by Janis on 30th March 2021 / 0 comments

Seaside, history, canals and culture

Surely, there doesn’t need to be a special occasion to head off on a UK mini-break staycation? We all love a change of scenery, sun on our faces and that feeling of freedom once more.

Whether it’s Spring, Summer, Autumn or Winter, the UK is a beautiful country to visit. The lush rolling countryside, miles of golden sandy beaches and ancient towns and cities that we so often take for granted.

If you’re undecided about where to visit for your next UK mini-break, I’ve chosen a few of our favourite locations. A couple of seaside winners, and as always, a little something for the culture vultures.

Let’s pack our bags, leave our passports at home and discover the delights and charm that we have on our British doorsteps for a staycation.

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The 9 locations

Our first stop is to the charming coastal town of Hastings in East Sussex. As you can imagine, this delightful laid-back town is full of rich history, with the site of the Battle of Hastings just a few miles further inland.
The view of Hastings beach and seafront from the pier on a bright sunny day
Hastings beach and seafront

My instinct in any seaside town is always to head to the shoreline, and Hastings is no different. The Fishing Quarter and Rock-a-Nore are captivating, especially with their unique black weather-boarded net sheds.
 
Hovering high above are seagulls circling fishing boats, trying their luck with the trawlers who have just landed on the shingle beach with their daily fishing haul.
 
Heading skywards are two funicular railways stretching up into Hasting’s hillside, where you can enjoy incredible views across the English Channel.

The view along All Saints’ Street in Hastings with its Colourful weather-boarded cottages
All Saints’ Street
The wooden black weather-boarded net sheds in the Fishing Quarter of Hastings in the shadow of the East Hill funicular railway
The Fishermen's huts
Another aspect I love in Hastings is the tiny cobble-stoned Twittens. The narrow passageways lead off the ancient High Street and All Saints’ Street to little lanes and timber-framed dwellings beyond.

Hastings is perfect for a mini-break; you’ll want to unwind and take its history in your stride. When the sun begins to set, an evening promenade along the Stade is calling your name.

We have created a little YouTube video of  Hastings.  Click on the Thumbnail to check it out

Why not subscribe to our YouTube channel and get the latest clips as we post them?

The Thumbnail of our video - ' Our Visit to Hastings '

Where to stay in Hastings

- The Laindons – This stylish B&B is located within the historic Old Town of Hastings and is just a short walk to the seafront & restaurants. The bedrooms are beautiful.
- The Jenny Lind – Located along the old High Street in Hastings and a short stroll to Rock-a-Nore and plenty of restaurants. The bedrooms are comfortable and offer a full English breakfast.

Local Information

Helpful planning from the local tourism website Visit 1066 Country

If you're intrigued by Sussex's fascinating past and weird and wonderful history around the county, then take a peek at "The A-Z of Curious Sussex".

You won't be able to put it down, you can pick it up for your Kindle or in good old paperback.

The cover to the book - 'The A-Z of Curious Sussex'

Ahh, the historic and colourful market town of Stratford-upon-Avon, home of the English playwright William Shakespeare.

Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire is nestled on the picturesque River Avon banks, where you’ll find canal boats, rowing boats and families frolicking on the English waterways.

Little rowing boats moored up on the River Avon, with the Holy Trinity church in the background, in Stratford-upon-Avon
The River Avon

This is such a charming town for a mini-break; you’ll get swept up in all things Shakespeare. The bard’s whimsical characters can be spotted on streetlights and plinths as you stroll through the historic streets.

Keep a lookout for William Shakespeare’s birthplace and childhood home along Henley Street. The eye-catching 16th-century timber-framed house has been lovingly restored and now a museum.

Shakespeare's house in the centre of Stratford upon Avon. The beige coloured half-timbered Tudor home stands now was a museum to the playwright's legacy.
Shakespeare's Birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon
All throughout the old town of Stratford-upon-Avon, particularly along Sheep Street and Church Street, there are stunning half-timbered buildings.

