The Weekends 1-26

52 Weekends by the Sea begins the exciting journey right around the shores of Britain at Cape Wrath in the top left corner of Scotland.  From here we take you on an inspirational trip down the rugged west coast, through Wales, all the way to Cape Cornwall in Weekend 26.

 

Places to Remember

  • John Lennon’s holidays
  • A lighthouse expedition
  • Volcanic ceramics

In the top left corner of a map of the British Isles you’ll find the most northwesterly community in mainland Britain at Cape Wrath and Durness. A few hundred souls inhabit an untamed territory in which it’s easy to lose yourself, whether you want to or not.

This is a magnificent, mean and moody place where old tin sheds are kept on this earth by lumps of rock. There are two hundred days of rainfall every year, much of it horizontal, yet the climate is unpredictable; one day sea fog, the next clear skies. Four seasons in one day is not unusual. Even in July there’s a distinct waft of peat fires in the air.

The Necessity of Wilderness

  • Distant shores
  • pioneer John Muir
  • low impact camping

Remote Sandwood Estate in the highlands of Sutherland boasts undeveloped countryside and two of Britain’s best beaches; the golden sands of Oldshoremore, reached easily from a single track road, and the distant arc of Sandwood Bay over two kilometres long.

Accessible only on foot, rugged Sandwood Bay is the perfect place to experience the natural high of wild camping. 

Highland Fling

  • Scattered crofts
  • Heavenly islands
  • Good living

Beyond Ullapool on the north west coast of Scotland there’s a string of small settlements dotted around the beautiful Coigach peninsula; the scenery is breathtaking and people are few. It’s an irresistible combination.

This most sparsely populated corner of Scotland is one of the oldest landscapes in Europe and part of the North West Highland Geopark that extends from the Summer Isles in Wester Ross through west Sutherland to the north coast.

Take the high road

  • Dramatic mountain pass
  • highland scenery
  • super seafood

If you’re looking for a white-knuckle drive with jaw dropping views, head for the Bealach nam Bò, or Pass of the Cattle, in the spectacular highland scenery of Wester Ross, Scotland.

From Kishorn to Applecross, the single-track mountain road is bleak, dangerous and not for the faint hearted.

Starting at Kishorn, the road bristles with warning signs and a low level alternative is suggested for learner drivers, large vehicles and scaredy cats.

So who is going to drive? Passengers have permission to gasp at the views; drivers must have eyes only for the snaking road ahead. Otherwise it’s curtains.

Between Heaven and Hell

  • Highland bothy
  • Isolated village
  • Far-flung pub

Some of Scotland’s highest mountains rise in Knoydart, an untamed peninsula on the north west coast of Scotland. Wedged between the sea lochs of Nevis and Hourn, known as the lochs of heaven and hell, the magnificent ‘Rough Bounds’ of Knoydart feel like an escape to another world.

Crossing on a quiet, damp day in July there were just eight of us aboard the small boat, including a Danish couple who were enjoying the Scottish experience wearing all the wet weather gear they could muster, on loan from their bed and breakfast landlady; this is the wettest part of the Highlands.

The Train Now Arriving at Platform 9 ¾…

  • Hogwarts Express
  • A world-class train journey
  • Silver Sands

It’s not often you arrive at the station to be greeted by a chalk board declaring all 400 train tickets are ‘Sold Out’, but that’s what happens at Fort William when the train in steam is the magical Hogwarts Express.

In Harry Potter films, the Hogwarts Express leaves London’s Kings Cross Station from platform 9 ¾ and races through dramatic scenery along ‘The Road To The Isles’, the route of West Coast Railway’s Jacobite train.

For two hours, from Fort William at the foot of Ben Nevis mountain to the fishing port of Mallaig on the Atlantic Ocean, it’s drama all the way.

Go West!

  • Whale watching
  • White beaches
  • Emerald forests

Ardnamurchan, the Land of the Great Seas, is the furthest point West on the British mainland. Reaching the far-flung peninsula on the north west coast of Scotland is an adventure in itself but well worth the effort. The spectacular destination, around two hours drive from Fort William, the largest town in the West Highlands of Scotland, is the haunt of sea eagles, whales, golden eagles and red deer.

Seaward

  • A seaside canal
  • Artists and Ancient oods

The remote Crinan Canal in Argyll and Bute is known as ‘Britain’s most beautiful short cut.’ Opened in 1801, the waterway links the Sound of Jura and the West coast of Scotland with Loch Fyne and the Clyde Estuary. At Crinan harbour, a visit to the family run Crinan Hotel near the sea lock is a must. Frances Macdonald, one of Scotland’s most highly acclaimed contemporary artists is at the helm with her husband, Nick Ryan. Together, they have made the hotel a heavenly oasis; staying there is a real treat.

