In Search of the Loch Ness Monster—and Other U.K. Pop-Culture Icons!

By HomeAway UK
May 10, 2013
Courtesy <a href="" target="_blank"> lavenderdays/myBudgetTravel</a>

Sophie Gackowski for HomeAway UK

It's fair to say the United Kingdom has produced some pretty famous exports. From Harry Potter to Henry VIII, these unassuming isles have certainly packed a punch over the course of world history. Do your interests lie in literature and folklore, music, or mythical creatures? Whatever you dream of when you think "U.K.," here are eight of our favorite vacation (we call it "holiday") spots, and the eminent exports that planted them firmly on the map.

Nessie's home in Loch Ness. A large, unidentified monster lurking in Loch Ness, you say? We may never know, but resident "Nessie hunters" may tell you otherwise! Possibly the U.K.'s most famed mythical creature, Nessie has attained an incredible popular culture presence since her first reported sighting back in 1933. Get your camera at the ready.

Shakespeare's Stratford-upon-Avon. As Romeo was to his Juliet, William Shakespeare was to his hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon. He may have moved to London to pen the world's finest plays, but he returned to Stratford in his later years, where he died at age 52. The house in which he lived remains, as does his resting place, at Holy Trinity Church.

The Brontë sisters' Yorkshire. If you're barmy about the Brontës, then Yorkshire—lovingly known as Brontë country—is unbeatable. It's this land of windswept heather and moor-ish wilderness which inspired Charlotte, Emily, and Anne to create their famed novels Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey. Its bleak plains are every bit as bewitching.

The Beatles' Liverpool. The most celebrated band to ever come out of the U.K., it's no secret the Beatles began in the city of Liverpool. From "The Beatles Story" in Albert Dock and famed Penny Lane, to the childhood home of John Lennon and the Cavern Club in which they played, Liverpool's incredibly proud of its four famous sons.

Robert Burns's Scottish Borders. As Scotland's national bard, it's safe to say Robert Burns is one of our most prominent poets. See where he was born at Alloway's Robert Burns Birthplace Museum (keep an eye out for the cast of his skull!) before following in his footsteps to Dumfries, where you'll have a dram at his favoured watering hole, the Globe Inn.

Jane Austen's Derbyshire. Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice has enchanted and enthralled readers for years. Who could forget falling for the delectable Mr. Darcy for the first time? Derbyshire's thought to have inspired the tale itself, and it's Chatsworth House near Bake well which provides the model for Darcy's incredible country estate, Pemberley.

Beatrix Potter's Lake District. The Tale of Peter Rabbit has long lit up the eyes of children; it's one of the best-selling books of all time. Written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter, it's just one of many filled with colorful characters and Lake District locations. Did you know that Squirrel Nutkin sailed on Derwentwater, or that Johnny Townmouse lived in Hawkshead?

Robin Hood's Nottingham. Heroic rogue and all-round great guy, Robin Hood—with his Merry Men—has captured imaginations for centuries. Nottingham's Sherwood Forest lies at the heart of the legend, and it's not difficult to see why: its ancient oak trees would have provided the perfect camouflage for robbing the rich to give to the poor!

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See the Mansions That Inspired The Great Gatsby!