Another excuse to stay for the night is to visit the RSC (Royal Shakespeare Company) and catch one of the bards stunning performances. We booked our tickets on the day of the play and bagged a 60% discount.

We have created a little YouTube video of  Stratford-upon-Avon. Why not take a look?

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Where to stay

- Hotel Indigo – This delightful 4-star hotel is just a short stroll to the Royal Shakespeare theatre and historic centre. Charming décor and wonderful rooms.

- Swan's Nest Hotel - This 17th-century hotel is located by the riverside overlooking the RSC. A short walk across the River Avon and you're in the beautiful town centre.

Local Information

Helpful planning from the local tourism website Visit Stratford-upon-Avon

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We’re now heading to the beautiful county of Norfolk on the east coast of England, to the historic city of Norwich.
 
Norwich is a pleasant size city, ideal for a weekend getaway and just under 2-hours from London by train, perfect!

A view of Norwich Cathedral across a green field from the path that runs along the River Wensum
A view of Norwich Cathedral

The ancient history in Norwich is staggering; not only does it have a castle built by the Normans for William the Conqueror, but it has two cathedrals.
 
The Catholic Cathedral of St John the Baptist was built in Victorian gothic style. However, it’s the magnificent Norwich Cathedral that has stood for over 900 years, which is the true crème-de-la-crème in the city.
 
Norwich Cathedral is free to visit, and a stroll around the cloisters is delightful. I would also recommend wandering through the enchanting 44-acre surrounding Close. You feel like you’ve stepped into a piece of old England.

A cobbled footpath leads to an arch under a twisted building in the Tombland district in Norwich.
Tombland
Inside the Art Deco Royal Arcade in Norwich, with its pretty mosaic tiled floor and lanterns suspended from an iron and glass vaulted ceiling.
Inside the Royal Arcade
Dotted all around Norwich are fascinating pieces of architecture, from the timber-framed buildings along Elm Hill and Tombland to the beautiful Art Nouveau Royal Arcade designed by George Skipper.

If you like to see what else you can discover on a staycation at Norwich, then take a look at our post on the ‘Norwich 12’.

We have created a little YouTube video of Norwich if you'd like to see a little more.

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Where to stay in Norwich

- The Maids Head Hotel - This delightful 4-star 13th-century hotel is located in Norwich's Cathedral Quarter, just by Elm Hill. On-site free car parking is available. 
- The Georgian Townhouse - With stylish accommodation and an in-house restaurant, this friendly hotel offers free parking and just 1 mile from Norwich Cathedral.

Local Information

Helpful planning from the local tourism website Visit Norwich

If you're intrigued by Norfolk, a UK county with an interesting past, then why not check out  "The Little Book of Norfolk".  Full of facts and obscure information. It's a fun read on the region.

You can pick it up for your Kindle or in good old hardcover. (Depending on region)

The Little book of Norfolk cover

Yes, we’ve headed back to the English county of East Sussex and, more specifically, to the spooky town of Rye and its smuggling ne’re-do-wells.
 
Rye's charming and characterful town is just perfect for that type of mini-break where you want to relax, unwind, and enjoy the slower pace of life.

The view down the cobbled Mermaid Street in Rye, East Sussex
Looking down Mermaid Street, Rye
A modern pharmacy in a period chemist shop in Rye High Street
Unchanged Rye

The ancient lanes in Rye could certainly divulge a story or two. Historic Mermaid Street, which is home to the Mermaid Inn's ghostly goings-on, has many intriguing tales to tell.
 
Not only is the 15th-century Mermaid Inn haunted, and guests have experienced weird and wonderful things happening. But the ancient Inn also has a fascinating past with the smuggling bandits the ‘Hawkhurst Gang’.

A cannon and cannonballs in the Gun Garden overlooking the River Rother as it flows past Rye
The view from the Gun Garden over the River Rother, Rye

Rye is one of the ‘Ancient Towns’ of the Cinque Ports and during 13th-century would have had a natural harbour. Rye Castle, built in 1249 to defend Rye against the French, now stands proud overlooking the saltwater marshlands with the coastline 2 miles southeast.
 
