New Orleans might hog the limelight, but there’s no end of things to do in Louisiana. Here, Rough Guides author Charles Hodgkins takes us on a tour of the state’s beguiling south.

While it’s easy to understand why New Orleans dominates most discussions of southern Louisiana, there’s much more to the lower areas of the Pelican State than the Big Easy. It’s a storied region that exists apart from the rest of the United States, a heady mix of cultures – most notably Cajun, but also a bit of Creole – happily sequestered on its own terms in a waterlogged place south of the actual South.

Whether you’re cruising the swamps of Acadiana in a crawfish skiff, standing reflectively on the porch of a slave cabin on a 200-year-old sugarcane plantation, or driving over countless bridges to a sandy barrier island at the end of the highway, there’s nowhere else quite like southern Louisiana.

Culture and crawfish in Cajun Country

At the heart of Louisiana’s Francophone Cajun country lies Lafayette, the state’s fourth-most populous city and one of its greatest cultural hubs. It’s the all-but-official capital of the state’s Acadiana region. Although English is the dominant language in and around Lafayette, it’s hardly uncommon to overhear Acadian French – especially each Wednesday night at Lafayette’s Blue Moon Saloon’s weekly Cajun jam.

Crawfish in Cajun Country, Louisiana

Within about 15 miles of Lafayette are a day’s worth (at least) of historically significant literary locations, worthwhile museums, nature excursions and small-town Acadiana charms.

St Martinville, a 25-minute drive southeast of Lafayette, is home not only to the Evangeline Oak, immortalised in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s epic poem “Evangeline” and still standing sentinel on the west bank of Bayou Teche, but also a waterside complex housing the African American Museum and the Museum of the Acadian Memorial. Each museum relates moving tales from involuntary migrations of the eighteenth century that forever impacted this region: the former interprets stories gathered from over 300 years of African–American history in southern Louisiana, while the latter describes the deportation of the Acadians from eastern Canada and their eventual resettlement in present-day Acadiana.

Another small Cajun town worthy of a few hours’ lingering is Breaux Bridge, the self-anointed “Crawfish Capital of the World”, where a handful of excellent restaurants vie for visitors’ palates. Try airy and pleasant Café des Amis, known equally for its delectable gumbo and Saturday zydeco breakfasts.

Lafayette swamp tour, Louisiana, USA

Naturally, no visit to southern Louisiana is complete without embarking on a swamp tour, and with wildlife-rich Lake Martin a mere ten-minute drive from Breaux Bridge, you’d be hard-pressed to find a reason (poor weather notwithstading) to not enjoy an outing on the lake’s murky waters. The area’s top guiding outfit is Cajun Country Swamp Tours, operated by father-and-son duo Butch and Shawn Guchereau, extra-knowledgeable locals who interpret the lake’s signature botany and teeming birdlife (cormorants, ibis, egrets, herons) in velvety Cajun drawls. Odds are strong you’ll also spot an alligator or two throughout the two-hour tour.

History and politics in Baton Rouge

Abutting the east bank of the Mississippi River, Baton Rouge is Louisiana’s state government centre, a major shipping port and home to the state’s largest university, Louisiana State. The city’s odd name, which translates to “Red Stick” in English, stems from an early French explorer who, upon arrival, spotted a wooden pole draped with bloody carcasses that marked a boundary between tribal hunting grounds. Intervening centuries have seen the city under French, British, and Spanish rule, as well as the Confederacy during the US Civil War.


It’s no surprise, then, that Baton Rouge’s colourful political past makes for its most uniquely compelling attraction. Louisiana’s Museum of Political History, housed in the Old State Capitol – dubbed “that monstrosity on the Mississippi” by Mark Twain – takes a refreshingly no-holds-barred approach to the state’s notorious history of corruption. Check out the extensive permanent exhibition on infamous Governor/Senator Huey “the Kingfish” Long, who ruled Louisiana politics with an iron fist from the late 1920s until his 1935 death at the hands of an assailant.

Ten minutes away by foot from the Old State Capitol, Long’s highest-profile construction project (and the site of his assassination), the current State Capitol, is free to visit and also worth an extended look. The 1932 building and tower (at 450 feet, the tallest capitol in the US) is a lovely piece of Art Deco showmanship, flanked by 30 acres of landscaped gardens. Ascend to the 27th floor observation deck for commanding views of the ever-growing city, the muddy Mississippi and beyond.

Along River Road

Twisting out of metropolitan Baton Rouge along the Mississippi River southeasterly toward New Orleans, the so-called River Road penetrates Creole-influenced areas of southern Louisiana, winding its way through a peculiar medley of inviting historic plantations and eyesore petrochemical plants. The small town of Donaldsonville is a good stop-off for wandering among huge live oaks that stretch over quiet backstreets like spindly arms; Charles Street boasts a particularly lovely canopy of these trees.

The best of the area’s plantation tours is offered at Laura Plantation on the edge of Vacherie, an hour’s-plus drive from Baton Rouge. Here, longtime-local guides relate tales of the sugarcane plantation’s heyday, when it was one of the few woman-run sugarcane operations in the nineteenth century. Hour-long tours lead through the recently restored “Big House”, adjacent gardens, and, soberingly, into an austere slave cabin.

Laura PlantationLaura Plantation-8485 via photopin (license)

Off the beaten track in Grand Isle

Ambitious road-trippers will want to continue their southern Louisiana adventure by trekking out to the end-of-the-road community of Grand Isle, a pancake-flat, storm-prone place set on a wafer-thin barrier island bang against the Gulf of Mexico. Nearly every structure in sight here is built one storey above ground.

With a year-round population of just over 1000 (although tens of thousands of seasonal visitors can descend on the town during summer), Grand Isle is an assuredly sleepy place more often than not; it’s best-known as a main embarkation point for deep-sea fishing trips. Be sure to drive toward the far eastern end of the island to remote Grand Isle State Park, where nature trails invite quiet exploration and a lengthy pier extends over Gulf waters for excellent bird-watching, as well as fishing for tarpon, speckled trout and redfish.

Explore more of Louisiana with the Rough Guide to the USACompare flightsbook hostels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

Tim Chester joins a group of friends for a restorative mini-break at the historic New Inn in Peasenhall in the heart of Suffolk. 

It’s easy to fall into a reverie at the New Inn. Between the crackling log fire, the huge sofas and the sedative aftereffect of an immense feast at the late medieval hall’s huge trestle table, you can find yourself slipping away into daydreams.

Under wide wooden beams and with a hefty history folder in your lap, thoughts are conjured of the thousands of weary travellers who must have laid their heads between these walls in the half millennium since it became an inn in 1478.

Every inch of the New Inn has a story to tell, and the Landmark Trust – who took over the property in 1971 – regales visitors with tales of fifteenth century abbots, horses and mules stabled in the courtyard, and strangers sharing beds upstairs while hosts brew ale in the basement.

