Surfing in Bridgend County
With hundreds of thousands of passport applications yet to be completed, 2014 might just be remembered as the year that summer holidays forgot. But what’s the one way to absolutely 100% guarantee that a passport-related mishap isn’t going to impact on your summer vacation? Spend it in the UK!
Here’s a handful of fantastic ‘staycation’ ideas that won’t cost the Earth, won’t involve a very heated discussion with the Passport Office the day before departure, and definitely won’t leave you disappointed this summer!
Trampoline web at Llechwedd Slate Cavern
1. Mid Wales
If passport constrictions mean you’re missing out on the queues at Disney World this summer, you don’t have to travel transatlantically to satisfy the kids’ desire for adrenalin.
Mid Wales is quickly becoming the new destination for alternative adventure. The largest zip zone in the world has just opened in Blaenau Ffestiniog spanning over 8km with zip lines that can take up to four people side by side at a time.
Next on the agenda for Blaenau Ffestiniog is Bounce Below opening in July; an underground quarry bigger than St. Paul’s Cathedral which houses giant trampolines linked by a sixty foot slide and illuminated by a light show. Visitors will only be able to access the deep depths of this new tourist attraction by train, perfect if we want to keep the kids entertained on those inevitable soggy British summer days.
2. Bridgend County, south Wales
Whether you’re after sandy beaches, remote wilderness or a relaxing stay in a plush hotel, you needn’t travel half way round the world when Bridgend County has everything you’re looking for!
One of the top spots in the UK for surfing, why not take up a couple of lessons with Porthcawl Surf School or former South African pro Ingemar Cressey Maybe hide away in your own traditional Mongolian yurt (complete with some wild foraging) or spend a couple of nights enjoying the splendour of the luxurious Coed-y-Mwstwr Hotel.
Combine all that with a wander barefoot across the beautiful sands of Rest Bay and you’ll wonder why anyone goes abroad in search of beaches! http://www.bridgendbites.com
Wye Valley & Forest of Dean cycling
3. Wye Valley and Forest of Dean
With its fantastic scenery The Forest of Dean and Wye Valley is undoubtedly one of the best places in the UK for cycling. For this reason some of the biggest names in the business, including Bradley Wiggins, Laura Trott and Roger Hammond, are coming down to celebrate the Abergavenny Festival of Cycling on the 23rd-29th June. If you can’t make the festival, why not enjoy some summer cycling. We’re hoping for that heat wave we’ve been promised, but regardless you will find shelter and shade in the forest and cool breezes and places to dip your feet in along the river Wye.
The region offers something for everyone from family-friendly, traffic-free cycling trails, world-class mountain bike riding, experienced companies who offer lessons and downhill racing. Many accommodation providers offer cycling packages including Tudor Farmhouse, The Speech House Hotel and there are lots of self-catering cottages including The Hollies which has a fully equipped workshop for cycle storage and maintenance if you want to take your own bikes.
Cycling Guides offer a map with a number of routes and information, it can be purchased at several shops in the area including Pedalabikeaway who also offer cycle hire for everyone (bikes, tandems, trailers, child seats).
4. Pembrokeshire Coast National Park
Why fly all the way to the Caribbean when Pembrokeshire’s Barafundle Bay has already been tipped as one of the best beaches on the planet!
And great beaches also means great seafood. Coast restaurant in Saundersfoot which opened in May, offers beach-side dining with stunning views and a menu filled with local delicacies. Chef Will Holland’s fish dishes have proved so popular, he regularly has to call his fishermen contacts to replenish stocks before dinner service.
If you’re looking for beachside snacks, The Pembrokeshire Beach Food Company scooped the best street food/ takeaway at the BBC Radio 4 Food and Farming Awards 2014. Combing foraged ingredients including different seaweeds, you can try unique seashore wraps, sea-inspired cakes and deli products. The company has five mobile beach shacks. All food is 100% local.
And if you need a brief snooze after all that delicious food? The Grove, Narberth offers a number of cottages in the grounds of their hotel with housekeeping services and breakfast every morning. Rates start at £190 per night.
