From the medieval tenements, vennels and wynds of the Old Town to the elegance and grace of the Georgian New Town, Edinburgh thoroughly deserves its reputation as one of the most beautiful and fascinating cities in the world.
Built on a human scale and easily navigated, Edinburgh readily gives up its secrets but has more to offer than just history written in stone. It’s a cosmopolitan city too, with Michelin-starred restaurants, a thriving café culture, vibrant and varied nightlife, great shopping and a strong contemporary arts scene.
Within easy reach of both London and the Midlands, Suffolk is the smallest and gentlest of the East Anglian counties. Its biggest draw is perhaps its coast, which is home to two of Britain’s most alluring seaside resorts – Aldeburgh and Southwold – with the Minsmere RSPB Reserve and ancient settlement of Dunwich at the centre of some glorious stretches of marsh, heath and woodland.
People also come to Suffolk to visit ‘Constable Country’ – a string of bucolic villages straddling the Essex border that were famously painted by the English landscape painter. Meanwhile, further inland, the old wool towns of Lavenham and Bury St Edmunds are handsome destinations for a lazy weekend break. Even Ipswich has a spruced-up waterfront district and interesting attractions. All in all, Suffolk is an easily accessible and diverse region for a weekend break – or longer.
Europe’s tiniest capital, surrounded by sea and 16th-century bastion walls, has an enduring charm all of its own. A Unesco World Heritage site steeped in history, Valletta is in the midst of a 21st-century revitalisation. It has emerged from its year as 2018 European Capital of Culture with more hotels, restaurants and historic treasures than ever before – and there are still more to come.
Valletta has an extraordinary density of sights and activities too: from 5,000-year-old ‘Fat Lady’ statues, to the ornate Baroque legacy of the Knights of St John; from Bastion-top gardens to boat trips on the Grand Harbour. And it isn’t all ancient. There’s also the City Gate redevelopment, designed by star architect Renzo Piano of London’s Shard fame.
Buzzing bars spill out onto the city’s limestone alleys, concerts frequently grace its copious churches, and the restaurant scene serves the best bites in Malta. And of course, it’s only a short ride to the beach…
It feels as if the wider world has only recently ‘discovered’ Mykonos, now mentioned in the same breathy terms as Ibiza or Miami – yet it has appealed to A-list celebrities and those who embrace an alternative lifestyle since the Fifties and Sixties. Back then, those stars included Brigitte Bardot and Jackie Onassis; today you’re more likely to find Kim Kardashian and Lindsay Lohan. But despite being commonly held to be among the most expensive, and exclusive, Greek islands, it holds enduring appeal.
The Algarve, with its dazzlingly bright and oh-so uplifting light, is a region of hidden delights: of golden beaches framed by beautifully wrought limestone rocks; of simple restaurants where the taste of the fish – just caught, just grilled, and drizzled with local olive oil – will pull you back time and time again.
Inland, up in the hills of Monchique, days revolve around the seasons – killing the pig and gathering provisions for winter; collecting chestnuts and foraging berries to make the local firewater. Olives, oranges, carobs and almonds are picked and sold at markets. By the coast, you can see locals wading into the Atlantic at low tide to find cockles and barnacles. Fishermen, who learnt the trade from their fathers, go out to catch squid and octopus – just as local people have done for centuries.
The Sorrentine peninsula pushes out into the Tyrrhenian sea like a gnarled finger, its southern shores blessed by some of the most spectacular coastal scenery in the world. Linking the towns is the SS163, the legendary Amalfi Coast Drive, a 16 km twisting, turning two-lane road that weaves and dips torturously in and out and up and down gorges, clinging to the cliff face from Positano to Amalfi. The background is lemon and olives groves, picture-perfect whitewashed villages and the ever-present shimmering blue sea.
This itinerary focuses on the principal stretch of the SS163, but the corniche road continues no-less dramatically all the way to Vietri-sul-Mare and tends to attract fewer crowds in this eastern stretch. A word of warning; the road is notoriously difficult to navigate, mainly for the sheer volume of traffic. In high season (May to September), you are likely to find yourself at best crawling along at a snail’s pace, bumper-to-bumper behind scores of tourist buses. So either move around by sea or avoid these months; April and October are good times to visit. Continue at Source: 48 hours on . . . the Amalfi Coast, an insider guide to the most seductive place in Italy