On a chilly evening with a glass of robust red in hand you can almost hear the echoes of conviviality dating back 500 years. On second thoughts, it might just be a baby mewing.

New Inn, Suffolk, Landmark Trust property

As epic meanderings go we hadn’t come far – home was just three hours on the train away in London – but we were nevertheless in need of some hospitality and R&R, and the New Inn delivered in spades.

Like all the best rental homes, the New Inn is somewhere you could spend your entire trip: reading, dozing, chucking another log into the stove, preparing huge meals of ham, eggs and cheese from the local Emmett’s deli, or, as one quote on their website brilliantly has it, “spending hours studying the beautiful carpentry of the building’s oak frame.”

However, there’s plenty to be done in the area including a host of simple pleasures that have been enjoyed for time immemorial: tramping through crusty brown fields under a wide, bright blue sky; capturing images of dewy sparkles on deep furrows; dodging the peacocks who strut through the village of Peasenhall like they own the place.

Suffolk countryside, England

The area holds as many historic secrets as the building, much of them deep underground. The sunken village of Dunwich, “Britain’s Atlantis”, and Sutton Hoo, a 225 acre estate of ancient Anglo-Saxon burial mounds, are both short drives away and will fire the imagination.

The Martello Tower, meanwhile, is another Landmark Trust property on the beach at Aldeburgh that was originally built to repel Napoleon but has now been invaded by a sculpture created by Antony Gormley. The Scallop sculpture, a tribute to Benjamin Britten, and Framlington Castle, which was once the refuge of Mary Tudor, are other sights worth a detour.

More recently, a madcap inventor has been paying homage to the history of arcade machines by building a series of bizarre contraptions that are collected halfway along Southwold Pier – a truly British display of eccentricity.

Aldeburgh, Suffolk, England

The pier has plenty of other attractions, including a more modern collection of shoot-em-ups, any number of ways to lose a pile of 2p pieces, and a rather odd depiction of George Orwell, who grew up here when he was known as plain old Eric Blair and before he left for Burma and the travels that would inspire his first novel, Burmese Days (which he actually completed here).

Southwold itself demands at least half a day, a quaint warren of windy streets harbouring boutiques, foodie shops and friendly pubs, and walks along the beach and to nearby Walberswick for fish and chips at the huge Anchor pub are great ways to while away an afternoon.

Before long, though, you’ll feel the pull of the New Inn and find yourself heading home, with a boot full of local produce and Adnams ale from the town’s brewery shop, to fire up the hearth and settle in to a Chaucerian bacchanal under the oak beams – or perhaps just a good book.

Explore more of England with the Rough Guide to BritainCompare flightsbook hostels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go. 

John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John are sitting in a red 1950s convertible under the stars. Giant ice creams march across a giant screen. A giant hot dog dances with a giant bun. He yawns, sliding a surreptitious arm around her neck. She turns away. He moves in, she slaps him and I’m hooked.

My first experience of the all-American drive-in movie was Grease, a world where teens dressed in leather and gingham drove pink Thunderbirds and watched epic romances in glorious Technicolor in the open air. Sound came from speakers clipped to the car window and hamburgers were delivered by girls on roller skates.

The first drive-in movie theater opened on June 6, 1933 in Camden, New Jersey and was an immediate hit in Depression-slumped America. A whole family could pile in the jalopy for the same price as a single cinema ticket. No car? Take the bus and sit in tip-up tin seats and share a soda from the concession stand.

By 1958 there were nearly 5000 drive-ins in America. Today there are just 336 left. The Pickwick, in Burbank, California, used for that scene in Grease, now lies under a shopping mall. In the 1980s, one drive-in closed per day across the US; in the 1990s, it was one per week. Some of my own favourite drive-ins have bitten the dust in the past ten years (I particularly mourn the glorious Mission in San Antonio, currently being redeveloped as a cultural centre, which at least makes a change from the usual supermarkets and housing projects), but it’s not all bad news. Of those 336 remaining theaters, some are brand new; others reopened by children and grandchildren of the baby-boomers who grew up with drive-ins, keen to introduce the experience to the next generation. ‘Retro’ and ‘vintage’ are still relatively small concepts in the States, but nostalgia is big.


Today’s great drive-in movie theaters

Every drive-in is different. Mainly independently-owned, they’ve escaped the stranglehold of the mega-chains and each has its own quirks. Some have sloped parking lots, so your car’s at a good angle to see the screen, and others retain the old speaker-posts as markers, though these days you tune into the soundtrack via your car radio. Some have attendants in golf buggies selling sodas and hamburgers while others have concession huts with anything from crazy golf and flea markets to games arcades and church services as extra-curricular activities.

Drive-ins are not swanky affairs. Often in the run-down parts of town, they can be dusty, rusty and tired-looking by day. As the sun goes down, though, they acquire a neon-soaked glamour straight out of Hollywood’s golden age. It is still possible to find a slice of true 50s Americana – if you’re prepared to sniff it out. Here are five great places to experience the nostalgia of a drive-in movie theater:

Shankweiler’s, Pennsylvania
For a truly vintage feel, Shankweiler’s, opened in 1934 in Orefield Pennsylvania, was America’s second drive-in. A destination for cinema-loving locals and movie history buffs the world over it is now the oldest outdoor movie theater still in use.

The Brazos Theater, Texas
The 1952 Brazos Theater, 30 miles south west of Fort Worth, Texas, comes complete with its original screen, concession stand and rather rusty seating for those who come by bus. Arrive to wafts of country music, cicadas and distant birdsong in the dusty heat of a hot Texas evening as you join the queue of ozoners waiting to grab the best positions when the box office opens.


Benjies, Maryland
Celebrating its sixtieth birthday this year, Benjies in Baltimore, Maryland boasts the biggest movie screen in the USA and state-of-the-art FM broadcast system for your viewing and listening pleasure. Enjoy nostalgic snacks in the classic, space-age concession shack.

Warwick Drive-In, New Jersey
Beth and Ernest Wilson run the Warwick Drive-In Beth’s father Frank bought after working at drive-ins as a windshield washer from the age of 13. The cinema, six miles from Vernon, New Jersey, was opened in 1950 and continues to serve family fare and home cooking to generations of movie-goers.

Wellfleet Drive-In, Massachusetts
If you’re desperate for the authentic, crackling, mono, in-car sound experience, head for Wellfleet Drive-In, in Wellfleet, Massachusetts, where such is public demand they have retained and renovated the original 1950s field speakers at Cape Cod’s only remaining drive-in movie theater.

