What a year so far, eh? 2020 has turned out exactly like no-one expected (seriously, nuts) but if one thing’s for sure, the idea of UK adventure has never been so appealing. I’ve had a rough draft of this blog post in my notes for months, well before Coronavirus took hold, ‘cos it dawned on me how little of the UK we’ve actually properly explored. I love outdoor adventures and long country walks more than most but we do tend to hit up the same old, favourite places and national parks, so there are whole counties I’ve barely even stepped foot in! At the end of last year, we said we’d make a concerted effort to be better at exploring more of what’s on our doorstep. Not just for environmental reasons but because the grass isn’t always greener overseas — you don’t need to jet off to find diverse landscapes, memories, sand between your toes, and (if you’re lucky) sun-soaked beaches. I compiled a bumper list of the UK’s most beautiful beaches should you need some convincing…
My UK explore list keeps getting longer and longer (only a good thing, right?) but I wanted to share a few of the places at the top of my list — both to dream about now and hopefully visit sometime over the next few months and years. From cosy cabins to national parks, and beaches you’d never believe were in this country, this little list alone is a good reminder of how diverse and exciting UK adventures can be.
Ah, Cornwall. Somewhere I’ve had on my list to ‘do’ for years and still never got round to. I have been to Falmouth for the night and I’m pretty sure we once took our boogie-boards to Cornwall as kids, but it’s very much completely unexplored territory for me — and trust me, I’ve seen pics of those beaches, I know what I’m missing! We did have the most amazing trip booked in for June (9 days exploring and proper beach-hopping our way around — bliss!) but sadly it got cancelled, however we’re hopefully rearranging and getting it locked in for September. I’m too excited. I’m super keen to stay at Chapel House in Penzance and sleep under the stars at Kudhva, but I’ve got a whole Cornwall bucket list coming in another post so stay tuned for that… In the meantime, if you are planning a trip, my lovely friend Milly wrote Weekend Journals, a brilliant guidebook highlighting all sorts of beaut independent places which I couldn’t recommend more.
I’ve never been to a UK vineyard let alone stayed on one but if there’s one to stay on, it’s Tillingham. GREAT wines (especially if you like the more interesting and experimental natural stuff) and 11 gorgeous looking bedrooms in what was previously a hop barn. There’s a restaurant too serving dinner, and a seriously slick looking wine shop where you can stock up and fill your cellar — or like, just buy a bottle to go drink on the beach. Lush. We were booked to stay in April then the world shut down, so now we’re booked back in for August. Can’t wait.
The cutest, cosiest little bothies you ever did see. Inverlonan is brand new for this year and looks to be the ultimate ‘hide in the middle of nowhere’ escape, perfect for switching off and resetting. Just the ticket given the year we’ve had so far! Two bothies (aka, teeny but charming Scottish off-the-grid cabins) are set overlooking Loch Nell, not far from Oban and great to add to a Loch Lomond itinerary or West Coast trip. I love the idea of the ‘farm-to-bothy’ breakfast, plus the fact there are kayaks and paddle boards to take out on the loch for free. We’re going for my birthday in August and I just can’t wait!
SCOTLAND VIA SLEEPER TRAIN
So this kind of ties into the one above but I’m itching to take the Caledonian Sleeper to Scotland, ‘cos not only is it a hell of a drive from London but I just bloody love train travel and would really love to do more of it. Alas, the Sleeper train for 2 of us is £400+ and driving is, hmm a lot cheaper (and bloody hell, flying works out even cheaper — booo) so it might be on the list for a while whilst we save our pennies but…one day!
PEMBROKESHIRE AND THE BRECON BEACONS
I grew up in the north west so we often crossed the border into Wales for beach trips or long days out walking, though I can’t remember the adventures too well. Now, I’m itching to go back. I’ve love to do a camping and walking holiday in the Brecon Beacons, and another trip beach-hopping around Pembrokeshire. Seriously, some of the beaches around that coast…wowza. As for places to stay (because it’s always nice to pepper a camping trip with a couple of non-tent nights) fforest farm looks like a very cool spot in Pembrokeshire — a farm come forest retreat that has a mix of farmhouse accommodation, cabin lofts, eco pods and bell tents. And this stone barn hideaway in the Brecon Beacons looks bloody cute too.
THE ROSE, DEAL
This gorgeous seaside hotel put Deal on the map. Or at least, it put Deal on my map. A stay-cay on the Kent coast has never looked so appealing thanks to The Rose Hotel’s wonderfully colourful bedrooms, vintage furnishings and honesty bars in the hallways — what a touch! Sunday night rates look super reasonable so I’m tempted to get a stay in before the summer’s out…
My brother lives in Glasgow and has spent numerous holidays exploring Scotland so I’ve seen via WhatsApp just how insanely beautiful the beaches of the Outer Hebrides are — particularly on the isles of Harris and Lewis. Wild, deserted beaches are the very best kind, add to that Scotland’s endless hours of daylight in the summer months, and you’ve got something seriously special. Sadly, I can’t see us getting that far north anytime soon but hopefully one day in the not too distant future. They definitely prove you don’t need to fly off to find first-class beaches.
WEST COAST OF IRELAND
Though I have been to Ireland a handful of times, once to review a spa hotel an hour’s drive from Belfast and another to Dublin for the day with my family, I have definitely not done it any justice or seen any of the dramatic scenery that I know would absolutely blow my socks off. I’d love to do the southern part of the Wild Atlantic Way, starting from Galway and working our way down to Kerry and Dingle, getting blown away on wild walks as we go. One day soon, hopefully!
CAMPING IN THE PEAK DISTRICT
I’ve got many a camping trip in all sorts of places across the UK on my list but the reason I put the Peak District on here is mainly to remind myself that yes, we should go back and spend a few more nights exploring. The landscape is all so beautiful, it tends to be quieter than the Lake District, and it’s actually not that far from London so is more manageable for shorter trips. Earlier this year, we spent the weekend in Alstonefield in this beautiful Kip Hideaways stay and had the best weekend and did some beautiful walks including this Wolfscote Dale walk, but there are loads more around Bakewell and Castleton including Mam Tor. I’d love to go back when all the heather turns the hills purple.
[photos taken on 35mm film on Olympus AF10, and provided by Tillingham, The Rose and Inverlonan]