Category Archives: Travelling

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

The UK’s best mountain biking destinations (Part 2)

In the UK’s more Northern quarters, Scotland boasts all levels of mountain biking at 7 Stanes, Glentress. Warm up on the green trail and progress to the blue get the adrenaline rush. The specially designed red trail is the most popular in the forest, giving bikers a playground of beams, elevated trails and jumps to play with, whilst the black route will test the most skilled riders. For those looking to show off some stunts and moves, the free ride park will tempt all those with skills and courage onto its ramps, berms and push-up tracks. For accommodation in this area (The Tweed Valley, for the less geographically inclined of you) there are plenty of bed and breakfasts, hotels and campsites on offer. The Mountain Biking Hospitality Scheme will see to it that both you and your mountain bike are well looked after, suggesting that you stay in the Tweed Valley Bunkhouse, equipped with Gym equipment, a snooker table and most importantly secure cycle storage, this is the perfect cycle accommodation for groups, sleeping up to 12 people.

Grizedale’s forest trail in Cumbria’s Lake District is arguably England’s finest mountain biking destination. The North Face Trail sounds intimidating but is red graded, so a certain level of fitness and technical skill is required to get around the 16km trail of steep descents and leg pumping ascents. Elsewhere in the Lake district, you can pretty much take your bike anywhere, single track trails are available on one of the regions many thousands of footpaths whilst more bike friendly designated routes include Goosey Foot Tarn and the Whinlatter Altura and Quercus trails for more adrenaline kicks.  If throwing yourself off ramps isn’t appealing for you or your two-wheeled friend, there are plenty of gentle lakeside bike friendly trails, by Windermere, Grassmere and Bassenthwaite lakes. Of course the Lake District is packed with many different types of holiday accommodation and lets. The busy towns of Ambleside, Windermere and Keswick (All within a half hour car drive from these trails) have many guest cottages, youth hostels and campsites and so every budget is catered for.

If going up to the Lake District is too far North for you, perhaps the Forest of Dean would suit you better. Fast and flowing trails will have you soaring past trees at an unforgettable pace and the handy BMX trail nearby keeps the stunt lovers entertained for hours as they practice and perfect their tricks. With something for those who want a physical challenge, families, and downhill adrenaline junkies the Forest of Dean will certainly keep you busy.

Warwick Castle

Warwick Castle remains one of the UK’s biggest tourist attractions. “Britain’s Ultimate Castle” is an experience never to be missed, whether visiting the UK from overseas or doing a family day out, there is fun and history to be experienced all in one.

The castle’s history is a rich and bloody one. First built in 914AD to protect the local town of Warwick from Danish invaders, the castle has been seized, inherited and reconstructed several times. Finally in 1978 the seventh Greville Earl, Charles Guy, sold the castle over to Tussauds group, and it has been used as a tourist attraction ever since continually opening new attractions all the time.

The castle grounds are split into several different themes, including Merlin: The Dragon Tower, an attraction added in 2011 based on the popular BBC series of the young Arthurian legend Merlin. The creepy castle dungeons will send shivers down your spine with exhibits of decaying bodies, torture instruments and the ominous chanting of monks. Perhaps afterwards, calming down with a relaxing stroll around the gardens and the castle grounds, will settle your nerves. Explore the newly restored rose garden, done to the style of Lancelot “Capability” Brown; the castle’s first appointed gardener and landscaper. Experience medieval life first hand with the Kingmaker as you prepare for battle, or find out what it really takes to be a princess in the Princess Tower, or perhaps you fancy yourself something with a bit of grandeur through exploring the Grand Hall and the State Rooms.

If you’re travelling from afar, you can stay in the on-site hotel from as little as £30ppn! However there is of course plenty of warm and welcoming accommodation to be found in Warwick itself. The Tudor Inn will continue your medieval themed trip perfectly. This 600 year old inn is full of character and guests really enjoy the traditional feel of it, including the modern comforts of good showers and comfortable beds. Rooms start at £90 a night for a single and £150 for a double.

Staying safe on holiday Part 2

If you’re travelling with children and want to go out at night, find out as much as you can about hiring a nanny for the evening and make sure you keep a phone with you so that they can contact you in case of an emergency. Leaving your children alone in a hotel room can leave them open to all sorts of dangers, especially if the security isn’t that high.