7 tips for the perfect drive-in experience

Sadly, now most folk arrive by SUV or pick-up truck rather than that 1950s convertible – pick-up drivers park facing away from the screen then set up camp in the back with folding chairs, iceboxes and even barbeques. If you want to join them, here are seven tips for making the most out of your movie experience:

  • Bring a blanket or even a sleeping bag at the beginning or end of season
  • Check the cinema’s policy on bringing your own food and drink. Some sell a ‘permit,’ others don’t allow outside fare at all.
  • Insect repellent is vital
  • Allow time to find the venue; astonishingly drive-ins can remain hidden until you’re right upon them.
  • Arrive early to get a good position
  • Bring a portable radio to tune into the soundtrack if you are planning to sit outside the car
  • Turn over your motor occasionally to avoid battery-drain

Explore more of the States with the Rough Guide to the USABook hostels for your trip, compare flights, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go. 

Emma Gibbs visits one of Europe’s best short-break destinations with a toddler in tow. Here’s what she learnt about travelling to Amsterdam with kids.

The last time I visited Amsterdam I was eighteen; eschewing the Spanish islands that most of my classmates were heading for, I was after something that was more “cultural”. In reality, of course, we were mainly interested in the city’s infamous coffee shops (though on hindsight I’m impressed that we made it into the Rembrandthuis). So, it goes without saying that my return to the city, with a toddler in tow, was always going to be different. Here’s what I learnt.

You can’t escape the drugs…or the prostitutes

Going to Amsterdam with a child raises a few eyebrows – even today, it seems, a lot of people immediately think of cannabis and the sex trade. Naively, I thought that staying away from coffee shops and out of the Red Light District would be enough to avoid these things. However, I was surprised by just how throat-ticklingly potent the smell of weed was at certain times and there were numerous occasions where we were caught off-guard by a rather underdressed lady in a window. Thankfully, the latter (and hopefully the former) went entirely over our daughter’s head.

It’s all about location, location, location

The criteria by which we would normally choose a place to stay (if it was just my husband and I) – proximity to good restaurants, an interesting/lively neighbourhood – more or less went out the window on this trip. We were arriving into the city by train, so the most important factor was proximity to the station. The last thing we wanted to do was traipse across town with a bag and a baby in tow. The area around our hotel, the Renaissance, wasn’t the most thrilling, but we were just a stone’s throw from the canals and being so central meant that we could easily travel anywhere else in the city.

Leidsegracht, Herengracht Canal, Amsterdam, Netherlands, Europe

Domestic cats are more exciting than gorillas

Faced with a room full of gorillas exhibiting stereotypical behaviour – beating their chests, play fighting, swinging from ropes – our daughter decided that the animal that really deserved her attention was the black domestic cat curled up on one of the radiators on our side of the glass. Fortunately, other animals at Artis Zoo were graced with a little more attention – the snowy owl was deemed hilarious and getting up close to lemurs was thrilling – but the cat remained the stand-out hit of this appealing city zoo.

Nap times are grown-up times

Amsterdam is full of invitingly cosy bars which, although often well-stocked with high-chairs and amenable staff, aren’t really the place you want to be with an investigative toddler. After spending a chilly day looking wistfully at every bar we passed, we hit on the solution – nap time. So, as soon as our daughter’s eyes were closed, we slunk into a nearby one to enjoy a beer and a little bit of adult time; thankfully, a day exploring the city had so exhausted her that even the clamour failed to wake her.

Tram and Central Station, Amsterdam, Holland, Europe

Trams can be tremendously exciting

Trams are amazing to a twenty month old. First greeted with an enthusiastic “wow!”, every subsequent sighting of a tram (which, let’s face it, happens frequently in in Amsterdam) was met with a joyful “ding ding” or “choo-choo”. Possibly the only thing more exciting than watching the trams was riding on them, dinging the bell, and charming all the commuters.

No one cooks like Moeder

My main concern before Amsterdam was how our toddler would cope with so much eating out when she’s at an age where sitting still is something of a foreign concept. We needn’t have worried – everywhere we ate was incredibly family-friendly. The foodie highlight was undoubtedly the rather appropriately-named Moeders (“Mothers”), which serves up deliciously unpretentious Dutch home cooking. The cinnamon-spiced red cabbage went down so well that its removal from the table at the end of the meal was met with great displeasure.

Cheese in shop display, Leidsestraat, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Cheese is your secret weapon

There are a lot of cheese shops in Amsterdam. The best thing about them? The free samples. Many a grumpy moment was quickly averted by slipping into a cheese shop to sample a little mature gouda. Of these, the Cheese Museum (more a well-stocked cheese shop with a small, informative display about cheese making) was a particular favourite.

It’s about more than ticking off sights

City breaks can often feel like a rush to “do” all the major sights. Travelling with a toddler is surprisingly liberating because you have no choice but to eschew that. Sure, I would have liked to have seen Van Gogh’s Sunflowers or The Night Watch by Rembrandt in person, but it wasn’t going to make or break our trip. Instead, we pottered about at a leisurely pace, stopped on bridges to watch boats go past and outside cheese shops to pet life-size models of cows, and saw everything through the wide-eyed wonder of a not-quite two year old.

Stena Line ferries run twice-daily from Harwich International to Hoek van Holland, from where frequent trains run to Amsterdam (via Schiedam). For more information on visiting Amsterdam, visit or read the Pocket Rough Guide to Amsterdam.

The third part in our Slovenia In Four Seasons feature sees Senior Web Editor Tim Chester explore the country in August. Check out our trips from the winter and the spring too.

Think of the northern Adriatic and you’d be forgiven for thinking of Italy – of Venice, Rimini, and Trieste – or Croatia, whose abundant seaside gems stretch from Rovinj to Zadar and beyond. However, you’d be missing an important 47 kilometres, which belong resolutely to Slovenia, a tiny fragment of coast wedged between its neighbours that packs in a disproportionately large number of treats.

Croatia might completely hog the waterfront in this part of the world, snatching miles and miles of stunning coastline from similarly-sized nearby countries and attracting huge numbers of visitors to match, but the Slovene Riviera – sitting pretty at the tip of the Slovene Istria in the south west of the country – is equally as beguiling.

Promenade with Church of San Clemente, Piran, Istria, Slovenia, Europe

Most visitors to this country, which has been independent since 1991, covers an area the size of Wales and numbers just a handful of million inhabitants, head straight for the capital Ljubljana or the justifiably popular Lake Bled, but I’d been told to make a beeline for the beach. So, a couple of hours after our budget plane bounced onto the tarmac we were on top of Hotel Piran in the city of the same name sipping margaritas as the sun dropped into the sea.

The drive along the top of the peninsula to Piran sets the scene: look to the right as the road crests a hill and you can see the fishing port town of Izola, beyond that the more industrial Koper, whose new developments encircle a medieval core, and in the far distance Trieste in Italy. To the left, signs point to the casinos and bars of resort town Portorož, hedges intermittently open to reveal the salt pans of Sečovlje, and in the distance Croatia squats peacefully.

