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Holiday ideas for April

With spring in full swing across much of Europe, there are plenty of walking and cycling holidays to tempt you.
 

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  • Besides the gloriously green scenery, one recurring theme of our walking routes in the Yorkshire Dales is waterfalls. There are the much-photographed, three-step falls at Aysgarth; Cauldron Falls (pictured) at a beauty spot where Turner once sketched; the cascades in the village of Askrigg (where many scenes from the 1980s series of All Creatures Great and Small were filmed); Aysgill Force; and England’s largest single-drop waterfall, Hardraw Force. Mesmerising to behold at any time of year, they tend to be at their most spectacular early in the season.
  • Thanks to the daffodils and the clouds of cherry blossom, yellow and pink are the colours which dominate in Alnwick in April, particularly during the second half of the month. Our gentle walking holiday in Northumberland features a full day to explore the town’s magnificent castle (which served as Hogwarts for some scenes in the Harry Potter films) and The Alnwick Garden, home to the world’s largest Tai Haku Cherry orchard. Besides the colours, another benefit of holidaying here in April (or indeed any time outside the school holidays) is the tranquillity – you’ll have the glorious sweeps of sand virtually to yourselves. And, if you take a boat trip to the Farne Islands, you may be lucky enough to see a puffin or two – after overwintering on the water, they start to arrive back on land in April.
  • Portuguese explorers led the way during the Age of Discovery. Many centuries later, the tables have turned – the great cities, with their faded elegance and reminders of the Golden Age; the whitewashed, fortified villages along the border with Spain; and the timeless Douro Valley lend themselves perfectly to leisurely exploration. With plentiful warm spring sunshine usually the order of the day at this time of year, this is a great time of year to enjoy a train journey linking Porto, the Douro, Coimbra, Sintra and Lisbon.
  • Given its wonderfully unhurried atmosphere, as if the entire island has been lulled by the cerulean sea which laps its shores, ‘riot’ does not seem an appropriate word to use in relation to Gozo, Malta’s tranquil neighbour. However, used to describe the profusion of spring flowers and the impressive variety of colours, ‘riot’ could not be more apt. As you explore the myriad paths inland and along the coast, you’ll encounter the sherbet-yellow flowers of cape sorrel; the bobble heads of wild fennel; purple vetch; blue borage; and cheerful-looking crown daisies.
  • Our cycling holiday in the Dordogne valley promises picturesque views over this placid river, sleepy villages, places of interest to visit en route, and the earthy cuisine of south-west France. In April, the villages are sleepier than usual, with far fewer visitors than in summer, and the hedgerows and verges are burgeoning with life under the warm spring sunshine that makes riverside picnics hard to resist.
  • On Portugal’s hauntingly beautiful Costa Vicentina, virgin beaches backed by dramatic cliffs are washed by the restless waves that roll in from the Atlantic, swirling round the sea stacks that are dotted just off the shore. That Europe’s only marine stork colony chooses these precarious-looking towers to nest on is hard to believe, but you can see it with your own eyes in April, the start of the breeding season. There is plenty to draw your eye on dry land too, with carpets of wildflowers lining the scenic coastal paths.
  • The awe-inspiring Pont du Gard, a three-tiered aqueduct spanning the River Gardon north of Nîmes, showcases the Romans’ engineering prowess. Arrival here is undoubtedly a highlight, but this holiday is principally a celebration of French cuisine, and includes two nights at the gastronomic Hostellerie le Castellas. Naturally, the cuisine is superb all year round, but the reason we recommend this holiday in April is because thyme is in flower, meaning that the low, rolling hills are carpeted in blue, and the scent of wild herbs drifts on the warm breezes as you walk.
  • Italy’s dramatic Amalfi Coast has drawn artists, writers and musicians since the days of the Grand Tour. Wagner found inspiration for Parsifal at the Villa Rufolo in the elegant town of Ravello, so it is fitting that this handsome mansion and its manicured gardens are the setting for a series of classical music concerts that starts in April each year (www.ravelloarts.org.) During the day, you can walk along panoramic trails such as ‘path of the gods’ and stepped mule tracks that wind through the lemon groves, linking the towns and villages which cling to the slopes above the sea.
  • Menorca is one of the Mediterranean’s hidden treasures. Dotted with prehistoric sites, the rolling hills and wooded valleys at its centre descend to a coastline of red sandstone cliffs and sandy beaches. In April, the wildflowers, the yellow of the broom, and the pretty butterflies which flit across the trails enhance the allure further. Whether you choose to explore on foot or by car, you have ample opportunity to appreciate another of the island’s myriad attractions: its delicious seafood.
  • Holland is, of course, synonymous with tulips. To see them in flower, travel in the second half of April (or in May), when the fields are a blaze of colour, enhancing the views of dike houses, canals and slowly turning windmills. As any introduction to Holland should, the holiday includes a stay in Amsterdam, with a day to visit the Van Gogh Museum, or to take a boat trip on the canal to admire the terraces of gabled 17th-century merchants’ houses.
 

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