The value of the British Pound is at its lowest level since the 1980’s, and there’s a lot of uncertainty about the future of freedom of movement. If “God Save the Queen” is your national anthem then now really isn’t the time to be planning a trip abroad. But wanderlust doesn’t cease with the ebb and flow of the economy. Quench your thirst for adventure with these inspiring views from across Europe. All from the comfort of your living room.
Volcanoes. Wooden houses. Snow. Iceland is an adventurer’s dream.
The most northern European country is home to around 300,000 people – more people live in Wakefield than on this North Atlantic island. At the western edge of the Nordic outpost is Kolgrafavegur, sat on a peninsular jutting out into the ocean. Nicknamed the “Gateway to Hell”, Iceland is home to more than 130 fiery volcanoes. This is Mother Nature’s testing laboratory. It may be no coincidence it’s one of the least densely population nations in the world meaning the island nation is perfect for getting off the beaten track.
Wrynose Pass, Cumbria, England
A single-track road steeps its way up the side of the Duddon valley to reach the summit of Wrynose Pass, an ancient trade route which is also the meeting point of the historic counties of Cumberland, Westmorland, and Lancashire. Long before county boundaries were established the route was an important link to the coast for Roman Centuries – it’s Cumbria’s version of the Silk Road. Tourists flock to this route in summer in an attempt to get underpowered hire cars to the top, a sight in itself. On a good day you can see across the Duddon and Langdale valleys, on a typically Cumbrian day you’ll be lucky to see your hand in front of your face – Wrynose Pass is in the Lake District, one of the wettest parts of the UK.
Telemark county, Norway
In 1965 Anthony Mann directed the Boxing Day classic – the Heroes of Telemark. Recorded on location in Norway, the film recounts how the scenic county of Telemark was once the home to Axis operations to produce heavy water for atomic bombs. Fortunately, good won over evil and the valley is now a peaceful oasis around a 3-hour drive from the cosmopolitan capital, Oslo. The stunning scenery is the result of millions of years of glacial erosion, and not a great deal has changed since then. Typically Scandinavian engineering feats have linked several of Telemarks lakes to create one of the world’s most scenic canal trips.
Hill of Crosses, Šiauliai, Lithuania
It’s said 100,000 memorials sit atop of the Hill of Crosses, a place of pilgrimage in Lithuania. For generations, it has been a symbol of the country’s pride in its identity. After WW2, when the Soviets occupied the country, the demolition of the crosses took place, and plan to dam the valley was formed, but never put into action. Relatives of those who have died place crosses here to remember their dead, leading to a surge of symbolic memorials during the occupation by the Kremlin. You can find the Hill of Crosses near the city of Šiauliai in northern Lithuania. Or just have a wander around on Google Street View, the area has been extensively photographed.
Nyhavn, Copenhagen, Denmark
From behind sash-windows in colourfully painted townhouses those lucky enough to live on Nyhaven look out on one of Europe’s most picturesque views. Historic wooden boats also call this canal home, as well as hip locals and visiting artists. It’s one of the Danish capital’s most popular spots to eat, drink, relax, and people watch. In summer it’s a great place to dangle your feet above the clear blue waters with a beer, or in winter to sip a hot chocolate and gaze at the twinkling lights through the winter mist. Or just sit on your sofa and click around with your mouse…
Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden
Nestled in the heart of the city, on one of the Stockholm archipelago’s 14 islands, Gamla Stan is Swedish for ‘old town’. Before 1980 this idyllic area of the Swedish capital was rather charmingly known as “staden mellan broarna” or ‘the town between the bridges’. An entanglement of streets encloses the home of the Swedish Royal Family, hearty restaurants and boutique stores selling the finest Scandi goods. By day it’s a tourist mecca, by night it’s a relaxing retreat from beating pulse of Stockholm’s more commercial districts. The views are good from the ground, but by far the most commanding viewpoint is from the free-to-visit Katarina Elevator, a short stroll away.
Cruise on the Bosphorus in Istanbul, Turkey
Dividing the European and Asian parts of Turkey the Bosphorus is one of the continent’s busiest shipping routes. Istanbul, a booming city of 14 million people, sits on its shores. The thoroughfare has only been surpassed by two bridges and one newly built underground railway, the Marmaray, connecting to two sides of Turkey’s biggest city. Boats are king here, Google Streetview has knows that.
Crovie, Aberdeenshire, Scotland
Crouched at the bottom of a steep cliff since the Scottish land clearances Crovie has to be the most beautiful village in Scotland. Its unique location, on a east-facing bay, means it has some of the country’s most magnificent sunsets. There are few places where you can open your front door and be right on the beach. This is one of them. The village is on a ledge so narrow that cars have to be left at one end, wheelbarrows are then used to transport food, drink, firewood and small children to the holiday cottages along the sea front. When a strong easterly blows in there is no finer, or windier, place to snuggle down by a roaring fire with a good book and a glass of wine.
I first visited Parga on a day trip as part of a family holiday in the early 2000’s. The next year we returned, armed with inflatables, for a week. Parga embraces the chic Mediterranean feel we all love of an exotic seaside resort. In recent years the town has smartened up, fresh linen tables line the sea front serving locally caught seafood and local wines. Small boats leave the port heading for outlying islands where the way of life hasn’t changed in centuries. On the edge of its natural harbour is a small monastic island, to which boats ply their way across the calm waters by candlelight on summer nights , giving passage to travellers looking to explore the olive groves and gaze at the vivid frescos inside its historic church.
Charles Bridge, Prague, Czech Republic
A traditional tourist halt, but charming nonetheless, the bridge construction was begun in 1357, and completed in the 15th century. Since then it’s been an important rite of passage across the glistening Vltava river, which cuts a course through the heart of Czech capital. Once an important link between the Old Town and the imposing castle on top of the hill, the bridge is a now swamped by tourists keen to get the best selfie. Google seem to have pulled off a bit of a coup by pitching up before the tourists arrived, capturing the bridge in all her splendour and virtually deserted. On a more tasty note, the best brownie shop in Prague, if not Eastern Europe, is a short stroll away. Lunch at Bakeshop is not to be missed.
Lake Bled, Bled, Slovenia
Bled has it all. A castle on an island, crystal clear waters, leafy banks, but best of all Bled cake. Arguably not actually a cake, more a coronary-inducing stack of puff pastry and cream, the dessert was invented to entice tourists to the lake’s shores. The village is around an hour from the throbbing capital Ljubljana, with its crisscrossing bridges and salmon-pink buildings. The lake is a manageable cycle, taking around an hour and a half to complete a circuit. However, Google has put in the hard work for you, you can just drag yourself along using your mouse. (But seriously, this place is worth visiting.)
Summit of Snowdon, Wales
The crown of Wales. Sitting at 1,085m above sea level, the views from Snowdon are magnificent. The mountain, the highest in Wales, is said to be where Sir Edmund Hilary did his training before summiting Everest in 1953. The Snowdon Mountain Railway climbs the steep incline from Llanberis, at the foot of the mountain, to the top and then back again in around 2.5 hours. The views on a clear day are splendid, offering vistas across North Wales and out to the Irish sea.