After a year of travel restrictions, there’s one thing we’re all looking forward to- a holiday. Staycations are set to reach a 10 year high in 2021 say Mintel, but with reports of up to 90% of holiday destinations in the UK and Ireland selling out already, a town or city break could offer the best of Britain’s beaches, countryside, sightseeing and shopping.
Many towns and cities are preparing themselves for the predicted staycation boom with Town and City Gift Cards, gift cards that can be spent in a particular town or city, on everything from a beachside B&B to an al-fresco lunch, a ramble in the countryside to entry into a historic cathedral.
£7.1 billion is set to be spent on staycations by Brits over summer 2021, with tourism surveys suggesting that consumers are both keen to revisit loved destinations in Britain, as well as discovering new places.
34% of Brits are planning a countryside staycation in 2021, up from 25% in 2019, whilst UK beach breaks are on the cards for 27%. Culture, history and sightseeing is a big pull too, with 21% planning this type of UK break, up from 14% in 2019.
And with over 19,000 miles of coastline (including the islands), 32 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, 15 national parks, and thousands of towns and cities, the UK has more than its fair share of staycation destinations, from the rugged terrain of the Scottish countryside to the white cliffs and glorious beaches of the Isle of Wight.
Here are 14 staycation destinations in some of the UK’s best towns, cities and destinations:
Isle of Wight
The iconic Needles jutting from the surf, an epic chairlift ride past the coloured sand cliffs, family fun at Blackgang Chine and the Isle of Wight Zoo, plus award winning beaches, there’s much to love on an Isle of Wight staycation. Located off the South East coast of England, 50% of the island is classed as an Area of Outstanding Beauty, and the entire island is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, reflecting the balance between nature and people. If it is peace and tranquillity you’re craving, Godshill Park Farm is self-catering accommodation with village life just a walk away. Step into history at the Old Radar Station, a converted WW2 receiver station or relax at The Birkdale Hotel, close to Shanklin’s Old Village. The Wight Gift Card can be spent with over 80 shops, eateries, attractions and places to stay.
Glasgow is Scotland’s biggest city and beat over 190 cities to the title of Europe’s top cultural destination. Head to the West End to soak in the culture at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, like the Dali painting purchased by the city in 1952- now worth a reputed £60 million. Then there’s Riverside, once European Museum of the Year, and 9 other museums, all free to visit. The backdrop to many a Hollywood blockbuster, Glasgow’s unique medieval and Victorian architecture is stunning, from its Gothic cathedral, Harry Potter-esque University of Glasgow (filming location for Outlander) and the ancient Necropolis. The West End is also home to Byres Road and Lanes, with its quirky independent stores. Rest your head at the Hilton Grosvenor Dinner, experience authentic Scottish scran at The Ubiquitous Chip in Ashton Lane, and get ready for a proper Glaswegian night out.
For a taste of traditional Irish life, Carndonagh in County Donegal is the gateway to Ireland’s most northerly point, the tourist hotspot of Malin Head, and a charming staycation destination in its own right. Here you will find the 7th century Donagh (or St. Patrick’s) Cross, one of the earliest in existence, the beautiful Inishowen countryside to explore and easy access to some of the most spectacular beaches in Ireland. Like Five Fingers Strand with its soaring cliffs, Malin Head which was the location for Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and sheltered Kinnego Bay. Back in Carndonagh, you’ll be well looked after at The Butterbean Restaurant and B&B, right in the centre of town, or at family run Joyce’s which serves as hotel, lounge and restaurant too. Traditional crafts honed over generations are prized in Carndonagh, so you may well go home with a souvenir or two from the local shops.
A cathedral city with 2000 years of history, St Albans is a destination for a culture filled UK break. A big draw to this Roman city is its cathedral, set within the 100 acre Verulamium Park and the nearby Roman Theatre of Verulamium where Roman battles once raged. Just 20 minutes from central London, St Albans is a great location for exploring the local area, from Hatfield House, childhood home to Elizabeth I and the glorious Knebworth House, to the sights of London itself. Back in St Albans, stay at the White Hart Hotel, a 600 year old coaching inn, stroll up medieval George Street where the shops and eateries bask in the glow of the cathedral or head to the St Albans Museum & Gallery, with its local, national and world treasures.
