Ten engaging experiences

It’s the latest in our series of Top 10s to celebrate Blue Sail’s 10th birthday – our personal picks of 10 engaging experiences:

  1. Ringing the Shandon Bells in Cork City because there’s the thrill of ‘your’ tune ringing out across the old quarter of Shandon, then climbing up the rickety stairs, past the giant bell – too close for comfort – to the top of the tower with spectacular views across the River Lee
  2. Listening to world-class jazz under a starry sky, in the botanical gardens of Almunecar in Andalucia. Jazz en la Costa is an outdoors festival staged next to the archaelogical remains of a Roman salt factory, and beneath a 7th century Phoenician castle: a stunning setting with superb music
  3. Emerging from a very special ALVA conference dinner (complete with haggis, sword-fighting and Bernard Donoghue in a kilt) in Stirling Castle’s Great Hall, to find a full pipe band with dancers waiting for us in the dark courtyard. The darkness and setting made it seem like we’d travelled back in time.  After a fine performance, they marched us down the hill and off the premises – a grand finale
  4. Hiring a bike and riding through Central Park on a national holiday, because you can feel, smell and hear the leisure heartbeat of the city as you pass through the different neighbourhoods at picnic and play
  5. Flying to the Isles of Scilly in a small plane because you see an archipelago of tiny bright green islands around a turquoise lagoon, surrounded by the blue-grey Atlantic – like nowhere else in England
  6. Looking down from the stairway in the fire-ruined Central Hall of Vanbrugh’s Seaton Delaval Hall because it feels like the architectural equivalent of Miss Haversham
  7. Promenading on the roof plaza of the Oslo Opera House … because you can and because the building is majestic and echoes the clean white and natural wood that is Norway
  8. Halfway along Marine Parade in Brighton overlooking the sea is something resembling a Victorian Tardis and if you should ring the bell the lift operator (for it is manned) it will ascend to the roadway and take you down to beach level where you arrive in the middle of what is now the Concorde 2 Venue. The Madeira Lift is a little-known experience that is unchanged since Victorian times (except for the bands warming up of course)
  9. In the middle of Lake Bled in Slovenia sits the Church of the Assumption of Maria. The best way to reach and enjoy this peaceful place is to hire a rowing boat and paddle out to the island’s edge. A short walk up the steps and you are rewarded with spectacular views of the surrounding Julien Alps
  10. Joining the pilgrims in Santiago Cathedral at the end of the Camino … because the sense of history, occasion and achievement is palpable, the music powerful, and the extraordinary Botafumeiro (the world’s largest thurible) swings above you, taking your breath away – sensory overload!

If you enjoyed this blogpost, do catch up with our other Top Tens – 10 characterful towns, 10 standout scapes, 10 houses with delicious stories, 10 tips for place marketing agencies, 10 inspired gardens, 10 captivating events, 10 places to meet and 10 intriguing attractions.