This has been a strange year for holidays. Cancelled plans, travel stress, confusing rules on quarantines and testing – it’s easier just to stay at home! We all need a little rest, though, so many of us are turning to our local landmarks and opting for a great British staycation instead.
The problem is, there are a lot of people in Britain! Well-known places book out fast and fill up way beyond the point of reason. Don’t give up on your travel plans, though. You just need to look past the tourist traps and holiday staples and unearth the hidden gems hiding nearby. With that in mind, here are our top British staycation spots for this summer.
Stroll the Pier and Explore Quirky Shops on the South Coast
The one you know: Brighton
The one to try: Hastings
Nothing says summertime like a sunny day at the seaside. Fish and chips, fresh doughnuts, walks on the pier and dubious arcade machines – it’s a classic!
For much of the South, all this is synonymous with Brighton. That’s fine most years. But when nobody’s holidaying abroad, it turns the city into a zoo of busy beaches and long queues. So much so that Brighton was forced to ask people not to come earlier this month.
Luckily, there are plenty of South Coast towns with far fewer crowds and just as much to do. Our pick: Hastings – Brighton’s rebellious, shabby-chic cousin.
Hastings has all you could want from a weekend away. Stroll the beautifully-rebuilt pier then relax on the massive (if stony) beach. Eat fish fresh off a local boat, or reel in your own from the harbour wall. Take the funicular up the hill to Hastings Castle (this is 1066 country, after all). If all that doesn’t sell it, the Old Town is full of kooky shops and narrow streets just begging to be explored.
Sure, Hastings may not have the Victorian grandeur and hipster vibes of Brighton, but it’s got a real charm that you can’t help but fall in love with. It’s also a hell of a lot cheaper, which is nice.
Enjoy Challenging Hikes and Beautiful Views in the Northwest
The one you know: The Lake District
The one to try: The North Pennines
After months stuck at home, the great outdoors has never seemed more appealing. If you’re dreaming of long hikes, fresh air, and a country pub garden, it’s time to dust off your boots and head for the hills. It’s time for a walking holiday.
Your first thought is probably the Lake District – and with good reason. It’s one of the most stunning parts of the country, inspiring artists and poets throughout history. It’s also absolutely mobbed this summer. Hoards of revellers have descended on these green pastures, turning it into what has been described as ‘the new Magaluf’.
Don’t pack your mac away yet, though. Instead, head over to the North Pennines. They’re just a short hop from the Lake District, but they feel a million miles from Windermere’s crowds – and everything else!
There are dozens of long, challenging walks, and hundreds of shorter strolls. Wander untouched moorland and sweeping glacier valleys. Take in incredible views from Cross Fell (the tallest peak in the Pennines, standing 893 metres high). This is also perfect country for hacking out, if you’re one of the horsey crowd.
And at the end of every hike? A friendly pub and a refreshing cider or a hearty ale to reward you for all your hard work. It’s the perfect cure for cabin fever.
Relax on the Sands and Reel In a Feast in Kent
The one you know: Margate
The one to try: Ramsgate
If half of London goes on beach breaks to Brighton, you’ll find the other half in Kent. People flock to the Kentish coast for its sandy shores, old harbours, and vintage amusements. Nowhere more so than Margate.
Recently, this pretty pleasure town has been too popular for its own good. Thousands of people have been hitting the sands each morning, being pushed closer and closer together with the rising tide. Fun in the sun? Not quite.
So, not Margate, then. How about its lesser-known neighbour, Ramsgate? We’re not going to lie, Ramsgate can get busy, but nowhere near as much as Margate. And even though it’s less famous, there’s still tonnes to do.
Start off with a dip in the sea, then take the Sea it All Walk along the beach at low tide. Stroll back along the cliffs for stunning views as the water comes in. End the day with a classy cocktail and an incredible sunset at the Royal Harbour Brasserie, way out on the harbour arm.
And that’s just the shore-bound action. If you really want to get away from it all, nothing beats a day at sea. Take a fishing charter from Ramsgate’s Royal Harbour and potter along the coastline, casting your lines for Mackerel, Bass, Skate, and more. Whatever you catch, you’ll have a blast, and may discover a new hobby!
