Greymare Rock and Dunstanburgh Castle at Dusk Northumberland Coast England
Greymare Rock and Dunstanburgh Castle at Dusk Northumberland Coast England

5 experiences to drive your senses wild in the UK and Ireland

Awaken body and soul with these staycation trips, says Sarah Marshall.

Sarah Marshall
Wednesday 14 April 2021 09:33

One of the key Covid symptoms is loss of taste and smell, but lockdown has arguably deadened all our senses, by detaching us from the outside world.

So, as we unfurl from our sofas and prepare to venture outside, it’s no surprise sensory experiences are likely to direct travel plans.

According to a poll by VisitEngland the experiences Brits are most looking forward to include eating fish and chips, listening to the jingle of an ice cream van, or smelling the waft of sea air.

From coast to countryside, the UK and Ireland is a sonic, visual and audio wonderland. Here are a few more of the visceral experiences we’re eager to enjoy this summer.1. Smell of sea air

Holy Island of Lindisfarne (Alamy/PA)

So salty it can make your nostrils sting, the scent of the sea is an instant ticket to a refreshing break. Some of the most invigorating coastal trails can be found in Northumberland, including a seven-mile barefoot walk at low tide across the causeway to the tidal Holy Island of Lindisfarne

Crabtree & Crabtree, who have holiday cottages in the region, bring the journey to life with a guide regaling tales of local legends. The walk is best enjoyed from April to September, when grey seals gather on the exposed sandbanks. Prices from £25pp for a private walk. Visit crabtreeandcrabtree.com.

Or inhale fresh maritime air by walking a section of the England Coast Path, a new National Trail which hopes to have all stretches approved and works underway this year.  Once complete, it will be the longest coastal walking route in the world at 2,700 miles.

2. Taste of coast and country

A plate of a dozen oysters at West Mersea Island (Alamy/PA)

Foraging forges a connection with nature, allowing us to literally savour our immediate environments. As an island, the UK offers up a bounty of goods from both coast and countryside.

In Dorset, Fore/Adventure offer a half-day Coastal Foraging Course, based on the beach in Studland. Search for sea vegetables, sea weeds, crabs and cockles, and learn how to prepare wild foods. From £50 per person.

For something more decadent, head to Mersea Island in Essex, where oysters have been grown in creeks since Roman times. Lady Grace Boat Trips offer a two-hour Picnic Trip along Salcot Creek, where you’ll hear curlew calling and find egrets wading along the shoreline. Pre-order a picnic platter from the West Mersea Oyster Bar. From £100 per trip (up to six people).

Both excursions can be booked through englandscoast.com/en.

3. Sound of birds in flight

Red Knot flock of thousands at sunset in Snettisham (Alamy/PA)

From the soothing symphony of a dawn chorus to the furious flapping of flocks cruising across the sky, birds are an inspiring soundtrack to our daily lives.

Filled with salt marshes, sand dunes and twisty tidal creeks, North Norfolk is a paradise for birders and walkers; trips to RSPB Snettisham Nature Reserve are particularly recommended, when red knots beat their wings above the mud flats.

Inntravel has introduced a new self-guided short break to Snettisham and Holkham, following the Norfolk Coast Path from Old Hunstanton to Thornham, and inland to Burnham Market via windmills and wildflowers. A four-night B&B trips costs from £580 per person (two sharing). Visit inntravel.co.uk.

Or head to the ancient woodlands of Castle Eden Dene in Durham, an example of the ‘wildwood’ that once covered most of Britain. It’s home to a variety of birds, including the common swift, greylag goose and goldcrest, along with more than 450 species of plants, and mammals such as roe deer and fox.

4. Touch of a tree

Forest bathing

The art of forest bathing first became popular in Japan during the 1980s, and has since spread it’s restorative roots worldwide. Along with the joy of simply being surrounded by ancient oaks or pleasing pines, there is a science to the trend: trees emit oils used to naturally protect them from insects or other invaders, which induce a sense calm.

North London’s closest glamping escape, Home Farm Glamping in Elstree has partnered with charity The Wilderness Foundation to offer therapeutic sessions in 150 acres of wild woodlands and historic parklands. Their first session, An Introduction to Forest Bathing at Home Farm Glamping, will be held on May 13 and costs £15 per person. Visit homefarmglamping.com/whats-on.5. Sight of great horizons

View of Little Sugar Loaf in the Wicklow Mountains (Alamy/PA)

If your window on the world has been obstructed by concrete towers and never-ending rooftops, great views will be a priority once lockdowns end.

Although not vastly mountainous, the UK and Ireland do have their high points – one being the fabulous Wicklow Mountains, south of Dublin. Wilderness Ireland include the national park on a guided tour visiting three of Ireland’s most scenic areas known for walking and mountains. Hikers will summit Carrauntoohil, the highest mountain of Ireland, as well as the highest peak in each corner of the country. A six-night trip costs from €1,710 per person (two sharing), departing September 18. Visit wildernessireland.com.