Updated January 28, 2021
(Published June 5, 2020)
Overseas travel may not be a sure thing this summer but if you're ready to embrace life after lockdown, now is the perfect time to start planning a staycation in the UK.
And why not, ey? Britain is blessed with some cracking coastline, world-class cities and spectacular rural regions. Plus, when the weather’s right (and it does happen occasionally!), it's hard to beat the UK as a holiday destination. So, without further ado, let’s have a look at Britain's best staycation destinations.
Who needs the Med when you’ve got Cornwall on your doorstep? No, we’re not joking – if you think Cornwall (or Kernow as you might hear the locals call it) is just about pasties, then think again! England’s west extremity has the lot.
Besides Cornwall’s many stunning beaches, the region has a deep sense of heritage and a vibrant creative side to explore. For the latter, look no further than the incredible Eden Project or Tate St Ives.
Hankering for some great food? Head to pretty Padstow, which boasts excellent restaurants including chef Rick Stein’s flagship fish venue. The surf’s up in Bude, Newquay and Perranporth, and, of course, no trip to Cornwall would be complete without a visit to iconic Land’s End.
The pretty harbour villages of St Ives and Padstow are not exceptions in Cornwall – the coast is dotted with these traditional little seaside villages, perfect for a relaxing week by the sea.
Newquay and Falmouth are larger towns, both connected to great beaches, making them very popular with families for a UK staycation. Campsites pepper the landscape too, for those really looking for value for money this year.
It might be known mainly for its cream teas, but there’s much more to Devon than that (admittedly delicious) attraction.
This is a land of sweeping moors, dramatic coastal cliffs and – like its neighbour, Cornwall – some stunning beaches. Among them is Woolacombe, which is regularly lauded as one of Britain’s finest, Watcombe, a small bay near Torquay, and Bantham, another stunning stretch of sand that’s worthy of special mention.
Devon’s coastal areas are a dream for hikers, too. Connected by the extensive, easy-to-follow South West Costal Path, both of Devon’s coastlines can be walked in their entirety.
Whether you choose the Exmoor Coast in the north, the Jurassic Coast in the south or Devon’s rolling interior, there’s no shortage of places to stay. Smaller coastal villages like Branscombe and Croyde offer the perfect tonic to city life, while the likes of Lyme Regis, Salcombe, Woolacombe and Ilfracombe are your more typical British seaside resorts.
Plymouth, Exeter and Torquay are the largest towns in the area, offering a mix of budget accommodation, B&Bs and luxury boutiques.
The Lake District is famed for its high fells, mighty lakes and its infinite capacity to inspire – countless writers, from Wordsworth to Beatrix Potter, have fallen in love with the place.
Sixteen main bodies of water make up the park’s lakes, while England's tallest mountain, Scafell Pike, the second peak in the Three Peaks Challenge endurance event, is also located here. The area is renowned for its stunning walking routes, natural history and its quaint lakeside communities such as Keswick and Bowness-on-Windermere.
As one of the best national parks in the UK, there’s a wide range of accommodation available in the Lakes. Windermere and Bowness-on-Windermere are good options for a fuss-free staycation, while Buttermere is situated in-between the lake of the same name and Crummock Water. The town of Keswick is closest to Derwent Water.
Glenridding and Watermillock are good shouts for Ullswater, while there are plenty of smaller villages in and around the Lakes, as well as campsites and caravan sites – if that’s your cup of tea.
One of the world’s greatest cities, London has something for everyone – no matter what your budget.
Yes, it’s an expensive city, but if you're sticking to a budget, there’s no shortage of cheap and free things to do in London. When open, its great museums all offer free entry (The Natural History Museum, National Portrait Gallery, Tate Modern, the British Museum, to name a few), while theatre tickets on the West End can be snapped up for as little as £15 (TKTS in Leicester Square is a great place to get discounted last-minute bargains).
The nightlife is incredibly varied and exciting – from the hipster haunts of Brixton and Dalston to glamourous areas such as South Kensington and Chelsea – while the city’s diverse, multicultural population makes London a dream for foodies.
London is huge, so forget about doing everything in one trip – it’s impossible, trust us! As a result, where you stay largely depends on what you want to do and how much time you have. Short on time but want to see biggies such as Buckingham Palace, Parliament and the Tower of London? Try somewhere central like Soho, Covent Garden, Southwark or Blackfriars.
Staying further out is a good shout if you want to save a bit, but make sure the area you pick is well connected – some parts are much better connected than others. Use the Transport for London website to see if the area you are looking at is on a tube line. There’s plenty of accommodation available in London so you should be able to find something to suit your budget.
Renowned as one of the UK's most beautiful spots, North Wales has long been lauded as an area of stunning landscapes, from its rolling, rugged terrain to quaint chocolate box villages.
