She-Wolves, By Helen Castor

A masterful account of Elizabeth I's predecessors

The island that came out of nowhere

It isn't on the map, no one knows what to call it, and it could vanish at any moment. John Lichfield visits L'île Mystérieuse

Dordogne: Saddle up on the scenic route

Armed with a riding hat, Michael Kallenbach meanders through the rolling French countryside

The Captive Queen, By Alison Weir

Despite the odd blast from nit-picking scholars, Alison Weir deserves the large and loyal popular following for her readable historical biographies. She seems set fair to tow them after her now that she has embarked upon historical novels about the same characters. But I can't help feeling that she has missed the celestial omnibus with The Captive Queen. Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122-1204) is the most fabulous (literally) of subjects.

Asian hornet on the way to prey on honeybees

Invasion of predators across Channel threatens massacre of bee colonies

A region rooted in gastronomy

At the brilliantly conceived and executed Musée Gallo-Romain in Périgueux, the the attraction of Aquitaine becomes evident. Even two millennia after the Romans arrived in this corner of Gaul, the motifs speak of a land of plenty, from fish to grapes (a welcome Roman innovation). And one of the many blessings of Périgueux is that you can wander through a town that is rooted in gastronomy.

A tale of two cities: Biarritz and Bayonne

Only eight kilometres apart and proudly individual, the cities of Biarritz and Bayonne revel in their rivalry

Traveller's Guide To: Wine journeys in Aquitaine

To get the full flavour of Aquitaine, explore the region’s vineyards – a chance to see the sites and pick up a few bottles along the way

Aquitaine events

* Set more or less at the meeting point of northern and southern Europe, Aquitaine’s variety of landscapes – from mountains to lush river valleys and an extensive coast – enjoy a particularly kind climate. All of which means there are celebrations based around food, culture and sport throughout the year. Head south to pretty Bayonne during Easter for the Bayonne Ham Fair (1-4 April; bayonne-tourisme.com ; free), when the marketplace by the River Nive (pictured) becomes festooned with some of France’s best pork products, preserved with the highly prized local salt. Inland in northern Aquitaine, the town of Nontron stages a most eccentric fete on 18 April. Le Carnaval des Soufflets ( soufflaculs.net ; free) is a festival of bellows, for which townsfolk dress in nightshirts and parade the main street blowing bellows at each other and into the air while singing nonsensical songs in Occitan. The tradition dates back to medieval days and symbolises purification and the explusion of bad spirits.

Saddle up for a French adventure

Head for the hills and the beauty of Aquitaine’s landscape will soon reveal itself

Aquitaine: travel essentials

Getting there

* Connections between the UK and Aquitaine have never been better. The main air hub is Bordeaux’s Mérignac airport (00 33 5 56 34 50 50; bordeaux.aeroport.fr ), 10km west of the city centre; the JetBus departs every 45 minutes for the city centre. Bordeaux is served by easyJet (0905 821 0905; easyjet.com ) from Gatwick, Luton, Liverpool and Bristol; British Airways (0844 493 0787; ba.com ) from Gatwick; Bmibaby (09111 545454; bmibaby.com) from Manchester; Flybe (0871 700 2000; flybe.com ) from Southampton and Birmingham; and Ryanair (0871 246 0000; ryanair.com ) from Edinburgh.

Watersports: Welcome to a 'land of water'

Aquitaine’s aquatic options include canoeing, canal boats and lily gardens

Hole lot of fun: golf in Aquitaine

Golf has been played in Aquitaine for more than 150 years – and now’s the time to join the club

Gateways to Aquitaine

Pau and Bergerac

Made in Aquitaine: a guide to local crafts

In a small workshop behind the square in Bages, a wine village in Pauillac, Pierre Eveillard is hard at work. A wooden table slopes away in front of him; on it is a flat base, into which tall wicker stalks have been attached, the beginnings of a basket suitable for bread. Tables all around the workshop display other wicker products, all for sale, and made by Pierre and his colleague Carine Koffmann, ranging from egg cups at €5 to large linen baskets priced at €200. Bundles of twigs from 40 different types of willow are propped up all around the workshop, while others are soaking, which softens them up in readiness for the weaving process.

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Prices correct as of 23 January 2015
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