Safety in the sun; for many British travelers our lack of sunshine often leads us to go a bit crazy when it comes to stripping down and lying under the sun. I have been travelling enough in the UK and abroad to have heard plenty of horror stories about people who have lain in the sun for too long and got third degree burns from having fallen asleep with no sun cream or suffered heat stroke due to not being used to the higher temperatures. Even on holiday in the UK, if it’s one of those rare hot days, we can often be liable to underestimate the power of the sun and forego sun cream altogether. You only have to read the back of your bottle of sun cream lotion to see that you should avoid lying in the sun between 11am and 3pm. Pay special attention to children and make sure that they are regularly topped up with sun cream between swimming and playing about. Also pay attention to your skin tone. For someone who is very fair, use a higher factor sun cream, between 40 and 50 SPF whilst darker skin tones can get away with as little as a 15 or 20SPF sun cream without burning. Also pay attention to how much you are drinking in hotter weather. Keep a bottle of water handy and take regular sips to stop you getting dehydrated and to prevent the risk of sun stroke.

So use your common sense, pay attention to your surroundings, if a situation feels dangerous, trust your instincts and stay out of danger. Make sure you always have money to get a taxi in case of an emergency and make sure that you have all the appropriate insurance if something should go wrong. Remember that although you’re on holiday, danger doesn’t cease to exist.

Staying safe on holiday

Whether you’re going away in the UK or going away abroad, personal safety is often overlooked as many travelers are too busy looking at the local sites and getting to know new people to be aware of the potential dangers going on around them. Here are a few useful tips for self preservation whilst you’re away. 

Before going on holiday it is important to read up about the culture of the place you’re going to. Getting clued up on the local laws (especially if you’re going abroad to somewhere where many laws are based on strict religious practices and tourist activities are often frowned upon). Understanding and respecting the culture of your destination is the key to keeping you safe.

For couples or if you meet somebody whilst you’re away, it is important not to get too carried away with each other in public. Over the last few years, the newspapers are getting increasingly full of stories that have been caught and imprisoned for indecent behavior in public, especially in countries such as Dubai where religion is the rule of thumb!

For women, paying attention to how you dress really influence your safety. Although on holiday you want to relax and get a tan, wearing too few clothes is often seen as an invitation for men to approach you and you may put yourself at greater risk of being harassed. Avoid wearing short skirts and low cut tops and instead aim for something light and cotton which will still cover you up or opt for the timeless maxi dress trend which still is feminine and pretty, but keeps you cool and covered head to toe. It is also safer for women to travel in groups or with a male companion as you are less likely to be approached and get into a spot of trouble.

Paying attention at night is of the utmost importance. Watch how much you are drinking and keep yourself hydrated with plenty of water in between alcoholic beverages. Inebriation not only leads to accidents whilst abroad, but can land you in all sorts of trouble, especially if you end up getting into brawls or behave in a disorderly fashion. If you’re out with a group of friends, try and stick together and make sure you all have a key or will agree upon a meeting point should you get separated. Agree to watch out for each other and if anyone gets into trouble, take them home and give them plenty of water. Similarly, avoid drugs at all costs whilst abroad. Many people have been arrested whilst trying to leave the country having not even taken any drugs and having traces of powder on their shoes or clothing. Try and stay out of situations where there is heavy use of drugs and don’t try anything new as you don’t know how you will react or what is in it.

Walking in the Scottish Highlands

I will remain eternally grateful to my parents for giving me opportunities to explore UK regions that I would never have thought to explore myself. When I was a sulky teenager, my parents packed up the car and we took the epic eight hour drive north to the Scottish Highlands, which is really Britain’s true wilderness. Needless to say, my moody teenage strops were humbled as we embarked on a journey down narrow roads passing pine forests, moors and mountains with wildlife like no other in Britain through this sparsely inhabited wilderness. Right after you leave Inverness, it feels like civilization stops and the rest of the world has ceased to matter.

A holiday to the deepest reaches of The Highlands is really targeted at the outdoor type, so unless you intend on getting fitted for a kilt, or intend to blow several hundred on a bagpipe to frighten the neighbours with upon your return, leave your Mastercard at home and bring your boots instead.

