Spain may not be the first destination that springs to mind when looking for the ultimate cider experience, but head to the lush green lands of Asturias on the North West coast and that’s exactly what you’ll find. The natural “sidra” is an icon of the region, due partly to the distinctive style in which it is poured; from the bottle held high above the head onto the rim of the glass held sideways at the waist. This creates a momentary fizz and is why only a mouthful is poured at a time and relished in one gulp.
"Siderías" ancient and modern are the life blood of the tiniest villages and major cities, and there are cider festivals all year round. One of the best can be found in the seaside city of Gijón, where you can enjoy free tasting sessions in the town square or join thousands who gather annually on the sandy beach to break the world record for simultaneous cider-pouring (see pic in where to find it section).
Easyjet fly daily to Asturias from Stansted.
Gijon is 30 min drive from the airport.
Gijon info: www.spain.info/en_GB/ven/otros-destinos/gijon.html
Cider pouring world record: proyectos.elcomerciodigital.com/panorama/images/20090526085632_escanciandosidra.jpg
Google maps: tinyurl.com/2f9sctf
Mersea Island is the most Easterly inhabited island in the British Isles, situated off the Essex coast, 12 miles south of Colchester. Here the rivers Colne and Blackwater meet and flow into the North Sea. The island is connected to the mainland via a causeway (know locally as the 'Strood') and you'll need to check the tide table to ensure you don't get stranded; during very high tides the water covers the road.
While West Mersea is fairly developed, East Mersea is a tranquil haven for coastal and countryside walks. Along the East Mersea coast you can look out and see St Peter's on the Wall, one of the oldest churches in England. In the winter time, Brent geese fly across wide East Anglian skies and land to feed on the mud flats. In summer, sand martins can be spotted nesting on the cliffs and swallows swoop above.
War time fortifications known as 'pill boxes' survive along the coast; children can clamber inside to explore the one at Cudmore Grove Country park. In summer the beaches are clean, quiet and unspoilt with the sea warm enough for a dip.
East Mersea is a wonderful country get away. However should you crave seafood, shops and pubs, you'll need to make the 10 minute car trip across the island to the town at West Mersea.
The nearest station is at Colchester and there are a few connecting buses each day to the island. Driving onto the island, take the left fork signposted 'East Mersea.' Follow the winding road for 10 minutes along East Road and you will end up at a very small car park with houses on the left and a path ahead. Follow the path down to the sea and turn right along the coast.
Nearby Bromans Farm B&B offers clean, quality country style rooms at reasonable rates. bromansfarm.co.uk
Google map: tinyurl.com/37vgqfg
The White Cliffs in Dover are impressive! It's an easy walk of half an hour from the town centre up to the cliffs. There are loads of trails up there leading all along the coast. It's stunning standing on the white chalk cliffs looking down to the blue water breaking on the black, brown and white rocks. It's more than worth spending at least one whole day there.
Edinburgh may be more well known for its rugged city-centre hills, picturesque parks and cityscapes, but it also has its own golden stretch of beach. Yes, it's on the North Sea, and St Tropez it's not, but it is an expanse of scrupulously-clean golden sands situated just 20 minutes from the city centre. In summer the mile-long stretch allows plenty of space for all the usual beach activities with the back-up of shops, cafes and beer gardens aplenty. In winter, nothing beats a bracing stroll along the promenade before a retreat to a cosy little pub.
Three miles from the city centre, Lothian Buses Nos 15 or 26 take you to Portobello High Street, 20mins/every 5-10mins
Has the unlikely billing of the Belgian St Tropez, but you can see why. A lovely long sandy beach combined with posh shops and hotels creates a posers paradise. Unbelievably busy in the summer and on sunny weekends but outside of these times a fantastic place to stroll about and plenty of well positioned bars and cafes to people watch and – my god - there are people to watch.
Only an hour or so from the tunnel and is a real alternative to the likes of Le touquet & Deauville. If staying in Bruges worth a trip to the coast.
Google map: tinyurl.com/2w65bqe
Red Bank Gorge is like something out of a Bond movie. There is a series of narrow, winding, deep clear green pools, flanked by red stone that blazes gold when ignited by the sunlight.
The gorge continues for about 1km and the pools are separated by rocky banks to rest on. Make sure you take an inflatable raft or air mattress to navigate the pools as the water can be very cold. Even if you don't have a raft, you can easily explore the first two pools easily. The scenery is breath-taking.
I was there during peak season in the dry months and still was able to explore the pools by myself. One of the most beautiful places I have seen.
About 180km West of Alice Springs on the Larapinta drive just after Glen Helen resort. A 5km dirt track leads you from the main road - it says 4WD only, but I managed in a Getz no problem. A 20 min walk from the car park takes you to the gorge.
Google map: tinyurl.com/m6tgb3
Sit on the left hand side for beautiful views of the river and boats. Look out for oyster catchers, curlews, little egrets and lots of other birds. It takes 10 minutes but you could turn it into a day trip by walking back!
Starcross Station by the river Exe near Exeter, Devon
Tazones and Lastres are two very pretty fishing villages a half hour's drive apart.
Tazones has a lovely walk from behind the lighthouse up though woods to the cliffs and views out over the sea.
Lastres is less commercialized and you can eat wonderful fresh fish at a restaurant at the harbour called "El Puerto".
Map and info on this area: www.rusticaltravel.com/index.php/Asturias-Guide.html
Long gone are the days of my childhood, spent hunting for huge, edible pink crab with my great-uncle on the rocks of West Pentire. However, Vugga Cove on Crantock beach still holds many delights for rockpoolers, young and old.
