Published on: 20 February. Written in partnership with Expedia.
Prior to the pandemic, more than 40 million people visited the brights lights of Britain. And yet, Brits have traditionally escaped to more far-flung destinations for their well-earned breaks. But they are starting to wise up to what’s on offer on their doorstep. Here, Vitality names six top destinations to visit in 2023.
Breezy beach walks, unrivalled scenery and alfresco dining; these are just a few of the scenes we associate with a holiday in an exotic destination.
But there’s no reason why you couldn’t wet your cultural whistle in dozens of destinations across the UK.
Staycations became all the rave when travel restrictions, due to Covid-19, meant we were firmly rooted on British soil – and, as it turns out, that hasn’t been the worst thing.
Like changes in our working habits, staycations have become a permanent feature of Brits holidaying habits – around 50% of people say they preferred staycations to international travel in 2022. They can also work out a lot cheaper than going abroad.
So, what is out there to discover on the historically rich and culturally vibrant island we call home? Vitality finds out.
1. Castle Combe, Cotswolds, England
Voted the ‘prettiest village in England’, Castle Combe is an idyllic place to start your staycation journey if you’re looking for something quintessentially British.
Not just famed for its chocolate-box cottages and honey-coloured Cotswold stone, the village has played host to film crews from Stephen Spielberg’s War Horse and was used as the backdrop for the original Dr Doolittle film with Rex Harrison.
A horologist’s dream, Castle Combe also boasts the country’s oldest working clock, located at the 13th century, Grade-I listed church.
As well as its architectural heritage, the local watering hole, The Castle Inn, stands in the old market square, proudly offering seasonally inspired dishes made from local ingredients.
Meanwhile, its 12 characterful rooms, including single, double and four-poster rooms, offer a place to rest your weary head.
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2. Glencoe, Scottish Highlands, Scotland
Whatever it is you’re looking for in a staycation, it’s likely Scotland has got an answer.
Between its dramatic landscapes, from ancient pine forests to lochs and moorland, Scotland has one of the most rugged sceneries the UK has to offer.
So, if you’re planning on crossing into ‘the land of the brave’, we recommend soaking up as much of this inspiring backdrop as possible.
Arguably its most famous glen, and scenic at that, is Glencoe in the Scottish Highlands.
Its deep valley and towering mountains were carved out by icy glaciers and volcanic explosions centuries ago, earning Glencoe the honour of the UK’s ‘Outdoor Capital’, which is also appropriate given its location is a stone throw from Ben Nevis, Scotland’s highest mountain.
Not just for the mountaineers and hillwalkers, though, on the edge of Loch Leven Glencoe is the ideal place for water sports, where you can grab a kayak and explore the Scot’s famous waterways or cycle the 21-mile route around the loch to see it from all vantage points.
More than just an attraction, Glencoe is also the ideal base to explore the Highlands with road connections to Loch Ness and Inverness.
3. Pembroke, Pembrokeshire, Wales
The picturesque towns of Pembrokeshire, Wales’ most south westerly district, arguably rival that of the French Riveria or Italy’s Lake Como.
Home to the world’s second-best coastline, as voted for by National Geographic, Pembrokeshire’s 186-mile seaside border offers visitors more than 50 beaches, from Tenby and Saundersfoot to St Davids and Newport.
Naturally, there are dozens of seaside destinations to choose from, but we’ve settled on Pembroke as the one you should visit for your Wales staycation.
Pembroke Castle, the most imposing of Wales’ Norman fortresses, is a grand place to begin.
The privately-owned site, which can be seen from the banks of the Pembroke River, boasts impressive views from the top of its striking, round keep.
Meanwhile, Saint Govan’s Chapel, just a 15-minute drive away from the town centre, is a chapel built into a limestone cliff, measuring just 20 by 12 feet with just two chambers.
Green Bridge is another seaside site to drop in on. The natural limestone arch formed over millions of years gets its name from the layer of vegetation that grows atop this Welsh wonder.
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4. Belfast, Northern Ireland
If you’re in the mood for a city staycation, look no further than Northern Ireland’s capital, Belfast.
The birthplace of the Titanic, this compact city is bursting with delights from its Botanical Gardens to the architecturally stunning City Hall.
If you want to stay in a piece of this city’s maritime history, your first stop should be the Titanic Hotel.
Located in the former headquarters of Harland & Wolff, builders of the Titanic, the site is located in the Titanic Quarter, an area that is said to have been transformed over the past decade to be a prime leisure destination.
Littered with local taverns, Belfast is also a great place to explore some of its traditional pubs for their idyllic exterior and quaint interior.
Belfast’s location also means it’s easy to escape the city, with a number of beaches less than a 30-minute drive away.
Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland’s only World Heritage Site, is just an hour and a half away by car. Here, you can take the legendary footsteps of giants over 40,000 basalt columns, formed around 60 million years ago.
5. Jurassic Coast, Dorset & Devon, England
Sticking with World Heritage Sites (and giants), Jurassic Coast is a 95-mile-long stretch of southern coastline that runs through Devon and Dorset.
The geological marvel has attracted visitors from all over the world for its secrets and treasures, which spans the Triassic Jurassic and Cretaceous periods – around 185 million years in history.
Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door are some of the region’s most popular sites to visit as they offer spectacular views, along with the chance to go hunting for fossils! A great day out for all the family.
Or to the east of Lulworth Cove is the famous ‘Fossil Forest’ – see if you can spot the cluster of fossilised trees, trunks and roots.
Pretty seaside towns, including Swanage, Lyme Regis and West Bay, are also worth a visit on this coastal staycation.
6. North York Moors National Park, North Yorkshire, England
Forged by nature, the North York Moors National Park offers spectacular rural scenery and a window into history.
Moorland, coastline, forests and dales, make up this vast landscape, and has inspired several literary legends over the years.
Most famous of them is Frances Hodgson Burnett, who took the area as her muse to write The Secret Garden, which is set in a mysterious part of the moors.
Meanwhile, one of its most impressive features carries a few names. ‘Devil’s Punchbowl’ (or the Hole of Horcum) is a 400-foot deep and half a mile across valley.
Dubbed Yorkshire’s very own Grand Canyon, the area is said to have been formed with Wade the Giant had a terrible argument with his wife… other theories say it has eroded over thousands of years to create its own small valley…
Whatever you choose to believe, the best time to visit is in late summer, when you’ll see this vast landscape turn a shade of purple as the heather begins to bloom.
At Vitality, we understand life can be hectic, and recognise the importance of taking time off to go on holiday or reconnect with yourself.
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