Monday, 30 March 2015

New Faroes flights take off

New flights took off today from Edinburgh to the strikingly beautiful Faroe Islands. The islands are a great place to walk and watch seabirds - from gannets to puffins. 

!mage courtesy Visit Faroe Islands ( copyright Per Morten Abrahamsen)

The twice weekly service is operated by Atlantic Airways. Departures from Scotland are at 1925 on Mondays and 1010 on Fridays. Flights from the Faroes leave at 1715 (Mon) and 0800 (Fri). The flights take 1hr 25min.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Favourite hotels: immaculate luxury in the Alps

Number 1 in an occasional series on special hotels senior travellers will love

It’s an old cliché is that the best hotels go the extra mile to keep its guests coming back. The Gotthard in the Austrian resort of Lech certainly does that. Not long ago I fractured my hip on the ski slopes while staying there. The front desk found my wife a hotel close to the hospital where I underwent an operation. They stored the skis, boots and clothes, which we were now unable to carry home, until we returned to pick them up in summer – a return visit we were delighted to make.

The best hotels also leave you with small, warming memories: a lovely buffet breakfast in the garden at the Gotthard on a sunny morning before setting out on a hike in the Arlberg mountains (for those who turn up without them, day backpacks are provided in the bedrooms); a Schnapps graciously offered when dinner is a little slow arriving; the lovely cakes and rolls from the hotel’s own bakery which we take with us for a picnic lunch; a large Wiener Schnitzel for dinner in the Lecher Stube, one of the hotel’s two restaurants, which almost defeats my appetite despite a hard day of steep climbs and descents (they do smaller Schnitzel portions – of pork or veal).

The hotel, which has an indoor pool and fitness room has been in the Walch family since 1931, It’s now run by third generation  Clemens and his Australian wife Nicole.

If you don’t want to walk independently ( the Lech card, available to visitors staying on night or more,  gets you free rides on buses and most  lifts) the hotel offers a programme of guided hikes in summer. It's a short walk to the Rufikopf cable car (about £7.50 ride up, using the Lech card, or roughly £10 there and back) which gets you to 2362 metres for wonderful, open, treeless skiing or hiking, sometimes, in summer to the whistling of marmots).

For this level of quality, it's remarkable value. A night's b&b costs around £108 for two in a superior room in September, say, or £130 in a de luxe room in high summer. Depending on your appetite two could easily eat for around £60 with drinks in the Lecher Stube a la carte restaurant. In the ski season room prices are significantly higher.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Biggest US ski area planned

Plans to create what is claimed will be the biggest ski area in the US have been given the green light. The $50 million project, which is scheduled to be completed in time for next season, will connect two Utah resorts - Park City and Canyons - with a high speed, eight seat gondola.

Park City

Both resorts have lovely intermediate terrain ideal for senior skiers. The link will enable skiers and snowboarders to access Thaynes Canyon at Park City via an entry gate or in the reverse direction via new trails to be cut from Pine Cone Ridge. The investment will also cover lift upgrades and a big new restaurant in Park City and improvements to existing restaurants in Canyons - plus additional snow making. Both ski areas are part of the Vail Resorts stable, which - besides Vail itself - encompasses resorts including Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone (Colorado) and Heavenly, Kirkwood and Northstar (California).

Thursday, 26 March 2015

New Heathrow - Spain flights

Iberia Express has launched a new service from Heathrow to Tenerife Nord. It can be booked via the website of its parent - Iberia ( or British Airways' site ( British Airways is owned by the same group as the Spanish airline. Flights operate three times a week (on Sun, Tues and Thurs). The airline has also started flying four times a week from Heathrow to Las Palmas (Gran Canaria) and daily to Palma (Mallorca).

