United Kingdom

Devon, Cardigan Bay, Brighton, Dalby Forest, Newcastle, Bute

THE THINKING MAN’S RAILWAY: DEVON
Escape

Hidden in the vast greenery of Devon’s valleys at Christow Station, a railway reclamation project lies dormant on rails scabbed over with rust. Overseen by an eccentric train fanatic, a guard’s vamping van built in 1949 stands in a silent yard littered with old carriages which will “eventually become tea rooms”.

Complete with ‘mood lighting’, radio, gas cooker and two single beds which can be pushed together, it’s a perfect 15 by 7 foot compartment escape from motorways and modernisation. Surrounded by miles of walks and nearby waterfalls, the carriage provides a cosy return from exploring the countryside. If you can survive without running water (outhouse and churn close at hand) and are seeking solitude, this unspoilt hideaway with novelty value is refreshing. JS

Value: £20 per night for those with cars (£10 pp)/ £17.50 for foot travellers.
Contact: 01647 253108.


CARDIGAN BAY
Cliffside dining

Romantic sunsets, first class seafood, dolphin spotting – what’s not to love?

The Gwbert Hotel and Flat Rock Bistro in Ceredigion offers cliffside views, and if you’re lucky, a dolphin or two grazing the horizon.

Visit the bistro in the early evening from 6.30pm to watch the sun set over an uninterrupted skyline. Pay attention though, as the sky can completely change colour within a single minute. Try the breaded scampi served with tartare sauce for £8.50. If it’s not too cold, there are many walks or hikes along the cliffs with viewpoint stops along the way.

Embrace the wind and let your hair get ruffled – you’ve really got no other choice anyway. CA

Three courses: Sunday roast, £11.95.
Visit: the Honey Farm, at little further north in New Quay.
Rest: hotels in the area can be pricey, head for a campsite instead.


BRIGHTON
Experience

It’s got all the fashionable people of London but with a beach!

Brighton beach might not be comfy underfoot, but slip on a pair of flip-flops and it’s perfect. The sea front combines typical seaside arcades and trendy bars. The Royal Pavilion stands as the remains of the Regency era. This oriental palace makes a Brighton visit a bit more exotic.

The city houses streets of up-market stores, including Jamie Oliver’s shop, Recipease. But The Lanes are a unique shopping experience; rows of tightly packed shops housing quirky one off items.

With the Greens as the largest party on the Council, the city maintains genuinely clean sea air and vibrant political activism. Brighton is a city of huge diversity and as the centre of Gay Pride it’s at the forefront of radical change. HC

Travel: York – Brighton, £53.50
Stay: Baggies Backpackers Hostel is friendly and only £13 per night.


DALBY FOREST
Explore

£100 here can cover camping, caravanning, B&Bs, or isolated self-catered farm houses. Open expanses of heather, tumbling streams, and thick forest dominate the Moors, making it ideal for families.

At Hutton-le-Hole, legend has it a giant scooped up the land – and you can assault some of the country’s best mountain biking trails at Dalby Forest. Relish in Yorkshire pub lunches of spectacular proportions, and be prepared to lose your phone signal. JF

Ride: the Trails. Jumps, steep climbs, and breakneck speeds compulsory.
Conquer: the Bridestones. Giant natural rock formations sprouting out of the moors.
Guest Ales: The Blacksmith’s Arms, Lastingham.


NEWCASTLE
On the town

Nightlife is Newcastle’s biggest selling point. You’re spoilt for choice with five clubbing areas, including the gay ‘pink triangle’ area. Shopping opportunities have recently been extended in Eldon Square and the Metro Centre, Europe’s biggest shopping complex, is just a short bus ride away.

The Baltic Art Gallery (entry free) showcases contemporary art that even gallery-phobes will appreciate. Music is big with two amazing music venues. The city is full of restaurants, with the Gate complex, which has a cinema, being particularly popular. A £3.80 bus from the centre can also take you to seaside town of Whitley Bay. RB

Travel: £10.
Party: Digital, Ohso, DirtyPop at the O2 Academy (Fridays), TupTup Palace, Liquid.
Sleep: £260 for five nights at Premier Inn Newcastle.


ASCOG HOUSE

Standing on the island of Bute, Ascog House is a great place for a group of nine people looking for a more halcyon week away. The house is located about 50 metres up from the seafront but is concealed from the road by thick shrubs.

It is about a mile away from Rothesay, which is the only town on the island. The thing to see while you’re on the island is definitely Mount Stuart, since within the ground are some of the most remarkable gardens in the United Kingdom. The house was originally a single building but is now divided into the main house and a tower which used to be one of the wings. HDD

Stay: April the house can be rented for £1,057 for a week, £118 per person.
Travel: get to Glasgow and rent cars, drive to Wemyss Bay and take the ferry across to Rothesay.


Photography: Douglas Brown, Hannah Clugston, Justyn Hardcastle, Hoagy Davis-Digges

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