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TRAVEL

Truly, madly, steeply: a via ferrata tour of the Dolomites

Northern Italy’s iron paths give hikers the chance to feel like mountaineers but without rope, anchors or knots. Our writer straps in for the high-altitude thrill of his life

I am standing on an enormous limestone plateau almost 3km up, peering over the edge of a cliff that seems to plunge all the way to the centre of the Earth. Behind me in the distance are stratified towers of rock, their tips gleaming through wisps of cloud in the morning sun. And in front of me is this breathtaking drop, the gateway to what our guide Alessio calls “the danger zone”.

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TRAVEL

A rising tide: ‘overtourism’ and the curse of the cruise ships

In Kotor and Dubrovnik large cruise ships dock regularly throughout the season, depositing thousands of people each day into the tourist hotspots and putting intense pressure on the historic ports

Known as the “pearl of the Adriatic”, Dubrovnik has become one of the biggest tourist attractions in the Mediterranean. Its charming old town, array of Unesco World Heritage sites and sizeable port were always draws, but the new success of Game of Thrones, much of which was shot in the Croatian city, has made it a particularly popular stopoff point for cruise ships, whose passengers are told they can see the highlights in a single day.

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TRAVEL

10 must-try ramen shops in Tokyo

Ramen is Japan’s national obsession – and there more than 10,000 shops to choose from in Tokyo alone. Three local experts choose their favourites

‘Ramen doesn’t have rules the way many Japanese foods do, which means the possibilities are endless,” says Abram Plaut. “And in Tokyo people are always coming up with ideas that have never been done before.”

Plaut’s fascination with the noodle soup started when he arrived in Japan to teach English a decade ago. Ramen was cheap, plentiful and, thanks to the automated ordering machines, easy. He was hooked. But his hobby became an obsession, and within a few years he was writing articles on the subject and appearing on TV as an expert. In 2016, he helped open Mensho Tokyo SF in San Francisco with master ramen chef Tomoharu Shono.

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A new take on old Japan – that's Omori

In this village north of Hiroshima, traditional culture is evolving into a modern idyll, as a talented family revives the fortunes of a quiet backwater

One summer’s day 14 years ago, my husband and I and our then two-year-old daughter, Addie, took a fast train, a slow train, a bus and a car to get from Kyoto to a 400-person village called Omori, near the Sea of Japan about 70 miles north of Hiroshima. In a narrow valley amid forested hills, Omori had one main street, few cars and even fewer shops. Most of the people seemed to be around 60 or older and lived in wooden houses, some originally owned by samurai, with tiled roofs and sliding wooden doors.

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TRAVEL

The insiders' guide to Japan's Rugby World Cup cities

With the Rugby World Cup about to kick off, Olivia Lee asks locals from the nine cities hosting home nations matches for top places to eat and drink, and the must-see sights

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TRAVEL

We’re going on a boar hunt: into the Forest of Dean

With its kingfishers and wild pigs, this Gloucestershire forest is perfect for a family nature safari

It’s a kingfisher!” Ed’s body swung round and leaned forward, his arm following in a wavelike motion the bird soaring above the water at Cannop Ponds in the Forest of Dean. We leaned with him, scanning the sky. “There it is, there it is.” Ed Drewitt, our guide, had spotted its landing perch in a pine around 400 metres away. “Wow, I’d love to be able to do that,” my daughter whispered. Ed got his binoculars out so we could glimpse the orange belly of the bird, the first kingfisher he’d seen this year, he told us excitedly. Ed, a passionate zoologist, was taking us on an “animal safari”, offered to guests staying at the Tudor Farmhouse in the heart of the Forest of Dean. The “safari” is perfect for animal lovers, including my daughter Sophie, 20, studying animal management, and my 16-year-old son, Toby.

We’d arrived the afternoon before and, thanks to the hotel’s map of wild swimming spots, headed straight out to the River Usk, half an hour away, sinking into the water from a tiny island beach in the centre of a bend in the river. After a slow journey on clogged motorways, it was a refreshing and magical way to start our forest adventure. Back at the hotel, we enjoyed cocktails in the garden, before stepping across a wooden bridge over a tiny stream that led inside to dinner. I was impressed by the variety on the menu, particularly for someone like me who is gluten and dairy-free, and by the fact that much of it was locally sourced – and tucked into delicately flavoured beetroot and cured salmon, followed by pork belly with roast onion.

