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Sunday, 4 October 2020

Britain’s Beautiful Beaches – Ending with England and whelks…

Britain’s Beautiful Beaches – Ending with England and whelks…

Dear Readers,

As the weather has turned somewhat inclement in the UK (well, it’s October: what can we expect?) we thought we’d better hurry up and finish our beach series. Having said that, of course, I am not sure if you’d agree with me or not, but sometimes there is nothing better than a wind-swept beach on a Winter’s day…

Heading further East and South we break the border to England. Let’s start our English beach tour in Devon. One of your Hapless Blogger’s favourite places is Bude. This whole coastline is stunning, and Bude is a lovely, surfy little town next to a gorgeous beach. Take the road out of Bude along the coast and you won’t be disappointed: Widemouth Bay does, once more, what it says on the tin. It’s a glorious view, and we thoroughly recommend a place called Elements (http://www.elements-life.co.uk/restaurant-in-bude-cornwall), for a bite to eat. Follow this road round, and honestly, you enter the most wonderful Daphne Du Maurier country (yes, we are heading into Cornwall and yes we all know that most of her stuff was based in South Cornwall, but you can imagine it). It is simply beautiful.

Dear Readers, I would recommend that you did this route around this time of year, when the majority of tourists have left, it’s still warm enough and I strongly recommend a small car. Preferably one with a roof you can take down to enjoy the scenery all the more (weather permitting, of course), but the roads are not what you would call, er, wide. Especially where I am about to take you next! So we want to stay on the coastal road from Bude to Boscastle. Now, never a stranger to a nice place for a pit-stop (do we feel a theme here?) we want to be heading to Crackington Haven (commonly and affectionately known in the Halpless Blogger household as “Crack”). At Crack you’ll find the most stunning cove of warm(ish) water, perfect for young children (if you happen to have them) or a brave paddle, even in Winter! (See above). Another reason you have to stop at Crack is the coffee: oh my Lord, Readers, the cappuccino at The Cabin (https://www.cabincafecrackington.co.uk/) is the best cappuccino since New Zealand (they take their coffee so seriously there, they outdo the Italians – check out our blog on New Zealand https://www.traveltrendsbyglobalgreathotels.co.uk/2019/02/backpacking-part-3-new-zealand-most.html). Probably because it’s run by a New Zealander. You have to stop there. Fact.

Once caffeined-up (you’ll need it for this bit) worm your way along the coast to Boscastle and thence to Tintagel. Because you have to. It’s all just so pretty. Although there isn’t a beach as such, Port Isaac is 100% worth a visit, but remember what I said about small cars. It’s a tight squeeze through these villages…

However, we’re digressing from our beach theme. Back to the sands we go, and I can honestly say, with my hand on my Hapless Blogger heart, this is my favourite beach in the UK. Keep your Welsh beaches. Here, dear Readers, is the jewel. As a bit of preamble, when your Hopeless Blogger lived amongst the unsuspecting Cornish, she asked where a chic place was to go. Once they’d finished laughing, they pointed her in the direction of Rock on account of William and Harry frequently spotted there. Oh but Readers, I wasn’t prepared for how pretty it is. Accessible either from the A39 “Atlantic Highway” (still makes me laugh) from Wadebridge, or through teeny tiny roads if you were come from Port Isaac, follow the road down to Rock. Chic? Yes, absolutely, and now Gordon Ramsey lives there, well, who knows. But even back then, it was chic, with gorgeous little shops on the way in, to the pubs and the bars, to the obligatory Jack Wills (before it was too commercialised). Put it this way, it’s very Jolly Hockeysticks. However you take that, it’s the most glorious beach with white sand, water blue as the Aegean, and a wonderful view of Padstow on the other side. In fact, you can take the foot ferry from Rock to Padstow which is great fun. It’s sheltered, too, which makes for great sunbathing opportunities when you least expect it. My record is actually February! Additionally, you can walk round the peninsular to Polzeath, which is bigger and more touristy but still pretty. Although it is Rock which will always have my heart. But wait, I hear you cry, what about pit stops?! Well, if you want to see Gordon Ramsey, you’ll find him at The Mariners at Rock, however if you want to the best view, you should really go to the Blue Tomato Café (http://www.bluetomatocafe.co.uk/) – best iced coffee ever.