Rye’s ancient town is a delightful place to stay for a weekend and a genuine escape from the norm.

Where to stay in Rye

- Mermaid Inn – If you fancy spending the night within a historic inn, with ghosts whispering along the corridors, then the Mermaid Inn is a must. Spooky goings-on and smugglers.

Local Information

Helpful planning from the local tourism website Visit 1066 Country

We have a new little book on our shelves that we delve into when we're heading to the coast.

Packed full of historical facts, and broken down into the different counties of England.  It tells tales of the history of the shoreline that surrounds our country.

Available in Kindle & Hardback editions, it's an excellent addition to anyone's collection who loves the English seaside.

I never knew that about Coastal England Cover

Grab your bucket and spade; we’re heading to the golden sandy beaches of Broadstairs on the Kent coast.
 
Broadstairs has everything you would desire from a traditional seaside town. With its charming architecture, beautiful bays with glistening coastlines, promenading cliff top walks and a little serving of ‘kiss-me-quick’.

A view of Viking Bay as it sweeps around towards the harbour. On the left hand side you can see the lift What takes you to and from the promenade. also stretched out along the sea front you can see the bathing cabins.
Clifftop view of Viking Bay, Broadstairs

This is all before you’ll discover the sea shanty yarns and smuggling folktales around Viking Bay and, of course, Broadstairs most famous frequent visitor during the mid-19th-century, Charles Dickens.
 
Throughout Broadstairs, you’ll spot the homes and inns that Charles Dickens visited and the inspiration he gained for his captivating novels. However, it was Bleak House that the English writer loved the most.
 
Bleak House stands pride of place on the cliff edge, with undoubtedly one of the best views across Viking Bay. It was from Bleak House that Charles Dickens penned ‘David Copperfield’.

The view from the Harbour towards the Tartar Frigate pub with Bleak House on the hillside above.
Bleak House on the clifftop in Broadstairs

Broadstairs town has bundles of character, too, old hardware stores and tearooms, independent restaurants and some intriguing taverns with log-burning fires.

We have created a little YouTube video of Broadstairs created on a bright winter's day if you want to see a little more.

The Thumbnail of our video - ' Our visit to Broadstairs, on the Kent coast '
Why not stay in this picturesque region of Kent for a few days and discover a couple of other seaside gems. Ramsgate and Margate, just a few miles in either direction, both offer a welcoming staycation getaway.

Where to stay in Broadstairs

- The Royal Albion – A beautiful Historic hotel with magnificent sea views across Viking Bay and beyond, what could be better. Oh yes, Charles Dickens was a regular visitor too.
- The Crown Bar and Guesthouse – Located in the heart of Broadstairs, this characterful inn offers a comfortable, friendly stay, with the charm and vibe of an English pub.

Local Information

Helpful planning from the local tourism website Visit Thanet

If Oxford is not on your staycation list, then I highly recommend you add it, as the history and architecture within this ancient city are stunning.
 
Strolling amongst the sandy ochre-coloured colleges, weaving through the narrow lanes and rubbing shoulders with the weary-eyed alumni, you really feel that you’re mingling in the midst of another period in time.

One entrance to Christ Church college, the Meadowgate on its southern side
Christ Church Meadow Gate, Oxford

There’s so much to admire about Oxford. With the incredible museums to visit, the colleges and courtyards to wander around, you’ll need a few days to try and fit in your favourites.

Ohh, yes, and don’t forget the punting; I must admit it’s fun to watch even if you don’t give it a try yourself.

It’s the architecture in Oxford that I admired so much, the neo-classical Radcliffe Camera, the Sheldonian Theatre designed by Sir Christopher Wren. Then the magnificent Bodleian Library, which is the second-largest library in Britain after the British Library.

