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Where to go on holiday in August

holidays August 2014Surfing in DevonRent a log cabin in CornwallCrystal clear water

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

August is the busiest holiday month of the year. Airports are crowded, resorts are hot and prices tend to be high. But if you have school-age children this is probably when you’ll be taking your annual fortnight in the sun.

If you want deals it’s best to wait until the end of August. Most people want to travel early in the month, so prices are higher. If you can wait until the last week you’ll find prices come down significantly.

The Mediterranean is the most popular place to go on holiday in August, but if you don’t like the heat – or you want to experience a different kind of holiday – you should consider going north, perhaps to Scandinavia, Iceland or Scotland.

Another option is to stay in the UK. Although the August weather has been variable over the past couple of years, the standards of UK holidays is increasing and the money you save on flights can be invested in high-quality accommodation.

Should you book early or wait for a deal? If you have children, or have booked certain dates off work, this is a time of year when it pays to book early. You simply can’t risk disappointment. If you are flexible, you can usually pick up some late deals, although the choice is not always great. Here are my tips on where to go in August. If you have children, see our recommended family holidays in August.



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

Gorgeous beaches and pretty townsUK holiday destinationsFarmhouse and pub stays in Devon

UK holidays in August

In the rush to discover holiday destinations abroad it’s easy to neglect the perennial charms of the Isle of Wight or a boating holiday on one of the many waterways that criss-cross the UK. Rent a cruiser or narrowboat (they sleep between 2 and 12) and stop for lunches at welcoming pubs.

Another great option is a self-catering cottage in Devon or Cornwall. You could rent one of these charming luxury cottages in Cornwall, or get a great deal on a B&B, pub or farmhouse in Devon.

Love wide open spaces? Rent a holiday cottage set in the magnificent countryside of the Yorkshire Dales where you can explore historic market towns, castles, walking trails, fishing villages and friendly pubs.

For a perfect summer beside the sea in Cornwall, check out the impressive range of accommodation options at Tregenna Castle Hotel in the trendy resort of St Ives. Or you could nip across to the white sand beaches and palm trees (yes, really) on the Scilly Isles.

Our recommended UK hotels include Gilpin Lodge in the Lake District, Lucknam Park Hotel & Spa near Bath, the Old Swan & Minster Mill in the Cotswolds and Pentre Mawr Country House in the majestic North Wales countryside. For families we suggest Sands Resort in North Cornwall. Foodies will love Whatley Manor in the Cotswolds – it has a two-Michelin star restaurant and a superb spa.

Need a quick escape? From London you are within easy reach of Maison Talbooth in Constable Country.

In Wales, Sheepskin has a charming range of stylish self-catering cottages, and we love Pen-y-Dyffryn Country Hotel which is set in the remote hills of the Welsh-Shropshire border. If you’re going on holiday in August with a large group you could rent a Downton Abbey-style house with Stately Escapes.

If you’re on a budget, check out one of these cottages in gorgeous Dorset. Or you can go camping in style in retro-style tents with wooden floors at Feather Down Farms in 30 farm locations across the country. Can’t leave Fido behind? Take your dog to one of these pet-friendly caravan parks.

Another “posh” camping option is Trevella Park which is located near a stunning Cornwall beach and has its own nature trails, fishing lakes and heated outdoor swimming pool. Choose from a range of tepees, safari tents and bell tents that sleep 4-6 and come with comfy beds, duvets, decking, a fridge and camping stove.

Another option in Cornwall is to hire a log-cabin. They come in a range of sizes from one bedroom to four bedrooms, in popular spots such as Polperro, Bude and Fowey. For something really different, how about a stay in a lighthouse. Find more unusual holidays.

If you’ve been inspired by recent British cycling wins, why not take a biking break in the UK with Skedaddle? You can choose between road and mountain biking, perhaps in the Lake District or Cotswolds.

The Edinburgh Festival takes place throughout August and it’s a great time to visit the city and catch a few shows. You can also find a wide range of short breaks in Scotland with McKinlay Kidd including whisky tours on Islay, and the chance to see Minke Whales, otters, seals, porpoises on the island of Mull. Or simply get away from it all by renting a cottage in Scotland.

