The allure of Istanbul is hard to beat. This thrilling city bridges two continents with a history spanning more than 2000 years. And with Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport hitting an all-time record for flight traffic this July, its status as a top city-break destination has been further cemented.

But what about the rest of the country? “More often than not, people spend all their time in Turkey mostly in Istanbul”, says entrepreneur and filmmaker Pete R, “but Turkey has much more to offer”. 

In this film, our pick of the week, he heads out across the country, paragliding in Pamukkale, hiking in Cappadocia and swimming in Lake Van. “Turkey is definitely one of its kind”, he says, and “I [encourage] you to go further east to see the real Turkey!”

Inspired? Check out our list of 20 things not to miss in Turkey and our “wild east” itinerary to kick-start your trip planning.


More to Turkey than Istanbul from Pete R. on Vimeo.

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

There’s something fascinating about doorways. Whether it’s the idea of the unknown, the promise of a warm welcome, or simply the frame for a perfect view, something makes us feel compelled to photograph them again and again. From the mesmerizing arches of the Mezquita in Córdoba to ornately carved frames in Tibet, here are 20 of our favourite shots from the Rough Guides archive.

1.Dar el Makhzen, Fez el JedidMorocco

2. Colourful temple doorway at Jogyesa Temple, Seoul, South Korea

3. A blue doorway on a cobbled street in Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia

4. A painted doorway in Tallinn, Estonia

5. A highly decorated chapel in Gyantse, Tibet

6. An Art Nouveau doorway in Brussels, Belgium

7. A girl entering house in Stone Town, Zanzibar

8. Entrance to Wat Phra Kaew, Bangkok, Thailand

9. An elegant doorway in partly ruined house, Venice, Italy

10. A carved wooden doorway in Mombasa, Kenya

11. A door in the old town of Brandenburg an der Havel, Germany

12. Frescoes on the facade of St Michael’s church in Riva Valdobbia, Italy

 13. A watchful cat in Brittany, France

14. Mosque entrance in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina

15. An ornate doorway in the Alcobaca Monastery, Portugal

16. A church doorway in Istanbul, Turkey

17. A traditional Swahili door in Pangani, Tanzania

18. The Gate of Forgiveness in the Mezquita, Córdoba, Spain

19. Kilpeck Church doorway in Herefordshire, England

20. A thatched mud hut in Gujarat, India

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This week UNESCO has released their list of newly inscribed properties for 2015, adding 24 new sites of cultural and natural significance to the World Heritage list.

Inclusions this year ranged from the archeological sites of Susa in Iran and Ephesus in Turkey to Singapore Botanical Gardens and Jamaica’s Blue and John Crow Mountains. France also made an impact with the wine regions of Champagne and Burgundy both getting recognition for their history, landscapes and role in developing wine production.

The highlight for the UK, meanwhile, is the inclusion of the The Forth Bridge in Scotland. The world’s longest multi-span cantilever bridge is praised as a “milestone in bridge design” with a “distinctive industrial aesthetic” that is “innovative in style, materials and scale”.

The full list

1. Aqueduct of Padre, Mexico
2. Arab-Norman Palermo and the Cathedral Churches of Cefalú and Monreale, Italy
3. Baekje Historic Areas, Republic of Korea
4. Baptism Site “Bethany Beyond the Jordan” (Al-Maghtas), Jordan
5. Champagne Hillsides, Houses and Cellars, France
6. Christiansfeld, a Moravian Church Settlement, Denmark
7. Climats, terroirs of Burgundy, France
8. Cultural Landscape of Maymand, Iran
9. Diyarbakır Fortress and Hevsel Gardens Cultural Landscape, Turkey
10. Ephesus, Turkey
11. Fray Bentos Cultural-Industrial Landscape, Uruguay
12. Great Burkhan Khaldun Mountain and its surrounding sacred landscape, Mongolia
13. Necropolis of Bet She’arim: A Landmark of Jewish Renewal, Israel
14. Rjukan–Notodden Industrial Heritage Site, Norway
15. Rock Art in the Hail Region of Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia
16. San Antonio Missions, USA
17. Singapore Botanical Gardens, Singapore
18. Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution: Iron and Steel, Shipbuilding and Coal Mining, Japan
19. Speicherstadt and Kontorhaus District with Chilehaus, Germany
20. Susa, Iran
21. The Forth Bridge, United Kingdom
22. The par force hunting landscape in North Zealand, Denmark
23. Tusi Sites, China
24. Blue and John Crow Mountains, Jamaica

