named Miner’s Revenge. Make sure you try the Tower of Terror, which offers riders the opportunity to experience a positive G force of 6.3 Gs.
Also of note is the Anaconda, which is the tallest inverted roller coaster in Africa. Gold Reef City also hosts a 4D movie theater, which features 3D and motion effects, as well as a wealth of hotels and restaurants. It’s truly an all inclusive experience.
This bustling district in Johannesburg is the perfect destination for a little afternoon fun. In addition to housing- you guessed it- a casino, the MonteCasino complex boasts an impressive theatre (the Teatro), as well as numerous shops. The Teatro is a newer addition to the MonteCasino complex, and it hosts numerous high profile shows each year. Recently the smash hit The Lion King was performed at MonteCasino. Finally, at the complex you can enjoy a ride in a hot air balloon called the “Jozi Eye”.
Voortrekker Monument (Pretoria)
If you have any interest in apartheid politics, then this monument in Pretoria is for you. The granite structure, which is 130 feet every way around, sits on a hilltop south of Pretoria. It’s dedicated to the Voortrekkers who left the cape in the early to mid eighteen hundreds.
In 2011 it was named a World Heritage Site. This unique structure has many influences, with some saying it resembles such European monuments as France’s Dome des Invalides, while others cannot deny its German roots. One of the most striking features of the monument must be the aperture at the top of the dome. At noon this hole shows the sun as a tiny dot in the center of the ceiling, a clear reference to ancient Egyptian practices.
Game Drive (Kruger National Park)
Here’s your opportunity to get up close and personal with the big five safari animals. A game drive is the best way to experience wildlife in South Africa. While you can choose to go on a self guided driving tour, it’s best to have a guide. One of the advantages of taking these tours is your guide can communicate with his peers all over the park, and be alerted at a moment’s notice to the location of exotic wildlife.
There are also night tours available, which are a truly unique experience. On a night tour of Kruger National Park you can view nocturnal animals not usually available, such as leopards stalking their prey or perched lazily in trees. Some other animals you can expect to see on a game drive include African elephants, Vervet monkeys, and zebras.
Author Bio – This article is a guest post by Dillon Michaelson who works for InsanelyCheapFlights.com. Make sure you visit their website for some exclusive offers and deals on cheap tickets, car rentals, vacation packages etc.
For other great ideas about luxury travel in Africa, check out our hotel reviews here.
There are some cities around the world which are perhaps worth seeing if you have the time, the money and the energy. There are one or two, however, which should be, to put it mildly, must-visits. One of those is undoubtedly London, the capital of the UK and perhaps the most iconic capital on the whole planet. It’s a great place to travel and tour, with tons of luxury hotels to stay in and lots of 5 star restaurants to experience.
Many people have so far missed out on the delights of London purely because they were put off by the cost, but it’s important to remember there are ways to keep the spending to a minimum without harming the overall pleasure of the experience. Here are four useful tips that will help you see the city without having to spend a fortune in the process.
Invest in an Oyster Card
Taxis are generally expensive in London, so the best option is to traverse the city by bus and tube, both of which are very affordable. To make even more savings, you should buy an Oyster Card, which covers travel on buses, overground and underground railways, trams, and the Docklands Light Railway. As well as saving you money, it will also mean you no longer have to queue up for tickets every time you travel. There is so much to see and do in London, and public transport is always the cheapest option.
Shop around for accommodation
Many of the hotels in London are extremely expensive, but there are plenty of bargains to be found as well. The best options are to use the web to find the cheaper accommodation deals, and to be prepared to stay outside the centre of the city if necessary. Thanks to the transport infrastructure, you can be in the heart of the metropolis in no time, so if it’s less expensive to stay in suburbs such as Putney, St John’s Wood and Chiswick, that’s what you should do.
Avoid the expensive eateries
Many of London’s restaurants are costly, but not all of them. If you’re prepared to look around before deciding where to eat you can find some wonderful bargains. In a bid to entice diners, many places offer special deals if you’re prepared to accept a restricted menu, or if you’re happy to eat during less busy hours such as before 7pm. In the UK, restaurants display their prices in the window, so you can make an informed choice without having to set foot inside.
Look for discounted attractions
London is home to a vast number of tourist landmarks, many of which are free, but there are some attractions which require an entry fee. While the budget traveller may not be able to afford all of them, he or she will want to see as many as possible. By checking online in the months leading up to the trip, it might be possible to find discounts and special offers that can be used to keep the spending down.
David Showell was born and brought up in London, and is always keen to travel on a budget. He works for www.carhiredirect.co.uk.
For other great ideas about luxury travel in Europe, check out our hotel reviews here.
Glasgow might not be famous for it’s fine dining and award winning food, thanks in part to the controversy it’s courted with its deep fried Mars Bar, but that’s not to say that fabulous food doesn’t exist within its streets. In fact, some of the city’s top luxury hotels have 5 star restaurants that are worth travelling for, and there are a plentiful supply of boutique bistro’s and up-scale eateries to choose from. Hidden beneath the outer facade of traditionally pocket friendly, cheap meal cafes are some hidden treasures waiting to delight you with taste and texture.
Black Sheep Bistro
The Black Sheep Bistro is a small restaurant run by a family who pride themselves on serving what can only be described as traditional home cooked food. Bright, friendly and welcoming this restaurant feels like someone’s living room and the staff take extra special care to make you feel at home. The food is basic, making the menu of soups, haggis and beef and mash very easy to navigate and they taste fantastic! Simple, no nonsense food which comes in at around £15-30 a head for three courses, you really can’t go wrong. http://www.blacksheepbistro.co.uk/
Grill on the Corner
The Grill on the Corner is large, spacious and feels very much like a giant pub. It is noisy and busy with plenty of seating space so a great place if you want to feel lost and anonymous. You may have to wait a little for your food, but this restaurant is a favorite for most Glaswegians and attracts celebs like Billy Connolly. Steak, fillet burgers, fat cut chips and an environment to match, the Grill on the Corner is an excellent place to take time over your food and chill out with friends, there is plenty of space for a party of five or even ten. http://www.blackhouse.uk.com/
If you love your spice, then you can’t go wrong with a trip to Café India where curry meets city and award-winning wine abounds. Cooked live on a real fire, you can expect treat of the very best that Indian food has to offering the form of curries, melt in your mouth chicken and sheesh kebabs full of lively, fresh recipes and good service to match. http://cafeindiaglasgow.com/
A Turkish restaurant, that has won user review led awards for it’s fanatic service and high quality food, this restaurant is a treat for your palate. Warm, and welcoming, the waiters are decked in traditional Turkish gear and live music will take you straight out of Glasgow into the Far East. Portions are incredibly generous, and come to your table hot and straight off the cooking plate with fresh flatbreads clearly cooked to order. Kebabs, lamb, aubergine, spice and traditional Turkish wet foods are all on offer and the menu is written in English to help you along. A real find! http://allaturca.co.uk/
A list of must-visit restaurants would not be complete without a spot of fine dining and Brian Maule is considered one of the best fine dining restaurants in Glasgow. Having won numerous awards, this light, fresh and well thought out restaurant offers a menu of scallops, beef and lamb cooked to perfection. Definitely upmarket, Brian Maule is more expensive and requires a longer time to be spent there than other restaurants, but you will not regret it. This restaurant is perfect for a special date, occasion or celebration. http://www.brianmaule.com/
Ben loves to travel and visit different restaurants all over the world. He runs www.wheretoeat.co.uk where he blogs about restaurants and recipes.
For other great ideas about luxury travel in Europe, check out our hotel reviews here.
So you’re still debating whether you take your own motor to the conference or invest in a hire car?
Well, there’s arguments for both of course. In your own car, you know how it feels to drive; its nuances and personality, if you will. You also know where things are, what radio station you like and whereabouts you like to store your personal items (mints, phone and so on). You’ll also know how hard you can push it and how many miles to the gallon you’ll get out of it.
In a hire car though; well, that’s the unknown. How will it drive? How far will I get on a tank. Where will I put my mints?!
Without actually knowing these questions, it’s probably safer to work out just what guarantees you will have when renting a car for business use.
Okay. While this might be a subjective statement to make, near enough anyone who provides business car hire is really just trying to make sure you have a comfortable and luxurious ride.
This could be leather-bound seats. It could be the silky-smooth grip of the steering wheel. It could even just be the fact that it comes with air conditioning. Whichever it is, a key part of having a business car is to not only look, but feel business-like. Car lenders know the last thing anyone in business wants is to be crippled by their motor and covered in sweat patches because their car let them down.
Alongside comfort inevitably comes style. Business-types, well, like to look the business. Shallow as it may be, style plays a bit part in being taken seriously. Taking pride in one’s appearance shows a level of commitment beyond (Parker) fountain-pen and paper.
Plus, if you look the part, then no doubt you’ll feel the part.
Jim Evans is fanatic about cars and has tried his hands on various segments of four wheelers for a significant number of years. Sports car thrills him most, though recently he is busy researching on business car hire. To know about his latest information gathered, visit http://www.ssdhire.co.uk/business-hire.html
Small Luxury Hotels of the World™ (SLH) is an unrivalled portfolio of some of the world’s finest small independent hotels. Comprising over 520 hotels in more than 70 countries, the diversity of the individual properties, and the experiences that they offer, is exceptional. From cutting-edge design hotels to palatial 17th century mansions, city centre sanctuaries to remote private islands, historic country houses to idyllic resorts, Small Luxury Hotels of the World offers a world of luxurious locations. What’s more, SLH rewards loyal guests handsomely with their Club programme – it’s our favourite luxury travel tip we’ve heard recently! Membership is offered on a complimentary basis, and the benefits grow each time a guest books a hotel stay. The Club offers incomparable service through a dedicated Club Manager and Club Reservations Consultants, ensuring the very best personal service, advice and recommendations for your next hotel stay.
Read down for HOW TO ENTER…
To browse your next luxury holiday on the go, download the free SLH iPhone app viawww.slh.com/iphone
Small Luxury Hotels of the World is exclusively offering Candidtraveller readers the chance to win two nights for two at any SLH property around the world. The prize is subject to availability and is valid for standard double room accommodation only for stays within one year. Terms and conditions apply.
1. For your chance to win visit http://www.slh.com/marketing/candid/ and enter by joining the Club programme absolutely free.
2. Then log onto Candidtraveller on Facebook and ‘like and share’ the page so they know you’ve entered. Good luck!
SLH Terms and Conditions:
The arrangement relates to standard double room accommodation only.
It is always subject to availability; (i.e. at the hotel’s discretion. If a booking is requested during the hotel’s peak period, or their annual complimentary room night allocation has already been confirmed, they are entitled to deny confirmation).
General online availability and hotel availability for claiming complimentary room nights may differ; the availability of the letter will prevail.
A maximum of five (5) room nights can be requested per hotel, per stay, (applies only to complimentary room night offers for five nights or more.)
A minimum of two (2) weeks’ notice must be given.
The complimentary room nights are valid for 12 months from the date of receipt.
All food, beverages, taxes, and other incidental costs incurred by the guest are to be settled prior to departure from, and direct with, the individual hotel.
Complimentary rooms are non- flexible and once confirmed by SLH, no alterations or cancellations can be made. In case of alteration or cancellation, you will forfeit the rooms.
The Club of Small Luxury Hotels of the World’s benefits cannot be redeemed in conjunction with this offer.
Guests who choose to utilise their room nights at an all-inclusive SLH hotel will incur an additional charge, which will vary depending on the property selected.
No monetary value can be given in exchange for this prize
The prize cannot be transferred
Small Luxury Hotels of the World has the right to update these terms and conditions. Complimentary room nights will be governed by the terms and conditions that are in place at the time the room nights are reserved.
General Terms and Conditions:
1. The Small Luxury Hotels of the World (SLH) competition (the “Competition”) is open to entrants aged 18 and over, worldwide. 2. The Competition is not open to employees or agencies of either Candidtraveller or Small Luxury Hotels of the World (SLH), its group companies, their family members or anyone else connected to the Competition. 3. Entry into the Competition is acceptance of these Terms and Conditions. 4. To enter the Competition, ‘like’ and ‘share’ the Candidtraveller Facebook page and enter your details on the SLH entry page . 5. Entries on behalf of another person will not be accepted and joint submissions are not allowed. 6. No responsibility is taken for entries that are lost, delayed, misdirected or incomplete or cannot be delivered or entered for any technical or other reason. Proof of delivery of the entry is not proof of receipt. 7. The Competition closes at midnight GMT on Friday 7 September 2012. Entries received after this closing date will not be processed. 8. The winner will be chosen at random from the entries submitted correctly. The judges’ decision will be final and no correspondence will be entered into. 9. The winner will receive the prize specified above. Any other costs and responsibilities not specifically associated with each Prize are the responsibility of the winners.
