*Hampton Manor, Warwickshire, England*

We’re all searching for the perfect hotel. Somewhere with great food, beautiful surroundings, rooms with style and all the comforts, interesting things to do in the neighbourhood. Well this could be just the place … Hampton Manor on the rural, southern fringes of Birmingham and perfectly placed for discovering historic Warwickshire. Find out more as I talk to the talented owners James and Fjona Hill, their Michelin starred chef Rob Palmer and other key players in the rise of this historic property…  runs to twenty-two minutes.

*Llangoed Hall, Mid Wales, UK*

Llangoed Hall  has history and style set in 17 acres of fabulous countryside in the Wye Valley in Powys. It first became a great home for the aristocracy in 1632 and then updated by the great architect Clough Williams-Ellis in 1919. Nowadays this outstanding country house hotel has elegant public rooms and bedrooms with a collection of Edwardian fine art and award-winning cuisine. I’ve stayed there for a few nights and got all the lowdown from the managing director, Calum Milne, from head chef Nick Brodie, and from a lynchpin in the organisation – head gardener Mandy Hobbs…

CASTLE HOWARD, North Yorkshire

This is one of Britain’s great stately homes where you can see how the wealthy and powerful lived in centuries gone by. The Howard family first came to prominence at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 – although they were on the wrong side supporting King Richard III who was killed at the battle. But they’ve gone through fascinating ups and downs over the intervening years and they are still holding on to thousands of prime acres of Yorkshire and a fabulous historic house. This guide runs to more than twenty-six minutes. Enjoy !

BATH – new, fun eatery – The Scallop Shell

The Scallop Shell has been open just a year and is already packed with appreciative diners through every service. Basically it’s a cool, modern-industrial-style, fish restaurant with enthusiastic staff and a mainly fish menu. Eat in or take away – but eating in you’ll experience the full vibe of the place.

WHITBY by steam railway NEW content 2017

This guide takes you to the historic and very pretty north Yorkshire coastal town of Whitby. Captain James Cook – the navigator who first mapped New Zealand and eastern Australia grew up in Whitby. It was here that Bram Stoker wrote the novel “Dracula” creating the whole genre of horror stories. We journey up and through the North Yorkshire Moors National Park using the heritage steam railway. The guide runs to thirty-nine minutes…

ROME – Bernini’s Baroque, new for 2017

The sculptures and architecture of Bernini define a huge amount of what we think of as the glories of Rome – the Fontana di Trevi, the fountain of the Four Rivers in the Piazza Navona, and great sculptures and church buildings across Rome. Then there is the final, grandiose style of the colonnades in front of St Peter’s Basilica – and those are just the ones you can see for free ! In this guide lasting 28 minutes we’ll tour the great Baroque Churches of Rome and concentrate on Bernini and Borromini’s contribution.

 

LONDON – four great museums New content 2017

This audio guide takes you through the best-known and biggest London museums – the Natural History Museum ( known as the home of the dinosaurs ), the Science Museum, the Victoria and Albert for all lovers of culture and style – and then east from Kensington to the British Museum in Bloomsbury. This is the pick of London’s museum scene. There are plenty of other brilliant, smaller ones but these are the honeypots for visitors. This guide runs to forty minutes. Enjoy !

NEW YORK CITY – 5 – Guggenheim, Lincoln Centre, Central Park. NEW content 2017

There are five NYC pieces in my collection. They have been newly recorded in the summer of 2015 so they are totally up to date. There are thirty distinct attractions or historic sites in these tours – most of which you can do on foot. We’ll tell you when you need to get from one district to another by cab or subway. The main themes are “Manhattan from the Water” which is programme No. 1 – it includes a visit to the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island for the immigration museum, South Street Seaport museum, and a dinner cruise around Manhattan. Programme No. 2 is around Ground Zero and the financial district with the Stock Exchange, Federal Hall, NYC City Hall, Brooklyn Bridge and on north through Chinatown and Little Italy. Programme No. 3 begins at the iconic Flatiron Building and works north through several “architectural gems” including the Chrysler Building, the Empire State, the United Nations headquarters, Grand Central Station and to the NYC Public Library. NYC programme No. 4 focuses on “entertainment” around Times Square, Broadway, Rockefeller Centre and Radio City Music Hall – with a touch of religion thrown in at St Patrick’s Cathedral. The final programme – No. 5 – concentrates on “culture and leisure” at the Lincoln Centre for Performing Arts, The Guggenheim, the natural history museum, Central Park and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The programmes lead you gently northwards to Uptown from the very southern tip of Manhattan. These guides run to… 1. 11’46”; 2. 27’00”; 3. 31’24”; 4. 22’31”; 5. 18’47”.

NEW YORK CITY – 4 – Times Square, Broadway, Radio City. NEW content 2017

There are five NYC pieces in my collection. They have been newly recorded in the summer of 2015 so they are totally up to date. There are thirty distinct attractions or historic sites in these tours – most of which you can do on foot. We’ll tell you when you need to get from one district to another by cab or subway. The main themes are “Manhattan from the Water” which is programme No. 1 – it includes a visit to the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island for the immigration museum, South Street Seaport museum, and a dinner cruise around Manhattan. Programme No. 2 is around Ground Zero and the financial district with the Stock Exchange, Federal Hall, NYC City Hall, Brooklyn Bridge and on north through Chinatown and Little Italy. Programme No. 3 begins at the iconic Flatiron Building and works north through several “architectural gems” including the Chrysler Building, the Empire State, the United Nations headquarters, Grand Central Station and to the NYC Public Library. NYC programme No. 4 focuses on “entertainment” around Times Square, Broadway, Rockefeller Centre and Radio City Music Hall – with a touch of religion thrown in at St Patrick’s Cathedral. The final programme – No. 5 – concentrates on “culture and leisure” at the Lincoln Centre for Performing Arts, The Guggenheim, the natural history museum, Central Park and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The programmes lead you gently northwards to Uptown from the very southern tip of Manhattan. These guides run to… 1. 11’46”; 2. 27’00”; 3. 31’24”; 4. 22’31”; 5. 18’47”.

