23 Places So Gorgeous And Breathtaking You’ll Go “Whattttt”

We asked the BuzzFeed Community for their favourite hidden spots in the UK. Here are the results.

1. Polperro, Cornwall

Polperro, Cornwall

“There’s a small beach area where many caves and small pools of water are located, good for those who love to explore. There’s only a certain time of day you can visit too as the tide goes up very quickly.” – sophieb483cbacae

2. The Outer Hebrides

The Outer Hebrides

“This summer I’m doing a 10-day tour of the outer Hebrides in Scotland. Ten days of standing stones, fairy pools, and Viking settlements. HEAVEN! Or, should I say, VALHALLA!” – beckie

3. The Roseland Peninsula, Falmouth

The Roseland Peninsula, Falmouth

Tom Tolkein / Via thomastolkien.wordpress.com

“The Roseland Peninsula, on the other side of Carrick Roads from Falmouth. Taking the ferry across the harbour to St Mawes and then an even smaller ferry across to St Anthony, walking around the peninsula, exploring the little beaches and coves, then getting the ferries back, walking across Falmouth and chilling out on Gyllyngvase beach. Perfect way to spend a hot summer’s day.” – Tom McAteer, Facebook

4. Longleat, Wiltshire

Longleat, Wiltshire

“There’s a beautiful path through the forest to a hill overlooking the Longleat estate and safari in Wiltshire. The locals all call it Heaven’s Gate – you can see for miles and it’s especially glorious at sunset!” – zoeye2

(This photo is of Wiltshire, not specifically Longleat.)

5. Vindolanda, Hexham

Vindolanda, Hexham

“I recently visited Hadrian’s Wall and i would strongly recommend that to everyone. Vindolanda is amazing!!” – matthews4db7f00b2

6. The Durdle Door, Dorset

The Durdle Door, Dorset

“Beautiful.” – yolandaw415afa4e4

7. Kinver Rock Houses, Staffordshire

Kinver Rock Houses, Staffordshire

“They’re so unique and their history is fascinating. And the surrounding area is beautiful too!” – sofamiliar

8. St Abb’s Head, Berwickshire

St Abb’s Head, Berwickshire

“The area around St Abb’s Head in Berwickshire, southeast Scotland, is beautiful. There are steep cliffs, but if you walk far enough you can find a ruined castle out on a tiny island.” – anniem4f5db16fc

9. Dunster, Somerset

Dunster, Somerset

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10. Sugar Loaf Mountain, Monmouthshire

Sugar Loaf Mountain, Monmouthshire

“You have to include Sugar Loaf Mountain in Monmouthshire, Wales. I took myself off to Wales a couple of weeks after my 30th birthday last year, staying in Cardiff for a solo holiday. I googled things to do nearby – next thing I know I’m on a train to Abergavenny on a mission!

“The views were beautiful, and little did I know when I woke up that day that a couple of hours later I’d be up the top of a mountain, chatting to strangers and more importantly petting their dogs, so far removed from my normal London life!” – michaele44634e500

11. The Shell Grotto, Margate

The Shell Grotto, Margate

“It’s fascinating and gorgeous – and how the place came to be is still a mystery. Even reading the Wikipedia page makes it sound amazing.” – sophiab42cf32be2

12. Dean Village, Edinburgh

Dean Village, Edinburgh

pault32

13. Lerwick, Shetland

Lerwick, Shetland

“The Clickimin Loch is lovely at night when you look across to the Broch.” – kerrym4703fbb7f”

14. St David’s, Wales

St David's, Wales

“St David’s, the smallest city in the UK (pop. 1,841). The main attraction is the cathedral, which holds the relics of St David (unsurprisingly), Wales’ patron saint. The cathedral close is particularly beautiful, since it contains several ruined medieval buildings, including the bishop’s palace, as well as quite a few cows in the meadows by the river. Oh, the city is also in the middle of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, the only National Park designated primarily because of its coastline, which is truly spectacular.” – clickbaitmcclickface

15. Isle of Skye

Isle of Skye

“Isle of Skye is pure magic… The Quirang is like walking in another world. You’ll never forget it.” – tacodingo2

16. Cragside House, Northumberland

Cragside House, Northumberland

“It was the first home in the world to take advantage of hydro power to generate electricity for the home, and it’s got vast grounds to explore. It’s kinda like if Willy Wonka and Frankenstein designed a stately home. Oh, and it’s beautiful.” – johntheone

