The 50 Best British breaks
From swimming with sharks and treehouse sleepovers to specialist foodie and family trips, Sophie Morris discovers exciting short getaways in the UK to suit all tastes and budgets
Friday 04 October 2013
Alex Fisher - Editor of ‘Coast’, the national magazine that’s all about the great British coastline, coastmagazine.co.uk
James Lohan - Co-founder of luxury travel brand Mr & Mrs Smith, mrandmrssmith.com
Alastair Sawday - Founder of Sawday’s, the guide to special places to stay in the UK and Europe, sawdays.co.uk
“Feed chickens and watch cows come home for milking at this family-run, organic farm,” says Alastair. “Breakfasts are a treat, and nippers will love Sue’s adventure maps.”
Ilam Moor Lane, Ilam, Derbyshire DE6 2BD; 01335 310274; beechenhill.co.uk
Hire a Vintage VW Campervan, North Devon
“Kids love the sense of adventure and child-size proportions of campervan living,” says Alex. “Take your holiday home with you and explore the sandy surfing beaches at Croyde and Woolacombe.” From £350 for a long weekend.
O’Connors Campers; 01837 659599; oconnorscampers.co.uk
“We love The Elms in Worcestershire for a weekend family escape,” says James. “It’s a gorgeous manor with grand gardens, an adventure playground and a free crèche to boot.” Doubles from £150, B&B.
Stockton Road, Abberley, Worcester WR6 6AT; 01299 896666; smithandfamily.co.uk
“Having spent my childhood in Brighton, I have a passion for the refurbished Victorian attractions of this seaside town,” says Alex. “The pier, the Volk’s Railway, the Aquarium and the Pavilion can all be visited in a day. Add the Brighton Wheel and the new Sand Sculpture Festival and you have a great weekend that appeals to all ages.”
“A quick getaway from the capital, The Grove is a pampering retreat housed in an elegant converted mansion, which is just as welcoming to children as adults,” says James. Doubles from £285, B&B.
Chandler’s Cross, Hertfordshire WD3 4TG; 01923 807807; smithandfamily.co.uk
Bouncers Farm Gypsy Camp, Essex
The two bow-top wagons at Bouncers Farm are the genuine article, lovingly restored and pitched by the side of an apple and cherry orchard (Kune Kune pigs snuffle among the trees). Each sleeps a family of four and there is a day tent with a woodburner and cooking equipment. From £100 a night.
Bouncers Farm, Wickham Hall Lane, Wickham Bishops, Essex CM8 3JJ; canopyandstars.co.uk
“A charming, converted farmhouse in the leafy Cotswolds where children are treated to a fantastic playroom, top-flight childcare and all the swimming, cycling and scampering they demand,” says James. “Parents can slink off to the spa, and the Gumstool Inn within the grounds does a special tea for children.” Family rooms from £335 per night.
Tetbury, Gloucestershire GL8 8YJ; 01666 890391; smithandfamily.co.uk
Nettlecombe Farm, Isle of Wight
Take the family to their own Narnia, the working Nettlecombe Farm, which has nine dog-friendly, self-catering properties. Introduce your children to farm animals or fishing, or strike out to explore the island. From £295 for a week in low season; short breaks also available.
Nettlecombe Lane, Whitwell, Isle of Wight PO38 2AF; 01983 730783; nettlecombefarm.co.uk
The five rural Center Parcs resorts offer fun-filled, family adventure. Everything from comfortable accommodation to a huge selection of activities (spa, kayaking, fencing, archery) has been well considered, and all ages of children are well-catered for. From £379 for three nights.
Various locations; 08448 267 723; centerparcs.co.uk
Go Ape, Kent
Let all the family express their inner Tarzan with a Go Ape Tree Top Adventure, flying down zip-wires and swinging through trees in the beautiful Bedgebury Forest. Open every day over half-term, it’s £16 for children/£32 adults. Stay at family- and dog-friendly campsites, Bedgebury Camping, from £4 per child/£8 per adult, or Clippenham Camping, 15 miles away, which has bell tents sleeping four, from £80 per night.
