No need to fly: seven great trips around the UK

Staycations are having a moment. These adventure-filled journeys around the UK offer today's traveller the opportunity to steer clear of overcrowded transport hubs, and cut down on that ever-important carbon footprint.

Published 20 Aug 2020, 06:30 BST, Updated 5 Nov 2020, 05:13 GMT
Brownsea Island
Thriving woodlands, heathlands and a lagoon mean that, although small, Brownsea Island is big on wildlife diversity.
Photograph by Getty

It's safe to say that this year, many of us will be exploring horizons closer to home, and right now, imaginative staycation options are really having their moment. There's no need to deal with overcrowded public transport services, and far easier ways to practice social distancing — and that's before considering the environmental impact of travelling overseas. It’s become ever clearer that taking a long-haul flight and jumping a bunch of time zones does not, in fact, make the trip. Make the most of your annual leave — without, well, leaving — with these seven staycations.

1. The road trip: Causeway Coastal Route

At the intersection between sea, sky and land, you’ll find the Causeway Coastal Route, tracing 120 miles of dramatic Northern Irish coastline. Stretching from Belfast to Derry, this route is a destination in its own right, so it’s best to allow at least four days to explore. Just under a 45-minute drive from Belfast, The Gobbins is one of the route’s highlights —a cliff-face path that traverses narrow bridges, hidden tunnels and stairways hewn into the rock for an exhilaratingly close encounter with the County Antrim coast. For further thrills, check into the 17th-century Ballygally Castle Hotel, which some people believe has its own ghost. Several tiny islands along the way make for charming day trips: brave the exhilarating crossing on the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge to Carrick Island or immerse yourself in the rugged beauty of Rathlin Island. It’s not a complete road trip without sufficient snacks, so pull into Ballycastle for local black puddings and cheeses, and, further west, give your designated driver time off to enjoy the Old Bushmills Distillery. The Giant’s Causeway, the UNESCO World Heritage Site geological wonder for which the picturesque route is named, is also not to be missed.

2. The narrowboat trip: Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal

Trace a meandering course through rural South Wales on the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal, once an industrial corridor for transporting coal and iron that has been carefully restored in the past 50 years to take on an altogether more tranquil nature. There are 35 miles of winding waterways to explore, mostly running through the moors, forests and pastures of the Brecon Beacons National Park, so plan for a visit of no less than a week to make the most of the gentle change of pace offered by this serene setting. Places of interest to linger include Goytre Wharf, which retains many of the historic features of its centuries-long industrial heritage, and the picturesque town of Crickhowell with its welcoming waterside pubs and popular Saturday market. Hiring an electric narrowboat is a great way to minimise environmental impact while maximising the peace and quiet — and there are plenty of recharging points along the way.

The Northumberland Coast Path traverses landscapes that harmoniously transition between sleepy seaside villages, sweeping beaches and rocky headlands.
Photograph by Getty

3. The hiking trip: Northumberland Coast Path

There are some parts of the world that encourage travellers to slow down, look up and fill their lungs with fresh air. The 62-mile Northumberland Coast Path does exactly that, running from Cresswell in the south to Berwick-upon-Tweed in the north, taking in the full length of the Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The path is divided into six stages, traversing landscapes that harmoniously transition between sleepy seaside villages, sweeping beaches and rocky headlands. Highlights along the way include the imposing ruins of the 14th-century Dunstanburgh Castle and the traditional fishing village of Boulmer. If you fancy a detour, cut inland to enjoy teatime at Howick Hall, the ancestral seat of the Earls Grey, or take a day trip to Farne Island, a sanctuary for birds and seals. It’s best to allow for at least five to seven days to discover the coastal region.

4. The sailing trip: island-hopping in the Hebrides

Located off the west coast of Scotland, the Hebrides is an archipelago of more than 180 islands that offer fascinating culture birthed from Celtic and Norse tradition, a history dating to around 6,500 BC, top-notch restaurants and endless opportunities for jaw-dropping snapshots. Island-hopping in the Inner Hebrides is a choose-your-own-adventure experience: head to Islay for world-famous whiskies; seek a spiritual retreat on the Isle of Iona, where you can overnight in a working sheep croft; or enjoy the catch of the day in Tobermory, the capital of the Isle of Mull. The more isolated Outer Hebrides islands, meanwhile, are home to dramatic windswept coastlines, ancient stone monuments and carefully preserved Gaelic culture, making exploring the entire archipelago a must. Allow at least a week to get your fill of fresh Hebridean air.

5. The ferry trip: Poole to Brownsea Island

Poole, on England’s south coast, is a bustling seaside town that has it all. And it doesn’t take much to make a trip here feel that little bit more far-flung — simply hop on the ferry to Brownsea Island, the largest of eight islands in Dorset’s Poole Harbour. Thriving woodlands, heathlands and a lagoon mean that, although small, the island is big on wildlife diversity – you’ll see peacocks strutting across the 19th-century churchyard, red squirrels scampering along tree branches and a huge variety of birds that return each year to this haven of biodiversity. Accommodation options are limited, although there are several sea-view cottages available through the National Trust and a summer campsite. Alternatively, Poole’s Sandbanks area boasts golden beaches and enviable views over the bay.

The Norfolk and Suffolk Broads is Britain’s largest protected wetland, with a network of more than 120 miles of waterways.
Photograph by Getty

6. The kayaking or canoeing trip: Norfolk and Suffolk Broads

With a network of more than 120 miles of waterways — comprising seven rivers and 63 broads — spanning the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk, the Broads is Britain’s largest protected wetland. While the sheer size of the area may beg for a motorboat, up-close exploring in this beautiful region benefits from a more leisurely approach. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced paddler, kayak or canoe camping makes for a wonderful week on the water. There are slipways and launching points dotted throughout the Broads, secluded reaches where the only company may be a family of swans gliding quietly past, and waterside towns and villages steeped in history. Salhouse is one of the prettiest and most accessible broads, with a low-impact tent-only campsite close to the water’s edge. Set up for the night, then make your way to the Fur & Feather, the excellent taproom and restaurant by Woodforde’s Brewery.

7. The cycling trip: Tarka Trail

If you’re torn between a relaxing beach break, exploring moorlands or taking in panoramic views from jagged coastal cliffs, fear not: you can have it all on North Devon’s Tarka Trail. The 180-mile, figure-eight route is centred around the historic town of Barnstaple and comprises footpaths and bridleways, with the 30-mile section between the villages of Braunton and Meeth an old, converted railway line that has been developed for traffic-free walking and cycling. Criss-crossing the Taw and Torridge rivers, the trail heads deep into the lush heart of otter country, skirting Dartmoor National Park and passing through Okehampton, known for its ancient castle ruins. As an added bonus, there’s plenty in the way of quaint countryside accommodation, bicycle hire, cafes and restaurants along the way.

Brought to you by Aviva Insurance. Always check the Foreign & Commonwealth Office guidelines before you travel, and follow NHS advice for staying safe amid the coronavirus pandemic. Click here for more information.

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