The Highlands have plenty to challenge any keen outdoor sports enthusiast, Scotland’s “Right to Roam” access law, permits you to explore the whole region at free will however, I can suggest a few popular, well-beaten trails which will give you the best views of one of the UK’s most beautiful regions. Two incredible walks worth mentioning are Stac Pollaidh and Suilven, both in the Western Highlands near the largest settlement of Assynt. Stac Pollaidh (or Stack Polly as the English prefer to say) gives great views over Assynt and you can of course see Suilven from here.

Whilst I recommend taking a good quality OS map it is always worth checking out what you’re signing up for with Scotland’s very own internet guide to walking the Scottish Munroes. The recommended route up and around Stac Pollaid takes between 2 and 4 hours on a very easy, well laid path, yet to reach the summit, it does involve a bit of scrambling but you can miss this part out and just continue the main circuit, however you will get the maximum benefits of the view if you choose to take the scramble! Suilven is a very long day out and if you want to complete it properly, you will need to set off very early and take plenty of drinking water. The walk to the mountain is a long one, however very interesting, although not flat, it isn’t particularly tough but snacks and energy supplies are vital. The final ascent is a short but steep one, with breath taking views and if you’re really well prepared then the reward of a hot flask of coffee and some Scottish Tablet (that’s fudge to you and me!).

Relaxing, rural and green in Dordogne, France

When you think about holidays in France, Dordogne is probably not the first region you think about but it offers a wealth of panoramas, activities and historic culture and is nestled next to arguably the best wine region in the world.

Situated in the south-west region, east of Bordeaux, the Dordogne is famed for its river, hence a host of water activities occur year-round; the most popular being canoeing. There are many organisations offering lessons and excursions, so check with the Federation Francaise de Canoe-Kayak for information on the best spots nearest you.

Another popular holiday activity is go-karting. Lubserac boasts a professional circuit of almost 1000 metres and bikes or cars for everyone aged over five years. In Javerlac there are two tracks – one for adults, the other for children.

If you are an animal lover, you could try horse riding, with 8,500 kilometres of winding countryside track, going through small villages and beaches. You could visit the Aquarium du Périgord Noir, in Le Buge, to view a wide variety of fish and reptiles.

You can also see lions, tigers and, rhinos, giraffe, camels, monkeys and birds at Le Parc du Reynou, near Limoges.

Matt Hopkins loves to holiday in Dordogne so much, he now owns a self catering holiday villa there. He says, “The Dordogne is a great region of France – it has just about everything you would expect from France – beautiful countryside, vineyards, cafe culture, amazing history.

“I like that it is far enough for great weather, but not too far – so you can drive to the area within half a day. This is the primary reason we chose this area – accessible, yet far enough to escape the north European weather.”

You can fly to the Dordogne via Bergerac airport – with Toulouse and Bordeaux also viable. In Bergerac you can also hire a car from just over £26 a day, which is advisable because France is a very big place. Or you can pick up a car in the UK and cross the channel to northern France and then drive down.

Matt adds, “When we take our holidays there, we pretty much just relax – soak up the sun, read books, enjoy the wine and such. But if you want to be more adventurous, there’s plenty to do to keep you going – canoeing down the Dordogne river, horse riding, cycling, some fantastic walks too.”

OTHER TOP DORDOGNE ATTRACTIONS

Château de Castelnaud
A 12th century castle in Nontron which dominates the skyline. After three restoration projects, the château is now open to the public and home to an impressive, popular museum of medieval warfare.

Rocamadour
A hugely popular village which draws tourists wanting to see the black Madonna – the shrine of the Virgin Mary.

Les Jardins de Marqueyssac
Wonderfully manicured gardens overlooking the Dordogne river where each hedge has been carefully snipped into whorls and bubbles, producing a stunning effect – all done by hand. Stay until dark to view the fairy lights.

Lascaux
Not far to the north of Sarlat, the Lascaux caves are known around the world and have been given UNESCO World Heritage status.

Markets
You will find markets all over the region in towns and villages. Well worth a visit.

By Steve Masters

 

How to make the best of British public transport for your holidays

Using British public transport for your holiday doesn’t have to limit the number of places you can visit and will knock off quite a few costs from your holiday which you would accumulate if you were to take your car with you. So leave the car in the garage and hop on the bus to your nearest train station and head off on holiday.

The UK has many options when it comes to public transport, and you can make your travels incredibly cheap with some forward planning and flexibility. Only last year, I managed to travel from Lancaster, to Swansea, to Aberystwyth and back again for under £50, using a mixture of coach and rail travel. I should probably mention the several hour wait in the early hours of the morning in Birmingham city centre’s Macdonald’s joint (it’s the only place that is guaranteed to be open 24 hours a day!), however as I was on a budget, it was necessary!