5. Cambrian Mountains, mid Wales
What type of safari don’t you need a passport for? The type of safari that takes place in the beating heart of Wales, of course! The rugged and secluded heart of Wales boasts a wonderfully diverse range of wildlife, natural and man-made landscapes. Pass through forest or open moorland, plunge into valleys and crevices and climb upland routes past reservoirs and dams.
And in amongst all that natural beauty you could just be lucky enough to spot a Red Squirrel or Red Kite. Look a little closer and you might just catch a glimpse of a black grouse or even an otter.
Cambrian Safaris have been offering guided excursions out into the wilderness for several years, and are the the perfect people to help you get the most out of a trip into the country’s fascinating centre. For more information, visit www.cambriansafaris.co.uk
Brecon Beacons Holiday Cottages
6. Brecon Beacons National Park
Forget sun loungers and overcrowded hotels and instead opt for the space to run wild and free this summer in the fresh air of the Brecon Beacons. Families can enjoy this natural playground; choose from play barns, underground show caves the mountain railway, castles or simply explore the mountains and discover the stunning waterfalls.
A unique destination for sport too; the SAS and British Army regularly use the mighty Beacons mountain tops as an intense natural training ground. For tennis fans there is not a more idyllic setting for a game than this ancient land of flat-topped peaks, endless views and green, eternal valleys with plenty of Brecon Beacons Holiday Cottages properties boasting their own courts.
Sonia the converted boat (Under the Thatch)
7. Ceredigion, west Wales
Never fear if you can’t make it beyond the British coast this summer as you’ll be surprised what you can discover locally if you leave your passport behind.
Why go abroad when you’ve got Europe’s largest pod of bottle nose dolphins in West Wales? Instead of packed flights and hoards of tourists scaring off the wildlife, head to the quiet shores of Ceredigion and you could also catch a glimpse of grey seals, porpoise, whales, basking sharks and leatherback turtles. Spend the day on a boat with A Bay to Remember followed by sleeping in a boat of your own in Under the Thatch’s Sonia, after a summer evening sipping on the totally unique, local Seaweed Gin.
Don’t forget the town of New Quay where you can follow the Dylan Thomas trail and enjoy a pint in his honour in the national treasure’s favourite haunt, The Black Lion.
8. South Downs National Park
Opt for a staycation in south-east England and take advantage of the country’s newest national park – the South Downs. It’s one of the world’s most well-connected national parks with trains serving many towns and villages, and local bus routes heading even further off the beaten path.
Book tours from the conventional to the quirky. How about water-based adventures with a canoeing tour? Or a mushroom walk combined with a cookery course to taste the fruits of your labour? Our top pick would be a vineyard tour and wine-tasting session, the perfect way to enjoy a summer’s afternoon.
…the perfect way to get blottoed and enjoy the great British countryside while forgetting that you could otherwise be on a Caribbean island if it wasn’t for the Passport office’s incompetency. For these and many more tour ideas visit South Downs National Park
Coasteering © By Preseli Venture
9. Preseli Venture Eco Lodge and Adventures
Preseli Venture are the perfect example why people should opt for ‘staycations’ in the UK this year. Why go abroad when you can swim beneath awe-inspiring sea cliffs, in crystal clear waters, and enjoy the fishing antics of north Atlantic sea birds up close? Preseli Venture have over 25 years experience in making the most of the rugged coastline with tailored outdoor adventure programmes in carefully selected spots around Pembrokeshire.
10. Chocolate weekend with The Carter Company
Chocolate makes everything fabulous, so a new weekend break offered by The Carter Company boasts a triple whammy of fabulousness with a stay in a grand 16th century coaching inn, an opulent afternoon tea and a chocolate-making lesson at Rumsey’s Chocolaterie. The package also includes a self-guided walk in the Chiltern hills – – a welcome distraction from all of the amazing food! This two night “Ramble with Rumsey’s” package is available over any weekend and costs from £333 per person (based on two sharing).