Essential UK Staycation Guide13 March 2023
A staycation could easily be the best holiday you’ve ever had if you pick the right location and accommodation.
Staycations - holidays where you don’t travel abroad - had a big surge in popularity through the lockdown years, when travel was heavily restricted. But they’ve remained popular even as the opportunity to travel has returned, and with good reason.
- A great way to explore the fantastic countryside, coast and attractions we have in the UK.
- Good for the environment, with less travelling than a foreign holiday. Check out how sustainable your trip is with our handy calculator.
- Cheaper for you - and a lovely way to support the UK economy.
*Fantastic for maximising your time. Less travelling means more chance to relax!
- More likely to be dog friendly, so you can take your furry friends.
If you want to have the most amazing staycation, then it’s important to pick the right one for you. We’ve put together a few handy ideas to make sure you have a holiday to remember…
- Best beach staycations
- Best staycations for outdoor adventures
- Best staycations for city breaks
- Best staycations for foodies
- Best staycations for culture
Where you pick for your staycation depends on what kind of experience you want. Choosing somewhere close to home can be more convenient, and reduce travelling - but will it still feel like a proper holiday if you could have come on a day trip? On the other hand, if there’s a particular activity you want to enjoy, you might have to travel a bit further afield to find the best spot for it.
Whatever you decide, different parts of the UK are great for different types of staycation - and we’ve highlighted a few below.
The UK might not seem like the most obvious option if you want to top up your tan, but pick your spot and you could be enjoying some beautiful beaches in glorious sunshine. Of course, there’s always the risk of rain spoiling play, but most places have plenty of indoor options too.
Cornwall might be the obvious choice for a sunshine staycation in the UK - but with good reason.
It’s about as far south as you can get in the UK, which means the average temperature is noticeably higher than in the north. Cornwall also has more than 400 miles of coastline, with over 300 glorious golden beaches (and cliffs, rock pools, and islets) - so if sand and sea are what you’re after, you’ll be well catered for.
Of course, all that coastline means that Cornwall is incredible for seafood, with amazing restaurants (not to mention fish and chip shops) in almost every town and village. And if you want to get a bit more active then there are some of the country’s best surfing beaches, not to mention miles upon miles of beautiful walks - including 300 miles of the 630-mile-long South West Coastal Path.
Did you know that Pembrokeshire national park is the only national park in the UK that is predominantly coastal? And that Barafundle Bay, on the south coast, has won lots of ‘best beach in the UK’ awards?
Sounds pretty good right? Well, that’s only the start of why Pembrokeshire is so great for a fantastic seaside staycation.
The county has beaches to suit everyone, from spectacular surfing waves to miles of golden sand to epic rock pools and cliffs (sometimes even on the same beach). There are miles upon miles of coastal paths, friendly and welcoming seaside towns and some of the best fresh seafood in the country. Many of the beaches are Blue Flag certified and dog friendly, and you can pick from easy access or a half-hour walk just to get to the sand.
Oh, and did we mention that Pembrokeshire has lots of awesome castles too?
Ok, so maybe when we say ‘Essex’ your first thoughts are of the dazzling white teeth of TOWIE, the shadow of London lurking to the west and if you’re of a certain age, convertible white Ford Escort XR3is. But there’s a lot more to the county - and the coastline - than that.
Towns like Southend and Clacton-on-Sea are the absolute epitome of the British seaside, with spectacular piers, golden beaches and cute little beach huts. If you want something quieter then there are plenty of smaller towns to choose from too, with some real hidden gems of beaches.
Of course, if you live in London or the South-East then being close is super handy, and its location on the east coast means that it’s often pretty dry. In fact, Shoeburyness, a suburb of Southend is reckoned to have the lowest average rainfall of any town in the UK.
The East Riding of Yorkshire
The East Riding of Yorkshire coast is a bit underappreciated when it comes to beach holidays. It might not be quite as warm or spectacular as classics like Cornwall, but it’s quieter, cheaper and has some uniquely beautiful places to visit.
If you want a traditional seaside town then Bridlington is a great place to base yourself. It has miles of beautiful beaches, excellent fish and chips and a seafront land train. Just a little further along the coast you can visit the spectacular cliffs and natural arch of Flamborough, or go puffin-spotting at the famous Bempton Cliffs.
