It looks like staycations are firmly on the agenda for all of us so if you’re looking for alternatives to Cornwall and a weekend away in the UK, read on for some awesome places in the UK to visit.
With its sandy beach. long Pier and beach hut-lined promenade, Southwold offers a wonderful environment for holidays and weekends away in a thriving market town with a quaint high street.
Whilst you’re here it would be a crime not to visit Adnams Brewery (food and drink are an integral part of the Suffolk experience), the 100-foot lighthouse and keep an eye out for outdoor theatre productions too. If the weather is a little iffy, search out tickets for The Electric Picture Palace; a small but perfectly formed, seventy seat cinema from the mid-twentieth century.
Much of Southwold’s historic legacy relates to a famous sea battle fought off the coast in Sole Bay during the 17th century where thousands of men were killed. A stop-off at Gun Hill is where you’ll see six cannons face out to sea as a reminder of all those lost in battle.
For day trips out, you can venture across the River Blyth by foot ferry to Walberswick or cross over by the footbridge and explore the trackbed of the old Southwold Railway.
Colwell Bay, Isle Of Wight
Colwell Bay is one of the most picturesque bays on the Isle of Wight with spectacular views across the Solent and over to Hampshire’s Hurst Castle.
Situated in between the towns of Totland and Yarmouth, Colwell is a popular family-friendly beach with cute & colourful beach-hut shops lining each side of the slipway. At low tide, you can hire deck chairs and beach huts if you want to spend the entire day or just visit the cafes and restaurants locally.
Stay locally in the town of Colwell and you might be able to spy the former Victorian gun tower of Fort Albert or the Golden Hill Fort, both overlooking the Solent.
For a day trip, you could take a walk along the clifftops to The Needles Old Battery & look out across The Needles or even enjoy a charter out to them.
West Lulworth, Dorset
This section of coastline is part of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site which starts at Studland in Dorset and ends at Exmouth in Devon.
The town of West Lulworth is small but includes a picturesque mill pond (an old watermill) and a tiny Dolls House building (now a cafe and shop).
Pop into Lulworth Heritage Centre to learn about the area or visit Lulworth Castle and Park with its exquisite grounds. Once-upon-a-time it was a garrison for Roundhead soldiers as well as a residence-in-exile for the French royal family. Destroyed by a fire in 1929 parts of it have been restored for you to visit.
A short distance away, the village of East Lulworth has some of the prettiest cottages in Dorset. You will also find a gift and coffee shop housed in the old school, as well as a traditional village pub. To escape reality and see Dorest’s fine countryside, you could forget the car and cycle to Wareham on the East Lulworth Ride.
With Lulworth Cove, Durdel Door, Mupe Bay & Man O’war beach, Stair Hole & Worbarrow Bay close by, holidaying here would be the ideal perfect alternative to Cornwall. At Lulworth Cove, there is a whole range of outdoor activities such as kayaking, coasteering, mountain biking and guided walks and to watch the sunset, sit out on the deck at the Boat Shed Cafe.
The original town was called Dinbych y Pysgod, the Welsh for “little town of fishes” and this walled, seaside town dates back to the 13th-century. It was built by the Normans as a fortified town, most of the old town walls remain but only a small keep tower of the castle remains.
The centre of Tenby is a maze of narrow little streets that are pedestrianised during the summer days when the bars and restaurants set up al fresco seating.
Tenby is most famous for its stretches of sandy shoreline, including the enormous Castle Beach. Tenby South Beach looks out to Caldey Island and is backed by sand dunes whilst Tenby North Beach features Goskar Rock. A nice day trip would be to take a boat trip from Tenby Harbour to Caldey Island, a conservation area owned by the Cistercian Order that has an active monastery. Nesting seabirds including Puffins can be seen on the tip of the island.
Locally, the ruins of Tenby Castle are on a headland overlooking the harbour and exhibits at Tenby Museum and Art Gallery include a 16th-century wrought-iron cannon. The Tudor Merchant’s House recreates domestic life in 1500 with a merchant’s shop and working kitchen.
Godmanchester, a bustling waterside town, was originally listed in the 1086 Domesday book as ninety-seven households and the impressive Chinese bridge has been a well-known landmark of Godmanchester since its original design and construction by James Gallier in 1827.
Situated on The Great Ouse, you’ll find serene walks along the Godmanchester Riverside and also a small ferry that will take you to Brampton and back. Check out a video of that ferry here.
Portholme is the largest wild meadow in England which can be accessed from the lock linking Godmanchester to Brampton and Huntingdon. Godmanchester Nature Reserve is 59 hectares of grasslands and four lakes that were former gravel pits, reedbed and willows.
