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

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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

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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

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Top 10 Things to Do in Northern Ireland

Hit the road on the Causeway Coastal Route, get down with Belfast's best musicians, and soak up the otherworldly scenery featured in Game of Thrones.

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Northern Ireland blends centuries of history with an engaging modern vibe that shows time definitely hasn’t stood still. Mix in welcoming smiles and jaw-dropping vistas, and it all adds up to ten travel experiences that simply can’t be had anywhere else.

 

ROCK OUT IN BELFAST

Belfast boasts a proud musical history and the beat shows no signs of slowing down. Modern bands that more than do their elders justice are on tap nightly at clubs and pubs all across town. The Oh Yeah Music Centre’s Belfast Music Exhibition proudly showcases memories and memorabilia of artists from Van Morrison to Snow Patrol. Take to the streets for a guided bus tour of musical Belfast including Ulster Hall, where Led Zeppelin first performed “Stairway to Heaven,” and “Van the Man’s” childhood home. Then dance the night away with an array of talented local musicians that you may not know yet, but will never forget. Culture Northern Ireland has the skinny on performers and shows from folk, rock, and reggae to techno and classical recitals.

 

TAKE A PASSAGE ON THE TITANIC

Arguably the world’s most famous ship was born right here in the Belfast shipyards. (“She was fine when she left here,” some locals like to say.) Titanic Belfast is an engaging exhibition of reconstructions, special effects, and interactive features that help you experience the Titanic journey from the docks, to the decks, and even to the bottom of the Atlantic. Continue the adventure on a boat tour around Belfast harbor for a different perspective on Titanic history and the entire port of Belfast. During summer months, the city’s large breeding seal colony, often appear over the bow.

 

TOUR THE CAUSEWAY COAST

The Causeway Coastal Route is world-renowned. There’s a good reason—those who soak in this road’s dramatic seaside vistas and emerald glens can’t stop singing their praises. Stop at the ruined Dunluce Castle, perched on an ocean cliff so precipitous that the castle’s kitchens dropped into the sea one night in 1639. Test your head for heights by walking the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge above the waves from clifftop to island and back. And marvel at the Giant’s Causeway, a 50-60-million-year-old pile of basalt columns, stretching into the sea, that has inspired awe and legends in equal measure throughout the long centuries of Irish history. When the day is done wet your whistle at another famed attraction. Take a tour of the Old Bushmills Distillery, the oldest working distillery in Ireland, to get a behind the scenes look at small-batch whiskey production and sample a smooth dram for yourself.

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WALK THE WALLS OF LONDONDERRY (DERRY)

Northern Ireland’s second city is vibrant, modern urban center with one of Europe’s youngest populations. But its heart is cloaked in 17th-century stone, an enduring engineering marvel of the age. Nearly a mile of stone walls, built between 1613-1618, encircle inner Londonderry (Derry) and provide a pleasant stroll around one of Europe’s very finest surviving walled cities. The ramparts are studded with seven gates and one of the continent’s greatest collection of cannons including Roaring Meg—famed for the terrifying sound she unleashed during the 1689 Siege. (The city never fell.) Learn more about the city’s fascinating history at the Tower Museum. Displays here include items salvaged from La Trinidad Valencera, which was one of the biggest ships in the ill-fated 1588 Spanish Armada before it came to grief just offshore.

 

TOUR THE SEVEN KINGDOMS

The real world Westeros features landscapes every bit as striking and unforgettable as those seen in Game of Thrones—and you can enjoy them without fear of being beheaded. Visit spectacular sites from the show scattered around Northern Ireland on your own, or on specialized tours catering to fans of the Starks and Lannisters—some including choose-your-own costumes, bonfires, and feasts fit for a king. Visit the Winterfell film set at Castle Ward and try your hand at archery or meet the Direwolves Odin and Thor. Stroll the Dark Hedges, an avenue of 18th century beech trees more familiar to fans as the King’s Road. If you dare, head north of the Wall into the Haunted Forest itself with a visit to Tollymore Forest Park. Tourism Ireland has painstakingly mapped the Seven Kingdoms to help fans plan their own quasi-medieval fantasy trips.

 

TEE IT UP LIKE RORY

With four major championships and counting, Rory McIlroy has raised Northern Ireland’s game in the golf world. You might not be able to play like Rory, but at least you can enjoy a round on the same courses he loves. Northern Ireland is home to some of the world’s best links courses and you’re welcome to play them even if your game isn’t quite world class. Royal County Down is a private club, but visitors are welcome to play the Championship Links (if reserved well in advance) several days a week. Royal Portrush Golf Club, which will be home to the 148th Open in 2019, also welcomes advance reservations from members of other recognized golf clubs. Although these two institutions enjoy global fame, don’t overlook a local favorite and Rory’s home club. Holywood Golf Club offers even duffers a scenic round set in the hills just a few miles outside of Belfast.

