The 50 Best; WHERE TO GO TO GET; AWAY THIS AUTUMN

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The Independent Culture
As summer turns to autumn, and thoughts turn to the cold months ahead, what better way to pass the time than to plan a long weekend away from the increasingly chilly 9-5? Over the next eight pages, our expert panel of travel writers suggests some of the possibilities - close to home, and further afield - including information on the best travel deals of the moment. Compiled by Charlotte Packer and Sam Wallace, with additional research by Eve Gee

THE PANEL: this week's expert panel was made up of Independent travel writers, led by Simon Calder and Harriet O'Brien.

NOTE: WHILE EVERY EFFORT HAS BEEN MADE TO CHECK ALL THE DETAILS OF THE 50 BEST, READERS ARE ADVISED ALWAYS TO RING VENUES BEFORE SETTING OUT.

READERS WHO WISH TO SUGGEST THEIR OWN 50 BEST IDEAS CAN WRITE TO: THE 50 BEST, THE INFORMATION, THE INDEPENDENT, 1 CANADA SQUARE, LONDON E14 5DL.

NEXT WEEK: TO MARK LONDON FASHION WEEK, OUR PANEL OF FASHION WRITERS, EDITORS AND DESIGNERS UNVEILS THE 50 BEST BRITISH FASHION MOMENTS.

1

GLASGOW

A weekend break should include at least one of the following: The Burrel Collection (medieval furniture to Impressionist paintings); a Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society tour of the Mackintosh buildings (including Hill House, above; 0141-946 6600); The Hunterian Museum & Art Gallery (dinosaur eggs to Scottish Colourists); or The Tenement House (which remains as it was left at the turn of the century).

How to get there: The ScotRail Sleeper Deal: from Euston or Watford, two can snooze to Glasgow for pounds 99 (0345-484950); 24-hour Glasgow Line 0839-337777.

Top tip: For a real taste of Glasgow, book in for a meal at The Ubiquitous Chip (0141-334 7109).

2

AMSTERDAM

Start your visit with a canal tour: some include visits to museums and diamond centres. Having got your bearings on the water, rent a bicycle and tour Amsterdam at your own pace. If you are planning to visit lots of museums and galleries, buy a day ticket for the Lovers Museum Boat (unlimited travel for 25 gelders; 00 31 20 622 21 81).

How to get there: easyJet (08706 000 000) has daily flights from Luton and Liverpool from pounds 71.20 return. Stena Line (0990 455 455) has a three- day Apex offer of pounds 49 return travelling by rail and ferry.

Top tip: Smoking cannabis is still illegal here. Only indulge in designated bars and coffee shops.

3

PORTMEIRION

This bizarre Italianate village was built in the Twenties by the architect Clough Williams-Ellis as an ideal community setting. The result is theatrical, gaudy and, in parts, beautiful - especially in crisp autumn sunshine. Stay at the Hotel Portmeirion (01766-7702280) - a two-night break including dinner, B&B costs pounds 80 per night and from 1 November you get three nights for the price of two.

How to get there: On the Ffestiniog Railway, a steam number that you board at Porthmadog (tourist office: 01766-512981).

Top tip: Also visit the whimsical gardens of Williams-Ellis's Brodnaw House a few miles away.

4

SHOPPING IN NEW YORK

Shopping musts include Bloomingdales, ABC, Barney's and Dean & DeLuca. Touristy musts include a return trip to Staten Island, and The Empire State at sunset, followed by cocktails at the Rainbow Rooms. Pop into the Met and take in a little culture: this autumn there is a Jackson Pollock retrospective. Autumn also signals the start of the opera season and the annual Film Festival.

How to get there: US Airtours (0181-559 2020) can get you there for pounds 253 on Virgin. They can also organise accommodation at pounds 80 per person per night.

Top tip: Don't eat at Carnegie Delicatessen & Diner. Once a classic, it's now a tourist trap.

5

BELFAST

On 7 November the world premiere of a musical tribute to Belfast-born writer CS Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia, is performed at the Waterfront Hall (01232-334400). From 13 to 29 November, Belfast stages one of the UK's finest festivals at Queen's University (01232-667687), with a wide range of music, ballet and drama.

How to get there: easyJet opens its new route from Luton to Belfast International Airport on 18 September; flights start at pounds 29 each way. For tourist information, call 0171-766 9920.

