The summer heatwave may have disappeared for the time being, but just in case it makes a comeback, here is the ultimate list of UK holidays you may not have thought of. I know too many people who rarely venture outside of London and seem to think Scotland classes as the only valid holiday destination in the British Isles, which is a great shame, but does mean there are less crowds at these beautiful holidays spots for the rest of us. You may think they don’t have much relevance together on a list, and you’d be right. In fact, an alternative headline for this could well have been ‘Places I Have Visited So Far This Summer’. But in any case, if you are planning a short break, or are just feeling nosey, read on and enjoy…
Newquay, Wales. Far away in both atmosphere and miles from Cornwall’s brash surf version, Newquay in Wales is like the St Ives of 50 years ago. Rainbow-coloured terrace houses gather round the little harbour front, which has swapped fishing boats for yachts but still feels like it’s from another era. You can even spot dolphins from the beautiful old harbour wall, as this area has one of the highest populations in the country, or take a boat ride to get even closer. Swim in glass-clear water off two pristine beaches, wander the narrow streets made famous by Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood, or walk a peaceful strip of the Cardigan coastal path to nearby harbour town of Aberaeron.
Tamar Valley, Devon. Only 40 minutes from Plymouth, this forgotten but beautiful estuary-river offers serene swimming spots, river walks and utter tranquillity. Walk along tiny roads to seafront pubs, or explore wrecks along the shore of the estuary at low tide. The old smuggling fishing villages of Cawsand and Kingsand are only an hour away by car if you fancy dipping your toe into Cornwall. Alternatively, take your scones, cream and jam, plus a picnic rug and two old friends down to Tamar’s waterfront and while away the hours far away from everyday life. ***
Lincoln. With its steep cobbled streets, ancient cathedral and pick’n’mix collection of independent shops, Lincoln could well be the ideal city break. For a small city, it’s surprisingly well equipped with great food and drink. The historic centre is ideal for hopping between independent coffee shops like Coffee Aroma, or Base Camp, and it has an unusually great range of real English pubs like the Wig and Mitre or the Cardinal’s Hat. For dinner, the memory of the piping hot Padron peppers at Olé Olé tapas restaurant stays with me to this day, while a late night cheese board and carafe of red wine at the Duke William is not one to turn down.
Margate. Retro seaside towns are coming back into fashion and Margate is leading the charge with its Victorian-era tidal swimming pools, refurbished theme park Dreamland and craft breweries perched out on the stone pier. The promenade walk with its bleak graffiti, former lido and general air of abandonment makes a nice contrast to the shiny zig zag lines of the Turner Gallery. Wander through whatever happens to be on, before refreshing with an aperol spritz on the pier.
***One further benefit from journeying down to Devon or Cornwall is the chance to experience one of the UK’s best train journeys. And I say this with some degree of authority, as someone who spends many hours on trains… Anyway. Take the train down towards Plymouth, making sure you sit on the left hand side. Feel like a child again at your first sight of ‘the sea!’ and sit glued to the window watching snapshots of beach scenes as the train hugs the water’s edge from Exeter, Dawlish, Teignmouth and beyond.