The 50 Best: BRITAIN'S BEST-KEPT SUMMER SECRETS

Each week in The Information, your essential entertainment guide to the next seven days, we will be inviting an expert panel to share with us the fruits of their knowledge. This week, our panellists reveal their favourite unspoilt beaches, waterside pubs, overlooked resorts and ideas for days out with kids. Rachelle Thackray takes notes
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The Independent Culture
The 50 Best

10 UNSPOILT BEACHES

10 WATERSIDE PUBS

10 UNDERVALUED RESORTS

10 UNUSUAL ESCAPES

10 GOOD IDEAS FOR CHILDREN

THE PANEL: Alisdair Aird, editor of the Good Pub Guide 1998 (Ebury Press, pounds 14.99), selected his favourite waterside pubs. Ellie Robinson of the Marine Conservation Society, which compiles the Good Beach Guide (Reader's Digest, pounds 6.75 including postage and packing - call 01989 566017), chose our unspoilt beaches. Simon Calder, travel editor of the Independent, went in search of some unusual escapes; while Independent writers Harriet O'Brien and Rhiannon Batten zoomed in on undervalued resorts. Finally, Nana Ocran, of Kids Out, the magazine for London parents published by Time Out, recommended good ideas for children. Our thanks to them all.

NEXT WEEK: OUR PANEL DISCOVERS THE 50 BEST PLACES TO EAT AL FRESCO.

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

1

A DAY TRIP TO SCILLY

The Isles of Scilly Skybus (0345 105555) sells day-return flights from Land's End airport for pounds 56, and from Newquay for pounds 76. You get up to 10 hours at Britain's closest approximation to a tropical paradise. On St Mary's, largest of the Isles, the capital Hughtown resembles a prim 1950s English village. The rest of the Scillies can be explored by taking a launch from St Mary's quayside.

Top tip: there's a free bus from Penzance to Land's End airport.

2

HENGISTBURY HEAD, Dorset

This mile-long headland separates the populous Poole and Christchurch bays but remains itself wonderfully undeveloped - so much so that it has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest. As well as the pebbled beach, there is good swimming and windsurfing, plus nature trails, pitch-and-putt and crazy golf.

Food, drink, toilets: yes, at beach cafe.

Top tip: look for evidence around the headland of Iron Age and Roman settlements.

3

TY COCH, Gwynedd

This cosy seaside pub at Porth Dinllaen on Wales's Lleyn Peninsula is only accessible by walking along a beach for 20 minutes. It's well worth it, though, as this sheltered bay (National Trust) is one of Britain's most picturesque spots. Inside, there's memorabilia and photos of dramatic floods.

Where: walk from Morfa Nefyn car park.

Open: 11am-10.30pm; 11am-5pm Sunday.

Top tip: play cricket on the wonderful sandy beach, or cliff-top golf at Morfa Nefyn.

4

CROMER, Norfolk

Perched high above the coast, Cromer has a dramatic quality but on close inspection the shabbiness of the streets makes it a wonderfully wistful destination. Signs of its one-time wealth remain in the tall tower of St Peter and St Paul, the pier and the remaining Edwardian hotel, the grand Hotel de Paris. Tourist information: 01263 512497.

Food and drink: fresh crab, of course. Try The Dolphin on the prom for sea views with your food.

Top tip: picnic in the park at nearby Felbrigg Hall.

5

RAINFOREST ROADSHOW

This is a great treat for children who beg to take their classroom stick insect home for the holidays. Here is the chance to handle a whole assortment of creepy-crawlies, plus plants which grow in the rainforest eco-system.

Where: the Princess of Wales Conservatory at Kew. Nearest tube is Kew Gardens, on the District Line.

When: there are four sessions, on Thursday 27 August, at 10am, 11am, 2pm and 3pm.

Contact: Rainforest Roadshow on 0181 332 5922.

