Sometimes a jaunty day out can be as refreshing as a week on a sun-lounger. From historic exhibits to modern jazz, there's an outing here to suit everyone

Ben Nicholson, Kendal

'A Continuous Line: Ben Nicholson in England' until 20 September at Abbott Hall Art Gallery, Kendal, Cumbria LA9 5AL (01539 722464) Mon-Sat, 10.30am-5pm
Adults £5.45; under-18s and full-time students under 25, free
http://abbothall.org.uk

Abbott Hall Art Gallery in Kendal is celebrating a major coup: the opportunity to host the first major exhibition of Ben Nicholson's work in the UK for more than 14 years. Focusing on the artist's years in Britain between 1922 and 1958, A Continuous Line: Ben Nicholson in England juxtaposes his early works with later carved reliefs, abstract paintings, Cubist-inspired St Ives' masterpieces and still-life.

Curated by Chris Stephens, Tate Britain's Head of Displays, the exhibition emphasises Nicholson's role as one of the most radical British artists of the 20th century. It draws on the Tate's extensive holdings, as well as loans from public institutions. Some of his greatest pieces – held in private collections and rarely seen – are also on show.

'Scotland: A Changing Nation', Edinburgh

The National Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street, Edinburgh EH1 1JF(0131-225 7534)
Daily, 10am-5pm, free
www.nms.ac.uk

Irn Bru artwork in Russian and Arabic, Lulu's costume from her Relight My Fire performance with Take That, a Highland peat blower, suffragette brooch and a presentation trowel given to Kier Hardie.

It might seem like a rum selection, but these are just a few of the huge number of diverse artefacts that form a new gallery at the National Museum of Scotland.

Scotland: A Changing Nation is a collection of exhibits exploring 'the rich tapestry of what it means to be Scottish'. Grouped into five key themes – war, emigration, industry, entertainment and politics – each is brought to life by snippets of poetry, literature, film, music and interactive pieces.

Scots singer Amy McDonald recounts memories of childhood holidays in her homeland, while an east coast fishing family charts its fortunes, in two of the 25+ real-life accounts interspersed amongst the exhibits.

Torre Abbey, Torquay

Torre Abbey, The King's Drive, Torquay TQ2 5JE (01803 293593)
Mon-Sat, 10am-6pm
Adult £5.90; concessions £4.90; child (5-18 years) £2.50
www.torre-abbey.org.uk

The lost secrets of Torre Abbey are revealed with the re-opening of Torquay's oldest building, following a three-year, £6.5 million restoration project.

The largest surviving medieval monastery in Devon and Cornwall has been re-modelled as a visitor attraction that is now part gallery, part museum and part historic house. An added bonus is the hiFlyer hot air balloon in the grounds, offering a different perspective on the abbey.

Dating from 1169, Torre Abbey became the wealthiest Premonstratension monastery in England and was home to the austere Canon order. Today, some of its 122 rooms over 20 levels house the third-largest art collection in Devon. A new Torre Abbey Project Tour takes visitors in search of the secrets unearthed during the restoration and new exhibition areas reveal the lives of the Canons.

Torre suffered the same fate as all other monasteries during the Dissolution of 1539, when it lost all its brasses. But from this month it will house a collection of 60 replicas and has ambitions to become a major brass-rubbing centre in the UK. To revive interest in the craft, free materials are offered to anyone who wants to try.

'Lap the Lough '08', Northern Ireland

Lap the Lough '08, Castle Hill Cycling Club (07717 353268) 24th August
Entry fee: £20 in advance, £25 on the day
http://lapthelough.org

Get on your bike to register for a two-wheel tour through five counties in the third annual Lap the Lough cycling event, which takes place next month. Organised by the Castle Hill Cycle Club, Dungannon, the signposted route hugs the perimeter of Lough Neagh, starting at Kinnego harbour and travelling clockwise, taking in the counties of Armagh, Tyrone, Derry, Antrim and Down.

