Growing up, foreign holidays were for the posh family next door. Us? We went camping. In Norfolk. And Cornwall, the Peaks, the New Forest, Somerset, the Lakes…
And honestly? It was great.
I never felt I was missing out – holidays were always… well, a holiday!
When we were first married, we had pretty much zero disposable income – but we had a tent, and we continued to explore year after year.
Then just as we were finally starting to plan a couple of weeks in tropical sunshine, surprise baby No.1 came along – and instead we took him camping in North Wales when he was 9mths old.
He was quickly followed by boys 2 and 3, and suddenly with three under 6 the thought of camping started to feel very much like A Lot Of Hard Work – and so we made the terribly bold move to book a cottage holiday in Northumberland. I know! Real walls! Running water! Actual beds! Talk about luxurious…
Actually it wasn’t – it was a very basic cottage on a farm, and we spent two utterly magical weeks exploring the wilds and beaches and castles of Northumberland.
Finally, when baby No.4 turned 3, we broke out of our comfort zone and headed for some sunshine, dipping our toe into a French family holiday. And yes, we loved it, and repeated it the following year. But then the children asked if we could have a ‘proper’ holiday – you know, one with windy moors and wild skies and stream swimming and dam-building and castle-exploring and ice creams and empty Autumnal beaches…
It seems we infected our children with a love of our British Isles too – and now we strive for a perfect mix. There’s a lot of world out there to explore; but there’s something so special about our wonderful UK that we’re never embarrassed to say that “…actually this year we’re heading back to Wales”. It’s not an almost-holiday, nor an apologetic ‘staycation’ – it’s just as magical as a couple of weeks basking sleepily under a rather un-British sun.
So when I saw Cottages.com new campaign titled ILoveYouK I felt like it was made for me, and was thrilled to be asked to take part.
They’re producing some fabulous guides to the very best of Britain on their ILoveYouK site – not just the amazing countryside, but the towns and cities, museums and restaurants, live shows and sporting events – because when you’re on holiday in the UK they’re all at your fingertips and simply waiting for you to come find them.
Tasked with coming up with something a little poetical about holidaying in the UK, I wasn’t short of inspiration. For me, thinking about UK holidays isn’t about a specific place; it’s a range of connected experiences. It’s how the aged stone of a castle wall feels when I’m hiding behind it. It’s that sharp smell of a damp Welsh pine forest, and that top-of-the-world feeling when you reach a summit. It’s memories of long afternoons picnicking to the accompaniment of the constant chattering of a moorland stream, and the heavenly taste of hot salty chips at the end of a long day on the beach.
I don’t remember the castle or beach names as much as I remember the games, the laughter, the conversations, the happiness – and the tingling anticipation of what tomorrow’s adventure will be.
Like I said. UK holidays – we love them.
A love poem. To my beautiful United Kingdom. #iloveyoUK
Car doors slam, coats buttoned up, hats pulled down.
We walk, climb, saunter, run; the weather irrelevant.
Conversation, laughter, silent breathing.
Then with lungs full of damp green air
Sharp-edged breezes bring salt to our lips.
Short cropped castle grass springs beneath our games,
The remains of lives lived, solid beneath our hands.
The dark sharp secret gloom of the pines,
The lofty rustling light of ancient leafy woods.
Chilled streams a jumble of chattering as they spill,
Broad rivers whispering gently as they slide.
The stretching sky trysting with far far peaks,
Pieces of countryside stitched into a united quiltdom.
Salty fingers from hot fat fluffy chips in paper
Steaming tea from well-travelled flasks
Swindling pirate gulls laughingly scream at their crimes.
Reluctantly homewards, windows down to hold on to the last.
Tangled hair and pink cheeks a testament to a day well spent,
Tired eyes drooping reluctantly, gently soothed by happy rememberings.
Legs stretched in evening’s glow, wrapped in contentment,
And yet ready for tomorrow’s adventure.
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