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Adam Henson and Ellie Harrison unlock travel treasures in Secret Britain

Want to escape the crowds this spring? From beaches to birds, walks to waterfalls, here are Britain's best kept secrets...

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Published: Wednesday, 8th April 2015 at 4:30 pm

A beautiful beach...

ELLIE HARRISON I was brought up in Gloucestershire, but I always appreciate a beautiful beach – and during filming we visited one that took my breath away. It’s a spot called Smirisary, on the west coast of the Scottish Highlands, and it can only be reached via an undulating half-a-mile walk through heathland.

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It’s more than worth it: as you climb over the last ridge, you’re greeted by a rocky-edged small beach dotted with a few old crofter’s cottages. It’s an extraordinary, atmospheric vista, which feels as if it’s been unchanged for centuries. The fact that I got to see it bathed by an unusually hot Scottish sun made it all the more enchanting.

ADAM HENSON Like Ellie, I live in the landlocked Cotswolds so I don’t get to see the sea as often as I’d like, although thankfully I get to see some fantastic beaches through Countryfile. All beaches have their charms, but my favourites are on the Western Isles, in particular one on the Isle of Harris called Traigh Losgaintir or Luskentyre, a vast expanse of beautiful white sand leading to turquoise waters. The wildlife here is wonderful, too – lots of wild flowers and sea birds.


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The best place to see wildlife...

ELLIE If you’re a bird lover then I don’t think you can go wrong with the beautiful Farne Islands off the coast of Northumberland in breeding season. It’s quite something to witness the vast flocks of kittiwakes, guillemots, razorbills and puffins, to hear and smell them. Go while you can, too – puffin numbers are in decline due to the dwindling numbers of sand eels, which they rely on for food.

ADAM I once visited a place called Tory Island off the northwest coast of Ireland, which has a resident dolphin that comes into the harbour. Wonderful enough, and even more so when I saw the labrador from the local pub jump in to play with it – apparently a perfectly common sight there.

Another good spot is a boat trip off the Isle of Mull. Last time, I saw basking sharks, porpoises, dolphins and even a minke whale.


A favourite village...

ELLIE Despite living in the Cotswolds, I have an aversion to chocolate-box villages, which to me all too often represent inaccessibility. “Second homers” means the lights are often off all week in some of the villages close to where I live. So I prefer places that feel lived in, even if they’re not picture-postcard pretty.

ADAM I love the Cotswold villages, but I have a particularly soft spot for a place called Malham in North Yorkshire, which sits on the edge of the moors. My friend Neil farms near here, which is how I know it, and although the village itself is quite basic – just a couple of pubs and a shop – I like the fact that the area has been settled and farmed for thousands of years, just as my friend is doing today.


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A favourite walk...

ELLIE I walk a lot. When I was two weeks overdue with my daughter, I went on a five-mile hike in an attempt to move things along. Because my girls are still pretty small – Lux is four and her sister Red is five – our family walks are a bit more limited these days, but whenever we can we stride out through the beautiful woodland and wildflower meadows near our home in the Stroud valleys.

Further afield, I love walking on the high ground above Ennerdale in the Lake District. It’s an area that’s been rewilded and in parts truly does offer wilderness – no mean feat when you consider the tourist hordes nearby.

ADAM As a farmer, I already cover a lot of ground, so I tend not to seek out country walks in my spare time, although I love taking an evening stroll with my partner Charlie and children, Ella, 17, and 13-year-old Alfie, to a waterfall that nestles in a valley on the land, on which I’m a tenant farmer. That said, I can heartily recommend a lovely two-mile walk on the Cotswold Farm Park, which is part of my estate, open to the public and a designated triple-designated Site of Scientific Interest because of the abundance of wildlife.

Stroll along the well-marked path and you could catch a glimpse of the rare Duke of Burgundy fritillary, as well as the Cotswold pennycress, a tiny white wildflower that flowers around now. There are wild orchids, and abundant gorse, too. I never tire of taking in the changing seasons here.


A tranquil spot...

ADAM While filming Secret Britain, we visited a wonderful waterfall called Sgwd-yr-Eira, near Ystradfellte in the Brecon Beacons. Reached via forest and scrubland, the ledge over the waterfall is so wide that you can walk right behind it and watch the water cascade in front of you without feeling so much as a splash.

While I was there the sun was shining through the water and it felt completely peaceful and timeless.

ELLIE I love Northumberland, and when everyone I know heads to Cornwall on holiday, I prefer to head north instead. This border county has it all, from incredible history to a magnificent unspoilt coastline, and incredibly dark night skies: Northumberland has England’s first International Dark Sky Park.

It feels wilder and emptier here somehow, and my very favourite part of it is a spot called Sycamore Gap at Hadrian’s Wall, where a beautiful sycamore stands in a U-shaped valley along the wall.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-7MjQK5ncks


A special location is...

ELLIE I’ve got two actually, both in the Highlands. One is Loch Etive, a sea loch in Argyll and Bute where the vista is so spectacular you feel like you have landed in Tolkien’s imagination as he wrote The Lord of the Rings. The other is another loch called Morar near Lochaber, which we visited for Secret Britain. This fresh water loch is supposedly deep enough to conceal the Eiffel Tower and even has its own monster, Morag. There are islands on the loch, which have barely been trampled by man, and it has a serenity I find captivating.

ADAM I stumbled upon somewhere during filming, when I went fly fishing for brown trout on the River Usk on the Glanusk Estate in the Brecon Beacons. We fished close to an amazing old mill on the river and a couple of kingfishers fluttered past. Despite the camera crew, I felt like you could have turned the clock back centuries; I was completely at one with nature. You do have to pay to fish here, but there’s a public footpath so that anyone can share this beautiful outlook.

Explore more secret parts of Britain with Secret Britain on Wednesday 8th April at 9.00pm on BBC1


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