THE 50 BEST BANK HOLIDAY WEEKENDS

This week The Information asked its expert panel to choose the 50 best ways to spend the August bank-holiday weekend. Rachelle Thackray took notes as they offered recommendations for festivals and fairs, days out at the races and musical events, getaway country walks and intriguing day trips.
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THE PANEL: renowned commentator Peter O'Sullevan joined The Independent's racing expert Ian Davies to pick the best bank-holiday races. Tim Locke, a contributor to the Good Guide to Britain (Ebury Press, pounds 14.99), came up with suggestions for day trips, as well as ideas for interesting country walks (his Good Walks Guide is published by Which? Books at pounds 25). Elizabeth Allen, of HarperCollins, recommended walks from Collins's Walk the Lakes, Walk the Cornish Coastal Path and Walk the Peak District, each published at pounds 5.99 (call 0181-307 4052 to order). Meanwhile, a selection of presenters from the GWR radio group went in search of the best musical events, and the English Tourist Board supplied a comprehensive list of fairs and festivals. Our thanks to them all.

NEXT WEEK: OUR EXPERT PANEL PREVIEWS THE 50 BEST ARTS EVENTS OF THE BIG AUTUMN SEASON.

READERS WHO WISH TO SUGGEST THEIR OWN 50 BEST IDEAS CAN WRITE TO: THE 50 BEST, THE INFORMATION, THE INDEPENDENT, LONDON E14 5DL

NOTTING HILL CARNIVAL

Now in its 33rd (official) year, the carnival is a London institution. Children's day is on Sunday; things tend to be more crowded (and louder) on bank holiday Monday, as sound systems playing calypso and soca compete with steel bands and live reggae. The atmosphere these days is much friendlier, and with delicious Caribbean food on sale on every street corner, there can be no excuses.

Where: the procession starts at Ladbroke Grove and goes south from Kensal Road junction, looping back to Ladbroke Road (0181-964 0544).

When: 12noon to early evening.

How much: free (bring your own whistle).

LEWES, EAST SUSSEX

This historic county town is packed with interesting nooks and crannies to explore: start off at the Norman castle, then wander along the handsome Georgian high street and down the Saxon cobbled Keere Street. On Southover High Street, you'll find the rickety timber-framed house given to Anne of Cleves when she was divorced by Henry VIII. Finish off with tea in the delightful garden of Shelleys hotel on the High Street.

Where: Lewes, East Sussex (01273-483448).

When: the castle and Anne of Cleves house are open 10am-5.30pm.

How much: adults pounds 4.50, children pounds 2.50.

SNAPE PROMS, SUFFOLK

If you missed out on the Albert Hall this year, there's still a chance to put in an appearance at the last night of Suffolk's Snape Proms. The concert, which features the BBC Big Band, along with special guest Helen Shapiro and trumpeter Guy Barker, has been sold out for weeks, but 20 prom tickets will be available on the night. The band will be playing a jazzy selection of Ellington, Basie and Goodman.

Where: Snape Maltings, Suffolk (01728-453543).

When: 7.30pm on Monday; prom tickets on sale from 6.30pm.

How much: prom tickets pounds 5.

THE KNIGHTS OF CHRISTCHURCH JOUSTING TOURNAMENT, DORSET

A popular afternoon of family entertainment with all the atmosphere of a medieval joust, starring beautiful horses, dashing knights and costumed jesters. There's also horseriding with the knights, and food, drink and souvenirs for sale. And if it rains, there's plenty of covered seating available under the medieval pavilion.

Where: Two Rivers Meet Leisure Centre in Stoney Lane South, Christchurch, Dorset (01202-483777).

When: 3pm Mon-Fri, Sun; plus 7.30pm Thur.

How much: adults pounds 6, family ticket pounds 18.

BOSCASTLE TO TINTAGEL, CORNWALL

This coastal walk takes you around one of the most dramatic areas of North Cornwall. Boscastle harbour, built in Elizabeth I's time, nestles among steep cliffs, but don't be put off: the walk is moderately difficult and worthwhile for the magical scenery. Take the path from the harbour's south side, and keep on it until you reach Tintagel Castle, King Arthur's supposed birthplace, and Merlin's cave.

