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South Downs Way
Photograph: Shutterstock

How the Great British staycation made a comeback

Why go abroad when lockdown has prepared us so well for escapes closer to home?

Ellie Walker-Arnott

On my first post-lockdown escape from London, the further we got from the M25 the giddier I felt. Unloading food into a different fridge? A total rush. Showering in a new bathroom? A genuine high. I was practically delirious waking up in a bed that wasn’t mine. It helped, of course, that the bed was on the mezzanine level of a charming and remote cabin on the edge of the South Downs National Park.

The Wisp
Photograph: Canopy & Stars

As a travel editor, I had an urge to be the first person through airport security the day the travel ban was lifted. In mid-July, I should have been honeymooning, eating caper-studded pizzas and drinking negronis on the Aeolian Islands. Instead, I opted for walking sections of the South Downs Way in a waterproof and eating homemade sandwiches. And it was glorious.

While the last few months have been sad and stressful, the Great Pause has also been a chance to really slow down and practise being grateful. Lockdown took away our ability to make plans and forced us to live in the moment. The little things I’d barely have clocked before – pubs serving pints! A quiet footpath! – now seem incredible. That’s an amazing starting point for having a summer holiday in the UK that feels  nothing like a compromise.

The Wisp
Photograph: Canopy & Stars

That charming cabin was The Wisp, enveloped in lush Sussex countryside, near chunky hills with views of the sea, mystical rings of trees and famous beauty spot Devil’s Dyke. It was made for quiet, dark nights by the firepit, slow mornings and afternoons spent swinging in a hammock, watching birds and walking through wild grasses.

After months inside my flat, feeling restricted and tense, fresh air, empty green space and seeing new sights felt revolutionary. I leant into the fire, knowing that my clothes would smell of smoke for weeks. I swam in the sea, even though it was cloudy and actually kind of freezing. It felt like living.

Cuckmere Haven
Photograph: Shutterstock

Right now, we don’t need endless Greek sunsets when just seeing a squiggle of salty grey on the horizon is so thrilling. Why would we, when a bag of vinegar-soaked chips that someone else made tastes so good, and a pint of cold beer is so novel?

There’s no need for the sensory overload (or the potential bitter disappointment when 2020 cancels yet another grand plan – hello, unexpected travel quarantine) when just the ability to leave your flat feels so heightened and freeing. There will come a time for the big, bold trips that max out your overdraft and take months to plan. But this feels like the summer of simple travel pleasures.

The Wisp, Sussex. Sleeps two. From £115 a night. Find out more or book here

Convinced? These amazing places to stay still have availability for summer 2020. 

Check out the best Airbnbs in the UK, cool places to park your campervan, stunning Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty to explore near London and these incredible UK holiday homes with swimming pools

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