10 things to do in and around Soller, Majorca, Spain

There aren’t many places in this world that I plan to return to (too many other places to see) but Soller is one of them. We loved our spring visit to Majorca!

Soller is an inland town in the mountainous north west of the island. Famed for its oranges and olive groves the town is popular with walkers and cyclists who use it as a base to explore the surrounding Tramuntana mountains.

Aside from walking there’s plenty of things to do and see around Soller, read on to find out more.

1. Visit the orange and lemon groves at Ecovinyassa

Whilst oranges and lemons abound it’s not easy to randomly stroll through the groves. That’s where Ecovinyassa comes in.

Oranges and lemons at Ecovinyassa
Oranges and lemons at Ecovinyassa

Visitors to Ecovinyassa follow a self guided tour around the aromatic orange and lemon trees, learning all about the different varieties. There are other species too; in fact I saw my first ever avocado tree laden with its ripe fruits. We stopped for oranges halfway round and sat down to a freshly squeezed orange juice and Pa Amb Oli (bread with olive oil and tomatoes) at the end. Like many great ideas, it’s a simple concept done well.

Orange break at Ecovinyassa
Orange break at Ecovinyassa

Book your visit to Ecovinyassa in advance via their website; they’re currently open three days per week.

2. Enjoy the view from the Mirador de ses Barques

There are several walks from Soller which take you up to this viewpoint.  We took a rather roundabout route but whichever way you walk it’s worth the uphill slog for the impressive views across the Soller valley and surrounding sea. If you’re not feeling energetic you can also drive to the viewpoint, but keep a watchful eye out for the hordes of road cyclists who use the hill for training.

The walk up to Mirador de ses Barques
The walk up to Mirador de ses Barques

Conveniently located next to the viewpoint is a restaurant. This is where we experienced our first taste of freshly squeezed Majorcan orange juice, sitting on the terrace overlooking the bay. Although we didn’t sit there for long after we discovered how windy it was!

3. Ride the tram to or from Port de Soller

Lots of visitors combine a trip on the tram with the train ride from Palma to Soller. As we were already in town we walked down to Port de Soller along the GR221 (long distance walking track), spent a couple of hours in the resort and then took the tram back to Soller.

Riding the tram from Port de Soller
Riding the tram from Port de Soller

The wooden tram is touristy and expensive (7 euros per person each way) but sod it, you’re on holiday and it’s a fun way to travel. The journey takes about 20 minutes, passing people’s back gardens and small orange groves before popping back out in the centre of Soller.

Soller tram
Soller tram

4. Explore Port de Soller

The resort of Port de Soller is about 3 miles from Soller, and could be used as a base for visiting the area. I personally preferred Soller but if you’re keen to stay in a resort it’s a good alternative. There are loads of places to eat out, accommodation options and boat trips.

Sorting the catch, Port Soller
Sorting the catch, Port Soller

If you happen to be there late afternoon, when the fishing boats arrive home, head to the harbour and watch the fishermen sorting their catch. Follow this up with a mooch around the yachts; it’s always fun trying to spot the most expensive ones.

5. Visit the chapel at Sa Capelleta

The chapel is a short walk (albeit uphill) from Soller and is an ideal evening stroll.

Sa Capelleta, Soller
Sa Capelleta, Soller

The chapel was locked on our visit but you can peak through the doors. It’s hard to describe the inside but imagine a cave with religious icons designed by Gaudi and you’ll be on the right track.

If you visit at sunset keep an eye on the mountains on your return journey; we were lucky to see them turn the most spectacular pink as the sun went down.

Soller sunset
Soller sunset

6. Take a hike

There are many walks around Soller for all abilities. Our favourite was a linear route from Deia to Soller along the GR221. We also enjoyed a more strenuous walk from Cuber Reservoir to the summit of L’Ofre. Spring and autumn are the best seasons for walking, it’s too hot in the summer!

The main routes are well signposted. We purchased a Soller walking guide from the Tramuntana shop in Soller; this covers walks to and from all of the local villages, directions to Sa Capelleta  and several more challenging hikes.

View from the GR221, near Soller
View from the GR221, near Soller

7. Stroll around Fornalutx

A couple of miles from Soller, this has been voted one of Spain’s prettiest villages. We passed through on one of our walks and whilst it’s undeniably beautiful it was just a little too manicured for me.

