In the News this Week...

brought to you by News Editor, Roger Bray
  • Pierre auguste renoir. unge mennesker p%c3%a5 gaden. %28ca. 1877%29. fotograf pernille klemp

    Renoir: Young People in the Street (image by Pernille Klemp)

    Danish art museum nears re-opening

    22 days ago

    Denmark may have been withdrawn from the Government’s travel corridor list but the country has new treats in store when COVID-19 finally retreats. Notable among them will be the extended Oordrupgaard Museum, 10k north of Copenhagen, home to one of Europe’s most impressive collections of late 19th and early 20th century French and Danish art. The museum has been closed during the addition of five underground exhibition rooms, only one of which is visible from outside. They will link the original 20th century building to a more recent extension, designed by Zaha Hadid, which opened in 2005. Expected to re-open around by the start of 2021, its collection includes works by Renoir, Manet, Cézanne, Gaugin, and Courbet.

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    Gatwick South Terminal

    Gatwick to charge for terminal drop offs, pick ups

    23 days ago

    Drivers dropping of or picking up passengers outside Gatwick’s terminals will be charged £5 starting next year. Currently around 15% of people using the airport travel that way. Revenue raised will help the airport offset the devastating impact of COVID-19 by preserving jobs. To avoid the charge drivers will be able to park free for two hours in the airport’s long stay car parks, while passengers use shuttle buses. No date has yet been set for the introduction of the charge. Special arrangements are being worked out for disabled travellers and local people who use Gatwick’s station most days to travel to and from work.

  • Good hotel guide

    Hastings b&b wins top award

    23 days ago

    Half timbered yet hip is the verdict of the latest Good Hotel Guide on Swan House, Hastings, winner of its b&b of the year award. One “trusted” reader described it as “a successful combination of stylish and homely, a warm, comfortable, well cared-for historic house”. The Tudor building, in a quiet cul-de-sac in the Old Town, has a beamed lounge cum breakfast room and a courtyard garden. The award is one of ten annual “Césars”, named after the famous luxury hotel pioneer César Ritz. Of the 37 additions to the Guide’s main section, the award for best newcomer goes to Baraset Barn, at Alveston, near Stratford-on-Avon in Warwickshire. With “high-beamed ceilings, flagstone floors and superb menus”, the property is described as “a foodie heaven”.

    Country house winner is the riverside Grasmere Hotel in Cumbria, a Victorian Hotel with walks from the doorstep, views of Helm Crag. The Angel Inn with its Michelin starred restaurant – at Hetton in the Yorkshire Dales – is named Inn of the Year.

    Seaside and island hotels of the year are respectively The Scarlet in Mawgan Pawth, an “eco-friendly Cornish bolthole” and La Sablonnerie on Little Sark in the Channel Islands, a 400 year old farmhouse where dinner might include roasted scallops or lobster thermidor.

    Irish and Scottish winners are Roundwood House, at Mountrath in County Laois and the The Peat Inn near St Andrews in Fife – another property boasting a Michelin starred restaurant.

    The insulation of roofs with sheep’s wool is one of the initiatives that helped the adults only Coes Faen, in the Welsh coastal resort of Barmouth win the Green Hotel of the Year award. And the award for romantic hotel goes to Lewtrenchard Manor, on the northeast edge of Dartmoor. A Jacobean house dating from the early 17th century.

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    Manchester's Cornwall link to be restored

    26 days ago

    A new service linking Newquay with Manchester is set to be launched on 23 October. Until the end of winter regional carrier Eastern Airways will fly the route, formerly operated by the collapsed Flybe, four times a week. But it plans to increase the service to at least one daily round trip in time for Cornwall’s summer season. Flights will take one hours. Eastern claims the journey takes nearly seven hours by road or rail. It already operates flights linking Newquay with Teesside and Leeds-Bradford airports and earlier this month launched a service between Teesside and Heathrow.

