13th January 2020
Destination 2020 The United Kingdom
Some of the most beautiful places in the world can be found in the United Kingdom. These include St David’s Peninsula in Wales, the Isle of Wight off the coast of England, the New Forest in the south-west of England and the Lizard, the southern-most point of England.
St David’s Peninsula in Wales
Along the coast of St David’s Peninsula in the Welsh county of Pembrokeshire raging seas crashing into rocky bays throw spray across the Pembrokeshire Coast Path above them. The natural wildness of this area is preserved by the creation of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park which incorporates the peninsula close by.
Oriel y Parc Is the visitor centre for this park. It is housed in an innovative building utilising state of the art green technologies to provide its own power and water. The area is a haven for wildlife particularly around Ramsay Island where seals bask on the rocks, guillemots and razor bills nest in the cliffs and puffins can be seen bobbing in the sea. Boat trips are available around the island but a special treat on an evening trip is the sight of the shearwaters heading home to roost.
While visiting the peninsula I stayed in the city of St David’s famous for its magnificent cathedral dedicated to Saint David and the charming ruins of its ancient Bishop’s Palace. My first sight of the cathedral on passing through the Porth y Twr or Tower Gatehouse was enchanting and memorable.
I stayed at the Twr y Felin Hotel. Twr y Felin Hotel incorporates an old windmill built at the beginning of the nineteenth century. It is both a hotel and an art gallery and guests will be fascinated by the collection of paintings exhibited throughout the hotel. Some of the paintings, depicting the local area were specially commissioned. The on-site restaurant Blas Restaurant serves excellent dishes created from the best of the local produce. Twr y Felin Hotel is owned by the Griffiths Roch Foundation. This foundation owns two other hotels in the area – one at the other end of St David’s and the other a few miles out of the town. I was lucky enough to stay in both of them during subsequent visits to the area. Penrhiw Priory, set in beautiful grounds is on the outskirts of St David’s. Roch Castle is exactly that – a beautifully renovated castle perched on a hill – offering stunning views of the surrounding countryside. All three are justifiably renowned for their excellent hospitality.
The Isle of Wight in England
It is hard to believe that the short trip across the Solent on a ferry can take you to another world. On the Isle of Wight place the pace of life slows down amongst a rolling agricultural landscape fringed by a beautiful coastline. A coastline that features some famous sights. The coloured sands on the cliffs of Alum Bay and the strange rock formations known as the Needles now owned by the National Trust bought the Needles Headland
The restful ambience of the island has attracted the attention of many famous people in the past. Today their residences have become monuments of a glorious era. The island’s most famous resident was Queen Victoria who set up a family home here with her husband Prince Albert and their nine children at Osborne, near Cowes. The extensive grounds of Osborne stretch from the outskirts of the town down to the sea. A tour of the magnificent Italian Villa designed by Prince Albert is a snapshot of the lives of this famous royal couple. Prince Albert also designed the Swiss Cottage as a place for his children to play and learn. Princess Beatrice, the youngest daughter of Queen Victoria inhabited another icon of the island, Carisbrooke Castle.
when she became governor of the island. This castle is famous for the donkeys that were introduced to turn the wheel that brought water up to the castle from its well. A tradition that is continued to this day.
Lord Alfred Tennyson, poet laureate and the most famous Victorian poet once lived on the island. Farringford, is a Grade 1 Listed Building in Freshwater Bay which, after undergoing extensive restorations is now open to the public. Dimbola, was once the home of Julia Margaret Cameron a pioneer Victorian photographer. The house is now a museum, furnished as it would have been when she lived there. It features a small collection of her work. Dimbola is the birthplace of the annual Isle of Wight Festival which has since moved to a larger site. A relatively new festival on the island is the two-week Isle of Wight Walking Festival. This festival features around one hundred different walks many of which are led by local people keen to show visitors why the island is so special. I have done two very different walks on the island. The first was an interesting tour of Shanklin and its historic theatre and the second delved into the folk lore of the island.
While visiting the island I stayed in the village of Bembridge at the Bembridge Coast Hotel. It was my first experience of an adults only Warner Leisure Hotel and I was very impressed. The grounds of this large merge into the pebble beach below it – ideal for early morning wandering. At high tide the coastal path is close by. The restaurant is cleverly designed with separate dining areas on different levels that I never felt overwhelmed by the large numbers that this hotel can accommodate in a variety of different accommodation. I was impressed by the quality of the food in its Four Tides Restaurant. Guests can choose from a large buffet or select dishes from a menu.
The New Forest in England
Historically a royal hunting ground the New Forest has evolved into a fascinating region that continues to uphold ancient grazing rights. Ponies, donkeys, sheep, cattle and deer graze freely throughout the year and are joined by pigs in the autumn. These customs and traditions as well as the history of the forest are a feature of the New Forest Museum in Lyndhurst. The woods, grasslands and marshes of the New Forest National Park are punctuated by pretty towns and villages oozing character and thatched cottages.