Let’s Get Away From It All

  • Go-slow lifestyle
  • Gulf Stream gardens
  • Spectacular seabirds

If your idea of heaven is unspoilt villages, unpolluted air, lush pastures and quiet country lanes, then pack your bags for the Rhins of Galloway, a stunning peninsula in southwest Scotland.

Often described as ‘Scotland’s forgotten corner’, there is a real sense of being in another world. The climate is mild and there are spectacular sea views at every turn. The Rhins feel like a heavenly island, just twenty miles long.

Fish and Paint

  • Artists’ colony
  • Secret garden
  • Artists’ colony Secret garden

‘The artistic centre of Galloway is Kirkcudbright, where the painters form a scattered constellation, whose nucleus is in the High Street, and whose outer stars twinkle in remote hillside cottages.’
Dorothy L Sayers

The Crossing Place

  • World heritage site
  • Area of outstanding natural beauty

The Solway Firth, on the frontier of southwest Scotland and northwest England, is one of the most natural and least industrialised estuaries in Europe. While the serene landscape is awash with bloody history, today it’s a great place for a quiet weekend.

Solway takes its name from the Norse, ‘Sul wath’, meaning muddy ford, reflecting the strategic importance of the crossing place used by Celts, Britons, Romans, Angles, Vikings and Normans.

See Red

  • Sandstone Saints
  • Seabirds and submarine mines

West of the Lake District, there is superb coastal scenery around the distinctive red sandstone cliffs of St Bees Head. Along with some of England’s largest seabird colonies, you’ll find the simple pleasures of country walks, bike rides and buckets and spades on the beach.

The pretty village of St Bees has welcomed pilgrims in search of miracles for more than one thousand years. According to Medieval legend, St Bega, the holy daughter of an Irish King, refused to marry a Viking chieftain, jumped in her coracle and sailed alone across the Irish Sea to St Bees.

Another Place

  • Iron men
  • Prehistoric footprints
  • Dunes and pinewoods

Much about this weekend on the Sefton Coast, within easy reach of Liverpool, is extraordinary, including one hundred spectacular iron men on Crosby Beach; the largest sand dune system in England; the awe-inspiring sight of prehistoric footprints on the beach and the weird sound of natterjack toads in the dunes.

Sculptor Antony Gormley’s massive installation of one hundred figures, cast from moulds of his own body, stretches three kilometres along the Sefton coast. How you discover the iron men of ‘Another Place’, depends very much on the weather and state of the tide.

Where the Dee Meets the Sea

  • Marsh mayhem
  • Viking settlers
  • Island trio

Three tidal islands, extraordinary bird watching, challenging golf and spectacular sunsets make the Wirral peninsula on England’s northwest coast a special place to visit.

Twenty kilometres long and nine kilometres wide, the marshy Dee estuary, is one of the most important wetland sites in northwest Europe. The winter arrival of over 80,000 birds from Iceland, Greenland and the Arctic puts it in the top ten for over wintering wildfowl and waders.

Exceptionally high tides between September and March, bring mayhem to the marsh. You’ll need to stake your place among twitchers along the shore to watch the gripping wildlife drama unfold.

A Touch of Class

  • Seaside splendour
  • Mountain scenery
  • Sheltered gardens

On a beautiful evening, the splendour of Llandudno is magical; elegant hotels, dressed in seaside pastels, grace the north shore promenade, a necklace of white lights adds sparkle and exotic palm trees suggest that your weekend away is somewhere much further than the north Wales coast.

Llandudno is the dream-come-true of the influential Mostyn family. Using the 1845 Act of Enclosure, known in Wales as Deddf y Llaadrad Mawr, the Great Theft Act, they turned common land by the sea into a grand resort for the middle class. Gracious buildings and wide boulevards, fit for Victorian horse drawn carriages and cabs, were laid out on a grid pattern, to create a sense of airy refinement.

Secrets of Wild West Wales

  • Hideaway beaches
  • Lush country lanes
  • Poetic landscape

Welsh language and culture remain strong on the Llŷn peninsula, pointing out to sea like a witch’s bony finger. This is a landscape of whitewashed farms in patchwork fields, deep country lanes and high hedges brimming with bramble, fern and wildflowers.

Footpaths and cycleways entice you to explore sandy beaches, picturesque harbours and a wide range of marine habitats.

Colour Therapy

  • Grand designs
  • Dylan Thomas
  • West Wales Dolphins

Stir your creative spirit with a weekend in the vibrant Welsh seaside towns of Aberaeron and New Quay in Ceredigion. Bold splashes of colour, leaping dolphins and dramatic connections with Dylan Thomas make this weekend an invigorating experience.

The paint box town of Aberaeron is pure colour therapy, even on the dullest day.

