Author Archives: homesforholiday

Sheffield

No longer an industrial city of the Industrial Revolution, Sheffield has reinvented itself as a cosmopolitan and interesting city with lots to offer visitors.

What to see:

The Millennium Galleries is made up of galleries like the Craft and Design Gallery, Metalwork Gallery, Ruskin Gallery and a Special Exhibition Gallery where you can see touring exhibitions from galleries like the Tate and V&A. Weston Park Museum (formerly the Sheffield City Museum) is particularly interesting for children with galleries about Sheffield, the Arctic, natural history, art and treasures.

For the industrial and social history of Sheffield, visit Kelham Island Museum. Its main attraction is a massive 3-cylinder rolling mill engine that is in steam every hour.  On the same theme, Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet has water-powered grinding wheels, trip hammers and special “operating” days and “fayres”.  The Canal Basin is an attractive basin straddled by a warehouse where you can see colourful narrowboats and go on boat trips.

The Winter Garden is a conservatory in the city centre that’s home to exotic ferns, trees, cacti and other plants from around the world. More extensive, Sheffield Botanical Gardens are Victorian gardens with grand conservatories designed by the architect of the Crystal Palace.

Shopping:

Fargate is where many of the national chains can be found.  On the other side of the city centre is the Moor which is a cheap and cheerful alternative high street and perfect for those on a tight budget. The Moor has two pounds stores and lots of other value outlets. For something special, go to the Devonshire Quarter and Ecclesall Road which are filled with trendy shops, and Abbeydale Road for antiques.

Castle Market is Sheffield’s largest indoor market with over 200 stalls offering all sorts of things from household goods to fashion, groceries and fresh produce. It’s particularly recommended for its fresh meat, fish, fruit and vegetables.

Cornwall Part 2

Welcome back! I hope you enjoyed the first part on Cornwall.

Things to do:

Minack Theatre is an outdoor theatre that was built by hand into the side of cliff which looks over the sea. The theatre includes a museum and offers tours when there are no performances

Some of the festivals to look out for are St.Endellion’s Easter Festival, a world-class classical music festival and around the same time the Cornwall Spring Flower Show (31st March – 1st April) at Boconnoc near Lostwithiel which includes everything for the garden, with displays, competitions, gifts and exhibits. Then in May, see the Lost Fest parades, exhibitions, and music and art events at Lostwithiel. St Ives’ September Festival celebrates the town’s artistic heritage, whilst at Newquay, the Cornwall Film Festival (8th – 11th November) celebrates Cornish and international filmmaking with events at the Lighthouse Cinema.

Follow the Coast Path that runs all the way round the Cornish coast for 258 miles. Land’s End is the extreme westerly point on the mainland of England where you can admire the Atlantic waves crashing on the beaches and on a clear day see across to the Scilly Isles.

Getting around:

Many of Cornwall’s coastal towns are linked to the main railway system by smaller, scenic branch lines. Cornwall has an extensive network of bus services run by First Devon and Cornwall and Western Greyhound. Ride Cornwall is a one-day unlimited travel ticket for use of trains and most bus services within Cornwall.

by top Cornish chefs. The December Primestock Show is when the quay is filled with cattle and sheep.

Eating out:

Newquay Meadery in Penzance is in a converted 1920’s cinema and is popular as a value for money restaurant that particularly welcomes families and children.

Famous chef Rick Stein has his home at Padstow, so where better to try his wonderful fish dishes than at one of his four seafood restaurants in Padstow or his fish and chip shop in Falmouth.

Accommodation:

For affordable B&B close to the beach, the coastal path, and famous Bedruthan Steps, try Efflins’ Farmhouse. Near to both, you’re spoilt for choice whether to dine at Jamie Oliver’s ‘15’ at Watergate Bay or at one of Rick Stein’s restaurants at Padstow.

If you fancy something a little grander, there are several hotels that used to be manor houses scattered across Cornwall. For example, the Rose-in-Vale hotel was a Georgian country house and can be found in a secluded wooded valley just outside Mithian on the north Cornish coast.

Cornwall

A popular holiday destination, there’s more to Cornwall than just clotted cream, smuggling and King Arthur.

Where to go:

Cornwall’s only city Truro has a wonderful Gothic revival cathedral. Wth its three soaring spires and the grandest stained glass project in the world, it is a unique ‘church within a church’.