Also in Scotland, you could join a four-day small group tour centred around the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo with visits to Edinburgh Castle, Linlithgow Palace and Jedburgh Abbey. Or explore Viking history in the Orkney Islands.

August is a good time of year to visit London as the capital is relatively quiet. Stay in a serviced apartment, a good-value alternative to expensive hotels, offering freedom and home comforts.

Want more tips on where to go in August without flying? Find more UK holiday ideas. Also see my colleague Annabelle Thorpe’s recommendations for the best summer short breaks.

Fun slidesFamily activitiesCruising the Burgundy canalTop quality equipment

France holidays in August

August is a great month to slip across the Channel and enjoy the classic charms of France in the summer. It’s not easy to find cheap holidays in August, but families on a budget could head to a holiday parc in Brittany.

For a cut-price holiday in August, stay at a self-catering apartment in a car-free holiday village in France or Spain. You’ll find great facilities including aqua parks and slides, golf, tennis, farms and free kids clubs. Belle Dune in Normandy is just an hour’s drive from Calais, or see this selection on the French Riviera within one hour of Nice Airport.

If you feel a bit more energetic, take a gentle cycling holiday in France. Or if you like to spend time on the fairway, try a golfing holiday.

You can see many of the most beautiful regions of France on a luxury river cruise – a great way to pack in lots of sights in a comfortable relaxed environment without the stress of packing and unpacking every day.

Fancy a short break with a difference? Join a small-group battlefield tour in France or Belgium to visit military battlefields and war graves. This three-day WWI Battlefield Weekend to the Somme, Villers-Bretonneux and the Hooge Crater is particularly recommended.

On a tight budget? Find ideas for cheap holidays in August 2014.

Stylish villas and small hotelsMahal Villas_3Attractive villagesPorto Pollensa

Mediterranean beach holidays in August

In August we generally recommend a private villa with pool rather than a busy resort. We love the coast of Catalonia for its fishing villages, pretty coves and mountains, and Paxos, a wonderfully lazy, quiet Greek island. Gozo – little sister to neighbouring Malta – is a beautiful island ideal for exploring and lazing in local cafes.

For beach holidays in August, go to the Costa de la Luz in the south-west corner Spain, or the superb French island of Corsica. On the Balaeric islands of Mallorca and Ibiza you will find beautiful rural villages, quiet beaches and great villas. Don’t forget neighbouring Menorca which has many unspoilt coves and small resorts.

Mainland Italy is great in August. Away from the crowds, Le Marche has magnificent countryside and lovely villas. Or head south to Puglia – the heel of the boot – to stay in a luxury self-catering trullo with pool. A visit to the Verona Opera Festival with open-air performances in a candlelit Roman amphitheatre, is a magical experience.

The Italian islands of Sicily and Sardinia are busy in August, but you won’t be disappointed by the beaches, some of the best in the Med. Try Forte Village in Sardinia or Verdura Golf & Spa Resort in Sicily. Also in Italy, the Amalfi Coast is delightful.

Other top tips include the family-friendly Sani Resort on mainland Greece, villas in Crete or a gulet cruise with Peter Sommer off the coast of Turkey or Italy. Crete is also home to the gorgeous contemporary Daios Cove hotel.

If money is no object, try a luxury staffed villa in the Med. Each property has a private pool and comes with an experienced chef and host, and the services of a fully-qualified nanny.

See our selection of the best Mediterranean holidays, and our recommended holidays in Spain.

Surfing in Devon

Activity holidays in August

If you don’t want to lie on a beach, how about a walking holiday with Inntravel in the splendid mountain countryside of northern Spain. You can also enjoy the stunning beaches and charming villages of Northern Spain by staying in a self-catering cottage or traditional small hotel or on a self-drive holiday. It’s a beautiful and much-neglected part of Europe, and very good value.