The sky is lightening. Squint and you can just about make out a change in the colour of it, a shift from inky-black to blue-black. As the sun rises further it changes more, until it pales enough behind the stonework that you can begin to make out a hulk on the horizon.

You breathe in and get ready to experience one of travel’s true once-in-a-lifetime moments. And then a selfie stick springs up in your eyeline, a bright screen illuminating the darkness. You are jostled from behind and suddenly you can’t see a thing. The stone pinkens in the sunrise ahead but you’re marooned the wrong side of the camera-swayers. You miss the window, those crucial moments, in which Angkor Wat is at its most beautiful.

Yes, there is very much a wrong way to do Angkor Wat. It’s Cambodia’s most visited tourist attraction with more than two million cameras-on-legs passing through every year. But do it right and you can have it to yourself. Find out how below, but remember: it’s a secret.

How to avoid the crush at the big three

Angkor is not just one temple, but a complex of hundreds spread over a vast area that was once a city home to more people than London. To most visitors though it is three temples at most: Angkor Wat, the Bayon and Ta Prohm.

First up is Angkor Wat, the iconic temple whose name is often confused with the name of the complex as a whole. Although you’ve seen this a thousand times on film and in pictures, nothing can prepare you for the beauty of its five perfectly aligned towers, each one like a corn on the cob.

Nothing can prepare you for the crowds at the West Gate come sunrise either and these are best avoided. Get your guide to take you to the East Gate instead and you’ll walk through the temple from its back side, scuffing along empty stone corridors in the dark and wondering where everyone else is. Watch the sun rise from here, lighting up the stones as it ascends, before heading out of the West Gate for coffee and breakfast at one of the stands nearby.

By the time you’re finished, the worst of the sunrise crowds will have gone but it will still be early enough to explore in relative peace.

Angkor Wat Sunrise North Lake via photopin (license)

The Bayon, with its pyramid covered in hundreds of half-smiling faces, is packed from sun up to sun down and seems to magnetically pull the very worst of the shuffling crowds to its giant stone terraces.

Fortunately, these crowds appreciate a good long lunch and between about twelve and two in the afternoon you may be able to clamber just about high enough among the faces to get them to yourself for a minute or two. Just don’t forget the sun cream, there’s very little shade here.

Ta Prohm, which featured in Tomb Raider, is a contrast, its shady jungle-cloaked ruins most popular during the hottest part of the day. This makes dusk the perfect time to visit, as everyone else heads en masse to Phnom Bakheng hill to see the sunset. Don’t even think about following them, wait a while and you should have no competition for the perfect photograph of this most atmospheric of the temples.

Don’t miss the undiscovered beauties

The big three will take a full day to see properly so buy the three-day ticket ($40 instead of the $20 for one day) to allow enough time to step away from the hordes and see some of the temples you won’t have heard of.

Ta Keo is within selfie stick swinging distance of Ta Phrom but it wasn’t in Tomb Raider and so it is not on most visitors’ itineraries. Even better, this entirely sandstone temple is almost impossibly steep, making the climb up its chunky steps arduous enough to put off most people. The result? A view over the temple-dotted landscape from 21 metres up, and away from everyone else.

DSC_0163 via photopin (license)

If the jungle-claimed Ta Phrom – one of the big three – most grabs your imagination, don’t miss Preah Khan, a massive complex once home to upwards of 10,000 people and today a tumbledown heap of lichen-covered stones and imposing tree roots as thick as houses. Few people wander its ruins, enclosed by a moat so placid it appears like a mirror and surrounded by jungle so quiet you feel like you’ve stumbled on something nobody ever has before.

