The travel buzzword for 2020 is staycation as most of us face uncertainty about how and when we can safely travel abroad. So I decided to put a UK guide together with the help of some friends to bring you inspiration on where to visit next.
The guide goes in order of England, Scotland, Wales and then I’ve included Northern Ireland (part of the United Kingdom) and the Republic of Ireland at the end.
The capital of England and my hometown! London has so much to offer for day trips, a weekend or just a Santander bike ride into a new zone!
Southbank is one of my favourite areas in Central – here you’ll find food/drink stalls, entertainment, a skate park and a lovely riverside walk between Westminster and Southwark Bridges.
The cool East London such Shoreditch, Hackney and Dalston are popular for their food/drink and street art. Further East is Stratford for shopping or to visit the 2012 Olympic Park.
South London is diverse – from the colourful Brixton with its markets and endless restaurant and bar options to the scenic Greenwich, full of British Naval history and is the location of Greenwich Meridian Time (GMT).
To escape the city buzz, visit Little Venice, Kyoto Gardens or travel further out of town to Kew Gardens, Hampstead Heath, Richmond Park or Mayfield Lavender.
The best views overlooking the City? My personal faves are Primrose Hill or from Duck and Waffle (the 24 hour sky high restaurant).
Wiltshire isn’t a place that you’d instantly think of when thinking of doing a UK getaway but having visited a few years back, it’s somewhere I’d recommend checking out!
It’s quite a historic county characterised by quaint little villages and picturesque countryside views which can be the perfect setting for a couples or even family holiday.
Longleat and Stonehenge are the two places I would bookmark if you ever plan on visiting Wiltshire for a quick weekend trip. Longleat is one of Wiltshire’s most popular attractions and includes the UK’s first drive-thru safari park featuring exotic animals from monkeys to tigers, in addition to an adventure park plus an English stately home.
Stonehenge is a world-famous monument dating back to thousands of years ago. What makes this site so mysterious is that no one knows how or why it was built…A definite must visit – especially at sunrise!
Tolu ( IG @travelwithtolu)
Oxford is the place for a weekend visit. You get the combination of both countryside and a university city.
The University of Oxford has very traditional buildings in every style of English architecture. I’d recommend to visit Magdalen’s, Christ Church & Trinity Colleges. Some of these require small fee to enter, others are free to visit. Regardless of cost, seeing the colleges of Oxford will be an experience you will never forget.
One of the best places to have lunch is a 17th century pub that provides stylish yet comfortable setting. The Trout Inn is located in North of Oxford and offers spectacular views of the River Thames.
Another amazing place to see in Oxfordshire is Blenheim Palace: the birth place of Sir Wilson Churchill. Just simply the best place for a picnic or walk and of course to see the heritage. There are also plenty of events going on at the Palace.
Lastly, if you are a shopping lover I’d recommend visiting Bicester Village Designer Outlet. Village offers more than 160+ fashion and lifestyle boutiques…. you can easily spend an entire day shopping! Also, Village is well situated with excellent transport links to London.
Roni (IG @ronipaths)
I like to think of it as the London of the North as it’s just as fun without as much congestion and high prices! I’ve been a few times including to go to Parklife Festival 2 summers ago which I loved!
In the city centre, you’ll find great neighbourhoods like Northern Quarter with plenty of brunch places (check out Rosylee), cocktail bars and vintage shops plus street art and galleries! Next to it is Ancoats which has plenty of hipster eateries plus a hidden marina.
Spinningfields is the financial district where you’ll find the prettiest of cocktail bars like Tattu and the Ivy. Castlefield is scenic and perfect for a summer day’s canal walk. Check out The Wharf – canalside pub with amazing food. Another great outdoor spot in the city is Heaton Park.
Manchester is known for its music scene and nightlife. The legendary gay friendly Canal Street is fun and definitely one to not miss here.
Finally football fans may be interested in checking out the Manchester United stadium which does tours outside of Match days.
Charlestown is a village and historic port on the coast of Cornwall. It’s a short distance from the town of St Austell so we used Spot On Cabs to get around (super affordable too).
My mini guide to the area of Charlestown is:
To visit the beach and watch the sunset from here – When you finally get down the steep and narrow steps, you’ll take in the beauty and wonder if you’re still in the UK as the towering cliffs are filled with lush green vegetation, much like a scene from Jurassic Park. The crow of a seagull will fill the air every so often, but if it’s one thing I noted is how quiet Cornwall is.