We only had a long weekend to spare so we hit the ground running the following morning, exploring Piran’s cobbled streets and labyrinthine passageways with a local guide. The city dates back to medieval times but it was the Venetian Republic which really left their mark; some corners of the centre look like they’ve been airlifted from the famous watery landmark across the sea and in fact Piran is very much like Venice if you substract the crowds and the effluent.

Tartini Square, Piran, Slovenia

Tartini Square is the place to get your bearings, a former inner port whose buildings and statues tell a variety of stories. Named after Giuseppe Tartini, a famouse violinist and local hero whose statue stands proud in the midst, the city’s hub is crowded with messages for anyone looking in the right place.

On one side, Casa Veneziana is a light red example of Venetian gothic architecture, an erstwhile lodging for a local girl who caught the eye of a Venetian merchant, emblazoned with the words “lasa pur dir” (“let them talk”) in response to the gossip that followed their courtship. The Municipal Palace, meanwhile, features a stone lion with wings holding an open book under its paw, the bared pages signifying the fact it was erected during peace time. The nearby 1st May square is also full of secret stories; look out for depictions of Law and Justice in front of the stone rainwater collector, and the statues holding gutters.

Elsewhere and Piran is home to eight churches, most sadly closed due to vandals and thieves, including the impressive baroque St George’s Parish Church which dates back to the 12th Century and commands awesome views. The imposing city walls and several family attractions, from the Maritime Museum to an aquarium, are also worth your time.

Fonda Fish Farm, Slovenia

That afternoon we were taken by speedboat to a cluster of floating nets belonging to the Fonda Fish Farm, where thousands of Piran sea bass grow into huge healthy specimens under careful supervision. The company are aiming to nurture top quality fish and mussels and their enthusiasm was infectious.

We followed our tour with a dip in the Adriatic back at Piran’s concrete beach and ended the day at Pri Mari, a family-run Mediterranean restaurant and a Rough Guide author pick. The owners, Mara and Tomi, lavished us with fine Slovenian wines and endless thanks once they discovered we were from the book that had brought in so much business over the years, but their hospitality was exemplary before they knew who we were. Two steaks (because that’s what you order at the coast, naturally) were delectable and the place was thrumming with happy customers. Piran nightlife seems somewhat sedate but we managed to find two guitarists playing Pink Floyd to a small dancefloor and a man serving pina coladas in one corner of the port to finish things off.

The following day we drove into the hinterland in search of wine. The Karst region behind the coast is carpeted with vineyards and olive groves, interspersed with peach and cherry trees and harbouring thousands of underground caves (the Postojna and Škocjan caverns are the best known).

Before long we arrived at Korenika & Moškon, a small family-run cellar dating back to 1984. The place actually goes back much further – the family has been producing wine for ages – but the communist regime put paid to that for a while. For several hours we were plied with golden yellow and peachy Malvasia and Paderno whites and bold, interesting reds such as local pride and joy Refošk, a dark ruby and almost port-like liquid.

Town of Izola, Slovenia

From here we were driven to Izola for the weekend fish festival, a lively gathering of locals and domestic tourists who descend on the port for live music, craft stalls and plenty of fried catch.

On Sunday we sped through Portorož, Slovenia’s answer to the French Riveria but without the bumper-to-bumper traffic and hordes of people selling tat laid out on bedsheets, to the Sečovlje salt pans.

Salt pans, Slovenia A worker collects salt in Slovenia

A vast national park that has been producing salt for 700 years and continues to this day, it marks the border with Croatia and plays host to an abundance of wildlife. We jumped on a golf cart for a flying tour of the endless salty pools before taking a dunk in the dirt at the in-house spa. Lying caked in sea salt and mud wraps in the middle of this barren landscape, we fell into a trance like happy hippos.

Back in Piran, a final goodbye cocktail reflecting the deep orange rays of one last late summer Slovene sunset, we toasted our new discovery: 47km of criminally overlooked summer fun.

 Explore more of Slovenia with the Rough Guides destination page for Sloveniabook hostels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

Many of the popular island destinations in this part of the world boast golf course resorts and beautiful beaches, but Bermuda has so much more than the standard things to see and do. While many of the activities can be enjoyed year round, Bermuda’s sub-tropical climate means that May to September is when the island is liveliest, so here are ten of our favourite things to do in Bermuda beyond the resorts.

Get your bearings from above

To really get a sense of where you are – a low lying paradise in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean – a trip up Gibb’s Hill lighthouse is the place for the best views of this 21 square mile archipelago, as well as a unique place for lunch. The oldest cast iron lighthouse in the world started sending its beacon out to ships in 1846 to help reduce the number of wrecked ships scattered on Bermuda’s ocean floors.

Jump inside the ocean playground

With so much of Bermuda’s life extending beyond the land, it’s only fitting that getting in, on, or under the ocean is a must. This clear blue underwater world is full of colourful fish and beautiful coral reefs – the reefs that often caused the shipwrecks in the first place. The 300 shipwrecks surrounding the island are very popular with divers, but you don’t have to be a diver to enjoy them; some are in shallow waters, so can still be appreciated by snorkelers, and the fish and reefs can be easily reached from shore in places like Tobacco Bay.

Susy Mezzanotte/SIME/4Corners

Go whale watching and glowworm spotting

Although it’s possible to see whales and worms from shore, a boat excursion is much more likely to provide an unforgettable sighting and is a great reason to get out on the water.  March and April are the months to see humpback whales on their annual migration from warm southern waters, while the glowworms’ flashy mating ritual happens from May to October.

Walk underwater with the wildlife

Hartley’s Undersea Walk is a unique and unmissable experience and has amazed everyone from the seasoned diver to the cynical teenager. Ever seen a wild angelfish swim through a hoop? Well Greg Hartley will introduce you to Diana, who can do just that. You can also meet Charles the Hogfish, Jack the Grouper and many more using a specially designed helmet that allows you to walk on the seabed without need for an oxygen tank or any diving experience.

Take a light-hearted history lesson

History was never as entertaining as it is in the World Heritage Site of St.George’s, where from May to September a historical re-enactment takes place in Kings square. The amusing performance led by the town crier sees an eighteenth century wench receiving her (somewhat sexist) punishment for gossiping and nagging her husband: a chilly dunking in the harbour.

Massimo Ripani/SIME/4Corners

Pay your respects at St. Peters Church

The oldest Anglican Church outside the British Isles, you enter this historic building on some wide steps, opening to its cool cedar interior. Be sure to pay respects, as it’s a working Christian church – and has been continuously for the last 400 years – and remember that you are likely walking over some long-deceased bodies buried underneath the main structure. Queen Elizabeth II herself visited during her Diamond Jubilee and granted it the title “Their Majesties’ Chappell”

Witness traditional dance with the Gombeys

You’ll hear them before you see them; a heart-pounding drumbeat pierced by whistles and finally a burst of wild and colourful fringes, feathers and fancy footwork. These masked-folk dance troupes represent a tradition passed down through families and date back to the dark slave times.

