From hang-gliding to kayaking, there’s more to Great British holidays than meets the eye…
It’s that time of year again. The exhilaration of the Christmas period is over, the New Year’s Eve party is but a distant (albeit hazy) memory and you’re slightly dreading the long cold months ahead. So with this in mind, we decided to round up the very best holiday destinations for 2017 that won’t break the bank, as they are all right here in the UK. From magical castles to coastal getaways, historic houses to adrenaline fuelled activities, here are 9 reasons to leave your passport at home and discover unexpected wonders right on your doorstep.
1. Hang Gliding over Shropshire countryside
You don’t have to be a paragliding expert to experience the pure exhilaration of throwing yourself off a cliff strapped to a perfect stranger. (Being slightly crazy may help though). In the heart of the stunning Shropshire countryside you can learn to hang-glide or paraglide with lessons from Leavesley Aviation Flying School. If all that adrenaline has made you slightly weak at the knees and in need of some down time, then just a stone’s throw away is the welcoming bolthole The Castle Hotel, Bishop’s Castle, where you can truly relax after the day’s excitement in the spa, or unwind in one of their luxurious rooms.
2. Stately Homes galore
If stately homes are your thing then a trip to Shropshire is in order in 2017. With the likes of Hodnet Hall Gardens, Weston Park, Walcott Hall and Dudmaston Estate on the doorstep, there are plenty of heritage sites to tempt you. And if you really want to add a touch of splendour and elegance to your holiday book a room at the Hundred House Hotel, complete with four poster bed and swing, which is the perfect abode to return to after a long day of exploration. If you can tear yourself away from the delightfully eccentric surroundings of the Inn, Dudmaston Estate is an unexpected wonder in the countryside… past the enchanted wooded parkland and sweeping gardens, venture inside the red sandstone building to experience the contrast of Modern Art in a most spectacular country setting. The Estate provides extensive walking routes for year round enjoyment and the orchard tea room is the perfect spot to while away the hours if the weather isn’t on your side! Also be sure to visit the nearby Weston Park, which has all the grandeur of an English stately home but with a bit of a difference; you won’t find collections hidden behind red ropes as the House prides itself on having a very modern outlook. During the summer months the Estate is open for public viewing and the miniature railway takes visitors on a ride past lakes and woodland in Temple Wood.
3. Wonderful Welsh Walks
As the highest point in Wales, there’s no place quite like Mount Snowdon. Topped with snow during the winter and springing with rare flowers throughout the warmer months, the imposing mountain draws people from far and wide to take the challenging hike up to its summit, an impressive 3560 feet high, where on a clear day the mind-blowing views stretch as far as England, Scotland, Ireland and the Isle of Man. After a day spent up in the clouds, indulge in a well-deserved meal and good night’s rest at one of the country’s finest inns, The Bull Beaumaris. Alternatively, The Castle Hotel in Conwy is a stunning historic former coaching inn which takes relaxation seriously – a splash of indulgence can be added to any stay with a pampering session at the onsite spa, the ‘Healing Hands’ treatment room, the perfect remedy to soothe those achy joints after a day of walking. If you fancy something a little less strenuous during your holiday, you will also find some of Wales’s most stunning coastline with gorgeous coastal towns nestled in between the green marshes and golden beaches a short picturesque drive away. With delightful harbours, rugged cliff faces and most importantly welcoming pubs along the way to stop at, the 870 miles of the Wales Coast Path is perfect for walkers of all abilities and a great place to go whatever the time of year. With rugged mountain hikes, deserted sandy beaches and crystal clear lakes it’s hard not to be blown away by this magnificent part of the country.
4. Beautiful Coastlines
The Norfolk Coast has stunning golden beaches, tempting local restaurants and irresistible places to stay, but is often missed off the holiday destination list. If this mystifying lack of recognition is what keeps the beaches beautifully quiet and peaceful, then long may it continue. The best possible way to enjoy this magnificent coastline? On horseback! Gallop, paddle and splash undisturbed for miles on end upon a beautiful horse, thanks to a wealth of excellent local riding schools – who needs to be on a beach in Greece anyway!? To truly get a taste of this wonderful part of the country make sure to stay at the exuberant Victoria Inn, which has an award winning restaurant serving up locally caught seafood, venison from their very own herd and beef from the Holkham Estate. A stay in the Ancient House with spectacular views of the Holkham Nature Reserve, spanning towards its very own private beach, is an absolute must.
