As an island England has more than its fair share of coastline and the national tourist board’s new Coastal Escapes campaign sets out to celebrate it, from quaint Victorian promenades and secret coves to surfers’ hot spots and long sandy stretches. Read on for the low-down on England’s top coastal experiences…
Admire Aldeburgh beach
World-renowned, thanks to its connection with Benjamin Britten, the pre-eminent composer and founder of the annual Aldeburgh Festival. Aldeburgh is about as perfect a traditional seaside escape as you could hope to find. Pastel-coloured 19th-century holiday villas line the promenade. To their east lies a pebble beach with fishermen’s huts selling the daily catch. Stroll north a mile or so along Aldeburgh seafront to see the famed Maggi Hambling sculpture, the Scallop.
Scilly sea safari
A sub-tropical gem, the Isles of Scilly offer numerous boat trips and sea safaris that give visitors the chance to see seals and seabirds up close; you might be lucky enough to glimpse porpoises, basking sharks, and dolphins, or even an exotic visitor such as a sunfish or a turtle.
Dinosaur hunting on the Jurassic Coast
Wander Dorset’s Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage Site, and marvel at the incredulous rock formations while keeping an eye out for dinosaur bones. This stretch of coastline charts a whopping 200 million years of the Earth’s history.
Donkey rides in Scarborough
Scarborough is one of England’s best traditional seaside resorts and there is nothing more ‘bucket and spade’ than a donkey ride along the seafront. This beach is home to an adorable collection of well-behaved and well-loved animals all wearing their names proudly on their harnesses to help children choose their favorite. Nothing quite beats the smell of warm leather saddles and the taste of candyfloss…
Surfing at Fraisthorpe Beach
Bridlington is the country’s birthplace for surfing and the excellent waves have made Fraisthorpe Beach a favorite among the surfing and kite surfing community on the Yorkshire coast. The beach is wide open with strong winds, so perfect conditions for both kite flyers and beach buggy surfers.
Coasteering in Cumbria
Cumbria’s Lake District is known as ‘The Adventure Capital of the UK’ and it’s a well-deserved accolade. For a memorable seaside, adventure tries rock climbing, scrambling and jumping off coastal cliffs in the Western Lake District. Not one for the faint-hearted!
The CD-Traveller team share their favorite 2011 travel experiences and look at the top spots for 2012
2011 highlight: Nha Trang (Vietnam)
If you’ve ever wondered what Goa looked like before the hippies or Thailand before the high rise hotels, then Nha Trang could be your last chance to find out. Vietnam’s beach capital may not have previously figured on your mental map, yet when you get there it’s hard to see why not.
Let me paint the picture… the sea is the color of Bombay sapphire, the sky is perpetually blue and the sand is platinum blonde and squeaks when you walk on it. Right now it’s warm rather than scorching, but six hours of sunshine a day is still a distinct improvement on January in Britain.
To the beach you can add cultural treasures, great surf and dive sites, good retail therapy, lively nightlife, fabulous food and everything from hostels to super swish resorts like the Sheraton Nha Trang Hotel & Spa – Nha Trang’s hot new hotel that even Clark Gable would find it impossible not to give a damn about. Pack the t-shirt and sunnies and get going – before the developers move in and the spell breaks.
2012 tip: London
2012 promises to be a corker for the English capital. All eyes will be on London come the summer when the city hosts the greatest show on earth – aka the Olympic and Paralympic Games. But it’s not all about the Olympics… there’s also the Queen’s Golden Jubilee celebrations (expect a flotilla on the Thames) to look forward to.
And for those who aren’t mad about the monarchy and/or sport, there’s a myriad of cultural events on the horizon from London Fashion Week in February, to the Mayoral election in May. It’s a cliché I know, but as Samuel Johnson once said: “You’ll find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”
2011 highlight: Georgia
What I tend to remember are places I’ve not been too before. So in 2011, I was pleased to have seen parts of Georgia and in particular the Svaneti region up in the mountains. It is unspoiled; development is progressing at an astonishing pace and this is my tip for an all-around destination in the future.
I thought I knew the Blue Mountains in New South Wales (Australia) pretty well, but I saw a different side to them last year that many tourists don’t see. Sheer cliffs look down on the valley below and I saw not one person, as I trekked. In was a four-wheel vehicle and at times even that was tricky. Yet, overlooking one cliff was a homemade wooden jump for hang gliders to jump off!