Catch the buzz at market nights

Market nights are a seasonal treat in St. Georges, Hamilton, and Dockyard for tourists and locals alike. Stall tables are laden with local handicrafts and the wealth of Bermuda’s talented artists present their work, which is inspired by the beauty that surrounds them daily. Music plays, children’s faces are painted, and it’s a likely place for the traditional Gombeys to make an appearance.

Crystal Caves, Bermuda, Atlantic Ocean, Central America

Go underground in the caves

The Crystal and Fantasy caves were discovered over a century ago by a couple of boys looking for their lost cricket ball. Stalactites, stalagmites and an underground lake make this an intriguing peek into the belly of the island.

Peer into the past at the Maritime Museum

The nineteenth century Royal Naval Dockyard offers many attractions including the Maritime Museum. The Commissioner’s House Slavery Exhibit is an officially Designated UNESCO Slave Route Project, while other displays and maritime artefacts offer a glimpse into the history that shaped this place.

Horseshoe Bay, Bermuda Islands, North Atlantic Ocean, Atlantic

”Swizzle in; swagger out” of the pub

The motto of Bermuda’s oldest and most famous pub hints at the experience awaiting those who enter. Established 1932 in a seventeenth century roadhouse, the Swizzle Inn at Baileys Bay is a cheerful jumble of business cards and graffiti garnished walls. The home of the islands’ unofficial national drink, the Rum Swizzle, also serves the best nachos on the island.

Finally, relax on the beach

Of course, no visit to Bermuda would be complete without some beach time, especially after the exhausting array of activities on offer above. The sugar-soft pink beaches that rim the island are a major attraction, and Horseshoe bay with its lifeguards and beach facilities is the most popular for people watching, swimming and an overall great beach day.

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Croatia’s growing popularity with independent travellers has given a new lease of life to the Adriatic camping scene, with a new breed of small, family-owned sites squeezing themselves into some beautiful corners of the country’s famously stunning coastline. Facilities are improving – nowadays you get things like wi-fi as well as hot water – but it’s a combination of location and atmosphere that make the best sites special. Cute camping grounds on the South Dalmatian islands can often provide a far better holiday than the huge, regimented trailer cities that prevail at the more developed, northern end of the country. Listed below are ten of our favourite Croatian beachside campsites, running geographically from south to north. One thing to remember before you set off: all Croatian sites tend to occupy hard, stony ground; so try not to bend all your tent pegs on the first night.

Monika, Molunat

Why stay in the summertime sardine-tin that is Dubrovnik when you can enjoy an idyllic beachside holiday a little further south? Shrouded by lush Mediterranean greenery 35km from the city, Molunat faces east across a small shallow bay that boasts a smooth, sandy seabed on one side and a more rocky section on the other. One of five sites in the village, the neat, 30-pitch Monika shelters amid olive trees on a shingle-edged inlet, just south of the main beach. Monika’s restaurant isn’t bad either, serving up grilled seafood backed up with wines from local vineyards.

Boats In The Harbor Of The Coastal Town Of Jelsa On Hvar Island, Croatia.

Camp Grebišće, Jelsa, Hvar

Occupying a terraced site above Grebišće beach, four kilometres out of Jelsa on Hvar’s northern shore, this campsite is perfect for a bathing-based seaside holiday. There is a restaurant on site, a free wi-fi zone and olive groves – although not all of the pitches are shaded. The beach itself is both very shallow and sandy underfoot, making it perfect for safe paddling and playful splashing around. Drinks and basic snacks are available at the campsite café or the Čorni Petar beach bar on the headland to the east.

Lupis, Lovište, Pelješac

Lovište is a blissfully sleepy end-of-the-peninsula backwater and, judging by the dearth of public transport to this part of the Pelješac, looks destined to remain so for the foreseeable future. Pretty much all of this fishing village’s indented seafront is composed of shingle shore and clear water – and Lupis is one of two family-run campsites that sit right beside it. Set on terraced, gently-sloping ground shaded by tamarisks, and with several village taverns in walking distance (but not close enough to be noisy), it’s as enchanting and restful a spot as they come.

Kamp Lili, Jagodna, Hvar

Getting to the southern side of Hvar can be an adventure in itself, involving careful navigation of the winding road through Pitve before passing through a rough-hewn single-lane tunnel that never fails to spook first-time visitors. Beaches here are an informal mixture of shingle cove and rocky outcrop – and it’s this landscape that family-run Kamp Lili sits right on top of. Life here is blissfully free of discos or cocktail bars, and this stretch of coast – overlooked by sloping vineyards and cliffs – is stunning.


Mala Milna, Milna, Hvar

Three kilometres east of Hvar Town, Milna is a bay-hugging cluster of houses that lies below the main Hvar–Stari Grad road. Milna’s main beach is a broad swathe of pebble with rocky stretches on either side; the smaller, slightly less crowded pebble beach, Mala Milna, can be found five minutes’ walk west. Lying between the two is the Mala Milna campsite occupying terraced, pine-shaded ground just above the sea. With a bit of luck small-tent travellers might find a pitch right beside the shore.

Adriatiq, Primošten

Just outside the peninsula town of Primošten, Adriatiq is one of the Dalmatian mainland’s most pleasant and well-organized sites, situated conveniently mid-way between the historic cities of Šibenik and Split. Occupying its own small peninsula 4km west of town, the site is fringed by a long stretch of pebble beach, with pitches occupying terraced, tree-shaded ground. With a 350-pitch capacity it’s not the most intimate of places, but it does have beach volleyball, tennis courts, pedalos, a diving school and its own restaurant.

Camping Jasenovo, Žaborić-Jasenovo

One of the most outstanding small sites in Croatia and on a beautiful stretch of coast that is often overlooked, Jasenovo is in the tiny coastal settlement of Žaborić, 15km southeast of Šibenik. Bordered by neat hedges and well-tended Mediterranean plants, the fifty pine-shaded pitches slope gently down towards a small pebble beach. West facing, the beach is perfect for the evening sun – and the campsite’s beachside café-bar serves good ice cream.


Camping Zdovice, Valun, Cres

The kind of place that will have the purists twanging their guy-ropes in triumph, Zdovice is unique in Croatia for remaining resolutely closed to caravans, mobile homes and automobiles. Facilities in this unreconstructed canvas paradise are on the simple side, but the location is superb, right on a shingle beach beside the tiny fishing village of Valun – a wild and unspoiled place on what is by and large a wild and unspoiled island.

Antony Boy, Viganj, Pelješac

Tourism in the windsurfing village of Viganj is almost totally campsite-based, with a string of appealing sites lining the splendid strip of shingle that is Ponta Beach. Medium-sized, orchard-like Anthony Boy is one of the best equipped, with a windsurfing school, kids’ play-park and bicycle rental among the extras. A few metres away, cult boho beach bar K2 is where people come to earnestly discuss which way the wind is blowing: you don’t have to be a surfer to enjoy Viganj, but it helps to show an interest.

