Coronavirus travel plans: Real dead ringers foreign climes you love

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Countdown blunder: Rachel Riley's huge mistake after replacing Carol Vorderman exposed

No need to dream of overseas trips – we can match many top spots (Image: Getty)

La Dolce Vita Vineyards and Portmeirion Now that global warming has brought us liquid sunshine (aka wine), we can have a good go at pretending we’re in Tuscany in several parts of the countryside. Many a Kentish fruit farm has found new life as a vineyard, in places like Hush Heath, Chapel Down, and Gusbourne – the latter in the most bucolic location in the very pretty village of Appledore right at the back of the Romney Marsh.

Countdown blunder: Rachel Riley's huge mistake after replacing Carol Vorderman exposed

Fruit farms are now vineyards (Image: Getty)

Elsewhere, in Denbies Wine Estate in Surrey and the Three Choirs Vineyards in Gloucestershire you can dine and sleep among the vines, imagining yourself in Chianti country. But Italian fantasy is made concrete (literally as well as metaphorically) in the village of Portmeirion, which has transported Liguria to Northwestern Wales.

In a spectacular setting framed in mountains on a headland overlooking the Dwyryd river estuary, the village was lovingly created by eccentric architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis in the style of a colourful Italian village, with a piazza and Baroque-inspired domes.

Its mix of self-catering cottages and hotel rooms are in a fanciful mix of Italianate styles, in all colours, and with ornamental gardens in between. 

GOING DUTCH: Norfolk and the Broads

A lone windmill at the water’s edge, a sky stitched with skeins of geese, and smoked eel on the menu of the waterside brasserie.

It may sound like a corner of Holland, but this is the Norfolk Broads, that 116 square mile mosaic of marshland, river and lake in deepest East Anglia.

Countdown blunder: Rachel Riley's huge mistake after replacing Carol Vorderman exposed

A windmill at Ludham, Norfolk, an area reminiscent of Holland (Image: Getty)

This landscape is pancake flat, so if you try to explore it by road, you will see little more than occasional windmills playing peekaboo over the reeds.

On a boat, though, you enter a parallel universe, of waterside gazebos, loggias, verandas, pavilions and lawns, each with a dinghy bobbing alongside, just like in the Netherlands.

The Dutch influence is pervasive here: Dutch engineers helped create the drainage system for the Fens, and the West Norfolk town of King’s Lynn, with its gable-topped ed-brick merchants’ houses lined up alongside the quayside, could have been transplanted straight from the Low Countries.

The shoreline echoes the Netherlands, too: those wide open Norfolk beaches at Holkham and Hunstanton could so easily be the fringes of the super-shallow Dutch Wadden Sea, where embarrassed yotties are regularly stranded on the sands by the outgoing tide.

SCANDI NOIR: The Scottish Highlands

The popular imagery of Scandinavia – tundra, reindeer, impenetrable forest and spectacular fjords – are available north of the border, if you know where to look (albeit with a small substitution of ‘red’ for ‘rein’).

Countdown blunder: Rachel Riley's huge mistake after replacing Carol Vorderman exposed

The Scottish Highlands replicate the spectacular views of those found in Scandinavia (Image: Getty)

For a true tundra experience you can’t fault Rannoch Moor, that huge welter of bog and rock that sits just south of Glencoe.

Its only man-made crossing is the Glasgow-to-Fort William railway, parts of which are floated on rafts of logs, and it’s a paradise for red deer.

For wannabe forest bathers, a huge area of Perthshire around the resort of Pitlochry has been designated Big Tree Country since the planting 200 years ago of some 25 million trees.

As for spectacular fjords, there are large numbers of mountainsided lochs all over the Highlands, but perhaps the most magnificent view is from the top of Bealach na Ba – Pass of the Cattle – en route to the remote village of Applecross.

The road here has the steepest ascent of any in the UK, rising from sea level to 2,054ft at gradients of up to 20 degrees in a series of hairpin bends.

The reward is a fabulous view across the Inner Sound to the Isle of Skye.

PASTIS AND PASTIES Cornwall

The Cornish coast and the Brittany coast have so many similarities, they are almost mirror images on either side of the Channel. Brittany even has a region called Cornouaille.

Both regions share a Celtic history and have spectacular shorelines punctured by creeks, beaches and steep fishing villages. Both have an artistic tradition, with Impressionists such as Gauguin decamping to Pont-Aven, while British artists including Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson made their own colony at St Ives.

Both have a tidal St Michael, an inhabited island sitting offshore on an outcrop of rock, cut off twice a day.

The French Mont St Michel, on the bay where Brittany and Normandy merge, is topped by a monastery, while St Michael’s Mount in Britain is topped by a medieval priory and castle.

Foodwise, Cornwall may not have the shellfish farms of southern Brittany, but it does have posh seafood heaven in Rick Stein’s in Padstow.And where the Bretons like pastis, the Cornish love pasties.

CARIBBEAN BLUE: Scottish beaches

That lucent blue, that spotless sky, that lapping of a crystalline sea and that sharp intake of breath as you dip your toe! The beaches of Luskentyre, on the isle of Harris in the Outer Hebrides, and at Arisaig, on the Scottish mainland look just as good as the Caribbean – and here you can have them all to yourself.

Countdown blunder: Rachel Riley's huge mistake after replacing Carol Vorderman exposed

Scotland has lucent blue seas and spotless skies (Image: Getty)

Mind you, you’d be a brave man to be stretched out in your budgie smugglers, sipping a pina colada, on these shores.

Better to be savouring a single malt by a fragrant fire while gazing out over the silken sands, particularly from one of the magnificent Grand Designs-style holiday homes for rent along the Harris coastline just south of Luskentyre.

Of course, Harris takes a bit of reaching, so the Arisaig beaches, which featured in the film Local Hero, are a bit easier to access.

To get there you could take the Jacobite, the steam-hauled train that runs between Fort William and Mallaig and played the part of Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter films.

IMPOSTER CITIES: London and Manchester

Being transported into another world is not just the preserve of the countryside.

London can play that trick in many locations – Brick Lane with its Bangladeshi community, Edgware Road (Middle East) and Green Lanes (Turkish).

Countdown blunder: Rachel Riley's huge mistake after replacing Carol Vorderman exposed

Brick Lane in London transports you into another world (Image: Getty)

It has Little Venice, that stretch of the Regent’s Canal lined with decorated narrowboats, although ‘Little Amsterdam’ may be more appropriate, given the number of liveaboards (not allowed inVenice).

In fact, a good candidate for a Venice of the North is Manchester, which also does a very convincing imitation of Boston or New York.

The Venetian part of the city is the canal network that carved up the centre during the industrial revolution, carrying raw materials and finished textiles from docks to factories and vice versa.

Today those shreds of waterways that remain are sociable threadlines through the centre, lined with pubs and restaurants.

As for the New York look, film directors love the city’s trendy Northern Quarter, brimful of brownstone blocks with external fire escapes. Morbius, the Spider-Man spin-off, was filmed here last year, and for a while the streets were flooded with yellow cabs.


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