No-Fly Holidays With Less Than 6 Hours’ Travel Time

Photo Courtesy of Airbnb.
If your heart is set on a spot of R&R this season, don't be put off by the fear of airport chaos, abandoned luggage and delayed flights. There are plenty of places that really aren't that far from home in the UK and, in fact, take less than a quarter of the day to reach by train, boat, car or ferry. And they're replete with beautiful natural landscapes, incredible food and stunning scenery.
Ahead, we've rounded up a few places you can get to in six hours or less from different starting points across the UK, plus where to stay and what to do when you’re there (including some of the most idyllic spots the country has to offer). Because let's face it, with all the stress of flying right now, what plane trip hasn't taken you just as long?

Dartmoor, Devon

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If you’re heading to Dartmoor from Plymouth or Exeter, the drive couldn't be easier, taking only 30 minutes to arrive in the scenic National Park. Driving from London is a heftier journey at just over four hours, with the Manchester drive time taking up to five hours 20 minutes.
The best way to avoid these long journey times is taking the train, with direct rail links to nearby Newton Abbot taking around 2 hours 30 minutes from London Paddington, 2 hours 55 minutes from Birmingham and 4 hours 40 minutes from Manchester (plus this allows you to take in the dreamy seascapes along the way).
Once arrived at Newton Abbot or Totnes train station, it takes only 30 minutes via car or taxi to arrive in the heart of Dartmoor National Park.
Where to stay in Dartmoor National Park
For those seeking an experience straight out of The Holiday, Southcombe Barn is the ideal country escape. Based in Widecombe-in-the-Moor, the location is ideal for those wanting to explore the surrounding National Park on foot, while still being close enough to village amenities (aka the pub).
With two renovated barns to choose from, the properties are all about peace and tranquillity, with each barn complete with its own roaring wood burner and roll-top bath. When it comes to the location, Southcombe Barn is a self-described 'nature retreat', with the property set on 16 acres of wildflower meadows, expansive woods and rolling hills.
Offering no Wi-Fi or phone signal, weekends at the property can be spent unwinding in natural surroundings, with the on-site sauna offering panoramic views of the breathtaking moorland. For those brave enough, there is also the opportunity to wild swim in the invigorating natural ponds, with a flowing stream adding to the beauty of the scenery. But it's perhaps the outdoor wood-fired baths that take home the prize for top activity, with the experience offering the chance to observe star-filled skies from the comfort of warm, wild water.
For the wet weather days, Southcombe Barn is also prepared with plenty of activities, with the on-site art gallery showcasing works from local artists and students. For those interested in connecting to their higher selves, there are also plenty of chances to take part in the selection of varying well-being workshops, including meditative sound bath sessions in the light-dappled events barn or stretch out your mind and body in a healing yoga class.
However, if you would rather unwind completely in the comfort of Hay Barn or The Piggery, there are many ways to fill the time in the privacy of your own space. One of the most indulgent is a private Indian head massage courtesy of a local practitioner, while those who are more food-focused can enjoy the process of devouring a tasty selection of homemade Sri Lankan and Goan curries and indulgent local ice creams in front of a cosy fireplace.
What to do in Dartmoor?
Dartmoor National Park is a place for those who want to unplug and really connect with nature. Walking in almost every direction, you will happen upon fields full of wild ponies, lush foliage and maybe even a rainbow or two. The best views, however, come from the top of Hay Tor, a large granite rock formation that offers 360-degree views of the diverse Devon landscape.
Still, for those seeking a little more than a hike or a cycle ride, the surrounding towns are plenty picturesque. In Ashburton, you will find a selection of antique stores and cute cafes, while Totnes offers a more 'hippie' vibe with a selection of individual craft shops, coffee spots and a small indie cinema. For those wanting to keep things low-key, The Rugglestone Inn in Widecombe is an ideal pub to while away the hours, dog spotting and enjoying the gentle sounds of the nearby stream.
But if all of that wasn't enough, Dartmoor is also driving distance from a selection of stunning beaches, with Mothecombe, Bantham and Bigbury offering ample opportunities to surf or kite surf along the scenic south coast.

