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Destination of the week: Stuttgart, for a more stylish (and sober) Oktoberfest

At 11am today, the Lord Mayor of Stuttgart, Dr Wolfgang Schuster, will tap the first barrel of beer to begin the Stuttgart Beer Festival, which ends on 7 October. Three tents hold nearly 5,000 visitors, who will be entertained by brass bands and who will dine on Swabian specialities such as schupfnudeln with sauerkraut.

The event is substantial, but much more homely than the corresponding festival at Munich – there is even a Children's Day, next Wednesday, and an official Beer Festival railway line. The only airlines that serve Stuttgart from the UK are from Heathrow: British Airways (0845 77 333 77, and BMI (0870 60 70 555,; the latter has some seats at £98 return in the next two weeks.

Railpass of the week: the freedom of Scotland, for less

From tomorrow, the price of the Explore Scotland Travelpass is cut by £10. The pass allows travel on all national rail services from Berwick and Carlisle northwards, plus Caledonian MacBrayne ferries and even the Glasgow Underground. Significant gaps, such as Fort William to Inverness, can be filled in free on Scottish Citylink coaches. It also gives discounts on ScotRail sleepers from England and P&O ferries to Orkney and Shetland.

For any four days in eight, you pay £69; for eight days in 15, £89. Railcard holders get one-third off. By comparison, the cheapest return ticket between Berwick and Wick is £98. You can buy the pass at staffed rail stations in Britain, or through ScotRail on 08457 55 00 33.

Bargain of the week: through the tunnel for less

Eurostar is being squeezed by low-cost airlines, so the Channel Tunnel train company has cut the cost of rail travel connecting in Paris, Lille or Brussels, to almost anywhere in France, Belgium and Holland.

Book the new Eurostar Plus ticket two weeks in advance, and £84 will buy you a return trip from London Waterloo or Ashford to half a dozen great French cities: Orleans, Reims, Dijon, Poitiers, Tours and Le Mans. The same price applies to Futuroscope, the European Theme Park of the Moving Image, which has its own rail station. A price band of £104 applies to Atlantic coast destinations such as Bordeaux, Brest and La Rochelle, plus Alpine stations including Grenoble and Bourg St Maurice. The top fare level, £114, reaches much of the rest of France.

In Belgium, a flat fare of £84 will take you to most places, including Namur, Liege and Ghent – but for Bruges and Ostend, it is almost as quick and a lot cheaper to travel by train to Dover and on Hoverspeed's Seacat to Ostend.

Holland offers the most promising territory, with the £84 fare applying to any Dutch station – including the fine cities of Leeuwarden and Groningen in the far north of the Netherlands.