UK Staycation Swaps: Britain’s Best Destinations
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Whether you’re looking for a city break, a wilderness escape, a country retreat or a trip to the seaside, Britain is blessed with destinations to rival some of the world’s most desirable hotspots. It’s time to embrace what we have on our doorstep and celebrate the year of the British staycation, says Holly Rubenstein
Swap The French Riviera for the Cornish Riviera
Who needs to travel to the Med when it’s possible to experience the palm-fringed white sand beaches, glittering turquoise seas and finest fresh seafood of the Cornish riviera?
Cornwall’s photogenic seafront fishing villages offer boundless charm. None more so than Mousehole, with its narrow, cobbled streets brimming with buzzing restaurants and galleries that wind down to its sheltered harbour, with boats bobbing in the breeze. It’s no wonder Welsh poet Dylan Thomas described it as ‘the loveliest village in England’. The tribute still holds true today. Stay at The Old Coastguard, a sun-dappled boutique spot, with 14 sumptuous bedrooms that peer out to sea over palms and splashes of vivid hydrangeas.
The sophistication of St Tropez is captured at The Scarlet, an adults-only getaway on Cornwall’s north coast, overlooking Mawgan Porth’s sandy bay, and down the road from foodie Padstow (home to Rick Stein’s culinary empire, Paul Ainsworth at Number 6 and Restaurant Nathan Outlaw). What’s more, The Scarlet’s sea vistas are some of Cornwall’s best, whether you’re catching them from the spectacular stone-lined natural outdoor swimming pool or from the al fresco hot tubs with a view. Inside, the walls are lined with painting by local artists, no doubt inspired by the region’s mesmerising quality of light that has been drawing artists for decades.
Art enthusiasts can’t miss the Porthminster Gallery in St Ives, housed in an old Pilchard press or the renowned Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden. The Tate St Ives’s eclectic collections are also always worth visit.
There’s a taster of Cap d’Antibes at Carbis Bay with its award-winning golden sand bathing beach, surrounded by subtropical scenery. For ultimate privacy, the beach houses at Carbis Bay Hotel are big enough to sleep a family of four and are just a frisbee’s throw from the beach itself.
Swap Rome for Bath
Ancient history and Georgian elegance sit side-by-side in majestic Bath, the only UK city designated as a UNESCO heritage site.
Bath has been a wellness destination for millennia, thanks to its unique natural thermal hot springs. A trip to the city isn’t complete without a visit to its awe-inspiring ancient Roman baths, dating back to AD43. These days, the therapeutic waters can be experienced down the road at the thoroughly modern Thermae Bath Spa, with its showstopper open rooftop pool taking in 360 degree views of the city.
Just a short walk away is the Royal Crescent Hotel, a jewel in the centre of Bath’s iconic honey-hued Royal Crescent. It’s one of the greatest examples of Georgian architecture, straight from a Jane Austen novel. Check into luxe five-star suites with private terraces overlooking gloriously green gardens and don’t miss its afternoon tea, which attracts guests from around the world.
If you fancy something a little more low-key, charming Broad St Townhouse is a boutique retreat in the heart of historic Bath. It’s Grade II-listed and retains many of its original architectural elements, plus its own distinctive sense of style. Next door is its sister venue, The Pig & Fiddle, a newly refurbished pub with a tempting menu of pub classics done with a twist.
Swap New Zealand for the Scottish Highlands
If you’re dreaming of epic scenery and high drama landscapes, save the air miles and the environment by trading New Zealand for the wilds of the Scottish Highlands. This breathtaking region, roughly the same size as Belgium, is home to Britain’s largest national park, the Cairngorms, plus Britain’s highest mountain, towering Ben Nevis and one of Britain most famous lakes (and resident monster) Loch Ness. Fairytale castles, world-class malts and boundless wildlife make it a region to be added to any travel bucket list.
Stay at The Torridon in Wester Ross, one of the UK’s most remote hotels. Set amid sprawling parkland estate with a backdrop of mountains and forest, its romantic turrets overlook the tranquil shores of Loch Torridon. This is a spot to reconnect with nature. Walk for miles through rugged wilderness, go gorge scrambling in pristine waters or hike to the summit of a munro. Its 18 rooms can be hired on an exclusive basis, too.
For a more boutique feel, deep in the Cairngorms within a 4000-acre estate is Killiehuntly, a pretty 17th-century farmhouse. With four stylish bedrooms designed with minimalist Scandi-Scottish interiors, along with a bothy and a cottage in the grounds, it’s a spot to swoon over. For the duration of 2020, all properties will be available for private hire only.
Sister property, the opulent Glenfeshie Lodge, dates back to the 1880s and once played host to Queen Victoria. The glen is reached by a winding single-track road through a pine forest. Arriving at the Lodge, framed by mountains and the salmon-rich River Feshie, the restorative power of nature feels palpable. So magnificent is the scenery that Edwin Landseer’s famous The Monarch of the Glen painting is said to originate from here. Up to 12 guests can stay in the Lodge on a fully catered basis, and its resident gamekeepers can organise a variety of outdoors activities including its famous pony picnics – a one-of-a-kind experience trailing through the glen.
Swap Champagne for West Sussex
The heartland of the UK’s wine industry, West Sussex is home to three quarters of England’s 8,600 acres of vines. Seventy per cent of the fruits of these go into making the acclaimed sparkling wine that frequently trumps champagne in blind tastings.
The key to English sparkling wine’s world-class quality is its location. The picturesque rolling hills of the South Downs National Park have the same chalk-rich soil as the Champagne region of France. Head here for vineyard tours and tastings in a peaceful bucolic setting, just an hour and a half’s drive from central London. Be sure to stop at the scenic Nyetimber estate in West Chiltington on one of its open days, where tastings of its award-winning sparkling wine are held in its striking medieval barn.
High on the South Downs are newcomer Rathfinny, which is set to become England’s largest vineyard with 400 acres to its name. Other stops should include Ridgeview, Bolney Wine Estate, and Breaky Bottom vineyard.
Stay at the nearby Spread Eagle in the pretty market town of Midhurst. It’s one of England’s oldest coaching inns dating back to 1430. Or retreat to ivy-clad Ockenden Manor in Cuckfield, for countryside views, fine dining and the beautiful spa with a flotation tank and eight treatment rooms – the perfect hangover cure.
Great British & Irish Hotels Guide 2020