Get the right guide

However much research you do in advance, Angkor is just too much to take in on your own, especially at around 400 square kilometres.

To really get away from the coach parties you need a private tuk tuk that can navigate the temples and a knowledgeable guide who is willing to be flexible and suggest quiet areas you won’t find in the guidebooks. This isn’t a destination where you can wing it, so book with a specialist operator who has local expertise and is up to date on the best places to get away from the ever-expanding crowds.

Helen Ochyra travelled with Experience Travel Group (0203 468 6268; www.experiencetravelgroup.com), who offer a seven-night trip to Cambodia including a private tour of Angkor Wat from £1,119 per person (including transfers, B&B accommodation in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, flights and taxes).

There’s something tragically beautiful about an empty, rusting roller coaster, condemned to spend the rest of its life as a useless hunk of metal. You can almost hear the joyous screams of the children who once rode its tracks. Abandoned amusement parks have piqued travellers’ interest all over the world – so from Malaysia to the English countryside, here are ten of the eeriest.

Six Flags, New Orleans, USA

Operational from 2000, Six Flags New Orleans closed temporarily in August 2005 to prepare for an approaching storm – unfortunately, that storm was Hurricane Katrina. When the park’s drainage system failed it flooded with several feet of brackish water, which were left to stand for over a month, causing enormous damage. The park has now become famous in an odd way, both as a symbol of Hurricane Katrina’s effects on the city, and as a creepy backdrop in several Hollywood films.

Takakanonuma Greenland, Japan

This is one seriously mysterious place. It opened in 1973 250km north of Tokyo, then closed in 1975, either due to poor ticket sales or a high number of fatalities. It reopened 1986–99, then closed for good. Allegedly it was demolished in 2006, but in 2007 Brit Bill Edwards was walking alone in the area and apparently found an abandoned, rusting park. He took several photos, but only one came out: the mist-shrouded entrance, with an impassive young girl in a white dress standing by the gate, looking straight into the camera.

Spreepark, Berlin, Germany

Opened in East Berlin in 1969 as Kulturpark Plӓnterwald, after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 it was renamed Spreepark. By 2001 visitor numbers had fallen and the park was closed. In 2002, company president Norbert Witte moved to Lima, taking some of the attractions with him under false pretences. Clearly his new park was not a successful venture; in 2004, Witte was arrested for trying to smuggle 180kg of cocaine into Germany, hidden in a flying carpet ride. Spreepark still stands empty today.

Mimaland, Selangor, Malaysia

Mimaland in Malaysia is in a stunning setting, and was hugely popular for over two decades (1971–94). Eventually it closed following concerns about safety – a young boy died in 1993 in an accident on a giant surfboard – and a landslide. Remains of the park are still easy to find, and many of the locals are keen to see it redeveloped, but for now it’s slowly being reclaimed by the forest.

Nara Dreamland, Japan

The Disneyland-style Nara Dreamland amusement park was extremely popular for a while after it opened in 1961. However, by 2006 the novelty seems to have worn off; declining ticket sales meant it had to close and, apparently to minimise costs, everything was just… left. This makes it a perfect place to see nature slowly reclaiming the most gaudy of man-made spaces, which is what a fair number of urban explorers do – if they can get past the security and barbed-wire fences, that is.

Blobbyland, Somerset, England

Though it was only open July–November 1994, Blobbyland is still burned into the memory of some local residents. The local council ploughed money into the amusement park – themed around Noel Edmonds’ terrifying but inexplicably popular TV sidekick, Mr Blobby – hoping for a boost in tourist numbers. However, it never met expected attendance figures and closed amid scandal and recriminations, with the council eventually paying damages to Noel Edmonds. The rusting, overgrown remains of the park are almost as creepy as Mr Blobby himself.

Loudoun Castle, Scotland

Open 1995–2010, Loudoun Castle theme park, in Scotland, closed after a staff death and ensuing lawsuit. Though the park’s ownership were found not guilty of failing to provide adequate training, Loudoun Castle was declared “no longer economically viable” and closed down shortly after the trial. There have been a few redevelopment proposals over the years, but for now the rusting rides provide a strange and picturesque contrast to the much older ruins of Loudoun Castle.

