A beautiful and remote coastal region, amazing roads, quiet and great fun for motorbikes and bikes.
There are also really good places to stay or camp, total variety of eateries, really good local seafood, venison and lamb as well as award winning local beers. Add this to stunning views and you have the perfect area for a meeting of bikes ... actually there are quite a few bikers who already come every year!
Tighnabruaich, and Argyll's Secret Coast lie at the end of the Cowal Penninsula, about two hours west of Glasgow. Visit by Bike, sail into the moorings and Portavadie Marina, let the Waverley bring you in style, or the seaplane from Loch Lomond; just come and see for yourself!
I had a gorgeous Sunday lunch at the King Street Tavern the other day, and now I know why all the locals rave about it! Really tasty food, friendly staff and prompt service. Nice atmosphere too as it's was busy on a Sunday
Rising up through the magnificent Cairngorm mountain range was the most beautiful sight I have had the privillege of experiencing in my short lifetime! Situated just a 45 minute drive from the main city of Inverness, lies a hidden gem of picturesque paradise. In my case, I was visiting my father, who lives in a small village on the outskirts of Inverness. He suggested we visit the Cairngorm mountain range as a pass time. Being only 13 at the time, my initial reaction was somewhat lacking in enthusiasm. However, with the proposition of an ice-cream or two, I was all set to go! Finding your way to the national park is relatively easy and well signposted. If you do struggle to find it however, simply stick your head out of the car window, and search for striking peaks, luscious scenery and the occasional free roaming deer!
After a relatively stress free journey, we arrived at the make shift car park. On a negative note, navigating your vehicle in the attempt of finding a space was quite tricky. However, the car park has been vastly improved since my last visit. The luxury of visiting a national park is that a vast proportion of public services are free of charge, although if you are feeling generous, you may wish to make a donation which would go towards the preservation of the park and its wildlife.
The true magnificence of the park, concerns the numerous activities which are available to the public. These range from walking with a ranger led group through the woods discovering new plants and animals, to mountain biking, canoeing and climbing. During my visit, we chose to simply take the small tram to the summit of one of the mountains in order to admire the parks aesthetic value. There was a small queue for the tram, but we waited no more than 10 minutes. The seating on the tram was comfy and the views on the way up became progressively more unbelievable. Stepping outside the tram station onto an uneven grassy plain was the beginning of a new interest. Watching a bold eagle fly in its natural habitat, set against the setting Scottish sun was utterly breathtaking. Suddenly the ice cream which was promised to me earlier in the day seemed a tad inferior to the sight in front of me. Being at such a high altitude, the lack of oxygen played a part in the overwhelming sense of relaxation. I felt at one with nature and with being only 13, in hindsight, this was a massive achievement!
A day trip to the Cairngorms is a fantastic opportunity to appreciate nature in its most powerful state. For those who enjoy a touch of thrill seeking, that to can be arranged. Very little money is needed, except for petrol and food; as there is a small restaurant and gift shop on site. I guarantee that when you leave, your understanding of nature will be greatly improved. For anyone living a great distance from the park, or for that matter, from Scotland itself, i would still highly recommend visiting the Cairngorm National Park.
If you visit Cardiff in Wales then Cardiff Castle is an excellent attraction.
Allow several hours to walk around and it is a decent sized castle.
It is right on the edge of the city centre and very easy to get to.
Rhossili beach is in the Gower.
This beach is beautiful and has some secluded coves which you can have all to yourself if you walk further down it.
It is excellent for fishing and on the rocks you can find many different sea foods to eat.
The beach, just like much of the Gower is often often un crowded even during peak season so I would reccommend it over Cornwall any day. It is also easier to get to than Cornwall as it is serviced by a major motorway.
Pitton cross is a really peaceful campsite that overlooks the beach. It doesn't have a great deal of facilities and is more of of a back to basics campsite but for the view alone and the seclusion it is well worth a visit.
The nearest pub is Worms Head hotel. This has some nice traditional pub food and some good local ales on tap.
On the site we got a tipi from tipi rent, it was the envy of the whole site and provided a very relaxing/romantic atmosphere for my wife and I.
Would reccommend the whole experience and would return again this summer.
The campsite is Pitton cross (15 miles or so from Swansea.)
Pitton Cross Caravan & Camping,
Rhossili, Gower, Swansea, SA3 1PH
Tel : 01792 390 593
I believe the nearest station is Gowerton
The place I got my tipi was www.tipirent.com
Google map: tinyurl.com/yzdj2k4
This pub/restaurant is a real find - some of the best food I've had outside of Michelin starred restaurants. It's not cheap, but the quality of cooking (all the food is homemade) and the environment justify the price tag (outrageous interior design!)