6

GEORGE III, Penmaenpool

This attractive 17th-century inn has spectacular views out to Barmouth and the Mawddach estuary. There's a sheltered terrace, and bedrooms converted from a disused station. Hearties may work up an appetite by climbing nearby Cader Idris (2,927ft), where the view - on a good day - is even better.

Where: A493 west of Dolgellau (01341 422525).

Open: 11am-11pm; 11am-10.30pm Sun.

What to do nearby: explore the Mawddach estuary, which Wordsworth called 'sublime'.

Top tip: those golden sands contain real gold.

7

ULLAPOOL, Highland

This delightful fishing village has plenty of Highland character but more recently has acquired an arty flavour too. Several pubs now offer live music, and the multi-faceted Ceilidh Place on West Argyle St (01854 612103) is one of Scotland's most get-ahead venues (and a romantic stop for B&B).

How to get there: regular buses from Inverness.

Things to do: boat trips to the Summer Isles and the Outer Hebrides, superb hill-walking.

Top tip: in summer, bring your midge repellent!

8

CIRCUS IN THE TENT

Your little horrors are bent on a circus career, but you've had enough of them juggling your best china. What can you do? Send them to the real thing, of course. The Arts Play Umbrella group teaches a week-long workshop course (pounds 32.50) in south London, for children from seven to 13, which includes stilt-walking, plate-spinning, juggling and clowning, with a costumed show on Fridays. There are also one-off workshops, at pounds 3 a session.

Where & when: Morden Park, Mon 17 to Fri 21 Aug.

Contact: booking is advisable; call 0181 545 3235.

9

WHITE CROSS, Richmond

With its paved garden, sheltered seating and great views, this perfectly situated Thameside pub - a former hotel - is a good bet in both wet and dry weather. There are tables outside under a rare Greek Whitebeam tree, and there's an outside bar in summer too. Food; occasional live music.

Where: Water Lane, Richmond (0181 940 6844).

Open: 11am-11pm; 12-10.30pm Sunday.

What to do nearby: Richmond Park or Kew Gardens.

Top tip: if you park outside, ask about the tide times!

10

LOW NEWTON, Northumberland

This dune-fringed crescent of sand lies below the pretty village of Low Newton, a square of fisherman's cottages and pub owned by the National Trust. Sheltered by a grassy headland and an offshore reef, the beach is valued by watersports fans.

Food and drink: the village pub serves snacks.

Toilets: yes, next to the beach.

Things to do: swimming, windsurfing, diving, birdwatching (at Newton Pool).

Top tip: the beach is overlooked by Dunstanburgh Castle, once home to John of Gaunt. MALTSTERS ARMS, Tuckenhay

A quiet Devon pub, by a peaceful wooded creek - the setting could hardly be improved - with outside tables and excellent bar food (try the pheasant, pigeon breast, venison and rabbit pie). Halfway between Dartmoor and the coast - so there are plenty of ways to work up an appetite - the pub also has two open fires if the weather turns chilly.

Where: about five miles south of Totnes, Devon. Call the pub on 01803 732350.

Open: 11am-3pm, 6-11pm; 12-3pm, 7-10.30pm Sun.

Top tip: arrive in style, come by boat.

12

CRUISE TO THE ORKNEYS

A day trip from John O'Groats, via Burwick in South Ronaldsay (sea crossing: 45 minutes), includes a tour of some of the major sights on Mainland and plenty of Second World War history. The cost is pounds 30 for a 'maxi-day tour' and pounds 27 for a slightly shorter 'highlights' tour; from Inverness, the trip costs pounds 40, including bus connections. The service is bookable through John O'Groats Ferries, and operates until the end of the September.

Contact: John O'Groats ferries on 01955 611353.

Top tip: if you are susceptible to sea-sickness, this one is perhaps not for you.

13

FLY OVER CAMBRIDGE

Classic Wings offers flights over the city in a vintage 1934 Dragon Rapide. At 11.15am on summer weekends, the biplane takes off from Duxford air museum to fly at around 1,500 feet over Cambridge, Ely and Newmarket. The 40-minute trip costs pounds 79.50, including admission to Duxford and a pre-flight snack.

