The most beautiful wild swimming spots in the UK

The most beautiful wild swimming spots in the UK


From picturesque countryside swims to the cliffs of Dover…

wild swimming
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Now that the summer’s gradually drawing to an end, we’ve been trying to make the most of the blistering heat with weekly trips to the lido and picnics in the park. There’s no doubt that the weather’s getting chillier, but if you want to make the most of a sunny weekend then there’s nothing better than a road trip to a secret oasis. We’re always going to be partial to a gorgeous swimming pool, but there’s something about splashing about in nature that’s utterly magical.

From picturesque seaside harbours to hidden stretches of the Thames, the expert swimmers in the know over at Selkie Swim shared their favourite places to practice your backstroke. We’d definitely recommend bringing a few ciders and your camera, since many of these places are basically screaming to be posted on Instagram.

Here’s the ten best spots for wild swimming in the UK below…

1. Blea Tarn

wild swimming

Jeremy Lightfoot/robertharding/REX/Shutterstock

Fay said, ‘This spot always has the “wow” factor, no matter how many times you return. It is a site of special scientific interest and is good for wildlife spotting too. It’s quiet, remote, rather untouched and turns icy in winter. There are a few shingles beaches from where to enter the water and the Langdales make a wonderful backdrop.’

wild swimming

Selkie Swim

There’s a National Trust car park nearby (LA22 9JU) and a good access path which goes most of the way around the tarn, with benches. You can also head on over to Sticklebarn pub to refuel after a day spent swimming, plus grab a sneaky pint if you’re so inclined.

Address: Blea Tarn, Langdale, The Lake District, Cumbria

2. Tor Bay

wild swimming

Environmental Images/Universal Images Group/REX/Shutterstock

Andrew said, ‘[Tor Bay] is a large horseshoe shaped, sheltered, sandy beach, at the eastern end of Oxwich bay. It sits gloriously between the limestone headlands of Great Tor and Little Tor and the water is some of the best quality in the UK. The beach is at its best between mid and high-tide, and there is always sand even at high tide. It’s a lovely for a coastal swim with the possibility to swim out and around the headland to Three Cliffs (avoid the headland on the outgoing tide as there are strong rip currents forming then).’

The nearest Parking is in Penmaen and Tor Bay beach is accessed via a good coastal clifftop path, followed by a steep sandy path down to the beach. It’s dog-friendly all throughout the season, however do bear in mind that there aren’t any lifeguards if you’re bringing little ones.

Address: Tor Baoy, Penmaen, Swansea, SA3 2HJ

3. Kingsand Beach

wild swimming

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‘Kingsand Beach is located in what’s known as ‘the forgotten corner’ of Cornwall,’ Becky said. ‘It’s lovely, quiet and sheltered, as it is located in Plymouth Sound and there are even swimming buoys out in the bay. You can venture further out to Pier Cellars or all the way out to Penlee Point, but must watch out for water traffic. ‘The Devonport Arms’ pub is right on the beach as well, which is rather handy.’

wild swimming

Selkie Swim

This child-friendly beach is reachable from Plymouth either by a small boat that runs from the Mayflower Steps in the Barbican to the adjoining village Cawsand (seasonal), or by road. Parking-wise, there’s two decent car parks in both villages. If you’re super lucky, you might even be able to spot the neighbourhood dolphins who occasionally make an appearance.

Address: Kingsand Beach, Kingsand, Cornwall, PL10 1NA

4. Chichester Harbour

wild swimming

Jean Brooks/robertharding/REX/Shutterstock

Stephen said, ‘Chichester Harbour is a beautiful stretch of water running from the ancient city of Chichester, all the way to East Head and finally out to West Wittering Beach. Sheltered from the wind, it has several places to get in for a dip, Dell Quay, Itchenor & Bosham Hoe, all steeped in tales of smuggling and local folklore. [If you go] swimming in the harbour, you will always find new things to see and explore. And if you have had enough, you can take the Itchenor ferry back to the shore.’

On a more practical note, he also advised swimmers, ‘Watch out for marine traffic and make sure you’re visible. Early morning and late evenings are the quietest. [It’s] also the best time for stunning sunset swims. If it’s windy, the sailing clubs are out, but you can hug the banks on higher tides and swim under the branches of the old trees which is pretty idyllic.’

According to Stephen, there’s also a few nice old waterside pubs and cafes for food and refreshments. For more information, you can check out Chichester Harbour Conservancy for local information, maps and harbour tides.

Address: Chichester Harbour, Chichester, PO2 07EJ

5. Old Harry Rocks

wild swimming

Geoffrey Swaine/REX/Shutterstock

Stuart said, ‘Studland is a beautiful, scenic and popular National Trust series of beaches. Although coastal swims along the beaches are lovely with amazing views, the longer, tide dependant, swim to Old Harry Rocks is a bucket list must-have. Knoll beach, home to Studland Watersports, is a good starting point, as you can hire kayaks for someone to paddle as you swim for support and get tide information and tips; and the views of Old Harry rocks and the Purbeck hills from there are amazing.’

Parking is available in the two National Trust car parks a few metres from the beach. There’s also a cosy café for refreshments and food.

Address: Old Harry Rocks, Studland, near Swanage, Dorset

6. The Flower Pot

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‘At the very end of Aston Lane is a lovely bucolic spot, from which to enter the Thames via a small slipway, for a dip or a longer swim in the Hambleden Valley,’ Jon said. ‘It is a long stretch of river with an island to swim upstream to or around, and a pontoon with water usually deep enough to jump or dive in.’

wild swimming

Selkie Swim

He continued, ‘The flow can be high at times, making it a challenging upstream swim with an easy float back. And there is a cold spring stream running into the river by the slipway, making the entry point a little chillier than the rest of the river.’

