In the News this Week...

brought to you by News Editor, Roger Bray
  • Pyramids of meroe in sudan

    Meroë Pyramids - image by Ola.m T be via Wikimedia Commons

    Archaeology specialist plans Sudan tours

    about 14 hours ago

    Tours of Sudan have been introduced by archaeology specialist Andante Travels. The move came just as the Government had added the country to its red traffic light list but the firm said with the two 14-day trips planned for next year it was hoped things would change by then. The tours – one in February, the other in November, start and finish in Khartoum. Highlights include the more than 400 hilltop pyramids of Meroë, some perfectly preserved and dating from between 270BC and 320AD, the prehistoric petroglyphs of Wadi Sabu, and the temple in Soleb, built by Pharoah Amenhotep II. There will also be a boat ride to the confluence of the white and Blue Niles. The tours will be led by guide and lecturer Dr Jacke Phillips. Richard Tarrant, the firms director of new Product sna marketing, described Sudan as “one of the world’s great archaeological destinations”. The tours were once in a lifetime journeys through millennia of enthralling history and travels around spectacular sites that are still romantically sandswept and free of visitors".

  • Cliffs %28c. daniel villadsen%29

    Image courtesy Visit Faroe Islands © Daniel Villadsen

    Direct Faroes flights set for restart

    1 day ago

    Travellers will be able to fly direct to the Faroe Islands from Edinburgh from 1 July. Atlantic Airways will operate twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays. Flights by Airbus A320 aircraft will take 1hr 25mins. The archipelago is currently on the Government’s green traffic light list, but for the time being UK visitors need to go via Denmark, which has eased its restrictions but is still rated amber. Fully vaccinated travellers from the UK are now allowed entry to the Faroes without having the quarantine. It’s not all plain sailing however: passengers still need to take a test – it costs £36 – on arrival and self isolate until they get the result, usually within half a day. They may they explore the islands, go hiking and visit restaurants until taking a follow up test four days later. A new hiking guide, detailing over 50 routes, can now be found online. The Faroes, with their dramatic cliffs and fells and rich bird life, are a fascinating destination, far away from the tourist milk run.

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    Alternative flights organised after airline collapse

    3 days ago

    Aer Lingus has stepped in to organise alternative flights for passengers hit by the failure of Stobart Air, which ceased operations last week. Stobart was operating services for the Irish carrier’s regional arm. Of the twelve routes immediately affected. Aer Lingus main line has taken over five – Dublin to Edinburgh and Manchester and Belfast City to Manchester, Birmingham, and Edinburgh. For this week at least, BA City Flyer is operating two – Belfast City to Exeter and Leeds-Bradford. At the time of writing customers were being offered alternative flights between Belfast City and East Midlands and between Dublin and Glasgow and Newquay. Alternatives for the remaining two routes were still being worked out.

  • Dore abbey %28from visit herefordshire listing%29

    Dore Abbey (image courtesy Visit Herefordshire)

    New trail will link ley line landmarks

    3 days ago

    A long distance walking trail will be launched this summer, to mark the centenary of Alfred Watkins’ discovery of ley lines. Running for 45 miles through Herefordshire’s wilder landscapes, the Twin Valley Ley Line Trail will visit landmarks they supposedly linked. As its name suggests it will take in two river valleys with distinct characteristics. The Dore – the so called Golden Valley – is bathed in light while the Monnow, is darker and more mysterious. Hikers can stay overnight in country pubs and b&bs. Meanwhile Visit Herefordshire will run a two day walk of the Dore on 29 and 30 June, guided by Guy Hayward of the British Pilgrimage Trust, and a series of day walks between 21 and 27 June. Watkins never suggested the lines bore any supernatural significance but most archaeologists are sceptical of his claims, now arguing there are so many ancient landmarks it was inevitable some would be in alignment.

    To sign up for the walks go to Visit Herefordshire

  • Heathr0w

    Image courtesy Heathrow Airport

    Government must restart travel to low risk countries - Heathrow boss

    6 days ago

    Heathrow’s CEO John Holland-Kaye today accused the Government of refusing to provide the data behind its discouragement of international travel and its failure to introduce a green “watchlist”. When Ministers review the traffic light list on 28 June review they must rely on the science, he said, restart travel to low risk countries such as the US, clear a pathway to restriction free travel for vaccinated passengers and replace expensive PCR tests with lateral flow check for low risk arrivals.

    Mr Holland Kaye said re-opening transatlantic travel was critical to the UK and US. “Pre-pandemic Britain was the top destination for US tourists, but this leadership position is at risk of being snapped up and our Global Britain ambitions undermined by France and Italy, who are already set to open their doors to vaccinated American travellers in the coming weeks.”

    And with the G7 meeting starting in Cornwall he called on world leaders to commit to mandating the use of at least 10% of sustainable aviation fuels by 2030 – increasing to 50% by 2050. The G7 should take the lead in moving to net zero aviation.