The Alps in summer offer great weather, clean air, low humidity and off-season prices. There are freshwater lakes where you can swim or do watersports. We recommend a stay near the lake at Annecy or Evian, or in the mountains in Les Deux Alpes. For a luxury stay in the Alps, you can get a low-season deal at Sir Richard Branson’s The Lodge, Verbier.

Over the border in Italy, you have the majestic setting of the Italian Lakes where the weather is ideal for both lounging on beaches and sightseeing.

If your interests are more cultural and you enjoy walking with like-minded people, take a walking tour with Kudu Travel or join a group of like-minded enthusiasts on an archaeological tour with Andante Travel.

In the Mediterranean, take a cruise on a traditional Turkish gulet with Peter Sommer, visiting secluded bays and cultural sites in the company of an expert guide. Destinations include the coast of Turkey, the Greek islands and the Amalfi Coast.

In the UK, you can try a range of watersports and sailing at the Cotswold Water Park Hotel.

If you’ve never seen a meteor shower, go to Jordan to experience the amazing spectacle of the annual Perseids meteor shower at a desert camp in Wadi Rum. You can also view it clearly at certain places in the Canary Islands.

A sailing holiday is a great way to enjoy the summer sun without getting too hot under the collar. My fellow editor David Wickers is an expert on sailing and cruising. See his top 10 sailing holidays.

Tennis coachingFun on the beach and in the seaCrystal clear water

Family holiday ideas in August

If you’re on a budget, here are some great ideas for family holidays in August. You could head to the mountains for an Alpine adventure, try some upmarket camping at a siblu village in France or stay at one of Haven’s 35 family holiday parks on the British coast. We’ve also found some great family holidays in Turkey.

There are some great options just across the Channel – handy if you want to take the car, but avoid long drives. You could head to Belgium where we recommend Sunparks holiday villages – they are each in beautiful settings with waterslides and wave machines,  indoor and outdoor sports and a choice of restaurants and cafes. Prices start at £224 for four nights. See the latest offers.

Esprit Sun offers free child care for children aged 3-10 and has a great-value hotel for families in Lake Garda in Italy.

If you’re travelling with a large group of friends or families, you could rent a large house. The Big Domain has a useful collection of houses, villas and chalets in the UK and overseas, by the sea, in cities and in the countryside.

For more inspiration, see our selection of the best family holidays in August.

Elephant encountersPeru is one of the best holiday destinations in AugustWildlife on your doorstepRomantic sunsets

Long haul holidays in August

August is a great time to enjoy the beaches of Mauritius and the Seychelles. In Kenya the wildebeest migration is in full flow, making this a fascinating time to take a safari.

Alternatively you could track gorillas in Rwanda or splash out on a safari holiday in Botswana. August is also a good month to explore Namibia where you’ll find a fascinating land of vast desert dunes, the Skeleton Coast and world-class wildlife reserves.

Peru is one of the best holiday destinations in August – you can hike to the Lost City of Machu Picchu, go mountain biking through the Sacred Valley and white-water rafting down the Urubamba River. Find out more here.

In Asia, the Thai island of Koh Samui is at its best in our summer, as is Tanjong Jara Resort on the east coast of peninsula Malaysia. It’s a good time to be in Borneo where you can visit the Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary and experience the thrill of an overnight climb of Mount Kinabalu. It’s also the optimal time of year for turtle sightings.

Across the Atlantic, explore the Canadian Rockies where you can take a classic train ride, drive through the mountains or join a wildlife tour. Summer in Canada is spectacular, particularly when you explore the vast expanses of lake, forest and pristine shoreline. You can see whales, moose and black bears in Québec combined with a few days in the fascinating city of  Montreal. Find more holiday ideas in Canada and special offers.

If you want to laze on some of the world’s most pristine beaches, head for Bermuda which is at its sunny best in our summer. Check into luxury Elbow Beach or the family-friendly Fairmont Southampton.

Australia is not just for our winter. The north of the country is perfect for a fortnight in August, staying in the Kimberley, staying at working cattle stations followed perhaps by a luxury island resort on the Great Barrier reef.

