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Ultimate UK Travelist

HIGHLANDS & ISLANDS 

490 Rest and Be Thankful between sea and sky at Ardgartan 

Even in a part of Scotland as scenic as Argyll, it’s hard to comprehend the sublime vistas of Loch Long and its northern horseshoe of pine-skirted mountains when seen from the backwoodsy cabins at Ardgartan. You might gear up for the region’s most spectacular scramble to the

top of The Cobbler (2900ft), a distinctively anvil-shaped outcrop, or explore the surrounding Argyll Forest Park and the loch’s western shoreline by pedal or paddle.

     Then there is the unmissable valley view from the nearby Rest and Be Thankful, one of the UK’s most stunning mountain passes. Come evening, soak in a hot tub while gazing on a veil of stars, or fill up on tried-and-tested fish and chips from the local pub. Skinny dipping? You could give that a go, too. 

SEE IT! Ardgartan Argyll is part-owned by the Forestry Commission. Its 40 cabins are found 46 miles northwest of Glasgow. 

CENTRAL SCOTLAND: 153 Cruise by canal boat to the Kelpies 

Everything about this duo of shining silver horse heads, the largest equine sculptures in the world, sets them apart. They are momentously engineered, 98ft high, fashioned from 928 stainless steel dragon scale plates, and weigh 330 tonnes each. Impressed yet? 

     For those a little in the dark, Scottish mythology holds that kelpies are shape-shifting water spirits, demons with horse heads, and several Highland sea lochs burn with their legends. Now Helix Park, the lottery-funded Falkirk greenspace where the Kelpies keep watch, smoulders too. Opened in 2013, each was built as a monument to the Central Belt’s horse-powered heritage during the industrial revolution. 

     You can discover the gigantic metalheads from the inside on a guided tour, but it’s more memorable to see them from the water, cruising from the Falkirk Wheel (the world’s only rotating boat lift) to the eastern gateway of the Forth and Clyde canal. More of a land lubber? Helix Park is home to cycle routes, a wetland boardwalk and towpaths, from which you can ogle the Kelpies from every angle. 

SEE IT! The Kelpies are located 3 miles outside Falkirk, near the Central Belt’s main motorway routes. 

YORKSHIRE

26 Enjoy a rock-pool ramble at Robin Hood’s Bay 

So picturesque it hurts, this ancient fishing village seems to tumble down the North Yorkshire sea cliffs in a cascade of whitewashed cottages and red pantile roofs. A maze of narrow lanes leads off the forbiddingly steep main street (do not try to drive down here; use the car park in the upper village), tempting you to explore. In the process of getting pleasantly lost, you’ll stumble across quaint craft shops, artists’ studios, cosy tearooms and even a tiny cinema, before popping out on a terrace with an unexpected view of the sea. 

     The origins of the village’s name are shrouded in mystery, but they have nothing to do with the hero of Sherwood Forest; locals call the place ‘Bay Town’, or simply ‘Bay’. It was a notorious haunt of 18th-century smugglers who brought contraband tobacco and spirits ashore under cover of darkness; learn more about its history in the volunteer-run Bay Museum. 

     The old coastguard station at the foot of the main street marks the eastern end of the Coast to Coast Walk and houses a National Trust visitor centre with displays on the region’s natural history. It’s also the starting point for rock-pool rambles on the foreshore, and for longer hikes along the rugged and scenic ‘Jurassic coast’—the rocks here are noted for the fossilised remains of ammonites, ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs.

     Footpaths lead north to Whitby (6 miles) and south to the spooky sea cave known as Boggle Hole (1 mile); at low tide you can stroll along the sand at the foot of the cliffs. Here you’ll find one of England’s most delightful youth hostels (YHA Boggle Hole), complete with welcoming cafe, set in a heritage water mill at the back of a smuggler’s cove. 

SEE IT! The village is 6 miles southeast of Whitby. It’s a 2.5-hour walk, or travel by bike or a 10-minute bus ride. 

NORTHEAST ENGLAND

21 Contemplate 1,000 years of ecclesiastical history at Durham Cathedral 

Soaring heavenward, Durham’s colossal cathedral is a marvel of earthly achievement. An architectural game changer, it pioneered pointed stone arches, and today it’s a Unesco World Heritage site along with nearby Durham Castle, home to the city’s prestigious university. 

     Over a millennium of history is chronicled here: the community of St Cuthbert arrived in 995 from Lindisfarne (Holy Island) with Cuthbert’s miraculously preserved body, and built an Anglo-Saxon cathedral.

     After the Norman Conquest, Benedictine monks arrived in 1083; construction on the cathedral as it appears today began a decade later. The exquisite 1175-built Galilee Chapel shelters the tomb of the 8th-century Northumbrian monk, Venerable Bede, who introduced the AD system for numbering years. The 218ft-high central tower dates from 1262 (though it was rebuilt in 1470)—climb the western towers for views across the city. Back on ground level, look out for the original Sanctuary Knocker, on the northern door, which medieval felons used to gain 37 days’ refuge in the cathedral before standing trial. 

SEE IT! Direct trains to Durham run from cities including Newcastle (in less than 20 minutes), Edinburgh, London and York.

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