Other beaches of note: well of course you have Watergate Bay/Newquay which are lovely, very Atlantic-ish and remind me of Freshwater West in West Wales. They do get very busy and feel less intimate, somehow, to the others we’ve just visited together, you and I, dear Readers. Perranporth is worth a mention, and of course, St Ives is lovely. Completely worth a visit, making sure your car hasn’t grown…

Heading, now, to South Cornwall, and we’re going to go slap, bang into Daphne Du Maurier country: Par. Now, for those who don’t know, the difference between North and South Cornwall is huge. And somewhat undiscernible, certainly to articulate. It’s a bit like trying to explain the difference between the North and the South of Corsica…you just prefer one to the other, no rhyme nor reason, usually. So, I am afraid, I do prefer North Cornwall, but that’s just my preference. However, that doesn’t stop South Cornwall being stunning: take Par Sands for example. This is a hidden gem of a place, and the site of Menabilly, Du Maurier’s inspiration for Mandalay, and her family home for most of her life. Par is gorgeous: white, sandy beach and wild flowers. Not a beach, but definitely a place to visit nearby is Fowey. A firm favourite: a bustling little town with a gorgeous harbour and plenty of fresh fish!

Now, leaving Cornland, we head East for the first time…is it true? Is West best? For beaches? Possibly. However, we can’t deny the fact that there are some right stunners in the East. Now, again, dear Readers, this blog is based on personal experience, therefore there will be trillions of stunning beaches I feel sure we’ve missed. Please never be afraid to comment below on these blogs: we love to hear your opinion, and it’s all in the spirit of sharing information with each other which someone might find useful! Our next stop is on the Jurassic Coast at Dorset: Lulworth Cove. Now, the old memory is going somewhat as this was a geography field trip some time ago, however, I will never forget the colour of the water and the fascinating rock formations. Stair Hole is worth a mention, as is Durdle Door and further along at Swanage, you’ll find a lovely beach. It goes without saying that of course you have the Isle of Wight, however, with no personal knowledge, we’ll visit this one another time. Next we have the Witterings. Sheltered, somewhat, by the Isle of Wight, the Witterings are lovely, if somewhat packed in the Summer. They are very picturesque, and a lovely spot to watch the little boats and dinghies scudding across the water.

Next, dear Readers, we come to our first pebble beaches: Hove and Brighton. We have covered Brighton in previous blog posts (https://www.traveltrendsbyglobalgreathotels.co.uk/2019/10/unusual-city-breaks-dear-readers-in.html) but safe to say, Brighton offers a different beach experience than, let’s say…Pendine…Having grown up next to pebble beaches, I suppose one is used to them. However, I think you’ll agree, dear Readers, there is nothing like the pain of trying to walk across one with no shoes on…Before we leave our pebble beaches, and our tour of beaches in general, let’s just pop to Hastings. This is quite unlike any other beach because, yes, it’s pebble, and looks just like Eastbourne, Brighton and Bexhill, but it has a menagerie of fishing huts and trawlers on the beach. You can buy fish caught right off the boats, right there. The industry is right there, not for the tourists, but real. It’s a working town using its beach to its best advantage. And of course, who isn’t partial to a whelk? Oh…just me, then!

Fresh delicious Whelks - Picture of Bob's Seafood, Folkestone - Tripadvisor

And now we conclude our tour of British beaches – whether in rain or shine, I think we can all agree that we, without a shadow of a doubt, have some of the very best in the World. Keep your eyes peeled for our next spoooooooooooooky instalment of Travel Trends. But for now, dear Readers, stay safe, stay dry and keep warm!


Friday, 25 September 2020

Britain’s Beautiful Beaches – Wales – Watch out for the North Walian Glitterati and Deer with One Antler…

Britain’s Beautiful Beaches – Wales – Watch out for the North Walian Glitterati and Deer with One Antler…

Dear Readers,

We invite you, once more, to come to the beach with us (bit parky, but you’ll be fine). 