Whilst you’re in the area, visit Island Hall an elegant Georgian-style mansion built in the 18th-century. The family’s seventh-generation provides tours of the exquisite house and beautiful three-acre gardens.
Approximately 16 miles south of Aberdeen, Stonehaven is a picturesque double-walled harbour surrounding the white sandy bays and the stone-built town. Originally an iron age fishing village this town is now famous for its Hogmanay fireballs ceremony.
Take your time to explore the old town which was initially called Stonehyve, Stonehive, where you’ll find Aunt Betty’s Ice Cream Parlour, a famous ice cream shop on the Promenade. Stonehaven also has a heated open air swimming pool (the northernmost lido in the UK) and a volunteer-led museum. The Stonehaven Tolbooth was built in the 16th century to serve as a courthouse and prison by the harbour but is now a local history museum for the area.
There are trails in the Dunnotar Woods and you must visit the ruined medieval castle of Dunnotar dates to the 15th centuries and is roughly a 40-minute walk from Stonehaven along the coastal footpath. From here, you may be able to spot the Dunnicaer Sea Stack where remains of an old fort were found.
There’s loads to do up here involving the coast; take a sea safari to spot dolphins, puffins and seals as well as waterfalls and caves, go paddleboarding, canoeing or even cliff jumping. Contact Arbroath Cliff Tours for information.
A relaxing day out would be at Fowlsheugh, an RSPB nature reserve where cliffs are home to many birds including guillemots, kittiwakes, razorbills and puffins. If you’re looking for an active day trip, head to St. Cyrus beech nature reserve near Montrose and scramble the unusual rocks on the beach.
The Lake District doesn’t need any introductions but Coniston is somewhere most people drive past en-route to other places.
Coniston’s main feature is the hike ‘The Old Man Of Coniston’ but Coniston Water is the fifth largest of the lakes, at five miles long, and with a maximum depth of 184 feet. Coniston Lake is where Donald Cambell broke the water speed record in 1955 and was later killed attempting it again in 1967.
The Monk Coniston estate, once owned by Beatrix Potter but given to the National Trust, stretches from Coniston to Skelwith Bridge. It includes the beauty spot – Tarn Hows.
Hartlepool might seem an unusual choice for a holiday however it has a lot to offer as we discovered on a long weekend there.
Hartlepool town was first founded in the 7th century, around the medieval monastery of Hartlepool Abbey. During the Napoleonic Wars, a shipwrecked monkey was supposedly hanged by the people believing him to be a French spy! To this day, people from Hartlepool are affectionately known as ‘monkey hangers’. It’s still not known if the story is actually true although you’ll spot various monkeys around the headland and marina.
The Hartlepools (as the area is known) are divided into three areas each distinct in their own way. Old Hartlepool is the original fishing village and is now called The Headland. The brand new marina is referred to as Middleton (or Hartlepool Marina) and Hartlepool is the new town.
Hartlepool Marina is a hive of activity with a long parade of restaurants & cafes & a colourful, active marina with hydraulic opening gates. Here you’ll find cosmopolitan restaurants, wine bars and more. The Headland is home to the town wall, the 6m high Sandwell Gate (founded in the reign of King Edward II), a promenade overlooking the sea and a number of beaches.
Hartlepool’s attraction has to be the expanse of beaches that stretch for miles all the way up the Durham Coast and its old pier (no longer in use).
On the edge of the New Forest, Mudeford with it’s pretty quay and Spit is a great alternative to Cornwall and is not too far away either.
Reportedly the haunt of smugglers in days gone past, Mudeford Quay retains its presence of fishing boats, fishermen’s cottages and plenty of fresh fish on sale. The harbour is a mesh of activity and colours from strewn lobster pots and boats to yachts and pubs. You can sit alongside the Mudeford Run and watch how the water escapes the narrow channel with a picnic or just admire the view. Crabbing is very popular from the quayside and you can buy buckets and bait from the shop at the end of the Quay.
There are plenty of beaches in the area. The sandy beaches of Avon and Friars Cliff are accessible from the Quay via Gundimore Promenade which extends eastwards from the Quay. Walk further and you’ll reach Steamer Point Nature Reserve and the grounds of Highcliffe Castle.
If you want to visit the exclusive beach huts of Mudeford Sandbank & enjoy that enormous sandy beach across the water, hop on the ferry. The sandbank is also home to the Hengistbury Head nature reserve.
Dundrum Bay, Downpatrick, N.I
Voted one of the best places to live (2020), Dundrum Bay in County Down (south of Belfast) is a part of Northern Ireland that people often discard when planning their travels.
This well-situated town is nicknamed “the meeting of the waters” where the tide that comes from the north of Ireland meets that of the Irish sea. Rather than the tides having a strong directional pull, the waters merely rise and fall in a charming manner.