Go crabbing – a British seaside pastime
Visit the Shipwreck Museum – it has countless artefacts showcasing maritime history dating back to 1715.
Taste Cornish delicacies – In The Tallships Creamery, Cornish tea, scones and clotted cream were absolutely divine. Also make sure you try fish and chips, Cornish pasties, ice cream and go on a Brewery Tour whilst in the area!
Char (IG @char_x.o)
A UNESCO World Heritage City and an excellent day trip from London. Bath is a stunning and wonderfully preserved Georgian city with beautiful architecture and an interesting history, dating back to the Roman empire.
Top 5 things to do here:
1. Visit the Roman Baths
Buy your tickets online and arrive before opening. Although it’s “touristy”, it’s unique to Bath! Weekend tickets are £23.00 and include an audio guide. Additionally, free guided tours are offered every hour from 10am.
2. Mayor of Bath Honorary (Free) Walking Tour
Sunday – Friday 10:30am and 2:00pm. Saturdays at 10:30am. All starting outside the Roman Baths.
3. Visit Bath Abbey
Located next to the Roman Baths and is free to visit.
FUN FACT: King Edgar was crowned here. This set the precedent for the rituals we see to this day with the English Monarchy.
4. Afternoon Tea at the Royal Crescent
This historic spa hotel is the perfect example of Georgian architecture and an iconic landmark of Bath dating from 1774.
5. Cross the Pulteney Bridge and stroll along the River Avon
For the best views of Bath. The bridge is similar to Ponte Vecchio in Florence with shops and buildings alongside it.
Cinnamon (IG: @ontheroadwithcinn)
The Jurassic Coast in the southwest of England is an absolute must-visit. If you’re thinking the name sounds epic, it’s because the natural environment is. Stretching from East Devon to Dorset, this geological marvel has been etched over 185 million years, and is a fusion of coast and countryside. Between the beach and outdoor activities, including walking, kayaking, coasteering and mountain biking, there are several ways to relax or ramp up the adventure according to your taste.
Getting There: If you drive and have got time, I would recommend a short stay to give you a chance to really take to the coast at your pace.
Alternatively, Discover Dorset Tours offer a return coach service from starting points like Bournemouth to Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove, two of the most iconic landscapes on the Jurassic Coast. For more tips on visiting, be sure to check out my blog!
Davida ( IG @wondersowanders)
Warwick is not only known for its momumental castle but also its historic charm and annual festivals.
Warwick Castle has dominated the town for over 900 years. You could easily spend half a day walking around the castle’s fortresses and dungeons, as well as being immersed in interactive experiences. Pack a picnic and take in the view of the grounds or visit one of the restaurants in town, my favourites being The Giggling Squid or Piccolinos.
Visit some of the medival buildings, like the Lord Leycester Hospital, which survived The Great Fire of Warwick in the Late Middle Ages. Or take a stroll along the streets to see some adorable looking 17th and 18th Century houses.
With Shakespeare’s birthplace, Stratford Upon Avon, only 8 miles away, why not add it onto the trip and make a weekend of it.
The main attraction of York as we know is York Minster. It is the largest medieval church in England, with beautiful stain glassed windows. There’s 275 steps to reach the top of the medieval Central Tower, which is the highest point in the city.
The city is encapsulated by 3 miles of medieval city walls, which reminded me of when I visited Cartagena, Colombia. The views are amazing, just mind you don’t fall!
Walk the cobbled streets such as the well known The Shambles, have afternoon tea at the infamous Betty’s Cafe Team Rooms and explore York’s history. My highlight was definitely visiting the York Cocoa House, where we booked to learn about chocolate and making a chocolate house, which weighed over 1.5kg. Yes, I did eat it all!
These are just some of the things you can do here, all being instagrammable spots.
Warwick and York by Sophie
Kent (known as the Garden of England) has some of the best beaches for swimming, sunbathing and tranquil strolls. If you’re looking for some beach summer vibes, the coastal town of Broadstairs makes an ideal choice for a relaxing short break away from the city.
Broadstairs boasts of seven sandy beaches and bays with Viking bay being the main beach. Stop by Morelli’s ice cream parlour for a delicious treat and walk through Victoria Gardens along the cliff top promenade. For an off the beaten path experience, visit Botany Bay and watch the beautiful views as the sun sets.
