Five experiential escapes in the UK for 2021, from castle stays to stargazing

One of the great lessons from last year was the importance of focusing on the experiences and adventures available to us on our on doorsteps. Here's some inspiration for 2021 getaways, from Nottinghamshire to Northern Ireland.

By Tamsin Wressell
Published 4 Feb 2021, 12:30 GMT
The sun shining through the Sherwood Forest canopy in Nottinghamshire, where a network of trails run through the ancient ...

The sun shining through the Sherwood Forest canopy in Nottinghamshire, where a network of trails run through the ancient woodlands.

Photograph by Lee Warren

1. Escape the crowds in Nottinghamshire, England

New accommodation has opened up on the 15,000-acre Welbeck Estate in Nottinghamshire: two-bedroom cottages that form part of a row of historic almshouses, and self-contained barn conversions with views of rolling fields and woodland. The estate is set in Sherwood Forest, with a network of trails running through the ancient woodlands. There’s also an onsite art gallery, museum, cafe, farm shop and the School of Artisan Food, which offers courses in artisan food production. 
How to do it: The Winnings cottages feature two en suite bedrooms, a living room with log burner, fully fitted kitchen, garden and private terrace. From £350 for three nights.

2. Camp out in the Highlands, Scotland 

Luxury expedition specialist WILDNIS is set to launch in spring 2021 with the Scottish Highlands as its first destination. Its adventure-based packages include guided expeditions, outdoor activities like packrafting and scrambling, a luxury mobile tented basecamp, open-fire feasts and small group trips traversing the Highlands in 4X4s. The operator has committed to calculating the carbon footprint of all its staff and offsetting this with contributions to climate change programmes. 
How to do it: A four-night expedition costs from £3,500 per person and includes accommodation, guiding, activities, all meals and transfers costs. 

The Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland is one of the world's most striking natural formations.

Photograph by Getty Images

3. Ride the rails through Ireland & Northern Ireland

Luxury travel agent Scott Dunn is offering a nine-night itinerary aboard the Belmond Grand Hibernian, with stops in Dublin, Cork, Killarney, Galway, Westport, Belfast and Waterford. The train has just 20 en suite cabins, and there’ll be entertainment in the form of on-board musicians. The itinerary, which can be tailored to suit individual tastes, includes a stay at Dublin’s The Merrion Hotel, home to the two-Michelin-star Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud.  
How to do it: From £9,700 per person in low season, including accommodation, flights and daily experiences.

4. Check into a manor in Exmoor, England 

A new addition to the Unique Homestays portfolio, Castle on the Well in Charles, South Molton, is near to the coast but still secluded. Built on the site of a 6th-century chantry, this unique property with its castle-esque structure is filled with beautifully designed furniture, including plush sofas sitting beneath a Turner-inspired Venetian plaster dome. It’s situated on the edge of Exmoor National Park and is surrounded by an acre of private gardens.
How to do it: Castle on the Well sleeps ix, with arrival days on Friday and Monday. From £1,795 per week.

Settling in for a stay at Little Retreats in Pembrokesire, Wales.

Photograph by Owen Howells

5. A wellbeing break in Pembrokeshire, Wales

Aiming to meet a growing demand for secluded UK breaks, The Little Retreat offers a series of wellbeing breaks centred around creating a restorative atmosphere in which guests can unwind and switch off. Located in the sprawling grounds of Lawrenny Estate, Pembrokeshire, the site is set against a backdrop of the Cleddau Estuary. Choose from the newly launched stargazing tents, complete with private garden, kitchen, bathroom and outdoor bathtub; luxury geodomes with private hot tub; and spacious bell tents.  
How to do it: Stargazing tents sleep up to five guests, from £140 per night.

As featured in the 2021 edition of National Geographic Traveller The Luxury Collection

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