INSPIRATION • October 2020
Need a change of scene, but not ready to cross oceans to get it? As pubs and B&Bs continue to dial up the cosiness, we ask Executive Club Members from across the UK to reveal their favourite staycation spots that are perfect for a pre-Christmas weekender.
Click on an image below to read the recommendation
Says who: Rebecca Banks, Silver
What’s so special: Quite simply, Cornwall is a magical kingdom that lures me back time and time again.
Moments not to miss: Tucking into the best scones (jam first) Cornwall has to offer at The Krab Pot in Port Isaac; roaming around Minack Theatre in Penzance, with its breath-taking views out across the ocean; crossing the seas to St Michael’s Mount from the beach at Marazion. And there’s nothing like a Cornish sunrise over the ocean, so try and bag an Airbnb by the sea.
Top tip: Don’t drive into Port Isaac (pictured): park at the main car park at the top of the hill and walk – like most tiny fishing villages, it was not built for today’s traffic. And check the tide times – you don’t want to get stuck at St Michael’s Mount when the path is covered by the sea!
Says who: Brendan Gillespie, Blue
What’s so special: You’ll feel as if you’re on the other side of the planet and it’s only an hour’s flight from London.
Moments not to miss: A visit to the amazing Inveraray Castle (the Queen often pops in when she’s travelling in the west coast of Scotland – pictured); lunching on the freshest possible seafood at the Loch Fyne Oyster bar; driving up the ‘Rest and be Thankful’ (you'll understand why it’s named that when you drive it) road for views you can appreciate out across the wild Atlantic.
Top tip: Hire a car from Glasgow airport and then head west from there to Gourock and board the ferry to Dunoon or Kilcreggan and feel your worries fade away as you cross the lovely Firth of Clyde. There’s nothing like sailing to separate you from the rest of the world. A 40-minute drive from there and you’re in Inveraray!
Says who: Penny Rothwell Mason, Bronze
What’s so special: A must for history buffs, the island is small enough to drive pretty much anywhere on it within a day, which means you can end up packing loads into a weekend.
Moments not to miss: Glimpsing the Needles from the Old Battery (a long but dog-friendly walk); visiting the gorge at Shanklin Chine, especially at twilight if you can, and the whole town of Shanklin, actually – countless thatched roofs and a wonderful promenade; a trip to Queen Victoria’s holiday home, Osborne (pictured).
Top tip: We got to Southampton port two hours early (possibly overprepared, but worried about traffic), phoned the ferry company and they let us on one two hours earlier – bonus time to explore the island. If you don’t ask, you don’t get!
Says who: Matt Richardson, Blue
What’s so special: Salcombe is slightly more under the radar than similar harbour towns on the south coast, yet is still nestled in the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It’s big with the watersports set, too – if you like paddleboarding, kayaking or sailing, this is the place to be.
Moments not to miss: Walking along Cliff Road from the town to North Sands (tying it in with some food from The Winking Prawn). Or, if gin’s your thing, a trip to Salcombe Distilling Co, which has its own waterside distillery where you can sample the local drop. Better still, go one step further and book in a lesson at its very own Gin School.
Top tip: Jump on the passenger ferry across to East Portlemouth. It takes about five minutes, but you’ll come across some of the best beaches in the southwest. My favourite? The aptly named Sunny Cove, which is secluded and sheltered. On your way back, call into The Ferry Inn for a pint.
Says who: Lauren Williams, Blue
What’s so special: London is not just one of the UK’s most exciting cities, but also one of the world’s most exciting cities. For the capital at its most classic, west London is the best bet.
Moments not to miss: A morning spent in the Natural History Museum (pictured – make sure to check out the dinosaur exhibit) and the Science Museum just next door; going healthy with lunch and superlative coffee at The Harrington Kitchen (also in South Kensington); perusing the titles in Holland Park’s Daunt Books, which is called London’s most beautiful bookshop for good reason.
Top tip: Hop on a Santander Cycle and head to Hyde Park to feed the friendly ring-necked parakeets. They love apples!
Says who: Sam Cookney, Bronze
What’s so special: Cartmel is not on most people’s Lake District itineraries, but the peaceful village feels a world away. I’ve had countless incredible meals here, usually ending with my friends and me deciding we’re going to leave London and set up shop in the village. Also, trust me on the sticky toffee pudding.
Moments not to miss: Lunch or dinner at my favourite restaurant in the world, Simon Rogan’s L’Enclume (pictured – if not here, Rogan & Co is great for a casual set lunch); a stroll over the river and round the village to the Priory (with a stop at this brewery); buying some of the village’s famous sticky toffee pudding to take back home.
Top tip: Avoid Cartmel on race days – the village is overrun with people! The nearby Haverthwaite Railway is worth a visit if you’re in the area – from here you can catch a scenic steam train to Windermere. Plus, its Station Tea Room does a great afternoon tea.
Says who: Ross Clarke, Blue
What’s so special: On a sunny day (and there are some!) the beaches can easily rival those of the Seychelles, Spain or Miami, and the rugged hills inland are prime for adventure. The people are some of the most hospitable you’ll find, and there’s always a touch of the mythical in the air.
Moments not to miss: Enjoying a fresh crab roll and a hot cuppa for breakfast from Café Môr (pictured) at Freshwater West beach; marvelling at the size of St David’s Cathedral and pootling around the tiny city’s shops; walking part of the Wales Coast Path – Marloes Sands to Deer Park Peninsula offers up not too challenging a section.
Top tip: Don’t miss St Govan’s Chapel, a tiny hermit’s cell built into the limestone cliffs, but check that the road is open before you set off, as the surrounding land is used by the MoD.
Says who: Charlotte Swift, Silver
What’s so special: Wildlife safaris, remote islands, white sandy beaches and spectacular mountains scenes. The Highlands are the ultimate place to shake off the cobwebs.
