Forget vacations abroad, staycations are the new way to holiday. Explore everything the British Isles has to offer with our luxury guide to the best short-haul weekends away from the wild beaches of Pembrokeshire to the rambling cobbled streets of historic Oxford.
Stay: At The Balmoral, one of the city’s most-loved landmarks famed for its timeless elegance and glamour. Beautifully appointed rooms combine world-class levels of luxury hospitality with views of Edinburgh Castle and the Princes Street Gardens, whilst the serenity of the hotel’s award-winning spa provides welcome respite after a day exploring the city.
Eat: For magical surroundings and food with a conscience, head east and brunch on seasonal, local produce in the leafy hillside location of The Gardener’s Cottage in Royal Terrace Gardens. Come evening, tucked away nearby on the cobbled streets is Paul Kitching’s Michelin-starred 21212. Eat here for flavoursome, eclectic food executed by a master of experimentation.
Do: Edinburgh has the highest concentration of listed buildings in the world, so get lost in the Old Town’s wynds – the labyrinthine paths that snake between houses – or nurse a dram of finest whisky in the picturesque pubs on Cockburn Street. It’ll be well-deserved after a day spent visiting the 12th century castle, enjoying the excellent shopping and cultural highlights of the Scottish capital.
Stay: Built in 1929, Burgh Island Hotel is a unique luxury icon that exudes ‘30s Art Deco glamour. Set amongst the beautiful and wild surroundings of its own private tidal island, the hotel comes alive in the spring and summer months when you can lounge on its private sun decks, have early evening gin and tonics in the Palm Court bar and explore the secrets of the hidden Mermaid Pool.
Eat: The South coast and the banks of the River Dart are littered with fine dining restaurants and gastro pubs. Fish and chips, cream teas and breakfast at Dartmouth’s famous Café Alfresco are true stalwarts of a weekend in the Devon countryside. For special occasions, book a table at The Seahorse for simple but skilfully prepared local fish and seafood.
Do: This corner of Devon is categorised as an area of outstanding natural beauty and its bays, beaches and coastal walks offer a rural escape from everyday life. Explore the famous coastline and venture to the secluded coves of the Ringmore Valley, or kick back and relax at the nearby Bantham Sands and Bigbury for sun, sea and surf.
Stay: The Old Parsonage Hotel is a bohemian five star boutique hotel located close to where the historic St Giles forks between University Parks and Jericho. Full of original 17th century charm, its luxurious rooms are the perfect base from which to explore the city centre on vintage bicycles provided by the hotel. Flanked by Keble college and a short walk from St Johns, Balliol and Cornmarket Street, it’s proximity to the dreaming spires of Oxford is one of its biggest draws.
Eat: Afternoon tea in the drawing room of the city’s famous Randolph Hotel is a must for those seeking traditional English charm. Come evening, Gee’s serves uniquely rustic Mediterranean fare and cocktails in the picturesque surroundings of a Victorian glasshouse. Sip a perfectly balanced aperitif or dine al fresco on their tree-lined terrace on a balmy English summer evening.
Do: Punt (chauffeured or not) from Magdalen Bridge Boathouse along the meandering river tributaries with champagne and picnic in tow. Absorb the academic atmosphere of the city’s colleges, from the grand stateliness of Christ Church to the scenic tranquillity of Worcester’s lake. Explore the city’s many landmark pubs, including the famous Head of the River and the Turf Tavern – hidden in a maze of cobbled alleys.
Stay: Wales’ wild and windswept county of Pembrokeshire is famous for its miles of sandy beaches, unspoiled natural beauty and captivating wildlife. Stay at the Grove of Narberth, a country house hotel nestled amongst rolling countryside with views across the Preseli Hills. Found in a secluded glade surrounded by meadows and woodland, each room is individually designed and a warm Welsh welcome awaits you in the fine dining restaurant.
Eat: Britain’s smallest city, St Davids, is proud home to a 12th century cathedral and 14th century palace, as well as Cwtch, an award-winning restaurant specialising in classic British food with a contemporary twist. Informal and relaxed, linger over a bottle of wine and try something from their daily-changing menu. Sample dishes include potted Solva crab and Welsh lamb.
Do: Take a stroll along the Pembrokeshire Coast Path ¬– winding its way for 186 miles along some of the most breath-taking coastline in Britain, it’s dotted with scenic harbour villages, wide-open stretches of white sand beach and hidden, sheltered coves. Surf the waves of White Sands, Newgale and Poppit Sands, or head to the traditional seaside resort of Tenby for pastel-coloured houses and historic pubs.
THE LAKE DISTRICT
Stay: The Gilpin Lake House near historic Windermere is a poetic idyll that offers residents an intimate and secluded escape from the modern world. Six suites are set within acres of private grounds with a lakeside spa, cedarwood hot tubs and indoor swimming pool with views across Knipe Tarn.
Eat: Hailed as Cumbria’s answer to Heston Blumenthal, dine on Michelin-starred fare at L’Eclume where chef Simon Rogan takes a fresh approach to local, seasonal ingredients. For a more rustic experience, the Lakes’ original gastropub The Drunken Duck Inn sits high on a wooded hill at Ambleside and serves restaurant-standard comfort food in mood-lit, wood-panelled pub surroundings.
Do: The home of the Romantics, make the pilgrimage through twisting lanes and steep valley climbs to Grasmere. Here you can visit William Wordsworth’s atmospheric family home, Dove Cottage, before following in the footsteps of the poet himself with a gentle walk around one of the Lake District’s smallest but prettiest lakes, Rydal Water. More adventurous types can venture up Helvellyn and Scafell Pike before ending a brisk day on the fells with craft ales and wine at one of the area’s local cosy pubs.