From Somerset to Blackpool: 9 fabulous August bank holiday staycation ideas
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The August bank holiday weekend is almost upon us, which means an extra day off.
So you might be planning a little trip. With international travel still up in the air and many people still nervous about flying and being in busy airports, a staycation could be in order. There are so many magical pockets of the U.K. to explore, and you can get there by car — perfect for social distancing — or on the train.
From the wilderness of the Lake District to the coastal vibes of the West Country — there’s something for every taste right here on our doorstep. Pack up the car, grab your bucket and spade (and umbrella, British weather being what it is) and sally forth!
At the time of writing, all the hotels mentioned had availability.
Somerset is a beautiful West Country county with glorious beaches and may not be quite as rammed as its ever-popular neighbour, Cornwall, this coming bank holiday. A good place to begin is the town of Cheddar, home of the world’s most famous cheese. At the Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company, there are loads of sampling opportunities in the shop — try the “especially strong” variety — it’ll “take you to another dimension”. Note though the visitor centre is still closed at the moment. Nearby Cheddar Gorge is a great opportunity to walk off all that cheesy goodness. It’s one of the U.K.’s most spectacular natural landmarks, from its monster cliffs to the subterranean stalactite show caves and is great for outdoor enthusiasts. Cheddar Gorge day tickets for adults are from £16.95.
From there, the city of Bath is brilliant for restaurants, shopping and sightseeing. Bath is named after its Roman-built bath — you can have a dip yourself in the healing spa waters of the Gainsborough Bath Spa, which uses the same water from the Roman Baths next door.
Somerset is also synonymous with scrumpy cider so you can’t leave the county without sipping some. Soak up the atmosphere of a real working cider mill at Perry’s Somerset Cider at Dowlish Wake. The farm is open to the public every day of the year, except for Christmas day, and there’s also a small museum on site.
Where to stay: Just 13 km from Bath, The Carpenters Arms is a rustic, charming little place, converted from a row of former miners’ cottages. The are 13 ensuite bedrooms and there is still availability from £80 per night.
This East Anglian county is both close to London and the country home of the Queen and Prince Philip, Cromer crabs, the Norfolk Broads and, of course, our beloved Alan Partridge. Head to the Norfolk Broads first. It’s a National Park with over 125 miles of lock-free waterways so an ideal place for a social distanced boat tour, as you can pootle down the water stopping as little or as much as you like.
The North Norfolk coast has 45 miles of stunning coastline with six blue flag beaches. We recommend Hunstanton — or “Sunny Hunny” — so-called because it’s one of the most sun-soaked resorts in Norfolk. The Victorian town is west facing, too, so you will see some smashing sunsets. The next stop should be Cromer, home of the famous Cromer crab. It feeds off the Cromer Shoals Chalk Bed reef, which gives it its delicate flavour. Catch some yourself with a spot of crabbing — or “gillying” — off Cromer pier before heading to Rocky Bottoms restaurant for some grilled Weybourne king crab.
The crowning glory — pardon the pun — of West Norfolk is the beloved country residence of the Queen. Visitors have access to the lush gardens including the formal North Garden, the Stream Walk and Queen Alexandra’s Summerhouse. Visitors can also see some of the ground floor rooms of the house that are used by the Royal Family. Sandringham will reopen on 8 August but note you must book tickets in advance.
Where to stay: Located near the historic market town of Swaffham, the Bedingfield Arms is a stylish country pub with rooms, a huge, splendid garden and delicious fare. Rooms available from £110 a night.
3. Scottish Hebrides
For those after a truly remote location and a bit of an adventure, the Hebrides are an archipelago made up of inhabited and uninhabited islands off the northwest coast of Scotland. It’s a social distancing paradise too — the Outer Hebrides has a population density of just nine people per square kilometre.
As the largest town on the archipelago, Stornoway, the capital of Lewis and Harris, is a good base. There’s loads of delicious local food to try including Stornoway black pudding, peat-smoked scallops, kippers from the Stornoway Smokehouse and hot smoked salmon.
On the Inner Hebrides, easily accessed by ferry from Oban, the Isle of Mull boasts some varied and stunning vistas, from the rugged ridges of Ben More and the black crags of Burg to the rose pink granite and emerald waters that fringe the Ross.