Following on from our Scottish adventure, and moving South now, we come to North Wales.  Not a destination which has ever been high on my list, and to be brutally honest, dear Readers, when I saw the sign for North Wales, I just thought it was a sign for Wales in general via the North.  However, now further educated, it seems North Wales is quite an entity unto its own.  Get ready for another unpopular opinion:  Prestatyn Beach – not quite Rhyl, so don’t worry, but Prestatyn Beach is glorious!  Miles and miles of sandy beach, and again, like our Scottish adventure, North Wales is wonderfully empty (at Prestatyn Beach – not Rhyl and the surrounds due to the sheer volume of caravans – honestly, Readers, you’ve never seen anything like at all and best left there). 

Moving West, you’ll want to follow the coastal A55 towards Caernarfon (not to be confused with Carmarthen which has happened more than once, and there’s at least 5 hours’ travelling time between the two…) and again, what a road.  You will see some of the most dramatic and glorious scenery:  Llandudno is a lovely place to visit with a lovely beach.  For those not scared of heights, something really fabulous to do is to drive round the Great Orme.  As an aside, did you know that Llandudno, and the Great Orme in particular, was the setting for Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland?  There are little clues all over Llandudno, where you’ll see the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter, and Alice herself!  To drive round the Orme, with off-the-scale views, is a must, but you may not want to pay the toll.  If this is the case, dear Readers, and your Hapless Blogger is always looking for a loophole, what you want to do is drive up to the Great Orme Observatory and Funicular Railway.  From that carpark you can then double back, taking a shortcut, avoiding the toll, but hitting the best views.  Now, having spent a large part of my youth negotiating the perilous roads of Corsica, driving back down towards the sea was something of a doddle.  However, if you have less intrepid passengers in the car, I would warn you there may be some distress…Incidentally, for a really really cool place to stay, check this out:  http://www.lighthouse-llandudno.co.uk/frame.htm the Lighthouse is ridiculously stunning!  Carry on around the Orme, where you’ll descend again, and head for the beach carpark.  Here, you’ll find Deganwy Beach.  Empty and glorious.  Take in the views of the mountains and the Orme and the clean, clean sea.

Then head to Penmaenmawr Beach – oh, Readers, it’s stunning with a glorious view of Anglesey.  Speaking of Anglesey, here you’ll find some wonderful, and again, utterly deserted beaches.  Another favourite here is Beaumaris:  a great place to catch oysters, or, rather, watch other people catch them, it has a lovely, peaceful vibe.  From Beaumaris beach, you’ll look back towards the mainland over the Menai Straites.  Beaumaris itself has some lovely little shops and cafes, plus a fabulous castle, and, fun fact, the highest population of female millionaires in the UK!  But it’s the beach we want.  Again, you’ll probably be the only ones on it.  We do like to speak from personal experience here, and I urge you, since you are so far in the middle of nowhere, to go to Abersoch.  It’s become a bit trendy of late amongst the North Walian glitterati (feel free to fall off your chair, laughing, but it’s true, you should see them:  all fake tan and implants that’ll have your eye out) and consequently has some chic little bars and pubs, but it’s the beach you want to head for, and the water is so clear and clean, it’s a real treat.

Heading South now, and staying in the middle of nowhere, we head to West Wales.  Now, I don’t know about you, dear Readers, but I do like the odd dolphin or two.  There is no better place to spot them (even more sightings since the waters have been quieter and the early warm weather brought them closer) is a quaint little fishing village called New Quay (not to be confused with Newquay, Cornwall, mark you).  New Quay West Wales is truly a delight to behold:  the best mix of actually quite Cornish-looking architecture but without the Cornish crowds, this is where you want to go to spot your friendly porpoises.  You don’t actually need to go out in a boat, although at the harbour, there are many readily available to take you, you can just perch on the enormous harbour wall and keep your eyes peeled.  You’ll find a lovely little sandy beach, protected by the harbour wall, and perfect for those with little ones.  The other side of the harbour wall you’ll find a superb fish and chip stall which does the most delicious deep fried scallops #justsaying.  Also, as this part of Wales has a heavy Italian influence (I kid you not) the ice cream is to die for!  You have to stop and have a gelato from Crème Pen Cei…

