On the average flight over the winter 68 out of 186 seats were empty, an increase of 50 on the previous yearRead More »
‘If they stay longer, travellers get to roam locally, decompress from a year of lockdowns and also work remotely,’ says tourism minister
When you cross the Severn Bridge and see the fins of the Brecon Beacons raised in a wave of welcome, it’s a sign you have reached a wilder, more mountainous land. As you cruise on along narrow single-track lanes, tailgating tractors and letting your gaze drift across sheep-grazed meadows, hills and swooping valleys, the place names and road signs are a reminder that Wales – or Cymru – is very much its own country, with a distinctive language and culture. So when Simon Calder grumbled about Covid announcements made in Welsh on a recent flight to Cardiff, his gripes, deemed ‘insensitive’ and ‘ignorant’ by some, reignited the old English-Welsh divide. For years, the Welsh have been the butt of many a joke and their language has been dismissed. Still today, many visitors talk about Wales as if it were nothing but an appendage to England – a county rather than a country. Yet Welsh is the sound of Wales: rising and falling with a lilt that ripples like a summer breeze through heather on the moors. This is a language of song: its beauty captured in the tenor and bass of a male voice choir. And it is a language of poetry, as expressed at August’s National Eisteddfod, a jubilant celebration of culture and language that has been going strong since 1176. The vowelless words and double consonants, confounding holidaymakers who find them impossible to pronounce, ring like bells in the mouths of proficient speakers. Hailing from the Brythonic group of Celtic languages, Welsh is one of Europe’s oldest tongues and the fact it still survives today is a miracle – a victory hard won. During the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, the language was, quite literally, beaten into submission. In schools the 'Welsh Not', a stick or ruler, was used to flog children caught speaking it. Now Welsh is taught and feted once again, as the Welsh are well aware that once you drop a linguistic stitch, the cultural thread unravels and is gone forever. Embracing Welsh is part of the wonder of being on holiday here. Just look at an OS map and slowly the penny begins to drop. Llyn for lake, cwm for valley, mynydd for mountain and coedwig for forest. These are the markers of language and land. And what a land. No matter how often its praises are sung, Wales somehow remains blissfully under the radar. You can hike or drive for miles over hill and vale, moor and forested mountain in the vast wilderness of Mid Wales, where red kites wheel and whistle, and barely see another soul. Social distancing comes naturally and, yes, there’s still availability for this summer. Here the Cambrian Mountains sweep north, with some of Britain’s darkest skies revealing a nightly tapestry of stars. Just west, the coast of Ceredigion barely gets a look-in when it comes to holiday bookings, despite its cliff-top walks and gorgeously secluded bays regularly frequented by dolphins, seals and porpoises.
GWR passengers have seen the highest increases for ‘walk-up’ tickets, but they also benefit from the cheapest day returns
On a chilly April day, I’m in Tuscany, drifting lazily across a thermal pool that bubbles up from the ground at a very pleasant 37.5°C – just a shade under 100 degrees Farenheit. It’s huge, the size of a small lake. At a pace even more leisurely than my own, a portly guy wearing dark glasses heaves into view from starboard. His arms are draped over one of those long flotation tubes, its ends horseshoed above his head. In one hand he’s gripping a spritz, pushing it through the water like a toy boat and taking the occasional sip. Welcome to the Terme di Saturnia – one of Italy’s oldest and most luxurious thermal destinations. This 124-room resort with its 18-hole golf course has been open all through Italy’s strict second and third lockdowns, not missing a night since September 3 2020, when it emerged from a smart, modern country-style makeover piloted by London-based THDP and Milanese design studio Lombardini22. As in Britain, Italian hotels have been subject to severe restrictions since the country’s first lockdown in March 2020. But certified thermal resorts benefit from a loophole. By law, they are ‘sanitary praesidiums’, and therefore allowed to open for guests who need to take the waters or benefit from the resort’s curative treatments and health clinic. In theory, those who arrive for a stay at the resort should be carrying a doctor’s note prescribing a course of thermal treatment for conditions – like skin complaints or cardiovascular and respiratory problems – that respond well to Saturnia’s pungent sulphurous waters. In practice, few do. I live in the central Italian region of Umbria, and in the year and a bit since the pandemic hit, like other residents of the bel paese, I have got used to carrying an autocertificazione or self-certification form with me whenever I travel outside of my own region. The onus here is on the individual to declare that they have no Covid-related symptoms and are travelling, for example, ‘for work’ or ‘for health reasons’, not on hotels or other businesses to check their guests’ status. This could change if Italy embraces a version of the vaccine passport idea that is currently being discussed both within Mario Draghi’s government and at EU level.
The cost of PCR tests for return to the UK has fallen to as little as £60 each – though that is still a disincentive to travel.