Where: trips start from the museum, which is signposted from junction 10 of the M11.

When: Saturdays and Sundays at 11.15am over the summer.

Contact: Classic Wings on 0870 902 6146.

Top tip: book now - reservations are filling up fast.

14

ANCHOR, Barcombe

A cosy little pub beside the River Ouse, with neatly kept lawns and a fairy-lit terrace for romantic evenings. In the daytime, you can hire boats to explore an unspoilt three-mile stretch of the river, bordered by meadows. There's also a children's play area, cream-tea kiosk and barbecues on summer weekends.

Where: north of Lewes, East Sussex (01273 400414).

Opens: 11am-11pm; 12-10.30pm Sun.

Top tip: if you're not drinking, bring the E-Type - The Anchor is the HQ of the Jaguar Owner's Club.

15

TRAINING TO DARTMOOR

Dr Beeching hounded the railways out of Dartmoor, but with a little detective work this summer, you can make tracks halfway across the National Park, now that Okehampton in Devon has rejoined the rail network. Wales & West runs Sunday services from Exeter along what used to be a Plymouth- to-London mainline. You can get further details of the 45-minute trip from Okehampton tourist information.

Contact: tourist information centre on 01837 53020, or national rail enquiries on 0345 484950.

Top tip: make a circuit using the pounds 5 explorer ticket.

16

ST IVES, CORNWALL

Not one but five golden beaches arranged in a necklace around picturesque St Ives Bay. All the beaches are within walking distance of the town, with wonderful dunes and plenty of swimming, surfing and fishing. There are also footpaths to explore, and at Godrevey Point, even an island. And if the weather lets you down, there's always the Tate St Ives. For more information, call 01736 796297.

How to get there: by rail to St Ives or Carbis Bay, or follow signposts from the A30.

Food and drink: many pubs, cafes and shops.

Toilets: at all beaches except Porth Kidney Sands.

Things to do: swimming (lifeguard cover), surfing (equipment for hire), snorkelling, canoeing, walking.

Top tip: no dogs allowed, except at Porth Kidney.

17

BROADSTAIRS, Kent

It was here that Dickens wrote much of David Copperfield, and where Bleak House was planned, but as well as the literary associations, the town itself retains considerable charm. These days Dickens's favourite resort - on the Isle of Thanet, close to Margate - is an unexpectedly quiet place with a lovely beach and lots of museums for rainy days. Tourist information: 01843 862242.

How to get there: about four trains an hour run from London Victoria to Broadstairs.

Food and drink: try Harpers Wine Bar on Harbour St. The Italian Osteria Posillipo is also recommended.

Top tip: on a sunny day there can be few nicer spots than the garden of the Royal Albion Hotel.

18

COMPTON BAY, Isle of Wight

This two-mile stretch of sand, which incorporates nature trails and a geological heritage, is in the middle of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and is run by the National Trust. The south-west coast of the IoW is rural and unspoilt, so don't expect too many facilities. Nevertheless, this a great place for rock-pooling and surfing, and when the sea is calm there's safe bathing too.

How to get there: six miles south of Yarmouth (which is linked by car ferry to Lymington).

Food and drink: bring your own picnic.

Things to do: surfing, swimming with care, walking.

Top tip: keep your eyes open for fossils.

19

MAORI WORKSHOP

The London Kohanga Reo group will lead children aged from three to 12 in a workshop of music, storytelling and dance based around ancient and contemporary Maori heritage. Children should be accompanied, and adults will probably feel compelled to join in. There's no pre-booking, and the workshop is free: just turn up at 11am and join in. It's repeated at 2pm. Afterwards, have a look around the museum's Maori exhibition, which costs pounds 4 for adults, pounds 2 for kids.

Where: the basement of the British Museum, Great Russell Street, WC1.

