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The Spookiest Haunted Houses of North America

Spooky Season is well and truly here … and it is a BIG deal in the USA and Canada. To celebrate this most creepy of seasons, we wanted to share some of the best real haunted houses on the continent with you.

 

Are you brave enough to incorporate any of these into your next road trip, or have you experienced any paranormal activity at any of these locations? We would love to hear! 

 

Winchester Mystery House, San Jose, CA

According to legend, this rambling Victorian mansion is haunted by the ghosts of everyone killed by a Winchester rifle, the gun that was developed by the home’s owner William Winchester and his father before they died within 4 months of each other in 1880. To appease the spirits, William’s widow Sarah began creating a labyrinthine house filled with halls that lead nowhere, doors that open onto sheer drops, sloping floors, 47 fireplaces, 13 bathrooms and 9 kitchens.

 

Since her death in 1922, the home has hosted tours for those willing to walk among the Winchester ghosts. Would you dare?

 

Villisca Axe Murder House, Villisca, IA

Back in 1912, the Villisca Axe Murder House in Iowa was the site of a horrifying crime that left an entire family dead by axe. There were several suspects, but no one was ever charged with the horrific crime.

 

The family’s ghosts are said to remain in the house and visitors after a taste of the supernatural can book tours of the site and you can even spend the night in the home if you feel brave enough.

 

The Sallie House, Atchison, KS

This unassuming home in Kansas is rumoured to be the dark lair for a demon who takes on the form of a little girl. Several of the houses’ former residents reports strange phenomena including flickering lights, possessions, unexplained voices and even strange scratches, marks or burns on their bodies.

 

Today, the infamous house now offers self-guided tours or special overnight visits.

 

The Lizzie Borden House, Fall River, MA

The Borden family home, and site of Andrew and Abby Borden’s brutal murder in 1892, has now been turned into a museum and bed & breakfast where guests can walk in the footsteps of the family and even stay the night in one of its reportedly haunted rooms.

 

Andrew & Abby’s daughter Lizzie was long suspected of committing the crime but was never charged, due to a lack of evidence.

 

Craigdarroch Castle, Victoria, BC

The castle, built in the 1890s by Robert Dunsmuir, is one of Victoria’s most loved tourist attractions and one of its most haunted. Visitors have reported hearing a mysterious piano playing and others claim to have seen a woman in white, supposedly Mrs. Dunsmuir, looking out the window. Many attribute the castles’ supernatural proclivity to Dunsmuir’s untimely demise just a year before the building was completed.

 

The house is now open for self-guided tours – visit and keep an eye out for any ghostly activity!

 

House of Death, New York, NY

The brownstone in Greenwich Village is said to be haunted by 22 people who have lived or died within the walls of the home, on West 10th Street, including that of a 6-year-old child who was beaten by her adoptive father. There are also claims that author Mark Twain once called the address home and is known to visit from time to time.

 

The home is now apartments so you can’t tour the interior but many ghost tours of the city stop by the building.

 

The Whaley House, San Diego, CA

Back in 1852, James "Yankee Jim" Robinson was hung for the crime of grand larceny. A few years later, Thomas and Anna Whaley built a house on the spot where Robinson died, and it has since been said that Yankee Jim’s footsteps can be heard clumping around the house. The Whaley’s and even their family dog are also said to haunt the home.

 

If you visit and tour the home on your travels, we’d love to hear about it!

 

The Keg Mansion, Toronto, ON

Now a Keg steakhouse in downtown Toronto, the mansion was once the home of industrialist Hart Massey and his family. Legend has it that after the death of Massey’s daughter in 1915, their maid was so distraught that she completed suicide in the building.  

 

Many diners have reported having seen the maid and several other spirits. So much so, in fact, that the staff at the restaurant keep a ‘ghost log’ to document encounters. 

 

If you want to go and explore any of these haunted houses for yourself as part of your next road trip, contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we will be happy to help you put together a spooky fly-drive!

 

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Dark Sky Reserves in North America

Between them, the US and Canada boast more than 50 accredited Dark Sky Parks and Reserves; wilderness areas where light pollution is controlled and limited so that the true beauty of the night sky can be appreciated, making for some unforgettable memories and enviable photographs.

 

We’d love to tell you about some of our favourites …

 

Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Canyonlands National Park was designated a gold tier Dark Sky Park in 2015, joining the 4 other ‘Mighty Five’ national parks in the state: Arches, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef and Zion. Attend night sky ranger programs to learn more about the stars you’ll see and even look through a telescope to get a better look.