Easy parking is located right by the river at the very end of Aston Lane. For refreshments and pub grub, the Flower Pot pub is signposted and just up the lane.

Address; The Flower Pot, River Thames, Henley on Thames, RG9 3DG

7 and 8. Burgh Island, Bigbury-on-Sea, Kingsbridge, Devon, TQ7 4BG and Bantham Swoosh

wild swimming

Selkie Swim

Di said, ‘Burgh Island and the Bantham Swoosh are iconic South Devon landmarks, directly opposite Bigbury-on-sea beach, which is only accessible by a strip of sand at low tide. The island is famed for its links to Agatha Christie, the art-deco inspired hotel and as a one-time haunt for pirates and smugglers.’

She added, ‘From the beach at Bigbury-on-Sea you can swim around Burgh Island. The level of the tide determines the extend of the beach and thus the length of the swim.’

wild swimming

Selkie Swim

‘You can also do mini swooshes from Bantham Sands, running up the sandy banks as far as you like on an outgoing tide, plop in and swoosh down, get out with a big smile on your face and repeat!’ she finished.

She advised planning the swim beforehand and to ask the advice of the lifeguards on the East beach in season.There are paying car parks both in Bigbury and Bantham, depending on where you would like to start from and they do get pretty busy in season. After finishing up your swim, you can also finish off with some awesome food from the Gastrobus at Bantham Beach or a burger to die for at the pastel coloured old school Citroen van.

Address for Burgh Island: Burgh Island, Bigbury-on-Sea, Kingsbridge, Devon, TQ7 4BG

Address for Bantham Swoosh: Bantham Swoosh, South Devon

9. Dover Harbour

wild swimming

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‘Despite being a major port, [Dover Harbour] has a surprisingly pleasant (sharp) shingle beach, clean water and an attractive seafront behind,’ Nick said. ‘It is overlooked by the imposing medieval Dover Castle and the fortifications in the cliffs, the stunning white Cliffs themselves, the Western Heights Napoleonic defences and you can watch the ferries come and go.’

‘There is a designated recreation area and away from the ferries is the harbour used by swimmers which is about 1 km across,’ he said. ‘It is special as it is packed with history of Channel crossing training.’

There’s parking behind the promenade and a water sports centre on the beach that rents out equipment, if you’re keen to jump on a kayak. It’s also surrounded by cafes and shops as it’s super close to the centre of town.

Address: Dover Harbour, Dover, Kent, CT161LA

10. Clifton Hampden Bridge, Clifton Hampden, Oxfordshire, OX14 3EE

wild swimming

Nigel R. Barklie/REX/Shutterstock

Katie said, ‘[Clifton Hampden Bridge] is a distinctive 19th century bridge, stepping over the still narrow river Thames in a pretty picturesque Oxfordshire village. The banks are covered in wildflowers and majestic trees, there is a lot of wildlife around and the river quickly finds its way away from the traffic and into the quiet countryside.’

‘You can swim for as long as you want,’ she explained. ‘There are entry spots on both side of the river, although the “post office lay-by” side has a couple of benches carved out of tree trunks and a table for a picnic. Swim upstream under the arches of the bridge, and back down again, or you can carry on upstream until you reach the lock channel and even further if you stay left. Downstream is also a nice swim through trees and fields.’

wild swimming

She also shared a handy secret, ‘The post office sells local fruit and veg, cakes and the best pain au chocolat for miles, but you will need to be early!’

If you’re looking for a spot to park your car, there’s spaces in the layby by the post office.

Address: Clifton Hampden Bridge, Clifton Hampden, Oxfordshire, OX14 3EE

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To the roof of Africa: a bragging-rights adventure on Mount Kilimanjaro

To the roof of Africa: a bragging-rights adventure on Mount Kilimanjaro


Chasing an emotional high, Nicola Moyne finds empowerment on the frozen peak of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Just don’t call it a ‘walk’…

It’s 2am and, despite the three layers of thermals and heavy down jacket I’m concertinaed into, I’m chilled to the bone traversing the world’s tallest freestanding mountain. For every painfully slow shuffle I make up the windswept strata of ashen, crumbly rock, I seem to slide down three more.

My balance is off and I’m starting to lag behind the group – their headlamps weaving like silent miners in a zigzag up the steep, ice-latticed terrain ahead. Right now, the rhythmic repetition of putting one foot in front of the other is all that’s keeping me from ripping off my Gore-Tex balaclava and wilfully succumbing to high-altitude delirium.

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s tallest – and the world’s tenth highest – peak at 19,341ft, has been on my bucket list ever since I was plucky enough to clamber atop my parents’ retro-blue bathroom suite for a better view of the arresting sunset vistas.

Family holidays were spent caravanning in soggy Somerset, not exploring the acacia-studded savannahs of Africa. But there in urban Essex, one foot precariously balanced on the toilet seat and the other on the hot tap, each amber-streaked horizon would transport me to the Serengeti’s golden plains.

Fast-forward three decades and, like many women I know, I’m hungry for an adventure that delivers a sense of achievement rather than a fast-fading tan. So, buoyed by a Point Break binge and large glass of malbec, I impulsively book a seven-day trip to Tanzania.

