This is the second and final part of our group collaboration. Enjoy.
My favourite holiday destination in my home country: Bath, England, UK – by Janina from Stromfield Adventures
To find it on Google Maps, click here.
Living a stone’s throw away from Gatwick has distinct advantages but recently we have been making an effort to ignore that in a bid to explore more of our local surroundings – and we’ve been delighted with what we have found. We had always heard good things about Bath but until the summer 2019 I had never managed to make it and to see how much it has to offer. Although the Roman baths are, quite rightly, a main attraction it is full of other interesting sights to see and countryside to explore.
All photos in this section (c) Visit Bath
A B&B stay, all-inclusive (altar, etc.)
We landed on our feet by staying in a bed and breakfast which contained the old altar of the abbey. The original owner of the building had bought the piece and built the marble entrance hall to show off his acquisition so it was a history lesson from the minute we unloaded the car.
Easy to explore on foot
Location wise we were just outside the centre but Bath is not very big and it’s easy to catch a bus or taxi to get you there. A walk along the canal (which we did) on a beautiful sunny day is a stunning introduction to such a pretty town. Once in the town it is fairly simple to navigate on foot due to its size and the relaxed atmosphere makes it a delight to wander about and take in the gorgeous stone architecture.
Bath’s baths, bakeries, and beauty spots
As you would expect from a UNESCO World Heritage site there are attractions aplenty in the middle of the town. The Roman baths a whole educational experience, as well as some awesome sculptures, the baths themselves are stunning and I still couldn’t get over the thermal springs in the UK!! Sally Lunn’s open since 1680 has a wide variety of buns, some sweet and some savoury were a lot bigger than we anticipated and extremely tasty! The abbey is impressive both inside and out, go for a tour up to the top if it is open. The royal crescent is beautifully symmetrical and worth a wander and we didn’t even have time for the Jane Austen museum or the astronomer Herschel’s former home.
Once you are done with all of that there is a massive variety of eateries catering for all tastes and budgets and a similar story with the nightlife.
Bath is set in glorious countryside and what I really loved about it was to be able to explore buildings and history on one day and go for a walk the next. Bath has even laid out a pathway for you called the Bath skyline walk. Instructions are easily found on the internet although be aware if you do it backwards like we did it’s quite hard to follow the signs! You get rolling hills, ruins, some amazing views over the whole city and a feeling of space.
It was such a fabulous visit for us and I would like to think that we would definitely go back and explore those nooks and crannies we didn’t have time to get to, and soak up that fabulous atmosphere once more.
–> Looking for more of this? Check out Stromfield Adventures.
My favourite holiday destination in my home country: Hawaii, U.S., by Noel from The Packable Life
To find this archipelago on Google Maps, click here. The feature picture of this post above shows me hiking in Hawaii, by the way.
A slew of incredible destinations around the U.S. raced to my head while pondering my absolute favourite, but one incredible place stands far above all others – the Hawaiian Islands.
Surfing, Hiking, Camping, Cuisine
On a whim, I moved to Hawaii – a string of eight 2,400 miles off the west coast of mainland U.S. – and spent two years of my early 20s living in the tropical island paradise. During my stay, I explored Hawaii every chance I got – spending my days surfing, hiking, camping, and gorging myself on the local cuisine. It wasn’t hard to fall in love with Hawaii – island life was something I could get used to (and I did).
I lived on the island of O’ahu in Honolulu — Hawaii’s crowded capital city — which houses about 70% of the entire state’s population. I found a job working in a dimly-lit underground steakhouse, which provided me enough funds to pay my sky-high rent and explore the fascinating city around me.
A true melting pot
Cultures from around the world converged in Honolulu, creating an entertaining mix of tourists, natives, and mainland U.S. transplants, who walked the exciting streets together. The cuisine in the city was exotic and delicious, the nightlife was wildly entertaining, and silky white-sands beaches waited a short walk from my front door. I donned shorts, sandals, and a t-shirt year-round.
But, for as lovely as Honolulu was, Hawaii’s real magic lay outside the congested city.
O’ahu’s famed North Shore
On weekends, my friends and I would ditch Honolulu’s skyscrapers and traffic jams and make the hour-long drive to O’ahu’s famed North Shore. It was up north where we’d find pristine beaches that sprawled for miles, unspoiled by the over-crowded resorts and chain restaurants that were a commonplace in Honolulu.
Banzai Pipeline, Waimea Bay, and Sunset Beach
We’d spend our days snorkelling, swaying in hammocks, and gawking at the brave surfers who rode towering waves on the island’s most renowned surf spots – Banzai Pipeline, Waimea Bay, and Sunset Beach to name a few.