Top tip: Take the `Antrim Coaster' bus to the Giant's Causeway to view the famous basalt columns.

6

GAMBLING IN LAS VEGAS

Almost all the casinos here are also hotels, so once you've checked in, head straight for the Black Jack or Poker tables and try your luck. If gambling's not your scene, take a stroll along the strip, past Caesar's Palace - Roman ruins without the language problems - and The Luxor, a pyramid which fires laser beams. When you tire of the sleaze, head out to Red Rock Canyon, which is only 15 minutes' drive away but feels like another world.

How to get there: United Airlines fly via Washington for pounds 452 (Travelbag: 01420-88380).

Top tip: The tourist information centre on the Strip has all the latest on-the-spot accommodation deals.

7

NEW ENGLAND

Head for the countryside beyond Boston. New England is ablaze with reds, yellows and golds as the maple leaves prepare to flutter from their moorings. There are daily updates on local radio giving the state of the leaves and each state sets up special "leaf lines".

How to get there: We have become accustomed to autumn fares of pounds 200 or less to New York; the low prices have now spread up the coast to Boston. Try Bridge The World (0171-911 0900). For tourist information, call: 0891 600 530.

Top tip: This is the place to stock up on some of the world's best maple syrup.

8

BATH

With its elegant Georgian crescents and squares, pretty cafes and chi- chi shops, Bath is a perennial favourite for romantic breaks. Although the ever-present tourist buses can make it feel like a theme park, it remains relatively unspoilt. A weekend visit should include the Roman Baths Museum, and lunch or tea at The Pump Room followed by a tour of No1 Royal Crescent, one of Bath's finest houses.

How to get there: For train details, call 0345 484 950. Bath tourist office: 01225 477 101.

Top tip: Bargain-hunters should check out the weekend market at Walcot Street.

9

RENT A LUXURY COTTAGE

The Landmark Trust lets an intriguing selection of properties which range from follies to fortresses. Especially recommended are the castle on the Mull of Kintyre and the clocktower on the Exe estuary. The Rural Retreats catalogue has a selection of cottages and manor houses, some of which are truly remote, and The National Trust has lots of quirky locations to choose from.

How to get there: Landmark Trust (01628 825 925); The National Trust (0171-2229251); Rural Retreats (01386-701177); Cumbrian Cottages (01228- 599960).

Top tip: Book early as places get snapped up fast.

10

PARIS

Paris is beautiful regardless of the time of year or the weather. Forget the big sights for once and instead explore the maze of the Marais district where you will find the Picasso Museum.

How to get there: Simply Travel's Brief Encounters brochure has a number of packages, with prices from pounds 321 per person for three nights. Luxury deals which include travel on the Orient Express or tickets for the Opera House Garnier can also be arranged (0181-995 3883).

Top tip: A three-day museum pass costs only pounds 18 and allows free access to the permanent displays at more than 65 museums and galleries in the capital. 11

PRAGUE

Prague is magical in the autumn when morning mists and the low sun lend the city an unearthly feel. In October the fiery leaves on the trees in Petrin Park form a spectacular backdrop for the Italianate houses of Mala Strana. Take the funicular railway to the top of the hill for unbeatable views. From 8 to 10 October Prague hosts an International Jazz Festival.

How to get there: Simply Travel can arrange two nights at the Hotel Palace with return flights for pounds 388 from 27 October (0181-995 3883). Czech Airlines flies to Prague and autumn returns can be had for around pounds 220 from Stansted (0171-255 1898). For tourist information, call 0171-291 9920.

Top tip: A midnight stroll across the Charles Bridge is very romantic; frosty moonlit nights are best.

12

TEST CRICKET IN SYDNEY

Sports mad with money to burn? Take in a morning's cricket in Australia ... Leave London on Friday morning to arrive in Brisbane on Saturday evening. Next day you can catch the play at the First Test before hopping on the late afternoon flight which gets back to London early on Monday.

How to get there: Quest Worldwide (0181-547 3322) have Malaysian Airlines flights to Brisbane for pounds 629 in November. The winter series of charter flights from Austravel begin in October (0171-734 7755) and they are selling "scheduled out charter home" flights to fill the first inbound legs. On 4 and 18 of November, pounds 529 buys you a round trip to Brisbane on Britannia (01582 424155).