 

Big Bend National Park, Texas

Big Bend, in western Texas and close to the Mexico border, encompasses approximately 800,000 acres of the Chihuahuan Desert. Here, you’ll likely encounter few fellow tourists and even less light pollution. If you’d rather not explore alone, join a guided moonlight walk with a park ranger.

 

Death Valley National Park, California & Nevada 

America’s hottest and driest national park sits across the California-Nevada state line. Not only does exploring the park at night make for a cooler experience, but it also means the opportunity to see thousands of stars with the naked eye. It is recommended that visiting during a new moon will enhance your visit even further and there is a Dark Sky Festival held here every spring.

 

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Few destinations evoke imagery quite like the Grand Canyon. While the views during the day are extraordinary, the dark skies make it well worth looking up too. You may be lucky enough to see a meteor shower, star cloud or even catch a glimpse of Saturn or Jupiter.

 

Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado

Great Sand Dunes is affectionally known as America’s sandbox, but much of the park’s beauty is seen after dark. The neighbouring Sangre de Cristo mountains shelter the park from nearby light pollution, making near perfect conditions for viewing up to 15,000 stars.

 

Joshua Tree National Park, California

Joshua Tree’s distance from any major city means that it is one of the best places in the world to go stargazing. For the best conditions, visit between April and September, make your way to the east of the park (where the closest source of light pollution, Phoenix, is about 300 miles away), and try to visit alongside a new moon.

 

Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, Alberta & Montana

Waterton-Glacier is special, not just for its dark sky status but also because the park straddles an international border between Montana in the US and Alberta in Canada. The best spots for stargazing, according to park rangers, include Cameron Bay, which is just walking distance from town, the Red Rock Parkway, and the Bison Paddock Overlook, which shows off the prairie’s skies in all their glory.

 

Terra Nova National Park, Newfoundland

Terra Nova became Canada’s 20th Dark Sky Preserve in 2018 and Parks Canada recommends four key destinations within the park for the best views. Sandy Pond is thought to have the darkest skies in the area; Ochre Hill was originally used as a fire-watch station and is now a great place for panoramic views, Blue Hill is the tallest point in the park and at the Visitor Centre you can get a great view of the stars reflected in the water of Newman Sound.

 

Jasper National Park, Alberta

At 11,000 square kilometres, Jasper is the second largest Dark Sky Reserve in the world. It hosts the Annual Jasper Dark Sky Festival every October, which includes talks from prominent star-gazers and events including ‘Symphony Under the Stars’.

 

Fundy National Park, New Brunswick

As well as being a certified Dark Sky area, Fundy National Park is known for having the highest tides in the world. To combine the beauty of the tides with the night sky, try to visit during the first or last quarter of the moon to really appreciate the movement of the water at night.

 

Kejimkujik National Park, Nova Scotia

At Kejimkujik National Park, join a telescope stargazing session if you visit in summer, at a purpose-built aboriginal ‘Sky Circle’, enhancing your appreciation of the night sky. As well as the stunning skies, the darkness will also mean that nocturnal animals such as bears and coyotes aren’t bothered by human lights, so will be much more active than in other, more polluted areas.

 

If you would love to visit any of these amazing dark sky areas with your family and friends, please contact us, we would love to help you plan an unforgettable star-gazing experience.

 

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PRIDE: The Best Inclusive Destinations for LGBTQ+ Travellers

June is Pride Month so to celebrate, we wanted to highlight some of the best destinations for LGBTQ+ travellers.

 

Canada has been voted as the best country to visit by the Spartacus Gay Travel Index 2020 for the second year in a row, alongside Malta and Sweden. The Index also breaks down the USA by state, with the best states for LGBTQ+ inclusivity being California, Nevada and New York.

 

Fantastic destinations for LGBTQ+ tourists extend far beyond these places though; here are some of our favourites;

 

Banff & Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada

Canada has been voted the most gay-friendly country in the world, so it is no surprise that some Canadian destinations are loved by LGBTQ+ travellers. Banff and Lake Louise are located within the Rocky Mountains and are some of the most beautiful destinations in the world. They are well known for their year-round adventure and wellness credentials.

 

Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Boston makes for a great destination for gay travellers; founded in 1630, the city is the shining jewel in Massachusetts’ crown, and a perennial favourite for those seeking exceptional culture, dining, history, and arts. This city is more than just tolerant of LGBTQ+ travellers – Massachusetts was the first US state to legalize same-sex marriage in 2004.