  • Palma hotel

    Palma gets new boutique hotel

    6 days ago

    Once a soap factory dating from 1576, a building in Palma is set to open on Monday (14 June) as the city’s latest boutique hotel. Located between the Old Town and the Santa Catarina district, Concepció by Nobis Is on Carrer de Concepción, not far from the Mallorcan capital’s oldest food market. It has 31 rooms, a restaurant and bar, plus an outdoor pool and a gym. Designed by the Scandinavian Nobis group, the property is the latest addition to a wave of boutique hotel openings in recent years it further underlines Palma’s appeal as a city break destination.

  • Vila igiea

    Grand Sicilian hotel re-opens after re-vamp

    7 days ago

    Palermo’s Villa Igiea, haunt of royalty and film stars, has re-opened after a major restoration as a Rocco Forte hotel. Built in the late 19th century for an English Admiral, it has been renovated by Olga Polizzi, preserving original Art Nouveau features while redesigning neglected areas. The hotel, overlooks the Gulf of Palermo, with gardens sweeping down towards the sea. It has 78 rooms and 22 suites, a restaurant and bars, a pool, spa, gym and a tennis court. Palermo Airport is 30 minutes away. Among its guests before the First World War, were King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, Russian Tsarina Maria Feodorovna and the King of Siam. In later years they included Claudia Cardinale, Burt Lancaster and Alain Delon, who stayed during the shooting of Luchino Visconti’s classic 1963 adaptation of Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s novel, The Leopard.

  • Pacific islands  cruise.co.uk

    Pacific islands - proving popular

    Demand rises for long cruises in distant waters

    8 days ago

    Britons are booking more long cruises than before the pandemic, suggesting well heeled travellers are keen to spend their lockdown savings on great escapes. Specialist agency cruise.co.uk says so far this year it has seen demand rise by 10% above 2019 levels. Bookings often include hotel stays at either end of the cruises, allowing customers to get more out of long haul trips. The firm says sailings from Sydney to Pacific islands such as Bora Bora, Tahiti and Hawaii have shown the biggest jump in popularity. Other long itineraries attracting bookings for late next years and 2023 are a 30 night Far East trip including Singapore and Tokyo, 27 nights visiting Australia and New Zealand, and 37 nights sailing to Fiji, Vanuatu and Hong Kong. The agency’s managing director, Tony Andrews, said: “Guests are increasingly booking for longer periods of time away to really make the most of their holiday after so much time indoors. It’s clear there is a real appetite for extended cruises, in part because our opportunities to travel have been so limited for nearly 18 months now.”

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    New UK hiking, cycling tours launched

    8 days ago

    Tour operators continue to launch new holidays in the UK holidays with travelling abroad still subject to restrictions. Freedom Treks, which previously focused on cycling in the rest of Europe, and Asia, is now offering a of domestic trips – in the saddle or on foot. In a recent survey it 87% of customers expressed interest in tours closer to home.

    Leisurely cycling holidays include a week in the Cotswolds and Shakespeare country and a foodie itinerary through Shropshire. Tougher road biking tours take in the Trossachs and the edge of the Cairngorms, for example, and the sea to sea route across northern England. Walking tours include four days on the Cumbrian Way in the Lake District.

  • Portugal 2046351 1280

    Switch to amber deters silver travellers most - survey

    9 days ago

    Silver travellers are least likely to stick to their plans if their chosen destination country is shifted from green to amber. That is the clear indication from a snap YouGov poll taken at the height of the row over Portugal. 61% of over 65s said they definitely would not, against 49% of 50-65 year olds. That compares with 35% aged 25-49 and only 22% aged 18-24. There was much less difference between the age groups when people were asked whether they definitely would still go, however. In ascending order of age categories the proportions were 8%, 6%. 5% and 3%. In answer to the question whether they “probably would” the figures were 22% 16%, 11% and 7%, while 31%, 28%, 22% and 20% said they “probably wouldn’t”. It is open to speculation whether a weekend report that scientists felt the Portuguese clampdown was marginal would have made any significant difference to the outcome. However, concern at guilt if they brought back a variant might have outweighed concern over self isolation and the cost of tests among the retired over 50s.

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    Airline chiefs press for UK-US flights resumption

    10 days ago

    The heads of all airlines flying between the UK and the US joined Heathrow and other industry leaders today to press for the resumption of flights. The move came ahead of the G7 meeting in Cornwall which will be attended by Boris Johnson and President Biden.

    In a subsequent statement the CEOs urged The UK Prime Minister to replace the required PCR test for travellers returning from green light countries. They also want the US Government to lift entry restrictions on UK visitors who are vaccinated or can provide proof of recovery from the disease.

