updated May 2021
I don’t know about you but I’m definitely guilty of not exploring my home country enough! However, in recent years I’ve made a conscious effort to see more of the UK and with the cost and time constraints, sometimes it just isn’t feasible to travel abroad.
A UK staycation is a great way to get a change of scenery, see more of your own country and save a bit of money on the way. Plus if you’re someone who prefers to drive and explore at your own pace then you can take your car or hire one there and get out exploring!
These are some of my favourite UK destinations and some ideas for a weekend away in the UK if you’re planning a UK staycation this year. They are all great for exploring on a UK weekend getaway, with plenty of accommodation options and of course you can extend and stay longer too if you want!
For more UK getaway ideas check out these posts:
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5 ideas for a weekend away in the UK
Only a couple of hours drive west of London, the Cotswolds are the classic, quaint English countryside destination in the south-west. The Cotswolds are an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and cover several counties including Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Somerset. The Cotswolds are most recognisable by the famous Cotswold limestone which most buildings are built from in the area. This, along with the quaint villages set amongst the rolling Cotswold Hills, make it a popular destination for UK travel. Everything from luxury spas to walking holidays and countless, cute Airbnbs are on offer in the area.
The great thing about the Cotswolds is that there’s so much beauty within a short driving distance. While there are local buses between villages, these often have several stops and are not a quick way to get around if you’re short on time. I would suggest driving or you can even take a coach tour from nearby cities such as London, Oxford or Bristol. Check out my Cotswolds weekend road trip guide.
I tend to split the Cotswolds into North and South, one on the first day and one on the second.
Top Locations in the North:
A gorgeous high street with free car parking just off the main road. The surrounding fields often have poppy fields in June/July or yellow oilseed rape fields in May if you’re visiting during those times.
Touristy but for a reason! Head there early and enjoy the pretty streets and low bridges over the River Windrush. Stop at Rose Tea Cafe for a traditional British cream team before 11.30am.
The Slaughters are beautiful small villages in Gloucestershire. The Mill at the museum by the river makes for some perfect photos and the Slaughters Country Inn is a lovely hotel if you’re looking for somewhere to stay in the area.
Stow-on-the-Wold is best known as a market town and it also has the famous church doorway which two trees have grown into the side off!
Another beautiful market town and a great place to stay if you’re coming down from the north. Bourton House and Gardens is a must visit here
The most northerly town in Oxfordshire is also a good place to stay if you’re coming down from the north. Chipping Norton is a bigger town which I didn’t find as pretty compared to a lot of the others but it is bigger with more amenities and things to do or places to stay.
Top Locations in the South:
Arlington Row is the famous street to photograph here
Stroud is known for it’s steep streets and rolling hills. Head to Selsley Common, Coaley Peak or Swifts Hill for a good walk and plenty views.
The most pictureque village you will ever see, and that’s not just be saying it, Castle Combe has been voted the prettiest village in England for several years and it’s easy to see why. Head here early before the coaches arrive, snap some pictures from the bridge at the bottom of the main street looking up the hill, head to the manor house to see some serious grandeur then grab some tea and cake refreshment from The Old Stables.
Painswick House is stunning in itself with its Rococo Gardens but the architecture in the village is also beautiful. Head to The Oak for great ales and an open fire. Painswick Beacon is a nice walk just outside the town with views over the Cotswolds.
Bath (not technically in the Cotswolds but a beautiful city to visit or stay in)
Famous locations like Bourton on the Water and Castle Combe have dedicated coach tours so if you want to avoid the crowds I would suggest heading to both of them as early as possible in the day - we went for breakfast!
If you’re looking for a more active trip then this website is great for finding walking routes in the Cotswolds and you can search depending on the area you’re staying in.
If you’re looking for cool places to stay in the Cotswolds, use websites like Airbnb or CoolStays to find awesome accommodation options. I once stayed in a wooden tiny house complete with jacuzzi and I have a glamping pod booked for a couple of weeks time too - both are linked here!
