Tag Archives: UK

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

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.

Scarborough

Scarborough

The town was founded in 966 by Thorgils Skarthi, a Viking raider, but there was a 4th century Roman signal station on the Castle Headland and evidence of settlers 2,500 years ago.

What to see:

Don’t miss Scarborough Castle that was built by Henry II. Visit the old harbour and fish quay where you might see trawlers unloading their catch. For the literary-minded, pay homage to Anne Bronte who was buried in St. Mary’s churchyard. Art lovers might want to visit Scarborough Art Gallery in its Italianate villa. It holds a collection of historic and contemporary art and there are often exhibitions on tour.

Scarborough is one of Britain’s oldest seaside resorts. As well as the impressive Castle Headland, some of the most beautiful beaches can be found here.

Things to do:

Regular performances of drama are held at the Stephen Joseph Theatre which was originally founded in 1955 by Stephen Joseph. All of local resident Sir Alan Ayckbourn’s plays have been premiered here.  Europe’s largest open air theatre, Scarborough Open Air Theatre has played host to Elton John and Dame Kiri Te Kanawa.

South Bay is where you’ll find all the fun of the seaside, with amusement arcades, a funfair, the harbour, the Spa complex and donkey rides. North Bay is much quieter.  You can walk along cobbled streets on the Foreshore to see the art work on the walls, or take a stroll to the Italian Gardens on the South Bay, or go up to Oliver’s Mount which offers great views around the town. A walk to the castle offers lovely sea views of both North and South Bay. If you’d rather not walk, take an Open Top bus along the seafront to Castle Headland. Alternatively, a miniature railway can take you from Peasholm to Scalby Mills and around the Open Air Theatre. Or go for a cruise on Scarborough Pleasure Steamers, historic little ships that were part of the D Day Flotilla. Special sunset cruises run throughout summer from the harbour.

Not far outside of Scarborough, Robin Hood`s Bay and Whitby Abbey are interesting day-trips. There are six miles of beautiful coast path walk, part of the Cleveland Way. Helmsley Castle and Rivaulx Abbey are not far west of Scarborough and you can walk between the two through the Yorkshire Moors National Park, also part of the Cleveland Way (3 miles each way).

Getting around:

Trains come cross-country from Liverpool, Manchester, Blackpool, Leeds, Huddersfield and York as well as north-south from London, Newcastle and Edinburgh to York where you can get a Transpennine Express train to Scarborough.

Eating out:

With over fifty chippies to choose from, this is THE home of fish and chips. It’s true, fish really does taste better by the sea!  Ice cream is also a speciality. At the 1930s ice-cream parlour, Harbour Bay, you can indulge in some of the biggest ice creams you’re ever likely to see.

Almost a Yorkshire institution, La Laterna Ristorante has stood at the same site for over forty years and serves high quality Italian food. Forget it if you’re after pizza as this is the place to come for game, risotto, pasta, and the Lanterna’s speciality, truffles.

Where to stay?

Eighteenth century and Grade II Listed, The Windmill is the last surviving windmill in the centre of Scarborough and has nine ensuite courtyard rooms , a couple of suites in The Windmill itself and two self-catering cottages.

For dramatic views across the sea, Raven Hall Country House Hotel is located 600 feet above sea level overlooking Robin Hood’s Bay. With a full range of amenities, the hotel also has a nine-hole cliff-side golf course, tennis courts, games room and heated indoor swimming pool. Eight Finnish lodges that have been designed with the environment in mind supplement the 52 rooms in this historic and quality hotel.

Plymouth

Plymouth          

A long nautical history, Plymouth is where the Mayflower left with the Pilgrim Fathers in 1620.

Places to see:

The Mayflower Steps are where the Pilgrim Fathers set off for New England in 1620 on the Mayflower. Visit the Plymouth Mayflower for an interactive insight into Plymouth’s nautical heritage and background to the Pilgrim Fathers’ trip.

Robert Lenkiewicz murals are huge murals scattered around the Barbican. Lenkiewicz achieved fame in the mid-1980s when he embalmed the body of a local tramp! Some people find his art disturbing.

If you fancy a tipple, visit the oldest hin producer, the Plymouth Gin Distillery. Making it here since 1793, you can tour around the stills before you take a tutored tasting and free G&T in the bar.