As for destinations at home, the Dingle peninsula in Ireland is always a place to marvel.
2012 tip: Ukraine and Bangladesh
This year, I want to go to Ukraine. My best man has been there 11 times in the last few years and raves about this “undiscovered” country. As well as Ukraine, I will be journeying to Skomer to see the puffins, razorbills, and seals in early summer – something I have wanted to do for years – so that will be part of a holiday exploring the new coastal path. Later in the year, Bangladesh beckons. Again, it’s another country largely unvisited by Britons (unless you have relatives there), but I am told the country is one I have to see.
2011 highlight: Tobago
Tobago was my 2011 travel highlight. Even with the high APD (Air Passenger Duty) tax, one can still get a week’s holiday there for £850 at the end of February: 4 Star hotel, B&B, including flights and transfers. There have been improvements in 2011: a new 178 room Magdalena Hotel opened in December on what was a derelict hotel site. Following the elections in 2011, the newly appointed Minister of Tourism, in London for the World Travel Market, spoke of more investment to come for the Island. Fingers crossed, this will include better road signs! Potential visitors should bear in mind that some safety warnings issued in the past about neighboring Trinidad have never applied to Tobago.
2012 tip: France
The current improvement of the Pound to the Euro makes a hop across the Channel increasingly attractive. The August Olympics are bang in the middle of the school holidays and not everyone will be flocking to London, an expensive city by any reckoning. Anecdotal research suggests that some Londoners will be getting out of town for the Olympics simply to avoid the crowds. My hunch is that France will benefit. As well as better weather, France still represents good value for quality meals out and hotels charge by the room. For families watching their purse strings, the major campsite providers continue to provide greater comfort with more cabins and mobile homes. Or, just take a tent and spend the savings on dinners out!
Frédéric Mouren de Poligny
2011 highlight: Karnataka (south-west India)
For me, 2011 was the year of Karnataka temples. The discovery of one of the southern states of India where traditional agriculture meets high technology, where rice fields are so close to the Indian ‘Silicon Valley’, was nothing in comparison with the astonishing shock of Hampi temples, scattered among sundry rocky hills. What’s my best souvenir there? Maybe when, after a long journey through these magnificent ruins and a tasty spicy meal at Mango Tree, a small restaurant directly on the riverside, I decided to go down the river on one of these small coracles, huge round reed baskets, through rapids to reach the Vitthala Temple and its Stone Chariot for sunset. During this strange half-an-hour navigation, I was transported back in time, remembering that Alexander the Great himself had to use same coracles during his conquest of the Darius empire to allow his army to cross huge rivers.
2012 tip: South East Asia
Southeast Asia is set to become hot, in every sense of the word, thanks to the new flights" programmes of Vietnam Airlines and Air Asia which help make the region much more accessible. Imagine holidays mixing a boat trip in Halong Bay, followed by a lazy stay on a fabulous Vietnamese beach before a fabulous cultural tour of the Angkor Temples in Cambodia. Or a long journey through Malaysia, with a beach rest in Langkawi Island, combined with a visit of Pagan temples in Burma. Now with these low budget connections, you should be able to return home with a good knowledge of Asian cooking and able to know your Pho from your Nem and Nasi Goreng.
2011 highlight: Edinburgh
I recently spent a wonderfully relaxing day in Edinburgh having made no plans whatsoever other than to visit Hutton’s section. It was James Hutton’s observations at Arthur’s Seat and the Salisbury Crags which provided the foundation to geology today: deposition of the sedimentary rocks and the formation of the igneous rocks must have occurred at different ages and in a different manner to the geological beliefs of that time. Hutton’s section, visible (and labeled!) in the Salisbury Crags shows clearly where magma forced its way through the sedimentary rocks to form dolerite sills. A walk up here is worth the effort simply for the views from the top.
2012 tip: Iceland (and other volcanic destinations)
There has been a lot of volcanic activity during the past couple of years, and much as it can be disruptive to travel, active volcanoes are one of the most spectacular geological events that you will ever see happening. So, my tip – and my dream, I might add – would be to pack up and visit Iceland (of course, not forgetting to add volcano disruption to your insurance!). Iceland is unique because not only does it lie between the Eurasian and North American plates, on the Mid-Atlantic Rift (where the two plates are pulling apart from each other) but it also lies above the Iceland plume (a hotspot) which causes the volcanism on the island, and results in a range of geological phenomena, such as geysers. As such, it is an ever-changing country, of immense geological importance, and extreme beauty.