Umoja Children’s Park, Zanzibar, Tanzania

There’s not much information out there about Umoja (“Unity”) Children’s Park, a small amusement park on the outskirts of Chake-Chake in the little-populated Pemba region, beyond the fact that it doesn’t seem to have been very old when it was abandoned, or very successful. One thing everyone seems to agree on: the remains of the park are pretty spooky.

Pripyat, Ukraine

Pripyat amusement park, now perhaps the archetypal abandoned amusement park, was due to open on May 1st 1986. However, on April 26th there was a disastrous accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, only a few kilometres away. The amusement park opened briefly on the 27th to keep the town residents’ spirits up before they were ordered to evacuate, and today it stands as a poignant reminder of the human effects of Chernobyl.

Niigata Russian Village, Japan

Built in 1993, Niigata Russian Village is a very odd slice of Russia atop a mountain in Japan’s northwest. Apparently it didn’t do its job of “promoting Russo-Japanese relations” very well, as it was closed in 1999 – then, bizarrely, reopened in 2002 for 6 months. Though it’s been badly vandalised you can still have a go on the organ in the replica of The Cathedral of the Nativity, and wonder at the logic behind the two fake woolly mammoths.

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You’ve hiked the Cinque Terre, gondola’d down Venice’s Grand Canal and got Renaissance art fatigue in Florence’s Uffizi. So what’s next? Italophile Natasha Foges picks six less-known places that offer all the charm of Italy‘s big sights.

If you like Lake Como try… Lake Iseo

Of the six Italian Lakes, it’s Garda and Como – renowned for their heart-stopping beauty and sweeping panoramas (not to mention film-star residents) that hog the limelight. But between the two, serene Lake Iseo is the region’s best-kept secret. Long, sinuous and hemmed in by mountains, the lake has drama in spades, seen to best effect in autumn, when the wooded hillsides are in glorious colour and the lake is mistily atmospheric. If you can bear to tear yourself away from the pretty lakeside villages, check out the stone-age rock carvings of the Val Camonica at the head of the lake, or drive through the Franciacorta area at the lake’s southern end, celebrated for its sparkling white wines.

If you like the Cinque Terre try… Ponza

The ruggedly beautiful fishing villages that comprise the fabled Cinque Terre, each a tumble of cheerily painted houses, have long enthralled tourists – and now lure 100 million visitors a year. If you’re hankering for salty air, sparkling seas and pastel-hued houses – but without the crowds – plump for Ponza, a pretty island that lies off the coast between Rome and Naples. Popular among weekending Romans in summer – it’s within easy reach of the city – it sees few foreign visitors. With few sights as such, it’s the perfect place for a laidback holiday. There’s little to distract you from the simple pleasures of paddling in limpid waters, sunning yourself on crescent-shaped Chiaia di Luna beach and messing around in boats.

Photo credit: View at Ponza harbor / Dreamstime.com: Aalexeev

If you like Tuscany try… Umbria

Rural Tuscany’s best bits – scenic landscapes, fantastic food and wine, winsome hill towns – can also be found in next-door Umbria. If you dream of a escaping to a rustic hill-top agriturismo, spending your days contemplating the rolling hills and eating your own body-weight in pasta (but not paying an arm and a leg for the privilege), Umbria is for you. As for where to stay, try Norcia, Spello, Todi, Montefalco, Amelia, Bevagna or Narni: all picture-perfect little towns that never get overwhelmed by tourist hordes, even in the holiday month of August, when Italians head for the sea, leaving this land-locked region blissfully quiet.

If you like Venice try… Treviso

Love Venice but not its camera-clicking crowds? For a low-key version of La Serenissima – and with not a tour group in sight – head to the city’s pint-sized neighbour, Treviso, just 40km away. The self-styled “piccola Venezia” is no mini-Venice – it lacks the showpiece sights, and its canals are pretty rather than grand – but it’s a lovely spot for a weekend away, with cobbled streets, frescoed churches and ancient waterways galore. Crossed here and there with wrought-iron bridges – with picturesque views of still-churning waterwheels – Treviso’s canals thread its walled medieval centre, encircling the town’s rowdy fish market, which sits on its own islet. Take a seat at any of the cafés here and order a glass of local fizz: in the heart of Italy’s prosecco region, it would be rude not to.

