Of Uluru, porridge and babes in paradise: Takeoff travel news

The butler does it
Lick the plates clean and eat your porridge: that’s the order when you visit Scotland during its year-long celebration of the land and larder. Merry May is Whisky Month, with the Isle of Harris’s first distillery opening in Tarbert (see harrissdistillery.com), follow a seafood trail down the west coast and discover Britain’s most remote mainland pub, The Old Forge, in Knoydart (see theoldforge.co.uk).  Or call on Jack Black, Scotland’s first picnic butler, dishing up the best of Scottish fare with Forest Holidays in Ardgartan in Argyll, and Strathyre in Perthshire. Jack lifts the lid on your hamper to uncover Scottish smoked salmon, Arran oat cakes and the tea cake with a cult following, Tunnocks. Drink pure Scottish springwater, the lurid orange Irn Br soft drink or a glass of sparkling: picnics can be tailored for couples or families. He can even help you go foraging, light fires and survive outdoors (insider tip: you definitely won’t go hungry). See visitscotland.org, forestholidays.co.uk.

Uluru shines with indigenous design
Temperatures are dropping in the our central deserts as peak tourist season approaches at Uluru. The self-contained Emu Walk Apartments greet the season with a complete refurbishment embracing indigenous designs and artwork by local artist Raymond Walters Japanangka. There are 40 one-bedroom and 23 two-bedroom apartments, each with a separate kitchen and a laundry, set beside the resort hub.  The refurbishment is part of Ayres Rock Resort’s facilities upgrade which includes the five-star Sails in the Desert hotel and a new reception. Travellers Uluru-bound this week will be in time for the Tjungu Festival, with Australian indigenous fashion, film, art and food on display, as well as an Indigenous Anzacs at War exhibition, April 23-26. Upcoming events at Ayres Rock Resort include the Uluru Camel Cup in May, Australian Outback Marathon in July and the Uluru Astronomy weekend in August. Phone 1300 034 044, see ayersrockresort.com.au/emu.

Halls of fame
If you fancy frocking up for a right royal frolicking, chances are you’re already glued to the BBC’s latest period drama, Wolf Hall by English author Hilary Mantel. The series was filmed in the Welsh and English countryside, including in the village of Lacock, in Wiltshire, south-west England, which has also starred in Pride & Prejudice and Harry Potter.  Explore Lacock on Trafalgar’s six-day Best of Devon and Cornwall tour. Other highlights include ancient Stonehenge, refined Bath, Buckfast Abbey in Devon and Tintagel Castle, said to be the birthplace of King Arthur. It also takes in Salisbury Cathedral, which this year celebrates 800 years since King John signed the Magna Carta in 1215. Trips depart between April and October 2015 and cost from $1363 a person. Phone 1300 663 043, see trafalgar.com.

Minors in the Maldives
Pitched as the world’s ultimate honeymoon destination, there is still a place for the results of that honeymoon in the Maldives. Children are welcome at Centara Grand Island Resort & Spa, which has twice been voted the country’s most family-friendly resort. Two children can stay and eat free and also get free return flights via seaplane between the international airport at Male and the resort when you book a ‘summer family offer’. Stay in a beach suite or, if booking a one-bed pool villa, you’ll be upgraded to a two-bed villa, and enjoy free activities such as swimming with whale sharks, snorkelling, island tours and sunset cruises. The resort also has a kid’s club and teen zone, free of charge, for a five-star family holiday. The offer must be booked through travel agents between April 20-October 31. Costs from $6076, 2 adults and 2 children under 12 years, five nights. See centarahotelsresorts.com.

Slide night lives on
Those mourning the demise of travel slide nights will welcome this slide display case, which lends new life to your favourite photos. Devised by New Zealand homewares designer Catherine David, the meter-long case cradles and backlights slides for easy appreciation (and less fingerprints). Hung horizontally or vertically, it can hold up to 21 of your favourite memories.  David has reworked the light to run on low-energy LED bulbs, so your slides will now shine sustainably. Costs NZ$350. See catherinedaviddesigns.com.

Abu Dhabi pitches for halal holidaymakers
With shopping, eating, women-only and adventure tourism well and truly catered for, Muslim holidaymakers are now in the spotlight as Abu Dhabi launches its new halal holidays aimed at Australian Muslim tourists. The emirate has launched 18 new self-guided holidays for thrill-seekers, families, chilling out or catching culture, adhering to the principles of the Islamic faith. Highlights might include ladies-only visit to Yas Waterworld, family fun at the Formula 1 Yas Marina Circuit, a visit to the ancient city of El Ain or tour through the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque (above), which can accommodate 40,000 worshippers and has the world’s largest Persian carpet. It’s estimated the global market for halal tourism is worth around US$140m and rising 6 percent annually, and around 2 percent of Australians have a Muslim background. See visitabudhabi.ae.

The Takeoff travel news column by Belinda Jackson is published each Sunday in Sydney's Sun-Herald Traveller section. 

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