The image of UK weekend breaks may suffer from associations with gloomy campsites and rain-soaked caravan parks, but a little exploring yields delights: historical towns, quaint villages and breathtaking countryside, offering up great pubs, epic hikes, wild coastline, wilder sports – and some altogether more esoteric activities. To make your destination a little easier to choose, we sent our most patriotic writers out across the British mainland to experience the best England, Scotland and Wales have to offer.
Can’t find what you’re looking for? Make sure you check back as this guide is regularly updated with new destinations and ideas for great British breaks come rain or shine, dazzle or drizzle.
County by county • Great UK getaways
Come, let’s take a pleasant scroll through the British countryside…
Wake up to wakeboarding in North Wales – and a host of other watersports – at the idyllic Abersoch beach.
Live out your Biggles fantasies barrel-rolling a bi-plane at the Imperial War Museum Duxford. Chocks away!
Cornwall and the Scilly Isles
Dangle from Britain’s extremities at Land’s End and Lizard Point…
… then head out even further to meet the seals of the Scilly Isles.
Step into a postcard scene in beautiful and boho St Ives.
Not a county, perhaps – but definitely a state of mind. Drop in on archetypal rural England and find great food and drink amid the green-and-pleasantness.
Cumbria and the Lake District
There’s more to the lakes than a cruise on Windermere and a peruse of Penrith. Swap Wordsworth for Wainright in recreating a classic fell ramble.
Take in the picturesque scenery at a trot, horseriding on Silecroft beach.
Derbyshire and the Peak District
Clamber over some of England’s most colourfully named terrain in the Peak District National Park – from controversial rambling target Kinder Scout to the harder-core climbers’ hangout of Stanage Edge.
Or get yourself into a bit of a hole going caving in the Peaks.
Take the alternative (otternative?) route around the county on the Tarka Trail.
Find splendid isolation in the Bristol Channel – and a beach all to yourself – on Lundy Island.
Shamble across three miles of Shingle at Slapton Sands – before it disappears into the sea…
Dumfries and Galloway
Astronomical larks in the national park after dark – at Britain’s officially recognised best spot for stargazing.
Make your fortune (or at least cover the cost of your holiday) in them thar Wanlockhead hills.
Work on your quads – on a quad-biking odyssey through a Welsh Valley.
Hampshire and the Isle of Wight
Roll out over England’s big southern wrinkle at the Winchester end of the South Downs Way.
Find idyllic seclusion on the Isle of Wight’s Priory Bay beach.
Gaze out towards the Great Glen from the great Ben (Nevis), the UK’s highest mountain peak.
Then get down to sea-level on the white sands of the Isle of Harris in the Outer Hebrides.
Follow the surprisingly lengthy Crab & Winkle Way through the Kentish woodlands to Whitstable.
Live out your digger-driving dreams (or site-foreman fantasies) at construction-vehicle themepark Diggerland.
For sand and sea as far as the eye can see (as well as the odd stranded seal), head to East Anglia’s Cley-next-the-Sea beach.
Discover the north-west’s best-kept secret – the Forest (that’s not a forest) of Bowland.
Get behind the wheel and mash up a banger at the Santa Pod Raceway.
Head off on a canny, craggy ramble around the Rumbling Kern at Howick.
Lose yourself in misty history in the shadow of Bamburgh Castle, and cross the causeway to Holy Island.
Join the straw-boater brigade at Henley, and drift off to riverside reverie in the towns of the Thames Valley.
If you can find it, enjoy time standing still at Barafundle Bay in south Wales.
Go river-tubing amid glorious scenery deep in central Scotland.
Unearth a the England that time forgot in the Shropshire Hills.
Take the Coleridge Way and follow in the great Romantic poet’s footsteps – all 36 miles of them…
Indulge in a true Home Counties pursuit – tweed up for clay-pigeon shooting on the Surrey heath.
Sussex (East and West)
Witness the annual Birdman competition – along with other classic British seaside larks – at Bognor Regis.
Head for the hills on the South Downs Way.
The best things to do in UK cities
To make the most of a UK city break, see Time Out’s city sites – constantly updated with information and recommendations from our local writers and editors…
For sheer scale, splendour and bucket-list potential, you can’t beat London – the UK capital, and a global hub for the arts, gastronomy, history, sightseeing and serious cash-depletion (make use of Time Out London’s guide to experiencing London on a budget). From there, it’s only a skip, a hop and a two-hour train ride to Birmingham, the nation’s second-largest city, notable for its splendid Victorian buildings and its rather more controversial modern architecture. Complete the triangle with a visit to Bristol, the vibrant student town that’s big on nightlife, street-art and maritime history, and manageable in size.
In the north of England, Manchester’s mighty clubs and world-beating sporting institutions might bring the tourists – but it’s the city’s cultural hit-rate and heritage that make it an essential UK experience. Or discover there’s more to Yorkshire than medieval spires and moors with a visit to Leeds where you’ll find a buzzing Civic Quarter and superlative shopping.
Leave tartanry and Scottish stereotypes at home on a city break to Northern Britain: Edinburgh, strong contender for the UK’s most civilised city, pulsates with Georgian grandeur, an unmatched bar and pub scene and – throughout August – cutting-edge theatre and comedy. Or hop across to its great civic rival Glasgow for flourishing contemporary arts, unique 19th-century heritage and world-class dining and nightlife in the city’s West End.
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