Head further south and you’ll find the uniquely wild landscape of Spurn Point, where the Humber Estuary meets the sea. Or if you prefer something a little more civilised you could visit beautiful stately homes like Burton Constable or Sewerby, or head inland a little to marvel at the architectural wonder of the Humber Bridge.
While the UK doesn’t have the sheer scale of scenery found in places like the Rockies, the Sahara or the Norwegian Fjords, what it does have is a hugely varied range of smaller areas of incredible beauty. And the great thing about that smaller scale is that - with a bit of preparation and planning - you can enjoy it at your own pace.
The North Yorkshire Moors
The North Yorkshire Moors don’t have the biggest hills, even by UK standards. What they do have is many, many miles of unspoilt natural beauty, a spectacular coastline and - if you’re happy to get away from the beaten path - some of the quietest countryside you’re likely to find without venturing much further from civilisation.
But the Moors are more than just windswept heathery hills. You can enjoy world-class mountain biking or treetop adventures in Dalby Forest, get stuck into some climbing or bouldering at the Wainstones or push yourself to the limit with the infamous Hardmoors trail running race series.
Then when you’re ready to wind down and relax, you can enjoy fish and chips by the beach in Robin Hood’s Bay, take a ride on the North Yorkshire Moors Steam Railway or have a refreshing swim in the outdoor heated swimming pool in Helmsley.
Glenveagh is the second largest national park in Ireland, and the most northern. It takes in over 160 square kilometres of North Donegal and is full of spectacular mountains, beautiful glens and the fabulous Glenveagh Castle.
While you’re there you can explore the Derryveagh mountain range (which includes the imposing Errigal, towering over the landscape with a height of 751m) or the beautiful Poisoned Glen. You’ll find it much, much quieter than many similar areas in the UK, and with the right-to-roam covering the entire park, you can explore away from the beaten path to your heart’s content. Or if you prefer, you’ll find miles of waymarked paths to explore, taking you to some of the most breathtaking views in the park.
Unlike most of the UK, wild camping is allowed in the Glenveagh national park (apart from an exclusion zone to protect the local wildlife). That means you can pack up your tent on your back and spend the night under the stars almost anywhere that takes your fancy.
Loch Lomond and the Trossachs
Scotland has some of the most incredible terrain in the UK, if not the world. Ben Nevis. Loch Ness. The Cuillin Range on Skye. The Cairngorms. So why have we chosen a comparatively diminutive range of hills clustered around a rather less famous loch?
There are a few reasons.
First up, let’s talk about practicality. Scotland is really big, and the further north you get the smaller the roads get. So forays into the wilds of the highlands can be an epic undertaking. The Trossachs and Loch Lomond are much easier to access, situated not too far north of Glasgow.
But you’re still getting some proper mountains (Ben Lomond, the most southerly Munro, stands on the eastern bank of Loch Lomond), a proper out-there feeling and lots of choice of adventures, from walking (or biking!) up the Ben to taking a leisurely ferry ride across Loch Katrine.
North Wales and Snowdonia
Now, when you mention Snowdonia (and more specifically Snowdon, or Yr Wyddfa to use its proper name) most people think of a mountain-top cafe, a mountain railway, and a queue to get to the summit. And to be fair, all of those things are accurate. But there’s a lot more to Snowdonia and North Wales than just Snowdon.
If mountains are your things, then there are plenty to choose from - all of which will be much quieter than Snowdon itself. Cadair Idris, the second most popular peak (and 19th highest) is arguably a more rewarding walk, with a spectacular ridge traverse to reach the summit, and Tryfan (near the Devil’s Kitchen, which is a terrific walk too) offers some fantastic scrambling if you’re feeling brave.
North Wales is also home to Coed-y-Brenin Forest, which boasts the UK’s first-ever mountain bike trail centre, and for the real adrenaline addicts Antur Stiniog, where you can enjoy uplifted riding all day. And if two wheels aren’t your thing, Zip World at Blaenau Ffestiniog offers a huge range of activities including massive zip lines, underground golf and even a huge trampoline complex in an old slate mine the size of St Paul’s Cathedral!