Olive tree, Soller
Olive tree, Soller

Another local village that vies for prettiest contender is Llucalcari, just off the road to Deia. Why not check them both out and see which one you prefer?

8. View Pablo Picasso and Joan Miro at the station

One for the art lovers. If modern art is your thing head to the railway station where you’ll find a room of Picasso ceramics and another of Miro’s works. The two artists were friends during their lifetimes, hence the joint exhibition. It’s a great way to bring art to the masses; if you’re waiting for a train and there’s a free exhibition why wouldn’t you visit?

Soller is also home to a Modernist museum, Can Prunera which offers a small permanent collection and visiting exhibitions.

9. Visit the Jardines de Alfabia

We hadn’t originally planned to visit these but some hire car trouble resulted in a change of destination. Located close to the Soller tunnel entrance you can easily while away an hour or two in the house and gardens.

Jardines de Alfabia
Jardines de Alfabia

We visited whilst the wisteria was blooming although we couldn’t see all of it as part of the garden was closed due to storm damage. This in itself was sadly impressive with large stone colonnades smashed onto the walkways; it must have been some storm!

The highlights of the garden are the towering palm trees and the many water features. You might also enjoy playing spot the frog. It’s easy to hear them croaking but they’re masters of disguise in the ponds!

Jardines de Alfabia
Jardines de Alfabia

10. People watch in the Plaza Constitucion

Soller’s town square is the focal point for most visitors. Dominated by the church of Sant Bartomeu, it houses a wide range of pavement cafes, ice cream parlours and restaurants. It’s THE place to sit and people watch!

Plaza de la Constitución, Soller
Plaza de la Constitución, Soller

On Saturday morning the square, and some of the surrounding roads, are taken over by the town market. This is a mix of your standard market stalls (clothes, household goods, fruit and veg) along with some craft and local produce stalls. Worth visiting if you’re in town.

More info:

  • We visited in April. The weather was perfect for walking (our main activity) and the sun shone almost all week. That said, the spring weather can also be very wet so pack accordingly.
  • We hired a car as part of our flight deal. Parking costs 6 euros per day in the main town car park, assuming you’re lucky enough to find a space. As of December 2017 there is no longer a charge to drive through the Soller tunnel. There’s a good cheap local bus service (except Sundays); useful for linear walks.
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Is Skye too busy? A tourist’s view.

I clicked on a BBC news article a couple of weeks ago bemoaning the fact that Skye was over-run with tourists. Made all the more topical as I was part of the problem, a tourist sitting in a cafe on Skye.

What did I, a visitor, think?

Skye, May 1993

I first visited Skye with a group of walking friends in 1993. We were walking parts of the notorious Cuillin Ridge, the traverse of which is deemed to be the finest mountaineering experience in the UK. It was an incredible week with spectacular scenery. However I am left with a lifelong aversion to exposed ridges, ‘bad steps’ and scree slopes!

Although we saw walkers and climbers I do not recall any other tourists on Skye. We arrived at our campsite without a reservation and easily parked on a day trip to the Quiraing. Not so these days.

I knew my return visit to Skye was going to be busy. We were travelling in peak season, mid-August, and our visit coincided with a major event, the Portree Highland Games.

Even so I was surprised when I tried to book campsite accommodation in March and found it fully booked. What would the island be like?

Skye, August 2017

Glenelg to Skye ferry
Glenelg to Skye ferry

Fast forward 20+ years and our family trip started quietly with a trip on the tiny Glenelg to Skye ferry. The perfect introduction to the island.

But as we joined the traffic on the main road towards Portree it was obvious the island was busy. A string of B&Bs with No Vacancy signs. Car number plates from all over Europe (on the return journey the kids kept a tally, French cars won). A stream of tour buses heading back towards the mainland. And, later on, a huge cruise ship looming in the distance.

What are the problems?

Skye is an easily accessible island, with several incredible natural attractions, that fit neatly into a tourist circuit. This makes it the perfect island to visit on a tour of Scotland. Added to this, tourism has increased rapidly in the last few years and the facilities haven’t caught up yet.

Many visitors appear to visit Skye for the day. Either on an organised tour or as part of a whizz round Scotland in a hire car trip. The Skye Trip Advisor forum is full of people planning a day trip from Fort William and wanting advice on how to fit in all the main sights. Of course not everyone has time to spare but Skye would benefit from its visitors staying longer and seeing other parts of the island.

