Sunday People

Driving and Parking for fun


Swing into the golf season with a summer break at Warner Hotels’ latest hotel opening in the Cotswolds.

A new package at Heythrop Park, Oxfordshir­e, includes access to its on-site par 72 championsh­ip golf course – set in 440 acres of undulating terrain with lakes and streams – and its driving range.

Non-golfers are not left out of the fun as activities such as laser clay shooting and archery, as well as access to the spa are included in the cost of the break. Golf sports and leisure manager at Heythrop Park, Jamie Cook, said: “These breaks offer the perfect chance to play on a championsh­ip level course surrounded by parkland.

“Those who don’t want to work on their handicap can dance the night away, enjoy afternoon tea, explore the parkland or relax in the spa.”

Two nights’ B&B and dinner plus three rounds of golf is £289pp, based on two sharing.


Birmingham’s hugely successful Commonweal­th Games boosted tourism to the West Midlands by 38% year on year with 141 million visitors in 2022, putting £14.1billion into the local economy. A spokesman said: “The West Midlands was the place to be in 2022.’’ visitbirmi­ feel like hard work – a sturdy Russian van was on hand to pick me up.

Who needs the Millennium Falcon to save the day?

A third of the size of the Grand Canyon, it is around a three-hour, 125-mile drive east of Almaty towards the border with China.

We also visited the impressive Kolsay Lakes nearby for more walking, and Lake Kaindy to gawp at its unique sunken forest created by an earthquake more than a century ago.

The clean air and lush green landscapes here make for the perfect escape from city life. And it’s not teeming with tourists, either.

If walking miles isn’t your thing, though, you can rent boats at Kolsay and horses at Kaindy for a much more chilled look at the gorgeous scenery.

Heading back to Almaty after our two-day tour we followed the centuries old Silk Road trading route that Genghis Khan and his armies once roamed.

It’s flat and barren all the way back but the snow-capped Tian Shan mountains in the distance keep the views interestin­g.

The cityscape comes into view past the mini-mosque roadside graveyards and the apple orchards, which produce gigantic fruits in the fertile fields at the foot of the mountains.

The ski resort of Shymbulak towers over Almaty and is popular with locals and tourists – Prince Harry hit the slopes here with his then girlfriend in 2014.

There’s also a huge skating rink at Medeu that’s worth a look and, sporting pursuits aside, it’s a popular date night destinatio­n for Kazakhs, too.

Walking round the city doesn’t feel much different to being at home. Sunday afternoon in Panfilov Park felt safe and friendly with couples strolling hand-in-hand and kids driving remote-controlled cars.

The streets nearby were filled with artists and musicians and when the sun sets the nightlife gets going.

What’s the food like and can you have a drink?

“Who eats more meat – Kazakhs or wolves?” They eat so much here – lamb is the favourite – the locals joke about it.

And if you’re vegetarian don’t expect to find the options we have at home.

But good Western and Kazakh food is widely available in Almaty – and beyond. I had two excellent Italian meals at Navat, on the side of a sun-soaked mountain at Shymbulak, and at Del Papa on a cool city centre street.

The inexpensiv­e local cuisine was a real highlight and well worth a try, especially for the adventurou­s.

At the upmarket Sandyk, we sipped Kumys, mare’s milk (sour, smoky and actually not too bad), and ate huge plates (well, tried to) of Beshbarmak – noodles and horse meat/intestines (the latter, never again) – with Baursak, puffy bread.

This was all washed down with some millet tea as we enjoyed a musician playing the traditiona­l Dombra. Beshbarmak is usually served on special occasions, unlike their version of biryani (meat, veg and rice) – “Plov” – which is a weekly staple. We ate it a couple of times and it was delicious but not as spicy as you’d expect to find in our Indian restaurant­s.

Lagman, a noodle dish, was also pretty good.

Kebabs are a very big thing here and there’s nowhere better than “Shashlik Street” on Kirova.

But the Georgian restaurant we popped into on our last night – Lariss Ivannu Hochu – did them very well, too.

If you need to take a break from the meat there are plenty of other local nibbles to try. The apples are huge and tasty, the local chocolate impressive, while the curd balls – very, very popular with the Kazakhs – are an acquired taste.

Make sure you visit The Green Bazaar to sample the excellent coffee and haggle with the nut sellers who have a reputation for not giving an inch on the price of a bag of almonds.

Despite being largely Muslim, it’s not difficult to get a drink, either.

Wine is produced in vineyards just outside Almaty and the city is full of bars – and nightclubs – serving beers and cocktails.

With visa restrictio­ns lifted, this fascinatin­g country has opened up

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 ?? ?? SPORTY Shymbulak ski resort close to Almaty
SPORTY Shymbulak ski resort close to Almaty

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