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Including two return East Coast train tickets to York and free entry to 30 top attractions

The breakfast room at Halford House

B&B And Beyond: Halford House, Gloucestershire

A homely ambience is complemented by hotel-standard style and service at this elegant guesthouse, says Kate Simon

Third of MPs 'slam House of Commons toilets'

A third of MPs are unhappy with the cleanliness of toilets inside the House of Commons, a study has revealed.

The White Swan Inn's dining room is an object lesson in refurb, with maroon walls, stone-flagged floor and room dividers in the form of folding screens

The White Swan Inn, Market Place, Pickering, North Yorkshire

Pickering in North Yorkshire is a country town with exactly the right sort of attractions: 12th-century castle; bustling steam railway; church with medieval wall paintings admired by Pevsner and, not least, a quietly handsome inn on the high street.

What caused the Bicester Twister?

Swirling vortex causes alarm in Oxfordshire but UK is no stranger to the phenomenon. Michael McCarthy reports

Fully functional: a 'Master House' in Dessau

On the trail of Bauhaus

Bauhaus architecture is being celebrated in a new exhibition at the Barbican in London. Fiona Dunlop travels to centralGermany to see where it all began

La Torre del Visco, Aragón

The Big Six: Rural retreats in Spain

Le Domaine, Castilla y León

Ghostly: The dining-room is a whiter shade of pale

Adam Simmonds, Danesfield House Hotel and Spa, Henley Road, Marlow-on-Thames, Bucks

Late-night visitors to Marlow have often been shocked by the chilling apparition of the Grey Lady of Danesfield Park, a solemn-faced ghost holding a lantern, who glides around where the chapel once stood, before disappearing. We had a broadly similar experience on driving into the hotel grounds – seeing the chilling apparition of Danesfield House, a great white whale of a late-Victorian Gothic folly looming in front of you like Moby Dick. It's an extraordinary sight, with its tall chimneys, its clock tower and elaborately terraced gardens, and it carries an air of melancholy – the result, perhaps, of too many owners, speculators and changes of use. It was built in 1899 by the heir to the Sunlight soap fortune, who sold it the moment it was finished. It housed evacuees in the war and was requisitioned by the RAF. It was once home to the Hellfire Club of Medmenham, a bunch of crazed desperadoes from the nearby village. Since 1991 it's been a hotel. And in the past four years, it's picked up a reputation as home to one of the country's finest chefs, Adam Simmonds.

Being Modern: Foraging

As anyone who has studied those academically certified case histories of Stone Age man, The Flintstones and Captain Caveman, will know, foraging has been going on since prehistory. Bish-bash-bosh with the club and you've got a larvely bit of woolly mammoth for tea.

Harriet Walker: 'It's time to welcome in the spirit of spring'

Nothing beats that moment of transition from winter to spring: waking up to curtain-filtered sunshine and the first time you leave your coat behind. It's breathing in the smell of foliage and flowers rather than air so cold it sears the back of your nose. It's walking because you want to, not just when you have to. And it's eating rowdily and outside, enjoying the bacchanalia that good weather affords instead of slurping like hunched medieval kings in the day-long gloaming, wiping your hands on your dressing-gown.

Prime Minister David Cameron during a reception at 10 Downing Street yesterday. Former Labour minister Jack Straw said the Tories were prepared to evade rules stating that donors must be registered to vote in the UK

Matthew Norman: How much must the PM have to offer if he's worth £250,000 a pop?

At his age, the shock might have killed him. Straight up, Rupert Murdoch could have gone out like a light on learning that the rich and powerful can buy access to a Prime Minister. So praise be that his naive heart survived the epiphany, sparing him to confide his thoughts on the latest demi-scandal bedecked with the scintillatingly fresh suffix of "-gate". "What was Cameron thinking?" he tweeted. "No one, rightly or wrongly, will believe his story."

Matthew Norman: Surely Cameron is in line for a Michelin star?

If the PM's genius is worth £250,000 a pop, he must make Heston Blumenthal look like the Crossroads chef

Simon Kelner: Hospitality is just not the forte of the British

I was in Manchester last night, on an intensely private matter. Oh, all right, I was at a football match. Anyway, I was staying at the city centre hotel where I am a regular visitor. In the relatively short time I have patronised this establishment, it has changed names – and, I assume, ownership – three times, and in its latest incarnation it went from a hotel with a short, memorable name – just four letters – to one with a cumbersome, Americanised moniker – three words, 18 letters.

Five-minute memoir: Grant Gordon on how a Doctor Who heroine saved his dad

The Mini Clubman may be the iconic era-defining car of the Swinging Sixties, but it was the Austin 1100 which was the speedy, reliable compact car of choice for less groovy folk across the country.

Run wild: the Martinhal Resort

Where children are guests, not pests

Once upon a time, the most stylish accommodation was always the least child-friendly. No longer. Europe now has plenty of chic hotels for all ages

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Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
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Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
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Mrs Brown's Boy: D'Movie has been a huge commercial success
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Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
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How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
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Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?