With the weather becoming milder and the daylight hours longer, there’s never been a better time to enjoy one of the UK’s many idyllic getaway destinations. From the unspoilt Kentish coast to the Eastern climes of Dornoch in the Scottish Highlands, we’ve combed the places to visit for ultimate rest and relaxation. Whether you’re looking for an easy weekend-break that can be accessed in under an hour from the capital, or a more immersive trip further afield, these are the best places to fill your lungs with fresh air across the British Isles.
A mere 55-minute train ride from St Pancras International, Folkestone is a port town located on the South-Eastern coast nestled in between the cliffy crags of Dorset and coastal region of Hastings. Originally an important shipping harbour during the 19th and 20th centuries, the town has, more recently, become a mecca for those seeking a coastal city break that is less densely-crowded (and expensive) than its neighbours further down the coast.
With a surprisingly broad selection of restaurants on offer, Folkestone is fantastic for foodies keen to gorge on the freshest shellfish in modernised surroundings. In recent years, efforts have been made to regenerate aspects of the town, including the opening of The Harbour Arm – a promenade stretching from the old railway station to the lighthouse. The walkway is open 7 days a week - weather permitting - from dawn till dusk and currently accommodates a host of pop-up food stalls, champagne bars and even a cinema showing classics such as Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo.
For those in search of a more intimate eating experience with similarly impressive views of the undisturbed coast, Rocksalt, founded by Michelin-starred chef and restaurateur Mark Sargent, focuses on seasonal Kentish food sourced from local merchants and farmers. Seafood is, without a doubt, the focus of the day, with popular classics - such as the homemade fish soup - becoming welcome mainstays on the menu. The house also cure their own salmon, which is as delicious (and moreish) as any we’ve tried. Served with warm docker rye, there are few finer places to enjoy than the sun-drenched terrace with the sound of the waves lapping against the wooden dock – utter, unadulterated bliss.
For years, the Cotswolds have been the go-to destination for Londoner’s seeking solace from the stress, pollution and heightened tourism as summer hits and the weather becomes more temperate. Comprising of quaint picturesque villages and an uncompromised pastoral landscape, it has been harder and harder in recent years to find weekend breaks in the high season (May - August).
Still a hidden gem in the Cotswolds, Corsham is a small village located on the fringe of the Cotswolds and is a 20-minute drive away from the World Heritage site of Bath, Somerset. If travelling straight from London, the district can be accessed in under two hours by car and a similar time from London Paddington by low-speed train.
For those staying overnight, we highly recommend booking one of the rooms at Guyer’s House, set in six acres of rolling countryside in Pickwick. The award-winning country house hotel has a fantastic restaurant on site (dinner can, and should, be taken on the terrace overlooking the garden but be sure to book upon arrival to avoid missing out). For an afternoon of uninterrupted bliss, take to one of the site’s many walking routes, which the staff are happy to tailor to meet your ability and time restraints.
Having recently grown in popularity due to its beach-based fishing team which bring in fresh seafood on a daily basis, Hastings has an epicentre of fantastic gastronomic outposts and idyllic, seaside villas that offer an easy weekend getaway for city dwellers. Of the many boutique shops and cafes lining the streets of the medieval town, AG Hendy (a restored Tudor house reopened in 2011 pictured above), attracts the masses keen to stock up on the store’s hugely popular homewares and Victorian-style bric-a-brac. For those travelling in groups, the shop offers courses including a fish cookery workshop, filleting, cooking and eating the catch-of-the-day, and even a food styling course for those keen to get into the world of blogging and curation.
The store can accommodate guests (in a private, equally chic residence above the main outpost). Be warned, though: availability is notoriously tight and in the summer months it can be hard to find space to peruse the shop let alone bag an overnight stay. We recommend travelling at the end of high season as the weather curbs (around late August/early September), as children flock back to school and prices tend to dip.
If you have a more time to spend (and don’t mind travelling a little further afield), Dornoch, a seaside resort in the Highlands of Scotland, offer some of the best, unspoilt views across the Northern Coast and is refreshingly mild compared to other destinations further on the Scottish coast. Besides a glorious beach, there are plenty of sweet shops (including award- winning chocolate shop Cocoa Mountain) and a bookshop containing a fantastic selection of children’s books to keep little tots entertained for the journey home.
For those looking to gain a sense of the area’s rich historical relevance, Dornoch Cathedral, built in the 13th century, is an iconic local landmark and has an impressive, perfectly preserved display of stained glass panels dating back to its inception. There are also plenty of great places to eat, including coffee shop Gordon House (with a highly memorable red velvet cake) and The Courthouse Café, which even has a sibling spa and skincare company offering seaweed-based facials, skin peels and massages. There are few places to truly feel worlds away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Main image credit: Zoltan Tasi on Unsplash