A view of Iceland's lava fields

Journeying to the Center of the Earth at Thrinukagigur Volcano, Iceland

“Because it’s Sunday,” says Saga (pronounced Saya), swinging her long blonde plait as the minibus accelerates away from Reykjavik’s Hafnastraeti car park, “I have a treat for you. Candy!” She holds up a box of chunky-looking chocolate-covered Read More

Roman Baths

Walking With the Ancients at the Roman Baths, Bath, England

“It isn’t fair,” says the elderly Roman rather tipsily. “We aren’t invaders. Who on earth comes wanting to fight?” He swigs from his stone bottle and offers it, a little unsteadily, to the camera-laden tourist sitting beside him on the stone Read More

Sledging

Summer Sledging on the Kitzsteinhorn Glacier, Kaprun, Austria

Somebody’s grumbling. I can tell by the tone of voice, even before the words become clear. It’s something to do with having worn shorts. After all it’s August and the temperature in the valley below is creeping up into the nineties. Shorts seemed Read More

Taking the waters

Taking Tea and the Waters at the Pump Room, Bath, England

You’d think after a lifetime of drinking tea I’d be undeterred by thorny problems of etiquette. But here in the elegant, eighteenth-century Pump Room in Bath I’m suddenly overcome by nerves. Because, as anyone who’s ever picked up a Regency romance Read More

Almshouses, Bruges

Stepping Back in Time in the Almshouses and Beguinages of Bruges, Belgium

I must be honest. I’d never heard of a beguinage (or begijnhof, in Flemish) until I came to Bruges. Somehow the concept passed me by in my preliminary pass through the guidebook: I was too busy getting excited about bell towers, boat trips and Read More

Boat trips are popular in picturesque Bruges

Discovering the City of Bruges (Brugge), Belgium, by Boat

“Where are you from?” roars the boat’s captain into the microphone. He rattles out our various nationalities. French, Flemish, Dutch, Welsh, Scottish, Turkish, Spanish. “No Germans?” he bellows. “Excellent!” And then to ease our collective wince he Read More

Tyne Cot 4

Wondering Why in Flanders’ Fields: the First World War Battlefields of Belgium

“Why?” demands Raoul. We stand in a line, look at our toes and shuffle our feet uneasily on the spot. “Why?” he demands again. It isn’t that we don’t know why the gravestones in front of us, white as a row of perfect teeth, are jostling shoulder Read More

Looking down the Liffey

Walking Along Dublin’s River Liffey to Ireland’s Famine Memorial

We’re off to meet a friend for dinner – the perfect conclusion to a weekend break in Dublin. And we have time in hand. “Come along,” I chivvy my reluctant entourage, who are quite happy to lounge in the hotel in front of the telly, “We’re going to Read More

Caernarfon Castle from the sea

Visiting the Historic Castle of Caernarfon, North Wales

I never get tired of castles. It’s just as well because North Wales is full of them, some crumbling away on overgrown mountainsides, others preening themselves for the visitor. There are so many, and of such quality, that four of them have gone and Read More

Pollensa refugio

Climbing the Calvario: a Pilgrim’s Trail in Pollença, Majorca

“One hundred!” says my husband, stopping in triumph on a broad limestone step. He’s got there first. Or has he? I tramp on past him, another three steps. “No,” I correct him, “this is one hundred.” We stare at each other without animosity and then Read More

Locally-made leather is a popular buy

Shopping in Majorca: Visiting a Traditional Market in Port de Pollença

I want to buy. I’m walking through the main square of Port de Pollença, on Majorca’s north-eastern coast, and my freshly-exchanged Euros are burning a hole in my pocket. It might be the sunshine (it does make you a little mad), or the smells of fresh Read More

Alcudia walls feature

Walking the Walls of the Historic Town of Alcúdia, Majorca

The woman in front of me on the bus is beginning to get stressed about her travel arrangements. “This looks like the old town,” she tells her companion. “We don’t want to the old town. We want the beach.” He peers through the window. “We could get Read More

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Concert-Going at Edinburgh’s International Arts Festival

The rippling notes of a Beethoven piano sonata pour into the auditorium. Edinburgh’s Usher Hall, filled to capacity, is under a spell. It’s world-famous virtuoso Alfred Brendel’s final performance at the Edinburgh International Festival and some 2200 Read More

Chateau de Chillon

Visiting the Chateau de Chillon, Switzerland, by Boat

I’m worried. I’m on a boat surging along Lake Geneva in glorious sunshine and the ticket collector is getting nearer and nearer. I’m clutching the family train tickets, which I thought in good faith would get us on the boats, but now I’m not sure. Read More

Edinburgh-festival-Fringe on the Royal Mile

Embracing Chaos at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe on the Royal Mile

“Do you want to see something dangerous?” the man shouts at the crowd of onlookers. They clearly aren’t impressed with what they've seen so far: they barely muster a mumble. He tries again. “Do you want to see something really dangerous?” When he Read More

Butresses at Rosslyn Chapel

Cracking the Da Vinci Code: a Visit to Rosslyn Chapel, Scotland

You surely know all about Rosslyn Chapel: you’ve read The Da Vinci Code and if you haven’t, you must have seen the film. So have I, but for some strange reason I don’t seem able to recall exactly where the chapel comes into it. Not that that’s a Read More

Try the house platter....

Facing Temptation in Switzerland: The Chocolate, Cheese, and Cream of Medieval Gruyères

How on Earth did I let this happen? Here I am, surrounded by shops and restaurants dishing out meringues, local biscuits, cheese and chocolate in almost every possible form. Gruyère et vacherin, offers one sign; raclette et fondue; crème double de la Read More

The old buildings of the Canongate, from the churchyard

Exploring the Canongate in Edinburgh’s Royal Mile

Right in the centre of Edinburgh, on its famous Royal Mile, I’m at the World’s End. Sounds like a riddle? It isn’t. I’m actually outside the World’s End pub, named because it was here that the security of the medieval city ended and the great Read More

Looking up Glen Nevis

Following a Geological Trail in Scotland’s Glen Nevis

I’ve chosen the wrong companion for my geological time travel adventure: Like most girls of her age, the only type of rocks my daughter is interested in are the ones you find sparkling on the fingers of the Real Housewives of Orange County. "Get Read More

Balmorl Castle, starting point for the tour

Land Rover Tours of the Queen’s Balmoral Estate, Scotland

I’ve never really had a lot of time for royalty. Perhaps it’s because the image of privilege (all at the taxpayers’ expense, of course) doesn’t go down so well with a commoner like me. But today something very strange has happened. I’ve had a Read More