School’s out: 10 half-term holiday bargains

February 6, 2014 at 12:23 AM
Have some family fun this half-term holiday (Photo: Cia de Foto)

Have some family fun this half-term holiday (Photo: Cia de Foto)

The February half-term holiday is a great opportunity for families to escape the cold weather and jet off to sunnier climates in destinations like Lanzarote, Egypt and Majorca – or you can stay closer to home and snuggle up in Snowdonia. Here are ten of my favourite holiday spots, all great half-term bargains for the family.

St Ives: Christmas at the coast

December 17, 2013 at 8:00 AM
Pedn Olva hotel  Photo: Cool Places

Pedn Olva hotel Photo: Cool Places

St Ives, Cornwall; there’s nowhere in the UK quite like it. Year on year, visitors are compelled to return to their favourite beaches and natural landmarks, or discover for the first time a whole host of outdoor activities. Is it the scenery; the wildlife? Or is it the opportunities for family-friendly fun?

Whatever it is that attracts tourists to St Ives and its surrounding area, there’s little wonder with so much to see and do. First-off, the beaches; and they’re as suited to sunbathing and swimming (well, if you’re here in the summer) as they are to extreme sports. Few activities allow you to appreciate Cornwall’s wide, open sands as power kiting—a rather windy and wild affair on the shore—and if you’ve ever fancied coasteering, Cornwall’s cliffs and clear waters make for perfect conditions. With Vertical Descents, even beginners can get to grips with wetsuits, waves and wild days out: just check their site for details.

‘Tis the season: Get into the holiday spirit at Europe’s Christmas festivals

December 6, 2013 at 1:40 AM
Get into the festive spirit at Europe's fabulous Christmas festivals (Photo: Simon Tupper)

Get into the festive spirit at Europe’s fabulous Christmas festivals (Photo: Simon Tupper)

What better way to get yourself into the holiday spirit than at one of Europe’s Christmas festivals? This time of year snow-covered towns host delightful Christmas festivals with sparkling lights, carol singing, market stalls and mulled wine. From delicious food in Padstow to irreverent traditions in Barcelona, here are some charming Christmas festivals you can visit for a memorable festive season break:

Five things to do this autumn in England

November 8, 2013 at 12:45 AM

Walk through an arboretum decked out with exotic trees, soak up autumnal colours from a steam train and spot red squirrels in unspoilt woodlands with Visit England

Soak up autumn colours aboard a steam train: Exbury Gardens, Hampshire

Train driver waves from steam engine 'Mariloo' at Exbury Gardens in the New Forest Photo: The New Forest

Train driver waves from steam engine ‘Mariloo’ at Exbury Gardens in the New Forest. Photo: New Forest

The bursts of colour from the Japanese maples, dogwoods and azaleas that’ll hit you along the autumn walking trail come late September are pretty magical all by themselves; but add a steam-spouting locomotive into the mix too, and autumn at Exbury Gardens becomes even more spectacular. The compact railway gently chugs along a one-and-a-quarter-mile circular route lined with towering oaks and various themed gardens, all bursting with mellow autumnal hues. It’s one of the most unique ways to experience the changing of the seasons.

Find somewhere to stay in the New Forest.

48 hours in Portsmouth

October 27, 2013 at 3:02 AM
Spinnaker tower and harbour view of Portsmouth in Britain

Spinnaker tower and harbour view of Portsmouth

Portsmouth has played an important part in this country’s heritage. It has been the home of the Royal Navy for 500 years, the city had a key role in preparing for the D-Day landings in Normandy in 1944, and its history arguably stretches as far back as the Roman times. But modern Portsmouth also has much to offer to the contemporary visitor, be they a tourist, resident or business owner. And, over the past 14 years that I have lived here, the concept of a great waterfront city has successfully emerged to balance this rich naval heritage. Spending a weekend in Portsmouth, it is possible to combine countryside (with the South Downs so close by), coast and city living remarkably well: it’s a compact area that’s easy to get around.

These are my choices as to how to spend 48 hours in the city.