Once night fell, we’d return to our campsite where we’d sip beers, grill oysters over a crackling campfire, and gaze towards the heavens as sparkling stars blanketed the night sky above us. Life on the North Shore often felt like an overly optimistic daydream.
Kalalau Trail, Kauai
My brightest Hawaii highlight came when I flew from O’ahu to the sleepy island of Kauai with my girlfriend to embark on a four-day backpacking trip of the Kalalau Trail along jaw-dropping Na Pali Coast. The scenery along the 22-mile out-and-back trek was otherworldly, to put it lightly.
1km from the shore, vertically
Jagged sea cliffs hugged the pristine coastline and shot more than 900m straight into the sky. Majestic seabirds hovered above, scanning the water below for prey as sea turtles bobbed up and down in the sparkling ocean. Guava trees littered the dense jungle and dropped fruit that rolled lazily across the hiking trail. I’ve never been somewhere that felt so sacred.
I could keep writing for days about the Hawaiian Islands and the awe-inspiring experiences they’ve given me, but I’ll spare you the details. Just know that Hawaii is far and away the most remarkable destination I’ve ever explored in my home country – and it’s not even that close.
If I could travel back in time and relive an old chapter of my life, I’d turn back the clock to September 5th, 2011 – the day I packed my bags and started a new life in Hawaii. The incredible food, the rich culture, the picturesque beaches, the mystical aura in the air – I’d dive right back in without hesitation. Except this time around, maybe I’d stay a little longer.
–> Looking for more of this? Check out The Packable Life.
My favourite holiday destination in my home country: Balaton, Hungary, by Anna from Green Mochila
To find Lake Balaton on Google Maps, click here.
A country of lakes
Hungary has been on the rise as a holiday destination, but the vast majority of travellers leave after visiting the capital, Budapest. Although Hungary is a small country in the Carpathian Basin without high peaks to climb, there are gorgeous lakes to discover in the countryside. Lake Balaton is my favourite destination, where I spent many summers as a kid and as a teenager. And the sound of the evening waves is still in my ears. For these reasons, I love so much spending time at lakes, and the one I explored most recently is Quilotoa lake in Ecuador.
The largest lake in Central Europe
Lake Balaton is, in fact, the largest lake in Central Europe. It’s just over an hour’s drive or 1.5 hours by train to the west from Budapest. It used to be a very popular tourist destination not only to Hungarians but in the whole Soviet Block, especially for the former East Germans. You can still find German signs in eateries and accommodation (“Zimmer frei” for room available and “Mais” for corn are legendary!). That lake is actually dubbed the “Hungarian Sea”.
Maybe Stefan here from Berkeley Square Barbarian has heard family stories of holidays at the Balaton? Maybe even childhood memories? [Note from the editor: I have indeed. 🙂 ]
More than just some water
Anyway, if you ask Hungarians about Balaton, you’ll find that everyone has something in their heart for it (Hungarian expression). For the older generation, Balaton meant summer break in their workplace’s holiday residence. For the youth, spending a week with friends at Balaton means they have now entered young adulthood. It’s an emblematic occasion for everyone.
A popular destination all year round
Even these days Balaton is still the most popular holiday spot for nationals who want to enjoy great vibes. In the summer, businesses flourish, events pop up and the population doubles; while winter is a great time to meditate on the empty beach, marvel at the beautiful sunset and hit one of the good value-for-money spas, for example at Héviz. I recently discovered Balaton’s winter charm which is so different but equally relaxing!
Which shore is for you?
Balaton is a long lake with very different landscapes in the south and in the north. The south is flat and is ideal for families with small children as the water doesn’t get deep. The northern part is hilly and is better suited for swimming. If you want to cross to the other side of the lake, there’s a regular ferry between Szántod and Tihany; the journey is very smooth, short and relaxing on the beautiful blue water. There’s also a reliable train network all around the lake that seems to bring you back in time.
Wine and beach parties
Apart from the beach, there are other places to hang out and explore. The Badacsony wine region or Tihany, a small peninsula with an old monastery overlooking the lake from atop a hill. Wine lovers can indulge from June until September in wine festivals across the region, for example in Balatongyörök and in Balatonboglár.
Hungarian wines are really good, although they don’t do marketing well abroad – so definitely give them a go! My favourite Balaton wines are Csopaki Riesling, Badacsonyi Szürkebarát, Tihanyi Cabernet. Siófok is the biggest town on the Balaton, where you can splash into beach parties in the summer.
Sporty visitors, combine your visit with the annual Balaton cross-swimming competition of 5.2km taking place between Révfülöp and Balatonboglár. For a shorter distance, choose the 3.5km cross-bay swim between Balatonfüred and Tihany. I’ve never done the swim myself; but I can tell you that it’s already a lot of fun hanging around the competition and watch the swimmers!
