Time to explore the great outdoors

The tranquil waters of Grasmere.
THE LAKE DISTRICT Sensational scenery in Wordsworth country
Cumbria and the Lake District are known worldwide as Wordsworth country. The poet lived in Dove Cottage, Grasmere, with his sister Dorothy (who is claimed to have given him his most famous line about daffodils) from 1799 until 1808.

Built in the 17th century, the cottage, now a museum, was an inn before the Wordsworths moved in.

Grasmere itself is delightful, and remains one of the most popular towns in the area. It's genteel, elegant and in spring is relatively quiet.

The other famous town here is busier Ambleside, which sits at the head of Lake Windemere, England's largest lake. A short, steep climb up from here through rocky knolls to Loughrigg Fell provides a spectacular view of the serpentine length of Windermere and the Langdale Pikes.

Not far from Ambleside is Hill Top, Beatrix Potter's holiday retreat, now owned by the National Trust. It was here that she created some of her wonderful animal characters.

The county is dotted with ancient pubs, inns and hostelries. A great base for any holiday is the Royal Oak hotel in Keswick, which started life as an 18th-century coaching inn and has played host to some rather wellknown literary figures. It was here that Sir Walter Scott wrote part of his The Bridal of Triermain, and other literary greats such as Lord Tennyson and Robert Louis Stevenson were also frequent visitors.

Today the hotel has four gold AA stars, and it is a characterful and charming place to stay with great staff, elegant surroundings and a roaring fire. Dogs are welcome too, and are provided with their own beds. The extensive menu in the restaurant features delicious produce from trusted local suppliers.


St Mary's Loch, where ospreys can be seen
THE SCOTTISH BORDERS Undiscovered Uplands
Most of us will have visited Edinburgh and Glasgow, but the glorious Scottish Borders are one of those bafflingly unsung regions of Britain that are often overlooked and subsequently remain 'undiscovered'.

The Southern Uplands may be a little gentler than the Highlands, but there's everything else here that makes them a classic Scottish destination.

At The Five Turrets, a former coach house transformed into a luxurious B&B, owners Gethin Chamberlain and his wife Carolynn Shaw have launched Go Wild Scotland, offering visitors the chance to see iconic species such as red squirrels in the local forests and the community nature reserve they have created on the edge of Selkirk.

You can tell a lot about a holiday rental by its kitchen. Everyone has their story about the terrible place with the mismatched crockery and three bent forks.

Here, you get a reassuring sense that everything is going to be just fine when you open a drawer to discover a proper Italian pasta machine.

Still, at this fabulous four-bedroom property (available to rent in its entirety for a minimum three days) it's not the first thing that catches the eye when you walk into the vast living space. It's the view through the two huge windows at the far end, looking out over the Ettrick Water valley onto the majestic Southern Uplands.

Gethin and Carolynn say their favourite moment is when they welcome guests into the triple-height living space: 'There's always this intake of breath and then a chorus of wows,' says Gethin. 'Then everyone turns to the person who booked it and congratulates them on their taste.'

The glamorous interior they have created is a fabulous counterpoint to the more traditional Scottish exterior - the image of a little Disney castle, with the dainty green-capped turrets. Built in the Scottish Baronial style reintroduced by Sir Walter Scott when he built his own home just down the river at Abbotsford, it sits near the centre of the small town of Selkirk.

Scott was the Sheriff of Selkirk for 30 years, and his courtroom has been preserved as a museum. The town has another famous old boy too: William Wallace, of Braveheart fame, who fought a guerrilla war against the English from the Ettrick Forest.

Selkirk became a centre of weaving, and there are still working mills here - reflected in the beautifully handwoven fabrics in every room.

The couple pride themselves on matching guests with local activities. There is fishing with veteran guide Bill Drew, who knows exactly where to find salmon and trout; electric bike hire with delivery to your doorstep or mountain biking at nearby Glentress, and kayaking and paddle-boarding at the atmospheric St Mary's Loch (keep an eye out for ospreys fishing there during the summer months).

Those interested in crafts can enjoy a mill tour in Selkirk or nearby Hawick, which has an excellent textile museum and mill tours as well as its own distillery. And at Galashiels there's the Great Tapestry of Scotland - hundreds of panels of needlework that tell the story of Scotland.


The atmospheric sights to be seen around Tintagel Castle
TINTAGEL, CORNWALL Birthplace of a legendary king
You could stick a pin just about anywhere in a map of Cornwall and find a dynamic and exciting holiday destination.

Whether it's a walking holiday, enjoying summer sunshine on the glorious coast, or simply taking a relaxing break with a view of the sea, England's southernmost county never disappoints - it's also the only recognised Celtic nation within England.