Perth is Scotland’s most underrated city- and its happiest apparently, but venture out of the city and you’ll be greeted with lochs, forests, mountains and waterfalls aplenty. It’s easy to see why Perthshire is said to be one of the most scenic spots in the UK. Make the most of the outdoors on your Scottish staycation and learn a new skill like archery, axe throwing, bushcraft or fly fishing with experts Do It Outdoors. Hire a mountain bike from Progression Bikes and whizz through the network of mountain trails and cycling routes in and around the stunning village of Dunkeld, or learn how to take the perfect scenic shot with photographer Cat Burton. Escape to the beautiful island of Canna, a magical place within Scotland’s string of enchanting islands called the Inner Hebrides. Stay at Tighard Guest House, situated on the hillside amongst mature woodland, overlooking the harbour and onto the islands of Sanday and Rum on the horizon. Or if you’re looking for a more outdoorsy experience on your island getaway, Canna Campsite has a range of camping pods, glamping tents, and bunkhouse accommodation. You can even book a walking tour of Iona, Shetland or Bute through Isle20. The REDS Rural Gift Card supports small rural and island businesses in Scotland.
History, great food and shopping, and surrounded by the breath-taking Cheshire countryside, Chester is a small city with a big heart. From medieval rows to Roman walls and an original Roman amphitheatre, all situated just off the banks of the River Dee where you can take in the sights on a Chester Boat cruise. Treat yourself with a stay at The Chester Grosvenor hotel, an iconic 5-star landmark hotel that stands proudly in the centre of the city next to the celebrated Eastgate clock. Choose from Michelin decorated restaurants to food from the city’s burgeoning collection of talented young chefs. Chester Market has an array of street food options that are perfect for a quick bite whilst exploring quirky lanes and cobbled streets. Shopping is an experience in itself – independent clothing boutiques, antique jewellers and art galleries abound.
Located on Scotland’s east coast, St Andrews is blessed with beautiful beaches, medieval streets, countryside walks and lots to see and do. Like walking in the footsteps of the pilgrims on the Fife Pilgrim Way, visiting the infamous 13th century St Andrews Castle or feeling the sand beneath your toes at West Sands Beach- said to be one of the sunniest and driest beaches in Britain. Stay at the boutique 4-star Hotel Du Vin, choosing a room with views looking out over St Andrews Bay or the historic town. The dining experiences alone are enough to tempt you to St Andrews. Like Forgan’s, housed in an old cleek factory, and where ceilidh dancing and a vast collection of Scottish gins await alongside the cosy bothies to get comfy and enjoy your meal. Shopping in St Andrews has a generous dash of can’t-find-anywhere-else independents and Scottish artisan products- just the places to find a memento of two of your St Andrews break.
The capital city of Wales, Cardiff is small but mighty with a thriving cultural scene, a friendly vibe and an abundance of experiences, from gin distilleries in old castles to helicopter tours. Take a stroll over the Barrage Embankment for the best views out over Cardiff Bay, explore 2000 years of history at the gothic fantasy palace Cardiff Castle. Or jump aboard a boat bound for smuggler’s paradise, Flat Holme Island, just 5 miles off the coast. Cardiff boasts the highest concentration of Victorian and Edwardian shopping arcades of any British city, and locals refer to Cardiff as the City of Arcades. These beautiful shopping destinations are treasure troves for unique finds and Welsh traditions. Shop for unique fashion in Sobey’s Vintage, stock up on delicacies at local institution Wally’s, and then grab the quintessential snack in Fabulous Welshcakes and relax in the castle grounds. Luxurious hotels are aplenty in Cardiff, like the four star Park Plaza and Hotel Indigo- this Welsh city has everything you need for a fun-packed UK break, plus you’ve got your base for days out exploring the best of Wales.
