Visit Great Britain’s countryside and shorelinesall with a touch of culture and charm
Let’s leave our passports at home and discover the beauty that lies on our own UK doorsteps and search out that perfect British staycation.
There are so many stunning locations to explore in the UK for all the family. You’ll be amazed that just within a couple of hours you could be deep in the heart of the peaceful English countryside.
So, where do you fancy venturing off to for your next UK mini-break? Would you like the charm of a bustling harbour town, the remote landscape of the Yorkshire Moors or a bit of seaside fun?
Here I’ve chosen a few of the incredible places Gary and I have visited over our plentiful years of touring the UK. The reminiscing brought back so many wonderful memories for us.
Surely that’s what travelling is all about, making lasting memories.
The 7 locations
Ahh, the charismatic seaside town of Whitby in North Yorkshire. Whitby is located on the northeastern shores of the UK, with magnificent views across the North Sea.
There’s plenty to keep you occupied in Whitby, and that’s even before you’ve ventured across to the picturesque Yorkshire Moors.
As you can imagine, Whitby has strong nautical connections and especially with Captain James Cook. In 1746 a young James Cook served his seaman’s apprenticeship at a shipping yard in Whitby and lived in the loft of an attractive 17th-century house in Grape Lane. This house is now home to the Captain Cook Memorial Museum.
Captain Cook served as a Lieutenant on HMS Endeavour, which was built in Whitby. A replica of this great ship stands in Whitby harbour; you can jump aboard and enjoy your own Endeavour Experience yourself.
Whitby Old Town is a delight to stroll around, charming, cobbled lanes lined with cute independent shops, welcoming inns and many jewellers. You’ll discover that Whitby is also famous for the gemstone ‘jet’, which was mined locally.
Heading north along Church Street is W Hamond Jewellers, est. 1860. It is the oldest manufacturers and retailer of Whitby Jet and houses a museum dedicated to the gem.
Continuing up Church Street, you’ll discover the ‘199-steps’ that lead up to the historic Church of St Mary. The graveyard in St. Mary’s Church was used as a setting by Bram Stoker for a scene in his novel Dracula.
Nestling high on the hill next to St Mary’s Church is the stunning and quite haunting, gothic ruins of Whitby Abbey. This incredible site can be seen from miles around and was used as a landmark by sailors. The mystery of Whitby Abbey lures you in; we couldn’t wait to visit.
Whitby Abbey was completed in the 7th-century and was originally a Christian Monastery and later a Benedictine Abbey. Whitby Abbey fell into ruin during Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries; however, it is now in the safe hands of English Heritage.
Don’t forget to grab your bucket and spade and head around the bay at Whitby to visit Sandsend Beach.
Whitby is an ideal staycation for all the family.
Where to stay in Whitby
- Thistlebank Townhouse – This stylish guest house is located within a short stroll of Whitby’s historic town and just around a mile to Sandsend Beach. The bedrooms are beautifully decorated, and onsite parking is available.
- Demeter Cottage – This lovely two-bedroomed fisherman’s cottage is located within the heart of Whitby Old Town and just 200 yards from Whitby Abbey. It’s perfect for a self-catering family getaway.
We have a few of these books on our shelves by Christopher Winn; they are so fascinating and reveal hidden secrets across the UK.
Packed full of historical facts, intriguing journeys, and snippets of life. It tells tales of history you could never imagine through our ancient lands.
Available in Kindle & Hardback editions, it's an excellent addition to anyone's collection who loves history and legends.
Keeping with the nautical theme, we’re heading to the colourful town of Folkestone in Kent. Along the southeastern coastline on the shores of the English Channel.
Folkestone is one of those seaside towns, that years ago people fell out of love with. So, when we visited recently, it was pleasing to see that a large helping of ‘TLC’ was being sprinkled across Folkestone town and harbour.
Folkestone, like many of Kent’s coastal towns played an essential role in our maritime history. In 1155 a Royal Charter was established, and Folkestone became part of the Cinque Ports by being a Limb of Dover.
Then in more recent years, during World War I and II, these shores were used by a vast number of our troops, heading into battle across the English Channel.
There’s still a little way to go, but Folkstone’s rejuvenation is coming along leaps and bounds. The most significant part is all around its attractive harbour and the harbour arm.
The old disused Folkestone Harbour railway station has been transformed into a pleasant nostalgic garden and seating area. Where you can relax in a deckchair and enjoy a good’ol cup of tea. Strolling further around the bustling Harbour Arm is an array of pop-up eateries, bars, and ice-cream parlours.
If you're looking for a convenient, relaxed place to stay, then why not checkout Airbnb
Wander across the harbour viaduct, now a pedestrian walkway, this once transported chugging locomotives to the water’s edge. Fishing trawlers can still be spotted going about their daily business and local shellfish stalls selling their wares.
