The Travel Diaries


Fiona Duncan, Hotel Critic

Season 5

Today I’m joined by the UK’s leading hotel critic, Fiona Duncan. Fiona has been writing about and reviewing hotels for 35 years. She began her career writing travel guides before launching her own book series with her husband The Charming Small Hotels Guides back in the 1980s.

In the late 90s she was asked to write about hotels for the Telegraph, which she continues to this day, with a weekly hotel column in the Sunday Telegraph. They call her the Hotel Guru, Country & Town House Magazine call her the Hotel Wizard, for which she is also travel editor and the editor of their great British hotels guide.

I spoke to Fiona last week in London, and it was so lovely to reconnect with her - Fiona has been a real mentor to me as a travel writer, which has been life changing to be honest, and I’ve learnt so much from her, so this episode means a lot to me. It also means a lot to finally have a female guest on this season, I wanted to have a completely gender balanced season this time, and just the way things have panned out annoyingly with people’s availability and covid, that just hasn’t been possible. But next week also we have fantastic female guest joining us which I’m really looking forward to as well. 

This is an episode for hotel lovers, Fiona has visited well over 600 of them just for her column alone, and if you’re looking for recommendations here in the UK and in Europe, she has some great tips to share, and ones that won’t break the bank too.


  • Orient Express to Venice 
  • Le Sirenuse, Positano, Italy 
  • Seaview, Isle of Wight, England
  • Mallorca, Spain
  • Antigua and the Caribbean
  • Formentera, Spain
  • Gecko Beach, Formentera, Spain
  • Hambleton Hall, Rutland, England
  • Gravetye Manor, West Sussex, England
  • Langar Hall, Nottinghamshire, England 
  • The Lamb at Shipton-Under-Wychwood, Oxfordshire, England
  • Glebe House, Devon, England
  • The Goring Hotel, London, England 
  • Howtown Hotel, Ullswater, England 
  • Santa Catarina, Amalfi Coast, Italy
  • Locanda Cipriani, Venice, Italy 
  • Limewood, New Forest, England 
  • Lake Nagin, Kashmir, India
  • Gulmarg, India
  • Villa Mahal, Kalkan, Turkey 
  • The Fish Shack, Kalkan, Turkey
  • Kathmandu, Nepal
  • Tiger Tops, Nepal
  • Mexico
  • Ravenna, Italy 
  • Georgia
  • Transylvania
  • Koufonisia, Greece
  • Amorgos, Greece 

Thank you so much for listening today. 

A big thank you to DK Eyewitness for their support of today’s episode. Visit to discover their new series of books, Like a Local. And check out DK Eyewitness’ own brilliant podcast Where to Go - where hosts James and Lucy visit a different destination each week in the company of an expert local guide. Find that on all good podcasting platforms. 

Another big thank you to the British Airways American Express Card for their support of today’s episode. 

If you’re enjoying the podcast, then it would be wonderful if you could leave a rating or a review on your podcast app - it really makes a big difference because it helps other people to discover the podcast. And to hear future episodes as soon as they’re released don’t forget to hit subscribe.

To find out who’s joining me on next week’s episode, come and follow me on Instagram, I’m @hollyrubenstein - I’d love to hear from you. 

If you can’t wait until then, there’s always the first four seasons to catch up on, with guests from Michael Palin and Heston Blumenthal, to Sir Ranulph Fiennes to Hugh Bonneville.