Photo Credit: efilpera via Compfight cc

If you like the Amalfi Coast try… Procida

There’s a lot to love about the Amalfi Coast, from its craggy mountains plunging sheer into the sea to the drama of its serpentine coast road, winding past verdant hillsides dotted with sun-bleached houses. If you’re looking for a similarly scenic spot that’s cheaper and easier to get to, try Procida, a 40-minute ferry ride from Naples. Outside August, when holidaying Italians descend en masse, this is a sleepy, unpretentious island – a far cry from the glitz of the Amalfi Coast. The director of the film The Talented Mr Ripley, Anthony Minghella, scoured Italy for a suitably lost-in-time location to act as the fictitious Mongibello and found it here – specifically in Procida’s most picturesque corner, the Marina di Corricella, whose old-school trattorias share harbour space with fishermen mending their nets. If you tire of watching the comings and goings in the harbour, you can while away your days basking on beaches, admiring the dazzling seascapes and wandering narrow streets heady with the scent of lemons.

If you like Florence try… Urbino

A ravishing hill-town to rival any in Tuscany, Urbino also has a remarkable hoard of first-class art – if Florence’s Renaissance treasures have left you wanting more, you’re in for a treat. Though well off the tourist trail in the region of Le Marche, on the other side of the Apennines from Florence, Urbino wasn’t always a backwater: under the patronage of Renaissance poster boy Duke Federico da Montefeltro in the fifteenth century, the town flourished into a cultural capital. The duke’s sprawling palace, worked on by some of the greatest architects and architects of the age, now holds one of Italy’s best galleries, the Galleria Nazionale delle Marche, with a fantastic collection of works by Piero della Francesca, Titian, Uccello and local-born Raphael, among others.

Explore more of Italy with The Rough Guide to ItalyCompare flightsbook hostels or hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.  

This feature is brought to you by the Magna Carta – indirectly, at least.

2015 marks 800 years since the signing of the first Magna Carta (Great Charter) in Runnymede, England. While it was retracted and reinstated by various monarchs a number of times in the following years, the document has become an international icon of liberty across the world, and it’s responsible for a number of the freedoms we enjoy today, including the internet (and therefore this feature), and of course, in most cases, unimpeded travel.

Image by Lottie Gross

“If you visit only a single Magna Carta exhibition this year, make it this one”

The charter is often seen as the beginning of modern democracy, and although celebrations for the anniversary are taking place across the UK in 2015, if you visit one Magna Carta exhibition this year, make it the Lincoln Castle Revealed project.

Ten years, hundreds of pairs of hands and £22 million later, and Lincoln Castle is now a world-class exhibition centre with the 1215 Magna Carta at its heart. The city received its own copy of the charter when the document was originally signed by King John and it has lived a fairly humble existence in a cabinet at the city’s striking Gothic cathedral ever since. Now in its new home at Lincoln Castle, this animal skin document is getting five-star treatment with its own brand new temperature- and humidity-controlled vault.

Marvel at the beginning of modern freedom

Before entering the vault itself, a 210-degree cinema shows short films that explore the history of the charter. Then, once inside, you can read (and touch) it in its entirety as the words are embossed on a wall near the entrance – today’s relevant clauses highlighted with gold.

But it’s not all about the charter. Its arrival provided the perfect opportunity to make-public areas of the castle that had previously never been open. Millions of pounds have been spent on archaeological digs, restoration of the prison and the creation of a 360-degree wall walk that affords excellent views of the cathedral, the charming old town and Lincolnshire’s flat patchwork of green fields.

Step back in time at a Victorian prison with new technology

But while the main focus of the Revealed project is to look back through history, the exhibitions use state-of-the-art modern technology to help conjure up an absorbing picture of the past.

