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Secret Britain: Hidden gems for stay-at-home travellers

The UK's holiday hotspots will be packed this summer, as millions forgo overseas trips. All the more reason, says Simon Calder, for you to choose your destination with care

For years, the British have proved to be the bedrock of international tourism. Whatever blight afflicts the travel industry – from disease to terrorism – we can usually be tempted abroad by keen prices and the promise of sunshine.

Starting last year, though, our seeming insatiable appetite for overseas travel went into reverse. The plummetting pound and recession – combined with the stress and uncertainty of 21st century air travel – have been dampening our appetite for foreign parts. According to the Office for National Statistics annual Travel Trends survey, we took 15 per cent fewer foreign trips last year. While some of the figures in the report have raised eyebrows (no-one in the travel industry seems able to substantiate a claimed fall of 60 per cent in UK visitors to Barbados, for example), we have evidently cut back greatly on foreign trips, which were down 10 million last year, according to the survey.

That does not mean an equal and opposite boost to British tourism. Indeed, half the people who chose not to travel abroad are pursuing a "staycation" in the original sense of that term – staying in their homes, but exploring the local area. The increase in domestic trips with at least one overnight stay was just five million.

Even that is good news for the domestic travel industry; but it also means a more crowded Britain in the summer months. With the school holidays about to begin in England and Wales, holidaymakers who have not yet finalised their plans would be well-advised to think laterally.

The usual British holiday suspects – Cornwall, Snowdonia, the Lakes – are heavily booked. So the shrewd traveller will choose a destination that is off the beaten track and where space is still available. At the risk of creating another term as irritating as "glamping" (glamorous camping), choosing a holiday in an under- visited part of Great Britain and Northern Ireland could be termed a "UKation". Whatever it is called, such a trip could involve going to extremes, such as Lough Erne or the Isle of Lewis in the far north-west of the kingdom. But you can find equally fine scenery and solitude inside the M25 if you track down the North Downs Way. And, fringeing Scotland's third city, Aberdeen, there is a beach to match Barcelona's.

The 10 destinations featured here might not spring automatically to mind when the subject of UK holidays is mentioned, but that is all the more reason why they might repay your investigation.

Click here or on the image to launch Simon Calder's guide