NEW YORK CITY – 3 – Flatiron, Chrysler, Empire State. NEW content 2017

There are five NYC pieces in my collection. They have been newly recorded in the summer of 2015 so they are totally up to date. There are thirty distinct attractions or historic sites in these tours – most of which you can do on foot. We’ll tell you when you need to get from one district to another by cab or subway. The main themes are “Manhattan from the Water” which is programme No. 1 – it includes a visit to the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island for the immigration museum, South Street Seaport museum, and a dinner cruise around Manhattan. Programme No. 2 is around Ground Zero and the financial district with the Stock Exchange, Federal Hall, NYC City Hall, Brooklyn Bridge and on north through Chinatown and Little Italy. Programme No. 3 begins at the iconic Flatiron Building and works north through several “architectural gems” including the Chrysler Building, the Empire State, the United Nations headquarters, Grand Central Station and to the NYC Public Library. NYC programme No. 4 focuses on “entertainment” around Times Square, Broadway, Rockefeller Centre and Radio City Music Hall – with a touch of religion thrown in at St Patrick’s Cathedral. The final programme – No. 5 – concentrates on “culture and leisure” at the Lincoln Centre for Performing Arts, The Guggenheim, the natural history museum, Central Park and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The programmes lead you gently northwards to Uptown from the very southern tip of Manhattan. These guides run to… 1. 11’46”; 2. 27’00”; 3. 31’24”; 4. 22’31”; 5. 18’47”.

NEW YORK CITY – 2 – Ground Zero, Wall St, Brooklyn Bridge. NEW content 2017

There are five NYC pieces in my collection. They have been newly recorded in the summer of 2015 so they are totally up to date. There are thirty distinct attractions or historic sites in these tours – most of which you can do on foot. We’ll tell you when you need to get from one district to another by cab or subway. The main themes are “Manhattan from the Water” which is programme No. 1 – it includes a visit to the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island for the immigration museum, South Street Seaport museum, and a dinner cruise around Manhattan. Programme No. 2 is around Ground Zero and the financial district with the Stock Exchange, Federal Hall, NYC City Hall, Brooklyn Bridge and on north through Chinatown and Little Italy. Programme No. 3 begins at the iconic Flatiron Building and works north through several “architectural gems” including the Chrysler Building, the Empire State, the United Nations headquarters, Grand Central Station and to the NYC Public Library. NYC programme No. 4 focuses on “entertainment” around Times Square, Broadway, Rockefeller Centre and Radio City Music Hall – with a touch of religion thrown in at St Patrick’s Cathedral. The final programme – No. 5 – concentrates on “culture and leisure” at the Lincoln Centre for Performing Arts, The Guggenheim, the natural history museum, Central Park and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The programmes lead you gently northwards to Uptown from the very southern tip of Manhattan. These guides run to… 1. 11’46”; 2. 27’00”; 3. 31’24”; 4. 22’31”; 5. 18’47”.

NEW YORK CITY – 1 – Liberty Island, Ellis Island. NEW content 2017

There are five NYC pieces in my collection. They have been newly recorded in the summer of 2015 so they are totally up to date. There are thirty distinct attractions or historic sites in these tours – most of which you can do on foot. We’ll tell you when you need to get from one district to another by cab or subway. The main themes are “Manhattan from the Water” which is programme No. 1 – it includes a visit to the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island for the immigration museum, South Street Seaport museum, and a dinner cruise around Manhattan. Programme No. 2 is around Ground Zero and the financial district with the Stock Exchange, Federal Hall, NYC City Hall, Brooklyn Bridge and on north through Chinatown and Little Italy. Programme No. 3 begins at the iconic Flatiron Building and works north through several “architectural gems” including the Chrysler Building, the Empire State, the United Nations headquarters, Grand Central Station and to the NYC Public Library. NYC programme No. 4 focuses on “entertainment” around Times Square, Broadway, Rockefeller Centre and Radio City Music Hall – with a touch of religion thrown in at St Patrick’s Cathedral. The final programme – No. 5 – concentrates on “culture and leisure” at the Lincoln Centre for Performing Arts, The Guggenheim, the natural history museum, Central Park and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The programmes lead you gently northwards to Uptown from the very southern tip of Manhattan. These guides run to… 1. 11’46”; 2. 27’00”; 3. 31’24”; 4. 22’31”; 5. 18’47”.

BEAUMARIS, Anglesey – new content 2017

Beaumaris – very definitely pronounced on Anglesey as BEW-maris – is a charming little seaside town with a fine castle, loads of water-based activities on the Menai Straits and plenty of good places to stay. We tend to use the Old Bull’s Head. There’s some quirky shopping – look out for the Chilli Shop ! And make sure you enjoy an ice from the Red Boat icecream parlour.

MILAN 2 updated for 2017

Milan is the powerhouse of the Italian economy – there’s big industry and banking around the city – but the centre has historic charm around the fabulously ornate Duomo – the cathedral – and around the chic Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II shopping arcade;  the La Scala Opera Hous; the Sforza castle and out to other important attractions like Leonardo da Vinci’s “Last Supper” and the iconic San Siro stadium. We’ll visit them all in these thirty four minutes of audio guides but we’ll also visit Milan’s cool entertainment area around its old canals – the Navigli district – find out everything there is to know about Espresso coffees and stroll the fashion industry’s heartland. We’ll eat at a fine, slow-food osteria too. The guides run to 20 minutes and 15 miniutes.

MILAN 1 updated for 2017

Milan is the powerhouse of the Italian economy – there’s big industry and banking around the city – but the centre has historic charm around the fabulously ornate Duomo – the cathedral – and around the chic Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II shopping arcade;  the La Scala Opera Hous; the Sforza castle and out to other important attractions like Leonardo da Vinci’s “Last Supper” and the iconic San Siro stadium. We’ll visit them all in these thirty four minutes of audio guides but we’ll also visit Milan’s cool entertainment area around its old canals – the Navigli district – find out everything there is to know about Espresso coffees and stroll the fashion industry’s heartland. We’ll eat at a fine, slow-food osteria too. The guides run to 20 minutes and 15 miniutes.