 

TAKE A HIKE TO HARE’S GAP

Some of the most rugged and inspiring scenery in the Mourne Mountains is found on the hike through Hare’s Gap, a moderately taxing jaunt of about 2 miles each way. As you climb to the pass imagine the ice sheets that once helped shape this range, and glimpse the inspiration for Belfast-native C.S. Lewis’s land of Narnia. Spare a thought for the smugglers as well. The gap was once a gateway for smuggled spices, coffee and other goods that were carried here from the coast along the Brandy Pad route for distribution into the Trassey River valley below.

For a more leisurely loop try the circular ridge trail around the top of Divis and the Black Mountain just outside Belfast. The moderate trail takes around three hours, and, on a clear day, it delivers incredible views of Scotland and the Isle of Man.

 

EXPLORE THE FERMANAGH UNDERGROUND

Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark is a celebrated UNESCO site that shows off 895 million years of Earth’s history both above ground and below. Today the landscape surrounding Cuilcagh Mountain is an appealing one of uplands, lakes and forests. But over the eons it has seen mountains rise and fall, deserts, and even tropical oceans. You can read these ancient stories in the enduring rock, thanks to surprises like the coral fossils found on the slopes of Cuilcagh Mountain. Below the surface an entirely different world awaits. Vast caverns, running rivers, waterfalls, and fascinating geological features are on display in Marble Arch Caves, one of the finest European caves open to the public. From March to October, take a 75-minute tour through this subterranean wonderland by boarding an underground boat ride that leads to a mile-long guided walk through and out of the cave.

 

EXILE YOURSELF ON RATHLIN ISLAND

Robert the Bruce is said to have been exiled on Northern Ireland’s northernmost speck of land in 1306. Once you visit Rathlin Island you’ll be tempted to linger voluntarily. So get away from it all. Take the local ferry from Ballycastle, which takes 25 to 45 minutes. Some 150 friendly locals call the island home, and their quaint port village soon gives way to quiet country best explored by walking or by bicycle, which can be rented on the island. Stunning vistas blend land, sea and sky. Many interesting birds call the island home, at least seasonally, including a colony of puffins. The experts at the RSPB seabird center are a terrific help to experts and would-be birders alike. Whether you stay a few hours or a few days, don’t forget to take in the view from the unique “upside-down” lighthouse before you head back to the mainland.

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LIVE THE LAKE LIFE IN COUNTY FERMANAGH

County Fermanagh may be landlocked, but the way to its heart is by water. Lough Erne, actually two connected lakes, is dotted with intriguing islands to explore. Devenish Island’s monastic site dates to the 6th century and its famed round tower was built in the 12th century. Curious ancient figures are found on White Island and on Boa Island where the two-faced Janus figure was carved by Celts circa 400 to 800 AD.

The local waters provide plenty of live action as well. The Erne system is famed for fine fishing of two distinct flavors; brown trout on Lower Lough Erne and pike on the Upper Lough. The lake’s scenic shorelines are home to a number of National Trust castle and great house properties. Celebrated inns, hotels, and restaurants serve up the culinary delights that are increasingly earning rave reviews in Fermanagh and across Northern Ireland.

The lake is friendly to paddlers with plenty of canoe and kayak rentals and a designated trail complete with camping. Non-paddlers can hop on a day cruise, or hire a boat and chart a course wherever they wish. If the lough only whets your appetite for more, consider moving on to the Shannon Erne Waterway. Thirty-nine miles of scenic canal, river and lake connect the lough with Ireland’s famed River Shannon—and hundreds more miles of adventure.

 

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10 things you didn’t know about Devon and Cornwall

From the pros (ancient bakeries) to the cons (high radioactivity), make sure you know your facts before making the journey to Devon and Cornwall

10 Things You Didn't Know About Devon and Cornwall

1. The River Tamar is a natural boundary between Devon and Cornwall. According to recent research by Oxford University there is a stark genetic division that closely matches this border, meaning that people on either side of the river have totally different DNA dating back to 600 AD.

2. Forget about leaving the country for a much-needed dose of Vitamin D. Last year, Plymouth Marine Laboratory smugly announced that Cornish seas were hotter than Santa Monica, California, so brave that bikini and top up that tan.

