IN PICTURES: Village life and countryside walks in Cumbria

I don’t normally travel within the UK, but last weekend I went to visit a friend who recently moved to Cumbria.

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The area is very scenic, perfect for long walks (weather permitting).

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We visited Bolton Castle, which is really nice and has great views over the countryside.

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There are many nice villages nearby, so we spent a couple of hours window shopping and sampling Wensleydale cheese in Hawes.

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My friend runs the beautiful Brownber Hall, so we had plenty of time to relax in style, watching goldfinches flying by.

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A WEEKEND IN CARDIFF: Rainy days and bar hopping

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We took advantage of the bank holiday and hopped on a train from London to Cardiff. Our flat was near Cardiff Bay, so after making ourselves at home, we decided to explore the area.

We started at the impressive Millenium Centre, a landmark building perfect for taking photos. Then we headed to the bay, an area with lots of cool bars and restaurants. If the weather is nice you can also take a quick boat trip for £3.

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In the evening we decided to try and find a restaurant in the centre for dinner, but this was a mistake a that area was way too rowdy in the evening.

On our second day we explored some more, stopping at the little shops in the many arcades in the city centre.

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As the weather wasn’t great, we spent some time at Cardiff Castle (tickets for £12), a nice place to learn more about the history of the city. Bute Park is just behind the castle, and it looked quite nice too.

We had a late lunch at Bill’s, followed by a couple of nice cocktails at 10 Feet Tall, then headed back to the flat for a lazy night in.

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HOW TO DO IT:

  • Stay: We stayed in this nice flat, which was well located between the bay and the city centre.
  • When to go: The weather in Wales is not the best, so rain is always expected. We went in May and it was still quite cold.
  • Go: Trains from Paddington take a little over 2h. Book in advance as it can get quite expensive (we paid £74 return each).

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ALL IS QUIET IN OXFORD CIRCUS: Breakfast in Central London

I’ve lived in London for long enough to know that the area around Oxford Street-Piccadilly Circus-Trafalgar Square is best avoided if you’re not a tourist. But I was wrong!

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I found myself at 9am on Oxford Street on a Wednesday – and it was great! It was a cold January morning, and the crowds were nowhere to be seen: so I wandered around for a while just taking it all in.

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I noticed the impressive architecture around Piccadilly Circus; took photos of the statues in Trafalgar Square; looked at the cool store fronts in Carnaby Street. Then I hopped on the tube to get to the Tate Modern just as it was opening, when art students sit on the floor with their sketchbooks.

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Having my breakfast and looking at St Paul’s across the river, I felt so lucky to have had a moment of peace in this amazing city.

INSIDER TIPS: 4 ideas for exploring London off the beaten track

London is an incredible city, you can easily spend a month here exploring all the sights, museums, parks and more. But there’s also lots to do off the beaten track. Here are some of my tips:

Look over the city from the Walkie Talkie:

This may be one of the ugliest buildings in London, but it’s a good place to go to get great views over the city. What’s more, tickets are free, you just need to book in advance.

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Sample the local brew at We Brought Beer:

With locations in Clapham and Balham, this is a great place to sample a wide range of local beers. The staff can help you find the perfect ale, which you can drink on the spot or take home with you.

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Take a leisurely walk in Richmond:

Richmond is the perfect place for a quiet break. You can walk by the river, spot deer at Richmond Park, or spend a whole day wandering around Kew Gardens. It’s easily accessible through the District Line, but it feels so different from London!

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See great art at the Dulwich Picture Gallery:

Most tourists will visit the National Gallery and the British Museum, but further afield there are lots of less popular (and less crowded) galleries and museums. The Dulwich Picture Gallery is a short train ride from London Bridge, and always has something amazing on.

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What are your favourite things to do in London?

THE 5-MINUTE TRIP PLANNER: A sunny day out in Brighton

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Brighton gets really busy on sunny weekends, when half of London seems to get on the train to enjoy the sunshine. And it’s really worth it!

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There are lots of nice shops, bars and, of course, the beach!

HOW TO DO IT:

  • Go: Trains from London are frequent and cheap, so there’s no need to book in advance.
  • Do: Walk around the Lanes, a pedestrianised shopping area full of quirky and cool shops.
  • Eat: Terre a Terre is a famous veggie restaurant that is on the top of my wishlist – it’s highly recommended and everything on the menu looks amazing!

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The 5-minute trip planner: Planning a short trip in no time.