DEVON pt 3 Dartington NEW for 2017

This is one of three new guides in South Devon around glorious, riverside Dartmouth; funky Totnes and crafty Dartington. In Dartington there’s a very eco-friendly set of shops – a great “upscaling” place where you can do courses in refurbing furniture and household goods. There’s also a brilliant leathershop – smelling fantastic – where you can learn the trade. It’s Tanner Bates. Lots of other shopping too and the great estate’s Dartington Hall – historic and very educational !  We’ll be visiting Agatha Christie’s summer home at Greenway mansion right above the river… taking boat trips on the green-banked River Dart ( sometimes mistaken for the Amazon by BBC TV producers ) getting to know all the cool shops in off-the-wall Totnes. Dartmouth has some excellent seafood and other eating and loads of classy art galleries. The three guides run to 26 minutes; 23 minutes and 13 minutes… enjoy !

DEVON pt 2 Totnes NEW for 2017

This is one of three new guides in South Devon around glorious, riverside Dartmouth; funky Totnes and crafty Dartington. We’ll be visiting Agatha Christie’s summer home at Greenway mansion right above the river… taking boat trips on the green-banked River Dart ( sometimes mistaken for the Amazon by BBC TV producers ) getting to know all the cool shops in off-the-wall Totnes. Totnes was home to the inventor of the computer – Charles Babbidge. It’s also one of the first Saxon boroughs and first mentioned in the year 907 AD. Plenty of history, interesting places to eat and loads of “one-off” shops. Dartmouth has some excellent seafood and other eating and loads of classy art galleries. The three guides run to 26 minutes; 23 minutes and 13 minutes… enjoy !

DEVON pt 1 Dartmouth NEW for 2017

This is one of three new guides in South Devon around glorious, riverside Dartmouth; funky Totnes and crafty Dartington. We’ll be visiting Agatha Christie’s summer home at Greenway mansion right above the river… taking boat trips on the green-banked River Dart ( sometimes mistaken for the Amazon by BBC TV producers ) getting to know all the cool shops in off-the-wall Totnes. Dartmouth has some excellent seafood and other eating and loads of classy art galleries. The three guides run to 26 minutes; 23 minutes and 13 minutes… enjoy !

PARIS – pt 3 – updated 2017

Part three of our tour of Paris takes us to the Catacombs where skeletons were moved and reburied underground as Haussmann was rebuilding the elegant centre of Paris we see all around us today. They emptied medieval graveyards and had to put the bones somewhere ! The visit is NOT smelly or frightening !  We take a walking tour of the quaint Marais district… discover some unusual shops (one sells nothing but products from France’s monasteries and convents!) … and get some important tips on getting around the city… bikes, the Metro, taxis. It’s all made on location and with help from Barbara, an excellent guide at www.frenchadventures.com. We’ll enjoy a lively street market on the Boulevard Raspaille and drop into La Coupole – one of the iconic, art deco restaurants of Montparnasse where the literary and arty crowd gathered in the 1920s and 30s. We’ll also stop for a drink in Harry’s American Bar a popular hangout for ex-pats like Cole Porter and George Gershwin in the late 1920s. This guide runs to thirty minutes.

PARIS – pt 2 – updated 2017

This second part of three Paris guides is full of sparkling interviews and insights. It has equally compelling places to visit like the Chateau de Chaillot on high ground opposite the Eiffel Tower – then we look at the building of the Tower itself – stop off at the Louvre and then find out about those underground tours where you visit Paris’s sewers !  We’ll also take a walk through Montmartre. We end up in the legendary Pere Lachaise cemetery – a great monumental tribute to prominent French people and international celebs who died and are buried in Paris – like Jim Morrison, Chopin and Oscar Wilde. This guide runs to 25 lively, informative minutes.

PARIS – pt 1 – updated 2017

This guide has new material and has been re-edited for 2016 with extra content added.  Paris is truly an elegant and romantic city with world-class attractions. The iconic Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Orsay Museum, the old Opera House and of course Notre Dame. Tim visits all of these in this guide to the mainstream Paris “must do” things. He uses Les Cars Rouges open top bus tours and relies on the Eyewitness guide to “see” what’s out there. There are many “oiff-beat” places to visit. Like the Catacombs where tens of thousands of skeletons were re-buried after Baron Haussman’s redesign of Paris. Plus don’t miss the graves of Chopin, Edith Piaf and Oscar Wilde. This first Paris guide runs to  twenty-four minutes.

KERALA – pt 3 – the South – NEW CONTENT for 2017

In this third part in Kerala there’s a good look at the excellent Leela Hotel – the best hotel in Kovalam – but there’s also a lot of beach life to explore. Fisherman landing their catch and the local woman who runs the auction of their fish. Men are repairing large fishing boats – there’s a local mosque to visit – and some stalls, one of them selling coconuts and coconut water. Walk along the waterfront in Kovalam and get the feel of a charming beach resort. Runs to 27 minutes.

MACHYNLLETH area accommodation

Machynlleth is one of Wales’s most historic towns. It’s where Owain Glyndwr convened the first Welsh Parliament in 1404 and it also sits where the River Dyfi widens out into a beautiful and wildlife-rich estuary. This second guide looks at the very finest accommodation and eating in the area.

MACHYNLLETH area + Ynyshir Hall

Machynlleth is one of Wales’s most historic towns and it also sits where the River Dyfi widens out into a beautiful and wildlife-rich estuary. There’s a lot to do in the area – the RSPB reserve at Ynyshir; the Centre for Alternative Technology; historic Machynlleth itself and fabulous unspoilt mountains inland and a magnificent coast west of town. The first part of the guide covers the attractions – part two looks at accommodation…

 

 

Ynyshir Hall – Michelin starred cuisine

Ynyshir Hall is a Michelin starred restaurant and hotel set in rolling parkland in the beautiful Dyfi Valley of Mid Wales. The chef is Gareth Ward who has been turning out exquisite tasting menus and market menus during 2014. The hotel is owned by two couples – but it’s Joan Reen who is the creative and driving force behind the hotel side. Her husband Rob is an artist whose powerful paintings adorn the hotel. There’ll be a second piece below this restaurant section of Eat and Sleep – in among the hotels – to look at location, decor, suites and all the things to do with staying a few nights.