3. Kernowek, the Cornish language, has had less impact on English than Hawaiian, Swahili or Zulu, ranking 45th on the list of the languages we have borrowed the most words from. Supposedly this is down to Anglo-Saxon snobbery. After all, when was the last time you used the word fugou? That’s Cornish for a house dug into the ground, by the way.

4. As if the region’s favourite snack didn’t have enough to worry about with the pasty tax – apparently the direction you crimp your pasty depends on where you’re from. That’s to the side for a proper Cornish pasty and on the top if you’re from Devon. Every year a world pasty championship is held, this year it was won by a Chilean miner and an 88-year-old woman.

5. Westward Ho! is the only place in Britain that uses an exclamation mark. We think it makes it sound rather jolly. It is also the only place to be named after a book, Charles Kingsley’s 1855 novel, to be precise. Developers rode on the coat tails of its success, building a hotel using its name. It’s stuck ever since.

6. Can you imagine trying to buy furniture to fit a 16-sided house? That was the problem facing Jane Parminter and her cousin Mary, who designed and lived in Britain’s only Hexadecagon home in Exmouth. Mixing Byzantine motifs with Georgian country cottage vibes, they filled it with objects they collected on their ten-year grand tour.

7. Joseph Hansom was a real jack-of-all-trades. Not only did he design the handsome cathedral in Plymouth, he invented the world’s first taxi, otherwise known as a ‘hansom cab’.

8. … and while you’re there, sample some heritage hotcakes at Jackas on Southside Street. Britain’s oldest bakery has been baking buns since Sir Francis Drake’s time, originally selling ship biscuits to voyagers, it fuelled pilgrims all the way to the Americas.

9. There’s something fantastically sci-fi about the sign cautioning ‘you are now entering a radioactive area’ on the border crossing from Somerset into Devon. Devon and Cornwall are in fact the most radioactive parts of the UK, but it’s not all bad news, the high levels of radon are partially responsible for its stunning hilly landscape.

10. Who ever said you couldn’t find the answer at the bottom of a glass? Michael Morpurgo was inspired to write War Horse after meeting some veterans at his local pub, The Duke of York in Iddesleigh, Dartmoor.

 

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Skelligs feel the force as visitor numbers rise

Visitor numbers to Skellig Michael, the precipitous monastic island off the coast of Kerry which closed for the season yesterday, were up this year on the back of the success of Star Wars.

By the middle of September, a total of 13,500 people had visited the 6th century monastic island, a Unesco World Heritage Site, according to the Office of Public Works.

A rockfall, which required sensitive repairs to the main visitor road, delayed the official mid-May opening by just one day.

The island has become the centre of attention in recent years following the success of the latest Star Wars movie The Force Awakens.

Last year, 2015, some 12,560 visited Skellig Michael by season’s end in October.

Boatmen who ferry visitors across 12km of often rough seas to and from the island are again calling for the visitor season — the official period when OPW guides are living on the island to cater to visitors — to return to the traditional May 1 to October 31 season which ceased in 2007.

Seánie Murphy, a long-time Skellig boatman, operating from Portmagee, said 16 days had been lost this September because the boats could not travel due to bad weather; the season is already shortened by 74 days and this is directly affecting tourism business all over south Kerry.

“It doesn’t just affect the boatmen to the Skeillig, it affects everyone — hotels, guesthouses, bars in Killarney and all over the area,” Mr Murphy said.

Extending the season would help satisfy both the Star Wars attraction, as well as the latent demand there anyway, Mr Murphy said.

The OPW has previously rejected calls to extend the season, citing bad weather in October, as well as the need to protect the fragile island from too many visitors.

 

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A Circuit of Donegal: 12 great reasons to visit The Forgotten County

Driving holidays in Ireland

Donegal is arguably the most off-radar county on the Wild Atlantic Way.
Its drawcards range from Star Wars locations to snap-fresh seafood, from Blue Flag beaches to Blue Book boltholes, yet just 8pc of domestic holidays are spent here, according to Fáilte Ireland figures.

With no cities, no rail or motorway access and weather that swings from biblical to brilliant with the impulsiveness of a toddler, it’s not always an easy holiday choice.
But that’s all the more reason to visit.

Donegal is a dream landscape, and a scarcity of visitors (particularly off-season) has left parts of it spectacularly unspoiled. I spent a recent visit mapping out a three-day drving loop. It’s by no means definitive, but it is a thrilling taster.

