The Mythical Side of England, Wales & Scotland
Beyond the iconic red “Routemaster” buses and the Tower Bridge of London, there is much more to explore and see in the United Kingdom (UK). In this article, we cover some “off the beaten path” experiences one can have in England and Wales, and even Scotland.
While the train networks in the UK, much like the rest of Europe (while we can still say that), are comprehensive and efficient, limiting yourself to the train routes typically limits one to the usual towns and stops frequented by tourists. If you have a driving licence (and do not travel with back seat drivers), we would urge you to rent a vehicle and drive yourself around the UK.
Isle of Anglesey, Wales
That would allow you to get to locations like these in the Isle of Anglesey, Wales. The Isle of Anglesey is an island in Wales packed full of historical castles, bridges, beaches and rolling hills that bring a much needed break from the concrete jungles we are most often exposed to.
The Isle of Anglesey is home to a number of agricultural farms and thus it is not uncommmon to see sheep dotted all throughout the landscape.
In fact, a number of these homes offer experiences such as those in this image. An AirBnb set smack in the middle of the rolling hills in a farm, and with a view out onto the entire Isle. The entire experience was made authentic by having to drive on some off-road trails to get to the farm itself, and being welcomed by homemade scones and eggs from the landowners’ own chicken coop.
Mount Snowdon, Wales
Right in the distance in the image above, is a view of the famous Mount Snowdon in Wales, the surrounding national park which it is set in famously known as Snowdonia Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (Snowdonia). Mt. Snowdown is the highest peak in England & Wales and stands at 1,085 metres (or 3,560 feet). One can either ride the Snowdon Mountain Railway up to the peak, or take a five-hour hike up, if you are feeling adventurous. However (having climbed through mountains of documents during discovery recently) the author naturally took the scenic railway up Mt. Snowdon.
There is a beautiful visitor centre with a nice café at the peak of Mt. Snowdown. Unfortunately, this being spring, the ice on the tracks had not fully melted and the mountain railway would only take one up three-quarters of the way up the mountain. Nevertheless, the sights from 800 metres up Mt. Snowdon were no less breathtaking, as these few images demonstrate.
It is easy to get lost in your own world atop such spots and in such scenery. Aside from the feast to the eyes, one can’t help but notice the tranquility and sheer silence amidst such nature (interrupted only by the occasional whistle of a passing mountain train). Coming back down to the base of Mt. Snowdown, there is still plenty to keep one occupied, starting with the breathtaking Lake Llanberis.
There is also no shortage of scenic drives in Snowdonia. Although one should be careful of the perpetually wet and slippery roads, as well as two-way traffic on single file roads, there is no better way to experience the Welsh natural beauty up close than to take a slow drive through the landscape and stop at the various little towns (and pubs) scattered along the way. This was one of the parking lots for a pub along one of the drives (the designated driver should stick to water at the pub, for the avoidance of doubt this refers to pure H2O).
After a rather mythical journey through Wales, the author then progressed down south back into the shire county of Devon in England. Devon has plenty to offer, from beaches and national parks, to towering cliffs and plenty of rolling hills.
Along the long drive, Bristol made for a nice stop. In particular, the iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge which spans across the River Avon and is host to both pedestrian and vehicular traffic.
Another fun and nice town to stop by would be Dartmouth in Devon. The town itself is split down the middle by the River Dart and makes for quite a beautiful sight. Dartmouth is also home to the Dartmouth Castle and Kingswear Castle, each guarding either side of the mouth of the River Dart.
One of the most famous attractions in Devon is the 95-mile long Jurassic Coast which stretches from East of Devon all the way to Dorset.
Not only is the coast home to plenty of towering cliffs (often known as the “Dorset Cliffs”) but is also home to fossilised remains of organisms dating back up to 185 million years (the author found this a nice change from learning about jurisprudential history). A popular activity is to go on guided coastal walks where visitors can search for such fossils. The photograph is an example of what the author found on this walk (although it exceeded airline baggage allowance and had to be left behind).
If fossilised remains are not your cup of tea, one can spend the day marvelling at the sheer magnificence of the Dorset Cliffs and end the day with a magnificent sunset.
Lake District National Park (Lake District)
Located in the North West of England, the Lake District (England’s largest National Park) is now one of UNESCO’s world heritage sites, and is definitely worth exploring if you have a couple of days to spare in the UK.
