Abi Jackson pedals between paintings on the Sussex coast
The heavens open the second I fasten my helmet, and half an hour later, clambering off my bike outside De La Warr Pavilion, I’m drenched.
Sunshine isn’t guaranteed with weekend getaways on the Sussex coast, but culture, quaint cobbled streets and catch-of-the-day dinners are pretty reliable.
As one of Britain’s most famous former battlegrounds, Hastings is best-known for its history, but this seaside town is a draw for art lovers too.
My travel buddy and I stay at The Laindons Boutique B&B, where a chic yet homely feel is all thanks to husband and wife team Jon, a designer, and Sara Young, who previously worked for Design Hotels, who took it over in 2013.
Nestled in the heart of the Old Town, dotted with antique and vintage furniture shops, it’s ideally located; near enough to the action but out of sight and earshot of the more touristy delights of the seafront.
Our art trail begins with that wet and windy cycle to nearby Bexhill-on-Sea, after picking up hire bikes from Bell’s Bicycles (www.bellsbicycles.co.uk). The traffic-free route along the seafront is mostly flat, and even if the exhibitions don’t tickle your fancy at the Grade 1-listed Modernist De La Warr Pavilion, the building alone is worth the journey.
Next, we pedal back to Hastings and dry off at the Jerwood Gallery, acclaimed for its extensive collections of 20th and 21st century British art. There are often enticing contemporary offerings too, and the cafe upstairs serves a pleasing harbour view with its drinks and cakes.
Later on, we dine at Webbe’s Rock-a-Nore, which dishes up Hasting’s best seafood.
The next day we venture further afield, to stretch our legs with a walk towards Eastbourne’s Beachy Head. There are countless routes in the area, so whether you want to hop in a car for most of it and simply enjoy a short afternoon stroll, or work off last night’s dessert with a half-day hike, the views are stunning. Stop off at Tiger Inn, East Dean, to refuel and marvel at the picture-perfect scenery.
Last stop on our ‘art-inerary’ is Towner in Eastbourne, the biggest centre on our list. It’s a vast, calming space, and a current highlight on the contemporary art line-up is the William Gear exhibition. Be sure to visit the giant lift.
For more information on the Coastal Culture Trail between Hastings, Bexhill and Eastbourne, visit www.coastalculturetrail.com and www.visiteastbourne.com
A two-night B&B break at The Laindons (www.thelaindons.com; 01424 437 710) costs from £120pp based on two sharing a room.
Kirsty Masterman seeks refuge in a glamorous Portuguese hideaway
The electric gates open and a helicopter disappears over the horizon. Cut to a cliff-top villa with an infinity pool and bullet-proof, floor-to-ceiling windows, and it’s like walking onto the set of a Hollywood movie. But no – this is my first taste of Vila Vita Parc.
Set among 22 hectares of lush, subtropical parkland and perched on a hilltop in Portugal’s southern Algarve, this peaceful resort is the perfect destination for those seeking something special.
Boasting a variety of accommodation – from apartments and suites to exclusive villas featuring butler service and private pools – my home for the weekend is ‘The Residence’, an adults-only building, designed in the style of an elegant manor house. Although modern, the rooms still maintain their traditional Portuguese character.
The spa is my first port of call, and I’m spoilt for choice with the treatments available.
I choose a Queen Saba facial, which is so relaxing that I find myself dozing off.
With eight restaurants, six bars, a cafe and a German beer garden, and with food ranging from Portuguese specialities to award-winning cuisine, there is a wide variety of taste experiences on offer. I am invited to sample some of renowned chef Hans Neuner’s creations, in the form of his four-course tasting menu in Ocean – one of only two Michelin-starred restaurants in the Algarve.
The next morning begins with an outdoor yoga and meditation session, which I follow up with an extensive breakfast buffet on the terrace of Atlantico – a short stroll away from the resort’s private beach. Suitably fulfilled, I head off for a Cataplana cookery class, which is a great way to learn about traditional Portuguese cooking, while sampling local fare.
On my final evening, I take a tour of the resort’s exclusive wine vault, which is home to more than 11,000 wines – many from Vila Vita’s own vineyard. I am treated to a taste of a few of the region’s finest bottles, before heading to Adega for some authentic regional cuisine.
With more than 300 days of sunshine a year, Vila Vita Parc is the perfect hideaway for all seasons.
Rooms at Vila Vita Parc (www.vilavitaparc.com) start from £259 per night, including taxes and fees.
Claire Spreadbury bounces through the Lake District
I’m lying in a collapsed heap, uncontrollably giggling as my husband throws himself, swimming pool bomb-style, at the springy nets.
My body bounces up and down yet again as I scramble to the edge, being helped up by my five-year-old.
I’m in the Lake District, nine metres above ground on a series of giant trampolines.
The award-winning Treetop Nets are suitable for almost all members of the family, and I feel like a child myself as I watch my three-year-old tentatively bouncing with her 65-year-old grandpa.
There’s so much adventure to be had in the Lakes and after two hours of hardcore bouncing at Brockhole, we head into Ambleside to take a new self-drive electric boat for a spin. Rosemary, she’s called.
Once we’re in the vast expanse of Lake Windermere, the kids squeal with delight as they take the wheel and drive us away from the shore.
Our enormous family room at Merewood Country House & Hotel has a gigantic bay window, which looks out on to the lush green gardens, punctuated with pretty spring flowers. And beyond that lies a tranquil stretch of the great lake, rippling in the shadow of the craggy peaks this region’s famous for, all amid a smoky sky.
If the view won’t tempt you, the food certainly will. With canapes brought to us at the bar (complete with fish goujons in a shot glass of ketchup for the girls), followed by an amuse bouche at our table (and that’s before our pre-ordered dishes arrive), the menu here is seriously impressive.
The cheese souffle starter and carrot terrine main show off some creative vegetarian prowess, while a succulent Cumbrian fillet steak, washed down with a rich drop of red is as good as you’ll find in any fine-dining eatery.
The calorie burn on the Treetop Nets won’t quite cover the six courses, but at least it helps.
Family rooms at Merewood (www.merewoodhotel.co.uk) start from £180 per night, B&B.
A two-hour bounce on the Treetop Nets (www.treetopnets.co.uk) starts from £11.
The new self drive electric boats carry up to six people. Prices start at £30 for one hour for two adults (under 16s travel free). Visit www.windermere-lakecruises.co.uk