The Northumberland Coast (in summer!)

The UK isn’t known for its beaches, and for good reason – its only warm enough for them 3 months of the year and even less the further north you go!  That’s why the coastline of Northumberland, and in particular Bamburgh Beach and Embleton Bay, comes as a bit of surprise when I put them in a list of the top beaches in the world.  But before you write it off as nostalgic madness, consider a few factors:

  1.  The castle backdrops – Bamburgh Castle is an imposing 11th century Normal castle that looms over Bamburgh Beach from its crag right on the waterfront and with as much history as almost any castle in the world.   England dominates the world for stunning castles by the beach, and Bamburgh is the jewel in the crown.  Dunstanburgh Castle, whilst more battered over the centuries, provides a similar backdrop for Embleton Bay
  2. The quality of the sand – the sand tone in this part of the world is the same as the powdery sand you find in the tropical beaches of the likes of Brazil and the Caribbean, and is so fine it squeaks, which is in stark contrast to some of the pebble beaches you find in the eastern Mediterranean and south of England
  3. The cute villages by the water – the likes of Low Newton-by-the-Sea, with its gorgeous white cottage square green circled by local pubs overlooking the beach are about as quaint and lovely as anywhere in England
  4. Few tourists – “best kept secret” seems to have held well for decades and you simply don’t have the volume of fellow tourists as you would in the south of England.  The beaches are wide and long, and you will likely have big chunks to yourself
  5. The Northumberland Coast Driving Tour – you have some great nearby attractions that share the quiet vibe.  In particular, Hadrian’s Wall (the well preserved northern boundary of the Roman Empire), Lindisfarne (aka Holy Island – a key centre for the spread of Christianity in Britain in the Dark Ages and infamous site of the first Viking invasions), and the various quaint Northumberland villages dotted no distance from the coast


It obviously doesn’t hit the tropical beach vibe, but is nonetheless beautiful.  Just be sure to go in summer!

10 day roadtrip around Tasmania

Tasmania is one of the jewels of Australia for its rugged remoteness, world-class natural landscapes, unique history and fewer tourist numbers compared to some of the other famous sites.  It also has the added benefit of being far smaller than some of the other parts of Australia, which makes it ideal for a week-10day road trip.  The itinerary below gives you the highlights of this wonderful little island


3 high level tips:

  1. Could do in a week?  You could do this itinerary in a week by shaving off Port Arthur and the Tamar Valley, but it will feel a little rushed.  10 days far better . . . and don’t make the error most people make which is dropping the west coast – it is the highlight of Tasmania
  2. UNESCO rate Tasmania – the high scores give an idea for just how impressive Tasmania is, and in particular the West Coast.  But don’t only take my word for it.   UNESCO have 10 potential criteria for a site to be designated World Heritage, with only one of the criteria needed to be met.  The Tasmanian Wilderness Area in the south west part of Tasmania meets 7 of the 10 criteria which, alongside Tai Shan in China, places it at the top of all sites in the world.  Really is quite a remarkable place to visit
  3. Tasmania or South Island New Zealand?  The two are often compared as they’re relatively close and similar sizes which, considering the world-class natural landscapers of the South Island, gives you an idea of the quality on offer in Tasmania.  Broadly, I’d say that the South Island just nudges it from a natural sites point of view based on its snow capped mountains, glaciers and fjords, but Tasmania clearly wins from a cultural significance point of view and might just shade it based on its more compact size for a roadtrip and its lower fellow tourist numbers

Tasmazia and the Village of Lower Crackpot

A bit cheesy, but really good fun.  Tasmazia features 8 mazes, one of which is The Great Maze which used to be the world’s largest; a cute model village in the centre called Lower Crackpot; and all within the quite stunning backdrop of Cradle Mountain and the Tasmanian Lake District.  Surprisingly good fun getting lost in amongst it all, and make sure to fill yourself up on the giant pancakes in the cafe