Take in rolling countryside and explore undiscovered landscapes with a cycling holiday in the UK. There are many cycling routes up and down the country to choose from, but two firm favourite destinations are the Cotswolds and West Wales. In the heart of rugged Welsh countryside, Y Talbot, a delightful inn dating back to the 17th century, is a great base for cyclists. Whether it be over the Cambrian Mountains, down the Teifi Valley or over to the Ceredigion coast, it is very easy to plan a varied schedule of top class cycle rides and the locals are always more than happy to advise on routes. The area around Tregaron is splendid, if strenuous cycling terrain, on or off road. Venturing over to the Cotswolds, inns such as The King’s Head offer special packages for guests wanting to explore the stunning country lanes, bridal paths and quaint villages of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire by bicycle. Holiday stress is totally taken away by their excellent bicycle hire service, who will kit out every guest with a bike that’s just right for their needs, as well as a helmet, lock, pump with spare inner tube and a very handy Cotswold cycling map. The King’s Head is a beautifully rustic and quintessentially English inn set in the idyllic little village of Bledington, often popular with cyclists – and you will be hard pushed to find a more friendly welcome in the country.
6. Fishing and Shooting
Take some time out in the glorious Lancashire countryside, perfectly located for fishing and shooting. The Inn at Whitewell, a charming rural inn that dates back to the 1300s, is nestled on the banks of the River Hodder and has 7 miles of river and 14 pools for you to explore, where sea-trout, salmon and trout are in abundance. The Inn is also perfectly situated next to some of the finest shoots in the country and at the foot of some spectacular grouse moors – ideal for those who fancy a holiday with a bit of a difference.
7. Yorkshire Dales
A picturesque patchwork of woodland and rolling green fields lined by dry stone walls, the Yorkshire Dales are undeniably one of the most sought after holiday destinations in the country, with people pouring in from around the world to sample some of the rugged natural beauty that has inspired generations of poets, artists and authors alike. The Blue Lion, tucked away in the peaceful Wensleydale countryside, emulates everything you could possibly wish for from a country inn retreat, with a cobbled driveway, roaring log fire during the winter months and original 18th century features throughout, not to mention outstanding food that won them Good Pub Guide’s Inn of the Year 2014. The peaceful countryside makes for a perfect getaway from the bustling cities, and you couldn’t feel further away from it all when enjoying a sumptuous stay at The Boar’s Head in Ripley. And with some of the country’s finest gardens and stately homes just minutes away, you certainly won’t be short of things to do during your stay. Marvel at the atmospheric ruins, elegant Georgian water garden and medieval deer park at Fountains Abbey, one of the country’s greatest treasures. If the sun is shining pack a picnic and find a spot on the manicured green lawns by the idyllic riverbank. Alternatively, relish the seasons at the Royal Horticultural Society Garden, Harlow Carr, with botanical art events, flower shows and fantastic walks through landscapes ranging from woodland to wildflower meadows. Also close by you will find Newby Hall and Gardens, a beautiful stately home where you can take a scenic walk through the award winning gardens dating back to the 1920s, or treat yourself to lunch in the café. Equally as stunning is the 18th century Harewood House; explore the 100 acres of exquisite gardens, renowned Bird Garden and the many galleries, drawing rooms and halls which retain their original splendour.
8. Water Sports
Nestled in a natural area of beauty, The Wild Boar in Windermere is the perfect spot for any outdoor adventurer. Located in the heart of the Lake District you will be in and amongst some of the most breath-taking landscape the country has to offer; make sure to explore the woodland trails in the Inn’s own private woodland. And a visit to The Wild Boar would not be complete without a trip to Lake Windermere and Low Wood Watersports Centre, where an extensive range of activities are available such as water-skiing, sailing, canoeing and kayaking, all against the backdrop of the spectacular Lakeland fells.
9. Mesmerising Mountaineering
Whether you fancy yourself a seasoned rambler or more a novice rookie, the mountainous wonders of Wales can be enjoyed by all. Home to one of the most enchanting and extraordinary National Parks in the UK, the South of Wales should definitely sit firmly at the top of your ‘Book-it List’. Located on the edge of Brecon Beacons National Park, The Bear in Powys is the perfect location to satisfy the adventurous life of a traveller. Put your feet up in the bar and enjoy a comfortable stay in one of the individually styled rooms after a long day exploring. Meander across the longest bridge in Wales and take in the stunning sights of the River Usk with one of the parks most treasured walks; starting in the charming country town of Crickhowell and concluding at Iron Age hillfort, an ancient Celtic stronghold which crowns Table Mountain. Experience the feeling of total exhilaration after climbing the craggy, rugged terrain to the summits of Pen-y-Fan and Corn Du, which make up the highest mountain range in southern Britain. If you would prefer to keep both feet firmly on the ground (so to speak), Brecon Beacons has recently become a Dark Sky Reserve… get ready to be transported out-of-this-world and stargaze in the most mesmerising settings. If that isn’t enough to tempt you then be sure to visit the beautiful ruins of Llanthony Priory, the stunning Black Mountains and the ever popular Monmouth and Brecon Canal. And with the National Park marking its 60th anniversary this year, there is no better time to visit. Expect an extravaganza of jazz music, crafts and tea parties.