The world is blessed with some amazing beaches. From north to south, there are tiny rocky coves sheltered by towering cliffs and incredible swathes of sweeping sand. From islands to towns, from tropical paradises to cities, from sparkly silver, through gold of every hue to volcanic black sand, the diversity is incredible. Here are 10 top beaches of the world:
Hanauma Bay, Oahu, Hawaii, USA
One of Hawaii’s most beloved nature preserves, the beautiful horseshoe-shaped Hanauma bay represents the floor of an ancient volcanic crater. A scant 10 miles from Waikiki, Hanauma stands above the rest, with its calm lagoons which make it a haven for snorkelers, swimmers and indeed, local marine life.
Boulders Beach, Cape Town, South Africa
South of Cape Town, Boulders beach is protected by an outcrop of grassy dunes. The beach itself mixes white sand with large, pillow-shaped boulders. One of the world’s most distinct beaches, Boulders attracts nature lovers the world over and is famous for being home to African penguins.
Grumari Beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
While Ipanema may have been immortalized in the 1960s bossa nova classic, Rio de Janeiro lays claim to several spectacular beaches. Away from the crowds in an environmentally protected area, Grumari Beach is Rio’s best kept secret. Bordered by striking mountains and bounded by wild vegetation, Grumari’s soft fine sand and gentle waves feel a world apart from the crowds of Ipanema.
Whitehaven Beach, Queensland, Australia
Australia’s most photographed beach is a sight to behold. Nowhere else in the world does aqua blue contrast so starkly and beautifully with white sands than in Whitehaven. Tidal shifts along the along the 7km beach create swirls of colors unique to the region, making it one of the top must-see destinations in Queensland.
Arambol Beach, Goa, India
Making a swift transition from humble fishing village to world-class beach, Arambol is the jewel of Goa. Here on this broad crescent of soft sand there is a mix of beach chairs, a few remaining fishermen and the odd cow or two. Arambol’s laid-back atmosphere along with its natural beauty creates a magnetic pull that has been attracting more and more visitors each year.
Pulau Perhentian Kecil, Malaysia
The Perhentian Islands represent the quintessential tropical beach paradise. Here, the sand crumbles underneath your feet like powder and palm trees jut out from the sand in perfect postcard image form. Featuring a year-round temperate climate and warm, crystal clear waters, Kecil is true paradise on Earth.
Las Islas Cíes, Galicia, Spain
Once squarely in pirate territory, Las Islas Cíes is a remarkable place near Spain’s northern border with Portugal. The area is only open to visitors in the summer and features two crescent-shaped pristine beaches with clear turquoise waters.
Nungwi, Zanzibar, Tanzania
Sitting on Zanzibar’s northern tip, Nungwi offers an almost surreal landscape. Its shallow sloping beach is a sight to behold as are the small fishing villages that still dot the region. Nungwi is home to some of the finest sand in the world which when combined with the warm equatorial waters of Zanzibar, create a first-class beach experience.
Matira Beach, Bora Bora, Tahiti
Nicknamed the “Romantic Island”, Bora Bora is home to some of the most beautiful spots on earth. Matira Beach is the island’s crown jewel. Protected by a thin strip of land, Matira is nestled in a lagoon creating incredibly calm and clear waters which lap at your feet.
Anse Source d’Argent, Seychelles
The granite boulders which burst through the soft pink sand of Anse Source d’Argent is one of the region’s most distinctive features. Creating an even more dramatic scene, the flat sandy beach is protected by walls of palm tree-covered granite cliffs from behind, making it feel like the most secluded place in the world. Largely protected by a reef, the waves entering this stunning beach are calm and relaxing.
Just outside St Andrews, a short drive south on the A915, is a jewel in the crown of independent eateries in Scotland. Behind the unassuming facade of the Inn at Lathones lies a restaurant that is, at best, deserving of its two AA Rosettes, but at the very least, worthy of much more. Focusing on fresh produce, and advocates of the ‘slow food movement’, the Inn showcases the very best of seasonal Scottish food with fresh locally-caught seafood high on the menu.
The Inn’s owner, Nick White, began his early career in hospitality as a chef, and although he’s turned his hand to other areas of wining and dining, his knowledge and understanding of food is clearly the driving force behind the success that his restaurant enjoys. That, and the skill and vision of his chef as well, he’s quick to inform us.
Dining at the Inn is an absolute pleasure. They’ve deliberately taken a step away from aiming for the dizzy heights of Michelin acclaim to focus instead on producing a delightful bistro-style menu. But that doesn’t mean that their food is presented with less flair. In fact, the stylish plates of well-cooked, gratifying food that arrive before diners in this relaxed dining room, have been plated with all the mastery and expertise you’d expect to find in restaurants at the top of the food chain. Pardon the pun. And that’s undoubtedly one of the reasons why they enjoy such popularity, not only with the locals who call this place home, but also with golfers from nearby St Andrews who clearly recognise the Inn as a veritable competitor to their usual 19th tee haunts.
And it’s not just the food that’s enjoyable here. There’s a clear understanding of how a good wine should taste as well, like the £35 bottle of Albarino we were encouraged to try. This 2009 Casal Caeivo white was refreshing and fruity, with a hint of blackcurrants, although maybe that’s just my palate. It worked every bit as well with red meats, and wasn’t lost by the robust flavour of the lamb.
When we visited, we found their summer menu to be frustratingly tempting. The pan roasted cod with a side of crispy anchovies was tantalising, as was the thought of cannelloni of local langoustine with parmesan crisp and a seafood bisque. We finally settled on seafood chowder, made with seafood caught locally at nearby Pittenweem, and a terrine of chicken and ham confit, dressed with housemade apple jelly to start. We followed that up with a heavenly braised shoulder of local spring lamb, served with a pan fried chump and perfectly cooked vegetables, a and local corn fed chicken breast main with artichokes.
Desert was equally as difficult to narrow down, but a soft and refreshing vanilla mousse and raspberry sorbet, along with a well chosen cheese board won. It’s the first time I’ve tasted pickled celery – I have to say, I may now be a celery convert.
It’s the care that goes into the food here, that makes dining at the Inn special. They take care of their produce from the very beginning, using meats that are tracked by the Scottish Beef Club from field to table. Everything is locally butchered just a few miles away from the Inn, giving a certain degree of comfort in knowing how fresh and well-sourced the food you’re eating is. And when the Inn finds something special, something to show off about, that’s exactly what they do. Catering for larger groups, particularly with the famous golf courses of St Andrews just up the road, is something this outstanding restaurant is perfectly used to doing, and it’s a chance for them to get creative. Take their seafood nights, for example. We narrowly missed one such occasion, and how we rued that fact. The thought of long slabs of wood, laden high with fresh lobsters, a variety of other saltwater crustacions, and an outsized champagne bucket filled to the brim with fresh mussels in a white wine and cream sauce, sounded like seafood heaven. No starters, no need for deserts, just seafood. And lots of it.
The menu we dined from is the Inn at Lathones’ summer menu for 2012, but they’re working on their winter menu already. Anticipate plenty of fresh local estate game, with pheasant and partridge likely to feature on it. And the seafood will undoubtedly be making an appearance again too.
Click here to visit the website for the Inn at Lathones: http://www.innatlathones.com/
Last month I was at an industry conference in Seattle. It was my first trip to the Emerald city, and I was not disappointed. The one drawback I have ever heard about Seattle the often crummy weather, but three of the four days we were there, there wasn’t as much as a cloud in sky, and the cool sea breeze made for a perfect climate. Being a big fan of beer, I went into the trip excited to try out all of the microbrews that the city had to offer. Some, I really liked. Others, not so much. Below is my list of the best and worst Seattle beers (based on exhaustive research…).
The Best: Pike Kilt Lifter from The Pike Brewing Company
Those who are not into the more bitter taste of ales will not be a fan of this one. I for one could not get enough! This is a high gravity beer (6.5% alcohol by volume) is a hefty brew with a beautiful ruby color and a bitter, crisp finish. Enjoy one or two of pints at the Pike Brewery near the heart of the city on on 1st and Pike.
Runner-up: Hefeweizen from Pyramid Breweries
I am not typically a fan of wheat beers, or any beers that are served with fruit for that matter, but this unfiltered wheat from Pyramid breweries just about changed my mind. Like most Bavarian style wheat’s, The Hefeweizen is a lighter brew, and goes great with a steaming bowl of chowder.
The Worst:The Pike Stout
In my humble opinion, a beer should not taste like a Starbucks energy shot, and to me, this one did. Please take my opinion with a grain of salt, as I am very particular about my beer, but this one I could have done without. It is a high gravity Stout (7% ABV) and will fill you up by the time you’re half way through. Unless the heavy, rich, malty style lager is your thing, I would steer clear of this one.
Runner-up: Bosun’s Black Porter from Maritime Brewery
Even though the name is derived in quite a creative manner, this brew was far too smoky, malty, and heavy for my taste. With that kind of make-up I would at least expect it to pack a punch, but the ABV is only 5.2% , which simply isn’t high enough to make up for the downright strange flavor. Agree? Disagree? Please comment below!
Written by the Marketing team at McCormick & Murphy, Denver Car Accident Attorneys.
You might not think it as you drive up to the small, whitewashed renovated coaching inn that lies just south of the golfing town of St Andrews, but these walls have seen (and heard) a lot of musical talent over the past few years, much to the delight of tourists and locals alike. Okay, so the Inn at Lathones might not quite match Wembley in terms of size and scale, but still, its gig list reads like an A-list music agent’s resume – impressive, and long.
So why have talented artists like, Bob Catley, Peter Tork and Mick Taylor made their way to the east coast of Scotland? Well, a few years back the owner of the Inn, savvy businessman Nick White, wanted to find a niche market for his business. Something that would set his small Fife tavern apart from everything else in the area. And with music providing the perfect reason to travel, he set about turning his Inn into the music venue for St Andrews and the east coast of Scotland. And so the gig nights were born, and given the name Rocking at the Stables, or RATS for short.
It wasn’t long before the list of celebrity artists grew to a notable size, and that’s seen the venue grow in popularity as well. In 2009 it was awarded the title of UK’s Best Music Venue 2009, and in the following year The Publican listed it as a finalist. And its popularity continues to grow. This year sees the arrival of more talented artists like Lizanne Knott and Bob Cheevers, and they’ve even found the time on their gig list to open some space for one of two little-known talents as well. There have always been plenty of reasons to travel to this part of Scotland, whether it’s for the golf, historical tourist sites, or the plentiful and fresh seafood that’s a mainstay of the tourist trade here. But now there’s another reason to visit, and music fans everywhere should put the Inn at Lathones on their travel list.
Forthcoming Rocking at the Stables events in the Inn at Lathones can be found here:
And to see a full list of previous artists, click here:
Growing up you may have had dreams of traveling to a far off land. As an adult, why not make those dreams a reality? Traveling to a faraway place can give you that feeling back, the feeling where the world’s chaos didn’t matter and you are free to dream. Here are some inspiring places to visit and help you renew that feeling of wonder.
Big Sur, California, United States
The California coastline is known for its breathtakingly scenic views. If you want stunning landscapes and open space, spend time around the Big Sur region. Between the jagged coast and rippling waves, you will have the opportunity to overlook a true marvel of nature. Those who like to go for a drive to clear their mind will really love this place – you can zip around winding Rt. 1 while taking in the view.
Green Lake, Austria
At the base of the Hochschwab Mountains in Tragoess, Austria, sits a lake so unique and beautiful you cannot help but be inspired. During the winter, you can find a park in this spot. It is decorated with all the trappings of a well-maintained rural getaway – trees, benches, and walking paths.
Once the heat of summer melts away the snow and ice from the mountains, that all changes. Crystal clear water from the mountains trickles down and creates a lake about 10 meters deep. Strap on some diving gear for the amazing experience of seeing a functional park submerged in beautifully transparent water.
Grand Canyon, Arizona, United States
The Grand Canyon is one of the natural wonders of the world for good reason – one look at it strikes most with awe and wonder. Its size is amazing. Measuring in at 277 miles long, 4 to 18 miles wide, and over a mile deep, it is difficult not to marvel in its vastness.
What makes it more unique is its magnificent color palette. While other canyons throughout the world may stretch longer or go steeper, few present the same combination of shades that light up against the sun. It also offers visitors plenty of lookout points, so you are sure to find a spot with a view that captures your imagination.
Black Sand Beach, Vík, Iceland
Located in the southernmost village in Iceland, the black sand beach at Vík is a surreal combination of starkly-colored sand and rippling waves. You can almost sense the presence of sailors of the past as you stand on the black basalt sand near the stormy sea. The surrounding rock formations are captivating, too; they have that unearthly quality that characterizes much of Iceland’s famous landscape. Last but not least, bird lovers are in for a treat – puffin colonies live around this part of the country.