Mull is widely known for its wildlife so you can expect to see whales, dolphins, puffins, white-tailed eagles, sea otters and, of course, red deer. They’ve been part of Mull’s landscape for thousands of years and for all you meat eaters, you’ll be able to sample some very tasty venison in the local eateries.
Where to stay: Located on the same street as the famous coloured houses on Mull is Tobermory Hotel. Most of the stylish rooms have a Tobermory Bay view. Be sure to try the west coast kipper for breakfast, which is included. Double rooms are from £155 per night.
Aside from the very mild weather, Suffolk is only a few hours drive from London. It’s dotted with beautiful Tudor villages, smart hotels and lots of family-friendly days out. And of course, it’s the home of some of the U.K’s most well-known painters such as Constable, Gainsborough and Munnings.
If you’ve ever seen any of John Constable’s paintings like Flatford Mill or The Hay Wain, you will recognise Dedham Vale, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on the Essex-Suffolk border. The area straddles the willows and watermeadows of the Stour river and is a very pleasant alternative to some of the U.K.’s National Parks, which may be very crowded for the bank holiday.
Read more: The ultimate Suffolk road trip
For some sea air, head to Southwold, a traditional seaside town full of unusual shops, decent restaurants and a fun-filled pier. I went there for a mini-moon after my Suffolk wedding and it was tremendous fun. Make sure to pop into the Under the Pier arcade — it’s seriously wacky. Created by British engineer and cartoonist Tim Hunkin, it’s home to his madcap inventions including Autofrisk, a device that simulates the experience of being frisked by multiple, inflated rubber gloves. Southwold is also home to Adnams Brewery, so visit the brewing rooms set just behind the high street and do a tour of the lighthouse, too. Before you go, pop into Harris & James for ice cream — we recommend the marmalade flavour!
Where to stay: About a 20-minute drive from Southwold is Satis House in Yoxford. It’s a Georgian Grade II-listed country house built in 1769 and set in three acres of landscaped gardens and woodland. Rooms start at £280 for a two-night minimum.
Yorkshire — also known as God’s own county — has two outstanding National Parks so some world-class hikes and trails await. The Yorkshire Dales, at over 2,000 square kilometres, is huge and the further north you go, the more wild and rugged it gets. Then, there’s the North York Moors National Park which is slightly smaller but has the largest expanses of heather moorland in the U.K. Nicky Kelvin, TPG U.K.’s director of content recommends aiming for the village of Helmsley where after a stroll, you can enjoy some fine Michelin-starred cuisine at the nearby Star Inn at Harome.
For a more urban vibe, visit the walled city of York. It has Roman roots and a Viking past — meaning there are 2,000 years of history to take in — it also has more attractions per square mile than any other city in the U.K. York also has a thriving food scene, a Bettys Cafe Tearoom (for a Yorkshire brew of course) and a grisly dungeon to explore.
The Georgian spa town of Harrogate is also lovely for a relaxing stroll and a place to “take the waters”. Unwind and let the healing commence at the beautifully restored Victorian Turkish baths. Entry prices start at £19, although be sure to check if it has reopened after lockdown.
Where to stay: Rudding Park sits on the outskirts of Harrogate on and has a renowned spa and restaurant. Do the Sleeping Beauty spa break for £370 per night which includes a treatment and £45 towards dinner.
This is one for Londoners who don’t want to travel too far. Brighton has a vibrant arts scene, fabulous food, a huge LGBTQ community (one of the largest in the U.K.), tons of quirky shops and, of course, a beach. Note though that the beach is pebble, so no pesky sand stuck everywhere! However, it’s not to everyone’s taste, so definitely bring some flip flops or jellies suitable for the sea if you want to go swimming.
Opened in 1899, the pier is one of the Brighton’s stalwart attractions. It’s retained its traditional “bucket and spade” Victorian charm and there’s an amusement park at the end with some hair-raising rides including the Mouse Trap and Helter Skelter, an arcade, loads of places to eat and the obligatory “face-in-hole” photo stands.
