Small Is Beautiful

Want remote, tiny, and far off the beaten track? Search out these cozy pockets of Old World tradition and scenic soul.

May 1, 2004
Outside Magazine

INVERIE, SCOTLAND This northwestern burg, on the edge of Loch Nevis, is so far off the road network that the only way to get here is by boat. If there's any action in town, you'll find it at the Old Forge, which The Guinness Book of World Records says is the most remote pub in mainland Britain. Surrounding Inverie is some of the most Wordsworth-worthy hiking in the world. The craggy 2,612-foot knoll Sgurr Coire Choinnichean overlooks the village; close by are the taller peaks of the Munro Range, including 3,412-foot Sgurr na Ciche. The Pier House (011-44-1687-462347,, a 19th-century stone lodge—its motto is "We have no TV, no shops, and mobiles don't work here"—sleeps eight; doubles cost $170 and up per night, including breakfast and dinner.
CALA GONONE, ITALY As one of Italy's prime vacation spots, Sardinia is hopelessly overrun in the summer. But one quiet corner on the east side is Cala Gonone (cala means cove), which has some of the best beach-based climbing in the world. The limestone routes range from 5.8 to 5.13, and an hour's walk inland you'll find Tiscali, a mysterious 3,000-year-old Nuragic village, surrounded by more climbable cliffs. Cala Gonone's Hotel Nettuno (011-39-0784-93310, rents doubles from $69.

STARY SMOKOVEC, SLOVAKIA The High Tatras boast some of the best hiking in Eastern Europe, and the diminutive ski town of Stary Smokovec is your gateway. In the summer, the hills offer a full range of mountain-biking opportunities, from serious alpine to cross-country routes. Tatrasport Adam and Andreas (011-421-52-442-52-41, www.tatry .net/tatrasport) is a gear shop right in town that rents skis and bikes. Kick back at the luxurious, Bavarian-style Grand Hotel (doubles, $64–$126; 011-421-52-44-22-15456, with a little tokay wine while listening to Carpathian folk music.
ÅLAND, FINLAND Some 6,500 islands and rocks off the southwestern coast of Finland make up the semiautonomous Åland Islands. (Swedish, not Finnish, is spoken here.) Known as one of Northern Europe's most stunning rural retreats, the archipelago offers plenty of walking and canoeing. Anglers can make a pilgrimage to Kokar, a tiny islet about 50 miles off the mainland, hire a boat and guide, and pull a 25-pound Baltic pike from the shallows. Afterwards, retreat to the Brudhäll Hotell (doubles, $80–$108; 011-358-18-55955, for a glass of mead and some Karelian hot pot, a pork-beef-and-lamb stew.
MONSTER, HOLLAND Who knew that windsurfing rocks in the Netherlands? The North Sea roils just off the former hippie village of Monster, 40 miles southwest of Amsterdam. You can find hotels up and down the coast, but the best place to stay is in very cool Rotterdam, 20 miles east. The Stammeshaus Bed and Breakfast (doubles, $57; 011-31-10-425-4500, is a homey cottage with a garden in a quiet neighborhood, just a short walk from the Netherlands Architecture Institute.

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