The UK has so much to offer: from the rugged landscape of the Scottish Highlands to Cornwall’s rustic sandy beaches; the quaint, charming hamlets in the Cotswold to the dramatic Jurassic Coast in Dorset. The UK has something for everyone (apart from predictable weather and wall-to-wall sunshine), so it’s surprising how often it’s overlooked when we choose where to go on holiday.
For those who are used to holidaying abroad it might be difficult to know where to begin when looking to stay in good ol Blighty. So, we’ve come up with a list of some of the best locations to have a UK staycation.
Explore the Outer Hebrides
For those who need escapism from everyday life, the remoteness of the Outer Hebrides couldn’t be more fulfilling. Nestled in the north coast of Scotland, the Outer Hebrides are a group of small islands which boast some of the world’s most beautiful white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters (shame the weather is guaranteed to put a damper on any plans to take advantage of this natural beauty).
To reach the islands, we’d recommend driving so you have the freedom to explore the islands. The main routes by car (and ferry) are from Oban, Ullapool and Uig, all small towns based on Scotland’s north coast. Ferries leave frequently throughout the week, so you shouldn’t struggle to create an itinerary that works. Make sure to buy an island hopping ferry ticket which allows you to go in between the islands at ease.
Drive the NC500
Classed as one of the world’s most beautiful driving routes, the NC500 is a must for those looking for escapism in the wilderness. The NC500 is 500 miles of roads which cling to Scotland’s north coast and heads through the heart of the highlands – starting and ending at Inverness Castle.
Hire a campervan, so you can park up, explore and sleep as and when you want. This will ensure you’re not restricted to drive the distance between traditional accommodation options. Although, exploring by car will also be an extremely rewarding experience.
Top things to do:
- Lochinver, a small fishing village with beautiful sandy beaches and Sullivan, an iconic mountain, for those who like a bit of adventure.
- Ullapool, you must eat at The Seafood Shack
- John O’Groats, most northerly point on mainland UK
- Duncansby Stacks, a collection of rock formations just off the north coast
- Wailing Widows Falls, an idyllic waterfall
- Use this interactive map for more highlights
Tip for those living close to London: get the Caledonian Sleeper from Euston to Inverness, it’s an overnight train which means you travel while you sleep. The dream.
Hike and drink your way around the Lake District
The Lake District is a national park in northwest England, famous for its rugged mountains and historic market towns Kendal, Ambleside and Keswick. It gets its name from the hundreds of lakes dug into the landscape, most notably Windermere, England’s largest lake and home to Beatrix Potter. The Lakes is also where Scafell Pike, England’s largest mountain, resides.
The Lake District is a goldmine for those who love the outdoors; from SUPs, kayaking and hiking, to canyoning, wild camping, peak bagging and everything in between. If the outdoors isn’t for you then you can visit the Honister Slate Mine, the last working mine in the UK; dabble in gin, vodka or whiskey at the Lakes Distillery, or head back in time by visiting a number of beautiful villages and hamlets which are home to some of the best drinking establishments in all the land (most notably The Drunken Duck, boasting outstanding mountainous views of the Lakes).
Relax in Snowdonia National Park
Base yourself in the heart of the Snowdonia National Park and you will be inundated with things to do. The Snowdonia National Park sits in North Wales and is home to Snowdon, the highest peak in Wales. Hiking Snowdon has to be on everyone’s bucket list when visiting this area of the country – the climb itself is fairly straightforward, but fear not, you don’t need to hike to be rewarded with the best views in Wales, there’s a train which goes to the summit. Win, win! For the more experienced adventurers, Crib Goch is a stomach churning climb to the summit, involving a grade one scramble. If Crib Goch sounds up your street, head a few miles across the valley to Tryfan and Glyder Fach, both are exhilarating hikes.
If hiking doesn't sound fun, there are a multitude of small villages and towns to visit: our favourites being Caernarfon and Betws-y-Coed. Caernarfon lies in between the Isle of Anglesey and Snowdonia National Park and sits within its historic castle walls – we’d recommend ditching the car outside the castle walls though as the streets aren’t made for machinery.
Betws-y-Coed is probably one of the most popular towns in the National Park, acting as the last frontier before reaching the mountains. Hidden in the Gwydir Forest, it boasts a beautiful town centre with a train station that doubles up as a restaurant. Perfect.
Coast through Pembrokeshire
The Pembrokeshire Coast National Park lies in the southwest of Wales. Famous for its outstanding natural beauty, wild landscapes and dramatic coastline, Pembrokeshire offers a host of watersports, coastal walks and fresh seafood.