Jim Thompson House, Bangkok

Jim Thompson was an American who had worked undercover in the Far East during WWII. He settled in Bangkok and almost single-handedly revived the Thai hand-weaving silk industry. There are now a whole series of rather elegant Jim Thompson shops around Thailand. Thompson himself vanished in unexplained circumstances in the 1960s. Before his disappearance he gathered together a collection of historic, Thai teak houses and amalgamated them into one in Bangkok… these beautifully furnished houses with historic antiques and artwork are what you visit…

Calvados Distillery , near Pont l’Eveque

Drouin are the aristocrats of Calvados – the traditional apple brandy of Normandy. They were distilling for twenty years – to age their product properly – befiore they sold a single bottle. You can tour and taste at their distillery near Pont l’Eveque. It’s housed in a series of beautifully restored Norman farm buildings – and the Calvados ain’t ‘arf good too !

Cockfighting Centre, Chiang Mai

This new attraction tells the fascinating but gory history of cockfighting. It is extremely well set out and covers different breeds, different countries and culminates with a display of cockfighting. BUT… and it’s a big BUT … in Thailand birds are not equipped with the killer, metal spurs… and in Thailand a referee stops a fight when one bird is in trouble so it’s quite a bit more civilised than in some countries. Having said that it may still not be your cup of tea. I was fascinated by what I learned.

STOKESAY CASTLE, Shropshire

Stokesay Castle is quite simply the finest and best preserved fortified medieval manor house in England. Set in peaceful countryside near the Welsh border and a couple of miles north of Ludlow, the castle, timber-framed gatehouse and parish church form an unforgettably picturesque group. Lawrence of Ludlow, a wealthy local wool-merchant with pretensions to be a local squire, bought the property in 1281, when the long Anglo-Welsh wars were ending. It’s a beautiful place to visit today and it’s close to glorious picturesque, comfy, foodie Ludlow.

JMW Turner @ Tate Britain, London

There’s been a groundswell of publicity building up for the great British artist JMW Turner. The Mike Leigh, Timothy Spall film about Turner and simply called “Mr Turner” has opened in UK cinemas. He was almost single-handedly the father of Impressionism. He painted “how he felt” as well as how one objectively saw the world in front of him. I was in London for the great exhibition of Turner’s later paintings at Tate Britain – which runs until the end of January 2015. It’s superb ! But I also recorded my own impressions looking at the permanent exhibition in the Tate’s Turner Gallery…

LONDON – around Westminster Abbey. Updated 2017

Westminster Abbey is one of the two great national churches of the UK. It’s where Kings and Queens have been crowned for a thousand years. It’s here that the funeral of Princess Diana in 1997 was held. Here is the Tomb of Unknown Warrior – an anonymous man who was killed during World War One and who is honoured by the nation. See the Coronation Chair and Poets Corner where Shakespeare, Dickens, Chaucer and other great men of letters are honoured. Also visit little St Margaret’s Church – Parliament’s parish church – in the shadow of the Abbey. This guide is more than 16 minutes long.

LONDON – around Houses of Parliament. Updated 2017

This guide tours you around the Palace of Westminster – what in the UK we call the Houses of Parliament. Hear all about Big Ben and the clock tower of Parliament, ancient Westminster Hall, the House of Lords and the Queen’s Robing Room before ending up in the Commons Chamber. We also stop to consider the statue outside of Oliver Cromwell – the Lord Protector while Britain was a republic in the 1650s. This guide runs to 23 minutes.

LONDON – a walk up Whitehall updated 2017

Whitehall is where the power is in London. This is where the Government ministries are and of course the Prime Minister’s residence and office in Downing Street off to one side. But Whitehall is also where the UK remembers its war dead at the Cenotaph and the new monument to the Women of World War II. But walk on around the back of Horse Guards Parade and find something truly quirky – the St James’s Park duck keeper’s cottage ! This walk works well with my guides to the Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey. This guide runs to 23 minutes.

STONEHENGE – AVEBURY and Salisbury

This is a World Heritage Site writ very large indeed. Stonehenge is one of just a handful of places in Europe that travellers from outside Europe demand to see. It’s spiritual and yet stunning in its huge presence. This guide looks in detail at the stone circle with help from the folks at English Heritage… then back at the excellent new visitor centre. We also use English Heritage expertise to travel to Avebury stone circle and then to Old Sarum – the hill fort which was the predecessor of the city of Salisbury. We end up in Salisbury looking at ancient pubs, the market and the iconic Cathedral. This guide runs to more than thirty minutes…

DIJON pt 2. Updated 2017

Dijon is a gloriously civilised and arty city. Gustave Eiffel – yes the Tower man – he came from here. And there are quirky food connections too… Dijon mustard is known globally… you can buy it draught from the Maille shop, from things like beer pumps. And don’t miss the gingerbread makers with their nineteenth century shop – Mulot et Petitjean…The Dukes of Burgundy controlled lands not only in eastern France but on into the Low Countries centuries ago. So Dijon has charming old medieval buildings. It was hardly damaged in World War Two because it was not a manufacturing city or major rail hub. This second guide takes us out by road to the wine country around Gevrey Chambertin, Nuits St Georges and Clos de Vougeot. So in addition to the city we visit Clos de Vougeot, a major cheese maker and the excellent Cassissium where cassis and other cordials are made. A good tour there too. These guides run to 40 minutes and 37 minutes… which I think is excellent value… .

DIJON pt 1 – NEW CONTENT 2017

Dijon is a gloriously civilised and arty city, in east central France, which in its heyday as the capital of historic Burgundy was more powerful than Paris. The Dukes of Burgundy controlled lands not only in eastern France but on into the Low Countries centuries ago. So Dijon has charming old medieval buildings. It was hardly damaged in World War Two because it was not a manufacturing city or major rail hub. The palace of the Dukes of Burgundy spreads across the city centre with galleries and other historic buildings. But Dijon is also the capital of the Burgundy wine region with all those famous names like Nuits St Georges, Gevrey Chambertin and Vougeot close to the city. Gustave Eiffel – yes the Tower man – he came from here. And there are quirky food connections too… Dijon mustard is known globally… you can buy it draught from the Maille shop, from things like beer pumps. And don’t miss the gingerbread makers with their nineteenth century shop – Mulot et Petitjean… these guides run to 40 minutes and 37 minutes… which I think is excellent value…

SNOWDONIA pt 3

In these three guides to the fabulously mountainous and rugged Snowdonia area Tim travels on two of Wales’s iconic narrow gauge railways – the Snowdon Mountain Railway up the highest mountain in England and Wales, and then on the much longer Ffestiniog Railway. He visits one of Britain’s most powerful and beautiful castles at Caernarfon; visits the Italian-style village of Portmeirion where the cult TV series the Prisoner was filmed… finds out all about David Lloyd George, one of the greatest British reformers and war leaders… visits some of Britain’s finest gardens and stately homes and visits some great mountain scenery. The guides total to just over seventy minutes of on-location interviews and sounds creating a great “sense of place” in North Wales.

