Whilst lockdown restrictions are lifting – including travel restrictions – many of us are choosing to stay closer to home this year. Here are my suggestions for places to stay in the UK for a holiday staycation – from beaches to castles!
If you’re looking for a quintessential British seaside holiday then look no further than Margate, on the Kent coast. If you’re travelling from London, it’s less than two hours on the train from Victoria. Whilst it’s a small town, there’s actually quite a lot to do if you don’t fancy spending all your time on the beach.
For the thrill seekers, there’s Dreamland – a theme park that dates back to 1870! You can definitely fill the hours enjoying rides or skating in the roller disco. My favourite ride is Born Slippy – a giant slide! Such fun.
For those who love a bit of culture, there’s loads of antique shops in Margate to peruse and of course the Turner Contemporary Art Gallery to while away a few hours.
Margate is next door to Broadstairs, which you can get to by train, car or even walk – if you fancy a 6 mile coastal walk.
Dorset is best known for the Jurassic Coast, which is a 95 mile long stretch on the English Channel from Dorset to Devon where the cliffs contain many fossils dating back 185 million years!
The two most famous landmarks are Durdle Door and the cove of Lulworth. You can actually walk from one to the other! Check out Emily Luxton’s 15 Dorset Coast Walks for some inspiration and to plan your walks.
There are so many coastal towns to visit in Dorset, such as Swanage, Weymouth (which is one of Britain’s most popular seaside resorts), West Bay, Portland, Lyme Regis and Seaton – to name a few.
Suffolk is in East Anglia and borders with Norfolk to the north, Cambridgeshire to the west and Essex to the south. It has 50 miles of coastline! As well as having many beautiful beaches, it also has medieval towns and lovely villages.
For literature buffs, visit Bury St Edmunds to see The Angel Hotel which was frequented by Charles Dickens on his visits. Theatre lovers are in for a treat too as it is home to the only surviving Regency playhouse in Britain. When you step inside, you’ll get a taste of what going to the theatre was like in pre-Victorian times!
Bury St Edmunds also has the only cathedral in Suffolk and has an abbey (now in ruins) which was built around a shrine to Saint Edmund. For centuries people travelled here as a pilgrimage to see it – including kings.
If you’re looking for a beach break with an abundance of wildlife and the opportunity to visit lots of different and varied villages, then head to the Suffolk Coast. UK Family Travel has got a great post on the Top 5 Suffolk Beaches.
Located less than two hours by train from London, is the colourful city of Bristol. As far as cities go, it’s small but perfectly formed.
Located on the River Avon, it has a proud maritime history. We went on a river boat tour when we visited and learned about some of its history. You can also visit the M Shed museum to learn more if you’re looking for something cultural to do.
The Harbourside is a great area to visit, full of shops, restaurants (some in old ship containers) and cultural sites such as an art gallery, museum and you can even take a ride on an old steam train – the Bristol Harbour Railway – from the M Shed.
If you love street art then you’re in for a real treat as Bristol has plenty of it! Although that’s to be expected given that Bristol is when Banksy is from. You can go on Banksy street art tours or just find them yourself. Sadly we only spotted one so next time we visit, we’ll definitely do a guided tour!
One of the real highlights of Bristol – apart from the lovely coloured houses and street art – is the Clifton Suspension Bridge. It’s absolutely breathtaking!
Edinburgh is one of my favourite UK cities but I am biased as my dad and his side of the family are from Edinburgh and still live there. So I get to visit at least once a year.
It has a medieval Old Town, a Georgian New Town, a stunning castle and a palace. My dad used to work at both Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace so I was lucky to get free entry! They’re definitely worth the ticket price though so make sure you visit them on your trip.
Edinburgh Castle is steeped in history and archaeologists have found evidence that the rock that the castle sits on has been occupied by humans since 2 AD! Edinburgh itself is so old, there are even vaults beneath the city that date back to 1788 and yes, you can visit them. I did a ghost tour many moons ago which took you down to the vaults and it was terrifying (and fun)!
As it’s a city, there is so much to see in Edinburgh – from art galleries to historic sites to the Botanic Gardens, the zoo and climbing Arthur’s Seat for a fantastic view over the city.
One place that I only discovered on my last visit (since visiting Edinburgh for over 20 years….) is Dean Village. It’s just a short walk from the West End and it’s absolutely gorgeous! When I visited it, there was some snow of the ground, which gave it a fairy-tale quality.
Depending on how long you’re planning to stay, you can also visit both Glasgow and Perth which are only an hour away or you can venture out further to the Highlands.
In less than two hours by train, you’ll arrive in the historic city of Norwich. Not only is it home to a castle and Cathedral dating back 900 years, Norwich is also home to Elm Hill, one of the most complete medieval streets in the UK. This one street has more medieval buildings than the whole of London!
Norwich is a very pretty city with lots to see and do. Go for a walk along the riverside, stroll around their outdoor market, peruse antique shops and visit all the historic sights.
There’s a great foodie scene in Norwich too and you won’t be disappointed with the restaurants – from fine dining to casual to food stalls.
York is one of England’s most beautiful historic cities and dates back to Roman times. It’s full of medieval history and a lot of it is pedestrianised so it’s ideal for walking around.
