The Guardian: Gallery & Co.

14 Dec 2015: It’s not always a case of avoiding the ‘exit through the gift store’ bit. These striking and creatively stocked museum shops are worth a visit in their own right

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The much-hyped National Gallery Singapore finally opened at the end of November, and it has partnered with a new collective called “& Co.” to launch a shiny shop called Gallery & Co. Only one quarter of it is ready – the rest is expected to be unveiled by January 2016 – but it’s already chock-full of cool souvenirs. On top of exhibition catalogues and postcards of artworks, visitors can expect unique keepsakes, such as umbrellas and soaps inspired by notable pieces of art on show, minimalistic marble clocks, and characterful accessories and clothing. A well-known cafe, Plain Vanilla, has also opened a branch there serving a selection of breads, pastries, and cupcakes.

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The Guardian: Top 10 day trips in Singapore

For a great day out, explore the islands by yacht or ferry, walk the ‘green corridor’ or learn more about the city’s heritage and traditional crafts. Writer and photographer Marcus Ng suggests his favourite adventures. Interview by Gwen Pew

The intersection of Joo Chiat and Koon Seng Roads. Photo: Alamy

The intersection of Joo Chiat and Koon Seng Roads. Photo: Alamy

6 Feb 2015:

Southern Islands

Singapore is an island nation – but it is also a nation of islands, with more than 40 individual pulaus (islands) forming the archipelago. There are two ways of exploring the Southern Islands: the luxurious way is to rent a private yacht from either Marina at Keppel Bay or ONE°15 Marina Club, which will take you to some of the more remote places. The more affordable option is to take the daily ferry from Marina South Pier. It takes you to St John’s Island, which used to be a quarantine centre but is now a tranquil place for campers; Lazarus Island, where you’ll find a secluded cove nicknamed the Blue Lagoon that links it to Pulau Seringat; and Kusu Island, whose temples come alive during Chinese festivals, and is also the location of a tortoise sanctuary.
Yacht hire at Keppel Bay from $900 for 12 people, marinakeppelbay.com
Singapore Island Cruises from Marina South Pier start at $18 for a round trip,islandcruise.com.sg

Sungei Buloh wetland reserve and Bollywood Veggies

The district of Kranji is like Singapore’s rural hinterland and one of the best places to check out the wildlife is at Sungei Buloh. You’ll find herons, monitor lizards, snakes and otters; and migratory birds from China or Siberia if you go between September and March. If you’re hungry, head to Bollywood Veggies, which is run by a rather expressive lady called Ivy Singh. It does some great dishes such as nasi lemak (rice cooked with coconut milk and pandan leaves), eggplant salad, and curries. After lunch, you can wander around the farmland and see local produce including jackfruits and bananas – it offers guided tours sometimes, too. Other farms in the area include Hay Dairies, Singapore’s only goat farm, Firefly, an organic food farm, and the Jurong frog farm, which breeds bullfrogs for consumption in a traditional Chinese dish called tianji. A daily shuttle links all these places to Kranji MRT station.
Sungei Buloh wetland reserve, open Mon-Sat 7.30am-7pm, Sun 7am-7pm.Bollywood Veggies, open Wed-Fri 9.30am-6.30pm, Sat-Sun 8am-6.30pm

Sungei Tengah

There are three main places to go to in the Sungei Tengah area. First, the local charity Animal Concerns Research and Education Society’s wildlife sanctuary – you can visit the animals that have been rescued, such as tortoises, turtles and an iguana. Then there’s Farmart Centre, another good place for animal lovers: visitors get to pet and feed rabbits and goats. At Qian Hu Fish Farm ornamental fish are bred and aquarium accessories manufactured. Qian Hu runs a free shuttle bus service to and from Choa Chu Kang bus interchange, and you can walk between these places as long as you don’t mind working those leg muscles.
Farmart Centre, open Sun-Thu 10am-10pm, Fri-Sat 10am-12am. ACRES Wildlife Rescue Centre, open Mon-Sun 9.30am-5pm. Qian Hu Fish Farm, open Mon-Thu 9am-6pm, Fri-Sun 9am-7pm

