Meeting people for business or family this last Christmas told me that many people are not just fed up, but also quite concerned about travelling. I can understand how they feel, if you measure what has happened in many destinations; you could be forgiven for having second thoughts about booking that getaway. Determined to try and lift the gloom around us, I thought it would be good to share with you some of my favourite and yet to be discovered holiday destinations. So, whether you are looking for complete rest and relaxation or some place new to explore, my top six list will suit modest pockets with a 'wild-card' thrown in for those with extra to spend! My recommendations start close to home in the UK:
1. Llanidloes, Central Wales. This little gem of a town exudes charm and the promise of a time gone by. The town is set at the end of a beautiful valley and surrounded by woodland and great walks. It sits close to the source of the River Severn and contains a rich landscape of lakes and forest. The Elan Valley and the more mountainous beauty of central wales is close by as is the vibrant town of Aberystwyth which extends views around Cardigan Bay and beyond. Llanidloes is a great base to explore this fascinating region because whatever you want from a holiday, this is the area I recommend you try!
2. Another UK hotspot is Portreath in Cornwall. This gentle town opens up into a great beach and bay with views along the coastline and across the deep blue of the Atlantic. This countryside is all Poldark, revealing many coves (some with seal colonies) and the opportunity to be the only person to walk along their sands! There are many days out to enjoy whether it is to St Ives or up to Port Issac, the home of Doc Martin. Its climate is good winter or summer and the gentility of Portreath will not fail to enchant.
3. For my next recommendation, I offer Galway City in the Republic of Ireland. Tea-shops (try the fruit loaf or a traditional Irish afternoon tea), shops and history fill its streets and by ways. If crystal is your thing then make sure you visit Galway Crystal, cheaper than other Irish brands but no less attractive! You will find that the City is full of music, whether that is in the street or the many bars in the town. But, on its doorstep is the wonderful Galway Bay (try the locally caught seafood) and just north-west of the City is the vast and wild expanse of Connemara; pristine beaches, soaring mountains and great accommodation can be found in this area. Galway City is the best base for the West of Ireland; there is plenty of fokelore, mystery and a magic in this countryside only superseded by the warm welcome you will receive!
4. If you fancy something more continental and warm, then head down to the Charente-Maritime in south-west France. From ocean-going yachts to the humble wooden shacks of the oyster farmers to the sweeping pine forests that extend along this coast and stunning Atlantic beaches, you will not be disappointed. Accommodation choice is richly abundant from nights in tents or modern mobile homes (many of these sites offer luxury facilities and entertainment) to the rustic charm of a gite to boutique or old style hotels, you can have it all or whatever suits your pocket! Whilst the beaches are great attractions, I recommend that you cycle through the miles of coastal forests from Ronce les Bains (old style French seaside town) to La Palmyre the bustle of a modern French seaside town - La Palmyre Zoo is an absolute must to visit - see how close you can get to the animals!. If it's sophistication you want head down to Royan and its many up market bars for that cocktail or try the annual Viola des Sables for a night of classical music under the stars!
5. If the heat does not suit you, then this summer, go to Iceland! Virtual 24 hour daylight will give you the maximum opportunity to explore this island which is covered with snow and ice during the winter months. The centre of activity can or course be found in Reykjavik; watch out for shops that sell the famous Icelandic woollen jumpers to shops that reflect a time gone by where animal pelts are offered for sale. On the quayside there are fish restaurants but the Seabaron offers what I think is the finest fish soup that you will ever enjoy. Travelling in the summer offers the opportunity to see the extensive scenery of Iceland, in particular do not miss the many gigantic waterfalls, some of which have been made famous by the film Prometheus; make sure you also visit the Blue Lagoon! The summer provides a better chance to see whales and other sea-life of the north Atlantic. Flights to Iceland have become much cheaper and the array of holiday accommodation will suits all pockets!
6. If its further afield you want, one hot destination this year is Costa Rica. This unique country is sandwiched between Nicaragua & Panama in Central America. It enjoys two coastlines; the Pacific and Caribbean. Peppered with white and black sand beaches, its sea-life is abundant as is its watersports. But this small country also offers tropical rain-forests, rivers and waterfalls with activities to match. This is a new destination for UK holidaymakers, serviced by two UK airlines; if you can afford to go, get in while you can at the start of what is sure to become a popular destination!
Whatever you decide, my recommended list is sure to tweak your interest and who knows; you may find even greater locations and adventures you can share with me?