Britain is full of interesting and entertaining cities, towns, villages and countryside escapes offering great pubs, restaurants, museums, walks, and exciting and unusual things to do. To make your weekend getaway a little easier to choose, we sent our homeland lovers out to experience the best England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have to offer.
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Discover the wizardly walks of Cheshire's bijou town Taking off my glove, I knocked on the rock face and opened my mouth to say the magic word, but nothing emerged. ‘You haven’t forgotten, have you?’ I looked at my wife. I had. Edoardo Albert takes a magical journey.
A unique atmosphere: from the Port Eliot estate to the fishing town of Looe With its intense awareness of its landscape and its sense of a continuing history, south-east Cornwall has a unique atmosphere, finds Chris Waywell.
Get on board with paddle surfing, the latest craze in British watersport Hype it up and hang ten as often as you like, Cornwall ain’t Santa Cruz – but now it’s got a very British watersport. Helen Ochyra goes paddle surfing.
North Devon's secluded base for a low-key midwinter hideaway Logs crackled on the open fire and quiet chatter filled the cosy Grove Inn in Kings Nympton, a small village in rural north Devon. I sipped a pint of Spinney, a delicious malty ale brewed in the West Country, and warmed my hands and feet, chilly after an early morning stroll.
The perfect place for a British family holiday in Dorset The British family holiday still revolves around the theme park and the wind-blasted beach. But Peter Watts finds refuge in a country manor made for grown-ups as well as little ’uns.
Forget vajazzling, come here for endless beaches, clay clad seals and fresh oysters Misunderstood, misrepresented and often simply missed, London's eastern neighbour, says Zoe Kamen, is a pleasantly pastoral surprise.
Creeks, a beach and the all-important oysters You might struggle to guess the answer in a pub quiz, but the most easterly inhabited island in England lies just nine miles south-east of Colchester. And, yes, it’s a proper island, five miles by two, which, though connected by a causeway (The Strood), is still cut off a few times a month at high tide.
This small Hampshire city was once an inspiration to Keats The solemn saints of the Great Screen stared eerily out over the vast altar. Having just walked down Europe’s longest medieval nave, the cathedral’s intricately carved limestone wall – built over two decades from 1455 – had me transfixed.
Discover the peaceful charms and dated delights of the Isle of Wight I’d only heard a few things about the Isle of Wight in my life and none was particularly inspiring. I remembered the words of a friend, who’d described his childhood holidays there as ‘numbingly dull’. At best, the island is presented ambiguously. On the one hand, it witnessed the invention of the hovercraft and still has red squirrels. One the other, it gave us Level 42 and has welcomed the likes of David Icke and Alan Titchmarsh as residents.
Eat oysters, shop on the ‘King’s Mile’ and marvel at Canterbury Cathedral Kent's landscape is timelessly lovely, from the tranquil beauty of the Weald, stretched out between the chalk escarpments of the Downs, to the splendid sweep of the coast.
Visit the best spots along Britain's South East coastline Whether your interest lies with dogwalking and beaches, or fishing and stunning views — Kent is sure to provide an ideal spot for a relaxing UK weekend break by the sea.
A new boutique B&B brings hope to this derided seaside town I had been warned by friends, but the arrival into Margate via the train station was still shocking. First came the ugly Arlington House tower block. Then a blustery walk along the grim seafront: boarded-up shops, empty amusement arcades, bored-looking teenagers, immigrant families weighed down with bulging bags.
Cycle on the seafront and suck oysters in Kent’s quaintest seaside town Pedalling furiously along the paved promenade and enjoying the invigorating autumn air, I smiled at the thought that I’d not yet encountered any other weekending Londoners. It was a peaceful Sunday morning, and the only people out and about were walking dogs.
Rejoice in Manchester's cultural energy and football fervour Manchester today is unrecognisable from the post-industrial city of 20 years ago. Home to grand relics of the industrial revolution, the modern city is also studded with independent boutiques and top-flight shops, cool bars and snug pubs. Not only do its museums house some of the UK’s finest historic collections, but Manchester has a contemporary cultural pulse that puts other British cities to shame.
Mudflats, sea and Lake District peaks: Lancashire's bird-watchers paradise The taxi ride from Lancaster station to Morecambe took about 10 minutes, cost under a tenner and included a running commentary by our driver on the sights and history of the area: the importance of the Edwardian oil and cloth tycoon and philanthropist Lord Ashton, the horrific new train station and the recent refurbishment of the Midland Hotel. He dropped us at the hotel’s grand white façade.
Amble around Stamford's seductive, stone-built Georgian streets It may be a furtive delight but this stone-built Georgian town in Lincolnshire is oddly familiar, perhaps because it has starred in period dramas including ‘Middlemarch’.
Ride the Poppy Line, dine in a yurt and sleep in a windmill Norfolk offers charming stretches of coast, a vibrant cultural scene and pubs and restaurants that take pride in dishing up the finest local produce, making for a hearty and welcoming dining experience.
Northamptonshire's place for an indulgent, Tudor-themed escape Queen Elizabeth I stayed at Fawsley Hall in 1575 and several of the 52 bedrooms boast the sort of comfy four-posters an exacting royal might expect when swiving a maid or prebeheaded wife. With 2,000 acres of rolling pastureland, two tempting restaurants and the fact you can get there on the train after work, this grand pile has everything you’ll need for a decadent, upper-class weekend break.