One of the most atmospheric places in the county, on the north coast, is Tintagel Castle, which for centuries has been associated with the legend of King Arthur. This dramatic ruin, with all its history, myths and wild scenery, is now even more accessible - a new bridge linking the parts of the castle on the mainland to those on Tintagel Island (actually a headland) for the first time in 500 years was opened in 2019.

The old path visitors took to the castle was a challenge, with over 100 steps winding up the cliff. But English Heritage, which manages the site, has now recreated the medieval crossing.

English Heritage launched a competition in 2015 to find the design for the new bridge. It was won by Ney & Partners and William Matthews Associates, but the logistics proved a challenge. The winning design has two cantilevers that reach out and almost meet - there is a 40mm gap in the middle, which represents the transition from the mainland to the island.

The bridge is paved with Cornish Delabole slate and has stainless-steel balustrades along its length. These are so fine that viewed from a distance they disappear against the sky.

History and legend are inseparable at Tintagel. From about the fifth to the seventh century AD it was an important stronghold, and most likely a residence of rulers of Cornwall.

It was probably memories of it being the seat of Cornish kings that inspired the 12th-century writer Geoffrey of Monmouth to name it in his History of the Kings of Britain as the place where King Arthur was conceived. At the same time, Cornish and Breton writers were linking the love story of Tristan and Iseult with Tintagel.

These associations with legend led the hugely rich and ambitious Richard, Earl of Cornwall, to build a castle here in the 1230s. Legend alone seems to have inspired him to build it, rather than strategic or military considerations. By the 14th century the castle had fallen into decay, but its mythical associations kept interest in Tintagel alive. Spring is the perfect time to visit.


The beach at Cromer
NORFOLK Railways and royalty
Renowned for its wide skies and dramatic coastline, Norfolk is the perfect place for a break at almost any time of year - but in spring its fields burst with red poppies, lush wildflowers and wavering grasses.

Everything seems to move at a slower pace here, which is a huge plus on any holiday, but there is also plenty of heritage and history to keep you occupied.

A five-day tour run by TS Tours for Shearings Travel includes three railway journeys, a cruise on a paddle steamer and ample time to explore the villages of Wroxham, Horning and the seaside at Cromer.

A highlight is the chance to meet TV historian Lucy Worsley, who will join the party for a visit to Sandringham - a royal retreat since the mid-19th century - and talk about the modern monarchy. The visit includes a walk in the formal gardens and a look at some vintage vehicles and curios.

The tour includes a journey on the Bure Valley Railway to Wroxham, known as the capital of the Norfolk Broads, before travelling on to the village of Horning, where you will board the Southern Comfort Mississippi Paddle Boat for a cruise on the Broads. The route follows the River Bure, passing thatched cottages, windmills and Norfolk reed beds, where you can learn more about the wide variety of water birds.

Next up is the pretty town of Holt and a journey on the North Norfolk Railway, affectionately known as the Poppy Line. This goes to Sheringham before heading to Cromer, where there will be plenty of time for a wander before boarding the Bittern Line for a relaxing train ride to Norwich.

Accommodation is at the four-star Sprowston Manor Hotel in Norwich, a 16thcentury manor house. The hotel boasts a sauna and spa, a heated indoor pool, fitness suite and golf course, and is the perfect base for a touring holiday.


The moors just outside Howarth
HAWORTH, YORKSHIRE In the steps of the Brontës
Haworth is the small town where Emily Brontë lived when she wrote Wuthering Heights in the 1840s, and the parsonage in the West Yorkshire village, where her father Patrick was a curate and the three sisters and their brother grew up, has a life of its own.

Perched on the edge of the Pennines, in the 19th century Howarth was a crowded industrial town. Today, however, it is a romantic destination with a thriving tourist industry - much of it based on the Brontë sisters, Emily, Charlotte (author of Jane Eyre), and Ann, who wrote The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.

The parsonage is now a museum, restored as closely as possible to the way it would have looked when the sisters lived there, and it holds the largest collection of 'Brontëana' in the world. In the garden stands a bronze sculpture of the sisters by Diane Lawrenson, which aims to capture the spirit of these three remarkable women. The Brontës' birthplace in nearby Thornton is also a place of pilgrimage.

If you're after a taste of luxury with your culture, you would be wise to stay at the Coniston Hotel Country Estate & Spa, just over half-an-hour's drive away.

Nestled in the heart of a 1,400-acre estate, it boasts a luxury spa and beautiful accommodation, with stunning views of the Yorkshire Dales. It has one of the UK's best shooting grounds and a collection of elegant event spaces.

There's a spring Foodie Break that includes a tour of a local dairy and a taste of its award-winning cheeses, and a stroll around the little town of Settle, where you will find award-winning pork pies. Follow this with a visit to the Otterbeck Gin Distillery before returning to the hotel for drinks and a lavish supper (offer available from March to 31 May).

bronte.org.uk | theconistonhotel.com

Pictures: Adobe Stock

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