Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, travel restrictions have made it much harder to go abroad. It’s a blow for many, especially those working in travel and tourism. But it’s also meant that many of us are spending more time travelling closer to home, opting for UK staycations in place of foreign getaways.
Holidaying in the United Kingdom is pretty new to many of us, and you might have questions: Where are the best places to go? What type of trip can I take? Why should I spend my holiday in the UK? What accommodation is right for me?
We’re here to answer all these questions and more with this ultimate guide to holidays in the UK.
Why choose a UK holiday?
Covid-19 changed the way we all travel. Lockdowns and restrictions made it more dangerous and difficult to go abroad in 2020 and the years since. As such, many people have taken to holidaying in the United Kingdom when they’d usually go abroad.
Because of this, many of us have now realised just how great the UK actually is!
Restrictions are now continuing to ease up, and foreign travel is becoming simpler. Still, it looks like staycations are here to stay. And with good reason!
Cool city breaks
The UK is home to dozens of vibrant cities with hundreds of things to do. World-class restaurants, fantastic theatre and live music, fascinating museums and gorgeous galleries… There’s really so much to do and see.
London and Edinburgh are the obvious picks, but there are plenty of other British cities often overlooked by us Brits. Manchester, York, Bristol, Glasgow, Brighton, Belfast and Cardiff are just a handful of the best cities around Britain and Northern Ireland.
Book yourself a city break and start exploring the very best that British culture has to offer.
Quaint towns and villages
Mention Great Britain to non-Brits, and chances are they’ll mention how very quaint our country is. It can sound like a bit of a cliché, but deep down, we all know it’s true. The UK is packed with picturesque towns and villages that look like they’ve come straight out of a fairytale.
Places like the Cotswolds are absolutely full of these pretty little villages, but there are hundreds of them all around the country.
Stay somewhere like Rye, in East Sussex, or Dedham, in Essex, to make the most of our country’s most beautiful settlements.
Village stays are ideal for travellers who want old-fashioned pubs, cute and cosy cafés, and peaceful countryside walks.
As we all know, the moment the sun comes out in the UK, the whole country flocks to the coast. Britain is home to some truly gorgeous beaches and seaside towns – places that can rival foreign shores for beauty and charm, even if the weather might not be quite so good!
Many seaside towns in the UK have managed to retain their sense of tradition – they’re old fashioned, but in a good way. So many of us spent big chunks of our childhoods playing on Britain’s beaches, and there’s something comforting about heading there in middle-age and beyond.
Imagine yourself relaxing on a pebble beach, leaning up against the groynes and munching on a stick of rock or a portion of newspaper-wrapped chips.
Then recreate your childhood summer holidays with a trip to a town like Margate or Bournemouth, or treat yourself to a stay on the stunning Cornish coast.
In addition to fantastic places to relax, you can find many places to get outdoors in the UK. Walking, hiking, and camping are favourite activities for many Brits, and there are some excellent British destinations if this appeals to you.
The UK is home to 15 national parks, including the famous Lake District and Peak District, the Yorkshire Dales, Snowdonia, and the Cairngorms. These are ideal destinations for travellers who want to enjoy breathtaking scenery and a bit of fresh air.
Dig out your walking boots and get ready to get active!
The benefits of UK travel
We know that the UK has some great destinations, but there are so many other reasons why travelling closer to home is a good idea.
Spending your next getaway in the UK allows us to see our country through the eyes of a tourist. Staycations allow us to discover more about where we live and can help us develop a far greater appreciation for what’s on our doorstep.
There are several other benefits to travelling in the United Kingdom, too.
No language barrier
We Brits are notoriously bad at languages. It can be pretty embarrassing trying to make yourself understood in a small French village with no English speakers around – gesturing and pointing can only get you so far!
Luckily, that’s not the case in the UK. Speaking the same language as everyone around you makes it easier to form new friendships and make the most of a trip.
So if you don’t know the difference between bonjour and buongiorno, a UK holiday could be a great solution.
No currency exchange
Spending time researching when to exchange your money and how much foreign currency to buy can be a huge pain.
How can you get the best rates?
Is it dangerous to carry large sums of money?
How much will your bank charge for withdrawing or using your card abroad?
There’s no need to worry about any of this with a staycation. Simply hop in the car, and you’re ready to go, with no money worries to consider. It’s so much simpler.
An easier journey
One of the worst things about foreign travel has got to be the long and uncomfortable journeys. Flights can be expensive and are usually time-consuming – they’re also awful for the environment.
A UK getaway means it’s easier to avoid these long journeys. You can choose to drive to your destination or hop on a cross-country train. Trains are a pleasant way to get where you need to go, and you don’t have to pay extra for basic things like a suitcase!
