As a nation we’re spending more and more on staycations – billions we’re told – and as the Brexit process chugs on, rather than facing an unfavourable exchange rate, holidaying on home soil may well seem increasingly appealing. We found a few pleasant pastures new to consider adjourning to…
They can often save you a bit of money; they can be better for the environment with no need to rack up any air miles; they can be more convenient and cut out departure lounge hours: staycations are still on the rise. Considering the pound isn’t at its strongest, and just how much there is to do and see in many parts of the UK – with tough competition between regions to produce the most dynamic cultural calendar – domestic breaks are seeming ever more attractive to many. Every individual, couple, family or group of pals’ needs and preferences are different but today there seems to be something super-cool to suit us all. Whether an action-packed trip or doing the absolute bare minimum is top of the agenda, check out our suggestions for a stimulating Great British break…
For: Life among the leaves
A stilted affair surrounded by serene Somerset greenery, The Birdhouse at Crewkerne’s The Yurt Retreat is a top shout. Clad in local cedar, it looks like a giant bird box and inside there’s a vaulted ceiling, curved walls and windows framing verdant views. Luxuries include a lovely handmade bed, rain-head shower, access to a new woodland sauna and a kitchen with 80-year-old boards reclaimed from the parachute regiment Nissen huts from Salisbury Plain. Enter the organic farm site through a gate in the hornbeam hedge, head for a clearing alive with birdsong and find your sanctuary behind some luxurious yurts, also available to hire.
For: The ultimate sense of freedom
What we love about the idea of a road trip in a pimped-up camper van like Bristol’s Quirky Campers’ is that you can plan out your route around the West Country and beyond as you go, on your waking whim, if that’s how you roll. The Quirky team scour the country to find the most beautiful and original campervans – each completely unique, having been built to the spec and aesthetic taste of their private owner – then persuade these owners to share them!
For: Rugged beauty (see lead image)
Twenty-eight miles off the Cornish coast, lie the beautiful Isles of Scilly – a breath-taking archipelago offering the mildest climate in the UK, irresistible panoramas and a real sense of escape from everyday life. Natural beauty is the name of the game here. Choose to take advantage of it with some dolphin-spotting, watersports, boat trips, snorkelling with seals in the clear turquoise sea, or by exploring a botanical island hotspot. The pace of life feels wonderfully gentle across the five isles – St Mary’s, St Martin’s, Tresco, Bryher and St Agnes – with exotic flora and fauna abounding and the social calendar populated with live music, food festivals and hiking tours. (You can walk from Tresco to Bryher during the Scilly Low Tide Events when there is an extreme spring tide.) There’s also the new Island Helicopters service that’s just launched, if you don’t fancy taking the plane from Exeter or sailing on the Scillonian passenger ferry from Penzance.
For: The cosy getaway
The master craftspeople at Plankbridge have been creating luxurious living spaces for years, producing private dens to delight the most exacting of ‘posh shed’ sybarites. Want to try one out? Their handmade shepherd’s huts, which balance tradition and modernity, can be found dotted around the country in places such as Colber Farm in Dorset, Hare Farm in East Sussex and Elmley in Kent – the only national nature reserve in England you can spend the night in. If you want every trip to the bottom of the garden to feel like a mini holiday, you could even have one built to spec at home – like HRH Prince Charles, who has one at Highrove – to include perhaps a mini-spa, garden theatre, yoga studio or home cinema. This crew maintain a ‘move-when-you-move’ promise too, so they will relocate your sanctuary for you if you ever have a change of address.
For: Solo tripping
When was the last time you had a whole week completely to yourself; even a few days? Maybe you spend a lot of time alone but haven’t thought about a trip specifically geared up for travellers like yourself? Just like staycations, solo travelling is also on the rise; as are travel companies that cater for exactly this sort of trip. One Traveller specialises in holidays designed for the mature single traveller and is the brainchild of travel expert Ian Darkin, who wanted to address the industry shortcomings he spotted while working as a tour manager escorting singles holidays all over the world. Bringing together like-minded single people in their 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and beyond, with a passion for travel, cities, culture and cuisine, it offers the chance to travel in a safe environment on a holiday with no single supplements (a premium often charged to people who take a room alone). And while booking your first solo holiday can seem daunting, word on the street is that it’s rather liberating and empowering – addictive stuff, according to some. This summer One Traveller is encouraging holidaymakers to rediscover the great British backyard with a countryside retreat in the heart of Oxfordshire – a great spot from which to explore the majestic Cotswolds. Think scenic walks and hearty pub lunches, quintessentially unspoiled English landscapes – anywhere from historic home of Shakespeare Stratford-upon-Avon, sumptuous Sudeley Castle with its impressive grounds or perhaps Hanbury Hall and Gardens. The guys are offering four nights in the four-star Billesley Manor Hotel in a double room for sole occupancy and the exclusive services of a tour manager plus some meals and excursions from £850 per person for departures in July and August.
For: Spa worshippers
A luxurious new sanctuary has just opened on the Somerset Levels, taking inspiration from its untouched natural surroundings. Elements Boutique Spa, part of the peaceful Windmill Retreat Estate, is proud purveyor of a wholly relaxing rural experience featuring outdoor heated spa pool, sauna, a spacious relaxation area and range of Aromatherapy Associates treatments, all contributing to its haven of wellbeing in the midst of the West Country. Therapies are also available for guests going through cancer treatment. Guests can relish an overnight retreat in one of the sumptuous, secluded lodges – Allwynds, with its bubbling hot tub and private balcony, The Millstone with its flickering log burner or perhaps Levels View with its pleasant balcony – all a short stroll away from the local nature reserve, the historic ruins of St Michael’s Church and Burrow Mump.
For: History boys (and girls)
Fifteenth-century coaching inn Sign of the Angel, AKA The Babberton Arms from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (part of the movie was filmed in the Wiltshire watering hole) has five unique rooms we’d give our right arm to stay in – with quirky features from architects of centuries past. Downstairs is a panelled sitting room where you can plan out your days in dreamy National Trust village Lacock, a cracking two AA-rosette restaurant and a paddock which will gradually subsidise the produce for the kitchen, plus a garden reaching down to a stream – ideal for a cream tea on a summer’s day. Closer to home, try Berwick Lodge, nestled in a pastoral location a short drive from central Bristol, with views that reach across to Wales. It’s a magnificent manor house that started life in the 1890s, with enchanting gardens, contemporary style expertly combined with historic elegance, 14 individually designed rooms and an award-winning fine dining restaurant.
For: A drop of romance
We’ve been obsessed with the thought of staying at a winery recently and have discovered that just down the road, in Redhill, there’s a cute little family-run B&B called The Forge over at Aldwick Court Farm & Vineyard, which produces its own, award-winning English tipples. Arrange a tour and delve into the history of Somerset’s largest vineyard, cultivate an understanding of English viticulture, explore the 11 acres of grape vines – and then, of course, assess the fruits of the family’s labour by sampling their available vintages. Alternatively, how does the sound of a stargazers’ retreat grab you? We’ve been avidly Googling them here in the office and found a great spot in Brecon, converted from a stable used for forest ponies, between the quiet hamlets of Trecastle and Crai. Sleeping two and offering views of highest peak in South Wales, Pen y Fan, the romantic getaway is a little haven featuring a computerised Meade telescope for visitors to use, as well as its own observatory. Weeks start from £254 and short breaks from £191.