Given up on a holiday abroad? Here are 25 best UK alternatives

With the traffic light system for foreign travel due to be updated later this week, many of us are facing continued uncertainty about an overseas getaway – with even the double jabbed grappling with the prospect of swabs, certificates and passenger locator forms just to step foot on a plane.

There is no doubt that opting for a British break avoids a lot of the fuss that is now built into a trip abroad. And, although the increased demand means availability may be scant and prices steep in those particularly popular hotspots – Cornwall, Devon et al – there are still plenty of possibilities for those who want to travel while staying in the UK. 

This feature picks 25 of them, and in a range of styles and budgets – from cycling tours that cross the Cairngorms and hiking odysseys which run across the rooftops of the Lake District, to luxury sojourns in Somerset castles and multi-generational reunions in Herefordshire cottages. 

The summer may not involve Spanish beaches and Tuscan hills but if you would rather take the shorter, simpler route to holiday relaxation, you still have time.

Chris Leadbeater

Active escapes for all holidaymakers  

Walk with giants 

County Antrim

Any suggestion that Britain does not have spectacular geography of the sort that defines American road trips is rather punctured by the sharpness of the terrain where County Antrim meets the Irish Sea. This, of course, is the realm of the Giant’s Causeway, its 40,000 interlocked basalt columns spilling out into the waves – but also of Rathlin Island, the R-shaped shard of low ground where kittiwakes and guillemots soar. 

Macs Adventure (0141 319 4601; macsadventure.com) offers an eight-day self-guided Causeway Coast and Antrim Glens walking tour which explores the area in detail. From £675pp





Tread the Giant’s Causeway in County Antrim


Credit: Getty

Hike high fells 

Lake District

On one hand, Cumbria’s most celebrated wonderland is an ideal place for doing very little; for sitting by the water and admiring the views that so inspired Wordsworth. On the other, it can be a setting for stretching both sinews and your sense of achievement. 

Exodus Travels (020 3131 6467; exodus.co.uk) still has spaces on the September 12 edition of its High Fells and Summits of the Lake District trip – a six-day group hiking tour that ventures to the tops of Helvellyn and Scafell Pike. From £1,099pp

Summit summer peaks

Snowdonia

The upper corners of the Welsh landmass are famously awash with possibilities for an energetic escape, but there is still a remarkable range of activities to the North Wales Adventure operated by Explore. This five-day guided trip wanders wild places, dropping into a former slate mine in Blaenau Ffestiniog, walking the towpath of the Llangollen Canal, riding the rails to Snowdon’s summit, and enjoying a close perspective on Anglesey via a RIB boat dash along the island’s south coast. 

From £650pp (01252 883 761; explore.co.uk)

Cycle crags and coast

Scottish Highlands

There are plenty of well-documented ups and downs to Scotland’s grand region of peaks and troughs: Ben Nevis rising to be the UK’s rooftop; Loch Ness skulking cold and deep further up the Great Glen Fault. But the Highlands can also be a craggy context for going from left to right. Saddle Skedaddle takes this latter approach with its Highlands Coast to Coast break – a seven-day escorted cycling tour that begins way out west on the banks of Loch Duich, and pedals some 200 miles east, to Montrose and the North Sea. 

Depart with Saddle Skedaddle (0191 265 1110; skedaddle.com). From £1,525pp





Embark on an adventure in the Scottish Highlands


Credit: Getty

A luxe feel on home shores

Swish through life

Scotland

Luxury Scotland Tours recently released a 12-day bespoke trip that takes in some of the country’s finest properties – from elegant castles to impressive lodges. But it’s the extra touches that make this tour truly indulgent. You can opt to self-drive or enjoy a chauffeur-driven experience, and choose from a range of activities including a private seaplane tour across Loch Lomond, an immersive whisky experience, a private boat charter along the coast of Lismore and the Sound of Mull to spot wildlife, and an adventure into Galloway Forest Park with a Dark Sky Ranger. 