Milford Track, Fiordland National Park, New Zealand
Tucked away in one of the most effortlessly beautiful countries in the world, Milford Track offers a one-of-a-kind trek through nature to anyone who wants to get away from the grind. Hikers can expect to see staggering mountains, countless winding rivers, and waterfalls. Hiking activity is moderated pretty strictly during the summer months, which is between October and April in New Zealand, so if you want to check out this scenic spot, you need to make reservations several months in advance. Many hikers would agree it is well worth the wait.
You don’t have abandon feelings of wonder once you hit adulthood. Get away from your stifling routine and explore pockets of the world that can fill you with child-like inspiration all over again.
Guest post contributed by Carla Gregson, freelance travel writer. She enjoys writing articles about her travel experiences and sharing them on various online travel publications.
If you are traveling to Cornwall, England, this year, do you know what you will do when you reach your destination? There are many opportunities awaiting you in this lovely location, so it pays to plan ahead and have an idea of your itinerary before arriving in Cornwall.
Visit Land’s End
Land’s End is unparalleled when it comes to natural beauty and peaceful surroundings. You can walk along the coast and watch the seabirds frolic in the surf. You may even get the chance to glimpse a seal or dolphin in the waves. There are free events for the entire family to enjoy, such as fireworks displays on Tuesdays and Thursdays in the months of July and August. At this time, restaurants and shops stay open later, and live music can also be enjoyed. If you would like some exercise, you might decide to take a leisurely stroll along beautiful trails offering breathtaking views of the countryside.Land’s End Hotel is located on the top of a cliff and it provides ideal family accommodation.
Check Out the Eden Project
The Eden Project, which has actually been referred to as the eighth wonder of the world, is a beautiful garden situated in tropical biomes located in a gigantic crater. Colorful plants abound here, and you will have the opportunity to experience a rainforest, as well as walk among lemon and orange trees like the ones you might find in California. The Roofless Biome occupies 30 acres and houses such plants as hemp and sunflowers.
Tintagel is a Must-See Stop
This lovely location is in North Cornwall right along the Atlantic coastline. Here you will learn about wizards and kings. Tintagel Castle, high on the cliffs, is perfect for a family outing. It is said to be the location where King Arthur was born. You may also want to visit the nearby village to see the old post office and tour quaint cottages that are open all year.
Take the kids to Tencreek Holiday Park
If your children are accompanying you on your vacation, visiting Tencreek Holiday Park will create a wonderful excursion for them. It is located near the seaside town of Looe. Caravan holiday homes that will house from six to eight people are a great way to stay together as a family, and they’re every bit as comfortable as your own home. Even the family dog is welcome. There’s a heated pool on the premises, and you can find plenty of shopping nearby. Castaways Bar provides food and entertainment.
Spend the Day Surfing
Kingsurf Surf School, located in Newquay, gets high marks from tourists for being a great attraction for kids and adults. You can learn to surf regardless of your skill level. Lessons are provided that are just for fun or that cater to more professional tastes.
There are many attractions in Cornwall to be enjoyed by all age groups. You may find yourself running out of time to do and see everything, so make sure you plan ahead and factor in enough time to do the things that appeal to you most.
This is a guest post from Jennifer Lewis, who has spentseveral wonderful vacations in Cornwall. She writes for a site that providesinformation on financial help for female students, such as scholarships for women in physics and free money grants for women.
5 Things You NEED to Have in Your Bags, No Matter Where You’re Going
Vacations: we look forward to them for months, saving money and daydreaming about our fun to come. When the day arrives, it’s easy to get excited, and it sometimes seems inevitable that you’ll forget things. Everyone has left behind their toothbrush, extra socks, or a hairbrush at some point, but here are five vacation essentials you’ll want to make sure are always in your bag:
A first aid kit – Bumps, lumps, and scrapes are part of life, even on vacation. Protect yourself from headaches and clean up wounds quickly by bringing your own first aid supplies like bandages, pain medicines, and antibacterial gels. This is especially recommended if you’re going abroad so you won’t have to try to decipher foreign medications.
Extra prescription medicines – As a precaution, take extra doses of your prescriptions with you, and carry them in separate bags if possible. If some get lost or destroyed, you’ll have enough to get you through the rest of the vacation. Some pharmacies may not want to give you medicines in advance, so you may have to let your doctor know you’re going on vacation and ask for a special prescription.
A copy of your driver’s license or passport – If you should happen to lose your identification, having a copy can help you speed up the replacement process. Leave a copy with a family member or friend as well so they can help if necessary.
A valid medical insurance card – If you’re leaving the country, check to make sure your insurance company covers injuries abroad. An injury or illness is bad enough without having to come home and find a fat medical bill waiting for you.
Hand sanitizer – Traveling means exposure to more germs than most people are accustomed to, and the last thing you want is to get sick on vacation. A little bottle of sanitizer can make a big difference in your experience. Take a second to clean your hands every now and then, especially after being on a plane and before eating.
Hopefully you won’t need the first four of these vacation essentials, but no vacation is guaranteed to be speed-bump free. Keep these five essentials by your side, and you can help protect yourself against some of the more common headaches and put yourself on the path to a stress-free vacation
Karolina Shenton works with The Cruise Web. Whether you are looking to book a cruise out of New York or a more exotic location, the experienced consultants at The Cruise Web can help you find the perfect vacation.
If you’re looking for a relaxing break then what could be more tranquil than a canal boat holiday in the UK? Hiring a canal boat for a week and being left to work the locks and steer your boat through the UK Inland Waterways can be a liberating and calming experience.
The UK has many canals and navigable rivers; did you know there are more miles of canal in Birmingham than there are in Venice? Birmingham might be substantially larger but the point remains – Britain is full of canals and waterways. They were first used during Roman occupation, and used for irrigation, but the Romans also created additional canals to link rivers together. Canals were an essential part of the Industrial Revolution, as roads at the time were unsuitable for a large volume of traffic. Canal boats were a lot quicker, could carry heavy loads and were safer for the transportation of fragile items.
Today canal boats are primarily used by tourists and holiday-makers looking for a relaxing holiday, cruising on the water at a leisurely pace. Hired canal boats can be surprisingly modern and spacious, and typically come with central heating, a kitchen and a lounge. A guide will usually come to instruct you on operating the boat and educate you about canal etiquette.
Most canals in the UK can accommodate boats that are between 55 and 80 feet long, but some canals are larger, such as New Junction Canal and the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal, which can accommodate boats of up to 230 feet in length.
If you’re thinking about hiring a canal boat, there are a number of things to consider. You need to be reasonably fit – two adults can easily handle a narrowboat, but for long journeys you might consider taking more people to spread the work. As the boat cruises along, one person steers the boat while the rest of the crew can soak up the scenery or even walk alongside the boat on the towpath. At locks, one person should stay on-board the boat to steer while another works the lock mechanism.
Canal boating holidays are growing in popularity, and are no longer the preserve of boaters and nautical types. They are becoming particularly popular with husbands-to-be who are looking for a more relaxing stag-do. Boats can be hired and tuition about locks provided, so you can navigate your own way around the country.
Alan Cairns writes on a number of subjects including outboard motors and canal boat holidays on behalf of http://www.outboardmotorsforsale.co.uk/
Anguilla is a small but fantastic island in the Caribbean. The friendly people, whose love of the sea is instantly visible, seem to spend more time on or in the water than on dry land. The national sport is sailing but you don’t have to travel too far without finding amazing dive sites. The island has the Atlantic on one side and the Caribbean Sea on the other, so you can find an array of different reefs, wrecks and sea life while enjoying the clear turquoise waters. With around 20 great dive sites, 5 easily accessible wrecks and a host of reefs this island is a divers paradise.
Angel Reef is aptly named due to its large concentration of Angel fish. This however, is not the only company you will have here as it is a playground for various stingrays, turtles, lobsters, snappers, and some healthy looking barracuda. With a 4m/12ft sea whip and several large sea fans there is plenty to explore and the reef ranges from 1ft to a hefty 65ft deep in places.
Shoal Bay Reef is probably the most popular reef on the island and the beach has various luxury resorts offering direct access to the reef. Its popularity is not without reason The Shoal Bay plateau is in 15/18 ft of water and leads towards a 45 degree drop-off at 25 ft. After this point it drops off from around 30 ft at its Eastern end to 85 ft on its Western end. Its sandy bottom is home to an assortment of Stingray, Lobster, Crayfish and some amazing Eels which are all well worth a look.
For the more experienced diver it is well worth a visit to The Steps or Dog Island. The Steps is located at Little Scrub and goes down an array of ledges which step from 40 ft to over 90 ft. This site also offers some fun boulders and crevices to explore and you can see a selection of bigger fish such as Tiger Sharks, Lemon Sharks and Nurse Sharks. Dog Island is also home to various types of sharks, large tuna and other big fish and although this site is harder to access (due to access being dependent on the weather) it is worth setting aside some time for. Dog Island has a formidable 90ft sheer wall dive which is simply mind-blowing.
If you prefer to do wreck diving then there is also an abundance of natural and purpose built wreck diving sites. My favourite has to be the Commerce Wreck as the wreck sits bolt upright in 80 ft of water. What was an undamaged wreck when it sunk has been weathered by years of storms and the mangled yet complete wreck has an unnatural and unsettling feeling making the dive all the more exciting. If you venture to the base you can see a glut of giant lobsters (some as big as 30 pounds). The wreck seemed to have generated interest with some larger fish and it is not uncommon so see Atlantic Spadefish, Hog fish and Goat fish.
The largest wreck is the Sarah at over 230 ft long and although it sunk on its side it has been moved and stood upright. The ship has a large opening in the hull which gives you access to various chambers inside. This jaw dropping wreck is covered with opening and closing Oysters and is home to Sergeant Majors, Bluestriped Grunts and Cowfish among others.
So if you find yourself lucky enough to dive in the Caribbean be sure to visit Anguilla and below the water there is so much on offer and above the water there are stunning beaches, fantastic seafood and amazingly friendly people.
About the Author
When not diving Naomi Cambridge enjoys marketing luxury resorts and working on worldwide projects such as Zemi Beach Luxury Caribbean Real Estate. For more information about Naomi and Cardea Consultants vist:http://www.cardeaconsultants.com/
Bucharest, the capital of Romania, represents a curious, intriguing mix of oriental and occidental influences, a place where one can admire both old and new architectural styles. It is a city that is chosen by many as their summer time vacation destination, and a couple of weeks spent there will surely help you start to understand and feel its uniqueness.
So, what is there to see in Bucharest?
Well, I should start with the Romanian Athenaeum, a place of great interest for music and concert lovers. Those of you who appreciate architecture will also delight in admiring the building, which is white, elegant and was built in 1888 in a neo-classical style.
A very interesting thing is the manner in which the money that was needed in order to restore the building to its former beauty was gathered a few years ago. Ordinary people were asked to donate one leu (a unit of the Romanian currency) for the Athenaeum, using a small, two verse poem.
The money was collected very fast and the 40 meters high building was restored, resembling an ancient temple. The good news is that the music lovers can listen to most classical masterpieces inside the Athenaeum.
Another prized tourist attraction in Bucharest is The Village Museum, which was created in 1936 and exhibits around 300 types of traditional Romanian houses, windmills, churches, houses that were built on water, etc. Many of these houses are authentic, being brought to Bucharest piece by piece and reassembled there. The museum can be visited all year long and it is positioned near one of the biggest parks in Bucharest, the Herastrau Park.
A lot of tourists coming to Bucharest, if not all of them, decide to visit The Parliament House, a soviet style, huge building that attracts the curiosity and interest of most people coming to Romania. It was built by former communist leader and dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, after he ordered the demolition of numerous houses and churches in order to clear the area. Being the second largest building in the world and competing with the Pentagon building in size, it is no wonder that so many tourists come and wander inside The Parliament House using the help offered by a guide.
The Cismigiu Gardens represent the place where citizens and tourists alike relax and breathe cleaner and fresher air right in the middle of the city. It is the oldest park in Bucharest and the fresh grass, the colored flowers and all the pigeons flying around really help the visitors relax and enjoy nature.
Then there is The Old Court, the most ancient part of the city, which is nowadays rebuilt and a little bit modernized, as many little restaurants and coffee shops have opened there. This is the most crowded place in the city as the evening comes, because people love to chat there, drinking or eating.