For centuries, Canterbury has been a destination from which great stories are told. From the bloody history of its cathedral to the mead-soaked tales of pioneering pilgrims, all are proudly enshrined in the city’s three UNESCO World Heritage sites. Couple this rich heritage with first class shopping, breweries, river tours, vineyards, accommodation and restaurants, and you’re on course for a staycation to remember. Wake up to views of the Mother Church, Canterbury Cathedral and its beautiful grounds when you stay at the Cathedral Lodge, take an expert-led tour with Canterbury Tour Guides and head to Foundry Brew Pub for a tour from a local brewer creating incredible award-winning beer and gin. For shopping, there’s Whitefriars and Fenwicks, and for afternoon tea there’s quintessentially English tearoom Tiny Tim’s. Dinner out? Try The Ambrette for innovative Anglo-Indian dishes. In central Kent and just one hour from London, Canterbury is also a handy base for discovering the Kent countryside and beach-days in Whitstable and Herne Bay.
From coasts to castles, lochs to lush rolling countryside, Easy Ayrshire is a staycation location for outdoor enthusiasts. Explore the 2000 acre estate of Dumfries House, visit the home of Scottish poet Robert Burns and indulge in woodland walks at Dean Castle Country Park. Choose from a whole range of activities at Tree Top Trials, archery and crate climbing to forest fitness and mountain biking. Then, take on the vines, cargo nets, zip lines and floating islands in your own treetop trial. For a night out to remember, the Scottish Dark Sky Observatory is within a UNESCO biosphere, a hilltop where you can view some of the darkest skies in the UK through two large telescopes. After all that activity, you’ll be ready for Scottish steaks and fresh, local seafood at The Longhouse in Kilmarnock and a good night’s sleep at The 4* Park Hotel.
30 museums, glorious 7th century York Minster Cathedral, quaint cobbled streets full of independent stores and the Viking capital of England- York has been voted the best place to live in the UK, and it makes for an interesting staycation destination too. Take to the river that once brought the Romans and Vikings to York with City Cruises York, through the centre of the walled city. Discover why York is known as the chocolate city at York’s Chocolate Story, and pick up some treats from The Yorkshire Soap Company. Stay at The Fort Boutique Hostel, an art inspired hostel right in the heart of the city boasting a lively social scene and beds from just £10. Grab a table at nearby Los Moros, a York institution with a vibrant North African culinary offering or search out the Rolling Stones memento as you sample the seasonal fare at the Grade II listed Eagle & Child pub.
Nestled between quaint North Yorkshire coastal towns and the stunning North Yorkshire border, Middlesbrough offers a little bit of everything. Step into the town’s industrial past at the iconic Tees Transporter Bridge, take a hike to the summit of Roseberry Topping for the views that once inspired a young Captain James Cook and experience arts and culture at MIMA and the Dorman Museum. During spring and summer, Middlesbrough town centre comes alive with the legendary Orange Pip artisan outdoor street market. Stay at the Grade 2 listed Zetland Hotel in Middlesbrough’s historic quarter, relax at hipster coffee houses such as Off The Ground Coffee, micro pubs like The Chairman and enjoy locally brewed ales at the many bars around Bedford Street. Middlesbrough has always had a great reputation for award-winning boutiques. Triads is well-known in the North East for its oh-so-trendy fashions, and what better way to wind down after a hard day of shopping than a pamper at one of the town’s beauty clinics.
Surrey is a top notch staycation destination thanks to the Surrey Hills, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, beautiful English gardens to stroll through like the RHS Wisley Garden and attractions like Hampton Court Palace and Waverley Abbey. It’s also home to England’s largest vineyard, Denbies Wine Estate. Camberley is a small town within easy reach of the Surrey Hills, an ideal base for living like a Surrey local and exploring the county. The town itself has lots of independent stores, as well as places to enjoy a good meal after another busy day exploring the rolling Surrey countryside.
Pastel hued beach huts, ice creams on the pier, amusement arcades and fish and chips on the way home, Bournemouth is a traditional British staycation destination. Bournemouth Town Centre itself has plenty to keep the family entertained. Enjoy a picnic in the beautiful Bournemouth Central Gardens with some treats from Mad Cucumber or Mixed Salad Bar, or at the Grade II Listed Lower Gardens with bandstand, aviary and mini golf. Mr Mulligans and Oasis Fun are on hand for a bit of family competition before dinner at one of the many restaurants and cafés in the town centre, like Frankie and Benny’s, before rounding off the day enjoying a movie on the big screen at The Odeon.
There are over 60 Town and City Gift Card programmes around the UK and Ireland, check them out