The much-restored Barbican area has over 100 listed buildings. Tudor houses on cobbled streets look out across a harbour filled with fishing trawlers and yachts. A lot of the Tudor and Jacobean buildings have been converted into galleries, craft shops and restaurants. Another historic area worth looking at is Devonport where you can go on the Devonport Heritage Trail with over 70 waymarkers outlining the route. For a good view over the city and surroundings, head for Smeaton’s Tower, an eye-catching 70ft high lighthouse that used to stand on the Eddystone Reef before it was moved here in the 1880s.

Francis Drake was supposed to have spied the Spanish fleet from Plymouth Hoe that overlooks Plymouth Sound. The Hoe became a favourite holiday spot in the Victorian era and now the promenade is backed by grand villas and hotels.

For further views of the surroundings, the Wheel of Plymouth offers 360 degree views from its 60m high moving platform.

Things to do:

Style Plymouth (March) is a live fashion show, where you can try out beauty treatments or can hang out at a ‘man creche’ in front of a big screen where live 6 Nations Rugby is screened.

 Sky Ride Plymouth (May) is an eight kilometre cycle ride that starts from Hoe Promenade and passes the city’s famous waterfront and landmarks such as Smeaton’s Tower.

Several cultural trails have been designed to explore the landscape and discover some of its hidden gems. Trails include a variety of themes including Man and the Landscape, Trade and Settlement, Coast in Conflict, a Colourful Landscape and Car Free days out.

Shopping:

Plymouth has one of the largest shopping centres in the South West featuring many independent retailers. National brands and high street names can be found in Plymouth’s Drake Cross shopping centre. Specialist retailers are concentrated in the Independent Quarter where you can pick up unique pieces of art from the Barbican’s historic quarter.

Getting about:

Plymouth is well served by rail, buses and ferries. The railway station is a few minutes from the town centre. Ferries and the Mountbatten Water Taxi operate daily from the Barbican landing stage.

Eating out:

Highly recommended, the Glassblowing House offers good value and high quality locally-sourced fresh produce. Overlooking Plymouth’s majestic Sutton Harbour waterfront, it’s just a stone’s throw away from the historic Mayflower Steps.

Plymouth runs regular farmers’ markets and hosts a number of food related events including the annual Flavourfest. For a real taste of Plymouth and the South West though, visit local organic farm shops, vegetable farms, clotted cream and ice cream dairies, real ale breweries and local vineyards and pick your own fruit for a great foodie day out.

Where to stay:

For a charming B&B, the Athenaeum Lodge Guest House in a Georgian Grade II Listed Building comes recommended. Located close to Plymouth Hoe, it’s just 200 metres from the sea and close to the centre of Plymouth.

Boringdon Hall Hotel is a historic and captivating Grade I Listed Elizabethan Manor House Hotel located on the edge of Dartmoor National Park and just five away from Plymouth.  The family owned and run four-star hotel has a number of majestic four-poster bedrooms with oak-panels and antique furnishings in the old part of the building.

Cambridge

Cambridge

The elite university has made Cambridge famous all over the world. Whilst you may not be lucky enough to get an invite to one of the college May Balls, there’s plenty to keep you busy in this beautiful old town.

Places to see:

Visit one or two of the fine old colleges that make up Cambridge University. King’s College and its Chapel are open to the public, as well as Queen’s College with its medieval Old Hall and Mathematical Bridge. Even if admiring only from the outside, the other colleges are worth looking at.

Cambridge is not short of museums. Maybe the most famous is the Fitzwilliam Museum, the University’s art and antiquities museum. Kettle’s Yard, home of Jim and Helen Ede also houses fine early 20th century art. The oldest museum is the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences and this is packed with over a million fossils, minerals and gemstones. The University Museum of Zoology includes specimens collected by Charles Darwin and complementing this, the Whipple Museum of the History of Science displays scientific instruments and models since the Middle Ages. The Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology has items coming from all over the world and the Museum of Classical Archaeology has one of the last collections of plaster casts of Greek and Roman sculpture left the world. The Folk Museum is the only local social history museum in Cambridge. As well as being the national memorial to Scott’s work, the Polar Museum covers the expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic by Scott and Shackleton, and is part of the Scott Polar Research Institute which continues their scientific work. You can visit the University Library’s exhibition of treasures and highlights from the Library’s world-class collections of manuscripts and printed books.

Cambridge is a city of green spaces. Take a wander along the Backs (meadows behind the colleges that back onto the River Cam); visit the Botanic Garden of Cambridge University that’s been open to the public since 1846 and is home to several important botanic collections; or Jesus Green, parkland that’s adjacent to Midsummer Common and provides a welcome retreat away from the bustling city centre. Parker’s Piece is another open space in the centre of the city, or one could visit even Christ’s Pieces, near to Christ’s College with its typical Victorian park design and tree lined avenues.