    The group included CEOs of British Airways, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Virgin Atlantic, United Airlines and JetBlue, which is about to enter the fray on the London New York route. They said London and Washington governments should take a " data driven and risk based approach to re-opening borders. After a weekend report that the cabinet may not be united over its approach to summer travel, they said: " With world-leading vaccination programmes in both the UK and US, there is a clear opportunity to safely open up travel between these two low-risk countries, enabling consumers on both sides of the Atlantic to reconnect with loved ones, re-establish business relationships and explore new destinations after more than a year of lockdowns and restrictions."

    Virgin chief Shai Weiss noted that with 63.5% of Americans having received at least one dose of vaccine “There is no reason for the US to be absent from the UK ‘Green’ list. This overly cautious approach fails to reap the benefits of the successful vaccination programmes in both the UK and the US.” BA CEO Sean Doyle said: " As President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Boris Johnson meet this week, they must address the transatlantic ban that is separating our two low-risk countries at a major cost to our citizens and economies. We urgently need them to look to the science and base their judgements on a proper risk analysis, allowing us all to benefit from the protection offered by our successful vaccine rollouts. In the UK this means making the traffic light system fit for purpose, including a pathway to restriction-free travel for vaccinated travellers, and getting rid of complexity surrounding ‘amber list’ countries, eliminating quarantine and reducing the number of tests passengers are required to take." United’s Scott Kirby said trials of COVID-free flights between Newark and Heathrow and the US Department of Defense study of cabin air filtration " not only contributed to the body of scientific knowledge, they have demonstrated the near non-existent rates of viral transmission aboard an aircraft."

  • Canaries beach

    Image by Hans Braxmeier from PIxabay

    Canaries update entry rules

    10 days ago

    As the row over the Government’s abrupt relegation of Portugal to the amber list simmers on, a single dose of vaccine is now enough for UK travellers to gain entry to the Canary Islands. It must be a vaccine authorised by the European Medicines Agency and given not more than four months and at least 15 days before the trip. Four months becomes eight months for those who have received two doses. An “official” medical certificate proving the passenger has had and recovered from COVID-19 in the previous six months will also be accepted. Otherwise visitors will need to show evidence of a negative test (PCR, TMA or antigen) taken within 72 hours before arrival. There are no restrictions on travelling between islands. The updated rules cover those staying in tourist accommodation. Confusingly the rest of Spain has removed al restrictions for travellers from the UK, which is on a list of countries with a low incidence of infection. Despite this Spain, and its islands remain on the Government’s amber traffic light list.

  • Mcr jewish museum april 1st 202161917 %28c%29 chris payne

    Image © Chris Payne

    Manchester's Jewish Museum set to re-open

    13 days ago

    IMAGE COPYRIGHT CHRIS PAYNE Manchester Jewish Museum is scheduled to open on 2 July following a major redesign, extension and restoration of its 1874 Spanish and Portuguese synagogue. Housing over 31,000 eclectic objects, from personal letters to photographs, it will illustrate the Jewish experience, for example through stories of migration. One of its more unusual exhibits is a Russian washboard used as a cricket bat. Closed since 2019, the re-vamped museum, in Cheetham Hill, now has a shop, and a café serving locally sourced, kosher style vegetarian food. There will also be a learning studio and kitchen where schools, community groups and local business people can explore Jewish culture through traditional cookery and eating. Experts in historic painting and stained glass are among the specialists to have worked on restoring the Grade II listed synagogue to its former glory.

  • Skybridge

    Image courtesy Pursuit

    Mountain suspension bridges open in Canada

    14 days ago

    Two suspension bridge walkways claimed to be Canada’s highest suspension bridges open tomorrow (4 June) near the British Columbia town of Golden. Hanging 130 and 80 metres above a deep canyon, they will will be linked by a three kilometre nature trail through forest. Golden is at the edge of the Rocky Mountain and Columbia ranges, a drive of about 90mins from Banff and a short distance from Kicking Horse, one of the country’s most challenging ski areas. Called the Golden Skybridge, the newly built attraction promises stunning panoramas of mountain peaks and a 200ft waterfall, including from viewing platforms.. If just walking across isn’t enough to get the adrenaline pumping there will also be a 1200 metre zipline across the canyon later this summer. Other additions will include bungee jumping. There will be a grill serving wine and craft beer. David Barry president of operating company Pursuit says the bridges will become “an iconic experience”, not least for tourists traveling between Alberta and British Columbia. Adult tickets cost around £20.