The castle’s church-like Victorian prison – the only surviving Pentonville-style jail in the country – has a peculiar air of serenity and menace: as light floods through the enormous window, a soundscape of echoing footsteps and groaning inmates reverberates off the whitewashed walls. There’s interactivity around every corner of the exhibition, with touch-screen tabletops, tablet computers and the opportunity for kids to don prisoner costume as they explore the different cells that show the emotive video stories of a few of the inmates. With over 10,000 diary entries from the prison’s staff and debtors, they’ve succeeded in creating a truly immersive and relatable experience.

Image by Lottie Gross

An unexpected discovery

When the team involved in building the brand new vault began digging, they found something a little unexpected, and a simple archaeological dig turned into a full-scale operation to remove a Saxon sarcophagus buried three metres underground.

This exciting discovery, along with Roman, medieval and Victorian finds, gives away more about city’s past inhabitants and is now on display in the prison. DNA testing and forensic facial reconstruction of the skeleton is being done in at Leicester and Dundee university research centres.

What began as a re-homing of one of the most poignant documents in British history and the restoration of a crumbling castle has resulted in a remarkably detailed presentation of Lincoln’s human story.

Need to know

Where to stay: in the centre of the old town on Steep Hill, The Rest boutique hotel (from £89 per night, bed and breakfast) is the perfect base for exploring Lincoln’s past.
Where to eat: for delicious dishes made with local produce head to the Wig and Mitre pub – a small and creaky labyrinth of dining rooms and bars set in a gorgeous old townhouse with huge railway-sleeper beams and original exposed brick.
Lincoln Castle: all-inclusive entry to the castle is £12 for adults and £7.20 for children (under 5s go free).

Historic attractions abound in England. Wherever you’re based, you’ll find imposing palaces, gothic cathedrals and chocolate-box villages within easy reach, but among the most impressive examples of the country’s heritage are the slew of majestic castles. Taken from the new Rough Guide, this is our pick of the best castles in England

Alnwick Castle, Northumberland

Alnwick Castle is undoubtedly one of the finest in Northumberland. It’s owned by The Percys, the dukes of Northumberland, who have presided over the estate since 1309. More recently, however, the castle found fame as Hogwarts School in the early Harry Potter movies.

Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland

Another Northumbrian gem, Bamburgh Castle is found in the little village of the same name. It’s most formidable when seen from the beach, where acres of sky, sea and dunes lead up to the castle’s dramatic setting atop a rocky basalt crag. The castle first appeared in Anglo-Saxon times, but was heavily reconstructed in the nineteenth century.

Leeds Castle, Kent

Its reflection shimmering in a lake, the enormous Leeds Castle resembles a fairy-tale palace. Beginning life around 1119, it has had a chequered history and is now run as a commercial concern, with a range of paying attractions including hot-air ballooning, Segway tours and jousting. The name is misleading: you’ll find it in the High Weald of Kent.

Dover Castle, Kent

No historical stone goes unturned at Dover Castle, an astonishingly imposing defensive complex that has protected the English coast for more than two thousand years. In 1068 William the Conqueror built over the earthworks of an Iron Age hillfort here; a century later, Henry II constructed the handsome Great Tower. The grounds also include a Roman lighthouse, a Saxon church and a network of secret wartime tunnels.

Bodiam Castle, East Sussex

One of the country’s most picturesque castles, Bodiam is a classically stout square block with rounded corner turrets, battlements and a wide moat. When it was built in 1385, it was state-of-the-art military architecture, but fell into neglect until restoration in the last century. The extremely steep spiral staircases will test all but the strongest of thighs.

Windsor Castle, Berkshire

The oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world, towering above the town of Windsor in the Berkshire countryside just outside London, Windsor Castle is still an important ceremonial residence of the Queen. The castle itself is an imposing sight, while inside you can explore the State Apartments and artwork from the Royal Collection.

Warkworth Castle, Northumberland

Ruined but well-preserved, Warkworth Castle has Norman origins, but was constructed using sandstone during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Take in the view from the north of the hamlet of Warkworth, from where the grey stone terraces of the long main street slope up towards the commanding remains of the Castle.