Coral beach, near Dunvegan
Coral beach, near Dunvegan

Overnighting campervans are another issue. They are parked on every available (and not so available) spot. On an evening walk to Coral Beach, near Dunvegan, we found a string of campervans parked up beside the single track road. I’m not sure if this is because the campsites are full or if it’s an attempt to save money and camp informally. But where do they leave their rubbish or empty toilets?

As our stay on Skye progressed it became clear that whilst it welcomes visitors it isn’t equipped to deal with the number of summer tourists or the associated traffic. The small car parks fill quickly, leading to cars parked along muddy verges and in passing places. Many drivers are unfamiliar with their vehicles and the driving rules for single track roads leading to some interesting driving. There are no public toilets at the main natural attractions. Or much in the way of rubbish bins.

Let me put it into perspective though. As my mum said, when she looked at my photographs, “If it was so busy, where are all the people in your pictures?”. Good point. There generally weren’t any. I’d never get such empty landscape photographs at other popular tourist attractions further south!

Of course, we have an expectation that the Scottish Highlands are remote and empty of tourists. This is part of its appeal, and some parts are. But why shouldn’t Skye benefit from visitors the same as much of the UK?

What can the visitor do?

First and foremost we need to remember to leave nothing but footprints and take nothing but photographs.

If you desperately want to avoid tourists you’re best off visiting out of season. And perhaps steer clear of the top things to do as listed by Trip Advisor. Which is a pity as these attractions are top of the list for a reason!

I wanted to visit the Fairy Pools before our visit. Trip Advisor recommended it (half the problem of course). But I couldn’t ignore the comments about the parking nightmare. I knew I wouldn’t enjoy hordes of tourists (even if I’m one of them) and the stress of trying to find a parking space. So we didn’t go. Instead we drove out along the Waternish Peninsula to Trumpan Church, stopping off at craft shops and for lunch in Stein. We hardly saw anyone else. It was a great morning.

I was determined to revisit the Quiraing though. We made an effort to arrive early and luckily found a parking spot. We were immediately hemmed in by a minibus whose occupants piled out, walked a couple of minutes along the footpath to take photos before returning to the minibus. As we find the world over, walk half a mile from the nearest car park and you’ll almost be alone.

Quiraing, Skye
Quiraing, Skye

What is the solution?

It’s tempting to jump into solution mode and state the island needs more car parks, better roads, more public toilets and regularly emptied weatherproof bins. But who would pay for these facilities, both the initial outlay and their upkeep?

Skye residents have suggested they need a long term sustainable tourism plan. Absolutely.

Trumpan church, Skye
Trumpan church, Skye

Another suggestion was for a tourist tax of £1 per visitor to help fund facilities. I’d be happy to pay this. However it was rejected by the Scottish Tourism Alliance stating that visitors already pay tax. Alternatively, how about reasonable parking charges at the main tourist sites to help upgrade the facilities. Not a popular suggestion but it would hardly be setting a precedent.

What else would work?

Skye could look to other islands to see what works for them.

For example, we’ve used a hop on hop off bus service on the Isle of Wight, which has several set tourist bus routes and an affordable 24 hour ticket. Whilst there is already a shuttle service from Portree to several attractions it’s way too expensive for a family of four; it needs to be cheaper and easier than a hire car.

In the Channel Islands campervanners must buy a permit and only stay overnight on campsites. Perhaps the provision of summer only basic overnight campervan parking facilities, with access to toilets and water for a nominal fee (say, £5) would help enourmously.

Other areas place limits on the size of vehicles that can access certain roads. Tricky to enforce and controversial perhaps. But tied in with a regular shuttle bus and a campervan park it could work.

Lastly, improved visitor education, with pictorial road signs. That way, tourists cannot misread ‘passing place’ for ‘parking place’!

Have you been to Skye? What do you think?

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10 things our family enjoyed on the Isle of Anglesey

We recently completed another item on my UK bucket list and spent a week on Anglesey in North Wales.

Anglesey is the largest island in Wales and has plenty of tourist attractions for all ages. Read on to find out what we enjoyed most about the island.

1. Walking the Anglesey coastal path

This 200km path circles the coast and offers lots of walking opportunities. It’s a relatively gentle coastal path; whilst there are cliffs in the north we mainly walked beside heath, sand dunes and salt marshes.