 

Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town is known as the ‘Gay Capital of Africa’ and the city hosts a week-long series of Pride events, parties, and festivals every year. It is full of friendly people, eclectic cuisine, high-energy music, amazing sunsets, incredible beaches, world-class restaurants and art galleries. South Africa’s wine country is also close by the city and well worth exploring.

 

Hawaii, USA

The islands of Hawaii are the perfect holiday spot whatever you are looking for. The capital of Honolulu, on the island of Oahu, holds its own Pride parade every year and is also home to some iconic gay friendly venues including Bacchus and Chiko’s Tavern. If you are looking for more rest and relaxation during your trip, the neighbouring islands of Kauai or Maui offer crystal clear water, white sand beaches, incredible waterfalls and beautiful scenic drives.

 

San Francisco, California, USA

LGBTQ+ history and culture are synonymous with San Francisco, in fact, around one in six people who call the city home identify as gay. The Castro neighbourhood, home to the celebrated LGBTQ+ activist and politician Harvey Milk, is still the hub of the action, where you’ll find a cornucopia of affirming bars, restaurants and cafes as well as the celebrated Castro Theatre.

 

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico really does have it all; from relaxing on the beach, exploring some of the island’s great nightlife options or exploration of a different kind through the El Yunque Rainforest or kayaking in the bays. For a slice of old Caribbean charm mixed with world-class dining and nightlife, the capital of San Juan is hard to beat.

 

Costa Rica

Costa Rica legalised same sex marriage in 2020, making it a much more attractive option for gay travellers. With its beautiful beaches, stunning waterfalls, volcanoes, saltwater fishing, scuba diving and golfing; there really is something to satisfy your every whim here. Make sure to check out Manuel Antonio, a great place for LGBTQ+ tourists.

 

New Zealand

New Zealand is a country with a very welcoming and friendly reputation, which extends to the LGBTQ+ community. With its stunning geography, exciting cities and outdoor adventure abound, it really is a fabulous destination. The capital of Auckland usually holds a Pride festival every February.

 

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Mexico's number one gay tourist destination, Puerto Vallarta is a little slice of inclusive tropical bliss. Gay bars, clubs and resorts dot the ‘Zona Romantica’ neighbourhood, with many homes and businesses here displaying their solidarity with Pride flags. It is a very walkable city and taking a food tour is a great way to spend an afternoon before returning to the beach!

 

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

The cosmopolitan city of Vancouver is a tourist’s dream, with its stunning mountain and ocean scenery. The city is home to one of the largest LGBTQ+ communities in Canada and gay tourists will feel especially at home in the Davie Village and West End areas of downtown with their rainbow crossings and Pride flags abound, at any time of the year! The city does have its own Pride parade, which usually takes place in July.

 

If you would love to visit any of these great LGBTQ+ friendly destinations with your family and friends in 2022, please contact us, we would love to help you plan an unforgettable trip!

 

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A Touch of Luxury ... at Home

Since we are all spending more time at home, we thought we would share with you some of the best hotels in the UK, as voted for by the readers of Conde Nast Traveller. From the Highlands of Scotland to Land’s End, you do not have to go aboard to enjoy a touch of luxury!

 

LONDON - The Dorchester

Located in London’s West End, the hotel has large, comfortable rooms decorated in an English country house style and décor that brings the outside, in. While away an afternoon people watching from the Promenade Restaurant and make sure to enjoy the afternoon tea before you check out!

 

THE COTSWOLDS - Dormy House

A converted farmhouse decorated in a sleek, contemporary style, it boasts good food, excellent service, and a truly fantastic spa. Some of the rooms, in the older farmhouse section of the hotel, have a cosier atmosphere while rooms in the newer parts of the property offer spacious, modern rooms.

 

HAMPSHIRE - Heckfield Place 

Set on 430 acres of Hampshire countryside, this Georgian manor has 45 rooms which boasts original features such as fireplaces and chandeliers as well as modern touches in the room accessories and art. The hotel also has its own farm, which provide two restaurants with fresh ingredients.

 

DORSET - Summer Lodge Country House Hotel

This hotel, located in the depths of the Dorset countryside was original built to plans drawn up by the author Thomas Hardy in 1893. It has since been modernised by still boasts four acres of manicured gardens as well as swimming pool, spa, and restaurant.

