If your heart is set on a spot of R&R this summer, don't be put off by the so-called 'summer of disruption'. It may have brought scenes of airport chaos, abandoned luggage and delayed flights but it doesn't mean all holidays are cancelled. 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 beaches, 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 Airbnbs the country has to offer). Because let's face it, with all the stress of flying this summer, what plane trip hasn't taken you just as long?
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
Guernsey, The Channel Islands
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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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