17. Ladybower Reservoir, Derbyshire

Ladybower Reservoir, Derbyshire

“There’s a place in the Peak District, Ladybower Reservoir – it is a beautiful expanse of water. If you know the right way to go, it leads to Slippery Stones, a natural water swimming spot, and it’s super pretty in summer.” – Linkakq

18. Tollymore forest park, County Down

Tollymore forest park, County Down

dangerxdays

19. Inverie, Lochaber

Inverie, Lochaber

“The main village on the Knoydart peninsula on the west coast of Scotland. It isn’t connected to the main road network, so it is only accessible by ferry (or a 17-mile hike!). It’s incredibly beautiful, with wonderful views of the islands Rum, Eigg, and Muck and Sgurr Coire Choinnichean as an incredible mountain background.

“It’s also home to The Old Forge, which is the most remote pub in mainland Britain!” – hjj2

20. Millport, near Glasgow

Millport, near Glasgow

“It’s a beautiful tiny isle near Glasgow. You can rent bikes and cycle around the island in about 1–2 hours. Both cafés, one close to the ferry port and one in the ‘town’ part, are absolutely delicious. Biggest attraction? Crocodile Rock, for sure. It’s absolutely worth going to since it is such a magical and beautiful place to be.” – laram45f255215

21. Giant’s Causeway, Antrim

Giant's Causeway, Antrim

“Giants Causeway, County Antrim. Easily.” – annam4c7ab19bb

22. Beddgelert, Snowdonia

Beddgelert, Snowdonia

“Absolutely stunning.” – cerysedwards

23. Wells-Next-the-Sea, Norfolk

Wells-Next-the-Sea, Norfolk

“The vast beach and the colourful huts at Wells-Next-the-Sea, north Norfolk.” – danm49cb25d99”

Source: Ylenia and Buzzfeed

36 Hours in Edinburgh

Where old and modern merge seamlessly: along with medieval alleys, design-forward buildings and a ‘new’ Scottish cuisine.


Edinburgh, a charismatic city full of staircases and hills festooned with Georgian and neo-Classical buildings, is well-versed in incorporating the modern into the old. While it has always been an arts center and a cosmopolitan capital, the city is now turning its vibrant energy toward creating a new Scottish cuisine, a nearly uncountable number of craft beers, and design-forward buildings like the Scottish Parliament, which stands as the symbol of the new Scotland. Yet the charm of “Auld Reekie” is still there in its cozy pubs, medieval alleyways and talkative, wryly self-deprecating residents.

Friday

1. PAST TO PRESENT, 3 P.M.

The National Museum is one of Edinburgh’s crown jewels: a museum that presents a remarkably detailed history of Scotland, from its prehistoric past to the cloning of Dolly the Sheep, who can be found on the first floor. Ten new galleries opened in July, and it would be easy to spend an entire day watching videos about the country’s last lighthouse keepers, learning about the Scottish labor movement, playing with the interactive science exhibits, marveling at how small a vintage Tiger Moth airplane is, and admiring the gloriously airy Victorian atrium. Admission is free, so if you need a stimulant make the two-minute walk to Brew Lab, one of the city’s best independent cafes, which has an industrial chic vibe and top-notch coffee (3.50 pounds, or $4.65), then head back for more. Don’t forget to pick up a tote bag printed with Warhol-esque images of Dolly’s face as a souvenir.

2. PUB GRUB, 6 P.M.

In the upscale neighborhood of Stockbridge, even the pub food is excellent, especially at casual, stylish Scran & Scallie, from the owners of the Michelin-starred Kitchin. You’ll find classics like sausages and mash, and fish and chips, but consider going to the next level and order roast bone marrow, ox tongue and mushrooms, and girolles on toast. The clientele tend to linger over drinks and desserts (try the sticky toffee pudding if it’s on offer). Dinner for two, around £60.

3. BEER GALORE, 8 P.M.

Stockbridge Tap is a bar for serious beer lovers. The international selection changes frequently, but the knowledgeable and friendly bartenders will ask you to describe your favorite tipple and then find the perfect selection. End the evening with a short stroll to the Last Word for one of the most creative and professional cocktails in the city. This basement bar is dimly lit even at 4 p.m. Try the Same But Different, a mix of tequila, mezcal, strawberry jam, rose liqueur and fresh lime juice. There’s a small lab in the back where they do crafty things like clarify chartreuse. Bar snacks include a selection of cheese from the excellent I.J. Mellis cheesemonger around the corner.


