My childhood memories are awash with quaint little cottages, luscious caravan sites and slow, meandering canal rides. This is largely thanks to my dad’s fear of flying - all of our holidays were spent right here in the UK, and I didn’t actually step foot on a plane until the age of 17.
There is so much of our great kingdom to see, but many of us [myself included] choose to go further afield for holidays, without so much as a second thought for the wonders and beauty right here on our proverbial doorstep. I thought I’d write a post about the humble Staycation and why you should consider one the next time you’re booking a trip away!
Improve your Carbon Footprint
Whether you’re in search of sandy beaches, a woodland retreat, city sightseeing or scaling rocky peaks, the UK has really got it all. We live in a country that sprawls across almost 95 thousand square miles of land, and with Climate Change becoming ever more prominent, it makes sense to try and reduce our individual carbon footprints as much as possible by exploring the local delights on offer.
In fact, AirBnb recently launched their “First Night on Us” campaign to encourage that very thing - they’re giving away a number of discount codes for accommodation in specific parts of the UK in the hope that people will start to rediscover their own countries, which is so nice to see. Platforms like AirBnb have been a real game-changer when it comes to accessing rural areas - we are no longer restricted to hotels or guesthouses, but can pick and choose from a wealth of options in a really diverse range of areas.
Support local economies
The global tourism industry is worth an estimated 6.7 trillion pounds - £22.9 billion of this going to the UK in 2018. London takes a huge 54% of this spend, with the rest of England taking 33%, Scotland 10% and Wales a shockingly low 2%.
One of the best parts of having a holiday in the UK is being able to visit local attractions, restaurants and pubs, using your spending money to support the growth of small independent businesses and the maintenance of historic sites. It would be so nice to see the UK’s tourism industry take a larger slice of the pie, and for it to be spread a little more equally country-wide.
Discover your own history
We have an insanely rich history as a country - around 2000 years’ worth - to explore. Countless castles, stately homes and ruins are studded throughout the UK, offering up an almost endless amount of history and heritage to be learnt. Whether you’re interested in the ancient history of the Viking invasions, or the more recent history of the Second World War, there’s a wealth of places to visit to find out more and immerse yourself into times gone by.
Include your furry friends
It’s a well-known fact that I’m a tiny bit of a crazy dog-lady - I hate leaving Pip behind when I go sauntering off abroad - so this is all the more reason to stay on home soil. There are an ever-increasing number of dog-friendly holiday options in the UK - from hotels that provide doggy welcome packs to spas offering “pupicures”.
I love taking Pippin camping in the summer, and he’s absolutely in his element when we go. The combination of long, scenic walks, grilled meat fresh off the BBQ and snuggling up in a cosy tent as the evening chill creeps by outside is a winning combo for both pups and humans alike.
Here are a few of my top recommendations for a Staycation:
There is something extremely peaceful about drifting along the ancient waterways of Great Britain. Initially used for transporting products and goods, the canals were a huge part of British history, but the introduction of railways meant that their importance gradually declined over time and after the end of World War II they became primarily used for leisure. With a speed limit of 4mph but an advisable 2mph being the average speed, the canal boat truly is the epitome of cruisey.
You can choose to go for a long weekend, a week or even more, and the whole concept is to gently meander along your chosen route, stopping off to visit quaint little villages or riverside pubs along the way, and embracing Houseboat life.
Here’s a brief run-down of how a canal holiday works. First, you choose where in the country you would like to explore - there are over 2000 miles of navigable waterways in Britain - and whether your journey will be a circular ring or a “there and back” trip. I would recommend the Avon ring or the Llangollen Canal in Wales - both stunning routes with plenty of locks to keep you busy. You’ll drive to the nearest base of your chosen route and upon arrival will be shown how to operate and use your boat and the locks - it’s really simple and anyone can do it, so don’t be afraid to get stuck in. Once the induction is finished, off you go!
There’ll be a recommended amount of miles for each day of your route to ensure you get back to the base in time for the end of your trip, but other than that, you can explore the waterways in whichever way you want. I would recommend taking food & drink provisions on board with you to last your trip so you don’t have to stop and buy supplies along the route - if you’re going to stop, you want it to be for something fun like a pub lunch or a nearby attraction, not a visit to the local supermarket! The boat will have all the amenities you need for cooking, bathing and sleeping so you only need to bring yourself, your clothes, food & drink and maybe some board games for evening entertainment [you aren’t allowed to cruise after dark].
It may not be the cheapest holiday option, but if you gather family and friends together it really brings the cost down, and it’s a truly unique experience worth trying at least once in your lifetime! Most boats are dog-friendly too 🐶
A cheap and cheerful option for the milder months, camping has been a recreational delight for Brits since the 1800s. I was going to put glamping up here as a recommendation, but I honestly think if you invest in the right kind of camping set up, and choose campsites with amazing facilities, you can create your own little glamping experience without paying the hefty price tag.