2011 highlight: Dumfries and Galloway
The lowlands of Scotland are sometimes overlooked, with the majestic scenery of the highlands attracting more attention. But with coastline reminiscent of Cornwall, historic towns and villages and a variety of visitor attractions covering outdoor activities, whiskey, and historic monuments, the region has plenty to offer. Truly a hidden gem. And with fuel prices remaining high, being less remote is a bonus.
2012 tip: Staycationing
Staycationing (the ‘art’ of holidaying at home) will continue to be popular as the economy struggles to grow and the threat of unemployment remains. Conversely, some of the more remote destinations in the UK may suffer as high fuel prices– and economic woes in the Eurozone – may make cheap flights abroad appear better value.
Last year, the severe weather took its toll on the coastal area around Colwyn Bay in North Wales. This popular holiday seaside destination needs to shore up its coastal protection so it has announced a £8 million improvement project to safeguard homes and the prom. New defenses will also provide a breakwater and a new beach for visitors and residents alike to enjoy. Apparently, the old coastal defenses are over 100 years old so some improvements are justified. This week, the plans will be available for the public to see, consider and comment on.
The opportunity to have a new beach and create a tourist attraction doesn’t come up very often so the comment by a local councilor, Mike Priestly, as reported by the BBC that it would be great to see donkeys on the beach as well as at Llandudno seems a little short on creative thinking. What Colwyn Bay wants is something not freely available on the North Wales coastline; – something so different that it would attract visitors from far and wide. I’m not saying that donkeys may not be welcome but if they are available only a few miles away, to have them so close might affect visitor numbers at both towns. After all, if the kids have ridden them on one beach will they want to go to another beach and do the same thing? Destinations should compete for our business not copy each other.
There is a slight fly in the ointment in that the borough council still needs to get the money from the Welsh Assembly. On the assumption that it can get it what could Colwyn Bay introduce on its beach to make it stand out from the crowd. Like Littlehampton which has a developed the postcard and marriage proposal bench and a line in modern beach architecture. How about, for example, the North Wales coastline complete with castles and bridges all made from sand but in miniature for people to visit and then a sand area for kids to construct their own hillforts, castles and engineering feats? How about an annual competition during one of the school holidays with a prize that the winning construction will be added to the miniature coastline exhibit? Throw in a week’s holiday for the winning child’s family for the next year and you can have two bits of news coverage for the price of one. Does Colwyn Bay have a twin town? It doesn’t look like it but if it did it could create a week-long celebration of that twin complete with regional food and entertainment. And if it doesn’t, what about a competition amongst residents and North Walians to find one. Held on the new beach!
These ideas may not work but some adventurous rather than donkey thinking might attract more of us to visit Colwyn Bay, not just in the summer but throughout the year.
Last week was National Ice Cream Week. Where are most ice creams sold? I haven’t a clue, possibly at beaches, but I do know that the end of the week coincides with the announcements of where we think the best beach in the UK is. The Cadbury Flake Great British Beach Awards (you can guess who the sponsor is) are not decided by water quality, cleanliness of the beaches or some government team. You will have voted for them online so therefore the winners were totally up to you and based on your own criteria.
And Rhossili Bay in the Gower was voted the runaway winner. It received 47% of all the votes with Tresco in the Scilly Isles coming second on 19%. Then came Margate and Blackpool on 10%. In the end, about 7,700 people voted so about 3,600 plumped for Rhossili from the short list of 24 that judges picked.
Rhossili Bay is a small, sandy beach that is only about 3 miles long but at low tide, it seems much bigger since you can even walk to Worms Head which becomes an island when the tide is in. It was described by Frank Barrett of the Mail on Sunday as “perfection within perfection.” Maybe it retains some of its beauty and appeal because it isn’t the easiest beach to get to. The path is steep and not for the unfit. Being next to a nature reserve means that not only beach seekers, swimmers and surfers visit the area. Bird watchers come in numbers as well. It can be dangerous as it gets the Atlantic winds so the waves can be large. That attracts the surfers. There is also the nineteenth-century wreck of the Helvetia in the sand, a reminder of how treacherous the waters off Rhossili can be. And the old abandoned WWII radar station that is at the end of one path. Because it does appeal to such a wide range of visitors may be why Rhosilli won.