My mountaineering experience starts and ends with a balmy jaunt up Snowdon last summer, but that doesn’t seem to faze me as I happily click ‘confirm’ and take a celebratory gulp. As a well-meaning friend puts it before I leave for one of the world’s seven summits, ‘If Chris Moyles got up there, you’ve got this in the bag…’ Next stop, Mount Kilimanjaro.

‘Marangu snakes its way through rich rainforest and sweet-smelling alpine meadows before the arid mountain peaks loom above’

After a nine-and-a-half-hour flight via Nairobi, I greet my multinational band of fellow climbers at the palm-fringed Mountain Resort hotel in Marangu – a lively market town lush with banana and coffee plantations at the foot of Kilimanjaro National Park.

Mount Kilimanjaro

At the gates of Kilimanjaro National Park (clockwise from left): Kyle, Magda, Trent, Michele, Alice, Nicola, Eva, David, Monika, Greg and Sofia

Eleven of us have booked the trip through Intrepid Travel: four banterous Aussies (Trent, Alice, Greg and Kyle), a linen-clad Brazilian (Magda) and a cosmopolitan coterie of iPhone-tapping Europeans (Sofia, Eva, David, Michele and Monika). Banked in the bar for ‘one last round’ of Serengeti beers before our five-day trek commences, we bond over the intermittent wifi and chilly lounge, ignorant of the freezing night-time temperatures we’ll experience each night as we ascend.

Our head guide, Jacob, is a slight and softly spoken local. A former maths teacher, he exudes ‘firm but fair’ as he delivers our pre-tour briefing: ‘On the mountain, it’s safety first – no question,’ he says. ‘I want you to enjoy yourselves, but if I say you have to go down, then you go down.’ He asks if we’ve all packed crampons. We haven’t.

Ordinarily, Kilimanjaro is considered a ‘walk-up’ mountain – ie, you don’t need any fancy gear. It’s early June, though – just before peak season in Tanzania – and unusually heavy snowfall has resulted in the formation of hard, slippery ice that can become treacherous without traction cleats.

Magda, our chic Brazilian, lightens the mood by asking if there’ll be electricity en route: ‘I’ll need somewhere to charge my laptop,’ she deadpans.

We hit the Marangu trail – the most direct ascent of Kilimanjaro – at 8am the following morning. It will take five days to climb and descend via this route, which snakes its way through erica-rich rainforest, Jurassic-looking groundsel grasslands and sweet-smelling alpine meadows before the arid mountain peaks loom above.

The standard seven-to-nine-day routes are often favoured in an attempt to avoid altitude sickness, but Marangu is the only trail that doesn’t require camping.

Wooden A-frame huts that sleep four or more populate the three camps (Mandara, Horombo and Kibo) and although bijou and basic, the cabins are as close to luxury as you’re going to get. When you consider everything for camp has to be carried up by Tanzanian porters – who, despite the heavy loads balanced upon their backs and heads smile and laugh as they pass at lightning speed – it’s incredible to think that there are any home comforts to be had 15,520ft above sea level.

Mount Kilimanjaro

An A-frame wooden sleeping hut en route to the summit. Photograph: Trent Thomson

But what you might gain in comfort on Marangu, you lose in the struggle to acclimatise. Born from a tumultuous series of volcanic eruptions about 3 million years ago, Uhuru Peak – Kilimanjaro’s Kibo crater summit – towers over Africa’s blush-pink cloud blanket at over 19,000ft.

At this altitude, the air is so thin it can be difficult to breathe or think clearly and at least one member of the group, Eva – a chatty brunette from Belgium with an envy-inducing tan – soon starts to show signs of high altitude sickness, experiencing piercing headaches, nausea, fatigue and crippling self-doubt over whether she can reach the top.

(Top tip: Diamox can help to alleviate symptoms and Alice, a gutsy Melbourne-based doctor – the job title everyone wants to hear during a pre-brief – kindly shares her stash with some of the group. ‘If it helps, why not, right?’)

‘We plod on towards the frozen peak, propelled by sheer will and Dioralyte’

The gruelling inclines and freezing night-time temperatures prove no match for the group’s collective cheer, though. Our 27-strong team of cooks, guides and porters laughingly label us wazimu mzungu (Swahili for crazy white guys) as we indulge Greg’s ‘dad’ jokes, Kyle’s uphill dancing and David’s one-liners while singing along to Fleetwood Mac.

‘You Can Go Your Own Pace’ becomes our customised anthem as we ascend 10-15km per day, weaving first through mist-swaddled ferns in the rainforest to Mandara as majestic colobus monkeys glide across the canopies of green above, before tackling the steep, stony ravines that punctuate the path to Horombo Hut.

Mount Kilimanjaro

Tackling rocky terrain on the ascent. Photograph: Trent Thomson

Exchanging jubilant jambos (hello) with passing porters, we plod towards the frozen peak, propelled on largely by will, good humour and Dioralyte. On day four, we reach Kibo – base camp.

It’s here, at 11pm, exhausted but jacked with nervous energy, that altitude sickness claims Eva, who tearfully decides to descend while the rest of us layer up to the point of limb inarticulation.

It’s heartbreaking to lose a member of the group at this stage, but after a rousing rendition of Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, our guides usher us out into the star-studded night for the final seven-hour push to the summit.

Moving pole pole (slowly, slowly), we wind upwards in single file through loose, volcanic shale and, as Jacob leads us quietly into the lunar-lit scree, I realise this isn’t going to be like the previous three days – the mood has changed as dramatically as the landscape.

