Holiday heaven - Remembering our best-ever breaks

A picture taken from the Viewpoint on Koh Nang Yuan Island. Picture: CHARLOTTE MCCLURE

A picture taken from the Viewpoint on Koh Nang Yuan Island. Picture: CHARLOTTE MCCLURE - Credit: Archant

What was your best holiday yet? Our readers and staff have been sharing their memories of getting away from it all.

The Ffestiniog Railway - Paul Geater travelled on it during a family holiday in north Wales. Picture

The Ffestiniog Railway - Paul Geater travelled on it during a family holiday in north Wales. Picture: PAUL GEATER - Credit: Archant

Most of us eagerly look forward to holidays all year round. Sometimes, they really live up to all that expectation.

Sophie Stainthorpe writes: "It's so hard to choose a best holiday, but up there has to be a family holiday to Florida when I was nine. It was our first holiday across the Atlantic and we were all very excited. Dad had created an elaborate schedule, planning out the best days to visit each theme park, and we literally didn't stop for three weeks. I and my sister, Emma, who was 11, were basically in child heaven.

"Mum wrote a diary every day which became known as the "Best thing so far" diary, because every time we did something new (which was pretty much every day) I'd say: 'That was the best thing so far!' We went back to Florida several times in the following years, but nothing can live up to that first experience. I'm taking my son next year, so I'm looking forward to hearing all about his "best things so far".

Jake Foxford also remembers a childhood holiday vividly. He writes: "I have amazing memories of going to Zakynthos, Greece, as a seven-year-old in 2000. I never knew it was some kind of 'party island' full of people doing the Club 18-30 thing until I was an adult.

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"As a kid, the beaches were always big and not very busy, there was loads to do in the day and the restaurants were top-notch. Everywhere we went for dinner, my parents were making friends with restaurant owners. Hospitality in Greece is amazing and if you want a summer holiday you really can't go wrong on Zante."

First trip to Europe as a teenager

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Lynne Mortimer was a few years older when she went on a memorable holiday. She writes: "I was 15, it was 1970. My friend Ruth's mum and dad were taking a three-week car trip to the continent and I was invited along as company for Ruth. I had never been abroad and certainly had never had as much as three weeks' holiday.

"We took a ferry to Calais and set off on the long drive through Europe, but the VW broke down in a Belgian boulevard. So we slept in the car and got it fixed the next day. We drove first to Yugoslavia, staying overnight in the grey City of Zagreb before heading to Rijeka on the Adriatic coast.

"Ruth and I stayed in a state-run B&B run by a woman and her daughter, who were both dressed in black at all times. They brought us strong coffee, bread rolls and peach jam for breakfast. A gate led on to the seafront, where Ruth and I swam and got lots of attention from the local lads - all keen to practise their English.

Koh Nang Yuan Island in Thailand - a breathtaking holiday destination Picture: CHARLOTTE MCCLURE

Koh Nang Yuan Island in Thailand - a breathtaking holiday destination Picture: CHARLOTTE MCCLURE - Credit: Archant

"We had two day trips into Italy, to Bologna and Trieste, where the American sailors were in town, all wearing white like Gene Kelly in On the Town. Then we drove mountain paths through Germany to Austria, spending a week in a hostelry near Innsbruck. Here Ruth and I tasted our first dark German bier, plied on us by sweet German grandads in lederhosen, who were eating calf's head and sauerkraut.

"We went up into the mountains - a chance to sing a selection from The Sound of Music - and I got stuck in a ski lift because I was so scared of the height that I braced my feet against the door and it couldn't be opened. The operator had to run up the mountain path to rescue me.

"We took the ferry back from Calais. Ruth and I went to a cafe and a group of French boys put Je t'Aime, Moi Non Plus on the juke box and did a few naughty simulations with the cafe chairs. The record had been banned on the BBC. I have had great holidays since but this was at a time when Europe was a very different continent, hugely memorable for an impressionable teenager."

Windsurfing in Germany

David Vincent writes: "Back when I was young, free and single, I decided to be adventurous and book a holiday through the Youth Hostel Association to learn to windsurf, in Germany. It involved a long train journey and a week in a camp on the banks of the Bodensee (Lake Constance), which is bordered by Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

"It opened my eyes to the importance of learning languages, especially on the train journey where a group of us conversed in an odd mixture of languages including French, Italian and English. It was a strange holiday, being among lots of fit young men and women, none of who seemed to speak any English, but who were friendly despite that.

"I learned a few German phrases, and discovered apple juice as a breakfast drink. And I did learn to windsurf."

Honeymoons and 'mini-moons'

Honeymoon memories are extra-special. Sarah Chambers writes: "We went to the Isle of Skye for our honeymoon. We stayed at a small guesthouse in Portree and ate a curry. Doesn't sound like high romance, but you don't get more romantic than a Scottish island. We had five kinds of weather in the space of an hour - wind, rain, hail, sun, clapping thunder - so never a dull moment. Being there was pure joy, in a romantic, melancholic kind of way."