Iglesia de la Concepcion, Santa Cruz de Tenerife (courtesy


Wednesday, 25 March 2015

On the trail of the original Springwatch Man

And not just Springwatch – the Reverend Gilbert White was also the summer, autumn and winter watch man. His book, the Natural History of Selbourne, published in the first year of the French Revolution, is a record in detail of the that microcosm of nature around his Hampshire home. He created a wonderful zig zag path up the hanger (steep escarpment) behind the house, which you can still incorporate in a walk. Now over 80 people have joined a walk being staged at the end of April to follow his regular route between Selbourne and Oriel College, Oxford, where he became a Fellow (walk organiser Rosemary Irwin, chair of trustees of the Gilbert White and Oates Collections in Selbourne - Scott's famous companion also lived in the village) - says it's likely the Rev White made the journey on horseback). It’s still possible to join her on the any of the walk’s 8 stages. The cost is £ per adult and £10 per dog. 

The garden at Selbourne (courtesy the Gilbert White & Oates Collection)

He created a wonderful zig zag path up the hanger (steep escarpment) behind the house, which you can still incorporate in a walk. Now over 80 people have joined a walk being staged at the end of April to follow his regular route between Selbourne and Oriel College, Oxford, where he became a Fellow (walk organiser Rosemary Irwin, chair of the trustees of the Gilbert White and Oates Collections in Selbourne - Scott’s famous companion also lived there - says it’s likely the Rev White undertook the journey on horseback). It’s still possible to join her on the any of the walk’s 8 stages. The cost is £ per adult and £10 per dog. Go to

Monday, 23 March 2015

Eurozone prices tumble for US visitors

Expect to see more Americans in the Eurozone this summer with the dollar some 20% stronger there than it was last year. Here are some examples of the hotel prices they’ll get in their own currency – all based on current rates on their websites*:

A one night stay at the Danieli in Venice, on May 14, for example, will cost American tourists from $550.  This time last year the same rate would have worked out at  $673.
The Hotel Danieli
A night at the Mercure Paris Centre Tour Eiffel on the same date will cost $162 against $195. Further up the price scale a superior room at the Bristol in Paris will cost around $675 compared with $820. 

The Sacher in Vienna works out at $360 against about $430.

A superior room at The Ritz in Madrid will be $228 against $276,

And a particular favourite of mine, the Hotel Elephant in Weimar – birthplace of the Bauhaus - will cost around US$116 compared with $US141.

*These comparisons don’t include the impact of any inflationary rate increases since last May.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Couch potato on the Piste

No - it's not an Alpine ad for a DFS sale. These red leather sofas have been deployed at the top of a chairlift between the Austrian resorts of Wagrain and Alpendorf. For tired skiers (or maybe those on a budget wanting somewhere comfortable to eat a sandwich). The area already has several lifts with heated seats. What next? Almost makes you nostalgic for the dear dead days of cable bindings, lace up leather boots and single chairs that whacked you on the calves. But not quite.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Hike the Pyrenees GR10 with overnight privacy

Hair shirt purists might cringe but with more and more mature travellers looking for (slightly) soft adventure it's time tourist offices and travel industry entrepreneurs invested in private, en suite accommodation on long distance mountain walking routes. Most of us would prefer not to bed down in existing refuges or huts. Comfort at night doesn't make the walking less tough. Tour operator Macs Adventure is to be congratulated on finding a compromise solution on the GR10, which runs the length of the Pyrenees on the French side of the border with Spain. The company offers a seven night self guided hike along a 66km section from Hendaye to St Jean Pied de Port with relatively short walks each day,   accommodation in hotels (and one rural guesthouse) with three dinners - otherwise b&b - and luggage transfers. The tour runs from April - October and costs from £775 per person. Flights are not included.   

Monday, 16 March 2015

Where to escape the skiing Brits

Among Europe's major ski areas this might just be the place you are least likely to run into a table full of Schnapps fired Brits. Austria's Ski Amade region continues to surprise and delight. But relatively few UK accents are to be heard here in the mountains south of Salzburg. (outside the school holidays, that is, when, according the locals, their numbers increase.) 

