THE MERRELL BLOG: WHAT'S NOW. WHAT'S NEXT. LET'S GET OUTSIDE.
Monty Halls' Top 10 Getaways
If a recent study is right, two of the key things to a ‘happy life’ are spending time outdoors and enjoying two holidays every year. Whether your sights are set close to home or further afield, Monty Halls gives you his top 10 outdoor getaways to whet your appetite and help you tick these two boxes!
UK & Ireland Destinations
The Western Isles:
The Isles of Uists, Barra, Berneray and Eriskay really do have it all. Long, white beaches, a convoluted coastline, soaring eagles, stag, otters, and genuine solitude. If you want peace and quiet, this is the place. There is also the bonus of St Kilda on the horizon - the UK's only double World Heritage Site.
The name derives from an ancient expression for the Community of the Sea, and the link with the ocean is plain to see. This is a veranda of Europe, staring straight out into the Atlantic. Dolphins, whales, basking sharks, and a warm welcome stemming from a vibrant local culture.
Applecross, Wester Ross:
Climb up over the Bealach na Ba - the highest road across a mountain pass in the UK - and you drop into another world. Applecross is a tiny village perched on the edge of a golden bay. The Applecross Inn serves the best food on the west coast (in my humble opinion), and yet it is only a short stroll to a wilderness of steep hills covered in heather and populated by red deer.
The Lizard Peninsula, Cornwall:
Jutting like an arthritic finger into the wild waters of the eastern Atlantic, the Lizard Peninsula is a special place indeed. The South West Coast Path wends its way through small fishing villages - a stop off in Cadgwith is absolutely essential - and yet the grandeur of the peninsula is never too far away. Cornwall at its magnificent best.
I would say this, because I live here, but it really is a beautiful little place. An ancient harbour town, dominated by the magnificent Royal Naval College on the hill, it is steeped in history and many centuries of proud tradition. That close connection with the sea is shown by some of the best seafood restaurants around. You only have to nose a boat out of the river mouth - passing the castles that stand sentinel en route - to be in another world, one of seals, cormorants, passing dolphins, and nesting peregrines. Magic.
The Poor Knights Islands, Tutukaka, New Zealand:
14 miles offshore, these islands are sacred in Maori culture. As well as this traditional protection, they have also been established as a nature reserve by the New Zealand authorities. The real magic of the islands lies beneath the waves, with a dazzling array of marine life - Cousteau himself described it as the best temperate dive site on earth - but for the non-divers there is Rikoriko Cave, the largest sea cave in New Zealand. It translates as "The cave of dancing light and echos", which says it all really.
Cape Town, South Africa:
Dominated by Table Mountain on one side, and the cold, wild waters of the Benguela Current on the other, Cape Town sits proudly on the very tip of Africa, a glorious mix of cultures as befits such a key historical trading post. It's not far to the Cape National Park, and indeed the small harbour of Gansbaai - launch point to encounters with great white sharks, surely the greatest predator of them all.
The Great Barrier Reef, Australia:
Only 7% of the Great Barrier Reef National Park is coral, the rest is islands, rainforest (the most ancient rainforest on earth incidentally), mangrove, and lagoons. This World Heritage Site stretches for 2,000 km, and contains a lifetime of exploration. A true global jewel that offers so much more than pretty reefs and crowded boats.
The Galapagos, Ecuador:
There are very few places that are truly unique, but the Galapagos is one. Indeed their traditional name was The Enchanted Isles, so called because mariners were baffled as they fought the seven different ocean currents that beset the islands from all sides. Tiny penguins, marine iguanas, and giant tortoises - the wonder begins as you step off the aircraft, and continues throughout your visit.
Yonaguni Island, Japan:
A slightly eccentric choice, but then again this is a slightly eccentric island. Yonaguni is tiny, and yet - paradoxically - is home to the largest moth on earth (the Atlas Moth), and has its own unique species of horse. It also has an undersea structure that continues to divide the scientific community. A strange, mystical place that just has that little something atmospheric and special about it.