While long-haul holidays do hold their own appeal, there are plenty of incredible UK staycation destinations to explore, which are often much more convenient and less costly - not to mention better for the environment. From enjoying almost otherworldly views in one of Scotland's magnificent lodges with hot tubs to Llama Trekking in the Surrey Hills, those with a taste for adventure needn't even board a plane in order to find somewhere a million miles away from the daily grind.
It's no secret that staycations are firmly back on the map. There's a welcome nostalgia that comes with remembering epic family road trips to the outer corners of the UK. In fact, a study conducted by Heathrow found that 79% of Brits had more fun holidaying when they were younger than they do now as adults - perhaps this relates back to our fondness of a simpler time when the world felt significantly smaller, and far-flung destinations weren't quite as much within our reach. With sustainability front of mind for many of us, reducing air miles is a common goal - and opting for a family staycation in the UK can make a lot of difference. A 2020 study conducted by Carbon Footprint Ltd found that a flight from London to Paris for a family of 4 emits 220kg of CO2, while a train journey from London to Manchester emits an average of 48kg of CO2.
And with UK staycations offering such a variety of landscapes, there does seem little reason to dust off the passport, aside from, perhaps, the unreliable British weather. From rare golden eagles and adorable ponies to stunning hill views and chocolate-box villages, here’s our pick of the best places to visit in Britain. Whether you choose a last-minute spring escape or a summer holiday at home, these British staycations are spectacular alternatives to a holiday abroad.
1. Portloe, Cornwall
Sitting at the tip of the Roseland Peninsula, and one of the prettiest villages in Cornwall, Portloe is home to several steep-sided valleys with cliffs that tumble down into the sea. Its photogenic good looks have seen the destination star as a film location over the years, in the likes of steamy drama The Camomile Lawn. Portloe has managed to escape development over the years, with most of its buildings retaining their original features - and charm.
Smuggling was rife here in the 18th and 19th centuries, with fishermen bringing home French brandy and hiding it in various coves. Today, more legal pastimes include visiting the picturesque Caerhays Castle, or the nearby fishing town of St Mawes. A feast for the eyes, as well as the tastebuds, we can think of few places where we'd rather enjoy a seafood platter overlooking the sea.
Where to stay: Surrounded by cliffs and windswept headlands forming a beautiful part of the Cornish Coastal Footpath, The Lugger Hotel sits in the heart of Portloe, right on the water’s edge. Its 22 bedrooms are tastefully decorated, and its restaurant serves local fish and seafood. The hotel's terrace is truly spectacular - especially in the summer months.
2. Wilderness Estate, Suffolk
If you want to indulge in some stargazing, you can’t quite make it to the Outer Hebrides, and you want a bit of serious five-star luxury thrown in, how about Wilderness estate in Suffolk?
The 5,000-acre private estate has been converted over the past two decades, and is now home to luxury manors, country houses, farmhouses and cottages providing 50 bedrooms in total, each individual and all heated by sustainable energy. Think cosy interiors for couples, grand grown-up party pads, and hot tubs from which you can lean back and stare at the stars.
Where to stay: This candy-colored dream house looks like something straight out of a fairytale - perfect for anyone in need of some escapism. Hex Cottage is the place to be if you’re serious about getting back to nature – a one-bedroom, wood stove-heated thatched cottage, there is no electricity, and even the hot water is fuelled by the wood-burning range in the kitchen. Candlelight, stars – how romantic is that?
3. Hambledon, The Surrey Hills
Drive just an hour outside of London and you'll soon reach the stunning Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty; a countryside idyll that certainly lives up to its namesake. Hambledon Village is located in the Waverley borough of Surrey, south of Guildford, and offers the quintessential English village experience, with its quaint cafes and cosy pubs making up a central point for the numerous picturesque walking trails around the area.
The Old Coal Yard, situated next to the Merry Harries pub is a hub of creativity where you can try numerous activities, from flower arranging at Cherfold Flowers to gin tasting at The Village Spirit Collective. You can also arrange at the pub a llama trekking tour, which comes complete with an en-route picnic to soak up the stunning scenery while enjoying some refreshments. As far away from city life as we can imagine.
Where to stay: If you want a one-stop-shop for dining, sleeping, and numerous activities around the area, The Merry Harriers offers a great base, with its colourful Shepherd's Huts overlooking the Surrey Hills. Each hut comes fully equipped with an en-suite bathroom, double bed, flat-screen TV, plus a mini kitchen and seating area with a log burner for that super cosy factor. While you may be out in the sticks, these compact, yet perfectly formed, huts manage to feel luxurious, too.
In the summer months, guests can take advantage of the deck chairs outside and enjoy drinks around the fire pit. The huts and pub itself are dog-friendly, meaning there are plenty of added extras to ensure your pooch has a memorable break, too. This includes a doggy welcome pack, with a dog bed and bowls, treats, and a toy on arrival on offer with doggy getaway packages.