Moments not to miss: Taking the train to Corrour and walking in countryside so unblemished that you’ll see more wildlife than modern life; feasting on venison stew at the Station House – the UK’s most remote restaurant – and spending a night at the beautifully restored Signal Box. Last but not least, contemplating dramatic formations as you island-hop, with basking sharks in the water and sea eagles up above.
Top tip: Visit in April, May or September to avoid the tourists and the worst of the midges.
Says who: Brian Williams, Gold
What’s so special: I run a coffee blog, where I write about all the coffee I’ve drunk on my travels – but Chester (and its coffee scene) will always have a special place in my heart.
Moments not to miss: A splurge at the city’s famous Rows, a two-tiered shopping arcade that’s stretched along half-timbered galleries dating back to the 13th century; a look inside the majestic Chester Cathedral (founded in 1092) as well as walks along the historic city walls and canals; and, of course, a great coffee shop. The city has tons (and you don’t have to be a coffee snob to enjoy them) but one of my favourites is Obscure Coffee on Lower Bridge Street with its sunny little counter.
Top tip: Visit by train for easy access to the city centre. Plus, the station is a magnificent reminder of a bygone age of rail travel.
Says who: Jayesh Patel, Bronze
What’s so special: This slow-winding stretch of lock-free waterways connect quaint villages and mediaeval market towns with wildlife-rich marshes and ancient woodlands. A self-drive houseboat is the best way to explore.
Moments not to miss: Stopping off at Ranworth Broad nature reserve, a 750km boardwalk that takes you through a tapestry of wet grassland teeming with birds and butterflies; exploring the ruins of St Benet’s Abbey, a monastery thought to date back to the ninth century (download an audio tour in advance); mooring at The Lion at Thurne for fish and chips (with a fiery sunset view, if you’re lucky).
Top tip: In peak season, it’s best to find a mooring spot by mid-afternoon (or even earlier for the most popular ones). And have a back-up stop in mind in case you can’t get into your first choice.
Says who: Kim Willis, Blue
What’s so special: Turquoise seas and idyllic coves – you’d be forgiven for thinking you were on a Greek island.
Moments not to miss: Fuelling up on fish and chips and ice cream at Finleys in Lulworth Cove, before hopping on to the South West Coastal Path to see Durdle Door’s giant sea-worn archway (pictured); braving a swim in the swell at this semi-protected crescent idyll; stretching your legs along the coast to Weymouth, with its endless multi-coloured beaches and dramatic limestone cliffs, regularly exclaiming, “Is this really England?”
Top tip: Drive out to the Jerk Shak in the beer garden at The Scott Arms near the magnificent Corfe Castle. Hey, if you can’t get to the Caribbean…
Says who: Bryony Bowie, Blue
What’s so special: Pennines to the west and the Lake District to the east, the Eden Valley is the astoundingly beautiful, less well-trodden area surrounding the River Eden. Edenhall lies at the heart of it.
Moments not to miss: Strapping on your boots and heading towards Langwathby for the Lady’s Walk, followed by a hearty dinner from the Langwathby Station Café (currently takeaway only); popping up to Little Salkeld for doorstop-cakes and the best rarebit you’ll ever eat at the Watermill Café; a visit to Long Meg and her daughters, one of the largest stone circles in Europe. From there you can also take a hike over to Lacy’s Caves, a series of caves carved into sandstone in the 18th century, with spectacular views along the way.
Top tip: Take a container with you and keep an eye out for blackberries, rosehips and sloes, which will still be ripe along some hedgerows.
Says who: Iseult McArdle, Blue
What’s so special: It’s an often-overlooked little city with some of the friendliest locals you’ll ever meet and a fascinating history.
Moments not to miss: Turning back time at The Titanic Museum (book your ticket in advance) and afterwards a walk to the 19th-century St George’s Market for street food and crafts; grabbing a cosy drink in one of the wooden snugs at The Crown Liquor Saloon, refurbished to its original Victorian glory by the National Trust; a nosy around the beautiful Botanic Gardens (pictured).
Top tip: If you wish to see some gorgeous Irish scenery, hire a car. The Gobbins Trail is a 45-minute drive away with dramatic, Game of Thrones worthy landscapes.
Says who: John-Paul Yates, Bronze
What’s so special: A regal promenade between two headlands, an old-school pier, plenty of retail offerings… There is a very good reason why Llandudno is called the Queen of Welsh resorts.
Moments not to miss: Taking the cable car up to the Great Orme (Llandudno’s mini mountain) and then hiking your way back down to the pier with the Kashmiri goats; exploring Snowdonia National Park (the village of Betws-y-Coed – pictured – and Snowdon, the country’s highest mountain, are a good start); a cracking pizza in the evening at Llandudno’s Wildwood.
Top tip: Keep a lookout for Alice in Wonderland references across the town. It’s where the Liddells (the family of the real-life Alice who inspired writer Lewis Carroll) built their family home in 1862.
Says who: Oliver Sealey, Blue
What’s so special: Rolling valleys, rustic limestone quarries and magical waterfalls – God’s Own Country provides an epic backdrop for adventures of all sizes on home soil.
Moments not to miss: Lapping up the majestic view of Swaledale valley (pictured) from the ruins of Crackpot Hall (if you’re feeling adventurous, scramble up the rugged riverbed valley of Swinner Gill to see its straight-out-of-a-fairy-tale waterfalls); cooling off with a pint of local craft beer in the garden of Yorkshire Dales Brewing Co; then ditching the hiking boots and getting suited and booted for a culinary cruise of the Dales’ best local fare at Yorebridge House.
Top tip: Be sure to book evening meals in advance – even pubs at seemingly sleepy villages get busy in the evenings.