Broadstairs town has a lot of history too. Charles Dickens house museum is right next to the beach and Canterbury Cathedral (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) is not too far from Broadstairs.
My favourite place in the UK so far! On the 4.5 hour drive from London, I recommend a pitstop at Creswell Crags. An open air archeological site, where you can visit remnants for prehistoric cave settlings. I made it there on a spooky foggy afternoon which was quite an eerie but magical sight.
Next I recommend the Ingleton Waterfalls Trail. It’s a moderate hike, but you’ll cross some amazing sceneries peppered with a range of waterfalls along the way.
Next, drive around Lake Windermere and over to Wrynose Pass and Hardknott Pass. It’s a single track road that runs through the middle of the Lake District, and is very steep and twisting, but great fun and a real rollercoaster at some points. The view from the top is out of this world.
I highly recommend setting camp for the night in this Mars like landscape. Camping is the best way to experience the Lake District in my opinion. Remember not to leave any food out overnight, as the mountain goats will have a feast on your behalf.
The Lake District is somewhere you can return to over and over again, and discover something new every time.
Ella (IG @heyparadis)
ISLE OF WIGHT
The Isle Of Wight has long been a coveted playground for holidaymakers following in the late Queen Victoria’s footsteps by indulging in countryside walks spotting endangered red squirrels in Parkhurst Forest and of course, exploring this island’s beautiful award-winning beaches.
Living on the Isle of Wight for two years, I spent more than a few weekends picnicking and soaking up the sun on Compton Bay beach, Freshwater Bay beach and my personal favourite – Sandown beach.
The Isle of Wight has a little bit of everything for everyone! For adventure lovers, I highly recommend glamping under the stars and a spot of axe throwing at Tom’s Eco Lodge. Cycling enthusiasts should rent a bike with Wight Cycle Hire and check out the many intersecting nature trails and finally, history lovers would be remised if they didn’t add Carisbrooke Castle and the late Queen Victoria’s holiday home, Osborne House, to their itineraries.
Noreen (IG @thedrrecommends)
The capital of Scotland is great for a weekend trip! The city is steeped in Scottish culture and history which can be appreciated in various ways:
– Start at the Royal Mile and check out St Giles Cathedral which teaches you about the history of Scottish clans.
– Edinburgh Castle sits at the top of the Royal Mile. It was built on volcanic rock and the whole complex is a beautiful site.
Edinburgh also has beautiful nature on its doorstep. Walking up Calton Hill will give you a beautiful view over the city with some interesting historical monuments to check out.
Arthur’s Seat (thought to be the location of Camelot) gives the best view of all. It’s also formed of volcanic rock and is the main peak of a group of hills in Holyrood Park. The walk is best done in dry conditions with good visibility.
For food and drink, Edinburgh has it all. Make sure you try some traditional Scottish delicacies such as haggis, shortbread and gin! There’s gin tasters all around town or distilleries you can visit.
Check out more on my blog post here
This is the most populated city in Scotland. It’s often overshadowed by the beautiful Edinburgh but it’s definitely worth a visit for a weekend too!
The River Clyde runs through the City and part of it (River Kelvin) leads to Kelvin Park which is lovely. Within it you’ll find Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum which are worth checking out. The West End of the city is filled with many cafes, bars and restaurants, my favourites being beGIN (a gin bar), Òran Mór restaurant where I had my first taste of haggis and Hillhead Bookclub which is a cool alternative bar.
The East End is a bit grittier and where you’ll find the amazing People’s Palace which is a museum about the life of Glaswegians in the past. It’s one of the most heartwarming museums I’ve ever visited!
Visit the Centre of Contemporary Arts for a vintage fair, cinema, theatre, art and cafe complex under one roof.
Loch Lomond National Park can be easily reached from Glasgow by car and is absolutely worth a visit if you have the time! I visited the village of Luss which was an hours drive. On the way, you can check out Dumbarton Castle which overlooks the River Clyde.
In Luss, you can go for a stroll around the village to the beach, go on a mini pilgrimage and even on a faerie trail. Along the way are quaint shops where you can purchase authentic wool, plaid style and Scottish goodies. We ate at Luss Seafood bar which serves fresh local food (I recommend the seafood platter and their traditional soup).
This was my first taste of the beauty of Scotland’s countryside – the landscapes are higher and more vast compared with what I’d seen in England. Beyond Luss you will end up in the beautiful Scottish Highlands!
