Thursday 29 June 2017

Off the Beaten Track - But Fabulous!

I nearly didn’t post this. My time has recently been taken up with family and working on my history book. But the question had to be answered. Would June 2017 be the first month in this blog’s history that there would be no posts? And the answer? No!

So here’s what I’ve been thinking. We’ve had holidays in Italy before - Florence, Tuscany, Rome, Cinque Terre - but it was on reading a recipe book that we were hit by a brainwave. ‘Visit our home city of Parma’ the book said. ‘It’s as beautiful as Florence but has hardly any tourists’. So we used the philosophy for another holiday in Italy, to Lago d’Iseo. Where? Exactly. A beautiful lake surrounded by the Munro-height hills of the pre-Alps, wedged between the far more famous (and crowded) Lakes Garda and Como. And it was true. Here is somewhere 90% as beautiful as the famous lakes (so, being the Italian Lakes, this is still incredibly beautiful), but with 10% of the tourists. We heard only one English-language voice for the duration of our stay - a retired, middle-class woman in a sunhat walking along a promenade and loudly saying to her friends “I just want a decent cup of tea!”

Lago d’Iseo from Monte Isola:

And it got me thinking again. Italy isn’t the only beautiful country with off-the-beaten-track places. In Scotland, the vast majority of tourists stick to the same circuit - a loop between Edinburgh, Aviemore, Inverness, Glencoe, Stirling and back to Edinburgh, with an optional detour off to Skye. But use the 90% philosophy. Where could you go?

What about the ruined abbeys and rolling hills of the Borders, as lovely as the Yorkshire Dales but virtually tourist-free?

The beaches, hills, castles, forests and historic villages of Galloway, completely off the radar of almost everyone except those in the know?

The clifftop walks, long beaches, and rugged, picturesque fishing villages of the Moray Firth coast?

The windy, sunny machair of the lesser islands of the Inner Hebrides - Coll, Tiree, Colonsay, Jura?

The tumultuous rocks, silent evenings, eagles and wildcats of Ardnamurchan and Ardgour?

Orkney’s little-visited Northern Isles islands such as Rousay, Westray or Sanday?

You won’t find tourist hordes in any of these places. And many of them will disagree that they are only 90% as beautiful as, say, Glencoe. Take my own top pick of the off-the-beaten-track places for example: Gairloch. A neat, whitewashed village between curves of beautiful sand, backed by the hills of Torridon and Fisherfield. This is a place with 10% of the tourists but 110% of the beauty.

One of the beaches at Gairloch:

We will definitely follow the off-the-beaten-track philosophy for our next holiday. Where would you go?