Mount Kilimanjaro

Dawn breaks over Mount Kilimanjaro. Photograph: Trent Thomson

Tackling the steep, charcoal-grey slopes is reminiscent of being on the moon and I increasingly start to rely on the help of local guide Augustin, who sweetly takes my hand each time I fall (plural) and encourages me to catch my breath.

We stop in clam-like caves to refuel, but the banter has dissolved with our energy. I’m told that the temperature has plummeted to -30C and with my iPhone (and water) now frozen, there’s no motivational playlist to rely on. It’s sheer will power versus the mountain.

At 4am, gale-force winds pummel my face, making breathing let alone traversing volcanic boulders arduous. In the distance, I spot Trent’s left hand doggedly fixed to the top of his ridiculously impractical fedora and wonder how on earth he’s managing to do the whole thing one-handed. I still have two hours of compacted ice channels (sans crampons) to navigate on this glacier-crowned ridge and I seem to have left my usual PMA and bounce back at base camp.

Nicola, standing jubilant on the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro

My head spins from the altitude as I snake my way past Stella Point at 18,885ft, before laying eyes on Uhuru Peak – its snow-beaten summit flags whipping in the 80mph winds. As I finally shuffle my way on to the roof of Africa, dawn breaks into the same kaleidoscopic glow I’d once imagined from my parents’ bathroom window.

We all have our mountains to climb in life – physical or emotional – and as I lean against the iconic signpost to give the illusion I can still stand for my sun-drenched summit photo, I realise I wasn’t really chasing these transcendent panoramic views. It was all about making that plucky five-year-old still in me proud.

Wazimu mzungu? Maybe. And I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.

Kilimanjaro Marangu Route with Intrepid Travel starts from £1,730pp. Price includes seven nights’ accommodation, transportation, meals, National Park entrance and climbing fees, as well as a complimentary sleeping bag and walking poles. Excludes flights. See intrepidtravel.com or call 0808 274 5111 for further details or to book.

 

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This is how to spend 24 hours in Manchester for a stylish city-break

This is how to spend 24 hours in Manchester for a stylish city-break


From hip street food to boutique shopping, Manchester will give you a welcome like no other

manchester

Manchester is a gloriously diverse city with new discoveries in every quarter, but if you only have 24 hours or a short weekend, it’s worth having a plan of action so you don’t miss the best bits. We did a recce to give you a head start on where to shop, eat and stay in the northern city with the biggest heart.

Where to shop in Manchester?

It’s a shopping Mecca, with heavyweights like Selfridges and Harvey Nichols in the main Arndale area, but for something a bit edgier, head to the hip northern quarter where you’ll find the small independents. Take a rummage around the legendary Afflecks (formerly Affleck’s Palace, which opened in 1981) where you can almost smell the city’s rich, rock n rave history as you nose around market stalls overflowing with vintage clothing, curiosities and retro clubbing gear. For vintage denim, head to Blue Rinse for the biggest selection of styles. Art and fashion magazine fanatics will adore Magma for its kaleidoscope of all things print, from indie mags to epic stationery.

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Afflecks – a magpie’s vintage shopping dream

Where to stay in Manchester?

A boutique townhouse hotel (14 rooms and 16 suites) in the heart of Manchester’s buzzy Spinningfields, Great John Street Hotel retains much of the charm of the Victorian school house that the building served as from 1912. Original steel beams and echoing stairwells (one for the girls, one for the boys, as was the school tradition of the time) with framed black and white prints of smiling children in uniform, hint at the building’s rich heritage. You can also have afternoon tea in the headmaster’s office. But that’s as far as the gimmick goes because the rest of the hotel, from the earthy paint palette to the Egyptian Cotton white sheets and free-standing bath tubs is tastefully indulgent. Restored to glory by the Eclectic Hotel Collection in 2004, on top of the three-storey building, where once schoolgirls played hopscotch, is a city roof terrace to rival the best. Just the spot for late afternoon cocktails, of which the list is reassuringly long. Special mention to the breakfast – served on an ornate mezzanine overlooking the ground floor Oyster Bar – all chesterfields, big cushions and stylised book shelves. The smashed avocado and poached eggs are a hungry Instagrammers’ dream. Even if you’re not a guest, it’s worth swinging by Great John Street Hotel for the top-notch afternoon tea in the Library. Room-only rates start from 120

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Great John Street’s chic Oyster Bar

What to do in Manchester?

Tip one: as lovely as we’re sure the cathedral is, if you only have time to take in one landmark, make a beeline for The John Rylands Library, which has all the grandeur of a neo-gothic church combined with the magic of Hogwarts as thousands of dusty, leather-bound books and manuscripts line the dizzying shelves, reached only by fairytale ladders. Marvel at the stunning architecture, designed by Basil Champneys, and get lost in book nooks, people-watching as tourists scan the historic spines and students hunch over starkly contrasting modern MacBooks in cosy enclaves. You could easily lose a couple of hours in here before exiting through the gorgeous gift shop (worth a look for the children’s book selection and arty wrapping paper).