Dartmouth Food Festival
“As well as being an authentic, free, community event, this festival, 25-27 October, is great fun,” says Alex. “Sample tasty morsels from local food and drink producers, or learn how to fillet fish, pick crabs and make your own cider, while leaving time for cooking demonstrations from chefs Mitch Tonks and Mark Hix.”
Stay at The Merchants Rest, a two-bedroom self-catering apartment, £446 for 3 nights; 0844 7044987; bluechipholidays.co.uk
“Daily papers and peace in a pretty sitting room, and the light and airy Glasshouse Café for breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea,” says Alastair. “Chef Tom cooks sublime stuff and has worked with Michael Caines, Gordon Ramsay and Marcus Wareing.” Doubles from £125, B&B.
68 Fore St, Topsham, Devon EX3 0HL; 01392 873060; salutationtopsham.co.uk
Hosts Simon and Jason have crafted their little patch of Hampshire into an incredibly nourishing escape. The two bedrooms and new apartment feature huge beds, stylish bathrooms and ample reading and viewing material. The haute pub food makes it worth the trip alone. Doubles from £130 B&B.
Baughurst Rd, Baughurst, Hampshire RG26 5LP; 0118 982 0110; thewellingtonarms.com
“This cosy, Michelin-starred restaurant serves fantastic food and has six comfortable bedrooms,” says Alex. “Chef Kevin and his wife Jacki Mangeolles couldn’t be more welcoming, and you can walk off the calories along the expansive sand dunes down the road.” Doubles from £235 for dinner, B&B.
85 Old Hunstanton Road, Norfolk PE36 6HZ; 01485 532122; theneptune.co.uk
The Hand and Flowers
Britain’s only two Michelinstar pub has Tom Kerridge at the helm, who recently launched his first BBC series, showcasing his version of pub classics. If you’re lucky enough to bag a reservation there are four stylish cottage suites, from £140, in which to lay your head after a slap-up feast.
126 West St, Marlow, Buckinghamshire SL7 2BP; 01628 482277; thehandandflowers.co.uk
“A Michelin-starred restaurant with rooms, built into the side of a hill,” says Alastair. “The Banks family has farmed here for generations and much of what you eat comes straight from local fields.” Doubles from £270 for dinner, B&B.
Oldstead, York YO61 4BL; 01347 868387; blackswanoldstead.co.uk
Famous for its cultural strengths in music and art, Manchester is also putting itself on the food map. The big-ticket name is Simon Rogan at the French (Midland Hotel), and you’ll find graduates of Heston’s kitchen at Aumbry in Prestwich, and Polpo-style Venetian hospitality at Cicchetti. From £29 for three courses at the French. For an alternative to the Midland, try the Great John St Hotel, doubles from £200, B&B.
The Midland Hotel, Peter St, Manchester M60 2DS; 0161 236 3333; the-french.co.uk
A charming, small hotel on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors, with a fabulous tea room and a new tasting menu, pairing local ingredients with 21st-century techniques. ‘To Dine For’ package from £209 per couple including 10-course tasting menu, B&B; doubles from £144, B&B.
Market Place, Helmsley, Yorkshire YO62 5BJ; 01439 770466; blackswan-helmsley.co.uk
“A stylish, New Forest stay for casual gourmands. The restaurant is a highlight, and with old, wooden school chairs and plant pots on every table, it’s relaxed and contemporary,” says James. “Much is sourced from the on-site kitchen garden and smokehouse.” Doubles from £135, room only.
Beaulieu Rd, Brockenhurst, Hampshire SO42 7QL; 01590 622 354; thepighotel.com
Tyddyn Llan, Clwyd
Combining a meal at restaurant-with-rooms, Tyddyn Llan, with an overnight stay (who wants to drive home after a slap-up supper?) is one of the best-value Michelin-star experiences you’ll find, with a Friday-night tasting menu and one night’s B&B from £275 for two or £160 on a Sunday for three courses, B&B.