Check out more on my blog post on both Glasgow and Loch here
A stay in the Gwynedd region of North Wales, one of the most naturally beautiful regions of the UK, is guaranteed to take your breath away. This area is dominated by Snowdonia National Park. The only thing you need is a car!
Some highlights include;
Betws-Y-Coed, a magical waterfall village with little craft shops selling local produce and crystal/mineral rocks mined from the area.
Aber Falls; You can find this stunning waterfall just off the North Wales Expressway. This is much more of a walk, so bring your hiking boots!
Llanberis is a village located at the foot of Mt Snowdon, the highest mountain in England and Wales. Llanberis is distinguished by its surrounding slate quarries, making its beauty unrivalled!
Portmerion is a model village designed in the style of an Italian village. Its colourful houses and stunning gardens make for great photoshoot opportunities!
Blaenau Ffestiniog Railway is an old steam locomotive that takes you 40 miles across the breath-taking Snowdonia National Park
Cardigan Bay; Finally, everyone needs a trip to beach right? You won’t be short on space at this bay, looking out on the Irish sea. Pray for good weather!
Rose (IG @ wonderwhereiwander)
My time in Belfast was pleasant even though I only stayed two days and one night. The fondest memories for me were playing pool at a pool bar with a few hostel buddies and drinking with them back at the hostel I stayed at (shoutout to Vagabonds!) It was really chilled and great to see people from different walks of life in one space.
My standout food spot is Cuban’s Sandwich Factory. I remember just munching on their veggie sandwich whilst a woman was playing “Havana” by Camila Cabello in the background. She isn’t exactly my cup of tea, but I could appreciate the Latin vibe and atmosphere the staff were trying to create at the time!
Belfast had many similarities to my weekend trip to Dublin earlier in the same year. Both are cities with a big appetite for booze and share some history (Belfast and Dublin being two big battlegrounds during the War Of Independence between England and Ireland).
Many attractions are within walking distance and are unique too (think of the Big Fish and The Street With All The Names). Belfast is also home to the Titanic and the Titanic museum itself is a must visit.
Johnny (IG @johnnyenglish247)
Ireland is truly a charming country and its capital Dublin is a great example of this. Not only is it beautiful but everyone I met was a delight. I visited during St Patrick’s weekend in 2019 which was an amazing experience!
One of the easiest ways to get a feel of a new place and learn about its history and culture is with a free walking tour which I booked with Sandeman’s (having used them previously in Prague and Berlin). We passed many sites around city including Dublin Castle, Chapel Royal, Christchurch Cathedral and Trinity College.
If you’re planning to visit museums, particularly over the weekend or on public holidays, check closing times carefully as they vary/may be shut.
Alcohol tours are big here so you’ll be spoilt for choice. The Guinness Storehouse is a must even if you don’t like the stuff. The self guided tour takes you from the making of Guinness to its advertising history and tasting of course! Whiskey is important in Ireland so check out the Irish Whiskey Museum!
Check out more on my time in Dublin here
CLIFFS OF MOHER
The Wild Atlantic Way is a trail which stretches 2500km alongside the beautiful West coast of Ireland. From National Parks, to surfing spots, to pristine beaches coupled with opportunities to kayak, hike and much more, it makes an amazing road trip. It’s a well-trodden route, so they are many resources online to plan with.
I was in Ireland for just a weekend, so only made it to the Cliff Coast of the trail, where the iconic Cliffs of Moher are located. These cliffs rise out of the sea mist so majestically at a height of 214km, forming a beautiful jagged coastline. It makes for a really nice nature trek. Moreover, it’s easily accessible by public transport from Ireland’s city of culture, Galway, so a win win visit altogether!
Abena (IG @travellingtuesdays)
So that’s just a flavour of what the UK and Ireland has to offer. Thank you to all my lovely contributors for bringing their stories to this guide!
There are so many more places I’ve been to which are also great e.g. Windsor, Brighton, Liverpool, the Peak District, Norfolk…the list is endless! Please remember to regularly check online for advice on travelling around the UK and Ireland and updates on what is open/visiting and booking rules!
You may have noticed that we didn’t include much on accomodation (as things may be different from our pre 2020 visits). However I recently read this UK Staycation Airbnb guide by Tolu which you might find useful! https://travelwithtolu.com/2020/06/16/uk-staycation-accommodation-for-big-groups/
If you have any places you’d like to recommend, please leave them in the comments below to inspire others too!