The Studious One – Oxford vs Bologna
There is plenty for the visitor to enjoy in Oxford, home to England’s oldest seat of learning, and nowhere more so than the many university colleges that are dotted around the city.
The college buildings have a classic English grandeur, with beautiful stained glass windows and symmetrical arches and quadrangles that have been rightly celebrated in many films and TV series – the Bodleian Library, New College and Christ Church all feature in Harry Potter and Morse, for example.
Guided tours are available at many of the colleges – Trinity, Corpus Christi and Merton are among the most popular.
Other highlights include punting on the Isis, the Botanic Garden, the Bridge of Sighs and visits to the many museums. And be sure to enjoy a drink in one of the historic pubs – The Bear Inn dates back to 1242.
- Wow Factor – Dreaming Spires – 92/100
- Caravan friendly – Parking nightmare – 15/100
- Public transport – Good links – 77/100
- Campsites – Plenty of choice – 80/100
- Things to do – Lots for history fans – 77/100
- Instagrammability – Uni-que – 88/100
- TOTAL 429/600
This fine medieval city is home to the world’s oldest university, but equally famed for its distinguished cuisine.
Bologna is known as la grassa (the fat), because of its delicious dishes. The best known is, of course, bolognese, which is never served with spaghetti here!
Lovers of history and architecture will delight in the exquisite town squares and porticoes – delightful arches that line the streets. There are also numerous beautiful churches, including Chiesa della Santa, which houses the mummified remains of St Catherine, and the interlocking churches of Santo Stefano.
A visit to the beautiful main square, Piazza Maggiore, is a must, and for great views, climb Bologna’s own leaning tower, the Asinelli. Then take a turn around the medieval market to pick up some of those foodie treats – mortadella is a must!
- Wow Factor – Medieval Magic – 90/100
- Caravan friendly – Limited access – 18/100
- Public transport – Plenty of buses – 74/100
- Campsites – Mixed bag – 60/100
- Things to do – Café culture – 72/100
- Instagrammability – Stupendo! – 90/100
- TOTAL 404/600
Verdict: Home win
The Boozy One – Edinburgh vs Munich
This tale of two cities could be a tale of two festivals, and in the case of Scotland’s great capital, it’s the annual Fringe Festival that takes centre stage during the summer, for a huge celebration of the arts packed with theatre, dance, cabaret and comedy.
This sophisticated city effortlessly combines the new and the old on its famous Royal Mile, a buzzing cobbled stretch which is packed with curious shops, smart restaurants and happening hostelries, and ultimately leads your footsteps to Edinburgh Castle.
The castle itself makes for an impressive viewpoint, as does the ancient volcano of Arthur’s Seat in Holyrood Park.
If you can’t make it for the festival in summer, you could treat yourself to a night of glorious Hogmanay celebration at New Year. But do take a wee dram for auld lang syne – it can get very cold here!
- Wow Factor – Castle on the hill – 94/100
- Caravan friendly – Avoid the traffic – 50/100
- Public transport – All you’ll need – 80/100
- Campsites – Good choice – 79/100
- Things to do – Young and old – 82/100
- Instagrammability – Fireworks extravaganza – 88/100
- TOTAL 473/600
Scotland may be about the whisky, but in Bavaria’s great capital, huge frothy steins of beer are definitely the tipple of choice.
The famous autumn Oktoberfest (which actually begins in September) originated in 1810, to celebrate the marriage of the crown prince of Bavaria. The event has since become a huge street party, with a wide range of beer tents, oompah bands and throngs of lederhosen-clad revellers.
At other times, the main square, the Marienplatz, is the heart of the city’s life, hosting many events, including a hugely popular Christmas market. Foodies will also love the Viktualienmarkt, historically a farmer’s market, which has now become a centre for all kinds of delicious delicacies.
But there’s more to Bavarian cuisine than sausages! If you’re feeling homesick, make a stop at one of the beer gardens in the Englischer Garten, a find public park.
- Wow Factor – Market majesty – 85/100
- Caravan friendly – Limited parking – 55/100
- Public transport – German efficiency – 87/100
- Campsites – Several options – 74/100
- Things to do – Food and shopping – 77/100
- Instagrammability – Oom pah pah! – 85/100
- TOTAL 463/600
Verdict: Home win
The Spiritual One – Canterbury vs Santiago de Compostela
England’s most famous cathedral city and a UNESCO World heritage Site, Canterbury is the jewel in Kent’s crown.
The city is, of course, dominated by the cathedral, parts of which date to the 11th century. It is an ancient site of pilgrimage, as recorded by Geoffrey Chaucer. This is the Church of England’s most important ecclesiastical building.
Other historic buildings include the Westgate Towers, one of the medieval gates to the walled city, now a museum. There’s more to explore at The Beaney, which houses a museum, library and art gallery.
For sports fans, Kent County Cricket Club’s Spitfire Ground is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful in the country.
Elsewhere, the delights of the Garden of England await – last houses, country pubs and fruit orchards – and the fine seaside towns of Whitstable and Margate.
- Wow Factor – Cathedral city – 80/100
- Caravan friendly – Busy, some parking – 66/100
- Public transport – Good bus service – 70/100
- Campsites – Choice and quality – 80/100
- Things to do – Ecclesiastical matters – 69/100
- Instagrammability – In-spire-ing – 69/100
- TOTAL 434/600
Santiago de Compostela
This ancient pilgrimage site in north-west Spain – second only in importance to Rome and Jerusalem for the Catholic church – is a shrine to Saint James (Sant Iago) and has now become part of a memorable spiritual journey for people of all faiths and none.
