As we move into autumn and winter, many of us find ourselves spending less time outside. Work and school keep us indoors during the week, and the weather often doesn’t help outside of that. It’s no coincidence that, as the nights get darker, thoughts turn to where we might holiday next. And so, helpfully, here are some timely suggestions…
Isle of Skye
We begin with one of the most dramatic islands in Europe – Scotland’s mountainous Isle of Skye.
Since the nineties, it’s been linked to the mainland by a road bridge, but this in no way diminishes the beautiful isolation of its sparsely-inhabited shores. With sea cliffs, rolling heather moors and unspoilt lochs as far as the eye can see, it’s a perfect place to reflect. And while you might not be surrounded by people, the native puffins, wild cats, red deer and eagles should make up for it.
Santorini is a very different island, one of the Greek Islands’ most picturesque settlements.
Crowded on the slopes of a dormant volcano, hundreds of beautiful white houses present one of the most unique city breaks on the continent. Beyond the charms of the steep streets, though, there are also evocative ruins to explore and multi-coloured beaches to laze in peace on. Add wineries and a microbrewery into the mix and you have a recipe for bliss.
The Black Forest
Germany’s famous Black Forest also contains one of the country’s finest mountain ranges – and the memorable views you’d expect from this elevation. You can likewise find two of the country’s most popular lakes within its bounds, where water-sports including wind-surfing are well catered for.
Further opportunities for relaxation can be found in the nearby spa town of Baden-Baden. But most tourists come to hike their way through one of the forest’s many trails, which comprise various lengths and levels of difficulty. Mountain-biking and even cross-country skiing routes are also available for the adventurous visitor.
Portugal’s capital draws more tourists to its colourful streets each year, and it’s not hard to see why. Despite its fresh face, Lisbon is one of Europe’s oldest cities, and has amassed a wealth of architectural treasures.
Indeed, its sunny boulevards are among the most rewarding cities in Europe to wander without a plan, its historic variety presenting monuments around almost every corner. Bright yellow trams are another great way to get around, while atmospheric backstreet cafes are cosy places to lose an afternoon (or two). There’s even the option of catching one of the city’s two successful soccer clubs, Benfica or Sporting Lisbon play – can four billion football fans (worldwide) be wrong?
Although many people think of Lapland primarily in terms of its most famous resident, Father Christmas, there are good reasons to visit outside the festive period. In fact, the Aurora Borealis (otherwise known as the Northern Lights) are seen at their best earlier in the winter.
At its northernmost, a trip into Lapland will take you into one of Europe’s most pristine wildernesses. Here you can witness the Midnight Sun, and also enjoy the hospitality of the Sami people who have lived in this region for well over a thousand years.
One of the best-preserved medieval towns on the continent, Bruges is one of Belgium’s greatest draws. From canals to churches, markets to museums, it’s a place where the distant past never feels far away.
That said, the town also plays host to a wealth of festivals across the year – from choirs to jazz, film to circus. Even better, hearty food and good beer can be found here whatever the season.