A truly brilliant holiday is made up of a million different things; food, company, culture, nightlife, accommodation, but I have often found that what sticks in my mind beyond anything else for years to come are the breathtaking aspects and surprise vistas, often discovered by accident on the way to or from other things. A peep between houses or from a restaurant terrace, something spotted on a drive, the landscape opening up on a gentle stroll, these are the times that feel like treasures and I have collected together 10 gorgeous European views to take in on your next journey. I hope they stay with you as long as they have stayed with me…
Bonnieux, Provence, France
The wonderful little medieval town of Bonnieux in the Vaucluse region of Provence lives up to its name which literally translates as ‘Good Air’. The village is positioned high up on the hillside overlooking a deep valley of lush green fields, vineyards and sunflowers. The mighty Monte Ventoux is visible in the far distance and the nearby Medieval hill town of Lacoste is at the fore. If you climb the stone steps to the ancient church at the top of the town the air really couldn’t get much fresher or the vista more sublime.
Whitby, Yorkshire, England
Whilst the view from Whitby out over the Atlantic Ocean is pretty amazing it’s actually the view of Whitby as you approach from the A171 over the North Yorkshire Moors that will forever be imprinted on my mind. Surrounded by bleak heath and moorland straight out of a Bronte novel you wend slowly around hairpin bends as you make your descent. Suddenly stretched out before you is the most wonderful picture book view of the little fishing village, it’s quaint red brick buildings clinging to the hillside and tumbling towards the pretty harbour with its colourful boats. High above the village is the dramatic gothic abbey, reached by 100 steps and said to be Bram Stoker’s inspiration for Dracula. Beyond it all is the ever-changing sea reflecting light and colour so that the whole picture appears like an impressionist painting worthy of the finest artist’s eye.
Volterra, Tuscany, Italy
The view from the majestic medieval walls of the Alabaster hilltop town of Volterra in Tuscany will never get old for me. In the foreground are the topsy turvy rooftops of the town’s ancient houses dating all the way back to the etruscan period, washing lines and window boxes adding splashes of colour to the grey stone walls. Beyond that the whole of the breathtaking Valdera (Era Valley) stretches out in luscious hills and rocky crags as far as the eye can see. It is truly as if you are standing on top of the world and seeing nature and all its marvels unfolding beneath your feet.
The Kymin, Monmouthshire, Wales
The climb up to this picturesque Georgian folly and Navel Monument, perched high above the town of Monmouth on the Offas Dyke path is taxing but ultimately worthwhile! If you make the journey in May you have the pleasure of wading through a carpet of bluebells that would make even the most cynical person believe in fairies! Ancient trees and cool shady woods suddenly open up to a green plateau with 360º views of the beautiful Wye Valley and Forest of Dean. On a clear day you can see Herefordshire, Gloucestershire Monmouthshire and the Brecon Beacons and on the blue horizon, you can even glimpse the Cotswolds!
Park Guell, Barcelona, Spain
The Park Guell was designed by Gaudi in the early 1900’s and is a now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Located atop Carmel Hill in the Collserola Mountains on the edge of Barcelona the park is stuffed with Gaudi’s weird and wonderful architecture. There are numerous viewpoints from which you can absorb wonderful panoramic views out across the city to the sea beyond.
Piazza Garibaldi, Rome, Italy
The romance of Rome is never stronger than up on Piazza Garibaldi on a balmy summer night. The city is full of amazing views but I think this one is still my favorite. Situated high up on the Gianicolo Hill over the Trastevere neighbourhood the Piazza is dominated by an imposing statue of Garibaldi himself (the man, not the biscuit!). Sat elegantly astride his steed he surveys all the famous landmarks of ancient Rome rolling out in front of him. From here you can see it all, from St Peter’s to the Spanish Steps and beyond. Come at sunset with a bottle of wine and someone you love and just take it all in, I defy you not to succumb to the famous Italian charm.
Minack Theatre, Cornwall, England
I still remember my first visit to the Minack Theatre… At 11 years old I wasn’t much taken by Robert Bolt’s ‘A Man For All Seasons’ but I was certainly spellbound by the view through the theatre’s three stone arches. The crystal blue waters of Porthcurno Bay sparkle in the setting sun and the rocky cliffs of the Cornish coast swoop dramatically towards nearby Land’s End. Dolphins and Porpoises appear regularly leaping from the eddying waves and the ancient spiritual atmosphere of the West seeps into your soul as the sun sinks low on the horizon.
Sacre Coeur, Montmartre, Paris, France
Whilst I would by no means sniff at the view from the Eiffel Tower it is quite costly and inevitably involves a lot of queuing! The view from the Gardens of the Sacre Coeur, however, is free and best taken in as the evening falls and lights begin to twinkle in the cityscape below. The greatest thing is you get to soak up the vibrant bohemian atmosphere that still prevails in Montmartre as you watch the city of Paris waking up and preparing to dance.
Durham Cathedral, Northumbria, England
Durhams ancient cathedral was founded in the 11th Century and was a much-coveted seat in the time of the (rather corrupt) Prince Bishops. Now it stands a striking example of Norman Architecture and the views from the top of its 217 foot high central tower are truly awe-inspiring! Looking out across the whole county it is easy to see the strategic reasons for building the cathedral and castle here. The uninterrupted panorama really makes you feel your size and significance in this big and beautiful world that we live in!
Chateauneuf Du Pape, Provence, France
Although there is not much left of the old Chateau in this famous wine-producing region, the ruins still have an air of grandeur about them, greatly assisted by their position high above the little town of Chateauneuf du Pape. Up here you are treated to commanding views of some of the world’s finest vineyards rolling out in an immaculate carpet in every direction. For a quintessential Provençal view you can’t get much better than this!
Whilst there are a hundred more views I could mention these are the ones that have stood out and remained with me over the years. They cost nothing and give you an image that you will never forget, a beautiful place in your heart that you can revisit whenever times get tough and you need to dream again. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did…