Leaving the tarmac behind, I tested my stamina and mettle on rocky terrain in the Black Mountains
At the top of a muddy slope that drops into a beautiful valley, I take a deep breath and prepare to put one foot in front of the other. Walking down this track, strewn with roots and ruts, wouldn’t normally be too challenging. But today I’m attempting to reach the bottom at a faster pace. The trouble is, I’m struggling with my fear of falling.
Thankfully, help is at hand. I’m in the Black Mountains for a Beginning Fell Running for Women course, run by Welsh company Element Active, based at Llanbedr village near Crickhowell. The day is run by Ruth Pickvance, a former international runner and British fell champion, and Faye Johnson, who competes internationally for Wales. Ruth created the course to encourage women to try fell running, which means dashing over hills and dales in wide-open spaces, rather than the usual joggers’ grind of pounding the pavements.
Share a tip on wildflowers and colourful displays of spring blossoms and blooms in the countryside and nature parks
You may have wandered in Exmoor’s hidden valleys and come across carpets of snowdrops or hiked past vibrant crocus fields in the High Tatras. Wherever you have seen superb displays of spring wildflowers and blossom, please let us know.
It’s OK if they are in arboretums, nature parks or public gardens. Please stick to Europe, including the UK, this time.
Country looking at continuing cover offered by European health insurance card
Portugal is considering offering British tourists subsidised post-Brexit healthcare in an effort to retain their custom in the Algarve, Lisbon and beyond.
It is one of several novel measures being considered by the Portuguese government in an effort to minimise the disruption of Brexit to its economy.
Height isn’t everything. In the South Downs, our writer heads up a class of hills named for their prominence – and selects other choice peaks to explore
‘Well,” I thought, as I stood by a concrete trig point on a summit, looking down over vast tracts of verdant Sussex Weald, “this feels like a proper hill.” And so it should, given that 248-metre Ditchling Beacon is the highest point in East Sussex and the third-highest in the South Downs. But what’s of even greater significance is that this hill is a Marilyn – a designation that says more about a peak than height alone.
The term was coined by cartographer and keen outdoorsman Alan Dawson. “I was bagging hills in the Lake District,” he told me from his home near Loch Tay. “I came off 3,000ft Skiddaw and went downhill to bag Sale How, at 2,000ft, and thought, ‘Well [going downhill to bag a summit], that’s a bit daft.’”
Enjoy ocean views from rooftop bars or just step out and get the sand between your toes. From Mazatlán to Pochutla, here are 10 charming beachside escapes
Mexico’s Pacific coast, more than 1,000 miles of it, is renowned for its beaches, as well as the resorts which have attracted Hollywood royalty. However, it’s also an area that can experience tropical storms, usually between June and December. The most recent was Hurricane Patricia, the strongest hurricane ever recorded at sea, which swept across the region at the end of October, but caused less damage than anticipated. Hotels are now operating as normal.
Well-known and deservedly popular for its jungle, coast and ancient ruins, the Yucatán peninsula can be a pricey place to stay – unless you pick one of these brilliant budget hotels and hostels
On the surface, this mid-size hotel in Cancún’s hotel zone is pretty unremarkable. The tile-floored rooms are big and clean, with terraces or balconies – though they’re not notably stylish. The restaurant is good, not gourmet. The pool is a sensible size. But set this against its glitzy, high-rise neighbours and check the rates, which are often lower than similarly appointed hotels on the mainland, 30 minutes from the water – and Beachscape starts looking pretty good. Then walk out on to the palm-shaded beach, one of the prettiest stretches in the hotel zone, and the place becomes a minor miracle.
• Doubles from $109, +52 998 891 5427, beachscape.com.mx
The Seychelles islands of Mahé, Praslin and La Digue may be known for their luxury resorts but there is also a great selection of family-run, more affordable guesthouses just as close to the archipelago’s famous, world-class beaches
For a room with a five-star view, Colibri is hard to beat. Nine rustic rooms – all wood and stone – ensconced amid tropical foliage that tumbles down a hillside to the turquoise waters of Baie Sainte Anne. There’s no beach but you can use the small infinity pool overlooking the bay at neighbouring B&B Chalets Cote Mer, also owned by Sylvie and Stephan, and costing about €10 more a night. You also share the waterfront creole restaurant. The owners can help with car hire but it’s a five-minute walk to a bus stop – which will take you to Praslin’s most famous beach Anse Lazio and the Unesco-protected Vallée de Mai nature reserve – and the jetty for ferries to Mahé and La Digue.
