Here in the UK, we have recently ‘gained’ an hour, due to our scheduled slide into British Winter Time. It’s not officially called this but it seems an appropriate antonym to British Summer Time (or Daylight Saving Time) where we ‘lose’ an hour from the end of March through to the end of October. We have, in fact, reverted to Greenwich Mean Time for five months, which means our mornings are lighter but our evenings are darker; all because of the simple act of putting our clocks back an hour on the last Sunday morning in October. I do wish certain technical gadgets wouldn’t do this automatically – manually resetting your clocks and watches helps to reset my brain, too!
This serves as a reminder of the changes of the seasons (as if the weather doesn’t already do this) and for those of us who can’t bear to drag ourselves through the depths of winter without the thought of a summer holiday pulling us through the worst of it, this might be a good time to start looking for next summer’s ideal destination. Flicking through a brochure can be a holiday for the mind without physically moving anywhere: blue azure skies, picturesque coves, inviting pools, and stylish accommodation immediately transports us to another world where we are totally out of routine … in a very good way!
I think a good question to ask yourself at this point, however, is: What does a holiday mean for me? If a fortnight of intense, blazing sun equates to factor fifty sun cream and swathes of top-to-toe fabric over your sensitive skin, then maybe Southern Europe isn’t for you. Just because everyone else only considers it a holiday if average temperatures are hitting 40 degrees, doesn’t mean you have to. Do you want adventure, culture, or scenic tranquillity? Do you really need to travel half way across the world to achieve this or will the planes, trains and automobiles route negate the stress-cleansing mission you may be on?
This summer, my family and I stayed on mainland UK, and drove four and half hours to a converted farm site in Cornwall. No rushing to an airport pre-dawn, no queuing in passport control, and no accommodation disappointment when you realise the bedroom is also the living room, dining room and kitchenette (the bathroom is your only hope of privacy). The traffic was extremely heavy on the way there but we were taking our holiday at the same time as millions of other families who are restricted by school terms, extra-curricular activities, and work commitments. Any week in July or August is prime time and our one stop in a service station told us we weren’t the only ones en route to somewhere other than home.
As soon as we got to the end of the one mile track leading to the site, however, it was as if we had driven beyond the boundaries of bedlam. Kilminorth Cottages is a collection of converted farm buildings (currently standing at thirteen but with more renovations planned) strategically arranged so that all residents have their own privacy despite all accommodation being either semi-detached or part of a terrace. Original buildings have obviously dictated form, but the end result is an aesthetically pleasing layout of stone-clad solid cottages whose interiors are equally refined. South Meadow was ours for a week and is a two bedroom bungalow with rural views set in beautifully landscaped gardens; these are communal, although everyone seemed to stick with their own space in and around their accommodation. Well-behaved dogs are welcome (and there are two friendly resident canines) but we chose not to take ours (we can’t rely on them to be well-behaved!). A few of the properties have hot tubs, but if you’re not lucky enough to have booked one of these, there is an outdoor heated swimming pool, which even in peak season, we still managed to have it to ourselves at times. There is also a tennis court on site which we made use of which, again, we had no problem using as and when we wanted to.
Self-catering holidays allow for more privacy, flexibility and autonomy. I don’t necessarily use the unfamiliar kitchen to prepare evening meals, preferring instead to grab fish and chips on-the-go or dining in a picturesque sea front restaurant, but I do find it invaluable for preparing drinks and snacks for day trips. Spending fifteen minutes organising a stocked cooler bag will save money and inconvenience when your children declare a starvation situation miles from the nearest shops. The self-catering option also generally affords more space when the whole family are back at base after a day of sightseeing; separate sleeping and living areas are essential in order to completely relax as you’re not constantly reversing bed and sofa.
Weather-wise, we were very lucky. Apart from one grey day, the sun shone across Cornwall (and we really did do the length and breadth) but, as you probably know, UK holidays are not guaranteed to bestow a southerly breeze and cloudless skies. However, as Billy Connolly once advocated, there is never the wrong weather, only the wrong clothes; so embrace it! This does mean packing the car full of all-season clothing … which could be one of the reasons people jet off to warmer climes with just a bikini and a pair of shorts … but, our country wouldn’t be as breathtakingly beautiful without the four seasons to shape it. Just take a look at this view from within The Minack Theatre
A Shakespeare play performed in an outdoor theatre, carved into the cliffs at Porthcurno, with nature’s backdrop of a turquoise ocean (a leaping porpoise even made an appearance) is really about as good as it gets. We also visited The Eden Project in St. Austell, Tintagel Castle (reputed birth and burial place of the legendary King Arthur) and ‘endless fishing villages’ as stated by our teenage daughters! Yes, I’m sure there are equally alluring destinations abroad, but this year, I’m glad we chose to get to know our country a bit more. Our loyalty was rewarded tenfold in the dramatic scenery, history and culture we absorbed on our travels (as well as the delicious cider we enjoyed in the evenings from Cornish Orchards … OK, we brought a supply home, too). Now, where do I start for next year … ?