Best of the UK for 2021: Where to go, when and why

Qin Xie looks for inspiration around the UK in the year ahead

Wednesday 30 December 2020 14:36 GMT
<p>Falmouth will be hosting its sixth Tall Ships Race in 2021&nbsp;</p>

Falmouth will be hosting its sixth Tall Ships Race in 2021 

This year has been a soul-destroying one on many fronts but for the travel industry, it has been a particularly devastating one.

Millions of holidays were cancelled due to coronavirus-induced travel restrictions and many long-standing travel firms collapsed under the weight of refunds during this unprecedented time.

For travellers who have suddenly had their wings clipped, 2020 became a year for staycations. It was a chance to explore and rediscover all the glorious corners of our fair isle and many were surprised even by what their home towns could offer.

I wager, even with new vaccines coming in and borders (hopefully) reopening after that, many of us will remain keen to see what other passport-free gems they can uncover in 2021.

With that in mind, here are some of the best spots to visit in the UK next year.


One of the sculptures on the 1066 Country Walk

When to go: From spring

Why 2021? The 1066 Country Walk, a 31-mile trail that runs from Pevensey to Rye, has had a bit of a makeover with the results making their full debut early in 2021. Ten pieces of art, carved out of wood by East Sussex sculptor Keith Pettit, have been commissioned for the walk and are slowly being laid into place over winter. Break up your journey into the heart of the Norman Conquest with an award-winning drink or two in the region’s vineyards.

North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales

When to go: February

Why 2021? The Dark Skies Festival returns again in February and North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales National Park will be marking 2021 in style having recently been designated as International Dark Sky Reserves. The theme for the coming year will be nocturnal wildlife. Details of the events haven’t been released yet but they will be Covid-secure and need to be pre-booked.


What Westminster Bridge will look like once the lights are installed

When to go: From spring

Why 2021? There’s always plenty to do in the capital but spring 2021 will bring with it the next phase of the public art project, Illuminated River. Blackfriars, Waterloo, Golden Jubilee, Westminster and Lambeth bridges will all be lit up with New York-based artist Leo Villareal’s light artwork. They join the London, Cannon Street, Southwark and Millennium bridges, which made their lighting debut last summer. You can walk along the River Thames at night to see them in all their glory, but look out, too, for a program of walking tours and evening kayak trips.

Bailiwick of Guernsey

When to go: From spring

Why 2021? The islands of Guernsey, Alderney, Sark, Herm and Lihou will be metaphorically connected through a new 50-mile coastal walking trail. The Islands of Guernsey Way is launching in spring 2021 and will showcase the five islands through a guide, map and free app featuring audio commentary, local information, and interactive map. The walk is broken down into sections so you can pick the one that suits you.


Turner Prize 2021 will be hosted in Coventry at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum

When to go: From May

Why 2021? Coventry is the UK City of Culture in 2021 and it’s celebrating with 365 days of programming featuring everything from theatre and performing arts to literature, music and dance – and it all kicks off on 15 May 2021 with Coventry Moves, a bespoke, multidisciplinary display taking place across the city. Some of the other highlights from the year ahead include Faith, a theatre production that can be enjoyed while social distancing; Terry Hall presents Home Sessions, a three day music event; and the presentation of the Turner Prize.


When to go: June/July

Why 2021? Alfred Watkins discovered ley lines in Herefordshire a century ago and the county is celebrating the centenary with a whole host of events next summer. In the works are walks, talks, a photography exhibition, film, art workshops, poetry and more – and there’s a weekend in June that coincides with the Herefordshire Walking Festival. It’s the perfect excuse to explore Herefordshire’s green spaces while learning about the more unusual tales of British history.


The Silk Mill will be the site of the new Museum of Making

When to go: Spring/summer

Why 2021? Silk Mill, said to be the site of the world’s first factory, is celebrating its 300th anniversary next year. It’s very apt, then, that a new Museum of Making will be opening at the site, showcasing some 30,000 objects from Britain’s industrial past as well as hands-on experiences and immersive displays to inspire future makers. The city is also planning a program of events around the anniversary, which will be unveiled in the coming months.


When to go: August

Why 2021? Falmouth will be hosting the start of the Tall Ships Race in the new year. To commemorate the fact that it’s 500 years since the first circumnavigation voyage around the world, the race will be known as the Magellan Elcano 500 Series. While the public won’t have access to the ships, they will be able to take tours on the water to see the 40 vessels up close. And of course, there will be a Parade of Sail before the race kicks off in earnest.


Festivals are due to return to Edinburgh next summer

When to go: Summer

Why 2021? Edinburgh is known as the festival city and this year all of its major events have been cancelled by the pandemic. While things are still up in the air, and Scotland’s borders are currently closed to the rest of the UK, when they do return in 2021, you can expect they will be better than ever.

Brecon Beacons

When to go: When borders reopen

Why 2021? Wales has been largely off limits to the rest of the UK during 2020, which means there have been few opportunities to experience the new openings there. Among them is a new 5km downhill mountain biking trail for beginners, which bills itself as the longest in the UK. You can take a guided ride lasting 3.5 hours where you’ll get tips and advice on making the most of the trail and the sport.

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