We do indeed live in a beautiful world and many of us spend a great deal of time planning our next holiday seeking out some of the worlds most exquisite locations. This is undeniably fun but major holidays invariably equate to major financial outlays and so are usually limited to one, or possibly two per year. Those who really cannot wait for the next major expedition may be tempted by the idea of taking a weekend break or two and there is certainly no shortage of short-term trips on offer. The question is whether any of them really cater for the kind of traveller looking for locations of spectacular beauty.
A quick look at the kind of trips on offer soon show that most of these short breaks tend to concentrate on the themes of pampering, in the form of spa holidays or city breaks where the emphasis is very much on entertainment and shopping. The other main type of weekend break is the “get away from it all” escapist relaxation holiday. Whilst all of these short breaks have their merits, none really seem to cater for the more adventurous beautiful world explorers. Short term breaks can, however, offer outstanding value for money especially when bookings are made for “off-season” times when operators are happy to offer substantial discounts in order to keep things ticking over during quiet periods. The other way to get some real bargains is to keep an eye open for last minute deals where the cost of flights and accommodation can be hugely discounted.
By their very nature, weekend getaways are unlikely to involve long-haul flights to distant locations but will be closer to home. City breaks, even those to beautiful cities, are unlikely to satisfy our criteria due to their emphasis on the built environment and urban activities. Most holidays benefit from a certain amount of “retail therapy” but there is no reason why it should be considered to be the ipso facto reason for the trip. The very idea of taking beautiful weekend getaways opens up new possibilities for exploring beauty spots which we may have otherwise overlooked. The following are a few ideas but the list is by no means exhaustive and is intended to encourage a little lateral thinking when planning such trips.
Everyone knows the Alps as one of the world’s leading winter sports centres but long skiing holidays can be very costly. During the summer months, the Alps are undeniably beautiful and the costs of accommodation can be much more affordable. The beauty of the mountains can easily be enjoyed and ski lifts can of course carry passengers down the mountains as well as up. Special deals for short-term visits are well worth looking out for but will probably involve a “long weekend” of around four days. Time your visit in the late Spring when the wildflower meadows are at their peak and the rivers and waterfalls in full flow. The Alps are vast stretching through France, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Monaco, Liechtenstein, Slovenia and Germany so there is plenty to go at!
Some beautiful places in the Alps: Matterhorn Mountain, The Eiger, Eisriesenwelt Cave, Swiss National Park and Verdon Gorge.
The Lake District
A visit to the Lake District conjures up images of hiking boots, bobble-hats, Kendal mint cake and well-deserved dinners in front of a roaring pub fire. This incredible area in north-west England is of unquestionable beauty. Those seeking out the truly spectacular may wish to consider visiting the western lakes such as Wast Water which are generally off the main tourist map and remain completely unspoilt.
The Wasdale Valley is simple awe-inspiring and almost looks as though the glaciers only retreated last week! This is a landscape of extremes and the area is often described as having the highest mountain, the deepest lake and the biggest liar! The World’s Biggest Liar Competition is an annual event held in a local pub and is generally open for all with the proviso that those in the legal profession and politicians are prohibited as they would have an unfair advantage! The competition is held as a tribute to a local landlord famous for his tall-tales such as his assertion that turnips grow so large in the Lake District that farmers often hollow them out and use them as cow sheds! More of the western Lake District can be explored by taking a trip on the nearby Ravenglass and Eskdale narrow-gauge railway known affectionately as “La’al Ratty”.
The mighty Snowdon is the highest mountain in the UK outside the Highlands and is a major attraction, over half a million people visit each year. Climbing Snowdon requires no special mountaineering skills but a good level of physical fitness is essential as is suitable clothing as weather conditions can change suddenly on the mountain. Making the ascent allows for the full beauty of this part of north Wales to be fully appreciated. Accommodation is available to suit all budgets.
The Northumberland Coast
For those who enjoy spectacular coastlines and beaches, nowhere in the UK compares to the shores of Northumberland. This is a remarkably unvisited area and, despite its great beauty, it almost seems that those who love the area try to keep the secret to themselves. With over thirty miles of unspoilt beaches, this has been named as being the best beach in the UK and it is an area of outstanding natural beauty. The incredible and picturesque Holy Island of Lindisfarne is easily accessed via a causeway at low tide becoming a bona fide island at high water. Reminders of the area’s great strategic importance in the past can be seen in the fortifications such as Bamburgh Castle and for lovers of wild life, a boat trip to the nearby Farne Islands reveals huge numbers of sea birds, including puffins, the UK’s largest colony of grey seals and porpoises and occasional whales can also be observed.
Short trips to Iceland are becoming increasingly popular and it is certainly easily accessible from the UK. Many trips include short boat cruises for whale watching and, in winter, there is also the possibility of seeing the Northern Lights. In summer of course the Northern Lights are not visible but with twenty-four hours of daylight, there is always plenty to enjoy; Jokulsarlon, Gullfoss Waterfall and Dettifoss Falls.
Norwegian Fjord Cruise
Now it must be said that cruises tend to be favoured by senior citizens who enjoy the carefree style of on-board life. A cruise may therefore seem to be a strange choice for those in search of the world’s most beautiful locations. It is however a particularly good way of enjoying the Scandinavian coastline. The trip across the North Sea is not particularly long, especially for those departing from the north-east coast but once again such a “mini-cruise” would really require a long weekend of four or five days. Some of the smaller cruise ships are able to get up close to some of Norway’s most spectacular fijords, mountains and waterfalls and there is also plenty of time spent on dry land. Perhaps it is time that cruises lost their image of blue rinses and tea dances and that they be recognised as a great way to see some incredible places.