Travel tips: Amsterdam’s trendy new quarter, why Halloween is scary business, and where to stay in Dartmoor | Joanne O’Connor

Amsterdam’s latest creative hub, how Halloween became a screaming success, and Dartmoor’s best boltholes

Take me there: Amsterdam-Noord

Why go?
It’s been a big year for Amsterdam, with the Rijksmuseum reopening and the 400th anniversary of the canal network, but if you really want to take the pulse of the city, take a ferry to the north shore of the IJ (the bay that separates north and central Amsterdam), home to hip hangouts and art centres.

What to do
Visit the Tolhuistuin, “a cultural playground” which opened last year in the former Shell HQ, and hosts an innovative arts programme ( Rummage for bargains at IJ-hallen, Europe’s biggest flea market ( or browse the studios at NDSM, an underground “arts city” in a derelict shipyard ( Hire a bike and explore canalside villages for a flavour of old Holland.

Where to stay
The most popular budget option is the Amsterdam Botel – a floating hotel big on novelty factor but fairly basic (from £45, A better bet is the City Fields B&B, a sweet guesthouse with two rooms in a traditional wooden house (from ¤100,

Where to eat
Huge industrial-style dining spaces are in vogue. Try the waterside IJ-Kantine, serving up Mediterranean food in the former shipyard canteen (, and the hangar-like Hotel de Goudfazant (, with its three-course menu for €30. Don’t miss the street food at Toren Overhoek, the neighbourhood’s coolest new bar/garden/creative “space”, on a Wednesday evening (

Insider tip
“There’s a wonderful bike ride to Café ‘t Sluisje [Nieuwendammerdijk 297,], a traditional Dutch bar on the waterfront,” says Chris Keulemans, artistic director of Tolhuistuin. The bar was founded in the 16th century and is full of antiques and old photos.

A total nightmare: Halloween is now big business. Be afraid…

When did Halloween get so scary? I mean properly scary, as opposed to just a bit spooky. It’s as if, after years of reluctantly carving out pumpkins for our kids while mumbling about how commercialised it’s all become, the adults have decided they want a slice of the action, too.

How else to explain the recent proliferation of experiences aimed squarely at the over-18s? So-called “scare attractions” are now such big business they even have their own Oscars, the Scare Awards (also known as the Screamies). One of last year’s winners, Cursed (, describes itself as the “ultimate horror destination in Essex” (I thought that was Brentwood High Street on a Saturday night). The Halloween pop-up promises to scare visitors “witless” with a live action “horror maze”. Meanwhile, at the Frightmare Halloween Festival in Gloucestershire ( you can take part in a “haunted hayride” or zombie paintball.

More mainstream attractions have had to up the ante, too. Mask making and apple bobbing have been replaced by scary experiences such as spending the night in the London Dungeon in Mrs Lovett’s “meat pie” shop (, or taking an underground boat tour of the Dudley canal network in search of paranormal activity (

After years of being a Halloween refusenik I have decided to embrace the festival. After all, it’s the only thing that stands between us and the carnival of consumerism that is Christmas. Now that really is terrifying.

Where to stay in Dartmoor

Sparrowhawk Backpackers Hostel, Moretonhampstead: This independent hostel welcomes walkers and cyclists. Accommodation is in a cosy, converted stable with solar showers and a basic kitchen. The owners can advise on hiking and biking routes, or wild swimming spots. Wild camping is also available. £17 per adult, £8 per child for a bunk in the dorm, £38 for the double/family room (

Rose Cottage, Bovey Castle: Mullioned windows, ornate ironwork and jewel-coloured fabrics and walls create a sense of opulence at this gothic-style gatehouse in the grounds of Bovey Castle Hotel. Guests get the best of both worlds – the privacy and space of a self-catering cottage, with all the perks of a five-star hotel, including use of the pool, golf course, spa and tennis courts. Sleeps four. From £506 per week (

Weeke Barton: Gorgeous B&B in a 500-year-old long house on the edge of Dartmoor National Park. Thick stone and cob walls, open fires and window seats draped with sheepskins create a rustic feel offset by contemporary cushions and fabrics. Dinner is often served at a slate-topped communal table (booking essential). Help yourself to biodynamic wines in the honesty bar in the snug. Rooms from £110 (

Lewtrenchard Manor, Lewdown:
This Jacobean manor house is steeped in history. It’s an old-fashioned – but unstuffy – countryhouse hotel experience. New chef Matthew Peryer is making his mark. Book the eight-course tasting menu for £80, including champagne. Walk it off in the peaceful gardens, with their streams, statues and dovecote. From £135 for a classic double; from £155 for a superior double ( © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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