Another activity for an active holiday is to cycle around the lake. There is a good cycle path all around and camping places to rest.
Zamárdi Sound Festival
And finally, who likes electronic music should hit the Balaton Sound Festival in Zamárdi every July. After Sziget Festival it’s one of the biggest lake-shore festivals in Hungary, popular among foreign visitors as well.
–> Looking for more of this? Check out Green Mochila.
My favourite holiday destination in my home country: Sydney, Australia – by Ellie (Ms B)
To find it on Google Maps, click here.
Even though Mr B and I have both been happily living in London for some fifteen years and became British citizens, I spent more than ten years in Sydney and I have a valid Australian passport.
My family relocated there from Wellington, New Zealand, when I was a kid. Sydney is definitely my favourite destination in Australia. So here we go.
The usual suspects
During our annual visits, time with family and friends aside, we usually start by visiting all the usual places.
We look for new street art and cool cafés in Newtown, where a lot of my uni seminars took place, we always visit the Sydney Fish Market, enjoy some Asian food in China Town (our favourite is sushi restaurant Yebisu, and nope, it is not Chinese, I know), have a cocktail at the roof top bar of the Glenmore Hotel on the Rocks, do the obligatory Sydney Harbour Bridge pylon climb (much cheaper than climbing the arch but with great views nonetheless; for best photo opportunities wait until one of the many seaplanes crosses above you or a cruise ship enters or leaves the harbour).
Walks in the parks
We love going for walks in the parks all about town, such as the Royal Botanic Gardens or the gigantic Centennial Park with its millions of bats that come out in the evening.
Not once have we missed doing at least two of the popular coastal walks. We take the catamaran ferry from Sydney Harbour to Rose Bay, then walk to the fabulous Watsons Bay, where you get some of the best views of Sydney while you gobble down your fish & chips or calamari at Doyle’s seafood shack on the pier. Don’t forget to make your way from there to Hornby Lighthouse, the picturesque main lighthouse of Sydney Harbour, with excellent views towards Mosman and Manly.
Bondi to Coogee is another favourite of ours, and, let’s be honest, you can’t visit Sydney without spending at least a few hours watching the surfers at Bondi. Mr B used to pronounce it Bon-dee for many years and I never told him the correct pronunciation (we both play games like that, keeps the relationship fresh… it is pronounced bon-dye, as most of you will probably know).
Whenever time allows, we squeeze in an overnight stay or two in the Blue Mountains, which are just two hours away by train. There are a large number of well signed-out hiking trails through the canyon and along the ridges.
Most importantly: don’t ever leave
We always leave Sydney with a heavy heart. Compared with the Big Smoke life over there seems so easy and relaxed. Everyone is cheerful and happy.
Forget what I just said
Then our credit card statements arrive a few weeks later and we realise that we belong to London, not Sydney. While thanks to the better exchange rate, Sydney is much more affordable now than it was six, seven years ago, everything from eating out to groceries is still rather expensive. Perhaps most importantly, it is impossible to find £50 Eurostar return tickets to Paris.
My favourite holiday destination in my home country: Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK, by Jim from Stromfield Adventures
To find it on Google Maps, click here.
Considering that I have lived my whole life in the UK it is remarkable just how much of it is left unexplored. Each of the four constituent nations of the UK has a wealth of cultural, historical and natural treasures waiting to be discovered.
Worth a second visit
It is very rare that I go anywhere on my travels where I feel any real desire to return. The World has so many delights in store and with far too much to ever see in a single lifetime, why revist somewhere when there is somewhere new to explore? There is also the danger of the second trip not quite recapturing the magic of the first. Belfast is one of those rare cities where I can see myself going back and it is partly for this reason that I have chosen it as my favourite place to visit in the UK.
From Troubles to trendy
My first memories of Belfast are from a young child and seeing clips in the news about the infamous troubles. It did not seem like a sensible place to go and my GCSE history studies about the conflicts in Ireland just reinforced this. Fast forward 20 years and Belfast has been transformed.
Wandering through the city centre leaves a visitor to the city completely unaware of the divided nature of this city. Belfast has gone through a rejuvenation in recent years and the centre is packed with interesting eateries and watering holes which we sampled on our visit with gusto. The food was really excellent, particularly the Irish breakfast packed with enough calories to sustain an adult man for about a month but with such deliciousness that you can’t help but eat one every morning.
Explore by bus
Another excellent feature of Belfast is the fantastically droll sense of humour of the locals which percolates a trip to the city. Despite the near freezing temperatures when we visited, we braved the open top bus tour and the wit of our tour guide amused us to such an extent that we could have stayed on the bus for a second loop!
