A good way to start the new year would be to go out into the wilderness for some volunteer work with wildlife trusts. Many projects need help: for example, this month at Heggs-Castle in Arkengarthdale, North Yorkshire, volunteers will help combat erosion by planting trees and harvesting willows. More missions are guaranteed throughout the year. In the Lake District, Fix the Fells needs volunteers to help maintain the trails. The National Trust also needs help in dozens of interesting places.
The English coast offers the perfect wild winter break at bargain prices. The new boutique Oyster House in Mumbles, Swansea Bay has a two-night bed and breakfast January Getaway package with a three-course meal and complimentary arrival drinks starting at £250 for two. Huts have lots of last minute offers too – check out sites like Independentcottages.co.uk for the latest savings.
Art lovers have a real feast this month: the most comprehensive exhibition of Johannes Vermeer’s work opens at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Vermeer has left 37 known paintings, 28 of which will be on display, including classics such as The Girl with a Pearl Earring. Another feast is to go to Delft, the artist’s hometown, where there will be an exhibition about the artist’s life at the Prinsenhoff Museum. Amsterdam is served by DFDS ferries departing from Newcastle. The main exhibition runs until 4 June.
Spotting boxing bunny pairs is one of the great experiences of March. The Yorkshire Wolds have a healthy population. While you’re there, check out the Robert Fuller gallery in Thixendale, where the artist’s wildlife cameras have garnered many followers. Other leporin strongholds are Anglesey, Orford Ness, and Rathlin Island, off County Antrim, where Irish rabbits have golden hair and blue eyes. For those who love to watch rabbits from the comfort of their bed, organic farmers Rhodri and Sarah Lloyd-Williams have opened two on their farm in west Wales, a lush treehouse a few kilometers outside of Aberystwyth where rabbits are abundant. Also in Wales, the new Speed Museum in Pendine Sands will open on 31 March, and a new beach-facing Caban hotel opens in the spring. A pair of new wildlife cabins in Scotland, Bracken Hide, are opening in Skye this month. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Cairngorms national park, Wilderness Scotland offers an eight-day hike from the coast to the mountains (seven nights with B&B accommodation for £1,055).
The wonderful array of English flowers that started with snowdrops in February is really in full swing this month. The Japanese are making headlines with cherry blossom visits, but what about our equally wonderful wild garlic and bellflowers? There is a new field guide, British and Irish Wildflowers and Plants, coming out this month. Another book to look forward to is Sarah Banks’ Guide to the Wild North East England, part of a highly informative series that now covers all of Great Britain. Farther afield, Inntravel launches an interesting rail journey from Bilbao to Santiago de Campostela (9 nights B&B, £1,105) in northern Spain, which seems like an innovative way to do this classic route. There’s also a fantastic new hiking holiday in the valleys of southern Galicia from On Foot Holidays in Spain (nine nights for £975). If cycling is more your thing, Visit Good Place’s new gourmet tour route from Trieste in Italy southwards to the tip of Croatian Istria launches this month. Elan Valley in the middle of Wales is also opening a new cycling center this month.
May means Eurovision this year in Liverpool, where you’ll want to stay somewhere with the necessary glitz. The former Lime Street railroad hotel, a Victorian landmark, has been completely renovated to become the newest Radisson RED. If that’s not your thing, the Hay festival kicks off this month, and there are new accommodations in town with Under the Thatch. In Pembrokeshire the seagulls will be returning from their winter holidays and Celtic Deep is planning a week-long celebration of swimming with little wizards, plus freediving lessons and coastal foraging activities at the fully renovated The Old Point House. 16th century pub in East Angle Bay (run by the locals who created the amazing Cafe Môr). If you missed the seagulls, there’s a similar week in September dedicated to blue sharks. In Gloucestershire, Elmore Court opens magnificent treehouse accommodation on 100 hectares (250 acres) of re-wilted land. In the UK, while railroads squat and fall, things are moving fast in Europe – a new sleeper train between Berlin, Amsterdam and Brussels launches this month.
Also on the tracks, this month the Austrian Nightjet Sleeper train company will complete an overhaul of its wagons as part of a major upgrade. With it comes new routes connecting Amsterdam, Paris, Vienna, Genoa and many other major cities. For British travelers who don’t fly, this is important because you can get off the Newcastle-Amsterdam ferry (once a week, on Wednesdays), spend a day in the city, then join the overnight sleepovers to Vienna. How about catching the Fesch’markt of that city, held between 2-4 June (Amsterdam-Vienna approx £27 per night, private cabin £88)? This month will also mark the 400th anniversary of Sweden’s magnificent Gothenburg. In rail news, pay attention to Rail Baltica, which connects the Polish border with all the Baltic capitals and significantly moves away from Russia, which will transform the road connection for these countries.
How about collecting a bunch of classic Spanish peaks for this real summer challenge? This month, Much Better Adventures is putting together a five-night warehouse-storm Picos de Europa saga that will include Cotalba (2,026 metres), Jario (1,913 metres), and more (five nights half board for £730). Travel with Brittany Ferries via Santander or Bilbao. Spain is definitely the taste of this month: the Tour de France kicks off in Bilbao on July 1. Why not get serious with Saddle Skedaddle’s new 865-mile cycling saga from the Basque Country to Andalusia? (21 days for £4,395)
Where better to get away from the Hebrides in the summer? We hope to see some wildlife before a yoga session and then before dinner. Check out Hebrides Cruises’ latest cruise around Mull and nearby islands (we have a top chef on board). In Ludlow, Shropshire, look out for Magnalonga, an Italian tradition where hikers slowly wander through the local terroir and sample food and drink along the way. Very civilized and very enjoyable. If you want to try the original version, head to San Pietro near Verona (23 April this year) where you’ll get Valpolicella instead of cider.
The season of missed opportunities to forage for food is here again. Rather than squinting at this delectable-looking mushroom, find out if it’s truly edible at the Scottish wild food festival held a few miles north of Glasgow with many workshops, tastings and events. Naturetrek also organizes various day trips for beginners, including mushroom picking. If you like having a field guide close at hand, there’s a new one called Edible Mushrooms of the UK and Northern Europe by Jens Petersen. At Corris Railway in central Wales, fans of former railways can rent the line for a day: driving steam locomotives and pulling signals.
Salmon runs are not entirely predictable, but October is usually a good bet, especially after heavy rain has had time to wash away. The Severn in Shrewsbury in Shropshire is one of the best spots. Head down Sydney Avenue to the Weir cafe. Other good places are near Stainforth on the River Ribble in North Yorkshire and a few in Scotland. Another major UK wildlife migration continues this month: Yorkshire Coast and Nature is launching a series of Birding Discovery Days at Spurn Head in East Yorkshire.
Winter walks are in full swing and we hope the long-awaited English coastal road finally bears fruit. November also means perennial jewel, Kendal mountain festival from November 16-19. This month, a new Euro 7 visa waiver fee begins for British travelers entering Schengen countries. It is estimated to cost British travelers £177m a year. The centennial of the pub coup in Munich, where Adolf Hitler was on the agenda for the first time, is commemorated as November 8th. Pay attention to the events in the city’s NS-Dokumentationszentrum, which focuses on the history of the Nazi party; a chilling connotation of that era. Closer to home: perhaps you can try the reopened Mortimer Trail, which runs through the cider country of Herefordshire.
This month marks the 40th anniversary of the death of abstract artist Joan Miró, and the Miró Mallorca museum is reopening its magnificent main building, which houses most of the man’s work. Of course, no flight is required: there is a ferry from Barcelona.