The Radcliffe Camera in Oxford as the sun goes down on a summer's day. Is just like a scene from Inspector Morse.
Radcliffe Camera in the evening

Allow time to visit at least one of the colleges; we chose Magdalen College. it was like entering into another world, perhaps one more familiar to Harry Potter.
 
People of a certain era may also associate the City of Oxford with Inspector Morse. If you want to reminisce about this wonderful British drama series starring John Thaw and his sidekick Lewis, then pop into The White Horse pub.

If you choose to visit Oxford for a mini-break, why not extend it for a few days and discover the charming surrounding Cotswolds villages.

As you would expect we have created a little YouTube video of our time in Oxford.  Why not check it out.

And don't forget you can subscribe to our YouTube channel and get the latest clips as we post them.

The Thumbnail of our video - ' Our visit to the historic city of Oxford '

Where to stay in Oxford

- voco - Oxford Spires – Located along the River Thames, the historic city centre is only a 15-minutes' walk away. Perfect for a road trip as it has onsite parking.
- Mercure Oxford Eastgate Hotel - This 17th-century converted coaching inn is just a 5-minute walk to the ancient heart of Oxford. Lovely comfortable rooms.

Local Information

Helpful planning from the local tourism website Experience Oxfordshire

If you're intrigued by Oxfordshire, a historic UK county, then why not check out  "The Little Book of Oxfordshire".  Full of facts and obscure information. It's a fun read on the region.

You won't be able to put it down.  You can pick it up for your Kindle or in good old paperback.

The cover to the book - 'The Little Book of Oxfordshire'

canal boat holiday truly has to be the perfect staycation and social distancing getaway there is. Not only are you enjoying the British countryside and spending time with your family, but you’re also unwinding and experiencing life at a slower pace.
 
The last couple of narrow-boat mini-breaks that we’ve embarked upon have been with Moonraker Canalboats on the Kennet and Avon Canal in Wiltshire.

A narrowboat moored in the canalside, in a lush green scene under a blue sky, on the Kennet & Avon Canal.
Enjoying the countryside

The range of canal boats that Moonraker offer are exceptional. Their wide beam barges are luxurious, well equipped and sleep from four to nine people; they even have Jacuzzi Whirlpool baths.
 
On the Kennet and Avon Canal, you can head east towards Reading or to the west as we did and chugged our way along to Bath. Just a word of warning, canal boats are intentionally cruised at a slow pace; you’re there to relax and enjoy a Gin and Tonic. So, take your time and calculate the distance that is easily manageable and go with the flow.

The family at the aft end of the boat enjoying the trip basked in the summer sunlight.
The family on Moonbeam, from Moonraker Canalboats

What I loved about our family trips was that everyone wanted to get involved. Come rain or shine, we were all ready with our lock keys to jump off the deck and prepare the locks and swing bridges.
 
The other motive to moor up at a reasonable time in the late afternoon is to find that ideal riverside pub garden and enjoy an ale or two.

Who we have used

- Moonraker Canal Boats - Moonboats offers luxury while barging. The canal boats are beautifully maintained and have everything you need for a memorable boating mini-break.

More Information

Helpful planning with the Canal & River Trust website

Map, guides and more

When you’re nurturing the seed of a road trip, plotting your destinations across a paper map just brings the adventure to life. Whether it’s the touchy-feely aspect of the map or the rustling sound of mastering the art of origami while trying to fold it away, I’m not too sure. Nonetheless, the good old Ordnance Survey guys and gals always come up trumps.

Take a look at the vast array of maps you can choose from.

I struggle to think if there is anywhere else in England that epitomizes the perfect English village more than the enchanting Cotswolds.
 
The Cotswolds are peppered across six English counties, babbling streams amble by golden-stoned cottages and under tiny footbridges. Vibrant window boxes burst with tumbling flowers, and cosy Cotswold inns welcome you into their family-friendly gardens.

