21 UK Destinations to Visit in 2021 (Plus, Where to Stay)

Planning a staycation? Explore our favourite destinations across the UK, including towns where the coast meets culture, dynamic cities and remote islands that feel as if you’re far from home. Plus, the new hotels and tried-and-tested places to stay when you visit.

We've officially got a spring in our step. The temperatures are climbing and with the prospect of easing travel restrictions on the horizon, we're making plans for a UK getaway. We called it before: 2021 is the year of the staycation.

Taking a trip close to home needn't feel like missing out, thanks to the country's diverse landscape - all rural idylls carved by history, wild mountainscapes, world-class cultural institutions and a coastline where the tide ebbs and flows between drama and nostalgia. Plus, skipping the air miles will keep down your carbon footprint. Win, win.

Our lowdown on 2021's best UK destinations spirits you from the outer reaches of Scotland's west coast to sub-tropical islands, chocolate-box villages, dynamic cities and the London neighbourhood to watch. And better yet, we've spotlighted the boutique boltholes to get booking. Ready? Set. Escape.

The great escape: 21 of the UK's best staycation destinations

North Yorkshire


If dancing with wild abandon among brooding valleys decorated with heather appeals, make a beeline for the North York Moors - three quarters of the world's heather moorland is found in the UK, and most of it is here. Hike trails that criss-cross ridge tops, archaeological sites and age-old ruins. Sutton Bank and Rievaulx Abbey are our favourite spots. Refuel on the fringes of the national park in Yorkshire's "food capital" of Malton before heading east to Robin Hood's Bay and Whitby - you'll have to climb 199 steps to reach its famous abbey, but North Sea vistas are worth the burning legs. Do save a bit of energy for the evening; low light pollution makes for otherworldly stargazing.

Stay: The Talbot

Lyme Regis


The Pearl of Dorset. Beyond the sandy beaches and crumbling limestone cliffs that make Lyme the UK's fossil capital, its mod-rustic B&Bs, indie shops and sea-to-plate fare draw urbanites craving a salty-fresh smack of coastal charm. This small town hit the headlines in 1814 when a young Mary Anning discovered the first complete ichthyosaur skeleton; in 2021 the sea winds are likely to blow in its favour again as Ammonite, a biopic of Anning starring Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan, makes waves on the silver screen. Walk between ice-cream-coloured houses to the 13th-century Cobb for cold-water prawns washed down with local mead. After a hiatus, Mark Hix recently reopened his The Oyster & Fish House here, while River Cottage is just a short drive away in Axminster. Locavores, take note.

Stay: The Pilot Boat


West Midlands

A testament to the power of reinvention. Coventry's fortunes have seesawed over the years, rising and falling with the motor and munitions industries. In fact, the city was so heavily bombed in 1940 that Nazis coined "coventrieren" meaning "to flatten". This year, it's pulling out all stops to celebrate its title as the UK's Capital of Culture 2021. Beyond Coventry's transport museum and ruined medieval cathedral, pick up the walking trail inspired by the late poet Philip Larkin or rub shoulders with locals in the creative workshops, microbreweries and moonlight movie screenings of Fargo Village. Named after Lady Godiva, who rode through the streets naked in the 11th century to protest against tax, Coventry Godiva Festival is the UK's largest free music festival. The Herbert Art Gallery is set to host the Turner Prize in September 2021.

Stay: Telegraph Hotel



In the 16th century, Cardigan was an important port and herring fishery. But today it's alternative arts, disruptive fashion labels (read: Hiut Denim Co.) and outdoorsy sleeping options that are breathing life into this sleepy town at the mouth of the River Teifi. By day, immerse yourself in Welsh culture at Cardigan Castle and the National Wool Museum; get back to nature with sea kayaking or bushcraft classes; or pick up the Wales Coast Path for windswept walks and seal sightings. By night: choose between Fforest's cult glamping sites - one on a 200-acre farm; the other behind Penbryn Beach - or try its new brick-and-mortar offering, The Albion. Travelling with family? Line up your trip with the Fforest Gather, a summertime celebration of nature, creativity and simple pleasures.

Stay: Fforest

Kent Coast


Nostalgic for the British seaside, we're washing up on the Kentish Riviera, where coastal towns are riding a wave of reinvention. There's oyster-loving Whitstable, Deal and renegade Margate, where the Libertines opened a hotel here last year. Beyond Broadstairs and Dover's (not-so) White Cliffs, are lesser-visited bays, shingle shores and - believe it or not - a desert, where you'll be less likely to knock elbows with down-from-Londoners.

Keep your eye out for Martello towers as you drift between the Isle of Sheppey, St Margaret's at Cliffe (the UK's closest point to France), wild Dungeness and historic Hythe. On Folkestone's Harbour Arm, you'll pick up decent street food as well as part of the UK's largest urban outdoor collection of contemporary art. These are spots as good for a weekend getaway as they are stringing together on a road trip - or go by foot; the England Coast Path is near completion.