When: Saturday 22 August.

Contact: the British Museum on 0171 323 8599.

20

RHOSSILI BAY, Gower Peninsula

A vast sweep of golden sand at the western end of the glorious Gower, Rhossili Bay is a breathtaking sight, and a favourite spot of our beach expert Ellie Robinson. Huge cliffs loom up to Worms Head (a good viewpoint) and the waves rolling in from the Atlantic can make bathing hazardous - but though the beach is popular with holidaymakers, it is so large it never seems too busy.

How to get there: turn left at Swansea, keep going.

Food and drink: try the Worms Head Hotel in Rhossili village (01792 390512).

What to do: walking, surfing, hang-gliding (details from the NT information centre on 01792 390707).

Top tip: Dylan Thomas was 'ere.

21

ELIE, Fife

This is a true gem of an undervisited resort: you name it, they have it here - golden beaches, golf, watersports, wonderful countryside. And a degree of eccentricity. In the last century, Lady Janet Anstruther, wife of the local landowner, built a tower for poetry readings. Its ruins still stand today - as does the bathing hut for her nude swimming sessions. Tourist information: 01333 311073.

How to get there: the nearest mainline stations are Kirkcaldy and Leuchars.

Food and drink: the Ship Inn overlooking the harbour is a local institution. On alternate Sundays it holds cricket matches on the beach - the sand is specially rolled for the occasion.

Top Tip: you can still find garnets at Ruby Bay.

22

JOHN THOMPSON, Derbyshire

This tremendously friendly pub, in a lovely setting above the River Trent, has plenty of tables on a well-kept lawn and a sheltered terrace with its own bar. The licensee, John Thompson, brews his own real ale (guess what it's called) and serves good, reasonably priced bar food, including homemade soup and sandwiches.

Where: Ingleby, Derbyshire (01332 862469).

Open: 10.30am-2.30pm, 7-11pm; 12-2.30, 7-10.30pm Sun.

What to do nearby: visit Donington Park race track (01332 810048).

Top tip: sandwiches only are sold on Sundays. LE TOUQUET FOR LE WEEKEND

The only destination from Lydd International Airport in Kent is the Normandy resort known as 'Paris Plage'. Begin your journey in the Biggles Bar, which takes its name from Captain WE Johns's aviation hero - just the place to steady your nerves before the flight. The standard return fare is pounds 69.90 (pounds 10 less if you book in advance), though there's also a pounds 104 package which includes two nights' accommodation.

Contact: Sky-Trek Airlines on 01797 320000.

Top tip: the best way to avoid Air Passenger Duty - it doesn't apply to small planes.

24

WHITE SANDS BAY, Lothian

This attractive curving beach has fine golden sand and is backed by low coastal grassland covered in wildflowers and spotted with picnic tables. White Sands is a great place to come for a morning swim if you're feeling hearty, and there are striking views to be had along the coast to the old town of Dunbar. It's not a resorty beach at all, and is recommended to those interested in birdwatching and the vegetation and geology of the area.

How to get there: three miles south of Dunbar.

Food and drink: bring your own picnic.

What to do: sheltered swimming (no lifeguard), rockpooling, birdwatching, geology trail.

Top tip: combine with a boat trip to spectacular Bass Rock from nearby North Berwick.

25

BOAT, Redbrook

To get to this popular pub, you cross a 100-yard footbridge amid dramatic scenery (actually over the border to Wales) before joining the ramblers sitting in the garden to listen as the waters of the Wye tumble over cliffs to the duck pond below. There's a choice of 10 beers, plus decent bar food and all manner of old-fashioned pub games.

Where: near Monmouth, Gwent (01600 712615).

Open: 11am-11pm; 12-4, 6.30-10.30pm Sunday.

Top tip: beware folk music on Tuesday evenings.

