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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 March 2007, 12:18 GMT
Alternative tourist map of Britain
Come the Easter break, millions of Britons will head off on holiday. Those who don't flee abroad are increasingly keen to find hidden gems at home. Where might they go?

A private view. An untrodden walk. A secret spot. Many of us want to be the first to stumble across a special place when taking time out from our everyday lives, even if it's just a hop and a skip off the beaten track.

And with domestic tourism undergoing a renaissance, many are looking for these hidden gems in their own backyard. Come Easter, typically about a quarter of the UK adult population plan a trip at this time, according to a Visit Britain survey.

So where might they go? To mark British Tourism Week, the Magazine has asked some household names for their picks of off-beat spots to visit.

Philip PullmanPhilip PullmanDave GormanDave GormanStella DuffyStella DuffyStuart HallStuart HallEdith BowmanAdrian ChilesAdrian ChilesIan RankinIan RankinRon DaviesRon DaviesTony RobinsonTony RobinsonEdith Bowman

1. BBC Radio 1's Edith Bowman picks the East Neuk of Fife - she was born in Anstruther.

"There is an island a few miles off the coast called the Isle of May and it's a bird sanctuary. You can take a boat trip out there from Anstruther and it's well worth it. If you are lucky enough to get right round the island there is a colony of seals that live round the back. The water is possibly the clearest I have ever seen and we used to head out there in the summer and have picnics on the island and go swimming. Just beautiful."

2. Crime writer Ian Rankin nominates the Sir Jules Thorn exhibition, part of the Surgeons' Hall Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.

Surgeons' Hall Museum
Creepy, but cool with it
"It's a museum dedicated to medical achievement and it's quite dark. There's a pocket book made out of the skin of Burke, the body snatcher, all sorts of creepy bodies in jars and it's had a refurbishment recently and opened extensively to the public because it used to be opened for professionals only.

"It's nice to be in on a secret, and lots of fascinating stories that combine a history of surgery and experiment with a history of Edinburgh, because for a short time the city seemed to be the centre of innovation in surgical medicines. Students tested early anaesthetic on themselves and one of them was Arthur Conan Doyle, whose medical professor was there. It manages to mix interesting information with stuff that makes kids go: 'Oh, that's gruesome.' And that's great, it's what kids like."

3. Football commentator Stuart Hall goes for Downham in Lancashire, with the forest of Bowland on its doorstep.

Downham village, photo courtesy of Flickr
A step back in time
"Downham in Lancashire is an idyllic English village owned by a squire called Assheton who owns every house, river and bridge. It's the most charming place in the world. It's very difficult to find but when you get there you can relax and say: 'This is England.' There's no litter and the squire controls the flow of cars. If you went back 60 years, you would find Downham hasn't changed."

4. Working Lunch presenter Adrian Chiles suggests the Clent Hills, just west of Birmingham.

View from the Clent Hills, photo courtesy of Marco Foley 2007 (www.dumbfunk.com)
Glittering conurbation
"I've never checked this but it is said that if you look east from the top of Clent the next highest point of land is in the Urals. When the wind's blowing from that direction it certainly feels like it. Also in that direction admire - if that's the right word - the urban sprawl of Birmingham and the Black Country. But turn around 180 degrees and a landscape of endless beauty lies before you. This is Worcestershire and Herefordshire and Shropshire and, on a clear day, Wales. When the sun is setting over this heart of England I doubt there can be a more gently spectacular view anywhere."

5. Ex-MP Ron Davies opts for a remote valley near the Brecon Beacons.

"I would suggest the small valley above Merthyr, past Pontsticill reservoir where there's superb mountainous scenery and tranquillity. It leads to a very steep and demanding climb up Pen-y-Fan, which has views of South Wales. It's the back route, so it's not the route up the A470 but round the other side. It's a place I regularly walk and it's full of very fond memories. A great place to recharge the batteries."

6. Novelist Philip Pullman suggests the canal tow path in Oxford.

"Its winding route takes in the bohemian suburb of Jericho, which featured in my His Dark Material trilogy. The canal tow path is a very attractive walk. You can start in the city and follow it as far as Wolvercote, or go in the other direction down Castle Mill Stream through the city. It takes some really interesting turns and twists until it meets the Thames nearby."

7. Novelist Stella Duffy nominates Dungeness.

Derek Jarman's garden in Dungeness, photo courtesy of Flickr
Derek Jarman's cottage
"As a small child in South London, the Kent coast was where we spent a week each summer. When I was five we moved to New Zealand, and I learned to love the (slightly) warmer water and (usually more golden) sands. But even after 20-odd years swimming in the glorious Pacific, I still adore Dungeness for the wildness. There's a lighthouse and strong water and wind whipping off the sea, with great fish and chips at the pub. It has a nuclear power plant and fishermen's cottages, creosote-black. It had Derek Jarman. It is not at all chocolate box. Which is exactly why it's brilliant."

8. Broadcaster and actor Tony Robinson picks Newbury Park bus station in Essex.

Newbury Park bus station
"It was built as part of the post-war hymn to the expansion of transport around London in order to create the new suburbia. But they ran out of money halfway through it and rather than surrounding it with new-style modernist 1950s shops and concourses, all they had the resources to spend on was this huge green curving roof. It's a fantastic piece of architecture and looks great along the road but apart from sheltering people from the rain, which they could have done at considerably less expense, it's useless."

9. Comedian Dave Gorman nominates the Greenwich Foot Tunnel.

Dave Gorman's photo of the tunnel
Weight of water pressing down...
"It goes from the Isle of Dogs to Greenwich emerging by the Cutty Sark. It's a good way of getting to a pretty orthodox tourist attraction, but to me the tunnel is an attraction in its own right. You enter through a turret topped off with a gorgeous glazed cupola and you can use a Tardis-as-imagined-by-HG Wells wood-panelled lift. The tunnel is open 24/7 and when the lift-operators aren't there, you make do with the spiral staircases instead.

"The tunnel itself is about nine feet wide and 1,200 feet long. The 200,000-odd glazed white tiles make it feel like you're walking into a giant CAT-scan machine, particularly from the Isle of Dogs end where repairs to wartime bomb damage significantly cut down the diameter. It's a hugely impressive feat of engineering and it's been there for more than 100 years. Still, at a depth of 50 feet and with the weight of the Thames above it, I tend to pass through a bit gingerly - just in case."

10. Great British Menu presenter Jennie Bond (not on map) suggests the Castle of Mey, near John O'Groats in Scotland - an apt choice for a former royal correspondent.

Castle of Mey
The Queen Mother restored the tumbledown castle
"It belonged to the Queen Mother, and is one of the most remote and beautiful castles I've ever been to - so close to the Orkneys that you could throw a stone at the rising cliffs over the water. I went there several times in my days of watching over the Queen Mother, who bought it after her husband died. It was neglected, and renovating it gave her a project to throw herself into.

"Now it's open to the public at certain times of the year, and Prince Charles and Camilla visit every so often. But I also love the quality of light in that part of the world - it's like being immersed in a bath of satin water, yet you know that it can turn vicious."

We also asked for your nominations - the best can been seen here.

The alternative tourist map was compiled by Tom Geoghegan and Megan Lane.


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