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The old school house, now boutique hotel. Great John Street in Manchester’s Spinningfields

Before you leave, it’s worth a wander along Manchester’s famous canals, and we cut under the viaducts and head towards Deansgate where on a sunny afternoon the pub and bar terraces are packed with glamorous people, live music and delicious-smelling food vans. We stop at Dukes 92 for a haloumi burger from their food van and an Aperol Spritz in the sunshine. On the way back to our hotel, we wander past the now defunct Granada Studios and feel more giddy than is acceptable (the Aperol, perhaps?) at recognising the remains of Jason Grimshaw’s workshop off Corrie. Then our attention is turned to a 10-ft street mural of TV presenter Richard O’Brien, signalling the entrance to The Crystal Maze Live Experience. The 90s nostalgia is impossible to resist so we pull on trademark Crystal Maze bomber jackets and take the challenge. It’s well worth the £40-£50 admission fee. The attention to detail inside is wonderful as you cascade down slides into the sandy Aztec zone and climb through tin tunnels to the futuristic zone. The games are surprisingly challenging, from a laser beam assault course to playing air hockey against a robot and frantically pedaling around a giant hamster wheel. Perfect for embracing your inner kidult before it’s back to the real world.

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Orestone Manor: the perfect coastal escape to recharge your batteries

Orestone Manor: the perfect coastal escape to recharge your batteries


Book into this cosy boutique hotel in Devon for 48 hours and feel the stress melt away

Orestone Manor hotel

Why go

You’d be hard pressed to find a more beautiful setting for a UK hotel. Overlooking the English Riviera with breath taking views of Lyme Bay just a short walk away, you reach Orestone Manor via a series of tiny back lanes that snake down towards the sea so hidden away that we almost missed it entirely. Orestone combines the friendliness you’d expect from a family run hotel with the excellent dining experience and attentive service you’d get at London five-star.

Orestone Manor hotel

 

A colonial-style Georgian manor house with just 14 rooms, staying at the property feels more like being a guest at a sumptuous country home as you draw the curtains each morning and look out onto the manicured lawn stretching down towards the sea. It also has an intriguing history – it’s the coastal retreat where artist John Callcott Horsley was inspired to design the first ever Christmas card, and with the views here, is not difficult to see why. This is a hotel that is perfectly placed to explore the highlights of South Devon. Just four miles outside lively Torquay with its host of restaurants and attractions, its also a great base if you’re wanting to visit the smaller highlights of the Riviera including the gorgeous thatched village of Maidencombe just 10 minutes walk away, as well as the nearby tourists seaside resorts of Brixham port, Shaldon and Teignmouth. As an aside, they also have three hot tubs!

Orestone Manor

The food

We did plan on exploring some of the other restaurants in the area but I have to admit that once we’d eaten at the hotel the first night, we didn’t bother. With two AA rosettes for fine dining (there is an extensive a la carte menu, plus a more casual bistro dining experience) the restaurant relies heavily on local Devonshire produce. Expect an excellent selection of fresh sea food including Tein River mussels, Brixham Bay crab and the meatiest scallops from Torbay that were so good we ordered them three times! Other highlights included perfectly cooked Exmoor lamb with truffle, tender Devon beef and an array of creamy locally produced cheeses. Its worth mentioning too that they grow their own greens in their beautiful organic vegetable garden on the grounds and you could really tell the difference – crunchy, fresh and delicious. Meals can be taken in the main lounge, conservatory or terrace and it’s all wonderfully informal and relaxed despite the high quality. All round we were in foodie heaven. Orestone is also famous for is cream tea with homemade jam and clotted cream – definitely worth its reputation as the best in Devon. It’s usually served in the little outdoor terrace over looking the garden. Bliss!

Orestone Manor hotel

You really must

Explore the area if you can tear yourself away. The stunning English Riviera bay has 22 miles of unspoilt coastline, with breath-taking views and over 20 beaches to choose from. In between Paignton and Brixham, sits Broadsands. Anchored at the end of the beautiful English Riviera Bay, it’s a picture-perfect, sandy beach, idyllic for families. Broadsands’ fine sand hit the headlines when Bournemouth University and Countryfile voted it the ‘best popular tourist beach for sandcastle-building’.

Orestone Manor hotel

The English Riviera is witnessing a major redevelopment, particularly in Brixham, which has seen a surge of restaurants; markets and cultural activities spring up to compliment the famous beaches. So its well worth a visit, as is the visual spectacle Thatcher’s Rock which stands 45m high, a remnant of the Ice Age where you can see hundreds of layers of limestone formed over millions of years ago – a stunning sight.

One of The Riviera’s best-kept secret picnic spots is local favourite the stunning Tessier Gardens. The spectacular gardens, located between Babbacombe and St Marychurch in Torquay, are opened from morning to dusk, via the picture-perfect Devon park entrance on Lindridge Road. If you’re with children Paignton Zoo, Babbacome Model Village and Babbacombe Cliff Railway are also a must see.

Getting there

Orestone Manor is easily reachable by train. Newton Abbot is the nearest mainline station, 4.4 miles (10 minutes) away by car or taxi. Direct (no changes) mainline trains run here direct from London Paddington, with a typical journey time of 2 hours 30 minutes, Bristol (1 hour 30), Birmingham (2 hours 45) and around the country. It’s also approximately 4 and a half hours drive from London.

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This European city beat Melbourne to become 2018’s ‘most liveable city’

This European city beat Melbourne to become 2018’s ‘most liveable city’


Let’s all move.

Credit: Rex

Words by Rebecca Fearn.

Vienna, capital of Austria, has been declared 2018’s most ‘liveable’ city, beating 2017’s pick Melbourne to the top spot.

Credit: Rex

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) releases a worldwide league table each year, ranking 140 cities on a number of factors from political stability to crime and healthcare access.

