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Interactive UK travel guide for the Guardian

When was the last time you took a trip in the UK? Chances are, you’ve been abroad more recently than you’ve walked on a British beach or explored one of our homegrown national parks.

There is a misconception that travelling in the UK is too expensive, too rainy and too dull to be worth the effort.

But I entirely disagree, and so I jumped at the chance to write the content for the Guardian’s interactive travel guide to the UK by rail, in association with ATOC.

Visit the site here, pop in your postcode and find out where you could travel to by rail and for how much.

The guide celebrates the launch of the Two Together railcard, which gives two people who travel together a third off their rail fares. Sounds like an excuse for a UK adventure to me…

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Western Australia: my highlights


Last summer I travelled around Western Australia updating the Rough Guide to Australia. As part of my research I was asked to select my highlights. You can find these in the new guidebook, which can be bought at the link below, but here’s a taster of my top three.

NINGALOO MARINE PARK:
Enjoy superlative snorkelling and diving at “the barrier reef without the barriers” DSC_4062

THE KIMBERLEY:
The stunning, untamed Kimberley is the country’s last frontier and a backdrop to real adventure IMG_0041

PURNULULU NATIONAL PARK
Accessible only by 4WD or air, the striped beehive domes and narrow gorges of the Bungle Bungle massif make the trek worthwhile. IMG_9930

Buy the all-new guidebook here:

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Storify: Cornwall adventures

Cornwall adventures

Tweets from my week in Cornwall to find out what’s new for summer 2014.

