We have done the research to help you find the best places to go in the UK and Europe with our Top Ten UK and European Hideaways Guide, we will show you the places to go, tell you why you need to visit this destination and what you must do and see when you are there.
Why Should I Go?: Majorca isn’t just about resorts. True, if you stay close to or in the centre of built-up areas you’re going to experience the accompanying head count, but if you really want to see what the island has to offer, then a trip to Deià is a must. Busy by day with tourists, by evening it reverts to precisely what it is: a tiny gem of a village, situated over a high and narrow ridge on the seaward side of the road.
Must See/Do: Climb the Carrer es Puig, Deià’s only bona fide street, pass by intricate alleyways of old peasant houses and make your way to the village church and cemetery to see where Robert Graves is buried.
Why Should I Go?: The Cotswolds are ridges of limestone hills that rise steeply from the Severn Valley in the west and which slope eastward toward the Oxford vale. The Northern Cotswolds consist of some of the most charming picture-postcard villages you’ll ever see. Buildings made of what can only be described as ‘mellow’ stone are positioned in folds between the rolling countryside, while places Stow-on-the-Wold (bliss for lovers of antique shops), Chipping Camden and Bibury slide past the eye in a series of snapshots of the beauty of rural England.
Must See/Do: Walking from the villages of Upper Slaughter to Lower Slaughter provides one of the Cotswolds’ indispensable experiences – through meadows, folds and ways, you’ll catch glimpses of the area’s fundamental grace.
Why Should I Go?: Tirana is truly one of the most underrated small cities, still uncluttered by tourists, in the process of shedding its grey Soviet-style open spaces, slowly but surely regaining confidence. The city might lack the usual tourist trappings and conventional sights, but if you’re the kind of person who went to Prague thirty years ago and returned home boasting of its unspoiled nature, then you are assured of a similar sense of wonder with Tirana.
Must See/Do: Tirana is a small, concise city that can easily be explored on foot. As well as doing a tour of the small museums, make sure you spend some casual time in the recently redesigned Skanderberg Square in the city centre. Also, check out the architecture, with its Italian and Turkish influences.
Gower Peninsula, Wales
Why Should I Go?: Gower runs over fifteen miles from east to west and is approximately seven miles across. Within Gower’s spectacular frame can be found wooded valleys, farmlands, heaths, hills, and – best of all – a truly astonishing thirty-mile coastline backed by verdant steep cliffs. Gower Peninsula is for anyone who cares a whit for the preservation of the countryside and the freedom to explore unhindered. It’s also a walker’s paradise, complemented by a smattering of village pubs and the occasional restaurant for that all-important breather.
Must See/Do: Rhossili is over three miles of perfect sandy beach that is incomparable, a virtually unreal vastness that is both oasis and desert – the former particularly if you love walking, swimming, surfing or hang gliding.
Why Should I Go?: Gozo gently boasts a different atmosphere than its larger sister island Malta because it has not yet been developed to cater to mass-market tourism. Is there enough on the island to warrant spending more than a weekend there? The short answer is yes. The slightly longer answer is also yes, but only if you’re the kind of person who isn’t into crowded bars or restaurants, and who just wants to have a genuine break instead of a succession of lie-ins until late afternoon.
Must See/Do: Dwerjra beach on the Western coastline of Gozo attracts the majority of sun seekers due to its natural beauty and its famous rock arch, the Azure Window.
Isle of Skye, Scotland
Why Should I Go?: Skye is, with justification, one of the most remarkable islands in the world, and has been singularly successful in attracting a tourist population far and wide, which (unusually) hasn’t spoiled its natural beauty and calm. The 19th-century writer Alexander Smith has said of Skye, “after eleven months labour or disappointment a person will find on the island the medicine of silence and repose.” As you stand by the bay at Isle Ornsay early in the morning, with the mist veiling the lochs and the mountains in a coating of grey transparency, it’s difficult to believe that somewhere lays beyond it.
Must See/Do: Skye’s end-of-the-world atmosphere blending in seamlessly with a sip or two of the locally produced whisky.
Why Should I Go?: Lecce has been described as the last city in Italy, the point where Europe ends and where Africa is but a jump away. The city is located in Puglia, in what some people call the Salentine peninsula but what is more commonly known as ‘the heel of the Italian boot’. When you get there, you will understand why not many have heard of it – it’s surely so beautiful that no one will speak of it just in case more people end up going there. In truth, it’s more appealing than Florence or Venice primarily because it doesn’t attract so many tourists.
Must See/Do: Walk in the old walled part of the city. Here, you will enter another world that is cobbled, pedestrianised and full of decorative flourishes.
Why Should I Go?: Cornwall has always been removed from the rest of Britain, yet strategically placed for commerce. With trade came new philosophies and new religions – early saints passed through it en route between Europe and Ireland, and you can see the last remaining vestiges of their passage dotted throughout the countryside, in the weather-beaten High crosses, holy wells, and in the names of the churches. Most of Cornwall’s south coast is sub-tropical, creating horticultural wonders like the Abbey Gardens on the Scilly Island of Tresco and the Amazonian ravine garden of Trebah on the Helford River.
Must See/Do: Cornwall’s most prized natural tourist attraction – the Lost Gardens of Heligan, which is the largest horticultural restoration project in Europe.
Why Should I Go?: The west of Sicily is a place apart, and Trapani – the largest town in the region – is out on a limb. Here is a town that time has almost forgotten. Trapani is also different, with its palm trees, cubic whitewashed houses and tanned lowlands that are closer in appearance to Africa than Europe. The town itself is a beguiling mixture of architectural styles – from shoulder-width lanes to open (and splendid) piazzas that seduce you into exploring Trapani’s Old Town section.
Must See/Do: Take a stroll along the port, a busy place of work for sun-baked fishermen who sell their salt-fresh catches from stalls inside the remarkable fish market.
Why Should I Go?: The Brecon Beacons park runs 15 miles north-to-south and 45 miles west-to-east. Most of the land is privately owned, while certain areas are overseen by the National Trust. Most people who visit might think they know exactly what to expect but are often speechless at the region’s rugged beauty. The views from the crests are spectacular, while the entire region is perfect for outdoor pursuits such as pony-trekking, fishing, hang-gliding and mountaineering. The small town of Brecon, meanwhile, acts as the hub of the national park.
Must See/Do: An adventure trip – it’s as simple as that. There are many companies that can organise everything from white-water kayaking and gorge walking to mountain biking and caving.
WRITTEN BY TONY CLAYTON-LEA