When can I go on holiday? How far can I travel in the UK? The destinations likely to make the 'green list' Advice: travel insurance and the traffic light system Sign up to the Telegraph Travel newsletter Portugal is to do everything in its power to welcome back British holidaymakers this summer without the need for quarantine or additional testing, its tourism minister has said. Rita Marques was speaking after the European Union agreed to push forward with plans for a bloc-wide coronavirus passport to kickstart Europe’s travel industry. She told an online conference Portugal would try “at all costs to avoid quarantines and additional Covid-19 tests” for international arrivals, adding that she believed the UK will remain its largest inbound market. More than 3million Britons visited Portugal in 2019, before the pandemic. “The Portugal brand is strong, particularly among the British,” Marques said. The EU is set to discuss the introduction of its travel pass next month before the UK moves forward with the next stage of its roadmap, when overseas holidays could resume on May 17. Greece has already said it will permit entry to British visitors who have been vaccinated against coronavirus or can prove a negative test. Scroll down for updates
The Royal Family doesn't usually wear its heart on its sleeve, but venture to Royal Deeside in Scotland, the corner of the UK where they shrug off the responsibility and weight of the crown, and you’ll discover notably loving commemorations that reveal the lives, loves and losses of monarchs, consorts, princes and princesses. One cold crisp morning I set off to research the Balmoral Cairns, a series of monuments erected by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert within their ‘dear paradise in the Highlands’. The most famous of which is the Prince Albert Cairn, a striking granite pyramid commemorating the prince after his death of 1861. Measuring 41x41 feet at its base, this grand pyramid is a curiosity you’d never expect to stumble upon in rural Aberdeenshire. Setting off on this six mile hike I kept my camera, notepad and directions close by. Whilst accessible to the public, these cairns are tucked away on discreet hillsides and unsignposted woodland paths, so visitors need to know what they’re looking for and follow a clear route.
‘The situation is becoming untenable. We’re having to involve police,’ says Chris Garton, Heathrow executive
Covid has not only thrown our holiday plans into confusion, it has also undermined our back-up plans: the travel insurance we rely on to help us when things go wrong. Right at the start of the pandemic insurance providers moved swiftly to exclude claims related to the pandemic. Generally speaking, all policies sold after March 17, 2020 greatly reduced their cover and virtually all these have now expired. Only during last summer and autumn did less restrictive policies start to be offered, and many of these still had important exclusions. In fact, such has been the disruption to the market that even Which? has temporarily stopped recommending specific travel insurance policies. So now that there is hope on the horizon and we can begin to think about booking holidays again, what should you do about covering yourself? How can you be sure you have a decent policy which isn’t hedged about by exclusions and restrictions? There are several key areas relating to coronavirus that you need to consider. We explain these below, and our table gives details of the cover currently offered in this area by nine different policies. Please note, that virtually all policies automatically cancel cover if you travel against FCDO advice, though it can still be possible to find a ways around this exclusion (see here for more information on insurance for travel against Foreign Office advice)
The Scottish Government have just surprised everyone – not least those who had already cancelled their upcoming island breaks – by announcing the isles will re-open to tourism alongside the mainland after all on April 26. Cross border travel too will re-open. It seems the desperation to get tourism going again has trumped Covid-concerns, as case numbers drop sharply and vaccination levels soar. Scotland’s treasure trove of over 800 islands – just under 100 inhabited – beckons, but where to start? I’ve spent the last 20 years as a travel writer scouring the isles and I’m often asked which is “best”. I answer that it’s more a question of which is best for you. Are you a foodie, an ornithologist or do you just crave a deserted beach? Handily the Hebrides also share remarkable walking, scenery and eye-popping sunsets, plus a genuinely friendly island welcome. Skye Best for foodies Yes, too many motorhomes will bundle across the Skye Bridge this year, but you’ll forget about them tucking into Michael Smith’s Michelin-starred wonders overlooking the water at Loch Bay in sleepy Stein. Smith’s old haunt, the legendary The Three Chimneys, may have lost its star, but mercurial young chef Scott Davies is busting a creative gut to get it back in this brilliantly reborn croft. You can stay over too, in calm contemporary rooms with loch views. In Skye’s south Isabella Macdonald is continuing her mother’s remarkable legacy – as hotelier, chef and food writer – at Kinloch Lodge with new head chef Jordan Webb in the kitchen. For simpler fare the Oyster Shed dishes up boat-fresh seafood; handily the Talisker whisky distillery shares the same village. Stay: Indulge in the old world luxury of Kinloch Lodge, a former hunting lodge with hill and loch views, plus timeless, velouté-smooth service. Eat: All of the above. If only one, it has to be the Michelin treat of Loch Bay. Coll Best for beaches
Rule 1.A of The Travel Writer’s Handbook: never start a story from your own front door. But I’m afraid I had little option. Under matte blue skies, flecked with the black squiggles of distant seagulls, my girlfriend, Alana, and I, hid the key under the plant pot and jumped on our bikes for the first time this spring. In trainers, shorts, Gore-Tex and gloves, it was just nice to be out of pyjamas.
‘I find it incredible that we don’t know what the rules will be if you want to travel to Greece on 17 May’ – Transport Select Committee chair Huw Merriman