Celebrate Cornwall’s maritime heritage at Falmouth’s National Maritime Museum.  For modern art, Tate St Ives is one of the four Tate Galleries in the UK. Also in St Ives, the Eden Project’s world’s largest greenhouse is where two gigantic conservatories contain a rainforest and fruits and flowers of the Mediterranean, South Africa and California.

St. Michael’s Mount is a fairytale island with its ancient harbour, church and medieval castle that you can reach on foot along the causeway or go by ferry at high tide.

Visit 13th century Tintagel Castle, legendary birthplace of King Arthur and seat of the kings of Cornwall. Earl Richard of Cornwall built the medieval castle but excavations reveal how a Cornish royal seat existed here 400-700AD.  King Arthur’s Hall in Bodmin Moor is a monument of fifty-six stones arranged in a rectangle with a bank of earth around them. Beware the legendary Beast of Bodmin, a phantom-wild cat that haunts and stalks at night…

Shopping

Truro is Cornwall’s shopping capital, with Lemon Quay having a reputation for some of the finest markets in Cornwall. Antique collectors should head for Truro’s famous flea markets. Arts and crafts are showcased at the ‘Made in Cornwall’ fairs, whilst the annual ‘Cornwall Food and Drink Festival’ is a three-day event celebrating quality produce and cuisine with cookery demonstrations

Travel & Holiday Ideas

Are you having trouble planning your holidays this year? Why not start looking online? There are literally hundreds of great travel forums on the Internet which offer the keen holiday maker unlimited ideas for a new vacation or holiday break. You could even find a holiday blog like this one and pick up some top holidaying tips!

If you love holidaying abroad then why not try searching for holiday blogs which offer ideas on local accommodation or holiday suggestions in a general area or location you’re interested in? You’ll often find links to lesser known holiday destinations, maybe off the beaten track. It’s always best to plan your journey ahead though and organising your own holiday can be more risky with less back up if things go wrong, but provided you get good travel insurance and plan transport and take all the security and safety precautions, planning your own bespoke holiday can be great fun and often lead to a more unique and memorable experience.

You may just want some tips on local attractions, maybe you’ve booked your holiday and are looking for scenic walks or tours, all this information can be found on holiday forums and travel blogs.

Forums are very useful indeed, as they often have others who are willing to share their experiences of a location or holiday resort whether it be good or bad, you can ask advice, pick up tips on where’s hot and where’s not, it’s a good way to pass on your own experiences too!

Holiday blogs and travel forums can help the avid holiday maker make informed and well thought out decisions on where to visit. If you’re hoping to visit the UK then such websites are equally as useful, with links to local accommodation and reviews.

So next time you think about planning your holidays, or even your weekend breaks, rather than simply heading down to the nearest travel agent, have a look online to at least get some ideas, you may just find that perfect retreat which you wont find advertised in the travel agents.

Article by Simon Lucas

Bournemouth (Part 2)

Thanks for coming back. I hope you enjoyed the first part on Bournemouth.

Things to do:
Bournemouth has a number of exciting festivals. The Bournemouth Carnival Week was originally known as Bournemouth Regatta Week and has been over a hundred years. Activities take place on the beach, Pier precinct and Pleasure Gardens, where musicians, dancers and actors come to compete and perform.

‘ Bourne Free’, Bournemouth’s annual gay Pride Festival takes places every July and in August you can see the spectacular air displays at the Bournemouth Air Festival.

Go up in the air with the Bournemouth Eye, where tethered balloon flights give you a panoramic view of Bournemouth from 500ft up. If you’d rather keep your feet on the ground, walk along the coast and explore the Chines, curious ravines that have formed in the cliffs. The most impressive are Boscombe Chine and Durley Chine.

If you’re looking for something a little more educational, Bournemouth Oceanarium has ten recreated environments and displays about the ‘Global Meltdown’, along with an interactive dive cage to make this a fascinating place to visit.

There are concerts and exhibitions held regularly at the Bournemouth International Centre, as well as political party conferences.

Getting around:

Bournemouth is very accessible by road and rail. By bus, it takes about two and a half hours from London and there are frequent trains from London, Poole and the Midlands, with trains coming from Manchester via Birmingham New Street, Nottingham and Newcastle.

