My Life In Travel: Neil Oliver, author, broadcaster and archaeological expert

'Sorrento was just idyllic, lounging about in the sun'


Neil Oliver is an author, broadcaster and the archaeological expert on the BBC series Coast

First holiday memory?

Being on the beach at Ayr, near where my family lived, between the ages of about one and six. We spent countless times there and I loved it. There are various tragic photographs of me there in little trunks with a pudding-bowl haircut.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

I love Lindisfarne and the Northumberland coast – it's a very tranquil place. I like the fact it's connected by a tidal causeway so some of the time it's an island and some of the time it's connected to the mainland.

Best holiday?

My wife Trudi and I had a holiday in Sorrento on the Amalfi coast not long before we had our first child. It was just idyllic. We lounged about in the sun, swam in the sea and had lunch in cheap and cheerful cafés.

Ideal travelling companion?

Trudi. We don't travel together as much as we'd like because with a six-year-old, a three-year-old and a one-year-old it is difficult. It's great once we get there, but the travelling is bedlam.

What have you learnt from your travels?

After seeing so much of Britain through filming Coast, when I travelled abroad again I realised all the more how I am starting to like the look of Britain. So I think travelling the wider world has made me fonder of Britain.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

We spend quite a lot of time on the Fife coast near where we live, in places like East Neuk and little villages dotted along the coast – they're like little hills on a thread. It's easy for us to get to and it's a very relaxing place.

Greatest travel luxury?

Hand-baggage only – it spares me baggage reclaim. In a fantasy land it would be first class everywhere.

Holiday reading?

I read magazines but not books so much, if I'm honest. Because I have to read so much for work, often being on holiday is not having to read anything.

Where has seduced you?

The island of Mingulay in the Outer Hebrides. It's almost the most southerly island in the Hebrides and has been abandoned for the best part of a century. We visited for Coast in calm conditions and walked to the island's only village. It has been swallowed up by the sand: I was knocked sideways by it.

Better to travel or to arrive?

I prefer to arrive. When we're busy doing something like Coast, we're travelling all the time. I can't understand anybody who enjoys flying or airports.

Worst holiday?

There isn't anywhere that has been that bad that I wouldn't go back. But I don't really like crowded places like holiday camps.

Worst hotel?

It would remain nameless but I do remember being in a spectacularly dreadful hotel. It was in eastern Kent on the sea front and it was a concrete horror.

Best hotel?

A place in Wells-Next-The-Sea, in Norfolk: a fantastic hotel in the most beautiful location but I can't remember the name. There were little separate bungalows, which were old buildings that had been beautifully renovated. It had the loveliest atmosphere and the restaurant had top-class food with lovely staff.

Favourite walk/swim/ride/drive?

Walking from St Ives to Zennor in Cornwall in my teens. I remember getting extremely sunburned but it was fantastic – all along the cliffs past the tin workings, with crashing waves and swooping birds.

There's also a fantastic walk by Loch Lomond on which you climb up Conic Hill, a fair-sized hill. At the top, you're looking at the southern part of Loch Lomond and it's truly spectacular – which more than justifies the hour it takes to get up.

Best meal abroad?

I've recently come back from our honeymoon in Paris. We stayed in the Marais and we'd take tips from the concierge of where to eat. The food was stellar.

First thing you do when you arrive somewhere new?

Buy a local paper to see what scandals are gripping the town I'm in.

Dream trip?

I've always wanted to travel around the coast of South America, all the way down to Tierra del Fuego.

Favourite city?

Edinburgh – the most beautiful city I have ever seen. How many cities have a castle perched on a volcanic outcrop?

Where next?

London. Then I'm doing a series next year about the pre-history of Britain.

"A History of Scotland" by Neil Oliver is published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, priced £9.99

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