Hever Castle, Kent

The moated Hever Castle was the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, second wife of Henry VIII, and where Anne of Cleves, Henry’s fourth wife, lived after their divorce. Bought by American millionaire William Waldorf Astor in 1903 it has been assiduously restored in mock Tudor style yet it retains an intimate feel. Outside you can explore Waldorf Astor’s beautiful Italian Garden a splashy water maze.

photo credit: Hever castle via photopin (license)

Tintagel Castle, Cornwall

Myth and legend surround the desolate ruins of Tintagel Castle, said to be the birthplace of King Arthur. Sited on a wild and rugged stretch of Cornwall’s coast, the remains have nearly all but decayed since it was deserted in the seventeenth century.

Warwick Castle, Warwickshire

It’s worth visiting Warwick so see this whopping castle alone, which lords it above the River Avon. Historians think the first fortress was constructed here by the Saxons, but the most significant expansions were made by the Normans and later in the nineteenth century. Save time to explore the extensive grounds, too.

photo credit: Warwick Castle via photopin (license)

Lancaster Castle, Lancashire

From the dungeons to the ornate courtrooms, Lancaster Castle is a historical tour-de-force. Defences have been sited high above the river here since Roman times, while more recently the building served as a working prison until 2011. Tours bring the castle’s history to life.

photo credit: Lancaster Castle via photopin (license)

Carlisle Castle, Cumbria

Cumbria’s mightiest castle dominates the county capital of Cumbria, Carlisle, were it has stood for over nine hundred years. Among its claims to fame is that it was where Elizabeth I held Mary Queen of Scots captive in 1568. Climbing the battlements for great views over the town.

Lincoln Castle, Lincolnshire

Intact and forbidding, Lincoln Castle’s walls incorporate bits and pieces from the twelfth to the nineteenth centuries, with a wall walkway offering great views over town. This year the former debtors’ prison has been revamped to exhibit several rare documents, most notably one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta.

photo credit: Lincoln castle sunset via photopin (license)

Highclere Castle, Hampshire

Tucked away in the northern reaches of Hampshire, 20 miles north of Winchester, Highclere Castle will be very familiar to fans of hit period drama, Downton Abbey, which is filmed here. Home to Lord Carnarvon and his family, the house is approached via a long drive that winds through a stunning 5000-acre estate, and is surrounded by beautiful gardens designed by Capability Brown.

photo credit: P1010570 via photopin (license)

Corfe Castle, Dorset

The romantic castle ruins crowning the hill behind the village of Corfe Castle are perhaps the most evocative in England. The family seat of Sir John Bankes, Attorney General to Charles I, this Royalist stronghold withstood a Cromwellian siege for six weeks, gallantly defended by Lady Bankes. One of her own men, Colonel Pitman, eventually betrayed the castle to the Roundheads, after which it was reduced to its present gap-toothed state by gunpowder. Apparently the victorious Roundheads were so impressed by Lady Bankes’ courage that they allowed her to take the keys to the castle with her.

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

Manchester is Britain’s new cultural capital. No, really. The city may have been built on the heavy industry of the Industrial Revolution but since the 2002 Commonwealth Games, it has re-invented itself as a world capital of the arts.

Today Manchester dominates the headlines with a slew of galleries, venues and festivals. It’s home to some of the UK’s most forward-thinking developments, one of the coolest music scenes and a fast-expanding range of great hotels and restaurants. Then there’s Russell T. Davies’ new Channel Four series, Cucumber, set along Canal Street in Manchester’s Gay Village, and the Royal Exchange Theatre’s Hamlet, set to be screened in cinemas across the UK.

Is there any doubt that Manchester is starting to take centre stage in the UK? David Atkinson makes the case for why the city is the UK’s cultural hotspot.

1. It has the most intriguing art gallery

The Whitworth Gallery recently re-opened to the public following a £15m redevelopment. The new building features a glass-promenade gallery overlooking the new Art Garden in Whitworth Park. The opening show, a solo exhibition from the respected contemporary artist Cornelia Parker, runs until summer, while the permanent collection showcases the gallery’s eclectic range of fine art, textiles and wallpapers.