Gilfach, Llandrillo, Corwen, Clwyd LL21 0ST; 01490 440264; tyddynllan.co.uk
Swimming with Sharks, Oban, Scotland
“Snorkel with basking sharks between May and September off the islands of Mull, Coll and Tiree,” says Alex. “This is a fantastic wildlife experience right on our doorstep, from £330pp for a two-day trip including B&B accommodation.”
Green Farm House, Norfolk
Alastair recommends an outdoorsy weekend in north Norfolk based in a cosy farmhouse B&B. “The owner, Lucy can arrange RYA sailing courses and one-off voyages, and the area is also heaven for walkers and cyclists.” Doubles from £75, B&B.
Balls Lane, Thursford, Fakenham NR21 0BX; 01328 878507; sawdays.co.uk
Bunkhouse at the Roundhouse, Scotland
Explore the Scottish Highlands from this ‘bunkhouse’ which sleeps eight, at the foot of the Monadhliath mountains. “These paired buildings are inspired by the Hobbit, and set in an area famed for its outdoor activities including hiking, climbing and kayaking,” says Alastair. From £360 for a week’s self-catering.
Uvie, nr Newtonmore, Highland PH20 1BS; 07811 322722; myhighlandbunkhouse.com
New Inn, Tresco, Scilly Isles
Squint while you’re on the white arc of the beach at Tresco and you could be on a desert island, so blue is the sea and lush the landscape. Use the affordable four-star New Inn as your base and explore this unspoilt haven. From £55, B&B; Sky bus £120 return.
Tresco, Isles of Scilly; 01720 422844; tresco.co.uk/accommodation/new-inn
Hipping Hall, Kirkby Lonsdale
“You can’t beat the Lake District for outdoorsy distractions; with gorge walking, kayaking and windsurfing,” says James. “Hipping Hall near Kirkby Lonsdale is ideally located and houses an excellent restaurant.” Doubles from £99, B&B.
Cowan Bridge, Kirkby Lonsdale, LA6 2JJ; 01524 271187; hippinghall.com
Adrenalin Cocktail Weekend, Pembrokeshire
“Coasteer, kayak, surf and hike along the beautiful Welsh coast,” recommends Alex. A weekend in low season starts at £215 including two nights’ accommodation, all food, equipment and lessons too.
Parcynole Fch, Mathry, Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire SA62 5HN; 01348 837709; preseliventure.co.uk
Mountain Biking, Wilderness Scotland
Mountain biking isn’t for the faint-hearted, but it’s a great way to see as much of the stunning Scottish wilderness as possible in a week’s break, and you’ll well deserve the hearty meals provided along with Wilderness Scotland’s expert guided tours. From £925 for a six-night guided tour.
Inverdruie House, Aviemore, Cairngorms National Park, Scotland PH22 1QH; 01479 420020; wildernessscotland.com
New Year Yoga, Norfolk
Take some time out this New Year for a long weekend of yoga and relaxation in the serene surroundings of West Lexham Manor in Norfolk including yoga tuition, creative workshops, nutritious vegetarian food and a communal family atmosphere. From £420 for three nights.
Kings Lynn, Norfolk PE32 2 QN; 020 7733 2996; yogaonashoestring.com
Pool House, Scotland
“I love the drama of a wild and windswept Scottish break,” says James. “Stay at Pool House in Wester Ross in one of a clutch of exotically decorated suites, inspired by the owners’ visits to far-flung places.” Doubles from £250, B&B.
Poolewe, Achnasheen, Wester-Ross IV22 2LD; 01445 781272; mrandmrssmith.com
A stunning surfing beach just north of Newquay, kitted out with a beach-side spa and relaxation area and also an Extreme Academy, offering surfing, kite-surfing, paddlesurfing and other watersports, classes from £20. Doubles from £125, B&B, or from £280 per night for one of the new selfcatering retreats, sleeping four.
