Searching for the perfect UK break? From day trips to weekend getaways and lengthier stays, we’ve cherry-picked the seven UK destinations we’ve been longing (for months on end at this point) to explore and discover anew.
Add these seven destinations to your list of places to visit in the UK… ASAP.
This Atlantic archipelago of islands and islets has the look of a tropical paradise – some have even dubbed them “the UK’s answer to the Caribbean”. Heavenly white sands. Check. Turquoise waters. Check. Sunnier climes. Check-ish. Only five of the 140 isles are inhabited (St Mary’s, Tresco, St Martin’s, Bryher, and St Agnes). Of these, must-visit spots include the mystical Tresco Abbey Gardens – a plotting overwhelmed by exotic fauna – and a boat trip to the uninhabited islands of Samson or St. Helen’s for the chance to see seals and seabirds up close. Despite their isolated setting 30 miles off Lands’ End, the Isles of Scilly boast a world-class food scene – come dinner time, the largest of the Scilly Isles, St Mary’s should be your first port of call.
Positioned on the sunny south-east coast, Whitstable is the perfect daycation or weekend away for Londoners hoping to escape the city. A one-hour-45-minute journey by car (or just over an hour by direct train from London Victoria or London St Pancras) this seaside town is a pure delight. Pastel-coloured buildings and winding alleys, quirky boutiques and old-world pubs… Whitstable does charm by the bucket load. Enjoy a lunch of paper-wrapped fish and chips on the pebbled beach and reserve dinner for the town’s Michelin-starred Sportsman. If no bookings are available, the pretty pink Wheeler’s Oyster Bar makes a good alternative.
The New Forest boasts perhaps the country’s best woodlands. A peaceful escape for city-weary Londoners, New Forest promises afternoons spent nature spotting on lengthy woodland walks, followed by a hearty roast at a thatched-roof pub. After a day’s exploring, retreat to one of the New Forest’s premium hotels – spa lovers should check in to Chewton Glen for optimum relaxation, while Lime Wood is certain to appease food connoisseurs. Those hoping to make a weekend of it should place the charming market towns of Brockenhurst and Lyndhurst high on their itinerary, asterisking wild-swimming spots and unfaultable farm-to-table restaurants as top priorities.
Portmeirion, on the coast of North Wales, is the second most Instagrammed village in the UK. Designed and constructed by Sir Bertram Clough Williams-Ellis, the colourful, Italianate style village is both kitsch and enchanting (fun fact: it was originally established as a purpose-built tourist village). A solid UK trade-off until the Amalfi Coast is back on our travel cards, Portmeirion (or Portofino in Wales) entices visitors with its wonderfully photogenic streets composed of hodge-podge building styles and pastel tones. After settling in at your hotel, set off on a beautiful coastal trail, stopping for a cone from the village’s sole Italian ice-cream parlour en route. A trip to Portmeirion Gardens, a verdant patch of vibrant colourful blooms, is also a must.
Where Ye Fae? (That’s Orcadian for “where are you from and who are you?”). Offering a rare opportunity to experience somewhere truly untouched, the mostly uninhabited, beguiling Orkney Islands are well worth venturing off the beaten path for. Mentioned in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the islands are best enjoyed during the summer months, with nearly 24-hour daylight allowing day-trippers to really maximise their time on the isles. With ancient standing stones and prehistoric villages, striking coastal scenery and miles of sandy beaches, prioritising where to head first is something of enigma. One absolute must is reaching the cliffs of Yesnaby and looking out into the abyss – it is nothing but sea from there to Canada.
Cornwall is perhaps best judged on its coastline – and with 300 miles of dunes and cliffs, it’s hard to contest its ridiculously pretty periphery. Make best use of this beautiful stretch by diving head first into seaside living in St Ives. Swim in rock pools; tuck into a picnic on a remote beach; conjure up serious Enid-Blyton vibes with a host of seaside activities… the list of activities goes on. Growing in popularity in recent years, with a plethora of new hotel openings now populating St Ives, it’s strong artistic heritage (the exquisite Cornish light proving a serious draw for sculptors and artists past and present) draws a creative crowd year-round.
CF Top Tip: A visit to Barbara Hepworth’s modernist sculptures in the garden of her St Ives home (where she lived and worked for more than 25 years) makes for a rather special afternoon.
This medieval market town is a culture-lover’s delight. Ever since Hauser & Wirth Somerset’s pioneering gallery and multi-purpose arts centre arrived to town in 2014, the area has enjoyed a flourish of popularity. Today, Bruton is dominated by a troupe of boutique hotels (think At the Chapel, Durslade Farmhouse, and The Newt), tempting concept stores and antiques shops, as well as sustainable, farm-to-table eateries (special mention goes to Osip, headed up by Britain’s youngest Michelin starred chef Merlin Labron-Johnson). Formerly a cult spot reserved for those in the know, with regular trains now running from London’s Paddington this offbeat country break is now readily accessible to all. We think it’s high time you paid a visit to the coolest town in the West Country.