Where: Boscastle to Tintagel, Cornwall.

Distance: just over four miles of moderate walking.

F1 CITY RACING CIRCUIT, E16

If you've always fancied doing a Nigel Mansell, here's your chance. Go-cart racing doesn't come cheap, but helmets and balaclavas are included. For twin-engine cars, capable of up to 75mph, prices are higher still. You also can set up a group event, as either an endurance race or a Grand Prix sprint, for which you'll receive special suits, trophies and a bottle of bubbly: prices start at pounds 45 a head. Wear practical shoes.

Where: Gate 119, Connaught Bridge, London E16, close to City airport (0171-476 1234).

When: 10am-6pm every day; booking advised.

How much: pounds 15 for 15 mins, pounds 45 an hour.

STANDEN HOUSE AND ASHDOWN FOREST

This National Trust house features arts and crafts dating from the 1890s, and was designed by Philip Webb, one of William Morris's circle. There are pre-Raphaelite paintings, plus ceramics by William de Morgan and original electrical fittings. The garden offers some marvellous views, which may tempt you further into Ashdown Forest - the setting for the Winnie the Pooh books - for a picnic.

Where: exit M25 at junction 6 on A22 towards East Grinstead (01342-323029).

When: 12.30pm-4pm; garden shuts at 6pm.

How much: adults pounds 5, children pounds 2.50.

LISCARD ALIVE '98

Local Merseyside bands will kick off this bank holiday Sunday event, which features eight hours of live music. Headliners B*Witched, along with chart bands Steps and Alexia will put in an appearance towards the end of the marathon. Bring your blankets, picnic and umbrellas, and turn up early as it could get crowded.

Where: Central Park, Liscard Road, The Wirral, Merseyside (0151-630 6044).

When: 12noon until 8pm.

How much: admission is free.

KESWICK AGRICULTURAL SHOW, CUMBRIA

A traditional show with horse, cattle, sheep and dog displays and exhibits on rural life. You can buy local produce - flowers, vegetables and cakes - or browse among the 30 arts and crafts stalls. For older children, there are amusements including quad bikes and a pet show. The show also hosts the annual Cumbrian Champion Sheepdog competition.

Where: Keswick Showground, Crossings Field, High Hill, Keswick, Cumbria (01697-323418).

When: from mid-morning.

How much: adults pounds 3.50, children over 11 pounds 1.

PENLEE POINT TO CAWSAND AND CREMYLL, NR PLYMOUTH

To reach Cawsand - once a notorious smuggling site - from Penlee Point, take the track through the woods for a mile. Continue past the main street and Kingsand, passing the Rising Sun Inn, and on through Mount Edgcumbe County Park. Go over the stile to the woods towards Nelson's mistress Lady Emma's cottage and Mount Edgcumbe Mansion. The stately home was badly hit during the 1941 Plymouth blitz, but restoration is now complete.

Where: regular ferries from Cremyll to Plymouth.

When: Mount Edgcumbe Mansion open 11am-5pm.

Distance: 4.5 miles of easy walking. . SEDAN-CHAIR RACE, TUNBRIDGE WELLS

This unusual race features teams of five, with a distinctly un-PC bias; the lady gets to sit in the chair, carried by four gents. There are heats before the final, which is conducted along the historic Pantiles route, with stops to drink water from the Chalybeate Spring, to eat specially prepared "sedan chair" cake, to bob for apples and to down jugs of ale. There's also a coveted trophy, and street entertainment.

Where: The Pantiles, in the centre of Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent (01892- 526121).

When: activities start at noon, races at 2pm, and street entertainment is from 5pm.