Top tip: Don't forget to take the sunblock.

13

BRILLIANT BLACKPOOL

Blackpool may not be on everyone's list of glamorous holiday spots, but for 8 million devotees it's a top weekend destination. And certainly, if you have a taste for the absurd, a love of kitsch and you're happy beside the seaside - whatever the weather - then now is the time to join the crowds: the city's famous illuminations were switched on last week and will continue to twinkle for "66 brilliant nights" until 8 November. Call 01253 478222 for recorded information.

How to get there: For details of trains to Blackpool, call 0345 484950.

Top tip: Make sure you pack your winter woollies and an umbrella for that evening promenade.

14

BILBAO

The arrival of the gleaming land-locked ship that is the Guggenheim museum has transformed beleaguered Bilbao into one of Spain's top destinations, and a visit to Frank Gehry's dramatic creation is a must. The architecture is guaranteed to astound, although the contents may not. Next up is a tour of the city's tapas bars and restaurants: the food is traditional Basque and salt cod is a speciality.

How to get there: STA (0171-361 6161) offers student returns for pounds 159 (non-student rate pounds 176) from Heathrow this October with British Airways. For tourist information, call 0171-486 8077.

Top tip: Go underground and head for the coast on Norman Foster's impressive metro system.

15

OXFORD

Peer down into grassy college quads and the Radcliffe Camera from the top of St Mary's Tower, stroll up beyond Port Meadow for a riverside lunch at The Trout and punt past the weeping willows of the Botanic Gardens. If it's raining, seek out shrunken heads in the Pitt Rivers Museum, browse through the shops and cafes of the Covered Market or sit it out in the Kings Arms or Turf pubs.

How to get there: The Oxford Tube bus costs pounds 7 return from London to Oxford, and leaves every 12 to 60 minutes, depending on the time of day (01865-772250). Tourist office: 01865-726871.

Top tip: For a romantic evening, eat at Gees (01865-558346), then find out details of events from a Daily Information poster, from any college lodge.

16

24 HOURS IN TOKYO

Start your adventure on the Yamanote line, Tokyo's overground answer to London's Circle Line. Shop in one of the following districts: Shinjuku (American-style malls, with noodle bars), Shibuya and Harajuku (fashion), Akihabara (electrical goods). You'll find peace and quiet at the Senso- ji Temple and Ueno Park at Aksakusa.

How to get there: Virgin flies direct to Tokyo and the Friday flight will get you to Narita at 9am on Saturday; return on Sunday morning. A weekend ticket will cost pounds 1,386, although cheaper deals such as Creative Tours' (0171-495 1775) pounds 769 return fare are available to those able to stay five days or more.

Top tip: Eat at "Tengu" izakaias, marked out by their "laughing mask" sign. The food is cheap and filling and there is an English version of the menu.

17

MUNICH: OKTOBERFEST

Munich's Oktoberfest claims to be the world's largest and most popular festival - even if its title is a touch misleading: the 1998 celebrations actually get under way towards the end of September. During the 17-day binge at least five million litres of beer - and many of the participants - will be drunk.

How to get there: Moswin Tours (0116-2714982) is organising travel packages from several British airports to Munich during the festival, and you can expect to pay a little over pounds 300 from London for two nights in a two-star hotel. For tourist information, call 0891 600100.

Top tip: Don't forget to pack the hangover cure.

18

CAMBRIDGE

Cambridge is easily toured on foot or by bicycle. Cultural musts include the Fitzwilliam Museum, for its excellent collections of Egyptian, Greek and Roman artefacts and marvellous paintings, and Kettles Yard, which is renowned for its impressive collection of 20th-century art, sculpture and ceramics. Kettles Yard is more than a museum, the collection and the house belonged to the assistant keeper of the Tate Gallery, Jim Ede, who left the house and contents to Cambridge University.

How to get there: For train details, call 0345 484950. For tourist information, call 01223 322640

Top tip: If you want to bob down the river, it's best to get someone to do the hard work for you and Trinity Punts will oblige.

19

NORMANDY

Normandy is famous for its Calvados and rich food. A tour of the region should involve at least one full- on feast. The hilly woodland of the Suisse Normand, which offers some of the most dramatic scenery in northern France, is ideal terrain to counteract the effects of all the indulgence and a walking holiday is the perfect way to enjoy Normandy over a weekend.