Watergate Bay, Cornwall TR8 4AA; 01637 860 543; watergatebay.co.uk
On a budget:
Three Cliffs Bay Campsite, Gower Peninsula
“For just £25 a night, a family of four can pitch their tent at this stunning coastal site,” says Alex. “The award-winning location offers a range of low cost activities, including rock pooling, surfing, swimming and rambling.”
Three Cliffs Bay, North Hill Farm, North Hill Lane, Swansea SA3 2HB; 01792 371218; threecliffsbay.com
The George in Rye
“There’s a bevy of boutique hotels in the south east that offer excellent good value stays, but The George in Rye in East Sussex is one of the most inspiring,” says James. “It’s close to Camber Sands too, a gloriously unspoilt stretch of coastline.” Doubles start from £100, B&B.
98 High St, Rye, East Sussex TN31 7JT; 01797 222114; thegeorgeinrye.com
The Granary at Maud Foster Mill
“One of the few working windmills left in the UK with the first floor of the adjoining granary as your domain,” says Alastair. “The kitchen is well equipped and there are out-of-hours mill tours.” From £495 for a week’s self-catering, sleeps two.
Willoughby Rd, Boston, Lincolnshire PE21 9EG; 01205 352188; maudfoster.co.uk
The Wheatsheaf Inn
“I never fail to recommend The Wheatsheaf Inn, a rustic-chic coaching inn that’s both stylish and down-to-earth,” says James. “Get your fill of the fantastic, regional food and beer on offer.” Doubles from £130, B&B.
West End, Northleach, Gloucestershire GL54 3EZ; 01451 860244; mrandmrssmith.com
“Hidden down a light-filled valley at the end of a rustic lane are two little retreats with no mobile signal,” says Alastair. An ideal place to escape modern life and a base to explore a beautiful area of Wales. From £200 for a week’s self-catering, sleeps two to five.
Penpynfarch, Llandysul, Carmarthenshire, Wales SA44 4RU; 01559 389917; penpynfarch.co.uk
Shore Cottage No. 1, Caithness, Scotland
“You really can get away from it all at this fisherman’s cottage overlooking the cove at Caithness,” says Alex. “Pods of dolphins are often sighted from the beach and the nearby cliffs are home to puffins, guillemots and razorbills. Kayak into the bay to see lounging seals.” From £108 for a four-night short break.
Call Berriedale, Nr Wick, Caithness; 01628 825925; landmarktrust.org.uk
For a real family bargain take advantage of one of the Jury’s Inn family weekends, which offer one night’s B&B for two adults and two children, under 12 sharing, along with entry tickets to major attractions. Prices start at just £77 for a trip to Manchester and its Sea Life Centre, while £139 would get you to Southampton and Peppa Pig World.
Corner Cottage, Porth Farm Cottages
Escape to a family-friendly, Cornish cottage. “Corner Cottage is stylish with a well-equipped kitchen and two bedrooms,” says Alastair. “In addition you’ll find games, a ping pong table, wet room, safe play area, a zip wire and an old boat to play pirates on.” From £280 for a week’s self-catering, sleeps four.
Mawgan Porth, Newquay, Cornwall; 01747 840101; porthfarmcottages.co.uk
The Lion and Pheasant, Shrewsbury
If you’re looking for luxury on a budget, head to this boutique spot in the historic market town of Shrewsbury. Doubles from £99, B&B.
49-50 Wyle Cop, Shrewsbury SY1 1XJ; 01743 770345; lionandpheasant.co.uk
Farmer Joe, (yes, that’s his real name) and his son, Chris, give the warmest of welcomes at this Wiltshire glamping site. It’s open until November but thankfully each of the rustic lodges, which sleep six, is equipped with a wood-burning stove and plenty of blankets. From £550 per week.
Belle Vue Farm, Poulshot, Devizes, Wiltshire, SN10 1RZ; 01380 828351; millfarmglamping.co.uk
Chewton Glen Treehouses, Hampshire
“These are no ordinary treehouses,” explains Alex. “The structures in the grounds of Chewton Glen Hotel have hot tubs on their extensive private balconies.” From £700 per night for two.
