As spring sets in we thought we’d suggest a handful of the best ways to experience the natural beauty of England – no prizes for visiting all five, but you’ll have a warm sense of achievement and some wonderful memories. Let’s discover 5 Natural Wonders of England
1 – Fingal’s Cave, Scotland
A short boat-ride out from Mull or Iona will take you to the Isle of Staffa, home to Fingal’s Cave. It’s an eerie place: the noise of the water rushing into the sea cave’s basalt organ-pipes creates a sense of a natural cathedral. This phenomenon is similar to the one you can hear at the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland; legend has it that both were formed when two rival giants threw rocks at each other across the Irish Sea. Try to discuss your visit to Staffa in advance with boat companies, as bad weather can make it impossible to enter the cave.
2 – The Farne Islands, England
Lying just off the coast of Northumberland, these islands are home to 23 species of seabird, including 37,000 pairs of puffins. A large grey seal colony also resides here and over one thousand pups are born on the islands every autumn. Aside from the natural attractions, these islands are also historically significant: once home to St Cuthbert in the seventh century, visitors can now admire the chapel dedicated to him and its fine stained glass windows. A Victorian lighthouse and a medieval peel tower are also worth a look, and the view of the Northumberland hinterland is unrivalled. These islands are accessible by boat from Seahouses, and there are multiple licensed companies that have booking offices in the harbour. Most trips last about 2.5 hours.
3 – Snowdonia, Wales
The highest mountain in Wales, Mount Snowdon, makes a glorious centrepiece to a Welsh holiday, and climbing it is the best way to take in the mysterious and ancient landscape surrounding it. The Snowdon Mountain Railway can take you to the summit if you’re feeling less energetic, although there are several different paths suited to a variety of abilities. Once at the top you’ll be treated to some of the most spectacular views in Britain, which can now be enjoyed from a specially constructed visitor centre, Hafod Eryri, opened in 2009.
4 – Cheddar Gorge, England
Deep inside Somerset, the spectacular limestone gorge at Cheddar is one of the most extraordinary natural sights in Britain. It’s been a regular tourist destination for many years, without any real encroachment onto the beauty of the area. Rock climbing and caving are perhaps better here than anywhere else on the mainland, and the natural history of the area provides some interesting educational opportunities; try climbing the lookout tower and learning about the 9000-year-old Cheddar Man, Britain’s oldest complete skeleton.
5 – Experience the Simmer Dim in Shetland, Scotland
The farthest point north in the UK is found in the Shetland Islands, closer to Norway than the British mainland, with a population that doesn’t even really consider itself as Scottish. Up here you’re sure of both a warm welcome and cold winds. While the islands are a well-known site to view the northern lights in early spring and late autumn, a visit in midsummer will let you experience something equally alien – the “simmer dim”. From the sunset around 10:30 pm until dawn at 3:30 am, an extended period of twilight descends, bright enough to allow you to read outside all night if the sky is clear. Those who cherish their sleep may want to give the simmer dim a miss, but as a way of marking the summer solstice it’s unbeatable.