Camping Medveja, Medveja

The sweeping crescent of shingle at Medveja, 10km south of Opatija, has long been celebrated as one of the best family beaches in northern Croatia. It has been slightly spoiled by the arrival of beach bars, expensive sun loungers and the buzz of jet skis, but it’s still the best place hereabouts to spend a day with your bucket and spade. Immediately behind the beach, Camping Medveja is a well-appointed and spacious affair tucked into a steep sided valley. Behind the site, a well-trodden hiking trail ascends towards the summit of Učka, the imposing mountain ridge that dominates this stretch of coast.

Explore more of Croatia with the Rough Guide to Croatia. Book hostels, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

Sword fighting, scaremongering and sensational surroundings: Lottie Gross finds out why Warwick Castle isn’t just fun for the kids.

As expected, upon arrival we discovered we were one of only two couples without children in the entire campsite. Fortunately, our medieval Warwick tent – complete with double bed, two singles, plush duvets and mattresses fit for kings – was set back from the others, overlooking the river, giving me hope that there may be some peace to be had that evening after all the kids had been put to bed.

We were about to embark on what Warwick Castle call their “medieval glamping experience”, in which we’re shacked up in luxury tents, given two full days to explore the castle and get to feast at a medieval banquet in the evening. I had wondered what on Earth we’d do for two whole days here, but after seeing the extensive programme of events I worried that we wouldn’t fit it all in. Just the walk from the glampsite to the castle grounds took us 45 minutes as we stopped to take in the view of the rather elegant conservatory and peacock garden, meet a bizarre bird of prey with head feathers that resembled Rod Stewart, and examine a huge wooden trebuchet which stood poised threateningly at 18 metres tall.

Kings Tent exterior 1

We first opted for a picnic on the lawn outside the castle; a safe and relaxed introduction to the grounds, I thought. That was before an enormous sea eagle swooped down from behind me, a few feet above my head, landing in the fenced off area to my right. Instinctively I cowered to protect my not-so-medieval ham sandwich from its sharp, bright yellow talons.

We’d sat down just as the twice-daily falconry display had begun and it turned out to be a pretty exciting half an hour once I’d got over the fear of having my lunch pecked from my hands. We saw three types of eagle and a white-backed vulture gracing the skies above our heads, flying unimaginably high (sometimes up to thousands of feet) then gliding down to get food from the falconer who was leading the show. There was something mesmerizing about watching an animal so enormous and heavy float like a feather through a glorious blue sky.

The Castle is celebrating 1100 years this summer, although of course the walls we see today aren’t quite that old – an earthen rampart was built here in 914 and since then has been the site of various defensive structures. The stone castle was constructed 1260 and has grown to the deceptive size it is now over the years.

We found ourselves lost in a myriad of opulent rooms in the main enclave of the castle, where suits of armour lined the corridors and hundreds of swords adorned the walls. During guided tours of the Great Hall we were able to handle the some of the hefty metal weapons – scores of men were queuing up to hold these lethal blades, none of whom I’m sure would have the strength to swing it with just one arm.

Warwick Castle Ceasars Tower

Upstairs in the living quarters mannequins dressed as Earls and Ladies were poised mid-action – the busty women gossiping in a boudoir, the men smoking in the library – and recordings played out their conversations as if it were just another day at Warwick. Similarly, below ground in an exhibition called the Kingmaker, we found ourselves in the midst of battle preparations for the 1471 battle lead by Richard Neville in the War of the Roses. The sights, sounds and even smells (from the mock-up horses stables to the fake fires) told the story of behind-the-scenes Warwick.

Even further below ground, however, is where we found the real adult entertainment (not like that, get your mind out of the gutter). During a terrifying half an hour, I cautiously tip-toed through a labyrinth of dark rooms, trying to stifle the compulsion to clutch strangers’ hands and hide behind those taller than me. The Dungeon of Warwick Castle is not a place for the weak, the faint-hearted or – as it seemed during our visit – children: some were so terrified they were reduced to tears.

We were ferried through a torture room and a doctor’s lab before we were put on trial for all manner of atrocities then let loose in a misty maze of mirrors. It’s usually only after a heavy night that I’m afraid of my own reflection, but in that room I almost unable to look up from the floor for fear of what might look back. The climax of the tour of terror ended in a room full of screaming adults as the seats came alive and tickled our backsides while a crazed witch cackled in our ears. Fortunately, by this time the bar was open and a stiff drink was placed firmly in my hand upon arrival at back at the camp.

The promised “medieval feast” left a little to be desired; the whole hog with an apple in its mouth I’d imagined turned out to be a roast dinner buffet. But the subsequent entertainment delivered more then enough amusement for the kids – that was until the parents commandeered the fun. While the Warwick jester was distracting the children, we lined up to try our hands at archery, sword-fighting and jousting. Suddenly, a mixture of gin and tonic and plastic swords culminated in wives slaughtering husbands in clumsy battles, and fathers jeering at their sons when they couldn’t hit closer to the archery target.

We finally fell into our tent at 2am after sitting by the river with a bottle of wine, putting the medieval world to rights. Thankfully, a full English was laid out the following morning to soak up our hangovers, and a stroll through the peacock garden made for a romantic recovery.

We witnessed the raising of the portcullis, where an animated archer told gory tales of failed enemy attacks, then took a stroll along the castle’s defences to admire the beautiful grounds from above. The breeze from the top was refreshing and as I looked down on the estate I remembered my first trip to Warwick Castle; I was 13-years-old on a school trip, and I couldn’t have been less interested in its dramatic history or personal stories. I considered how this weekend had been a testament to the castle’s appeal as an attraction that’s not just for children.

Warwick Castle’s medieval glamping runs throughout summer until 31st August. For more information see and to book call the Glamping Hotline on 0871 663 1676 (lines open Monday – Friday 9am-5pm). Chiltern Railways provides train travel to Warwick from London Marylebone and Birmingham stations thirty times a day. The castle is a ten minute walk from the station.

The famous poet and author of the Slovene national anthem France Prešeren once wrote this about the famous Lake Bled:

“No, Carniola has no prettier scene
Than this, resembling paradise serene.”