Obviously rail travel is the fastest option in the UK, but not always the cheapest or the most direct, yet with advanced booking and discount cards such as the senior rail cards, and young person rail cards, those most in need can find suitable discounts. On one or two occasions I have managed to strike gold and get first class rail tickets cheaper than standard class, and I have to say, I felt really privileged by my complimentary coffee and sausage sandwich, not to mention the quieter carriage and free luggage rack space!

For the more tolerant traveler, coach travel is an incredibly cheap option. Megabus and National Express, the leading UK coach companies offer some exciting “fun fares” which can see you travelling from Edinburgh to London for £17 one way with Megabus. Although not as cheap as Megabus, National Express travels to more destinations and is much more accessible, but still offers discounts to certain discount card holders. Be prepared with coach travel however that you can’t choose your neighbours, and it’s nowhere near as comfortable as rail transport but if your wallet overrides your comfort needs, it will place you in a convenient city centre location at a low price!

Travelling with Children: Feeding them whilst away (Part 3)

Welcome to the final installment of my guide to keeping the whole family satisfied on holiday. We hope that you have found all our tips useful so far! Today we will be telling you how to feed the family on a budget whilst you’re away on holiday…

I spend a lot of time trawling visitor websites for every town I’m interested in visiting and finding cool places to eat out whilst I’m away and I’m always overwhelmed by the amount of restaurants that offer “Kids Eat Free” menus; these restaurants will make your holiday experience much more relaxed rather than trying to head to the most expensive or critically acclaimed restaurants in town where the staff are not quite so accustomed to children. If there’s a time to go out to Michelin Starred or award winning restaurants, the family holiday is not the time to do it. For the really organized and food savvy families, find accommodation which gives you free use of the kitchen. Here you can sit down to family dinner as you would at home, whilst keeping the costs down, but still enjoying all your family favourites, but do remember you’re on holiday, you don’t have to be a domestic god or goddess ALL the time, take a night off at least once on your holiday and try and some of the local treats on offer.

 

Finally it is most important to remember to relax. Going on holiday isn’t an arctic expedition, and stressing will only make you stress more. Laugh when little things go wrong, but organization and preparation are your best friends!

 

Travel Tips: travelling with children (part 1)

5 Tips for Travelling with Kids.

Taking your children on holiday with you needn’t be a nightmare. Every parent dreads hearing “Are we there yet?” for the hundredth time, or worse still “I’m bored”. You’ve been saving up for this holiday for ages, so you really should not despair. Bringing the kids along for a family holiday rather than leaving them with their grandparents, aunties and uncles could actually make your holiday all the more fun! Here are five tips for making the most of your family trip.

The holiday begins the moment you step in the car, so this is where the fun should begin. If you want the kids to sleep the whole way, setting off very late at night or early in the morning can give you the peace and quiet you need to concentrate on driving and navigation, but for those travelling during the day, it’s important to maintain a level of joviality and excitement. Before bundling into the car, make sure you’re armed with snacks and drinks as stopping at service stations can get expensive. If your child is happy to drink water, then stick to this as spillages are likely and juice and fizzy drinks are much harder to clean up. It is also important to keep your children entertained. Obviously this depends a lot on age, but usual car games such as “I spy” or making funny names out of passing number plates can be good fun for all the family. Car journeys have evolved a lot since today’s parents would have gone on holiday. If you have them, bring all of your children’s favourite books, hand-held games consoles and portable DVD players to keep them quietly entertained. Finally it is important to stop regularly for toilet breaks to stretch your legs, get some fresh air and of course go to the loo.

Your tastes will not always match your child’s when it comes to choosing things to do, however it is your holiday too, so don’t be bullied into spending lots of money on attractions solely aimed at children. Choosing activities on family holidays needs to be balanced. Do one activity which is aimed at their interests at the beginning of the week and one at the end. In the mean time, if your kids aren’t into gardens or museums in the same way you are, try and come up with things to give them to do. Challenge them to take interesting photos, draw their favourite museum exhibit, or just continue playing I Spy to ease the pressure from any unwanted moaning.

Join us again tomorrow for more handy travel tips for taking the kids away with you!