Q. My girlfriend and I are looking for a short break in the UK this summer but have previously visited Devon, Cornwall, Dorset and the Cotswolds. Where can we go this year that’s different? Carl, via email
A. There’s a southern bias here, so I’m going to suggest something out of your comfort zone, the furthest north of England. Northumberland has some of the best beaches in the UK, if not Europe, and although the temperatures may not be Mediterranean, the gorgeous scenery is a worthy consolation.
Top coastal top picks include Druridge Bay, a gorgeous, sweeping sandy beach perfect for a sunny day. Next up, head to the stunning beach at Bamburgh – even in high season, the miles of golden sand here aren’t crowded. A quirky coastal spot further south is Marsden Grotto, an ex-smugglers’ cove in the hollowed cliff accessible only by lift and now a bar and restaurant (marsden-grotto.co.uk).
Just a few miles north of Bamburgh is Holy Island (Lindisfarne), a small island connected to the mainland by a narrow causeway. Then, head inland to Alnwick for some history and a pinch of Hollywood. Alnwick Castle provided the setting for Harry Potter’s Hogwarts School in the blockbuster films. Finally, get outdoors and walk part of the 84-mile Hadrian’s Wall Path, which runs
from Wallsend (18 miles south of Morpeth) to Bowness-on-Solway along the line of the ancient Roman wall.
Q. I’d like to take a short budget break to France, but I don’t want to drive too far once I’ve arrived. Where would you recommend for a short break in northern France this summer? Lisa, via email
Normandy makes a perfect summer break, plus there are a number of Channel crossings that arrive into various ports here.
If you arrive into Caen by ferry from Portsmouth, it’s about a one-hour drive southwest to one of France’s most iconic sights, Mont St Michel. The abbey-topped island connected to the mainland by a narrow causeway is a great day trip. On your second day, why not try out the Route de Cidre (around 20km from Caen). This rural trail through hedgerows and orchards takes you past
a number of traditional cider producers who are happy to show you their farms and sell their cider and calvados.
Next up, be sure to squeeze in a trip to the pretty harbour town of Honfleur, a picture-perfect seaside stretch of cafes, ice cream shops and yachts bobbing in the harbour. If you have a third day, head inland to Giverny and the garden of impressionist artist Monet. It’s a bargain at £7.50 entry to see those world-famous water lilies (fondation-monet.fr). A great base for your trip is Trouville-sur-mer, a perfect seaside resort located centrally to all of these sights, just 60km from Caen. Stay at La Maison Normande, a cute and reasonably priced hotel near the seafront (maisonormande.com).
On holiday, save yourself the time and frustration spent finding addresses for your postcards. Pre-print labels of your friends’ and families’ addresses so you can stick them straight on. All you have to do is peel them off and stick.
Michelle Leon, via email
Bag a Sweet Ride
When hiring a car in LA or Las Vegas, book the cheapest one. Then, on pick up, ask if there are any upgrade options. We booked a compact for US$30 a day for 10 days, and on pick up got an upgrade to a Mustang convertible for an extra US$8 a day!
Jason Metcalf, via Facebook