It’s here you’ll find one of Britain’s best loved national parks in Snowdonia, the stunning island of Anglesey, typically Welsh coastal towns like Conwy, and family holiday classics like Llandudno and Colwyn Bay. Thrill-seekers not content with conquering Snowdon’s summit will also find the largest zipline in Europe, artificial waves at Surf Snowdonia, and epic wakeboarding in Conwy.
Although it’s not actually an official region, the area can roughly be defined as everything above the “border” which stretches from Aberdyfi on the coast to the small town of Chirk on the English border.
Dolgellau is a good base if you’re intent on climbing Snowdon, while Beaumaris is the perfect spot from which to explore Anglesey. Llandudno has all the charms of a classic family staycation, while nearby Conwy is smaller but much more picturesque.
If you’d prefer to stay somewhere with more going on, Bangor offers more by way of decent nightlife, while the royal town of Caernarfon offers history and tradition in abundance.
This boundless area contains the Cairngorms, Britain’s largest national park; Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest mountain; and Loch Ness, one of Britain’s most famous lakes. Phew – that’s a fair bit of epic scenery right there, and that’s not even the half of it.
Vast, sparsely populated and one of the best staycation destinations in the UK, it’s also known for its remarkable castles, traditional Scottish clan history and friendly locals.
Love whisky and walking? Not only does the Scottish Highlands have some of the most breathtakingly beautiful scenery in all of the UK, but some of the world’s best malts are made here, too. There’s nothing quite like cosying up by a log fire with a wee dram after a long, bracing walk.
To call the Highlands big would be a slight understatement. At 30,659 km², the area is roughly the same size as Belgium – let’s just say there’s plenty places to stay.
Really, it just depends on what you’re after: for mountains, there’s Fort William, near Ben Nevis, or Aviemore in the Cairngorms; for lakes, there’s Drumnadrochit on Loch Ness; for cities, try Inverness; and then there’s the whole island of Skye to explore.
Sticking north of the border in Scotland, Edinburgh is a city that oozes history and culture. Everywhere you look there seems to be some ancient reminder of the past or an exciting festival kicking off.
The mighty castle, which stands right in the centre of the city, is the most obvious nod to the past, while the Fringe Festival is one of the most iconic and progressive theatre festivals in the world.
This unique combination of past and future has made Edinburgh one of Britain’s most exciting cosmopolitan cities, with a vibrant nightlife, phenomenal arts scene, varied shopping and world-class dining scene on offer.
Edinburgh’s old centre is fairly compact and easy to get around – many choose a hotel in and around the Royal Mile and the Grassmarket. Alternatively, Leith is jam-packed with cafes and restaurants and is ideal for foodies who prefer to stay by the sea.
Classic British holiday: three words that sum up Blackpool perfectly. The Pleasure Beach, Sandcastle Water Park, the Tower – each one is iconic in its own way. Whatever your preconceptions about Blackpool may be, it never fails to offer tremendous value for money.
In recent years, the seaside town has been boosted by some much needed investment, with a revamp of the promenade injecting a new lease of life into Blackpool. Other attractions include SEALIFE, Blackpool Zoo and the famous promenade itself.
To be right in the heart of the action, you can’t beat Blackpool’s long promenade. Budget B&Bs and hotels are commonplace up and down the town’s long coastline. Alternatively, nearby South Shore and Lytham Saint Annes are also packed with accommodation options.
Norfolk’s famous Broads span more than 125 miles (201km) in total. Every mile is open, meaning there are no locks and the whole thing is navigable by boat. Speaking of which, boating holidays are tremendously popular on the Broads – coasting along the calm waters of Norfolk on your own vessel is an unrivalled way of seeing the landscape.
The Broads even reach Norwich and Great Yarmouth, if you fancy combining a trip to ‘Britain’s Magical Waterland’ with a short city break or a trip to the beach.
The best way to experience the Broads is by boat. However, if you don’t have your sea legs, there are plenty of accommodation options, from B&Bs to holiday cottages, which line the waterways for you to choose from.
Charming market towns Aylsham, Reepham and Acle are good bets, while Wroxham, the capital of the Broads, is home to the world’s largest village store, Roys, and a fine choice for a base for your Broads adventure.
Best-known for walking holidays and a huge music festival, the Isle of Wight is a classic British holiday destination. Picturesque little harbour towns and dramatic coastal cliffs are the norm, and it only takes a mere 25 minutes to get there from the mainland.
It’s also a cracking place for a beachy staycation – with 67 miles (108km) of coast to play with, the island is home to some of Britain’s nicest beaches. Shanklin, Sandown and Ventnor are some of the best.
The towns of Cowes, Ryde and Yarmouth are all popular options for coastal accommodation, while Hamstead and Newtown are ideal for the Hamstead Heritage Coast. For the Isle of Wight AONB, try Mottistone, Brighstone or Shalcombe, while nearby Afton is also within a stone’s throw of The Needles Headland and Tennyson Down. The island is quite small, so if you take your own car on the ferry there’s no bad place to stay location-wise.