Penzance, Cornwall

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Just over a five-hour drive from London, three hours from Bristol and four and a half hours from Birmingham, with direct trains from London, Bristol, Exeter, Plymouth and more.
You probably went to Newquay after your GCSEs or to Padstow with your family as a child. At the end of the train line you'll find Penzance, the palm tree-lined gateway to the furthest, wildest and most beautiful corner of Cornwall (in our opinion).

Where to stay in Penzance

Planning a big group trip? This seafront house sleeps six and is only five minutes from the promenade and Jubilee Pool.
Travelling to Penzance by train? The Loaf – which is officially the best Airbnb name we’ve come across – is a stylish, cosy spot only a few minutes' walk away from the station.

What to do in Penzance

Away from the hordes of tourists milling around St Ives, Penzance is making a name for itself with a host of trendy homeware shops, coffee shops and bars.
If you can drive, there are beaches galore and unlimited coastal walks to get lost on. For the ultimate Instagrammable view, head to Porthcurno and Pedn Vounder. Walk the coast path at Zennor and treat yourself to an ice cream where it's made at Moomaid of Zennor, or a drink at the Gurnard's Head, a pub that prides itself on being 'in the middle of nowhere' and serves seasonal and locally sourced food. For a true Poldark experience, you can’t beat a private tour around the series’ filming locations.

The North Coast 500, Scottish Highlands

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Three hours from Edinburgh to Inverness via LNER train line or just over five hours' drive from Newcastle upon Tyne.
Dramatic landscapes, romantic castles, local myths and wildlife that's hard to come by anywhere else in the UK – why wouldn’t you want to explore the Scottish Highlands?

Where to stay in the Scottish Highlands

If you’re staying close to Inverness but want to get out of the city, you can’t beat this log cabin in Cawdor, only a 25-minute drive away. It’s designed as a combination between a zen tea house and classic Highland hunting lodge with a large wooden deck, wood-fired hot tub, sauna and fire pit to enjoy the panoramic views of Moray Firth.
Closer to Loch Ness is Urquhart Bay Croft, with views across Loch Ness and Glen Urquhart. We especially love its large, wooden deck for soaking up the sun and wildlife-watching.
Further south, Pityoulish Barn is a beautifully decorated, renovated barn in the Cairngorms National Park, nestled within the Spey valley at the foot of Craigowrie mountain. One for wildlife lovers and walkers ready for a few days exploring.

What to do in the Scottish Highlands

Where to start? In Inverness you're going to want to visit the Inverness Museum and Art Gallery to get some context of what's to come. Just outside the city (thanks to regular bus services), you can do your bit to see if you can spot Nessie in Loch Ness. If you’re keen to tick off some local highlights, there are plenty of guided tours available. We recommend this one, which covers Eilean Donan Castle, Kilt Rock and Lealt Falls, and this one, which includes the famous Fairy Pools and the Old Man of Storr.
To go further, you're going to need to rent yourself a car (low emission of course) and take yourself off on a round trip of the North Coast 500, a 516-mile road that circles the northernmost section of the Scottish mainland. 10/10 would not recommend doing this during the colder months: winter + driving + northern Scotland do not mix well, especially if you're not used to driving.
On the way you'll encounter John O'Groats, gorgeous beaches (Sinclair's Bay and Redpoint are two), castles (definitely haunted) and insane natural wonders.
Definitely stop off on the Isle of Mull for some hiking and (in the experience of one R29er) wild otters, seals and puffins on a kayak trip around the island.

Norwich, Norfolk

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Tucked away in Norfolk, Norwich feels like a world away but is surprisingly easy to get to and is the perfect base for exploring the majestic Norfolk Broads and north Norfolk coast.

Where to stay in Norwich

You’re spoilt for choice of aesthetic city stays in Norwich. Our favourites include this airy, open-plan mezzanine flat and this Georgian apartment complete with wooden beams and a wood burner.
Just outside the city is our pick of the bunch: this beautifully finished boathouse right on the river Yare.