How to get there: Inntravel have a three-day, four-night walking tour in Normandy. It costs from pounds 224 per person and includes four nights' half board, three days' walking with picnic lunches, maps and notes, channel crossing for car and passengers, and luggage transported from hotel daily (01653 628862).

Top tip: Break in your walking boots before you set off. Blistered feet will not enhance your experience.

20

CHAMPAGNE WEEKEND

Champagne is synonymous with the luxury weekend, so instead of limiting yourself to one bottle, toast the autumn with a whole weekend's worth. Arblaster & Clarke have three autumn Champagne breaks to choose from and all include a guide, tastings, transport and accommodation; prices range from pounds 259 to pounds 409. If that doesn't sound luxurious enough, you could always sign up for Arblaster & Clarke's pounds 829 whistle-stop tour of Bordeaux, which includes wine tasting and lunches at various chateaux.

How to get there: Arblaster & Clarke (01730-893344).

Top tip: The beaches of Arcachon are 45 minutes away on the train from Bordeaux and will be less crowded - although chillier too - out of season.

21

DIVING IN THE RED SEA

The Red Sea offers some of the finest diving in the world. Fly out on a Thursday evening and spend the next two days floating your way to total relaxation: the underwater sights are as beautiful as the resorts are an eyesore. The Red Sea is also ideal for snorkelling.

How to get there: Egyptair (0171-734 2395) flies from London to Hur Ghada and Sharm el Sheikh via Cairo. Return flights for October are pounds 465 and pounds 473 respectively. Explorers Tours (01753-681999) organise package holidays which start at pounds 295 for travellers able to stay for seven nights or more. For tourist information, call 0171-493 5282.

Top tip: You must allow for a 24-hour break between your last dive and your flight home.

22

LONDON

Autumn is particularly good in London because most of the tourists will have gone and areas like the West End are easier to navigate. Places to visit include the major galleries: the Royal Academy exhibition "Picasso: painter and sculptor in clay" (17 September to 27 December; details on 0171-300 8000) brings together a selection of 175 of the great man's ceramics from the South of France.

How to get there: For train details, call 0345 484950. For a truly stylish stay, try Blakes Hotel, 33 Roland Gardens, SW7 (0171-370 6701). Also, check the deals at the Covent Garden Hotel (0171-806 1000).

Top tip: The best view of London is from the middle of Waterloo Bridge in the evening. 23

LIVERPOOL

The opening of Paul McCartney's house by the National Trust; three shows at the Tate ("The Spirit of Cubism", for which the Tate has dusted down its entire collection of Cubist art and allowed it out of London for the first time; "Modern British Art"; and "Urban"); the collection at The Walker Art Gallery, and, of course, the lively night life make Liverpool an excellent choice for a weekend away.

How to get there: By rail: Virgin Value (0345-222333) costs pounds 19 return from London. The now infamous Adelphi has good weekend rates starting at pounds 87 for two (0151-709 7200). For tourist information, call 0151-708 8854.

Top tip: Don't forget to take a ferry across the Mersey while you're there.

24

MEXICO

Halloween weekend is the time to arrive in Mexico, as this is when the country embarks on one of its most important celebrations: The Day of the Dead. Expect a carnival atmosphere as families gather together to remember their loved ones, baking them traditional foods. The streets are lit with thousands of tiny skull-shaped candles, and sugar skeletons and skulls are on sale in every shop and on every corner.

How to get there: Travelbag (01420 88380) organises flights for pounds 523 on American Airlines to Mexico City via Miami or Dallas.

Top tip: Visit the Anthropological Museum - one of the finest in the world and an excellent introduction to Mexico's disparate cultures.

25

ISTANBUL

For last-minute sunshine before winter sets in, head for Turkey. Istanbul is a fascinating synthesis of Christian and Eastern culture: the Aya Sofya mosque in the centre of town was a church for 800 years until its conversion in 1453; now the domed building, famous for its mosaics, is a museum. North of Aya Sofya is the Topkapi Palace, where you can visit the kitchens that fed the administrators of an empire. If this makes you hungry, try the local speciality, "manti" - meat-filled ravioli covered in oil and yoghurt - in one of the restaurants in the Sulthanamet area.

