Leading article: Wish you were here


What lies behind the hefty rise in the number of us who jet off on foreign holidays each year is no secret. It is cheaper than it used to be. The rise of the budget airlines has made it cheaper to fly from Luton to Budapest than it is to take the train from London to Birmingham. It is also more convenient. Travel agents are a dying breed. Now people can book their holidays over the internet in their lunch breaks. All this has revolutionised our attitude to holidays.

But this could be about to change. The long delays, cancelled flights and intrusive searches introduced at British airports since an alleged terror plot was foiled a week ago, have taken a good deal of the convenience out of air travel. And a growing awareness of the damage that flying does to the environment, particularly its contribution to global warming, has begun to chip away at the consciences of some frequent fliers. The Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, has even suggested that it is a "sin" to fly on holiday. An unfamiliar question has begun to form in the minds of many travellers. For the first time in many years people are beginning to wonder if it is actually worth it.

Thankfully, there is an attractive alternative on offer for holidaymakers: stay in Britain. We do not dwell upon the charms of our own country in the way that others, such as the French or the Italians, do with their own lands. We tend to regard Britain as a rainy island that one escapes from, rather than to. This is terribly unfair.

Britain has a wealth of cultural and historic riches the length and breadth of the country. Cities such as Oxford, Edinburgh and Canterbury are packed with delights. Our countryside, from the Downs of Kent to the Scottish highlands, is breathtakingly beautiful. The Lake District has inspired some of the finest poetry in the English language. Thanks to global warming, even our beaches are becoming more attractive.

Yes, there are drawbacks. The British hospitality industry sometimes conforms to the Fawlty Towers stereotype. Hotels can be expensive compared to what one might pay on the other side of the world. But standards of service have been improving. And guesthouses remain tremendous value.

The lure of abroad will always be there, but we should remember that, when it comes to holidays, there's also no place like home.

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