The tour takes you a little out of the city centre and it is in the residential areas where you can appreciate the beauty of the partisan murals that leave you in no doubt if you are in a unionist or republican neighbourhood and is well worth doing to absorb a little of the recent history of Belfast.
The Titanic did WHAT..?!!
Belfast is not short of sites to visit and for those that like a good museum the Titanic Belfast museum is a world class experience. Housed in a new building shaped like the bows of the short-lived vessel which the locals will remind you ‘was fine when it left us’. The exhibits are informative and interesting using some of the latest visual technology and keep you occupied for hours. You are also never too far from a reminder of the ship building heritage of Belfast as the hulking yellow cranes, Samson and Goliath, dominate the skyline.
We spent just two nights on our trip to Belfast and only just scratched the surface of this amazing city. We will definitely have to return!
–> Looking for more of this? Check out Stromfield Adventures.
My favourite holiday destination in my home country: Northeast Scotland, UK, by Morag from Life of Morag
To find it on Google Maps, click here.
I may have lived in England for most of the past seven years, but I was born and bred in the Northeast of Scotland. That will always be home for me. When asked, I am Scottish or British every time.
Scotland has become a more popular spot on the tourist trail with tours to Edinburgh, The Isle of Skye, The North 500 and The Highlands, springing up all over the place. Northeast Scotland is still a hidden gem, so come along on this blog post journey and let me show you my favourite corners. And make sure you have your own car. Public transport is not always brilliant here.
Visit the Queen’s Scottish home and take in the grand castle and stunning grounds of Balmoral. When the Queen is not in residence you can access most of the grounds and the estate. I would particularly recommend the Cairns Walk for the great views.
Enjoy the historic town and the many small, independent shops. I also highly recommend the family-run Riverside Cottage Café, just outside of town.
Drive out to Newburgh, about 30 mins from Aberdeen, and walk through the stunning Forvie Nature Reserve. You have open country, sand dunes, sweeping sand beach and at some points of the year even see seals.
Royal Lochnagar Whiskey Distillery
Would it be a trip to Scotland without checking out how we make our national drink? Take in the distilling process then sample a ‘dram’ at the end. Fun fact in 1848 Queen Victoria visited the Distillery and was so impressed with her whiskey tasting she granted the distillery a royal warrant.
With roots back to the 1300s the current castle was built in the 16th century. The fabulous old building sits in some equally beautiful grounds.
Another stunning old castle, the northeast is full of them! This is one of Scotland’s oldest tower castles. There is an especially lovely café situated in the castle courtyard. I would also recommend taking a walk around Drum Woods.
This coastal town has the key advantage it can be visited by a 20-minute train journey from Aberdeen. Walk along the beach, have ice cream at Aunty Betty’s or lunch at The Old Pier then take in old town around the harbour. If you are feeling adventurous hike the coastal path to ruined Dunnottar Castle, you don’t get much more iconic than a huge ruined castle on an outcrop in the North Sea surrounded by rugged coastline.
Now we move onto my home city of Aberdeen. It is a great base for exploring the rest of the Northeast but take some time to see what it has to offer. There is more than meets the eye.
My favourite place to eat in Aberdeen, especially for breakfast, those pancakes are just divine.
This ice cream parlour, so named because it is 19.2 miles from the Mackie’s farm, has been a great addition to the Aberdeen food scene. With so many delicious flavours to choose from, large sitting area and central location as well as being locally produced. What’s not to like?
Aberdeen Art Gallery
Newly opened last November after years of renovations the Art Gallery is well worth taking in. With everything from Victorian water colours to impressionists to modern sculpture, it is fully accessible and has two cafes.
It is worth taking a stroll past this huge granite building from 1835. With its gothic revival designs and miniature spires, it is imposing to look at. And you can say hello to Scottish hero Robert the Bruce, in statue sitting proudly on his horse.
Take in the various street arts designed by local artists doted around the city.
No trip to Aberdeen is complete without going to the beach. Whether you simply want to walk along the sand, explore the historic fishing village of Fittie, have coffee at the Sand Dollar Café or maybe even go to the funfair, there is something for everyone.
So, there we go, the Northeast of Scotland. I could have gone on for pages more, there really is so much to see and do. But hopefully I have told enough to persuade you of the interest and value of this my home corner of the world.
–> More of this? Check out Life of Morag.
Back to me, Mr B – A big THANK YOU!
I will be eternally grateful to all contributors to this two-part group collaboration blog post. Many thanks also to you, the reader. I hope you found some travel inspiration for the future. Do check out our friends’ beautiful blog websites for much more of where this came from. We regularly do so and have never regretted it.
Should you have missed Part I of this group collaboration, then by all means please do give it a read here. Also, do feel welcome to have a look at our post about packrafting in Wales.