Over the last year, many Londoners have faced a year of exploring their local area a lot more intimately. The COVID restrictions, which have fluctuated in severity since March 2020, have meant that many of us have not been able to travel at all. With summer 2021 up ahead, restrictions are still in place and international travel is still tricky to navigate. What with quarantine periods for travellers in many countries, leisure trips abroad may not yet be worth it at all. Luckily, this year has seen a wealth of staycations in the capital as guests book budget hotels in London, but even after relaxing holidays just a stone’s throw away from your own home, no one would blame you if you still crave a distinct change of scenery.
With restrictions somewhat relaxed and the economy beginning to open up again, many Londoners have started booking getaways not abroad, but within the country. For such a small island, there’s a lot of diverse terrains, personality and culture to enjoy. This is no surprise, Great Britain has thousands of years of history as a nation, and many Londoners haven’t even scratched the surface of what is just beyond their capital city horizon. This blog is for those looking further afield than the nearby luxury of the Montcalm Hotel, and perhaps want a short break with which to change up their surroundings. Even a weekend can be enough to recalibrate from the daily grind.
A weekend in Brighton post-COVID restrictions is what you make of it. Family outings to the beach and the Palace Pier, romantic weekends at high class hotels with great value hotels to rival the best of London hotel deals, or indeed a party weekend spent with friends. All of these types of weekend trip are possible in Brighton, one of the LGBTQ hubs of the UK and with a cultural, party and history scene to match.
The South Downs
If it’s an escape from the urban that you’re looking for, then a weekend in one of the many villages and towns of the South Downs area of outstanding natural beauty might be more up your street. With historic towns like Lewes offering scenic views of the Ouse Valley alongside a fascinating history, it’s the Seven SIsters coastline and small beachside towns of Seaford and Eastbourne that will place you in the epicentre of Southern English pastoral ruggedness.
Just an hour and 40 minutes from London, this west coast city offers both Cornish history and hip modernity in equal measure. Head down to the cobbled St Nicholas Market for a taste of the city’s best homemade foodstuffs before walking the streets of Stokes Croft, where art, student culture and live music intertwine for some of the best parties in London. A weekend in Bristol is like having each foot in different worlds, that of the historic and classy and that of youth and energy.
Bath is named after its historic Roman-era bathhouse ruins and whilst this ancient history is definitely a draw, many find come for its refined Georgian architecture too. There are more modern attractions for adults in Bath too, the Thermae Bath Spa is far more sophisticated than a Roman ruin, and its treatments rival that of the best spa hotels in London.
The Cotswolds are located just outside of Oxford and are incredibly easy to reach from London Paddington. This beautiful slice of bucolic Britain is a popular retirement home for the wealthy and famous, and it’s easy to see why. Rolling hills, quaint village parishes and vast green fields make it a perfect retreat for the city-weary, even if it’s just for the weekend. Make sure not to miss Broadway, the area’s most beautiful and artistically interesting village, where the Broadway Colony of artists and writers such as John Singer Sargent and Henry James spent their days searching for inspiration.
Whether a day trip from your Cotswolds idyll or a weekend in and of itself, Oxford’s rich university history could keep you browsing museums, bookshops and colleges for weeks. The great thing about Oxford is that many of its most popular attractions, such as the Ashmolean Museum and Magdalen College are in close proximity, making it an easily manageable weekend trip.
Rivalling Oxford in its University history but surpassing in its immediate natural scenery, Cambridge’s roots span back almost a millennia, whilst its natural surroundings are timeless. Make sure to enjoy the summer sun on the banks of the beautiful River Cam that has canals cutting through the town, maybe even try hiring a punt boat, the traditional canal boat that has become emblematic of the city. Cambridge is reachable from London in less than an hour from Liverpool Street, and its beautiful surrounding countryside and quaint pubs might see you miss your train home!
Located close to the border with England, Abergavenny is the last stop before you enter the stunning green mountains of Brecon Beacons National Park, and offers camping sites, cottages and lodges along its hiking trails and riversides. If you’re an angler, make sure not to miss the world-class salmon fishing on the River Usk, and for the historians, this quirky little village offers one of the best-preserved motte and bailey castles in the world.
Manchester is among one of the most popular tourist cities in the UK, in part thanks to its historic party and music culture and in part due to its long industrial heritage. For film and TV buffs, make sure not to miss the stunning studios of Salford Media City located on the outskirts of the city centre, where tours and visitor centres are open to the public. For wider culture, Manchester’s music scene is evident in its flocks of students who have amassed the largest student population in the UK here.
Other gems to explore whilst visiting Manchester include the Science and Industry Museum, Whitworth Art Gallery and the Islington Mill exhibition space. If you can fit it into your weekend, try and catch a Manchester United or City match, two of the best football teams in the world, whilst you’ll be able to find some peace and quiet on the outskirts of the city through the beautiful East Pennines mountain range just north of the city.