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TRAVEL

Speeding, congestion and protest: the dark side of Scotland’s North Coast 500 route

For locals, the phenomenal success of this driving route means blocked roads, a racetrack mentality and mess, rather than the promised benefits to business

At Bettyhill General Merchants, a convenience store and post office in a remote village on Scotland’s far north coast, perched above the spectacular dunes of Torrisdale Bay, owner Susan Malone is anticipating the summer tourist season with ambivalence.

“There’s a sense among locals that the situation is going to get worse this summer. We’ve already had a much busier April and May than expected: I don’t think anybody realised how popular this [driving route] would become.”

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10 of the UK's best alternative mountain and hill walks

Snowdon, Helvellyn and Ben Nevis are great climbs, so long as you don’t mind the queues on the trails. Carey Davies finds these walks just as challenging and scenic – but without the crowds

Skip Helvellyn via Striding Edge
Give this a go instead High Street via Long Stile ridge

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Take the kids to … Bolton Abbey, Yorkshire Dales

Woodland trails, a river straddled by stepping stones and the ruins of a 12th-century priory make this beautiful swathe of countryside a brilliant adventure playground

This 12,000-hectare (30,000-acre) estate near Skipton, in the Yorkshire Dales, is laced with 80 miles of footpaths that weave their way around the ruins of an ancient Augustinian priory – better known as Bolton Priory – although the real draw is just outside, on the banks of the River Wharfe. There’s a large beach area along this quarter-mile stretch that’s ripe for sandcastle building and the water is shallow enough for toddlers to paddle safely. Older children can swim or tackle the 60 stepping stones that cross the water – once the route of lay workers making their way over to the priory. (If you’d rather not brave it or are with a buggy, there’s a bridge over to dry land).

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Great places to see wildlife in the UK: readers’ travel tips

Wildlife can thrive in city centres, as well as in reserves, wild moors and remote islands; you just need to know what to look out for, say our tipsters

Cuckoos, kingfishers, water voles, marsh harriers, seals and fantastic views from the coffee shop: inside the M25! Take a bow, Rainham RSPB reserve. A two-mile walk around the reserve (which is only a 20-minute stroll from Purfleet station) yields rich rewards, and even spectacular views of Eurostar trains. Spring is particularly noisy, with warblers of all sorts, and winter, with large flocks of lapwings and a gazillion ducks, is spectacular. There are also rare bearded tits, comfortable hides, simple walking, kids’ events and a great coffee shop with a small playground. The Thames views are wonderful: the sun filling the cafeteria, which has huge windows over the reserve and the river with basking seals, makes one forget the nearby big smoke.
rspb.org.uk
Dan

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20 of the UK's best free half-term activities and attractions

Take in all the fun of fairs and festivals, beaches, farms and museums with this pick of family events around the country

The museum is celebrating the launch of Edinburgh’s International Children’s Festival (25 May-2 June) with a family open day. Events are drop-in and free and include performances, pop-up installations and arts for all ages. There’ll be digital music creation as part of interactive sensory environment Soundplay Studio, a wearable jet pack workshop, walkabout dancing with Eggy Ladies, a body-positive performance from Creative Electric, a puppet show called A Wise Owl’s Challenge, and a Unicorn Dance Party.
25 May, nms.ac.uk

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Hadrian’s Wall’s early visitors would have taken a selfie if they could - and we should too

A section of the wall is falling down, but let’s not be so quick to blame tourists for its crumbling state

Ever in search of moral panic, the Daily Mail has reported that an excess of tourists taking selfies on Hadrian’s Wall has caused a portion of it to collapse. Sadly for this theory, the National Trust, which cares for the stretch of wall in question, says there is no evidence the damage has been caused by selfie-takers.

Erosion, weather and invasive plant species are the most likely culprits, and restoration work will be shortly under way to renovate this section of early-20th-century wall-building. Nevertheless, says the National Trust, please don’t walk on the wall, but alongside it.

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10 of the best beaches in the UK

In a hot summer, there’s no better place than a UK beach – but even in more typical weather these shores offer walks and wildlife, picnics and rockpools

A network of paths and boardwalks crisscrosses this 6,000-year-old dune system leading on to expansive sand flats and the shingle beach. The unusually high dunes are nearly four miles long and lie across the head of Dundrum Bay, with views of the Mourne mountains in the near distance. There is plenty of room here to hunker down among the marram grass, open a flask and, in summer, watch butterflies and moths (more than 620 species) and look for lizards. Common and grey seals are also frequent visitors.
Stay Portaferry Hotel (doubles from £80 B&B, family room from £120) at the head of Strangford Lough is a half-hour drive and a short ferry journey away.

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A local’s guide to Palma de Mallorca: 10 top tips

The Spanish island’s seaside capital punches above its weight when it comes to restaurants, art and culture – perfect for a late-spring or early-summer getaway

I love the maze of Moorish-feeling little streets in the historic district between Plaça de Cort and the seafront. If you just wander towards La Seu, the cathedral, you always come across something surprising. A lot of the old mansions have been done up and are now hotels, cafes and restaurants, which is great to see. You only need to walk for 10 minutes or so to see all sorts of architectural styles and you get a sense of the history of Palma going back over 1,000 years. You emerge from this labyrinth of lanes and suddenly the bay opens up before you. I still find it magical.

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40 of the best beaches in Europe

Travel writers pick their favourite beaches to swim, surf, party, eat and just hang out from the Atlantic to the Aegean, from the UK to Turkey

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Cantal, France, holiday guide: what to see plus the best restaurants and hotels

In central France, the Auvergne’s volcanic landscape offers year-round activity holidays, with peaks to climb, lakes to swim, restored farms to stay in and great value mountain cuisine

The Cantal is the rural heartland of France’s wild Auvergne region, right in the centre of the country and part of the Massif Central. Locals joke that there are more cows here than people and there certainly are not many tourists, despite a range of adventurous outdoor activities in summer and winter. Hotels and B&Bs could not be more reasonably priced, and the hearty regional cuisine – rustic rather than gourmet – comes in formidable four- or five-course bistro set menus, ideal for big appetites and small budgets. The Cantal also boasts some of the most spectacular sites in La Chaîne des Puys, the 80 or so extinct volcanoes that have just been recognised as a Unesco world heritage site.

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Holiday guide to Basilicata, Italy: what to see plus the best restaurants and hotels

‘Tourist hordes’ is not a phrase you’re likely to hear in Basilicata but given its rich cuisine, stunning national parks, ancient towns and great beaches, it’s hard to fathom why this seductive region remains so quiet

Imagine a region that has miles of white sand beaches on one coast, picturesque rocky bays on the other, two mountainous national parks, and one of the world’s oldest cities. Add lots of warm sunshine plus fine food and wine and you might expect the area to be a tourist mecca, busy with hotels and tour buses. However, Basilicata, the arch and instep of Italy’s boot, has all the above but – thanks admittedly to a history of poverty and difficult access – little mass tourism.

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