  • Cider

    Image courtesy Butford Organic Cider & Perry

    Cider routes launched

    27 days ago

    October brings cider making and Visit Herefordshire has devised two self guided routes between orchards and production plants – by car for those more interested in observation than instant consumption, by bicycle for those prepared to pedal off the effects. The tourist board has produced two maps – to southern and northern circuits – showing not just stops where major producers including Bulmers and Westons may be visited but the farms of smaller artisan cider makers such as Little Pomona, Oliver’s Gregg’s Pit, Butford Organic and Newton Court. The routes, which startsv and finish in Hereford, are both around 50 miles long and wind through orchard flanked lanes. The southern route can be cut short by 30 miles at Ledbury, where visitors can take a train back to Hereford. To view the route maps as pdfs or accedss via the Strava app, go “Visit Herefordshire”:

  • Mitre

    Historic Thames side hotel re-opens

    29 days ago

    The Mitre Hotel at Hampton Court, thought to have been built in 1665 for Charles II as “a hostel for visitors to the Palace” has re-opened as a boutique after a major refurbishment. Following more recent reconstruction, the 36 room property is Grade II listed as a mid-18th century building. Now part of a new hotel company, The Signet Collection, it has a large terrace overlooking the Thames, a restaurant seating 60 and a brasserie and bar seating 70. Free wi fi is available throughout, pre-booked valet parking is available and there are two electric vehicle charging points. The hotel has its own jetty a riverboat for hire, grows herbs on the orangery roof and keeps beehives on its main roof – and has its own label beer, brewed in Hampshire. With a nod to the Palace a stone’s throw away it’s called: “The Six Wives”. Whether or not the beer has a head we cannot confirm.

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    Airline offers rapid airport test

    30 days ago

    Major US carrier United Airlines is offering passengers flying from San Francisco to Hawaii a rapid airport test before departure. The test provides a result in about 15 minutes. The move raises hope that airline elsewhere could follow suit, easing the deterrent of quarantine. United is also offering customers the option of picking up test kit earlier and returning it by post to arrive within a recommended 72 hour window before departure. It has worked closely with the Hawaiian authorities to ensure that passengers with negative results will avoid the state’s 14 day quarantine requirement.

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    Plymouth set to open The Box

    30 days ago

    With a spectacular display of Victorian ships’ figureheads, The Box, Plymouth’s new £46m cultural complex, is scheduled to open tomorrow. A museum, gallery and archive, with a café, shop and bar, the centre is a key part of the Mayflower 400 commemorations, which is the basis for an inaugural exhibition. The original, Edwardian City Museum and Art Gallery has been transformed and combined with the former City Library and St Luke’s Church, incorporating a square for performances and other events. Artists will be commissioned to provide work linked with specific themes. The moving image collections, formerly held by the South West Film and Television Archive, comprises over 250,000 title. It includes film of Cornwall in the 1930s, shot by a Truro shopkeeper. Other permanent collections cover areas from archaeology and nature to photography and maritime history. The 14 suspended figureheads include the restored “King Billy”, carved in Plymouth for HMS Royal William in 1832 and weighing some two tons.

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    Airports discuss testing deals

    about 1 month ago

    Bilateral agreements on testing between airports may prove to be one way to surmount the problem of travel quarantines. Heathrow’s management is hoping to team up in a testing trial with New York’s JFK Airport and is also discussing a partnership with Dubai. The London airport’s CEO John Holland-Kaye urged airlines and airports to unite on a common policy, invest in private testing and put the solution to governments. He told a virtual aviation conference this week that pre-journey testing, already called for by the International Air Transport Association, was the best way forward. One possibility, further down the track, is that the US and the EU might agree to cooperate.

  • Odyssey

    How Odyssey of the Seas will look

    New cruises as Royal Caribbean unveils plans

    about 1 month ago

    Royal Caribbean has announced sweeping port changes and new cruises for next summer in a major shake up as it plans to emerge from the coronavirus nightmare. The moves includes the launch of new short trips in the Mediterranean and more time for passengers on Caribbean islands. The company is contacting affected customers with confirmed bookings between April and November to offer them a range of options.

    In Europe new vessel Odyssey of the Seas will be based for its inaugural season at Civitavecchia, the port for Rome, as it operates a series of Mediterranean itineraries. Adventure of the Seas, which was scheduled to sail from Copenhagen and Stockholm, will instead operate new four and five night trips from Barcelona, to ports including Rome, Nice and Palma. It will be replaced in Copenhagen and Stockholm by Jewel of the Seas, which should have sailed from Amsterdam and Barcelona but will now operates even night cruises in the Baltic. Also operating from Barcelona will be Harmony of the Seas, which will head back to Europe for the first time since 2016.

    In the Caribbean Independence of the Seas will switch its home port from Fort Lauderdale to Miami, dropping three and four night trips in favour of six and eight night itineraries taking in more distant ports, such as Aruba and Curacao. Vision of the Seas will sail the southern Caribbean from San Juan, Puerto Rico, instead pf operating from Barcelona as originally foreseen. And Brilliance of the Seas will operate four, five amd seven night cruises from Tampa.