Splashdown

  • Remote rural beaches
  • industrial villages
  • inspiring landscape

Spend a Welsh weekend pottering around the quiet industrial heritage of the beautiful north Pembrokeshire Coast. Simple pleasures, mooching on secluded beaches and discovering one Britain’s best preserved Bronze Age settlements, make this a great escape.

Laid-back Porthgain is gathered around a village green, close to the lovely harbour. In the nineteenth century the community grew around brickworks and two quarries, known as Jerusalem and Caersalem, which kept local people in employment until closure in the 1930s.

The crisp sea air is pure and the industrial harbour is quiet now but Porthgain is an atmospheric place; it’s easy to imagine how the hillside must have resounded to the din of ships loading up with hard dolerite road stone bound for Ireland, the hissing steam crusher grinding slabs of rock into assorted sizes, the narrow gauge railway rattling back and forth over the headland and clouds of dust everywhere.

Headspace

  • Seabirds
  • Islands
  • Seals

Magnificent West Pembrokeshire is all about the forces of nature.

Sea salt breezes carry a coastal symphony; the raucous chatter of seabirds, the thunder of rolling waves and the haunting moan of Atlantic grey seals in sheltered coves.

The coastal scenery of the Marloes and Dale peninsulas in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park is spectacular. When you want to connect with the elements, this is the place to be.

Circle of Friends

  • Tea with Aunty Vi
  • Magnificent limestone cliffs
  • Military manoeuvres

Sublime beaches and an exhilarating circular walk around Stackpole Head in the southwest corner of Pembrokeshire, the UK’s only coastal National Park, make this weekend perfect for time away with friends or family.

The ten-kilometre walk starts at Bosherston. Before setting out, visit the Olde Worlde café where Mrs Weston, or Aunty Vi to regulars, has been serving tea for over seventy years. In 2009 she received an MBE in recognition of her services to hospitality and tourism. Opened by her parents in 1922, the café exudes time warp charm.

Saddle Up

  • Pagan landscape
  • Headline beach
  • Clifftop golf

The landscape of the Gŵyr, or Gower, peninsula, west of the city of Swansea, became the first of the UK’s forty-seven Areas of Natural Beauty (AONB) in 1956. There’s a distinct air of Welsh romance about limestone cliffs and hidden bays, ruined castles and wild horses on the salt marsh. Whatever the season, whatever the mood, time spent here is richly rewarding.

Shiver me timbers!

  • Saints
  • Ghosts
  • Movies

Leave the fast lane behind and escape off the M4 motorway in South Wales to explore Glamorgan’s rich coastal landscape marked by ancient history, extraordinary geology and strange goings on.

Nash Point is an atmospheric place. On the beach, rock fall from near vertical soft cliffs appears like smashed digestive biscuits over wide wave platforms.

Behind the beach, chains of horses were hidden in a sheltered wooded valley to carry smugglers’ contraband inland.

The Wreckers’ Coast

  • Dramatic coastal scenery
  • Weird geology
  • Cream tea heaven

From Morwenstow in Cornwall, to the lighthouse at Hartland Point in Devon, the Atlantic coast is awash with deadly rocks, shipwrecks, and spectacularly weird geology - perfect inspiration for Robert Stephen Hawker, Cornish hero, opium smoker, poet and eccentric vicar of Morwenstow from 1834 to 1875. It’s a dramatic place to visit for a weekend.

Beach Break

  • Surf
  • School
  • Sand

Back to school for surf lessons on Cornwall’s Atlantic coast, where the teachers wear wetsuits, the classroom is a golden beach and the playground is the pounding ocean.

Surfing is booming although the scene has changed dramatically since the heady days of the Sixties and the Beach Boys’ ’‘bushy, bushy blonde hairdos’. Now balding novices and silver surfers are just as likely to catch a wave alongside those sun kissed bleached blonde dudes.

On the Towan

  • Literary inspiration
  • Miles of beach
  • A world heritage site

The faded glory of a pioneering port whose industry shaped the nineteenth century world and mile upon mile of dreamy beaches make Hayle and St Ives Bay an intriguing combination.

The global significance of Hayle’s industrial heritage is recognised by the town’s inclusion in the Cornwall and West Devon World Heritage Site. Take a walk to discover Brunel’s viaduct, the harbour, quays and canal so vital for trade; Foundry Square’s handsome boom time buildings and Loggans steam powered mill, the largest listed building in Cornwall.

Ocean Drive

  • England’s only
  • Cape Mysterious landscape
  • Mining Heritage

Between the tourist magnets of St Ives and Lands End, there’s wonderful West Penwith, a wild, windswept place, strewn with the chaos of giant boulders, ancient stones, burial places and country paths shrouded in mystery. There’s no doubting its appeal. The western extremity of Cornwall is an intriguing place to spend a few days.