John and Joanne Nice on their "mini moon" in Barcelona. Picture: JOANNE NICE

John and Joanne Nice on their "mini moon" in Barcelona. Picture: JOANNE NICE - Credit: John Nice

John Nice of Suffolk New College and Nice PR Ltd writes: "Growing up, we always used to holiday in the UK as a family, so many a moment was spent on a freezing beach surrounded by a wind break praying for some sunshine. I remember it hailed once in Cornwall - but we refused to move from our spot, rode the storm and soldiered on. In later life I love going abroad, as seeing the world is one of the greatest gifts that we have.

"After getting married last year, a mini moon in Barcelona is up there with my best holiday experience - mainly for the swimming pool on the roof at the Grand Hotel Central. After the hectic run-up to marriage, it was heavenly to be able to sit back and reflect on a perfect day with my wonderful wife - listening to chilled out music whilst supping on a beer or three.

"It felt like being somewhere between a Bond film and a Bounty advert."

Thai islands and Portuguese castles

Charlotte McClure writes: "My best-ever holiday was to Thailand, where we spent two weeks visiting five different islands. My favourite by far was Koh Yang Nuan Island. We spent a whole day snorkelling, which was absolutely incredible.

"The water is completely see-through, and you find yourself surrounded by hundreds of beautiful fish. We got a chance to climb up to the viewpoint, which was worth the pain and panting because the views when you reach the top are breathtaking."

Portugal was the dream location for Charlotte Smith-Jarvis. She writes: "A holiday that really sticks out in my mind is Lisbon. The food, the incredibly friendly people… the port!

"But the absolute highlight and somewhere I recommend everyone visits is Sintra. Less than an hour out of the city by train, the entire town is a UNESCO heritage site - every corner dripping with gorgeousness (no wonder Madonna's chosen to move there).

"My friends and I took a little bus up a steep hillside, climbing seemingly into the clouds, where we found ourselves at the fairytale-like 19th-century Palacio Nacional da Pena. While there is little to see inside the open areas, it is the views from the top and the sheer beauty of the turreted castle-like property which make it a magical place to spend your day. The gardens sprawl as far as the eye can see and even in the several hours we were there we barely scratched the surface. At every turn there's a jaw-dropping vista, be it a folly, a lake, or scented display of blooms.

Charlotte Smith-Jarvis at the top of Pena Palace. Picture: CHARLOTTE SMITH-JARVIS

Charlotte Smith-Jarvis at the top of Pena Palace. Picture: CHARLOTTE SMITH-JARVIS - Credit: Archant

"Just across the road is the Castelo Dos Mouros - the Moorish castle - offering a walk skywards along its battlements. We traversed the wall as the sun was setting, the pillowy clouds floating beneath us. Just stunning, and something none of us could ever forget."

Twitter user David Flisher said: "I've had loads of good holidays, but probably the best would be my first trip to India, 20 years ago, and last year's autumn holiday to North Wales."

Sally Rooma, who runs the Foodie Travel Guide and spends a lot of time in Suffolk, said: "My best holiday was in the summer of 1989, spent inter-railing around Europe after leaving university. Slow travel at its best, with only the Thomas Cook train timetable and Rough Guide to help us!"

Also on Twitter, Stefan Peck said his best trip was a "tent holiday on the Isle of Wight. We forgot airbeds and slept on grass the first night. We turned up just as it was getting dark, Fantastic time though!"

Holidays closer to home

Not all great holidays are a long way from home,though. Judy Rimmer writes: "I've had several great holidays abroad, including my honeymoon in Normandy and the Loire and a more recent mini-break in Berlin. But we've also had some great holidays in East Anglia over the years.

"When my children were small we had a wonderful time staying in Sheringham, where they loved the carnival. Last year we stayed in nearby Cromer, which was great. We loved eating fish and chips and we couldn't resist seeing the End of the Pier Show. We also enjoyed the amazing 1940s weekend at Sheringham and Holt and on the North Norfolk Railway - we hadn't known about this in advance, so it was an added bonus!"

Also, José López Lerena might live in Malaga, Spain, but he loves spending as much time as possible in the Ipswich, Woodbridge and Felixstowe areas, and wrote on Twitter, "All my trips to Suffolk are my "best-ever holiday"!"

What are the top holiday destinations of the moment?

Caernarfon Castle - one of the many holiday highlights in north Wales Picture: PAUL GEATER

Caernarfon Castle - one of the many holiday highlights in north Wales Picture: PAUL GEATER - Credit: Archant

If you are looking for an exotic place to visit, Alex Downing, marketing manager for travel company Imaginative Traveller, based in Debenham, Suffolk, said: "Our most popular destinations are all around South East Asia at the moment with Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand all being hot destinations.

"We also get a lot of interest in tours to Japan, Middle Eastern destinations such as Jordan and Egypt and the Silk Route across Asia. The "Stans" are also attracting a lot of interest." That includes Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

For those looking for a holiday closer to home, UK destinations such as Cornwall, Northumbria and Scotland are proving popular for coach holiday provider Galloway, based in East Anglia.

The company has also seen a growth in solo travellers, a trend which was also noticed in a 2018 study by of 20,500 global travellers.

Catherine Bowyer, marketing manager at Galloway, based at Mendlesham in Suffolk, said, "Historically it has been difficult to secure hotel rooms with no single supplement, but we have worked closely with suppliers to increase our offering for 2019 with new destinations to Ireland, Wales and Yorkshire now included in the programme over the next 12 months."

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