ST ALBANS, HERTS

This large Roman city, the birthplace of the Campaign for Real Ale, is a treasure trove for anyone interested in history, or beer. There's a Roman wall and a section of mosaic near the museum in Hatfield Road, which gives the history of the town from the time of the Romans. If you stroll over to the well-preserved theatre site, you can see remnants of oyster shells, which were the Roman audience's equivalent of today's popcorn. And when you've worked up a thirst, head for the Fighting Cocks, below the Abbey, one of Britain's oldest pubs (01727-819339).

Where: the tourist office is in the Town Hall, St Peter's St (01727-864511).

BUDE JAZZ FESTIVAL

Get your feet into foot-tapping mode with a visit to this annual music festival; more than 20 bands will be featured, including Monty Sunshine, Max Lager's New Orleans Stompers, Steve Lane's Red Hot Peppers and Bob Kerr's Whoopee Band. Performances start at 10am and continue throughout the day in various venues around the town.

Where: to get to Bude, catch a train to Exeter and take a bus from there. For details of venues, call 01633-211368.

When: 10am-midnight.

How much: "stroller" tickets are pounds 11.

ARUNDEL FESTIVAL

Held at various venues around the town, this 10-day festival ends on bank holiday Monday with a flourish. Visit the open-air theatre in the grounds of Arundel Castle, where you'll find jazz concerts, fireworks and even some Shakespeare. There are also classical concerts, a gallery trail, and drama and fringe events.

Where: Arundel Festival Society runs the show from the Mary Gate in the town (0190-388 3690).

When: festival runs until Monday

How much: prices vary, phone for details.

LOWER DUDDON, LAKE DISTRICT

Beginning at Ulpha Bridge, this walk follows the path of the picturesque river Duddon. Cross the bridge, turn left along the road past an old mill, once used to make bobbins for the local textile industry. Go through a bridle gate to the right and follow the wall until you come to a stile. The track forks; bear right and over a bridge to the ruins of Frith Hall, reputedly haunted by a guest who met his end there in 1736; Frith Hall was known in the 18th century as an alternative Gretna Green. Carry on until you get to a road; turn left and stay on it until Mill Bridge, turn left there to get back to Ulpha Bridge.

Where: Lower Duddon, Lake District.

Distance: five miles (moderate).

CARTMEL STEEPLECHASE, CUMBRIA

If you're in the Lakes and fancy an afternoon at the races, head for Cartmel. This left-hand, level course in Cumbria has an 800-yard run-in, which is the longest in the country, and should provide plenty of excitement.

Where: the course is located 15 miles from Kendal, on the B5271, or you can take a bus to the course from Grange-over-Sands station (0153-953 6340).

When: first race is at 2pm.

How much: entrance for adults from pounds 4; access to the paddock is pounds 10.

CHATHAM HISTORIC DOCKYARDS, KENT

Step back in time to this huge former Naval dockyard. Ropework displays show exactly how rope was made and tested. You can see the world's oldest corrugated-iron construction, made in the 1830s, and follow a waxworks display to see how the HMS Valiant was built. Afterwards, pop into nearby Rochester and take a look around the cathedral, castle and Charles Dickens museum.

Where: the dockyards are off the Chatham to Gillingham Road/Dock Road (0163-482 3800).

When: 10am-5pm.

How much: pounds 8.50 adults, pounds 5.50 children, family tickets pounds 22.50.

OPEN-AIR BAND CONCERTS

For brass-lovers of all ages, open-air concerts are held at three bandstands which feature various groups playing a range of classical and popular music. Feel free to bring your grandma and a deckchair.

Where: London's St James' and Regent's Park - enter through Clarence Gate and cross the lake; and at Greenwich Park, SE10 - enter through Vanbrugh Park Gate (0171- 298 2100).

When: St James': Sat-Mon; Regent's Park: Sun & Mon; Greenwich: Sun & Mon; 3pm-4pm and 6pm-7.30pm.

How much: all concerts are free.

GLASTONBURY CHILDREN'S FESTIVAL

If your kids are still alive and kicking after six weeks' holiday, this will knock some of the energy out of them. There are more than 20 performances from a range of artists including theatre companies, puppeteers, clowns, storytellers and jugglers. There's also the opportunity to indulge in hat and mask-making, face-painting and badge-making; and for hyperactive children, there's a Velcro wall and inflatables.