How to get there: If you travel after 21 September, Turkish Airlines (0171-766 9300) will get you to Istanbul for pounds 230. Tourist information: 0171-629 7771.

Top tip: Try the local brew, an aperitif called "raki", which is similar to ouzo and served with ice.

26

ENGLAND'S NEW ENGLAND

Can't make it to Boston for the Fall? No problem. Head south and explore the New Forest when it is at its autumn best. The New Forest Centre (01703 282269) in Lyndhurst is open every day 10am to 6pm. There are B&Bs everywhere and camping-site details in the New Forest Camping brochure.

How to get there: Trains run from Waterloo via Brockenhurst to Bournemouth, Poole and Weymouth. Explorer tickets on Stagecoach/ Hampshire buses are pounds 4.25/pounds 2.10.

Top tip: Lyndhurst's St Michael and All Angels Church has the grave of the woman who inspired Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland.

27

ST PETERSBURG

St Petersburg is a city made up of wedding cakes, of which the Hermitage is the biggest - and it has just re-hung the recently restored Danae by Rembrandt, to accompany its paintings by Rubens and Van Dyck. Visit the Winter Palace at the western end of Nevskiy Prospeckt. South of the palace is the popular St Nicolas Cathedral, a fine example of Russian baroque in blue. For a more tranquil afternoon in the city, visit Pushkin's Apartment and the poet's library of 4,500 books.

How to get there: STA Travel has flights with Air France from Heathrow via Paris at pounds 255 for students and pounds 291 non- students.

Top tip: Don't change your cash for roubles just yet.

28

ST DAVID'S

St David's is the smallest city in the UK, which makes it the perfect low-key city break. There are lots of good walks to be had along its wide, clean beaches. For a bracing half-day trek, take the coastal path from Porthclais round the peninsula to St Justinian, from where you can pick up the road back to St David's. For an adventure on the sea, Thousand Island Expeditions (01437 721686) offers a range of boat tours, from two-hour specials on speed boats to trips around the RSPB sanctuary of Ransey Island. You can rent mountain bikes from Coastal Trader in the main square.

How to get there: Call GWR on 0345-000125 to book either Apex (pounds 28) or Super Advance (pounds 38). For tourist information, call 01437 720392.

Top tip: Pack wet-weather gear.

29

PORTO

Porto is the port capital of the world, and no visit is complete without a tour of the port wine houses on the South bank of the River Douro. You can cross the river on the Ponte Dom Luis bridge to the Vila Nova de Gaia suburb, where most of the wine lodges offer free tasting and tours of the factory. The Museu Nacional Soares dos Reis, Portugal's first national museum, is worth visiting for its collection of 18th- and 19th-century paintings.

How to get there: Air Portugal (0171-828 0262) offers flights for pounds 154 with a free Avis car for three days. Tourist information: 0171-494 1441.

Top tip: Don't forget to visit the lively glass-domed Bolhao market near the city centre.

30

THE COTSWOLDS

The Cotswolds are worth a visit whatever the time of year, but autumn is best if you want to avoid the crowds. If you have a car, it's worth staying somewhere like Bibury, reputedly Britain's prettiest village, and using this as a base from which to explore. You could also hire bikes or book a walking weekend.

How to get there: Bibury Court Hotel (01285 740337) has weekend breaks from pounds 130 per person. Cotswolds Walking Holidays (01242 254353) has seven- day packages from pounds 225 per person with accommodation. Compass Holidays (01242 250642) offers three-day/two-night cycling holidays with accommodation for pounds 81 per person. Bike hire is an additional pounds 49.

Top tip: A cycling helmet and gloves are advisable.

31

MARRAKESH

Marrakesh has none of the louche fame conferred on its neighbour Casablanca by Humphrey Bogart. North of the Royal Palace are the "souks", alleys and squares devoted to a variety of crafts. At the northern end of the souks are the Ben Youssef mosque and medersa, famous for their carved wood and stuccowork. The Jardin Majorelle is one of the most popular gardens in the city; the 12-acre site is owned by designer Yves Saint Laurent and the entrance is off Av. Yacoub el Mansour.

How to get there: Morocco Made to Measure (0171-235 2110) has an autumn special at the five-star La Manounia Hotel. The "Pampering Treat" is pounds 738 per person, including flights, massages, manicures and a ride in a carriage.

