Rory McGrath: My Life in Travel

'Australia is wild but civilised - and you're never far from a beer'


First holiday memory?

I was brought up in Cornwall and we lived about a mile-and-a-half from Portreath beach so summer holidays were always spent there. One day we went to Godrevy, which was another mile-and-a-half from Portreath and it felt like a great adventure.

Best holiday?

I'm very good at being on holiday so they're always enjoyable. But the best was probably when my girlfriend Nicola (now my wife) and I stayed in a villa in Menorca for a fortnight. We had a huge pool to ourselves and I didn't speak to anyone other than Nicola for two weeks.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

I live in Cambridge these days so we're about an hour-and-a-half's drive from the north Norfolk coast, which is a different world. I love places like Holkham Beach.

What have you learnt from your travels?

To stay at home! I think that travel narrows the mind rather than broadens it, because it reminds you how lovely home is.

Ideal travelling companion?

Other than my wife, David Gower. I've done a couple of holiday programmes with him and he's great company.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

I'm 100 per cent beach bum, which probably comes from my Cornish childhood. I like a bit of walking, but things like churches are an anathema to me.

Greatest travel luxury?

A guitar; playing is one of the best legal ways of relaxing. I have a guitar which I don't mind getting sand in that I take on my travels.

Holiday reading?

I like to take a phrase book or a dictionary because I don't like fiction. When I was in St Kitts I read Hitler's Scientists: Science, War and the Devil's Pact by John Cornwell and H 2O: A Biography of Water by Philip Ball.

Where has seduced you?

The north-east coast of Australia. It has stunning scenery, wildlife, beaches and gorgeous girls. Like all of Australia, it's wild but civilised and you're never far from a beer or a girl with large freckly breasts!

Better to travel or arrive?

What I'd really like is to be beamed down. Even if someone else is paying for you to fly in business class it's a pain.

Worst travel experience?

Changing planes at Antigua airport - it was mayhem. Everyone was officious but inefficient - it was as if everyone was barely on nodding terms with the modern world.

Best hotel?

A pub with rooms called the Hoste Arms in Burnham Market, Norfolk. The staff only think of the guests. If you come down for breakfast at lunchtime, they'll cook you breakfast. The Sheraton Noosa in Queensland was amazing, too. I walked into my room thinking I'd walked into the foyer, it was so huge.

Favourite walk/swim/ ride/drive?

My favourite walk is on the north coast of Cornwall, past Hell's Mouth, which is rather spooky. There are fantastic sheer granite cliffs and you occasionally see seals and dolphins in stunningly beautiful water.

Best meal abroad?

Swordfish at a restaurant in Sausalito, California. It was the first time I had tried it and it was beautifully white and meaty.

First thing you do when you arrive somewhere new?

Take my clothes off or tune my guitar, preferably not at the same time. If it's not too hot I'll tune my guitar first because you have to de-tune guitars before you put them on a plane.

Dream trip?

Along the west coast of Ireland, because my wife has never been. I'd start in Cork and go to Tralee over the Boggeragh Mountains via Killarney, then on to Limerick and up the coast round Galway Bay to Sligo, then round to Derry and finish in Belfast, which I've always thought of as one of the liveliest towns I've visited. It's full of great people with a wicked turn of phrase and a great sense of humour.

Favourite city?

Edinburgh, particularly during the festival when it's one of the most amazing places in the world. I like the wild, 24-hour lifestyle with the brooding backdrop of the crags and the castle. It also has great pubs and people and the mighty Forth Bridge. Amsterdam is also a very easy-going and beautiful city.

Where next?

I've got nothing on the horizon but I would love to go to the centre of Australia.

Rory McGrath presents 'Industrial Revelations: Best of British Engineering' on The Discovery Channel, Wednesday (26 July) at 9pm

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