If there’s one thing the Irish are famous for, it’s their love of a good time, and where better to be wooed by the Emerald Isle’s charm than in Dublin? In less than an hour and a half you could be in the fair city, perfect for nipping over to on the bank holiday weekend. History lovers will love the incredible library at The Long Room of Trinity College, literature-lovers should go to Sweny’s Pharmacy mentioned in James Joyce’s Ulysses. Immerse yourself in local culture in the lanes of the so-called creative quarter between Grafton Street and George’s Street and grab the best pint of Guinness you will ever taste. If you need a break from the city, Dublin’s surrounds are just as gorgeous; hike up Dublin Mountain for amazing views or dive into the icy Irish sea in Dublin Bay.
2. CORSICA AND SARDINIA
Within kissing distance of each other, these Mediterranean islands are lovely in July, when they get around 11 hours of sun a day. French Corsica is an island you’ll want to explore in full – from the secluded northern fishing villages of Cap Corse, where the new Misíncu hotel sits overlooking the rugged coast, to a windsurfers’ paradise in Bonifacio and the beautiful sandy beaches near Porto-Vecchio, where Design Hotels’ Casadelmar overlooks the bay. To escape the crowds, rent a house on the beach-fringed Domaine de Murtoli estate. Italian Sardinia’s Costa Smeralda is sensational, although busy in July. Our tip: head to La Maddalena, a wild, protected archipelago off the coast with the best beaches, turquoise seas and sandy coves. It’s breathtakingly beautiful.
3. NEW FOUND-LAND, CANADA
While it doesn’t exactly get hot in Newfoundland, July is the beginning of the Canadian island’s balmiest season. And as the sort of place you want to get out and about — whether scouring woodland for gourmet specialties like lovage and spruce tips, or learning the local art of cod-jigging from a hardy fisherman — highs of 18C makes things infinitely more pleasant. The easternmost of Canada’s provinces, on a limb in the Northern Atlantic, it’s a thrillingly rugged hinterland of puffins, sea cliffs and Viking legends; the sort of vast frontier a whale might breach right by your kayak, or where immense, glacial-blue icebergs bob nonchalantly past. A newly minted culinary rep means rich rewards after all that fresh air. In provincial capital St John’s, Raymond’s foraged menu (seabuckthorn, Acadian sturgeon) has been hailed the nation’s best. Or get yourself invited to a local beach ‘boil-up’, where sea urchin and mussels are plucked fresh from rock pools.
The Indian Ocean islands of the Seychelles, with their sweeping white beaches, clear blue waters and diverse wildlife, must be the most sought-after holiday spots in the world. North Island is sensational, a VIP destination, with everyone from George Clooney to honeymooning royals staying in the thatched tree houses suspended on a hillside between forest and ocean. On Frégate Island Private, guests share the space with aldabra giant tortoises and rare magpie robins. If you’re visiting the World Heritage Site Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve, the Raffles Praslin hotel is a beautiful spot to stay nearby.
5. NAXOS, GREECE
Picking the most beautiful Greek island is like picking the most big-headed Gallagher brother: virtually impossible. But if we were forced, Naxos in July just might be the answer. The largest of the Cyclades, its sandy beaches run the gamut from family-friendly frolickers in the west (Agios Prokopios), to the south’s hidden wildlings, where you can ride horses over dramatic dunes (Plaka) or brave powerful winds on a kiteboard (Mikri Vigla). And though not exactly a hidden gem, the pace remains pleasantly drowsy, whether kicking back in beach bars or supping at mountain village tavernas. At the latter, you’ll be drowsier still after generous sloshes of homemade wine and local citron liqueur.
6. YUCATAN PENINSULA, MEXICO
It’s not just insanely beautiful beaches and postcard-blue Caribbean, Mexico’s dazzling tropical coast is also a trove of adventure. Flee Cancun for Isla Mujeres in July when the island hosts the annual Whale Shark Festival and hundreds of sharks gather offshore. The event raises awareness about conservation, while allowing swimmers to share the water with the gentle giants in a sustainable manner. Then head down to Tulum (or Isla Holbox) where days start with sun salutations and end on toes-in-the-sand candlelit dinners. Hot reservations are easier to come by as this is technically rainy season; July, however, typically heralds a reprieve from the torrent.
Chances are you won’t be going to Iceland for the weather, but it’s certainly most pleasant in July. The long days mean more time to explore the almost otherworldly natural landscape – take a dip in Geysir’s hot springs or visit Thingvellir National Park, where the ION Hotel offers hiking, diving and fishing excursions. Or head north to the Troll Peninsula for an actioan-packed trip. Foodies will love the capital, Reykjavik, where the Nordic folk-food movement has taken hold, with an emphasis on fresh fish and local lamb. Don’t miss a visit to Harpa, Reykjavik’s new concert hall with its impressive multi-faceted glass façade.