Poppit Sands Holiday Cottages | Book Accommodation | Coastal Cottages of  Pembrokeshire

You really ought to visit Cardigan Bay:  Cardigan itself is a pretty little town well worth a visit, but it’s the beach you want to head for.  Therefore you need to follow signs for St Dogmaels and Cardigan Bay Holiday Park (highly recommend this https://www.cardiganbay.co.uk/) to Poppit Sands Beach.  Gorgeous, again, feels very Cornish, and great for kite-flying.

Moving South once more, (please, forgive me for taking you so far from civilisation, but once so far, you must make the most of it) we are now officially in award-winning “Best beaches in the World” territory.  Who would have thunk it?!  West Wales?  Yes, dear Readers, it is indeed, true.  But first, we’re going to head to the spot which Redbull have chosen many times to hold their world-renowned cliff-diving championships:  the Blue Lagoon in Abereiddy.  Now, this is really off the beaten track territory.  Head from Fishguard to St David’s and it’s about half-way in-between.  The Blue Lagoon itself is a flooded mine, and it’s the minerals in the rock reacting with the salt water which cause the startling blue effect.  People enjoy throwing themselves (safely, it’s no Beachy Head here) off the rocks into the clear, blue water of the lagoon. 

Child taken to hospital after jumping into Blue Lagoon in Pembrokeshire -  Wales Online

Travelling still South, and whilst we’re here, you really should have a look at Whitesands Bay (preferably at sunset).  It does what it says on the tin:  white sands as far as you can see, and a very expensive carpark - £5!  Can you believe it!  The locals are up in arms, although they did feel a bit better when your Hapless Blogger explained how expensive it was to park in Brighton!  And whilst you’re there, you should probably drop into St David’s and have a snoop round the Cathedral – I mean, it’s rude not it.  And the Bishop’s Palace – you won’t regret it.

Whitesands Bay, Saint David's holiday accommodation for 2020 | Stayz

A bit of foodie heaven here now (because travelling and food go together):  take the road from St David’s, through Solva, towards Newgale (stunning beach) to a teeny tiny place called Druidston Haven.  Following your Hapless Blogger’s penchant for finding cool places for a cappuccino/wine you really, really need to stop at The Druidstone (http://druidstone.co.uk/).  Possibly the weirdest place you’ll ever visit:  it’s a bit like you’ve slipped down the rabbit hole and you’re meeting Alice for the first time (we may have a bit of an Alice In Wonderland theme going on here…), and you’ve smoked a lot of alternative tobacco on your way in, if you catch my drift.  It’s very, very cool, and very, very strange.  Right on the Pembrokeshire Coast path and with unrivalled views of Cardigan Bay in all its glory, it is a heavenly place to stop and eat extraordinarily well.  The menu isn’t huge, but it’s fresh, seasonal and not at all expensive.  Be warned, however, if you visit in the winter, it’s a bit drafty, so you might need an extra ski jacket or five.  It doesn’t advertise particularly, and is word-of-mouth mainly.  As Pembrokeshire is the new Cornwall in the UK, you’ll probably see some very famous people hanging out there too.  Not as famous as you, of course, dear Readers, but, still, famous.

Druidstone Hotel - Photos | Facebook

Now, let’s toddle further, and find Freshwater West.  We’re visiting this beach for two reasons:  reason one is that it’s a wild, raw, untamed sort of beach with lots of “surfer dudes” as they hold many surfing competitions here.  Reason two is our tummies, once more!  When you approach the road next to the sand dunes, head for the carpark and in the carpark you’ll find what looks like a burger van.  However, dear Readers, this is no burger van, this is Café Mor (https://beachfood.co.uk/cafe-mor.php) quite possibly the best beach food in the world.  Let us picture the scene:  you have your UK summer beach attire on (shorts, hoodie, ski jacket etc) you are perched on a rock on the beach, watching the surfers, feeling the fresh air in your face, with the most amazing lobster roll you have ever had:  the bread baked freshly that day, the lobster caught that morning off those very shores, and the seaweed butter dripping down your chin.  If that isn’t paradise, dear Readers, I don’t know what is!