If you do decide to fly – maybe you’re heading up to the Scottish Highlands from Cornwall and can’t face a 12-hour drive – then it will still be more straightforward than flying abroad. Domestic flights are quicker than international flights, and there’s less fuss when you land. Also, there are no lengthy queues at passport control when you’re not leaving the country!
British food has a bit of a bad reputation globally, but let’s be honest – we all love it!
The multicultural make-up of UK cities means that it’s easy to find authentic and delicious food from abroad if you want. Or, you can go full-on traditional and enjoy classic British dishes like pie and mash, haggis (don’t knock it till you’ve tried it!) or a Sunday roast.
It’s comforting and familiar, but it’s also delicious.
No need for a petsitter!
If you have pets at home, you’ll be all too familiar with the frustrations – and high costs – of finding someone to look after them when you go away. With a staycation, you won’t need to worry.
Many holiday cottages and accommodation options offer pet-friendly rooms for a small supplement, so you can bring your pooch away for a few days of fun.
Our furry friends deserve a holiday too!
Where to go: Holidays in the UK
The United Kingdom has a vast amount to attract visitors. There’s something for everyone from towns and cities to natural beauty and stunning coastline.
London is packed with amazing things to do and see.
Top sights include museums and galleries, historical landmarks and beautiful churches. The city is also packed with world-class restaurants and fantastic theatres showing the very best of British musicals and plays. Live music also takes place all over the city every night.
Not-to-be-missed attractions include:
- The British Museum
- The Natural History Museum
- The National Gallery
- Tate Britain
- The Tower of London
- Buckingham Palace
- St Paul’s Cathedral
Really, though, the list is endless. So book a stay in the bustling heart of the UK for a fun-filled and exciting staycation.
Manchester is the UK’s second city. A trip here allows visitors to see everything from striking architecture to great football. It’s also a good destination for music lovers – huge bands like Oasis, The Stone Roses, and The Smiths have their roots here, and the musical tradition continues today.
Grab gig tickets or head to a football match at one of the country’s most famous grounds. Next, choose a museum – there are several – then head to the trendy Northern Quarter for hip bars and great restaurants.
Bath is the largest city in Somerset. It’s named for the ancient Roman baths that sit in the middle of the city. This beautiful old structure and museum are a must-see while you’re here, but there are plenty of other reasons to visit if you’re not much into your history. The city itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so you’re bound to find something that takes your fancy.
Take a stroll along the famous Royal Crescent for a masterclass in Georgian architecture. Visit the Jane Austen Centre for a dose of literature, or head to Bath Abbey for a wonderful example of a striking Gothic church.
York is a beautiful city. With medieval shopping streets like the Shambles, it looks like it comes straight out of history. York Minster, the ancient city walls and the imposing structure of Clifford’s Tower add to the feeling of antiquity. A couple of days in York can really make you feel like you’ve gone back to a simpler time.
But it also has a thriving contemporary art scene, a fascination with Vikings and several good places for a drink.
With all this and more, York is definitely worth a trip.
Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland and a truly gorgeous city. Like York, the city has a rich medieval history, but it also has excellent nightlife, with some of the best bars and restaurants in Scotland.
Step back in time with a trip to Edinburgh Castle, then explore the Royal Mile on foot to get to know the heart of the city.
Keen on walking? A stroll up Arthur’s Seat will get your blood pumping and will reward you with beautiful panoramic views.
A weekend in Edinburgh can be a perfect introduction to Scotland. See for yourself.
The slightly grittier cousin of Edinburgh, Glasgow is a frank but charming city. Some of the best museums in the city are free to enter, making this a great place to visit if you’re on a bit of a budget. It also has some of the friendliest locals in the world – in fact, the Rough Guides website has rated Glasgow the friendliest city in the whole world.
Glasgow is also a fantastic destination for music lovers. UNESCO’s 2008 City of Music, Glasgow regularly has some of the best live music acts performing in brilliant venues. The city really is Scotland’s capital of culture. You won’t regret a visit.
Rugby fans will already know Wales’ capital as a top destination for sport, and anyone who’s soon to be married will probably have considered it as a destination for a stag or hen party. But there’s so much more to Cardiff than just sport and bars.
The city is well known for its cultural offerings, with several art galleries, museums and theatres dotted around the area. Cardiff Castle is perfect for those looking for a dose of history, while Cardiff Bay is a top choice for nature lovers and fine diners alike – it’s the largest waterfront development in the whole of Europe.
On the eastern coast of Northern Ireland, this capital city is another brilliant choice for a UK holiday. This vibrant and lively urban centre has plenty to keep visitors entertained.