What to do in Norwich

Norwich has it all: history, architecture, art, great shopping and even better restaurants. For culture, hit up the Sainsbury Centre on UEA’s campus and the cathedral. For retail therapy you can’t beat all the quirky, independent shops in The Lanes or the amazing antique market in St Gregory’s church. For fuelling up, locals all know that the best brunch is found at Cafe 33, the best coffee is at Strangers Cafe, and the best cocktails are at Chambers.

Llyn Peninsula, Wales

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While tough to get to (train stops past Machynlleth are literally request stops and the closest motorway is somewhere around Liverpool), it is nevertheless worth the trek to what is surely one of the most spectacular areas the UK has to offer.

Where to stay on the Llyn Peninsula

For the 360-degree sea views alone, you can’t beat The Nest, a small retreat perched above Nefyn beach.
We are so ready to live our best Hobbit life in this dreamy thatch cottage. Outside you have gorgeous views of the rolling Welsh hills, stretching down to the sea. Inside it’s equally as stunning, with arched, hand-carved wooden beams.
Bryn Goleu is the stuff of fairy tales. It’s a stone cottage at the foot of Bwlch Mawr mountain, in a garden full of flowers, with beautiful sea views in the distance.

What to do on the Llyn Peninsula

If you’ve already busied yourself with the idyllic, seaside villages and explored the craggy beaches, then we recommend a hike like none other: a guided sunrise trek up Snowdon for magical views.

Isle of Wight

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The Isle of Wight isn’t just a top destination for the festival. Head here for inviting beaches, coastal walks, heritage buildings and plenty of attractions.

Where to stay on the Isle of Wight

When heading to the Isle of Wight we’re all about seafront Airbnbs. The Crow's Nest, a cliffside 'treehouse', looks like an LA retreat, this beachside chalet is the perfect bolthole for a romantic weekend getaway or if you’re looking for more space, Highcliff Cottage has everything you could want from a luxury retreat.

What to do on the Isle of Wight

Given all the beautiful beaches, seaside restaurants and bars and water sports on offer, you’re sure to find your time packed. Whether you’re on a couple’s retreat or girls’ weekend, we recommend visiting Adgestone Vineyard, one of the UK’s oldest working vineyards.

Birch Community

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The perfect weekend break; this is one ideal for weary Londoners, looking to escape the city rush, and quick. Situated just half an hour north of London, part-hotel part-members club Birch is comprised of 55 acres of sprawling nature, tucked away in Hertfordshire's Waltham Cross. Take a quick train from London Liverpool street and then an Uber when you get to Cheshunt – et voilà!
Where to stay at Birch
Birch may be equal parts foodie heaven, working space, wellness centre and creative hub, but its 140 cosy rooms are a big sell of a stay here. From the moment you step foot into the grand foyer of the Georgian mansion (the centrepoint), you might noticed the slack, relaxed expressions of other Birch revellers traversing the grounds with a negroni in hand. And to beat the upcoming January blues, Birch is offering a Beauty Sleep bundle to start the year on a high: including a one-night stay, two invigorating massages and a slot in one of Birch’s relaxing daily yoga sessions.
What to do at Birch
You could go for a night, or a week at Birch, and never be short of things to do. There's a cinema room, slew of wellness classes including puppy yoga, sourdough sessions at the in-house bakery, and a multitude of activities from plate painting to pottery. The thing about Birch is, it's very much a space where creativity is not only encouraged, but nourished. Go for a swim in the lido, or just explore grounds, say hi to Birch's resident saddleback pigs and be at one with nature. And later? Hit up the Zebra Riding Club restaurant, with plates comprised of ingredients grown on-site, produce made in-house and delicious open-flame cooking. Don't be surprised if you find yourself planning your next stay almost immediately.

Deauville, France

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If it's a beach holiday you're after then Deauville and nearby Trouville are perfect. Located in Normandy, right on the Atlantic coast (the sea might be a tad colder than the Mediterranean), Deauville was created as a chic holiday town for the well-heeled in the 1860s and features grand hotels, an impressive boardwalk and a famous casino.