Saturday

4. FRY-UP, 9:30 A.M.

The Scottish fried breakfast is a thing of legend (and also perhaps the world’s best hangover cure). The newly opened Angus Fling has a central location, booths upholstered in tartan and an emphasis on locally sourced ingredients. The Scottish “fry” comes with sausages, bacon, eggs, mushrooms, grilled tomato, fried potato bread and a slice of haggis (£6.90). Add a pot of tea for the full Scottish effect.

5. PARLIAMENTS & POETRY, 10:30 A.M.

Walk off that breakfast with a stroll to the Scottish Parliament building, making a detour down tiny Crichton’s Close for a visit to the Scottish Poetry Library. This hidden spot is a haven for literature lovers: Sit down in the second-floor listening library where you can put on headphones and listen to poetry. In the shop, you’ll find illustrated linotype postcards with lines of Robert Burns poetry (£1), and anthologies of Scottish verse. Move on to the Parliament building, a stunningly modern branch-and-leaves design created by the Catalan architect Enric Miralles. It’s a captivating building whether you love the style or hate it, and several themed tours (history, design, architecture) are offered throughout the day — book in advance. If you miss the tour, it’s still possible to pop your head into the chambers where Parliament members meet. If the independence vote ever passes, this is the place from which Scotland will be governed.

6. CASTLES & SHEEP’S HEADS, NOON

Edinburgh Castle is perhaps the city’s biggest draw, and even on a weekday ticket lines can be long. Instead of elbowing your way past the crowds, head southeast to Craigmillar Castle: just three miles from the city center but surrounded by grassy fields and refreshingly low on visitors (admission, £5.50; taxi, around £10). A beautifully preserved castle whose original incarnation was built in the 1300s, it grew over the centuries with each resident family making changes. Ramparts and arrow-slit windows offer fabulous views all the way to Edinburgh Castle. The guidebook (£2.50) provides ample information on the building’s details and its occupants (Mary Queen of Scots was a guest). From here, stroll along the edge of Holyrood Park for a mile to reach the Sheep Heid Inn, a low-ceilinged pub that claims to have fed guests for six centuries. Have a hearty lunch of sloe gin-smoked salmon followed by a chicken and ham pie. Take a peek in back, where an antiquated skittles alley (a type of bowling) is still in use.

image for Craigmillar Castle
7. SUMMERHALL, 4 P.M.

Once a veterinary college, the arts and performance space known as Summerhall is packed with warrens and small hallways that make it a fabulous place to wander for a few hours, especially if there’s a performance happening. The space hosts exhibitions, theater, dance and music events throughout the year, and even the hallways and elevators are home to shows during the annual Fringe Festival. Stop by to check out the art and browse through the original works for sale in the shop. In the tiny distillery in the back, giant casks of gin and rows of bottles await. Finish up at the bar, once the school’s Small Animal Hospital, and have a pint of Summerhall Pale Ale, made in the on-site brewery.

8. RHYMES WITH ‘HAZEL’, 7 P.M.

Aizle is one of the growing number of Edinburgh restaurants where the menu takes the form of a list of ingredients (black vinegar, chicken skin, summer berries, for instance). Happily, these ingredients manifest themselves as beautifully executed plates; a set menu of four dishes, with “snack” and dessert (£45), changes monthly, according to the harvest. If you’re looking for the future of Scottish food — local, thoughtful and laid-back — look no further.

9. WATER OF LIFE, 9:30 P.M.

Scotland’s production of small-batch and you’ve-never-heard-of-them whiskies is booming, and facing a menu of two or three hundred choices in a local pub can be overwhelming. At the Whiski Rooms, you can try one of the whisky flights (starting at £17), each a selection of four sorted by region and style, such as Highland malts, extra-peaty vintages from Islay, and sherried single malts. Stock up on bottles from the shop next door, which also offers guided tastings during the day.