Where: Abbey Park Playground, Fishers Hill, Glastonbury, Somerset (01458- 832925).

When: Sat-Mon 10.30am-5pm.

How much: pounds 2.50 adults & under-5s, children over 5 pounds 3.50 daily or pounds 12 for 4 days.

AROUND BUTTERMERE; INCLUDES LAKE AND HONISTER PASS

The walk around Buttermere lake is on flat, public access land - perfect for picnics and a lazy day out. The path begins at Gatesgarth: follow it to the bridge; turn right for the lakeshore path. Over the next bridge, bear right for an excellent view over the lake and the Sour Milk Gill line. The path continues through the hamlet of Buttermere, and, on joining the road, bears right between farm buildings before changing into part of the lakeshore route. It eventually leads to a tunnel: exit to the impressive sight of High Crag on your left and High Stile to your right.

Where: around Buttermere, Cumbria.

Distance: four miles (easy).

WALTHAMSTOW GREYHOUND TRACK

If you've always fancied going to the dogs, head down to Walthamstow and put your money where your mouth is. For a minimum bet of 10p, you can thrill to the sight of greyhounds speeding at up to 30 miles an hour after a fake fluffy bunny. After the 13 races, you can soothe your hoarse vocal cords in one of five bars, or restore your energy in one of the three restaurants.

Where: the stadium is on Chingford Road in London E4 (0181-531 4255).

When: Sat 6.30pm-11pm; Mon 1.30pm-5pm.

How much: entrance free.

WICKEN FEN, CAMBRIDGESHIRE

This is England's oldest nature reserve, taken over by the NT in 1898, and preserved because the locals used its reeds to thatch their houses. As well as many interesting wildflowers, birds and plants, there are ancient tree trunks, preserved for thousands of years in the bog. A boardwalk takes you around the boggy areas, and there's a viewing tower; take your binoculars. Nearby is Ely Cathedral and the village of Soham, where an authentically dusty windmill still grinds flour.

Where: to get to Wicken Fen, Cambridgeshire, follow signs from the village (0135-372 0274).

When: 9am-5pm.

How much: pounds 3.50 for adults, pounds 1.10 for children. NOTTING HILL CARNIVAL

Now in its 33rd (official) year, this musical carnival is for adults on Bank Holiday Monday, and is made up of five elements; calypso, soca (an amazing sound experience), masquerade, steel bands and live music. There's also plenty of interesting Caribbean and ethnic food on offer, along with stalls and other performances.

Where: the procession starts at Ladbroke Grove and goes south from Kensal Road junction, looping back to Ladbroke Road (0181-964 0544).

When: midday to midnight.

How much: free.

CHESTERFIELD AUGUST FAIR

This is a fantastic open-air event in the historic market town of Chesterfield, with its renowned crooked church spire. As well as a funfair and street entertainment, the event includes more than 250 stalls to browse through; everything from arts and crafts to edible produce.

Where: the fair is in Chesterfield town centre while the funfair is in the Holywell Cross carpark, also in the town centre. You can get a bus or train there (0124-634 5777).

When: 10am-6pm.

How much: free.

MONSAL DALE, PEAK DISTRICT

A circular walk, beginning and ending at Ashford-in-the-water with spectacular views of the river Wye and Monsal Head. Start with a walk up Greves Lane, a distance of roughly a quarter-mile. Turn down the walled path towards Little Longstone, and head towards the grassy valley. Then take the old railway track, turning left. On your right the Monsal Trail is marked by yellow `M's - follow these until Little Longstone. Take a left towards Monsal Head, passing the Pack Horse Inn on your way. Cross the carpark and pass the cafe to the right, taking the second path to your left. Continue on this path until you reach the river. Cross the A6 then follow the field path up the hillside, through Demon's Dell. Cross the Sheepwash bridge to head home.

Where: Monsal Dale, Peak District. Start from Greves Lane.

Distance: Six miles (easy to moderate).

