You don’t have to travel too far to find them. Beautiful beaches, still relatively undiscovered, lie within a short haul European hop.
Fringed by luxuriant stretches of white sands, the northwest Spanish archipelago of Cies is nicknamed the ‘Galician Caribbean’ by the locals. And it is little wonder that they keep the beauty of these three islands quietly to themselves – happy to let tourists head to the ‘Costas’ instead. Catch the ferry from the mainland town of Vigo, and you’ll have nine beaches to choose from. Disembark on a small jetty at the longest, Rodas, running over half a mile between Monteagudo and Faro islands and flop straight onto the sand. Cooling off depends on your mood – waters around the Cies islands range from denim blue Atlantic froth perfect for surfing to clear green waves that lap the shore like a gentle metronome.
Who says you need palm trees and warm seas for a spectacular beach? In the northern tip of the Scottish Hebridean Isle of Skye, Claigan Coral Bay’s white sands and turquoise seas are an incongruous surprise after a short hike over moorland, past sheep and Highland cattle. OK, it might not be warm enough to get your bikini on, but in summer you’ll definitely be able to sit in a T-shirt and turn your head up to the sun in peace. Or search for tiny cowrie shells on the beach – local legend has it if you find 12 you’ll have a happy year. That might include sitting next to a celebrity at the rustic yet Michelin-starred The Three Chimneys restaurant, a 20-minute drive away – or quick helicopter ride for A-list fans that range from Madonna to Barbra Streisand or more simply to me.
In Greek legend, Icarus flew too close to the sun, coming down to earth after his wings melted, on the North Aegean island of Ikaria. Lucky him, as he would have found one of the most beautiful unsung heroes of the Greek beach world – Seychelles – waiting for him. As the name suggests, it’s a dream confection of blue waters, white sands and dazzling limestone cliffs, set on the south-west coast and reached from the tiny village of Manganitis through a tunnel and down a steep path. If you’ve got the commitment, then you’ll be rewarded with an idyllic place to put up your umbrella. Take a bottle of the local wine – there are no facilities here – sit back, relax and thank the Gods.
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