Summer holidays

Travel

The best of northern Spain: readers’ travel tips

Forget crowded Med beaches: the four coastal regions of España Verde offer cool cities, wild shores and great walking in verdant coast and mountains

If you’d rather stray far from the tourist trail, the Basque Coast Geopark is a delight. It’s a protected area of the coastline around Mutriku, Deba, and Zumaia. There are 13km of cliffs made up of flysch (shale bed) deposits which have created layered and bizarre rock formations. We felt as though we were on the set of Jurassic Park. These staggering cliffs show how the Earth changed over millions of years and fossils are plentiful for the kids to admire. A boat tour is a great way to see it and costs €20 adult, €10 under-12s.
geoparkea.com
Lisa Anderson

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Travel

Modern family: Greece with grown-up kids

A decade after a first family holiday in Greece, Martin Love heads to Paxos – and finds it wonderfully unchanged

The five of us stretched out on yoga mats with our toes pointing towards the sea. Above us the breeze stirred the leaves of the ancient olive trees. “Eímai edó,” intoned Sophie. “In Greek that means, ‘I am here.’” She continued in her gentle voice. “I am here in Paxos. I have arrived. I have moored on this rock surrounded by sea …”

Sophie was training to be a mindfulness teacher. When we lay down I’d have bet my favourite Speedos that we’d soon be in fits of laughter, but not one of us so much as sniggered. We lay in still, neat rows, like sardines, as her soothing words washed over us. After a while, Sophie brought us up from the depths. “I hope you are now at one with this island,” she said. We’d been on Paxos for less than half a day yet I had the giddy sensation I might just chuck it all in and stay here forever.

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A cycle trail around the craftmakers of Dartmoor

A woodturner, upholsterer and jeweller are among the Devon artisans to visit on a new cycle trail. Our writer leaves with a few handmade items of her own

When I was about 10, I went on a family holiday to the Netherlands with an outfit called Cycling for Softies. We rode up what felt like the country’s steepest hill, far exceeded the number of miles expected and at one point crossed the border into Germany. In short, there was nothing “soft” about it.

This, it appears, is a common feature of cycling trips. And thank goodness – because if you had a better idea beforehand of how strenuous a journey you were about to undertake, you might never go – and you’d miss out on something brilliant.

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Travel

Whitby: why it’s love at first bite for foodies

With celebrated kippers, fish & chips and a new outpost of a Michelin-starred gastropub, the seaside town is becoming a dining destination to really savour

Before the church bells, before the buskers, and shortly before the smell of kippers, there is the sound of Keith Gilpin’s dust cart trundling over the Church Street cobbles, St George’s flags flying proudly. This is how a Whitby morning begins.

“Look at that,” says the 62-year-old street cleaner, sweeping a high-vis arm towards the sea view. “Tell me what’s better than this, lad? I like a beer and I like a bet, but you can’t beat a sunrise. Of all life’s pleasures, often the free ones are the best.”

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Travel

10 of the best small islands in Croatia

These Adriatic islets, many sparsely populated and little visited, are perfect for boat rides, great walking trails, lovely beaches and the odd bit of culture

An hour’s ferry ride from Dubrovnik, Lopud is a world away from the city’s bustle. Panoramic views take in mountains and deep-blue waters, from the surrounding Elaphiti archipelago to the Croatian mainland beyond. Just 220 year-round residents share this car-free island, which measures less than 5 sq km. A sweep of seafront promenade – with waterside restaurants, petite boutiques and ice-cream shops – traces Lopud’s northern bay. A 15-minute hike south over the hills sits Šunj Bay, a splendid and rare arc of silky sand that shelves gradually into the surf. The island truly comes into its own in the early evening, once the last daytrippers have set sail for the mainland.
Where to stay: built in the 1960s, Lafodia Sea Resort resembles a futuristic cruise ship (doubles from €80 a night B&B, lafodiahotel.com)

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The best of the UK seaside

Nostalgia, beaches and ice-cream come together in perfect harmony as 12 authors and locals choose their favourite places on the UK coast, with places to stay

Broadstairs must be in my blood. My mum’s family has been going there at least since Edward VII was on the throne. We have an old album of photographs of her parents horsing around in what is presumably Viking Bay. In one picture, my grandfather is posing in a woollen bathing suit with a half-crown stuck in his eye-socket as though it’s a monocle. Considering that he wasn’t known for his levity and that at the time it was taken, in the mid-1930s, the economy had gone south and the world stood on the brink of a terrible war, it says something about the restorative powers of Broadstairs.

