Category Archives: UK

Things to do in the UK; attractions in the UK and the best places to visit in the UK.

A Travelodge Stay Could Result in a £100 Parking Charge

A week after my stay at the Travelodge Stirling M80 at Stirling services, I received a £100 parking charge notice for exceeding the free two hour stay in the shared car park. I couldn’t understand why I received this, as I’d entered my car registration number on the monitor at check-in.

travelodge reception

The whole system appears to be automated by a third party car parking management company. The letter detailing my claimed over-stay at the car park, had time-stamped photos of our car entering the car park in the evening and exiting the next morning.

Now it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that I entered our car registration number incorrectly upon check-in. Or, maybe there was an issue with the car parking firm’s database.

I was also annoyed that the car park management firm had obtained my name and address from the DVLA. I don’t think that the DVLA should be releasing drivers’ details to private car parking firms to enable them to issue fines to drivers.

I emailed the car parking management firm on the day I received their letter, including a copy of the invoice for my stay at the Travelodge Stirling M80. However, after two days and no confirmation of receipt of my email, I phoned to check that they had received my email.

I was given a different email address by the member of staff on the phone. Within a few hours of sending the second email, I received a reply, pasted below.

“Thank you for your correspondence concerning your Parking Charge Notice.

 In light of your claims, the representations stated in your appeal have been noted and upheld. 

 We apologise sincerely for any inconvenience and can confirm that this Notice has been cancelled in full and no further action will take place.”

No explanation of why I’d received the parking charge notice, but I was relieved that it was resolved.

It’s really annoying to have to spend time sorting out something that should have never happened in the first place. However, I don’t think it’s wise to ignore matters like this, as they could escalate and even end up adversely affecting your credit rating.

I suspect that this regularly happens to Travelodge guests staying in hotels located at motorway services, as part of the recorded message on the phone number given for appeals instructs Travelodge guests to email a copy of their invoice.

I think that Travelodge should set up a procedure to avoid this happening to guests. For example, Travelodge receptionists could take their own copy of the registration number of guests’s cars. Then these numbers can be cross referenced by the car parking management firm before charge notices are issued.

However, I suspect it’s a lot cheaper and easier just to leave it to guests wrongly issued with parking charge notices to sort it out for themselves with the car parking management firm.

Well Done East Coast Trains

On the 4th of November I was booked on the 16.22 Cross Country train from Berwick upon Tweed to Edinburgh, aiming to get the bus to Edinburgh airport and catch my flight to London Gatwick with a connection to Thessaloniki, Greece.

east coast train

I’d left plenty of time (or so I thought) for any possible mishaps/delays, including getting to the airport 1.5-2 hours before the flight.

My original CrossCountry service, originating in Conwall, was delayed by 80min. I was either going to cut it pretty fine or not make it to the airport on time.

When I enquired at the ticket office at Berwick upon Tweed, I was informed that although there was not another Cross Country train due in good time for me, an East Coast train, about 25minutes after the original Cross Country service had been due, had been contacted and the driver had agreed to take the Cross Country passengers on board, as there were enough seats available.

The East Coast train arrived on time, my Cross Country ticket was inspected, scanned and accepted and I made a time-wise comfortable onwards bus journey to the airport.

Well done East Coast, I hope in future this attitude is reciprocated by Cross Country so that  passengers do not miss flights, appointments etc.


How to Own Your Own Ocean View in the UK

Given the beauty, quality and diversity of the coastline in the United Kingdom it will be of no surprise to anyone if you have fantasised about owning your own ocean view, because really, who hasn’t? For many, the cost of such a venture is formidable and so a dream is all that remains.

The very rich can afford to buy whole islands – think Angelina Jolie with Brad Pitt, or Richard Branson for example – but then they can afford the 7 figure sums that such a purchase demands. For the rest of us, owning our own piece of coast is just a pipe dream.


Or is it? There are over 8,000 miles of gorgeous coastline around Britain. Some 45% of that is owned by the Crown, and on the whole the rest of it belongs to the Ministry of Defence, the National Trust and local authorities. Any that is left is in private ownership and occasionally bargains can be had at auction for a stretch of beach. Kate Bush paid £2.5 million for 17 acres of Devon coast just a few years ago, but other smaller plots can sell at anything from £80,000 upwards.

If this sort of money is out of reach but you are very keen on having your ocean view then it may be worth considering investing in a holiday lodge. What’s great about many holiday lodges is that they are set on well-kept parks with a wide range of facilities and they offer a more affordable option to seaside ownership.

Please click on the interactive map to view our coast hugging selections.

