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However ambitious and optimistic your travel plans, with a pandemic raging and talk of £1500 hotel bills for anyone returning to the UK from abroad, it does seem that for many the Staycation will be this summer’s holiday.
While UK holidays conjure up images of seedy B&Bs and dubious red-coated entertainment, it’s very important to remember that millions of tourists do visit the UK every year! Familiarity and that good old British sense of self-deprecation lead to us easily writing our home isle off, but actually the UK has a vast amount going for it. In this piece, I attempt to pay homage to the (ignoring its recent best efforts to the contrary) wonderful country of my birth, and set out the Top 5 InsideFlyer UK Staycation options.
I fully appreciate this list is enormously subjective and, as a mere “top 5” list, will of course miss a number of incredible options. On that basis, I also entirely open this up to the floor – if you’ve got a personal favourite UK Staycation option, feel free to add it in the comments below.
Given the Covid angle, you’ll notice that these options focus more on rural escapes than they do city breaks. The reasons for that are hopefully obvious, but even aside from getting away from the more crowded urban environment, it’s important to remember that time in densely populated cities is likely to be more compromised by pandemic restrictions. So many of London’s attractions, for example, involve being in close proximity to others and are therefore either closed or heavily restricted. Hopefully our suggestions will get you some natural social distancing, fresh air and good quality exercise.
Please note that I’m neither a virologist nor a soothsayer. While I sincerely hope that the below options, and activities they contemplate, all remain fully available in the summer, I obviously cannot guarantee it. Who knows, maybe by the Summer we’ll all be vaccinated and jetting off once again, but one step at a time…
Number 5: Explore The South Lakes
I was lucky enough to spend a number of years living between my university and the Lake District. It’s a spectacular and very well-connected part of the country. While not as wild and rugged as their Northern counterparts, the charm and accessibility of the Southern Lakes is what makes them so enormously appealing to me. Take the mainline train to Oxenholme, and then the winding local line across to Windermere, and you’ll be treated to a glorious trip through to the heart of the South Lakes.
Which town or lake you then stay at is entirely down to your preference, but you can do far worse than one of the many friendly B&Bs in Ambleside. From Ambleside, you’ll have excellent access to Windermere and Grasmere. For a local walk, the Fairfield horseshoe is superb for people of (almost) all ages (and can be done as a round-trip from Ambleside), while a circuit of Rydal Water keeps things largely flat but entirely spectacular.
We recommend: The slog up Nab Scar from Rydal seems almost vertical, but – as a result – within a few minutes the view over the Southern Lakes makes it all worthwhile. Stop for an excellent bit of home-cooking at the Old School Room Tea Shop.
Number 4: Live Like A Local In North Devon And Cornwall
Ok, so this is a particular biggie. However, there are few things in life that beat the natural charms of this wild, wind-battered part of the West Country. Indulge in a beautiful cliff top walk from Boscastle to Tintagel, surf the Atlantic at Fistral Beach, Widemouth Bay or Woolacombe; or even join the locals on a fishing trip – there’s an amazing variety of activities for people of all ages.
While a long-standing tourist hot spot, the North Devon and Cornwall coast remains a working environment. Although undoubtedly changed by years of catering to tourism, it remains possible to find the ‘classic’ fishing village, still looking very much like a fishing village. Port Gaverne and the neighbouring Port “Doc Martin” Isaac are two well-known but still beautifully preserved examples.
We recommend: You can’t get much more “North Devon coast” than a mackerel fishing trip from Ilfracombe. On a good day, mackerel fishing dispenses with all the patience you typically need for fishing, as you’re hauling one in every few seconds. For the self-caterers, they are also fantastic fried with butter and breadcrumbs.
Number 3: Hop Between The Isle Of Mull And The Inner Hebridean Islands
It’s difficult to get much more “off the beaten track” than the Inner Hebrides (“the Outer Hebrides?” I hear you say, which is a fair point). With its epic scenery and opportunity for raw, wild adventure, it offers the perfect response to the anxieties of the pandemic. The Isle of Mull makes an excellent base for exploration, while trips out to smaller islands such as Coll and Tiree on the epically-named Caledonian MacBrayne ferry is a soul-cleansing experience.
We recommend: While a trip to Tobermory (including its excellent distillery) is an obvious must, we suggest a trip to the 13th century Duart Castle. Although abandoned in 1751, the castle was expertly restored in 1911 and offers tours and the inevitable (but pleasant) tearoom.
Number 2: Cycle From London To Brighton
This is the nearest we take you to the city, with the idea being to immediately escape. I cycled from London to Brighton a couple of years back, and it was a wonderful reminder of just how appealing the rolling countryside through the South Downs is. You can do the route as part of an organised annual race, or just ride the same ,or a similar route, at your choosing. Either way, the winding journey through classic English villages, dense woodland and rolling farmland begins surprisingly quickly, and once out of London you will spend the majority of the route on pleasant and relatively safe country lanes.
At around 55 miles (89km) of “undulating” terrain, this is not a straightforward bike ride. It is, however, immensely accessible and extremely rewarding.
Be warned however, towards the end of the route is the notorious Ditchling Beacon. It takes you to the top of the South Downs and (largely) a descent into Brighton, but you will certainly notice it. Consider your seaside fish and chips in Brighton duly earned!
We recommend: stop for a coffee break in the classic English village of Lindfield. A little gem of a place in the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Number 1: A Snowdonia Adventure
What more stunning place to spend your summer than the wilds of North Wales? You may not be alone, but there’s certainly plenty of space for everyone, particularly if you do your research and avoid the hot spots. The thing about Snowdonia too, is the tourism industry has really matured. It’s no longer simply treks up to the cafe in Snowdon before returning to a rain sodden campsite. With an ever-increasing range of adrenaline-filled outdoor pursuits coupled with some genuinely high quality accommodation (should you require it), you absolutely can visit Snowdonia and avoid having to queue to climb a mountain, crawl through village-long tailbacks, or even having to pitch your own tent.
Snowdonia shares the largely pure and spectacular landscapes of many of its less accessible equivalents. However, with activities available to everyone from beginners to seasoned outdoor enthusiasts, you need to consider not just the mountains but the rivers, the coasts, the lakes and many other lesser known elements as your potential playground.
We recommend: The fantastic guys at Bearded Men Adventures will give you the time of your life in North Wales. With wild weekends or day trips, coasteering, canyoning, tubing, mountaineering and much more available, they have an amazing assortment of activities for people of all ages and abilities. You won’t ever be in better or more entertaining hands!
Whether it’s a leisurely bike ride through the South of England, pushing your adrenaline boundaries in North Wales or cruising through the wilds of the Scottish Hebrides, we hope there’s some inspiration for you here!
Share your own favourite UK staycation spots in the comments below!