Jalan Bahar’s dragon kilns

Jalan Bahar is home to Guan Huat and Thow Kwang, Singapore’s last two dragon kilns – gigantic dragons-shaped chambers used to glaze ceramics. This type of kiln was invented by the Chinese thousands of years ago, and immigrants built the ones in Singapore in the mid-20th century. Both of them are now protected by the government and only fired up three or four times a year, on special occasions. You can visit them anytime though, and the potters there will be happy to show you how things work. Alternatively, browse through the products, or book a workshop if you want to try your hand at pottery.
Jalan Bahar Clay Studios, open Mon-Sat 8am-5pm
Thow Kwang Pottery Studio, Facebook page, open Mon-Sun 9am-5pm

Bukit Brown Cemetery

There are many cemeteries worth visiting in Singapore and for some reason it’s become quite a hip thing to do lately. One of the most significant is Bukit Brown, which is currently a hot topic as the government wants to build a highway through it. Quite a few of the graves have already been exhumed prior to construction work, but it’s one of the largest traditional Chinese burial sites in south-east Asia. One of the most impressive graves, that of Ong Sam Leong, a local business tycoon, is almost the size of two basketball courts. Volunteers from the SOS Bukit Brown group regularly hold events there to educate the public about the history behind it and motifs found around the graves – check its Facebook page for updates.
Lorong Halwa, bukitbrown.org. Open daily, 24 hours

Green Corridor

Following the old Keretapi Tanah Melayu railway tracks, the Green Corridor goes from Woodlands, in the north of Singapore, all the way to the beautiful but off-limits Tanjong Pagar railway station in the south. The trains used to take passengers from Singapore to the Malay peninsula but the tracks have been removed after operations ceased in July 2011, and it’s now a green artery that goes through the heart of the island. To walk the whole track will take the best part of a day, but there are many entry and exit points along the way if you want to nip out for a bite. Look out for two old cast-iron bridges near Bukit Timah Road, and have fun spotting other renmants such as signal posts and level crossings.
thegreencorridor.org. Open daily 24 hours

Southern Ridges

The Southern Ridges is a 9km walking trail that links three main parks: Kent Ridge park, Telok Blangah Hill park and Mount Faber park. Starting with Kent Ridge park, make sure you go to the car park at the top of the hill, where you can get spectacular views of Singapore, and where a second world war tank is still on display. The war memorial museum, Reflections at Bukit Chandu, is also there and built to commemorate Lieutenant Adnan, one of the last soldiers to defend the area from the Japanese. Telok Blangah Hill park is home to the grand Alkaff Mansion, which is now an Italian restaurant and also a popular place for wedding shoots. Pass through the gorgeous pedestrian bridge, Henderson Waves, before reaching Mount Faber, from where you can take a cable car to Sentosa, home to Universal Studios and other attractions.
West Coast park, nparks.gov.sg. Open daily 24 hours

Kampong Lorong Buangkok

A bit of a living museum, Lorong Buangkok is home to the last kampong – a traditional village – on mainland Singapore. It’s in Hougang in the north-east of the country and is a remnant of what Singapore used to be like. It feels like you’ve stepped through a time machine when you arrive. A few residents still live here, and you’ll see things such as unfinished roads, cats and dogs wandering around, wooden houses built in the traditional Malay style, orchards, and other old-world elements. If you just walk around, it will take about an hour but if you fancy chatting with the locals and taking photos, you could spend at least half a day there.
Gerald Drive. Open daily 24 hours

Joo Chiat and East Coast

Once the quarter for Peranakans – a group of Chinese who immigrated to Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore – the Joo Chiat and East Coast areas are rich with heritage. A good route would be to go down East Coast eastwards from Tanjong Katong (which is also worth exploring) all the way to Siglap, but Joo Chiat Road makes for a great detour – as it’s home to local eateries and shops. Places to check out include the Ceylonese Tamil Temple on Ceylon Road, Katong Antique House along East Coast Road and Kuan Im Tng Temple at Tembeling Road. East Coast Road is home to traditional coffee shops such as Chin Mee Chin Confectionery, Ampang Yong Tau Foo and Kim Choo Kueh, and while the main Joo Chiat and East Coast Roads are quite touristy, the side lanes have a lot of lovely shops and townhouses, and their former glory remains largely untouched.

