Why did we give up on the reusable coffee cup?
There was a time when you’d walk into the office, KeepCup in hand, and get a real sense of satisfaction. You might nod smugly in recognition at a colleague’s reusable cup, or frown at a disposable vessel your boss had dared to bring into work. And you might, if you remember, have tut-tutted (and most likely, sniggered) when Boris Johnson had a paper cup snatched out of his hand by an aide – as if that of all things would shatter his reputation. Now, though, none of that is true. As I hop between coffee shops and observe customers queuing to satisfy their caffeine craving, the reusable cups have pretty much vanished. In one shop, only a few people whip out a KeepCup or similar. Admirable. In another, not a single one makes an appearance. For some reason, almost every coffee or tea drinker is making do with single-use cups. So, what has changed since the heady days of October 2019, when the prime minister wouldn’t have been seen dead with one? Covid casualty As you probably noticed (and in all likelihood got on board with), there was a huge surge in the use of reusable cups between 2017 and 2019. Argos reported a massive 537 percent increase in portable cup sales, and the government even hinted at a tax on their single-use counterparts. But with the onset of pandemic restrictions in March 2020 came fears around germs, with most cafés refusing to serve drinks in anything non-disposable, regardless of whether it had been washed. And while that may seem a long time ago now – indee
The 10 best hotels in Birmingham
There’s no shortage of excellent hotels in Birmingham, so you’ve got no excuse not to make a weekend of it in England’s second-largest city. How else do you expect to tick off the many magnificent things to do here? Knackered from wandering the city’s extensive waterways? Need to lie in a curry-induced coma after visiting the ‘Balti Triangle’? Or maybe you are planning a big night out and only plan to need a bed for three hours? These hotels are all conveniently located and ready to cater to your every need. And whether you want a beautiful independent, a reliable chain or some proper luxury, we’ve got all tastes covered. Business or leisure, comfort is key and Brum’s best hotels offer it in abundance. Here’s where to stay in Birmingham the next time you’re in town. RECOMMENDED: The best Airbnbs in Birmingham
The 13 best coffee shops and cafés in Bristol
These are magical times to be a coffee lover. The country has embraced speciality coffee like never before and the best coffee shops in Bristol are right up there with the best the UK has to offer. From bullet-strong espressos to increasingly complex cold brews, Bristol’s cafés serve up caffeine in all its most delicious forms. What’s more, most source their beans from the huge host of expert roasteries dotted around the city, so the whole experience is truly a local affair. Of course it isn’t all about flat whites and macchiatos. Premium coffee shops must have the food and vibes to match, and Bristol does not disappoint. The best cafés here serve restaurant-quality brunch, fresh baked goods to drool over and delectable dishes to nourish you ahead of a day of sightseeing. This little city gets a lot of things right, and coffee is definitely one of them. RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best restaurants in Bristol
The 20 best things to do in Bristol
With its pastel streets, maritime history and rich cultural output, Bristol really shouldn’t be missed. Among loads (and we mean loads) of other things, it is Banksy’s original stomping ground, the birthplace of Wallace and Gromit and a Unesco Creative City of Film. As a former European Green Capital, the city is also has some pretty solid eco credentials and is one of the greenest in the UK. It’s fuelled by innovative caffeine, forward-thinking galleries and some of the best pubs in the country. And if all of that wasn’t enough, it’s home to some of the UK’s funnest locals, so visitors are always guaranteed to feel at home.If you’re stuck for things to do, Bristol really is bursting at the seams. So here’s our round-up of the best ways to enjoy the city – expect street art, engaging museums, stunning bridges and no shortage of booze. You’re in for a real treat. RECOMMENDED: The best restaurants in BristolRECOMMENDED: The best Airbnbs in Bristol
The 13 best breakfast and brunch spots in Bristol
They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day. So what does that make brunch? Equally important if you ask us. Life offers few pleasures greater than starting your day in sterling – and copious – culinary style, and that holds whether you’re more into the idea of a cheap full English or a continental brunch at a smart, tableclothed restaurant. Bristol’s offerings are second to none. Head down any central street, and you’ll find a sumptuous array of spots guaranteed to fuel your day of vintage shopping, gallery hopping, coffee guzzling and bar crawling (or to nurse that hangover from the night before). Sweet or savoury, take your pick. From a cafe-laudrette to a vegan one-woman show: these are the absolute best places for breakfast and brunch in Bristol. RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best restaurants in Bristol
Is it time we stopped going wild swimming?