A) Ladram Bay, Devon

Offering truly spectacular views of the Jurassic coast in East Devon, Ladram Bay has great offers on pre-owned holiday homes for under £10,000. Some of the hire lodges even come complete with hot tubs overlooking the Jurassic coast – a World Heritage site. Who could ask for more? Certainly, Ladram Bay offers the quintessential holiday home sales in Devon and has remained family run for over 70 years.

ladram bay

Facilities on the park are first-rate – offering a large heated indoor swimming pool with a children’s play area pool, bars and restaurants, amusement arcades and entertainment, crazy golf, children’s play areas and Wi-Fi. As Ladram Bay Holiday Park is elevated it means that the vast majority of static caravans and holiday lodges have a bird’s eye view of the sea while access to the private beach offers the opportunity for some kayaking, rowing or motor boat hire, so you won’t run out of things to do.

B) Barmouth Bay, West Wales, Gwynedd

In Wales, Barmouth Bay is a highly desirable location. They have direct access to Barmouth Beach with its vast expanse of beautiful unbroken sand that never seems to become overcrowded, and an array of activities on offer such as body surfing and beach volleyball. Facilities on the park include a heated indoor swimming pool, walking trails, a children’s play area and Wi-Fi access.


C) Red House Chalet & Caravan Park, Norfolk

The Red House Chalet and Caravan Park in North Norfolk is a family run Holiday Park is set in two acres with stunning sea views and access to a private beach. There are a range of chalets and lodges to rent but for those with an eye on their permanent seaside view, the park does offer luxury and deluxe caravan holiday homes and holiday lodges for sale.

red house chalet

D) Sandhills, Dorset

If you really do long for a coastal view you may have to shop around and wait your turn for a pitch. Sandhills is located on the east side of Christchurch harbour, but also offers beautiful sea views towards the Isle of Wight, giving the park a very nautical feel. The park offers a range of holiday homes with easy beach access for all, simply cross the promenade to reach the sand.


best things to do with kids in uk brid of prey

The Best Things to do in the UK with Kids

If you’re after a slightly more purse-friendly holiday this year, or simply just want something a little closer to home, there are loads of places you can go in the UK that certainly won’t disappoint when it comes to keeping the whole family happy.

If you’re looking specifically for great things to do with the kids without the 9 hour flight to Disney Land Florida, or without having to update the passports, we’ve handpicked some of our favourite family activities and adventures the UK has to offer.

best things to do with kids in uk diana memorial playground kensington gardens


Depending on what you class as a museum, there are over 2,500 museums in the UK alone. Therefore you’d not exactly spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing one that will keep your family entertained. From interactive discovery museums such as W5 in Belfast and Eureka! in Halifax, to more traditional and classic museums to inspire, such as the Museum of Childhood in London (pictured below), there’s something for all kids, no matter how big or small! Help your child channel their inner artist too, in one of the many art galleries across Britain.

best things to do in the uk with kids museum of childhood london

Theme Parks

If your family thrives off adrenaline and excitement, a theme park holiday, or at least a day dedicated to thrills and rides is sure to get their heart’s racing. Some of our favourites include Alton Towers in Staffordshire, LEGOLAND in Windsor, Thorpe Park in Surrey and Blackgang Chine on the Isle of Wight.

best things to do in uk with kids fairground rides

Zoos and Aquariums

The UK is great for animal lovers, with loads of different zoos, aquariums and safari parks to show your little ones some of the wonders of our animal world. Edinburgh Zoo is one of the best stops in Scotland as it is the largest wildlife attraction in the country. As for England, Chester Zoo and Twycross Zoo in Leicestershire are some of the best ones. For a completely different wildlife experience, The Magic of Life Butterfly House in Aberystwyth is a great choice.


If you want a beach whilst on your holiday, who said you had to travel far?! The UK is home to thousands of beaches, and whilst we can’t promise 40 degree heat, if you time it right you’ll definitely enjoy some sun and without the pain of a flight. The kids will no doubt love a few nights away in a lovely little bed and breakfast as you all head out with your buckets and spades. With companies like UK Breakaways, you can even opt for a hotel located right next to one of the beaches for a truly relaxing short break. Some of our favourite beach locations include Cornwall, Great Yarmouth and Dorset.

best things to do with kids in uk spittal beach

…and for something completely different

If your kids really love something completely different to what usual holidays consist of, amaze them at some of the attractions the UK has to offer that vary from the norm. From play centres to cave tours, wax work museums and roller rinks, adventure playgrounds (such as the Diana Memorial Playground in Kensington Gardens pictured below) and treasure hunts, you’re never far away from something to put a smile on their faces.

