The term ‘staycation’ is a bit clickbait-y in itself; as the actual word ‘vacation’ just refers to ‘a fixed holiday period.’ And there are plenty of places right here in the UK where you can enjoy just such a vacation. With international travel likely banned or just incredibly difficult for the foreseeable future, here are 5 destinations for a UK holiday post-lockdown. And remember, don’t feel bad about staying close to home. There are plenty of businesses crying out for your help getting going again!
PS, we had our great writer Pernille Soeholm write an article like this for our first issue, which you should all go check out. While her article focuses on things you can do, I decided to update my picks for some specific and relatively COVID-safe destinations given that we ended up back in another lockdown!
- Wild Camping on the banks of Loch Ness
Being Scotland’s biggest loch (big enough that all the water in the Lake District wouldn’t fill it) and free of the stricter camping laws that apply in other UK nations, you really are spoiled for choice when it comes to Loch Ness. If you take the B road that follows the bank of the Loch opposite Urquhart Castle, there are plenty of places where you can pitch a tent right on the shore or park a car/campervan and watch the sun set across the water.
There are plenty of cultural attractions nearby, like the historic Clava Cairn (an ancient burial ground) or the solemn Culloden Moor, site of the last battle to be fought on British soil. Remember if you visit the latter though that it is considered a graveyard and be respectful; staff in the excellent visitor centre will advise you on how best to visit the Moor. There’s also Urquhart Castle, now a ruin, built in the 13th century. What it lacks in remaining structure, it more than makes up for with its grandiose setting and its rich history as a key point over which various Highland clans battled.
Be mindful of where you pitch (it’s probably not the best idea to sleep in a field full of cows,) but given how much empty land is in the Highlands you should be okay if you’re careful. You’re also not far from Inverness, another place with rich cultural heritage and plenty of attractions to check out (and a Travelodge if you decide camping really isn’t for you.) Having a tent however does allow you to be really mobile and set up camp at various different points through out your holiday. Just don’t forget a groundsheet, to prevent your airbed from popping if you’re on a rough surface.
2. Glamping in the Lake District (Silverdale/Ullswater/Windermere et al)
Got a taste for the outdoors, but feel like you’d need a space heater and ten duvets to make it comfortable? There’s a remedy for that. Glamping has become increasingly popular in the last 10 years, with many campsites making provisions for various levels of glamming up your camping experience. What started as the first person to take some handwarmers into a tent (probably) has become a global business, who’d have thought it?
And one place where glamping makes a lot of sense is the Lake District. Sure, you could camp the classic way, but you might find pitch fees are extortionate and wherever you can find that’s isolated is probably where all the other intrepid explorers will sneakily be looking to pitch their tent. So it makes financial sense to do the posh thing, and look into glamping, even just for a couple of nights. You can adjust it to fit your budget – less expensive ones will probably be a bit more spartan, but it’s more about the experience. Falling asleep to the sound of a gushing river, or owls hooting, in comfort and style rather than cocooned in a sleeping bag.
Websites like this one are great for working out what price and location suits you, although you could pick any comparison website if you’re not so fussy about what your glamping experience looks like. I think this is a great alternative to camping when it comes to popular locations like the Lake District, as it combines the intrepidness of camping with a bit of luxury and relaxation whilst offsetting the high fees many campsites charge to pitch a tent, especially during peak season.
3. Get a great knight’s sleep in a Scottish castle
It was Oliver Cromwell who said that if you stood atop a castle in Scotland, you could always see another. Not all of them have survived, but the sheer number of castles built in what is a geographically small nation means that many aren’t fitted out for tourist visitors, in fact, you can live like the nobles and rent these places yourself. Visit Historic UK or the Landmark Trust for a great rundown of the various grand buildings you can stay in. You won’t be needing your suit of armour or corset just yet, though, as many of them have been given a spit and polish ready for 21st century visitors with amenities like WiFi, hot tubs and Smart TVs widely available (depending on the isolation of your chosen destination.)
My top pick is the Jacobean Castle of Park, constructed 1590 and now owned and operated by the Landmark Trust. Whilst the new owners have been proactive in giving the old place a lick of paint and fitting her up with all the latest amenities, much of the original architectural makeup of the Castle has been retained and you can really get a feel for life as a laird.
There are 4 floors and the place sleeps 7 in total, so you can bring your whole court with you (I’d recommend doing so to keep costs down, but if you feel like splashing out, rent the place to yourself!) Set in the peaceful Dumfries and Galloway countryside, it’s easily accessible for guests on both sides of the border and is great for families or for getting away with all your pals for something a bit different than a lads holiday to Zante.
4. Take a North West road trip
Being from Lancashire, if we werre going away for a few days, it was almost ALWAYS the Lake District. Now, I’m not complaining, but did you know if you’re from around there you have the Liverpool area and Wales right on your doorstep? You could try starting a mini road trip in the Roman city of Chester, and exploring some of the North Wales coast afterwards.
I’ve previously written about the appeal of Roman Chester, and just how much of it there is left to see. There’s the city walls walk and many lovely bars and restaurants as well as a beautiful medieval Cathedral, even a Norman (!) castle at the south of the city walls area. Once you’ve done Chester (I recommend staying the night and visiting some of the great breakfast spots just beneath Eastgate Clock,) you can hop on the train or the A55 and explore the North Welsh coast.
It’s hard to sum up the appeal of a whole country in a few paragraphs; it’s such a diverse and beautiful place. It shares a history of tribesmen and ancient Kings with the other UK nations, as well as a history of industrialization that shaped the skylines through the industrial revolution until the late 20th century. Enjoy carving along the coast and visiting mills, cathedrals, castles and beaches. And don’t hesitate to take your bucket and spade!
5. RORO your boat from Liverpool to Northern Ireland
Okay, I said Northern Ireland because we have UK in the title, but really you can go to the Republic from Liverpool too. You’d be exploring the strong affinity many Liverpudlians have for Ireland, and vice versa, as so many travelled on ferries to Liverpool to search for work in the age of industrialization. Many find that the most cost effective way of exploring is to take their cars on the ferry, which is fine, just let your insurers know if you’re crossing the border into the Republic of Ireland in case you get into an accident.
Once you’ve arrived, you have another island rich in culture to explore. Belfast is a city with a turbulent history of difficult politics and industry that many find intriguing; for the Titanic lovers like myself, we’re catered for by a big museum next to the shipyard where she was built. You’ve also got natural wonders like the Giant’s Causeway and the Causeway coastal route, but as I said, it’s pretty difficult to sum up a whole country in a few paragraphs.
This is another trip for which ‘d recommend staying the night and visiting various locations to really appreciate the best of what’s on offer. It’s high up on my list for when we’re out of lockdown, and still counts as a staycation in my eyes if you’re still on the British Isles!