Can you imagine anything better than breast-stroking through murky brown waters at teeth-chattering temperatures? Jo Robb can’t. She dives into the Thames several times a week with wild-swimming group the Henley Mermaids (self-described ‘maniacs’), and is effusive about the benefits: ‘It fosters this connection with nature and with the river.’ Joan Fennelly, a fellow Mermaid, agrees: ‘You can go down to the river in a foul mood and you will always come back with a smile on your face… most of the time.’ Wild swimming took on cultish momentum during and after the lockdowns of the pandemic. Since 2020, the Outdoor Swimming Society’s membership has risen by 75,000 and its website received one milllion unique users in 2021. But an explosion in popularity also meant a rise in the number of people facing the grimmer aspects of outdoor bathing (and there’s a lot of them). Most recently, doctors have issued warnings of ‘swimming-induced pulmonary oedema’ – a condition that causes the lungs to fill with fluid, causing even healthy swimmers to potentially ‘drown from the inside’. Advocates insist that the hobby induces a ‘high’ and there have been studies to suggest that it could indeed cause a release of beta-endorphins, dopamine and serotonin – all good things. Victoria Halstead and her husband have been swimming around the Lake District since the summer and have persisted through the cold winter months. ‘The mental impact of it is second to none,’ she says. ‘I’ve not done any other
The 23 best pubs in Bristol
If you’ve been losing yourself on the Downs, getting thrifty on Gloucester Road or bathing in Bristol Lido, the likelihood is that you need to quench your thirst. So it’s good news indeed that you never need to venture far before you encounter one of Bristol’s many beloved pubs. From the so-called Beermuda Triangle on King Street to the stylish boozers around Cotham and Clifton, Bristol is filled with brilliant, brilliant boozers – and any decent night on the town here will involve stopping at a couple of them (at a minimum). Brizzle is also at the forefront of the UK’s craft beer revolution, with many innovative brews front and centre in the city’s pubs. If you’re looking for a sweeter tipple, we should also say that Bristolians are known for being partial to cider and indeed do it very well – this is the West Country after all. So without further ado, here’s our pick of the best pubs in Bristol. RECOMMENDED: The best things to do in Bristol
Here are all the astronomical events to look out for in the UK this month
If you’ve looked up at all this year, you’ll know that we’ve been treated to some fairly dazzling sights in our night sky. January and February gave us a green comet, an asteroid and a meteor shower, and already this month we’ve been visited by the Northern Lights and witnessed a celestial meeting between Jupiter and Venus. The rest of March promises a few more magical astronomical events worth looking out for. Whether you have none of the gear and no idea, or are a seasoned stargazing pro, here’s what you need to know. What can you see in the night sky this month? All month If you have access to some decent binoculars or a telescope then you might be able to see the double cluster in Perseus. These are thousands (maybe even millions) of stars gravitationally bound together to form a spherical shape with a bright, dense core. If you’re lucky enough to live in an area with minimal light pollution, you may be able to see the clusters with the naked eye as a faint smudge of light. The Royal Observatory Greenwich also describes a ‘triangle of red’ that can be seen throughout the month. This is a trio made up of Mars and two of the brightest stars, Aldebaran and Betelguese, which all have a noticeable reddish tint. It is the last chance to see Orion the Hunter before the constellation becomes too low in the sky to be spotted. It will reappear again in November. Sirius, the brightest star in the sky, will also be going into hibernation for a while after this month. Tuesday Mar
Jane Austen’s lavish birthplace has hit the market for £8.5 million
Let’s be honest, we could all use a break from twenty-first-century reality now and then. And if diving into a period drama doesn’t offer enough escapism for you, how about retreating to the actual place where Jane Austen was born (and penned her most loved novels)? Who knows, it might even inspire the romantic writer inside you. Steventon House, which sits on the Hampshire estate that was home to the author, is now on sale. But if you want to get your hands on it, you’ll need to be pretty damn loaded – the asking price is £8.5 million. Austen lived in a stately home on the estate from 1775 to 1801, and it was where she wrote ‘Pride and Prejudice’, ‘Northanger Abbey’ and ‘Sense and Sensibility’. After most of the family had moved away, Austen’s brother Edward replaced the original rectory with a more modern Georgian mansion. The Grade II-listed building has numerous Georgian features including high ceilings and stately fireplaces. The new inhabitants will have the run of several reception rooms, a massive kitchen and six bedrooms, including a master suite with a dressing room and walk-in wardrobe. Spread across the 50-acre grounds, you’ll find other luxuries including a tennis court, a greenhouse, a kitchen garden, a heated swimming pool and a cute little two-bed cottage. Savills dubbed it ‘the rarest of opportunities to live in one of Hampshire’s, if not the UK’s most significant country houses’. Want to find out more about the property? You can see the official listing h
Can you guess the UK’s most popular tourist attraction in 2022?