Chewton Glen Hotel and Spa, New Milton, New Forest, Hampshire BH25 6QS; 01425 282212; chewtonglen.com
“We head to this grand manor, Gidleigh Park on Dartmoor, when we’re in the mood for a weekend of culinary indulgence,” says James. “Chef Michael Caines’ talent has earned the hotel’s restaurant two Michelin stars, and a justified reputation for fine-dining fireworks.” Doubles from £345, B&B.
Chagford, Devon TQ13 8HH; 01647 432647; gidleigh.com
Stay in the capital in a stylish boat, tucked away by the Tower of London. “Once a 1930s coalbarge, now an architecturally stunning houseboat with home cinema,” says Alastair. From £300 per night.
St Katharine Dock E1W 1LA; sawdays.co.uk
“A cosseting spa, a herd of glossy horses and all the country-pile luxury you need in one carefully manicured package,” says James. “Interiors are on the traditional side, but it’s the ultimate indulgent stay.” Doubles from £275, room only.
Bath, Colerne, Chippenham, Wiltshire SN14 8AZ; 01225 742777; lucknampark.co.uk
The Scarlet Hotel and Spa, Cornwall
“The Ayurvedic spa overlooking the sea is my idea of luxury,” says Alex. “Much more than a massage, the Ayurvedic treatments use natural oils and herbs to help guests detox and energise.” A two-night, midweek spa package, including dinner, bed and breakfast, is £395 pp.
Tredagon Rd, Mawgan Porth, Cornwall TR8 4DQ; 01637 861861; scarlethotel.co.uk
A grand building and a very welcoming hotel in the north east, with luxurious rooms in the Old Hall and exceptional food and wine in The Orangery. Rockliffe Hall manages to maintain a sense of personal service and has just been awarded five AA red stars. Doubles from £150, B&B.
Hurworth Rd, Darlington, Co Durham DL2 2DU; 01325 729999; rockliffehall.com
The Old Hall, Norfolk
Plan an indulgent house party o r family celebration in this historic mansion. “A magnificent Grade II-listed Elizabethan house with a Great Hall and library, and bubbly and organic truffles in the fridge,” says Alastair. From £3,950 for a week’s self-catering, sleeps 16.
Saxlingham Nethergate, Norfolk; 07773 767290; theoldhall.net
Ian Schrager’s London EDITION hotel is like a little self-contained pleasure garden. Head to the Jason Atherton-run restaurant for dinner, go celeb-spotting in the lobby bar (wine from £6), then hit the sound-proofed club in the basement. Doubles from £295, B&B.
10 Berners Street, London W1T 3NP; 0207 781 0000; edition-hotels.marriott.com
Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons
“A personal favourite for straight-up luxury,” says James. “Sitting in the sleepy Oxfordshire village of Great Milton, it’s a grand old house with 32 rooms and a dash of easy, French chic. The food is excellent, which won’t come as a surprise as it’s home to Raymond Blanc’s two Michelin-starred restaurant. Doubles from £545, B&B.
Church Rd, Great Milton, Oxford OX44 7PD; 01844 278 881; mrandmrssmith.com
Combine five-star luxury with equine pursuits at Coworth Park, near Sunningdale. The mansion-type hotel sits next to a polo ground and Capability Brown’s Virginia Water so there are plenty of spots for a good hack before hitting the spa. Doubles from £282, B&B.
Coworth Park, Blacknest Road, Ascot, SL5 7SE; 01334 876600; coworthpark.com
Best for... Fans of Tolkien
Bunkhouse - The building at the foot of the Monadhliath mountains was inspired by The Hobbit. It sleeps eight and is a perfect base for outdoor activities such as hiking
Best for... The Watersports
Watergate bay - Sign up to the Extreme Academy for surfing, kite-surfing and, paddle-surfing. Or you could just chill out at the beach-side spa and relaxation area
Best for... Dockside luxe
City Boat - Experience the River Thames as never before and stay in a former coal-barge at St Katharine’s Dock. It comes complete with its own home cinema
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