Changi Village and Pulau Ubin

Close to Changi airport, Changi Village used to be the site of the British Royal Air Force Base, remnants of which can still be found there today. There are excellent food places at the Changi Village Hawker Centre, including a bunch of popularnasi lemak stalls. The Malay coffeeshop at Block 1 also has excellent desserts such as goreng pisang (fried banana) and epok epok (curry puff). From here, you can take a ferry to Pulau Ubin, the largest offshore island of Singapore. It’s the last kampong outside of Kampong Lorong Buangkok and can get crowded on weekends and during festive periods. You can find cheap, decent seafood here. There are also wetlands and wild rocky shores at a cape called Chek Jawa. And if it’s tucked-away sand that you’re after, find your way to Maman Beach or Noordin Beach, which sit further away from the usual tourist areas.
Bum boats leave from Changi Point Ferry Terminal from dawn till dusk, £1.50 per person each way

The Guardian: Top 10 outdoor spaces in Singapore

Away from the bustle of the city there are tranquil parks, historic sites and lookout towers to explore. Azyure D Hikari, co-founder of Urban Explorers of Singapore, gives his recommendations on where to visit. Interview by Gwen Pew

Changi Village Beach. Photo: Wang Guowen/Flickr

Changi Village Beach. Photo: Wang Guowen/Flickr

5 Dec 2015:

Kranji Beach battle site

There are many interesting war stories involving the Japanese invasion of Singapore, and one of them took place here on 10 February 1942, when the imperial army suffered a heavy loss of troops, which caused them to panic and almost abort the mission. It’s one of the battles that Singapore won, but due to miscommunication, a key defence line in the area was left open and by the next day, the Japanese army broke through and ended up attacking many other parts of the country. It’s now a good place to spot wildlife. My favourite moment was a close encounter with a Brahminy Kite, also known as the Singapore Bald Eagle, but you can also find crocodiles and other animals if you’re lucky.
Off Kranji Way, nparks.gov.sg

Pearl Hill city park

Above the busy streets of Chinatown, Pearl Hill was initially named Stamford Hill after Stamford Raffles – the founding father of Singapore – by Captain James Pearl in 1822. After a dispute, however, he decided to name it after himself. It used to be the highest hill in Singapore, but when the British army converted Canning Hill into a military fort, they realised that Pearl Hill was higher and ordered it to be shaved off. It’s now less than half of its previous height and also has a ready-to-drink water reservoir under its grounds. Highest or not, it’s still a great place to get in some quiet time without having to leave the city centre. The turtle pond at the top is an especially lovely spot, and is surrounded by a few picnic tables for a relaxing lunch break.
Pearl Bank. Open daily 24/7, nparks.gov.sg

Makam Puteri Radin Mas Ayu

Once the city’s cemetery, the government had exhumed most of the graves by 1973 for urban development but two ancient graves still survive. They belong to a Muslim Javanese father and daughter who came from a noble family. Their legend has been romanticised in the 1959 film, Radin Mas. I uncovered the real history behind them with my team, however. We found out they are probably the earliest tombs to exist in Singapore, dating back to pre-1222. This is my favourite place to go to relax as there aren’t any mosquitos and it’s well away from urban hustle.
Near Block 42, Telok Blangah Rise. Open daily 24/7

Sungei Seletar Simpang Kiri

Translating as Seletar river, the name refers to Suku Seletar, a tribe of maritime people from the Spice Islands in Indonesia who used to live by the mouth of Seletar river and along the creek of the Straits of Johor. The original river was curvier, but it’s since been straightened as part of a canal project. This is a great fishing spot and a good place for some peace and quiet.
Off Yio Chu Kang Road. Open daily 24/7

Japanese cemetery park

Surrounded by private houses in Hougang in the north-east of Singapore and listed as a memorial park, this is the largest Japanese cemetery in south-east Asia. It has 910 tombstones, including those of Yamamoto Otokichi, the first Japanese resident in Singapore, and Futabatei Shimei, the writer who first brought realism to Japanese literature, as well as young Japanese prostitutes, civilians, soldiers and convicted war criminals. There are also a few designated heritage trees, including an old lychee tree that’s unable to bear fruit due to the local climate, and a rubber tree that’s a remnant of the area’s previous life as a rubber plantation. It’s frequented by photographers, picnickers and couples, and there’s a Zen vibe.
825B Chuan Hoe Avenue. Open daily 8am-7pm