Whether it’s down to all the royal goings-on of the past year (namely the Platty Joobz and the late Queen’s funeral) or simply its stunning gardens and fascinating history, the Crown Estate in Windsor has been revealed as the UK’s most visited site in 2022. According to the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions, the royal park had more than 5.6 million visitors in 2022 and topped the list for the second year in a row. The ALVA also revealed that overall visits to UK galleries, museums and heritage sites have increased by 69 percent since 2021, despite international tourist numbers still being below pre-pandemic level. If you’ve ever been caught in the crowds on Southbank or zigzagged through the queues on Exhibition Road, it will come as no surprise that London dominates the AVLA’s ranking. The Natural History Museum was the second most visited site and the number-one indoor attraction, with 4.6 million people paying it a visit. Amid the cost of living crisis, free sites including the Tate Modern, the Southbank Centre and the National Gallery racked up between 200 to 300 percent more visitors than in 2021. The National Museum in Edinburgh was tourists’ fave spot in Scotland and narrowly missed out on a place in the top ten. In Northern Ireland, the Titanic Belfast received the most footfall, while Bodnant Garden in Conwy was Wales’s most popular site. Here are the ten most popular tourist attractions in the UK last year: The Crown Estate, Windsor Great Park, Berk
England’s weirdest new attraction? An Anglo-Saxon museum that doubles up as a distillery
While you’d probably expect to travel further north for an epic whisky experience (we’re talking Highlands territory), Northumberland also loves a dram. Now an epic Anglo-Saxon Museum and whisky distillery is set to paint the town red in the spirit of the area’s 200-year-old distilling tradition. Ad Gefrin is the latest addition to the UK’s collection of 40 whisky distilleries and opens to the public on Saturday (March 25). The attraction in the small town of Wooler invites tourists to learn about ancient Northumbrian kings and queens, and their impeccable hospitality. Millions of pounds have been spent on the project, which will see the production of the region’s first legal whisky for more than two centuries. Visitors can take a tour of the Great Hall and museum or treat themselves to a 90-minute behind-the-scenes tour and tasting session. The name of the attraction means ‘by the hill of goats’ and comes from the ancient Anglo-Saxon royal power base four miles away in the hamlet of Yeavering. The British Museum has also loaned Ad Gefrin treasures from the time the royal fort would attract important visitors from across Europe and North Africa (around 1,300 years ago). We named the attraction one of the UK’s best new things to do in 2023. So, what are you waiting for? Tickets are available to pre-book on its website now. There might even be some lovely gold goblets to drink out of. Cheers to that! Stay in the loop: sign up to Out There, our free newsletter about all the b
Wetherspoons is selling £2.15 pints – just in time for beer-garden season
As we head slowly but surely into beer garden season, it’s going to start getting a lot harder to say no to a post-work pint. From tomorrow, Wetherspoons are making that temptation a lot more difficult to resist. To kick off spring, Spoons is hosting a 12-day celebration of all things ale, from citrusy IPAs to deep dark rubies, available at dangerously alluring prices across all of its pubs. The chain’s Real Ale Festival runs from March 22 to April 2 and as part of the festivities, pints will cost as little as £2.15. Exact prices will depend on where you live but the average cost is still expected to be below £3. The bargain is available across a selection of 30 ales from around the globe – six of which have been brewed exclusively for the event. As well as showcasing leading British breweries, Spoons will include international ales from countries including Sweden, the USA and Belgium. With the sheer variety on offer, you’re probably going to want to sip on a few to figure out your fave. Luckily, beer fans can opt for three tasting glasses measured at a third of a pint for the same price as a full pint. The annual festival arrives as Spoons prices have risen by around 7.5 percent and a bunch of its venues have been put on sale. Despite this, boss Tim Martin said that he remains ‘cautiously optimistic’ about the brand’s future. Stay in the loop: sign up to Out There, our free newsletter about all the best stuff to do across the UK.