best things to do in the UK with kids dian memorial park wigwams

london battersea power station

25 of My Favourite Photos of London

Here are twenty five of my favourite photos of London, all taken by me over the last seven years during various visits to London.

london neals yard

Neal’s Yard

emirates cable car above the crystal

Emirates Air Line passing above the Crystal at Royal Victoria Docks

london brixton nuclear dawn

Nuclear Dawn Mural in Brixton

serpentine bar hyde park

The Serpentine Bar & Kitchen in Hyde Park

london view from the shard

View from the Shard

The London Eye by night

The London Eye after dark

london royal victoria dock learn to wakeboard

Learn to wakeboard at the Royal Victoria Dock

london newham city farm blaze

Blaze, the shire horse, at Newham City Farm

london looking towards st pauls cathedral from millemium bridge

Looking towards St Paul’s Cathedral from under the Millennium Bridge

london sculpture outside mary seacole centre

Sculptures outside Mary Seacole Centre in Clapham High Street

london tower bridge

Tower Bridge

london trafalgar square fountain

Fountain in Trafalgar Square

london regents canal lock

View of Regent’s Canal lock from my room in Stepney

london fleet street boudary dragon

City of London boundary dragon mark in Fleet Street

london italian gardens kensington gardens

The Italian Gardens in Kensington Gardens

london battersea power station

Battersea Power Station from the train

london limehouse basin

Dockland Light Railway train and water taxi stop at Limehouse Basin

london millemium dome

The 02 Millemium Dome in North Greenwich from the Emirates Air Line cable car

london covent garden

Covent Garden

london art deco daimler garage

View of Art Deco former Daimler car hire garage from my room at Holiday Inn Bloomsbury

london british museum

British Museum

london tiger elephans

Tiger elephant in Chinatown during the 2010 Elephant Parade in London

london looking out from behind columns at royal exchange

Looking out from behind the columns at the Royal Exchange in the City

london holland house garden

Holland House garden during the Open Garden Squares Weekend

london albert hall

The Albert Hall

london sphinx sculpture

Sphinx sculpture on Victoria Embankment

We’ve plenty of articles on Europe a la Carte about what to do in London. If you’re planning a trip to the UK capital you can use the HotelsCombined price comparision site box below to find the best hotel deals.


Do False Shop Fronts Make High Streets More Attractive?

I noticed a couple of false shop fronts when we were in Hawick in the Scottish Borders. These ‘shop jackets’ seem to be popping up all over the UK. The claim is that they make High Streets look more attractive than empty/boarded-up shops, they support surrounding surviving shops and inspire new businesses to open in the area.

false shop front

False shop front in Hawick’s High Street

I wondered how much a false shop front cost. The only indication I could find was a price around £1,500 each mentioned in a 2010 BBC article. I suppose it’s hard to carry out a cost-benefit analysis.

Personally, I’d rather see some imaginative murals by local artists on shop fronts. Then High Streets could have some sort of unique character, rather than duplicate faux shop fronts appearing in towns all over UK. I’d be much more likely to visit a High Street to see original art than false shop fronts. If local artists were paid for their work that could bring more money into an area’s economy compared to a false shop front firm being contracted to stick up a few of their standard designs.

What’s your opinion of false shop fronts?

sew over it

More of the Best of London Tips

I’ve been to London several times since we published the ‘Best of Things to Do in London‘ on Europe a la Carte. Here are some more London tips, to help you plan your next trip.

Ride the Emirates Air Line Cable Car

I enjoyed my ride on the Emirates Air Line cable car from Royal Victoria Dock to North Greenwich.

emirates cable car above the crystal

 Emirates Air Line cable car

Walk the Regent’s Canal from Mile End to Victoria Park

I walked along Regent’s Canal from Mile End to Victoria Park. There’s a beautiful lily pond outside the Ecology Centre and lots of sculpltures alongside the path.

Lily pond at Terraced Gardens by Regents Canal near Mile End

Lily pond at Terraced Gardens by Regent’s Canal near Mile End

Discover Brixton

I spent most of my time in Brixton in Brixton Village, which has a mix of shops, stalls, cafes and restaurants. It was really hard to decide where to eat, but in the end I plumped for a Mexican restaurant.