This mobile Welsh seafood shack has made the finals of the 2016 British  Street Food Awards - Wales Online

Heading East now, because you can’t, physically, go any further West!  Let’s pop to the beach heralded as one of the world’s most beautiful.  This beach wiped out competition such as Bondi Beach in Australia, to gain the title of one of the best in the world.  This is Barafundle Bay.  Head to Stackpole, then park the car and walk.  You have to walk – which probably means it’s more preserved and less touristy, but there are so few tourists here compared to other places, that even in high season, it doesn’t get packed.  It is truly outstanding, and I think, to be honest it’s the clarity and purity of the water that does it, and the colour, honestly Readers, you could be in Barbados (apart from the hoodie and ski jacket).

Stay away from this 'world class' Welsh beach, National Trust tells holiday  makers

The best thing about all of these beaches, and their outstanding factors for many people is the fact that they are sandy beaches…and that they are empty.  Obviously, the further East you go from here, the busier they get.  However, beaches of note are Freshwater East and Manobier (lovely castle).  Tenby is famous for its beaches, from the dramatic South Beach to the quaint town beach.  Again, sandy, and wonderfully clean.  Beaches of note from here are Saundersfoot, Wiseman’s Bridge, Amroth and thence to Pendine. 

BABS to celebrate 90th anniversary of... - BABS - Parry Thomas's 1926 Land  Speed Record Car | Facebook

Pendine is a favourite, because, as you might have heard of it before, it is the location for many speed trials, including the famous “Babs”, the racing car in which John Parry-Thomas broke the land speed record back in 1926 at 171 mph.  As you know, Sir Malcolm Campbell then beat him in his “Bluebird” at 174 mph, and then in 1927 Thomas returned to beat him.  Although Thomas beat him with 180 mph, a member of the public walked through the timing beam, meaning Thomas had to go again, and that, unfortunately, didn’t end well.  The beach is still used to this day by the likes of BMW and Mercedes to test their cars, and numerous car shows and actual speed events.  However, it’s a great beach to walk, play, fly kites and go rockpooling on!  It is also Ministry of Defence land, dear Readers, so watch out for unexploded bombs, and, get ready for it, deer with one antler.  I kid you not.  There are all sorts of strange animals which dwell in the MOD lands (don’t ask) and one day, your Hapless Blogger was plodding along, minding her own business, when, like a one-antlered marauding angel/devil/deer, it appeared, standing on the sand dune above her head.  It was GINORMOUS.  He and she started at each other for a while, neither of us knowing exactly what do:  should I scream/faint/or worse?  She shot off pretty quickly…

An insider tip for you now, dear Readers, as we love an insider tip…full of them today in fact…if it’s really busy, don’t go to Pendine the populated end.  Head towards Laugharne, and about 3 miles after you’ve excited Llanmilo, opposite Broadway Country House, turn towards the sea and head to a place called Ginst Point.  Follow the teeny tiny road down, through the other end of the MOD area – don’t worry too much about the big “No Entry” signs, they’re just to keep the tourists at bay (joke).  You come to a carpark, and the most wonderful, deserted white sandy beach of dreams.  From Pendine, on a clear day, you can see all the way to North Devon.  It’s so clear and clean, but don’t forget, this is the Atlantic, so not only is it very tidal, it’s also very dangerous.  As a housekeeping note, from about April until about October, there are substantial jelly fish, so if you have small children and dogs, just keep an eye out…

Wales in a nutshell (or should that be case?).  Other beaches of note are Swansea and the Gower Peninsular.  All stunning and worth a visit, however we would warn of difficulty in accessing most Gower beaches in high season, so again, this is the time to go!  Keep your eyes peeled for England…coming soon!!