Weekend Breaks. A quick look at short breaks
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The need to fit vacations around work means that the weekend break is becoming popular. Rachel Jolley surveys the options. Rachel Jolley is a freelance travel journalist. Pressures of work mean that many lawyers are tending to take short breaks throughout the year instead of going away on one long summer holiday.
The UK hotel industry has acknowledged this trend and is building up more short-stay packages, combining various activities with a three- or four-night stay. Today you can do anything, from going on a murder-mystery break to hitting the whisky trail in Scotland.
The larger hotel groups, such as Forte, Jarvis and Swallow, produce short-breaks brochures, which can be found in travel agencies. Here's a quick guide to the quick getaway.
Scotland's two biggest cities Glasgow and Edinburgh compete for most things, including the Scottish parliament.
They also compete on friendliness. Glaswegians think their Edinburgh cousins are posh and standoffish. As for sights Edinburgh has its castle, Princes Street and the Burns Monument. Glasgow has art museums aplenty and architect and artist Charles Rennie Mackintosh as its famous son.
If you arrive in Edinburgh by train at night, the scene that greets you is impressive, with the sight of Edinburgh Castle rising majestically towards the clouds. The city has good rail connections and is about four and a half hours from London and an hour from Glasgow a car is not a necessity here.
August is Edinburgh's busiest month, with its festivals pumping the city full of life, noise and street theatre. People come for the theatre, music, comedy or what the Irish call the crack the sizzling atmosphere. But if theatre is not your thing then try another month.
The former port of Leith down the hill from Edinburgh city centre is making a bid to become the trendy centre of new Edinburgh with restaurants, the Malmaison hotel and a view out to sea.
Walk up Arthur's Seat to test your calf muscles and to get a panoramic view of the city.
Scotland's remote countryside is a draw for committed walkers, and it has a whole section of accommodation and information services which cater for these visitors.
If you think a Munro is a Scottish clan, you are wrong. Munros are Scottish mountains, generally around 3,000ft high. Committed Munroists try to conquer all 284 peaks.
Scotland's many long-distance trails, like St Cuthbert's Way and the West Highland Way, stretch across dramatic landscapes. Many hotels and hostels cater for walkers, and boast drying racks, roaring fires and a flask-filling service.
Activity and adventure are the twin themes when exploring some of Scotland's more remote areas. St Kilda is a group of four islands 64km west of the Uists. The islands have caves and underwater tunnels, and were declared a world heritage site in 1987.
Sailing around St Kilda, visitors can catch sight of the largest gannet colony in the world. Skippered cruises leave from Oban and North Uist. For more information you can contact:
Highland Hostels: 01397 71231v Edinburgh and Lothians Tourist Board: 0131 473 3800
Staying on a working farm can make a refreshing difference from a break at a hotel, where there is often little chance to talk to local people or watch the farmer's day unfold.
In Cader Idris on the edge of the Snowdonia National Park, a number of farms offer accommodation.
Working farms can also be used as bases for visiting local attractions, like the famous Centre for Alternative Technology, in Machynlleth on the west coast of Wales. The seven-acre site has a water-powered cliff railway and the biggest solar-powered roof in the UK. Visitors can learn about organic gardening and even compost making.
The setting up of the Welsh Parliament has led to a resurgence of interest in Celtic history. The ideal place to find out more about Wales' past is The Celtica Experience, which is also based in Machynlleth.
Here Celtic history is traced back through 3,000 years using audiovisual technology. Visitors are guided through their journey in time with commentaries on how people lived in Celtic and Druid settlements.
Outdoor pursuits are popular in the Welsh mountains. A number of companies specialise in walking holidays in the summits, including camping out in the elements.
Those who want to take it a bit easier can join a weekend riding in the Brecon Beacons, viewing the scenery from a privileged position on their steed. The following numbers are helpful:
Wales Tourist Board: 01222 49990v Wales Countryside Holidays: 01834 86111v Tregoyd Mountain Riding Holidays: 01497 847351
The channel islands
The Channel Islands have a plentiful supply of hotels and farms to stay in while you explore the countryside or relax on the sandy beaches. The pace is slow and many facilities are aimed at families.