Sunday

10. LEITH, 10 A.M.

Edinburgh’s historic port, Leith, sits on Firth of Forth and is the ideal place for a Sunday stroll. The face of the neighborhood has changed rapidly in recent years, and now the area is a fascinating hodgepodge of quirky pubs, secondhand stores and trendy cocktail bars. Stroll along the waterfront and then turn south, keeping an eye out for the murals, an ongoing public art project by the local organization LeithLate. Check out the hip young things sipping hair-of-the-dog cocktails with brunch in the Lioness of Leith, or stop for a pint in the bicycle-themed Tourmalet. Finish up with lunch at the King’s Wark, a 15th-century pub with mismatched chairs and a pub menu that includes Shetland mussels in garlicky broth.

11. COLLECTIVE ON CALTON, 1 P.M.

It’s a steep climb to the top of Calton Hill, but the panoramic views — of Leith, the Firth, and Arthur’s Seat (an ancient volcano) — are worth it. Developed as a public park in 1724, the hill is dotted with monuments, among them the acropolis-style National Monument, which has remained technically “under construction” since the early 19th century. Climb the spiral staircase to the top of the Nelson Monument (admission, £5; closed Sundays from Oct. 1 through March) for even more spectacular views. Make sure to stop by Collective Gallery, which relocated here in 2013 and operates a small exhibition space featuring pieces by artists working in Scotland.

12. SNUG PUB, 3 P.M.

Sink into the velvet seats of Kay’s Bar, a small Georgian coach house turned quiet Victorian pub tucked away from the crowds on tiny, circular Jamaica Street. This is the “local” for Edinburgh residents, from geezers nodding off over pints of the oft-changing selection of ales to university students solving the world’s problems as the table fills up with empty glasses. The smattering of original fixtures and the warm red glow of the walls, furniture and carpet make this snug pub a cozy place to retreat from the inevitable rain.


Lodging

 

Visit our website: http://b2b.abbeyirelandanduk.com/

 

 

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6 reasons to visit Scotland in autumn

For our indie travel journal, A Year in the UK & Ireland, we ventured to Scotland for two months over September and October 2015 – and we were blown away. Counter to popular belief about Scotland’s weather, we were met with blue skies and sunshine almost throughout, plus landscapes so golden it was as if they’d been brushed by King Midas himself.

For that reason, we think there’s no better time to visit Scotland than autumn. If you need further convincing, here are six strong incentives.

visit scotland, scotland autumn, scotland travel

1. Golden hues

The leaves start changing colour around mid-September in Scotland. Greens turn to yellows, golds, burnt oranges and fiery reds, transforming its national parks and rural areas into spectacular autumnal sights. As there is so much wilderness in Scotland, it makes it a particularly apt place to take in these seasonal colours.
We fell for Cairngorms, in particular around Glen Clova (the front cover shot of our journal) and further north around Aviemore. Head to Loch an Eilein, a freshwater loch that is mesmerising in autumn when the trees start to turn and colours reflect in the still waters.

2. Indian summers

In the last five years or so, the weather in Scotland has seemed more pleasant over the months of September and October – we can certainly vouch for that in 2015. Recent reports predict that these months in 2016 are also set to be warmer than usual, with temperatures reaching around 25°C through September and into October.
While not all of Scotland will enjoy these Indian summer spells, select your destination wisely and you could be enjoying a balmier side to Scotland this year, and for years to come.

3. Fewer crowds

Despite these changing climactic conditions, it’s undeniable that July and August will always be busier months for tourism. School holidays dictate these peak periods, and as post-Brexit blues have forced more people to holiday in the UK, more Brits are choosing to travel around their own country, making it busier than ever. The crowds – and the peak season prices that come with them – can be easily avoided by choosing to visit Scotland in autumn.

visit scotland, scotland autumn, scotland travel, red deer scotland

4. See the red deer rut

In autumn each year, the red deer across the UK go through the rut – a period of mating whereby stags have to round up a suitable female. Their penetrating roar can be heard across the landscape during this time, and there are often fights between rival males trying to lay claim to the same female.
This magnificent display of nature at work can be seen across Scotland, and is often made even more stirring because of the country’s isolation. There are few things more rousing that being alone on a glen and hearing a roar far off into the distance. Head to the windswept isles of Jura or Rum in the Inner Hebrides for sure-fire rut sightings.