  • Lamaisonchampollion departement isere musee champollion

    La Maison Champollion (image courtesy Isere Tourisme)

    Man who deciphered Egyptian hieroglyphics focus of new French Museum

    15 days ago

    A new museum dedicated to Egyptology has opened near Grenoble in the French Alps. It is housed in the former family home of the Champollion family in Vif, at the foot of the Vercors massif. The property has undergone a major renovation and extension. The museum pays tribute to Jean-François Champollion (1790-1832), who deciphered hieroglyphics from the Rosetta Stone and was considered to be the father of Egyptology, and his older brother, Jacques-Joseph Champollion-Figeac (1778-1867), also a renowned intellectual, archaeologist, journalist, librarian and university professor. The brothers’ descendants preserved stampings taken from the stone, a large library, working notes and correspondence.

  • Brussels 1546290 1280

    Brussels Grand Place

    New hotel opens near Brussels Eurostar stop

    16 days ago

    Travellers heading to Europe by train will have a new place to stay in Brussels when Europe shakes off COVID restrictions. Meininger Hotels has opened a 150 room property a short walk from the Belgian capital’s Gare du Midi, stopping for Eurostar trains from London and the station where passengers can change to high speed onward services, notably to Germany. The hotel is close to tram and Metro stops and a short walk from the impressive Grand Place. It has a wide range of rooms, from doubles to dormitories, a “guest kitchen”, 30 parking places on site – and interior decoration commemorating one of Brussels’ artistic stars, the surrealist Rene Magritte. The group, which opened its first hotel in Berlin in 1999 and now has some 40 in Germany and elsewhere, is headquartered in London. Its slogan is “Central, Affordable, Modern”

  • Heathrow 175811215827035 thumb

    Image courtesy Heathrow Airport

    Red list arrivals due for Heathrow separation

    17 days ago

    Heathrow was scheduled to take another step towards ensuring safety for passengers from coronavirus with the opening of a dedicated facility for travellers on direct flights from red list countries. Initially the facility will be in Terminal 3 but the airport says it will be moved to Terminal 4 “as soon as operationally possible”. Today’s move follows concern that travellers from high risk countries were insufficiently separated from those arriving from destinations on the green light list. The airport said in a statement: “Red list routes will likely be a feature of UK travel for the foreseeable future as countries vaccinate their populations at different rates”. And with a clear nod to headlines suggesting COVID checks could cause long delays at immigration for all passengers, it said “we hope it will enable Border Force to carry out its duties more efficiently as passenger volumes increase in line with the green list.”

  • Air pax

    Jab dividend for travellers on horizon?

    20 days ago

    Fully vaccinated travellers returning from green light destinations may soon no longer need to take PCR test. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is reported to have told a seminar he favours a “jab dividend” but that ministers would need to be reassured there was no serious risk of transmission from those who had been innoculated. Such a change would represent good news for silver travellers, a large proportion of whom have been double dosed. If it does go ahead it is unlikely to be announced until shortly before the 28 June deadline for a major review of travel restrictions. Much will depend, however, on the progress of the Indian variant, which has already prompted tougher restrictions on UK residents arriving France, Germany and Austria. Entry requirements vary. There has been no indication how long the French crackdown on non essential travel will last, though it has infuriated many French people living in the UK, some of whom clearly suspect it is a political rather than a health decision. Almost all UK residents are currently barred from entering Austria, though the Vienna government’s ban on all direct flights from this country is currently scheduled from 1 June until 20 June.

  • Celebrity edge 2

    Celebrity Edge (image courtesy Celebrity Cruises)

    Cruises from US ports set to depart again

    20 days ago

    Cruising from the US is to start again late next month. Celebrity Edge will be the first ship back in service, after receiving clearance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She will sail on a seven night itinerary from Port Everglades, Florida, on 26 June. The move represents another step forward in the worldwide resumption of cruising. No ships have operated cruises from US ports since March last year.

    Celebrity Cruises has also announced its return to Alaska from 23 July, will sail again in the Caribbean from 5 June and have other ships back in service soon in the Caribbean. From 19 June Celebrity Apex will start operating Greek island itineraries.

    But with the exception of Celebrity Silhouette, which will cruise around Britain this summer from Southampton, at the time of writing UK cruise lovers are unable to travel to any of the departure countries mentioned here. Most UK residents are barred from entering the US. When, or if, restrictions ease, they will need show evidence of vaccinations before cruising on any of Celebrity’s ships.

  • Jersey 1703458 1280

    Jersey Castle

    Jersey flights to take off from Humberside

    20 days ago

    Regional UK airline Eastern Airways is to launch a summer link between Humberside Airport and Jersey. Weekly Saturday services will start on 19 June and run until 25 September. Outbound flights by ATR72-600 turboprop aircraft will depart at 3pm, arriving in the Channel Islands at 4.40pm. Yorkshire-bound flights will leave at 12.20pm, arriving at 2pm. Roger Hage, the airlines’ general manager, said the move had been prompted by “UK staycation growth”. The service will be operated in partnership with CI Travel Group and Premier Holidays. Meanwhile the airline’s service to Jersey from Teesside, also departing once a week on Saturdays, is scheduled to take off tomorrow (29 May).