Anglesey coastal path near Cemlyn
Anglesey coastal path near Cemlyn

Our favourite walks were along Aberffraw creek to the beach, a circuit around the northern end of Holy Island and an evening stroll to Llanddwyn along Newborough beach. Find out more about the stages and highlights on the Visit Anglesey website.

2. A behind the scenes tour at Halen Môn (Anglesey sea salt)

We spent an entertaining hour or so at Anglesey Sea Salt. We discovered how salt is harvested from the Menai Straits, processed and packaged in the onsite production facility.

Halen Môn salt tasting
Halen Môn salt tasting

Afterwards there’s an opportunity to sample table, rock and sea salts. You’re even given a handy little tin to take away your favourite; the smoked sea salt was to die for!

The tour is aimed at older children. If you’re travelling with youngsters Anglesea Sea Zoo (which we didn’t visit) is next door and might be a better option.

3. Spotting puffins on Puffin Island

Puffin island from Penmon Point, Anglesey
Puffin island from Penmon Point, Anglesey

Our boat trip with Seacoast Safaris took us out past Penmon Point lighthouse and around Puffin Island. The trip lasts around 90 minutes but is flexible to accommodate wildlife sightings. Our skipper tried to ensure both sides of the boat had equal viewing opportunities and was a mine of information about the area and its wildlife. Visitors usually see puffins between April to July but there are always plenty of other seabirds and seals to spot. We were even lucky enough to see porpoise – after we’d got off the boat in Beaumaris!

4. Watching the jets at RAF Valley

Hawk jet at RAF Valley, Anglesey
Hawk jet at RAF Valley, Anglesey

My son’s choice of activity; not an official tourist destination but very popular. The RAF station is used to train crew to fly fast jets and is also the base for RAF Mountain Rescue. There’s a public car park from where you can watch the pilots, usually flying Hawks, practise their take-off and landing skills. We watched for about 30 minutes or so; during this time we saw one take-off, a landing and a fly past. The take-off was the most exciting and is unbelievably noisy!

5. Visiting LlanfairPG

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, Anglesey
Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, Anglesey

There’s not much see once you’re here but how could we resist stopping off to take a photo of the longest place name in Europe?

6. Following the boardwalk through The Dingles, Llangefni

Easily accessed from Llangefni (once you find the right car park) this is a wooded valley with a boardwalk running through much of it. Visit in spring and you’ll be rewarded with swathes of bluebells.

Dingle nature reserve boardwalk, Llangefni, Anglesey
Dingle nature reserve boardwalk, Llangefni, Anglesey

My partner was lucky enough to see a red squirrel so keep your eyes peeled.

7. Watching the sunset at Newborough Beach

Brent geese flying from Newborough beach
Brent geese flying from Newborough beach

If you’ve seen my previous post about Newborough Beach and Llanddwyn Island you’ll know why I’m including it here. This is, in my opinion, the best beach on Anglesey. Just go!

8. Exploring the copper mine on Parys mountain, Amlwch

Once the largest copper mine in the world this is a fascinating place to visit.

Copper mine at Parys mountain, near Amlwch, Anglesey
Copper mine at Parys mountain, near Amlwch, Anglesey

We followed the shorter waymarked walk around the huge open cast mine. The rock colours are amazingly vibrant and the whole area feels completely alien to its surroundings. There’s no entrance charge or visitor facilities aside from some information boards. Be aware it’s in an exposed location so prepare to get windswept!

9. Watching birds at RSPB South Stack and visiting the lighthouse on Holy Island

Two attractions in one. Watch seabirds on the cliffs and then, if you’re feeling fit, walk the 400 steps down to the lighthouse. Remembering that you’ll need to climb up 400 on the way back. Alternatively just sit in the RSPB cafe and enjoy the views.

South Stack lighthouse, nr Holyhead
South Stack lighthouse, nr Holyhead

The lighthouse was closed during our visit so check opening times before you go. You wouldn’t want those steps to be in vain.

10. Eating a massive scone at the Wavecrest Cafe, Church Bay

If you fancy a cream tea on Anglesey you really must treat yourself to a super size scone at Wavecrest Cafe. Just look at it!

Wavescrest cafe, Church Bay
Wavescrest cafe, Church Bay

Afterwards head to the beach at Church Bay to run around and attempt to burn off the calories.

Have you been to Anglesey? If so, what were you favourite things to do?

