Lockdown is officially over, and while it’s vital to behave responsibly and maintain social distancing, there’s no reason not to enjoy what’s left of the summer with a little staycation. Helen Baron rounds up some of her favourite English getaways.
In the last few years, Bruton has become the tasteful Londoner’s favourite country bolthole, but this is no sleepy Somerset backwater…
Where to stay: At the Chapel, an architecturally elegant converted chapel housing a beautiful restaurant, high-end pizzeria and artisan bakery. If you’re after something a little more colourfully ostentatious, The Newt is a nearby manor house hotel, opened in 2019 with glorious gardens, homegrown food and an indulgent spa.
What to do: Hauser & Wirth Somerset, a contemporary art gallery with cafe-restaurant and extensive landscaped grounds, is incredible, and just a few minutes’ walk away through the fields. The village and surrounding countryside are aesthetically lovely, and both Bath and the equally trendy liberal enclave of Frome are a short drive away.
Saunton Sands, Devon
The finest beach in England? This lengthy strand sits above the Taw Estuary and is backed with the kind of deep, undeveloped dunes Camber can only dream about. Surfers love the rolling breaks, while families enjoy the space and wide horizons.
Where to stay: Chalet Saunton perches high above the northern end of the beach, with a lookout from each of its apartments that is sure to impress. Luxuriously large bedrooms and full self-catering facilities make it the ideal choice for families – and there’s a handy footpath from the garden to the sands.
What to do: Surf, paddle-board, swim, sail: the North Devon coast is all about the water. The coastal villages of Croyde, Georgeham, Woolacombe and Ilfracombe are close at hand, and Exmoor is just a short hop east if you want to explore inland.
Praa Sands, Cornwall
Everyone loves Cornwall, but not everyone is bold enough to venture (almost) as far west as you can go. Just up the road from Penzance, Praa Sands is a wind-tickled strip of sand beloved of surf enthusiasts – and the perfect base for exploring England’s most southwesterly stretches.
Where to stay: Little Cottage (which is actually neither of those things) is a staycationer’s dream (title image and below). Architect-designed, stylishly minimalist and equipped with everything a family (or two, even) could need for a relaxing beach holiday, it benefits from being sited right on the beach – so you can sit on the terrace or soak in the bath while watching the waves roll in.
What to do: Penzance has a very cool mid-century lido right on the shore, fed by seawater and ripe for photos. Further west you can enjoy tours and performances at the Minack, a breathtaking stone amphitheatre carved into cliffs over the Atlantic. And any number of cute Cornish villages are waiting to be discovered among the winding lanes.
A couple of hours’ drive from London, with bucolic scenery and seaside towns that seem not to have changed much since the 1950s, a staycation in Suffolk is all about winding down and taking it slow.
Where to stay: Retreat East is a private estate set in miles of stunning Suffolk countryside. Rooms range from two-person studios to converted barns that can comfortably sleep eight, and the design is on point: a refined contemporary take on traditional rural getaways. Note, though, that children are only welcome during school holidays.
What to do: Retreat East has it all: gym facilities, a spa, horse-riding, cycling… you may not need to leave. If you do, be sure to put Aldeburgh, Southwold and renowned classical music destination Snape Maltings on your itinerary.
Less than 90 minutes from London, this spot of Kent sits between the built-up Thanet shoreline and the greener Sussex border. The scenery is changeable in this most developed of southern counties, but there are good things happening all over.
Where to stay: Port Lympne offers great short breaks for groups with little ones. A celebrated wildlife reserve that in places more closely resembles the African savannah than the garden of England – that’ll be the wandering giraffe, wildebeest and rhino – you can even stay in a luxury lodge with a window into a tiger or lion enclosure.
What to do: The park itself offers brilliant guided safaris (though check they’re running before you book, what with social distancing). And coastal Kent has much to offer if you don’t mind a little driving: hipster Margate and the Turner Contemporary; the surreally post-apocalyptic shingle desert that is Dungeness; and the rejuvenated centre of Folkestone, with its street food stalls along the harbour.