This year sees the first time ever a European city has topped the league tables.

Melbourne has taken the number one spot for the previous seven years, yet were demoted to second place in favour of Austria’s capital. Australian cities Sydney and Adelaide also made the top ten in 2018.

Coming last in the table was war-torn Damascus in Syria. Dhaka in Bangladesh and Lagos in Nigeria were also in the lowest ten.

The ten most liveable cities in 2018

1. Vienna, Austria

2. Melbourne, Australia

3. Osaka, Japan

4. Calgary, Canada

5. Sydney, Australia

6. Vancouver, Canada

7. Tokyo, Japan

8. Toronto, Canada

9. Copenhagen, Denmark

10. Adelaide, Australia


The ten least liveable cities 2018

1. Damascus, Syria

2. Dhaka, Bangladesh

3. Lagos, Nigeria

4. Karachi, Pakistan

5. Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea

6. Harare, Zimbabwe

7. Tripoli, Libya

8. Douala, Cameroon

9. Algiers, Algeria

10. Dakar, Senegal

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Prince Harry just went on a secret trip to Botswana

Prince Harry just went on a secret trip to Botswana


Who knew?

Words by Rebecca Fearn.

Prince Harry managed to slyly slip out of the country this past week for a secret trip to Botswana, which he undertook alone without his wife Meghan.

The Prince’s under-the-radar trip was in aid of a visit to the Rhino Conservation Botswana, which Harry is a patron of.

A Spokeswoman for Kensington Palace said: “The Duke of Sussex is on a private working trip to Botswana, to join the annual general meeting for Rhino Conservation Botswana in his capacity as patron”.

“He attended the board meeting in Maun and an RCB community project in Xarakao village”.

Harry visited earlier this year on a similar mission to help safeguard Botswana’s black and white rhinos. He has also famously taken Meghan on a date in the country early on in their relationship and spent her 36th birthday with her there last year.

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Why Italy makes the case for an alternative hen party weekend

Why Italy makes the case for an alternative hen party weekend


Promotional feature with Italian Tourist Board

italy hen party

If you’re scratching your head over what to do for your pal’s hen party, don’t worry – we’ve been there.

Some brides-to-be love the girls’ tour shenanigans complete with strippers and clubbing, though your wander-lusting pal might want something more cultural and sophisticated. We’re throwing our lot in with a destination hen weekend in Italy, where there’s something for everybody with beaches, ski slopes, historical sights, thermal spa towns and no end of cheesy pasta and wine.

Here’s a couple of hot and cold itineraries that’ll keep the whole bridal party happy…

The sun-drenched summer route

italy hen party

Getty Images

No summer getaway is complete without a beach trip. Pack your best swimmers, sunnies and a towel as Ischia’s lush and sandy coast is a great stop on your hen. Soak in the crystal waters of the Mediterranean and make sure you snag a spot on Fisherman’s Beach, as you’ll have views of the town’s historical castle Castello Aragonese in the distance – making for one of the coolest #beachgrams ever.

While we’ll always have a special place in our hearts for pulsing Ibiza nightclubs, there’s something to be said for eating and drinking your way across Friuli Venezia Giulia. The region has worked tirelessly to cultivate Karst Valley and the work’s paid off, as it’s become gourmet wonderland. From rich olive oils and Marasca honey to jamar, cheese aged in the depths of the Karst Caves, it’s worth swinging by a picturesque vineyard or osmize to raise a glass of Terrano wine to your friend’s brand new chapter. (Who are we kidding, you’ll be raising more than just one.)

Round things off with a trip to Tuscany, where the glow up really begins. Famed for the thermal spas dotted around the region, you’ll be able to do as the ancient Romans did and chill out at the actual spas they used in in Rapolano Terme. Or, if you’re still hanging after your revelry at Friuli Venezia Giulia then the spa waters at Chianciano Terme are renowned for its healing properties – especially when it comes to your liver.

The snow goddess winter route

italy hen party

Getty Images/Robert Harding World Imagery

Bundle up and head to the Alps to see how the Italians aprés ski. Venture out to Lombardy in the winter months to cosy up at one of the regions luxury ski resorts, the ultimate hen base of operations for you to take the Alps’ slopes by storm. (Seriously, there’s over 70 different ski areas to take on.) Descend from the heights of Val Sassina to join elites like the Clooneys at Lake Como for fine dining after a hard day’s work.

After you’re all snowed out, you’ll be in dire need of some TLC. There’s no place better than Tuscany, a thermal spa wonderland teeming with natural hot spring water to rest your tired bones. Sink into the rejuvenating waters at world-famous spots like Montecatini Terme, where they’ve been pampering since the 15th century with natural thermal waters at architecturally breathtaking spas, or Terme di Saturnia – a mountainside retreat with free thermal baths if you’re thinking of your budget.

You can’t come to Italy and not eat pasta, so have your last carbo-loaded hurrah at Emilia Romagna before the pre-wedding diet. Renowned for their parmesan, parma ham and balsamic vinegar for dunking thick slices of warm bread into, you’ll be all set for the ultimate wine and cheese night with the girls.

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More than sand: five ways to enjoy Tobago when you’re not sunbathing

More than sand: five ways to enjoy Tobago when you’re not sunbathing


From diving through colourful coral to A-list approved paddle boarding, there’s more to Tobago than lying on a beach…

Tobago for the adventurous

Why Go?