Dotted all around Folkestone is the incredible urban contemporary art exhibition. It is accessible 24 hours a day and 365 days of the year. It truly adds a quirky and vibrant characteristic to Folkestone.
It is the largest exhibition of its kind in the UK, and the artworks are continually evolving and changing. Works of art can be seen free of charge by around 46 artists, including Antony Gormley, Tracey Emin and Yoko Ono.
Download the maps and routes here and explore the streets of Folkestone and discover your own favourites for yourself.
Stroll up through the vibrant Creative Quarter and Old High Street from the harbour-front and discover the many independent shops and eateries. It’s from here that you should amble left and visit The Bayle district, with its historical architecture and ancient inns
Oh yes, don’t forget to promenade along the clifftops of the Leas.
Where to stay in Folkestone
If you're intrigued by Kent's weird and wonderful history, or all unusual stories around the county, then take a peek at "Kent's Strangest Tales".
You won't be able to put it down, you can pick it up for your Kindle or in good old paperback.
The extraordinary village of Portmeirion was built by the Welsh architect Clough Williams-Ellis between 1925 and 1973. Portmeirion was constructed in the style of a beautifully eye-catching Italian village, one you could imagine wouldn’t look out of place along the Italian Riviera.
Portmeirion Village was built in two stages, the first between 1925 and 1939. When the old house on the shoreline was converted into the Grand Hotel, many of the striking and cheerful village buildings were erected.
Between 1954 and the mid-70s, further elegant houses and quirky pieces of architecture were added to the unusual and dreamlike village.
Portmeirion Village has been seen on the silver screen on many occasions, most famously for The Prisoner. Portmeirion was used as ‘The Village’ in the surreal spy drama during the 1960s starring, Patrick McGoohan.
Additionally, Portmeirion has been used as a filming location for music videos, the TV series Cold Feet and also made an appearance in Doctor Who.
Portmeirion is perfect for a couples romantic getaway.
Where to stay in Portmeirion
- Portmeirion Village & Castell Deudraeth – Stay overnight in one of the luxury rooms in this beautiful colourful village. Experience peace and tranquillity firsthand.
- Abergafren Lodge– A short distance from Portmeirion Village is this lovely self-catering lodge. Offering tranquil river and mountain views.
Inspired into creating your own adventure?The planning starts here
The attractive village of Lynmouth sits in a lush gorge below Lynton and straddles the West Lyn and East Lyn rivers in a beautiful part of the English coastline. Although, in August 1952, Lynmouth experienced a devasting flood destroying over 100 buildings. Personal accounts, images and memories of this awful event are captured in the free exhibition in Lynmouth Memorial Hall, which is truly worth a visit.
Take a stroll through Lynmouth, along the wonderful esplanade and harbourfront, to enjoy the sights and sounds that you’ll only hear by the sea. Then jump aboard the Cliff Railway and venture north to discover the sister village of Lynton.
Lynton is full of charming historic architecture dotted all amongst its pleasant lanes. It has plenty of cafés, boutiques, galleries and independent shops to enjoy. In Lynton, you will also find the tourist information centre in the local Post Office.
We stayed in the quaint village of Lynmouth for one night at the historic 14th-century inn, The Rising Sun. It was so peaceful and such a pleasure to wake up to the sea views in the morning.
If you’re basing yourself in Lynton or Lynmouth, the historic harbour fishing village of Clovelly is only 40 miles (65km) away. The steep pedestrian main street leads you down through the 400ft of cobbled lanes, passing traditional fishermen’s cottages and charming courtyard gardens.
There is a charge to visit the ancient village of Clovelly. Still it is definitely worth it to experience how life must have been centuries ago. Head down to the picturesque harbourfront and soak up the views across the Bristol Channel and the captivating bay.
Where to stay in Lynton & Lynmouth
- Rising Sun Hotel – Stay overnight in this charming 14th- century thatched inn overlooking Lynmouth Bay. The rooms are stylish, peaceful and offer a relaxed local atmosphere.
- The Crown Hotel – This charming 18th-century coaching inn in Lynton is located in the heart of the characterful historic village. Enjoy the laidback atmosphere and comfortable rooms.
The market town of Henley-on-Thames is in the county of Oxfordshire. If you are looking for a touch of quintessential English, then you’ve arrived in the correct location.
Buntings and flags flutter through the historic streets, outdoor cafés serving lunching ladies and home to the world-renowned Henley Royal Regatta. Oh, so English!
Henley-on-Thames can trace its history back to the 12th – century when King Henry II purchased land in the area. A historic Charter Market has been held in Henley-on-Thames since the 13th- century. The weekly market in Market Place is joined on the 4th Thursday of every month by a Farmer’s Market.