 

YORKSHIRE - Grantley Hall

Grantley Hall is a cosy property with touches of contemporary design, set on 38 acres of the North Yorkshire countryside. It has recently received an extensive refurbishment and now has state-of-the-art facilities, including a cryotherapy chamber, underwater treadmill, and spin classes in an altitude-adjustable studio.

 

MANCHESTER - Hotel Brooklyn

Opened in 2020, The Brooklyn might be Manchester’s newest and coolest hotel. The lobby features a drive-in style film projector and guests check themselves in on iPads. The rooms are decorated in a modern style with floor to ceiling windows and there are wildflowers on terraces to attract bees.

 

SOMERSET - The Newt

The Newt is made up of a Georgian mansion and converted outbuildings, all of which are individually decorated; the stable rooms even have quirky beds in the stalls. The land surrounding the hotel, including woods, orchards, and a deer park, is open to guests to wander. They also have a chef’s garden, which produces some of the best food in the area.

 

GUERNSEY - The Duke of Richmond

The Duke is arguably Guernsey’s grandest hotel, with fantastic views across the sea and an outdoor pool during the summer. The rooms are large and beautifully decorated. The biggest draw though is the Leopard Bar & Restaurant, which takes its name from its décor and serves incredible fresh seafood.

 

THE HIGHLANDS - The Torridon

Located 50 miles west of Inverness on the banks of Loch Torridon, The Torridon is a former shooting lodge dating back to 1887. The interior has been lovingly restored but remains in keeping with its history and stunning surroundings, including a pine-panelled whiskey bar, which has an option for every day of the year.

 

THE LAKE DISTRICT - The Linthwaite

A black-and-white-gabled Edwardian mansion in the Lake District, it is within walking distance of Bowness-on-Windermere, which means it offers amazing views, and is surrounded by 14 acres of landscaped gardens. The restaurant and bar have a great reputation too, especially the South African-dominated wine list, inspired by the property’s owners.

 

If you would love to visit any of these amazing hotels with your family and friends, please contact us, we would love to help you plan an unforgettable UK break!

 

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Easter Traditions Around the World

While we may celebrate Easter with a roast lamb dinner and (too many?) chocolate eggs, there are countries across the world that have some rather more quirky traditions to celebrate this holiday …

 

Australia

You’ve seen an Easter chocolate egg and even a chocolate bunny but have you ever seen an Easter chocolate bilby? These small desert dwelling marsupials are an endangered species and chocolatiers across Australia decided to raise awareness of the rabbit-like animals by creating chocolate likenesses over Easter.

 

Greece

In Corfu on Holy Saturday, the locals enjoy the tradition of ‘pot throwing’. People throw pots and other earthenware, usually filled with water, out of their windows. It is thought that the tradition was started to welcome spring, symbolising that new crops will be gathered in new pots.

 

Norway

Easter is often seen as a symbol of new life, but not in Norway! Norwegians spend their Easter break indulging in all things crime, with many new crime novels released during this time and detective dramas shown on television over the weekend. Even the milk cartons carry detective stories on their sides!

 

Bermuda

Everyone gets involved in Easter on the island of Bermuda; locals and visitors alike. The highlight is the Good Friday KiteFest, where people take to the skies with their homemade kites which are usually brightly coloured and have bold geometric designs.

 

Mexico

Easter traditions vary according to the different regions of the country but many celebrate by making papier mache Judases which they then blow up as part of their celebrations using fireworks – similar to our traditions on Guy Fawkes night.

 

United States

For over 130 years, Washington DC has hosted the annual Easter Egg Roll, a race on the South Lawn of the White House which involves rolling a coloured hard-boiled egg with a large serving spoon. In more recent times, the event has expanded and now includes egg hunts, music, sport and crafts.

 

Italy

In Florence, a 350-year-old tradition known as Scoppio del Carro or ‘explosion of the cart’ is celebrated. An ornate cart packed with fireworks is lead through the streets to the Duomo. The Archbishop of Florence then lights a fuse during Easter mass that leads to the cart outside and sparks a lively firework display which is meant to ensure a good harvest.

 

France

Haux, a town in the South of France celebrates Easter Monday by cooking a giant omelette in the town’s main square. The omelette uses more than 15,000 eggs and can feed up to 1,000 people. Apparently, the tradition was started when Napoleon and his army passed through the town and ate a meal of omelettes they enjoyed so much they ordered a ‘giant’ one for the next day.

 

To celebrate Easter a little differently next year, contact us today to get planning your Spring 2022 trip!

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