Dorset & the Jurassic Coast
The Jurassic Coast is one of the most recognisable coastlines in Europe with the stunning Durdle Door, Lulworth Cove and Isle of Portland. This is another place which I did as a weekend road trip, but there are a lot more bus routes here, using public transport just means you miss some of the freedom of stopping wherever you want when you see a random secluded beach or cave to explore!
I stayed in Lulworth, a beautiful quaint seaside town with thatched cottages and surrounded by rolling hills. This is quite central along this section of coast so we went west on the first day and east on the second.
Lulworth Cove is a beautiful stone beach in a sheltered cove with amazing hilltop walks to enjoy sunrise or sunset from.
Check out this complete list of things to do on a South Dorset Jurassic Coast trip.
Top locations to explore West:
To get here you’ll need to park at the carpark or on the road and walk through the campsite/caravan park and down a steep gravel road - wear good shoes. Here you will see the famous coastal view and the stairs down to the beach.
Lulworth and Lulworth Cove
Thatched houses in a quaint village and just a short walk to Lulworth Cove with sailing boats aplenty and plenty of views of the rugged coastline from the cliffs at the top.
A classic seaside town with Georgian Houses, piers and colourful beach huts. Visit here on your way to the Isle of Portland.
Isle of Portland
Enjoy the drive over to the island with beautiful blue water on either side of you. This was the setting for the London Olympics sailing events in 2012. Head for the Olympic rings on the hill side and park there. There is a view point with a stunning view of the sweeping Chesil Beach. There is also Portland Bill Lighthouse at the very tip of the island and the much photographed Pulpit Rock - just be careful if you decide to climb it!
Top Locations to explore east:
Beautiful to photograph and you can find lots of fossils, just take the ones that are already on the beach, don’t dig or hack them out the rocks.
Another pretty costal point
Corfe Castle is a town with the stunning ruins of the castle on the hill which is a National Trust property you can visit. Also head to Corfe Castle train station which is like stepping back in time. And you can see the steam train pass through here every hour or so!
Old Harry Rocks
Often confused with the White Cliffs of Dover, these beautiful white cliffs are so worth visiting and doing some of the walks in the area. It’s very open so take a hat/sunscreen on a summer day or wrap up warm in the cooler months.
The Peak District
The Peak District is perfect for those who like to get outdoors and there are plenty of places to explore and plenty of hikes and countryside walks to do here that you could spend weeks exploring them all!
The Peak District is mostly in Derbyshire but also includes five other counties. The landscape is incredibly diverse with the Dark Peak mainly in the north, called so because the rock is a darker limestone and it also encompasses moorland. The While Peak, mainly in the south, is lighter limestone.
We have stayed in Buxton on one occasion and Birchover on another. Buxton is a lot bigger and has more choice in terms of hotels and B&Bs but there are Airbnbs and holiday homes all over the area.
Check out my complete Peak District weekend itinerary to plan your weekend getaway.
A spa town in Derbyshire and one of the biggest and popular bases for a trip to the Peak District. Nearby are the underground caves of Poole Cavern.
Ashford in the Water
Pretty village with photogenic streets and bridge
Castleton is pretty busy and can get quite touristy as it’s nearby to a lot of attractions. Speedwell Cavern, Peak Cavern and Blue John Cavern
Mam Tor is a hill and is my favourite view in the Peak District. You can drive to the bottom of Mam Tor and walk up, it’s a fairly short 20 minute climb to the top and you can carry on along the ridge in either direction if you choose. We hiked up at sunrise and saw a cloud inversion (October time) so if you’re looking for some awesome photography conditions then I recommend going here in the early morning. From the other side of Mam Tor on the climb up there is also an amazing view of the winding road through the Edale valley.
Drive Edale Valley and Winnats Pass
This road is amazing to drive, do a loop all the way around Edale road until you get to Hope then turn right onto Castleton Road. Head through Castleton and drive through the breaktaking Winnats Pass, this winding road between high-sided rocks is incredible.
Climb Winnats Pass
Park up at either end of the Pass and follow one of the many routes to the top of the cliffs, the view with the road cutting through is amazing but it’s vey high with sheer drops, be safe and climb with someone!