Changi Village Beach

At the western end of the Changi Boadwalk, what I’ve nicknamed Grouper Beach is still a part of Changi Beach, but anglers often catch that type of fish in the area along with horseshoe crabs and squids. Granites found here have been carbon-dated to the mesozoic era. Look out for a huge granite outcrop with the Arabic symbol for Allah inscribed on it. It was initially thought to be an inanimate “keramat” (or shrine) for the Malay fishermen and seafarers, but it’s now widely believed that they are more likely to be nautical markers. Another rock with a similar symbol can be found at the offshore island of Pulau Sekudu.
End of Andover Road

West Coast park

The more popular part of West Coast park is the Marsh Garden, but if you’re looking for a less-frequented place, head to the eastern side, where there’s a koi pond that’s been around for decades. It used to be by the sea and you can see the offshore island of Pulau Retan Laut, but the sea view has disappeared since the land reclamation in 1993, the merger of Retan Laut with the mainland, and the construction of Pasir Panjang terminal. Still, it’s a great place for quiet get-togethers and barbecues, and even playing with remote control motorboats.
71 West Coast Highway. Open 24/7, nparks.gov.sg

Tanah Merah yellow beacon

Tanah Merah is Malay for red soil, which refers to a red lateritic cliff that was once found along the coast and used as a nautical marker. In the 18th century, there used to be a village nearby called Kampung Tanah Merah Besar that was occupied by Bugis, a group of Indonesians who were often traders, but that’s long gone. Today, it is the location of the Tanah Merah ferry terminal, the gateway to Bintan and Batam Islands in Indonesia. To its east is the Tanah Merah Beach, though it’s not accessible to the public. If you go round and behind the fence, however, you’ll reach a bright yellow beacon at the edge of a water breaker. It takes a while to get there, but it’s always a nice breezy spot even if it’s hot elsewhere on the island, and anglers also like to fish here.
West of Tanah Merah ferry terminal

Jurong Hill and lookout tower

Jurong Hill’s original name was Bukit Perepok, and it’s a pleasant place to spend an afternoon. The Garden of Fame has trees planted by visiting foreign dignitaries, but a great hangout is the lookout tower. The tower has a commanding panoramic view of the town of Jurong, and you’ll see the industrial area including Jurong Island. It’s popular with couples looking for a romantic photo spot. Jurong bird park is also nearby if you’re planning on spending the day in the area.
Jurong Hill

Mount Emily park

Between the shopping district of Dhoby Ghaut and Little India, the land around Mount Emily was owned by William Farquhar, the first British Resident and Commandant of Singapore. It was later bought by Charles Robert Prinsep, who allegedly named the hills after his daughters. There used to be a sacred tree that was said to be guarded by a giant snake, and a bulldozer capsized when trying to pull it down. It was chopped down a few years later, but a sandy playground remains for kids, and it’s a good place to take a break. The iconic restaurant Wild Rocket, whose founder Willin Low pioneered “mod-Sin” cuisine, is also within walking distance at the Hangout Hotel if you want a great meal.
Mount Emily

The Guardian: Top 10 Nightlife Venues in Singapore

Whether you want a few beers with mates or a top DJ, Dean Chew, co-founder of record label Darker Than Wax, selects Singapore’s best night spots. Interview by Gwen Pew.

Blu Jaz

21 Nov 2014:

1925 Microbrewery & Restaurant

One of the newest microbreweries in town, 1925 opened in May, but is already a hit with the locals. It’s just down the road from Suprette (see below) and tucked away on the second- and third-floor spaces, but the building itself is bright yellow, so you won’t miss it. Decor is industrial chic, complete with concrete walls and exposed lightbulbs – a bit too hipster for some, but the dark and pale ales brewed in their three huge canisters are seriously good. The food is decent, but the star of the place is the delightful monthly line-up of tipples.
369 Jalan Besar, +65 6294 9215, the1925.com.sg. Open Mon-Sat 10am-12am, Sun 10am-10pm

Suprette

Suprette is in Jalan Besar, which is well on its way to becoming the next hip neighbourhood in Singapore. It’s inside the quirky Kam Leng Hotel, which is part of the area’s conservation heritage trail. It does some fantastic burgers – the chickpea version is great for vegetarians – and stocks a wide range of mostly American craft beers, as well as ciders. There are a few tourists there during the day, but at night it’s mostly frequented by locals. It’s not much of a party spot, but a good place to while away an evening with good company.
Kam Leng Hotel Lobby, 383 Jalan Besar, +65 6298 8962, suprette.com. Open breakfast and lunch Mon-Fri 7.30am-3pm, Sat-Sun 7.30am-4pm; dinner and drinks Sun-Mon, Wed-Thu 6pm-10.30pm, Fri-Sat 6pm-12am