8. FIJI, SOUTH PACIFIC
July is the best time to visit the South Pacific islands of Fiji. It’s dry season and the water is at its clearest. The archipelago is one of the best places to dive in the world, surrounded by beautiful reefs which are home to around 1,000 species of fish; but on a clear day, a simple snorkel is just as good. For total escapism, head to private Dolphin Island, just off the Sun Coast of Viti Levu, Fiji’s mainland, or stay in one of the 25 wood-and-glass villas at eco-friendly Laucala Island. The Fijians are famously friendly but nowhere is the welcoming song so heartfelt as at the locally owned Likuliku Lagoon Resort, where days ebb and flow with the tide.
For the longest time, Wales was a punchline — but it’s having the last laugh. Rhossili Bay, three miles of golden sand on the Gower Peninsula, has twice been named Europe’s best beach within the past five years. And the grand opening of the Wales Coast Path, tracing an 870-mile hiking route, shows off even more of its immaculate coast. Crammed with castles and craggy peaks, an impressive 20 percent of Wales is protected by the national park system — heaven for outdoorsy types. And though this compact country is known for its downpours, July has semi-reliably good weather (temperatures in the early 20Cs), before school holiday madness consumes August. Sunshine also brings festivals, like historic, stone-hewn Monmouth’s feast of fringe art, music and food. After a spot of salt-of-the-earth merrymaking, seek out the town’s restaurant with rooms, The Whitebrook — a Michelin-starred celebration of Wye Valley ingredients, featuring hedgerow pickings and local asparagus.
10. SIBENIK AND THE KORNATI ISLANDS, CROATIA
Croatia, believe it or not, is still actually an option, even though its picture-perfect medieval cities and extraordinary coastline welcomed 20 million visitors last year. And one sometimes suspects that all 20 million turn up in August, when those straight-out-of-a-fantasy-novel fortified towns are bursting at the seams. Thank heavens, then, for Obonjan. This wellness retreat from the team behind the Hideout festival, sprawling across a private island of the same name, got off to a shaky start when it launched in 2016. But the kinks have been completely ironed out, and guests are guaranteed a tempting mix of yoga classes, chill-out music and glamping. Spare some time as well for Sibenik, a short speedboat ride away: a major historic city and a lovely labyrinth of chalk-white stone. A day’s sailing around the Kornati Islands – unpopulated idylls given over to vineyards, orchards, and little else – also supplies some much-needed mellow.
11. SVALBARD AND VESTERALEN ARCHIPELAGOS, NORWAY
Those looking for their next big adventure — and, let’s face it, their next big travel boast – are increasingly turning to Svalbard, the Norwegian archipelago halfway between the mainland and the North Pole. The number of cruises making the journey here has rocketed by 20 per cent every year for the past decade, according to officials in the area. The main draw? Polar bears, best viewed in the height of summer, when the ice melts enough to allow ships through. Of course, there’s also the beauty that goes with being one of the world’s northernmost inhabited areas: infinite ice fields, pristine snow-cloaked peaks, electric-blue icebergs. If you’re not up for a big expedition, though, try Vesteralen instead. Closer to civilisation, but still wild and isolated, these islands are all forested mountains and immaculate fjords, and offer a near-guarantee you’ll see whales.
12. TRANSYLVANIA, ROMANIA
In fact, this is a destination fit for a king-in-waiting: the Prince of Wales fell in love with the area on a visit in 1998, and has spent the ensuing years buying and restoring farmhouses intended for holiday rentals, the most elegant of them being his tranquil Zalan Valley nature retreat. Still, Transylvania remains satisfyingly obscure, making it a wonderful place to unplug. Butterfield & Robinson is ahead of the curve with its biking and walking tours, where you’ll stay in UNESCO-listed cottages and sleep in commanding castles. Resist the temptation to visit amid spooky winter gloom – go back in August’s sunny warmth.
13. FLORENCE, ITALY
Florence in August? Are we nuts? As nuts as the New Generation Festival, a brilliant three-day jamboree held in the gardens of the Palazzo Corsini — named for, and home to, one of Italy’s most prestigious dynasties. The invention of two Old Etonians, New Generation launched in 2017 with an audacious mix of opera, DJs and drag acts, attracting an eclectic crowd that included socialites, countesses and Princess Michael of Kent. This year (Wednesday 28–Sunday 31 August 2019), it’s even bigger and even better, mixing orchestral performances with an evening of tribute to Harlem jazz. So, yes, you could join the crowds at the galleries and basilicas. Or you could don your black tie or ballgown, grab a flute of something bubbly and say you were here.
14. PORTLAND & SEATTLE
With less than 200 miles between them on Interstate 5, Portland and Seattle have long battled it out to for the title of hippest city on the US west coast. Seattle is the larger of the two and its food scene is incredibly exciting at the moment, with talented chefs and excellent restaurants. Portland is smaller and infinitely more hipster: the tattooed locals are beamingly friendly, and the youthful city has a quirky food scene alive with food trucks and microbreweries.
August is a month bookmarked for fun, and a long weekend in Amsterdam will provide you with enough merriment and wild stories to carry you through the winter. Everything is hyped up in the Dutch city; museums are wacky, weird and downright fascinating, and cafés go from loud and lovely to totally laid-back. Mosey around the tourist areas like Jordaan and the old town and head to the seriously cool East Amsterdam, which is packed with kitsch shops, art galleries and delightful people enjoying a Grolsch in one of the café gardens.