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Your favourite UK coastal walks: readers’ travel tips

From the west’s granite cliffs and stunning beaches to the calmer shores and vast estuaries of the east, the UK must be one of the world’s best locations for long or short hikes by the sea

The scenery is fantastic as you travel by train through mid-Wales and along the coast from Aberdovey to Llwyngwril (a request stop). Then walk straight up the hill from the station and right along the top of the ridge until you are above Barmouth Bridge, which appears to be a rickety old wooden structure but several times a day that train to and from Pwllheli trundles across it. The views all the way are amazing: Cardigan Bay, across to the Llŷn peninsula and Bardsey island, Snowdonia as it begins to rise above Barmouth and beyond, and then up the Mawddach estuary to Dolgellau town and Cader Idris mountain. Walk along lanes which no one ever drives along, with no hedges, just totally open vistas. Walk down the wooded slope, across the bridge to Barmouth, enjoy an ice-cream and hop on the train home again. A day to revive spirits in this muddled world we are living in.
anntudor

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Hippy hangouts around the world: readers’ tips

Fifty years on from the Summer of Love, readers reveal the laid-back spots around the world where it’s still possible to turn up and drop out

Nothing quite spells Summer of Love like Madrid, New Mexico, a multi-hued, gloriously ramshackle artists’ colony lying on the scenic Turquoise Trail between Santa Fe and Albuquerque, a few miles from Cerillos Hills state park. The Mine Shaft Tavern, on whose shaded deck I sat sipping cold beer, bears testament to the town’s coal mining past. There I chatted to Noah from Weasel and Fitz (an art shop specialising in recycled crafts). He persuaded me to make an unscheduled stopover at the charming Ghost Town Lodging House (from $135 a night). “Why the rush, man? Stay and watch the sunset.”
visitmadridnm.com
Moiraash

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Europe’s hidden coasts: the Maremma, Italy

This stretch of southern Tuscany is chic but discreet – disappear into the dunes, discover beguiling coves and stay on rambling estates amid stunning scenery

Italians were born for beaches. Summer means serried rows of sunbeds and regimented beach games. It’s all about bonding and strutting your stuff in matching tangerine mankinis.

But relax: it’s not all like that. Southern Tuscany makes a more stylish splash. Sugary sands are framed by pine groves and low-slung hills, revealing serene, post-impressionist landscapes. In the Maremma, south of Grosseto, set designers are seemingly in charge of the sunsets and rosemary-scented scrubland running down to the sea.

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Normandy conquest: all-action family fun in the French countryside

On a group family holiday at a Normandy chateau, a sceptical dad is pleasantly surprised by how much fun the entertainment and activities are – and that doing nothing is an option, too

Call it an exercise in contrasts. At the summit of Mont Saint-Michel, the bronze statue of the archangel is glinting in the midday sun, sword raised and wings outspread. At the foot of Mont Saint-Michel, a small jam-smeared boy is wriggling through a tiny window in the fortress wall and idly breaking into the courtyard of a gendarmerie. The archangel is the protector of the mount. The boy is my son.

Four of us – me, my wife, our four-year-old daughter Bethan and seven-year-old apprentice cat burglar, Joe – have come to western Normandy to join 15 other British families on an all-ages adventure break. This group day trip is a mere bit-player in the week’s itinerary. The holiday is primarily based 45 minutes inland, at an old countryside chateau near Les Chambres on the Manche coast, near Brittany. It’s a wholesome setting in which rabbits hop, peacocks preen and mobs of croissant-fuelled children tear around, brandishing makeshift lightsabers.