You wonder why. There's mile upon mile of excellent intermediate terrain. The lift networks are top class - some chairs have heated seats. Though much of the skiing is below the tree line snow conditions are currently good - with the exception of some seriously heavy wet sugar on the low, home runs. And if that saps your energy there are more place to eat and drink on the slopes than I have encountered anywhere in nearly a half century on skis: lovely little Almen where you can fill up on classics such as broth with cheese dumplings, Tiroler G'rostl or Wiener Schnitzel. And with the £ strong against he Euro it's all great value.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Fine Skiing in Salzburg Alps

Snow conditions in Austria's Salzburg region appears set fair for the remainder of the season. North facing slopes above Alpendorf, near the town of St Johann im Pongau, have good cover - over 1 metre at an estimate - and while the lower runs were a little porridge like after hot sunshine and some warm, wet flurries this week, they are perfectly skiable. There's not a stone or tree root in sight.

This is making for excellent skiing, particularly over around 1200 metres and especially in midweek, when the the mostly wide open slopes are relatively quiet. An added bonus is that in poor visibility there is plenty of entertaining terrain below the treeline, where it'salways easier to discern the pitch of the mountain.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Tip - order currency for airport collection

The strength of sterling against the euro may come as a pleasant surprise when you plan your next trip - but order ahead for collection at the airport. Do not leave it until you get to the terminal. At Gatwick early today the rate was roughly £1 = 1.25 euros. I had pre-ordered  online from Moneycorp - for collection in the North Terminal.on an upcoming trip I received 280 euros for £206.33. The exchange rate was over 1.35 - a difference of approximately 8%.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Transatlantic flights - faster from Robin Hood Airport?

Sea food near Boston
How much benefit will transatlantic passengers get from Aer Lingus’ new connecting service between Doncaster Sheffield (Robin Hood) Airport and Dublin? As the same airline also operates from Leeds-Bradford it will clearly depend on a mix of fares and access times. 

I made a sample comparison at the start of June and found that total journey times from Leeds-Bradford to Boston and back were shorter than those from Robin Hood (12hrs20mins out, 8hrs 25mins back)* and the fare was around £40 lower. Clearly that may not always be the case. It’s equally clear that if you are a cheap taxi ride from Robin Hood and can save the time and expense of parking your car, using the new service, which starts on May 29 and will operate five times a week, should be a no brainer.

* These times may be different on other dates

For more news and travel articles by top writers go to

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Switzerland - a raw deal?

Is Switzerland getting a raw deal following the unlashing of the franc earlier this year? It looked then as if tourism to the country might be devastated. But the upsurge in the currency has subsided. It's value against the £ today is almost exactly the same as on the same day last year. 
The Swiss resort of Laax
None of this is to pretend that the country is a particularly cheap option - but it's worth checking out some of the late season deals which have been launched in an effort to counter the perception that removing the link with the euro has pushed it out out of sight - discounts in Crans Montana and Verbier reported in news elsewhere on this site for example. As Craig Burton, CEO of Ski Solutions, notes: "The Swiss exchange rate is sat at the same level today as it was sat season. Coupled with some aggressive offers from tour operators and resorts to get skiers back this is making the country extremely appealing.

For more news, destination articles and holiday ideas go to

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Travel without adaptors

This is an unashamed plug - or should I say plugs? The hi-tec Eccleston Square hotel - a boutique property in Belgravia, has three power points in its rooms: UK, European and US. Saves gthe nneed to trravel with adaptors. It may exist elsewhere buut it's the first time I've seen it. Others please copy.     

Monday, 2 March 2015

Cambridge - Gothenburg flights launched

Danish airline Sun-Air today launched services between Cambridge and Gothenburg on Monday (March 2). The route has been established in conjunction with pharmaceutical giant Astro-Zeneca, which will take seats for staff travelling between its Cambridge headquarters and its key European hub in the Swedish city. But the service, which will operate from Monday to Thursday, will also be open to other business and leisure travellers. Sun-Air is a British Airways franchise partner. Flights may be booked via