Entrance to Brixton Village in LondonEn

Entrance to Brixton Village

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lowry trail spittal prom

The Lowry Trail in Berwick upon Tweed

Below are my favourite paintings on the Lowry Trail in Berwick upon Tweed. The painter, LS Lowry, holidayed in the town several times from 1935. The Trail consists of eighteen of Lowry’s paintings mounted on easels at various spots around the town.

lowry trail

‘Berwick Harbour’

Some Portraits on L S Lowry on the Lowry Trail in Berwick upon Tweed

‘Some Portraits of L S Lowry’ at the RNLI station

The Town Hall on the Lowry Trail, Berwick upon Tweed

‘The Town Hall’

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peoples history museum manchester

10 Museums in Manchester, England

Manchester is a fascinating city which has done much to drag itself out of an industrial slump, and is now a popular destination. As it happens, it’s also full of museums and here are 10 museums in Manchester for you to visit.

Football Club Museums

For many people, the first thing that comes to mind when you mention Manchester is Manchester United; perhaps Manchester City FC comes quickly after that. Both clubs have museums attached to their stadiums so you can combine a visit to either the Manchester United FC museum or the Manchester City FC museum with a tour of their grounds.

manchester museums

Medals at the Manchester United Museum by edwin.11

National Football Museum

If those two aren’t enough, you can also head to the National Football Museum, which was set up to showcase England’s football heritage and to explain why England is the home of football. It actually began in Deepdale, Lancashire but was relocated to Manchester during 2012 to the former Urbis building.

Manchester museums

National Football Museum building by Smabs Sputzer

Museum of Science and Industry

The Museum of Science and Industry (also known by its much cooler acronym, MOSI) is not just a typical science museum – it is strongly based in the history and development of the city of Manchester and includes a working cotton mill and the chance to see what climbing into a Victorian-era sewer would have been like.

Manchester museums

MOSI mural by Terry Wha

Museum of Transport

Manchester’s Museum of Transport includes the biggest collection of buses and trams in Britain – vehicles that have been restored but date back to the beginning of public transport. Since many buses used across Britain (and in fact the world) were made in Gorton, close to Manchester, it’s definitely in a fitting location.

Manchester museums

Buses at Museum of Transport by interbeat

People’s History Museum

The People’s History Museum in Manchester used to be known as the National Museum of Labour History and is an important national centre for looking at the history of working people. Its exhibitions look at home, work and leisure over the last couple of centuries along with some interesting temporary displays.

peoples history museum manchester

People’s History Museum by Neil T

Imperial War Museum (North)

The Imperial War Museums that you known from London also have a branch in Manchester, known as the Imperial War Museum North. It’s been running for a decade now in an amazing building designed by Daniel Libeskind.

Manchester museums

Imperial War Museum North by Bernt Rostad

Manchester Museum

Owned and housed by the University of Manchester, the Manchester Museum includes over six million artefacts in collections covering archaeology, botany, ethnology, geology and zoology. One of its star exhibits is a T-rex fossil named “Stan”, the second most complete tyrannosaurus ever excavated.

Manchester museums

Stan the T-rex by mahesh_f

Chinese Arts Centre

Set up in 1986 by British Chinese artists who felt they didn’t have a voice in modern Britain, the Chinese Arts Centre is a thriving art museum with changing exhibitions both from major artists and from emerging ones.

Manchester museums

Chinese Arts Centre by loscuadernosdejulia

Greater Manchester Police Museum

The Police Museum and Archives are a treasure trove of stories about Manchester’s past crimes and criminals, along with giving you an insight into life as a police officer over the past couple of centuries. It’s housed in the building which was one of Manchester’s earliest police stations.

Manchester museums

Police Museum cars by Firing up the quattro

Manchester Jewish Museum

Being the only Jewish museum outside of London, the Manchester Jewish Museum has quite a responsibility to pass on the stories of Jews in Manchester and how they’ve contributed to the development of the city. It’s housed in an old Spanish and Portuguese synagogue.

Manchester museums

Manchester Jewish Museum by EadaoinFlynn

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Photo Tour of the Wellcome Collection in London

I finally got around to visiting the Wellcome Collection in London in March 2013. It bills itself as ‘a free destination for the incurably curious’, which is a pretty accurate description. Henry Wellcome was an pharmaceutical entrepreneur who amassed many medical artifacts during his travels.

For me, the most evocative piece in the museum was the ‘I Can’t Help the Way I Feel’ sculpture by John Isaacs: the British sculptor’s statement on obesity.

wellcome collection

‘I Can’t Help the Way I Feel’ sculpture at the Wellcome Collection

[Karen Bryan] Sent you a message!

Array of surgical instruments at the Wellcome Collection

Transparten full size model of female body at the Wellcome Trust in London

Tranparent model of female body at the Wellcome Collection
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