Blu Jaz Cafe

This is one of the few independently run night spots in Singapore – around for 10 years and it’s still packed all the time. It’s got a great vibe and a mixed demographic. The outdoor passageway is always lively; the first floor has free DJ nights every week, playing everything from hip-hop to dubstep, and the second floor space sees DJs or live jazz bands performing and also hosts stand-up comedy nights. There’s no dress code and everything’s very casual, but it has a natural energy and is a surefire hit for a good night out.
11 Bali Lane, + 65 9199 0610, blujazcafe.net. Open Tues-Thu 12pm-12.30am, Fri and Mon 12pm-1.30am, Sat 4pm-1.30am

Cable Car 1890s Saloon

In Cuppage – traditionally a Japanese area just off Singapore’s main shopping street, Orchard Road – Cable Car is a Japanese whiskey bar and watering hole that not too many people know about. There’s a huge variety of drinks on offer, including some great single malts like Yamakazi. It’s an offshoot of one of the oldest bars in Yokohama Chinatown in Japan, but has the woody interior of a San Francisco joint. Everything about it is rich – the colours, the textures, the smells – and you definitely feel like you’ve been transported out of Singapore.

49 Cuppage Terrace, + 65 6835 3545, sential.com.sg/cable_car.htm. Open Mon-Fri 3pm-2am, Sat 12pm-2am, Sun 12pm-12am

kyo

Tucked behind a little doorway in the middle of Singapore’s financial district, kyo is just a year old but is hands down the best club in town right now. It’s in a cavernous basement (you’ll see the crowd long before you see the entrance), with a generous three-sided island bar in the middle. There’s a consistently good rota of international and local DJs playing house and techno, as well as cool street-style art on the walls. Kyo makes you feel comfortable: you can either shake it on the dance floor or chill out with your friends.
#B1-02 Keck Seng Tower, 133 Cecil Street, clubkyo.com. Open Wed-Thu 9pm-4am, Fri 9pm-4.30am, Sat 11pm-6am

Jekyll & Hyde

As its name suggests, there are two sides to Jekyll & Hyde: during the day, it’s a nail salon called Manicurious, but at night it turns into a great drinking spot. The bar is at the back of the space, and bartender Jeff Ho knows his stuff. He mixes some stiff drinks – his smoky whiskey sour is legendary, as are his lovingly created cocktails. The space is engineered to feel small and intimate, and its warm tone lends an almost feminine feel. It embodies the izakaya (Japanese pub) concept and office workers flock there for post-work drinks.
49 Tras Street, +65 6222 3349, 49tras.st. Open Mon-Thu 6pm-1am, Fri-Sat 6pm-2am

Spiffy Dapper

It’s a tiny, low-key speakeasy bar with a small DJ console, but Spiffy Dapper really reflects the hospitable personality of its owner, Abhishek Cherian George, who wants to make sure that everyone has a good time and is happy by the end of the night. It runs some great music nights such as Mugic, co-founded by local artists Mislav, Uly and Kentaro, and blasts a fun mix of deep house, disco and techno. It’s a really friendly place that pays tribute to the 1920s Jazz Age.
#02-01, 61 Boat Quay, +65 8233 9810, spiffydapper.com. Open Mon-Fri 6pm-3am, Sat-Sun 8pm-3am

Colbar

Colbar is essentially a shed, but it’s part of the city’s fabric and one of the best places to get away from the hustle and bustle. In Portsdown, in the western part of Singapore where the old British army barracks are, it’s something of an institution in a lush suburban area. Colbar has been run by the same couple since the 1950s. It’s super vintage, and when it moved to its current location around 10 years ago it maintained its original old-school look. They do an amazing fry-up in the morning, but it stays open at night too. The idyllic setting makes this a great place to hang out with mates over a few bottles of relatively cheap beer.
Wessex Estate, 9A Whitchurch Road, +65 6779 4859, no website. Open Tue-Sun 11am-10pm