Turning the troubles into tourism I looked down at the simple black gravestone below me as the drizzle fell on the grey cemetery. One name stood out among rows of brothers, fathers, sons and neighbours: BOBBY SANDS. ‘Over there, behind that Celtic cross, that’s where Michael Stone threw his first grenade into the crowd,’ said my guide, Pod Devenny, referring to the UDA attack on a republican funeral in 1988.
From Edinburgh's stately castle to the epic Cairngorm mountains For many, the epic peaks, sweeping glens and heather moorland of the Highlands are the classic Scottish vista. But the land has other, older stories to tell and the countryside is as varied as it is magnificent: they may not appear on any shortbread tins, but this is also a land of subtropical gardens, ancient swathes of woodland and breathtakingly beautiful beaches.
Catch the Caledonian Sleeper for a climb up the beautiful Ben Nevis The Caledonian Sleeper, the night train that connects London with the wilder reaches of Scotland, is comfortable, romantic and, if you book in advance, very cheap – and it’s one of very few long-distance services left in the UK.
Forget the flat, boring bits and cut to the chase with two days in Glen Coe Every year walkers trudge from the outskirts of Glasgow and along the bonnie but interminable and boulder-strewn banks of Loch Lomond, for the sake of two glorious days in the mountains of Glen Coe. Then it’s a frustrating last day into Fort William, with trees obscuring the views, just so you can say you’ve walked the entire 95 miles of the West Highland Way.
Unruly hill-country and wooded streams are a paradise for walkers What’s the witchiest place in the UK? Well, according to an eminent Anglican cleric, certain ladies of the Long Mynd followed the old ways well into the twentieth century.
Worth a trip to see the handsome 1779 ‘iron bridge’ alone Approached by a series of twisting roads, it’s a cleft that was created after the last Ice Age, when a huge lake cut a chasm through layers of coal, iron ore, clay and limestone.
Hike, bike, eat in an oysterage and sleep in a stable We've used our local knowledge to reveal the best of Suffolk. Enjoy a breathtaking variety of countryside, explore miles of magnificent coastline, wander around charming market towns and feast upon local dishes served up in lovely settings.
Flora-filled nature trails and unbeatable North Downs views A nature lover’s Mecca, Box Hill boasts a dozen species of orchid, butterflies and its namesake box trees. Arriving in drizzle, we checked in to our lodgings and refuelled in preparation for a long walk. Once fortified, we left the pub ready for a flora- and fauna-packed afternoon.
Try tempura cod, take a bushcraft course and visit a mock-Mughal palace The shingle beaches, dune-backed sands and boat-filled harbours on the Sussex coast are interspersed with classic seaside resorts, from genteel Worthing to bohemian Brighton. Inland are ancient castles and romantic gardens, unspoilt villages and cosy country pubs, along with the cathedral cities of Canterbury and Chichester. Sussex aslo has a vibrant cultural scenes, taking in opera and music festivals, architectural gems and world-class art galleries.
A South Bank-on-sea in a tranquil south-coast setting Walking the four-minute stretch from Bexhill station to the sea is less like stepping back in time, more like shuffling forward into your own default future. The south-coast town where Eddie Izzard spent his childhood, Spike Milligan his first war years and Fanny Craddock her final days is known as God’s Waiting Room, and not without good reason.
20 great things to do in Brighton With its bracing sea air and whiff of scandal, Brighton has a charm all of its own. It may have started life as a humble fishing village, but when the Prince Regent came here for his first ‘season’ in 1783, its status as a fashionable seaside resort was sealed.
Done the beach at Bognor? Visit West Sussex's secret hideaway As weekends away go, East Grinstead isn’t really up there with the likes of, say, Bath or Paris. A quick survey of the office confirmed my worst fears: ‘You could go on a coastal walk’ said one colleague. ‘It’s near Gatwick,’ I said. Another enthusiastically remarked that the area has the biggest concentration of independent churches in the world.
Climb mountains, walk fells, waterski or even go Go Ape! This is a landscape of breathtaking beauty: of still lakes, surrounded by forest and fells; of tranquil valleys and jagged summits; of plunging cascades and remote, reed-fringed tarns. Its pleasures are timeless, whether you’re idling on a rowing boat on Windermere or following in the footsteps of Wordsworth.
Explore the high mountains and haute cuisine of the Welsh Rhingos The first Welsh word I learned on the drive from London to Harlech was painted on every bend in the road. 'Araf'. Slow down. It was exactly what I intended doing when I got to north-west Wales.
Where Dylan Thomas came to write and drink Bob told me the guest book in the Boathouse had been signed that morning by a literary pilgrim. He said she’d put only one word in the comments box: ‘Lonely’. He said he’d found that moving.
A 'little England' in the far south-west corner of Wales Despite its location in rural Wales, Pembrokeshire is a surprisingly English escape where visitors can wander along stunning shorelines or simply enjoy the rustic solitude.
Historical buildings, art and the National Railway Museum While we like to champion Britain’s lesser-trod paths, what about those places that do merit a visit but are already overrun with tourists? Chris Waywell takes on York.
Beaches, walks, spas, hotels and holiday lets Everything from the best budget hotels to the quirkiest holiday homes; from adrenalin-fuelled outdoor activities to weird and wonderful adventures. Read more about Great British breaks
Time Out Britain guidebooks
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