Some of my most memorable holidays have been to national parks. These places are more than just clichéd family holiday destinations – they are Nature’s showcase of unique wildlife and unsurpassed natural beauty. The untouched natural beauty of these national parks makes them appealing to every age group and life stage. On my holidays to national parks around the world I’ve come across couples on a romantic getaway, families with young children, retired couples and groups of friends.
St Ives, Cornwall; there’s nowhere in the UK quite like it. Year on year, visitors are compelled to return to their favourite beaches and natural landmarks, or discover for the first time a whole host of outdoor activities. Is it the scenery; the wildlife? Or is it the opportunities for family-friendly fun?
Whatever it is that attracts tourists to St Ives and its surrounding area, there’s little wonder with so much to see and do. First-off, the beaches; and they’re as suited to sunbathing and swimming (well, if you’re here in the summer) as they are to extreme sports. Few activities allow you to appreciate Cornwall’s wide, open sands as power kiting—a rather windy and wild affair on the shore—and if you’ve ever fancied coasteering, Cornwall’s cliffs and clear waters make for perfect conditions. With Vertical Descents, even beginners can get to grips with wetsuits, waves and wild days out: just check their site for details.
Northumberland is well known for its sweeping landscapes, stretches of clear coastline dotted with castles and, of course, Hadrian’s Wall, but there is much more to this wild, rugged county waiting to be discovered.
Northumberland’s best-kept secret is that it is just as good with the lights off. Yes, you read it correctly – Northumberland is beautiful in the daytime, but in the dark, it is simply spectacular. Northumberland is home to one of the largest and most tranquil national parks in England, which sees minimal light pollution. Cawfields Quarry in Northumberland National Park is officially recognised as a Dark Sky Discovery Site; when the lights go out, the stars become vivid, glittering against a clear, inky sky above Northumberland.
Walk through an arboretum decked out with exotic trees, soak up autumnal colours from a steam train and spot red squirrels in unspoilt woodlands with Visit England…
Soak up autumn colours aboard a steam train: Exbury Gardens, Hampshire
The bursts of colour from the Japanese maples, dogwoods and azaleas that’ll hit you along the autumn walking trail come late September are pretty magical all by themselves; but add a steam-spouting locomotive into the mix too, and autumn at Exbury Gardens becomes even more spectacular. The compact railway gently chugs along a one-and-a-quarter-mile circular route lined with towering oaks and various themed gardens, all bursting with mellow autumnal hues. It’s one of the most unique ways to experience the changing of the seasons.
Find somewhere to stay in the New Forest.
Secluded coves, sandy beaches, rolling hills and – of course – clotted cream. These are the images that are synonymous with Devon, a region as famous for its long sunny days as its rich dairy products. Aside from the natural wonders of the Devon countryside, there’s also the quaint villages, ancient churches and seaside towns to explore, from Brixham to Exeter. The quintessential Devon holiday involves glorious weather, buckets and spades and a plethora of outdoor activities, from horse riding to white water rafting.
At the end of a day spent exploring the countryside, you’ll want nothing more than to retreat to your holiday cottage and relax in style. Speaking of style, we’ve rounded up a selection of Devon cottages that are imbued with style, pizzazz, class, charm and a bunch of other superlatives. Put simply, this is the best of the best: our favourite Devon holiday retreats. Don’t dream on – read on and then pick the one you like best!