With lockdowns starting to gradually lift across Europe, travellers everywhere are looking to the future. The question on everyone’s lips: will I be able to take a summer holiday? The short answer is (probably) yes – though it might be sensible to set your sights on somewhere a bit closer to home. And it almost goes without saying that while you’re away you’ll still need to respect all government and local regulations.
The good news is that if you’re based in the UK, there are some great options the length and breadth of the country. We’ve picked ten stellar spots for your summer-holiday shortlist – quieter places, safely away from the madding crowds – ranging from blissful beaches to historic towns and blustery mountaintops where you can blow the corona cobwebs away. (That said, it’s best to avoid anywhere too remote, where you could risk bringing the virus to isolated communities with limited access to medical services: check for recommendations before you travel.) Reduce the risk further by packing the family into a car and approaching by road.
If you’re not based in the UK, while a 14-day quarantine on all arrivals will come into effect on 8 June, changes – as seen in other countries – may still make summer trips possible. Check our Corona Travel Updates page for breaking news.
Here are 10 great post-corona summer holidays, all tucked into the borders of the UK.
1. Cycle in Carmarthenshire, Wales
Active travellers should make for Carmarthenshire in Wales, and spend their summer on two wheels – taking advantage of the county’s fantastic range of new road-cycling routes. Twenty-three fabulous rides (17 are new) take in car-free tracks, country lanes, steep hills and epic views – there’s something for everyone, with a range of cultural and culinary treats along the way. Welsh cakes or fresh cockles on the coast, anyone?
Where to stay? Near the Gorlech Circuit, if you want somewhere to call your own, book the Glanafon Holiday Home. It sleeps five and is perfect for self-catering – with a high cleanliness rating, too.
2. Get out and about on the Isle of Wight, England
Blessed with beautiful beaches and traversed by a flawless series of walking and cycling paths, make the most of a summer spent outside on the Isle of Wight. Yes, to reach it you’ll need to catch the ferry from the mainland, but nervous passengers can head up to the spacious outside deck – the views are better from here, anyway, as the island grows closer with the glittering blue Solent before you. Once you’re on the island, it could pay to avoid major landmarks like Osborne House, but the good news is that there are plenty of secluded bays and windswept coastal trails to call your own.
Rough Guides’ Isle of Wight author, Aimee White, says, “The Isle of Wight is seriously underrated – perfect for a post-Covid getaway. Enjoy the bucket-and-spade glories of Ryde, Sandown and Ventnor beaches, take bracing clifftop walks across Tennyson Down and coastal trails along Totland Bay, and while away the balmy evenings with fresh fish and island-distilled gins. I'll raise a glass to that!”
Look out for the new Pocket Rough Guide to the Isle of Wight, out in August 2020.
Where to stay? Weston Manor in Freshwater, dating from 1871, is a charming B&B. Set within a National Trust Heritage Site, it’s family run and surrounded by woodland.
3. Discover Ballintoy, Northern Ireland
Ballintoy is a pretty little village on Northern Ireland’s Causeway Coast. Its harbour was catapulted to fame on HBO’s Game of Thrones, but you still get a real sense of small-town rural Irish life here. Its church is a real treasure, too. But strike out along the spectacular coast and you’ll really blow the cobwebs away; the wildlife in North Antrim is something to write home about – look closely and you might spot a dolphin splashing around.
Where to stay? Check into the Castle Bed & Breakfast, decked out in wood panelling and neutral tones. It’s a ten-minute walk from Ballintoy Harbour.
4. Roam the Cairngorms
The Cairngorms National Park is vast: it covers some 1500 square miles and boasts 52 sky-scraping summits that top 2953ft. Within its borders is a whopping quarter of Scotland’s native woodland, as well as a quarter of the UK’s threatened wildlife species. That’s a lot of room to roam: walking, wildlife spotting, climbing and cycling are all popular activities here, and can all be enjoyed at a safe distance from others. There are literally hundreds of trails to choose from, weaving their way through woodlands, blasted mountaintops and remote moorlands.
Where to stay? For self-catering accommodation in the heart of the park, try Silverglades Holiday Homes. A selection of 1- to 4-bedroom bungalows with private garden, BBQ facilities and patio – you’ll have plenty of your own space.