In fact, The Old Court is one of the very few places where you can admire the most modern restaurants and the ruins of very old houses sitting side by side. You can visit several old inns and pubs, and you can try some of the tasty, traditional Romanian dishes there. A famous restaurant in the area is Manuc’s Inn, the oldest inn in the region, which was built around 1808 for the merchants that were coming to sell their products in Bucharest. It was in this very building that important historical documents were signed – the 1812 treaty that ended the war between the Russian and the Turks, for example. Today it is an enchanting place that was preserved very well and attracts foreigners like a magnet.
Irina Chirilov, the author of this article, is a blogger for Thrifty Bucuresti Romania, a car rental agency in Europe.
A family vacation can be a complex thing – how do you find a destination that has activities that everyone in the family – from tots to teens, and including the parents, too – can enjoy. It’s a cinch that a children’s museum is entertaining for youngsters but boring to the teens, and the concert that the teens are excited about have mom and dad’s eyes rolling.
The answer? A big urban park, with activities for everyone. Three large cities in the U.S. offer just that.
1. Central Park, New York City.
Plunked down in the very middle of Manhattan is a huge park that stretches for 2.5 miles, is a half a mile wide, and covers 840 acres.
There are extensive walking, hiking and biking trails that meander through the woods and along open grassy areas, and plenty of open space for spreading out the family’s picnic blanket.
A 20-acre lake is right there for the entire family to enjoy spending a day boating together.
There are 32 children’s playgrounds, and each one offers something just a little different. The park also contains the Central Zoo, a wildlife sanctuary, the Central Park Conservatory Garden, and bridle paths. In the summer there is a swimming pool (that turns into a winter ice skating rink).
Adults in the family will enjoy “Shakespeare in the Park,” held during the summer in the open-air Delacorte Theater, and is free. Another free entertainment venue is the Central Park Summerstage. Your teens will enjoy the fact that many top musical performers give awesome concerts there.
2. Golden Gate Park, San Francisco.
This urban park is over a thousand acres, and is three miles long.
In the middle of the park is stunningly beautiful Stow Lake, with the splashing Huntington Falls waterfall, and a gazebo designed like a pagoda. Rent a rowboat or a fun paddle boat, pack a picnic, and head out to the center of the lake for lunch on popular Strawberry Island.
Here also is America’s oldest public playground, the Children’s Playground. It is now officially called Koret Children’s Quarter after a recent $3.8 million renovation that includes many new activities from spinning cups to slides, to a 50-foot climbing tower to ziplines. It even sports a classic carousel, built in 1912, with organ music and ornate animals to ride.
Golden Gate Park is also the only park in the country with its very own bison herd. Get up close and personal with these iconic American animals at Buffalo Paddock.
3. Balboa Park, San Diego.
The largest urban park in the U.S., Balboa Park covers over 1200 acres. The land was put aside for a public park by far-thinking city fathers way back in 1835. It is home to 15 major museums, renowned performing arts venues including the Tony Award-winning Old Globe Theater, hiking and biking paths, and the world-famous San Diego Zoo.
The Model Railroad Museum in the Park will have all ages, including Dad, mesmerized. And there’s a train for the toddlers, too – the Balboa Park Miniature Railroad will take them on a ½ mile ride through several acres of the Park.
Every Sunday during the summer a free concert is presented at the Spreckels Organ. This amazing 1914 pipe organ is one of the world’s largest outdoor pipe organs, and has been giving free concerts since 1917. The local U.S. Navy Band also gives free summer concerts on this outdoor stage.
These huge urban parks are a budget-friendly way to enjoy a family vacation where every member of the family can have a good time. And another budget-friendly way to have your family vacation in these three cities is by renting a timeshare, which you can typically get for up to 50% less than the cost of downtown city hotels.
Alice Perkins is a timeshare travel blogger for RedWeek.com,the largest online market place for timeshare rentals, where vacationers can find luxury accommodations for less than the cost of a typical hotel room.
If you weren’t able to get tickets for the Olympics, why not try your luck at those for the Commonwealth Games in 2014? Between the 23rd July and 3rd August 2014 the games will be held in Glasgow where you will have the opportunity to watch 17 sports, with competitors from 53 Commonwealth countries. Whether you hope to take in the athletics, swimming or gymnastics, the tickets won’t go on sale until 2013. Even if you aren’t successful in getting a ticket, there will be a fantastic atmosphere within the city, with plenty to see and do between watching events.
See the City
Glasgow has some fine architecture, both old and new, and there is no better way to appreciate it than exploring the city on foot. Although you can navigate the streets yourself, joining one of the walking tours is a good way to see many of the unmissable buildings in the city, while you learn more about their history from the knowledgeable guides.
Hit the Shops
After a wander through the city’s streets, turn your attention to the shopping opportunities available in Glasgow. Whether you are after clothing, a special gift or a memento of your stay, you won’t be disappointed, as there are shops to meet all your needs. For department stores and high street names, head to the Buchanan Galleries on Buchanan Street, where there are 80 shops under one roof. The nearby Argyll Arcade is home to 32 jewellers and even if you are just window shopping, stop by to admire the dazzling displays in the shop windows. Anyone seeking a bargain should take a walk to Barras Market in Gallowgate, which is open on Saturdays and Sundays; you never know what you might find. If on the other hand you are looking for designer labels, the Italian Centre on John Street is a good bet and one of the pavement cafes there makes the perfect place to rest your feet over a coffee. Glasgow might be famous for its battered Mars Bars, but you will be spoilt for choice when it comes to finding somewhere to eat, so whether you want to sample international cuisine or a traditional tea room, there is somewhere to suite every taste.
Although Edinburgh might be thought of as Scotland’s historic city, that doesn’t mean that Glasgow is lacking in museums, and you’ll certainly have plenty to choose from. A short bus, train or subway ride from the city centre is The People’s Palace, set within Glasgow Green, which tells the story of Glasgow and its people over the last 250 years. While there, stop by the Winter Gardens where you will find exotic palms and plants, marvel at the Doulton Fountain and relax in the surroundings of the largest public green space in Glasgow. If science is more your interest, Glasgow Science Centre has over 300 hands on exhibits, ideal for inquisitive children; it is also home to an IMAX cinema where you can be astounded by films in 2D or 3D on a giant screen. The Science Centre also hosts The Glasgow Tower, the world’s first tower able to turn in a full rotation and at 122m in height allows amazing views not just over the River Clyde, but for 40 miles in all directions.
If all the walking hasn’t been enough for you, Pollok Country Park, a mere three miles from the centre of Glasgow, is the perfect place to participate in further activities. Take your own or hire a bike to have a go at one of the three cycle trails that wind through the parks and nearby woodland; graded at different levels of difficulty, there is a trail to suit everyone. There is also a swimming pool and dry ski slope. For family and friends who aren’t so keen on active pursuits, they can enjoy the two art collections housed within the park and the beautiful formal gardens of Pollok House, while you cycle, swim or ski to your heart’s content.
Jenny writes on behalf of luxury medical health insurance and strongly believes in combining travel with activity to lead a healthier, more fulfilled life.
Sedona isn’t just a place for mystic hippies to retire and rip off tourists – it’s also one of the most famous and beautiful places to go outdoors. Here are some of the best trails around the area.
Besides having a great name, this 9.1 mile trail is seven miles west of Sedona below the Mogollon Rim, taking you on a tour of a natural arch, an ancient ruin and plenty of scenic views of red rocks. It’s pretty tame, but your girlfriend will appreciate that there’s nothing scary or dangerous and it can still be quite fun and photogenic.
It’s a bit tricky at the start, but if you can scramble up the top of the Cockscomb spires, you’ll get one of the best views of Sedona around.
Schnebely Hill to Seven Sacred Pools
You can tell why Cortez believed gold was in this area. For the first three miles it’s a big climb up this 13 mile trail, but that’ll warm you up enough to make sure you don’t fall off the edge. That’s the thrill factor, that and the many views. You can view nearly every major named rock along this path, so take your time and enjoy yourself.
If you wanna make this really hot, wait till mid-summer and eat loads of chillies before hopping on your bike and set your tires on fire. Ha ha,just kidding. This loop, which is about ten miles, will really challenge you, filled with plenty of technical, rocky, sandy and other terrains. The downhill at the end weaves you through a rocky “mine field” complete with switchbacks and enough agave to keep you smiling bright all the way down.
Jimmy Kane was born and raised in the Southwest, is an avid traveler and father to his two lovely daughters. He now lives in Florida, where he maintains the website ComcastJacksonville.
It was only eleven o’clock, and I was cautiously eyeing my first ever Bellini and wondering whether drinking alcohol this early was a good idea. Not when I had an article to write and there was the promise of Champagne – Laurent-Perrier no less – a little further down the line. But the tall monogrammed glass, with its pressed peach puree and sparkling Prosecco taunted me and I felt somewhat obliged to take a sip or two. I justified it to myself with the knowledge that it was a very Venetian drink, the invention of one Giuseppe Cipriani at the original Harry’s Bar in Venice. Certainly fitting, it was also crisp and fruity, refreshing and light. Suddenly pre-lunch drinking was entirely acceptable, and I swiftly liberated the glass of its entire contents.
It was a Sunday morning on a marvellously clear day and I was on a crowded train in Scotland, heading north-northwest on the West Highland Line to Oban. But this was no ordinary train – I was seated aboard the elegant Northern Belle, sister train to the infamous Orient Express.
Around me the carriage was a hub of activity. Every seat was taken and travellers were clearly in awe of their surroundings. The interior design of the new Duart carriage is impressive to behold, and it’s not often you find yourself on such a remarkable train enjoying such a unique experience. But the views that were flashing by on either side were vying for our attention as well. The shimmering waters of the Clyde Estuary, the dark crevices of the Cobbler and its neighbouring mountains, the murky depths of Loch Long and Loch Lomond. It was hard to know where to look first.
The Northern Belle is the epitome of luxury, as you might expect from a train that bears the mark of the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express. Stepping aboard, I had to wait a brief moment as a liveried steward in a smart maroon tunic laid a red carpet below the step of the train. My jacket was taken and stowed overhead. My ticket, in its smart brushed-leather folder was checked, and my personalised menu card was left for me to read over and confirm. It was quick, efficient and downright polite. Far removed from any rail journey I’d taken before.
The Duart is the newest edition to the Northern Belle. Once part of the Royal Household train, it’s now had a makeover and received the Orient treatment. It suits its new colours and livery, and at the front of the train, it offers space for twenty-four privileged passenger to travel in style. Every aspect of its transformation has been carefully managed over the past four years, with hand painted panels, restored woodwork and beautifully upholstered seating, there’s been nothing missed.
In fact, everything aboard this impressive locomotive screams quality and luxury. From the heavy silver salt and pepper pots, to the specially commissioned glassware and the Dudson Fine China plates which read ‘Made exclusively for the Northern Belle’, there’s nothing that doesn’t ooze originality here. And that extends to the food – but then isn’t that one of the real reasons travellers book aboard these trains? The experience, the sights…and the victuals?
Brunch began with a refreshing seasonal fruit salad ladled from a large silver tureen, and was swiftly followed by a toasted crumpet topped with a smoked salmon and scrambled egg parcel, caviar and a light drizzle of hollandaise. It didn’t last long. Fresh pastries followed soon afterwards, along with a strong and smooth fair-trade coffee.
By early afternoon we had rumbled past Arrochar, Ardlui and Crianlarich, and around Dalmally, a light lunch arrived. Roasted chicken with asparagus and a barley risotto. A glass of house Chardonnay, again, specially commissioned for the Northern Belle, was poured. We waited in Dalmally for the single track to clear, gazing out of the windows at the mountains around us. They were growing in stature the further north we went.
The landscape flattens out again as this line gets closer to the sea, passing alongside Loch Awe and the inimitable Cruachan ridge with its underground power station. Nearer Oban, the Connel Bridge comes into view. It marks the point where the ocean meets Loch Etive with such force that the current reaches a swirling, terrifying 14 knots and forms a whirlpool almost directly beneath the crossing. The waters here are home to only the hardiest of marine life and on the odd occasion, a foolhardy diver or two as well. We trundled on, the clacking of the Belle’s wheels on the track transporting us back to the Golden Age of travel. Everything was leisurely and timed to perfection.
Our arrival in Oban was marked by the haunting sounds of a bagpiper, fully dressed in all his regalia, and it was off to enjoy everything this fascinating seaside town has to offer. Seal-spotting excursions, kayaking tours, boutique shopping, and much more. You could spend a week or two on this edge of the coastline and still not find the time to experience it all.
After a visit to the Oban Distillery, one of the smallest in the country, we wandered aimlessly for a few hours, taking in the sights and enjoying the fresh sea air. Although there’s plenty to do, the excitement of our return journey was mounting and guests were returning to the Northern Belle well in advance of her departure time, such was the collective eagerness to board her again.
