As well as hitting big name sights, we all know that some of the highlights of a trip are often the lesser known little gems that feel like a discovery! Some of these places may be well-known to the locals, but are rarely visited by overseas tourists and you certainly won’t see a tour bus in sight!
North and South Sands, Devon
Just minutes away from hugely busy Salcombe, the twin bays off North and South Sands sit in the sort of tiny cove that people imagine stumbling upon on the gorgeous Devon coastline - no more than a tiny cluster of whitewashed houses at either end of the bay and a couple of pretty sweeps of beach surrounded by rocky cliffs and trees. But there are also two big draws, meaning you can spend several hours at this tiny spot!
The National Trust property of Overbecks is a fascinating subtropical garden of rare plants surrounding Otto Overbeck's seaside home with gorgeous views across the estuary. Once you’ve explored the garden, the other highlight is the excellent Winking Prawn beach cafe, serving a range of local seafood as well as other meals, snacks and drinks. This is a deservedly popular spot but go for an early or late lunch or dinner and take one of the many outdoor tables looking out over the bay and it is a fantastic place to relax over a bite to eat. On a warm day, finish off with a quick dip in the sheltered bay!
Cat Bells from Little Town, Lake District
Bagging the summit of one of the Lake District’s famous hills is on many people’s to do list when visiting the area and Cat Bells, standing at just 451 metres but offering stunning views over Derwent Water and the Newlands Valley, is an understandably popular spot and not one you are likely to have to yourself.
However, rather than taking the busy ridge walk from Hawes End, approach the hill from the Newlands Valley and you will find that you can enjoy most of your walk in peaceful solitude, until emerging onto the ridge and joining everyone else for the final pull to the summit (feeling a bit smug to have avoided the crowds).
This route also has the benefit of some Beatrix Potter connections - another thing often sought after when visiting the Lakes - as you walk through the farm and along the path that is the setting for Mrs Tiggywinkle!
Jervaulx Abbey, the Yorkshire Dales
The Abbey ruins of North Yorkshire are famously beautiful but, when visiting the Dales, it is well-known Fountains and Bolton Abbeys that draw the crowds. A little further north in Wensleydale, the little gem of Jervaulx Abbey often gets overlooked.
Privately owned, the Abbey appears out of nowhere in a farmer’s field. It has a charming feel as wild flowers grow through the nooks and crannies of the ruin. Nothing is out of bounds and the owners ask only for a voluntary donation of a few pounds.
Over the road they run an excellent tea room with homemade food and cakes and just up the road you can call into Brymor for ice cream made from their herd of Guernsey cows!
You could also combine a visit with a lovely walk along the river to the excellent Blue Lion pub in the pretty village of East Witton.
Applecross, Wester Ross, the Scottish Highlands
Rather than sticking to the main road to the far north of Scotland, there is a fantastic detour around the stunning Applecross Peninsula. It takes you up and over the steep and winding Bealach na Bà pass (confident drivers only!), before dropping down to the little village of Applecross where you can stop for refreshment at the waterside Applecross Inn, taking in the sweeping views of Applecross Bay and the Isles of Raasay and Skye.
Continue along the single track road around the coast, through remote rocky outcrops frequented only by sheep, before taking in stunning views over Loch Torridon to the Torridon mountains. Back on the ‘main’ road, stop in pretty Shieldaig on the edge of the loch, where you can pick up smoked salmon from the tiny Loch Torridon Smokehouse, found in a little outbuilding at the back of one of the loch-side houses.
Minster Lovell, the Cotswolds
As charming as the Cotswolds are, it is very difficult to find somewhere that isn’t busy with visitors, but head to tiny Minster Lovell and you will find you are one of few people strolling around. Little more than one street, that street is full of classic Cotswolds charm and thatched cottages, and leads you through picture-perfect St Kelem’s Church to the ruins of Minster Lovell Hall, sitting on the banks of the bubbling River Windrush. If you want to stretch your legs, footpaths lead along the river to pretty Swinbrook and on to bustling Burford.
Back in Minster Lovell, get refreshments at the beautiful Old Swan, full of character with beams, thatched roof, flagstone floors and great local food. On a sunny day, the gardens and grounds around the pub are a great place to relax with a game of croquet or boules!
We hope these places have inspired you to explore some of the less well-known places in Britain. If you would like some help planning a self-drive trip, please do get in touch.