Walking around the city of Bath is a pleasure for the sight. The only World Heritage city in the UK, the architecture and the beautiful surroundings are one of a kind. And if architecture is what you're craving, don't miss the Royal Crescent or (more importantly) the Abbey. Lose yourself in the awe of its Perpendicular Gothic style and bathe in the colored light of the impressive stained-glass windows. If you're lucky, you can attend the choir's rehearsal. Heavenly music for a heavenly place (and I'm agnostic).
Nearby you will find the Roman Baths. Worth a visit, one of the best museums I've ever seen. But if bathing is what you want, then go to the Spa. A bit too expensive for the amount of services you can get, but you'll gain access to the impressive rooftop pool. Be sure to go at night and enjoy the breathtaking views of Bath, the illuminated Abbey, the moon shining upon you and the cold rain falling on your head while your body stays comfortably warm in the water.
If you're up for it, you can catch a bus to Stonehenge near the Abbey and Puteney Bridge (check that out as well). Now, as much as I'm fascinated by the history and the mistery behind this Neolithic monument, the visit there is not pleasant. The place is cold and chilly and the only thing to do is walk around the stones at a distance while listening to an audio-guide. What makes this visit particularly unenjoyable is the fact that such an important monument is placed right next to a couple of roads. The brochure promises that plans are being made to divert the road and solve the problem. I really hope they do, for the sake of future visitors. After grabbing a hot chocolate from the coffee shop, the bus takes you back to good ol' Bath in an hour. Enjoy the beautiful views of the countryside in the meantime.
Get lost in the streets of Bath, admire the century-old buildings around you and have a cup of tea inside St Michael's church while the organist is rehearsing. This lovely little city will leave an impression on you that time won't be able to fade.
Witley Court and Gardens is a Jacobean house that burnt down in 1937. What's left is the shell of the house and some amazing gardens that have only recently been restored. I decided to go as i was bored with my usual day out, shopping or going to the cinema, so a friend and I decided to inject a little culture in to our lives by visiting an English Heritage site. We decided on Witley Court as it was close to where we live and I had always wanted to visit as you can see it in the distance on the drive to Worcester.
So we travelled the ten odd miles down winding repetitive roads, up the driveway and parked right in front of the gift shop along with the other five or so cars.
Coming out of the gift shop we headed in the general direction of the court. Finding the court wasn’t so difficult but the gate you had to open to get up to it was another matter! It wasn’t just a simple bolt or latch and in the end we just gave up and climbed over… lucky it was so quiet else we would have felt absolutely ridiculous! (Not that we didn’t already…)
At the foot of the house we were given audio headsets. After this point we were pretty much left to roam the house and grounds as we pleased as the headsets gave us information about different sections given on the number we pressed. The house I didn’t find that impressive as although it is a huge space with a lot of history it is mostly just a burnt out shell after the fire that destroyed it in 1937 but the gardens are fantastic.
The gardens were landscaped by one of the leading land designers of the time. William Andrews Nesfield. After the fire the ground fell in to disarray and it is only after a lot of hard work from the English Heritage that it’s finally on the way to becoming what it once was. The focus point in the garden of course, has to be the huge fountain that sits in the centre. The fountain of Perseus and Andromeda, when on, is supposed to be as loud as an express train going past, or so the audio headset told me. I was quite disappointed then that it was switched off for the day though it gave me a great view of the carving.
Worcestershire - WR6 6JT
Google map: tinyurl.com/yg3flot
Ten miles NW of Worcester on the A443
New boutique hotel in Bath. Stayed here on their opening weekend for Valentines weekend and in the main was thoroughly impressed. Great central location.
This is a newly converted cottage in rural north Wales, set in the heart of the Ceiriog valley. It gives amazing views down the meandering hills. It has a log fire - very cosy and has been really nicely decorated with local art and Welsh blankets. I throughly enjoyed my stay as I was in a couple but I think it would also be ideal for families. There are also loads of steep and beautiful landscapes and good pubs.
It's not often people in recovery can let their hair down and boogie, without booze and drugs in their face. If you're in Edinburgh on the last Friday of the month, check it out, it might be drug and alcohol free but the atmosphere is anything but sober - its a real celebration of recovery, a great dance, and there's a warm welcome.
Old St Paul's Hall, 63 Jeffrey Street, Edinburgh, Midlothian, EH1 1DH - 0131 556 3332
Google map: tinyurl.com/yepqbk8
Look up your local Northern Soul event on this website: www.northernsoulmusic.co.uk/
Listen to a great selection of rare Tamla Motown music, and watch the acrobatic dancers (join in if you dare). The regulars are friendly, and there is often a music stall in attendance where you can buy Northern Soul CD's or Vinyl.
An amazing beach. Take a picnic, you're likely to have these perfect white sands to yourself even on a summer's day. A brilliant place to let dogs, children and husbands run wild.