EPSOM RACECOURSE

The traditional big Bank Holiday race is the Champagne Silver Magnum, the Moet & Chandon stakes running over the Derby distance of a mile-and- a-half. Take to the grandstand, or join the hoi polloi in the cheaper enclosure. Epsom is one of five flat meetings around the country, and has a sharp and undulating course.

Where: the course is south of the town on Epsom Downs Road, 15 miles from the centre of London. Take a train from Victoria or Waterloo to Epsom Downs, or from Charing Cross to Tattenham Corner (0137-247 0047).

How much: from pounds 5 (Lonsdale enclosure) to pounds 16; parking is free.

CHILTERN OPEN-AIR MUSEUM

This open-air museum, set in acres of countryside, will be hosting medieval and Iron-Age re-enactments - ideal for children - plus hands-on activities. Wander around historic houses and exhibits, and visit the dye garden, featuring plants such as blue woad, used for dyeing clothes and other materials in years gone by. Nearby is Jordans, a tiny village featuring a barn built from timbers from the original Mayflower ship. Take a look at the second-hand books on sale there, or drive towards Bekonscot, the model village patronised by Enid Blyton and her daughters, where there is a model of the author's former house and hundreds of midget buildings.

Where: Chiltern Open-Air Museum, off the A413, Chalfont St Peter, Bucks (0149-487 1117).

Open: 10am-6pm.

How much: pounds 4 adults, pounds 2.50 children.

Sale: Book sale at the Mayflower Barn, Bekonscot, near Beaconsfield town centre, 10am-5pm. Costs pounds 3.60 or pounds 1.80 (0149-467 2919).

GREAT BRITISH RHYTHM AND BLUES FESTIVAL

A real treat for anyone into R&B, this all-day event kicks off at 1pm and features bands including King Pleasure and The Biscuit Boys, the Electric Experience, Chick Willis, Sista Monica and the `legendary' Long John Hunter. You can buy an all-day ticket and go in and out as you please.

Where: The festival is at Colne Municipal Hall in Albert Road, Colne, Lancs (0128-266 1234).

When: until midnight

How much: an all-day ticket costs pounds 16.50.

ANGLO-SAXON FESTIVAL

The Anglo-Saxon Festival ends on the Bank Holiday, and features re-enactment specialists who have spent a month living in Anglo-Saxon dress, selling authentic goods at their market stalls, and telling period stories. There also are craft demonstrations and guided tours, as well as refreshments.

Where: West Stow Country Park, The Visitor Centre, Icklingham Road, Suffolk (0128-472 8718).

When: from 10.30-5pm.

WHITE NANCY, BOLLINGTON, PEAK DISTRICT

The stone White Nancy tower is something of a mystery. No one knows exactly why it was built, though some of neighbouring Bollington's inhabitants believe it was erected to celebrate the end of the Napoleonic wars. Facing east over the Shining Tor and the Cat and Fiddle (the second highest Inn in England) and west over the Cheshire Plain it is a perfect viewpoint. It can be reached from Bollington's Parish Church, after a climb up the steep hill leading to it. From here follow Kerridge Hill's crest until you come to a stile, then head down-hill for a view of Rainow village and the ruined Cow Lane Mill. From here take a left at the main road and again opposite the church and junction. A flagged path must now be followed past cottages and over meadows. Following the lane through millyards, you'll return to Bollington.

Where: White Nancy, Bollington, Peak District.

Distance: 4 miles (easy).

How much: between pounds 20-30; Sunday set lunch pounds 9.

CHEPSTOW RACECOURSE, WALES

This is an attractive, undulating course, used for both jumping and flat-racing, and home of the Welsh National in December. Races on Bank Holiday Monday will be on the flat, and include the European Breeders Fund Romeo Maiden Stakes, the Juliet Maiden Fillies Stakes and the Frankie Dettori Ton-Up Conditions Stakes.

Where: the racecourse is on the A466, or take a train to Chepstow station on the Cardiff to Gloucester line (0129-162 2260).

When: races begin at 2.20pm

How much: from pounds 5 adults.