  1. A truly epic trip around gorgeous #Cornwall comes to an end, 1,080 miles later. pic.twitter.com/raKEl24fwM
  2. It really has! Love #Cornwall RT @RosieHalloran: Wow @helenochyra Cornwall has given you plenty to write about :-)
  3. Bude’s newest hotel @TommyJacksBude has rooms with golf and sea views plus a bar/aquarium. #Cornwall pic.twitter.com/Xn96ta9zUJ
  4. Bude’s newest hotel @TommyJacksBude has rooms with golf and sea views plus a bar/aquarium. #Cornwall pic.twitter.com/Xn96ta9zUJ
  5. Bucket of wine to celebrate end of excellent but exhausting week in #Cornwall. Just the 5 features to write now… pic.twitter.com/zHWgeSO3Xf
  6. My 26th and final stop of an epic week in #Cornwall is Bude’s newest hotel and bar/aquarium @TommyJacksBude
  7. Will miss having breakfast cooked and delivered! Don’t want to leave lovely @lowerbarns but @edenproject awaits…
  8. @helenochyra: Spider crab, rabbit, rock shrimp & Terras Farm duck, yum! Rhubarb fool & choc fondant to come. Loving Zacry’s! @WatergateBay
  9. Spider crab, rabbit, rock shrimp, Iberico pluma & Terras Farm duck, yum! Rhubarb fool & choc fondant to come. Loving Zacry’s! @WatergateBay
  10. Spider crab, rabbit, rock shrimp, Iberico pluma & Terras Farm duck, yum! Rhubarb fool & choc fondant to come. Loving Zacry’s! @WatergateBay
  11. Just demolished the Cornish spider crab salad at @WatergateBay‘s brand new (open 10 days) restaurant Zacry’s pic.twitter.com/KODirEntat
  12. Yep, pretty much. Not sure it was my forte… @Malathronas: @helenochyra is that the same as bodysurfing?
  13. Bit bedraggled but survived my first hand planing lesson @WatergateBay in fairly harsh conditions. pic.twitter.com/0kOv4JTHVK
  14. @TypeComms @hotelsgirl @helenochyra Thank you so much! We love what we do and always aim for the best we can be! :-)
  15. @helenochyra how about the Old Neptune at Whitstable? That’s a bar on a beach too
  16. Chomping my way through a massive pile of cakes on Perranporth Beach @W_hole_Cornwall. Claims to be UK’s only bar on a beach. Any arguments?
  17. Today’s weather forecast. Not looking great for surfing @WatergateBay! Good job the Swim Club is inside. pic.twitter.com/FkJpMEByaR
  18. @TypeComms @hotelsgirl @helenochyra Thank you so much! We love what we do and always aim for the best we can be! :-)
  19. @hotelsgirl @helenochyra hope you’re enjoying it Helen, if you need anything just shout!
  20. Proper chill out at @lowerbarns tonight. Massage, fishy dinner & hot tub under the stars then drinks by the fire. pic.twitter.com/ge1bPQzLGb
  21. Proper chill out at @lowerbarns tonight. Massage, fishy dinner & hot tub under the stars then drinks by the fire. pic.twitter.com/ge1bPQzLGb
  22. Proper chill out at @lowerbarns tonight. Massage, fishy dinner & hot tub under the stars then drinks by the fire. pic.twitter.com/ge1bPQzLGb
  23. Gorgeous new cottages at @lowerbarns Nook and Cranny are the best place I’ve stayed in #Cornwall so far. pic.twitter.com/udXazR31d2
  24. Not difficult to understand why Daphne du Maurier loved Gribbin Head near #Fowey so much she bought a house here. pic.twitter.com/YJUStkwnM7
  25. We did, despite the rain! MT @annabelherrick: @underthethatch hope you had a good time Helen! Looking forward to the piece.
  26. @underthethatch @helenochyra hope you had a good time Helen! Looking forward to the piece
  27. It’s gorgeous here. And delicious shellfish. Bit like Skye ;) @portraitsskye: @helenochyra @samsfowey love Fowey :) *bit jealous of lunch*
  28. Must admit it’s lunch for two! MT @kathrynlane001 @samsfowey Wow! Was going to say nice pic even before I expanded tweet & saw your lunch.
  29. Misty & damp on Bodmin Moor but safely tucked up by fire at @jamaicainn1 finding out from new owner Allen how things are set to change…
  30. Researching cool places and the du Maurier connection in #Fowey today. Visits to Gribbin Head, the Old Quay House & Sam’s on the itinerary.
  31. The view we woke up to this morning, mouths open in surprise after a night listening to heavy raindrops on the roof! pic.twitter.com/gzCFWaCunj
  32. Finally, my driver is here. No more double roundabouts for me…. pic.twitter.com/AMZswyWV9a
  33. @helenochyra @Tate_StIves one of my favourite places in the country, I love it there.
  34. @RoughGuides @helenochyra great, hoping to go there soon. Any recommendations on places to stay?
  35. It’s a small world! Enjoy your evening and your stay with us @helenochyra @We_love_Britain!
  36. Random travel coincidence of the year: dinner with @We_love_Britain‘s Vicky & Angharad as all happen to be staying @MerchantsManor tonight.
  37. Random travel coincidence of the year: dinner with @We_love_Britain‘s Vicky & Angharad as all happen to be staying @MerchantsManor tonight.
  38. @helenochyra Heading for St Ives myself in autumn – to take an art class, I think. Look forward to see your surfing adventures.
  39. A sea of camellias at @Tregothnan, one of #Cornwall‘s best gardens and so much more than just tea! pic.twitter.com/kvfUYt6obh
  40. Three days in #Cornwall & am sure I’m more familiar with the A39 than I am with my own bedroom. And what’s with all the double roundabouts?!
  41. Loved it! Especially the pulled pork. @KateArdron: @helenochyra glad you’re sampling the local delights. I’m a big @HubStives fan.
  42. Will do! Perhaps tomorrow morning. Glad it was a busy successful night! @DollysFalmouth @espressini39
  43. @helenochyra It was lovely to meet you and it turned out to be a fab busy Tues evening. Pop in and see Rupert @espressini39 if you have time
  44. Loved it! Especially the pulled pork. @KateArdron: @helenochyra glad you’re sampling the local delights. I’m a big @HubStives fan.
  45. @helenochyra glad you’re sampling the local delights. I’m a big @HubStives fan.
  46. The Barbara Hepworth sculpture gallery is even more inspiring than I expected it to be. @Tate_StIves #cornwall pic.twitter.com/iszTvmE8ob
  47. The Barbara Hepworth sculpture gallery is even more inspiring than I expected it to be. @Tate_StIves #cornwall pic.twitter.com/iszTvmE8ob
  48. The Barbara Hepworth sculpture gallery is even more inspiring than I expected it to be. @Tate_StIves #cornwall pic.twitter.com/iszTvmE8ob
  49. @helenochyra @SailloftsSpa The road from St Ives to St Just is regarded as one of the UK best drives!
  50. @PhilippaHill28 I know, burning the candle at both ends! Lovely to wake up in St Ives but bit murky here at the moment.
  51. @helenochyra a late one!! Hope you enjoyed the rest of your afternoon in Falmouth and are now enjoying the delights of St Ives x
  52. Pasty for dinner after shellfish platter lunch and cream tea breakfast. #Cornwall really does have fantastic (and waist-widening) food.
  53. Amazing massage @SailloftsSpa. Now off to a place I’ve always wanted to go… @Tate_StIves #Cornwall
  54. Just drunk whole mug of tea with bag still in. Shows how tired I am! Bring on @SailloftsSpa!
  55. Just about made it to @TheSailLofts thru St Ives’ teeny streets in 1 piece. Beyond tired & so glad to sink into this. pic.twitter.com/KyVN28SujA
  56. Delicious cakes (lavender and treacle tart) at @DollysFalmouth. A lovely end to a loooong day. pic.twitter.com/DQOkrHp1Vf
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London Loop: Moor Park to Elstree