For the solo travellers and/or the ones who prefer taking long train rides, it is not impossible to get to the Lake District by rail. One can easily hop on a connecting train ride to Oxenholme from any one of the main stations i.e. Manchester, London, Edinburgh, etc.
It may first feel a bit overwhelming as you would realise it is impossible to cover most parts of the Lake District. Afterall, the entire District is estimated to span an area of over 2,200 square kilometres (that is three times the size of Singapore!). It is therefore recommended that one picks a region in the Lake District to set up base (Coniston Water, Windermere, Ullswater, Langdale Valley, North Lakes, Derwentwater, Wastwater), and start exploring the area from there.
The author was in the region of Windermere, and found it to be a good mix of city and nature. The town of Windermere and Bowness-on-Windermere gives you a bit of the hustle and bustle of a small town. In the summer time, families and their little ones can be found engaging in a wide range of activities and attractions on and by the lake, including rowing, picnics and the like. A couple of hours were spent people-watching and enjoying the cool weather by the water.
A perfect way to experience some country side hospitality would be to stay in one of the many guest houses (Bed and Breakfasts) located within the Lake District. The author was lucky to find a quaint little bed and breakfast in Ambleside, at the head of Windermere. The host was very kind and gave tips on the best ways to get around the area and explore the breath-taking sights, the mountains (more commonly known amongst the English as “fells”) and the deep valleys.
If you are up for an adventure, it is also possible to hire a campervan in one of the big cities and camp at any of the many campsites in the National Park (don’t worry, there are showers available!). This is a great option if you are an avid nature lover and would enjoy waking up surrounded by hills and lakes. Camping is usually the preferred option for nature lovers as there are many walks available from each campsite.
Scafell Pike is England’s highest mountain which stands at 978 metres. From the campsite, there is a footpath that leads you to the climb. If you enjoy hiking, the climb to the top is achievable but should not be underestimated. Fellow hikers are very friendly and encouraging throughout the climb, and if you are unable to reach the summit and have to turn around half way, the view is still breathtakingly beautiful.
The best part of the Lake District being a National Park is that there are plenty of information and tips, readily available on the official Lake District National Park website.
Isle of Skye, Scotland
If you are planning a road trip in Scotland, the Isle of Skye is one place you cannot miss. The rugged landscapes, medieval castles, majestic waterfalls and fairy pools, and not forgetting spotting seals basking along the coast! The Isle of Skye is absolutely stunning.
Portree is the main town on the Isle of Skye and there are various Bed & Breakfasts, hostels and hotels available. From Portree, the main tourist attractions are a short drive away. If you prefer some peace and serenity, cosy Airbnbs are available around the Isle.
For the whisky enthusiasts, there is the Talisker distillery in Carbost where you can pay for guided tours and have a taste of the Isle’s single malt Scotch whisky.
Throughout your drive, do keep a look out for the “hairy coos”, also known as highland cows!
It does not necessarily mean that days must be set aside to experience the nature that the UK has to offer.
Approximately a 20-minute walk from the city centre of Edinburgh sits Arthur’s Seat, a mountain (and extinct volcano) that forms part of Holyrood Park. Most visitors commence their hike up to the top of Arthur’s Seat from the car park conveniently located nearest to the Holyrood Palace.
The hike up the hill is a challenge depending on which route one takes. All you need though is a good pair of walking shoes with proper soles (unfortunately, the author’s first climb up to Arthur’s Seat was done in sneakers on a day which got a bit muddy from the typical rainy weather in the UK). The fun in the climb is getting to the various cross roads, hoping that your chosen path leads to a shorter and quicker route to the top.
The view is certainly most rewarding as you get to see, from the height of 250 metres above ground, the entire view of Edinburgh City. The entire hike should take approximately two hours, depending on the amount of time spent turning back to admire the view from the various heights, and the number of panoramic shots taken. At the very top of Arthur’s Seat, the strong winds may get you feeling bitterly cold, but do try your best to take it all in!
On your way down, take extra care to go slow as it can get steep (and slippery) at certain parts, and it is not uncommon to find yourself reaching out to the bigger rocks on the side to maintain your balance. When making your way down from Arthur’s Seat, you may wish to go through Dunsapie Loch for a bit of a feeding session with the swans and ducks.
We hope our experiences and recommendations above give you the inspiration to explore and find your own adventure in the less travelled sites in England, Wales and Scotland. Safe travels, wherever that may lead you!
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