- On 24 Jun 2020
That is its (Britains) glory, you see.. That it manages at once to be intimate and small scale, and at the same time packed to bursting with incident and interest.” – Bill Bryson (Notes from a Small Island)
Is it trying to figure out how to put up the recently bought tent on a windy and wet afternoon, gawped at by others sat in the warmth and comfort of their caravan?
Or the happiest moment of getting an ice-cream whilst walking along the beach, turning to tears seconds later as it drops out into the sand – the precursor of the same emotion of having your team score an injury time winner before VAR rules it out?
Maybe it is rushing to the amusement arcade with a handful of pennies granddad passed over with illicit wink, or possibly sat in the back of your parents car for what seemed like eternity on drive to seaside (pre-Motorway days…!) dreaming of being liberated and old enough to take own holidays to the exotic ‘abroad’?
It didn’t matter if that was just across the Channel – simply because it was a different country it was exotic and somehow by definition – better.
Those treasured and memorable, are-we-there-yet, family-focused, sometimes soaked-wet-to-the-bone, fulfilling British holidays.
Fast forward many years.
On a train to Edinburgh with a younger couple sat opposite discussing where they wanted to go for their next holiday. Their list of possible destinations were, I suppose inevitably, abroad and the further and less visited by their social group the better.
It appeared their choice being based on impressing rather than inherent pleasures and fulfilment to the self. All the while the rugged beauty of the Southern Uplands were floating by outside the window like a rejected suitor.
Running through the Lakes with an Antipodean colleague who kept stopping, staring and taking photos of stone barns. Now at first I’m thinking, “nice but been there seen it got the t-shirt” until in answering some of his questions I started to notice an awful lot more about it and, like when looking longer at a Van Gogh, began to be even more appreciative of the skill, talent, beauty alongside the insight into the lives of the creator and the social history and tales it was shouting out.
Rising perpendicular up the steep fellside a little way behind, one of the thousands of stone walls that criss-cross the Lake District and beyond. In answering the question of why it is there – an obvious question really given the considerable efforts involved several hundred years ago to build, using just physical labour – drew me into an even more appreciative recognition of what we have in our very own backyard.
These human creations from yesteryear, dwarfed by the stunning scenery of Easedale – in the heart of the Lake District and on the doorstep of C2C Packhorse. Into the picture-perfect Grasmere combining beauty with intellect and the Dove Cottage home of William Wordsworth. Then up to the imposing majesty of Helvellyn.
This is just one of an almost limitless number of wonderful scenes and immersive experiences that exist across the UK. How many times though have you heard people say they’ve never seen much of it? More time spent abroad than holidaying in this most remarkable island.
It may have taken a “piece of bad news wrapped in a protein”, as Nobel Prize laureate Peter Medawar describes a virus, to mean we all look on our own doorstep for holidays this year but this is something to be celebrated rather than bemoaned.
What is so unique or special about domestic holidays in the UK? Well- Where to start?
So much variety across a relatively small area for a start which means almost anything you wish to do you can do.
For outdoor activity (and from my personal experience) it is ideal for trail running, fell running, walking, sailing, climbing, open-water swimming, surfing, climbing, road cycling, mountain-biking- the list is near endless.
Our beaches are surely amongst the best too… (don’t base your response on the weather…). Whether it be the delightful coves in Cornwall, the empty sandy expanses of Dumfries and Galloway, the Castles and Coast of Northumbria, the remotely stunning bays of the Outer Hebrides or the Jurassic cliffs and fishing villages like Robin Hood’s Bay as you reach the finish of the Coast to Coast….The photos, sensations, solitude where sought, the reveal as the tide retreats, excited chatter of children and more.
For culture, from stone age monuments to state of the art museums, through mind-blowing galleries, incredibly creative artists, iconic musicians, Festivals and music venues.
Go back in time on steam railways or fast forward to the future at innovative space and science centres.
And then the important part: Exploring the culinary wonders – over my lifetime the transformation in the quality, creativity, imagination, experimentation and quality has been breath-taking. Walking the Coast to Coast I’m sure nobody actually loses weight, given the gastronomic delights using locally sourced food that await every evening.
The afternoon tea and home-baked scone or late morning coffee and cake – I challenge you to come up with a better snack offer when undertaking outdoor activity, or as a little ‘treat’.
Then once we come onto drink, well there is surely no comparison anywhere around the world to the intensely refreshing, exquisitely tasting real ales you can enjoy across the UK and especially on the Coast to Coast. The craft, pure fresh water and love that goes into producing the perfect pint, that you savour along the C2C all happens just a short distance from where you’ll drink it.
And of course, you’ll be drinking it in a pub of character – some dating back several hundred years where you can sense the ghosts of yesteryear in the beams. Some of more recent evolution but always where the conversation is easy and free to start up – and of course all in your native language. Sat in Fox & Hounds, The White Lion, The Black Bull, La’l Nook, Kings Arms, Lion Inn et al savouring Ennerdale Wild, Hawkshead Pale, Dent Aviator, Black Sheep after each day on the fells is to the soul as nectar is to the honey bee….
Where to get to you’ve not had to suffer all the hassles of the airport – the overpriced parking, food, drink, the hassles of security, the inevitable delays, the impersonal service. Instead, with only a relatively short drive or smooth train journey, you’re in a beautiful place that tens of thousands annually fly halfway across the world to – it really is that good!
The right pace and way to enjoy the beautiful UK countryside? Well that’s at your own pace and nobody else’s.
Whether you walk, cycle or run all- or a small section of- the Coast to Coast, you will be in sensory overload from the incredible sights, characters, history, food, drink and culture you’ll experience.