Holidays in the Caribbean are all about slowing down, kicking back and relaxing. But what if you get restless after a few days lying on the beach? Whether you’re under or on it, Tobago’s crystal-clear water has a few surprises up its laid-back sleeve. Visit British Airways for the best fares


Don’t Miss

Kite Surfing in Tobago

Kitesurfing

Ideal wind conditions and the Buccoo Reef-protected waters make laid-back Tobago’s Pigeon Point ideal for kitesurfing. With safety-conscious instructors on hand and clear, shallow waters, it’s the perfect setting for novices to master this island highlight.


Paddle Boarding

Paddle boarding is an A-list favourite and Tobago has one of the world’s most spectacular spots to master it. As soon as the sun sets, head to Bon Accord Lagoon for a sedate paddle through the glowing plankton waters. With millions of tiny organisms reacting with a pinprick of light, each stroke of a paddle sets off a cascade of spiralling, glistening light, making for a truly unforgettable experience.

Snorkelling in Tobago

Snorkelling

Swimming amongst exotic fish and brightly coloured coral in the warm waters of the Caribbean… does it really get any better? Just wait until you set your eyes on Pirates Bay. This undiscovered gem, with unbeatable views of the breathtakingly beautiful coral and sparkling blue waters is the ultimate snorkelling playground and deserves a spot on any traveller’s bucket list.

Sailing in Tobago

Sailing

What better way to explore the island’s stunning coastline and pretty archipelagos than hopping aboard a private boat? Whether you want to hone your skills on the blustery open waters in the south or kick back and experience the wonders of Nylon Pool, a metre-deep swimming pool-like lagoon with the ocean on one side and palm-fringed beaches on the other, this is a sailing destination like no other.

Scuba diving

Home to one of the world’s most spectacular coral reefs, more than 60 dive sites, and world-renowned azure waters that cater for novices and technical divers alike, it’s easy to see why Tobago is one of the best diving destination in the Caribbean.

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Here’s our millennial guide to 72 hours in Spain OD-style

Here’s our millennial guide to 72 hours in Spain OD-style


From Cava sangria in rooftop pools to UNESCO heritage sites and Gaudi Instagram opportunities aplenty…

OD hotels

Amidst the Instagram holiday fads, there’s one european country that has always been a constant on our social media feeds, Spain.

From poolside sangria boomerangs and photos of tanned, sandy manicured feet on the coast to cool cultural city break shots, there’s something for everyone in the Mediterranean hotspot – and with sunshine and quality food, it’s hardly surprising that it’s getting all the Instagram love.

All the influencers have been doing it from the beginning of social media – and reaping the rewards, so I boarded a two hour flight (yes, just two hours) and flew over a thousand miles to the land of Flamenco and tapas to see what the fuss was about.

The verdict? A triple shot of on-trend quality food, Spanish culture and a lot of luxury lounging. We’re talking Cava in rooftop city pools, UNESCO heritage sites and enough Gaudi Instagram opportunities to last a lifetime.

I started my Spanish adventure in Barcelona, home to Catalonian architect Antoni Gaudi, before flying on to the infamous island of Ibiza for a big hit of luxury.

But with 72 hours to fill and two cities to co-ordinate, where should I stay? I went with OD Hotels – Barcelona and Talamanca.

While there are OD hotels in quite a few Spanish cities, each hotel has a different vibe depending on its location, from Barcelona’s cool efficient offering in the hustle and bustle of the Catalonian capital to Ibiza’s luxury marine beachside theme.

The OD DNA? Modern luxury in central iconic locations, mixing contemporary Scandi decor with state of the arts technology and five star gastronomy. Oh, and did I mention the eco-friendly ethos, with vertical gardens, solar panels, and an HVAC system which reduces energy consumption by 35%? All of this for an affordable price – I was sold.

OD Hotels

The OD rooms provide everything you’ll need for a comfortable stay, but the suites are stunning – private pools, panoramic rooftop views and complimentary smart cars to take around the city at your leisure. They’re a bit pricier, but for a city honeymoon or luxury escape, it’s well worth it.

Barcelona was my go-to for a top quality foodie experience – something that I got on my very first morning, tucking into OD’s Pan Con Tomate (Spanish-style tomato on toast). Make the most of it while you’re there – take it from this writer’s experience, no matter how hard you try you won’t be able to recreate it at home.

The city boasts plenty of top quality restaurants, but it’s the street food and markets that are Barcelona’s real gem. Stop by La Boquería Market for some fresh seafood and €1 fruit smoothies in every shade imaginable, or to load up on ingredients to cook your own fresh feast.

But culture-wise, you just need to stroll through Barcelona to get your dose of history – not to mention an album of Insta-worthy city shots, and it’s all thanks to Antoni Gaudi.

The 130-year-old Casa Vicens is an obligatory stop, the first house designed by the Catalan architect (located on Gracia on Career de les Carolinas), and La Sagrada Familia is just a short walk from the hotel, with the magnificent unfinished Roman Catholic Church being one of Spain’s top attractions.

But even if you don’t have the time to seek it out on purpose, you’ll hardly be able to move around the city without bumping into his eccentric architecture. Look out for Casa Batlló and Casa Milà, and stop by Park Güell (on Carrer Nou de la Rambla) – Instagram opportunities don’t get much better.

Then for a shot of luxury it was onto Ibiza – a 45 minute plane ride away – something I had preconceived ideas about after overdosing on reality shows of drunken teens frequenting the island.

Strangely however, it was Ibiza that gave me the biggest cultural and gastronomic surprise – who knew the other side of the island could be so different?

