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Snowy Cotswold village
Photograph: Shutterstock

Are we allowed to go on holiday in the UK right now?

Here’s the deal when it comes to travelling around England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland this winter

Ellie Walker-Arnott
Written by
Ellie Walker-Arnott

After months of travel bans in the UK earlier this year, there was a time when holidays were finally back on the agenda. In fact, in the end, this summer saw a boom for UK travel, with campsites, cabins and cottages being booked up all over the country. But now summer’s over and the temperatures are dropping, what’s the deal with going away in the UK? 

Well, recently, holidays in the UK have been currently pretty much impossible, thanks to England’s second national lockdown, and restrictions in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. And now? 

Tintagel, Cornwall
Tintagel, Cornwall. Photograph: Shutterstock

Holidays in England

England’s national lockdown, which included a ban on overnight stays and non-essential travel, ended on December 2, which meant holidays in the UK were back on the agenda for some of the country. However, tighter restrictions, which come into force on December 20, mean that the government are now asking ‘everyone, in all tiers, to stay local.’

According to the guidance, overnight stays are allowed in both Tiers 1 and 2. Though you are not allowed to enter or stay in someone else’s home if you are from or are visiting a Tier 2 area, it does mean you’re allowed to book trips to hotels, cabins and cottages in some parts of England. All accommodation must remain closed in Tier 3 areas and people living in these high risk areas are also being advised against non-essential travel.  

It’s really bad news for Londoners though, as the city has just moved into Tier 4. This new, highest risk tier, is similar to the national lockdown: ‘People should not enter or leave Tier 4 areas, and Tier 4 residents must not stay overnight away from home.’

The tiers in England are changing regularly. Find out which areas are in which tier here

Holidays in Wales 

Wales has just announced a new national lockdown, which will come into force at midnight on December 19. People are being told to stay at home and only travel for essential reasons. 

Holidays in Northern Ireland  

Northern Ireland is poised to go into a new national lockdown on December 26. The new restrictions, which will initially be in place for six weeks, will include a non-essential travel ban. 

Cotswolds in winter
Photograph: Shutterstock

Holidays in Scotland 

In Scotland, local lockdowns are in force as part of a five-tier system. Non-essential travel in or out of places in Level 3 or higher is currently banned, while there is also a ban in place for unnecessary travel over the border. People living in Scotland must not travel to England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland – nor can anyone from those places travel to Scotland, unless they have a reasonable excuse for doing so.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has also announced that most of Scotland will return to the toughest Level 4 restrictions from Boxing Day. These new rules will apply to all areas except the islands which will remain in Level 3.

What are the rules over Christmas?

All sounding a bit bleak? There is a little respite from the rules if you’re desperate to see loved ones this winter. But we do mean little. 

There was a festive agreement between England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland that meant all restrictions would be temporarily lifted for the Christmas period. People were going to be able to travel freely around the UK, to and from any tiers or areas, between December 23 and 27 to form three-household Christmas bubbles

However, due to recent developments, the relaxation of rules has been significantly scaled back. People in England are now only allowed to travel and meet up to three households indoors on Christmas Day. In Wales, the number of households is capped at two. In Scotland, it is a maximum of eight people from three households, and travel across the border into other parts of the UK is no longer permitted.

Additionally, if you live in one of England’s Tier 4 areas, like London, the rules will not be lifted for Christmas. People living in Tier 4 must not leave their area or join a Christmas bubble. 

In summary:

Holidays are off the cards for most people across the UK, and Christmas? Well, it’s looking bleak. 

Outside of the festive break, people in Tiers 1 and 2 in England are still allowed to go on overnight stays, but the government is asking the public generally to ‘stay local’. 

Sorry we don’t have better news. There’s never been a better time to start daydreaming about all the trips we’ll take as soon as this is all a distant memory, though. First stop? This place: 

The Net Store
Photograph: Andrew Woodhouse

Still allowed to form a Christmas bubble? Here’s how to celebrate safely this year, according to scientists

Planning future travels? Check out these incredible UK Airbnbs, dreamy treehouses, cosy cabins and incredible campsites you can book now.

Here are the best places to visit in the UK in 2021.  

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