If the idea of plodding up a muddy hill is your idea of purgatory then perhaps you’re better suited to something more civilised - like a city break. The UK has a wonderful mix of ancient architecture, modern marvels and incredible character. Visiting a new city in the UK can feel like a whole new world if you’re happy to explore a little.
It’s the obvious choice, but if you’ve never visited London before you really should experience it at least once. It’s an incredible melting pot of culture, with some incredible museums, theatres and galleries - many of which are completely free. Take in a show in the West End, learn about dinosaurs in the Natural History Museum and marvel at the artworks in the Tate Modern.
But remember - London is much more than just the usual tourist attractions. And with such amazing public transport, there’s no excuse not to explore.
You could visit the dinosaur statues at Crystal Palace, check out the wonderful architecture and deco at Eltham Palace, watch some skateboarding on the South Bank, explore the mine workings at Chislehurst Caves or visit the artists on Eel Pie Island’s open weekend.
And that’s only barely scratching the surface.
Hull might seem like a less obvious choice, but it has an awful lot going for it - and you’ll find it a lot less busy and expensive than some more famous cities. It’s also a lovely, relaxed, friendly place to visit.
There’s lots to do for free in and around the city centre. If you visit the Museums Quarter to learn about the history of Hull and the East Riding you could come face-to-face with a full-size woolly mammoth at the Hull and East Riding Museum, have a ride in a carriage at the Streetlife Museum or learn about Hull’s part in the abolition of slavery at Wilberforce House. The Ferens Gallery has incredible permanent collections as well as regular visiting exhibitions, and smaller galleries around the city showcase the work of both local and international artists.
Or you could visit the famous Deep, one of the largest aquariums in the UK, enjoy a show at one of the theatres or take a stroll around the docks and the marina.
We’re not sure whether anyone refers to Manchester as the capital of the North (especially not in Manchester) but they probably should. With cultural highlights to rival London combined with legendary Northern hospitality, all situated in the heart of some of the most beautiful countryside England has to offer, Manchester is pretty special.
If shopping is your thing, then Manchester is second only to London. From fancy stores like Harvey Nichols to the high fashion of Vivienne Westwood and the quirky, independent shops you’ll find in the Northern Quarter, you’re bound to find what you’re looking for - even if you’re only window shopping. And if you’re visiting around Christmas, Manchester’s Christmas markets are on par with almost anything in Europe.
Manchester is also home to internationally renowned galleries, incredible museums (many of which are free), and some breathtaking architecture fusing the city’s industrial revolution heritage with modern space-age structures.
Cardiff is quite small for a city - and especially for a capital city. But with its incredible coastal setting, rich history and vibrant nightlife it packs an awful lot into a small space.
South Wales is an area renowned for its hospitality and Cardiff has it in spades. You’ll find the city as lively at night as it is during the day, with countless friendly bars and restaurants to choose from. Visit when Wales is playing rugby at the Principality (previously Millenium) Stadium and you can’t help but be carried along as you’ll be surrounded by locals cheering, singing and generally having a wonderful time.
If beer and sport are not your things, Cardiff still has plenty to offer. You could visit the spectacular Cardiff Castle with its unique blend of architecture (some dating back almost 2,000 years), carved stone animal wall and mind-boggling kaleidoscopic Arab Room. You could head down to the bay for beautiful views over the water, the spectacular Millenium Centre or a visit to the Senedd building, the headquarters of the Welsh National Assembly.
If you love good food then you’re spoilt for choice in the UK, with 194 1-3 Michelin-starred restaurants across the country. There are also 122 restaurants with a Bib Gourmand rating (for high-quality food served at a reasonable price) and over a thousand restaurants with a Michelin plate, which denotes ‘quality food’.
Bristol boasts two Michelin-starred restaurants - Paco Tapas and Bulrush, which showcase very different styles of high-end dining. Paco Tapas is described on the Michelin website as ‘a best-of-the-best tour of Spain’ and is, as you might imagine, some of the best tapas you’re ever likely to experience.