Not far away, the Lanes is a shopper’s paradise, full of windy alleys and hidden corners with independent boutiques, jewellery shops and hip eating and drinking spots at every turn. For AvGeeks, you can get an aviation hit of sorts by gliding up into the Brighton sky on BA‘s 450-foot futuristic viewing pod, the i360. On a clear day, you can see all the way to the Isle of Wight, 49 miles away. It has reopened but you must book an allocated time slot.
Where to stay: The Oriental is a funky boutique hotel near late bar mecca Preston Street and a minute’s walk to the sea. It has nine super-stylish rooms and the reception area is a colourful, art-filled space where you can enjoy a cocktail and complimentary cake while admiring the work of local artists and jewellery makers. Rooms start ar £155.
Blackpool is one of the U.K.’s most popular seaside resorts and is gloriously tacky — but that is part of its charm. I especially love Blackpool as I went there a lot as a child and also had my hen do there. I don’t think I stopped laughing the whole time. Think fish and chips, sticks of rock, stripey deck chairs, dodgy amusement arcades, sand stuck everywhere and loads and loads of cheap drink deals — what more do you need?
Blackpool is a bit of a gay destination, too (definitely visit the Flying Handbag for karaoke). Blackpool Tower — of Strictly Come Dancing fame — dominates the skyline at 158 metres high and is home to all sorts of attractions including a circus and dungeon — it’s a great family day out. Blackpool Pleasure Beach, where you can ride the “The Big One” or race on the Grand National rollercoaster, is another major draw.
Read more: 7 of the best train routes in the UK
Where to stay: The Imperial Hotel Blackpool is a stylish beacon amid a sea of (lovably) naff B&Bs. The sprawling Victorian building looks out over Blackpool’s North Promenade and has an indoor swimming pool, a sauna, hot tub, steam room, gym and bar. Rooms start at £110 a night.
8. The Lake District
Known as Wordsworth Country — much of 19th-century Romantic poet William Wordsworth’s verse was set there including his most famous poem, Daffodils — the Lake District is the U.K.’s most popular National Park. And you can see why — there are 912 square miles of high mountains, lakes, rivers and coastline. And as the name suggests, it’s full of lakes — around 50 lakes and tarns in fact, including England’s biggest and deepest, Windermere.
The Lake District has some of the purest wild water swimming in the U.K. thanks to the rainwater running down from the remote fells. If you’re hardy and nature-loving, you’ll adore the Lakes.
You can go boating, hiking and even attempt Scafell Pike — England’s highest mountain. For marine life lovers, there’s also the Lakes Aquarium on the southern shores of Windemere, a walk-through attraction that includes otters, sharks, rays, diving ducks and marmoset monkeys.
Where to stay: A Regency house, the
9. The Cotswolds
The Cotwolds is famous for being almost painfully pretty, affluent and full of honey-coloured villages. This Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty spreads across six counties, predominately Gloucestershire, west Oxfordshire and south western Warwickshire. Tucked amongst the rolling hills — the “wolds” — boasts an exciting culinary scene and lots of great places to potter around taking Instagram-worthy snaps.
Make sure to visit Tetbury — this small market town with buckets of charm is beautiful. Begin with a wander around its ancient centre where Tetbury Market House is set on pillars and looks out over some old stone houses that were once the homes of wealthy wool merchants. if you’re a fan of antiques, head to Church Street, you’ll find plenty of treasures.
The Cotswold Way National Trail stretches for just over 100 miles from Chipping Campden down to Bath. It’s unlikely you’ll manage the entire length over a weekend, but this walk is considered to be one of the best trails in England so you can just begin it and then come back again!
Where to stay: Pytts House B&B is a little gem housed in a Grade II-listed property in the heart of Fulbrook on the edge of the historic Cotswold town of Burford. The house epitomises shabby chic and Cotswold grandeur at the same time. Rooms start at £250 per night.
There’s plenty of the U.K. to go around this bank holiday — so need to worry about being stranded abroad or paying extortionate airfares for a bit of relaxation. There are beaches, brilliant shopping, lip-smacking food and lots and lots of enchanting country rambles to be had — so get planning!
Featured photo by Michael Roberts/Getty Images
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