Skomer Island sits just off the coast of Pembrokeshire and offers a glimpse into one of the UK’s best natural events – the Manx shearwater birds returning to their burrows in the dead of the night. It’s also where Puffins call their home. A truly wild experience.
Tenby is also a must-visit, not only was Castle Beach named the UK’s top beach of 2019 by the Sunday Times, but it’s a small Victorian seaside town, whom’s beauty and charm will leave you wanting to permanently relocate. The dramatic coastline means Coasteering is a popular way to pass the time – just like canyoning, it involves jumping off and climbing up rock faces, but is located along the coast. Whale and dolphin watching, surfing and walking the Preseli Hills are also worthwhile.
Swim and surf in Cornwall
There is so much to love about Cornwall, it’s hard to know where to begin. The Cornish Riviera is known as such for its warmer climes, picturesque seaside towns, towering cliffs and sandy beaches. Rich in history and natural beauty, it’s not difficult to understand why millions of Brits flock to the southwest peninsula each year.
The north coast is known for its surfing, Newquay being the surfing capital of the UK and home to the infamous Fistral Beach. The north coast is also well known for the town of Padstow – put on the map by Rick Stein, the fishing port of Port Issac – made famous by folk band Fisherman's Friends and Dr Martin, and the tourist hotspot of St Ives. The south west is where land meets the Atlantic Ocean, also known as Land’s End, the most southerly point of mainland UK. It’s also home to The Lizard, the most south-westerly point in mainland UK, Kynance Cove – a beautiful beach, and Saint Micheal’s Mount – an island just off the coast of Penzance and only accessible when the tide is out.
The south coast is also home to Falmouth, an Instagrammable fishing town and Kingsand/Cawsand. Kingsand/Cawsand are two small villages sat side by side, the roads are too small for cars, so cars are parked on the outskirts of the village. The village consists of four pubs within a short distance of each other and a miniature clocktower – what else do you need?
Other Cornish highlights include, the Eden Project, The Minack Theatre, Rock, Charlestown and Bude. Our advice: go anywhere in Cornwall and you won’t be disappointed.
Go fossil hunting along the Jurassic Coast
The Jurassic Coast is a UNESCO World Heritage site for its “outstanding universal value of its rocks, fossils and landforms”. The Jurassic Coast runs for 95 miles along the Dorset coast – it starts in Orcombe Point, Devon and ends in Swanage, Dorset.
The Jurassic Coast offers a huge variety of things to see and do: West Bay being one of the highlights. West Bay, known as the Golden Gateway to the Jurassic Coast, is a small harbour village situated at the bottom of a golden cliff face. It’s the perfect base to explore the local area, especially if you fancy a day out on the water. West Bay is also where the hit TV show Broadchurch was filmed.
Head to Charmouth to join one of the regular fossil hunting walks along the beach or to Lyme Regis to pick up a section of the South Coast Walk. The Jurassic Coast is also home to Durdle Door, one of the most spectacular rock formations in the UK, and Lulworth Cove, a must for beach lovers.
Make the South Downs National Park your playground
The South Downs has been an area of outstanding natural beauty since 1966 and was awarded National Park status in 2011, making it the newest National Park in the UK. Starting in St Catherine’s Hill in Winchester in Hampshire and ending by Beachy Head near Eastbourne in East Sussex, the park spans 87 miles across southern England. Due to its size, the number of places to visit are endless, so we’ve highlighted a few.
Visit the postcard-perfect historic market town of Arundel in West Sussex. Home to a medieval castle and Roman Catholic Cathedral, it’s a town rich in history and culture. Or, spend the day watching Polo at the Cowdray Park Polo Club. All you need is a picnic blanket, Pimms and a punnet of Strawberries to enjoy a few chukkas. Cowdray sits in the west of the National Park, near the historic market towns of Midhurst and Petersfield.
Goodwood is a country house and estate nestled in the heart of the Downs and is famous for its motorsport and horse racing events, notably Festival of Speed and Goodwood Racecourse. It’s definitely worth a visit if you can make it coincide with your trip. Or head to the coast, West Witterings beach sits just south of Chichester, an extremely popular destination for those craving a white sandy beach (a rarity in this part of the country). Make sure you leave early to miss the traffic.
The South Downs National Park also includes the South Downs Way, a 100 mile route which follows old routes and droveways. The South Downs Way passes through five National Nature Reserves and a multitude of Sites of Special Scientific Interest. It’s the perfect challenge for those seeking a countryside refresh.
We hope this has helped inspire a last minute UK summer holiday. If you’ve enjoyed this, you might also like 10 ways to transform your home into a hotel.