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News & Advice

My life in travel: Ruth Jones, actress and screenwriter

'It took one bus ride to fall in love with India'

First holiday memory?

A family holiday in San Antonio, Ibiza. My parents rented a villa, which was quite posh for the time. I remember constant sunshine, trying chocolate ice cream for the first time and taking water tablets before every meal.

My younger sister Maria was born soon after, so it was camping holidays from then on. Going to France was the best because of the novelty of being in a foreign country: baguettes, glorious beaches and travelling on the ferry.

Best holiday?

India. I keep going back because it's such a gorgeous country. I've been to Kerala, Mumbai and Goa and I'm going back again next year.

Favourite drive?

A bus ride on my first trip to India through Kovalam in Kerala. The journey through the villages to our hotel was incredible – seeing all the brightly coloured saris rush past the window, the cattle and auto rickshaws on the road, the local people smiling at us and life going on everywhere. I fell in love with India there and then.

Favourite place in the British isles?

Inverkirkaig in the Scottish Highlands. My husband, David, discovered it as a student in the Seventies and I've since fallen in love with it, too. It's so peaceful and beautiful.

You can sit watching the tide coming in for hours and the sea birds looking for their supper. The walking there is fabulous even if you're not into long hikes like me – you can still walk up the base of Suilven stopping at the Falls of Kirkaig along the way.

What have you learnt from your travels?

I have learnt that you can still get a suntan with factor 50 sun cream on; that it's safe to jump off a boat in Corfu, that I won't drown and in fact it will be good fun; that octopus actually tastes very nice; and that I will always get bitten by mosquitoes.

Ideal travelling companion?

David. He introduced me to India and I love travelling with him because he knows me so well. He knows how lazy I am and that there's no point trying to tempt me into doing daring or adventurous things. I feel a bit sorry for him, really. He would love to visit places like Peru, but I'm such a conservative traveller. I just think we'd end up in jail.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

I like pampering, relaxation and somewhere comfortable to read on holiday. I consume books when I'm away because it's the only time I get to read for pleasure. Perhaps that makes me a beach vulture.

Holiday reading?

I got heavily into Jane Austen on a trip to Hawaii six years ago. Before that holiday I'd never read Pride and Prejudice or Northanger Abbey before.

I also read books set in the place I'm visiting. So in India last year I read The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga and Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts, which is set in Mumbai in the Eighties.

Greatest travel luxury?

Skincare products. I get into a bit of a routine on holiday with buffing and body lotions. After a long day's hard sunbathing, there's nothing better than feeling all shiny and clean.

Where has seduced you?

Corfu. We went as a family recently and rented an incredible villa near Agni which had views across to Albania and a beach nearby with peaceful, waveless sea. The pebbles were a bit harsh on the feet but it was worth it. I thought the island would be more touristy, but I was pleasantly surprised. We hired a boat a few times and took trips that were utterly heavenly. Dropping anchor and just jumping in the calm sea was bliss.

Better to travel or arrive?

Travel. I'll admit that we do go first class now, which obviously helps. It's my indulgence. I went to Thailand once for a last-minute trip to Hua Hin, which turned out to be a mistake because it was very busy.

But the journey there on Thai Airways was out of this world. I just love that you can watch back-to-back movies and know that for those few hours nobody can get in touch with you.

Worst travel experience?

A flight to Sri Lanka. There was a family on board who were worse for wear on alcohol and got really abusive. It was horrible being trapped with them on a 10-hour flight. Thankfully, they weren't staying at the same resort as us. I would have gone home.

Worst hotel?

The worst experiences I've had are hotels that profess to be four or five star, when evidently they aren't. I stayed at a B&B in London with James Corden when we were writing Gavin and Stacey which was pretty bad. Thankfully, he complained vociferously to the management and we swiftly left.

I also stayed at one in Dorset when I was filming Tess of the D'Urbervilles where you had to pay £2 to use the tea-making facilities and your room had to remain open because they didn't give out keys. The dinner times were set too, so it was like eating in the school canteen; they didn't even let children eat with their parents.

Best hotel?

The Charlotte Street Hotel in London. I always stay there with my husband when we're in town. They combine the right level of friendliness with a high standard of design.

Dream trip?

Canada. I went there for a week a few years ago to Haida Gwaii – an archipelago off the north coast of British Columbia – and it's somewhere I long to revisit. It's such a vast and varied country and the bears are beckoning me back.

Favourite city?

San Francisco. There's always so much going on. I loved getting the cable car down to Fisherman's Wharf and the Golden Gate Bridge, taking a tour around Alcatraz, and walking around the fabulous Castro neighbourhood.

Where next?

I'd like to visit the Faroe Islands and at some point take a boat trip along the Caledonian Canal in Scotland.

Ruth Jones's Christmas Cracker is on BBC2 at 9pm on 21 December. Her new Sky 1 series, Stella, starts on 6 January