It’s time to say goodbye to 2013 and welcome in a new year… so what better time to reflect on Tammy’s favourite travel blog posts over the last 12 months.
These are the places I enjoyed visiting in 2013 and would recommend to fellow travellers for 2014.
Happy holidays in the year ahead!
1. Copenhagen – cycling weekend
Copenhagen is a dream city for cyclists with its fantastic bike routes and passion for everything on two wheels.
There aren’t many capital cities which you can ride around on a bike without feeling like you’re going to die horribly on their congested roads or get crushed by a truck at a junction.
So it came as a breath of fresh air to find cycling around Denmark’s largest city to be one of the most relaxing experiences anywhere in the world.
Best time to travel: July and August – when the weather is at its best in Scandinavia.
2. Edinburgh Festival – comedy, drama and chaos!
Edinburgh is one of my favourite cities so what better time to visit Scotland’s capital than during the Festival.
The Edinburgh Fringe features an explosive programme of over 2,500 events, 42,000 performances and dozens of free events.
This year’s festival was as brilliant and chaotic as ever – and I’m already looking forward to this year’s trip of cultural indulgence and comedy mayhem.
Top time to travel: Definitely August when the festival is in full swing. The 2014 Edinburgh Festival and Fringe runs from 8-31 August at venues across the city.
3. Stockholm – Europe’s most beautiful city?
“Don’t miss Stockholm – it’s Europe’s most beautiful city,” gushed a group of Dutch tourists when we were travelling around Scandinavia this summer.
Although we were six hours drive away, we decided to blast it up north in the camper van. How could we miss a city that came with this recommendation?
Stockholm is indeed a leading contender for the title of Europe’s loveliest city with its beautiful islands, harbour front and historic medieval town.
Water is the stunning backdrop to the city’s multitude of islands, leading many to dub it “the Venice of the north”.
We weren’t disappointed and would love to return when we’ve saved up enough money to eat out in this expensive but stunning capital.
Top time to travel: July and August when the weather is warmest and the days are long.
4. Las Medulas – Northern Spain
Las Medulas in northern Spain is one of those places you come across once in a while which provoke a genuine ‘wow’ reaction.
Not only does it have a weird lunar beauty, it has a fascinating history. It was here in the 1st century AD that the Romans created one of the world’s first major ecological disasters.
It started when they noticed that the orangey-red soil around Ponteferrada was sprinkled with gold dust.
The Romans lost no time in developing a gold mining operation that was huge in scale. Slaves were brought in to dig the complex network of galleries, dams and canals needed to extract and transport the gold for processing and sale.
Whole hillsides were dug out, blown up and destroyed – and the soil in this mining area became so badly eroded that devastating landslides were commonplace.
Today Las Medulas has the power to shock and mystify the modern visitor with its orange-hued landscape and weird rock formations caused by environmental exploitation on an unprecedented scale in the ancient world.
Best time to travel: May and June when the weather isn’t too baking hot.
5. Close encounters with nature
Wildlife watching can be a wonderful experience – until the call of the wild takes on a more dangerous dimension.
Here are some of the closest wildlife shaves we’ve experienced during our travels, from rampaging bison in Utah to grizzly bears at close quarters in Yellowstone – plus a cautionary tale about ‘ants in our pants’ in Sweden.
Tammy’s top wildlife locations: Yellowstone National Park (USA), Rockies National Park (USA), St Lawrence estuary – whale watching (Canada), Farne Islands (UK), Antelope Island (USA), Kangaroo Valley (Australia).
6. ‘Green Spain’
The northern Spanish coast is one of the prettiest parts of Spain, known as ‘Green Spain’ for one good reason – it rains a lot!
We arrived by boat at Santander – and despite the dire warnings of friends about the wet weather in this part of Spain, we were greeted with sunshine and balmy temperatures.
The verdant landscape with its mosaic of picturesque farms, lush fields and green hills looks like somebody turned up the colour dial to bright emerald or dazzling jade.
Best time to go: April-June when the weather is pleasant and warm although this region is renowned for its wet weather so pack a mac!
7. London’s Best Winter Art Shows
London is one of the world’s greatest cultural capitals so it’s no surprise that the winter season is jam-packed with blockbuster art shows.
From Paul Klee at the Tate Modern and the Chapman Brothers at The Serpentine to the V & A’s stunning Elmgreen and Dragset installation, there is something for art lovers of differing tastes.
I’ve been checking out what London has to offer culture vultures during the next few months with my guide to the top exhibitions in January, February and March 2014.
Read Tammy’s blog post on London’s best winter art shows and the blog feature on Elmgreen & Dragset’s Tomorrow exhibition.
8. York – England’s best weekend break?
York is one of my favourite UK cities with its fabulous mix of Romans, railways and ruins as well as one of the best cathedrals in Europe.
It’s the perfect weekend break with its historic sights, specialist shops and cosy historic pubs. There’s nothing better than a relaxing lunch at world-famous Bettys Tea Rooms after a trip around the Castle Museum and the Minster.
York has it all – its history runs from the Romans and Vikings through to the English Civil War, the Georgians and the great Victorian railway age.
And if history isn’t your top priority, York is also the UK’s most haunted city with ghosts. ghouls and gory stories aplenty. Why not take one of its creepy ghost tours?
Read Tammy’s blog post on York as a weekend travel destination.
Best time to visit: In summer York is overrun with tourists so why not try a quieter time like May or September? December is a magical season in this historic city when Christmas brings an atmospheric feel to the quaint city streets.
9. Puffins and Coquet Island
Puffins are one of my favourite birds so a summer trip to see them in their full glory is always a treat.
Thirty thousand puffins live on Coquet Island, a tiny rocky isle, a mile from the harbour town of Amble on North East of England coastline.
It’s one of the bird’s favourite summer breeding grounds so you’re guaranteed to see the brightly coloured puffins everywhere you look – on land, at sea and whizzing through the air.
A boat trip to Coquet Island is the best way to get close to the puffins with their bright orange beaks and striking black and white plumage.
Earlier this year I ventured forth on a cruise around the island– slightly wary because boats aren’t my sort of thing especially when the going gets rough.
Best time to go: May-July is the best time to see the puffins when they come onto land to give birth to their chicks or ‘pufflings’. Also look out for seals basking on the beach around the island.
10. Gaudi and Northern Spain
Gaudi is best known for his amazing architecture in the Spanish city of Barcelona so it’s something of a surprise to find so much of the Catalan master’s work in northern Spain, far away from his home region.
As well as Gaudi, there are a surprising number of other Modernista masterpieces from his contemporaries in this part of ‘Green Spain’.
Lovers of Spanish art deco style should start their journey in Comillas which is a haven for Modernista buildings and palaces.
Read Tammy’s blog post on Modernista style and Northern Spain.
Best time to go: April-June is a pleasant time to visit this part of Spain when the weather is warm – before the deluge of summer visitors hits the region.
Here are my nominations for more cracking travel destinations to add to your travel wish list in 2014…
Favourite heritage house – Blackwell, Lake District, England – read the blog post
Favourite British wilderness destination – Lindisfarne – read the blog post
Favourite Scottish whisky attraction – Dewars, Scotland – read the blog post
Best British aircraft museum – Duxford, Cambridgeshire – read the blog post
Best military museum – Imperial War Museum Salford – read the blog post
Favourite English country garden – Wallington, Northumberland – read the blog post
Favourite public art installation – The Angel of the North – read the blog post
Brilliant beaches – Bamburgh, Northumberland – read the blog post
Great day out in a cosy village – Cartmel, Cumbria – read the blog post