Winning tip: Anglesey’s far corner
Penmon is a quiet village on the south-east tip of Anglesey, on the coastal footpath and cycling routes, near a wide sandy beach. Penmon Priory with its 400-year-old domed dovecote and St Seiriol’s Well are on the way to the point. Here there is a lighthouse and cafe and beautiful views of Puffin Island and the Snowdonia mountains across the strait. A woodland walk leads to a hidden castle. This hidden gem is just four miles from Beaumaris with its castle, shops, cafes, restaurants and boat trips.
Walk, run, test your eyesight in Teesdale
The Teesdale Way is one of England’s quieter long-distance paths. Largely following the banks of the River Tees, it starts from the remote moorlands of Cumbria and runs down past forests and waterfalls in Durham to the industrial landscapes of Teesside and the North Yorkshire coast. I recently ran a 10km section of the trail and saw only two other souls, along with fantastic views and wild deer. There are lots of options for camping, glamping and B&Bs along the way, including pleasant towns and villages such Yarm, Middleton in Teesdale and the now-infamous Barnard Castle.
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Coast, canal, forest – and beavers: Argyll
While everyone else going to Scotland aims for the North Coast 500 route, I’ll turn left at Loch Lomond heading west for a small area of Argyll where the Crinan Canal cuts through the top of the Kintyre peninsula. My favourite section is that nearing its western end at Crinan itself, a small village with a tea shop/gallery and hotel. You can walk or cycle along the towpath (experiencing the weirdness of a canal running above sea level), watch yachts coming through the locks, head up into the forests and maybe see the reintroduced beavers at Loch Barnluasgan, or just relax and enjoy the views out towards Jura and Mull. It’s a special place, where taking things slowly comes easily.
A better Glen Esk walk, Cairngorms
Hikers intent on climbing Scotland’s most easterly munro, Mount Keen, above Glen Esk, all miss out on a far quieter beauty spot nearby. A circuitous route around Loch Lee and the smaller summit of Cairn Lick is a far more rewarding walk. The walk takes in the length of the loch, passes by the beautiful Falls of Unich (pictured) and climbs up an impressive gully. On the descent you get views to one side of a lochan hidden from those at ground level and, looking forward, a sweeping vista of Loch Lee stretches down the glen. An inviting prospect for a cool down dip on a hot summer’s day. All this and rarely anyone else to share it with.
Caribbean Scotland: Isle of Erraid, Inner Hebrides
David Balfour’s Bay is a remote and breathtaking sandy bay with clear turquoise waters and pristine white sands in a stunning setting – the tidal Isle of Erraid, near Mull on Scotland’s Atlantic Coast. On a clear day, you could imagine you were in Barbados. To reach the bay, walk across Erraid from Knockvologan Beach at low tide. This scenic walk can be extended to explore the north side of Erraid where there are magnificent views of the Sound of Iona. Just be careful of tides so you don’t get caught there – a swim back would be invigorating!
Another lost garden, south Wales
Dewstow Gardens in Monmouthshire were only rediscovered in 2000 after being buried in tonnes of soil after the second world war and make a stunning place to visit for an afternoon. There are little nooks everywhere – ponds, rockeries, grottoes. It reminds me of The Secret Garden. There are a few great hotels near it also if you want to make a weekend of it.
• Reopened last weekend, takeaway refreshments only, adult £7.50, 6-10s £2.50, 11-18s £4.50, under-5s free, family £24
The Rhinog hills east of Harlech are wild, heather- and wood-covered beauties that, from the north, offer stunning views across Cardigan bay, and fabulous walking. They feel remote in that you might only meet feral goats on your path, but within minutes you can drop down to the coast, for example, to the morfa (marsh) and beach at Harlech or Shell Island, or to the pretty stone-hewn Ty-Mawr pub/hotel in Llanbedr. We stayed in the Laundry Cottage in Dyffryn Ardudwy close to the Cwm Nantcol campsite.
Cove to yourself, Falmouth
Don’t go to the castle in Falmouth, lovely as it is. Instead, park in the Pendennis Head car park (no charge), then follow the footpath down to the east and eventually you’ll access the hidden coves reached off the coast path. With a bit of luck you’ll have a cove to yourself, although you might have to share with a grey seal or two. Then the scene is set for sunbathing, swimming, rockpooling and snorkelling. Remember to check the tide times, and keep on eye on the incoming water … Otherwise this is the perfect spot for relaxation.
Cycling in south Cumbria
The Furness peninsula in south Cumbria is a great place to bring a bike. Loads of quiet lanes and close enough to the Lake District to take a ride out there. But there are some amazing sights in the immediate area. Furness Abbey (pictured, free but book a timed ticket in advance) is an impressive ruin and there are some great beaches – try Roanhead. There are fantastic views of the Cumbrian Fells from the local moors: the area at the top of Kirkby Slate Road at sunset has amazing views and a sense of solitude.
Greek island in north Devon
Known as Devon’s Greek beach, Broadsands beach in Ilfracombe is a pretty cove reached down over 300 steep steps that help keep the crowds away even on a warm summer weekend. The hidden beach is backed by cliffs and is best at low tide, with great views towards Combe Martin Bay. To get there, find the coast path behind the Sandy Cove hotel and look out for a wooden signpost among the trees to your right. For a good view of the beach, stay on the coast path a little further until you reach a caravan park and a well-positioned bench with a stunning view from above.