STOCKHOLM Skansen Museum pt 2

Walking along the elegant Stockholm waterfront to Skansen is a pleasure in itself. Near Skansen is the brilliant Vasa Museum which is a must for you – and a must fr me to create a guide next time I’m in Stockholm. This absence is a dreadful miss ! So on to Skansen which is a fabulous collection of farmhouses, churches, peasant buildings from all over Sweden which have been rebuilt here in parkland. The craft workers are a must too – glass blowing, printing, leather work – a bakery and good cafes. There’s even a zoo of Nordic animals.You’ll have a complete view of Stockholm if you download the full Stockholm series… and if you climb high up on Skansen’s hill you’ll literally have a great view of Stockholm !

STOCKHOLM Skansen Museum pt 1

Walking along the elegant Stockholm waterfront to Skansen is a pleasure in itself. Near Skansen is the brilliant Vasa Museum which is a must for you – and a must fr me to create a guide next time I’m in Stockholm. This absence is a dreadful miss ! So on to Skansen which is a fabulous collection of farmhouses, churches, peasant buildings from all over Sweden which have been rebuilt here in parkland. The craft workers are a must too – glass blowing, printing, leather work – a bakery and good cafes. There’s even a zoo of Nordic animals.You’ll have a complete view of Stockholm if you download the full Stockholm series… and if you climb high up on Skansen’s hill you’ll literally have a great view of Stockholm !

STOCKHOLM pt 4 – towards Skansen

Stockholm is one of the world’s most beautiful and gentle-paced capital cities. It’s built across thirteen islands and it has more grandeur than you would expect from modern-day, egalitarian Sweden. After all, a couple of hundred years ago Sweden was a world power – so there are palaces and fine buildings to match. But it’s Stockholm’s waterside location that gives it its greatest charm. You can take boat trips around the city – head inland – and out into the archipelago of thousands of islands on the way into the Baltic Sea proper. This guide moves from Gamla Stan and the older parts of the city towards the waterfront on the way to Skansen. We’ll see the Holocaust monument with its Swedish connection to Raoul Wallenberg who saved so many Hungarian Jews from death. Then we walk on towards the National Theatre and finally on to visit the world’s first open-air, folk museum at Skansen.

STOCKHOLM pt 3

Stockholm is one of the world’s most beautiful and gentle-paced capital cities. It’s built across thirteen islands and it has more grandeur than you would expect from modern-day, egalitarian Sweden. After all, a couple of hundred years ago Sweden was a world power – so there are palaces and fine buildings to match. But it’s Stockholm’s waterside location that gives it its greatest charm. You can take boat trips around the city – head inland – and out into the archipelago of thousands of islands on the way into the Baltic Sea proper. These guides take a very complete walking tour around the old town – Gamla Stan – and then walk on towards the National Theatre and finally on to visit the world’s first open-air, folk museum at Skansen. Skansen is a fabulous collection of farmhouses, churches, peasant buildings from all over Sweden which have been rebuilt here in parkland. There’s even a zoo of Nordic animals.You’ll have a complete view of Stockholm if you download the full Stockholm series…

STOCKHOLM pt 2

Stockholm is one of the world’s most beautiful and gentle-paced capital cities. It’s built across thirteen islands and it has more grandeur than you would expect from modern-day, egalitarian Sweden. After all, a couple of hundred years ago Sweden was a world power – so there are palaces and fine buildings to match. But it’s Stockholm’s waterside location that gives it its greatest charm. You can take boat trips around the city – head inland – and out into the archipelago of thousands of islands on the way into the Baltic Sea proper. These guides take a very complete walking tour around the old town – Gamla Stan – and then walk on towards the National Theatre and finally on to visit the world’s first open-air, folk museum at Skansen. Skansen is a fabulous collection of farmhouses, churches, peasant buildings from all over Sweden which have been rebuilt here in parkland. There’s even a zoo of Nordic animals.You’ll have a complete view of Stockholm if you download the full Stockholm series…

STOCKHOLM pt 1 – updated 2017

Stockholm is one of the world’s most beautiful and gentle-paced capital cities. It’s built across thirteen islands and it has more grandeur than you would expect from modern-day, egalitarian Sweden. After all, a couple of hundred years ago Sweden was a world power – so there are palaces and fine buildings to match. But it’s Stockholm’s waterside location that gives it its greatest charm. You can take boat trips around the city – head inland – and out into the archipelago of thousands of islands on the way into the Baltic Sea proper. These guides take a very complete walking tour around the old town – Gamla Stan – and then walk on towards the National Theatre and finally on to visit the world’s first open-air, folk museum at Skansen. Skansen is a fabulous collection of farmhouses, churches, peasant buildings from all over Sweden which have been rebuilt here in parkland. There’s even a zoo of Nordic animals.You’ll have a complete view of Stockholm if you download the full Stockholm series…

BERCHTESGADEN

Berchtesgaden has its sadder historical connections with Hitler’s Eagles Nest high above the town where the Nazi Fuhrer holidayed in the late 1930s and 1940s – BUT there’s a lot of history and the folk culture of Bavaria down in the old town. Hear the man who tailors lederhosen cutting his leather … what a sound that is. There’s historia and ditilling and beer-making too.

MAESTEG, PORT TALBOT, SWANSEA – by bus

This bus trip takes us through Port Talbot where you can find out about three of the greatest actors ever… you can walk the Richard Burton trail, there’s history to find out about Sir Anthony Hopkins and now Michael Sheen is a shining light from the same town. The trip also takes you to attractive Maesteg and also discovers a lot of things to do in Swansea.