If the outgoing journey had been extraordinary, then it’s fair to say that the return journey continued to impress. We were welcomed on board by Jess, one of our stewards, this time dressed in black for dinner service, holding a slate tray elegantly laid with a selection of hors d’oeuvres. Duck and grape chutney crostini, blue cheese puffed pastry, and so on. Each row as mouth-watering as the next. The champagne flowed freely the minute we sat down, and almost moments after we set out from the station, dinner began. A red pepper and sweet potato soup, flavoured with just enough chive crème fraiche to ease the hidden spice, was followed at a precise, but unhurried pace, by a large medallion of beef and perfectly cooked vegetables.
The cheese board arrived as no cheese board has done before, a large slab of wood that stretched between the tables on either side of the carriage, literally groaning beneath the weight of the different, but carefully chosen cheeses. Desert was a sticky toffee pudding with clotted cream, light, airy and ineffably tasty. Coffee, wine, more champagne, petit fours…the list went on, and it wasn’t long before I was groaning every bit as much as that cheese board had been.
The service onboard the Orient trains is perfectly managed. There’s no austerity here, none of the sombreness that I had imagined there would be. It’s not an ‘airs and graces’ type of experience – unless that’s what you’re looking for. It’s perhaps best described as having a certain civility about it, a chivalry that’s not often enjoyed in today’s modern world. And that’s a pleasure that I think most of us secretly yearn to savour.
The stewards, resplendent in their immaculate uniforms clearly enjoy their work, and it shows in the manner they deal with their customers. They treat you well; give you the service you expect, but chat along when you’d like them to. They know their train, that’s perfectly apparent. Simon, the Duart’s head steward clearly demonstrated his lengthy service by answering every question with facts and figures, both about the train and the company itself. And it’s refreshing to see people take such an interest in their place of work.
I travel regularly, and as most of you will know from reading these posts, I have a bug for exploring as far abroad as I can reach, but I’ve seen my home country in a new light now. I can go so far as to say that I feel truly privileged to have been part of the Duart’s maiden trip along this line. The next time I find myself travelling that direction I know I’ll be looking towards the rails and hoping for a glimpse of the graceful Northern Belle passing alongside.
This journey is ‘bucket-list’ material, and it’s not to be relegated to Number 50 either. Jot it down and book a trip up. I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
Fiona Galloway, Editor
Cruising is a wildly popular form of travel today. Despite the recent trouble with a certain Italian cruise ship tipping over, thousands upon thousands of people continue to file into these huge boats to voyage off to distant tropical islands and all across Europe.
From a logistical standpoint, there is much to like. When you arrive on your departure day, you drop your bags off and simply get on board. Everything else is taken care of. Your mode of transportation, lodging, food, shopping, and recreation are all located in the same place. When you arrive at your destination or a port of call, everything is neatly outlined and presented to you, with a return schedule and a clearly defined set of activities available to you.
So by all means, if your ideal vacation involves total relaxation and lounging around in a carefree environment as food is catered to you and beautiful landscapes pass by in front of you like a live action PowerPoint presentation, then cruising is the option for you. However, if you are the kind of traveler who wants to get out and become involved in the culture and the experience of a vacation destination, then cruises can be the antithesis of a true vacation.
The most important thing to understand about cruises is that the central focus of the trip is the boat itself. While the trip may advertise an exotic destination like Hawaii or the Cayman Islands, the majority of your vacation will take place inside the confines of the ship, and revolve around the cruise liner you’ve chosen, be it Princess, Royal Caribbean, Holland America, or Carnival. You will have ample opportunity to get out and explore the destinations you’ve sailed to, but everything will be seen through the lenses of your cruise ship. For many, this is not an issue, but for those looking for a more authentic, real experience of a vacation destination, it poses problems.
Aside from the point of view issue of the trip, one of the major drawbacks with cruises is the massive crowds you’ll be fighting through throughout the duration. In every port of call, tens of thousands of other camera-wielding tourists will pour out of the same exit ramp as you, all eager to visit the same places, see the same sites, and shop through the same stores. There is no escaping these throngs of people. Excursions, tours, and hikes can offer some respite from the crowds, but every side adventure you take part in will also include two dozen others from your boat.
Another, indirect problem with these ports of call is that the ports themselves are particularly developed with cruise-goers in mind. The places that accept these gargantuan ships are not a real representation of the country, state, or island itself, but an exaggerated version with a heavy emphasis on shopping and keepsakes to remember the trip by. It is not a true reflection of the everyday culture or lifestyle of whatever region you are visiting, which will again be problematic for travelers looking for a true feel for the environment. There is no real option to mingle with the local culture, sample local foods, and assimilate into a way of life different from your own. The culture at a cruise port of call is largely the same as the one you left when you departed.
It can also be easy to misinterpret the size and scope of a cruise ship. These boats are massive floating cities, but in truth, they only have a handful of places to spend time aside from passenger rooms, restaurants, and shops. Much of a cruise ship is like a hotel; long halls and endless rooms with the occasional ice machine or laundry room. Not exactly an endless adventure palace. There are several places to relax, enjoy the scenery, enjoy a swim in the pool, and lounge in a cocktail room, but in a lengthy trip, you’ll soon find yourself in the same places day in and day out. For some, this is exactly the idea; for others, this can be like living in a mad house.
If this kind of rigid, clearly laid out style of vacationing that involves no real stress or fighting with hotel clerks, then a cruise is the right call you for. But if you want to explore on your own terms, at your own pace, and with your own casual agenda, then the better approach would be to fly to your destination, find a suitable hotel, and voyage on your own. By visiting places that are not designed to accept several thousand tourists at a single time, the environments will be less focused on shops selling hats with the location’s name on them, or postcards.
If you have a destination in mind, and want the true, full experience of another country, cruises don’t give you the chance, but if you just want the highlights version in an environment, void of any stress or distractions, then head to the nearest port and book your cruise.
Written by the marketing department for the San Diego accident attorneys at AA Accident Attorneys
As you drive into Dudley you can’t help but notice the impressive ruins that stands atop a solitary mound. It’s noticeable because beneath the ancient defence lies an urban sprawl of hotels, housing estates and modern shopping precincts, all shiny and industrialised, compared to what used to be the stronghold of Dudley Castle.
Many years ago, the fortification was home to the Lords of Dudley, and with their title, wealth and power, came conflict and war. Their castle became a much fought over prize, and over the years it garrissoned troops, was visited by Queen’s, and ultimately destroyed by fire. Now, it’s a home of a different kind, with the animals of Dudley Zoo taking up residence in its grounds.
The zoo is somewhat of a marvel to behold. From first glance it might not appear too impressive. There’s little to see as you walk through the gates and up the sloping path apart from a few flamingo’s and a spider monkey or two, but as you reach the summit of the mound, which is all but invisible from the roadway, you suddenly realise that there’s far more to see here than you first thought.
The reptile house is home to some remarkable species of endangered snakes, as well as a Monitor lizard, a creature I’ve always wanted to see. Bears were sleeping on wooden slited beds, oblivious to the peering eyes around them, siberian tigers wandered beneath our feet, and a pair of snow leopards displayed their remarkable agility, bounding into the trees and settling precariously on branches just so they could stare back at us.
Dudley Zoo is fairly user-friendly. There are two enclosures, one for Lemurs and the other for Penguins, where visitors can walk through their habitat, passing within close quarters of these remarkable animals. It’s not quite hands-on enough that you’re allowed into the hunting dog enclosure, and grooming lions is strictly off the menu as well, but for visitors who really do want to step beyond the glass, Dudley offers a ‘Be a Zoo Keeper for a Day’ programme, to give you the chance to do just that. And there’s a real emphasis here on conservation as well. Many of the animals you’ll find here are well down the endangered list, some virtually extinct in the wild.
Once the walking, the ‘oohing’ and the ‘aahing’ is all done, a small fairground area will keep kids occupied for a few hours more, and a coffee hut isn’t too far away to help renew parents vigour as well. Surprisingly, we spent a whole day wandering these paths, and it captured the interest of our two young boys for the whole time – a rare achievement indeed.
For accommodation choices near Dudley Zoo, take a look at one of Candidtraveller’s favourite hotels, the DeVere-owned Village Urban Resort Dudley. It’s literally at the bottom of the hill and within a short walk of these remarkable animals.
‘Go to Drayton Manor, instead’ I was told when I’d mentioned I was thinking of taking my kids to a major theme park for a day out. ‘You’ll love it, and it’s better for the kids too!’ I was sceptical at first. I’d heard of Drayton, but I knew little about it. I didn’t know much about the rides, how big was it, was there going to be enough to keep them occupied? I decided to take the chance, and one busy Monday morning in the middle of the school summer holidays, I found myself driving up the access road and parking in a large grass-covered parking lot next to the main entrance. The surrounding trees kept the delights of Drayton Manor Park hidden for a little longer, but every now and then a scream or two, and a quick glimpse of a bright blue rollercoaster rose above the tree-line, before disappearing just seconds later. If my kids weren’t excited before we arrived, they certainly were now.
Drayton Manor is a theme park unlike any other I’ve visited. Sure it has its rides and its amusements like every other, and yes they’re scary, exciting, and in some cases, wet, but here’s a park that has a lot more to offer than the usual adrenaline thrills. Especially if you’re travelling with younger kids.
Immediately as you enter through the gates you arrive at Thomas Land, a treasure trove of rides for the under 6′s (although adults are allowed on as well). We stepped inside and queued for the Troublesome Trucks ride, the first rollercoaster my 4 and 3 year old children would experience. And an hour and a half later we were still in Thomas Land, queueing to do every ride again.
When we finally persuaded them that Drayton Manor was somewhat larger than miniature Sodor-land, Thomas himself took us on a one-way ride to the far end of the park. And we started all over again. Dino Land, the Drayton Zoo, a driving school and a friendly goose captured the boys’ attention for the next hour as we wander back towards the main attractions. In fact, there’s a real element of eductation thrown in here, and most kids probably won’t even realise they’re learning as well as having fun. Subliminal teaching, I think that’s called!
There are plenty of rides here that are designed for older kids and adults, and they’re sensibly kept to an area all of their own. It means that families travelling with younger kids only don’t have to face the crush and the crowds that surround the main attractions.
Somewhere in the middle of the park, the Ben 10 ride looms in vivid green, and at its base, a 4D movie cinema showing a 15 minute feature film called The Little Prince, (I remember studying the book in French class, many years ago) was a welcome break from all that walking.
To be succinct about it all, Drayton Manor Park is most definitely a great, family-friendly day out. It’s fairly relaxed, or as relaxed as a theme park can be, anyway. But although it’s not as large in size as some of the bigger name parks are, it’s got everything a family needs for the perfect day of fun. This Christmas, Drayton Manor Park is giving its cinema over to a 4D version of The Polar Express, which is a firm family favourite, so I suspect November will see us travelling back down to watch it just after it opens.
Drayton Manor Park has a hotel on site for families who want to turn the trip into more than just a day away. Another great family hotel to book is the Village Urban Resort Dudley, which is a short drive from the park, and is within easy access to the motorway.
The trouble with a family holiday is that you have to take the family. Explosive tantrums and erupting tempers are almost guaranteed, but forget the bucket and spade because there are plenty of holiday destinations that will enthrall the whole family, young, old or somewhere in between.
A Trip to the Zoo
You could take family holidays abroad to one ofthe best zoos of all; the Serengeti National Park is famous as host to the largest natural migration on earth. Serengeti means Endless Plains and every year across the endless savannah of Tanzania sweep over a million and a half wildebeest, wild lions, giraffe and zebra, all in search of water and food as part of the greatest natural migration on earth. Even out of migration season, the Serengeti, established in 1951 as one of Africa’s first ever game parks, is still a magical land of discovery teeming with wildlife from hippos to cheetahs.
Also in the north of Tanzania and on the so-called safari circuit, the Ngorongoro National Park surrounds a vast caldera, the deep depression left in the land after a volcanic eruption, and is home to what is, quite simply, the best experience you can get of wildlife in its natural habitat anywhere in the world. For some reason, the animals seem less wary of jeeps on safari in the Ngorongoro and so you get up close, if not personal, with elephants, rhinos, wildebeest, antelope, gazelle, buffalo and lions.
From the endless plains to dense rainforests and jungles of South America, Costa Rica is full of raging rivers, hot springs and towering volcanoes that create a bio-diversity all of their own. See tree-frogs, iguanas, sloths and crocodiles under the rainforest canopy and explore a live volcano for adventure holidays with a difference and a hint of danger.
Mount Arenal is the youngest and most active of all the volcanoes in Costa Rica, six of which are active and 61 dormant. Though Mount Arenal last erupted in 2010 you can still hear the distant rumbles underground and see the spill of lava rivers which have made it one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country.
