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Some of the best places to visit in 2019 – the beautiful U.K.

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Here are some of the best places I visited the last couple of years.

Another year has passed, quicker than I ever imagined. I don’t know about you but I personally don’t like looking back. I always say that the lessons I’ve learned in the past I got them with me, they’re part of me. Therefore, I don’t have to look back. Only this is different, this time I’ll stop and share with you some amazing places I have seen in 2017/18. So maybe you’ll decide to give them a go in 2019.

Some of them are easy to visit. Other ones require a bit of a feel for adventure and the want to escape the ordinary…

My favourite places are…

Highlands of Scotland

Without a doubt, Scotland is at the top of the list. This wild land, still not entirely discovered by me, remains the gem of the United Kingdom.

The summer just gone, we’ve been camping in the small village of Contin. This is very close to both Inverness and Ullapool. From this point, anywhere you head to in the Highlands of Scotland it’s pure beauty and a great variety of landscapes. We so loved this little place as you didn’t need to walk far to be amazed. As part of the village are Tor Achilty Forest and Rogie Falls.

The Rogie falls are well seen from an impressive suspension bridge and during August and September, there’s an excellent chance of seeing wild salmon leaping upstream. We are lucky to have seen it! Yay!

By the way, the surrounding rivers (Blackwater & Conon) are filled with trout and salmon. So, make sure you sneak in your fishing rods (of course without the wife knowing haha!…she might decide that space you’re “wasting” is perfect for some more spare clothes for the kids instead.

I love Scotland for its beautiful beaches, and there are so many that you have the chance of being the only person on the beach for the entire day. We even started giving them names and pretended they’re our family hiding place. Because that is what they are, places where you are wrapped in a bubble of beautiful creation. Sometimes you see boats passing by and that’s one of those moments when you realize you’re not the only humans around.

scotland

I cherish Scotland because of its small villages, where the community is extremely friendly and open to show you the surroundings and their values. Because you get to buy delicious homemade berry jam from almost any household nearby.

Not to mention there are over 31,000 lochs (lakes) to choose from and to make one of them the closest to your heart. For us, Loch Ness is one of our favourites, not for its beauty alone but for the mystery that’s floating in the air…or on the water?!

lochness

Wildlife…

I’m in love with Scotland for its wildlife. When you choose the right spot, you get to watch dolphins dance, seals waving at you, whales and puffins. Some of the best places we have tried to spot these sweet animals are:

  • Chanonry Point, in CromartyΒ ( The dolphins are often visible off Chanonry point, particularly on an incoming tide when they play and fish in the strong currents). Of course, we didn’t know they’re coming with the tide, so we waited a very long time. If you want an entire day at the beach it doesn’t matter but when you’re with a bunch of noisy little humans asking every second where the dolphins are…you might want to go there just on time.
  • John O’Groats, where you can spot Atlantic Puffins during their breeding season which runs from late spring to early summer, generally May to July. Also, you can watch the grey seals all year round. I wouldn`t want to miss the Orcas (killer whales), which are regularly seen off the coast.
  • The Isle of Skye is another great destination for wildlife watchers.
  • Ullapool,Β I was so surprised to see how close the seals get to the beach here. They seem to be so used with the people and you don’t have to wait long until you notice their heads popping-out the water like skittles.

I admire Scotland for its history and for the castles that seem untouched by time, for the whispers of its legends and myths.

adventure

And there are many more reasons to add Scotland on your list of places to visit this year.

I suggest you try the Highlands in the summertime because the weather isn’t as scary and camping gives you the opportunity to truly explore this land (cheaper than any other form of accommodation and less sophisticated). You can find plenty of campsites on www.pitchup.com.

Cornwall, my tropical peninsula

Cornwall England

Next on my list is Cornwall. Again, I don’t think I can stop writing about this south-west region of England as it’s inexhaustible.

What I can do instead is mention a few places that have moved me deeply.

Kynance Cove, famous for its white sands, turquoise sea and the gorgeous cliffs surrounding the cove. Kynance has been on the tourist map since the early Victorian era when it became fashionable to go on excursions. It’s on my list because of the serpentine walk along the South West Coast Path, which links Kynance with Lizard to the south, and Mullion to the north. This walk has some gorgeous wild scenery to offer.

kynance

Porthcurno

I don’t know what Paradise looks like but if it’s anything like Porthcurno, I’m happy with that.

Apart from its natural beauty (white sparkly sands and turquoise water), there is something more that attracts me to this place. Porthcurno used to be the telecommunication centre of the world and it’s occupying an important place in history. It incorporates tunnels used to house top secret equipment during the Second World War. If you are curious to find out more and the waves are not calling for you, then visit Porthcurno Telegraph Museum instead.

On the cliffs to the west of Porthcurno is the world famous Minack Theatre. It was built in the 1930s by theatrical visionary Rowena Cade (who lived in the house just behind the theatre), and her faithful gardener; which you can visit all year round (summer being the best season).