4. The Jurassic Coast, Dorset
Made even more famous by its starring role in the acclaimed ITV drama Broadchurch, the Jurassic Coast – a World Heritage Site – is simply jawdropping. And its coastal path, perfect for walkers of all abilities, affords views as far as the eye can see.
As the name suggests, it spans 185 million years of geological history; the area around Lulworth Cove contains a fossil forest, and at Lyme Regis, dozens of different rock strata have been identified. But mainly, it’s just an utterly glorious place for a stroll or a sunbathing session.
Where to stay: The Castle Inn in West Lulworth started life as a traditional, thatched-roof hostelry in the 16th century, and today features 12 individually designed bedrooms, a relaxing bar and a popular restaurant, just five minutes away from Lulworth Cove itself.
5. Aberdeenshire, Scotland
Fancy embarking on a Scotland road trip this year? Make sure that the beautiful Aberdeenshire is on your list. There's something magical about a trip to the Scottish Highlands. Always inspiring awe and wonder, it's unlike any other place on earth. This part of the highlands is the perfect destination for discovering Scotland's rich history, housing the historic counties of Aberdeenshire and Kincardineshire, as well as part of Banffshire. You're never far from the water in lush Aberdeenshire, with a number of rivers running through the area, including the River Dee, River Don, and River Deveron as well. It's also the best place in Scotland to spot dolphins!
If you want to stop off at a few different destinations, the North Coast 500, also know as Scotland's 'Route 66' offers incredible landscapes. The route starts in the city of Inverness, then weaves along the west coast to Applecross, and then on to the towns of Torridon and Ullapool.
Where to stay: For something truly spectacular in a remote location, head to Glen Dye Cabins and Cottages. These eco-friendly cottages are housed within a 30,000-acre estate, consisting of forest and moorland on the banks of the River Dye. For those who want to be truly immersed in nature, this is the place.
But let us be clear; a stay at Glen Dye certainly isn't roughing it. These luxury cabins have all the latest gizmos and gadgets, as well as some thoughtful interiors touches. Each lodge, from the small bothy to the larger lodges, is in its own secluded spot and as a guest at Glen Dye, you get access to the Glen Dye Arms – their BYOB pub – and you can purchase their eggs and vegetables grown in the gardens.
6. Holkham, Norfolk
Frequently voted best beach in the UK, Holkham is rightly known as the jewel of the North Norfolk Coast; at low tide, it stretches for miles, and you can walk in a blissful, unspoilt landscape of just sand, sea and sky. As part of Holkham National Nature Reserve, the beach is also home to large flocks of wintering birds and is an important site for breeding little terns, ringed plovers and oystercatchers.
In the summer, the dunes are carpeted with yellow flowers that attract beautiful butterflies; could anything be more idyllic?
Where to stay: The elegant, 20-bedroom Victoria Inn is located within a privately owned estate with 600 acres of parkland, fallow deer herd and abundant wildlife. At the centre of the estate sits Holkham Hall, an 18th-century mansion that’s now lived in by Thomas Coke, 8th Earl of Leicester. Aside from the picturesque setting, the real draw to The Victoria is the food. Among the inviting seasonal menus are a few local treasures, including Galloway beef from the estate’s very own herd.
7. Grasmere, Lake District
Literary lovers; this is the place for you. Born in Cockermouth, just north of the Lake District National Park, William Wordsworth moved to the small town of Grasmere in 1799, where guests and neighbours included Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Thomas de Quincey. As well as being steeped in history, this beautiful area offers incredible landscapes in all seasons. We particularly love this picturesque spot in autumn.
He wrote his most famous poem, Daffodils, after taking a walk with his sister Dorothy in the woods. He was inspired by the area’s beautiful “vales and hills”, as well as by the distinctive golden flower that bloomed there every spring. There are plenty of walks and trails that evoke his former life here, such as the Rydal Water Walk, which starts in the churchyard where he is buried, and passes his old homes, Dove Cottage and Rydal Mount.
Where to stay: Former Georgian mansion house Storrs Hall sits on the shore of Lake Windermere, and Wordsworth himself has stayed here, so you can soak up the literary atmosphere.
8. Lavenham, Suffolk
The medieval village of Lavenham, built by wealthy Tudor wool merchants, is the epitome of a charming chocolate-box village in the heart of Suffolk, full of half-timbered houses. There are plenty of picturesque walking trails, including one that takes you to Sudbury, the birthplace of the artist Thomas Gainsborough.
Where to stay: The Swan at Lavenham is situated in one of the village’s medieval buildings, where exposed beams, leaded windows, and tapestry hangings provide a sense of history and charm.