Going to See the Lights
From hot to cold, there are few shows in nature more spectacular than a live volcano but the Aurora Borealis is one of them. The Northern Lights shine out pink and green across the sky as the sun’s solar wind meets the Earth’s atmosphere, and they dance in the skies over the peculiar volcanic landscape of Iceland creating a lightshow more spectacular than any stadium can host.
Iceland also offers more earthbound attraction sover a 300 km route through the country’s landmarks, popularly called The Golden Circle which passes through the Althing, Iceland’s traditional arena of government and a symbol of the country’s independence. It moves on to Gullflossor the Golden Falls, a 105ft double cascade waterfall that breaks into thousands of rainbows, and finally the Geysir, the original geyser from which all geysers were named and, when co-operating, shoots 200ft plumes of water into the sky.
Family holidays should be about learningand discovering together, with adventure and excitement for everyone thown in.Visiting some of the natural wonders of the world can give you not only holiday memories to treasure, but life-changing experiences whatever your age.
Ilena Sanchez is an experienced travel writer who specializes in writing about adventure holidays and family holidays abroad for various travel websites and blogs.
In the depths of the Village Urban Resort Dudley, secreted behind a contemporary dark wooden door and low lighting, is a little piece of paradise in the form of Healthworks - a wonderfully relaxing spa that serves hotel guests as well as local West Midlanders. Healthworks, which has been there since the hotel opened, offers an extensive array of relaxing and rejuventating treatments, along with some unique ESPA products designed specifically for them.
I visited this underground haven a week ago when I had the pleasure of staying in the hotel. The treatment menu is what a non-spa-goer like me might call ‘exhausting’. There were endless choices that I had spent hours scanning the evening before, wondering for the most part what half of them were. Words like ‘thalassotherapy’ and ‘phytotherapy’ are as alien to a busy person like me as simpler words are, like the term ‘relaxation’ for example, something I’ve long since forgotten the point of. So when I arrived the next morning, ready for my treatment, I still had no idea what I wanted to try.
I chose a facial, a word I at least comprehend, and met Marcia, possibly one of the most outstanding therapists I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. She explained the process of the facial I was going to have, and how it would identify problem areas of my skin, before going on to do just that. She’s a little like a matron (and I mean that in the nicest possible way, of course), scolding me subtley for not wearing enough sun protection and for failing to exfolitate as often as I knew I should, but at the same time she set about giving me the best facial treatment possible. Over the next hour I was pampered, massaged, cleansed, sprayed and more until it was time to leave, and I glided out with a renewed sense of wellbeing and a face that smelled of lemon trees. All rather nice indeed, if I do say…
There’s a Healthworks spa in several of the DeVere locations around the UK, and over the next while each of them is getting a makeover of their own. They’ll soon be rebranded under the name Viva Urban Spa, and my guess is that they’ll be even more luxurious than they currently are. If you find yourself in the West Midlands, perhaps enjoying one of the many other pleasures that Dudley has to offer, I strongly suggest that you book yourself into Healthworks for a few moments of sheer indulgence and a little bit of time to yourself.
If you’re planning a summer getaway to the mountains of Northeast Georgia, there are a few places that are “must-sees”. Wineries, the shops of Helen, and Babyland General Hospital all fall into that category. But to truly appreciate the splendor of Northeast Georgia you don’t want to miss the state parks. Here’s a quick list of the “must see” state parks to visit on your trip.
1. Unicoi State Park – Settlers knew what they were doing when they set up camp in the area that would become Unicoi State Park. Surrounded by majestic mountain scenery and bountiful wildlife, it’s easy to see why this park is one of the most popular in Georgia. Perfect for hiking, biking, paddling, or just relaxing, the Unicoi State Park is truly a natural gift.
2. Smithgall Woods – An angler’s paradise, this park is considered the place for trout fishing. Fisherman will fully appreciate the quiet solitude, bountiful trout running in Dukes Creek, and spectacular scenery of Smithgall. For an added bonus, this state park limits the number of anglers at one time ensuring the best trout fishing experience possible.
3. Hardman Farm – Located just outside of Helen, Ga. Hardman Farm is a must-see for any and all. The property was originally purchased in the 1870s and converted into a working farm that supplied milk to neighboring Atlanta and Gainesville in the 1920s. Come and explore the two story barn, mansion, 20-plus structures, and the absolutely remarkable white gazebo balanced atop a Native American mound. It will be clear quickly why Hardman Farm is considered one of the most recognizable landmarks in Northeast Georgia.
4. Black Rock Mountain State Park – Sick and tired of the summer heat? Then look no further than Black Rock Mountain. Located a whopping 3,640 feet above sea level, it’s the highest of the peaks in Northeast Georgia which also means cooler temperatures. Get ready for amazing 80 mile vistas, hiking trails, and gnarled oaks. A lesser known state park, Black Rock Mountain is the perfect place for a romantic getaway.
One of the best things about state parks is the conservation. Because it’s protected land you can be sure that you’re getting the best natural experience possible. By limiting the number of anglers at Smithgall and restoring Hardman Farm, state parks offer the best in what Northeast Georgia has to offer. So be sure to take time out of your busy schedule to relax and enjoy nature.
The Caribbean is one of the most popular vacation spots in the world. For good reason too: There’s simply so much you can do there. From natural experiences to cultural experiences to heart pounding adventures, the Caribbean has it all. They’re extremely friendly to foreigners and most tour guides are happy to share their authentic opinions on what it’s like to live in the Caribbean.
What are 10 things you absolutely can’t miss in the Caribbean?
1) Walk in the Clouds
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to walk in the clouds? In Puerto Rico, the Pico Del Toro offers the view of a lifetime. It’s the highest mountain in all the Caribbean. You can enjoy the Pico Del Toro any time of day, but keep in mind that it does get cold. Wear warm clothing that’s water proof, as the precipitation and rain can be drenching.
Pico Del Toro also offers a sunrise that you’ll never forget. The sun’s rays reflect off the clouds in Pico Del Toro to create a dazzling lightshow befitting of this majestic mountain.
2) Take Your Own Sub Underwater
It’s not technically a submarine. It’s called a “Scenic Underwater Bubble,” or SUB for short. Offered by the Nassau SUB Bahamas Adventure Tour, the SUB experience really is like being in the water in a submarine. You get to explore coral reefs, see fish up close and interact with marine life all from the comfort and safety of your bubble.
3) Pet the Sting Rays
In the Grand Cayman, there’s a stretch of sand where stingrays often congregate. Go with a sting ray tour group and you’ll be able to swim with the sting rays, see them up close and even pet them with your hands.
4) Dive With Sharks
Most movies show sharks as scary, malicious creatures. In real life, they’re usually anything but scary. When they see humans, their reaction is often either fear or curiosity – And often both. The Caribbean reef sharks in Nassau’s coral reefs will often watch divers warily as they draw close. Divers get to watch the sharks, while the sharks watch the divers. A truly incredible connection with an underwater creature.
5) The Trinidad Birds
Trinidad is one of the biggest hub spots in the world for migrating birds. You can find all kinds of different bird species here from all around the continent. Spend a day or two just watching birds and you’ll see all the colors of the rainbow on birds’ wings.
6) Go Caving
Go visit one of the many caves in the Caribbean. You’ll get to see all kinds of incredible rock formations, including limestones that seem to glow and magnificent formations of stalagmites. In a particularly dark area of a cave, try shining your flashlight to the ceiling. The way the light reflects back often looks like the night’s sky.
7) Learn to Surf
There aren’t many beaches in the world that are perfect for beginners. In order for a surf spot to work for beginners, the waves need to be slow enough that beginners don’t get discouraged from getting knocked over too often. However, the waves also need to be strong enough that beginners have something to work with. The waves at Barbados offers exactly that: The perfect surfing conditions for the first timer who wants both positive results and a bit of a challenge.
8) Try a Jamaican Zip Line
Take the Jamaican canopy tour for a heart racing experience of nature. You’ll fly through forests, over animals, between trees and laugh the whole way through. You’ll fly about 45 feet in the air wit the whole thing guided by trained professionals.
9) Swim in a Water Fall
The Seven Sisters Falls is a full force gushing waterfall that you can swim under any time of year. It’s a fantastic place to have a water fight, or to go on a hot day to cool off.
10) Swim With Dolphins
The Dolphin Cay allows you to swim with dolphins – With a unique twist. Most dolphin experiences in other parts of the world require you to actually try to paddle and keep up with the dolphin. That’s nearly impossible and most people lose the dolphin after a short period of time. At the Dolphin Cay however, you can use a water scooter to help you swiftly navigate the waters and play with the dolphins in their own turf.
With so many adventures to choose from, there’ll never be a boring moment on your Caribbean adventure.
Author Bio – This article has been written by Dillon Michaelson working for InsanelyCheapFlights. Planning a trip to your favorite destination at ? Visit their travel portal to check out exclusive Jet Blue Promo Code or Spirit Promo Code and save up to $20 on your flights.
Back when my husband and I were still dating, he suggested going away. Not in a ‘let’s-go-on-a-date-to-the-cinema’ kind of way, but in a ‘I-really-like-you-so-I-want-to-show-you-my-favourite-place’ kind of way. I thought he meant a weekend trip to Edinburgh, perhaps a tour of the castle, and a meal in the sort of restaurant that would make his wallet go into cardiac arrest. So two weeks in Florida came as a surprise.
It was a fly-drive and the itinerary was our own to organise. With such freedom it made sense to see as much of the state as we could, so we crammed over 3,000 miles into that trip, taking in every town and city we could find on our newly-aquired road map; Orlando, Daytona, Clearwater, Sarasota, Miami and Key West to name just a few. But the most adventurous by far, was the short stopover in Key West.
We stayed in the old part of town; all whitewashed colonial style buildings, swaying palm trees and water as far as we could see. It was spring break, and it was manic. Everywhere you looked pretty 18 year old college students in skimpy Roxy bikinis were strolling along palm-lined Duval Street, pretending to sip on full-fat cokes but actually trying to avoid the calories. The conch train, a popular tourist attraction, rolled by on its regular timetable, and the smell of the salt air lured wandering tourists towards the shore. We arrived in the late afternoon, and finally found, and booked into, our guest house.
The Authors Guest House is found on White Street, in the old part of Key West. The traditional part, not the modern urban sprawl that’s taken up much of the north of the island. The old part is built on a grid system, with rectangular blocks leading towards the popular main streets near the southwest of the island. The only break in its strict town planning, is when you reach the cemetery, although in an eerily strange way, it too is uniformly laid out.
The benefit to staying so far away from the main sights is that you’re forced to walk nearly everywhere you go. Travelling by car in Key West (old town) is virtually pointless since there are so few places to park anyway. But walking means you get to see far more of this fantastic connurbation than you otherwise would. The wizened old lady sweeping the paint peelings off her faded wooden porch, the local tour rep scurrying late into work, the teenagers stumbling home after a late night at one of the many beach parties. One of my favourite sights was when we came across the occasional cycle rickshaw ridden by sweating, straining men (and the occasional woman), while their passengers sat back and admired the passing view.
The thing about Key West is that if you don’t venture into the modern, shop-filled, fast-food jointed northern end, it’s actually quite a small place. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to see. Our short stay here left us wishing we’d booked more time. There were restaurants we hadn’t visited, seafood we hadn’t tried and snorkeling trips we wished we’d gone on. And all that laid back semi-Caribbean feel that the Keys has about them makes it harder to rush to fit everything in. More than 24 hours here and you can’t help but fall into the local pace of life.
The main part of the town, the area tourists naturally migrate towards, is a long wide street overflowing with shops and cafes. Nearly all have a seafaring theme, whether they’re selling surf gear or local trinkets and souvenirs. A street or two down, and the harbour comes into view. By day, fish are brought into market, crates and creels tossed up noisily onto the boardwalk from the decks below. By night, the area is transformed into an outdoor myriad of seafood restaurants all touting that morning’s fresh catch.
Mallory Square provides the location for some perfect after dinner entertainment. From dawn onwards you overlook the busy dock, where imposing cruise ships line up to decant more passengers onto this tiny island than you’d think it could hold. But when evening falls, street artists take up their spot along the boardwalk, eating fire and walking tightropes to delight the heady crowd. I remember watching an incredible mime artist while sipping a pina colada at this very spot, the cool drink keeping my temperature down on what was a sticky, warm night.
