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10 top dirty weekends

Make the most of Virgin Trains getting rid of Friday afternoon peak restrictions this summer, and have a spontaneous weekend of muddy fun and/or romantic antics

By Time Out editors
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It’s Friday. It’s summer. The world is full of sun-flecked possibilities. Wide open spaces, romantic trysts. What actually happens, though, is that the clock on your screen slowly drags itself round to 5pm. You then quit the office with your frolleagues and stand outside a pub all evening discussing the ‘incident’ involving Sara (‘it’s pronounced “Zara”’) from payroll, which has now become an HR issue. People: do not do this. This summer, Virgin Trains has ditched its Friday afternoon peak fares, so instead of the tired scenario above, you can get out of town for less, and make some of those fantasies realities. Whether you want a seriously indulgent hotel for a lost weekend of naughtiness, or a couple of days of abseiling down waterfalls in the Lake District, do it. Or combine the two: whatever rings your bell, we’re not judgy. Here are ten ideas for literal and figurative dirty weekends all within easy reach of London with Virgin Trains. 

Titanic Hotel, Liverpool

Sure, it’s a bit odd to name your hotel after a ship which is world-famous for sinking, but that’s all part of the romance, no? The Titanic in Liverpool is perfect for injecting your weekend with a little bit of Kate ’n’ Leo tragic urgency. Draw me like one of your French girls.
Stanley Dock, Liverpool. Rail: Liverpool Lime Street.

E7J1KJ People ghyll scrambling in the Lake District, UK
Mark Kelly / Alamy Stock Photo

Ghyll scrambling

If you were that kid who always managed to find a puddle then sit in it, ghyll scrambling could be for you. Basically, you put on a wetsuit, find a huge waterfall and either plunge down it, or battle your way up it. It’s wet and wild and sort of scary. Oh, and it’s massive fun, obviously. #braggingrights
www.cragsadventures.com Lake District. Rail: Oxenholme.

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Coombe Abbey, Warwickshire

Dating from the 12th century and once home to the young Queen Elizabeth I, Coombe Abbey in Warwickshire has romantic attraction in spades: knot gardens to chase around, expansive parkland, even a cottage you can stay in for intimate seclusion. Have dinner à deux, then repair to the splendour of your four-poster bed and gaze at the plaster cherubs (or whatever).
Binley, Warwickshire. Rail: Coventry.

Cathkin Braes mountain bike trails

Cathkin Braes Country Park covers almost 500 acres to the south of Glasgow. It has ace dedicated mountain bike trails with switchbacks and double-backs, and a pump track (where you ‘pump and jump’ over obstacles. Given the Scottish weather, it also offers a chance to get very, very dirty indeed.
Cathkin Braes Country Park, Glasgow. Rail: Glasgow Central.

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St Annes beach huts

Blackpool holds a special place in the identity of our country, but its ‘kiss-me-quick, deal-with-the-hangover-at-leisure’ vibe ain’t always what you’re after. Why not head down the coast to Lytham St Annes and these lovely beach huts. Have a fire on the beach, crack some fizz, share a blanket, watch the sun go down: it’s a better class of seaside smut.
South Promenade, Lytham Saint Annes. Rail: Blackpool North.

Surf Snowdonia

Surfing, as we know, is dead sexy: just check out that sizzling bromance between Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves in ‘Point Break’. But it can also be sandy and chilly. Avoid all that at Surf Snowdonia, a fab inland lagoon in dramatic Snowdonia. You get guaranteed waves, followed by hot tubs, a sauna and other essential romantic accoutrements.
Dolgarrog, Conwy. Rail: Llandudno Junction.

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Andrew Billington

St Johns House, Lichfield

This small cathedral city is period-drama perfect: all Georgian terraces and mellow squares. It’s great for a Jane Austen-style ‘oh sir’ romantic weekend. St Johns House is a Regency beauty, full of charm and intimate candlelit nooks (ideal for a bit of candlelit nookie). ‘I would marry him, though he has but £20 a year.’ That kind of thing.
St John St, Lichfield. Rail: Lichfield Trent Valley.

Willow Lake Hovercraft School

Take to the waters in a mini hovercraft at this fun and splashy ‘aquadrome’. Once you’ve had enough of showering excited bystanders with sheets of lake water, you can go mini-jeep scrambling and indulge your filthy side in a bit of what the organisers call ‘muddy mayhem’. Yikes!
Billing Aquadrome, Northampton. Rail: Northampton.

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Hallmark Hotel Chester The Queen, Hallmark Hotel Chester The Queen
nicksmithphotography.com, nicksmithphotography.com

The Queen, Chester

The Queen boasts celeb guests of yore including champion scribbler Charles Dickens and actress Lillie Langtry, mistress to the then Prince of Wales. No doubt they claimed book or theatrical tours as an excuse for a bit of 19th century playing away, so this might be just the job for a spot of tea and tiffin.
City Road, Chester. Rail: Chester.

Argo Catting

Quad biking, you say? Old hat! What you want is an Argo Cat. An Argo Cat is basically an upturned military bathtub with eight wheels. It’s amphibious, which – you’ve guessed it – means it can go places where earth meets water. Muddy places. It’s a whole lot of fun and you’ll be picking the earthy evidence out of your hair for days. Hair which has previously been raised.
Rookin House Farm, Ullswater, Cumbria. Rail: Penrith North Lakes.

Find more travel info and book train tickets at virgintrains.co.uk/summer.

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