Why is it so famous?… First of all the location alone is incredible. Perched high on the cliffs above the turquoise sea. Next, the view you get to see from here might distract you from the actual play. Then, the hard work behind the scenes and the ambition of this lady to leave something behind.

The epic Snowdonia, Wales

Of course, it’s not my intention to diminish any other splendid places in Wales, as there are plenty. But Snowdonia ( a region in northwest Wales concentrated around the mountains forms the massive Snowdonia National Park), seems to impress me at every corner. You might want to climb the highest mountain in Wales and England. Or you would like to experience the world’s fastest zip wire. All of this is up to you…and other over 100 attractions. For me, it’s the pure mountain, fresh air and amazing natural beauty. If you decide to give it a go, try to organize it well as you need adequate equipment.

Why not?…

With the risk of repeating myself, I suggest visiting these places in the summer.

First of all, because the weather allows you to explore your surroundings much more easily and gives you more attractions to choose from.

Second of all, we all know how expensive accommodation is in the UK, maybe one of the most expensive in and around Europe (in my opinion and from my travel experiences). Therefore, summer offers the possibility of being almost as comfy in your own tent( for free). I never used to be a camping person because I wasn’t prepared and always ended up being wet and cold. But since I started doing my homework related to what’s the best and the essential gear for a family when camping, things took a completely different turn.

Now I can simply say I love camping…nothing compares with the return to a simple nomadic life, your bed, a cuppa and a clear starry sky in front of a fire.

camping

Scotland Trips

Isle of Skye, the land of fairies – and why I would come back

The Isle of Skye has been voted 4th best island in the world by National Geographic.

And the story begins…

It’s summer, that means time off work for us and we decide to do something different. We quickly search for affordable flights but everything seems to be unrealistic and no, we are not looking for a private jet. It’s just another school holiday here in England.

We’ve heard so many times of Scotland’s beauty and that alone made us say yes, let’s do this. I personally don’t know where I am heading to, but we love discovering new places. We were expecting mountains, valleys and very rich flora and fauna. What I wasn’t expecting was for this island to become etched in my heart forever.

We’re packing some clothes, I throw the tent in and some sleeping bags in the back of the car and off we go. Of course, we didn’t go straight to Scotland. More often than not we choose the longest( scenic) route. But that’s mainly because we can’t help stopping at anything that looks worthy to visit. So, a trip that was meant to be an 8 – 10 hours drive, took 4 wonderful days.

Somerset County – Cheddar Gorge

The weather is really hot so we stop in Cheddar Gorge, a limestone gorge in the Mendip Hills, near the village of Cheddar. The Gorge is absolutely beautiful, it reminds me a bit of Romania with goats climbing as high as possible and the pretty flowers sprinkled all around the cliffs. Cheddar on its own is a great destination for a day out in the summer when there is still light until late. It is really famous for its caves and of course for the tradition of making cheddar cheese. About half a mile from the Gorge, back into the village of Cheddar, you can visit the Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company. Fun fact, the first mention of cheddar cheese in written history was in 1170. The caves of Cheddar Gorge keep dairy products cool enough for an industry to develop. The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company is the only cheesemaker left in Cheddar.tent

We spent about two days here, exploring the surroundings and taking advantage of the brilliant weather. There’s a lot to do in Somerset County, therefore I’ll have to talk about it in another post.

Everywhere we looked in the village, the “sorry, no vacancy” sign hit us right in the face. Clearly we are in full season, it’s time for a strategy as it’s getting late. Soon enough, we pass by a campsite with a big sign in front that says: ” fire allowed”…Yay! Exactly what we wanted. Placed right next to a forest, it felt like a real life saver. What a cosy end to a beautiful day!

A different route…

After two amazing days of living in a tent, we decide to stick to the goal of visiting the Scottish Highlands. Well, as much as we can because we left Somerset and in a couple of hours here we are, breathing the Welsh air. For whoever knows United Kingdom’s map, you can tell it’s the most tangled, topsy-turvy, scattered route we can follow. We don’t regret it even a bit because the Welsh landscapes in the summer are wonderful.

But we gotta do what we gotta do. Therefore…towards Scotland!

The dry stone walls of Scotland

As soon as we step in Scotland, we notice something apart like the dry stone walls. The walls are a common thing for rural Scotland, to us they look beautiful, something close to art. They still serve as boundary markers and as fences to keep the sheep in. Originally, the land was cleared of stones for better grazing and to grow crops. The stones were then piled up around the margins to contain the livestock. The history of Scottish dry stone walls is profoundly linked to the clan system (which was the main political system in Scotland) Some of them date back to the 1600s.

lake

After a long drive, we stop in Perth, to visit a friend. He and his family are not just friends but they’re also passionate travellers like us. Exactly the kind of people you want to talk to when time is short and you want to see the best spots. Because he knows us well enough, he is giving us a route to follow. He would love to give us more climbing routes and long paths to follow but when you have small children you can’t do much of that.

ocean

Bye Perth!

