Britain’s coastline is dotted with lighthouses. Whilst technology may have rendered many of them obsolete, you can stay in the former lighthouse keepers’ cottages for a coastal break with a real sense of history plus a guarantee of great sea views and bracing walks. From North Yorkshire to Alderney, there’s a superb choice of locations.
With a vibe that sits comfortably between a gastro-pub with rooms and a country town hotel, The Castle at Bishop’s Castle is the perfect bolthole, not least for real ale enthusiasts and dog owners. Explore the pretty town or yomp through the glorious surrounding countryside that straddles South Shropshire’s English and Welsh borders.
Barcelona might just be the perfect city break – fabulous shopping, tapas bars on every corner, Antoni Gaudi’s unique architecture and a buzzy beachfront for sunny days. Travel with Kirker and their Concierge Service can organise everything from tables at the city’s hippest restaurants, to a private guide who will introduce you to some of the city’s best-kept secrets.
Never quite got over your Sex and the City addiction? Still glued to box sets of Boston Legal? Then book an On Location tour and get the insider skinny on bars, cafes, parks and diners in New York or Boston that have featured in both series, along with movies such as When Harry Met Sally, Spiderman and The Town.
Whatley Manor is a place in which to escape daily life in country house style. With traditional architecture and gorgeous gardens, with lots of secluded corners, you’ll want to own it, not just stay in it. But if a short break is your only option, there are 23 rooms, a Michelin two star restaurant, an amazing spa, a spread of lounges and even a cinema.
Few counties offer such a wide choice of holidays as Devon; traditional beach breaks, walking weekends on Dartmoor, surfing on the north coast or just a peaceful week in a farmhouse, surrounded by gorgeous countryside. Stay in Devon has a wonderful choice of accommodation options, and plenty of suggestions for how to get the most from your visit.
Feel like somewhere different for a city break? Germany has some of the most fascinating cities in Europe – there are the flamboyant streets of Berlin, the architectural beauty of Dresden and the art collections of Cologne for starters. From grand palaces to medieval streets, each city its own distinctive character, cuisine and appeal.
Who doesn’t love a road trip? Spend a few days driving along the spectacular coastal roads and mountain highways that link Scotland’s seaside resorts and inland villages, stopping for slap-up seafood lunches, whisky-tastings and bracing walks on gorgeous beaches. Or take a trip by rail on the West Highland Line to the beautiful Isle of Skye.
Elusive, unpredictable and utterly unique – the Aurora Borealis illuminates the northern skies in winter with impromptu displays of vivid colours rolling across the sky. For the best chance of catching the show, head to Tromso in the north of Norway – surprisingly easy to reach from the UK, and a fascinating place to visit.
Can’t tell a Sancerre from a Sauvignon? Book a wine-themed break with A&C and you’ll be sipping, comparing and learning, while staying in luxurious, authentic hotels and discovering some of the world’s most beautiful wine regions. Foodies are catered for, with fabulous gourmet breaks in France and Italy, and river-cruises and city breaks are also on offer.
The ideal way to get to know the richly diverse landscapes of Europe and the UK is on two feet. Travelling from the mountains to the sea, you’ll pass through medieval hill towns, vineyards, forests and fishing villages. Each evening your luggage will be waiting at your hotel, so you can unwind over a delicious meal featuring regional food and wine.
With direct Eurostar services from London’s St Pancras, you can zip down to the Provencal sun in less then six hours. As well as intrinsic interest – including its 14th century ramparts, medieval Palais des Papes and Le Pont of all ponts – Avignon is also home to some outstanding hotels and superb cuisine.
Keen to lose a few pounds, or shift into a more healthy way of eating but don’t have the time for a week of bootcamp? Essential Escapes has a great range of short-break wellbeing trips, including a three-night yoga and fitness break in a sumptuous villa at the gorgeous Vilalara Thalassa Resort on the Algarve.
If you are interested in the idea of a personal development holiday, Skyros’ weekend breaks are the ideal first step. From a four-star country house on the Isle of Wight to Paris, Venice and Marrakech, combine sightseeing with expert guidance on life coaching and mindfulness to writing, yoga and art with a house party atmosphere.
The crucible of the Renaissance, Florence is packed with art and architectural treasures. You can avoid the inevitable crowds by travelling out of season, but if you are tied to busy times at least lower your stress levels by pre-booking timed entry to the Uffizi. The best time to see David is when the doors of the Galleria dell’Accademia open.
Jet lag, it seems, holds little fear for the new breed of short breakers, especially those willing to splash out on a flat bed in business class. Hong Kong, set on a dramatic neon-lit harbour, is Asia’s most thrilling city, a culture shock of night markets and dim sum, songbirds and sampans, backstreet temples and bargain shopping.
The city of Seville is a work of art. Even the most well-travelled would be hard pushed to name a more finely-crafted inner city than the Barrio Santa Cruz, a romantic quarter of flower-decked houses and squares cooled by dancing fountains. It’s a scene crying out for the burst of flamenco guitars and castanets.
We all love a buy one, get one free deal. Sadly, it doesn’t often work with city breaks, but book a trip to beautiful Budapest and you get two cities for the price of one. The older part, Buda, boasts stunning Gothic architecture and pretty cobbled streets, while across the river Pest has wide boulevards, tranquil parks and buzzy cafe culture.
Planning a family break to a theme park, but feel Disney’s been done and Florida’s too far? The good news is that there is another option; Efteling in Holland. The third largest park in Europe, it’s also accessible, affordable and pleasingly quirky – from talking trees to white-knuckle rollercoasters and gentler rides for young ones.
One of the best things about a Saddle Skedaddle cycling break is that you don’t have to be Chris Hoy to enjoy it. All levels of cyclists are catered for, from gentle weekends in the Cotswolds to full-on mountain-bike marathons through the Welsh mountains. Accommodation is all pre-booked, with the accent on cosy B&Bs with splendiferous breakfasts to get you ready for the off.
Hitting the sweet spot between old-fashioned style and a contemporary feel can be a tall order, but Pen y Dyffryn, on the Shropshire-Wales border, gets it bang on. Cosy without being chintzy, it is set amidst lush rolling hills and wooded glades. A walk across the hills is the best way to work up an appetite for the spectacular dinners.
The big decision in magical Marrakech is whether to stay in town in a traditional riad, or outside the city walls. I lean towards the tranquility and incandescent night skies of the latter, but it’s tempting to be within a short walk of the souks, snake charmers, acrobats and fortune-tellers of Djemaa el Fna.
There are few trickier customers than sulky teenagers, but hand them a surfboard and a wetsuit and they invariably brighten up. Surfing is just one of the activities offered to families at Penha Longa in Portugal, along with tennis, golf, cycling and horse-riding. Younger children can join others for a host of activities while weary Mums retreat to the luxurious spa.
What do you want from your city break? A shopping spree? The chance to see world-class art? Or maybe nothing more than long, lazy lunches in pavement cafes watching the world go by. The great thing about Madrid is that you can do them all, and whatever your budget there’s a hotel to suit – whether boutique chic or five-star luxury.