Is everyone happy about this? No at least one person who commented on this story when it appeared in the Daily Mail commented, “Damn. I hoped West and North Wales would remain a secret.” He obviously fears more tourists now that it has won this award! Oh and yes, there is ice cream for sale in the cafe. And with a flake in it, if you want one.
Are you a local girl?
No. I was born in England but have been in Barbados for a year and a half now and love it: the natural warmth and friendliness of the Bajans cannot be matched.
What’s it like to live in Barbados?
The best thing about Barbados is without a doubt the weather: the sun is almost always shining. Barbados’ other two main selling points are the sand and the sea: the sand is wonderfully powdery while the blue of the sea can’t actually be described in words. Another major plus is the low crime rate.
The downside, however, is that the cost of living is very high. Food and bills are especially pricey and as wages are low it makes it hard to save for anything at all: big purchases such as a house and a car are out of reach of most people.
What is your favorite thing about Barbados?
Barbados is so much more than a tropical island but the palm trees, white sand, and turquoise water are what I love most.
Why should we visit Barbados?
Because Barbados has so much going on for a country that’s just 166 square miles in size!
Beyond the beaches, there’s a whole host of landscapes to explore from caves (Harrison’s Caves are one of the island’s great wonders) to gardens and the beautiful Welchman Hall Gully.
After something more active? You can go horse riding, hiking, fishing, golfing, get wet learning to dive, surf, sail and so on or watch a major cricket or polo match.
There’s plenty of nightlife too – especially in St Lawrence Gap or Oistins which hosts the weekly Fish Fry every Friday: it’s an opportunity to try authentic Bajan cuisine in a lively yet relaxed environment.
All told there are many, many reasons to visit Barbados and chances are the island will become for you, as it did for me, a home from home: Barbados has the highest rate of repeat visitors of any major tourist destination in the world.
How long do we, ideally, need?
I would say 10 – 14 days would be optimum.
Barbados has an array of amazing restaurants but arguably the most fabulous ones are in St Lawrence Gap or in St James – I personally like the Ship Inn which is a great place to admire the colors in your cocktail. I’ve heard Tides restaurant is pretty special but I haven’t been – yet!
The best shops are on Broad Street in Bridgetown – the buzzy, busy capital of Barbados. Names worth knowing include Cave Shepherds (the island’s answer to Debenhams) but there are other stores springing up like Limegrove in St James or Speightstown in St Peter that repay a visit. They are also building a new shopping complex in Christchurch not far from Worthing beach. Sheraton Mall has some cute shops too.
Where should we stay?
You can find a Bajan break to suit all budgets. Near the top end of the scale, The Crane Resort in St Philip is simply gorgeous. The hotel is set on a cliff overlooking the famous Crane Beach (there’s a lift down to the sea) although you can’t go in the water as it’s on the Atlantic side of the island meaning that the sea is rough.
If you’re dreaming of relaxing on a sun-kissed beach and then cooling off in the sea (the number one reason for most people visiting Barbados) then St James is a good spot: the sea is calm as this is the Caribbean side of the island. The area has some charming hotels but can be pricey. The Gap is also popular with tourists owing to its glorious beaches, luxury hotels, fine dining restaurants, not to mention the lively nightlife.
Any insider tips for our readers?
I would just say be wary of anyone offering you something for nothing. Although the crime rate is enviably low, hawkers do exist and will want to befriend you and show you the ‘real Barbados’ in exchange for money.
Anything else you want to add?
I think that overall Barbados is the most intriguing and rewarding island in the Caribbean as well as the safest –it doesn’t have the crime problems of other islands like Trinidad and Tobago or Jamaica. That said, all of the islands in the Caribbean are unique and worth visiting but it’s not easy to do so: St Vincent is only a 45-minute flight from Barbados but it costs a lot of money to fly there. Hopefully traveling between islands will become cheaper.