Revealed: the best places to spot wildlife in the UK
It’s finally happening: the days are getting longer and the UK is getting (slightly) warmer. Before long, we’ll all be spending a lot more time sharing the outdoors with the country’s wealth of wildlife. From deer to damselflies, hares to heathers, and blue tits to butterflies, we really do have a wonderful collection of flora and fauna – if you know where to look, that is. Outdoor clothing and equipment brand Millets has revealed exactly where to go to catch a glimpse of some of your favourite species. Researchers analysed the number of wildlife occurrences between 2018 and 2022 in each local UK authority to determine best places and times of the year to spot nature. It comes as a surprise to no one that the Scottish Highlands ranks first in the list, home to robins, heathers, oystercatchers, damselflies and many more species. Millets found that the area had a total of 18,371 wildlife occurrences per 10,000 population. As a hotspot for blackbirds and blue tits, York scooped second place on the list with 17,649 wildlife occurrences per 10,0000 population. The local authority of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk came in at number three, particularly notable for its large number of wildlife-protected sites where goldfinches can be spotted. The research also revealed the best times of the year to see certain species. November is apparently the best month to catch a glimpse of blackbirds, while January is peak time for robins. March is an optimum month to look out for great tits, a
Everything we know about King Charles III’s coronation concert
As the big day edges closer, talk is turning to King Charles III’s coronation and all the fanfare surrounding it. There are tons of events planned over the bank holiday weekend, and we can expect loads of parties, official and unofficial, to take place across the country. Alongside the religious ceremony and two stately processions, many of us are looking forward to the official coronation concert set to be held at Windsor Castle. While a full line-up is yet to be revealed, there has been much speculation over which stars will make an appearance. Read on for everything you need to know about the show. When is King Charles III’s coronation concert? It will be taking place on Sunday May 7. Who might be on the coronation concert line-up? The concert line-up has proved to be a bit more difficult to secure than you might have expected. Multiple big names have apparently turned down the gig, including Adele, Ed Sheeran, the Spice Girls and Elton John, a close friend of Princess Diana. According to The Sun, Take That members Gary Barlow, Mark Owen and Howard Donald are likely to headline the event (sorry ladies, Robbie Williams declined). Andrew Lloyd Webber is expected to make an appearance in some capacity, and so too are Olly Murs and Lionel Richie, said to be one of the King’s favourite musicians. How can I get tickets? Unfortunately, the chance to get your hands on tickets has now passed. Only 10,000 spots are available for the general public and the ballot took place in Fe
Why Camilla has swapped the Koh-i-Noor diamond for another controversial crown jewel
Unsurprisingly, King Charles III’s coronation in May is set to be a very sparkly occasion. Besides the stars sure to grace the stage at the coronation concert, there’s also going to be a whole lot of bling on display. Of course, at the centre of it all will be the two dazzling, jewel-encrusted crowns presented to the King and the Queen Consort. A lot of thought is going into every minute detail of the bank holiday weekend and the crowns are no exception. Last week, Buckingham Palace announced that Camilla will move away from tradition in her choice of headgear to avoid controversy – though it seems her new jewellery might prove just as problematic. Here’s everything you need to know. What crown will Camilla wear for King Charles’s coronation? She will be crowned with Queen Mary’s Crown. The headpiece contains 2,200 diamonds and will be modified slightly to include jewels from the late Queen’s personal collection, which includes cuts from the Cullinan diamond – the largest ever discovered. Cullinan III, IV and V will all feature on the big day. It’s believed that this is the first time in recent history that a crown has been ‘recycled’ for a coronation. It replaces the Queen Mother’s coronation crown, which Camilla will not be wearing due to the controversial Koh-i-Noor diamond that adorns it. How much is the Cullinan diamond worth? Before it was cut, the Cullinan weighed 3,106 carats making it the largest rough diamond to ever be found. It was intricately cut to produce n
Where to watch the King’s coronation on a big screen
