For the second time running, I was asked to contribute, and this time I have three articles in it. These focus on wine and wildlife touring in South Australia, driving the Great Ocean Road and the best Outback adventures.
I love travelling in Britain – and I especially love a road trip. So I was delighted to be asked to offer some of my best itineraries and tips to the Guardian, for their Open Road project, in associated with Enterprise.
I gave my thoughts on everything from the best picnic spots and the quirkiest places to stay to the ideal road trips for golfers and the best way to explore the Scottish Highlands.
As a travel writer I have to be ready for anything. Sometimes everything. I’ve had days when I’ve spent hours walking in the Alps or along the Cornish coast to only head straight in for dinner at a pleasant restaurant or to a street festival where everyone else is dressed to impress.
Finding gear to keep up with me is difficult. After all, what durable walking trousers are also decent enough to wear to a party or to dinner?
Fortunately I have recently been sent a pair of Airedale trousers from Craghoppers. And although they are waterproof and the AquaDry Membrane polyester is hardy enough to cope with hiking the Scottish Isles or through the Aussie outback, they are also black and fitted enough to make them passable as simple black trousers. I’ve worn them to a street festival in Switzerland and to dinner on a Scottish cruise ship and never felt out of place.
Even better, they have a part elasticated waist, so are really comfortable, and are 100% polyester, making them easily washable. They also have zip pockets roomy enough to take an iPhone or even, at a push, my notebook and pen. So I’m always ready to make notes or take photos. Ready for anything, you might say.
I normally hate chain hotels. The homogenous décor, the basic rooms, the textbook service – it can all just feel a bit, well, uncaring.
But then there is Hotel du Vin, the hotel chain that somehow manages not to feel like a chain at all. Individual décor, opulent rooms, five-star service, everything about this brand screams luxury – and the newest addition to the family, in St Andrews, is no exception.
As soon as I checked in I was instantly at home, my luggage spirited away, the front desk staff like old friends asking about the journey. And then came the room – where I discovered one of the best views in Scotland. Four separate windows, each with a view of the world-famous golf course, each one looking out to sea. I could have gazed out at it for hours, watching the tide fill and empty the saltwater swimming pool, assessing the swing of every golfer on the 18th hole, but there was dinner to be had – and that turned out to be even more special.
We sat in a bay window, looking out over the water, watching the sun set, and ordering cote de boeuf from the josper grill and Anstruther lobster, baked in garlic butter. We washed it down with Marlborough sauvignon blanc and a bottle of Malbec, tough choices made from the slimmed down but tightly edited wine shortlist. We could have stayed for hours, but our bedroom was calling, with its huge bathtub and vast bed. We slept like golfers having played a full 36 and woke to find the sun rising over the water and into our room.
From the hotel it is a short walk to the castle, the cathedral and the university – a trio of historic sights that are not to be missed – and a worthwhile stroll to Janetta’s ice cream parlour where the 20-plus flavours almost flummoxed me and the 2014 Golden Cone Award was proven well deserved.
Every time we returned to the hotel we were glad to be back, sinking into the sofas and plunging into the bath, and each time I had to remind myself that there are more of these – a chain of hotels that doesn’t feel like one, and to which I am always happy to arrive.
Think the Canaries are no more than just another fly and flop
destination? Let me convince you otherwise with my article for Active Traveller on hiking in Gran Canaria. Mountains, volcanoes and tropical valleys await.
Thanks to the fabulous Macs Adventure for hosting this trip. Check out the itinerary I joined, Island of Contrasts, here.