Shopping:

There are lots of choices for shopping, with all the well-known high street names in the centre, but also many independent shops. Larger stores like Beales, Dingles, Debenhams, Marks and Spencers are all represented. The Castlepoint Shopping Centre is some way out of town, but easily accessible by public transport. The Boscombe area is renowned for antique shops and vintage and designer clothes shops. Westbourne also offers a selection of designer outlets.

So whether you’re looking for something more special like menswear for the larger gentlemen, Hunts Clothing can help you, or for the more ordinary, there’s a good open-air market open Thursdays and Saturdays.


Where to stay:

Bournemouth has a huge choice of accommodation. For the budget conscious, the Whitehall Hotel in the Westcliffe area has had several good reviews. With views over Studland Bay, it has large rooms and is very handy for the town centre and beaches. If you want to splurge, the Boscombe Spa Hotel is only 500 metres from the beach and has comfortable en suite bedrooms and also comes recommended.

Bournemouth

Traditionally a retirement town, Bournemouth has become a thriving centre for students and as a popular seaside town is now attracting many tourists.

Places to see:

Whether you have come for the sandy beaches or some sightseeing, Bournemouth is a good place to visit, especially for families. Bournemouth Pier includes a theatre and Boscomber Pier is found a bit further down.

There are a couple of castles that are well worth visiting. Sherbourne Castle was originally built by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1594, but has since 1617 been home to the Digby family. Much older is Corfe Castle which was built in the 11th century and dominated the gap in the Purbecks. It’s just 14km (9 miles) away from Bournemouth and commands an impressive view across the sea.

If you’re looking for museums, the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum displays art from the last century and Japanese artefacts. The interior of the museum is very attractive and well worth a good look in its own right.  

About 40km (25 miles) away from Bournemouth is Salisbury Cathedral, a fine 13th century cathedral with the tallest spire in Britain.

Eating out:

Being by the sea, it’s no surprise that fish figures highly on the menu. Voted the best chippie in Britain, Chez Fred has traditional fish and chips won’t burn a hole in your pocket. If you want to spend a bit more though, and fancy really good fish, the Atlantic Fish Restaurant comes highly recommended. There’s a wide range of international cuisine, from spicy and cheap southern Indian curries at Dosa World to more upmarket Spanish tapas dishes at Tapas Plus.

Please come back tomorrow to read about things to do, shopping and where to stay in Bournemouth.

Brighton (Part 2)

Thanks for coming back. I hope you enjoyed the first part about Brighton.

Things to do:

Brighton hosts many festivals and highlight of Brighton’s social calendar is the three-week Brighton Festival and Brighton Fringe in May that brings the arts together. Music, art, literary discussions and film premieres take place at venues all over Brighton. Other festivals include Brighton’s Science Festival (February) and Brighton’s Winter Pride and main Brighton Pride (late July-early August), said to be the best Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Pride Festival in the UK.

Go to venues like the Theatre Royal, Pavilion Theatre, Corn Exchange Theatre and Dome Concert Hall Theatre for a range of performing arts. Komedia is particularly popular for comedy, music, cabaret, theatre and children’s shows.

In June every year, thousands of people take to the road on bicycles for the London to Brighton Bike Ride which benefits the British Heart Foundation. If this sounds too energetic, the Burning of the Clocks winter solstice (21 December) celebration is a procession of lanterns from the city centre to the seafront culminating in a bonfire of lanterns and fireworks.

Getting around:

Brighton is very easy to get to from London, taking less than an hour by train and a similar time by road from the M25.

Shopping:

North Laine is famous for its quirky shops selling all sorts of weird and wonderful vintage things. The Lanes with its little shops (mainly jewellery shops) has many music shops, cafes, bars and restaurants. There’s a flea market at Kensington Gardens and for the really funky, check out the Beaded Lily Big Bead Boutique for handmade glass beads and designer jewellery.

Where to stay:

Brighton has something to suit every pocket, from cheap backpacker hostels to the five star De Vere Hotel. Baggies Backpackers gets rave reviews if you’re looking for something that’s cheap and basic, where you can cook for yourself and be close to all the action.

If you’re looking for something a bit more comfortable, then you can’t go far wrong with the Granville Hotel. Brighton’s original boutique hotel, it has individually themed rooms with half of them having a sea view.