 

5. Perfect pub evenings

Although the weather might be warmer, this is still the UK and the evenings cool down drastically – but the Scottish are prepared. With cosy pubs across the land, there’s ample opportunity to hunker down in a local tavern, a traditional made all-the-more inviting by the imminent threat of cold evenings and winter drawing close.
Not only are there plenty of watering holes, there’s lots of local firewater to go round too – Scotch. Settle down in a pub on a chilly autumnal evening in Scotland with your hands curled around a glass of Islay’s finest single malt.

 

6. No midges!

The midges that descend upon Scotland in the summer months have been ruining holidays for countless years. You can be bitten by these little pests hundreds of times over the course of a weekend away, leading to the most infuriating evenings and so-called ‘midge misery’. Even though you can find midges all over the globe, the local species – known as the Highland midge – is recognised as particularly ferocious. In autumn, the midges have long-since departed. Sayonara, suckers.

Would you visit Scotland in autumn?

 

 

 

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Summer’s here: Britain’s 20 best beaches

To help you plan a trip to the coast this summer, and with Britain finally basking in heat, we have asked a group of our regular writers to recommend their favourite beaches around the country. Some of the nominations are deservedly popular spots along the south and western coast of Britain, while others are of the wild and unspoilt variety, where even at the height of summer you can find a secluded spot beneath cliffs or among dunes. Some of the shorelines here – those in Scotland and the Isles of Scilly, for instance – are so remote that you will need to find a base for a night or two. So for each destination we have suggested somewhere to stay locally, and – where it exists – somewhere to eat on or near your stretch of sand.

North Cornwall

1. Watergate Bay, Newquay

Two miles of golden sand backed by cliffs and caves, where the Atlantic swells produce reliable surf and peregrine falcons, gulls and fulmars wheel overhead. Spot strawberry anemones and crabs among the rock pools, walk along the clifftop, or book a surfing or traction kiting lesson

South Cornwall

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2. Porthcurno, near Land’s End

Set beneath the clifftop Minack Theatre, this is arguably the county’s most beautiful bay: a funnel of sand caught between lichen-encrusted granite cliffs. Easily accessible, it has fine white sand and is popular with families. It’s best at low tide when you can walk to other beaches in the bay (one of which is nudist) and sit on sandbars beneath the ancient cliff fort of Treryn Dinas, surrounded by Grecian-blue water.
Eat: at the Coffee Shop at the Minack Theatre, above the beach offers coffee, Cornish cream teas, and light meals. You have to pay for admission to the site (adults £4.50; 15 and under £2.50), but this includes access to the gardens. (01736 810694; minack.com).
Stay: at The Old Coastguard hotel in Mousehole, which offers a spacious bar/restaurant, and a superb location with views over the palm-filled garden sloping down to the sea. Doubles from £130, including breakfast.

Isles of Scilly

3. Pentle Bay, Tresco

Pentle Bay induces a broad grin. You can’t help it after crossing Tresco Island’s lush interior and walking through sandy grass into a wall of dazzling colour: bleached white sand, emerald-and-turquoise ocean dotted with islands and impossibly blue sky. Everything is light, bright, almost tropical in its brilliance. It takes a dip in the briny – two degrees colder than the mainland – to confirm that you are still in Britain.

North Devon

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4. Saunton Sands

Behind this untamed three-mile stretch of beach is Braunton Burrows, one of the largest sand-dune systems in Britain, and home to myriad rare plants and butterflies. Atlantic rollers sweep on to the vast sandy beach.
Eat: at The Sands on the Beach, sister cafe to the Saunton Sands Hotel, offers casual dining options at breakfast, lunch and dinner, and snacks
Stay: at the Saunton Sands Hotel offers family-friendly accommodation right above the beach, with indoor and outdoor pool, health club, and sea-view rooms.

South Devon

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5. Blackpool Sands

Three miles south-west of Dartmouth is this sheltered and peaceful crescent of fine shingle, backed by wooded hills. It’s popular with families, and a great spot for swimming as its turquoise waters are clean and usually calm. You can hire kayaks and paddle boards.
Eat: at The Venus Café, right on the beach, serves Devon crab, baguettes and salads, open daily from 8.30am-9pm until the beginning of September.
Stay: at Strete Barton House, Strete: a stylish b & b in a 16th-century manor house near Dartmouth. Doubles from £105, including breakfast.