Have you got Gatsby fever? This week, director Baz Luhrmann's film adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby opens with Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby, the tragic hero who amasses a fortune in an attempt to win back his first love. As dreamy as DiCaprio will appear on screens around the world, the Oscar winner will be rivaled by his opulent surroundings. Fitzgerald concocted a fictional Long Island community of knockout mansions, swimming pools, and endless Roaring Twenties parties, and Luhrmann's film promises to deliver a typically over-the-top interpretation of that lost world. But you can actually take a peek at the way the real-life Gatsbys of the early 20th century lived on Long Island's North Shore, in an area known as the Gold Coast. Here, four beautiful mansions that inspired The Great Gatsby—and are open to the public less than an hour from New York City. Oheka Castle. This 1919 mansion was the second-largest private residence in the U.S. and has long been rumored to be the inspiration for F. Scott Fitgerald's Gatsby mansion. Built by banker Otto Kahn, the estate's house and gardens once saw guests that included the opera singer Enrico Caruso, the composer George Gershwin, and the vaudeville star Fanny Brice. Today, it is available for private events but visitors can call ahead and request a tour or an overnight stay. (136 West Gate Drive, Huntington, NY, Old Westbury Gardens. This 1906 home was built by philanthropist John S. Phipps for his family. The house is a Charles II-style mansion with a priceless collection of furniture and fine arts. Its 160 acres serve as an impressive botanical gardens, with more than 100 species of trees, gardens, and classical statuary. The grounds include a plant shop, gift shop, and café. (71 Old Westbury Road, Old Westbury, NY, Vanderbilt Museum &amp; Planetarium. This vibrant museum would be worth visiting even if it weren't the former home of the great-grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt. Overlooking Northport Harbor and Long Island Sound, the mansion is open for guided tours, and the museum's planetarium is one of the best in the U.S., with high-definition sky shows. The museum also features an observatory on clear evenings for stargazers. (180 Little Neck Road, Centerport, NY, Nassau County Museum of Art. We associate major art collections with big cities, but here in Roslyn Harbor, in a three-story Georgian mansion that was once the Frick estate, you'll find a world-class collection of fine art, a sculpture park, the Art Space for Children, and a school for budding artists. (One Museum Drive, Roslyn Harbor, NY, TALK TO US! We want to know: What movies have inspired you to pack your bags and travel?


