A Chat With “Friend” Travel Writer Gillian Thornton


Gillian Thornton

We recently sat down for a nice chin wag with Gillian Thornton, a familiar name to “Friend” readers thanks to her engaging, entertaining and inspiring articles!

What is your favourite place in the UK?

Much though I love travel, I would have to say home which is Hertfordshire.

Not just because it’s where most of my favourite people are, but because I’ve realised that there is always something new to discover, even on your doorstep.

I walk miles round the county with my old school-friend, Liz, working our way through books of circular footpath walks. We invariably discover something new on every trip — a village, a snippet of history, or just an atmospheric pub or tea room. You don’t have to travel far to have fun in this country!

What is your favourite place in the world?

Outside the UK, I would pick Canada for its jaw-dropping scenery and lovely people, and France, because it really does offer every kind of landscape and lifestyle experience in one country.

One spot in particular? It has to be the French island of Corsica — stunning scenery, rich history and an undeniable Italian flavour, following 500 years of rule by the Genoese. The mediaeval town of Bonifacio on the top of the southernmost cliffs defies any kind of architectural logic!

Do you like to travel alone or with someone?

As any only child, I am perfectly happy to travel alone and work at my own pace, but travel experiences can also be more intense if you share them.

Pick your companion carefully and they can really enhance your trip, as well as providing moral support on those rare occasions when things go wrong. I love discovering new places with my husband, John, as well as my walking friend, Liz.

They both enjoy different things, so if I am able to take a companion, I just pick the most appropriate person for the trip.

Do you have a list of places you still hope to visit, and where are they?

An endless list, many of them quite close to home. I’ve only scratched the surface of Northumberland, I’ve never been to Croatia, and I still have gaps in my knowledge of Italy.

How do you pack? With the kitchen sink or hand luggage only?

I can only do hand luggage if it’s an overnight trip, as I always have an SLR camera and an iPad with me which take up space. Plus all the chargers!

But I am quite a good packer. I always take the same case which holds up to 15Kg when full, so I know it will always be OK on a low-cost flight. Plus a soft, zip-up bag that takes my essential equipment, as well as a matching handbag that converts to a backpack. That way I never leave anything behind, because I know exactly what I should be carrying and also what fits in where!

Do you have any practical tips to offer?

Keep a couple of plastic carriers in your case for grubby shoes, dirty linen, or wet swimsuits.

Hotel shower caps are great for covering shoes and keeping clothes clean.

Always carry a photocopy of your passport in a separate bag from the original, and leave one at home with an emergency contact.

Pick up the latest copy of the “Friend”, and you’re almost sure to find one of Gillian’s features!

If you can’t wait that long, why not check out our travel pages?

Hannah McLaren