For more trip ideas in the North of England, check out this 4 day Yorkshire Road Trip itinerary.
Although Somerset is pretty far south, I’ve stayed in north Somerset on several occasions because it’s a great location to explore the Mendips, Glastonbury area, Bath and Bristol from. You can even enjoy the coast with Weston-super-Mare and Burnham-on-Sea being in the county too.
I would pick what you’re looking for on your trip and base where to stay on that. I’ve stayed in Milton, Somerton, Weston-super-Mare and just outside of Glastonbury. I usually have a pretty active and outdoorsy trip with the Mendip Hills being there but there are also so many gorgeous spas and manor houses if you’re looking for something a bit more luxurious.
You can find my weekend guide to the Mendip Hills here.
Here are some places in Somerset not to miss:
Maybe don’t visit here in festival season! But Glastonbury is such an interesting town, it has a festival vibe even out of festival times with lots of independent shops on the high street. Also check out Glastonbury Abbey and Glastonbury Tor, the walk up the hill is fairly easy unless it’s a windy day - then be careful! You can see five counties on a clear day from the top of Glastonbury Tor.
You might think this is just another town but if you know the movie Hot Fuzz - this is the town where it’s filmed! The Crown pub is the pub used in the movie. Wells Cathedral and Bishop Palace Gardens are both worth exploring.
A small village with underground caves which have lots of tourist activities.
This is England’s largest gorge at 400ft deep and 3 miles long. It’s amazing to drive through and there are plenty of places to pull over and park so you can get out and enjoy the amazing views. You can also walk along the clifftop path and see the gorge from above. There are also caves to visit at Cheddar Gorge where the oldest human skeleton in Britain was found.
If you love National Trust properties then this one is for you. Tyntesfield is a gorgeous Victorian country house with beautiful gardens. If you’re a National Trust member entry is free, otherwise it’s £16.50 entry.
Exmoor National Park
Exmoor is a stunning area and landscape in Somerset. It’s sometimes thought of as quite bleak across the moors but there is plenty to see, loads of walks, farmland, villages and coastline to explore. Find out more about the best walks in Exmoor National Park.
You might have gathered now that I love walking and hiking and Somerset is a great place to get outdoors no matter whether you’re a hardcore hiker or just looking for a short walk before a pub refreshment. Check out Walking Britain for walk ideas.
For more weekend ideas in the southwest, check out this one day itinerary for visiting Oxford.
Cornwall is famous for its stunning coastlines and crystal blue water, so it’s no surprise that this is a popular destination for Brits looking for some sea and sunshine while in their own country. Even if you’re just visiting the UK I really cannot recommend Cornwall enough.
I’m lucky to have a brother who lives in Plymouth so I stayed with him. But if you’re looking to keep costs down and you have a car then I really recommend staying in Plymouth since it’s a lot cheaper and you can just hop in the car and either drive over the bridge or take the ferry across the River Tamar and voila - you’re in Cornwall!
Check out this bumper list of all the best places to visit on your trip to Cornwall.
Of course there are tonnes of places to stay all over Cornwall too and you can find some stunning properties on Booking.com and Airbnb.
I did a weekend road trip around Cornwall and these are all the places we stopped:
Not technically in Cornwall but a great base and lovely waterfront restaurants and bars. Plus the Plymouth Gin Distillery is really cheap to visit, you can tour the distillery for just £10.
This is a picture perfect seaside village with clear blue water. It’s a bit of a pain to park as you cannot drive into the village. We parked on the side of the road further out and walked but there is a carpark you can pay to park in too. Explore the cute alleyways and white-washed buildings, have some fish & chips and sit on the harbour. If you walk up the cliff path onto the South West Coast Path, just as you reach the top on the right is a beautiful plunge pool area which you can go down the steps to and swim in at mid- to low tide.
You’ve probably all heard of Land’s End, but did you know that Lizard is actually the most southerly point in the UK? Stop here on your way to Kynance Cove.