1. Donegal Airport

Did you know Carrickfinn is one of the world’s 10 most scenic landings? That’s according to a global poll by private jet booking service, PrivateFly.
Dublin and Glasgow are Donegal Airport’s only destinations — but that makes it even more nostalgic. The terminal is tiny, the staff super-friendly, the queues short and the location just a short drive from Gweedore.

Flying from Dublin will save a four-hour drive, and Enterprise (enterprise.ie) — the airport’s only car hire desk — is warmly efficient. You’ll be good to go in minutes.

Distance: 50 minutes (flight) from Dublin Airport.

2. Arranmore Island

Donegal’s islands are a galaxy unto themselves, with highlights ranging from the King of Tory (Patsy Dan Rogers) to rock-climbing on Gola. Arranmore is easily reached by a 15-minute ferry crossing, depositing you right on the fringes of Western Europe.
Drive the island, potter about the harbour or go for a hike — when the weather co-operates, the thrashing ocean, brackish corrie lakes and boggy, wind-whipped hills are beautifully desolate. Oh, and before (or after) your trip, grab a quick seafood fix at The Lobster Pot (lobsterpot.ie).

Distance: 13km (allow 20 minutes) from Donegal Airport.

3. Horn Head

The drive from Burtonport past Bloody Foreland and the sweeping strand at Magheroarty is a stunner, but Horn Head is in a league of its own. Its 7km loop is the Wild Atlantic Way in a nutshell — from breathtaking cliffs to bobbing lobster pots and beaches like Trá Mór (which can only be reached by foot). Look out for Tory Island offshore, and the golden sands of Dunfanaghy peeled back at low tide to the southeast. On my last visit, the sky looked like it was made of sheep, but the impact remained.
PS: Horn Head can be walked or cycled as a loop from Dunfanaghy. See govisitdonegal.com or wildatlanticway.com for more to see and do in Donegal.

Distance: 56km (allow 1 hour, 15 minutes) from Burtonport.

4. Do Dunfanaghy

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Bundoran gets the lion’s share of Donegal’s surfing press, but there’s just something about Dunfanaghy.

On a lesson with Narosa Life (from €35/€25), beaches like Marble Hill or the back bay at Falcarragh are your oyster. Instructors are clued-in and easygoing, thick wetsuits take the edge off the Atlantic, and kids as young as five or six get a kick out of riding ‘magic carpets’ in the froth (a tip: bring snacks or hot chocolate — peeling wetsuits off in chilly wind is the worst).

If you don’t fancy surfing, take a ride on the beach with Dunfanaghy Stables (€32/€27 for an hour), located just across the road behind Arnold’s Hotel. After your exertions, you’ll have earned an overnight and a bite at this cosy, family-run three-star on the strand (two nights’ B&B on special from €99pp this autumn).
Details: narosalife.com; dunfanaghystables.com; arnoldshotel.com.

5. Fanad Peninsula

The Fanad and Rosguill peninsulas are the smaller siblings of Inishowen, but both are full of the stonking views (pictured main) Donegal seems to produce on tap. Highlights are Portsalon’s epic sandy beach, overlooking Ballymastocker Bay, and the Blue Book’s Rathmullan House. The Tap Room here does a mean wood-fired pizza — make a point of washing yours down with a local Kinnegar farmhouse beer.

Distance: 57km (allow a good hour and 20 minutes via Portsalon, with detours).

6. Inishowen

Star Wars recently touched down for a location shoot on Inishowen, giving some idea as to its rugged beauty. A day or two could easily be spent circuiting this peninsula alone — but however you manage it, don’t miss Malin Head and the Mamore Gap.

A cycling tour with Cycle Inishowen or rock-climbing adventure with Wild Atlantic Way Climbing will step up the adrenaline. At the right time of year, you may even see the Northern Lights.

Details: cycleinishowen.com; mountaintraining.ie; visitinishowen.com.
Distance: The Inishowen 100 is a 100-mile (160km) loop of the peninsula, but shorter drives also bring rewards.

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7. Hit Harry’s

Harry’s Bar & Restaurant may not look like a foodie crossroads, but it most definitely is. Donal and Kevin Doherty’s roadside hub in Bridgend is low on food miles, high on quality (be sure to order at least one fish dish, though the belly of pork is hard to resist) and plates up what, pound for pound, is probably the best food in the county. For a detour, try Harry’s Shack at Portstewart, or the outlet soon to open in Derry City… every county could use a Harry’s.

Distance: 48km (allow 50 minutes, without stops) from Malin Head.