Artistry

Another independently owned venue, Artistry is a mix of many things. There are great artworks by up-and-coming local artists on its walls, and it’s a popular cafe during the day for creative minds to meet and mingle. At night, it maintains its hip but relaxed vibe, and hosts themed music nights – from tribute concerts to Queen to hosting the first Y2K14 International LIVE LOOP ASIA Festival Singapore. Artistry provides emerging musicians with a stage and an audience. There’s a great deck outside for those who want to get some air.
17 Jalan Pinang, +65 6298 2420, artistryspace.com. Open Tue-Sat 10am-11.30pm, Sun 10am-7pm

Sugarhall

Nestled in the intimate enclave of Amoy Street and just a stone’s throw from the business district, Sugarhall is a neat introduction to Singapore’s urban scene. With warm splashes of colour, wood and rattan furniture, plus a great soundtrack of reggae and ska, the bar and grill oozes charm like an exotic Caribbean-island hut. It has an extensive list of rum cocktails: the ron negroni – a delicious concoction of Cana Brava rum, Velvet Falernum, Mancino Rosso and Campari – is a must, and the starters are great to munch on – try the roasted beetroot with pickle, kale and mascarpone cheese. The bartenders and waiting staff are also impeccably mannered (a bit of a rarity in our city state), which enhances the overall vibe.
102 Amoy Street,
sugarhall.sg. Open Mon-Sat 6pm-12am

The Guardian: Family Halloween Events 2012

Haunted castles, eerie woodland walks, hair-raising ghost rides and spooky activities for all the family in our round-up of Halloween events around the UK.

Halloween night laser show at Muncaster Castle, Laake District, Cumbria

24 Oct 2012:

Bat Hunting, Gloucestershire

Kids will be able to roam through the grounds of Puzzlewood, hunt for bats and discover Halloween sculptures in the trees between until 31 October. This ancient woodland in the Forest of Dean is a perfect setting for an eerie game of hide and seek – the trees drip with moss and lichen and twist above spooky caves and strange rock formations. If the weather’s bad there are two indoor mazes and a new push-and-pedal bike racing track for under 5s.
puzzlewood.net, 01594 833187; adults £6.00, children £4.50, family £20, open 10am-4.30pm (last entry 3.30pm)

Grisly Gore Tour, Nottingham

Nottingham’s City of Caves attraction is adding an extra fright factor to its actor-led tours of the city’s atmospheric underground network of sandstone caves. You’ll encounter stinky smells and freaky feeling boxes – and maybe even a ghost or two – as well as the usual historic sights that include a medieval well and tannery and the slums of Drury Hill. There will also be free daily activities for children.
cityofcaves.com, 0115 988 1955, until 28 October, 10.30am – 4pm, adults £6.50, children £5.50, family £17.50, booking recommended

Frightwater Valley Halloween Festival, Ripon, North Yorkshire

If you’re looking for a more hair-raising experience, head for Lightwater Valley Theme Park near Ripon. The park’s thrill rides and roller coasters will take on a Halloween theme, with highlights including the Haunting of Skeleton’s Cove (the pirate-themed area of the park), getting lost at the Horror Maze and a live Raptor Attack dark ride set in an abandoned mineshaft. They’ll also be magic shows and some rides will be operating in the dark – and the promotional trailer is pretty scary too!
Advance booking recommended. lightwatervalley.co.uk, 31 October to 4 November, 10am-7pm, online booking £16pp, standard day ticket £19 (under 1.3m in height) or £23 (over 1.3m in height)

The Ghost’s Touch, Pomegranate Theatre, Chesterfield

Catch this heart-thumping new play by John Goodrum at the Pomegranate Theatre in Chesterfield on 1 November. Adapted from a short story by Wilkie Collins – the author of the Woman in White – it follows widower Stephen Rayburn’s encounter with a ghostly woman whose tangled past with the dead threatens to spill out from beyond the grave.
Advance booking required. windingwheel.co.uk, 1 November, 7.30pm, adults £14, children £8.50