Pristine Santorini-esque interiors, moonlit beachside restaurants, luxury seafood and a long (and relatively unknown) history – I was sold on Ibiza from the get-go.

My OD room was located on the iconic Talamanca beach, close to the island’s most exclusive marinas, Ibiza old town, and cool on-trend restaurants.

My recommendation? Sa Punta, an alfresco fine-dining experience on the furthest point of Salamanca bay. The setting may be magnificent, especially at sunset – we’re talking fairy lit white canopies and ultra cool Ibiza beats – but nothing eclipses the food.

Focusing on the art of sharing, we teamed our Cava Sangrias with oysters and fresh Burratinas from Puglia, before tucking into Wild sea bass carpaccio, Alaskan black cod (the best I’ve had in my life) and red tuna ceviche.

But despite the high quality grub (I’m still thinking about that black cod), it was the Ibiza old town that I found the most impressive.

Dalt Villa is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, offering the complete polar opposite to what I had expected to find on the Spanish island – panoramic views, ancient stories and a deep history, spanning 2,500 years.

Go via the alternative entrance – Portal Nou (behind the Plaza del Parque) for a more gradual ascent and make sure you stop off at the nunnery to buy a €1 slice of cake from the nuns through a hatch in the wall.

From cool street style shots and chic boho interiors to the impressive buildings, the Instagram opportunities are endless – and just an afternoon at the heritage site will make your Insta feed look like an Anthopologie catalogue.

After just a couple of days in the Spanish hotspots, your Instagram account will be thriving, and you definitely won’t want to go home.

How to book:

You can book a room at any of the OD hotels via the OD website, with the standard room rates at OD Barcelona starting at £215 a night, and rates at Ibiza’s OD Talamanca starting at £328 a night.

OD Barcelona
C/ Aragó, 300 – 08009 Barcelona
Phone  (+34) 93 215 08 99

OD Talamanca
C/ Jesús, 28, Playa Talamanca – 07800 Ibiza
Phone  (+34) 971 31 19 12

And if you’ve caught the OD bug, you’re in luck as these are only two of the Spanish brand’s five hotels, boasting two more properties in Ibiza and another in Mallorca.

I stopped off via the other two Ibizan ODs to see what I was missing and while Ocean Drive served up one hell of a Mexican brunch, if I had my time again I’d stay at the brand’s boutique offering, Can Jaume – an Instagrammable Ibizan Manor house surrounded by orange trees, in the idyllic rural village of Puig d’en Valls, just 2 km from Ibiza town.

So wherever you are in the country, you should be able to find an OD, for great service, on-trend food, Instagrammable interiors and enviable panoramic views.

See you there.

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Egypt’s spa hotels are ranking high on our travel hit list right now…

Egypt’s spa hotels are ranking high on our travel hit list right now…


Promotional feature with Egypt Tourist Board

Looking for a sun-drenched pampering holiday? We’ve found Red Sea resorts with irresistibly sumptuous spas

Holidays that restore wellbeing and vitality are top of everyone’s wishlist, and Egypt’s stunning Red Sea resorts boast lavish hotels and resorts that are perfect for anyone who wants to relax, revive and refresh in sublime surroundings.

Where to stay and spa…

The resort of Soma Bay in Egypt is ideal for anyone seeking a little luxury and the spectacular spa and thalasso centre, Les Thermes Marins des Cascades – where the focus is on the health properties of mineral-rich seawater and seaweed – is vying for the top spot on our spa hotel hit list.

Or why not head to the capital of the Red Sea Riviera, Hurghada and stay at the perfectly positioned Steigenberger Al Dau Beach Hotel for a five-star spa stay? Wake up in bright, spacious rooms, chill out on the pristine private beach or by the gigantic swimming pool and plan your meals to fit around your treatments. Take your pick from a steam bath, jacuzzi, sauna or spa bath, before placing yourself in expert hands for a therapeutic massage that’ll leave you feeling totally zen.

Near Hurghada, El Gouna is another popular resort, which is known for its lagoons, coral reefs and sandy beaches. Head to the Mövenpick Resort and Spa, the biggest five-star hotel in the area, which boasts two swimming pools and its own private beach and dedicated spa. Ask therapists for the signature Angsana massage to send you straight into holiday mode.

Fancy a cruise?

Cruise ships and restored ornate steamers  have become as much a part of the Egypt scene as the Pyramids. And if you want to combine a cruise with a spa holiday, you’re in luck because you can do both with a cruise and spa package.

The best thing about a cruise? Everything is sorted for you – so there’s no need to work out transport or accommodation because your accommodation is your transport. It’s an unforgettable way to travel and explore the captivating country of Egypt. All you need to do is get on board and relax…

What else is there to do?

The Red Sea coast  is teeming with things to do if you’re in the mood for a more active holiday. Venture south of bustling Hurghada and you’ll find world-class diving spots where, if you’re lucky, you’ll spot sea turtles and dolphins as you explore some of the most colourful coral reefs.

If you prefer to stay on land, visits to its unmissable ancient sites and famous desert monasteries can easily be arranged as excursions from your hotel.

Things you need to know…

Tourists need a visa to visit Egypt which are granted on arrival and valid for a maximum of 30 days. You can also apply for an e-visa before your departure.

The currency in Egypt is the Egyptian pound. You will find that places also accept dollars and sterling.

Egypt is a warm country for most of the year and temperatures can reach up to 30°C in high summer.

Always check Foreign Office advice before travelling.

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