Nearing the bottom of Hart Street, passing by florists, tiny boutiques, galleries, and antique shops, you’ll arrive at St Mary the Virgin Church. If you’re a fan of Dusty Springfield, then take a little peek in the churchyard. You’ll see a gravesite marker for the legendary singer, who lived in the town prior to her death in 1999.
An interesting fact about Henley Bridge is that once you cross over the River Thames eastward, you arrive in the English county of Berkshire.
Where to stay in Henley-on-Thames
- Leander Club – For a little bit of luxury, stay at the beautiful Leander Club on the banks of the River Thames. You’ll feel like Royalty at this historic rowing club.
- The Row Barge Henley – A traditional pub that offers cosy rooms in a central location. It features a courtyard garden & parking is on road.
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.
In fact, we’re specifically visiting the gorgeous landscape of the North York Moors National Park. The undulating hills and countryside are breath-taking and a magical place to re-gather your thoughts and be at one with nature.
In this tranquil part of the world, it’s lovely to share your time between history, culture, and hiking.
Somedays, you’ll want to visit the local attractions, especially the English Heritage ruins of Byland Abbey, which is such an incredible sight across the North York Moors landscape. Also, the Rievaulx Abbey, both 12th – century abbeys, were run by the Cistercian order of monks. Unfortunately, they also both succumbed to the fate of King Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1538.
If you have a bit of a soft spot for heritage railways, hop aboard the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. Journey across the stunning moors and enjoy the distinctive aroma of the diesel locomotive engine.
Ensure you jump off at Goathland Station. Younger readers may recognise it as the original Hogsmeade Station in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. However, our slightly mature audience, including myself, will identify it as Aidensfield from the 90s TV drama series Heartbeat, starring Nick Berry.
Other days you’ll just want to lace-up your hiking boots, head across the moors and stand in awe at the magnificent carpet of heather at your feet.
While you’re visiting Yorkshire, don’t forget to indulge in an incredible roast dinner, Yorkshire is famous for its ‘Yorkshire Puddings’, delicious!!!!
Combine your idyllic North York Moors mini-break with an overnight stay in Whitby.
Where to stay in the North Yorkshire Moors
- Fairhaven Country Guest House – A delightful guesthouse in Goathland. Located just a short stroll from the North Yorkshire Moors Railway in such a lovely part of the Moors.
- Barmoors – Stay for a few nights at this peaceful, tranquil retreat in the heart of the Yorkshire Moors. Charming, comfortable rooms and welcoming hosts
Hiking and cycling around North York Moors
Discover the delights of the southwest of England, more precisely Cornwall. Base yourself in the Market Town of Penzance and tour Cornwall’s magnificent shores.
In Penzance, take a stroll amongst its historic streets and weave your way down to the maritime quay and harbourfront. Chapel Street’s charming shops and cafés are interspersed with eye-catching architecture and lovely stone cottages.
Ensure you visit the former telephone exchange along Princes Street. In 2007 this building was transformed into ‘The Exchange’ contemporary art gallery, with a striking glass façade that runs along the entire frontage.
A mini-break in Cornwall isn’t complete, in my opinion, if you haven’t visited St Michael’s Mount. St Michael’s Mount is a beautiful tidal island in Mount’s Bay and such a magnificent sight from the south shores of Cornwall.
As you can imagine, the history of St Michaels’s Mount is exhaustive; it dates back centuries, prior to its ancient inhabitants. During the 11th–century, Edward the Confessor gave the island to the religious order of Benedictine monks at Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy, France. You can certainly see the similarities between the two.
The construction of the ancient buildings on the summit of St Michael’s Mount and the chapel were built during the mid-12th-century. In the 15th-century, during the reign of Henry V, St Michael’s Mount came back into the possession of the English.
St Michael’s Mount has passed through various noblemen’s hands and is now lovingly managed in conjunction with the National Trust. You can book your visit online. However, ensure you get the timing of the tides correct, as you don’t want to get stranded overnight.
During our time in Cornwall, one of my highlights was visiting the incredible Minack Theatre and discovering its history and how it came to be.
The Minack Theatre clings to Cornwall’s rugged cliff-face along its magnificent unforgiving shores. This extraordinary living theatre has the everlasting backdrop of the ocean miles and miles beyond.
The open-air Minack Theatre was the creation of the astonishing lady Rowena Cade. Rowena took her dream and turned it into reality along with her trusty gardener Billy Rawlings.
Diggers weren’t used to bring this vision to life; it was a labour of love all by hand. Rock by rock, the theatre slowly took shape within a craggy Cornish outcrop. By 1932 Shakespeare’s characters were brought to life.
Where to stay in Penzance
- Hotel Penzance – A delightful hotel with incredible views across Penzance Bay. Stylish rooms, relaxing surroundings and welcoming in-house restaurant.
- Bay lodge – Enjoy a stay at this charming bed and breakfast in Penzance. Welcoming hosts and in lovely surroundings, with views across to St Michael’s Mount.
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.
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