Walking this section, Number 10 from Moor Park to Elstree, made us realize very quickly how disappointed we had been with our last section. The book (“London Loop“) had warned us that there was too much road walking between Elstree and Cockfosters and it was a relief to be back to greener paths today, starting with Oxhey Woods.

This section is the farthest from home we have completed so far and it took us through areas we had never even heard of, Oxhey Woods being one of them. It turned out to be a real hidden gem, with hardly another walker in sight and mile after mile of woodland path where the only noise was birdsong.

We reached Pinnerwood Farm and Pinnerwood House in just a couple of hours, picking our way through the mud by their stables and stopping to take photos of the charming house reflected in its lake. Once again, we were blown away by where some Londoners live, so close to Hatch End station and yet so rural and so quiet.

We skirted the edge of several fields, passing the ends of numerous gardens and peering into suburban life through back doors and windows. And then suddenly we were crossing the main west coast line to Scotland, Virgin trains thundering underneath us.

It was soon forgotten – the rural landscape between Bushey and Stanmore turning out to be a real delight, with stonking views over the London skyline. Doug climbed on an old pillbox for a better look and we debated over whether that was the Gherkin on the horizon or not – it was, though it looked tiny with the Shard looming so much larger to its right.

Also looming large here is Bentley Priory, Fighter Command Headquarters during the Battle of Britain and still RAF property today – which explains the double wire fence along the pathway here. It is a surprisingly beautiful building, a Victorian house with an Italianiate tower – and yet another of the Loop’s surprises.

The final stretch of this section involves getting under the M1. We walked for some 15 minutes across farmland, passing horses and discussing what we would have to say about walkers seen from the motorway – for the first time beginning to understand why you might find yourself emerging from a gas works beside an A road!

The motorway rushed overhead for a few minutes as we crossed the busy roundabout here but, like the railway before it, it is also soon forgotten. Because just a few minutes walk further on we reach Aldenham Reservoir and find a vast dam and a pretty sailing lake, now just starting to twinkle under a setting sun.

It was beautiful, but it also made us appreciate how long the day must be to fit in a whole section of the London Loop. Two hours by tube to reach Moor Park had undone our early start and we staggered exhausted into Elstree and Borehamwood station just as darkness began to fall. There was no spare time on this section and although it is one of the longer ones, we have learned an important Loop lesson – no early start is too early.

 

OUR WALK:

Start point: Moor Park station (Metropolitan line)

Finish point: Elstree and Borehamwood station (Thameslink)

Length: 12 miles (19.3km)

Time taken: six hours

 

 

Travel writer, editor and broadcaster