It’s the little moments that make the best memories, says travel writer Sian Lewis.
The wonderful wild world is waiting – but there’s no need to travel far to find a little solace in the great outdoors. The best of life’s pleasures are the simple ones – hot tea by the sea, a cold-water dip, a night spent sleeping under canvas or the sweeping beauty of a mountain view. This year, explore mindfully, travel slow and really soak up what you see. As the saying goes, ‘wherever you go, there you are.’
A cold swim – The Blue Pool, Gower
There’s nothing like stepping off a river bank or a lake shore into the cold embrace of open water. Wild swimming brings instant calm and a connectivity to the natural world – we’re all 60% water, so perhaps it’s natural that we feel the urge to dive into the cool waters of a glassy lake or to feel the salty tang of the sea on our skin. When I want to get in touch with my inner mermaid I go for a float in Blue Pool Bay, a gem-like tidal pool on the Welsh coast that’s revealed at every low tide. Legend has it that the pool is bottomless – the jury’s out, but it’s definitely deep enough that you can jump in from the rocks and let its crystalline waters embrace you.
A meal cooked on the fire – Outer Hebrides
Cooking outdoors is a completely different experience to sticking something in the oven at home – lighting a fire and grilling fresh produce over crackling wood is a simple, mindful delight. You can start simply with a fire pit in your back garden, but I love to camp and cook on the wild, windswept islands that make up the Outer Hebrides in Scotland. Have a feast around a fire on a white sand beach or make a coffee on a camp stove halfway up a mountain – anyone for baked potatoes, campfire coffee or roasted marshmallows with a view?
A sip of wine – Isles of Scilly
When you think of lush apple-green vineyards, balmy California or far-flung Stellenbosch might be the first places to spring to mind, but winemaking destinations closer to home can be just as rewarding to visit. Journey to the Isles of Scilly, a tiny archipelago 28 miles off the coast of Cornwall, and you’ll feel like you’re arriving in another world. These five islands are small patchworks of subtropical gardens and golden beaches, and on one, tiny St Martin’s, you’ll find the smallest and most south-westerly vineyard in Britain. Its line of vines overlooking the dunes of Par Beach is perhaps the most idyllic spot in Britain to raise a glass and toast the view.
A sleep under canvas – Devon
Get back in touch with the natural world (and your own wild side) by spending a night under the stars. Camping is one of the simplest – and most affordable – ways to stay out in nature, and Devon’s rocky coastline and wild moorland is the perfect place to try a kip in the outdoors. You can wrap up in a sleeping bag by the fire at cosy Springfields, camp among the wildflowers at Little Meadow, or try wild camping in Dartmoor National Park, where you can pitch a tent where you please.
Staring at stars – North York Moors
“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” If you want to get a fresh perspective on our planet, lie back on a clear night and look up at the mind-bogglingly beautiful night sky. There are 170 billion galaxies in the observable universe, and no better place to catch a glimpse of their twinkling presence than the North York Moors, an International Dark Sky Reserve. Take a blanket and a thermos, sit back on a clear, balmy night and see what wonders you spot.
A cuppa by the sea – Cornwall
Is there a simpler pleasure than a brew with a view? Fill a thermos with piping hot coffee or your favourite herbal tea and walk to the coastline to choose your own moment of calm. I love to tramp the South West Coast Path in Cornwall between Boscastle and Tintagel. Here be legends – the fishing village of Boscastle is where they say local witches used to entrance visiting sailors. From here you can hike along soaring cliffs to reach Rocky Valley, a deep natural gully home to waterfalls and ancient stone carvings, and stop to raise a cup to the myths of the past.
A beautiful view – Snowdonia
In Wales there once lived a huge giant called Idris, and Idris was a big fan of pondering philosophy and the ways of the world. Idris and his kin may be long gone from the land but his chair remains for those who care to climb it, hence its name – Cadair Idris, or Idris’ Chair. This is a pretty romantic way to introduce one of Snowdonia’s finest mountains, but then Cadair Idris is a romantic place. Climb the mountain’s steep slopes for a big dose of fresh air and a sweeping vista over one of the most impressive tableaux in Britain – steep, heather-clad hills sloping down to a patchwork of fields and wooded glades in the valley, with the sea glittering in the distance.