• Doubles from £112 B&B, +248 429 4200, colibrisweethome.com
From Cape Town and its peninsula to the Garden Route and the West Coast, the Western Cape is a dazzling part of South Africa, and its beachside accommodation doesn’t have to break the bank
When Uncle Ted has a few drinks and starts screaming that the world is flat, have a few tactics ready to counter his bizarre rants
It’s the holidays: time for eggnog, ironic Christmas sweaters, and interactions with relatives you’d avoid like the plague if you didn’t share DNA.
Perhaps in past years, you’ve argued politics over the dinner table. But thanks to our internet echo chambers, things may now get even weirder. You could find yourself not just arguing over Donald Trump’s impeachment, but also over whether the president and Robert Mueller were secretly teaming up to expose Tom Hanks as a cannibal; or whether the Federal Reserve exists because JP Morgan sank the Titanic; or whether Meghan Markle is a robot.
Four days spent alone in Florida pushed me to the limits of boredom. But it was just what I needed
I was in a chain hotel 20 miles north of Orlando for meetings that would last, on and off, for four days. This was not a holiday resort. Outside, the rain was bathwater warm, the pool windswept and empty. Inside, guests wandered the conference facilities, lanyards swinging. The breakfast buffet was like the idea I’d had as a child of how millionaires live: all the pineapple you could eat. It is a truism of escape plans that the problem with going anywhere is that you take yourself with you. But there is an exception to this, and I have found it. Burnt out? Always yelling? So tired you would gladly hand over your humanity to Elon Musk for a chance to become fully digitised? There’s another way. Open Google Maps, find a place that is not a place but, rather, on the way to other places, and select the blandest hotel you can find. Then go and sit in it for four days. I swear to God, it’s better than six months in Bali.
I thought about sending an email and didn’t. I took a three-hour nap, went downstairs and ordered more wings.
The Alhambra marks the start of a drive taking in historic cities, a river valley and mountains – and ends in Almería’s spaghetti western desert
Granada is dominated by its mighty Moorish fortress, the Alhambra. Book ahead and visit early, at its least-crowded, and then spend the afternoon meandering the narrow streets and plazas of the old town – the Albaicín. Stay in this area at the 16th-century Santa Isabel La Real, with its Alhambra views, (doubles from €95 B&B, parking available).
With the annual summer dash under starter’s orders, we suggest how to turn a schlep into a road trip, staying in treehouses, chateaux and cool hotels en route
From the north-west ferry ports (St Malo, Cherbourg, Caen, Le Havre) down the west of France, via Nantes and Bordeaux, to the south-west
Get beach ready with our week-long planners to 10 glorious seaside spots, covering everything from secluded coves to surf lessons, boat rides and places to stay
Electro music fans are heading to Turin for this weekend’s Kappa Futurfestival, but this also one of the best cities in Italy for culture and affordable restaurants
Without Turin, Italy would be a totally different country. It was pivotal to the unification in 1861 and served as the first capital, until 1865. Its royal palaces were home to the ruling House of Savoy until the second world war and then its factories – and the influx of migrant workers they attracted – were integral to the economic miracle that rebuilt and transformed the country after it.
Curious, then, that it is so often ignored when people talk about the best places to visit in the bel paese. Italy’s fourth largest city nestles in the foothills of the Alps and snowy peaks are never far from view. There are echoes of Paris along Turin’s central boulevards, and though it’s been more than 200 years since Napoleon’s rule was replaced by the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia, there are still tangible French influences to be found in the city’s rich cultural and culinary traditions.
This beach town in the far south of Spain, only a windsurf away from Africa, mixes a surfer vibe with excellent nightlife
It’s the most southerly town in mainland Europe, only 14km from Africa across the Strait of Gibraltar. It’s a 1,000-year-old walled labyrinth with a youthful party scene and a world-class kitesurfing and windsurfing destination. In summer it’s also a destination for families who want just a shady dune, a bar and a place serving fish – all of which are available in abundance along the 35km of coast north of Tarifa, beyond the beaches of Los Lances (home to Santa Catalina castle, an emblem of Tarifa) and Valdevaqueros to Bolonia with its Roman ruins and the seaside village of Zahara de las Atunes. Its community swelled by surfers who came and never left, Tarifa is a curious mix of off-the-beaten-track, cosmopolitan and barefoot cool, an adventure playground that’s home to some of the best places to eat, drink and stay on the Costa de la Luz. It can also be windy. If it wasn’t, as everyone will tell you, Tarifa would be just another Marbella – and no one wants that.