Ask Joan: Your travel dilemmas solved

A day out in the English countryside, avoiding the holiday crowds in August

Aylesford bridge at Sunset

Aylesford bridge at Sunset

Sat, May 31, 2014, 01:00

We are four ladies (over 60) visiting London for a few days and we would like to see a bit of the countryside by train and maybe stay overnight. We would like a rough idea of the cost of train and overnight stay. Our nearest station to leave from would be Finsbury Park. – RB, Dublin.

When you are in London the countryside seems far away, but it’s not, thanks to good train services. How about travelling on a restored steam train through the beautiful countryside of Hampshire?

The Mid Hants Railway Watercress Line was once used to transport passengers, watercress and other produce to market at Covent Garden. Join the line at the picturesque Georgian town of Aylesford or the bustling market town of Alton. It costs £16 (€19.75).

The nearest big town to here is Winchester with its fine cathedral, or you can take a train from Waterloo to Alton, see visit winchester.co.uk and alresford.org for details of hotels and things to do. Expect to pay from £30 to £50pps (€37 to €62) for bed and breakfast.

The countryside of Berkshire and Buckinghamshire is especially pretty with quaint English towns such as Bray, Marlow, Henley and Cookham. Trains are from London Paddington to Maidenhead, transfer to one of those little village train stations at Maidenhead. See visitengland.com for more ideas.

President Higgins recently visited Windsor during his State visit and while not countryside, it is a lovely town. It is easy to get to from Paddington and only takes about 35 minutes. You can book tickets on thetrainline.com. Paddington to Alton would be about £44 (€54) return. See also traveline.info.

Myself and my wife have traditionally avoided the peak holiday months of July and August but this year we have to take them in the first two weeks of August. We are health-conscious, seasoned travellers with a strong liking for active holidays outdoors away from cities and large crowds, matched with availability of high standard of food and accommodation. Any ideas to keep us healthy and away from the crowds during that first fortnight of August?

– PK, Dublin Trying to avoid people in August is going to be difficult, particularly as you will need to stay in the northern hemisphere to get the weather.

Canada is a good destination for a holiday where you are unlikely to run into mass tourism. It also offers the opportunity to enjoy wildlife and participate in some activities. See canadianaffair.ie for details of its programme from Dublin.

In the US, the Sagamore Resort on Lake George in upstate New York is a great place to stay if you like the outdoors. There are hiking trails, boating, tennis, golf and water sports. The historic resort in the Adirondacks is an early 20th century grand hotel with lots of space and fine dining, see the website thesagamore.com.

“Give us your body and we will give you back your mind”, is the slogan for TheBodyHoliday in St Lucia. It is an adult only all-inclusive resort that focuses on health and wellbeing through sport and activities. It is also highly rated for its cuisine. The range of activities is fantastic. See thebodyholiday.com.

Mark Warner resorts have adult friendly holidays where you can participate in sports, activities or just laze on the beach. There are resorts in Greece, Sardinia, Turkey, Portugal and Corsica. See markwarner.co.uk.

Send your suggestions to jscales@irishtimes.com

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