Summer has arrived for many of Britain's theme parks, though snow was still on the ground at Alton Towers in Staffordshire (0990 204060) when it opened for business last Saturday. Instead of unveiling a new thrill ride, this season the main attraction is the new hotel adjacent to the site. The Alton Towers Hotel will remain open all year; the theme park closes on 3 November. Drayton Manor (01827 287979), close by at Tamworth, opens on 30 March.

Blackpool Pleasure Beach, which celebrates its centenary this summer, is offering all rides for 50p each today and tomorrow. This deal includes the Pepsi Max Big One, Europe's highest rollercoaster, normally priced at pounds 3.50. Prices revert to normal from next weekend.

On the east coast, the Magical World of Fantasy Island (01754 872030) opens weekends only until 5 May, plus the whole of Easter week. The new attraction is "the world's first indoor hot-air balloon experience", enabling you to float to the top of the glass pyramid that houses the park.

In south-east England, both Chessington World of Adventures (01372 729560) and Thorpe Park (01932 569393) open their gates today, through until the end of October.

The Field Studies Council's field centre at Slapton Ley, south of Totnes in Devon, will offer thrills of a more sublime kind when courses for adults begin on 19 April. The first option, "Birds of South Devon", is already sold out, but other events during the summer at the centre include a Photographic Safari (28 July-2 August, pounds 185) and "Dart to Plym - exploring the South Devon coastline" (23-30 August, pounds 245). Call 01548 580466 for more details.

Air travellers from Devon have a new link with Dublin from 31 March, when Jersey European (01392 360777) begins operating flights between Exeter and the Irish capital. The lowest return fare for the 80-minute hop from Exeter to Dublin is pounds 104 (including tax) if you stay over a Saturday night.

A good beach guide is included in the new North Cornwall holiday brochure, which is available free by calling 01208 261229. It recommends Summerleaze beach in Bude as ideal for families, but warns that Bedruthan Steps, near Padstow, is dangerous: "A place to look at rather than to sunbathe on."

York is the venue for a literary weekend from 26 to 28 April, organised by Ways With Words (01803 867311). Sarah Kennedy, Jane Gardam and A S Byatt are among the speakers at the Dean Court Hotel (where the event is based) and St William's College. The price per person is pounds 195, based on two sharing.

The "Learn at Leisure" programme of the University of Nottingham includes a weekend in Dorchester investigating Thomas Hardy and Tess (24-27 May). Call 0115-951 6526 for details.

Last week Cheshire County Council won the England for Excellence "Tourism for All" award for doing most to help less able travellers. The council has just published a Welcome Guide to the county for visitors with disabilities. Regular, large print and tape versions are available free from Cheshire Tourism and Marketing, Goldsmith House, Hamilton Place, Chester CH1 1SE.

English Heritage begins its programme of events aimed at "Bringing History Alive" at Easter, with 15th-century music at Helmsley Castle in North Yorkshire and falconry at Battle Abbey in East Sussex. Special Events Line: 0171- 973 3396.

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