9. Guernsey, the Channel Islands
April 2019 sees the reopening of one of the most fascinating former writer’s homes, Hauteville House, in St Peter Port, where the French poet and author Victor Hugo spent 15 years while in exile from his homeland. It was here, from his writing room at the top of this eccentrically decorated structure, that he penned Les Misérables, among other novels, facing a view that looked across the sea to his beloved France.
Later novels, such as The Toilers of the Sea, were set in, and inspired by, the island’s craggy landscapes; follow in his footsteps along the stunning cliff walk he regularly took, from St Peter Port to Fermain, or visit the statue in his honour at Candie Gardens.
Where to stay: The charming Bella Luce Hotel is set in a former Norman manor house in the quiet parish of St Martins, where they even distill their own gin.
10. Norfolk Broads, Norfolk
The Broads is a birdwatcher’s paradise – the two standout rarities are marsh harriers and bitterns. The Broads also has a number of wonderful nature reserves that can be visited, such as the “floating” Broads Wildlife Centre on Ranworth Broad.
Where to stay: Exploring the Broads by boat means you can not only easily visit all the waterside wildlife centres, but you get right up close with the bird life. A three-night hire of a Jazz-class motor cruiser costs around £399 and sleeps two.
11. New Forest, Hampshire
It may be synonymous with small ponies, but there are plenty more cute creatures in the New Forest. Take a trip to the Wildlife Park and you’ll spot plenty of adorable mammals, from the Asian short-clawed otter to the grey wolf, polecats, wild boar and lynx.
Where to stay: Grade II-listed Burley Manor is a restaurant with rooms that combines old manor house charm with a contemporary twist. Nestled in eight acres of grounds, it offers a peaceful sanctuary.
12. Amberley, West Sussex
This little corner of the South Downs is brimming with birdlife. From Amberley Wildbrooks – a wetland Site of Special Scientific Interest – to the Arundel Wetland Centre, you’re likely to spot dozens of rare birds and wildfowl. In winter, Wildbrooks is one of the few remaining places you can still see Bewick’s Swan; you might also spot a wigeon, teal and hobby. All you need is a pair of good binoculars, and you’re off!
Where to stay: Amberley Castle, a restored, former medieval hunting lodge, boasts 19 luxurious bedrooms, 12 acres of beautiful landscaped garden, and an impressive, 12th-century, barrel-vaulted dining room. Entrance is through the original portcullis, and many other original features still remain.
13. Snowdonia, North Wales
The Snowdonia National Park is full of wild, sweeping landscapes, craggy hills and rocks, and home to Mount Snowdon. There are views for miles, and you can explore them on foot or by bike.
Where to stay: Luxury converted barn Clogwyn Barn sits on the western slopes of Snowdon itself, so there’s no excuse for not trying to tackle it. It sleeps four and is dog-friendly too.
14. Hadrian’s Wall, Cumbria
Tackling the 73-mile route along Hadrian’s Wall – not necessarily all on the same day – will really clear the mind. A spectacular World Heritage Site, the route reaches from the North Sea to the Solway Firth across some of the wildest and most dramatic country in England. Particularly incredible are the views from the Birdoswald walk, dominated by remains of the Roman frontier and picturesquely set by the River Irthing.
This 30-mile section of Hadrian’s Wall features the best preserved milecastle, a Roman fort and a priory made from stones found on Hadrian’s Wall.
Where to stay: Tottergill Farm comprises a range of 10 exclusive holiday cottages sleeping between two and eight people, in the tranquil Cumbrian countryside, set on a private 46-acre estate.
15. Bridlington, East Yorkshire
The Bempton Cliffs Nature Reserve, located on the spectacular Yorkshire coast, is informally known as “seabird city”, thanks to the half a million seabirds that gather here to raise their chicks every year between March and October. From courting puffins to swooping gannets, these chalk cliffs near Bridlington offer stunning wildlife encounters.
Cliff-edge viewing platforms offer the perfect vantage point to spot the birds, including gannets, guillemots, razorbills, kittiwakes and fulmars, while the much-loved puffin makes its home at the reserve between mid-April and July.
Where to stay: Book into a cottage in the sweeping grounds of Sewerby Hall, a Grade I-listed Georgian house. From here, you’re close to the beach and a short drive from both Bridlington and the nature reserve.
16. Chipping Camden, Oxfordshire
Located right in the honey-stoned heart of the Cotswolds, this peaceful corner of English countryside is home to an array of lovely boutiques, shops and cafés – where cream teas are a must. The surrounding area offers walking routes, cycling and many more outdoor pursuits, allowing visitors to experience the area’s picturesque charm.
Where to stay: The Cotswold House Hotel is an elegant base for anyone wanting to explore the area, with a spa on hand to soothe limbs tired from country walks.
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