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.
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.
All Saints’ Street
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.
An interesting read
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.
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.
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.
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’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!
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.
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’.
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)
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 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’.
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.
Interested in the coast around England?
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.
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’.
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’.
Broadstairs town has bundles of character, too, old hardware stores and tearooms, independent restaurants and some intriguing taverns with log-burning fires.
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.
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.
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.
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.
An interesting read
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.
A 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Fancy a Cotswold’s road trip!
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.
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.
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.
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