Dorset

6. Studland Bay

Four miles of pristine white sand, which shelves gently into milky-blue waters, with a backdrop of dunes and heathland. The northern stretch, most easily reached by chain ferry, has an away-from-it-all, desert-island feel, appreciated by the naturist sunbathers at Shell Bay; the southern Knoll Beach is popular with families.
Eat: at the National Trust Beach Café, Knoll Beach, which serves hot and cold main meals and snacks. You can dine indoors or out (01929 450500; nationaltrust.org.uk/studland-beach/eating-and-shopping).
Stay: at The Pig on the Beach hotel, which offers cosy interiors, superb breakfasts and an extensive kitchen garden, with views ofOld Harry Rocks and the Isle of Wight.

Isle of Wight

7. Compton Bay

A rural and unspoilt stretch of coast caught between the English Channel and the grassy downs of West Wight. Walk south to Brook Bay at low tide and you may find ancient dinosaur tracks revealed on the foreshore, or spot fossils in the crumbling cliffs (see dinosaurisle.com for details of fossil walks). Access from the clifftop car parks (National Trust) is by steep wooden steps.
Eat: at The Café at Dimbola Lodge in Freshwater Bay, is set in a charming photographic museum and serves teas and lunches.
Stay: at Compton Farm Caravan and Camping, close to the beach.
Or stay in one of the smart yurts of the Really Green Holiday Company at Afton, a short drive or cycle away.

Sussex

8. West Wittering

It’s a long, narrow and often traffic-choked road to the Witterings from Chichester, but that’s what gives this Sussex beach its remote feel. The fine, open stretch of sand, overlooking the Solent and Chichester harbour, is spotlessly clean and at low tide there are pools for paddling. Out on the water, acrobatic windsurfers sweep past. From the far western end, you can cross a narrow ridge to East Head, a lovely and remote sand-dune spit at the mouth of the harbour. Get there early to avoid the queues and bag a parking spot.
Eat: at the well-run beach café, which serves a range of snacks and sandwiches.

Kent

9. Botany Bay

This is the most northerly of Broadstairs’s beaches, and perhaps the prettiest – a 660ft curve of sand backed by white cliffs, with chalk stacks, rock pools and safe swimming. At low tide you can walk to Joss Bay, Kent’s best surf beach.
Eat: at Oscar’s Festival Café (07595 750091; oscarsfestivalcafe.co.uk), in Oscar Road, Broadstairs. It serves light breakfasts, lunches, teas and magnificent cakes in a charmingly retro interior.
Stay: at Crescent Victoria Hotel in Margate (from £54 a night), which offers individually-styled rooms, a retro vibe, and fabulous sea views.

Suffolk

10. Walberswick

The wooden bridge leading from the picturesque village of Walberswick to the beach is always crammed with children clutching crabbing lines and plastic buckets. Clamber over the ridge of dunes into the magical light of the Suffolk coast and you’ll understand why so many artists are drawn to paint this long and empty stretch of sandy beach.

Eat: at the Anchor for superior pub food, plus brunches, BBQs, and Curry Fridays
Stay: at In Southwold, stay at the refurbished Crown Hotel, which has a restaurant using local ingredients or the Swan Hotel, which offers an old-fashioned welcome and family-friendly service.

 

Norfolk

11. Wells/Holkham

You don’t know the meaning of “big sky” until you cross the wooden boards through the dunes and tip out on to this vast stretch of sand, midway along the north Norfolk coast. You can lay out your beach towels here or walk east on a path through the pine woods to the slightly more sheltered beach at neighbouring Wells-next-the-Sea. In high summer it’s easier to park at Wells and walk the other way. In any case, take a windbreak – and watch out for the caprices of the incoming tide.
Eat: at The Beach Cafe on the Holkham Estate is backed by pinewoods and near the beach. Food is homemade, using local produce, and includes hot and cold snacks, lunches, and sandwiches, as well as ice-creams and drinks.
Stay: at Cley Windmill overlooking the salt marshes about 11 miles east along the coast.