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A local’s guide to Miyazaki, Japan: 10 top tips

As the England squad arrives at its Rugby World Cup training camp in Miyazaki, a local bar owner picks the coastal city’s food, drink and cultural highlights

The subtropical island of Aoshima, about 10 miles south of the city, is connected to a golden beach by a bridge straddling the ocean. The tiny island is surrounded by long furrows of black basalt – a geological phenomenon known locally as the “devil’s washboard”, created over millions of years of pounding waves. At the centre of the island is Aoshima shrine, a red Shinto shrine tucked into thick jungle and first established in 1501. It’s dedicated to the god of matrimony, making it popular with couples – a reputation that solidified during Miyazaki’s heyday in the 1970s, when about 35% of Japan’s newlyweds would honeymoon here for the sun, sea and sand. Sunset is the best time to visit – sit by the shore on the north side of the island and watch the sun sink into the mountains on the mainland.
Admission free, shrine open daily 5.30am-6.30pm, though outside these hours access to the island is still possible

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Alternative city breaks: Utrecht, the Netherlands – restaurants, culture and nightlife

Utrecht’s picturesque city centre and traditional cafe culture rub up against its exciting music and art scene – and it’s best explored by bike

Utrecht was the most important city in the Netherlands until it was overtaken by Amsterdam in the 17th century during the Dutch golden age of trade and advances in science, art and military power. Over the years since, it has played second fiddle to its big brother in the north – but it has an obvious and growing belief in its own charms, news of which is starting to spread.

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A local’s guide to Berne, Switzerland: 10 top tips

It is one of Europe’s smallest capitals but punches above its weight when it comes to world-class galleries, unbeatable urban swimming and, of course, chocolate

Taking a dip in the river is a national pastime here, with the River Aare the basis of the city’s claim to be Europe’s urban swimming capital. Fed by meltwater from the Bernese Alps, the river has a magical blue colour, and it is perfectly clean to swim in, even in the city centre. The most popular spots are Marzilibad, an area with flat grassy lawns, easy access to the river and an open-air pool – and Lorrainebad, a little further downstream. The strength of the current means you need to plan where to get in and, more importantly, where you are going to get out (the exit points are all marked with red railings). Avoid the clearly marked weirs, where swimming is forbidden. There are paddleboards to hire at Tip-to-Tail. Information about the river’s temperature and the water’s flow rate is updated daily on my website, Aare Guru.

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A local’s guide to Burgos, Spain: 10 top tips

Once capital of the kingdom of Castile, this ancient city is full of bars and restaurants perfect for relaxing after a day exploring historic sites and famous vineyards

Eating out in Burgos is a delight. The restaurants are generally very affordable and for a small city there is a lot of variety. But for something classic, it’s hard to beat Ojeda. Slap-bang in the city centre this much-loved restaurant was founded in 1912, and its main dining room, upstairs from the bar, is still the most impressive in the city, decorated with intricately carved wood and cool tiled walls. The lamb chops (chuletillas de lechazo) or the sole (lenguado salvaje) with basil sauce (both around €20) are always good, but the lechazo – milk-fed lamb slow-roasted in a wood-burning oven (prices vary according to weight) – is something special and, without doubt, the most famous and best dish in the city, and probably the entire province.
Calle Condestable 2, restauranteojeda.com

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10 of the UK's best railway cycle paths

Former railway lines up and down the country now offer great, family-friendly off-road cycle trails – and some even go up and down a bit

Start/finish Wenfordbridge/Padstow (with a short spur to Bodmin)
Distance 18 miles
Getting there/away From Bodmin Parkway station it’s a short ride to the trail at Boscarne Junction, north-west of Bodmin town. Alternatively, pop your bike on one of Bodmin and Wenford Railway’s steam trains from Bodmin Parkway to the junction. Head north-east along the trail to reach Wenfordbridge or north-west for Padstow. Alternatively, from Bodmin Parkway take the 11A bus (plymouthcitybus.co.uk) to Padstow and hire bikes there
Bike hire In Bodmin at Bodmin Bikes and Trail Munki; in Wenfordbridge at Snail’s Pace Cafe; in Wadebridge at Camel Trail Cycle Hire; and in Padstow at Trail Bike Hire
Potential stopovers Bodmin, Wadebridge and Padstow
Top tips Check out the Camel River Festival or the Cornwall Folk Festival, both in Wadebridge each August

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