Nothing draws a crowd quite like a major royal event. More than 13.5 million people tuned into watch the Platinum Jubilee concert last year, along with the tens of thousands who lined the streets around Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. With King Charles’s coronation lined up in May, you don’t have to be in the capital to be surrounded by the buzz of a royally-inclined crowd. More than 30 screens are going to be set up in cities around the UK for communities to come together and watch Charles be crowned alongside Queen Consort Camilla. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has said that more than £1 million has been put aside for the screens to be erected up and down the country. The sites include Cardiff Castle, Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester and Jubilee Square in Brighton, with more still to be announced. On top of singing along to the coronation concert and volunteering with local charities, picnicking in front of one of these screenings can now be added to your coronation weekend itinerary. Just read on to find your nearest location. Where can I watch the coronation on a big screen? North West Manchester – Piccadilly Gardens Oldham – Parliament Square North East Sunderland (multiple locations to be confirmed at a later date) Newcastle upon Tyne (location to be confirmed) Northumberland (location to be confirmed) Darlington – Darlington Market Square Yorkshire and the Humber Hull – City Hall and Trinity Market Bradford – City Park Halifax – Piece Hall
How you can volunteer for the King’s coronation
By now, we all pretty much know how the coronation weekend is going to go. Saturday: a big old religious ceremony. Sunday: a star-studded concert at Windsor Castle (though there’s still speculation over who the headliners will actually be). However, if you’re still wondering what to do on the bank holiday Monday, Bucky P could have you covered. After two days of celebrations, it wants you to wash that hangover away and roll up your sleeves. To honour the King’s lifetime of public service, Brits are being urged to dedicate Monday, March 8 to volunteering. Whether you can spare an hour or the entire day, it’s a good opportunity to help the elderly, do your bit for the environment or become closer to your local community. Here’s everything you need to know. How can I volunteer for the King’s coronation? Just download the Big Help Out app, which launched today. There are hundreds of thousands of opportunities available at more than 1,500 organisations. They can be filtered by postcode, the cause you’d like to support or type of activity. What is the Big Help Out initiative? The scheme has been devised by some of the UK’s leading charities, including the Scouts, the Royal Voluntary Service and Guide Dogs. Organisers hope that it will ‘underscore the central role volunteering plays in our national story’. Stay in the loop: sign up to Out There, our free newsletter about all the best stuff to do across the UK.
Everything you need to know about the upcoming passport strikes
Just when you thought travelling in 2023 couldn’t get anymore complicated (rail strikes, we’re looking at you), another spanner has been thrown in the works. More than 1,000 passport office staff across he UK are now set to walk out in April over a long-running dispute concerning wages and working conditions. The strike could lead to long delays in the delivery of new passports and may impact upcoming holiday plans – so if you have a trip coming up but your passport is due to expire, you’re going to want to plan ahead. Here’s everything you need to know about the upcoming passport strikes. How long are passport workers striking for? The industrial action will last a total of five weeks, from April 3 to May 5. Passport office staff in Belfast are striking from April 7 to May 5. What effect will the strike have on travel? The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union said it will have ‘significant impact’ on the delivery of passports. More than a million passport applications could be stuck in a bottleneck, meaning some people may not receive new documents in time for their holidays. How long do I need on my passport to travel? That depends on the country you intend to visit. For EU destinations such as Spain, France or Greece, your passport needs to be valid for at least three months after the day of departure. Some countries further afield, such as Brazil and Indonesia, require at least six months, while others including Canada, Australia and Japan only need it to be
This northern city is getting a super-connected transport system like London
If you’re a Londoner, it’s very likely that you will have been left baffled by the transport systems of other UK cities: your Oyster card is redundant, there are majestic vehicles known as ‘trams’, and buses and trains aren’t linked via one smooth payment system. Well, travelling around Manchester in particular might soon feel a tiny bit more familiar, as the city is due to get a super-connected transport system like London. Passengers across Greater Manchester will be able to tap in and tap out of different modes of transport thanks to a new deal with the government which was announced yesterday. The goal is to have all the city’s buses, trams and trains linked up by 2030. It will include ‘ticketing integration’ on the public transport system, while the Bee Network branding which is already on the city’s trams and buses will also be seen on the railways. The agreement is the latest in a line of devolution deals for the area, meaning that more transport decisions will be made by local politicians. Mayor Andy Burnham will have full control over local spending through a single budget over several years rather than having to bid for pots of cash. Burnham said that the new system ‘will mean that public transport becomes a much more attractive and affordable option for lots of people who commute into Greater Manchester’. Stay in the loop: sign up to Out There, our free newsletter about all the best stuff to do across the UK.