Where to stay in Deauville

Bright, airy and directly on the beach? Sign us up to this seaside apartment!
Just two miles away from the beaches of Deauville-Trouville you’ll find this Norman house, set in a quiet, wooded area and complete with its own heated pool and tennis court.
Want to see the true definition of an idyllic stay? This quaint wooden chalet by the sea.

What to do in Deauville

These days, it's still upmarket and home to six huge sandy beaches, a seawater lido and plenty of amazing restaurants (some at EXORBITANT prices but there's enough to keep the budget traveller happy too – Au Potager near Trouville, which grows lots of its own veg, for instance). Sailors, horse riders and yogis take note: there are plenty of activities for you to do on the beaches. The best way to see the town? Via a vintage sidecar tour of course.
If you're driving, check out the nearby Parc Naturel Régional des Boucles de la Seine for beautiful walks, castles and even the odd haunted (maybe?) ruin.

South Downs National Park, England

Journey time

Around two hours to South Downs by car. Or alternatively take the train to Haslemere, which goes through Guildford from Waterloo. From Haslemere station, take a taxi – with the entire journey being approximately three hours.
A stone’s throw from Brighton and Hove, England’s newest national park (it received golden status back in 2010) is one for the nature lovers. It stretches over 100 miles, covering Winchester to Eastbourne, rounding off at the dramatic chalk cliffs at Seven Sisters. Home to endless trails and breathtaking views, it's perfect for the more active of us – walking, hiking, cycling or driving – or people who want to sit completely still and take it all in.

Where to stay in South Downs

If you’re looking to escape the rush and commotion of London – as in literally switch off the crowds and noise – Unyoked is your best bet. Providing off-grid nature cabins no more than two hours from the city, the company’s ethos is all about “an ancient remedy for modern times.” In other words: observe what even a day in nature can do for your mental, spiritual and physical health. Surrounded by peaceful woodland, Maynard – one of their charming wooden cabins – is situated bang in the middle of South Downs National Park, complete with a rainforest shower, rustic wood-burner, outdoor fire pit. Not to mention it is on the doorstep of Hampshire’s beautiful rolling countryside. 

What to do in South Downs

Stargazing, hiking, cycling, al fresco campfire dining – all this before you even leave the grounds of your cabin. To tread further afield, driving is your best bet in order to make the most of all the quaint countryside pubs, walks, and even swims (if you drive towards the coast). Switch off your phone, take a deep breath, and feel every worry melt away from your body.

Guernsey, The Channel Islands

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Three hours and 42 minutes from Poole to Guernsey via ferry.
Set just off the French coast of Normandy and part of the Channel Islands, the quiet island of Guernsey is still a relatively underestimated holiday destination. If you’re based in the south of the UK, it’s an easy ferry trip away from Poole (just under four hours). Once there, you’ll be greeted by the quaint capital town, Saint Peter Port, glorious white sand beaches and miles of rugged coastline.

Where to stay in Guernsey

If you’re looking for something traditional and peaceful, you’ll fall hard for The Crow’s Nest, a 15th-century stone cottage in a quiet rural area but well connected via buses to town.
After beach access? This modern home is only 500 metres from Port Soif, up the road from Cobo Beach and just up the coast from Vazon Bay and its surf school.
For a truly unique weekend stay, we’re bookmarking the Curlew Shepherd’s Hut at Camp de Rêves glamping site. It’s adults only and only available for a two-night stay but makes for a cosy, romantic retreat after days exploring the surrounding west coast and Rocquaine beach. Even better, come the end of the day you’re rewarded with beautiful sea views across to the tiny island of Lihou.

What to do in Guernsey

Between the coastal scenes, beaches, water activities (paddleboarding, sailing or surfing), ​​market towns and seafood restaurants, you won’t be stuck for things to do in Guernsey. If you’re travelling to the island without a rental car, then a small-group organised tour is a time-saving no-brainer.

