British Staycations Guide
If you’re a natural-born wanderluster who dreams of new places and adventures, seeing travel restricted and our worlds shrunk smaller this year has been tough to take. But all we need to do is learn to look for fulfilling experiences closer to home, and embrace the beauty of Britain.
‘Staycation’ is a word traditionally associated with yummy mummies who are booking summer holiday cottages in Cornwall, but recently the more woke have also been waking up to the joys of staying local. Exploring your own backyard has myriad benefits – there’s no jet lag to suffer through, no days wasted waiting to board planes and of course, far less travel emissions to heat up the planet created. It’s also easier to take a staycation with children or pets, and if you don’t have to travel far, just a long weekend away can make for a really restorative break.
Great Britain often gets overlooked when you’re hankering for a change of scenery, but this island is home to far more beautiful landscapes and unique experiences than you might think. Have you ever dreamed of snorkelling with seals, walking through a lavender field or swimming in a blue lagoon? You can do them all in the UK. We’ve got fairy hills, tropical gardens, white sand beaches, epic mountain ridges and treasure islands, all easily reached by car or public transport, or even by foot and by bike. Hopping on and off trains or planning a road trip makes it far easier to plan each day as it comes than catching flights, and in some corners of Britain, especially the Scottish Highlands, a train or car trip is half of the joy of the journey, as you travel through magnificent mountain ranges or hug the shores of a deep loch on the way to your destination.
My favourite special staycations in Britain
The Scottish Hebrides
Shrouded in myths and mists in equal measure and home to gorgeous beaches, magical camping spots and, I would argue, the tastiest whiskey in the world, the archipelagos of the inner and outer Hebrides are one of the dreamiest places to explore on earth. Here’s my Hebrides island guide – my pick of the most enticing islands and the best places to stay.
The Isles of Scilly
Go coastal walking, SUP-ing or snorkelling with seals on the Isles of Scilly. These little islands (total population: 2,203) are well-known as a wonderfully peaceful, slow-paced place to relax by the sea – but they also make the perfect destination for an adventurous long weekend. My guide for Countryfile will help you plan.
“A wild rocky romantic island it is too”, J.M Barrie wrote of it. “it almost taketh the breath away to find so perfectly appointed a retreat on these wild shores.” Peter Pan’s fictional island home, inhabited by mermaids and threatened by pirates, may only be reachable in your imagination, but you can come pretty close to finding Neverland on Eilean Shona, the small Scottish island that inspired Barrie’s story of the Boy Who Never Grew Up. This tiny, car-free slice of land sits off the west coast of Scotland, and these days, anyone can journey to Eilean Shona by boat to stay off-grid and reconnect with the wilder world.
Eco Retreats yurts, Snowdonia
Eco Retreats, tucked away in Wales’ Dyfi forest on the edge of Snowdonia National Park, makes the perfect off-grid hideaway. Just five yurts dot a 1,300 acre farmland, so all you’ll really have for company are the forest, a rushing river and a flock of sheep.
Mrs Higgs Lodge, near Hay-On-Wye
Leave technology behind and escape to an off-grid cottage for a digital detox in deepest, darkest Herefordshire at the charming Mrs Higgs Lodge, complete with wood-fired hot tub.
Cornish Tipi Holidays
At Cornish Tipi Holidays, tall white tents, some in a large meadow, some in their own private forest glades, encircle a glassy green swimming lake in a magical hidden valley in north Cornwall. A pontoon and a row boat make it very tempting to spend all your days messing around on the water at Cornish Tipi Holidays, although the coast is only 10 minutes away by car.
Brownber Hall, Yorkshire
If you fancy a little bit of luxury but also love to hike, I recommend charming Brownber Hall, a boutique hotel that makes the perfect base for storming around the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District. Muddy boots welcome.
Farne Islands, Northumberland
Hop aboard for boat ride to the magical Farne Islands, where clownlike puffins potter about by your feet, grey seals loll lazily on the rocks and arctic terns try their best to beat you up. A boat trip to this mini ecosystem off the Northumberland coast, inhabited only by wild sea birds, seals, dolphins and a handful of rangers, is a journey into another world.
Ryvoan, once a crofter’s cottage and now a mountain bothy perched above Glenmore in the Eastern Highlands, makes the perfect beginner’s bothy, easily hiked to and fun to stay in.
Ditchling Cabin, Sussex
Pack your swimsuit and swap the real world for a cabin on the water Ditchling Cabin, set on the edge of its own lake in the South Downs National Park in Sussex, is the perfect place to hole up in if you’re in need of a peaceful escape.