Ten incredibleUK places that feel like you’re abroadwithout a car
Flying feels more and more like a dodgy idea - what with the climate and coronavirus crises. So, when we are allowed to travel for fun again, where can we go in the UK to get the sense of wonder that comes from the best trips abroad? Here are ten suggestions you can reach without a car and some alternatives that might be more local.
1. The Norfolk Broads
The huge, flat expanses of the Norfolk Broads are ideal for social distancing and for a sense of Holland’s windmill-dotted polders. The Norfolk coast is as near to the Netherlands as it is to London. Wool was exported through the Broads to medieval Flemish weavers, thousands of Dutch Protestant refugees settled in the area, bringing distinctive gables, and Dutch engineers oversaw the draining of fens. Strangers’ Hall in Norwich tells the story of the city’s historic Dutch community. Walk some of the 60-mile Weavers’ Way to explore the meadows, reed beds and isolated windmills between Cromer and Great Yarmouth, a wilderness of birds, racing hares and deer.
- Get there: Regular trains from Norwich to Great Yarmouth travel through the wild marshes. To get straight out into the wilderness, take one of the trains that stop at Berney Arms, a station with no roads or houses – just a railway and long distance paths. You could walk along the River Yare to Great Yamouth (about five miles) or cross-country to Acle (about six). Look out for thousands of pink-footed geese flying overhead.
- Refreshments: Eat your broodje kaas (cheese sarnie) with gouda on the bench near Berney Arms Windmill, four miles from the nearest road, or a bowl of sustaining clam chowder outside the Beach Hut in Great Yarmouth, facing a long, level beach stretching out to the distant sea.
2. Harrogate Stray in Spring, Yorkshire
A flowering avenue of frothy pink already shedding a few delicate petals onto the grass below creates what the Japanese call mono no aware, an empathy for the transient beauty of life. But there’s no need to fly to Yoshino to appreciate sakura season – instead, head to Harrogate Stray in April to see cherry trees in bloom. Two long avenues, planted to celebrate the Queen’s coronation, flower briefly but spectacularly each spring.
- Getting there: The Stray is a ten-minute stroll from Harrogate Station. While in the area, don’t miss the little pagodas, bamboos and azaleas in the Valley Gardens and, beyond them, the spring displays at Harlow Carr.
- Refreshments: On cobbled Montpellier Street, ten minutes’ stroll across the grass from the blossoming cherries on the Stray, a small Japanese restaurant called Domo serves everything on their menu to take away including Bento boxes with miso soup and tempura prawns.
- Alternatively, Londoners need look no further than the Royal Parks for cherry blossom. Regent’s Park has some good displays and there’s a hidden Japanese garden with waterfall, bridges and lanterns on an island in the middle. Even better, the Kyoto garden in Holland Park has maple trees, calm ponds and koi carp. For some of the capital’s earliest cherry blossom head to Stradella Road near Herne Hill station in late March.