THE WATERCRESS RAILWAY, HAMPSHIRE

This picturesque steam railway, dating from 1865, runs a 10-mile round trip which takes about 90 minutes, and is staffed by enthusiastic attendants dressed in authentic period uniforms. Break your journey by stopping in the Georgian town of Alresford, and taking a wander by the river. The railway runs trains on what was called the `Watercress Line', named after the still-existing watercress beds, which you can walk to. On the way back, picnic at Ropley station, where you can enjoy the countryside and rest on a large grassy bank.

Where: Watercress Railway, Hampshire. Travel to Alton by train from Waterloo (0196-273 3810).

When: the first Watercress steam train runs at 10.41am, then hourly until 4.20pm.

How much: an all-day ticket is pounds 7.50 adults, pounds 4.50 children.

INTERNATIONAL BEATLES FESTIVAL

Held at various venues around Liverpool, this festival runs for seven days, until 1 September, and includes lots of Beathles music from bands who've come into the Beatles capital. There's also a Beatles auction, and the option to go on a sightseeing tour; pick up the bus at Albert Dock, twice a day. On Bank Holiday Monday, it's convention time at The Adelphi Hotel, including a video room, a massive flea market and star turns from Beatle bands. If you have time, pop into 20 Forthlin Road, former home to Paul McCartney and now owned by the National Trust.

Where: The Adelphi Hotel is off Lime Street in the city centre, Liverpool (0151-236 9091).

When: 25 August to 1 September.

TOWERSEY VILLAGE FESTIVAL, BUCKS

Now in its 34th year, this folk event includes song, dance and an international line-up of artistes. There's lots for children to do, plus open-air and indoor concerts, and educational workshops. Black Unfolofi, a black acapella group, which gives performances of traditional South African township dances, plays in the arena in the afternoon and in the concert tent later in the evening.

Where: the arena is in a field on Manor Road in Towersey Manor Road. Take the Princes Risborough road from Thame - it's sign posted (0129-639 4411).

When: 8.45am until after midnight.

How much: pounds 3 to entry to the arena. WIN HILL, YORKSHIRE BRIDGE VILLAGE

This is an excursion for the adventurous walker. A steep climb alongside Parkin Clough ravine offers views of the Dark and White Peaks. The hill got its name because the prize of the winning chieftain in an ancient battle was to camp there, while the unlucky contestant was to be set up on Lose Hill, a valley away. From here the walk is either flat or down hill. The ridge path joins the Roman road and heads into the forest by a stone marker erected in 1737. A turn to the right, towards the reservoir, and the ruins of Elmin Pits Farm can be seen, with the Ashopton Viaduct and Ladybower Dam a short walk on. By sticking to the reservoir's access road, you will soon be back at Yorkshire Bridge.

Where: Win Hill, Yorkshire Bridge Village.

Distance: 5 miles (strenuous).

HUNTINGDON RACECOURSE, CAMBS

Recommended by Peter O'Sullevan as having a "good, country atmosphere", this level course - in the former Prime Minster's constituency - has a run-in of 200 yards. It's easily accessible and hosts a jump meeting on the Bank Holiday.

Where: The course is at the junction of the A1 and the A604, or take a train from London Kings Cross; the course is a mile away (0148-045 4610).

How much: from pounds 5 adults, or pounds 10 for paddock access.

Parking: free.

AMBERLEY MUSEUM, WEST SUSSEX

Amberley museum of local industry, based around the chalkpits, features craftspeople and some authentic working transport: two buses and a train. Amberley is an attractive thatched village, with a castle perched on the marsh. At the bottom of the village is are wetlands and a water-meadow, and nearby is Bignor Roman Villa. Venture a little further to Fishbourne Roman Palace, on the west side of Chichester, which was discovered in the 1950s by children after a Roman history lesson.

Where: Take the A24 past Horsham to the village; Amberley Museum is next to the railway station (0179-883 1370).

When: 10am-6pm.

How much: pounds 5.20 adults, pounds 2.70 children and family ticket pounds 14.