Things to do:

The Arts Picture House shows foreign and art-house films with an annual film festival in July. Also in July, look out for the Folk Music Festival and Shakespeare Festival. The Midsummer Fair (mid-June) and Strawberry Fair in early June are both held on Midsummer Common.

The Cambridge Corn Exchange is Cambridge’s arts and entertainment centre. The ADC Theatre hosts student and local amateur productions like Footlights, but something a bit more alternative, the Junction holds club nights, gigs, comedy and dance.

Getting around:

Cambridge is extremely well-connected, with good road links and frequent trains taking you London or directions north. National Express has a frequent and cheap coach service to London too.

Shopping:

Cambridge presents a good mixture of big shopping malls and small, independent boutiques. At the outdoor markets you can find traditional goods of high quality.

Eating out:

With over a hundred restaurants in Cambridge, there’s something for everyone.

Milton Brewery is a small real ale brewery with its own pub, the Devonshire Arms, housed in an old converted post office five minutes away from the station. As well as serving their own real ales as well as a selection from other micro-breweries, they have an excellent menu of traditional food like bubble and squeak, venison sausages and mash and Milton Ale-battered haddock, hand-cut chips and minted peas.

For something more stylish, the Midsummer House on Midsummer Common is Cambridge’s only Michelin starred restaurant and serves high quality British cuisine.

Where to stay:

For simple and modest B&B, you can’t go far wrong with Brooklands Guest House, a friendly guesthouse situated in the centre of Cambridge. A little bit out of Cambridge is the Bedford Lodge Hotel, located at Newmarket, the famous horse racing centre. A four-star hotel, it combines the charm and character of a country house but still offers the best in modern comfort.

Aberdeen

Aberdeen is famous for its imposing granite architecture and beautiful beaches. It has a long history and has plenty to offer its visitors.

Places to see:
Aberdeen boasts several museums: the children can dress up in one of the many uniforms at the Museum of the Gordon Highlanders Regiment; the Maritime Museum is where you can find out a bit about the mechanics and technology of ships and oil rigs; an art gallery features paintings from Impressionist to modern Scottish Colourists; and the Marischal Museum displays items brought back from all over the world by local people.

Old Aberdeen is where you’ll find St. Machar Cathedral and the university. The High Street and the Channory have many fine old buildings.

Things to do:
Aberdeen’s Bohemian Quarter near Belmont Street is where the night life, bars and live music venues are, along with the Belmont art-house cinema.

Choices for music lovers range from the Music Hall with classical music performances as well as other types of music, to The Lemon Tree alternative acts and the annual International Jazz Festival or pop and rock concerts that are held at the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre- easily identifiable by its tall viewing tower. For musicals and plays, His Majesty’s Theatre is the place to go.

Satrosphere Science Centre is Scotland’s first science and discovery centre that opened over twenty years ago. This place will keep the children entertained for hours with its interactive exhibits and live science shows.

For the more sportive, learn or refine your skiing style at Aberdeen Snowsports Centre, a top artificial snow-sports centre. Aberdeen and the surrounding area is a golf enthusiast’s paradise with over 50 courses to choose from. Play amongst the sand dunes of Balmedie at Donald Trump’s newest golf resort and tee off on fairways located 1,200 feet above sea level or play at the prestigious Royal Aberdeen course which is the sixth oldest club in the world.

Getting around:
Aberdeen’s rail station is in the centre of town. From London you can take advantage of the overnight sleeper service and arrive in Aberdeen feeling refreshed. Trains run frequently from Glasgow and Edinburgh connecting to the rest of the country. A choice of bus companies offers services all over Scotland and the rest of Britain. If you want to fly, Aberdeen Airport is one of the UK’s fastest growing airports and is just 6 miles from the city centre. You can get a ferry to Shetland or Orkney from Aberdeen too.

Shopping:
Wide and running a mile long, Union Street is the main shopping area. The shops are fairly standard here, but there are lots of little shops tucked away in the side streets, selling anything from Bohemian dresses to Indian furniture. For example, check out Ethnic Style for its Fairtrade clothing and other great gift ideas from Fairtrade suppliers.