I also know that the British weather is a huge off-putter when it comes to camping, and I do agree that a week or weekend of miserable, soggy weather is enough to put anyone off. BUT, my top tip for this is to try and camp relatively locally to where you live so you can always retreat if the weather takes a nasty turn, and maybe look to just doing a long weekend away as opposed to a full week. Most campsites will charge £10-£12 per night, so if you’re only booked in for a weekend it’s not like you’re losing a lot of money if you do have to bail because of bad weather.
In all honesty, I only got into camping this year. Growing up, my parents had a caravan so we always went away in that as opposed to taking a tent and pitching up somewhere [more on caravanning later]. I had vague experiences at Leeds festival, but that’s not really camping is it? It was actually a festival that got my interest in camping sparked up, when I chose to do Latitude for my 30th birthday in July. The majority of the group opted for the “Seat of Luxury” bolt on, so had access to clean toilets, amazing dressing room facilities with hairdryers and straighteners, and hot showers, which was literally a luxury.
Being a lot older and wiser to my Leeds Fest days, I also decided it was a good move for myself and Marcos to invest in a decent camping set up to ensure the best time possible, and we did a lot of research into what the best things to buy would be. I’ve detailed these below if you’re interested.
The festival was amazing, made even better by the camping experience, so I was eager to go again as soon as possible. Shortly after getting back from Latitude, I booked a lovely little campsite in the Lakes for the August bank holiday for myself, Marcos and Pip - Low Wray Campsite, which is a National Trust site right on the shore of Lake Windermere. We couldn’t have wished for better weather, and we were able to make the most of the stunning countryside walks and dining alfresco, with a nice dip in the lake for Pip thrown in too. My only regret was having only booked two nights instead of three!
So what makes for an amazing camping set-up? Here’s what I would thoroughly recommend:
A decent tent
This is the most important thing, and something worth spending a little more money on. The essential thing to look for in a tent is to make sure it is weatherproof - that includes both rain and wind - so you can be sure that you and all of your possessions will be safe and dry inside if the dreaded happens. I spent a lot of time researching various tents, and we ended up buying this Blackout Tent from Amazon, mainly so we could get as much sleep possible at Latitude, but also to keep the inside of the tent cool even on the hottest of days, and it didn’t disappoint! I’d recommend buying a tent that’s a little bigger than the amount of people actually sleeping in it too, as the extra room is perfect for putting all your bags and belongings [and dogs] nicely out of the way - we chose a four person tent for two of us.
An air bed
If you want the best chance of getting a decent night’s sleep, you’re going to want a good airbed that isn’t going to deflate on you in the middle of the night. We found that this airbed from Argos worked a treat, and I also bought this battery-powered pump, which made inflating and deflating the bed super easy - we came back from four nights at Latitude with the battery still half full, so it would easily do a full week away.
A phone-charging lamp
Having some sort of battery-powered torch or lamp is essential for camping, but one that can charge your phone at the same time is a real game-changer. I know a lot of people like to get away from technology completely when they go into the countryside, but I love taking photos to remember my trips by, so not having to worry about my phone dying is great. This little lamp from Amazon is super lightweight, has a hook so you can hang it from the top of your tent, and can charge any USB device. It also has three different brightness settings depending on what you need it for, with the lowest light setting using the least amount of battery. Again, after a weekend away and a couple of little half-hour phone charging sessions, we came back with over half the battery left so this would definitely last for a full week camping trip.
Camping chairs, table and stove
When you clamber out of your tent with the sunrise [or maybe a couple hours later], the first thing you wanna do is brew yourself a nice cup of coffee or tea and be able to enjoy it comfortably while you take in the [hopefully] beautiful views around your tent. A decent camping chair with a built in cup holder and a portable gas stove will do the trick nicely, and a table is always handy so you can prepare your breakfast or dinner easily. We also bought a little picnic hamper set that comes with plates, glasses, cutlery and even a little chopping board so you can keep everything contained in one neat place as opposed to packing all your dinnerware from home. Just don’t forget the matches or a lighter for your stove!
A bucket BBQ
If, like me, you can’t go camping and not have some sort of grilled goodies as part of that, then get yourself a cheap little bucket bbq to take with you. These things are perfect for one or two people - they’re cheap, easy to set up, they last ages, and they also double up as a little fire when the evening chill sets in! The one we bought didn’t have enough ventilation holes in the outer bucket, so we had to drill some more ourselves, but it was really easy to do and it worked a treat! I would recommend brining a couple of bin bags to carry the bbq in once your trip is over, as it does get quite mucky after a few uses.
Perfect for keeping your food fresh for a couple of days or over a long weekend, a cooler is easy to store and you can keep the contents nice and cold by buying ice from nearby shops and topping it up as the days go by. For this reason, I would suggest buying a fully waterproof cooler box as opposed to the cooler bags you can get, as it won’t leak all over your tent and is super easy to tip out and clean post-use.
A camping trolley
This is the ultimate luxury item, and not necessary at all if you’re going to be driving to your pitch and unloading before parking your car. But for a festival, a camping trolly is a life-saver! They aren’t cheap, but they are so worth the price to save you having to carry everything on your back for what feels like miles. We bought this one from VonHaus, but you can get them from most outdoors shops and on Amazon too.
