You’re reading our series Summer’s Not Cancelled, which celebrates summer in this new normal. From rediscovering nature and time with friends and family, to virtual festivals and unforgettable staycations – summer’s still here, it’s just different.
Packed like a sardine on Bournemouth or Brighton beach? No thanks.
We’re all desperate to get away at the weekends or at the first glimpse of sunshine, but when everyone else in the country has the same idea it’s sometimes hard to escape the masses. Thankfully, a relaxing day trip can be possible when you apply the right know-how.
The Lake District is overflowing, the Cotswolds should be renamed choc-a-bloc-wolds, and you can’t reach Cornwall without getting stuck on the A30. But get your head out of autopilot mode and consider the roads less travelled.
Here’s how to nail a holiday, close enough to home to be easy, but far enough away from the maddening crowds for you to really unwind.
Do your homework and think outside the box
Heading to Whitstable and Margate? Why not take a short detour to find out what’s the deal with, well, Deal. It’s a fantastic alternative located right next door between Dover and Ramsgate that tends to have fewer crowds. This special seaside spot offers up plenty of quaint tea houses, cute Georgian houses, beaches dotted with wooden fishing boats, art galleries, and even a castle.
It’s worth doing your homework around other popular spots in the country and find out what nearby areas you can check out while you’re in the area that might not be such a magnet for crowds. Swap busy Brighton for pretty Alfriston. Trade overcrowded Stonehenge for historic Avenbury. And get there nice and early to enjoy it before everyone else arrives.
Take the road less travelled
Did you know the UK has more than 200,000 miles of road ready to explore? Get raring to go behind the wheel in either your own car or a rental. Road trips make for the perfect post-lockdown escape, allowing you to social distance from others more easily. Drive through the country’s surprisingly picturesque road system and take in breathtaking landscapes from the comfort of your seat.
From country lanes bordered by hedgerows to serpentine roads through glorious peaks, even a stretch of motorway tarmac shadowed by towering gorges, dream of driving on some of the UK’s most scenic routes, like Norfolk Coast or Black Mountain Pass in Wales. And try to avoid the M25 at all costs.
Explore the unexplored
Overcrowding in beauty spots can become a big problem, but it’s easy to forget that over 90% of the UK isn’t built upon. Many of us are itching to seek out quieter areas and have a greater appreciation for the natural beauty around us. This new, adventurous spirit can help struggling local businesses in rural areas.
Take the Lake District. It might hog all the spotlight, but why not consider the North York Moors, arguably one of the most underrated UK national parks. What the North York Moors lack in elegance they make up for with sheer rugged power. Expect wild, windswept and desolate vistas. Worried about 2m distancing? Here you can have two miles.
Or go discover one of the UK’s 34 designated “areas of outstanding natural beauty” that’s not already on your radar, the Mendip or Quantock Hills in Somerset, say. Just don’t come ill-prepared. Be sure to pack the right type of footwear, wear suitable clothing and bring snacks, lots of snacks.
Embrace walking and cycling like never before
There’s no better way to awaken from your lockdown slumber than striding it out on a stretch of coastal footpath or powering up hills on a bike with the wind in your hair. Now that we’re a cycle-loving nation, why not try killing two birds with one stone on your next trip away? Combine exercise, fun-filled activities and taking in the sights at the same time.
Love the Cotswolds but not the crowds? Prepare to be bowled over by Bewl Water’s outstanding natural beauty on the Kent / Sussex border instead. Get the best of both worlds by taking the cycling paths into forests and calming lakes. while around the reservoir, there are boat cruises, fishing and watersport activities that the whole family can enjoy. Take this time to focus on the activity at hand to properly unwind. Mindfulness doesn’t get better than this.
Pack a picnic
You’re bound to get hungry when you’re on the road and depending on location not all cafes, shops and restaurants may have re-opened yet. So come prepared, pack a picnic and save money with homemade grub. Bring a variety of items that’ll store well and things that are easily portable like sandwiches, wraps, sausage rolls, pastries, fruit and chopped vegetables with dips. Factor in some treats too if you’re travelling with kids to keep them (and you) happy and full.