There are a few covered shopping centres such as the Bon Accord Centre, linked to the St Nicholas Centre and Trinity Centre that offer you the usual high street shopping experience. The Academy and West End are where you’ll find unique boutiques and one-off designer shops. On the last Saturday of every month, Belmont Street is where you can shop for good produce at the Aberdeen Country Fair.

Eating out:
The Silver Darling on Pocra Quay at North Pier is a fish restaurant that’s run by Frenchman Didier Dejean and claims to have one of the most impressive coast views in Scotland.

Less of a place to eat (despite its name), The Grill is a whisky connoisseur’s dream. As well as fine malts, there’s also a first class range of draught and packaged lagers and cask and keg ales. Bar snacks include famous Stovies & Oatcakes and haggis.

Where to stay:
The Marcliffe at Pitfodde, just outside the city, offers luxury and style with its spa and leisure facilities. Set in 11 acres of wooded grounds, it’s a converted Victorian mansion furnished with many antiques and paintings by Scottish artists. It has an extensive cellar with over 400 wines and 100 malts!

For something more modest and in the centre of the city, Arden Guest House is a warm and friendly family-run guest house that gets good reviews.

Carlisle

Carlisle, famous for its castle and cathedral, you can still see remnants of Hadrian’s Wall here.

Places to see:

City of forts, the Castle dominates the town. It was built by William II in 1093 to protect the border with Scotland. Outside the city is Birdoswald Fort on Hadrian’s Wall. A stretch of the Wall has been preserved and you can walk to Willowford Bride, part of the Hadrian’s Wall Path National Trail. The Citadel is the name given to the two imposing drum towers on the southern edge of the city centre. Built by Henry VIII in 1541 to strengthen the southern approach to the city, they were re-built in 1810 when they were used house the courts and county prison. Criminal trials were held in the west tower and civil cases were tried in the east tower.

The cathedral was originally built in 1122 but has been rebuilt many times. Outside the city is Lanercost Priory that was originally founded by Augustinian canons in 1169. It was attacked several times, including a raid by Robert the Bruce.

What used to be the old town hall is now the Carlisle’s Tourist Information Office. It’s a beautiful early eighteenth century building. Opposite stands the iconic Market Cross which is a column with a lion and sundial on top. Don’t miss the classic old red post box put there in 1989 to commemorate that Carlisle was site of the UK’s first mainland pillar box.

Carlisle has several museums and the Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery gives an interesting insight into Carlisle’s turbulent history. The Guildhall Museum is a small museum in a fine 15th century town house. Carlisle’s military history is remembered in The King’s Own Royal Border Regiment Museum and the Solway Aviation Museum, while Carlisle Barracks brings you to the present offering an opportunity to visit a military post.

 Things to do:

If you fancy doing something a little different, try a cooking class at Kitchen Shoppe Cooking School which is also a gourmet superstore. There’s always something going on at Carlisle Theatre where there’s a full programme of concerts, films, community theatre and children’s events. Carlisle Sports Emporium is also an entertainment and event centre with three go-kart courses, a couple of miniature golf courses and other activities to try out.

Carlisle is host to festivals including spring flower shows, a summer music festival, outdoor film shows, Guy Fawkes’ Fireshow and Christmas lights.

Getting around:

Carlisle is well-served by road and rail transport with buses going to London, Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow; local buses go to Keswick, Penrith and Hexham. It’s about four hours by train from London and there are good services to cities all over the country, with the famous Seattle-Carlisle Railway going to Yorkshire.

Shopping:

The Lanes Shopping Centre offers shops under one roof in the centre of town and includes well-known high street chains as well as small, independent shops, stocking everything from fashionable clothing to outdoor equipment.

Eating out:

Carlisle serves up dishes from all over the world. For example, Ruen Thai Restaurant has a varied menu with beautifully presented dishes at reasonable prices. The restaurant’s wood panelled rooms and friendly atmosphere make this a lovely dining experience.

A brother and sister partnership runs Holme Bistro which gets great reviews for its good value fixed menus and high quality food and service.

Where to stay:

Staying at the top end, Willowbank Lodge offers modern design with an alpine feel. Classy, it’s a luxury guesthouse in a designer house that can be best described as a boutique hotel.

Something more mid-range is the 4 star Hallmark Hotel located right in the city centre overlooking Carlisle’s historic Court Square. Oozing with period charm, it boasts good food and wine at its brasserie.

If you want something more modest, Victorian Cheery Grove Guest House near the city centre offers B&B in a family-run guest house. As well as full English breakfast, they offer buckrarebit and scrambled egg on toasted muffin.