Once a destination for the ‘newlyweds and nearly deads’, Bermuda is back on the map. Britain’s oldest colony celebrated its 400th-anniversary last year and the party hasn’t stopped. CD Traveller got the low-down on the paradise island – that contrary to public opinion isn’t in the Caribbean – from local resident Victoria Clipper
Name: Victoria Clipper Age: 28 Occupation: Reinsurance Broker by day, bartender by night.
Are you a local girl?
Yes, my father’s family can trace their Bermuda history back at least 200 years.
What’s it like to live in Bermuda?
Fantastic! There’s a great atmosphere in the summer season (which we call ‘beach and sizzle’). Winter is quieter but there’s still plenty to do – we call winter ‘golf and spa’ season.
What is your favorite thing about Bermuda?
Being able to go to the beach after work!
Why should we visit Bermuda?
Just six and a half hour flight from London, Bermuda is a beautiful island that offers the right balance between rest, relaxation and activity. Activities include every water sport under the sun, golf (Bermuda has more golf courses per square mile than anywhere in the world), museums and art galleries, shopping and of course the beaches.
How long do we need?
At least one week to ensure that you have time to hit the beach and sightsee.
How can tell you locals from tourists?
Visitors cannot hire cars on the island so most choose to get about on a rental moped. Locals journey around the island by moped too but you can always tell who the tourists are: they drive very slowly and most American tourists aren’t used to driving on the left!
Head to Sea Breeze at Elbow Beach for tasty Tapas and a great cocktail hour patio atmosphere. Mickey’s (also at Elbow Beach) is one of the best spots to watch the Full Moon rise out of the sea. For the best fresh, local seafood, try Lobster Pot, Harbourfront or Barracuda Grill – note that Lobster Season runs from September through until March.
Try the Island Shop for beautiful hand-painted chinaware, Clocktower Mall in Dockyard for local souvenirs, Makin’ Waves for surfing gear and A. S. Coopers (the island’s number one department store) for everything else.
Where should we stay?
There are plenty of large luxurious resorts along the South Shore (home to Bermuda’s best beaches) including Elbow Beach, Fairmont Southampton Princess And The Reefs Hotel. There are also more secluded guest houses and cottage colonies scattered around the island if you’re looking for a more intimate and authentic Bermuda vacation.
Any insider tips for our readers?
Do a reef or wreck dive – Bermuda is considered the shipwreck diving capital of the Atlantic. Popular wrecks include the Constellation (1943, featured in the movie The Deep), Hermes (1983), Iristo (1937) and Minnie Breslauer (1872).
Back on dry land, wander through the quaint side streets in St. George’s, a World Heritage Site, and past St Peters Church – believed to be the oldest continually use the Anglican church in the Western hemisphere. Head out to Dockyard in the west end to learn about Bermuda’s history at the Maritime Museum and Commissioners House before climbing to the top of the cathedral tower in Hamilton – the capital of Bermuda. It’s in Hamilton that you can wave at Johnny Barnes! Barnes is a Bermudiana native who, come rain or shine, waves to passing traffic at the Foot of the Lane roundabout from 4 am to 10 am every weekday morning! Regarded as a Bermudian institution, he is known to say “I love you, I love you,” to passing commuters.
Finally be sure to beach it! Bermuda beaches are truly beautiful, many of them tinged with subtle pink sand. The greatest concentration of beaches are found in South Shore Park; a coastal park that stretches for 1.5 miles from Warwick Long Bay to Horseshoe Bay. Pack plenty of sunscreen and water as most of Bermuda’s beaches don’t have concession stands – Horseshoe Bay has the most facilities and amenities but can become extremely crowded on a gorgeous summers day.
Anything else you want to add?
Although Bermuda’s latitude is similar to that of Savannah, Georgia, it is warmer in winter, and slightly cooler in summer. Its humid subtropical climate is warmed by the nearby Gulf Stream, thanks to the westerlies, which carry warm, humid air eastwards over Bermuda, helping to keep winter temperatures above freezing. The climate is humid and, as a result, the summertime heat index can be high, even though mid-August temperatures rarely exceed 30 °C (86 °F). Winters are mild, with average daytime temperatures in January and February around 20 °C (68 °F), although cold fronts, which dominate the local weather for most of the year, bring Arctic air masses that can result in rapid temperature drops. Atlantic winter storms, often associated with these cold fronts, can produce powerful, gusting winds and heavy rain.