Pay a visit to the Titanic Belfast museum and learn about the city’s rich maritime history. Take yourself on a walking tour around the city centre and have a look at the numerous murals and street art – this is a great way to discover Belfast’s more recent past. Game of Thrones fans will also enjoy a themed tour of the city (much of the show was filmed here).
Spending a weekend in Belfast will also give you access to some of the best pubs, bars and restaurants in the whole of the UK. It’s got something for everyone.
Beaches and seaside towns
Cornwall and Devon
The counties of Cornwall and Devon are full of beautiful beaches and lovely seaside towns. Both make fantastic holiday destinations.
Popular places include St Ives, Padstow, Tintagel and Port Isaac in Cornwall, and Torquay, Dartmouth and Clovelly in Devon.
Journey down to the Southwest and get to know this beautiful part of England.
The Jurassic Coast
Stretching from East Devon to Dorset, the Jurassic Coast is another UNESCO World Heritage Site. This long stretch of shoreline is a fantastic place to visit if you want sun, sea and sand.
You could spend a week staying in several locations along this beautiful coastline, or choose somewhere central and take day trips out to the best parts. Lyme Regis is a great option, and you can’t miss a trip to Durdle Door.
Margate in Kent is experiencing a bit of a revival. In fact, many young people are flocking to Margate thanks to its thriving arts scene and vintage shopping. It’s actually pretty cool.
It’s also a beautiful seaside town with easy access to other parts of the county, such as Canterbury and the white cliffs of Dover. Relax on the beach or take the grandchildren to the Dreamland amusement park. They’ll love it.
Natural beauty and the great outdoors
We Brits are lucky enough to have some truly incredible natural beauty right on our doorstep. All around the United Kingdom are national parks and official Areas of Oustanding Natural Beauty (AONBs).
There are so many fantastic destinations for outdoorsy types, from the Cotswolds and the New Forest AONBs to national parks like the Peak District, the Lake District, Cairngorms and Snowdonia. Hiking, walking, rock climbing, camping and biking are all possible in places like this.
The larger national parks are usually quite busy, especially in the summer months. But there are also areas that most people are more likely to overlook. For example, the Yorkshire Dales is less busy than the Lake District but is just next door, geographically speaking. It’s also easy to feel alone in Dartmoor or the Brecon Beacons.
If you prefer getting out on the water, head to the Broads, which straddle Norfolk and Suffolk. Hire a boat and spend a few days pootling up and down this vast network of rivers and lakes. Or, head north to Loch Ness or other parts of the Scottish Highlands to really get away from it all.
Other relaxing stays
There really are so many fantastic places to visit in the UK. It’s impossible to list them all.
Places like Hampshire and Lincolnshire are easy to overlook. Worcestershire and Oxfordshire also have a lot to offer. Northumberland has a national park that’s less busy than the better-known alternatives.
Wherever you decide to visit, you’ll be sure to have a great time on your UK holiday.
Holiday accommodation: A quick guide
From last-minute city breaks to stays in relaxing countryside cottages, the UK has a wealth of accommodation options to satisfy even the fussiest of travellers.
There are so many types of accommodation on offer.
Holiday parks can be a bit old fashioned, but they can actually be a great choice. Most now offer both classic caravans and luxury lodges, meaning visitors have more choice. In addition, there are usually plenty of child-friendly facilities such as swimming pools, hot tubs and kids’ clubs. Most units are self-catering, but there are generally at least a couple of restaurants and bars on-site, so you can eat out as much as you want.
If you’re looking for a bit more privacy, renting a secluded holiday home is a good idea. It’s easy to find a cute cottage or self-catering apartment to rent. There are options available in all sizes and for all budgets.
Hotels are a classic holiday choice and are great if you prefer to be a bit pampered. With daily room cleaning and luxuries like a turn-down service, a hotel stay is an excellent way to reset and recharge. There aren’t usually cooking facilities, so you’ll be forced to eat out every night – what a shame!
Campsites are an excellent choice if you want something cheap and cheerful. Camping is excellent fun for the family, and young children will love spending so much time outside. There are thousands of campsites all around the UK; some have more basic facilities than others, so do your research to avoid nasty surprises like no showers or limited loos.
If you’re keen to spend time outdoors but nervous about the lack of luxuries, give glamping a try. Glamping – glamourous camping – is all the fun of camping but with better facilities and, more importantly, proper beds. It’s like a hybrid option that provides the best of both worlds.
Your UK holiday
Spending a holiday in the UK is a brilliant way to explore more of our wonderful country.
Whether you prefer beach holidays or city breaks, getting active in the great outdoors or curling up in a cosy cottage, the United Kingdom has something for everyone.
So book your trip, pack your bags and spend your next getaway a little closer to home.