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Want a holiday where beer is just 70p a bottle? Head to Sunny Beach, Bulgaria

Sunny Beach is Europe’s cheapest beach-break destination for the fourth year running, according to the latest survey of typical holiday costs

UK tourists looking for a budget beach-break should head to Bulgaria, where a bottle of beer costs just 70p and a three-course meal for two – including a bottle of wine – will set you back less than £20, according to a new holiday costs report.

The Balkan country’s flagship resort, Sunny Beach, has been ranked the best-value beach resort for the fourth year running by the Post Office Travel Money Holiday Costs Barometer, which compares the average costs of tourist staples in European holiday destinations.

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10 of the best country campsites in France

The authors of the latest Cool Camping: France book pick the best family-friendly sites from Normandy to the Pyrenees

Since its commission – by none other than William the Conqueror – Château de Monfréville, 10km from the Normandy coast, has housed everyone from Walt Disney’s whole family to invading German soldiers. Today it is limited to just 25 tent pitches, with ample room for little ones to roam and Bert the donkey to graze. There’s a natural swimming pond, an honesty shop (stocked with organic veggies from the garden) and fresh pastries delivered each morning. It’s a 30-minute drive to the medieval town of Bayeux, home of the world’s most celebrated tapestry.
Tent and 2 people from €26.50 (tents only)

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The world’s best hidden beaches: Bali

The holiday island isn’t all packed beaches and tourist traps – you can find secluded spots perfect for snorkelling, surfing or seeing nature in the raw

‘Bali is spoilt.” It’s a complaint I’ve heard regularly in the four years I’ve been based on the island. One made, I can tell, by travellers who’ve visited only the well-worn tourist areas. The truth is: Bali is – still – beyond beautiful. You just need to know where to look.

In the popular areas of Kuta, Seminyak, Canggu, Jimbaran, Nusa Dua, Sanur and Ubud, development has been rampant; most of the rice paddies have been choked into non-existence and traffic congestion is a huge problem. Many of the beaches are lined with hotels, beach bars, umbrellas and deckchairs. It’s easy to see why people think Bali has been spoilt.

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The world’s best hidden beaches: Trang archipelago, Thailand

While popular Thai destinations such as Koh Samui and Phuket stagger under the weight of development, these southern islands retain a sleepy, tropical charm

Framed by jungle-draped limestone karsts, this small but striking bay has serene waters free of riptides, making it safe for families to splash around in the sun. As its nickname implies – farang is Thai for foreigner – you’ll find a large concentration of backpackers here. Still, with only a few sun-loungers and a couple of ramshackle food stops, it’s a far cry from the chaos of Chaweng beach on Koh Samui or Kamala on Phuket. Most of the bungalows, restaurants and Koh Muk’s near-nonexistent nocturnal scene are tucked out of sight in the adjacent woods.

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Travel

Summer escapes: exploring Croatia on a family road trip

Kevin Rushby starts his summer series with a walk amid the gorgeous mountains of Istria – all the way to the Adriatic
Next week: the island of Cres

The farmer stands looking at his vines. This is not like a French vineyard, cloaking the entire hillside in monoculture. This is Istria in northern Croatia. There’s a lush forest, an olive grove, tomatoes running amok and a farmhouse that might be taken for a ruin, were it not for the curtains in one intact window.

“It’s been a strange year,” I say. “Brexit, Donald Trump, Iceland and Wales at the Euros.”

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The lanes in Spain: swimming the Costa Brava’s new ‘sea tracks’

Vies Braves are a new way of swimming safely in busy seas – on buoy-marked routes north and south of Barcelona for group or independent holidays

We must have made a strange sight: 12 wetsuited swimmers suddenly landing on a nudist beach. I often feel overdressed in a wetsuit, but this was ridiculous. But rather than disrobe and get into the swing of things, we averted our eyes, opened our towfloats and rehydrated with some water, before swimming off again on our exploration of the coastline.

As the nudists receded from view, we stopped beneath craggy cliffs and dipped our heads under the water. Our guide, champion long-distance swimmer Miquel Sunyer, pointed out a bright orange starfish making its slow way across the seabed.

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