CARDIFF to COWBRIDGE, PORTHCAWL by bus

This is another of my series of five Cymru Clipper comfy, longer distance bus trips across South Wales. This goes through delightful, well-off Cowbridge and heads for slightly raffish seaside resort Porthcawl with its Elvis Festival. It ends with all the Cardiff attractions in case you are travelling in the opposite direction !

SWANSEA to LLANDEILO by bus

Llandeilo is a charming little Carmarthenshire country town with outstanding shopping ( including a great ice-cream and chocolate makers). The journey on a Cymru Clipper service allows you to use wifi on the way. Half a mile out of Llandeilo and there’s a great National Trust property – Dinefwr park.

CARMARTHEN, KIDWELLY, LLANELLI – by bus

This is another of the series of interesting and comfortable bus tours I took on the Cymru Clipper routes run by First Bus. This one takes us through Llanelli with he fabulous restoration  of Georgian Llanelly House – then on to the Millennium Coast Park, through Burry Port where American aviatrix Emelia Earhart landed on the first transatlantic flight by a woman – then on through Kidwelly with its Norman Castle and into equally historic Carmarthen with its Roman origins. There’s also Swansea content to finish ( in case you were travelling in the other direction !)

ABERDULAIS FALLS, Neath Valley by bus

The bus company – First Cymru Bus – run a series of “Cymru Clipper” services which are comfier and longer distance trips than just crossing a city. This journey is from Swansea and up to the ancient industrial site and beautiful waterfalls at Aberdulais in the Neath Valley

WINSTON CHURCHILL – Cabinet Bunker, London.

2015 marks the fiftieth anniversary of Churchill’s death. During heavy German wartime bombing from 1940 onwards Britain’s War Cabinet, led by Winston Churchill, often met deep underground just a hundred metres from No 10 Downing Street. These are now run by the Imperial War Museum and known as the Churchill War Rooms. They make a fascinating tour.

Daniel Hotel, Vienna

This is a thoroughly funky place. Reception and the downstairs bar and lounge are off the wall… very informal and looking very informal. There’s a “melting” plastic yacht hanging over the edge of the roof so you’ll know the hotel when you see it. They have their own beehives for making honey and their own bakery… great fun and well placed near the Upper Belvedere palace.

Astoria Hotel, Budapest

The Astoria has been interestingly refurbished back to how it was in 1914 – it’s by way of a centenary celebration in 2014. The foyer remains a delight to look at. The Astoria is in a central location walkable to most interesting parts of Pest.

OFFA’s DYKE and JUDGES’ LODGINGS, Presteigne

The Judges’ Lodgings and the Offa’s Dyke Centre are two of the most interesting attractions for tourists to Mid Wales. The Judges’ Lodgings in Presteigne show exactly how it was on the assize Circuit in Victorian times. The courthouse, the cells, where the visiting judges actually lived – it’s not really a re-creation – it’s actually how it all was. Offa’s Dyke on the other hand is nearly two hundred miles long – a Saxon earthwork to define England from Wales. Loads to do and wonderful country in which to walk it from Knighton. This guide runs to fifteen minutes.

Whirling Dervishes, Istanbul

This is one of the more spiritual experiences in Turkey’s biggest city. The Dervishes come from a small Islamic sect who try to submerge the “self” in love through a pirouetting dance in heavy flowing costumes. It’s currently being held in the atmospheric, 19th century waiting room of the main railway station in Istanbul – which used to be the terminus of the Orient Express – so you kill two birds with one stone watching the Dervishes.

John Deere museum, Moline, Illinois

This museum and factory complex and outstanding John Deere merchandise store pays tribute to the global John Deere agricultural machinery corporation which began life in Moline, Illinois. The company’s green and yellow livery is now a global force but this museum traces humble beginnings. Deere’s steel plough ( they’d been mainly iron before him) was instrumental in opening up the Midwest.

Eames design gallery, Santa Monica

You may well be sitting on an Eames-designed chair right now. Charles and Ray Eames ( a husband and wife design team) revolutionised furniture in the second half of the twentieth century. In a sentence – they taught the world how to make chairs from bent plywood. The rest is history.

SS Great Britain, Bristol

This is simply one of the great Victorian engineering feats. The SS Great Britain designed by Brunel and brought home and restored in her home port is beautifully displayed. She was actually built in this very dock !

Royal Shakespeare Company, backstage tour

Whether you’re a Shakespeare fan or not – the backstage tour of the memorial theatre in Stratford upon Avon is fascinating. The RSC has its own wig makers, armourers, leather workers – all geared to creating the world’s finest productions of plays by the world’s finest dramatist.

Newseum, Washington DC

The Newseum is a fantastic experience. You just have to get there someday ! They have the actual door which the Watergate burglars broke in through leading to Richard Nixon resigning as President. There’s the incredibly moving radio antenna which we all saw dropping vertically down as the World Trade Centre buildings collapsed on Nine Eleven… there’s a chunk of Berlin Wall … and all of the artifacts and all the great issues of political bias and balance in news gathering and how news is disseminated around the world. Utterly fascinating ! Runs to a little over eleven minutes.

National Railway Museum, York

Beautiful old toys for extremely big boys ! The Mallard in gleaming royal blue is the world’s fastest ever steam locomotive. See some other amazing pieces of Victorian and Edwardian enginnering and later too – there’s a Japanese Bullet Train too. Give yourself a few hours for this lot !!

Loch Fyne whisky shop, Invararay

Whisky is the must have “souvenir” of the Highlands – and this is the place to get it if you’re in the area. In Inveraray’s main street the Whisky Shop has a mind-boggling selection as well as a blend of its own and an excellent liqueur that it creates. The shop is staffed with humour and expertise.

La Coupole, Nazi V2 base, nr Calais

This place officially called La Coupole or the dome is just outside St Omer in northern France – just off the A26 from Calais south. It’s simply frightening to look at the vast concrete dome built into the side of a quarry where V1s – the Doodlebugs – and much faster V2s were built for Hitler’s revenge attacks on London. Excellent visitor experience. This guide runs to twelve minutes

Le Don de Fel ceramics

Le Don de Fel is a fabulous phenomenon. It’s architecturally unusual – huge, terra cotta coloured steel drums on a south of France mountain top… but also has brilliant ceramics displayed, made and sold within. Well worth a visit if you are in the Aveyron department and around the Lot Valley.