If you really want to treat yourself however, you can’t do better than the five star De Vere Grand Hotel, an iconic Victorian building that sits right on the seafront. As much an institution, to quote the Grand, it’s a lesson in extravagance.

Brighton

Close to London, Brighton is a popular seaside resort that‘s been a favourite since the 19th century when George IV made it popular with his Royal Pavilion.

Places to see:

Relax or visit the sights, there’s plenty to see. Walk from Brighton Pier, with all the usual arcade attractions to Brighton Marina. Packed with yachts, you can stop for a drink or continue a little further to the beach used by surfers.

Brighton was made famous by the Royal Pavilion. John Nash turned this into the sumptuous palace you can see today, with its Indian-style façade and Oriental feel inside. Preston Manor is a former manor house just outside Brighton where you can see a collection of fine art, ceramics and furniture.

There are several museums including the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery and for children, the Toy and Model Museum. The oldest working aquarium in the world is the Sea Life Centre with a covered walkway to see into the aquarium.

Eating out:

As you’d expect of a seaside town, there are lots of seafood stalls on the seafront serving fish and chips, freshly cooked in front of your eyes. Brighton boasts a wide choice of restaurants from all over the world: Indian, Japanese, Italian, New York-style restaurants and burger bars. For example, Hell’s Kitchen handily located in North Laine, is famous for its hot salt beef and potato latkes and serves up New York deli-style bagels.

If you want something a little more special, try La Cave à Fromage on Western Road that serves excellent cheese and wine platters. Also with a branch in Kensington, it has an unrivalled selection of cheeses sourced from all over Britain and Europe, it has excellent reviews.

Please come back tomorrow to read about things to do, shopping, getting around and where to stay in Brighton.

Blackpool

Blackpool

Famous for the Blackpool Illuminations and the Blackpool Tower, there’s a lot more to the place that attracts visitors.

Places to see:

Blackpool’s answer to the Eiffel Tower, the view from the top of the Blackpool Tower is worth the climb. You go up seven levels of attractions including a circus, bug zone, aquarium and other distractions to delay your ascent.  Blackpool also has three piers and there are seven miles of beaches to explore.

The Blackpool Illuminations are on show for around five weeks through September and October and extend six miles along the Promenade, consisting of over a million light bulbs. Like a carnival, characters and themes are displayed with lasers and searchlights.

Things to do:

Blackpool is less of a place for sightseeing, but there’s a lot to do. For shows, the Winter Gardens is a popular venue. The hundred year old Grand Theatre comes highly recommended for its range of performances from community theatre, opera and national variety shows. Blackpool’s Dance Festival is a world famous annual ballroom dance competition held at the Tower Ballroom, the global centre for ballroom dancing.

One of Blackpool’s main attractions is the Pleasure Beach, maybe Britain’s largest funfair. If you don’t fancy a ride on the eleven roller-coasters, there’s a children’s rides area, side stalls and the park has some excellent Art Deco buildings. Those with a gambling streak might want to try their luck at one of the casinos along the Golden Mile, or see if you can win the jackpot in one of the arcades. For something a little calmer, you can take a donkey ride on the beach.

Getting around:

Blackpool has its own small international airport and offers domestic flights include cheap budget flights to other destinations in the UK. It’s well-connected by road and rail and is easy to get around by public transport.

Shopping:

Blackpool has a couple of shopping areas: one in the town centre with the Hounds Hill shopping centre; and the other in the South Shore Waterloo Road-Bond Street area. This area consists more of clothing shops, souvenir shops and even has an all the year round Christmas shop. The outdoors Bonney Street Market is full of little stalls selling a wide variety of items to buy.

Catch a tram to reach Cleveleys Market where you can find lots of traditional shops, from bakers to cafes selling traditional seaside food and lots of little shops that will keep browsing for hours.

Freeport Shopping Outlet Village is out of town a bit and is a US discount outlet style shopping park has  Marks & Spencer and Next stores in addition to other popular retailers.

Eating out:

There’s a wide range of choice from the best in fish and chips like at Harry Ramsdens on the main Promenade. A more rustic setting like La Fontana offers with its lively Italian courtyard, offering good traditional Italian dishes or for great value, try the Blues Bar & Brasserie at the Big Blue Hotel. This is a popular family restaurant that’s won awards and comes recommended highly for its food and service.  Particularly good value are the fixed price menus and Sunday carvery. Rooms are available here too at affordable rates.