26

SUMMER IN THE CITY

Anglia Railways is the latest train company to come up with a cheap deal to the capital. Its 'London Evening Out' ticket costs pounds 12 from Ipswich and pounds 18 from Norwich, assuming two people travel together. You can travel south on the 3.05pm from Norwich or a later train, and return on one of the last two trains of the evening or on the first one the following morning. You must book by 2pm the day before.

Contact: Anglia Railways on 01473 693469.

Top tip: other train-operating companies are dreaming up similar ideas.

27

CLEVEDON, Avon

The Victorians knew what they were doing when they developed this little resort: it offers that elusive ideal of almost total tranquillity. And, even better, despite being just 12 miles from Bristol, it has remained in something of a timewarp. Set on hilly land, it offers grand views along the coast and over to Wales. These you take in as you stroll along the promenade or visit the newly restored pier. Tourist information: 01275 878846.

How to get there: frequent buses from Bristol.

Food and drink: there's a good choice of restaurants along the sea front.

Things to do: boat trips along the Bristol Channel and over to Wales run from the pier.

Top tip: Clevedon Court gardens are well worth a visit.

28

WEMBURY, Devon

This is a fantastic spot for families as the beach is sandy with rockpools to explore at low tide. Wembury is a Marine Conservation Area, and the wardens organise rockpool rambles - great fun, especially when it's not such a nice day. The beach itself is quite small and tucked away, and is accessed by a stepped path from the car park.

How to get there: signposted from the A379.

Food and drink: beach cafe in summer.

Toilets: yes, next to the access path.

Things to do: swimming with care (no lifeguard cover), rockpooling, coastal paths to east and west.

Top tip: no dogs allowed from May to September.

29

BARAFUNDLE BAY, Dyfed

Not for the faint-hearted, this hideaway Pembrokeshire beach is reached by a steep cliff path, and shrouded by trees and sand dunes. Once there, the water is very blue and clear, giving the bay an almost Mediterranean feel. If you want to get away for a romantic time, this is the one - but because it's hard to get to, it's not recommended for young children. The bay is part of the old Stackpole estate, which is now run by the National Trust.

How to get there: 10 miles south of Pembroke.

Food, drink, toilets: cafe in the car park.

Things to do: sheltered swimming (no lifeguard), walking on the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path.

Top tip: bring trainers or stout shoes for the path.

30

RUGRATS ...

... from script to screen. Wannabe TV producers who've been watching the box all summer will revel in this new programme at MOMI, which demonstrates the ins and outs of bringing a concept to the screen. 'It takes you through the steps of making an animated programme, using clips and pictures from the television series and from the forthcoming movie,' says Kids Out's Nana Ocran, who recommends it for older children.

Where: Museum of the Moving Image, South Bank, SE1 (0171 928 3535).

When: running until December.

31

THE BEST VIEW IN WALES ...

... for just pounds 7.20 a night (plus pounds 10 annual membership of the YHA). This is to be found at Port Eynon youth hostel, on the south-west of the Gower Peninsula, where you sleep in a converted lifeboat station looking out over the bay. Ideas for wackier low-cost accommodation elsewhere in the British Isles can be found in the Independent Hostel Guide 1998, itself a bargain at pounds 3.95; order through the Backpackers' Press, 2 Rockview Cottages, Matlock Bath, Derbyshire DE4 3PG.

Contact: phone Port Eynon on 01792 390706.

Top tip: even though the Brits haven't discovered Port Eynon, the Europeans have - so you're advised to book well in advance.

32

SEASIDE ACTIVITIES

If you didn't manage to make it to the seaside this year, pay a visit to this exhibition at the Ragged School Museum which displays the seaside 'memories' of people living in Tower Hamlets. The museum also has a seaside play area - including a rockpool and sandpit - for younger children, and runs art workshops twice a week. Although the exhibition and workshops are all free, turn up early to get tickets, as they disappear fast.

Where: Ragged School Museum, 46-50 Copperfield Road, E3 (0181 980 6405). Nearest tube, on the Central Line, is Mile End.

