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Win a luxurious break for two at The Painswick, our hotel of the year

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With names such as Beggars Reach and Castle Reach, this locality sounds like the ideal setting for a children’s sailing adventure — the stuff of fiction. And it’s fiction that brings me here. I am in a national park of about 240 square miles, a tad south of the birthplace, in 1920, of a thriller writer (autobiography: Sport of Queens). I’m motoring towards a seaside resort beloved of a children’s author. Leaving the park, I head southeast until, again within its boundaries, I reach the resort.

This, then, is where the children’s author spent boyhood holidays. He was not, however, the town’s only worthy: an artist was also born here, in 1878. His wife, Dorelia McNeill, featured in several of his works.

I, meanwhile, take a look around. The Royal Victoria Pier is, I know, gone, but a castle and watchtower are to be found. The remains are scant, but by following a 186-mile national trail for a few yards, I find one of them. But which? The castle, of 12th-century origin? Or the tower, of indeterminate age? Size says it’s the former, which I guess means the tower would have better views of an island one mile offshore.

Later, I set about finding a cave. It may have “belonged” to a lord known as Morgan in a play written circa 1609. It takes me an age to find as I drive around the outskirts of town, not least because I wrongly look for a river’s mouth. But the effort is worth it, proving — as the children’s author wrote — that “the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely of places”.

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