More Episodes


Completely Caribbean - Bonus Episode

Season 5
We're going Completely Caribbean here on The Travel Diaries this week. On today's bonus destination special, we’ll be heading on a sun-soaked tour of the Caribbean islands, in partnership with the British Airways American Express Credit Card.Unsurprisingly, it’s one of the most popular destinations to be picked each week on the pod, and in today’s episode lots of my lovely guests from the last five seasons will be recounting their favourite Caribbean travel memories - the islands they love - of course the islands are so diverse, each with their own distinct history, culture and landscape - as well as the best hotels, places to visit and hidden gems, taking us on a tour from the north to the south of the Caribbean.And later we’ll be joined by Caribbean destination expert Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon aka Jet Set Sarah. Sarah is a Caribbean travel expert, award-winning travel journalist, and self-described “Carivangelist”, having visited and written about nearly all of the Caribbean islands. She'll take us through the destinations chosen by my guests, as well as sharing her own Caribbean travel diaries.Destination Recap:David Loftus: The BahamasJamie Laing and Jo Malone: Turks & CaicosFred Sirieix: JamaicaJacqui Gifford: AnguillaAinsley Harriott: DominicaRichard Branson and Ella Eyre: Necker Island, BVIsJet Set Sarah's Destination RecapTurks & Caicos: Parrot Cay, Providenciales, Andros, Long IslandBahamas: Harbour IslandDominicaAnguillaJamaica: Kingston, Trench House, Devon House, Negril, Ocho Rios, Montego Bay, Port Antonio, KFC Montego Bay!BequiaPetit St VincentGrand CaymanBelizeBonaireMustiqueThank you so much tothe British Airways American Express Credit Card for supporting today's episode.Search BA Amex for more details and check out the world. Representative 24.5% APR Variable,Applicants must be 18 years old or older,Subject to approval-Terms, conditions and exclusions apply.All information including Representative APR is correct as at 14th September 2021.If you’re enjoying the podcast, then it would be wonderful if you could leave a rating or a review on your podcast app - it really makes a big difference because it helps other people to discover the podcast. And to hear future episodes as soon as they’re released don’t forget to hit subscribe.To find out who’s joining me on future episodes, come and follow me on Instagram, I’m @hollyrubenstein - I’d love to hear from you.If you can’t wait until then, there’s always the first five seasons to catch up on, with guests from Michael Palin and Heston Blumenthal, to Sir Ranulph Fiennes to Hugh Bonneville.

Jeremy Vine

Season 5
On today’s Season 5 Finale, I’m joined by one of the UK’s leading broadcasters and most recognisable voices, Jeremy Vine. Jeremy began his journalism career as a BBC reporter for the Today show before becoming the BBC’s political correspondent at Westminster, and the BBC’s Africa correspondent based out of Johannesburg. He worked alongside Jeremy Paxman as a presenter on Newsnight and back in 2015 he donned his dancing shoes becoming a hugely popular contestant on Strictly Come Dancing - although his first dance with partner Karen Clifton was scored a ‘2’ by judge Craig Revel-Horwood. These days, Jeremy’s based back in the UK, and along with his eponymous daily topical programme on Ch5, his daily BBC radio 2 programme is the most listened to news show on UK radio. He’s also an accomplished author and tells us about his latest novel, which is set in Spain.Given his day job involves chatting to anyone and everyone, it’s no surprise that Jeremy had no shortage of conversation today and we have a great time dashing around the world today with his travel diaries, from the Channel Islands to an island off Canada, Siberia to Oman. This is a fun one, I really hope you enjoy it. So, Let’s get started.Destination Recap: - Jersey, England - Alderney, England - The Blonde Hedgehog, Alderney, England- Johannesburg, South Africa - Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA - Siberia, Russia - Oman - Appledore, Devon, England- Glasgow, Scotland - Dali Museum, Figueres, Spain - Cadaques, Spain - Sitges, Spain - Fogo Island Inn, Newfoundland, Canada Jeremy’s novel The Diver and The Lover is out now in paperback - a great read for a summer holiday.A huge thank you to today’s sponsors, DK Eyewitness and The Thinking Traveller. September sees the launch of DK Eyewitness’s new series Like A Local, travel guides to the world’s biggest cities featuring the best local hangout spots, hidden haunts and independent businesses.Listeners to The Travel Diaries can now get 10% off the books over Simply enter the code 'LIKEALOCAL' at the checkout to receive your discount.To book your dream villa holiday visit The Thinking Traveller.The Thinking Traveller's collection of luxury villas across Italy, The Greek Islands, Corsica and Mallorca are some of the best properties out there for a villa holiday and come in all sizes, whether you're travelling as a couple or for a big family reunion. And with that, it’s a wrap for Season 5. Thank you so much to all my lovely guests for transporting us all around the world. And most importantly, thank you, my incredible listeners, for tuning in each week, for taking the podcast over one and a half million downloads, across 160 countries - what a dream come true. If you’re enjoying the podcast, leaving a review or five star rating is the best way to show your support, on your podcast app of choice. All the destinations mentioned by my guests are always included in the episode show notes, on my website and also on my Instagram page @hollyrubenstein where I publish and save weekly guest guides, which plot out all the locations that have been discussed.And it’s not long until I’m back - we’ve got a couple of wonderful destination specials coming up, the first in a couple of weeks celebrating all things Caribbean, so keep an eye out for that. I’m off to Cornwall, again, and then to Provence in France. You can follow my travels on social media and as ever I’d love to hear from you.Season 6 will return in the autumn. Have a wonderful rest of your summer, and I’ll be back soon.

