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The Great Escape – Planning Your Next European Holiday

Peggy Guggenheim Museum Venice

Tammy on tour

January is the time of year when the dull and dreary weather makes us dream of travelling to sunnier climates and escaping winter’s icy grip.

If you’re suffering from a touch of Seasonal Affective Disorder, why not head to the nearest travel agent or online travel site and book a holiday?

Here are a few of my top tips and trips at home and abroad for 2018… happy holidays!

1. History and Culture – Seville

Seville aerial

Seville from the air

Seville is one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. Lying in the heart of Andalucia, it makes for a perfect break with its heady mix of world-class architecture, artistic treasures, flamenco and great food.

It’s an easy getaway from the UK with flights taking under three hours which means that you’ll arrive feeling relaxed and ready to hit the streets.

This spring could be the time to grab your flamenco shoes, tuck into the tapas and immerse yourself in this great city’s Moorish culture and Spanish history…

Read more on Tammy’s Travel Guide to Seville

Ideal getaway break:  March-May.

2. Twenty Four Hour City – Amsterdam 

Tulips from Amsterdam

Tulips from Amsterdam

Amsterdam is a city which is constantly reinventing itself, with its world-class museums, picturesque canals, lively night life and its famous Red Light District.

With a number of new tourist attractions and recent ‘makeovers’ for old favourites, 2018 is a good year to re-acquaint yourself with this stylish and vibrant European city.

Read Tammy’s top tips for a visit to Amsterdam on the travel blog

Ideal getaway break: June-September.

3. Road Trip – The White Towns of Andalucia

Setenil

Setenil in Andalucia

Spain’s brilliant white villages sparkle in the sunshine as you drive through Andalucia’s wild landscapes. These ‘Pueblos Blancos’ are white-washed villages built in traditional Moorish style, often perched on imposing hill tops overlooking the Spanish plains.

They have mysterious names like Zahara, Setenil or Benamaboma, and look invitingly cool in the sweltering summer heat. Here are my top travel tips for a tour of these small Spanish towns

Ideal getaway break: April-June.

4. Venice’s Art Treasures

Venice mask wearer

Venice – masked reveller

Venice is one of the greatest art cities in the world with a setting that takes your breath away. Looking down the Grand Canal for the very first time will make you swoon.

During the Carnival in February , the whole city comes alive with beautiful and brilliant characters straight out of a masked ball.

If the weather’s rainy, dive inside St Mark’s Cathedral, the Doge’s Palace or the Accademia Gallery for an injection of history and culture.

Ideal getaway break: February if you’re visiting during the Carnival… or early autumn for culture vultures. The Biennale art show takes places every other year – the next is in 2019.

Read about Venice’s Biennale on Tammy’s travel blog 

5. Country Life – Scenic Shropshire

Ironbridge

Ironbridge

Shropshire boasts scenic market towns including Ludlow, Shrewsbury, and Oswestry, and pretty villages such as Much Wenlock, Clun and Church Stretton. Historic Stokesay Castle is one of the most impressive in England with its medieval buildings.

Ancient sites are a big feature of the Shropshire landscape. The king of them all is Offa’s Dyke, a mysterious structure which is thought to be over 1,250 years old. The Dyke runs from Prestatyn in north Wales through the centre of Shropshire down to Chepstow in the south.

For a change of scene, why not immerse yourself in modern history? Shropshire was the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution and I’d strongly recommend a visit to Ironbridge and Blists Hill Open Air Museum with its Victorian streets, period buildings, industrial workshops, railway, old shops, and foundry.

Read Tammy’s travel guide to Shropshire’s top attractions

Ideal getaway break: Easter or Summer

Stokesay Shropshire

Stokesay Castle

6. Wildlife Island – Skye

Skye sea view

Skye sea view

Skye is an island of contrasts and extremes. You can experience four seasons in as many days which is why it’s nicknamed ‘The Misty Isle’.

Despite the unpredictable weather, Skye is a brilliant place, if you can ignore the throngs of tourists and cars which clog up its main artery of roads and scenic attractions in summer.

Here are 10 great things to do on Scotland’s most popular wild island… in good and bad weather

Ideal getaway break: May – before the worst of the midgies and the crowds descend! 

7. Island Hopping – Venetian Lagoon

Venice

Burano

Fancy a trip around the islands of Venice by boat? The Venetian lagoon is the perfect place for island hopping with its small, picture-perfect towns.

Burano is renowned for its colourful houses, canalside walks and cafes where you can chill out with an ice cream or glass of fizzy Prosecco.

Neighbouring Murano is the Venetian capital of glass making. This charming island draws big tourist crowds and has a more commercial feel. You can’t go far without tripping over a glass factory or boutique.