Hike and Camp in Wild Scotland
The one you know: The Trossachs
The one to try: Arran
A few days of camping is the perfect escape from city life, and nowhere does it better than Scotland. Even in the Lowlands, there’s so much beautiful countryside to explore. And because of Scotland’s wild camping laws, you’re never short on spots to pitch your tent. What are you waiting for?
Whether you’re getting out of Glasgow or heading up from England, a common spot to visit is the Trossachs. Think Loch Lomond, Ben More, and masses of beautiful woodland. However, with travelling abroad pretty much off the cards, these popular spots are rammed with people and super-slow caravans.
The solution? Hop on a boat to Arran! Ferry space is limited, especially under social distancing guidelines. However, that also means that there are fewer people on the island than usual. If you book your ferry in good time, you can enjoy Arran’s many wonders without fighting for space.
Arran is often described as ‘Scotland in Miniature’. Beaches, mountains, golf, great whisky – you can find it all just a stone’s throw apart. Then there are the neolithic relics, cosy fishing villages, and remote moors. In short, it’s a best hits edition of the Scottish countryside, without the Lowland crowds or the long drive up to more remote corners of the country.
Explore the Welsh Coast, Away from the English Crowds
The ones you know: Barry, Gower
The one to try: The entire Pembrokeshire Coast.
Ah, the Welsh coast. Splashing in the sea, windy cliff walks, rock pooling – it’s the stuff childhood memories are made of! Throw in ancient historical sites to send the kids to sleep and some delicious food to try once they’re in bed, and you’ve got an ideal family holiday.
The usual spots like Barry and the Gower aren’t worth considering this summer – unless you fancy a three mile queue to get to the beach, that is! Instead, why not turn your sights a little further afield, and explore the relatively-empty and equally-beautiful Pembrokeshire.
North Pembrokeshire towns like Dinas Cross and Newport are ideal bases for exploring the area. Discover secluded sandy beaches, then go for lunch in a quaint seaside village like Aberporth or Llangrannog. You can also head down to St. Davids, the UK’s smallest city and home of the impressive St. David’s Cathedral.
Feeling more active? Pembrokeshire National Park has dozens of fantastic hikes and endless scenic spots for a picnic. You can even combine them with a visit to Tenby, easily one of the prettiest towns in the country. Round off the day with an incredible view, as the sun sets into the Irish Sea. Perfect!
Visit Oxford – While It’s Empty
The one you know: Overcrowded Oxford
The one to try: Empty Oxford!
This last one’s a little different.
When you picture Oxford, you probably imagine old stone buildings and the clang of bells. Students cycling in cloaks and hats, as a vintage Jag rolls past in the background. It’s a city of culture, learning, and beautiful architecture.
If you’ve ever been there, the thing you’ll remember is the crowds. Armies of exchange students. Busloads of daytrippers. A thousand cameras to dodge and stop for. All the top sights are so swamped with selfies that they’re hardly worth the effort. Oxford is beautiful, but good grief is it busy… except right now!
Because most visitors to Oxford come from abroad, and because the whole ‘abroad’ thing isn’t really feasible at the moment, Oxford has become the fairytale city we all imagine it to be. Head to the Radcliffe Camera or the Covered Market and there’s not a tour group in sight. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!
Understandably, the colleges are all closed at the moment. Don’t worry, though, they’re just as impressive and a lot more free from the outside. University Parks and Christ Church Meadow are as idyllic as ever. You can even learn to punt without getting bumped into every ten minutes.
And of course, Oxford’s famous pubs and tea rooms are all open for business.
Great British Staycation Spots: Hiding Just around the Corner
Many of us have been put off by the tabloid spreads of traffic jams and huge mobs. It almost seems nicer just to stay at home this summer. However, when you look past the go-to places and try something a little different, you can find incredible holidays all over the country.
We’ve chosen a handful of spots, but there are so many more out there. So ditch the crowds and discover your own secret staycation – you might end up going back year after year!
What’s your secret escape this summer? Are you visiting any of ours? Drop us your stories and ideas in the comments below – we’d love to hear from you!