    Amid all the changes, Anthem of the Seas will – and was planned for summer this year – sail from Southampton. Itineraries will range from seven nights to the Norwegian fjorda to two weeks to the Mediterranean.

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    Captain Steve Allright

    COVID reassurance for fearful flyers

    about 1 month ago

    With one in ten people reckoned to suffer from a phobia of flying, British Airways will now add a rundown on its COVID-19 precautions to its well established confidence building course. This year, however, participants will not sit in a classroom and take a short flight afterwards. The course, run by BA Captain Steve Allright will be digital – and accessible from home. He says: "There will inevitably be some further worries and questions around the pandemic, so it’s more important than ever that we share with attendees not just the technical aspects of flying, but also the range of safety precautions we are taking, to give them the peace of mind and ensure they have a safe and enjoyable flying experience next time they fly with us.” The course, which addresses the causes of fear and looks at aspects including turbulence, sounds and sensations, was first offered over 35 years ago. Over 50,000 people have taken part. It will run from 10am – 3pm on 10 October and costs £125. Book at

  • Sniffer dog

    Airport dogs will sniff out virus

    about 1 month ago

    Sniffer dogs have been drafted into Helsinki Airport in a COVID-19 detection trial. In a preliminary test, researchers at the University of Helsinki’s Veterinary Faculty found they could smell the virus with near 100% accuracy. They could also detect it days before symptoms appeared. Airport operator Finavia claims a dog needs only 10 – 100 molecules to find the virus, when test apparatus needs 18,000,000. Passengers taking part in the trial will swipe their skin with a wipe and drop in into a cup which will be given to the dog in a separate booth. One of the dogs brought in, an eight years old greyhound called Kossi, took only seven minutes to learn to identify the virus. The trial dogs are trained by the University research group’s start up company – called Nose Academy. Eventually the task may be performed by dogs used by Finnish customs. But Finavia says legislation will be needed before testing with dogs can be official policy. Airport director Ulla Lettijeff said: “As far as we know no other airport has attempted to use canine scent detection on such a large scale against covid-19. We are pleased with the city of Vantaa’s initiative. This might be an additional step forward on the way to beating covid-19”

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    Kitchen at the Long Barn

    Rule of Six cuts large holiday rental prices

    about 1 month ago

    The rule of six is prompting self catering operators to offer large UK properties at reduced rates. The development looks worth keeping an eye on by silver travellers desperate to escape the coronavirus gloom now threatened. Gloucestershire based Rural Retreats has agreed price cuts with some owners. A dip into its website shows the ten bedroom Old Rectory and Coach House near North Tuddenham, Norfolk, which sleeps up to 20 people, available at a 30% discount for up to six guests until 18 December. A similar discount was on offer for stays in the eight bedroom, Victorian Oak Cliff Place, with views over the Solent from the Isle of Wight. Bristol based Premier Cottages reduced prices at several properties in Somerset and the Lake District that previously sold based on maximum occupancy of between eight and 14 people. A week’s stay next month in one of these – The Long Barn, between the Quantocks and the Blackdown Hills, which sleeps 12 in normal times – was on offer to six in October at a £700 discount. Also in October, was offering substantial reductions to six sharing Double House Farm, four miles from Wells in the Somerset Levels – and with its own orchard.

  • Allemond lift

    French village gets new ski connection

    about 1 month ago

    These may not be the most auspicious times for the launch of a new ski resort but this winter, for the first time, visitors to the small French village of Allemond should be able to reach the large Alpe d’Huez ski complex by lift for the first time. Unless the wintersports industry is hit by another severe lockdown, a new gondola will carry skiers and snowboarders from Allemond to car free Oz-en-Oisans, which is already linked to the area’s slopes, in eight minutes. The lift cabins will carry ten people each, though social distancing rules may reduce that number. The village, which is about an hour’s drive from Grenoble airport, lies at an altitude of 713 metres in the Vallé d’Eau d’Olle. Expect it to expand but for the present, prices appear reasonable. Starting prices at the 15 room Auberge la Douce Montagnes, for example, start at €68 per person for one night’s half board.

  • Air pax

    Test before flying, airlines urge

    about 1 month ago

    Almost nine out of every ten international air travellers are willing to undergo COVID-19 testing at airports before departure, according to a new survey. And 84% think tests should be mandatory. The research, conducted across a range of countries, comes from IATA (the International Air Transport Association), the world’s biggest airline organisation

    The association believes options with fast enough turn around times will be available within weeks. “We firmly believe testing must be done before departure”, says the association’s director general and chief executive Alexandre de Juniac. " In addition to giving governments the confidence to re-open borders, this approach will also boost passenger confidence knowing that everybody on the aircraft has been tested. And, by doing it in the travel process which is tightly managed, we are avoiding issues of quality control or fraudulent results".