Meet the Owls and More, Muncaster Castle, Cumbria

It’s reputedly one of Britain’s most haunted castles and ghost spotting aside, there’s plenty of Halloween activities for all the family to try. Meet Foppletwig the Genie Hunter and his baby dragon Ozric, enjoy creepy crafts and face painting, take part in the fancy dress competition or older children can brave the maze (over 12s). There will also be a new Creepy Owl Crypt this year, where you can come face to face with feathery members from the World Owl Trust. After dusk, the gardens will be transformed into a mile-long route of spooky lights and sounds, and there’ll be evening ghost tours.
Advance booking recommended, and required for ghost tour. muncaster.co.uk, 01229 717614, 27 October to 3 November; general entry to castle, gardens, maze and owl centre, adults £13, children £7.50, under fives free; ghost tour (includes general entry), adults £19.50, children £9.50, under fives free, 15% off all prices if booked online

Scaresville, Suffolk

A haunted “village” comes to life in the grounds of Kentwell Hall in Suffolk every autumn, and daring souls are invited to follow a dimly lit trail through dark rooms, forests and farmlands while ghosts and other creatures of the night may appear at any moment. The award-winning experience will last about an hour, and is not recommended for the faint hearted or young children.
Advance booking required. scaresville.co.uk, 01787 310207; £14.95-£24.95 on selected days until 3 November

The Insect Circus, Jacksons Lane, London

Join a circus of bugs, beasts and creepy crawlies as they take to the stage for a family extravaganza. The insect-attired actors perform a range of circus feats and tricks, with lots of silliness in between. For Halloween the audience is invited to come dressed in their best bug outfits.
Suitable for anyone over the age of two. Advance booking required.jacksonslane.org.uk, 020 8341 4421, 29 October to 2 November; £12.95/£10.95, family £40 for four people

Ghost Trail, Castle Fraser, Inverurie, and Glamis Castle, Angus, Scotland

Scotland’s castles provide the perfect setting for ghostly-goings on. Spooks will come alive at Castle Fraser where kids can explore the building’s colourful and haunted past as they complete the Halloween quiz. Alternatively, they can have their faces painted in a ghostly style, get a gory scar in the great hall, try their hands at creating some scary crafts, or listen to some haunted tales in the library. At Glamis Castle in Angus there’ll be a ghostly guided tour and storytelling. Dress up for the chance to win a prize. And visitors to Scone Palace in Perthshire, once the crowning place of the Kings of Scots, can listen to storytelling around the ancient graveyard and take part in spooky witches, goblins and Dracula puppet making workshops, then watch a puppet show.
nts.org.uk/Property/Castle-Fraser-Garden-Estate, 0844 4932167, 13-27 October, 12pm-4pm; adults £9.50, children £3, family £23, no booking required. Glamis Castle: Halloween at Glamis 6, 7, and 8pm, 27 & 28 October, adults £9.25, child £6.75, family (two adults, two children) £27.50. Scone Palace: 27 & 28 October. Puppet workshop: £10 including access to the grounds and puppet show. Storytelling: £12.50 adults, £5 children.

Welsh Witches and Wizards, Chepstow Castle, Wales

This impressive cliff-top castle dates back to Norman times, so it’s sure to harbour some gory stories within its walls. But on 27 and 28 October the tales will be of Welsh witches and wizards, from ancient myths and legends to spells and potions to cast away gloomy weather.
cadw.wales.gov.uk, 01291 624065, open 9.30am-5pm (until 31 Oct then 10am-4pm from 1 Nov); adults £4, children £3.60, family £11.60 (2 adults and children)

Bodelwyddan Castle, Denbighshire

Prepare to be spooked as you join the castle’s paranormal team for a six-hour night-time investigation into areas of the castle usually off limits to visitors. In a slightly less scary tour, hear real life paranormal accounts on a ghost walk of the castle after dark, followed by a trip into the cellars. For little ones there’ll be horrible stories about the castle’s ghosts and ghouls – come in your best scary outfit.
Paranormal tour: 9-3pm, 26 October, £60 per person. After dark ghost walk (12 years old and over): 27 & 31 October, adults £8, children £4. Scary stories (five and over): 5.30-7.30pm, 27 & 31 October, adults £8, children £4. bodelwyddan-castle.co.uk, 01745 584060

The Guardian: Desert Adventures (Round Up)

Set for a western in Spain's Tabernas desert. Photograph courtesy of Getty Images/Flickr.
Set for a western in Spain’s Tabernas desert. Photograph courtesy of Getty Images/Flickr.

16 Nov 2012: As film classic Lawrence of Arabia is re-released, why not channel your inner Omar Sharif with a few adventurous trips into the dunes?

