UK holiday ideas

By Mark Hodson, Sunday Times Travel Writer

With lockdowns and quarantines, 2020 was the year of the staycation. So many people discovered – or rediscovered – the natural beauty of our own coast and countryside that many places sold out.

The picture in 2021 could be similar. If there’s a holiday you fancy, it’s sensible to book now rather than wait. So what are the best UK holiday destinations? Here’s where to stay in 2021.

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Family destinationsActivity holidaysTreats for couplesSomething different

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Family summer holidays in the UK

The West Country never loses its allure. In Cornwall, you can rent a cottage or indulge in a little luxury at the family-friendly Sands Hotel Resort & Spa. If you’re on a budget, head to the glorious Perran Springs Holiday Park close to a white-sand beach and just six miles from Newquay. It has tents, caravans, pet-friendly pitches and log-built glamping pods.

Find more camping holidays and more holiday ideas in Cornwall.

You can rent a cottage in the Lake District and 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.

The Isle of Wight is fashionable again, as another generation discovers its myriad charms: great beaches, sailing and walking across the rolling chalk downs. Stay in one of these cottages.

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. Or take your walking boots on holiday in the Peak District.

Head to the beautiful Jurassic Coast of Dorset where TV’s Broadchurch was filmed. Stay in a shepherd’s hut or one of these holiday cottages. Or pick a cottage in Sussex.

Or how about renting a luxury lodge in the heart of Sherwood Forest with woodland views and your own outdoor hot tub. There are lots of outdoor activities and it’s dog-friendly.

Enjoy the glorious wide open spaces of Scotland where you could rent a historic house, enjoying some of the clearest night skies in the UK, or drive the North Coast 500, one of Europe’s great coastal roads.

Devon has a wonderful choice of places to stay at good prices. See this selection of rustic cottages and barn conversions.

Children love farm stays. We recommend Holiday Cottages which has locations across the West Country and Wales.

You can send your youngsters away to summer 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). See details.

If you want to travel with your pet, try this dreamy collection of dog-friendly 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.

The beautiful countryside of the Peak District is easily reached from much of England and perfect for walking, cycling, rock climbing and horse riding. Rent one of these cottages (and check for last-minute deals).

In the Lake District, Hassness Country House has a superb location away from the crowds and offers free daily guided walks. With no more than 21 guests, it’s ideal for couples, solo travellers and groups of friends.

It’s only a short hop by flight or ferry to the Channel Islands. On Jersey you can explore Second World War tunnels, castles, hidden coves and wide open beaches. Stay at the Pomme d’Or Hotel in St Helier or relax at Greenhills Country House Hotel.

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.

Join a small boat cruise in the Hebrides to explore remote islands such as Mull, Jura and Skye, where you can fish, swim, dive, set lobster pots, go kayaking, and view dolphins, porpoises, basking sharks and otters.

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 holiday ideas in Scotland take a look at McKinlay Kidd.

Treat yourselves

The UK has some of the finest hotels in Europe, many set in classic unspoilt countryside. Our favourite country house hotels include Gilpin Lodge in the Lake District, and the award-winning Three Choirs Vineyards in Gloucestershire where you can discover British wine making at its best.

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.

In the Cotswolds, check out this collection of luxury rental properties. You can also get your hands on 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.

How about a short mini-cruise around the UK – or sailing out of a UK port to visit European ports such as Antwerp, Amsterdam and Bruges. See the latest offers.

>> Find more holiday ideas for couples and UK holiday ideas for over-60s. By yourself…? See the best singles holidays in the UK.

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.

Explore Britain’s ancient history on an expert-led small-group tour 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 for example.

Last updated: 13 October 2020

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Before you book

Travel guidelines and advice are changing constantly amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Check the latest travel restrictions for UK residents.