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UK holiday ideas

UK holiday ideas 2015UK holiday destinationsSurfing in Devon

By Mark Hodson, Sunday Times Travel Writer and Editor of 101 Holidays

Looking for the best UK holiday destinations? We have trawled the country to find the best British holidays in 2016, whether you want a family summer holiday or a relaxing short break.

Note: all the travel companies featured are personally recommended by our editors.

Family summer holidays in the UK

Many parents visited the Isle of Wight as children, perhaps on a school trip. Now is a great time to rediscover this traditional destination whose appeal is stronger than ever. Check out this inspiring collection of places to stay.

The West Country has never lost its allure. For sandy beaches and lots of family attractions, it’s hard to beat a self-catering holiday in Devon – we recommend Helpful Holidays. Further along the coast in Cornwall, we like the Sands Hotel Resort & Spa which is excellent for families.

Other holiday ideas in Cornwall include renting a cottage. In Dorset you can stay in one of these good-value cottages.

Rent a cottage in the Lake District and you can discover some of the UK’s most beautiful landscapes, whether you want to tackle challenging walks or potter around charming villages and lakes. We recommend Sykes Cottages – see their latest special offers.

In the Yorkshire Dales you can find glorious countryside, historic market towns and stone hamlets, and lots of things to do. Rent a cottage and explore castles, walking trails, fishing villages and cosy pubs.

Enjoy the glorious wide open spaces of  Scotland where you can rent a quaint cottage or a luxury lodge complete with private hot tub. Popular destinations include the Highlands, Loch Lomond and the Borders. You can also find a range of self-catering properties in Edinburgh.

If you crave a bit of luxury, rent one of these traditional tepees, safari tents and bell tents at the glorious Trevella Park located beside a beach near Newquay, Cornwall. Each tent has comfortable beds, duvets, decking, a fridge and camping stove. Find more camping holiday ideas.

Devon has a wonderful choice of places to stay at good prices. See this selection of friendly pubs with rooms, and B&B farmhouses offering the perfect escape from busy city life.

Children invariably love farm stays. We recommend Holiday Cottages which has locations across the West Country and Wales. Kids also adore Gwel an Mor in Cornwall which has Scandinavian-style wooden lodges and its own wildlife centre. Or you could rent a stylish self-catering cottage in Wales with Sheepskin.

You can also send your youngsters away for camp. PGL has adventure holidays and summer camps for kids aged 7 to 17, while Kingswood Camps has seven camps in the UK, from Northumberland to the Isle of Wight. PGL also runs activity holidays for families in the UK (and France). Click here for details.

If you want to travel with your dog or cat, try these pet friendly holiday cottages.

>> Find more ideas at our sister site, 101 Family Holidays

UK activity holidays

If you’re looking for something different next summer – on a budget – we recommend a self-drive boating holiday with Waterways Holidays. Rent a motor cruiser, sailing boat or narrowboat to explore some of the many beautiful waterways that criss-cross Britain. The boats are easy to navigate, with no experience required.

If you’ve been caught up in the boom of British cycling, why not take a two-wheeled break with Skedaddle in the beautiful UK countryside. Try a guided tour of the Lake District, Wales or Cotswolds. Or for something more challenging, you could tacke the C2C (Coast to Coast) route or the Hadrian Cycleway.

On the Shropshire-Wales border, we love Pen-y-Dyffryn, a cosy Georgian country house hotel set in gorgeous unspoilt countryside away from it all. It has an outstanding restaurant and is ideal for walkers. Check out the latest special offers. Nearby, in the charming town of Bishops Castle, The Castle Hotel has great food, a dozen contemporary rooms and great walking country on the doorstep.

Off the west coast of Scotland you have a good chance of seeing Minke Whales, otters, seals and porpoises on a four-night Mull Wildlife Experience. Other great ideas north of the border include a whisky tour on Islay and a steam train journey on the historic West Highland Line. For more short breaks take a look at See Scotland Differently.

You can also add an activity to an existing UK holiday – everything from bushcraft and circus skills to indoor skydiving and kite-surfing. There’s also a great selection of family activity ideas and extreme activities.

Treat yourselves

The UK has some of the finest hotels in Europe, many set in classic unspoilt countryside – perfect whether you are looking for a weekend break or a longer holiday.

We particularly like Maison Talbooth, a family-run hotel in Constable country on the border of Essex and Suffolk with exceptional food. In Gloucestershire you can discover British wine while staying at the award-winning Three Choirs Vineyards.

Our favourite country house hotels in the UK include Lucknam Park Hotel & Spa near Bath and Gilpin Lodge in the Lake District. For a treat in the Cotswolds, stay at Whatley Manor Hotel & Spa, which has a two-Michelin star restaurant.

On the coast of Suffolk The Wentworth Hotel is a gorgeous bolthole overlooking the beach at Aldeburgh, one of Britain’s prettiest seaside towns, while Congham Hall set in 30 acres of parkland near the North Norfolk coast has just 26 rooms and holds three AA red stars.

If you prefer self-catering, take a look at this gorgeous collection of luxury self catering properties in Cornwall.

We also recommend i-escape which has boutique hotels across the UK. Its budget options include a groovy guesthouse in Brighton and riverside hotel near Bath, while luxury ideas include a spa hotel in the New Forest and a relaxed country house hotel in the Cotswolds.

If you want to go away with a group of friends or two or three families, consider renting a big house in the countryside. You’ll find a great selection at The Big Domain catering for groups of between 12 and 56 – perfect for a summer holiday or a weekend break.

You can also rent out a historic house in England, Scotland or Wales that would be perfect for a long weekend celebrating a significant birthday or anniversary – see the special offers.

>> Find more holiday ideas for couples. By yourself…? See our new site dedicated to Singles Holidays.

Something different

You’re guaranteed a great sea view if you stay in a lighthouse. If you want to be out in the wilds, but would rather not sleep in a tent, you can rent a log cabin in Cornwall. Our favourites include Copper Mine Lodge in Camborne, which has a heated indoor pool, mountain bikes and kayaks, and the charmingly secluded Nuthatch Lodge near Looe.

Explore Britain’s ancient history on an archaeology holiday with Andante Travels including this amazing trip to Hadrian’s Wall. Or join an expert-led small-group tour in Britain with Martin Randall focussed on the country’s musical, architectural or artistic heritage. You could tour some of the Great Houses of England, attend a classical music festival or sign up for the new Turner & The Sea tour.

You could also hop over to Ireland where we’ve found a great collection of special experiences including a four-night Classic Car Tour – choose between a MGB roadster, Alfa Romeo Spider, Mercedes 350SL or Morris Minor. For dramatic coastlines, soaring mountains and sandy beaches, it’s hard to beat Connemara.

Last updated: 10 December 2015

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