Also worth a trip is Torcello, one of the most mysterious of Venice’s lagoon islands with its beautiful and ancient Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta.

Discover how you can explore the Venetian lagoon by boat on Tammy’s Island blog

Ideal getaway break: September/October.

8. Literary Heritage – Dylan Thomas’ Wales

Dylan Thomas’ Laugharne

Dylan Thomas’ Laugharne

When Dylan Thomas arrived in Laugharne in Carmathenshires, he dreamed of living in the Boathouse, perched on the Taf Estuary. His dream became a reality when he moved into this idyllic house with his wife in the 1950s.

The Boathouse is now a museum, containing Thomas’ original furniture, memorabilia and writing materials. Close to the main house is a cliff-top garage that became his writing shed, which has been left as if Dylan himself had nipped off to the pub.

The whole town of Laugharne is a memorial to the writer with many places with Dylan Thomas associations including the pubs, the churchyard and the beach walk. This is the real village from ‘Under Milk Wood’.

Further along the coast, you’ll find the Dylan Thomas Centre and his former home in Swansea, The Mumbles (where he propped up many a bar), and the beautiful beaches of the Gower Peninsula.

Read about places with Dylan Thomas connections in South Wales 

Ideal weekend break: July-September.

9. A Walk Through Time – Berlin

Jewish Museum Berlin

Tammy at the Jewish Museum. Berlin

Berlin is one of Europe’s most culturally vibrant cities with enough museums, galleries and tourist attractions to keep you going for a week. It’s an ideal quick, cheap flight from the UK by budget airlines.

Don’t want to miss Checkpoint Charlie, one of Berlin’s most famous landmarks during the Cold War, the only crossing point for foreigners. Another not-to-be-missed attraction is the Berlin Wall History Mile which traces the course of the former border fortifications encircling West Berlin. 

My other recommendations include the stunning Jewish Museum, the Reichstag’s curvy architectural dome, and pretty Potsdam and its palaces on the edge of town.

Read Tammy’s blog about Berlin and the Berlin Wall

Ideal weekend break: Any time of year but it’s best in late spring or early autumn.

10. The Big Culture Trip  – Denmark

Copenhagen

Copenhagen

Looking to travel somewhere bursting with awesome art? You can’t go wrong with a holiday or long weekend in Denmark. Not only is Denmark just a short hop from the UK, it’s an art lover’s paradise with a ‘gluttony’ of galleries, museums and attractions.

Copenhagen isn’t the only cultural hot spot in this cool Scandinavian country. Venture further afield and you’ll discover a whole raft of brilliant cultural haunts from Aarhus in the north to Roskilde in the south.

Roskilde’s Viking Museum is a top attraction – you can even take a trip up the fjord in a reconstructed long-boat and imagine you’re a Viking.

Discover how to organise your trip to Denmark on Tammy’s travel blog 

Ideal getaway break: June-September.

11. Wildlife Watching – Northumberland 

Puffin on Farnes

Puffin on the Farne Islands

The Farnes host one of the greatest wildlife spectacles anywhere in the world between May-August when it turns into one giant seabird colony. Birds fly in daily during the early summer when puffins fill the seas, skies and cliff tops, paddling across the waters and shuffling onto the land to make their nests.

Guillemots and Razorbills colonise the rocky crags whilst gulls and other seabirds fly in to get their share of the action. For nature lovers, this is birding heaven with thousands of birds everywhere you look.

In autumn, thousands of geese return to their winter homes in northern England. Watching the skies at Lindisfarne Nature Reserve as thousands of Light-bellied Brent Geese swirl overhead, turning the skies an inky black colour, is an unforgettable experience.

Read Tammy’s top travel’s tips for great wildlife watching on the Farne Islands 

Discover great days out in Northumberland

Wildlife watching in Northumberland – Tammy’s top places

Ideal weekend break: Farnes – June and July when the puffins, terns and other sea birds arrive to breed. Northumberland – autumn for the wild geese.

12. Coastal Retreat – Cornwall

Cornwall

Kynance Cove in Cornwall

As soon as you arrive on England’s south-west coast, you’ll be knocked out by the breathtaking scenery, beautiful beaches and dramatic cliff top scenery.

Cornwall’s popularity as one of Britain’s favourite holiday destinations is higher than ever after its starring role in the TV drama, Poldark.

If you’re taking a road trip to Cornwall and ‘Poldark Country’, I recommend starting in Padstow and then moving down the coast to Botallack, St Just and St Agnes.

The quality of tourist attractions has improved dramatically over the last decade with a long list of new heritage museums as well as the Eden Project and the Tate Gallery in St Ives.

Don’t forget the Cornish pasties and local seafood – the region is a food lover’s paradise.

Read Tammy’s travel guide to Cornwall

Ideal family break: May – August.

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