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Sunset watching at Newborough beach and Llanddwyn Island, Anglesey

When a beach is the number one Trip Advisor attraction on Anglesey you know it’s going to be special. You also expect it to be overrun with people. And perhaps, on a sunny summer day, Newborough beach and Llanddwyn Island are. But visit on a cool spring evening and you might well have the sweep of golden sand to yourself.

The car park at Newborough Forest is huge. Presumably testament to the number of day visitors who come to enjoy the beach, search for red squirrels and cycle the woodland tracks. There are toilets, marked trails and an ice-cream van in high season. But, aside from a couple of cars and campervans, it was almost empty at 8pm.

Watching the sunset from Llanddwyn island
Watching the sunset from Llanddwyn island

We parked and climbed the dunes to the beach. A perfect crescent of sand greeted us. Oystercatchers calling out. And a huge dead fish down on the shoreline that had both kids poking it in excitement.

Our target was Llanddwyn island, a mile or so along the sand from the car park. The island is cut off at high tide so check tide tables before you visit. Unless you fancy being marooned.

Beach walk out to Llanddwyn island
Beach walk out to Llanddwyn island

As we reached the island the clouds parted and a few rays of sun broke through. We were treated to the magical golden glow you get just before the sun sets.

Walk out to Llanddwyn island, Anglesey
Walk out to Llanddwyn island, Anglesey

Tŵr Mawr lighthouse, Llanddwyn island

For such a small finger of land Llanddwyn Island, named after St Dwynwen, the Welsh patron saint of lovers, has more than its fair share of things to see. Away from the beaches there are historic lighthouses, the remains of a church, crosses and a terrace of houses once used by pilots guiding ships into the Menai Straits.

Tŵr Mawr lighthouse on Llanddwyn Island, Anglesey
Tŵr Mawr lighthouse on Llanddwyn Island, Anglesey

I thought we were the only ones on Llanddwyn. Until I realised I was about to walk into a photo shoot. Several professional looking photographers had set up their tripods and cameras to record the perfect sunset shot. Feeling guilty about spoiling their photos I decided not to visit Tŵr Mawr lighthouse. Instead I joined them on the rocks to bag a shot of my own.

After the sunset, Llanddwyn
After the sunset, Llanddwyn

Leaving the island we raced the darkening skies back to our car. As we drove home through the woods we scared the kids with tales of mutant giant squirrels attacking the car. They’re old enough for a few scary stories. But it was funny how they both locked their passenger doors!

Newborough beach

Newborough beach sunset, Anglesey
Newborough beach sunset, Anglesey

Our second sunset visit was unplanned. We’d set off on an after dinner walk to a different stretch of beach. All started well until I climbed a sand dune expecting to see the sea. The water was a good mile away, separated by rolling sand dunes. Realising we wouldn’t reach the beach for sunset we turned around and retreated to the car.

Newborough beach sunset, Anglesey
Newborough beach sunset, Anglesey

Undeterred we drove on to Newborough beach, arriving just as the sun dipped behind the trees. There was no time to walk far from the car park. Once again the tide was out. But this time so was the sun. It was stunning.

View over to the mainland from Newborough beach, Anglesey
View over to the mainland from Newborough beach, Anglesey

Over on the mainland the sky above the mountains of Snowdonia and the Lleyn Peninsula turned pink. Inspired by this view we headed there later in the week to climb Yr Eifl, the hill on the right in the picture above.

Newborough beach sunset, Anglesey
Newborough beach sunset, Anglesey

Returning my gaze to Anglesey I watched the most incredible sunset. As the sun sank below the horizon the clouds turned from yellow to orange to red. The colours reflecting in the pools left by the retreating tide.

Brent geese flying from Newborough beach
Brent geese flying from Newborough beach

With impeccable timing a flock of Brent geese flew up from the shoreline, silhouetted against the orange sky. I couldn’t have  imagined a more perfect ending to the day.

Newborough beach sunset, Anglesey
Newborough beach sunset, Anglesey

Another five minutes and the colours were gone. It was time for us to leave.

We didn’t return to Newborough beach again; there was no need. I’ll remember this sunset for the rest of my life. And if you’re looking for the best sunset in Anglesey, perhaps even Wales, you should visit too!

If you’d like to find out what else we enjoyed on the island more pop over to 10 things to do on the Isle of Anglesey.

More info:

  • Newborough Nature Reserve is on the southern tip of Anglesey. Car parking costs £4 during the day but the barrier is up and it appears to be free during the evenings.
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