Basingstoke, Hampshire (review published 2010)

You know the scene, it’s Friday afternoon and friends at work start asking what you’ve got planned for the weekend. ‘’I’m off to Basingstoke,’’ I excitedly revealed. Eyebrows were raised. Basingstoke? Really? Why? Was I visiting relatives? Did I have a wedding to attend? Had I simply lost my marbles? The north Hampshire town, I…

Lake District, England (review published 2010)

Ascending the Langdale Pikes in the Lake District we suddenly realised that we’d have to ford a stream if we were to reach the top. The family walking ahead of us, including a girl of about seven, managed to negotiate the fast-flowing waters, so it couldn’t be that difficult, we thought. But when we reached…

Llangollen Canal, mid-Wales (review published 2010)

Beep, beep. ”Who’s that beeping?’’ asked my mum as dawn broke on the first morning of our boating break. Beeep, beeep. ‘’There they go again,’’ said the 70-year-old, who was putting on her face in her tiny bedroom, curtains drawn. Beeeep, beeeep. ”I don’t know who they’re beeping at,’’ my mum shouted to my wife,…

Amberley Castle, Sussex (review published 2009)

The sign warned that we climbed the wobbly wooden staircase to the top of the medieval tower at our own risk. But the hint of danger only served to fire our imagination and with every step we were entering deeper into the realms of King Arthur and Robin Hood. After safely negotiating the staircase, we…

Dyfi estuary, Wales (review published 2009)

You know you’re staying somewhere classy when even rock gods are turned away for having the wrong attire. Led Zeppelin star Robert Plant suffered this indignity at the hands of Joan Reen, general manager and erstwhile owner of Ynyshir Hall in west Wales. Joan recalled the story to my wife and I during a wonderful…

Brecon Beacons, Wales (review published 2008)

The hills are alive with the sound of music! Cool cats will be performing in the shadow of the Brecon Beacons when the HSBC Brecon Jazz Festival takes place from August 7-10. The stellar line-up includes Courtney Pine, Joan Armatrading, Cerys Matthews, Neil Cowley and Jools Holland with his guest vocalists Marc Almond and Ruby…

Hungerford, Berkshire (review published 2007)

An historic inn which has been owned or visited by four English monarchs is once more fit for a king. A £1 million facelift has brought The Bear Hotel in Hungerford, Berkshire, into the present while respecting its character and illustrious past. Dating back to the 13th century, the Bear was later owned by the…

Lincolnshire (review published 2007)

Lincolnshire is often overlooked as a short break destination. But many of its treasures will be strangely familiar to West Midlanders thanks to two of Hollywood’s biggest stars. The county welcomed Tom Hanks when the breathtaking Lincoln Cathedral doubled as Westminster Abbey for the 2006 blockbuster movie The Da Vinci Code. And Keira Knightley shot…

South Birmingham canals (review published 2007)

It was one of the most embarrassing moments of my life. Cars were queuing up either side of the Shirley drawbridge over the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal and the agitated motorists were beeping their horns. The traffic barriers were steadfastly refusing to open to let them pass and I was stood at the controls – helpless and…