Yorkshire

12. Sandsend

Set against a backdrop of grassy cliffs, where the wide sweep of beach from Whitby ends, this stretch is quieter and prettier than its famous neighbour. Children play in the little becks that flow across the sand and ducks waddle across the green in charming Sandsend village. This is a great place for fossil hunting at low tide.
Eat: at The Woodlands is a lovely café-cum-restaurant close to the beach; closed on Mondays.
Stay: at The Porthole, a converted 19th-century bunker built into the cliff with a private terrace overlooking the sea

Northumberland

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13. Bamburgh

Overlooked by Bamburgh Castle, this beautiful stretch of wild coastline offers clear seas and huge sands that stretch to Seahouses, three miles away. On a clear day you can see out to Lindisfarne and the Farne Islands.
Eat: at The Old Ship Inn, Seahouses, an atmospheric pub with sweeping sea views; local seafood is the speciality. Or eat simply: barbecue Bamburgh bangers from R Carter & Son butchers (01668 214344; bamburghbanger.co.uk).
Stay: at St Cuthbert’s House , an elegant 200-year-old former chapel in North Sunderland near Seahouses.

Lancashire

14. Formby

The monumental dunes here are classified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and from their tops there are views of the Cumbrian mountains – and even Blackpool Tower on a clear day. Footpaths lead through the pinewoods behind to a red squirrel reserve (this is one of the last outposts in Britain), and on the vast expanse of beach you can sometimes spot prehistoric human and animal footprints. The sunsets are spectacular. Read our guide to a walk along the Formby coast.
Eat: at one of the picnic areas, or among the dunes.
Stay: at Bay Tree House b & b, Southport

East coast of Scotland

15. Lunan Bay

This magnificent two-mile strand on the unheralded Angus coastline is backed by dunes and overlooked by Red Castle, a crumbling 12th-century fortress. Its pink sandstone hues match the colour of the low red cliffs and curious rock formations on the beach below. This is a great place for birdwatching, and is popular with surfers and riders. Some swear the sands have a rosy tint; certainly the shore glitters after a storm, when semiprecious stones such as agate and jasper can be found. Take care when swimming as there are strong currents.
Stay: at Ethie Castle, on the coast near Lunan Bay, a14th-century sandstone fortress that is one of Scotland’s oldest inhabited castles – and one of its most atmospheric b&bs.
Eat: at Gordon’s Restaurant with rooms in nearby Inverkeilor , a place for serious foodies.

West coast of Scotland

16. Sandwood Bay, Cape Wrath, Sutherland

Sutherland’s, and arguably Scotland’s, best beach is Sandwood Bay: a glorious, mile-long stretch of sparkling sand that is pounded by North Atlantic rollers and backed by undulating dunes. The beach, which is owned and managed by the John Muir Trust, is popular with intrepid types – there’s a hike of four and a half miles from Blairmore.
Eat: picnics.
Stay: at Mackay’s Rooms, Durness, has seven stylish bedrooms, two self-catering properties and two crofts.

Scottish Islands

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17. Luskentyre, Outer Hebrides

Hidden at the end of a winding road on the wild north-west coast of the Isle of Harris, this long stretch of brilliant sand is washed by shallow, startlingly azure water. Farther out are the steel-grey rollers more often associated with Scotland, studded with empty, windswept islands.
Eat: at a scenic picnic spot – there are no cafes within walking distance.
Stay: at a cottage or b&b.

Northern Ireland

18. Portstewart Strand

A magnificent beach on the Causeway Coast, bounded at one end by low basalt cliffs and at the other by the River Bann. The dunes that back the two-mile-long Strand reach heights of 100ft and more, lending it an air of wildness and mystery, and the waves that crash on to the beach provide reasonable surfing. In neighbouring Portrush you can marvel at sea-sculpted shapes in limestone cliffs on White Rocks beach – the Cathedral Cave, the Lion’s Paw, the Wishing Arch.
Eat: at Ramore Wine Bar, on the harbour in Portrush
Stay: at the Royal Court Hotel which stands above Portrush, looking down on the town, the East Strand and the Royal Portrush Golf Course.

Wales

19. Marloes Sands

There is a half-mile walk from the car park to this magnificent National Trust-managed beach, but it’s worth it for the crystal-clear water and dramatic sandstone cliffs, the views of outlying islands, and for the fossils, rock pools, seals, surf and space.
Eat: at the Lobster Pot Inn, Marloes.
Stay: at a self-catering property in the area; summer short breaks are available, if booked at the last minute.