Trek through Almería’s movie hotspots: Spain

It may not immediately ring any bells, but the Tabernas in Almería is considered to be Europe’s only real desert and has provided the backdrop for many famous films, including Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, and Lawrence of Arabia. Who can forget Omar Sharif emerging from the wobbly desert heat haze? Tour Dust offers a six-day walking tour, with picnic lunches and the chance to tour the so-called “mini Hollywood” film set.
The Tour Dust (020-3291 2907, tourdust.com) trip starts at Lanjarón and costs from £501pp for six days including tour guide, six nights’ accommodation, as well as airport transfers (to and from Málaga, Granada or Almería)

Help deliver mail in the outback: Australia

Coober Pedy, a small mining town in South Australia, halfway between Adelaide and Alice Springs, is known as the opal capital of the world. It is so hot that many people live in underground houses, and visitors can get a taste of the subterranean experience by staying in the airy, dug-out rooms of the Desert Cave Hotel. The hotel offers ways to explore the area, such as the Painted Desert Tour, which will please Priscilla, Queen of the Desert fans as it includes a trip to Moon Plains, a fossil-rich former seabed where the movie was set. The Mail Run, operated by local outfit Desert Diversity, is a trip that allows would-be Postman Pats to meet Coober Pedy residents by helping to deliver their post.
The all-day Painted Desert Tour (+61 8 8672 5688, desertcave.com.au, doubles from £160) costs £138pp, including morning and afternoon tea, lunch and entry fees. The Mail Run tour (+61 8 8672 5226, desertdiversity.com) starts at the Underground Bookshop in Coober Pedy, £125pp for the day

Visit a film studio in the Sahara, Morocco

Atlas Studios is where The Mummy, Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven were filmed. A visit to the studio is featured on a four-day Atlas Trek Shop tour of the Erg Chebbi sand dunes and Ait Benhaddou Desert which starts and ends in Marrakech. It includes a two-hour scenic drive along Tizi n’Tichka, the highest mountain pass in the Atlas, and offers guests the chance to spend a night in a traditional Berber tent. Other stops along the way include various valleys and gorges and the 11th-century Ait Benhaddou kasbah.
The Atlas Trek Shop (+212 6 6876 0165, atlastrekshop.com) tour costs from £200pp for four days, including breakfast, dinner, accommodation, a two-hour camel ride, and 4×4 or minibus with driver

Kite buggy into the Gobi Desert: Mongolia

Happy Camel offers a 15-day guided expedition crossing 50km of this wild landscape. You will pass monasteries and castle ruins, as well as the Flaming Cliffs, where American explorer Roy Chapman Andrews discovered a vast collection of dinosaur bones and eggs in the 1920s. It also takes in Gobi Gurvansaikhan national park, where desert gazelles and golden eagles can often be spotted.
The Happy Camel (happycamel.com) trip costs from £3,230pp for 15 days, including accommodation in tents, Mongolian ger tents and hotels, food, guide, and van

Slice through the desert on a sandboard: Peru

Peru Adventure Tours runs day trips that will take visitors into the Arequipa Desert in a 4×4. Beginners may join the Arequipa Sandboard Tour, which sees guests slide down three different dunes before cooling off by the beach – followed by a visit to the Mejía Lagoons national bird sanctuary. Experienced boarders may prefer the Cerro Blanco Sandboard Tour, which lets them tackle the highest sand dune in the world at 2,070m.
The Arequipa tour with Peru Adventure Tours (+51 54 9738 42688,peruadventurestours.com) costs £121pp for nine hours, including tour guide, 4×4, boards, lunch, porter, water and entrance to the bird sanctuary. The Cerro Blanco tour costs £59pp for eight hours, including tour guide, van, board, snacks and access to swimming pool

Drive your own off-roader across the sands of Arizona: US

On this excursion, intrepid off-roaders can cross the Sonoran Desert in Tomcars (rugged two-seater buggies), accompanied by local guides. The trip takes in a “ghost town”, Indian ruins, and a turquoise mine, where visitors can try their hand at mining for the stone and keep what they find. Wildlife includes coyotes, rattlesnakes and desert mule deer.
The half-day tour with Desert Wolf (+1 882 613 9653,desertwolftours.com) starts at New River, Maricopa County, and costs £90 for adults, £55 for under-12s