A bespoke 12-day Luxury Coast and Waters Tour (0131 5109424; luxuryscotlandtours.com) costs from £5,950pp

More than just golf

Auchterarder

A Scottish icon updated in a deft recreation of jazz-age glamour, Gleneagles is dripping in luxury with an added measure of fun. Rooms are an artful mix of classic and contemporary, using subtle colours drawn from the landscape, highlighted with whimsical details (a bowler hat on top of a wardrobe; antique binoculars on a stone mantelpiece) providing personality. With masses of country pursuits from horse-riding to gundog training, championship golf courses, a fabulous spa (including outdoor hot pool) and two-starred Michelin food (plus less formal options, and a swanky cocktail bar), there’s something for everyone. It even has its own train station.

Rooms from £244; (gleneagles.com)





Practise your golf swing
and putting at Gleneagles

Live the dream

London

If not now, when? After the year-and-a-bit we’ve all had, there may be no better time to book that dream stay at London’s highest hotel, the Shangri-La Hotel, at the Shard. Stunning 360-degree vistas of the city from just about everywhere make a stay here truly memorable; the top-floor infinity pool area is a particularly desirable space. There’s plenty of bling, including a chandelier that weighs the same as a Hummer. Also up on the top (52nd) floor is cocktail bar Gong, while elsewhere Ting serves British-Asian fare.

Rooms from £478; (shangri-la.com/london)

A sleek and surprising hybrid 

Snowdonia

The pandemic has seen many hotels open new and existing self-contained options within their grounds, offering the best of both (hotel and self-catering) worlds. Now the Relais & Châteaux group has launched a portfolio of these options across its properties. Harper Barn at Palé Hall, for instance, sleeping four in two bedrooms, offers exposed beams, a private lawned garden, slate patio and large glass balcony, a log burner and all the luxury mod cons you could want – with golf buggy transfer available to the Victorian mansion hotel with spectacular restaurant. 

From £1,050; (relaischateaux.com)

Soak and stay 

New Forest

A traditional country house hotel with a set of contemporary treehouse suites in its grounds, Chewton Glen is also home to a world-class spa – complete with hydrotherapy pool, aromatherapy saunas and crystal steam rooms, and an award-winning fine dining restaurant. The more relaxed Kitchen Restaurant, meanwhile, serves wood-fired pizzas, with a glass wall separating diners from the cookery school. An old-school elegance pervades the hotel’s public rooms, from the burgundy red bar to the grand piano and piles of papers in the lounge. Rooms are individually decorated with a mix of traditional furniture and contemporary luxuries such as Bang & Olufsen sound systems.

Rooms from £395; (chewtonglen.com)





Immerse yourself in luxury at Chewton Glen country-house hotel  

Appreciate something new

The North 

Journey from the north of Wales and the picturesque landscapes of towering Snowdonia, through the tranquil Lake District to the heather-clad North York Moors. This exquisite tour with Abercrombie & Kent whisks you across some of the best bits of the country – far from the madding crowds of Cornwall. Accompany a guide across the moors, discover the beauty of the Lakes and indulge with a private tasting of Carmel’s famous sticky toffee pudding, where the original dessert was created. 

A Northern Discovery with Abercrombie & Kent (01242 386463; abercrombiekent.co.uk) costs from £2,919pp for seven nights

Family fun without the flights 

Caravans and crazy golf

New Forest

Book a caravan at family-friendly Greenhill Farm near Fordingbridge, a good base for exploring the region’s ancient forest and heathland. Onsite activities include Segway and bike hire plus crazy golf, while places to visit nearby include the Elizabethan manor house at Breamore, the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu and Paultons Theme Park, which offers roller coasters, thrill rides and outdoor play areas for young children. 

From £866 for three nights in a two-bedroom caravan sleeping up to six people (lovatparks.com)

Hunt for fossils and butterflies  

Dorset

Discover the sandy beaches and rocky shores of Dorset’s Jurassic Coast on a 30-mile, self-guided walk along the South West Coast Path from Weymouth to Sandbanks. The itinerary is suitable for families with children aged from eight years, and the trail takes in the eroded limestone arch of Durdle Door near Lulworth and 280-acre Durlston Country Park, home to over 30 species of butterfly. 

The five-night Jewels of the Jurassic Coast with Exodus (020 3733 0568; exodus.co.uk) costs from £829pp, including luggage transfers between hotels and route directions and maps





Discover the Dorset coast


Credit: Getty

Tire them out

Scottish Highlands 

Explore Scotland’s west coast on an itinerary aimed at families with children aged from eight to 15 years. Staying four nights in Fort William and two nights in the Cairngorms National Park, with activities including sea kayaking, mountain biking, wildlife watching, a full day of privately guided geocaching and a trip on the Harry Potter steam train. A lunch, all guiding and entry fees to nature reserves, castles and Highland Games are also included in the price.

