Britain puts up the 'No Vacancy' signs

JOHN McKIE

If you were planning to take a break this weekend and have not already booked accommodation, it may be time to fetch down the tent from the attic.

Most hotels, hydros and guest houses around the coast of Britain look to be full up for the whole weekend. After the hottest summer for years, the last English bank holiday before Christmas is expected to be particularly busy.

Main resorts like Blackpool and Brighton are predicting a record influx, and visitors to the Lincolnshire resorts of Skegness and Mablethorpe have already been advised to seek accommodation inland. Virtually all the 90,000 beds in the area have been taken.

A spokeswoman for the English Tourist Board said yesterday: "A lot of guest houses are doing very good business and I have heard that some of them are ringing round to find accommodation for the guests they can't fit in. Nobody is going to announce they're sold out but if you're not booked, you're going to have to search a bit to get a bed for the night."

The roads are also expected to be very busy, with the AA estimating that 15 million drivers will head for the coast. A spokesman said: "We're certainly expecting a lot of traffic. There will be plenty of drivers heading for the West Country and the North-east."

Meanwhile at the airports, the Association of British Travel Agents has said it expects 1 million departing travellers this weekend, despite the fact that this summer has seen a reduction of about a million in the number of overseas package holidays sold. The 1995 figure is about 9 million, compared with 10 million last year.

Ports are also expected to be busy with about 500,000 people crossing the Channel by ferry.

The spokeswoman for the English Tourist Board added: "It's one of the best summer seasons we have had. The forecast is good and there are a huge number of events." These include a Roman invasion of Cumbria, a Saxon takeover of Rochester castle in Kent, a coracle polo regatta in Shropshire, the National Windsurfing Championships at Hove, East Sussex, and hovercraft racing in Lutterworth, Leicestershire.

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