In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
Go off-grid: places to stay in the UK without Wi-Fi, mobile reception or TV
Feeling overshared and square-eyed? Unplug yourself from the modern world and enjoy a social media detox at these remote retreats without Wi-Fi, mobile phone signal or TV reception.
Purton Green, Suffolk
Most houses are remote simply because they were built somewhere no one has thought to build anything. Purton Green, however, has achieved remoteness by having everything else around it disappear. The only remaining house of a “lost village”, beneath its thatched roof lurks its own grand hall dating from 1250. The village’s ancient thoroughfare is now a mere footpath across fields, with the nearest road 400 yards away (a wheelbarrow is provided to ferry your luggage), so if you don’t feel cut off from civilisation here, there’s probably no hope for you.
• From £466 a week (sleeps four), 01628 825925, landmarktrust.co.uk
Skiddaw, Scales Plantation, Cumbria
Going without a telly, Wi-Fi and mobile is all well and good, but going completely off-grid as well adds a certain joyful thrill of disconnectedness to your holiday. These three traditional shepherds’ huts in their own glades at the fringe of a wood mix freedom from utilities with lashings of compensatory comforts (and views), including top-notch cosy bedding and a separate well-appointed kitchen hut. Best of all though, is the luxury bathroom in a forest shelter where you can wallow in perfect peace.
• From £65 a night (sleeps four); 01275 395447, canopyandstars.co.uk
Blagdon Water House Boats, Holsworthy, Devon
There’s a reason you haven’t heard of Blagdon Water – it’s a private waterway no boat may sail down. Which makes it all the more peaceful for the three traditional canal barges moored there in the heart of Ruby Country (the land between Exmoor, Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor). A hundred yards apart and each with its own little summerhouse or boathouse (and solar-powered electricity), the three bob about in the midst of their own 35 acres of rural loveliness where kestrels, barn owls and buzzards thrive.
• From £385 a week (sleeps four-six); 01409 255730, blagdonwater.com
Sun-lounger hire and high phone charges among biggest ‘rip-offs’ for holidaying Brits
Costly sun-lounger hire, expensive food at tourist attractions and high mobile phone charges are among the most complained about rip-offs by Britons holidaying abroad, research has found.
According to a survey of 2,000 people by YouGov, six in ten people traveling overseas feel that they are being ripped off by high data roaming charges on their mobile phones.
Over a quarter feel that they are over-charged for hiring sun-loungers at beaches or around hotel pools, while a third think that the price of food and drink around major tourists attractions is too expensive.
The findings come as cash-strapped Britons have been forced to cut back on their holiday spending due to the declining economy.
Other gripes among tourists are high charges for using debit or credit cards overseas, as well as fees for using foreign cash machines. These hidden charges can add over 5 per cent to the total cost of goods being bought or amount of cash being withdrawn.
A fifth of people complained that buying UK branded goods, such as food or newspapers, in foreign countries costs too much.
James Hickman, managing director of foreign exchange company Caxton FX, which commissioned the research from YouGov, said: “It is clear that the nation feels that there are a host of rip-offs to be aware of when holidaying abroad.”
Complaints about the high cost of making mobile phone calls from overseas come despite the EU putting a cap on charges this summer.
Wales boggles mind and body
There are some seriously oddball sporting events in the world and, last year around this time, I took part in one when I entered the World Bog Snorkelling Championship.
What was I thinking? I can’t remember what prompted me to participate in this competition, now in its 27th year, but it may have had something to do with my passion for swimming, travel and anything quirky. Bog snorkelling satisfied all three.
It sounded easy enough. Put on a mask, snorkel and flippers, and snorkel two laps — a total of 110 metres — in a narrow water-filled trench cut through a peat bog. Last year saw 110 participants from more than a dozen countries, including some as far away as South Africa and Australia.
The competition takes place every August on a bank holiday weekend (Aug. 26 this year) on the outskirts of Llanwrtyd Wells, recognized as the “smallest town in Britain,” by the Guinness Book of Records.
“Peace amidst beauty,” proclaims a local brochure promoting this quaint town of 600 people that “lies at the centre of one of the last remaining wild areas in Britain.” Llanwrtyd Wells, a Lonely Planet travel guide maintains, “has a newfound status as the capital of wacky Wales ” for its many unusual festivals.
The day of the bog snorkelling championship didn’t start well. It was raining, and I awoke with a pain in my knee. To top it off, my wet suit didn’t arrive, though I later met someone who kindly offered to lend me one.
At the event site — a big open field, where the grass had turned soggy — I encountered two kooky-looking characters, Welshmen it turned out, wearing brightly coloured wigs and dressed as Hawaiian Hula dancers. They had entered the “fancy dress” category, which requires completing only one lap instead of two. The first-time contestants, already sporting their participation medals, were happy to relay their experience.
“It seems like you’re in there for an eternity. It’s very cold, very cold, but it is enjoyable once you get in,” said the man in the blue wig, who had no idea of his finishing time. “We entered for the laugh not the competition.”
US woman Lindsay Rule travels across the US for free and using only social media
Imagine travelling across the US without any money, and relying purely on social media to get you through.
Well a 24-year-old architecture student has done just that, relying on the kindness of strangers and social networking sites to hitchhike her way across the country.
Lindsay Rule, from the University of Pennsylvania, set off from Boston to San Francisco on a trip lasting two weeks.
A blogger for architecture website Architizer, she undertook the journey as part of a partnership between the site and Audi’s Urban Future Initiative.
Her challenge was simple travel across America in two weeks without spending any money, armed just with her best social media skills and an $100 emergency fund.
Using Facebook, Craigslist, Ridejoy (a car-sharing service), and CouchSurfing, the aspiring architect spent some of her emergency money to buy a cheap ticket to New York which came with free Wi-Fi.
From there she hitched a lift with a photographer she met on Craigslist and used Facebook to sleep on a friend’s couch.
Thanks to Craiglist, she snared a bus ticket to Madison, Wisconsin where she met another couch surfer who drover her Minneapolis, continuing to use social media until she reached her final destination.