A six-night Great Family Adventure – Treasure Highlands with Wilderness Scotland (wildernessscotland.com) costs from £1,065pp

Holiday in history 

Gwynedd

Stay in Coed y Bleiddiau, a cosy slate and granite hideaway, sleeping four, next to the tracks of the restored Ffestiniog Railway near Blaenau Ffestiniog in the Snowdonia National Park. Built into the mountain slopes and surrounded by woodland, this railway cottage has a small garden and easy access to the Dyffryn Maentwrog and Llyn Mair footpath network. Accommodation comprises a ground-floor double and a snug twin room under the eaves.

From £1,291 for four nights with the Landmark Trust (landmarktrust.org.uk)

Ride with Romans

Northumberland

Follow the line of Hadrian’s Wall on a gentle cycling break along country lanes and quiet roads from Bowness-on-Solway in Cumbria to Tynemouth on the North Sea coast. The route takes in the Roman sites of Birdoswald Fort, Walltown Quarry, Great Chesters Fort and Vindolanda, and accommodation is provided in hotels and inns on route. The price includes route notes, maps, and a luggage transfer service, with bike and helmet hire available at extra cost.

Saddle Skedaddle (skedaddle.com) runs a six-night Hadrian’s Cycleway from £655pp





Take a ride and reconnoitre Roman ruins


Credit: Getty

Romantic retreats 

Go full townie 

London

Townhouse hotels are a big trend for this year, and London is getting a new one in the form of the Lost Poet, which opened on Notting Hill’s Portobello Road in July. The four rooms can be booked individually or together for exclusive use. Design from local firm Cubic Studios looks set to be expectedly on-point, creating a stylish home-from-home environment that mixes contemporary luxe with upcycled vintage furniture. There is no restaurant, but complimentary breakfast is provided, sourced from nearby cafés. 

Rooms from £200; exclusive use from £1,370 (thelostpoet.co.uk)

Idle away the hours  

Cornwall

Expect beach-chic interiors and a relaxed seaside vibe at the Idle Rocks, a stylish hotel on the Roseland Peninsula. This hotel makes the most of its harbourside position, complete with sun terrace, and provides the ideal destination to enjoy sumptuous locally caught seafood and Cornish wines from Trevibban Mill. All 19 bedrooms have been individually designed, and many have freestanding baths. The hotel’s sister property, St Mawes Hotel, is a great option too, with refined boutique rooms set above a bustling bistro-bar and private cinema, in an atmosphere of Mediterranean chic meets Cornish hygge.

Rooms from £226; (idlerocks.com)





Sojourn by the sea at the Idle Rocks in Cornwall


Credit: Drew Gibson

Take a soulful city break 

Sheffield

All it takes is one excellent restaurant with rooms to transform a smaller city into your next romantic gourmet break. Enter Sheffield with the launch of House of JÖRO this week, which sees four stylish rooms added to Luke French’s buzzy restaurant. Tasting menus feature the likes of steamed Scottish scallop cured in shio koji and British beef tartare with smoked heart and nasturtium, plus biodynamic wines, sake and foraged juices. A breakfast hamper comes as part of the package, and two rooms are kitted out with freestanding bathtubs. Nearby, you can enjoy amazing views on hikes in the Peak District (30 minutes by car).

Rooms from £255 for two including dinner and breakfast hamper (jororestaurant.co.uk/rooms)

Seaside chic 

Kent

A complete reinvention under the auspices of an east London interior designer has seen the Rose emerge as a chic seaside inn with eight cosmopolitan bedrooms and a restaurant serving classic-yet-modern locally sourced British fare (think bacon sandwich with rhubarb ketchup for breakfast). Textiles and wallpapers come from Farrow & Ball, House of Hackney, Liberty and more; pretty vintage furniture is mixed with resprayed and recoloured pieces, specially commissioned rugs and contemporary art. Tracey Emin’s carpenter brother, Paul, created the bar. Bedrooms feature the likes of freestanding roll-top baths and retro record players with a selection of vinyl. 

