A magical place, like Conan Doyle’s Lost World in miniature. Clamber up from the A855 between Brogaig and Glasphein and find the Table, a flat-topped, grassy outcrop like a very small New Mexican mesa. Shattered spires of rock spike up all around, providing a gothicky foreground to whatever fireworks nature provides as the sun sets.
Not a name to conjure with, maybe, but a city that is beautifully set between a bowl of hills and the sea. Sunset sees the light fade above the green slopes, striking the impressive Victorian buildings in the centre as it departs. Belfast Lough provides a shimmering background, and there’s always good craic in the revived and now flourishing eateries and bars.
Haystacks, above Buttermere, Cumbria
By contrast, you will probably be alone here, apart from the scattered ashes of grumpy old Alfred Wainwright, who loved this beautiful place above all others. The blaze of sunset reaches operatic levels, thanks to the craggy foreground and the sleek cones of the Ennerdale fells behind – a terrier among foxhounds, said Wainwright, with his sure turn of descriptive phrase. Innominate Tarn and its scattered tarnlets complete the picture. The 597-metre (1,958ft) climb is stiff but straightforward.
Swinford – King’s Lock on the Thames, near Oxford
The sweet river Evenlode suggests itself for sunset watching, and here at its confluence with the Thames you have the bigger river to reflect the light show too. Wytham’s beautiful wooded hill is part of the scenery, lit by the setting sun. March up the Thames path (on the southern bank) to glimpse Oxford itself before supper at the Trout in Godstow or the Perch at Binsey.
Blackpool Pleasure Beach
OK, wimps like me will have our eyes screwed tight shut at key moments, but whizzing round the big dippers as the sun sinks into the Irish Sea is not to be missed. Yes, there is light pollution by the illumination-load but somehow that adds to the experience. Once the free show’s over, you will never be short of things to enjoy in the faded but still feisty queen of world resorts.
Seven Sisters, Sussex Downs
What more do you want? asked God after creating sunsets. Oh, I see: a white canvas for the light to play on. So he created the wonderful, undulating line of gleaming chalk sea cliffs between Seaford and Beachy Head. Nestle down at Cuckmere Haven (what a perfect name) and enjoy the show. The whole area is now the Seven Sisters country park (sevensisters.org.uk), and places to stay and eat abound.
British Camp, or Herefordshire Beacon, near Malvern, Worcestershire
Take it from Lord Macaulay’s Armada, if you don’t trust me: “Twelve fair counties saw the blaze on Malvern’s lonely height …” He meant the Worcestershire Beacon, but the Herefordshire one is far better – encircled by 4th-century earthworks in a beautifully elaborate pattern. A numinous place to greet the dawn, even if cloud interrupts the show. The walk to the 338-metre (1,008ft) summit is clear and easy.
Mersey ferry, Liverpool
Urban sunrise can be specially striking, and this one gives you the rippling water of the great river as well as the splendid skylines of Pierhead in the foreground and the twin cathedrals behind. Ferry times (tinyurl.com/yeouedw) mean that a waterborne viewing isn’t really practical until late November – Liverpool sunrise and sunset times are at tinyurl.com/yd4p399. If timings don’t work, nip across in the car to Unilever’s model village for soapworkers, Port Sunlight. Where more appropriate to start the day?
Unforgettable – watching the first rays of sunlight creep over Snowdonia’s mountains to illuminate the village with the longest place name in the British Isles (we’ve cheated and used the short form). The hill topped by the Marquess of Anglesey’s column, signed from the main road, gives you a good view and has a large car park. The 115 steps up the column open at 9am (£1.50, concessions 75p).
Ely Cathedral, Cambridgeshire
A mighty tower on a great, wide plain; this is a dramatic place to watch light filter gently from the vast horizon to the east. The cathedral green is surrounded by lovely buildings, and morning prayers in December and January coincide roughly with the coming of the light. Visit tinyurl.com/y9yvyqr for timings and access.
Saltwick Bay, near Whitby, North Yorkshire
A beautiful spot with novelty appeal: here, you can stand on Britain’s east coast and watch the sun both rise and set out of the sea. Down from the caravan park, the beach has striking rock formations, especially the rock pillars of Black Nab and Saltwick Nab, plus fragmentary wreckage of the Admiral Von Tromp fishing trawler, which was dashed on the rocks 30 years ago. The double-sun effect happens between late May and late July, but sunrise is good all year round. Check the tides at tinyurl.com/yc539yy – and do not venture out on to the stone shelves except an hour each side of low tide.
Rannoch Moor, Highland region
Tops for spookiness, this is the place to hunker down and watch the mist swirl over the heather as the light grows. Access is easy: the road to the isles runs straight across and traffic is seldom busy at an early hour. Ahead lies Glencoe, with its historical reasons for a seasonal chill up the spine, but also opportunities for a good Highland breakfast while checking out your digital pics of the sunrise somewhere warm.
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