Luskentyre, Isle of Harris
Google map: tinyurl.com/yhzhvxt
It was a cold windy and very wet night in late summer. The tents were up on the bank of the Tees, and the arguments started, too long to go to sleep and no real hope of out for a walk before sleep. We were a group from a youth project in Sunderland and the ‘camping’ trip was an experiment and treat. Tired and wet we all agreed to walk to over the hills to the Strathmore Arms to get warm if they would let us in, the only building open to us within three miles. We got in. A man with a guitar and a music machine played sixties songs. Our group seemed up for a dance and they had everyone in the place up too before long. There were only about six others in the place all much older people resting after a day’s work on farms. Old jack seemed especially nimble, no room to dance at all yet they glided between chairs and tables. We left some hours later and ready to sleep with nothing left to argue about. The sparkling morning sunshine gave us the most wonderfull experiences of both Low and High Force and a wander up Noon Hill back across Holwick Fell to the Arms below. Closed!
Middleton-in-Teesdale, Barnard castle, DL12 0NJ
01833 640 362
Google map: tinyurl.com/ydka9o4
Romance lies not in overpriced long-stemmed red roses or intrusive gypsy violins. Better to let it find you at an endearingly quirky location like Heythrop Park Hotel near Chipping Norton, which doesn’t tout itself as a romantic destination but has all the ingredients of intimacy, a dash of intrigue and lashings of comfort. We were there for three days and forgot the car, tv and internet. It’s so remote we thought we were lost after several minutes on the endless drive. Yes, we had sparkling wine in a bucket of ice in our enormous room, chocolates, flowers, and yes, the obligatory white fluffy bathrobes and claw-footed bath. Heythrop is a mini Blenheim Palace, built in 1716 from honey coloured limestone by the handsome Duke of Shrewsbury, appropriately known as “The King of Hearts.” Set in 440 acres of sweeping parkland, it has Italian gardens, a secret garden, fern strewn grotto - which used to house the skeleton of a whale - and, tucked away by the golf course, a tranquil Jesuit cemetery from a later period. We had the entire grounds to ourselves, and discovered hidden statues amongst the undergrowth, tempting doors in garden walls and deer running through giant conifers. Inside, there are huge carved wooden ceilings and chimney pieces, a billiard room, ballroom, and huge galleried landings with stained glass windows. After making the most of the health club in the grounds, we were almost too relaxed to leave our room, Eldon (a hotel room must have a name to be romantic) to sweep down the huge staircase for dinner - though I did sweep several times in fact, for the camera. It’s not every day one plays Lady of the Manor in such a setting. There are some foibles in the hotel - a mediocre breakfast loses Romance points, we wanted a tray in our room to sustain the illusion of being country weekend house guests - but we overlooked everything for the sake of such an unusual, and yes, impossibly romantic, experience.
Searching for a precious place to rekindle romance? Then slowly drive your loved one along the shores of the deep blue Loch Voil to reach this enchanting place. The great thing is that apart from the wonderful mealtimes, and taking in a few lungfuls of clear fresh Highland air, there are few distractions from indulging in the warmth of your room. If romance is your goal you’ll always want to stay another night together. And if you have money to burn you could always choose to arrive by the seaplane that lands on the loch in front.
Tel: 01877 - 384 622
Balquhidder village is off the A84 north of Callender. Then travel a few miles up the glen along the shores of Loch Voil, to the hotel.
Google map: tinyurl.com/ybtjnk7
Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn once stayed at this Tudor castle, now a romantic hotel set in historic gardens and with its own vineyard. It offers a luxurious experience, with four poster beds, log fires, tapestries, and even a bedroom with (perfect for Cupid) arrow-slit windows. The crowning glory, reached by a stone spiral staircase, is the Tower Bedchamber, with far-reaching views and a ten foot wide bed that Anne Boleyn would have died for. At our recent visit the snow made everything even more enchanting. Magic.
Well it's holiday booking time again and as we've already booked ours at this place I don't mind telling you about it now. This is a really lovely get away from it all yurt place. They have three yurts well apart from each other - Tim, the owner makes the yurts himself, beautiful construction. Extremely peaceful, right at edge of Bodmin Moor but easy to reach the pub (walking) and onsite there's nothing better than chilling in a chair and looking at the view. No cars on site, but they will give a lift down to the yurts with stuff in a Land Rover - it's a higgledypiggledy track, oaks and flowers. The yurts have raised wooden floors so no hint of damp, lovely and comfortable -and really clean (they suupply linen as well) double beds, futons for extra people. There is a woodburning stove in the yurt so really cosy, all cooking facilities on a gas stove and the bathroom yurt is fantastic. Just all in all a lovely slow place to stay with friendly owners in fantastic countryside. Very green too - I would say minimal impact and footprint - you can also get local organic meat and they produce eggs and veg during the summer. They'll also pick you up from station if you're on a mission.
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