Fontenay Abbey, Burgundy

This is a UNESCO world heritage site. The buildings are historic – this was the first working iron factory in Europe – but it is also an exquisite monastic complex. Just visit it ! This is a small part of my Canal de Bourgogne guide with the excellent European Waterways company from the UK.

Alnwick Gardens, Northumberland

This delightful new garden has been developed by the Duchess of Northumberland close to historic Alnwick Castle, north of Morpeth. It follows the tradition of the great stately home gardens – with a major cascade like Chatsworth but with wonderful modern twists. The huge Treehouse cannot be missed out ! Add in the shop, cafe etc and you have a great second attraction for the town of Alnwick…

Wykeham Arms, Winchester, UK

The Wykeham works brilliantly on several levels – as a warm, bubbly pub, as an excellent restaurant with enormous character and as a quality small hotel. It’s part of the Young’s London brewery group. Thoroughly recommended as a base for visiting this historic cathedral city…

White Cliffs hotel, near Dover, UK

The centre of Dover is what you might expect – a bit rundown and hectic from being a huge international ferry port. But St Margarets at Cliffe less than a ten minute drive away and on the coast in a glorious little cove is another matter. The White Cliffs Hotel is a very pleasant, efficient and buzzing alternative to soulless corporate hotels if you need an overnight before or after a ferry crossing to Europe. I recommend it… find out more from owner Gavin.

Watergate Amari, Bangkok

Classy, well located, high rise city hotel. If you can afford the executive floors the perks will be a pleasure ! The Amari group have properties all over Thailand so worth checking them if you are also heading to other cities and regions.

Samode Haveli, Jaipur, India

The Samode Haveli, Jaipur, Rajasthan, India, is an elegant, spacious haven of total serenity within the raucous, but brilliantly exciting city of Jaipur. It’s the former residence of the Prime Ministers who ran Rajasthan for the Maharajah. You’ll feel as though you’ve joined the world’s royalty just staying here.

Riad Fawakay, Marrakech

This sophisticated, beautifully decorated, three bedroom Riad is tucked quietly away close to the Souks but in a quieter corner of Marrakech just ten minutes walk from where it’s all happening. It’s British-owned and restored. Fine cuisine is available if you want to book your evening meal in the Riad.

Palm Reef Amari, Koh Samui, Thailand

Excellent beach hotel at the quiet end of Chaweng Beach on Koh Samui. It’s north enough to avoid the rather brash racket of Chaweng further south. Excellent food – especially the fine Italian restaurant… Prego. An excellent option and close to the airport. But not TOO close !

Middleton Inn, Washington village, Virginia

A classic country house underselling itself by saying it does B&B… it’s much more elegant and with wonderful views of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia than the idea of “B&B” suggests. Charming owner Mary Ann gives a great welcome too. Just a bit more than an hour from Washington Dulles airport. A fine place to tour northwern Virginia from. NB this is a little town called Washington – NOT the US capital !

Malmaison, Glasgow

The Malmaison hotel group is one of the United Kingdom’s success stories of recent years. They usually take over older premises and then spread them round with ample doses of ‘chic’.
The Glasgow Malmaison is in a former Greek Orthodox church high on one of the city centre’s hills.

Logis du Fresne, nr Cognac, France

The Logis du Fresne, near Cognac, France … a serene 15th century walled, country estate now modernised with just a handful of rooms in the rolling vineyard countryside of south west France. The owner was a fashion designer and her interiors are classy !

Leela Kempinski, Kovalam, India

The Leela is one of an expanding and extremely deluxe Indian hotel group. In Kovalam, the hotel sits on a promontory looking out over the Arabian Sea. It has a menu of twelve pillows from which guests can choose. That’s the level of pampering you’ll enjoy. Staff very friendly and unpretentious which can be a rarity in this kind of comfort. The Leela has a private beach where it’s safe to swim. Other Kovalam beaches can be a bit dangerous.

La Stampa, Dublin

La Stampa has an Italian name but its decor is overwhelmingly Moroccan – so it’s an odd, but very effective mix. There’s also one of Dublin’s most happening bars on the ground floor not to mention the fin de siecle-style Balzac brasserie and a Thai restaurant in the basement. You like eclectic ? You’ve got eclectic at La Stampa. Location is brilliantly central on Dawson Street opposite the official residence of Dublin’s Lord Mayor.

La Mamounia, Marrakech

La Mamounia was Sir Winston Churchill’s favourite hotel. He visited regularly and took US president Franklin Roosevelt there towards the end of World War II. It’s has a park rather than just a garden. Now it’s been revamped losing some of its art deco charms but re-inforcing its character as Moroccan. It’s truly fabulous … but don’t expect to just walk in to view its classy charms. You pretty much need to book to get in… but if you have the cash then great … you’ll enjoy it.

L’Univers, St Malo, France

Perhaps the hotel isn’t the most amazing and immaculate – but it wins out on location and its fabulous “yachty” bar. The bar is perpetually buzzing with yachstmen and would-be sailors ! It has some glorious artifacts and an overall welcoming, cosy, dark kind of feeling. Well worth a visit. Rooms OK.

Kilmokea country house hotel, Wexford

Kilmokea Country House is just forty minutes from the Rosslare ferry port – the entry point into south east Ireland from the UK. It’s a former Georgian rectory with an excellent restaurant and the relaxed feel of the Irish countryside. The honesty bar before dinner caused havoc to the weak-willed Tim Richards as he threw off the shackles of city life and slowed to the gentle pace of a few days in rural Ireland !

Isle of Eriska hotel, Scotland

The Isle of Eriska Hotel sits on a private island just north of Oban, the bustling ferry port for the Western Isles. It’s a deluxe experience all the way – huge, attractive rooms and suites, top class spa and its own golf course. Add in fine cuisine with fish and shellfish landed at the hotel’s own jetty and you’re eating at the top table !

Inn at Horn Point, Annapolis, Md

An excellent choice for a quiet stay in historic Annapolis. The owner has downsized with great success from the global hsopitality market to a property of his own. Delicious decor… try for the Sequoia room. They are all named after locally-built sailing yachts. Easy access from Eastport by water taxi to the historic centre of Annapolis.

