Over the last month or so I really have been true to the A Girl About Country name – I’ve been all over the place! In fact, as I write this I am actually sitting in a departure lounge at Amsterdam airport following a few days in Rotterdam for work (well it was actually the first part of my MSc course). Although I can assure you that this is a rather exotic change to my usual daily commute to the outskirts of Nottingham!
Anyway, back to it.. I wanted to share my recent experiences of travelling around the UK which is exactly what I’ve done this summer in place of my usual summer holiday. Why? Well for a few reasons really, but mainly because a number of friends have invited us to their weddings. I was a little sceptical at first of not having a proper holiday – and by that I mean just a couple of days away, a weekend here and there, in place of a block of time. I am by no means classing a stay in the UK as ‘not a real holiday’ – in fact, my message is going to be the total opposite. Also, not having a holiday during the summer holiday period is not an unusual concept to me, I mean how many farmers do you know that go on holiday in the summer – it’s the busiest time of the year! So as children, although we did go abroad on holiday occasionally, we often visited Devon for a few days to a week depending on the needs of the farm. Last year we had a two week holiday of a lifetime to The Maldives, so this year I was quite content (that holiday is going to be a hard one to top!) with staying the UK and doing something a little different. This has been my little summer tour of the UK…
- Norfolk, more specifically Holkham is where the trip started. Why? Well at the start of August, James’ sister who now lives in Canada came to visit the family, so of course we didn’t want to jet off abroad and miss her. Instead, we had a lovely few days catching up with her and then decided to have a mini holiday (two days, one night) on our own. We chose Holkham because it has won the crown of Britain’s best beach so we thought we couldn’t go far wrong. We were right (for a change!). The beach was amazing, very vast and clean.
The weather was also fantastic – we were so lucky, people were actually in swimming cozzies and sunbathing and they weren’t blue! This is an area of outstanding natural beauty and having visited, I can really see why. Definitely worth a visit (even if you just visit Eric’s for the fish & chips!).
- The next weekend away saw us heading to Ireland for a close friend’s wedding. As the wedding was on Thursday, we made a long weekend of it. The wedding was held in County Donegal at the beautiful Harvey’s Point, a hotel set on the shores of Lough Eske – it couldn’t have been more picturesque. After the wedding we thought we would do a brief tour of Northern Ireland in the car on the way back to Belfast. The scenery is beautiful, we passed so much unspoilt countryside, interspersed with magical waterfalls and mountains – it really is a mystical isle which you can get immersed in. I’m just disappointed that we didn’t see more. Although the weather wasn’t exactly tropical, we still had plenty of opportunity for exploring the countryside without getting totally soaked!
We had to pay a visit to the National Trusts Giants Causeway – however cliché and touristy that may be its a definite recommendation. We also visited the less well-known Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge (pretty much what it says on the tin – a stereotypical rope bridge linking the Northern Irish coast to a very small island previously used by salmon fisherman). The scenery here was unbelievable and one clearer day would have been even more spectacular!
- The Highlands of Scotland. Well what can I say, my favourite place by far. Somewhere that I have always wanted to visit but have never quite got round to it. So why now? well my best friend has relocated her life to Inverness, although this was actually two years ago so I’m not sure why it has taken so long to visit! I have always loved the idea of the Highlands as they are so unspoilt, so unchanged from hundreds of years ago and so natural. My anecdotal, some may argue even romanticised, ideas were not at all far from the truth. This is without a doubt of one the most stunning places I have ever visited in terms of scenery. I truly mean it when I say it was breathtaking, I was hanging my head out of the window all the way up the A9! We did visit Blair Castle for the Horse Trials (it doesn’t matter where horsey people are in the world, they always find somewhere with a horse related event to visit) which was beautiful. Although not as big as other horse trials, it is definitely worth a visit. The backdrop is amazing and the event draws all the big stars there for the event rider masters. So if you get chance make a weekend of it – also be sure to visit House of Bruar on the way past. All I can say is that it was a good job the place closed in 20 minutes when we arrived, otherwise I’d have been paying for a lorry to deliver all of the parcels back home!
We also spent time in Inverness which is actually a vibrant, cosmopolitan hub for Northern Scotland. I’m not sure why I was so surprised by that but I have to admit, unfortunately I was. Again, the scenery around here is second to none – my friends cottage overlooks the shores of Loch Ness which really is a sight to behold. For that alone I can see why they chose to move. I’ve also seen the pictures of wildlife that my friends have taken from their back door and it would give the country file calendar a run for its money!! As this was a whistle stop tour, we didn’t see and do as much as we would have liked but I am already planning my return trip! We also visited Ivermoriston, a small village en route to Fort Augustus which has the most spectacularly river running through it – like something out of Harry Potter. Finally fish & chips in Fort Augustus (can you sense a theme here?!?) watching the off-shore wind farm boats travel from the loch into the canal taking them across Scotland concluded the trip. We stopped through Glencoe on the way home which, is unbelievable. The landscape is wilderness at its best, large looming mountains draped with purple heather that is so iconic of the autumn time, giving way to sparkling blue lochs. You might think I am exaggerating here but I promise you I’m not, I can’t put into words just how beautiful this place is. I can’t wait to go back!
- England, Ireland, Scotland…yep you guessed it Wales. In that order as well! Right on the border here for another friends wedding last weekend, we were constantly zig zagging between Shropshire and Wales. Unfortunately the weather was not as kind as the previous weekend in Scotland but again, the scenery was amazing.
Basically what I’m trying to say is that everyone should consider doing a stay-cay. Whether it’s in place of your annual sunshine holiday or a mini break as well as. Yes, we can’t guarantee the weather but, when you do get it the UK is amongst the most beautiful places in the world. And if you don’t get it, put your coat and wellies on and get out there. The country is no less beautiful, it just means you have to be a bit more dedicated to finding the beauty..it also means you can be rewarded with cosy fireside evenings drying out with a hot chocolate in one hand and a good book in the other!
Are you stay-caying this year? Id love to hear where you have been visiting and if you have any tips for my next trip!