    But he notes that tests will be useless if the results are not accepted when travellers reach their destinations. The taskforce set up by ICAO*, the inter governmental aviation organisation, which has brought together governments and health authorities through the WHO and the industry, will be critical. "We are proposing that governments agree to testing standards through ICAO.

    “I am confident that, by uniting around a common position on testing, we will deliver an effective alternative to quarantine that will be accepted by governments and their health authorities. And, in doing so, we will aid in the economic recovery. Aviation supports the 10% of global employment tied to travel and tourism. And we are a key driver of global trade that supports the livelihoods million more.”

    Quarantine measures are “killing the industry” he says. A recent international survey found that 83% of people would not travel if there was a risk of being quarantined on arrival.

    *International Civil Aviation Organisation.

    See Roger Bray: Testing times mean time to test

  • Balmoral

    The Balmoral

    Portsmouth return for Fred Olsen

    about 1 month ago

    Cruises from Portsmouth have been unveiled for winter next year by Fred OIsen Line. The port will be the departure point for four of eight itineraries aboard the relatively small Balmoral. The ship’s size will allow for a five night cruise on the Seine, starting on 30 October, with a two night stay in Rouen. On 4 November the Balmoral will leave on a 13 night trip in search of the Northern Lights, with stops in Narvik and Alta. Next comes a cruise to the Canaries, including a visit to Madeira and finally, on 30 November, a sailing to Bremen and Hamburg where passengers can browse Germany’s Christmas markets. The move signals what the south coast port’s head of operations Ian Diaper calls “a new cruise era for Portsmouth”.

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    Belfast gets new boutique hotel

    about 1 month ago

    Two Victorian merchants’ residences in Belfast have been converted into a new boutique hotel. The property incorporates the former home of the Cleaver family, of Robinson & Cleaver, owners of the eponymous department store claimed to be the most famous for Irish linens in the world. Called The Harrison Chambers of Distinction, the hotel is on Malone Road, near Queen’s University. Each of its 17 rooms has antique furniture and other pieces collected by owner Melanie Harrison. The hotel opened with Belfast celebrating the start of another new air link. Loganair is operating two round trips there a week from Dundee. Flights depart from Dundee on Fridays and Sundays at 1.15pm, returning at 3pm. The Scottish airline already flew to Belfast City Airport from Aberdeen and Inverness and had just launch services there from Glasgow.

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    Image by Donato Rondini from Pixabay

    Sardinia drops COVID test requirement

    about 1 month ago

    Travellers arriving in Sardinia and no longer required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test. However, it is still necessary to register online at the Sardegna Sicura website before arriving on the island. Face masks must be worn everywhere indoors – and outdoors when social distancing is impossible.

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    The Scottish Borders

    Quarantine prompts walking staycations

    about 1 month ago

    Tour operators continue to introduced more domestic holidays to counter quarantine restrictions on travelling abroad. Inntravel has launched two new self guided walking itineraries in the UK for this autumn and 2021 – one in the Scottish Borders, the other on the cost of north Norfolk. The former follows the River Tweed and takes in Traquair House, once a refuge for Mary Queen of Scots. The latter passes through nature reserves with a rich variety of bird life. Both include six nights’ b&b, luggage transfers between overnight accommodation, route notes and maps. They are available respectively until 31 October from now and 1 October (and from 1 April – 31 October next year) and cost from £640 and £795 per person sharing.

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    Thailand - Phang Nga Bay: image by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay

    Thailand and Singapore - you still can't go

    about 1 month ago

    The Government’s decision to add Thailand and Singapore to its travel corridor list underlines the need to check Foreign & Commonwealth advice before booking flights. COVID19 regimes in both destinations forbade entry at the time of writing to the vast majority of UK visitors. When Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced the move yesterday, he stressed the importance of checking such requirements. FCO advice on Thailand makes it clear that only travellers falling into specific categories may enter the country at present. And it says: “Short term visitors from anywhere in the world are not able to enter Singapore”. Mr Shapps also announced that travellers returning to the UK from Slovenia and the French Caribbean archipelago of Guadeloupe would no need to self isolate for 14 days from 4am tomorrow.