Bulrush is a little more modern, offering a nine-course tasting menu which changes and evolves with the seasons and the chef. It’s a long way from steak and chips, but if you want to expand your culinary horizons and try exciting new things it’s a great way to do it.
Of course, high-end Michelin cuisine is not the be-all and end-all of food, and Bristol has you covered whatever your style. From Sri Lankan curries at Nadu to French classics at Little French, and from steak and cocktails at The Ox to plant-based treats at Oowee Vegan there really is something for everyone.
Dublin is home to three incredible two-star restaurants, each with its own unique style. The world-class Chapter One by Mickael Viljanen describes itself as ‘one of the most unique dining experiences in Ireland’, and the Michelin guide describes the food as ‘perfectly balanced, immaculately executed dishes with sublime natural flavours and beautiful presentation’.
Restaurant Patrick Gilbaud describes its style as ‘contemporary Irish with French classical roots’ and offers an eight-course tasting menu as well as a la carte and lunch menus. The Michelin guide says ‘the accomplished cooking remains French at heart yet has evolved to show a restrained modernity and some bold yet superbly balanced flavours’.
Liath (the Irish word for grey, named after its Australian chef Damien Grey) prides itself on paying respect to the superb ingredients they use, and the people and environs that work to bring them to your table - and it shows. The Michelin guide describes ‘bold, original dishes… which come together in perfect harmony’.
If you can’t secure a reservation at one of Dublin’s two-star restaurants - or the pricing is a little keen for you - then there are plenty of other options available including three one-star restaurants, and five Bib Gourmand’s serving great food at sensible prices.
Good food isn’t just about fine dining. Sometimes all you need is something simple - like fish and chips. And if that’s what you want, you could do a lot worse than visit Whitby.
You can’t talk about fish and chips in Whitby without mentioning the Magpie Cafe. If you’ve ever visited, you’re sure to have seen the queues stretching down the street whatever the weather - and with good reason, Magpie fish and chips are wonderful. But if you don’t fancy queueing for your lunch there are plenty of other options in town.
If you’re set on fish and chips then places like Trenchers and Hadley’s serve locally caught and prepared fish - but are they better than the Magpie? You’ll just have to try them all and make your own mind up…
If you fancy something different then there’s plenty to choose from too. How about pie and mash (all made in-house) at Humble Pie and Mash, kippers with history at Fortune’s Kippers, modern dishes with local ingredients at Ditto or wood-fired pizza at Moutrey’s? Whitby has all of these and more…
If you are a fan of fine dining, then you’ve probably heard of Bray. It’s home to two three Michelin-starred restaurants as well as one single-starred restaurant, with each offering its own unique culinary experience.
The Waterside Inn (three stars) has a classic French menu. It is the longest-standing Michelin-star restaurant in the UK and is currently run by Alain Roux - son of Michel Roux. The Michelin Guide describes it as ‘a bastion of culinary excellence’, mentioning that ‘flavours are full and sauces are intense but there’s also a lightness of touch to the execution’.
For fans of creative cookery, a visit to Bray has to include a meal at the iconic Fat Duck. The brainchild of the legendary Heston Blumenthal it’s described by The Michelin Guide as ‘innovative, evocative, playful and perfectly judged, with harmonious textures and flavours’. You’ll need to be ready to experience food in a completely new and innovative way - but you’ll never find anything else like it.
If that’s not enough for you then you’ll find Heston’s single-starred restaurant - The Hind’s Head serving traditional British dishes. You’re also only a 15-minute drive from Marlow, where you’ll find Tom Kerridge’s two-starred pub The Hand and Flowers serving modern British cuisine and its single-starred sister The Coach.
We’re lucky here in the UK that we have centuries if not millennia of history and culture surrounding us wherever we go, not to mention thriving art, music and theatre scenes all across the country. But where to go if you really want to immerse yourself in culture? Well, we have a few ideas…
You might have heard of the Edinburgh International Festival. The website describes the festival as ‘an unparalleled celebration of music, theatre, opera and dance’ and it takes place across the city every August. Between the main festival and the Fringe (which is all about comedy, and features a fantastic mix of established and up-and-coming comedians) there’s an incredible amount to see and do over the month.
