HOTEL DEPARTURES

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The Independent Travel
Hilton hotels (0800 856 8000) All 41 UK hotels in this chain (from Bath to London, Warwick and Edinburgh) are running weekend offers. These include three-night specials costing pounds 22.68 per person per night, and four nights for the price of three (excluding London).

Thistle Hotels (0800 33 22 44). Children under 16 can stay for free if they share a room with two adults, under sixes also get free meals. Other special deals include pounds 42 a night at the Strathallan and Apollo hotels in Birmingham - breakfast and free admission to the Cadbury World Experience are part of the offer. At Liverpool's Atlantic Tower, pounds 83 for two nights' B&B also takes in a Magical Mystery tour of Beatles sights. Throughout September, tours of Buckingham Palace can be made from the Royal Westminster and the Grosvenor hotels in London. Prices for two nights' accommodation start at pounds 159. In Manchester, Coronation Street fans can pay pounds 100 for two nights' B&B at the Portland Hotel and get a day ticket to the Granada Studios.

Those looking for a break in the fast lane should head for Donington, where two nights at the Brands Hatch Thistle costs pounds 210, while one night at the Donington Thistle is pounds 140 - both prices include breakfast and dinner and the chance to do some racing driving at Brands Hatch or Donington Park Racing Circuit. If you're after a more peaceful time, try Sutton Coldfield's New Hall, a 12th-century moated manor house where 20th-century champagne breaks cost pounds 110 per person (the price is for one night and includes champagne reception, four-course dinner with wines, and breakfast). Meanwhile at Stratford-upon-Avon, the Arden hotel has a two-night theatre package starting at pounds 145. This includes a visit to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, a visit to Anne Hathaway's Cottage, a five-course candlelit dinner and a four- course pre-theatre dinner as well as breakfast.

Forte hotels (0345 404040). A "Weekaway" deal offers 20 per cent off stays of five nights or more during September and October at more than 90 of Forte's 160 UK hotels (from large "Heritage" hotels to coaching inns and modern, family-oriented Posthouses). From 25 October to 3 November, Family bonus breaks - two children under 16 stay free in their parents' room - are available at a number of Forte Posthouses.

Queens Moat Houses (01325 509955). At Oakley Court in Windsor, a Family Weekend costs pounds 208 per adult and pounds 58 per child when children share their parents' room. The offer includes two nights' half-board accommodation and entry to Legoland and Windsor Castle. Oakley Court has been a suitably spooky location for hundreds of horror films and it now arranges a special Halloween Weekend on 2 and 3 November. The cost of pounds 149.50 per person for two nights' and breakfast includes a themed dinner followed by a screening of horror movies throughout the night.

Meanwhile at the Blackwell Grange Hotel in Darlington you can take a step back in time to the early 1900s. On a History Weekend you get a chance to ride a tram, see how pitmen and farmers worked, go down a coal mine, explore the old shops, and visit the Beamish Open Air Museum. The cost is pounds 114 per person for two nights' half board.

Swallow hotels (0191 419 4545). Special autumn "Breakaways" cost between pounds 110 and pounds 116 for two nights at any of the 35 hotels in this chain - from the top-of-the-range Swallow Hotel in Birmingham to the Three Tuns, a former 16th-century coaching inn in Durham.

Alexandra Cockburn

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