Hotel Nine Zero, Boston, Mass

Boston is a fascinating but fairly traditional city – the Hotel Nine Zero adds in the cool. From its more expensive rooms you gaze out over the sweep of Boston Common and down to the Public Gardens. Everything is designed with flare and class. This is THE place to stay in Boston.

Highpoint B&B, Natchez, Mississippi

Natchez is one of the gems of the American south. It sits elegantly on the east bank of the Mississippi speaking to us of the calm, but cruel special certainties before the American civil war. High Point is one of those fine homes where you can sit sipping a Mint Julep on the veranda and drift back through history.

Heritage Hotels, Lisbon

This is a small group of design-led and mainly small hotels in the Portugeuse capital. One is within the walls of the castle, another close to the river Tagus with telescopes in the lounge for you to view river traffic. The Heritage itself on the Avenida Liberdade even has an old, rebuilt ” herbal teashop” in its ground floor lounge. I recommend them thoroughly…

Graves 601 hotel, Minneapolis

GRAVES 601, Minneapolis, USA … ultra cool down town hotel. First in the world to install 42 inch plasma TVs in every bedroom. They spent millions of dollars widening the incoming water mains to provide extra pressure for your shower ! Everything you’d expect in the 21st century.

Gastwerk, Hamburg

The GASTWERK, Hamburg, Germany … a hotel with a pun and not just cool, big rooms. It used to be a 19th century gasworks … just change that to ‘guest works’ and you have Hamburg’s first designer hotel. Incredibly cool feeling from its industrial past. Big rooms too and sexy public spaces if you like that industrial chic feel.

DC Guesthouse, Washington

A totally unique and excellent experience… run by four charming gay guys who bring culture and cuisine to life. The public rooms are crammed with fascinating artworks from round the world… the bedrooms are design delights… very highly recommended ! The warmest and most-unthreatening welcome to straight folks.

Coral Reef Club, Barbados

The Coral Reef Club, Barbados, West Indies … you could be forgiven for thinking that Sandy Lane is the only posh hotel in Barbados from the glitzy, celebrity-based publicity it gets, but it’s the Coral Reef that has the understated wealthy people staying. Strictly no ‘showing off’ here. It just oozes class.

Coconut Court Hotel, Barbados

If you don’t have the crazy money for the five star hotels of Barbados’s west coast then the Coconut Court is a very acceptable, more down-to-earth alternative close to Bridgetown. Barbados’s south coast has more buzz and cheaper eateries too. Coconut Court has an excellent beach and rooms are very spacious.

Ca’Alvise, Venice

The Ca’Alvise is within three hundred metres of St Mark’s Square but in a delightful, peaceful location close to La Fenice opera house. It’s design style mixes traditional “over-the-top” baroque Venetian with flat-screen satellite TV and ipod docking stations and WiFi. The company also has a beach hotel at the Venice Lido and six other hotels in the San Marco district.

Belle Etoile, La Roque Gageac, France

This is one of the loveliest hotel locations and best restaurants we’ve stayed at. It is built of the beautiful Dordogne honey-coloured stone and sits right beside the river in one of its most glorious sections. The restaurant’s open terrace on the first floor is draped in a wonderful old grape vine and looks down on the water. This is close to heaven. Rooms are better on the first than second floor. There is a suite with all the usual luxuries you would expect. The risk of a rock fall from the cliff behind the hotel caused its sudden closure in June 2010 but it has since reopened.

Ashford Castle, Ireland

This huge castle dates from the thirteenth century and has passed into the hands of the Guinness family and onto modern-day Connemara hoteliers. It has a vast range of facilities like golf, angling, boat trips, falconry walks and all in supremely comfy traditional heritage surroundings. Tim has been talking to GM Niall Rochford and Maitre d’ Robert Bowe…

LICHFIELD

Lichfield is a delightful small, cathedral city. The cathedral itself has many fine elements for the serious visitor. Lichfield is also the birthplace of Dr Johnson – the lexicographer or dictionary writer and he’s fully celebrated in the city.Local pubs keep beer well – after all it’s not far to brewing capital Burton-on-Trent.

SOUTHWOLD – Suffolk – updated 2017

Southwold is a charming, cultured little “time warp” which feels more like the 1950s than the 21st century. The quaint beach huts, the unspoilt Adnams brewery pubs, the style of shops on the High Street – they are all so genteel. But there’s modernity at Adnams brewery shop and cafe… they make award-winning Gin as well as great beer. Their two main pubs on the High Street – the Crown and the Swan are very comfy. Walk down to the river mouth and make sure you find the excellent fish restaurant… There’s Aldeburgh too with controversial beach art, the Benjamin Britten opera scene. Don’t miss the excellent, quality shopping at Snape Maltings even if you don’t manage a concert.

WARWICK and LEAMINGTON

Warwick Castle lively history. ‘Murder Holes’ from which you don’t escape. Excellent waxworks in castle rooms …1898 dinner party … King Edward VII, Lord Curzon. Lord Leicester Hospital built 1383. St Marys Church, Beauchamp Chapel. Doll Museum fascinating. Stoneleigh … ‘the Village Smithy Under the Chestnut tree’. Ashorne mechanical musical instrument museum. Leamington top shopping available. Real Tennis club as played by King Henry VIII. Shakespeare country nearby. World top class hotel guests. Local Hilton hotel offers lively action breaks.

WIGAN PIER – Lancashire

Wigan Pier is a genuine place – a busy industrial hub on the old canal network of Britain – although it became a bit of a joke as people thought they were going to see a seaside pier like Brighton has. But this is the centre of a fine collection of industrial heritage including Trencherfield Mill. There’s a lot more interesting stuff going on in Wigan than mocking southerners would believe.

1804 Inn, Barboursville, Va, USA

This historic building offers just three vast and beautifully decorated suites plus a cottage and all part of a fine, Italian owned vineyard and restaurant set-up. This is an unforgettable stay… spacious… peaceful you could not find anywhere better for touring north east Virginia and particularly around the nearby homes of former presidents Jefferson and Madison at Monticello and Montpelier.