Top tip: Have a "hamman", a Turkish steam bath.

32

HEALTH FARMS

Health farms aren't always about starvation and exercise: plenty offer a range of beauty treatments and most have good weekend deals. Champneys (01442 291111) offers singles for pounds 200 per person per night. Guests can use the pool and gym or take archery classes or country walks. Ragdale Hall (01664 434831) has a three-night package for pounds 306 per person, while Grayshott Hall (01664 653169) offers medical consultations and mountain bikes from pounds 170 per person per night.

How to get there: Champneys is in Wiggington on the A41 near Tring; Ragdale Hall is on the B676, 25 minutes from Leicester; Grayshott Hall is 12 miles south of Guildford on the A3.

Top tip: Don't forget to pack the Mars Bars.

33

GALWAY

The oyster season started 1 September and will continue until April. In Ireland the season kicks off with the Galway International Oyster Festival, from 24 to 27 September, a chance to guzzle Guinness and oysters (over 100,000 Native Oysters will be consumed by happy festival goers), and see competitors wrestle with unfortunate bivalves to establish a world champion oyster opener. If you can't make it for the festival, Galway is still worth a visit for the fantastic seafood and, once the fuss of the festival has died down, it's the perfect spot for a quiet weekend away from it all.

How to get there: Oyster festival (00 353 91 527 282). For festival accommodation packages, call Ireland's Festivals and Events on (00 353 1 497 4037). Aerlingus (0645-737747).

Top tip: Book today if you want to go to the festival.

34

BERLIN

In autumn Berlin comes alight: first there's the Oktoberfest, an excuse to drink vast quantities of lager and gorge sauerkraut and sausage; next up is the International Film and Video Festival (not to be confused with the glitzy winter Berlinale), which celebrates the alternative scene; then there's the long-running JazzFest Berlin, 4 to 8 November.

How to get there: BA flies direct to Berlin and STA has flights for pounds 179 (0171-361 6161). AB Airlines has flights from pounds 102 (0800-45 88 111). For tourist information call 0891-600 100 or 0171-317 0908.

Top tip: Tacheles at Oranienbuergertor station in east Berlin is a bombed out ruin now home to a troupe of performance artists who have buried a bus in their back garden. Admission is free. 35

STOCKHOLM

This year's Cultural Capital of Europe, Stockholm is where the action is if you're a keen culture vulture. Exhibitions and events straddle all the arts, from painting and sculpture to photography, music and theatre. In addition, Stockholm is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful cities in Europe not least because of its dramatic location: perched on 14 islands divided by lakes, rivers and the Baltic.

How to get there: Norvista Travel (0171-439 7334) offers a two-night break at Hotel Sjofartshotellet for pounds 32 per person. If you book before end of September, you can take advantage of Finnair's pounds 126 return deal. For tourist information, call 0171-724 5868.

Top tip: Buy a Stockholm Card for free travel and entrance fees.

36

BRIGHTON

This is the ultimate saucy seaside destination. Not only is the night life getting groovier, with bars, clubs and restaurants springing up, but the daylight activities of shopping, shopping and shopping are excellent. Start your day with a tour of The Lanes (antique shops, clothes boutiques and some excellent restaurants), and then move on to North Laine for more of the same. At the weekends there are several flea markets worth trawling. Then there is the beach, and, of course, a trip to The Palace Pier is a must.

How to get there: For trains call 0345-484950. For tourist information, call 01273 292599.

Top tip: Don't forget to buy a sickly stick of stripy rock.

37

THAILAND TREKKING

Chiang Mai is a relaxed northern outpost that has become the main point of departure for those wishing to trek during their stay in Thailand. If you want to get away from all those Alex Garland wannabees in the south and spend some quality time with the Akha and Lahu tribes around the Golden Triangle, this is the place to go.

How to get there: Internal flights from Bangkok to Chiang Mai take about an hour. Thomas Cook Flights Direct offers a Quantas return with no minimum stay for pounds 569 during October. The internal flight is pounds 55.

Top tip: The local sport is takraw, a variant of volleyball. The locals love a challenge, especially from British travellers determined to restore honour to their own national sport.