Inspiring Ireland with Annie Mac

Season 5
Welcome to this Inspiring Ireland Destination Special where, alongside legendary Irish DJ and broadcaster Annie Mac, we celebrate all things island of Ireland.Annie’s been in the news a bit recently, because after 17 years as one of BBC Radio 1’s most loved DJs, she has left the station, and the video of her playing her final song went viral online, I think simply because she is such a legend in the industry, and a big part of the lives of so many music lovers, so this farewell was a huge deal. We talk about how she became a DJ and presenter, and her illustrious career and what that involved - and then her travel diaries chapters are all focussed on destinations across Ireland - the place where she grew up, travels back to as much as she can, and knows so well.And then later, I’m joined by travel writer and Ireland expert, Aoife O’Riordain who shares some really brilliant tips, in particular some amazing foodie recommendations and a hotel that I’d never heard, on an Irish island that I’d also never heard of, of that has gone straight to the top of my hotel wish list. Oh and Aoife’s husband was actually the producer of Normal People (you know the show we all watched last summer) so she gives us a little insight into the making of that too!DESTINATION RECAPAnnie Mac’s Destinations:Dublin, Rep. of IrelandRasharkin, Co. Antrim, Northern IrelandBelfast, Northern IrelandRoundstone, Co. Galway, Rep. of IrelandWild Atlantic Way, IrelandThe Burren, Co. Clare, Rep. of IrelandThe Gaeltacht, Co. Galway, Rep. of IrelandDog’s Bay, Co. Galway, Rep. of IrelandDingle, Co. Kerry, Rep. of IrelandDingle Benners Hotel, Co. Kerry, Rep. of IrelandThe Blasket Islands, Co. Kerry, Rep. of IrelandLoch Na Fooey, Co. Galway, Rep. of IrelandCounty Donegal, Rep. of IrelandInishmore, Rep. of IrelandAoife O’Riordan’s DestinationsWest Cork, Co. Kerry and Coastal Donegal parts of Wild Atlantic Way driveDublinDublin and Wicklow MountainsGlendalough, Co. WicklowSandycove, DublinForty foot, DublinBray, County WicklowThe DART commuter trainCo. KerryRing of Kerry driving routeDede at the Custom’s House, West Cork, Co. CorkMisunderstood Heron, Leenaun, Co. GalwayPaddy Bawn Brosnans Bar, Dingle, Co. KerryBally Bia, Co. CorkGreat Western Greenway, Co. MayoThe Royal Canal GreenwayThe Aran Islands: Inishmore, Inishmaan and Inisheer, Co. GalwayInis Meáin, Restaurant & Suites, Co. GalwayThanks so much for listening today. If you’ve enjoyed the episode, leaving a review or five star rating is the best way to show your support, on your podcast app of choice. And to find out who is on next week’s episode, the Season 5 finale, come and find me on Instagram, I’m @hollyrubensten and as ever, I’d love to hear from you.To find out more about visiting the island of Ireland, head to and check out the travel pages of your favourite newspapers and travel magazines which are always great resources for the latest travel news, new openings and must see spots.Have a great week and I’ll be back on Tuesday.