1. The game is afoot in London
Hidden City, the makers of clue-solving walks across the UK, has a new hunt on their books: Moriarty’s Game, inspired by Sherlock Holmes’ nemesis. The walk starts in the Royal Institute of British Architects, just a stone’s throw from Sherlock’s home at 221B Baker Street, and takes would-be detectives into art galleries and Georgian public houses as they attempt to solve the puzzle by deciphering clues sent to them by text message.
As well as testing participants’ ability to work out elementary problems, the walk provides an excellent way to explore some of London’s more hidden corners and attractions, and there’s a surprise at the end to spur all code-crackers on.
2. New flights to Porto
From February, BA will fly four times a week to Porto, a fitting month to set off ti this deeply romantic city of grand pastel-hued houses, soaring towers and winding lanes that tumble down to the languid Douro River. A former Roman settlement and one of Europe’s oldest cities, Lisbon’s little sister offers culture and charm to rival many a capital. For a taster, stroll the medieval alleys of Ribeira, the Unesco-listed Old Town, to discover houses decorated in hand-painted azulejo tiles, a hulking hilltop cathedral and the Baroque church of Igreja de Sao Francisco, dazzlingly bedecked in gold leaf.
Other highlights include views over the city’s red rooftops from the Torre dos Clérigos, modern art amid the gardens of Parquede Serralves, and digging into the food scene – whether joining locals getting a fix of flaky egg tarts in a quiet square, or trying petisco (tapas) in lively bars as strains of mournful fado drift by. No culinary adventure should pass without sampling Porto’s eponymous sweet wine, either. For a taster, head over the river, where traditional port-ferrying boats bob, to the town of Vila Nova de Gaia. Here, dozens of venerable wine caves offer tastings and tours of the sweet stuff – with views to match.
3. Treking among volcanoes in La Gomera
About the size of the Isle of Wight, La Gomera is nonetheless large enough to host some of the most impressive hiking in the Canary Islands. Rather unlike a stroll on the Isle of Wight, you’ll amble past cloud-capped volcanoes, mighty lava plugs and shady banana groves, while steep slopes tumble down to Atlantic waves. With cool sea breezes, January is the perfect time to test your walking boots on its shepherd’s tracks. Headwater offers a guided walking trip around the island. Highlights include walking through terraced farmland to views of Roque de Agando, a jagged peak that looks a bit like Rio’s Sugarloaf, and climbing the island’s highest reaches to pick through the subtropical forests of the Garajonay National Park. Keep a keen eye out for whales in the surrounding seas – the island was the location for In the Heart of the Sea, a new epic movie about an American whaling ship sunk by a whale – albeit a CGI one.