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Celebrating the Best of the UK & Ireland

HOME > JOURNAL > EUROPE > Celebrating the Best of the UK & Ireland

About the Author

About the Author

I love the diversity of Europe. The continent offers a wealth of cultures, languages, landscapes and adventures waiting on our doorsteps. Wine taste in the vineyards of Tuscany for lunch and be in Lapland in time for a Northern Lights display over supper.

EUROPE SPECIALIST

Molly

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This year more than ever, we’ve learnt to appreciate the gems on our own doorstep. Head of Europe Molly Kinnaird takes you on a tour of our favourite experiences in the UK and Ireland, introducing the local producers, guides and experts who are ready to welcome you to their beloved corners of the British Isles.

“For an area so small, the differences are mighty, and with dramatic scenery, colourful pasts, unique traditions and exceptional local food comes access to some of the most extraordinary guided experiences in the world”.

Ireland packs a punch of fresh air, dramatic scenery, charming locals and plenty of snug pubs – and the wild beaches of the West Coast were the backdrop of my childhood summers. Discover the history of the Emerald Isle, and uncover why the likes of Wilde, Yeats and Beckett were so inspired by their native motherland.

1. Fishing for Giant Tuna

Contrary to popular belief, tuna are not a rare visitor to Irish waters, and a number of species frequent the waves of the Atlantic in the summer and autumn. Venture out with local skipper Adrian in the hope of catching one of these enormous fish. Keep your eyes peeled on the ocean for the chance to see common and bottlenose dolphin, minke whale and basking sharks along the way. The very lucky might even see hundreds of huge tuna bursting to the surface while feeding. All of this can regularly be experienced off the coast of Donegal from August to October.

2. Centuries-old Oyster Farm

Visit an Irish oyster farm in Ballinakill Bay – one of the oldest in the country. Accompanied by owner David, you will see how oysters have been grown for centuries in the crystal cold waters here in Connemara since 1893. Originally, the oysters were brought by horse and cart in barrels to Clifden, then transported by rail to Dublin for shipment on the mail boat to England. Today, oysters from Ballinakill Bay are served in local hotels and restaurants as well as being exported worldwide. Visit in August and you can watch the horse racing on nearby Omey beach at low tide.

3. In the Footsteps of Giants

Rich in folklore, the Giant’s Causeway is Antrim coastline’s most spectacular area. The Causeway, with many thousands of hexagonal basalt pillars, creates an extraordinary coastal landscape – little wonder it is UNESCO protected. With your walking guide Jackie, explore the striking coast and learn about the stories of how it came to be. Favour the scientific argument of volcanic explosions and lava, or the myth of two fighting giants, one Scottish and one Irish, busting up and bickering across the sea.

4. Taste the Beara Peninsula

So often overlooked in favour of the Ring of Kerry, the Beara Peninsula is a wild and woolly coastal finger of Ireland. The remote and unspoilt peninsula is renowned for its majestic cliffs and wild Atlantic landscape. But the peninsula, washed by the Gulf Stream, has had its food and flavours shaped by influences from across the world. Explore and savour the Beara on this guided tour of the peninsula, introducing you to its characters and food stories as well as its tasty produce.

Scotland brings countless lochs, volcanic glens, snow-capped mountains and waterfalls. Its islands offer the most remote retreats, and no Scottish trip would be complete without sampling the goods of the oldest whisky distilleries.

5. Skye’s Oldest Whisky

Deep and elemental, Talisker is very much a product of its rugged, windswept home. Visit the Minginish Peninsula, take in the dramatic views of the Black Cuillin and discover why the oldest working distillery on Skye owes so much to the sea. Enjoy a tutored tasting tour of four unique drams, three of which are hand-drawn from casks taken from the Talisker warehouse.

6. Harry Potter’s Edinburgh

J.K. Rowling wrote the original Harry Potter stories while living in Edinburgh, making the Scottish capital truly a place of pilgrimage for Potter fans. With Harry Potter boff Sam, visit cafés where Rowling used to write and explore Greyfriars Kirkyard, which inspired Tom Riddle’s graveyard in The Goblet of Fire. Edinburgh’s fine architecture is world-renowned and with your guide, you’ll also uncover some of the places that inspired the design of Hogwarts and Diagon Alley.

7. Award-winning Gardens

This elegant garden was created from scratch in 2000, in and around a once derelict 17th-century farmhouse. Owners Robert and Anna Dalrymple will welcome you to Broadwoodside – an eye-catching, heady mix of classic herbaceous and landscape planting intermixed with the most whimsical of contemporary and classical art. Continue onto the contemporary sculpture garden, Jupiter Artland. Founded in 2009 by philanthropic art collectors Robert and Nicky Wilson, Jupiter Artland has grown into one of Scotland’s most significant arts institutions. The award-winning gardens and galleries, set in 100 acres of meadow and woodlands, are home to 35 site-specific sculptures from artists including Anish Kapoor, Phyllida Barlow, Charles Jencks and Antony Gormley.

England’s quintessential countryside views and historic cities may be iconic, but to gain a new perspective, nothing beats the insight of an expert guide – whether that’s on a family farm with generations of experience, or gaining exclusive access to London’s sights after hours.

8. Behind the Scenes – the Tower of London & Changing of the Keys

The Tower of London has been used as a royal residence, prison, and menagerie since its construction by William the Conqueror in 1066. So, as you can imagine, the history of the building is quite something. Your guide will bring the Tower’s dark history to life, depicting stories of imprisonment and execution before revealing the dazzling Crown Jewels. After your tour, experience the Ceremony of the Keys, one of the oldest surviving enactments of its kind. 

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