One of the questions I get asked the most often? “Where shall we escape to for a weekend in the UK?” Big adventures and wild camping trips are all very well, but sometimes you want to up sticks, leave the city behind and breath in fresh air in a wild place, ideally followed by the cosy pub and a night in a rural cottage. These are some of the best weekend getaways in Britain.
The best weekend getaways in Britain
1. Farm stay in the Peak District
Stay in a farm cottage, a barn or a log cabin and see lambs gambol, horses graze and cows do cowpats – right back to nature. You can eat fresh food, feed the animals, and wear flattering overalls on a farm stay, where you get to live like a farmer without worrying about rubbish milk prices or foot and mouth. The Peak District is a good place to do it as they have lots of farms to pick, and proper black and white cows like the ones in the books I read when I was a little’un.
Stay there: Farm Stay offer rural from as little as £50 per night.
2. Go Glamping
Think camping isn’t for you? Glamping has all the loveliest bits of camping – a night out under the stars, a hot cup of coffee in nature in the morning – but with none of the discomfort. Think cosy bell tents, beautiful yurts, even quirky treehouses and wagons, often with comfy double beds and hot showers. Coolstays is a great place to start – I’ve got my eye on this charming cabin in Northumberland.
Stay there: Coolstays offer gorgeous glamping across the country and also offer great late deals if you aren’t sure where you fancy exploring this weekend, with many cosy boltholes available for under £100 a night.
3. Coasteering in Pembrokeshire
Now, ladies and gentlemen, my guide to combining a chilled-out country stay with white knuckles and that sick kind of adrenaline you get when you almost fall down the stairs – coasteering. An extreme nature ramble in which you climb, swim and cliff-jump your way around rocky coastlines, the best place to do it is the TYF centre in Pembrokeshire, from £50. You can stay in their (dirt cheap at £16 per person per night) Eco Lodge, or the more expensive but comfy cottage, which sleeps eight at £450 per week. The idyllic town of St David’s is nearby, and the area is famous for its beach-studded coastline.
Stay there: Book activities and accommodation through the TYF centre.
5. Lighthouse-keeping in Scotland
Got a sea farin’ soul? I myself always wanted to live in a lighthouse, and believe it or not, it isn’t that expensive to do if it’s just for a few days. The National Trust for Scotland and the Northern Lighthouse Board let out lighthouses from as little as £50 per person for a weekend, and they tend to be in remote, craggy locations, often on steep cliffs above deserted beaches where you can play at being Robinson Crusoe. The lighthouses sleep up to six, so take some mates and some booze and have a cosy weekend in. Just don’t expect any bangin’ nightlife.
Stay there: Book a lighthouse through the National Trust for Scotland.
6, Rent your very own castle
Yes really! Be lord or lady of the manor (or pretend to be in Harry Potter) by renting out your very own castle for the weekend. Loyd and Townsend Rose will make your fortified dreams come true with their across Britain, complete with antique furniture, catering staff, sprawling grounds and even a moat or two. Many sleep big groups so they’re perfect for birthdays and family get togethers – you can even stay in castles that were used as filming locations for The Crown.
Stay there: Loyd and Townsend Rose offer ‘castle experiences’ across the UK, prices on application.
7. A cottage in the New Forest
The first time I went for a walk in the New Forest, a baby donkey licked my hand. Awww. The area is absolutely stunning, and if you rent a cottage in the centre of it you can walk, hike and mountain bike your way around it all (or tour the fantastic little forest pubs. Don’t do this bit on a bike). Bristling with pickled tourist villages like Burley (complete with resident witch) and luscious stately homes such as Beaulieu, it’s a gorgeous place to pootle about and explore. Cottages are often thatched and aren’t pocket-bustingly priced, especially outside of summer.
Stay there: New Forest Cottages have gorgeous cottages of all sizes.
8. Walking in the Lake District
I like William Wordsworth. I like fells. I like walking in pretty rolling hills near lakes, far away from cities and cars and kebab shops. I also like coming off the hill and heading back to a warm cosy cottage with a fire. This is why I like the Lake District. You can also rent boats for splashy fun on the water, which is a very tranquil experience. Go out of season for breathing space and more modest prices.
Stay there: Cumbrian Cottages do a fine line in pretty places to stay.
7. T’ Yorkshire Dales
Come over all James Herriot with a stay in the rolling hills and dales of Yorkshire. Eat cheese with fruitcake, drink proper tea, go for brisk, windy walks or visit the ghostly ruins at Scarborough Castle. York itself is a lovely city to wander round, stuffed with teashops, little boutiques and warm cosy pubs.
Stay there: Coolstays offer glorious glamping and wild places to stay all over Yorkshire – I like the look of Lark, a cabin among the pines.
8. Skinny dip on the Jurassic Coast, Dorset
The Dorset coast boasts one of England’s nicest skinny-dipping hotspots – Studland Bay, near Poole, a popular beach with a café for the interesting experience of eating a full English breakfast in the buff. It’s an official nudie beach and the nice people at Dorset County Council reckon its “okay to be naked”. Dorset cottages aren’t the cheapest, as it’s a popular location with city workers desperate to replace CO2 with West Country air, but they aren’t sell-your-granny expensive, either.
Stay there: Dorset Coastal Cottages does what it says on the tin.
9. Wild swimming near Bath
As well as being the prettiest city in the UK, Bath is varied and vibrant for such a small posh place. There are some fantastic real ale pubs and indie nightclubs, and grittier Bristol is only a 10 minute train ride away. The main attraction is the beauty of surrounding Somerset countryside: my favourite thing to do is go swimming in one of the local rivers and weirs in Frome, Claverton or Castle Cary, where you can float happily in the river with the weeds and the moorhens. Lovely. Cottages near Bath can be quite pricy, so hunt around for bargains.
Stay there: Toghill House Farm is the perfect rural base near the city. Find guides to wild swimming spots at wildswimming.co.uk.
10. Exploring Ireland
Ahh the Emerald Isle. There’s a lot to do: The Giant’s Causeway is a pretty unbelievable sight, Dublin’s all hip and down with the kids, Killarney National Park is stuffed with woods, deer and lakes, and traditional Irish pubs are as fun as they look in the movies. The Irish somehow manage to be friendly to hordes of tourists invading the island, and places to stay are generally equally friendly on small purses, with stone cottages from £150/week for four people.
Stay there: The pleasingly-named Shamrock Cottages have gorgeous stone cottages to rent from £230 per week.
Inspired by my best weekend getaways? Find longer reviews of my favourite places to stay here.