SANDWELL

This all-day music event, organised in conjunction with Beacon FM radio station, features chart band Lovestation, whose single Teardrops climbed the charts recently. Other bands include Breeze, Storm and Sleaze Sisters, and there's a main arena with sidestalls and food. The action starts at 11am and goes on until 6pm.

Where: Sandwell Valley Park, West Bromwich, which is just off junction 1 of the M5 (0121-569 8276).

When: auction 11am-6pm.

How much: free.

ROSS ON WYE INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL

Those who are poetically inclined may want to head for Ross On Wye, where performances throughout the day include those from John Hegley at 10am, Barry Rutter - paying homage to the poets W H Auden, Tony Harrison, Ted Hughes and Blake Morrison - at 3pm, and the Mappa Mundi theatre company at 7pm, staging The Three Musketeers by Mappa Mundi. There are also fringe events on the streets and in pubs, plus a firework display at the Riverside Pavilion.

Where: Ross on Wye. Travel by train to Gloucester or Cardiff, then take a 20-minute bus journey; by car, it's on the M50 from Birmingham. Performances are at the Baptist Church, in Broad Street (John Hegley) and the Pavilion Theatre, Riverside (0159-454 4446).

When: from

How much: tickets range from pounds 4-pounds 7, and are available on the door.

SAMPHIRE HOE, NR FOLKESTONE

You can either take a five-mile round walk starting from Folkestone Harbour, going first down to the Martello Tower (where there's a visitor's centre) and looping back round the Little Switzerland Caravan Site and Battle of Britain Memorial, or you can try a shorter walk through the area known as the Undercliff - a jungly, romantic stroll - and nearby Samphire Hoe, named by locals for the bright yellow plant which grows there. Listen and look out for the Channel Tunnel, which runs along the bottom of Shakespeare Cliff. If you're feeling ready for more strenuous exercise, walk along the coast from Folkestone to Dover, and get a train back to your starting point.

Where: Samphire Hoe, nr Folkestone.

Distance: Varies, depending on walk chosen.

NEWTON ABBOT, DEVON

Take a break from the beach and head to this small town for an afternoon of jumping, whose famous small but sharp course has put riders such as the crime author Dick Francis, a one-time jockey, through their paces. The first of six races starts at 2.30pm.

Where: the course is on the A380 north of the Newton Abbot, Devon. You also can access the course from Newton Abbot station, a mile away (0162- 635 3235).

When: the first of six races starts at 2.30pm.

How much: from pounds 5 for adults, and an additional pounds 6 for entry into the paddock. Under-16s with an adult get in for free.

BICESTER INTERNATIONAL OUTLET VILLAGE

This designer shopping village includes 60 stores with bargains at knock- down prices; everything from Wedgwood to Whistles, to designers Donna Karan, Polo Ralph Lauren, Versace, Reebok, Aquascutum and Episode. For lunch, stop at Pret-a-Manger, or pick up a crepe. After you've dragged your protesting spouse and kids around the village and spent all your pennies, you can visit nearby historic Oxford, or go a little further afield to relax in the grounds of Blenheim Palace.

Where: Bicester International Outlet Village off junction 9 of the M40 (0186-932 3200).

When: 10am-6pm.

THE BRAHMS REQUIEM

Part of the Edinburgh Festival, this performance by the renowned Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra is conducted by the pleasingly-named Jukka-Pekka Saraspa, and features soprano Karita Maddila and baritone Bryn Terfel. The orchestra's festival debut is accompanied by the Edinburgh Festival Chorus, with chorus-master David Jones.

Where: Usher Hall, Lothian Road, Edinburgh (0131-228 1155).

When: 8pm.

How much: from pounds 5, tickets available on the door.

HOLYMOORSIDE WELL DRESSING VILLAGERS

Villagers use flowers and leaves to make highly intricate patterns on the sides of wells, a traditional Derbyshire event each year which continues at Holymoorside until September 4. Visitors are welcome to watch activities between 9am-9pm.