38

ST ANDREWS GOLF

This fourth-century town with its medieval layout is the world centre of golf and home to the sport's governing body. The British Golf Museum (01334 478880) at the Royal and Ancient Golf Club opened in 1990 and is dedicated to British golf and its influence on world golf. For a round at the fabled Old Course you need to have a handicap and belong to a golf club. The waiting list is long but there are five other courses where prices range from pounds 16 to pounds 31 in October.

How to get there: Call British Rail on 0345-484950.

Top tip: For a game of golf on any of the courses book at least a month in advance.

39

THE BLUE LAGOON, ICELAND

There's no better hot tub in the world than Iceland's bubbling Blue Lagoon, a vast cauldron of geothermal waters just outside Reykjavik. Tours to the Lagoon cost from pounds 34 and are available year round. From May until October you can take a horseback tour of the surrounding countryside or a super-Jeep day trip around Iceland's interior.

How to get there: Icelandair has some excellent autumn deals: in September, weekend packages from London or Glasgow start at pounds 299 per person, including flights, hotels, half board and transfers. Call Icelandair (0171-388 5599).

Top tip: If you're in search of night life, Friday and Saturday nights are party times in Reykjavik.

40

GUY FAWKES NIGHT IN LEWES

The attractive East Sussex town of Lewes comes into its own on Guy Fawkes Night. Local bonfire societies parade through the steep, narrow streets, dressed outrageously and carrying flaming torches. Towns-people down cups of hot punch, then join the procession to the massive bonfires and fireworks displays just beyond the town centre.

How to get there: Contact Tourist on 01273 483448. Direct trains run from London Victoria (0345 484950) twice an hour and take about an hour (pounds 18 standard return). Alternatively, take the bus from Brighton (01273 474747).

Top tip: The streets are hard to negotiate at any time of year, so leave the car behind or park outside the centre and walk in.

41

THE HIGHLANDS

At this time of year, the midges finally disappear, and the Highlands become bearable again. If you're the sporty type, then a round trip across the Great Glen might be for you; otherwise, B&B hop your way around the area and take in the scenery with a few long walks. One of the best and most relaxing ways to survey the landscape is to travel from Fort William to Mallaig on the famous West Highland Line.

How to get there: The best deal is the sleeper to Fort William, pounds 99 through ScotRail's Autumn Gold promotion.

Top tip: Check the weather forecast before leaving on the West Highland Line, as there is nothing more disappointing than a misty, rain-spattered non-view.

42

ITALIAN FOOTBALL

The Italian football season kicks off this weekend, and World Cup stars Ronaldo, Del Piero and Marcelo Salas will be going back to their day jobs in the world's most famous league. A number of companies organise Italian football weekend packages. Prices vary according to fixture, but cost roughly pounds 320 per person for two nights. Big games this autumn are the Milan Derby (8 Nov), Juventus vs Inter Milan (25 Oct) and Lazio vs Roma (29 Nov).

How to get there: Try Fan Fare Events (0161-945 7800), Travel Editions Ltd (0171-251 0045).

Top tip: Football shirts are cheaper in Italy, but you still pay by the letter for the name on the back; hence 'Ronaldo' comes much cheaper than Ronaldo Luiz Nazario da Lima. 43

NEWCASTLE

Its reputation is founded on an industrial heritage and hard-drinking men, but there is more to this lively northern city than coal, strong beer and expensive footballers. First, the shopping - Newcastle not only has Europe's largest mall, the Metro Centre at Gateshead, but also the original holder of the title, too, the Grainger Market which opened in the early 1800s. On the cultural side, the Royal Shakespeare Company takes up residence at the Theatre Royal in September.

How to get there: The recently opened Malmaison offers weekend deals from pounds 75 for a double, or pounds 130 for two nights (0191-245 5000). Tourist information (0191-230 0030).

Top tip: Many clubs insist on dress codes so pack alternatives.

44

THE LAKE DISTRICT

Come rain or shine, the Lake District is a powerful tourist magnate. Even so, if you want a hearty weekend in the country with lots of traditional teas and hearty pub meals and you're prepared for a bit of walking you can lose the crowds. The main thing is to abandon the car once you've arrived. For a relaxed first encounter with the lakes, a cruise across Windermere is worth doing even though it may feel touristy.

How to get there: The Rothay Garden Hotel (015394 35334) from pounds 116 per person for two nights, and the Glen Rothay Hotel (015394 34500) from pounds 95 per person for two nights. Both offer autumn break specials.

