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Showing posts from 2023

Seaside Special - Off the beaten track: Dumfries and Galloway

Dipping our noses over the Scottish border for the first time on this circumnavigation, the broad, sparse and forested acres of Dumfries and Galloway beckon. We are back in 2007 now, on our way home from a three-generation, eight-berth family holiday in a remote house on the Sound of Sleat. More of that in later pages. The series goes clockwise, so we’ll hit North West Scotland later. For now, imagine five of us packed into a battered Zafira heading on a long schlep south and looking for somewhere to break the journey. We’d parted company with Mum, Dad and Bruv as they prepared to drop off their hire car and couple up with the Kyle of Lochalsh Line for the splendid Highland train journey back to Inverness via Achnasheen.   “Stop the car!” cried Granny. She’d lost a knitting needle. The girls chuckled and raised collective eyebrows. We were seriously overdue a break, though and this was the cue to pull over. Tourist Information helpfully found us B&B in Annan (remember when that

Seaside Special - Shifting sands: Cumbria

Is there anywhere finer in England than the Lake District? As a Yorkshire lad, it takes a lot for me to nod such glowing approval towards the west. But without sounding like a tourist office publication, Cumbria pretty much has it all. The region is England’s only genuinely mountainous area. It looked positively Alpine-esque on my first visit here as a callow youth, gazing up at the jags and serrations of Sca Fell Pike, Helvellyn, Great Gable and the like. I soon discovered the equally beautiful, if less dramatic, fells around Ambleside, Coniston and Grasmere; stunning passes into Buttermere and Eskdale; and sparse, squat villages like Elterwater, Boot and Glenridding. And the lakes themselves, of course. Swimming in Derwentwater on a summer evening outside the youth hostel. Stone-skimming on Wastwater under the vast bleakness of Whin Rigg. Throwing up on the shores of Crummock water after eating a rotten chicken breast. It was some while before I fully appreciated the Cumbrian c

Seaside Special - Blackpool birthday party: Lancashire

From Southport to Blackpool. The sublime to the ridiculous? Not quite. For all Southport’s genteel, let’s-retire-somewhere-nice persona, the place left me a little underwhelmed. For all Blackpool’s kitsch, tack and brass, I have a soft spot for the town. I’ve been coming here for years. As a kid we visited the illuminations in October, regularly staying in a boarding house on one of the many identical streets of two-and three storey Victorian terraced b&bs that all led to the seven-mile seafront. Mrs A’s Mum and dad came here for their honeymoon and returned in 1997 to celebrate their Ruby Wedding Anniversary. We came up to surprise them for a party, my daughter only a few weeks old. Blackpool’s emergence as a resort is similar, if a touch more dramatic, to the growth of the Scarboroughs, Great Yarmouths, Morecambes and other popular destinations of our great British seaside. The town’s growth has been fairly rapid since the late 18th century, when it was transformed from a