History and hospitality abound north of the Border in the land made famous by centuries of defiant Scots. Whether you choose to self-drive, fly-drive or even take the train, the landscape of Scotland is truly stunning to travel through, making the journey itself a memorable part of your holiday, as you can see from the main picture that opens this blog. Hiring a car or taking your own gives you the freedom to enjoy the numerous castles, ruins, wildlife, national parks and natural splendour in your own time.
Learn about the art of whisky making during a distillery tour, enjoy a round of golf on some of the UK’s most picturesque greens, take to a loch in a boat, or simply wander through one of the many national parks. Horse riding, cycling, walking and dolphin-watching are all available pastimes around the area if you want to get more active or, should you prefer a racier holiday pace, head into a town or city to enjoy some eclectic food, history and live music.
Edinburgh’s place at the heart of the UK’s industrialisation means there are plenty of museums and tours to enjoy in this city - with night-time ghost tours for the brave visitor! Why not visit during the world-famous Edinburgh Festival in August to enjoy free drama and comedy performances, as well as countless innovative, ticketed shows?
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Spain has long been one of the most popular holiday destinations for Brits and Europeans. However, the land of sangria and paella has much more to offer than its well-known coastal destinations. Venture inland and you will not be disappointed with the change of landscape and the wealth of activities this brings.
Walking has to be one of the best ways of enjoying the natural environment, and Spain’s expansive national parks offer some amazing walks in abundance. Venture just a few miles from the main tourist haunts and you will find yourself immersed in the local wooded and wild areas, walking towards some mind-blowingly stunning views. Or, simply take a gentle wander on some of the easier trails through the national parks, and remember to take a picnic of local foods to fuel your day of walking.
RCI has more than 100 resorts affiliated to its holiday exchange programme throughout the ever-popular resorts of Spain and Andorra. With so many destinations on offer in the Spanish mainland, you could enjoy a two-week stay, taking one week by the coast and the second exploring further afield.
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Turkey is tipped to make a resurgence in the popularity stakes during 2019. Some negative press may have caused concern over the past couple of years, however travellers are now starting to return to this wonderful country which is bursting with cultural stories to tell, and the finest food you’re ever likely to taste.
Where else can you lose yourself in ancient classical history in the morning, laze on the beach in the afternoon, and then enjoy apple tea, generously topped Turkish pide bread and baklava pastry for dinner, eaten in the warmth of the setting sun?
Explore Turkey’s waterfalls, forests and expansive coastline, or follow a walking trail to take in the view across its impressive natural landscape and national parks. Cappadocia’s fairytale rock formations, peppered with honeycomb dwellings carved out of the soft rock to serve as shaded homes for those who once lived on the stark and arid Anatolian plains, are a truly memorable sight and well worth a visit. Here you can take a sunrise hot air balloon ride to float across the magical terrain, which looks like a Tolkein-inspired film set panorama. Definitely a ‘once in a lifetime’ experience!
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Germany has plenty to offer anyone wanting to feast their eyes on fairytale architecture, explore vibrant cities or partake in outdoor pursuits set against a stunning countryside backdrop. All while keeping yourself well fed and ‘watered’ on the worlds’ finest sausages and beer!
The country’s former political and geographical regional divisions saw hundreds of castles and kingdoms built atop hillsides, each with stories to tell, and each looking like the set of a Hollywood film.
You can even visit the iconic palace which inspired Disney’s Sleeping Beauty’s Castle: Neuschwanstein, which was commissioned by King Ludwig II of Bavaria as his retreat. The 19th Century castle was designed by a theatrical designer, inspired by the sets and characters from the operas of world-famous composer, Richard Wagner, who was a personal friend of the king.
Wherever you stay in Germany, you can guarantee you won’t be far from a magical-looking castle or colourful wooden-beamed town.
In the summer, escaping to the German countryside can trick you into thinking you’re far away from Europe. East of Frankfurt, the state of Thuringia boasts the vast national park known affectionately as ‘The Thuringeti’ after its likeness to the African Serengeti. Nearby Wartburg Castle and the cobbled city of Erfurt, with its two enormous cathedrals perched next to each other overlooking the main square, make a visit to this area something really special.
Most major towns and cities also host Christmas markets at the end of the year, where you can also enjoy some fabulous skiing in the ski resorts bordering the Austrian Tyrol in the south of the country.
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My parents first visited Florida in their late 50s and headed straight for Cape Canaveral’s Kennedy Space Centre to relive their childhood memories of the space race rocket launches. They followed this with trips to Walt Disney World, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Epcot, a hovercraft trip in the Everglades National Park, and explored The Keys, adding on a short cruise to the Bahamas.
Based on the stories they tell me, the fact that they visited Florida later in life, without any children along on the trips, didn’t detract from the Orlando magic one bit. In fact, they say they enjoyed the flexibility of going where they wanted, whenever they wanted, and to stay out as long as the night lasted, wherever it took them.
They were also impressed by the generous meal portion sizes in the restaurants and regularly found themselves sharing dishes or opting for cost-effective ‘all you can eat’ buffets.
Theme-park lovers and die-hard Star Wars' fans will be keen to time their visit after August 2019 when the new Star Wars' theme-park - Galaxy’s Edge - opens at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando. Set over 14 acres, this innovative new venture is pitched as a ‘fully immersive experience'. Visitors will meet street-market traders, smugglers, bounty hunters and are even given the chance to fly the infamous Millennium Falcon - with the success of your piloting skills consequently shaping your experience of the park as you depart the spaceship!
With 125 RCI-affiliated resorts in the Orlando area of Florida alone, and flights to Florida getting cheaper all the time, you really should explore this natural and man-made playground in 2019. RCI members also benefit from deals on attraction tickets through RCI Travel.
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One trip to South Africa almost isn’t enough. You could immerse yourself in the country’s many vast national parks with game drives, walks and visits to private reserves and rehabilitation centres, offering once-in-a-lifetime encounters with the wildlife that has made this country famous.
RCI has resorts signed up to its holiday exchange programme which benefit from great locations on the edge of several national parks, including the mighty Kruger National Park. There are many tours - including those on offer to RCI members through its travel services provider - so if you want to get up close to some of the world’s finest wild game, there will be a tour to take you there.
If you love the freedom of a road trip, you may want to hire a car and drive South Africa’s Garden Route. The 125-mile journey takes you through national parks, dense forests, coastal roads. Stop off for more than just leg-stretches en route to marvel at breathtaking beaches, shipwrecks and seals - you may even be lucky enough to spot some playful dolphins.
All of this with a daily dose of some of the world’s finest wine to wash down your evening meals, and not forgetting the customary ‘sundowner’ tipple, to be enjoyed under the setting of the African sun.
With 159 affiliated resorts throughout South Africa, our members can combine a week in one place with shorter stays in multiple destinations, including coastal resorts like Plettenberg Bay.
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