This archipelago of pools is a tapestry of oxygenating wispy lime green and the burnt umbers and siennas of bladderwrack. Skylarks sing overhead as you hunt with bucket and net for fish and crab. The tiniest of creatures await to be inspected; sea lice, baby translucent fish, shrimps. Two-inch long stickleback and little shore crabs lurk in crevices.
Later, hot and sticky from the chase, you can swim in the warmed waters of Peggy's pool before the tide sweeps in to cover it.
Crantock beach, near Newquay, Cornwall
You sit on the side of the harbour and dangle a net/hook into the water and wait. After a while you pull the line back up and hope there's a crab or two hanging onto the end. You can buy a crabbing line from nearly all the toy/corner shops around Padstow for about £1. We found that by tying and net or an old vest onto the hook and filling that with 'welks' you caught more crabs as they attached themselves to the net. You can buy welks from the local fishmongers for a pound a pot. Or simply ask to have the leftovers of the fish parts which they will give you for a small contribution of 50p or so. Another tip is to take a fishing net, as we found the crabs fall off. So once you pull the line out of the water, put the net under crab and it will fall off into it - then you can put it into your bucket filled with water and watch them move about. Once finished crabbing however, then done thing is to take your bucket to the waters edge and tip it over and watch your crabs run back into the water. It's so much fun, and if visiting Padstow harbour, this is one the the things you MUST try.
West Quay, Padstow, PL28 8AQ
About three miles east from the pier at Herne Bay are some fantastic rock-pools. They cover a large area and are entirely made up of weirdly flat boulders, so it looks a platform game. You can happily spend time jumping from boulder to boulder, or playing games to work out the quickest way to the sea without stepping on the sand. The boulders are covered in weed though, so be careful you don't slip.
Best of all, there are lots of little rock-pools between the boulders with crabs, anemones, little shrimp-things etc. And the flat boulders provide the perfect standing platform to watch them all.
The whole place was totally deserted on a warm Saturday in June - a hidden gem!
Once you head back to Herne Bay, Ernie's Plaice does excellent fish and chips (eat on sea-front) or you can have a classic Knickerbocker Glory sat in one of the kitschy red booths at KC's Ice cream parlour. Their chocolate-orange ice cream is especially nice.
Turn right (as you face the sea) and walk along the sea-front, then down onto the beach when it finishes. Rock-pools are about 3 miles from the centre of town at low-tide only. Or you could drive to Reculver Lane and walk down from the church car-park (much closer).
This is the best place we have found for crabbing. It's a secret what to use to attract the crabs (don't tell anyone, but we always used liver).
Sometimes you would get the crab to the top of the pier before it let go. Now it is my grandchildren's time for this treat they have a cheat; a net that lays underneath, so when the crabs let go they fall in the net.
In Carnival Week in August there is a Crab catching competition.
Cromer is a lovely little seaside town which has not been spoilt yet, lovely for children's summer holidays.
Cromer has a train station. You catch the train from Norwich.
The Moorings is a B&B in a fantastic position in the pretty medieval seaside town of Looe. My first dread was that it would be chintzy and uncomfortable in a B&B, but I’m delighted to say I was dead wrong. The showers were powerful, the rooms were airy and relaxing, the view was beautiful and I spent hours watching the children crabbing while reading a book out on the balcony. Add to that that it is five minutes pleasant walk to the sea past a working fish harbour! It was a really relaxing, friendly and family orientated holiday.
There is a website www.themooringslooe.com, and Looe has a train station.
Newport is a small Pembrokeshire coastal town located within Pembrokeshire National Park, Britain’s only coastal national park. The surrounding scenery is stunning and Newport is a great access point to the Pembrokeshire Coastal path. The town itself is very small but has enough restaurants and pubs to allow you to dine in a different place each evening on a week’s holiday. We particularly enjoyed Llys Meddyg and Mochyn Drwg - most towns of this size would struggle to have one restaurant of this quality. We stayed at a lovely comfortable cottage called Bury Bach just outside town.
It's a cross between a hotel, a youth hostel and a summer school for families and adults into sustainable living. They run brilliant Family Weeks and workshop courses on environmental issues like composting, preserving, finding wild food and a few more whacky ones like Sacred Trees and Five Rhythms Dance.
Beautiful space - an amazing gothic Victorian building with great views, 11 acres of land, organic walled garden (lots of the food is grown on site) and a farm - and a really good atmosphere. It's three miles from Charmouth and Lyme Regis for seaside fossils and swimming. You can also go there as a volunteer - help out in return for free board and lodging.
A seaside town a train ride from the city centre. Very old fashioned, donkeys, bouncy castle, ice creams, chips from The Marigold Cafe before coming home.
Take a picnic, enjoy sand, windsurfers and, on a good day, jaw-droppingly lovely views of the Welsh coast and Hilbre Island. Only walk to the island if you know what you're doing as the tide comes in fast, often behind you, and it is easy to get stuck!
West Kirby is on the Wirral Peninsular at the end of the M53.Trains every 20/30 mins from Central Liverpool.
An amazing example of public art, these statues (100 of them) stretch along Crosby beach for 3 kilometres and out to sea for one kilometre. Go there at any time of day, but make sure you check the tides - you can't see any of them at high tide. It is atmospheric and beautiful, but at the same time down to earth - it's great to see whole families having picnics next to one of the figures and kids playing around them.
Cosy tea room/bistro/restaurant (mind your head!) at beautiful Cramond on the quayside of the River Almond and Forth. A great selection of home cooked local recipes, soups with home made bread, full meals or just a tea, coffee or chocolate and cake.
The stone built artisans cottage was once a cooperage for the long gone brewing pub next door. Lovely walks along the beaches and fields away from the Edinburgh crowds, but within walking distance of the city (four-five miles).
On the waterfront at Cramond, watch the boats swans and seabirds. Buses and a big car park up the hill.
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