If you’ve never been to the Keys, then I have to encourage you to go. These tiny islands that stretch into the ocean like a string of stepping stones to Cuba, have a lot to offer visitors. I have a few special memories of my time there. Little individual moments that will stick in mind for various reasons. My next post explains more…
With the 2012 London Olympic Games wrapping up soon, the world is already on the lookout for the next big international sporting event. Luckily, it is only a scant two more years until we are graced with swimmers’ bodies on the big screen during primetime coverage at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. After beating out Abuja, Nigeria to host the games, the city of Glasgow in Scotland began gearing up for the influx of tourists and athletes to their stadiums and arenas. Many of their already-existing venues will be used for the games which means that, as tourists, it is fairly easy to map out a plan of attack, especially if you plan ahead.
Due to Glasgow’s size – it’s the biggest city in Scotland – the events are somewhat spread out across multiple neighborhoods, with some events even taking place outside of the city proper. The Opening Ceremonies will be held in the auspicious Celtic Park, the largest football stadium in Scotland, to mark the beginning of the events. From there, the majority of the athletics meets will be held in Hampden Park, the national football stadium of Scotland, located on the south side of the city. Both stadiums are fairly easy to access from the center of the city, so visitors can have the best of the both worlds by staying downtown near the tourist sites and going to events during the day.
All of the indoor sporting events like Wrestling, Judo and Gymnastics will be held in arenas on the western side of the city. The new Scottish Hydro Park will host the Gymnastics tournament as well as the Netball event, while the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Center will be home to the Wrestling and Judo matches. In addition to these buildings, Kelvingrove Park will be used for Squash and Table Tennis, but not before undergoing a major renovation to improve the accessibility of the arena. In the east end of the city, not far from Celtic Park, Tollcross Park Aquatics Centre will play home to the many swimming events, while diving will be held just outside the city at the Royal Commonwealth Pool. Even if you cannot get tickets for some of the indoor park events, the marathon and some of the cycling will pass right through the center of the city so everyone should get a chance to see at least one event.
The year 2014 will be a great year for international sporting events with both the Commonwealth Games and the World Cup taking place, so fans should get the jump on everyone else by preparing for their visit now.
Written by the Marketing Department for Los Angeles car accident lawyer, Paul E. Lee
The Hotel ai Mori d’Oriente has an unassuming frontage on the Fondamenta Sensa, unless you take notice of the overflowing hanging baskets, rows of flag poles, and gondola posts that reach up through the water like oversized red and white striped candy canes. Apart from all that, it’s relatively unassuming. What it definitely is, though, is quiet. It’s not one of the popular tourist hotels, and not because there’s anything wrong with it either, but the unfashionable Cannaregio district doesn’t list highly in the ’where to stay section’ of most Venetian guide books. It’s a little out of the way from the Grand Canal, and doesn’t have much of a view either.
Inside, the hotel reflects its unique past. The building was once a fifteenth century palazzo, and although it’s located on the Fondamenta, the majority of rooms actually overlook the Canale della Sensa. The Moors used to call this place home, and it was a base for their trading business, a last stop for the silk and spices that arrived by water from Turkey. The hotel has kept in touch with its trader’s roots, decorating rooms in Moorish style with elaborate reds and golds, ornate touches, traditional ornaments and bold colour schemes throughout. In fact, if it wasn’t perched on stilts in the middle of the Veneto there’d be relatively little Italian influence here at all.
It was also in this hotel that I uttered my first Italian word. Quite by accident. The word ‘camera’ in Italian does not refer to a little black box with a shutter and a lens. It refers to a room, and in a hotel, quite naturally, it refers to a bedroom. It took some considerable time for the poor non-English speaking porter to show us to our room, before I allowed him to hand back the camera I produced every time he requested it. My moment of embarassment passed quickly though, to be replaced by one of semi-euphoria. I could speak Italian.
We were there in the days before iPhone’s were invented, and as a wandering traveller (without my guidebook) I had to ask for words from anyone who had the time to listen. Our concierge probably didn’t have the time, but he still listened to me kindly, and daily, and before long I had a whole string of sentences to use. All of them were perfect for checking into any Italian hotel, so it was rather a pity I’d already done so on this trip. No matter how many times I asked ‘posso avere la mia chiave per favore?’ in a cafe, my room key never arrived.
As delightful as it is, the hotel does have one drawback - it doesn’t serve dinner. And no matter what anyone else might tell you, honeymooners do need to eat. We headed out every evening to hunt down the best in local cuisine and we came across some utterly delightful and romantic hideaways across the city. If you follow me now, I’ll show you the way….
After travelling all day, and with two hungry kids in tow, I feel tired and considerably underdressed. I’m sitting in a contemporary booth in the Verve Bar & Grill restaurant of the Village Urban Resort Dudley, and I’m wearing jeans, a T-shirt that barely made it through a sticky visit to Cadbury World, and a pair of trainers. Around me, diners have at least made more effort than I have, and they slip into the elegant surroundings in smart casual wear and considered accessories. Our accessories are two children, a couple of stuffed lizards courtesy of nearby Dudley Zoo (not real ones), and my husband’s indiscreet chocolate stain. Bournville, if you must know.
The Verve is one of those restaurants where all of the above don’t actually seem to matter though. It may have an appealing, modern menu, decidedly crisp napkins and a wine menu that a Sommelier wouldn’t shake his head at, but none of that makes it pretentious, and even our trainer-clad family, too exhausted to change for dinner, is heartily welcomed in.
If you have a passion for food and you like the sound of a tasting plate with olives, ciabatta and balsamic oil, Eggs Benedict with homemade hollandaise, and chicken liver parfait, then this is a restaurant for you. Although the menu is far from extensive, it’s well conceived and very well executed. Mains include roast chicken and creamy garlic mash, and salmon and asparagus with crushed potatoes. Kids won’t be disappointed either, and favourite children’s meals are presented with a little bit of DeVere flair. This is dining in style and comfort, yet it manages to offer a unique blend between high-brow service and relaxed family feel, something that’s relatively difficult to achieve.
There are three menus to choose from here. The A La Carte, with some interesting options, including a tempting Sea Bass dish or choice of steak has something for everyone, but there’s also a set menu to choose from, and the promotional 2 Dine for £29 menu.
If you can’t decide, and that’s perfectly possible, the staff at the Verve are happy to give you some recommendations. I left my choice of starter and glass of wine up to Matt, who really couldn’t have chosen better.
It took us over two hours to eat that night, something our family, always on the go as we are, doesn’t normally achieve. I can only put that down to the relaxed atmosphere and attentive, but unobtrusive staff, as well as the delightful food. Incidentally, if you’re staying in the hotel, the Verve is also where you’ll have breakfast every morning – with a range of cooked foods, cereals, fresh fruit and continental pastries to decide between.
The Stone House Hotel in Stone, Staffordshire, is a welcoming and relaxing location for travellers to the area. Just a short distance south of historic Stoke-On-Trent, with its endless potteries, factories, cycleways and history, and only a few minutes away from popular family fun parks like Alton Towers, this hotel makes an ideal base for touring the area.
As the editor for Candidtraveller, I visited the Stone House Hotel recently to see what it had to offer, and I was far from disappointed. There’s nothing I like better than good customer service. Forget a hotel’s star rating, because a true reflection of the service you can expect to receive becomes obvious the minute you step up to reception to book in. Personally, I’d rather be treated well in a three star hotel, than completely ignored in a 5 star resort, and that’s exactly the kind of great service that my family and I received when we arrived at this Oxford Hotels and Inns property on a busy Friday afternoon.
The hotel was once a family home, and it’s clear to see that it would have been an elegant country house in its day. The interior stylings certainly lend themselves to the original design of the hotel, and the Garden Restaurant in particular has an air of the old fashioned about it (that means elegant, not stuffy). Some of the rooms in the new wing are a standard, modern design, without the trappings of the original part of the house, but they’re exactly what you’d expect to get in a good 3 star hotel.
Taking the family means staying somewhere that caters well for children. It’s all very well planning things to tire them out during the day, but if they make it back to the hotel with excess energy you’ll need to have something there to entertain them. The Stone House Hotel has a swimming pool and gym, both ideal for older (and much older) children. Ours were fascinated by the internal garden, with it’s winding paths and natural ‘dens’ to hide in. So fascinated, in fact, that they played away for hours, leaving us a little downtime to enjoy a coffee on the terrace and take in our surroundings.
The Stone House Hotel is right on the main road into Stone, but where it’s situated means you barely hear any noise from the passing traffic, let alone see any. And from the garden in the back, there’s a gentle hum to let you know the road is there, but you’ll only really notice it if you’re trying to.
The hotel is clearly a popular venue for weddings, and the Friday evening we stayed was no exception. The function room upstairs had been taken over by the wedding party who had the benefit of the private gardens for their photos and champagne reception, but even with the large number of guests, the hotel still didn’t feel overrun. Another great feature of the hotel is it’s proximity to the M6, the main arterial route through Great Britain. The hotel is so close to the motorway (without actually being in walking distance of its populated lanes) that it serves as an ideal stopover for travellers making their way to or from Scotland. In fact, if you’re travelling to Scotland via London for the Commonwealth Games in 2014, this is the ideal location to take an overnight break from all that travelling.
All in all, this was a great stay at the Stone House Hotel. We were well looked after by helpful and friendly staff, something that’s top of my list wherever I stay. If you’d like to read what we made of the hotel restaurant, then follow this link here.
More information on the Oxford Hotels and Inns, or to book a stay at any one of their hotels, can be found here.
Lastly, I’d like to say a big thank you to Lily, the very smiley receptionist, and to Jess, who looked after us wonderfully well at dinner and breakfast.
Summer is here and everyone is asking you where you’re heading for the traditional break. But, don’t think that you have to go abroad for your seasonal fun. From sailing to hiking, you have a multitude of possibilities right here on your doorstep. Whether you want a romantic break or a family adventure, it’s all possible right here in the United Kingdom.
An increasingly popular past time across the United Kingdom, and it is an exhilarating adventure to partake with friends and family. It is most popular on the south-west coast where people have been known to pass all sorts of maritime life on their adventures. Some trips see you catching a fish supper, foraging the shore for seaweed and shellfish. Often, you will stop in remote locations to enjoy the beauty of the region. Top tip: Check out Falmouth.
Coast to coast cycle
If you’re up for a major adventure, then this trip which was made famous by Alfred Wainwright as a walk is the perfect answer. You see the beauty of the north as you head from the Irish Sea to the North Sea. It is a five day slog, and one which tens of thousands of people complete – either on foot or on a bike. Hopefully you did orienteering though, because this can be a difficult route to stick to.
Horse riding in the New Forest
Stretching from Hampshire to Dorset, this national park started life as a royal forest in 1079, and the unenclosed pasture and heathland make it the perfect spot for some summer horse riding. A place of natural beauty, the leafy glens and ancient woodland are a joy to explore. With country restaurants and pubs along the way too, this is a relaxing but adventurous break for the whole family.
Sail around the Isles
An adventure and a half, taking on this experience will give you both stunning scenery and a tremendous challenge. Whether you are an experienced or beginner, this is a sailing experience that will remain in memory for all your life. Generally an unhurried trip, it can take as long as 12 weeks but gives you the chance to enjoy a multitude of wildlife, ancient history and the classic Hebrides. Not to mention the white sand and blue waters of New Grimsby Sound in the idyllic Isles of Scilly.
Caving in the Yorkshire Dales
With passages stretching 400 kilometres and 2,000 potholes and caves, this is the United Kingdom’s most loved caving spot. Get a feel for the peace and beauty by going underground with your torch to see the limestone walls, mysterious water and Gaping Gill. The latter is an unmistakable landmark of North Yorkshire which holds the record for England’s tallest unbroken waterfall.
Involving anything from swimming to walking, climbing to scrambling, diving to jumping, coasteering is another increasingly popular adventure holiday in the United Kingdom. High energy is putting it lightly, but it is a great experience for the family – or for the kids at least. Invented in Wales – Pembrokeshire to be precise – you can enjoy the rocky coastline and all it offers with old trainers, a safety helmet and a wetsuit. Adrenalin-fuelled and definitely worth considering this summer.
Many people head to Wales for the 3000 challenge where you conquer 3,000 feet and 15 peaks of Welsh mountainside. But, if that’s a bit of a push, then at least get to Snowdonia National Park this summer. A national nature reserve it is – outside of Scotland – the highest point in Britain. A hillside that was made from volcanoes, getting to the top of 3,560 feet is some achievement.
When you go on these active breaks, make sure that you have travel insurance. While accidents tend to be uncommon, if something does happen you want to make sure that you can make holiday compensation. You can minimise this risk by doing your homework, taking the right gear and equipment and going on a recommended tour.
