10 neglected corners of Britain for a summer vacation in the UK
Rostrevor sits at the foot of the Morne Mountains, right where the River Kilbroney meets Carlingford Lough, and the attractive waterfront – lined with hotels, pubs, restaurants and candy shops – lacks been shaken up since the city’s Edwardian heyday, when CS Lewis visited. Today it remains a city almost strangely blessed with natural beauty; there is a rippling stream, moody mountains, pebble beaches and an enchanting valley called Fairy Glen, because we are not afraid of magic in Ireland. Rostrevor and the nearby harbor of Warrenpoint will never see the crowds that Portstewart and Portrush attract, but this little corner of the Northern Irish coast is still my own private Narnia.
The Crotlieve Barn offers eco-friendly, self-catering accommodation in elegant barn conversions.
North Yorkshire – for ancient treasures
There is gold in these hills – black gold. Fossick beneath the cliffs of the so-called Dinosaur Coast and you might just find a shining jet nugget – Queen Victoria’s favorite gem after Albert. But it’s far from the only gem to be found on the strip of shoreline that marks the eastern limit of the North York Moors National Park. This rugged coastline is strewn with geological, archaeological and paleontological treasures – remnants of the mining of ferrous stone and alum, as well as ammonites, crinoids and other fossils – as well as beautiful coves, beaches and fishing villages.
Chain together the greatest hits on a full-day walk along the Cleveland Way long-distance trail east of Saltburn. Immerse yourself in the tumble of Staithes chocolates, between rainbow-colored cottages stuck in a ravine above anchored fishing boats. Continue south-east and descend to the ghost port of Port Mulgrave, once a loading point for iron stone, now a hotspot for fossil hunting. Then kick off your boots and dip your toes in the sands of Runswick Bay, named Britain’s best beach earlier this year.
Combine heritage with home comforts at Alum House Luxury B&B, in a spectacular clifftop location just west of Staithes in Boulby.
Distant Wester Ross
If you love your secluded beaches, coastal walks with a pinch of adventure and aren’t afraid of the big bad wolf of the Scottish weather, Diabaig in the North West Highlands is pure fantasy.
Getting here is half the fun. Leave Torridon’s snarling munros behind and head west along a ridiculously narrow and winding single track, which weaves its way precariously through rocky, crumpled moorland. It is by far one of Britain’s most spectacular records. Towards the end of the road you will almost plunge into the fishing and small farming village of Diabaig, where a pretty pebble beach stretches out serene and forgotten on the shores of the flint blue loch.
The rabbit out of the hat moment is Gille Brighde, a lovingly converted school where you can delve into the gourmet tastes of local hand-dipped scallops and wild Highland venison (advance reservations are essential). Self-catering is the way to go. Try Scottish Cottages or settle into a luxurious log cabin in the ancient woods of Diabaig in Tigh Brachen Bothies.
More beaches? Drive (or if you’re up for a really wild hike, walk) north to Red Point for the thrill of finding two ridiculously gorgeous dune beaches nearly empty. A border further north always brings you to the aptly named Big Sand, an incredible stretch of golden sand overlooking the turquoise sea all the way to Skye.
The little-known north of Pembrokeshire
Before my first visit to North Pembrokeshire a few years ago I had been to South Pembrokeshire several times on the way back and forth and while it was nice it was just a little too knowledgeable for my taste. When we vacation with the kids it’s usually the less busy the better for us, and in North Pembrokeshire there’s a quieter, unspoiled atmosphere that really draws in.