5. Eat fish and chips in Aldeburgh, England
Though Benjamin Britten’s Aldeburgh Festival might be cancelled this year, that’s no reason not to pay a visit to its seaside home. Aldeburgh – pronounced “Orld-bruh” – offers up the very best in good, old-fashioned British seaside fun. Colourful nineteenth-century holiday villas are strung along the promenade, while fresher-than-fresh fish is sold from the fisherman’s huts on the beach. This is a place for aimless wandering and soaking up the salty seaside vibes. For lunch, pop into the fish and chippy and tuck into your catch on the pebble beach.
Where to stay? Two-bedroom Marsh View Cottage in Aldeburgh is perfect for those wanting to get away from it all. There’s a terrace, garden and BBQ – with a stunning setting overlooking Hazelwood Marshes.
6. Marvel at architecture in Chester, England
Chester is one of the country’s greatest historic treasures. Its formidable city walls are the most complete in Britain, reaching back 2000 years, when they were constructed the Romans. Chester’s narrow cobbled streets are quaint to the bones, flanked by half-timbered buildings with overhanging eves. The Rows – a series of half-timbered galleries housing a selection of shops – are the most impressive of all, and include several original thirteenth-century buildings.
Where to stay? For something a little bit different, try the Boathouse Inn & Riverside Rooms. There’s a terrace and – as you’d expect – river views from plenty of the rooms.
7. Kayak along the Wye, Wales
The River Wye is among the longest rivers in the UK, stretching for more than one hundred miles from Plynlimon, in the Cambrian Mountains, to the Severn Estuary. The Wye Valley is recognized as an Area of Outstanding National Beauty, and what better way to take it all in than by kayaking along the river itself. You’ll pass ancient forests, spellbinding castles and cathedrals, and stunning landscapes bristling with wildlife. Staying in secluded cottages and hideaway log cabins will ensure you have it all to yourself – and keep up that social distancing, as well.
Helen O’Kane from the Forest of Dean & Wye Valley Tourism commented, “Fresh air and the calming effects of being on the water sounds like a pretty good idea right now. We are blessed with the River Wye in our region, with the kayaking and canoeing opportunities it offers to visitors. The scenery is outstanding, so much so, it was really the catalyst for the beginning of domestic tourism 250 years ago when the Reverend William Gilpin published the first tourist guide in Britain when the 'Wye Tour' began and coined the term 'picturesque’.”
Where to stay? If it’s simple, no-nonsense self-catering you’re after, make for the Paddocks Cottages. Located in Symonds Yat, perfectly situated for exploring the glorious Wye Valley, there’s a garden and BBQ facilities too for enjoying the al-fresco life.
8. Explore East Neuk of Fife, Scotland
East Neuk was once the bedrock of the Scottish fishing industry, and that means several things: impossibly pretty old habours, scrumptious seafood and stellar sea views. Sixteenth-century Crail is a certain highlight, famous for its shellfish and gorgeous harbour – though Anstruther, with its labyrinthine cobbled streets, and Pittenweem, with its morning fish market, are high on the list, too.
Where to stay? Crail House Apartments is set in gorgeous, manicured grounds. Separate units are all equipped with Wi-Fi, and have a “home-away-from-home” feel.
9. Amble around Lewes, England
Located inland from larger Brighton and therefore shaking off many of the accompanying crowds, the medieval town of Lewes is a charming place, characterized by narrow lanes known locally as “twittens”. Its handsome centre is packed with cool independent shops – most of them accept the local Lewes Pound, an initiative to keep money within the local community. And beyond the towns borders there’s plenty of charming chalkland scenery just waiting to be explored on your own two feet.
Where to stay? YHA South Downs is one of the best youth hostels around, occupying a refurbished Sussex farmhouse, with original brickwork and features poking through. Bunk rooms are colourful and the grounds are sprawling.
10. Hike around the North York Moors
Long walks are rewarded with long views in the North York Moors National Park. Heather-draped hills and sheer-sided valleys are among the scenic beauties here, peppered with barrows and ancient forts that hark back to earlier settlers. With a whole host of activities on offer in the great outdoors – from serious walking to mountain biking via trail running, horse riding and wildlife watching – you can opt for a healthy activity at a safe distance from all the other souls.
Where to stay? With a range of room types and self-contained cottages, Church House Farm is found in Danby Dale in the heart of the North York Moors National Park. It’s got a real farmhouse feel, while the gardens and surrounding scenery are the epitome or rural idyll.
Top image: Cairngorms National Park near Lecht Ski Resort, Scotland © Milosz Maslanka/Shutterstock