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Eat: Iberico brings together an inventive, globe-spanning tapas menu under gorgeous vaulted roofs. Tempters include a torn pasta, ham and manchego cheese concoction. Expect to pay £20 to £25 a person.

Travel time: one hour 40 minutes with First Great Western

Often overshadowed by nearby Bath (which is just 11 minutes away by train for day-trippers seeking thermal baths, imposing Georgian houses and Jane Austen heritage), Bristol has a more modern buzz. The Clifton Suspension Bridge provides photogenic postcard shots, but it is another of Islambard Kingdom Brunel’s creations that offers the best visitor experience. The SS Great Britain – one of the mightiest steamships ever built -- has been restored next to the Maritime Heritage Centre.

Bristol is a good city for walking tours. On the darker side, local tourism board Visit Bristol has put together an MP3 guide to sites in the city that were linked to the slave trade. There is also a guide to Banksy’s artworks – the guerrilla street artist started out in Bristol and many of his pieces can still be seen around the city.

Stay: the Brooks Guesthouse defies the stuffy image of a bed and breakfast, with chic, modern furnishings, organic breakfasts and a near-unbeatable central location. Doubles from £70.

Eat: the Clifton Sausage gastropub shows off regional produce, specialising in high quality bangers and mash. Mains from £9.50 to £18.

Getting the best train fares
Paying for a ticket the day of can be painfully expensive. Booking online in advance is strongly recommended,  and off-peak fares (generally after 9:30am) are usually much cheaper. Considerable savings can also often be made buying two singles instead of a return ticket.

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