If the super-busy festival month doesn’t appeal, don’t worry - there’s lots more culture to experience in Edinburgh.
The Festival Theatre is open all year round, not just during the festival season - and plays host to all sorts of performances, from ballet and opera to musicals and comedy, as well as classical and modern theatre. The building itself is spectacular, with its modern glass front uniquely reflecting and distorting the surrounding architecture.
There are also plenty of fantastic museums and galleries to visit, from the enormous National Museum of Scotland (pretty much a full day out in itself) and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern art to smaller gems like the Collective Gallery on top of Calton Hill and the intimate Writers’ Museum.
Outside of London, Liverpool has more museums and galleries than anywhere else in the UK - and most of them are free to enter too. It also boasts some incredible music and theatre venues, including the Empire Theatre on Lime Street, which has space for 2,348 people and has the biggest two-tier auditorium in the country.
If you want to find out more about the city of Liverpool and its people, spend a day exploring the Museum of Liverpool. You’ll find a huge collection of captivating exhibits depicting different facets of the city, including the world’s first electric elevated railway, social and community history and a hands-on children’s gallery for under sixes to play and learn. Even the building itself, which opened in 2011, is a spectacular example of modern architecture.
Or you could immerse yourself in some of the incredible art that permeates the city. The Walker Art Gallery hosts works from around the world, created over the last six centuries. You’ll find work from artists like Turner, Monet, Bridget Riley and David Hockney. Or you could visit the Tate Liverpool, to see some fantastic modern art.
Of course, we can’t talk about Liverpool without at least mentioning the Beatles. The Fab Four’s legacy runs through the whole city, from street murals to the legendary Cavern Club.
You can’t talk about culture in the UK without mentioning the City of Culture - and from 2021 to 2025, that’s Coventry.
As well as a rolling programme of events throughout the four years that Coventry has held the title, City of Culture has also seen investment into galleries, museums and art collectives throughout the city.
The Reel Store opened in 2022 and is the first immersive digital art gallery in the UK. This means that you won’t be looking at static artwork mounted on the wall, like in a traditional gallery - the huge (800 m2) exhibition space features 360° projections, so you’re completely immersed in and surrounded by the art you’re experiencing.
Or you could visit more traditional attractions. There’s a huge variety of exhibitions at The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, you can check out the history of aviation at The Midland Air Museum (including a guided tour of an Avro Vulcan bomber) or marvel at the fantastic blend of modern and classical architecture at Coventry Cathedral.
With a trip to West Yorkshire, you can enjoy a whole range of cultural experiences - from outdoor sculptures to science and media.
The Yorkshire Sculpture Park, on the Bretton Hall Estate, is home to many acres of beautiful parkland - and is full of incredible sculptures, both indoors and out. Permanent exhibits include Andy Goldsworthy and Henry Moore, with a regularly changing range of temporary exhibits too.
Leeds and Bradford are both chock full of places to visit, with the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford and the Royal Armouries in Leeds being particular highlights. Both are free to visit, with absolutely tons to do, like learning about the history of TV at the Science and Media Museum or watching live combat demonstrations at the Royal Armouries.
West Yorkshire also has a vibrant music and theatre scene. Leeds has venues like the Leeds Playhouse, the Wardrobe and the legendary Brudenell Social Club, and smaller towns like Otley, Hebden Bridge and Todmorden have thriving, vibrant art and music scenes of their own.
There’s a staycation for you
So whatever you want from a staycation, there’s something to suit you. You could enjoy the best fine dining the UK has to offer before swanning off to your luxury hotel, have a cosy weekend in a cottage with the kids or heft a tent up a mountain to watch the sun set - the choice is yours.
Once you’ve found your perfect spot - whether it’s by the beach, in the forest or even close to your favourite golf course - you could invest in your own holiday home. You’ll be able to come back and enjoy that magical location whenever you want, for as long as you want.
Staycations can be a great way to save money, help the environment and - perhaps most importantly - to experience some of the fantastic things that we have on our doorstep here in the UK.
Of course just because you’re going on a staycation doesn’t mean you can’t go abroad too. And who doesn’t like the idea of going on more holidays?