This is the time of year to climb mystical Mount Fuji in Japan. It’s one of many amazing holiday ideas in Japan though you won’t want to miss the stunning sights, sounds and tastes of Tokyo.

It’s also a great time of year to tour Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, where you will experience some remarkable wildlife encounters admist pristine surroundings.

Holidays in America in August

Summer is a fine time to explore the great outdoors in America. Take the kids on a family adventure such as this 12-day Western Discovery tour that takes in the Hoover Dam, Yosemite National Park, Bryce Canyon and San Francisco. Or join a luxury coach tour to discover a favourite region such as the South or the Cities of the East Coast.

Camping is a wonderful way to explore the States. It’s good value and the sites are well equipped. You could take a tour of the Northern Rockies or combine New York and Niagara.

Rent an air-conditioned car and you can cruise your way around in comfort. There are great fly-drive options in Colorado such as this Goldmine Towns and Old Time Trains route. Or you could head for Wyoming and South Dakota, to see Yellowstone National Park, Mount Rushmore, Fort Laramie, Cheyenne and Fort Collins.

The Great Lakes region is as big as Continental Europe and home to some of America’s most picturesque scenery and gorgeous lake beaches. It’s a wonderful area to explore. Try this 10-night fly-drive on the shores of Lake Michigan, or this itinerary that follows the northern reaches of the Mississippi River. There are also some classic rail journeys to enjoy such as Seattle to LA, Chicago to the Grand Canyon and this fascinating cultural tour of American music capitals.

In California you’ll find gallons of things to do and charming places to stay including a desert ranch in Joshua Tree National Park, Cavallo Point Lodge, a romantic National Park lodge in San Francisco, and this A-list hideaway in West Hollywood. Or how about taking a guided foodie tour of San Francisco and the Wine Country.

If you like to be beside the seaside, rent a house on Redondo Beach or book a room at Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica. On the East coast, try The Vanderbilt Grace in Newport, Rhode Island, or a summer house in Cape Cod. In Florida, you could rent Solana, a spacious condo on St Pete Beach.

You haven’t truly seen America until you’ve visited its cities. See the best of New York, Philadelphia and Washington DC – as well as Niagara Falls and Amish Country – on this fascinating tour.

Everybody loves Chicago – for its skyscrapers, its stunning art and science museums, its pizzas and blues bars, but most of all for its friendly people. You can even combine a visit to Chicago with a rail journey across the Rockies and a cruise in Alaska on this 2-week private tour.

In fact, Alaska is perfect in August, and one of America’s most under-rated destinations. One day you could be tracking grizzly bears, the next you could be on a cruise watching whales and icebergs. One of the best ways to explore Alaska is aboard a small ship on one of these Un-Cruise Adventures.

You can also get married in the US, whether you want Elvis in Las Vegas or a romantic beach ceremony in Hawaii.

Lofoten Islands - Northern LightAdventureMykines, photo by Vitin C Olavur FredriksenAkademik Ioffe

Head north

August is a great month to head north to enjoy long sunny days and beautiful unspoilt scenery. We recommend a holiday to Iceland or a short break in the capital, Reykjavik. There are some great adventure tours and special offers.

Norway is a country of spectacular natural wonders, whether you want to explore fjords, lakes and mountains on an independent tour or take a cruise through the Lofoten Islands in search of whales and traditional fishing villages. You can enjoy a coastal voyage on a ship used by locals, take a train across the Roof of Norway or witness the Land of the Midnight Sun.

If you really want to get away from it all, how about the Faroe Islands, a spectacular string of 18 unspoilt islands 200km north of Scotland. This is a great destination for walkers and nature lovers, who will see puffin colonies, dramatic rock formations and fascinating coastal villages. Getting there is easy: just 2.5 hours flight from London.

Try our holiday quiz

If you’re still stuck for ideas, why not try our fun holiday quiz. Answer 10 easy questions like the one below to find out what kind of holidaymaker you are, and get personalised travel recommendations. Try the quiz now.

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