DESTINATION FOCUS • August 2019
From tiny villages to culture-packed cities, the UK is full of sublime (and surprising) spots, perfect for that blissed-out summer break. In the search for Britain’s finest holiday destinations, we turn to the best source of recommendations – you, our very own Executive Club Members. Here are the seven places that came out top
A weekend in Wells-next-the-Sea is all about enjoying the “glorious beaches”, “bracing coastal walks” and watching the crabbing boats come and go in the pretty harbour. It’s hard to imagine that this tiny seaside town in north Norfolk was a thriving port in Tudor times. Today this “timeless piece of British seaside” is sleepy out of season and rich in simple charms. Its pine forest-backed stretch of sand with colourful stilted beach huts is as picturesque as beaches come – keep a look out for seals. Take a stroll along the “bustling main street” dotted with Georgian buildings, pubs and enticing shops, or strike a route slightly further afield to nearby Holkham Hall and Estate; its grand Palladian mansion is a must visit.
Says who: Paul Carter
Sailing, beach huts, Victorian promenades and ice-cream stalls, there are plenty of reasons why this “unspoilt” island in the Solent has long been a popular seaside jaunt. Add to that a crop of stylish bolt-holes and seriously good restaurants and it’s no surprise that the little isle has made a big impression on our Executive Club Members. As well as a gorgeous coastline, it also has many “quintessential English villages”. “Chocolate box” Godshill in the south east of the island stands out with its “charming thatched-roofed cottages” and winding main street that’s lined with “traditional tearooms”.
Says who: May Lee
With tiny twisting lanes, ancient fortified walls and grand gothic cathedral, York is a truly “special city”. Described by one member as “my favourite place in England”, it turns out this age-old city is a top staycation choice for many Executive Club Members. Its network of narrow footpaths – known locally as ‘snickleways’ – are rich in “curious histories”. Most famous of them all is The Shambles, a long medieval market street overhung with half-timbered buildings now home to stylish “little shops”. As well as being steeped in history, York is also esteemed for being “welcoming, clean and typically English” as well as for its exciting restaurant scene. Top local chefs such as Tommy Banks are flying the flag for Yorkshire’s fantastic produce.
Says who: Professor Stephen John Newton, Ashley Hart and Angela Coates
An “eclectic town by the sea” that’s “different to the usual seaside town”, Hastings has a reputation for its creative and bohemian community. The Sussex seaside town also has lashings of “history and character” – best found in its atmospheric Old Town (all cobbled lanes and clapboard cottages). Along with St Leonards-on-Sea, just west of the pier, this “brilliant town that never sleeps” has some very cool independent shops and cafés. For smashing small plates, wood-fired sourdough pizza and craft beer head to local haunt Tommy’s Pizzeria. Visit during one of its vibrant festivals such as Jack in the Green and Pirate Day in July to see the locals really let loose.
Says who: Alison Kriek
Perched on the banks of the River Tyne, Newcastle is a favoured weekend escape for many: described as a “warm, welcoming, friendly and exciting city packed with culture and fun” by one and praised by another for its “friendly people who are very passionate about their city and sporting teams”. When it comes to culture, you can’t miss a mooch about the Biscuit Factory, a sprawling commercial art gallery set in a former Victorian warehouse. While football fans should take a tour of St James’ Park, home to local club the Magpies since 1892. As well as its “excellent shopping” and legendary nightlife, there are fantastic places to eat – try The Patricia in the leafy neighbourhood of Jesmond. And if you’ve had enough of city life, “it's an easy jaunt to the Northumberland coast” and Hadrian’s Wall.
Says who: Claire Coady and Stephen Shaw
With its pretty rural villages, age-old coastline and rolling green hills, Dorset came up as a very popular spot indeed for our Executive Club Members. You get a sense of “centuries of history” as you explore the cobblestoned streets and museums of “quintessentially English” town Dorchester, Dorset’s county town and home to Victorian novelist Thomas Hardy. “This is the sort of place where people still smile and say ‘morning’ and stop to chat”, remarks one Member. Along the coast, chi-chi harbour town Lyme Regis and Burton Bradstock, “a delightful, quaint old village”, are well worth a wander too. Hive Beach Café, right on the beach in the latter, is a “wonderful” spot for a lunch of local seafood. Add to that hunting for fossils on the spectacular Jurassic coastline, riding the Swanage Steam Railway and going on glorious coastal walks around the Isle of Purbeck, and a week in Dorset “is never enough”.
Says who: Rachel Amphlett, Diane Clarkson, Philip Leeson, Owen Vaughan and Chris Penrose
You don’t need to travel far to discover that Britain has beaches to rival the best of them. Those in Pembrokeshire, south Wales, have spellbound a fair few Executive Club Members with their stunning sands and vistas. The National Trust’s Barafundle Bay is described as the “most stunning cove and beach” and “our number one beach in the world”. It’s only accessible via a half-mile walk but it’s “heavenly” on arrival. The “timeless” view from Penally Beach across to Giltar Point and Caldey Island never fails to move one Member. While another says it was love at first sight with Tenby: “An old, well-preserved town, full of charm and most of all, very welcoming people. Add to that stunning beaches, a castle and an island; what more could you ask for?” While sleepy little Laugharne on River Tâf estuary in Carmarthenshire is where another Member retreats to for “lovely sea views” and peaceful contemplation.
Says who: Jack Noble, Michael Doolan, Sonja Whatson, Toni De Feo-Mayers