Next day in the morning, we leave Perth behind, heading towards Crieff. Then, sure enough, we reach another beautiful side of Scotland named Lochearnhead.

The views start to get more and more impressive and we are wondering how have we not been here before in all these years. Finally, Fort William lies in front of us, the outdoor capital of the UK. It’s pretty crowded, looking like an anthill, everyone with their own point of interest. Some of the people look ready to go hiking while others are keen to practice some water sports. Β It looks really promising, but we only stop here to have lunch.

Discover Fort William

Isle of Skye – pure island happiness

Once we cross the Skye Bridge, we suddenly get a strange feeling that this land is from another world, so full of mystery and beauty. Some call the island “Land of fairies” because of its mysticism. We are so happy we’re on a road trip, this way we can stop as many times as we want to. So many waterfalls coming from unexpected places, beautiful cliffs and mountains. We want to call our friend from Perth to thank him but unfortunately, on this island reception is really poor. To be fair, I think it’s part of its beauty, anyone stepping in kind of gets lost in time and space. So, if you want to explore the island don’t count on your phone as it won’t work. Take maps with you or a sat-nav( anything offline will do), more so because the Isle of Skye isn’t abundant in road signs either.

map

Portree

It’s already evening and we are in Portree, the main town on the Isle of Skye. The town is only about 200 years old and was created as a fishing village, at the beginning of the 19th century by Lord MacDonald. I find Portree to be very pretty with narrow streets and surrounded by hills. It’s a good place to come back after you’ve seen the island as it’s a good shopping experience. You can find loads of handcrafted items. Although there is a campsite nearby, we pick a B&B that proves to be a good choice as we get the chance to taste their traditional food like black pudding and haggis. Have you had them before? What do you think of it? Portree is a good place for accommodation, not to mention it has some really nice pubs with wooden beams and a fireplace.
island portree

Dunvegan Castle

I must say we felt Scotland has so much to offer after we have seen Dunvegan, thought to be the oldest occupied castle in northern Scotland. We did enjoy our visit here and that’s mainly because it’s a strange blend between the past and the present. On one hand, we see a family (Clan MacLeod) that has lived in the castle for more than 30 generations and on the other hand the stories about the fairies, that seem to be part of their life here.
In the castle, they have on display one of the most controversial possessions of Clan MacLeod – the Fairy Flag. This is one of the Highlands myths and fantastic tales seem to come alive at every corner. Despite the different legends, the Fairy Flag is indeed something special.

Worthy to mention is the boat trip you can get here to see the seals. It was absolutely amazing to see them so close to us, some of them getting so close to the boat that you could even touch them. It was very cute and touching to see a mommy seal breastfeeding her baby. Absolutely adorable!

seals

Kilt Rock

We left all these wonders behind and at one point we got near Staffin, where you can find the famous cliffs called “Kilt Rock”. These cliffs look a bit like a tartan kilt. There is also an impressive waterfall by the lookout point that goes straight into the sea. The pictures we show here are not the best ones as it is quite difficult unless you have a drone.

Duntulm Castle – the ruins above the sea

A special place to see on the Isle is definitely Duntulm Castle. There isn’t much left of this castle, that’s why it isn’t mentioned in any flyers or magazines. You’ll find the ruins of Duntulm, standing on the cliff of basalt (cliffs of Totterish) looking across The Minch (known as Scotland’s fjord) to the Isle of Lewis.

As I said before, due to poor reception and no sat-nav, we’ve had to follow the signs and any other clues that we could find. At one point, we met a local man and we asked him about the Castle. He start laughing and said there’s no castle here just some very old stones. Now, maybe to him, they were just some stones but these ruins have a lot of history behind. Β One of the earliest written records of Duntulm is from when King James V visited in 1540 and said that he was impressed by the castle’s strength and the hospitality he was shown here.

duntulm

We were lucky to enjoy such a beautiful sunset here. The scenery is absolutely superb. The dramatic view, especially when you get near the cliff edge will leave you speechless. Now, I know exactly why according to a European Environment Agency, Scotland is one of the quietest destinations in Europe. There’s no more to add, just simply enjoy the silence.

The End is not here…

When it comes to the best places to visit on the Isle of Skye, there are many worthy to mention. But I think discovering it all by yourself will make your journey unforgettable. We are coming back to this Isle, as I feel like we haven’t finished exploring it. This time we’ll try to travel via ferry from Glenelg to Kylerhea, the route that promises even more beauty and more wildlife.

I love that you can stop on any rock and take it all in, the spectacular views, everything. We are so delighted and lucky to have spotted a whale in this place. We need to come back for the Coral Beach, to swim in the sea that on a sunny day looks as blue as a tropical beach.

Have a look at some more pictures

See you on my next adventure!