But after five days, over 400km, countless wine tastings and an ungodly amount of food, I have concluded that he was wrong. During my short time in Slovenia, I found plenty of places in this small but intoxicating country that will take more breaths away than Bled ever could. Of course I’m not saying don’t visit Lake Bled, it is indeed the fairy tale setting we see in brochures and on adverts, but venture further afield (which isn’t far at all in this compact country) and you’ll find sprawling vineyards in Ljutomer-Ormož, Slovenia’s answer to Tuscany, small cities flooded by culture and interesting art by local sculptors, a Roman legacy and more outdoor sports and adventure activities than you’ll have time for. And what’s more, in spring time, it’ll feel like you’ve got the entire country all to yourself. Here are five things to do in Slovenia in spring:

Cycling and paragliding in Logarska Dolina

Logarska Dolina, Slovenia, copyright Lottie Gross 2014Photography © Lottie Gross 2014

If there is anywhere to rival Bled’s beauty it’s here. Cutting through the Savinja Alps near the Austrian border, Logarska Dolina is one of three impressive valleys. Driving into the valley is probably the most impressive part; having navigated the tight, winding mountain roads and followed a small bright-blue river for miles, we turned into Logarska and were dumbfounded by the view that opened up before us. An expanse of green grass, bordered by tall, pine-blanketed mountains, and an enormous grey cliff face baring down on us from the southern end – and no people in sight.

Once you’re over the view (if you can ever get over it), there’s a wealth of sports and activities to keep you occupied. After a lunch of trout, caught fresh from the Soca river, and locally-picked mushrooms at the Rinka visitor centre – just a ten minute drive north of Logarska – we hopped onto an electric bike to find the waterfall at the end of the valley. We cycled along the tarmac track, which in summer is usually littered with other cyclists, walkers and cars, completely alone except for two other walkers. It was peaceful, the sun was shining, the air was fragrant with pine and the ride was easy (thanks to the electric motor in my bike, of course – I dread to think how I’d have fared without it).

See more of Lottie’s pictures:

We left the bikes at the road to continue on foot, and fifteen minutes later we stood in the refreshing spray of a 90-metre-high waterfall – just what I needed. The ride back down to the rental hut was fast and cool, and while I’d been won over by the dizzying heights of the Savinja Alps towering over me, I had heard the view from above was unrivalled: it was time for some paragliding. Somewhere along the Panoramic Road, which snakes along the side of the valley, I strapped myself to a stranger and his parachute, and together we ran off the side of the mountains to glide over trees, a small scattering of farm houses and a lone church. I decided that paragliding was most definitely the best way to see Logarska Dolina.

Drink wine in the Drava Valley

The Drava Valley is the largest of Slovenia’s wine regions, producing mainly white grapes, and in pursuit of the region’s finest tipples we visited Jeruzalem, a small village in the Ljutomer-Ormož district. On the drive south from Ptuj, this renowned wine country rose out of the flat plains into undulous green hills, covered with newly-planted grapevines. We drove past small farmhouses teetering on the top of mounds, overlooking the elegant swirling lines of the vineyards beneath like a protective mother, and eventually we found our way to the Jeruzalem Ormož winery.

After standing in the fresh, sweet, grassy-smelling air, admiring the alluring view, we retired to the cellar to drink some of the finest wine I’ve ever tasted. Now I’m no wine expert, but there was something truly special about tasting a €250, 42-year-old bottle of Pinot while standing beneath an enormous old wooden wine press.

But of course that wasn’t our first tasting of the day – we’d spent the morning in Ptuj at the Pullus wine cellar where they keep enormous barrels of the stuff, some up to ten thousand litres in capacity. After six tastings of incredibly different but equally delicious wines, we packed four of their bottles into the car and went to lunch with a light head and a large appetite.

Overindulge in Ljubljana

Ljubljana, Slovenia, copyright Lottie Gross 2014Photography © Lottie Gross 2014

With such a small country comes a tiny capital; Ljubljana is home to only ten per cent of the Slovenia’s population of two million, but by no means is it short of culture, history or a good night out.

This year Ljubljana celebrates 2000 years since it became an important Roman settlement along a trade route from the Mediterranean coast. So in a bid to explore all-things-Roman and stuff our faces with great cake, we took a food tour around the city with Top Ljubljana Foods – and we came away with far more than just a full stomach. Five restaurants and eight tastings later we found ourselves towering above the city at Neboticnik (which means “skyscraper”), mapping our route on the streets below over some excellent Prekmurska Gibanica (a layered fruit cake), and admiring the snow-topped alps beckoning us from beyond.

We’d eaten seafood from the Slovenian coast in a restaurant by the fish market, sipped a rich red from the western wine regions in a famous bar, sampled a protected Carniolan sausage in a shop run by a watchmaker, eaten Bosnian barbequed meat and sipped Turkish coffee by the river. It was just a small taster of the 24 wildly different cuisines available in Slovenia and a history lesson in the city’s people and politics. We walked down the two most important streets in Roman Ljubljana, stood in squares where market traders used to be punished for cheating their customers and passed all kinds of architecture from classical houses in the old town, to the much-debated modern extension of the Opera house near Park Tivoli. Some of the buildings, simple as they were, spoke volumes about the country’s political discourse: we noted how TR3, an enormous, ugly grey tower block home to Slovenia’s banks, stood threateningly tall above the understated Parliament building.

Ljubljanica river, Ljubljana, Slovenia, copyright Lottie Gross 2014Photography © Lottie Gross 2014

Later that evening, despite the plethora of rock gigs and club nights at our disposal, we opted to enjoy a bottle of Slovenian red by the river (thanks to the city’s trusting open-bottle policy) and admire the illuminated medieval hill-top castle from below.

Taste the simple life on a tourist farm

Agriculture is a huge part of life in Slovenia; in 2005 there were over 70,000 farms across the country, producing some of the essential ingredients for their 176 traditional dishes, such as pumpkins for pumpkin seed oil and pork for dried meats. Hundreds of these estates open up their doors to tourists nowadays, giving people the opportunity to stay on working farm and experience the back-to-basic nature of agricultural life.

Firbas Tourist Farm, Slovenia, copyright Lottie Gross 2014Photography © Lottie Gross 2014

At Firbas Tourist Farm – run by Bojan and his parents – we ate only foods that were produced on their land and drank wine only from small local vineyard. As we stood, after dark, drinking a 22-year-old Pinot in his neighbour’s tiny eight-barrel cellar, we toasted with the farm boys, who’d just rocked up in a giant John Deere tractor (complete with bright lights and a booming sound system) after a hard day on the fields. They spoke little English, and my knowledge of Slovenian was too simple, but we communicated through our wine with a simple “cheers”, or “na zdravje”.

Have it all in Maribor

This small city of just 100,000 people really packs a punch. If you haven’t got time to get active in Logarska or drink wine in Jeruzalem, then spent your days in Maribor. It promises culture on par with the capital, with its jazz cafes and art exhibitions, and beauty to challenge even Bled’s picturesque landscapes. In just one day we ate a traditional Slovenian lunch of štefani pečenka (a beef meatloaf stuffed with a boiled egg), took a walking tour through the city to learn some of its history and politics, and visited the world’s oldest grapevine at 400 years old, from which grapes are harvested once a year during a festival and whose wine is given only to influential guests of the city (it’s rumoured that Pope John Paul II received two small bottles during his visit to the cellar).