2. It’s about to get the country’s top arts centre

HOME, the city’s new multi-artform centre opens on the 21st May with a funfair theme for the opening weekend. The £25m development includes a 500-seat theatre, flexible studio space and five cinema screens. It will commission, produce and present a programme of contemporary theatre, film and visual art, drawing on resources of the former Cornerhouse and Library Theatre Company, both of which have evolved into the HOME project.

Image courtesy of visitmanchester.com

3. It hosts the most dynamic festival

The bi-annual Manchester International Festival (MIF) kicks off in July with 18 days of premieres, performances and events. The festival, described by The New Yorker as “probably the most radical and important arts festival today” puts Manchester on the international stage. One of this year’s cornerstone events is the premiere of wonder.land, a new musical inspired by Lewis Carroll’s iconic Alice in Wonderlandwhich turns 150 this year – with music by Damon Albarn.

4. It’s home to some of the best libraries

Manchester always had a rich literacy legacy – from Karl Marx observing working life in the mid nineteenth century to the UK’s current Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy via the punk poetry of John Cooper Clarke. Manchester Central Library, reopened last March as a living-room space for the city. The nearby Portico Library is a Neo-Classical gem with a dusty-tome-filled Reading Room and Chetham’s Library is the oldest public library in the English-speaking world.

Image courtesy of visitmanchester.com

5. It has the coolest music scene

Manchester has brought us bands from Joy Division to Elbow and the city’s best record shop, Piccadilly Records, remains the lynchpin of the Manchester music scene. For live bands, pick of the venues is The Deaf Institute a three-floor independent operation at the heart of studentland where you can catch bands on the way to stadium slots and cool new comedians, while supping on craft beers and tucking into tasty burgers.

6. It’s one of the best places for urban living

Looking for cool bars, trendy boutiques and lots of independent-spirited places to soak up the urban-cool vibe? Look no further than the Northern Quarter, the city’s thriving off-duty hub. Try North Tea Power for café-culture, surviving old faves like Afflecks Palace for vintage and vinyl, and Dry Bar for beers and bands.

Image courtesy of visitmanchester.com

7. It celebrates industrial heritage

Elizabeth Gaskell’s House, the family home of the Cranford author, reopened last year after a three-year project to restore the Grade II-listed Regency villa. Gaskell documented Manchester’s burgeoning industrial revolution from her writing desk at 84 Plymouth Grove after the family moved to the house in 1850 and her views contrasted starkly with the ideals of the Victorian era.

8. It has some fantastic places to stay 

With over 6,500 hotel rooms in the city centre, places to crash range from bijou boutique hotels to homely hostels. The Radisson Blu Edwardian, the former Free Trade Hall where The Sex Pistols invented punk in 1976, is now synonymous with urban cool while The Lowry, Manchester’s first five-star property, remains the place to see and be seen. 

Image courtesy of visitmanchester.com

9. It’s home to boundary-pushing chefs

The restaurant scene has exploded, with the Manchester Food & Drink Festival now a cornerstone of the foodie diary. Simon Rogan of Michelin-stared L’Enclume fame is currently cooking up a storm at The French in the Midland Hotel. Other highlights include Cloud 23, the panorama bar at the Hilton Manchester Deansgate, for fancy cocktails, and The Briton’s Protection, one of Manchester’s favourite traditional boozers, for local ales and spoken-word nights.

10. It’s about to get some serious investment

The government announced a £78m cash injection into Manchester’s creative economy in last year’s Autumn Statement. The cornerstone of plans for the ‘northern powerhouse’ is The Factory, a new artist-led, creative hub on a site to the west of the city centre that was previously home to Coronation Street. The Factory, a homage to Manchester’s legendary Factory Records, will combine an array of arts spaces with a permanent home for the Manchester International Festival. It’s due to open 2019.

Explore more of the region with the Rough Guide to Britain. Book hostels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go. Compare 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.

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.

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.

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. 

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