Lyndhurst was one of four very different places I visited during my stay in the New Forest. The others were Brockenhurst Lymington, Ringwood and the stunning Exbury Gardens. Animals wander freely in the streets of Brockenhurst sometimes pausing to do a bit of window shopping in the interesting independent shops that line the Village High Street. A local public house, the Snakecatcher, is named after the town’s most famous resident, Harry “Brusher” Mills who was born in 1840 near Romsey. He lived in a hut and made his living catching and selling snakes. Visitors to this public house will find a lot of information about him on the walls of the building. Lyndhurst was chosen by William The Conqueror as his base when hunting in the forest more than nine hundred years ago. It is still central to the running of the forest and the protection of its customs and traditions in the Verderers’ Court that generally meets once a month.
Lymington is famous for its large Charter Market that takes place every Saturday morning. Stalls line its wide Georgian High Street on both sides attracting visitors from far and wide. In bygone days it was also a favourite haunt of smugglers and many a tale is told of their activities. In particular, those concerning one of their own, the notorious Tom Johnstone. St Barbe Museum and Art Gallery is the place to go to learn more about the history of this coastal capital of the New Forest. Ringwood, just inside the forest is another market town although the sale of animals for which it was once famous has now ceased. However, it is still famous for its brewery. Tours of Ringwood Brewery include a tasting of its famous brews including Razor Back Boon Doggle, Forty-Niner and Old Thumper – all well-established favourites. A visit to Exbury Gardens is always a delight but especially in the spring when the exquisite blooms of the azaleas, magnolias and rhododendrons line the paths that lead down to the banks of the Solent.
The Lizard in Cornwall, England
The beauty of the coast that encircles the headland in Cornwall known as the Lizard is breath-taking. It has earned the accolade of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. In spring and early summer waterfalls of bright blooms on wild flowers cascade down the cliff faces, they carpet the open spaces and nod greeting to those passing through the narrow country lanes that weave their way from village to village. The Lizard is an extraordinary place ending at Lizard’s Point where its lighthouse is open for tours. The best way to get to know this area is on foot. It is easy to do small sections of the South West Coastal Path aided by the local bus service that follows a route around the coast.
Mullion on the Lizard is ideally placed to enjoy the sandy coves along the South West Coastal Path which skirts this traditional Cornish village. In one direction the path goes down to Mullion Cove also known as Porth Mellin. This picturesque port features two stone piers built towards the end of the nineteenth century. Once an important pilchard fishery it still supports a few fishing boats whose catch is mainly crabs, lobsters and crawfish. The homely Porthmellin Tea Rooms serve a delicious fresh crab sandwich. In the opposite direction the path goes to the gorgeous, sandy Poldhu Cove which is also accessible by bus and car. On my way to this cove I passed the Poldhu Wireless Station. It was from here that Guglielmo Marconi’s sent the first transatlantic wireless signal in 1901.
My favourite place is Polurrian Cove which lies between the other two coves. This cove is the quietest of the three and is reached by a gently descending footpath. There are no facilities here, shade is provided by rocky outcrops and it never gets crowded which makes it even more attractive. This cove is just below The Polurrian a lovely hotel perched on the cligg tops about it. Accommodation available included comfortable bedrooms, self-catering villas. Set amongst verdant lawns and colourful gardens the hotel is connected to the South West Coast Path and close to Mullion village.
Getting to St David’s Peninsula
There are regular trains from London Paddington to St David’s via Swansea and Haverfordwest. National Express operates service once a day from London Victoria to St David’s. The other alternative is to drive and it is a good route via as far as it is possible to drive on the M4 after that it gets much slower but there is the compensation of driving through picturesque landscapes.
Getting to the Isle of Wight
There are regular ferries to the isle of Wight and a choice of routes as follows: Lymington to Yarmouth; Portsmouth to Fishbourne; Portsmouth to Ryde; Southampton to West Cowes or East Cowes. I took the Wightlink Car Ferry from Portsmouth to Fishbourne (Ryde) and from there it was a short drive to my hotel in Bembridge.
There are also several public transport options to get from the mainland to the Isle of Wight including “through” tickets to the Isle of Wight port of entry. Onward travel tickets, including travel on the Island Line Train are also available and discounts such as Railcards are valid for these tickets. The passenger ferry to Ryde pierhead is a good option as there is a regular train service operating from Ryde Pierhead connecting the east and south of the Isle of Wight via the towns of Ryde, Brading, Sandown, Lake and Shanklin.
There are good bus services for getting around the island operated by the Southern Vectis. This bus company who also organise days out around the island.
Getting to the New Forest
Although the New Forest is well-connected to major roads within the forest the roads are narrow and get very busy during the holiday period. There is a regular train service operated by South Western Railway from Waterloo to Brockenhurst and a good local bus service in the New Forest so why not leave the car at home? You can hire a bike to explore the forest or explore on foot. Don’t forget to buy your Go New Forest Card that offers discounts on local New Forest businesses.
Getting to the Lizard
Regular train services from London Paddington to Redruth then take the L1 bus to Mullion. By car the quickest and easiest route from London is via the M4, M5 and A30.