Rooms from £110; (therosedeal.com)

Going to the chapel 

Somerset

It would be hard to think of a more romantic village than arty Bruton. Expect design and antique shops sat side by side with traditional stone houses – and At the Chapel: a Grade-II listed 17th-century chapel turned beautiful boutique hotel. Ecclesiastical elements still feature: double-height arched windows bathe the main dining hall in natural light. A rotation of modern artworks loaned from Hauser & Wirth (just down the road) hang on walls. Rooms share features such as cowhide rugs, mid-century seats and monastic-like, grey marble bathrooms – all but two rooms have a freestanding oval-shaped bath for two. A solid brasserie-style menu features fresh West Country produce, and the bakery’s wood-fired pizzas are a must-try.

Rooms from £125; (atthechapel.co.uk)





Dine à deux At the Chapel

Friends reunited and family festivities

Cool off poolside

Gloucestershire

With the sunshine of the past week reminding us that heat is indeed possible in Britain, a holiday getaway with a pool is back on the cards. An extended former Victorian hunting lodge, Brookside has five bedrooms in a main house plus two bedrooms in a self-contained cottage next to the former stables. There are gardens to unwind in – more than 50 private acres offering walks and views of the Cotswold hills – a heated pool, a log burning stove (this is Britain, after all), and even a fountain. For entertainment, there is a baby grand piano you can gather by – assuming one of your party can play – and a TV room. 

Sleeps 13; from £10,000 per week; (luxurycotswoldrentals.co.uk)

Hole up on an island

Isle of Eriska

Perched atop a leafy hill on the small private island of Eriska in Scotland’s Argyll, Arnott’s House is a cosy cottage that represents self-catering at its best – plenty of privacy, with all the Relais & Chateaux trimmings (not least of which are bathrobes, slippers and Penhaligon toiletries). The hotel’s popular Main House is also just a 10-minute stroll away, should you need anything. Spend your days lazing on the terrace or in the hot tub, drinking in glorious views of the surrounding lochs and islands (as well as a dram or two of the local whisky).

Sleeps six; from £765 per night (01631 720371; eriska-hotel.co.uk; relaischateaux.com)





Cast yourself away on the Isle of Eriska

Party by the water’s edge

Herefordshire

There are four beautiful cottages and two gatehouse lodges at Lakes Edge on the private estate of Pudleston Court, but the Butlers Cottage has the best availability for summer and comes with its own hot tub and barrel sauna. This pretty brick cottage not only has four bedrooms, but four bathrooms, and overlooks a small pond and woodland. The enclosed garden comes complete with barbecue and private conservatory. There are plenty of walks you can do from the front door, while on rainy days you can dip in and out of antiques shops in nearby Leominster. The Cotswolds are just an hour away by car.

Sleeps eight; from £1,350 for three nights (lakesedge.co.uk)

Celebrate by the sea

Norfolk 

Sea Star is a pretty clapboard beach house overlooking the Norfolk Broads’ Winterton Valley. Picture sea views and easy access to a sandy beach; coastal interiors are the theme, with a blue and white colour palette. The patio and back garden are a decent size, with sun loungers, gas barbecue and deck chairs, and there is even a small wooden rowing boat for any aspiring pirates.

Sleeps 10; from £1,729 per week (wintertoncottages.co.uk)

Live like royalty  

Somerset

Thornemead Castle is a 240-year-old Gothic getaway on the Somerset coast, hidden away in 10 acres of gorgeous grounds with five en-suite bedrooms. Inside, you can expect the grandeur that the exterior suggests, including brass chandeliers, ornate ceilings, Victorian fireplaces, curved oak bookcases and Pugin-designed wallpaper. The full-sized snooker table is perfect for family tournaments, while the regal dining room is well suited to celebration dinners. Nearby, you can explore Bath, the Mendip Hills, Weston-super-Mare beach and the famous Donkey Bluebell Fields. 

Sleeps 10 (plus three children); from £2,850 per week  (uniquehomestays.com)





Live like a lord (or lady) at Thornemead Castle


Credit: Mark Watts

Contributions by Sophie Butler, Rachel Cranshaw, Lizzie Frainier, Gemma Knight, Chris Leadbeater, Penny Walker and Telegraph Travel experts

: Telegraph Travel’s complete guide to the best hotels in the UK