Dublin, Ireland

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You might have already been to Dublin but it's entirely possible that you've only been to tourist Dublin. These tips (from a real-life Dubliner) will keep you off the Guinness trail…

Where to stay in Dublin

Step back in time with this beautiful Georgian town house – you’ll feel like you’re staying in a Downton Abbey scene.
For a cute, cosy city bolthole we're bookmarking the Ossory, a cottage only 10 minutes from the city centre.
Want to be close to the city but away from the hustle and bustle? This seaside wooden cabin is only 30 minutes away.

What to do in Dublin

"Temple Bar is fine for a stroll through but it is a tourist trap so you’d be better off just looking and then going for a pint somewhere the locals drink, like Grogans, where the art on the walls is as diverse as the clientele. Try Kehoes off Grafton Street and stick your head inside the Horseshoe Bar in the very swanky Shelbourne Hotel (right across from St Stephen's Green). The new Aloft hotel has an old Dublin pub attached to it as its residents' bar and roof terrace.
If you want to see a little of the coast, get the Dart to Dún Laoghaire where you can see the famous tower from Ulysses. Do the pier walk and stop at People's Park for the Sunday food market or get fish and chips at Howth.
If you are a brunch person there is a new brunch place in Dublin 8 called Daddy’s. Again, it's local-approved. There is also a new and good restaurant off Camden Street called Sprezzatura which is so cheap.
The Guinness Museum is actually worth it to be fair, and the Leprechaun Museum is JOKES. I also love to go to the gates of Trinity and see the lovely grounds, then go see the Book of Kells in the library.
If you want to get out of the city then the coastal route to the Giants Causeway is a must-see, even if it's touristy."

Ghent and Ostend, Belgium

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Sure, the Eurostar goes to Brussels and Bruges but everyone goes to Brussels and Bruges. These days, Ghent is where it's all kicking off.

Where to stay in Ghent

Large, light and airy, we’re sold on the high vaulted ceilings of this guesthouse.
If you’re after something colourful, quirky and cosy, then book this 19th-century loft cottage ASAP.
A plant-filled, fairy light-strewn, cosy attic flat? This place looks like it’s been taken directly from our Pinterest.

What to do in Ghent

Ghent is a university town, which means that there are plenty of places a hip, young, trendy person like yourself would like to hang out – by which I mean cheap bars, live music venues and restaurants full of other cool young people.
Drinking and socialising aside, Ghent looks like a storybook town, the architecture is ridiculously beautiful and it's worth getting lost down the narrow cobbled streets for at least one day to see what you find. Alternatively, take to the river for a guided boat trip by a local.
Make sure you explore the outrageously imposing Gravensteen Castle (with 24 turrets it's clear someone was compensating for something), the STAM Ghent City Museum, the Design Museum and the House of Alijn.
Nearby, in Ostend, there's an unexpectedly brilliant beach that seems very out of place for Belgium and is marvellous if you're there in the hot summer months. If not, Ostend’s architecture is not to be missed.

Cologne, Germany

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If you know anything about Cologne, it's probably that it's got a massive cathedral with two spires that looks like it was built as a definitive ‘F you’ to anyone who dared visit from neighbouring cities.

Where to stay in Cologne

Our top Airbnb picks for Cologne include this penthouse apartment with a large balcony (perfect for evening drinks or your morning coffee), this cosy, light-filled flat and this art-filled home.

What to do in Cologne

There is more to this super fun, laid-back city than a big old building (although it's worth noting the sunset with the cathedral in view from the KölnTriangle is an absolute must).
There are a huge number of bars and restaurants – check out Ehrenfeld, the 'arty' bit of the city, for street art, galleries, warehouses and more. If you are keen to wander, definitely hit up one of the city’s famous breweries. Or, if you would rather sit back and take in the sights, we recommend a river cruise down the Rhine.
When it comes to museums, visit Museum Ludwig for a really great modern art collection and the Chocolate Museum, which has a pick 'n' mix Lindt chocolate station in its café. Heaven really is a place on Earth.
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