Whilst you’re here you can walk the Dundrum Coastal Path; a 2.5 km stretch of disused railway line located on Dundrum Inner Bay. An area of nature conservation it has a variety of semi-natural habitats including herb-rich grassland, scrub-woodland, marshy tall herb stands, brackish pools and saltmarsh.
Constructed in 1177, Dundrum Castle is situated on a wooded hill overlooking the coastline. It was once used to control the land routes from Drogheda to Downpatrick and gives stunning views of both Dundrum Bay and the Mourne Mountains. The Mourne Mountains are the highest mountain range in Northern Ireland and just 12-miles from Dundrum Bay. Perfect for a day-trip hiking.
The award-winning Tyrella beach and dune is a wide, flat, sandy beach two kilometres long and backed by 25 hectares of dunes and Murlough Beach, a 6km long Blue Flag beach, offers walkers an amazing beach as well as incredible views of the Mourne Mountains. The dunes at Murlough have more than 720 species of butterflies and moths. Here you’ll find both sand and a boardwalk that takes you through the dunes.
The Channel Islands: Weekend Away In The UK
Situated between 10-30 miles off the north-west coast of France, the Channel Islands are not part of the United Kingdom however they are dependent territories of the British Crown, as successor to the Dukes of Normandy. Under the UK Interpretation Act 1978, the Channel Islands are deemed to be part of the British Islands, not to be confused with the British Isles. Now that we’ve cleared that up…
Vazon Bay is located on Guernsey’s North-West coast and is a sandy beach about a mile and a half long, making it the largest beach on the island.
The bay has a little bit of something for everyone; at one end of the beach you’ll find watersports lessons but to the other end you’ll find Fort Hommet & a nature reserve. The water is akin to the Med and you’ll be able to snorkel too. Stick around for sunset as this bay is west facing and has brilliant sunset views.
Explore the northern end of the bay to find a nature reserve, Fort Hommet and the Fort Hommet Gun Casemate Bunker. Fortification left over from the Napoleonic wars, which still commands a great view of Vazon Bay today. A coastal path for cyclist & hikers that stretches a 10-mile length of the northern coast of the island begins at Fort Hommet Nature Reserve.
There are a few towns set back from the beach including Richmond, Vazon and Albecq. The largest town is Albecq where you’ll find a range of pubs and restaurants. Due to the lack of busy roads, Guernsey’s towns are really pleasant to explore on foot and there’s a cheap bus system linking the island too.
For day trips you could visit Chouet Bay & Pembroke Bay. Quiet and seldom visited these bays are ideal for solitude and relaxation. You could also visit Guernsey’s nine-metre tall Loophool Towers of which twelve still exist.
The Little Chapel is one of Guernsey’s top attractions. At nine-foot long, this tiny chapel is decorated with broken china, shells and bottles resulting in a unique design that glistens in the sunshine. You might also want to visit the Victorian Candie Gardens. They’re home to the oldest known glasshouses in the British Islands.
Herm Island, Guernsey
Herm Island lies just twenty minutes by ferry from Guernsey and has no cars, no crowds and no stress. It is a perfect place to stay for a relaxing holiday in the British Islands and as most tourists are oblivious to its existence, it is a fabulous alternative to Cornwall, minus any crowds, and a perfect weekend away in the UK.
At only 1 ½ miles long by ½ mile wide, Herm has breathtaking beaches, water sports, bird watching, hiking and of course brilliant food. In comparison to other islands, it isn’t a glamourous location but its appeal lies instead in the natural beauty it offers.
In order to get here you’ll need to take a local ferry from Guernsey’s St Peter Port and depending on the tide you may have a 10-minute walk up some steep steps to dock. This is definitely not a place where you’d want to overpack!
On Herm, you’ll find six very different beaches from Shell Beach, named because of its shells, to the secluded Oyster Beach where you might be the only person. There’s also Fisherman’s Beach and Bear’s Beach and if you’re up for an energetic adventure you can hike between all of the beaches, circumnavigating the entire island in just a day.
Herm only has one pub, The Mermaid Taven, so of course, you must visit it but Herm’s call to fame is actually the number of birds it attracts. Over 200 migratory birds can be found on or around this tiny island. The most famous species would be puffins and one of the best ways to see them undisturbed is by kayak. Other animals to spot here are Atlantic Seals, Porpoise and Dolphins.
If you’re looking for a day trip, take a walk out to Rat Island. A tiny islet, 250 metres from Herm, connected at low tide by a causeway, Le Hermetier, is nothing more than an outcrop of large rocks but it makes for a nice photo. The Mouette and Percee reefs are offshore close by and can be snorkelled or explored by kayak or even paddleboard.
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Other Weekend & Holiday Ideas For The UK
Have a look at some other destinations within the UK.