Great British Escapes: The cities

Streets ahead of the competition

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The Independent Travel

Dorset Square Hotel, London

Fans of Tim and Kit Kemp's Firmdale Hotels will be able to check-in to their latest project, Dorset Square Hotel in London's Marylebone, from 18 June. This Regency townhouse isn't new to the Kemps: it was the first hotel they opened, back in 1985. However, they re-acquired it last year and have since been at work applying their signature bold colours and patterns to create a contemporary English look for the 38 bedrooms, drawing room and the Potting Shed bar and restaurant.

Dorset Square Hotel (020-7723 7874; dorsetsquare, doubles from £234 per night

Bristol's Big Green Week, Bristol

Ideas are the main attraction at Bristol's first festival of sustainable development and they'll be explored in many ways, from comedy gigs to discussions forums. From 9-17 June you'll be able to visit the UK's largest-ever farmer's market, see daily showings of some of the BBC Natural History Unit's greatest films, and hear expert speakers debating the issues, including Grand Design's Kevin McCloud and the Eden Project's Tim Smit.

Bristol's Big Green Week (01179 223686;

Alice's Day, Oxford

It's been 150 years since Lewis Carroll first told tales from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, a literary moment commemorated on 7 and 8 July in Oxford with an array of events. One highlight will be the re-enactment of the Caucus Race from chapter three of the book. The event will take place in Merton Field, part of Christ Church, the college where Carroll, aka Charles Dodgson, was a mathematics tutor. Appearances by the Mad Hatter, the Red Queen, the Dormouse and other characters will keep the atmosphere suitably surreal.

Alice's Day 2012 (01865 790050;

The Novium, Chichester

A new £6.6m museum, The Novium will be opening in Chichester on 8 July and is the striking 21st-century home of some of the city's most important historical remains. At its heart are the ruins of a Roman bathhouse, around which the museum has been carefully constructed. There are plenty more reasons to make a special trip to see the museum, in the themed exhibitions celebrating the city's heritage, which showcase around 150,000 artefacts.

The Novium, Chichester (01243 775888;

The Sweet History, York

Make an indulgent trip to York to find out more about how they've been cooking up chocolate and confectionary in the city since the 19th century. Starring iconic brands such as Kit Kat, Smarties and Terry's Chocolate Orange, new attraction the Sweet History of York tells the story of the Quaker families who first produced the city's sweet treats. And, of course, there'll be plenty of tasting opportunities along the way.

Chocolate: York's Sweet Story (08454 989411;, admission £10.

Mega Mela, Manchester

Join the record-breakers on a weekend away at the Mega Mela at Platt Fields Park in Manchester, which runs from 14-15 July. Last year the event set the Guinness World Record for the largest Bollywood dance, with 1,406 people moving to the music of the British-Indian singer-songwriter Navin Kundra. This year, expect an equally vibrant celebration of south Asian culture with lots of food, dancing and traditional arts and crafts.

Manchester Mega Mela (0161-256 4518;, admission free.

Nira Caledonia, Edinburgh

Exclusive Gloucester Place, amid the cobbled streets of New Town, provides the atmospheric location for one of Edinburgh's latest stop-overs: the five-star boutique hotel Nira Caledonia. The elegant Georgian property was once the residence of the 19th-century man of letters John Wilson, friend of William Wordsworth. Now discerning visitors to the city can call it home for a while by choosing from 28 plush bedrooms, many with private terraces.

Nira Caledonia (01312 252720;, doubles from £264 per night

Gadds Town House, Durham

The latest addition to Durham's accommodation scene, Gadds Town House, provides a new reason to visit this north-east city. The restaurant with rooms is unashamedly glamorous, with damask wall coverings and velvet drapes, richly patterned carpets and antique furnishings throughout, from its dining room Gadz Grill to its 11 sumptuous bedrooms. Book the Bijoux Loft or the Penthouse for views across the rooftops to the cathedral.

Gadds Town House (0191-384 1037;, doubles from £90 including breakfast.

Joseph Wright Gallery, Derby

A wider selection of the work of this celebrated 18th-century artist and philosopher can now be seen thanks to a £150,000 facelift of the 19th-century exhibition space named after this son of the city. The works on display include his world-renowned portrait paintings of the Midlands' entrepreneurs behind the industrial revolution, including a likeness of the inventor of the spinning frame, Sir Richard Arkwright.

Derby Museum and Art Gallery (01332 641901;, entrance free.

Jolyons at No 10, Cardiff

An offshoot of Jolyons Boutique Hotel Cardiff has opened in a Victorian property overlooking the River Taff, 10 minutes' walk from the city centre. This rather bigger sister hotel – which has 21 rooms and suites – features a bar and restaurant called Cwtch Mawr ("big cuddle"), and richly decorated contemporary rooms, with plunge pools in the en-suites.

Jolyons at No 10 (02920 091900;, doubles from £89 per night including breakfast.