Where to stay:

Blackpool is said to have more hotel and B&B beds than the whole of Portugal. Self-catering and hostel accommodation is available for the budget conscious, but there are hundreds of cheap and mid-range guesthouses, B&Bs and hotels. Try the Sandpiper Bed & Breakfast Hotel that offers great value and clean rooms close to the seafront, just a couple of hundred yards from the Promenade.

For something more upmarket, as well as the Big Blue Hotel with its suites, family rooms and ‘superior’ room, the four-star Barcelo Imperial Hotel is Blackpool’s most historic and is an impressive seafront hotel close to the Tower.

Oxford

Oxford

City of gleaming spires, Oxford is home to one Britain’s most important universities.

Where to go:

One of the oldest libraries in Europe, The Bodleian is second in size only to London’s British Library. Even if can’t get inside Radcliffe Camera reading room, as it’s just for students, it’s well worth a look from outside. Many of the colleges however, allow visitors in at certain times. Balliol, University and Merton Colleges all claim to be the ‘oldest’, founded in the 13th century. Exeter College‘s Victorian neo-gothic chapel is modelled on the Sainte Chapelle in Paris and houses ‘The Adoration of the Magi’, the famous pre-Raphaelite tapestry by William Morris. Don’t miss Hertford Bridge (Bridge of Sighs), the cute little pedestrian bridge for the students of Hertford College.

Of Oxford’s museums, the most famous is the Ashmolean and the oldest in Britain (1683). It has fine displays of Egyptian, Near Eastern, Greek and Roman, Western and Eastern art. The Museum of the History of Science in the Old Ashmolean building displays early scientific instruments and Oxford University Museum of Natural History has three hundred years of scientific collections. For art fans Modern Art Oxford has art and photography exhibitions, while Christ Church Picture Gallery holds a renowned collection of Old Master paintings and drawings.

Some of the best views of Oxford can be seen from the Church of St Mary- the Virgin’s tower dates back to 1280. The Vaults and Garden coffee shop specialises in organic food and fair trade tea and coffee.

Things to do:

Throughout term-time, you can watch amateur drama productions at the Burton Taylor, Old Fire Station and New Theatres as well as the Oxford Playhouse. For classical music, go to the Sheldonian Theatre for professional and amateur concerts.

Mostly lectures are only accessible to members of the university, but look out for public talks and lectures that occur throughout the year. Experience life as an Oxford student and get a feel of college life by enrolling on a course offered by the Oxford Royale Academy.

Two hour long walking tours are an excellent way of visiting some of the more famous colleges, or take a ghost tours around the city. Punting is a favourite pastime: do-it-yourself or hire someone to do the hard work for you.

Shopping:

Oxford’s finest restaurants, jewellers , fashion outlets, antique dealers and Oxford University shop are all on the High Street. Little Trendy Street or Little Clarendon Street is the bohemian area for shopping, and for interesting shopping, go to the Covered Market in the High Street where you’ll find shops selling chocolate, cakes, meat, hats, flowers and glassware.  Souvenir shops in the city centre sell Oxford University T-shirts, sweaters and all sorts of paraphernalia, though University of Oxford Shop is the official place to go.

Oxford has many bookshops selling antiquarian, specialist and new books. Blackwell’s Books is almost a tourist attraction in its own right, with what’s claimed to be the largest space for book sales in Europe.

Eating out:

Alpha Bar inside the Covered Market is where you can go for healthy organic, fair-trade food. Reasonably priced sandwiches have interesting fillings like baked tofu, seaweed and roasted vegetables. Salads are sold by the weight, so fill your recyclable container with healthy nosh.

Fishers Restaurant at St Clements is like a little corner of Cornwall, complete with lanterns, portholes and crisp red and white tablecloths. Fish is delivered fresh to the kitchen for the daily changing menu that includes mussels, lobster, seabass, Cornish sole, scallops, oysters, tuna and much more.

Where to stay:

Oxford Thames Four Pillars is a luxury four star hotel away from the bustle, set in 30 acres of parkland on the River Thames. Close to Christ Church College and St. Mary’s Church, it’s within easy access of the city centre.

The Old Bank Hotel is a Georgian boutique hotel that comes very highly recommended. Really central, it’s close to All Souls College, St. Mary’s Church and Radcliffe Camera.