When: 10am to 5pm, with workshops on Wednesdays and Thursdays (to 27 August) from 2pm to 4pm.

33

LYNMOUTH, Devon

Gainsborough loved it here. Shelley was so smitten that he spent his honeymoon in the little town. And today Lynmouth is still a quiet place of great natural beauty - a former fishing village set on the edge of Exmoor National Park and linked by an ingenious cliff railway to the sturdy Victorian-built resort of Lynton which is also well worth a visit. Tourist information: 01598 752225.

How to get there: not easily, unless you have a car.

Food and drink: plenty of places offer the all-important feast of Devon cream tea. For more formal meals, the Rising Sun has a good reputation.

Things to do: Exmoor is walking country, and bird watchers flock here, too. Fishing and other boat trips can be organised from the harbour.

Top tip: there's music on the prom on Thursdays.

34

HORSESHOE, Llanyblodwel

The address sounds Welsh but this quaint Tudor inn by the River Tanat in fact sits just over the border in Shropshire. Fishing is available nearby (day ticket required) and the front bar has a cosy fireplace around which anglers can tell tall tales. Bar food includes sandwiches, pies and grilled fresh fish.

Where: the village of Llanyblodwel is signposted from the B4936.

Open: 11.30am-3pm, 6.30-11pm; 12-3, 7-10.30pm Sunday; contact 01691 828969.

What to do nearby: walk a stretch of the glorious Offa's Dyke footpath.

Top tip: fishing is free for residents. SWITZERLAND IN A DAY

Each season, the Switzerland Travel Centre comes up with a wacky day trip in a bid to fill seats on its weekend flights between Heathrow and Zurich. This summer, until 20 September, pounds 165 buys you the following: return flights; a train ride to Lucerne and back; a steamer ride on the lake; and a cogwheel trip to the summit of Mount Rigi. And while you're enjoying the scenery, you can also enjoy the notion that buying a ticket direct from Swissair (0171 434 7300) would cost you pounds 370.30.

Contact: the Switzerland Travel Centre on 0171 734 4577.

Top tip: you're entitled to the full duty-free allowance.

36

SUMMER DRINKING

Lamberhurst Vineyard is one of the attractions in a booklet called 'Country Tours' (price pounds 1, from Kent Tourism). The vineyard, near Tunbridge Wells, offers wine tasting every day except at Christmas. The bibulous theme continues with the Whitbread Hop Farm, the largest group of Victorian oasthouses in the world. Another feature of the publication is a list of more than 40 pubs belonging to the Shepherd Neame brewery. Given the alcoholic nature of the tours, you might be surprised to learn that the subtitle of the booklet is 'Circular Driving Routes in the Kent Countryside'. Contact Kent Tourism on 01622 696165.

Top tip: bring a teetotal friend to do the driving.

37

TROUT, Godstow

Plump perch cavort in the river outside this medieval, creeper-covered Oxfordshire pub, which can get overrun with tourists in the summer months. Bass, Fuller's and London Pride are served, and there are fires in three huge hearths, plus a charming outside terrace. There's a room with Inspector Morse memorabilia and a children's play area too.

Where: Godstow Road, Wolvercote (01865 302071).

Open: 11am-11pm; 12-10.30pm Sunday.

What to do nearby: walk along the riverbank, or take a trip into Oxford.

Top tip: avoid the tourist crowds by coming in the week.

38

WHITBY, N Yorks

Whitby is a favourite resort because of its historical connections, clifftop ruins and picturesque fishing harbour. Separated from the old town by a swing bridge, the 'newer' town is home to the quayside, most of the hotels and shops and souvenir stalls selling jet jewellery. Visit the memorabilia-crammed Whitby Museum, the Captain Cook Memorial Museum and the Dracula Trail (Bram Stoker famously stayed here) or contact Tourist Information on 01947 602674.

How to get there: four daily trains from Middlesborough, hourly buses from Scarborough.