Take a wander around York Minster, head up the hill to Clifford’s Tower (which dates back to 1068!), take a walk along the Roman city wall and have a gander at all the shops in The Shambles (which is rumoured to have inspired Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter novels.)
Bath is the largest city in Somerset and is named after its Roman-built baths. It’s also very close to Bristol and Castle Combe, which is one of the prettiest places in the Cotswolds.
Bath is steeped in history. Below is Pulteney Bridge, which was completed in 1774. It’s apparently one of only four bridges in the world to have shops across its full span on both sides.
As well as visiting the Roman baths, you can also have a bath! The Thermae Bath Spa is Britain’s original natural thermal spa and is a not to be missed experience.
Another ‘not to be missed’ experience is having a bun at Sally Lunn’s, which is a cafe situated in the oldest house in Bath – dating back to 1482. Sally Lunn is thought to have been a refugee from France who moved to Bath in 1680 and started selling baked goods, including what’s know as the Sally Lunn bun, which is designed to be enjoyed with either sweet things like jam or savoury, like ham and cheese.
Just over an hour by train from London is the historic city of Winchester, in Hampshire. Winchester makes for a great staycation because it’s a city with lots of things to do and see but it also sits on the edge of the South Downs National Park so you can make it both a city and country break.
Dating back to Roman times, Winchester is steeped in history. Winchester Cathedral is their major landmark and is one of the largest cathedrals in Europe. Its roots start in the 7th century when Cynegils, king of the West Saxons, was baptised and then ten years later his son built the first Christian church in Winchester. Next to the cathedral is the ruins of Wolvesey Castle which was the home of the medieval bishops who were advisers to the kings.
Another must-see is Winchester Castle and The Great Hall (dating back to the 13th century), where you’ll find a replica of King Arthur’s round table. Whilst it’s a replica, it dates back to medieval times.
If you’re a Jane Austen fan, you can visit the house where she lived and wrote, which is around 15 miles from Winchester. If you don’t have a car, there’s a bus that will take you there.
In Winchester itself is the house where she spent her last days.
Situated in East Sussex, Rye is a quaint medieval town with cobbled streets and is only 2 miles from the sea.
It’s very small but very cute! Be sure to visit the 14th century Ypres Tower at Rye Castle and then climb the 12th century tower at St Mary’s Church for a fabulous view over Rye.
The view from the bell tower is just stunning! Just look at all those lovely roofs.
You cannot visit Rye without walking along Mermaid Street and then popping in to the Mermaid Inn for a drink or a meal. It has been an Inn since 1600 and was a favourite of smugglers. Rumour has it that it’s haunted… You can even book a tour of the Mermaid Inn if you want to learn about its history.
Stratford-upon-Avon is a medieval market town in the West Midlands – less than 3 hours by train from London. It’s famous for being the birthplace of William Shakespeare, arguably the UK’s most well known poet and playwright.
For the Shakespeare lovers, be sure to visit his birthplace on Henley Street and book a show at The Royal Shakespeare Theatre.
If you’re a Shakespeare lover or not, I highly recommend visiting the 600 year old cottage of Anne Hathaway, Shakespeare’s wife. It’s just over a mile walk from the town centre and you can enjoy afternoon tea in the garden cafe, when you get there.
If you’re looking for quaint villages, lots of greenery and a chilled break then look no further than the Cotswolds. There are lots of spa hotels, such as Barnsley House near Kemble and Cotswold House Hotel and Spa in Chipping Campden, if you feel like being pampered. If you’re looking for a foodie break, book The Wild Rabbit in Kingham near Chipping Norton and Stow-on-the-Wold.
If you fancy a more energetic break, you can walk The Cotswold Way – a 100 mile scenic walk from Bath to Chipping Campden (not all in one day, of course!) where you can plan your route and stay in hotels or cottages along the route. There are of course, much shorter walks to do too.
For the history buffs – or if you just love a good castle – visit Warwick Castle in the town of Warwick. It was built by William the Conqueror in 1068 and is an historic landmark in the Cotswolds.
The Peak District
The Peak District is a popular tourist spot and the stunning natural landscape is only one reason why. From rivers to swim in, to hills to climb to cute little coffee shops and cafes to visit there are many reasons why the Peak District National Park is a hot spot for travellers. And if you love hiking and walks, check out these Peak District walks you can do.
Try to get away from the crowds and rather than heading to Chatsworth House, head south to Dovedale for some picturesque country walks. You could even head just out of the Peak District to the small town of Wirksworth for crafty shops and a local cinema. Time it right and you could join 7,000 others for Wirksworth’s Wizarding Day in October.
If you can’t help but head to the tourist honey pots then you must go to Monsal Dale. There are so many walks through the valley, stepping stones across the river and a number of excellent pubs for a pint or dinner after a busy day hiking. A personal favourite of my friend Jen of They Stay at Home (who lives in Matlock, on the edge of the Peak District), is The Packhorse Inn in Little Longstone. Apparently they do amazing food alongside a selection of local ales.
When visiting the Peak District please do look after it. There have recently been a number of wild fires in the park, caused by discarded BBQs, rubbish and cigarettes. The Peak District National Park Foundation wants the National Park to be conserved and enjoyed by everyone… forever!
So those are my recommendations for places to holiday in the UK. Planning a UK staycation? Let me know, in the comments, where you’re going!