12 Best Budget Airlines

Travel can be an expensive hobby—you have to figure out where to stay, what do see and do, what to eat, and more importantly, how to get there, and all without breaking the bank. Flying can often be the priciest part of the journey, especially with all the extra baggage fees and other taxes that are involved nowadays. Luckily, there are airlines out there that want to make it easier—and cheaper—for travelers to get from Point A to Point B. We've rounded up 12 of the world's best budget airlines, great for that quick weekend getaway you've been dreaming about and there to help support your endless sense of wanderlust with an affordable way to visit a new city abroad. JetBlue Airways Comfy leather seats and televisions for all So you want to fly down to D.C., Orlando, or even San Juan for the weekend—no problem! JetBlue Airways makes your flight—whether it's a cross-country hop to San Francisco or a shorter, regional flight to Boston—comfy and enjoyable with plush leather seats and your very own TV screen equipped with 36 channels to make the time fly by. Complimentary snacks like Linden's chocolate chip cookies, Terra blues potato chips, and Dunkin Donuts coffee are available among other tasty snack options, and to top it all off, your first checked bag flies free of charge. Taking the red-eye? JetBlue offers a complimentary snooze kit with eyeshades, ear plugs, and pre-landing treats like hot towels, coffee, and orange juice to help you greet the new day. Where they fly: Between major cities in the northeast, southeast, and western United States; the Caribbean; select cities in Mexico, Central America, and South America. Southwest Airlines Fun-loving employees and open seating options Best known for their above-and-beyond customer service—the airline made news in 2011 when a pilot held an outgoing flight for a grieving grandfather trying to see his dying 2-year-old grandson—Southwest Airlines now offers connections to even more cities around the U.S., Caribbean, and Mexico, thanks to a nifty new partnership with Air Tran Airways. Their unique open seating boarding procedure is another thing that makes this airline stand out. You'll receive a group number when you check-in (the earlier the better), and after your group is called, stand in line and choose any seat you want while boarding the plane. Your first bag flies free, and your biggest decision all day will be choosing between the window or aisle seat. Where they fly: Major cities throughout the United States; Nassau, Bahamas; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Punta Cana, Dominican Republic; Montego Bay, Jamaica; Mexico City, Cancun, and Los Cabos, Mexico. WestJet Connecting Canada with the U.S., Mexico, and the Caribbean Founded in 1996 and based out of Canada, the idea behind WestJet is that you shouldn't get less service just because you're paying less for a ticket. The airline has won several awards since then, was named J.D. Power Customer Service Champion, and is involved in several community service projects including the Boys and Girls Club of Canada, Make-A-Wish Canada, and the Ronald McDonald House among other charity groups. WestJet is also committed to investing in more eco-friendly practices like building more fuel-efficient jets. The airline offers flights to and from a number of Canadian cities, as well as flights between Canadian cities, making this an affordable way to visit the sites in Montreal, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Victoria, and Toronto for less. Where they fly: Major cities throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean. Major cities throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean. Check their flight map to see more options. LAN Gateway to South America Looking for an affordable way to explore South America? LAN is known for their reasonable long haul prices between the U.S. and a variety of destinations—sign up for their email newsletter and never miss a sale. The airline also offers extensive in-flight entertainment options. Each seat has its own television, and you can choose from more than 100 movies, 42 TV shows, 25 games, and even customize your own music playlist from their collection of more than 1,000 CDs or listen to one of their 10 available radio stations; entertainment options sure to make that international flight go by in a jiffy. Where they fly: Miami is the major U.S. hub, but flights also leave from most major cities in the U.S. and Canada. Within South America, destinations include Lima, Santiago, Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Rio de Janeiro, Guayaquil, Bogotá, LaPaz, and Caracas among others. Domestic flights are also available within Colombia, Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands, Peru, Chile, and Argentina. IcelandAir Spice up your next transatlantic flight with a free stopover in Iceland Want to make that long awaited trip to Europe just a little more interesting? How about adding a free stopover in Iceland? Thanks to IcelandAir, you have the option of adding a stay of up to seven nights when traveling from the U.S. and Canada to Europe for no additional cost to your original plane ticket. If you've got time to spare, don't miss this opportunity to tack on a few days and explore this intriguing nation, home to the Blue Lagoon, gorgeous natural landscapes, and a rare chance to catch a glimpse of the elusive Northern Lights. Check their website for specials from the U.S. and Canada to seemingly pricey destinations like Oslo, Copenhagen, and Helsinki, and for budget-friendly packages to Iceland that include airfare, hotel stays, and visits to popular attractions. Where they fly: From New York City, Boston, Washington D.C., Orlando, Minneapolis, Denver, Seattle, Halifax, and Toronto, to 25 major European cities and, of course, Reykjavik, Iceland. Aer Lingus Service with a brogue and a smile Erin go bragh! Originally created in 1936 to provide service between the Emerald Isle and the U.K., Aer Lingus is now the national airline of Ireland, operating 43 aircraft and