Food and drink: try the White Horse and Griffin, an 18th-century coaching inn with an excellent fish restaurant.

Top tip: visit between 22 and 28 August to catch Whitby Folk Week.

39

CLIFTON BRIDGE VISITOR CENTRE

This new attraction is so completely secret that when we went to check it out one Saturday morning last month, the whole place was locked and bolted. Located in the Clifton Down hotel (described in a 1905 guidebook as having 'a lavatory on every floor'), it traces the development of the first major work by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, which stands a couple of hundred yards to the west.

Where: Sion Place, Bristol. Call 0117 974 5255 for details.

Open: 10am-6pm; 10am-4pm Sundays.

Admission: pounds 1 for adults, 50p for the under-16s.

Top tip: visit the suspension bridge itself (of course!) but make sure you also see the nearby camera obscura.

40

MAGILLIGAN STRAND, Derry

This enormous bay - seven miles of sand - is flanked by dunes, but enjoys a degree of quietude because of its length. At the eastern end, there's a 770ft cliff, rising to a plateau, part of the Binevenagh mountain range. 'There's wonderful bathing, with lifeguard cover,' says Ellie Robinson of the Marine Conservation Society. 'It's very clean, and dogs aren't allowed. If you're prepared to walk along the beach, the views are wonderful, and it's not developed in the way mainland beaches are.'

Where: Benone, Co Derry.

Top tip: this is a great place for collecting shells.

41

ABERDARON, Gwynedd

Aberdaron is so far down the Lleyn Peninsula it feels like the edge of Wales. The small fishing village, with an attractive harbour, few dozen houses and 12th-century church, is a good base for exploring the area - much of which is owned by the National Trust. Porth Oer, a secluded sandy bay, is two miles north of the village, and five miles west is Bardsey Island, a site of pilgrimage for the Celts, medieval pilgrims and dedicated ornithologists.

How to get there: drive, or take the No 17 bus from Pwllheli (not Sundays).

What to do: catch a boat to Bardsey. Details on 01758 760680.

Top tip: take the No 17b bus, which runs twice a day from Pwllheli and completes a circular tour of the peninsula in about 90 minutes.

42

REGENT'S PARK OPEN AIR THEATRE

A late-night treat for young theatregoers is A Midsummer Night's Dream, performed by the New Shakespeare Company in a suitably dreamy outdoor setting. Nicola Duffett (late of EastEnders) plays fairy queen Titania, while Michael Elwyn is Theseus. But be warned - this is really one for older children, who will need to be able to sit still. Tickets cost from pounds 8 to pounds 20.

Where: Inner Circle, Regent's Park, NW1 (0171 486 2431). Nearest tube is Baker Street, on the Circle, Metropolitan, Jubilee, Bakerloo and Hammersmith & City lines.

When: performances start at 8pm on 17 August and from 21 to 24 August.

43

DRAMA WORKSHOPS

If your children can't wait till Christmas to appear in a play, there are numerous drama activities going on at the end of the holidays. Kids from eight to 14 can go to a week-long drama course, resulting in the performance of two plays: The Magic Television and The Millennium Mystery. Meanwhile, children aged from five to eight can participate in a workshop of drama games and improvisation based on the story of Beauty and the Beast.

Where and when: the week-long course starts on Monday 17 August at Charles Cryer Studio Theatre, 39 High Street, Carshalton (0181 770 4950). Beauty and the Beast is on 24 August at the Harrow Arts Centre, Elliott Concert Hall, Hatch End, Middlesex (0181 428 0124).

44

PUPPET THEATRE BARGE

This converted Thames barge is now home to a theatre seating 60. Hour- long performances of The Adventures of Brer Rabbit, based on the stories of Joel Chandler Harris, continue until September. 'They are wonderfully witty parables about how wily Mr Fox tries to catch Brer Rabbit. He manages to extract himself from all sorts of hazardous traps,' says a spokeswoman for the company. The performance features beautifully carved marionettes plus modern lighting and sound; refreshments are available in the foyer. Tickets cost pounds 5.50 for children, pounds 6 for adults.