World's oldest vine, Maribor, Slovenia, copyright Lottie Gross 2014Photography © Lottie Gross 2014

But the main surprise in Maribor is the city’s close connection with nature. Over the river sits Pohorje, a ski-resort-turned-adventure-playground in spring, where you can get the adrenaline going on two wheels at the Bike Park in the forest, or try your hand at the single track PohorJet which sends you hurtling down the ski slope at up to 30mph.

Just a five minute drive from central Maribor is the Drava Center, an eco-centre, built mainly from timber and chestnut wood from the surrounding forests, that offers water-based activities for children and adults along the Drava River. We spent the late afternoon watching the changeable April weather from grass-covered loungers on the Drava café balcony, sipping coffee and eating gibanica (a sweet cake made from pastry and cottage cheese), before venturing onto the waters in a canoe. The surrounding green hills made a perfect backdrop to the wonderfully blue waters around us, and for a brief moment the sun came out to warm us and I forgot we were anywhere near a major city at all.

For more information go to Explore more of Slovenia with the Rough Guides Slovenia destination page. Book hostels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go. 

Characterised by rolling views of green countryside and English pubs, hotels and shops, a trip to the Cotswolds shows off a delightfully relaxed side of Britain. It’s the perfect place to simmer down the pace of life and get close to nature, but it’s not just bracing country walks on offer. From kid-friendly farm centres to quirky theatres to the UK’s only crocodile zoo, here are ten great things to do in the Cotswolds. 


Known as the ‘gateway to the Cotswolds’ and mentioned in the Domesday book, the town of Burford is a postcard-perfect entry point. For food or accommodation try The Lamb Inn (not to be confused with the Crawley venue mentioned below), with its snug fire in the front area, or The Bay Tree. The local architecture is stunning, plus it’s a rich place for antique hunting. Start at the Burford Antique Centre and Gateway Antiques, both found on the Burford Roundabout, plus venues such as The George on the main high street.

Cotswold cottages along The Hill, Burford, Oxfordshire, England, United Kingdom


The sleepy, leafy village of Crawley, found in the heart of David Cameron’s home constituency, doesn’t seem like an obvious location for the country’s only crocodile zoo. Yet Crocodiles Of The World opens every Saturday and Sunday here from 10am-5pm. It’s home to over 80 crocs, boasting a glass underwater viewing section and opportunities to handle some of the baby animals. It’s a fairly small set-up so doesn’t take long to enjoy – The Lamb Inn nearby offers a charming stop-off for lunch and the town of Witney, featuring shopping centres and a cinema, is a short drive up the road.


A hub of inclusive artistry, the Theatre in market town Chipping Norton is a pleasure to visit, whatever happens to be showing there. Opened by former Dr Who actor Tom Baker in 1975, with 213 seats the theatre is one of the smallest and most charming in the country. A wide variety of plays are shown as well as films, comedy gigs and live music, while their non-starry Christmas pantomime is a Cotswolds institution. They also put on affordable workshops and hold art exhibitions in the building, so check the website for what’s on.


The Cotswolds is swimming in fantastic country inns perfect for sunny Sunday lunches in gardens or cosy winter sessions. Many of these are the only eating and drinking venues in Oxfordshire’s plethora of charming villages, such as The Royal Oak in Ramsden (try the smoked haddock “smokies” dish) and The Plough in neighbouring Finstock. Go to the latter on Christmas Eve and you’ve got a good chance of catching the Finstock Mummers: a group of local men who act out a traffic-stopping comedic seasonal tale in the street out front. Be sure to try some local real ales. Offerings from Hook Norton Brewery are wonderful and most pubs will have special local guest beers.

Water fountain and statue in the garden before Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, England, United Kingdom, Europe


Picture-perfect in the summer, bracingly beautiful in the autumn and unforgettably atmospheric in the pouring rain, a walk in the grounds of Blenheim Palace always feels special. Tourists usually head near the palace where there are exhibitions, a butterfly house, eateries, a maze and the lovely Formal Garden. It’s a great destination, but much of the joy of Blenheim is taking a walk on the outskirts of the estate. From the centre of Combe village take Park Road and park in the layby at Combe Lodge. Go through the “kissing gate” and turn either right or left for a touch more than an hour’s walk round the grounds.


Boasting over four miles of path and shaped as a dragon and a wizard in past years, the ‘maize maze’ at Hidcote Manor Farm is a memorable day out. Every summer the venue opens an eight-acre maze in a different shape, with customers walking around bearing flags and attempting to find their way out. Created by American horticulturist Major Lawrence Johnston, the farm is worth a visit even when the maze isn’t up and running, with its secret gardens and beautiful picnic spots.

Tamworth piglets at the Cotswold Farm Park at Guiting Power in the Cotswolds, Gloucestershire, UK


A taste of farm life is essential for anyone wanting insight into the Cotswolds and Cotswold Farm Park, run by farmer and TV presenter Adam Henson, offers just that. It’s a working farm where guests can see rare cattle breeds plus it has a conservation area, viewing tower and a barn where you can touch some of the animals. There are further child-friendly activities such as driving electric tractors and a zip wire.


A cut above many of the UK’s zoo-style venues and found two miles south of Burford, this park showcases some incredible creatures as well as the Cotswold’s natural green beauty. Strolling around the park feels at times like perusing the grounds of a stately home rather than a zoo. There are big cats, camels, penguins, rhinos and the usual creepy crawlies you’d expect, plus a kid-friendly children’s farmyard and adventure playground. Another popular activity for kids is the brass rubbing in the park’s manor house.

Shire horses pull gypsy caravan through country lanes, Stow-On-The-Wold, Gloucestershire, United Kingdom


Another picturesque Cotswold market town, Gloucester’s Stow On The Wold is worth visiting for an afternoon with no particular plan. The market square found in the centre of town is a great starting point from which to explore the inviting pubs, pretty streets with endearingly quirky shops and restaurants. However, plan your timing well and you could experience one of the area’s most impressive spectacles: the horse fair. Taking place twice a year, the event is a huge meet and greet for the travelling community, with many heading to the town from all over the country to buy and sell horses. It takes place on the nearest Thursdays to May 12 and October 24 each year.


While the Cotswolds boasts many fantastic farms and park areas geared up for tourists, enjoying the simple pleasures of a country walk there is just as enjoyable. One of the most beautiful such walks takes you through the 1700-acre grounds of Cornbury Park that surround the manor that’s home to Lord and Lady Rotherwick. A stroll from the village of Finstock through the grounds to Charlbury takes in views of deer and the river, with a wealth of country pubs in the latter town where you reward yourself with lunch.

To explore more of the Cotswolds and surrounding areas, use the Rough Guide to BritainBook hostels for your trip and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

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