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The joys of the UK’s best walking festivals

The UK’s 150 walking festivals make hiking convivial, as we found on a Black Mountains trek in Wales. Plus, read on for more events around the country

We started in drizzle, progressed into blow-you-off-your-feet wind, moved into milk-chocolatey mud and finished in stair-rod rain. But it was great to be outside. Following guides Anthea and Wally, their energetic collie and a bunch of other waterproof-encased walkers along this Black Mountains route, I’d ticked off 11 miles, three hills and one legend-laced lake (home, they say, to the Afanc, the Loch Ness Monster of Wales). Had I been alone, I’d have been lost – or, more likely, wouldn’t have ventured out at all in such inclement weather. But spurred on by walking with others, I’d had a mini-adventure. At the end, I bade goodbye to a new walking mate. As he was peeling off his sopping gloves and over-trousers, he smiled: “This is what it’s all about.”

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Japan’s arty-pelago: Naoshima and beyond

Among shrines, rice fields and abandoned buildings, contemporary art has transformed 12 rural islands into a creative paradise – the setting for the 2019 Setouchi Triennale

I’m sitting on a concrete floor watching water droplets as they skitter across the smooth surface. Around me, other people seem equally transfixed. They stand in silent contemplation staring at beads of water bubbling up from tiny holes in the floor, or lie gazing at the vast domed roof, where two oval openings let natural light flood in. The slightest movement echoes around the space. I take a pen out to make some notes and a member of staff suddenly appears at my side and indicates that I should put it away. Phones are also a strict no-no.

Teshima Art Museum turns the standard idea of what a museum is on its head. For a start it’s empty. Or to be precise, there is nothing on display. Instead of looking at art works or objects, the visitor is invited to contemplate nature in its purest form: light, water, air. The effect is deeply calming. After 20 minutes, I practically float out.

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