Where: near the recreation ground, Holymoor Road, Holymoorside, Derbyshire (0124-656 9177).

When: until September 4, from 9am-9pm.

CHENIES, BUCKINGHAMSHIRE

Only an hour out of London on the Metropolitan tube line, this area is a rural patchwork of village greens and pubs. Start your walk at the carpark off Stony Lane, off the A404, and head through the woods towards Latimer House, visible on the hill. Carry on past Mill Farm and Valley Farm, following the path of the River Chess, to Sarratt, with its long village green and excellent pub, The Cock. From there, continue to Church End, and around to Chenies, where you can look through the ancient manor house and historic church. From there, it's a short distance to your starting point.

Where: Chenies, Buckinghamshire.

Distance: Just over six miles (moderate).

NEWCASTLE RACECOURSE

This large northern track, hosting a flat race on Bank Holiday Monday, has recently been enthusiastically marketed by entrepreneur Stan Clarke. When asked why the track was so well liked, a trainer replied: "Good facilities, good galloping track, good money market; above all, a friendly Geordie welcome!" It's an oval course, and the first of seven races starts at 2.10pm.

Where: The course is on the A1, five miles north of the town. You also can take the Metro service to Four Lane Ends station from Newcastle station, and then the bus to the course (0191- 236 2020).

When: the first of seven races starts at 2.10pm.

How much: from pounds 4.

BOURNEMOUTH OCEANARIUM AND BROWNSEA ISLAND

Once known as a town for old fogeys, Bournemouth is now hip and happening, with a new Oceanarium featuring sharks, and plenty of sandy beaches. Once you've done the town, take a boat to Brownsea Island, where Lord Baden- Powell took a pioneering group of scouts. The island, half-a-mile long, is a wilderness where you can spot red squirrels and deer. For an overview of the town, go up in the hot-air balloon stationed near the pier.

Where: Bournemouth Oceanarium, in Pier Approach (0120-231 1993).

When: Oceanarium open 10am-9pm; How much: pounds 5.60 adults, pounds 3.60 children, pounds 15 for a family ticket.

Getting there: A boat from Bournemouth Pier to the island costs pounds 7.50 (0120-255 8550). You can also take a boat from Poole Quay.

THE READING FESTIVAL

This annual festival is the last big music blow-out of the summer. The main stages are headlined by Plant and Page (on Friday), Beastie Boys (on Saturday) and Garbage (on Sunday) with appearances from Ash, Mansun, Prodigy, Supergrass, The Bluetone and Foo Fighters. There's also the Melody Maker stage (Kenickie, Travis, Spiritualised), the DM stage (Gomez and Alabama 3) and the Carlsberg stage playing host to Roni Size. If the field gets too muddy for you, watch further acts at the nearby Rivermead centre for pounds 3 a go.

Where: Reading, Berks (0181-963 0940).

When: Friday-Sunday.

How much: weekend tickets pounds 75; daily pounds 30.

CARTERS STEAM FAIR

This travelling funfair includes a fleet of vintage vehicles and rock'n'roll dodgems for the young at heart. For steam enthusiasts, there's also jubilee steam `gallopers' and for anyone willing to part with some money, a vintage slot arcade. There also are plenty of refreshments and children's activities.

Where: the fair stops at Barham Park on Harrow Road, Wembley (0162-8 52 3375).

When: bank holiday Monday.

BUCKDEN, YORKSHIRE DALES

This nature walk is more of a pub crawl, with three excellent hostelries within four-and-a-half miles. Take the signposted bridleway from Buckden Pike, and follow the track through the trees. You'll need to cross some natural stepping stones before reaching The Buck; stop there for a little light refreshment. Then on towards Cray, where you'll find The White Lion, then along a natural level terrace - looking down on some fabulous dales - to the farmhouse Scar House. The track

dips down to Hubberholme, home of The George Inn; the village also has a medieval church containing some of Robert Thompson's famous Kilburn mice.

Where: Buckden, Yorkshire Dales. From Buckden Pike.

Distance: Nearly five miles (easy).

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