This is a cycle sportif not a race – it's just you pitting yourself against the distance. But at 140km (87 miles) it's not one for beginners. For novices who want to have a go next year, the website provides a 10-week training programme. Mostly flat, the route has regular water stops and a lunch break in the beautiful grounds of Antrim Castle, before heading back to Kinnago.

'Hadrian', British Museum, London

'Hadrian: Empire and Conflict', British Museum, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG (020-7323 8299)
24th July to 26th October
Daily, 10am-5.30pm: £12 for this exhibition, concessions available
www.britishmuseum.org

More than 180 objects from across the world will be brought together in a new exhibition at the British Museum, offering a fresh look at the life end legacy of Hadrian (117-138AD), one of Rome's most enigmatic emperors.

New loans of exquisite bronzes and architectural fragments, plus famous pieces from the Museum's own collection, such as the Vindolanda Tablets, aim to help visitors to look beyond traditional interpretations of the man. Most famous for his passion for culture, and architecture, for his Greek lover Antinous and for that famous wall he built between England and Caledonia, Hadrian was a man of great contradiction.

A ruthless military commander, ruler of an empire that included most of Europe, north Africa and western Asia, and brutal suppressor of dissent, he was also a homosexual and a champion of cultural tolerance. New finds and research from the current excavation of Hadrian's villa in Tivoli explore his most far-reaching legacy: his interest in innovative architecture.

Hadrian's patronage enabled the building of the Pantheon in Rome, and he designed his own magnificent residence to resemble his empire in miniature.

Guardians to the King, Colchester

'Guardians to the King: Terracotta Treasures from Ancient China', Castle Museum, Castle Park, Colchester (01206 282939)
19th July to 2nd NovemberMon-Sat, 10am-5pm; Sun, 11am-5pm
Adult £5.20; child (5 to 15), £3.40
http://colchestermuseums.org.uk

Colchester Castle Museum will welcome an army of 43 Chinese figures this month. The tiny terracotta treasures will be on display in the UK for the first time in the Guardians to the King exhibition, part of the Essex Jiangsu Festival.

The Festival (continuing until March 2009) celebrates the special 20-year relationship between the county and Jiangsu Province in China. The perfectly preserved miniatures, on loan from Xuzhou Museum, are 2,000 years old.

Soldiers, officials, dancers, musicians and cavalry horses, give a unique insight into the stories of the ancient Han dynasty.

Brecon Jazz Festival, Wales

25th Brecon Jazz Festival, Powys, Wales (01874 625875) 7th to 10th August; ticket prices vary
www.breconjazz.co.uk

The pretty market town of Brecon in Wales will be ringing to the sounds of jazz for four days in August, as the 25th anniversary of the Brecon International Jazz Festival takes over. Winner of the Best Major Event in the 2007 National Tourism Awards, the festival attracts top acts to perform in various venues in the beautiful setting of the Brecon Beacons National Park.

This year the Festival has invited back many performers who have helped make previous years such so successful.

Opening on Friday 7th August, a set from Brecon regular Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra will feature guest vocalists Marc Almond and Ruby Turner. On Saturday 8th July, you can catch Joan Armatrading, followed by Cerys Matthews, without even changing venue.

A special Stroller programme within the Festival allows you to buy a single ticket for a day or the weekend, so you can move from one venue to another, choosing from more than 60 Stroller events over the weekend.

Festival of History, Northampton

Festival of History, Kelmarsh Hall, Northampton NN6 9LY (0870 333 1183) 19th and 20th July; non-members: child from £9.50 and adult £17.50 for one day
www.festivalofhistory.org.uk

If the past is your passion and you can't resist a bit of re-enactment, then English Heritage's Festival of History is for you. Attracting thousands of people annually to celebrate two millennia of history, you can buy a day ticket or wade in for the weekend.

New for 2008 is Dropzone: D-Day – a spectacular dog fight between vintage Spitfires and German Messerschmitts, in which Hollywood special effects help create a full-on experience. The popular First World War Trench Experience returns, with a custom-built, life-size replica tank this year.

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