Coastal Europe: 6 Reasons to Explore From Portugal to Scotland
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Coastal Europe: 6 Reasons to Explore From Portugal to Scotland

In spring 2022, the brand-new National Geographic Resolution will set out on three inspiring new itineraries along Europe's coastline. National Geographic photographer Alison Wright will be aboard these back-to-back voyages as the ship winds its way from Portugal to Spain and France and then up to England, Ireland, and Scotland. "I'm excited to return to these areas that I know so well, because they're all so different," she says. "Combining these itineraries offers a real sense of the diversity of each of these unique coastal cultures and landscapes from the south to the north. I find that each week-long itinerary seems to go so fast, it’s nice to add the additional routes.” Here, she shares some of her photos and the highlights she's looking forward to the most.

A Glass of Port in Porto

The history of Portugal dates back 400,000 years ago, making it an incredibly rich culture with an alluring past and a wonderful place to photograph. Portugal is one of Europe’s most popular destinations for the sunny beaches and temperate waters so there’s a real vacation vibe along the coast. The outdoor restaurants are always packed on warm evenings and the distinctive tram system makes it an easy way to explore the cities of Lisbon and Porto. I do love a glass of local ruby port so I usually make a point of finding a nice café and listening to the traditional Fado singers belting out their expressive melancholic music.

 

VIEW CULTURE & CUISINE: FROM PORTO TO BASQUE COUNTRY >

Visiting a Powerful Pilgrim Destination

I have walked hundreds of miles along the ancient pilgrimage route of the Camino de Santiago, the Way of St. James, a journey that culminates at the impressive Cathedral de Santiago de Compostela. And I have the certificate and blisters to prove it! I was delighted to discover that the “Pilgrim Menu,” in the Galician countryside is not as austere as it sounds and actually includes its famous seared octopus, delicious tapas of assorted seafood, and of course, Spanish Albariño wines. All can be found while exploring the charming town surrounding the cathedral, which I imagine is even more enjoyable without the sore feet!

The Magical Island of Mont-Saint-Michel

The isolated 8th-century Abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel is one of Europe’s most sought out pilgrimage destinations. With the well-deserved status as a UNESCO World Heritage site, it’s also one of the most photogenic. The mount almost seems to defy gravity as it floats on the bay between Normandy and Brittany, on its own lily pad-like island. It's a good idea to keep an eye on the tidal charts when visiting, or you might find yourself swimming back to the mainland!



VIEW MEDIEVAL TO MODERN: TRACING HISTORY FROM BORDEAUX TO DUBLIN >

A Leisurely Ride on Picturesque Tresco Island

My parents and most of my family are British, and even though I was mostly raised in the United States, I have spent a good deal of time in England. Summers were spent hiking the craggy coastline of Cornwall, so it’s always had a special place in my heart. I have even covered the entire breadth of Great Britain while photographing a book for National Geographic. Even so, traveling by ship has given me the opportunity to visit and photograph areas that even I hadn’t seen before. Tresco Island, in England's Isles of Scilly is one of them. According to Arthurian legend, the Isles of Scilly are all that remain of Lyonnesse, a lost land said to have vanished into the Atlantic.  


Biking
, or just walking, is a leisurely way to see Tresco Island, especially when taking photos. The island is flat, only about 2.5 square miles and home to about 150 people. It’s pleasant to meander the rugged coastline, passing quaint cottages on the way, and stopping in a sweet café along the water's edge for a bite to eat. A highlight is visiting and photographing the world-class Tresco Abbey Gardens, where a surprising variety of tropical flora and fauna flourishes. 

 

 

Wandering Through Dublin's History

Traces of Dublin’s past are on display at every turn. The Ha’penny Bridge, a pedestrian bridge built in 1816 that crosses over the River Liffey is a good place to start. Tour the city and discover its medieval castles, cathedrals, and Trinity College, one of the oldest universities in Europe. The National Museum of Archeology in Dublin presents a deeper dive into the fascinating history of its people. Of course, no tour would be complete without having a sip of Ireland’s famous brew at the Guinness beer factory.

 

VIEW WILD ISLES: RUGGED COASTS OF SCOTLAND & IRELAND >

 

Dramatic Geology on the Isle of Skye

The largest of the Inner Hebrides, the Isle of Skye is home to some of Scotland’s most memorable and photogenic landscapes. Rocky slopes and dramatic mountain scenery are some of the most impressive in the country and apparently draw climbers and even runners from around the world. Glamaig Hill (Greedy Woman) is the highest of the Red Hills and is known for its punishing ascent during the annual hill-race up this cone of scree. In 1889, a Gurkha named Harkabir Tharpa scaled the hill barefoot in 37 minutes. As the local café owner relayed this story to me, I was duly impressed but happily sunning myself, sipping a coffee, and watching the boats bobbing in the harbor. Somehow this seemed like a much more pleasant idea than running barefoot up a rocky scree mountain! 

Join Alison Wright to explore the many gems along Europe's storied coastline on one or more of the following itineraries:

Culture & Cuisine: From Porto to Basque
Medieval to Modern: Tracing History From Bordeaux to Dublin
Wild Isles: Rugged Coasts of Scotland and Ireland