6 of the best British swaps for holiday spots
By Laura Gelder – June 2020 – 3 minute read
The FCO has tweaked its advice on overseas travel so there is no longer an indefinite ban (hurrah!) but a British break is still looking most likely for the next couple of months. Here are six places in the UK that can easily stand-in for some iconic destinations around the world.
Isle of Skye, Scotland
If you have clients who loved the wild scenery of Iceland’s ring-road and coast or the pretty coloured houses of its capital Reykjavík, you could suggest a visit to the Isle of Skye. The capital of Portree is a pretty fishing village with pink, green, blue and yellow cottages lining the harbour. Outside town the scenery is easily as otherworldly as Iceland. Instead of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, head to the Trotternish Peninsula. Trotternish Ridge was formed by a massive landslip which has created high cliffs, hidden plateaus and pinnacles of black rock, partly smothered in mossy green. Visible from the same point in this area are the 90-metre-tall Kilt Rock, which looks like a pleated kilt made up of basalt columns, and the Mealt waterfall which plummets from the top of the cliffs to the rock-laden coast below. Competing with the spiked black rocks at Reynisdrangar Beach is the Old Man of Storr, a natural pinnacle which can be seen for miles.
Hadrian’s Wall, Northern England
Construction of the Great Wall Of China started in 220BC and its 13,000 miles took over 2,500 years to finish by several dynasties. By comparison, the construction of Hadrian's Wall started in 122AD and it took six years to complete the 73 miles of fortifications. But size isn’t everything and this military barrier created by the Roman Emperor to keep the Barbarians at bay is no less fascinating or scenic, snaking as it does through the rolling green hills and rugged moors of Northern England. Visitors can explore the remains of bath houses, ramparts and turrets, watch live excavations and learn what life was like as a Roman solider. Other attractions along the way include Carlisle Castle with its bloody history; historic Hexham, home to England’s oldest purpose-built prison; and the pretty coastal town of Bowness-on-Solway.
Francophiles need no longer yearn for the lavender fields of Provence or the vineyards of Burgandy - just hop in a car and drive to Kent. Castle Farm is one of England's largest lavender growers and during the summer months its gently sloping fields are awash with a purple carpet of this fragrant flower - 90 acres to be precise. The farm’s Hop Shop sells bottles of soporific lavender oil and hops as well as local honey. And while Kent has always been famous for its hops, the garden of England is now equally as famous for its wine. With excellent growing conditions and similar soils to the Champagne region of France, Kent’s sparkling wines now compete with Bollinger and Moet. Drive through Kent and the chances are you’ll see rows of vines melting into the horizon along its south-facing chalky slopes. There are over 50 vineyards, ranging from the famous Chapel Down, with its 100 acres of vines, to the boutique winery of Barnsole.
If your clients are aching for the Italian Riviera, with its brightly-coloured houses clinging to a green and craggy coastline, head to North Wales. Portmeirion is a private village designed by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis in the early 20th century, set on the estuary of the River Dwyryd in Gwynedd. He purposely modelled it on an Italian village and as a tribute to the atmosphere of the Mediterranean he loved, but also intended it as a tourist attraction. It’s home to two hotels, a cluster of historic cottages, a spa, stylish boutique shops, award-winning restaurants, an Italian ice cream parlour, exotic gardens and sandy beaches. Endangered buildings and unwanted artefacts from all over the globe were transported and rebuilt to create a cluster of terracotta-roofed houses painted in bright colours.Other notably Italianate features include the gardens and a campanile, or bell tower. The site was where the cult 1960s TV series The Prisoner was filmed and is now home to the annual Festival Number Six, named after its star.
The Royal Pavilion, Brighton
The Taj Mahal is breathtakingly beautiful and a testament to love, but it is a tomb nevertheless, commissioned by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan to house his favourite wife. Brighton’s Royal Pavilion, however, was built purely for fun by King George IV - the Prince of Wales at the time - and intended as a seaside pleasure palace to relax and entertain. You could be forgiven for thinking you’d entered an Indian emperor’s realm as you gaze up at the cream building’s islamic-style onion domes, towering minarets and symmetrical arches. Inside the style is more Chinese and reflecting the fun-loving Prince’s flamboyant tastes in art and culture - with intricately gilded domed ceilings and exotic Chinese vases, pagodas and bright silks, along with decorative palm tree columns and spectacular chandeliers and painted lanterns. It’s so 'OTT' that Queen Victoria washed her hands of it and moved the royal seaside residence to the more demure Osborne House on the Isle of Wight after saying "the people of Brighton were “indiscreet and troublesome". Visit Brighton for a taste of India in the UK’s LGBTQ capital.
Trebah Garden, Cornwall
The exotic South Pacific seems like a world away right now, and you’d be right - even at the best of times. But down in Cornwall, Trebah Garden could stand in for a steamy South Seas island. Set in a valley, four miles of footpaths wind under a canopy of vibrant flowers - rhododendrons instead of hibiscus; magnolias in place of frangipani. Visitors can walk under the cover of giant rhubarb, with prickly stems as thick as a man’s wrist, past exotic ferns and palm trees, and through a valley of blue, purple and pink hydrangeas, all tumbling down to a secluded beach on the Helford River. Polgwidden Cove’s white pebbles are lapped by clear azure waters when the sun is shining. Trebah Garden can also transport you to the gardens of the Far East thanks to its grove of towering green, gold and black bamboo and a koi carp pool nestled in lush foliage.