Top tip: Don't forget to pack a volume of Wordsworth.

45

HONG KONG

Two words sum up a break in Hong Kong: the views. Visitors land at Chek Lap Kok which offers some stunning views of HK's lesser known greenery and National Parks. For only HK$2.30, you can float past the Hong Kong skyline to the terminus on Hong Kong Island, then take a 15 bus to the Victoria Peak train, on which, for HK$28, you can chug up the hill to see the skyline from the other side. The views of the bay and beyond are stunning at night.

How to get there: Travelbag has tickets with KLM from pounds 334 (0171-287 5558). If your budget is tight Ajit Guesthouse has clean air-conditioned doubles for as little as HK$170.

Top tip: A trip to the Portuguese Macau, the last European colony in Asia.

46

MANCHESTER

Join the 30 million visitors expected to head towards Trafford Centre in Manchester this year for the three miles of shopping malls. If you don't like big crowds you could go and watch Manchester City play (0161- 226 2224). Unfortunately tickets for United are more difficult to get, so a visit to the Manchester United museum (0161-877 4002) might be the closest you can get to the action. The In The City music festival is held in Manchester from the 12 to 16 September. Cypress Hill, Republica and Sinead Lohan will be appearing (0161-839 3930).

How to get there: Call British Rail on 0345 484950.

Top tip: Check with the AA (0336-401100) for traffic around Trafford Park. 47

THE THREE PEAKS OF YORKSHIRE

If you're fit and feeling energetic, you could attempt the Three Peaks Challenge: climb Pen-y-ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough. The average time is eight hours, but if you manage the hike within 12, you will be eligible to join the Three Peaks of Yorkshire Club at the Pen-y-ghent Cafe in Horton-in-Ribbelsdale (01729 860333). Recommended local hotels are the Crown Hotel (01729 860209) and the Golden Lion (01729 860206).

How to get there: Horton-in-Ribbelsdale station is only 300 yards from the Pen-y-ghent Cafe (0345 484950).

Top tip: If you forget your torch, compass and whistle, don't worry; the Pen-y-ghent Cafe stocks them all.

48

YORK

A weekend in York should include a day strolling through The Shambles to York Minster, a visit to Clifford's Tower and the museum Gardens, and refreshments at Yorkshire's famous chain of tea shops, Betty's. On the second day, drive up the A64 to Kirkham Abbey. Have lunch at the nearby pub, the Stone Trough, before returning to York via the Roman Road up to Castle Howard, of Brideshead Revisited fame.

How to get there: Trains (BR: 0345 484950) run every half hour from Kings Cross and take two hours (apex ticket pounds 37). National Express (0990 808080) runs a direct service.

Top tip: For a good-value meal, try 19 Grape Lane (01904 636366); dinner with wine around pounds 30 a head.

49

SARK

To get right away from it all, escape to Sark, the only feudal state in Europe. The tiny island (3 miles by 1.5 miles) is totally car-free; transport is of the four-legged, two-wheeled variety, or you can arrange to rent a bike when you buy your ferry tickets in Guernsey. Accommodation is plentiful for such a tiny island, but it's worth booking in advance.

How to get there: There are flights daily to Guernsey with British Airways/City Flyer Express (0345 222 111), and returns start at pounds 59. From Guernsey, you catch the ferry at Peter Port, and the crossing takes around 45 minutes. Tickets from Isle of Sark Shipping (01481 832450). For tourist information, call 01481 832345.

Top tip: Feast on seafood, but leave room for Sark cream on your dessert.

50

DUBLIN

Start your visit with a walk around Temple Bar, as Dublin's architecture is as much of a draw as its drinking opportunities. The oldest street in this warren of alleyways dates back to Viking times. Dublin's literary pub crawls are an institution; they start at The Duke, Duke Street, at 7.30pm (pounds 6 adults, pounds 5 students; 00 353 1 454 0228). The annual Dublin Theatre Festival runs from 5-17 October (00 353 1 677 8439).

How to get there: Students and under-26s can travel from Stansted with Aerlingus pounds 66 (mid-week non-student rate pounds 69, weekend pounds 78) through STA (0171-361 6161).

Top tip: If you must read some Joyce while you're here, Dubliners is a more realistic target than Ulysses.

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