My favourite place in Cornwall. I was absolutely blown away by Kynance Cove and I’m so glad we decided to stop here. Kynance Cove water is so beautifully clear and turquoise, the sand is white and the rock formations are stunning, honestly you could be in the Philippines or Thailand! The car park is at the top of the cliff and it costs £5 to park no matter how long you’re staying, it is a National Trust location though so if you’re a member you can park for free. Wear good shoes to walk down the cliff path to the cove. On a hot summer day it can get very busy and the beach area is limited, however there is a cafe and seating area down there too.
Praa is a huge open beach area, great for watersports, sunsets and for taking the family.
St Michael’s Mount
You might have seen photos of this island off the coast with a castle on the hill on the centre of the island, it’s also paired with Mount St Michael in France. You can walk out to it at low tide on the causeway. Another great location for photos!
Does it get anymore typically Cornish seaside town than St Ives? It can get busy and full of tourists but St Ives is a great place to stay and also a great stop for food and maybe an ice cream. There are also boat tours from here.
Porthcothan Bay and Beach
This beach is famous as the filming location for the Poldark TV series with Aiden Turner. Like Kynance, the sand and water are stunning and you could easily spend hours here.
Other places to visit:
The Eden Project
Porthcurno Beach and Pedn Vounder Beach
The Minack Theatre
Isle of Skye
If you’re in Scotland and you’re looking for a Scotland staycation or weekend getaway in Scotland near you, the Isle of Skye is the perfect option, pack with plenty of stunning scenery, great hikes, cute villages and beautiful hotels and quirky accommodation to stay in too.
If you want to plan a longer trip including Skye, check out this 10 day Scotland road trip itinerary.
If you’re travelling to Skye, don’t miss these stops:
The main town on Skye and its cute, colourful harbour is not to be missed. This is your best option for a base during your stay, with plenty of hotels and B&Bs to choose from.
I stayed at the beautiful Skeabost Hotel, just outside of Portree.
Old Man of Storr
An icon of Skye, known for it’s stunning rock formations, it is a must-do walk while you’re on the island, just wrap up warm as it gets a bit windy and the weather changes quickly up there!
A lesser known spot but these undulating hills and stone circles really do feel like a touch of magic here. Climb up the hill to see the stone circle from the top, but don’t touch - otherwise, the fairies get angry!
The biggest landslip in the UK, this stunning landscape is well worth spending the afternoon to do the walking loop here and to enjoy the spectacular scenery.
Neist Point and Lighthouse
If you head over to the west side of the island, don’t miss this stunning spot along the coast, especially if you’re an avid photographer! Head over here for sunset to see it in all its glory.
Hay on Wye - Wales
If you’re a book lover then you need to go to Hay of Wye, there are countless bookshops for you to visit and it also makes a great base to explore more areas of Wales.
Hay on Wye
Home to the famous Hay Literary Festival, there are over 20 bookshops in this cute town for every taste! Grab a book, wander the cute streets and curl up in a coffee shop with a book.
Ross on Wye
This cute town is worth a visit to enjoy the traditional market town square and especially in the summer when it’s decked out in bunting between the traditional stone buildings.
The ruins of this monastic abbey are a majestic sight to see and wander among the ruins. Coincide this with a day in the Wye Valley or as you head down to Monmouth. Or enjoy the sunshine and the view at the pub opposite.
Known for its colourful high street and plenty of boutique shops, you can spend some time exploring the local stores before walking down to the famous Minnow Bridge at the end of the high street.
If you’re adventurous and want to go a little further afield, Wales’ tallest mountain is ready and waiting for you to climb! There are six possible routes to take or you can take the Snowdonia Mountain Railway to the top and walk down so you get the best of both worlds!
Get more details here in the must-see places for a trip to Wales.
I hope this guide has given you some ideas for some trips you can take in the UK, especially when travel abroad isn’t always possible! I’ll be putting together another guide for some northern UK trips when I’ll be going home and travelling further north this summer so if you have any suggestions I’d love to hear them!
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