Holiday planning? 10 European-style staycations
Love a continental jaunt but staying in Blighty this year? These 10 UK holiday spots have a distinctly European feel.
It’s that time of year when idle chat turns to holiday plans and, if my friends are anything to go by, lots of people are staying put this summer. Whether it’s due to a self-imposed no-fly zone for eco reasons, being keen not to splash cash or concern that post-Brexit European travel might be more of a faff (passport queues, for example), it looks like 2020 might be the year of the staycation. While the potentially dodgy weather is beyond my control (I’m not yet omniscient – although it’s only a matter of time), I can help with some sexy suggestions for UK breaks that have a pleasingly European vibe. Allez…
Like Copenhagen? Try Tenby, Wales
Fun fact: the Welsh name for Tenby means ‘little town of the fishes’, which seems appropriate seeing as this pastel-palette Pembrokeshire town is famed for its fishing history, delicious fresh seafood and four golden beaches (Castle Beach was even named The Sunday Times Beach of the Year last year). It’s not all postcard sunsets, colourful houses and mild weather though (although that certainly is a draw) – there’s plenty of culture and art here to keep you entertained. Don’t miss Caldey Island, which is just a 20-minute boat ride away.
Like Provence? Try the Cotswolds
There’s a reason that this bucolic part of the country often pops up on lists of must-see British holiday destinations – historic architecture, gorgeous landscapes and amazing dining options – you can even get your Provençal-style lavender fix by visiting Cotswold Lavender in Broadway (above). If you get sick of the countryside (with those views? As if), pop into Cheltenham, Oxford or Bath for a smattering of culture.
Like the Amalfi Coast? Try Portmeirion, Wales
No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you, this is definitely Wales! It’s no coincidence that this super-cute corner of the country looks like it hopped straight out of an Italian postcard, as designer Sir Clough Williams-Ellis was reportedly a big fan of the Italian Riviera (aren’t we all?). You’ll get the (practically) the same amazing sea views and beach walks in Portmeirion as you would in Portofino, and the weather is generally pretty lovely – although we’d recommend packing your umbrella all the same. The estuary is good for paddle-boarding too.
Like Corsica? Try the Isles of Scilly
White sand beaches, plenty of local seafood and wine, and water sports and local wildlife for days – without a doubt, you don’t need chic Mediterranean islands when you’ve got the Isles of Scilly. Sure, the average temperature may be slightly lower, but Scilly still boasts some of the best weather in the UK, and rarely gets packed with tourists even in the height of summer. Our recommendation is to head there in September for the Taste of Scilly Festival, which celebrates the best local dishes (so pack your elasticated-waist trousers).
Like the Alps? Try Snowdonia, Wales
For a mountain range on your doorstep, Snowdonia has to be on every rambler’s bucket list. For the some of the most breathtaking views in the UK, head up Mount Snowdon, the highest mountain in England and Wales – it may take you around three hours, but the sense of achievement (and excellent Insta snaps) makes it totally worth it. Closer to the ground, there are more Welsh castles than you can shake a stick at, as well as the Italian-style Bodnant Garden, Llanberis Lake Railway for an old-school steam train ride and Swallow Falls waterfalls.
Try the Loire Valley? Try Sussex
Hear us out! The British wine industry is having a hell of a moment, particularly when it comes to sparkling wine, so if you’re on the hunt for a vineyard holiday, there’s no need to head over the channel. There are some fantastic vineyards in Blighty, but our top pick has to be Sussex, home of English sparkling wine Nyetimber (above) and Bolney Wine Estate. Pop in for a winery tour and private tasting before exploring West Sussex’s other biggest tourist pull, South Downs National Park.
Like Finland? Try Shetland
Looking at pictures of Shetland, it’s hard to believe that these Scottish islands didn’t pop straight out of a Game of Thrones book – which is partly to do with the jaw-dropping scenery, and partly to do with Shetland’s strong Norse history. In fact, the place is so unique that it made Lonely Planet‘s top 10 destinations in the whole of Europe last year. Time it right and you’ll be able to see the Northern Lights (apparently they’re most visible in summer), and if you visit in January you’ll catch the Up Helly Aa, aka the Viking Fire Festival – one for 2021?
Like Lake Garda? Try Windermere, Cumbria
It’s the UK’s biggest national park so there’s naturally a lot to choose from here but we say head straight for the big guns with the largest lake, Windermere. There’s year-round boating and cruises on offer here, as well as a wealth of water sports as you’d expect, but if you don’t want to spend your entire holiday in a life jacket, then head out to HRiSHi at The Gilpin Hotel for a Michelin-starred dining experience, or strike out onto one of the many Wordsworth-worthy walks nearby.
Like the Greek islands? Try the Scottish Isles
It’s official – instead of island-hopping around Greece, Scotland is the hottest new holiday destination (er, although maybe not literally). They may not have Mediterranean sunshine all year round, but the Scottish Isles regularly top lists of the most beautiful beaches in Britain – and you’re guaranteed to battle fewer tourists than if you head to any of their southern cousins. Plan a trip around the islands that take your fancy (we love Mull, Lewis and Harris), hitting up as many whiskey tastings as you can on the way, and you’ll barely feel the cold of the water *hic*.
Like San Sebastian? Try Ludlow, Shropshire
The northern Spanish city of San Sebastian is famed for its food but there’s plenty to keep your taste-buds entertained closer to home in Ludlow, Shropshire. Now’s a better time to visit than ever, as Ludlow Food Festival is celebrating its 25 year anniversary – book for 11-13 September to scoff and quaff local produce from over 180 suppliers. Can’t make September? Ludlow Spring Festival takes place in May and combines food and drink with classic cars and live music while Ludlow Magnalonga in August blends feasting with an 8-mile countryside ramble.