I think, overall, if you just ensure you plan and pack everything you need for your camping trip, you’re bound to have an amazing time - I don’t mind overpacking for these things, as you can always leave things in the boot of your car if you don’t end up needing them.
When I was younger, my family and I would often go for a week or two away in the beautiful British countryside, staying at traditional farm cottages around the country. I love everything about a good cottage: the traditional stonework, the inevitable climbing ivy adorning the exterior, a wood burning stove or open fire - there’s something very magical about it all, like you’ve fallen into the pages of a fairytale.
There are an increasing number of alternatives to cottages too, thanks to sites like AirBnb and Canopy & Stars - Shepherd’s Huts, traditional Gypsy caravans, lighthouses and castles are all widely available for holiday letters that are looking for something a little more quirky.
One thing I love about cottage holidays is that you find yourself settling in almost instantly - it’s like a home away from home. Most cottages come well-stocked with board games, films, logs for the fire and essentials like tea bags, so all you need to bring is food for the trip and a sense of adventure. A lot of hosts will provide information on nearby attractions, shops and restaurants so you can plan some fun along the way, and I would always recommend taking a car to give you more freedom of what you see and do while you’re there.
Places like Northumberland, Derbyshire and Warwickshire are all great spots to base yourself if you’re looking for a balance between relaxing country chills and bigger attractions like castles, gardens, theme parks and national parks. If you’re wanting more of an active holiday, places like Snowdonia or the Lake and Peak Districts won’t disappoint, with mountains to hike up, lakes to kayak across, and even surf adventure parks to enjoy.
Whichever type of holiday you’re looking for, having a cosy little place to retreat to at the end of the day is lovely - especially so if the weather turns nasty! There’s something about being snuggled up inside on a miserable day that is made even more special by being on holiday - some of the best days are spent watching films and playing games all day.
An average week in peak season will set you back about £600 for two people, which isn’t that much more than a week in an Airbnb in the South of France or a hotel in the centre of Rome, but you don’t have the hassle of flights to worry about. The average cost of a week abroad for two people is about £1200, with the majority of that cost being spent on food and drink. With a holiday in a cottage, you can cook meals for yourself at a fraction of the price of eating out every day abroad. The freedom of having your own car is a great bonus too, allowing you to come and go as you please and really explore the surrounding areas fully.
Similarly to cottages, caravan holidays offer you all the luxuries of having your own little home, but on wheels. There are a wealth of caravan sites around the country - some with static caravans, which mean you can enjoy a caravan holiday even if you don’t own one yourself.
The thing I love most about caravan holidays is that they are a delightful mixture of camping and cottage holidays - not quite the raw, natural experience of camping, but still a lot simpler than being in a cottage. You still feel like you’re embedded into the countryside, and everything feels very basic, but in the best possible way. For cooking, you might only have two rings on a gas stove and a tiny oven/grill, your seating area usually doubles up as the master bedroom, and the sound of rain bouncing off the metal roof makes snuggling up with a board game or a good book all the more cosy!
Most caravan sites charge around £25 per night for a pitch and electric hook up, and the majority have great toilet and washing facilities included with this price. A lot of sites also have their own little farm shops where you can buy essentials should you need them. The best part about caravan holidays is that you can spend a week or two travelling to many different places, with the set up being a doddle once you arrive - all you need to do it stabilise the wheels and make sure the legs are level so the caravan is nice and even, then you just hook yourself up to the electric and you’re all done.
City and Spa breaks
If you’re looking for something a little more metropolitan, you don’t necessarily have to fly to Barcelona or New York to get your city fix. Our capital city is one of the most popular destinations for tourists, and by no means does that mean we have to discount it as a destination for ourselves. I love visiting London for a weekend - aside from all of the big attractions, there is always an amazing selection of other things to see and do in the big smoke from Jack the Ripper tours around Whitechapel to Afternoon Tea at The Ritz.
Leeds, Manchester, Bristol and Cardiff all offer vibrant city break options, with cities like Edinburgh, York and Bath offering up more historic ventures to be explored and enjoyed.
I’m also a huge fan of spa breaks - thanks to my mum’s love of them - and although they can be on the expensive side, they are definitely worth the indulgence if you’re looking for somewhere to celebrate a special occasion, or just to unwind. A couple of nights away in luxury accommodation, being pampered from morning to night is enough to de-stress anyone, and I’m all about treating yourself when it comes to wellbeing.
Some of my favourite spas in the North East are:
Ramside Hall Hotel in Durham
Seaham Hall in Durham
Swinton Country Club & Spa in Ripon
Rockliffe Hall in Darlington
Packages typically start from around £300 for a one night break for two people, which usually includes one night’s accommodation, unlimited use of the spa facilities, a treatment each, money towards a meal in the hotel restaurant and breakfast on the morning of your departure. Which, when you think about it, is quite a lot for your money!
So, as wanderlust begins to creep in at this time of year and you start planning out your holidays for 2020, think about possibly choosing to stay in the UK and spend some time discovering the delights and wonders that this beautiful country has to offer ☺️