8. Gorgeous Glenveagh

First, a warning. Do not underestimate the midges — these pesky park residents can lay the best plans to waste… picnics in particular. Other than that, Glenveagh is a slice of National Park paradise, with a slick visitor centre, dramatic valley and Victorian castle reminding me of Hogwarts whenever I visit. You can walk or cycle the 4km to the castle, or take a bus (€3/€2 return). Watch out for Golden Eagles, don’t skip the wonderful gardens, and round off your visit with midge-free munchies at the castle café. Even in inclement weather, there’s something otherworldly about the place.
Details: glenveaghnationalpark.ie

Distance: 52km from Bridgend (allow around 45 minutes).

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9. Solis Lough Eske

Solis Lough Eske Castle is Donegal’s only five-star hotel and, along with near-neighbour Harvey’s Point, one of the county’s twin towers of luxury.

The sandstone castle cuts a dramatic shape against the woodland and lake setting, with garden suites, a spa and leisure centre adding modern opulence. The old building offers the best atmospherics (wallow in the high-ceilinged Gallery Bar, with its enviable craft spirit selection), and breakfast in Cedar’s genuinely exceeds expectations.

Ooh-moments range from a dedicated pancake maker to takeaway hot chocolates, and friendly staff action things quickly. Variable Wi-Fi was being addressed on our visit, but it’s a space you’ll feel like coming back to again and again.

Distance: 64km (allow an hour and 10 mins) from Glenveagh National Park.

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10. Slieve League

From Donegal, the final section of our driving circuit veers on to the Slieve League Peninsula — crazily under-rated in comparison to the tourism honeypots of West Cork and Kerry. The soaring cliffs (and dizzying One Man’s Pass) are justifiably famous, but don’t miss the more off-beat attractions, including a dip beneath the lighthouse at St John’s Point, seafood at the Village Tavern in Mountcharles, and the Gaeltacht around Glencolmcille.

Distance: 55km or just over one hour from Donegal town to the cliffs.

Slieve League Cliffs.jpg
11. Malin Beg

Is this Donegal’s most breathtaking beach? Granted, a county with 13 Blue Flag beaches will throw up its fair share of competition, but it’s hard to top Silver Strand. Cut from the cliffs at the edge of the earth, set way beyond the reach of phone signals and overlooked by happily munching sheep, those who make the journey in the off-season are often rewarded with the place to themselves.

Distance: 20km (allow 40 mins) from Slieve League to Silver Strand/Malin Beg.

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12. Nancy’s of Ardara

Ardara is famous for its tweed and knitwear, but visitors shouldn’t miss the modern crafts at the Donegal Designer Makers’ shop, and the warren of old rooms making up Nancy’s bar. Sit in the back for the best light and gobble a juicy prawn cocktail before moseying around the memory-lane interiors (check out the teapot collection in the sitting room). You’ll leave smiling.
Distance: 41km (allow 1 hour) back to Donegal Airport in Carrickfinn.

 

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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.


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Dublin named world’s third friendliest city (and No.6 isn’t bad either)

Dublin and Galway have been named among the world’s ten friendliest cities by readers of Condé Nast Traveler.

“The people make the place here,” said one reader of Dublin.

The city placed third on the list, behind Charleston in South Carolina and Sydney, Australia – and just ahead of Queenstown, New Zealand.

Dublin Hapenny bridge

“We had the best recommendations on where to go and what to see from the locals,” said another visitor. “Better than any guide book.”
“I’ve never been somewhere with friendlier drinkers,” added a third.

Condé Nast Traveler’s Top 10 friendliest cities:

  • Charleston, South Carolina
  • Sydney, Australia
  • Dublin, Ireland
  • Queenstown, New Zealand
  • Park City, Utah
  • Galway, Ireland
  • Savannah, Georgia
  • Krakow, Poland
  • Bruges, Belgium
  • Nashville, Tennessee
    The list was complied based on Conde Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Survey, taken by some 128,000 readers in 2015, according to the magazine.

“Just look at this city,” it says of Galway. “It’s hard not to be charmed.”
Live music, pubs and food “enchanted” its readers, the travel bible adds. “These are the friendliest people I have ever met,” commented one reader.

Galway was named the world’s friendliest city by readers of another US publication, Travel + Leisure, last year, with Dublin ranking third and Cork fourth.
“Again and again, our research shows us that the friendliness of our people is one of our unique selling points,” said Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland.

“It is the warm welcome and the ‘craic’ here that resonates with our overseas visitors and makes our cities, and the island of Ireland, such a great choice for a short break or holiday.”
Meanwhile, Condé Nast Traveler’s list of the world’s unfriendliest cities was topped by Newark, followed by Tijuana, Mexico and Oakland in California.

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