An idyllic Cotswold scene of a very shallow, slow flowing, river in front of a Cotswold home and a water mill with a tall brick built chimney In a village called Lower Slaughter
On the River Eye at Lower Slaughter, Gloucestershire

The Cotswolds are perfect for a mini-break, or if you have the time, why not stay a little longer. Base yourself in a delightful country cottage and venture out each day to discover those little hidden gems.

It’s such a pleasure weaving amongst the glorious English countryside and stumbling upon a little village you never expected.

One side of the Market square of Castle Combe with the Castle Inn taking centre stage. A few lucky patrons are enjoying the summer sun whilst sitting outside
The Castle Inn in Castle Combe, Wiltshire

A few towns and villages are often on visitors lists, such as Bourton-on-the-Water, Bibury, Broadway and Chipping Campden, which are stunning, by the way. However, a few of our favourites were Lower Slaughter, Snowshill, Castle Combe and Northleach.
 
Timing is essential while visiting a few of these quaint and picturesque places, so just be a little patient. I suggest early morning or late afternoon is an ideal time to arrive.

Where to stay in the Cotswolds

For the North
- Noel Arms - This delightful 16th-century hotel is located in the centre of the charming Market Town of Chipping Campden. Full of character, luxury rooms and free on-site parking.

For the South
- The Castle Inn - A traditional 12th Century Inn in  Castle Combe with bags of period features & private parking

Local Information

Helpful planning from the local tourism website Cotswolds

Fancy a Cotswold’s road trip!

Have a browse through our itinerary for the perfect Cotswold road trip. The route also combines the historic city of Oxford and the hometown of William Shakespeare, Stratford-upon-Avon.
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The Itinerary of Our Cotswolds, Oxford and Stratford-upon-Avon Road Trip

by Janis on  22 Sep 20

Escape for a few days

So, you'd love to visit the chocolate-box towns and villages in the Cotswolds, and you’re in search of a tranquil hideaway to unwind in.

Take a peek at the handpicked properties and unique retreats at Holiday Cottages.

Yes, I’m back in Kent, in the southeast of the UK, the “Garden of England”. More precisely to Kent’s characterful city of Canterbury, and home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Canterbury Cathedral.

If you love history, then Canterbury is ideal for that UK staycation. The charming Cathedral city is overflowing with ancient stories, especially from the 24 tales of the author Geoffrey Chaucer and the folks on a pilgrimage passing through Canterbury.

The cobbled pedestrian Buttermarket area of Canterbury, with the war memorial in the centre.
The Buttermarket, Canterbury

Within the walls of Canterbury Cathedral, Thomas Beckett was murdered by four of King Henry II's Knights in 1170. Also lying within the Cathedral is King Henry IV's tomb and the crypt of 'The Black Prince'.

However, what I love about Canterbury is the charming timber-framed architecture that has survived centuries. Once you’ve strolled around the grounds of The King’s School, which was founded in AD 597 and acknowledged to be the oldest continuously operated school in the world, head to the region known as The King’s Mile.

An autumnal scene of the River walkway in Canterbury in front of the Westgate towers.
Strolling along Westgate River Walk in Canterbury

Weave your way amongst the cobble-stoned lanes, characterful dwellings and independent shops and eateries. You’ll also discover the distinctive Sun Hotel, a Grade II listed building once visited by Charles Dickens. It was built in 1503 and featured in the novel ‘David Copperfield’; it became Micawber's ‘Little Inn’.

Strolling around Canterbury, you’ll spot sections of its old city walls, the ruins of a Norman castle and the medieval Westgate is the largest surviving city gatehouse in England.

Why not base yourselves in Canterbury and discover the picturesque countryside beyond.

Where to stay in Canterbury

- Canterbury Cathedral Lodge – Fancy something a little different. Why not stay in the heart of the city, within the peaceful and private grounds of Canterbury Cathedral.
- The Hugo - Hotel Concept Canterbury - This central hotel in Canterbury offers room-only accommodation so that you can enjoy a delicious breakfast at a local street-side café.

Local Information

Helpful planning from the local tourism website Visit Kent

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