20. Rhossili beach

The Worm’s Head promontory marks the beginning of this four-mile stretch of golden sand. Set at the western tip of the peninsula, it bears the full might of Atlantic swells, and is popular with surfers, walkers and paragliders. Access is tricky, involving a walk down the cliff path. Look out for the hull of the Helvetia, wrecked on the beach in 1887. There can be strong undertows when the surf is high.
Eat and stay: at The Worm’s Head Hotel

 

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Scotland: Take the high road

A home-spun take on Route 66, the scenic new North Coast 500 Highland route boasts everything from salmon rivers and soaring cliffs to sea caves and secluded, sandy bays

Ardvreck-Castle-CROPPED

I remember a friend from Edinburgh laughing once when I enquired about Scottish weather in the spring. “You guys in London have the ice bucket challenge,” she explained, with a twinkle in her eye. “Up north, we just call it ‘going outside.’”
Waking up in the village of Gairloch, on the northwest coast of Scotland, I’m therefore mildly surprised by the view of golden sand and a cloudless sky from my bedroom window. Just below the hotel, a pair of seals frolic in the surf, while the horizon is edged by the distant mountains of Skye. So much for the dismal weather.
Perhaps because of Hollywood and Jack Kerouac, the phrase ‘road trip’ typically conjures up images of convertibles, flat-topped mesas and lonely desert highways. But today I’m continuing a road trip of a very different kind. The North Coast 500 — a new, home-spun take on Route 66 — is a journey as Scottish as Rabbie Burns or Nessie. No roadside diners or bumper stickers here.

After a hearty breakfast (“Would you like some white pudding with your black pudding, sir?”), it’s time to get behind the wheel. First stop: the Isle of Ewe Smokehouse, where I’m promised some of the finest smoked salmon in western Scotland.

Passing through a succession of gorgeous whitewashed villages, I skirt the shores of Loch Maree and Loch Ewe, their wind-ruffled waters overlooked by mountains with tongue-tangling Gaelic names. Highland cattle and tumbledown crofters’ cottages dot the iconic landscape.
Paula and Alistair Gordon, the husband-and-wife team who run the smokehouse, turn out to be utterly charming. Situated in Ormiscaig, on the northern shore of Loch Ewe, their home and garden boast magnificent views of the Torridon Hills, still dusted with snow in late March, and the more low-lying Outer Hebrides.
“Our products are imbued slowly with aromatic wood smoke and a west coast breeze,” explains Alistair in a lilting Scottish brogue, as he passes over a freshly smoked scallop for sampling. I make sure to pick up a gift box containing more of these divine creations on my way out.
Conceived by the North Highland Initiative — a project that aims to highlight the varied attractions of northern Scotland — the NC500 was launched in 2015, and has already won rave reviews. The 500-mile loop, which starts and finishes in Inverness, boasts everything from salmon rivers and soaring cliffs to sea caves and secluded, sandy bays. After a day-and-a-half’s driving, I’m already smitten.

Less than 15 minutes after leaving Ormiscaig, a short drive down a single-track road reveals one of the most idyllic stretches of British coastline I’ve ever seen. Lapped by a turquoise sea, the beach at Mellon Udrigle turns out to be a deserted arc of sand bisected by a meandering burn. To the north east, the mountains of Coigach provide a stunning backdrop, while a gentle breeze carries the plaintive cries of oystercatchers and curlews patrolling nearby Gruinard Bay.
Driving onward to Ullapool, I pass the sheer-sided spectacle that is Corrieshalloch Gorge, which, rather inappropriately, turns out to mean ‘ugly hollow’ in Gaelic. Then it’s on into an even wilder, more imposing landscape, as peaks such as the table-shaped Ben Mor Coigach and the colossal nunatak Suilven rear up from the rolling moorland.

I stop briefly beside Loch Assynt to admire the marvellously atmospheric Ardvreck Castle. Constructed in the late 15th century, this ruined fortress sits below the brooding bulk of Quinag, a reminder of man’s fleeting presence in this rugged, timeless environment.

The day ends in Lochinver, where I’m just in time to sample the wares of Lochinver Larder, northern Scotland’s most famous pie shop, before closing time. Gobbling down hunks of succulent venison, I look out over the local harbour as the engine cools. Geographically, I’m in the middle of nowhere. But if the next 300 miles are anywhere as good as the last 200, I’m in for a real treat.
northcoast500.com

 

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