The most well known of its routes begins in France and stretches 500 miles through the Pyrenees and across northern Spain.
The end point is the Catedral de Santiago de Compostela, where pilgrims can also witness the spectacle of the world-famous Botafumeiro, a huge thurible or censer suspended on chains, which is used for major ceremonial occasions.
Weary travellers can stop at the beautiful parador by the cathedral for refreshment, or head to the Calle de los Vinos (the street of wine) for reviving tapas and wine.
- Wow Factor – Incense swinging – 90/100
- Caravan friendly – Tight, busy streets – 60/100
- Public transport – Well served – 75/100
- Campsites – Busy: several options – 70/100
- Things to do – Walk on! – 75/100
- Instagrammability – Ancient paths – 80/100
- TOTAL 450/600
Verdict: Away win
The Spooky One – Whitby vs Transylvania
Once famed for its thriving fishing port, this fine North Yorkshire town has an important maritime history – explorer Captain James Cook began his seafaring career here in the Merchant Navy.
But Whitby’s renown took an unusual turn, courtesy of the author Bram Stoker, who was inspired to write his famous Gothic horror novel, Dracula, following a visit to the town in 1890.
These days, Whitby is a magnet for vampire fans and Goths, and ghost walks and tours abound – all quite lighthearted and in the best possible taste!
Key attractions include the monastic ruins of Whitby Abbey, the spine-chilling Dracula Experience and the Captain Cook Memorial Museum. And the wonderful beach and coastline remain as alluring and magnificent as ever. Just keep an eye out on misty days, and pack the garlic!
- Wow Factor – Atmospheric abbey – 75/100
- Caravan friendly – Park and ride – 66/100
- Public transport – Good bus service – 70/100
- Campsites – High quality – 80/100
- Things to do – Beach and culture – 75/100
- Instagrammability – Mists rolling in – 75/100
- TOTAL 441/600
Long associated with the story of Dracula by virtue of its ruthless 15th-century ruler, Vlad the Impaler, Romania has plenty of dramatic and imposing edifices vying for the title of Dracula’s castle.
Bran Castle is one such place and located where it is, surrounded by the peaks of the Bucegi and the Piatra Craiului Mountains, it certainly looks the part.
Sadly (or perhaps not), the 14th-century castle’s connection with Vlad III is a local legend, and it’s unlikely that the fearsome medieval ruler ever lived there.
But the truth never got in the way of a good story, and the Dracula connection now also forms a large part of the tourism offering in the area.
Truth or fiction, we’re pretty sure any visiting motorcaravanners will be sure to lock to doors to their ‘vans and keep a wooden stake or two at the ready!
- Wow Factor – Stakes are high – 84/100
- Caravan friendly – Plenty of space – 75/100
- Public transport – Limited buses – 40/100
- Campsites – A few – 55/100
- Things to do – Castles and mountains – 66/100
- Instagrammability – Spooky silhouettes – 90/100
- TOTAL 410/600
Verdict: Home win
The Foodie One – Bray vs San Sebastian
It’s curious that this unassuming riverside village in the heart of Berkshire should have become one of England’s centres of fine cuisine and home to celebrity chefs, among them Heston Blumenthal and Alain Roux.
While the village itself is pretty enough, it’s the food that is the real attraction. In addition, Windsor is just a short hop up the road should you wish to combine your visit with some of the area’s cultural highlights.
The most well-known restaurants in Bray are, of course, Heston Blumenthal’s experimental and influential Fat Duck, and the inspirational Waterside Inn, set up by the Roux Brothers, Michel and Albert, more than 40 years ago – both restaurants retain three Michelin stars.
Other notable eateries in the area include the one-starred Hind’s Head, The Crown and Caldesi in Campagna.
- Wow Factor – Molecular gastronomy – 82/100
- Caravan friendly – Plenty of room – 75/100
- Public transport – Good rail, few buses – 60/100
- Campsites – Some excellent sites – 82/100
- Things to do – Food, mainly – 60/100
- Instagrammability – Life on a plate – 90/100
- TOTAL 449/600
Pintxos and passion are the cornerstones of San Sebastian’s famed cuisine, and this picturesque resort has become something of a foodie magnet in recent years.
With beautiful beaches and a bustling town, there’s certainly plenty to do in the area, which is well placed for exploring the rest of northern Spain, or hopping across the Pyrenees to France. But the food itself takes the proverbial biscuit.
A good place to start any stroll around San Sebastian is Plaza de la Constitución, in the Old Town (Parte Vieja). Here, a maze of narrow lanes leads away from the open space of this former bull-fighting arena.
Head for bars such as A Fuego Negro or La Viña for the best pintxos, bite-size treats that this part of Spain is famous for.
Alternatively, try Arzak, run by Juan Mari Arzak and his daughter, Elena, which has held three Michelin stars since 1989.
- Wow Factor – Foodie heaven – 88/100
- Caravan friendly – Plenty of parking – 73/100
- Public transport – Lots of options – 80/100
- Campsites – Several choices – 74/100
- Things to do – Taste, beach, mountains – 85/100
- Instagrammability – Food as art – 92/100
- TOTAL 492/600
Verdict: Away win
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