Images courtesy of Visit Britain
It may be true that the first city you think of for an interesting weekend break is not Berlin. You may think it dour, cold and full of stark historical buildings with little interest to anyone outside of the city itself. Well, the city and its three and a half million inhabitants would be sure to disagree and this is why…
Firstly, it is incredibly easy to get to. Many places across the world fly direct into one of the city’s two airports (though this is due to become one huge airport in the spring of next year!). Budget airlines usually fly into the least busy of the two, but the airport transfers direct into the city are cheap and frequent, so you won’t be missing out on any quality time.
When you arrive in the city and have dropped your stuff off at the hotel, the best thing to do is get straight out there and explore. You can do this on foot (or bike) of course, but if you’re only going for a short break then it’s best to use the excellent public transport. The U-Bahn (the underground railway) is clean, reliable and has regular trains to all corners of the city and the same can be said of the huge bus network. Discount travel cards such as the Berlin Welcome Card are available for those of you who like a bargain or two.
The first thing you’ll notice if you get yourself a guidebook is the number of museums in Berlin; unless you’re looking at a map where you’ll be astounded at the number of bridges crossing the River Spree which flows through the heart of the city. Situated on an island in the middle of the river is Museum Island, which as you can probably imagine is home to not one, but five excellent museums. Covering everything from art, artefacts and architecture, you could spend an entire day wandering around the island and visiting some of the amazing exhibits on show.
Other museums worthy of mention are the excellent (if harrowing) Topography of Terror and the Jewish Museum but the former is definitely not for the faint-hearted.
Around the Mitte and Kreuzberg districts, you will find everything you need for a great afternoon of shopping, either for souvenirs or a little something for yourself to wear out in the evening. Plenty of bars and restaurants line the streets and it isn’t all sausages and beer so make sure you try something new. Berlin is home to people from many different ethnic backgrounds so you may be chomping on baba ganoush rather than bratwurst. Don’t forget whilst you’re exploring to keep your eyes open all around you – not for fear of anything bad happening, but just in case you pass a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ attraction such as the excellent Ramones museum or the Solar Bar.
If you want to get away from the bustling city then there are a few parks dotted around the city where you can take the weight off for a little while and explore a bit of greenery. Alternatively, get on one of the many river cruises that will give you a whole new view of the city from the water. Whatever you are looking for, you will generally find a stone’s throw away, so… happy exploring and Spaß haben! (That’s ‘have fun’ by the way).
Ben Gallivan is a music and travel writer who tries not to stay still for too long and has visited many cities across Europe and the rest of the World. He writes for One80 Hostel in central Berlin.
We spend every year anxiously awaiting the arrival of summer for two reasons: the return of warm weather and taking time away from everything to travel. Having time to visit friends or family members on the other side of the country could be nice but when you’re forming your annual travel plans you should think about taking a luxury holiday instead. There’s a reason they call them luxury vacations; five star resorts, all inclusive meals from top chefs and amazing spa packages, if you’re looking to relax and be pampered in a style usually reserved for the super wealthy you should head to one of these luxury travel destinations.
The Floating Resort in The Maldives
A nation of islands nestled in the Indian Ocean, The Maldives is considered by many to be one of the most luxurious travel destinations on the planet. If you’re looking for the beauty of the Indian Ocean but want a secret hideaway of your own then the Halaveli Resort is your next travel destination. The resort is situated on its own private island, a series of specs on a clear blue landscape, which provides your own personal sun terrace and swimming areas along with all the other luxurious a six star hotel provides. It’s a twenty minute flight by seaplane or over an hour on a speed boat, so if you travel to this beautiful resort you should be prepared for your relaxing seclusion.
Everything You Need in One Expanding City
The hottest spot for several years running, Dubai is a massive city comprised of some of the world’s largest skyscrapers and most luxurious hotels. This has become a popular travel destination simply so people can brag about having been there. Did you ever think you could ski, go shopping, play a round of golf and then get a massage at a spa all in the same day? Dubai has almost everything you could imagine and they know how to do it in style.
The best part is that Dubai is rapidly expanding, so if you enjoy yourself (and it would be impossible not to) you can make it an annual destination and it will always feel fresh and new. Just make sure you plan your travel in advance, the city is popular year round.
Luxury and Culture in one Travel Destination
Malaysia has become known not only for its lush national parks and unique wildlife, but also for its beautiful beaches and luxury resorts. If you travel to Malaysia you will find yourself in a land where you can explore a contemporary shopping district before riding a cable car up to the top of Mount Mat Cincang, which overlooks the entire island. The main draw of Malaysia for travelers is the mix of this luxury with its culture and heritage, which the country does not shy away from. In Sarawak for example, you’ll find the Cultural Village, where over one hundred people put on daily demonstrations of traditional activities.
If you want to expand your cultural IQ or simply relax and be pampered in style and class you should travel to a luxury destination this summer. There’s no shortage of amazing countries just ready to welcome you into their open arms and treat you like royalty, so when you sit down to decide what you want to do on your vacation, travel to a luxurious hotspot.
This post was written by the team at Seasons in Style, offering a wide selection of luxury holidays at resorts and hotspots around the world. Find them online at www.seasonsinstyle.co.uk
Washington, D.C. is a great place to visit and spend a couple of days or weeks in. Many political buildings are found in the America’s capital which have appeared in numerous films and television shows. If the budget which a family or solo traveller has who is passing through on their way to neighbouring States is minimal, there are many options to choose from because Washington, D.C. has a considerable number of attractions which cost nothing in order to enjoy.
Seeing Washington, D.C.’s many attractions on a budget
The Lincoln Memorial is open throughout the year. During the summer, Washington, D.C. experiences very high temperatures and there are many months when hardly or no precipitation falls. Seeing this landmark doesn’t cost a penny and it is open throughout the year. Even late at night, the Lincoln Memorial can be experienced. Washington, D.C. has many museums as well and many of them do not charge admission fees, such as the National Postal Museum, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of Women in the Arts and the National Portrait Gallery. Hosting many exhibitions throughout the year, these and many other fascinating museums are thoroughly entertaining.
Alexandria, VA is very popular as well because of its historical significance. First built in 1749, Alexandria was once a thriving port that played an influential role during the American Civil War. Much of Alexandria has been restored and it now has cobbled streets and churches which will enable any photograph to be cherished. As visiting Alexandria doesn’t cost anything at all, exploring this historic part of Washington, D.C. will be both memorable and cost-effective.
Further helping a budget
When staying in Washington, D.C., there are many hotels to choose from. As with hotels which are in capital cities, the amount of money which is charged for staying in a hotel that’s in Washington, D.C. can cost hundreds of dollars for a single night. However, this isn’t the only type of accommodation which is available. Executive Apartments Inc. (http://www.executiveapartmentsusa.com) offer affordable fully furnished corporate apartments that are very popular with travellers. Situated nearby Washington, D.C. (in Arlington, VA) and very close to major transport links, executive apartments are very comfortable because impressive-looking furniture is found in each. Executive apartments have many amenities as well, such as a fully working kitchen and a washing/drying service. When staying in a hotel, extra money has to be paid to clean clothes or request room service but this doesn’t happen when staying in an executive apartment. This is because a meal can be prepared and clothes can be cleaned and dried whenever guests want to.
Washington, D.C. continues to attract people who want to experience this marvellous city for themselves; staying in an executive apartment is the first choice of many travellers. It doesn’t matter what the reason is for staying in Washington, D.C. because there is much to recommend this wonderful city.
About the author: Russell Hill
When new technology comes along, it often influences our behaviour. It’s effect may be subtle at first, but over time it changes the way vast swathes of the global population live their daily lives.
For example; when the internet came along, we no longer got all of our information from the conventional media. We now had encyclopedic knowledge of thousands of different subjects available at our fingertips.
When the smartphone came along, we no longer had to be sat at a desk or within wi-fi range of a modem to browse the web. We could do it with a few taps and swipes of our fingers.
These innovations have changed the way we shop, contact friends and learn about the world.
Now, the web, and social media in particular, is changing the way we travel. One of the newest social media networks to influence our travel decisions is Pinterest.
So how is Pinterest changing the way we travel?
Where Pinterest differs from other social media, is that it’s primarily a bookmarking service. People are bookmarking what they find interesting to them visually and pinning it to their pin-board. And travel destinations are one of the most common themes for Pinterest users.
Whereas sites like Facebook record where we’ve been, and allows us to share it with our friends. Pinterest allows us to share where we wish to go. It contains our dreams, our aspirations.
Rather than seeing pictures of friends holding a piña colada on a Spanish beach from their holiday last summer, we are seeing where they wish to go this year.
People seeing what their friends plans are, may find that it’s influencing their own travel decisions. There may be a certain “keeping up with the Joneses” factor. But more likely they trust their friends choices and are influenced by them.
This has a lot of potential
The full potential of Pinterest is yet to be explored, being relatively new compared to other social media networks. But it does have a lot to offer.
Although travel destination marketers would be loathed to admit it, once someone has made their choice where they would like to go, there’s relatively little they can do. They may be able to inform, and offer assistance that may help their clients. But selling an alternative destination to a potential customer is very difficult.
There is a key moment where the travel destination is decided in the potential customer’s mind. And after that, marketers have little hope of changing their mind.
But what if Pinterest could help marketers get to their potential customers at that precise moment?
This is where Pinterest has the potential to be a more valuable marketing tool than other social media. Pinterest is made up of things yet to come. Decisions not yet fully formed. The very concept of Pinterest makes it possibly the best tool marketers will ever have.
Although Pinterest has not clearly demonstrated it’s value as a way to drive traffic, it can be a very effective way to steer dreams. And is a very effective arrow for every travel marketer’s quiver.
When selling travel destinations, it’s pretty much all about the visuals (sub heading)
One of the key factors that Pinterest has going for it, is that it’s a very visual form of social media. Taking a quick glance at any pin-board will yield wonderful vibrant images that stick in the mind.
This makes it exceptional for selling travel destinations. Travel destinations are almost entirely sold on their aesthetics, rather than any other reason. It could be an attractive couple walking on a white-sand beach. It could a person swimming in clear blue waters. It could be people drinking on wooden decking to the backdrop of a beautifully lit marina. All of these images grab the viewers’ attention and sell the destination to them.
On other social media networks, and the internet in general. These striking images can sometimes get lost in the background noise. Pinterest displays them prominently for the world to see and admire.
So to sum it up
Pinterest is a bit of an unknown quantity at the moment. We are all still learning how to use it effectively. But as with other forms of technology, it will be the people who embrace it early on that make the most of it. But this much is obvious, by allowing us to take a glimpse at people’s hopes for the future; it gives us both a valuable insight, and an unprecedented opportunity to influence those hopes.
Written by Mike who writes for www.worldwidetravelguide.co.uk
When you travel abroad, you may want to ease the hassles of seeking and renting lodging, and one of the best ways to do this easily is by hiring a campervan.
There are many different names and categories of campervans. You can get popup trailers to be hauled behind your transportation vehicle. Or if you prefer, a motorhome has its own engine and more space. Motor trailers, RVs, tented 4 x 4s, and campervans are often variations of the theme of self-propelled living areas.
Most campervans will have a living space, a small kitchen and a bed. In addition, the campervan may have a bath and water closet.
If you are unfamiliar with driving a campervan, you may choose a unit with a shorter wheelbase. This will track more like the passenger vehicles you are used to driving. While most campervans are quite maneuverable, some can corner a little easier than others.
The price you pay for a campervan rental will vary according to the season. When you consider hiring a campervan abroad, consider whether or not is holiday season in the country you are visiting, this can affect the amount you pay for your rental.
You’ll also save money when you hire a campervan abroad, because you won’t have the expense of a hotel room. If you fly in to your destination, you can hire a campervan and be spared the amounts of a rental car plus hotel room. Just contact a rental company, and get a free quote. You will not be obligated to hire the RV just because you got a quote.
You can also find directories that outline camper spaces in each country you plan to visit. This will help you to know ahead of time where to find places to park for the night. You can also contact certain venues to find out parking information. For instance, many people follow football and you can contact the venues to reserve parking.
One suggestion when you plan to hire a campervan abroad is to consider flying in to countries that charge less for the rental, then driving to the country you wish to visit. For instance, many people fly into Spain or France and rent campervans to drive into Germany.
If you want a touch of luxury, you can find campervans that have luxurious bathrooms, hot and cold water, and spacious sleeping areas for up to 12 people. Consider if you’ll have privacy issues – are there accordion doors that you can use to close off dressing areas? Are the draperies around the windows and windshield sufficient to cut out light and render privacy?
Another thing to watch out for when you hire a campervan is make sure that the generator for the van is working properly. Most generators must have oil added to them quite frequently. If you find that the electric generator is difficult to start, make sure it has its full load of oil. This will assure you of electrical power if you are forced to park where there is no electricity.
Josh loves writing and sharing his experiences. He is currently Living in the seaside town of Weston-Super-Mare and works for a company experienced in campervan conversions.