carrying more than 10 million passengers per year. Customers can look forward to an impressive amount of in-flight entertainment-long haul flights from the U.S. feature a large selection of movies, TV shows, and music on demand, as well as several radio stations and gaming options-and complimentary in-flight WiFi on all flights beginning June 2013. Check the Aer Lingus Vacation Store for special deals on trips to Ireland that include airfare, hotel stays, and car rentals depending on the package. Where they fly: Major cities in the U.S. and Canada, various cities in the U.K. and around Europe. Also to Puerto Rico, Sydney, Melbourne, Kuala Lumpur, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Oman, Morocco, and the Canary Islands. EasyJet Affordable flights around Europe and the Middle East The U.K.'s largest airline, EasyJet connects 30 countries on 600 routes, transporting more than 59 million passengers a year, all while offering some of the cheapest fares around Europe. If you're hoping to visit more cities while in Europe or the Middle East, this airline makes it easier to hop a plane to a new place for less. Their nifty Inspire Me tool can help figure out where to go next—just enter the European city you plan to leave from, set your budget range, and watch the options appear. A search from London, for instance, yielded one-way tickets ranging from nearby Edinburgh and Belfast to cities as far away as Berlin, Munich, and Milan for less than $50. Where they fly: Throughout the U.K. and between a number of major European cities; Moscow and various cities in Eastern Europe, Morocco, Turkey, Israel, Cyprus, Jordan, and Egypt. RyanAir Cheap flights—but watch for extra fees RyanAir is probably one of the most well known of all the budget airlines, but unfortunately is also known for offering super-low base ticket prices and tacking on extra fees for things like baggage, purchasing your tickets with a credit card, reserving seats, and reissuing boarding passes—at one point the airline even considered charging passengers to use the onboard restrooms. According to their website, these extreme methods are used as a way to encourage people to fly in a simple, low cost way, for instance, without any checked baggage, so for budget travelers with only carry-on luggage, this airline can be a great way to see more cities for a fraction of the price you would be spending on another airline. Where they fly: Various cities around Europe, Morocco, Cyprus, and the Canary Islands. FastJet Africa's first budget airline If you're looking for an affordable way to explore more of Africa, perhaps before or after your dream safari trip, try FastJet, Africa's first budget airline. Domestic flights start at about $20 one way, but make sure you pack a snack—because of the short flight time between cities, onboard refreshments are not offered at this time. You are allowed to bring one carry-on item with you as long as it can fit into the overhead compartment and prices start at just $6 to check a bag, making this no-frills airline an affordable option to hop between popular destinations like Kilimanjaro, Zanzibar, and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. Where they fly: From three international airports within Tanzania—Dar es Salaam, Kilimanjaro, and Zanzibar—and Mwanza Regional Airport, with more routes expected to open soon in Entebbe, Uganda, and in Nairobi and Mombasa, Kenya. Hawaiian Airlines Your ticket to paradise If you're on the east coast and think a trip to paradise is financially out of the question, think again. Hawaiian Airlines began non-stop flights from New York City's JFK International Airport last June, creating quite a stir in the tri-state area with prices in the $400s for a round-trip ticket. Keep an eye on their website for specials that are also available from California, Oregon, Washington, and Arizona, connecting the continental U.S. to the Hawaiian Islands at competitive prices. The airline also provides connections to other South Pacific islands and parts of Asia, making that dream trip across the Pacific well within reach. Where they fly: Honolulu, Hawaii, is the main hub—you can island hop to the other Hawaiian Islands of Kauai, Maui, and the Big Island, or fly to the Philippines, Japan, South Korea, Tahiti, Singapore, Australia, and American Samoa. JetStar Domestic flights between cities in 15 Asian and South Pacific countries Australia's award winning low cost airline is Jetstar, a group of airlines made up of Jetstar Airways, based in New Zealand and Australia; Jetstar Asia, based in Singapore; Jetstar Pacific, based in Vietnam; Jetstar Japan; and Jetstar Hong Kong. Together, the Jetstar Group has flown more than 75 million passengers, helping people fly between hotspot destinations around Asia, the South Pacific, and Hawaii for less since 2004. You have the flexibility to choose how many included amenities you want while booking thanks to their cheap base fares and the ability to add extras as you go—the standard ticket price includes one piece of carry-on luggage (a great value for those who tend to pack light), while other variations include seat selection, food, beverages, and in-flight entertainment. Where they fly: Various cities in Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Fiji, Australia, New Zealand, and the Philippines. Tiger Airways Great for hopping between major cities in Asia Let's say you're visiting Australia but really want to pop over to Singapore to explore the city's vibrant culinary scene. Tiger Airways offers low fares great for last-minute split-second decisions to explore a new city, a network spanning more than 50 destinations in 13 different countries around Asia and the South Pacific. Check out their Flight Combos for even more savings and a chance to tack on a free two-hour guided sightseeing tour of Singapore if you have at least five hours to spare between connecting flights. Where they fly: Cities throughout Australia, Tasmania, Indonesia, India, Cambodia, Thailand, Taiwan, China, and the Philippines; Singapore, Kuching, Macau.


