Paint the scenery

The wild coastline and scenery of County Clare is the setting for a series of art holidays at Burren College of Art (00 353 65 77200). The college is based at Ballyvaughan on the west coast of Ireland. It is running courses on painting, drawing and photography. A wildflower painting weekend in July costs £65, while a week of photography in June is £205. Accommodation is extra, costing around £30 per day for full board.

The combination of clear air, wilderness and sun low on the horizon make midsummer in Iceland ideal for nature photography. Photo Travellers (01483 425448) includes the island in its programme of photography courses. The two-week course starts on 12 July and costs £1,595. Other subjects include Petra in Jordan, South African wildlife and railways of the Scottish highlands.

The Edinburgh College of Art (0131-221 6111) is running a summer school during the city's International Festival in August. Options available include watercolour painting, life drawing, photography and bronze casting.

Dillington House (01460 52427), near Chard in Somerset, is a council- run residential college offering courses on calligraphy, Japanese silk painting and patchwork.

Dcoupage, the technique in which painted objects are further decorated by pictures cut from paper, is taught in Gloucestershire on a Dobshill Day Course in May or June. Call 01452 840231 for more details, and bring your own scissors.

In southern Europe, Elysian Holidays (0181-878 4778) is running a programme of arts and crafts courses on the Greek island of Evia, including pottery, woodwork and sculpture. The daily cost is around £70, covering full board and materials; flights to Athens are extra.

"Through Switzerland with Turner" is the title of a series of holidays organised by Art Horizons (01993 813311). The tours visit the locations that inspired the landscape artists, and follow the theme of the current Turner exhibition at the Tate Gallery in London.

In southwestern France, a British-run visual studies centre called Atelier de la Rose (00 33 65 24 66 36) offers summer schooling in drawing, painting and photography. Non-participating partners can stay free of charge.

The Art of Travel (0171-738 2038) is living up to its name with a sketching safari in Zambia and Zimbabwe. The artist Julia Cassels will lead the trip, which takes place in October and embraces the South Luangwa Valley and the Victoria Falls. The cost is around £2,500 including flights from London and all meals and drinks.

More possibilities are listed in the Painting Holiday Directory 1995, price £4.50 including postage from PHD Publications, PO Box 1, Ponteland, Newcastle NE19 2EB (01830 540319).

Traveller magazine is organising a travel painting competition, with a first prize of two first-class tickets to Australia. Application forms are available by sending an SAE to Traveller Painting Competition, Wexas International, 45 Brompton Road, London SW3 1DE.

Ho for Holland

Next weekend is National Museum Weekend in Holland, when many Dutch museums throw their doors open to the public for free and numerous events are staged. For further details, contact the Holland Information Line on 0891 200277, or write to the Netherlands Board of Tourism, PO Box 523, London SW1T 6NE.

News from NYC

The latest crime statistics show New York City is getting safer - murders have fallen to an average of four per day, and the subway is the venue for fewer than one a month. NYC has fallen to 47th place in the FBI's crime index of US cities.

Other aspects of the city are improving, too, according to the Convention and Visitors' Bureau (001 212 397 8222). Restaurant prices have fallen to their lowest level since the 1980s, with the average bill being $30 (about £18) including compulsory tax and semi-compulsory tip.

Once in the city, interactive information is available by dialling some easy-to-remember numbers; since UK phones do not have letters, the translations are shown in brackets: 777 FOOD (3663) for restaurants; 765 ARTS (2787) for Broadway shows; and 777 FILM (3456) for movies.

Three weeks tomorrow, cyclists get the once-in-a-year chance to enjoy a ride around New York in relative safety. The Great Five Boro Bike Tour begins at Battery Park, at the southern tip of Manhattan, and winds through all five NYC boroughs, ending up at Staten Island. Riders must register in advance on 001 212 932 0778 or e-mail to bikenyc@ pipeline.com. The ride is organised in aid of Hostelling International work in the city, and a special hostelling package (price around £22) can be booked on 001 212 932 2300 ext 219.

If you are able to go to New York before the end of April, United Vacations (0181-313 0999) is offering a spring weekend in the city for £299, including flights from Heathrow, weekend flight supplements and taxes.

Travel Bookshelf

Top 10 best-selling travel titles in March at The Travel Bookshop, 13 Blenheim Crescent, London W11 2EE (0171-239 5260):

1. Rough Guide to Morocco (Penguin, £9.99).

2. Time Out Guide to New York (Penguin, £8.99).

3. Sri Lanka: a Travel Survival Kit (Lonely Planet, £7.95).

4. Travellers' Survival Kit: Cuba (Vacation Work, £9.95).

5. London Market Guide (Metro Publications, £8.95).

6. Time Out Guide to Paris (Penguin, £8.99).

7. Time Out Guide to Madrid (Penguin, £8.99).

8. The Weather Prophet: a Caribbean Journey by Lucretia Stewart (Chatto & Windus, £14.99).

9. Caribbean Islands Handbook (Trade & Travel, £14.95).

10. The Red Guide to France 1995 (Michelin, £13.95).

Late availability

Evergreen Holidays (specialist holidays for the over fifties, 0114 272 2144): 22 April, Birmingham, Manchester Gatwick or Glasgow to Benidorm, seven nights self-catering, £119; 24 April, Manchester-Majorca, 12 nights B&B, £119.

Travel Club of Upminster (01708 225000): 22 April, Stansted-Majorca, 14 nights self-catering in Puerto Pollensa, £318.

Hotel Boat Voyages (01482 653757): 22 April, seven nights full board on vintage narrow boats sailing from Warwick to Oxford, £295.

Cosmos (0161-480 5799): 25 April, Gatwick-Dominican Republic, flight only, £299; 29 April, Gatwick-Malta, 14 nights self-catering, £179; 3 May. Birmingham-Rhodes, seven nights self-catering, £174.

Lunn Poly (01203 225888): 27 April, Bristol-Crete, 14 nights room-only, £169.

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