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News & Advice

My Life in Travel: Emily Woof, actress

'I love walking in the Lake District'

First holiday memory?

Because my dad only took one day off a year at Christmas, we didn't really have holidays when I was a kid. My parents told me that they once tried to do a camping trip when I was a baby, but I got measles so we couldn't go. Our only family holiday was in a deserted valley just behind Ullswater that was full of wild deer. Someone had lent my parents a very old hunting lodge and I remember that it was full of candlesticks that were made out of deer's legs; it was quite gothic. It was April and it snowed and my dad got 'flu.

Best holiday?

In New York with Hamish [McColl], years before we got married. We stayed at the Paramount Hotel and we were just stunned by the experience. We drank Bloody Marys and went ice-skating in Central Park; we felt we were at the centre of the universe – it was magical.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

The North-east coast, between Alnmouth and Berwick-upon-Tweed. It has an emptiness to it that I love.

What have you learnt from your travels?

No matter where you go, you always take yourself with you. I think it's the people that matter, not the place.

Ideal travelling companion?

There's not a particular person, but it would be someone with whom I feel very relaxed and excited at the same time.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

Now I have children I spend a lot of time on beaches, but sadly not bumming around. It's quite industrious – building sandcastles and body-boarding. I don't get the chance to lie around.

Greatest travel luxury?

What sort of travel luxury does one need – silk knickers? For me I think it's probably money.

Holiday reading?

I don't read so much now, but I did manage to read a selection of Zen Koans on a recent holiday in Cornwall. They're about Zen Buddhism and are pretty short which is why I managed to read them.

Where has seduced you?

India; Tamil Nadu in particular. I went when I was 17 and it was such a life-changing experience that it has stayed with me. I was there for about three months and then I travelled around, exclusively on epic bus journeys, and ended up in Nepal. There were some near-death experiences but it was just incredible.

Better to travel or arrive?

Definitely to travel; I like being in motion. If I get stuck when I'm writing, I'll sometimes get on a train; I like feeling the land passing by and it can be quite inspiring. However, with children, arriving is definitely better.

Worst travel experience?

Hiking alone in the Himalayas and being told by someone I passed on a path that there was a man-eating tiger in the vicinity. I wasn't sure if it was a joke or not and I walked on in terror for the next two days.

Worst holiday?

A hotel in Jamaica that was exclusively for couples. There were lots of couples-oriented events and entertainment and a perimeter fence, so it felt a bit like being in prison.

Worst hotel?

A little place near Stroud in the Cotswolds where they welcomed dogs. When I was staying, there were 20 dogs, which was too many for me.

Best hotel?

The Paramount in New York. Hamish and I were just in awe of the Philippe Starck interiors and the glamour of it all.

Favourite walk/swim/ride/drive

My favourite walk is Helvellyn in the Lakes. I first walked it when I was about six and it's something I do regularly; I love its wide expanse. I remember learning at an early age that you could land a plane there, which stunned me for some reason. My favourite swim is also in the Lakes, in a small pool in a valley called Greenburn.

Best meal abroad?

At a Mexican cantina in Santa Barbara, California. It's just a little shack and very cheap but it's renowned – the food was incredible.

First thing you do when you arrive somewhere new?

Open the windows and then go for a walk.

Dream trip?

To horse-ride across Uzbekistan. I can't horse-ride, but this is a dream!

Favourite city?

New York, for my fond memories and also the instant buzz you get there.

Where next?

To Edinburgh for the book festival and then Wastwater in the Lakes for a family holiday and then maybe Uzbekistan – who knows?

Emily Woof will be appearing at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on Monday 16 August at 6pm (edbookfest.co.uk).