How to Brunch Your Way Around the Big Apple

Sex and the City may have originally brought it fame, but the exalted event dubbed "brunch" has continued to be a metropolitan mainstay. More than ever, our vacations are planned around our meals—museums, shows, shoppes, and even hotel locations accommodate where we plan to eat during our vacations. As budget travelers, there is nothing like getting the most bang for your buck while elevating your experience, especially for the most important meal of the weekend. We've rounded up five places that let you brunch your way around the world without ever leaving New York City. France Just around the corner from the West Village's bustling Bleecker Street stems a curious French-inspired gastroteque by the name of Buvette. Known for its wine collection and small plate style, Buvette serves up a brilliant brunch complete with les oeufs "any style," classic croque monsieur, and an array of fresh and flakey patisseries. In the summertime, request a spot in the back garden patio, but for chilly afternoons, cozy up by the front window for top-notch people watching that rivals Paris itself. Brunch small plates range from $7-$10; 42 Grove Street; Morocco Café Mogador has been in business since 1983, a rarity in the cut throat New York City restaurant scene. After thirty years strong (and around 1,560 brunch weekends!), this Saint Marks Street hot spot is worth the wait, as its line admittedly queues quickly. Classic western mains meet Middle Eastern musts creating egg dishes with hummus, harissa, tabouli, and haloumi. The Village Voice still praises Café Mogador as the "Best Moroccan" among other Mediterranean restaurants, and its brunch offerings definitely have something to do with that adoration. Try the housemade merguez sausage for $5; 101 Saint Marks Place; Austria Cleverly named after its two Viennese expat owners, Eduard Frauneder and Wolfgang Ban, Alphabet City's Edi &amp; the Wolf puts a new wrinkle in an already saturated scene, raising the bar for brunch. While the prices land around typical New York City fare, many choices are sharable, such as the schnitzel and the spätzle that boasts a mound of wild mushrooms, brussel sprouts, and fava beans. Don't miss out on this New York Magazine deemed famous brunch cocktail: Rhubarb Strawberry Mary, made with the Austrian-produced white wine Grüner Veltliner. Prix fixe includes an entree, kaffe, juice, and croissant for $18; 102 Avenue C; United States Ask any local and they would likely never associate the 230 Fifth rooftop bar with brunch. The draw here is not necessarily the scrambled eggs and toast, but the breathtaking view of America's iconic Empire State Building and her skyline. Viewing the striking structure against a bright blue sky, while holding a Royal Mojito in a palm tree-laden garden can make any meal grandiose. Open fifty-two weekends a year, 230 Fifth follows a strict "rain or shine" policy providing not only heat lamps but signature hooded robes for the chillier days. Classic omelettes start at $11 but the view is priceless; 230 Fifth Avenue, 20th floor; Brazil The East Village's Esperanto boasts a ten dollar prix fixe meal that includes bottomless hot coffee or tea, one fresh mimosa or spicy bloody mary, and a mega-portioned traditional Brazilian dish. If you're feeling savory, indulge in the huevos loisada—poached eggs with Hollandaise sauce on a potato shrimp pie. For your sweet tooth, choose the tropical french toast, but be sure to ask for the fresh papaya as your favored fruit topping. Prix fixe brunch for $10.95; 145 Avenue C;


Bodie Island Lighthouse Opens to the Public

Ready for some exercise? The 214 steps to the top of the Bodie Island Lighthouse are waiting. The North Carolina icon—one of only 12 lighthouses in the U.S. that are more than 150 feet tall—is now open to the public for the first time since it was built more than 140 years ago. A $5 million renovation repaired unreliable stairs, a broken and dirty 19th-century Fresnel lens (which includes 344 glass prisms), and rusted iron work, reports the Associated Press. The reward for making it to the top? Views of the Atlantic Ocean, Pamlico Sound, and the marshland around Bodie (pronounced "bah-dee") Island. The project was spearheaded by the Outer Banks Lighthouse Society, founded the 1994 by a local couple who started the society with their own money. The $5 million in renovation funds came from the National Park Service, and work stopped in 2010 when more serious structural problems were found by contractors and corrected. The Bodie Island Visitor Center is about a 15-minute drive from Nags Head, part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Guided tours will run through Columbus Day from 9 a.m. to 5:45 pm. daily ($8 adults, $4 seniors, free for children 11 and under—but children must be at least 42 inches tall and accompanied by an adult). Other nearby attractions include Jockey's Ridge, which is the largest sand dune on the East Coast and popular with hang gliders, and the Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve. Where to stay: Ramada Plaza Nags Head Beach is right on the beach. 1701 South Virginia Dare Trail, Kill Devil Hills, NC,, doubles from $183. TALK TO US! We want to know: What's your favorite lighthouse in the U.S.? What is it that you love about it?