Where: the barge is moored at Higginsons Park, Marlow (0836 202745).

When: daily at 2.30pm.

45

WEST WITTERING, West Sussex

West Wittering beach is on a private estate, so you have to pay pounds 3.50 per day to park your car - but the good thing about it is that the quarter- of-a-mile wide sands are free of nagging commercial ventures and you can still enjoy a traditional day at the seaside. There are fully qualified lifeguards on hand but the beach is thought of as one of the safest on the South Coast. Windsurfing equipment is available for hire but everything else needs to be brought with you. You can phone the beach on 01243 514143. How to get there: seven miles south of Chichester, off the A27.

Top tip: save money by taking the bus from the town centre - pedestrians can use the beach without paying.

46

WORLD OF BEATRIX POTTER

Children who are animal mad will love this Lake District exhibition devoted to the celebration of Beatrix Potter's famous Tales. The show starts with a five-minute film about the life of the author (1866-1943); you then walk through an exhibition which brings the Tales to life (with 3-D models of Peter Rabbit, Mrs Tiggy Winkle, Jeremy Fisher et al) and incorporates the sights, sounds and even the smells of the countryside. Admission for adults is pounds 2.99; for children pounds 1.99.

Where: World of Beatrix Potter, Crag Brow, Bowness-on-Windermere, Cumbria (01539 488444).

When: daily from 10am-5.30pm.

47

BUDLEIGH SALTERTON, Devon

Once the haunt of Noel Coward and PG Wodehouse, Budleigh Salterton - even the name seems to evoke the 1930s - still has a delightful old- fashioned atmosphere, with its tiny, family-run shops and quaint thatched museum showing exhibits on local archaeology and history. Outdoor pursuits include picturesque river walks and coastal paths; alternatively there's fishing, birdwatching and strolling on the pebble beach. Tourist information: 01395 445275.

How to get there: regular buses run from Exeter.

Top tip: explore the nearby birthplace of Sir Walter Raleigh and the scenic gardens of Bicton Park (five miles). ANGLER'S REST, Fingle Bridge, Devon

Nestling at the edge of Dartmoor, next to a famous 16th-century packhorse bridge in a magical spot by the River Teign, this picture-perfect little pub has waterside picnic tables and an airy cafe feel. There are miles of paths to explore in the woods around.

Where: near Drewsteignton, Devon (01647 281287).

Open: 11am-11pm; 11am-10.30pm Sunday.

What to do nearby: follow the path to Castle Drogo, Sir Edwin Lutyens' extraordinary 20th-century 'castle'.

Top tip: beware the spectral hound.

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L'EREE BAY, Guernsey

Rockpoolers will appreciate this sheltered sandy beach for its reefs, while explorers will enjoy the link with the tiny Lihou Island, reached across a cobbled causeway. The beach is fairly popular but rural, and the Catioroc nature trail is nearby, following part of the ancient Kings' Highway. Contact the Guernsey Tourist Board on 01481 723552.

Where: access via La Route de Plaisance or from the west coast road.

Food, drink, toilets: there are two cafes opposite the sands, ice-cream vans in the car park and a hotel nearby. Toilets are at the top of the beach.

Top tip: Swept daily during summer, this beach is as clean as they come.

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CHISWICK EXTRAVAGANZA

A festival for both children and adults, this features the Colourfools clown show and the storyteller Sir Lupin of Pipwithers, as well as performances from Sir Wilfred the Brave and the Living Daylights, and an imaginative- sounding fantasyentitled Sharon on the Planet Zog. There's no admission charge, and there are plenty of other open-air musical and artistic goings-on.

Where: in the grounds of Chiswick House, Burlington Lane, W4.

When: 31 August, from 2pm to 6pm.

Contact: Hounslow Community Services on 0181 862 6551.

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