Jersey and Guernsey bank on their sunny climate and their island status attracting visitors. Jersey has 20 miles of beaches, plus castles and historic sites.
Guernsey's capital, St Peter Port, is an attractive harbour town. The speed limit on the island is 35mph so it is safe to explore the many sights on foot or by bicycle. The island is also the departure point for ferries to Herm and Sark.
On the tiny island of Sark tractors are the only vehicles on the road, while Herm is famous for its beaches where exotic shells are washed up by the warm currents of the Gulf Stream.
Guernsey Tourist Information: 01481 72355v Jersey Tourism: 0171 493 5Ireland
Drinking is not an essential part of enjoying a stay in Ireland, but somehow it usually fits into the equation. Irish pubs are the centre of the community and often have live music.
Race days bring Ireland's other passion to the fore, and as there is an average of 20 meetings a month there is a good chance of catching a meeting on your visit.
A trip to Ireland is all about the people. For all of Dublin's strengths, it would be a much less attractive city without the warmth of its residents.
Head down to Trinity College and pretend to be a student. After admiring the building, take a break in a coffee shop Bewley's are everywhere and bear a strong resemblance to seventeenth century London coffee houses.
Temple Bar is the happening place, with bars, ultra-chic galleries and eating places. Not a bad place to start and finish an evening, as the breakfasts are good, too.
If you have more time, why not go touring? And when you are touring, why not try a round or two of golf the game is more of obsession than a pastime in Ireland and greens abound.
Irish Tourist Board : 0171 493 5Northern Ireland
Guinness and golf are obsessions in the North as well. But Northern Ireland's most famous attraction must be the Giant's Causeway.
Surrounded by myth and legend, this extraordinary geological phenomenon juts out of the sea, like a huge staircase, on the Antrim coast.
The myth of the local giant Finn McCool is quoted as the reason for the Causeway's existence and many other hills and holes in the country.
Just down the road is the Bushmills distillery take a tour and a drop will be yours.
Inland you will find the lush greens of the Antrim glens. Food comes in large portions throughout the province and specialities like soda bread and the seaweed called dulce are worth a try.
Northern Ireland Tourist Board: 0541 55Weekends further away
WEEKENDS FURTHER AWAY
Berlin is a city alive with atmosphere. The wall that once divided it has gone, but the history remains intriguing.
Unter den Linden, the city's most famous street, is the site of some impressive architecture which is only now being restored.
This area, formerly in East Berlin, has stunning squares, and designer shops are beginning to open up.
The Brandenburg Gate is lit up at night and is situated next to the Adlon Hotel, the place where all the famous and fashionable stayed in years gone by. It has just re-opened and is quickly rekindling its reputation.
Paris is still the favourite choice of the British for a weekend away. The arrival of Eurostar trains at Waterloo station has increased the temptation of heading off to France at the drop of a hat and a briefcase. With a strong pound, prices favour the British.
Everyone has a favourite reason to visit Paris to shop for delicious edibles at the Galeries Lafayete or to take in the fashion, or to spend a day in the Marais, sipping coffee in a cafe and watching the world go by.
Paris also offers major museums, like the Louvre and the Musee D'Orsay. And there are the oddities like the sewer tour and the catacombs.
New York is the ultimate long-weekend destination it is far enough to be exciting, while the time difference is not too tiring.
New York's streets have been transformed in recent years and you will now find them litter free.
This is the city where you can do some serious eating, from breakfast to dinner. Even residents never seem use their kitchens and why should they, when food is so cheap and the choice is so wide?
For a real American experience ask your hotel concierge to recommend a good sit-down deli, and then try a delicious corned beef sandwich.
Cultured cafe life is to be found in Greenwich Village, while the Tribeca area is heaving with art galleries and tiny boutiques.
Always travel on the subway, except late at night, because the taxi drivers often have little idea where they are or where they are going.
On a sunny Sunday, walk across Brooklyn Bridge for a great view of the city and a chance to walk off breakfast.
German Tourist Information Office: 0891 600v French Tourist Board: 0891 24412v US Tourist Information Office: 0891 600530