Stay: Cabu by the Sea


United Kingdom

Virtual exhibitions. Gigs via Instagram Live. It's been great to see cultural institutions adapt during the last year, but can a digital platform ever match the roar of a concert or the awe-inspired hush of a gallery? Not really. Cue a trip to Liverpool, the former European Capital of Culture and perhaps northern England's most exciting hub of urban regeneration. An old port with plenty of new tricks. Liverpool is a city best discovered by foot. Step beyond the much-visited Albert Dock - where the Tate and a Beatles museum inhabit former warehouses - to explore the independent shops of Ropewalks, leafy Allerton and Crosby. On this windswept beach, a Merseyrail ride away, Antony Gormley's Another Place figures gaze towards Wales on the horizon. By night, let your hair down in the Baltic Triangle.

Stay: Hope Street Hotel

North Berwick


A 30-minute train ride from Edinburgh, this East Lothian town has been a day-trip destination loved by Scots since the late 1800s. But its growing community of indie shops, restaurants and coffeehouses strung with Edison bulbs is helping North Berwick become as attractive to UK staycationers as its rocky promontory and yawning, sandy bays are to seabirds. Stellar views of Bass Rock and a fresh-from-the-Firth lunch at Lobster Shack will be your reward for coastal strolls between Tantallon Castle and Misley Bay. Perhaps a session in Fletcher's Cottage Spa, too. The best days start with croissants from Bostock Bakery (René Redzepi is a fan) and end at Tom Kitchin's gastropub, The Bonnie Badger.

Stay: The Bonnie Badger

Isles of Scilly

United Kingdom

Sparkling beaches aren't just a cliché on the Scillies; its sands hold enough quartz to leave glittery dust on your skin. Couple that with the creased-silk waters, sub-tropical gardens and Atlantic seals, and it's easy to forget you're just 40km (or a 15-minute helicopter ride) from the Cornish coast. Of the archipelago's 145 islands, just five are inhabited, each connected by local boat routes - though it's possible (and magnificent) to walk between Tresco and Bryer at low spring tides. The Scillonian pace of life rarely goes above second gear, save for during the gig boat races. Other attractions include paddleboarding, walking the Garrison Walls and stargazing - the islands' first Dark Skies Week is set for October 2021.

Stay: Peninnis Farm Lodges


South Yorkshire

In best-of-both-worlds Sheffield, you could be bouldering at Stanage Edge and knocking back a fine-dining locavore menu in Jöro's buzzy shipping container within the space of an hour. More than 60 per cent of the "Steel City" is green; a third of it falls within the Peak District National Park. In the centre, factories are being recast by creatives - notably so in Kelham Island. Formed by a man-made goit that once powered water wheels on the River Don, it's now a hub for indie businesses, a museum, Cutlery Works food market and craft breweries. Continue the epicurean exploration in suburban Sharrow Vale or scratch the surface of Sheffield's cultural riches at Millennium Gallery, The Leadmill and the Crucible - part of the largest theatre complex outside London.

Stay: This loft-style apartment in the former James Dixon & Sons factory.

Lundy Island


You're more likely to rub shoulders with ponies and puffins than people on Lundy Island, where the number of human residents hovers in the late 20s. A boat trip from Ilfracombe Harbour, this unspoiled granite outcrop - "Britain's Galapagos" - is so small you could walk its perimeter in an afternoon, and spot some rare birds and marine life en route. That said, Lundy is often veiled in mist; many ships have crashed on its rugged shores. And shipwrecks mean lighthouses. Three of them. To the south, the Old Light was abandoned in 1897 and has since been reborn as two self-catering apartments. Gazing west from here, there's nothing but the Atlantic between you and the US.

Stay: Old Light Upper



Glastonbury may be cancelled for the second year running, but don't scratch Somerset from your staycation list. The good-life market town of Bruton punches above its weight when it comes to art, design and farm-to-fork restaurants (book ahead for Merlin Labron-Johnson's Osip). This West Country bolthole has been a magnet for the creative beau monde since Hauser & Wirth opened here in 2014, but it remains distant enough from London - two and a half hours by train - that it's not overrun with visitors. Days here are spent between galleries and indie shops, quaffing cider and stomping up Lusty Hill. Hotel wise, aesthetes are spoiled. There's Durslade Farmhouse, Number One and At the Chapel. But for 2021? It has to be the new Farmyard at The Newt in Castle Cary. A bucolic-meets-bougie minibreak.

Stay: Farmyard at The Newt

Osea Island


Clapboard cottages. Salt marshes. Seaweed-fringed shingle. This private island on the Blackwater Estuary feels farther from London than a couple hours' drive. That's in part thanks to the mile-long tidal causeway that connects Osea to mainland Heybridge - though paparazzi-shy celebs and the creative elite are known to use the helipad. The island's music-producer owner has reimagined Osea's rehab clinic as a recording studio, while a former torpedo factory has become a party pad for hedonists hiding out. But when the music stops, this is a place governed by nature. No need to look for traffic as you spin a Raleigh Chloe bike around the 380 acres. Dip between sea and pool. And do say hi to resident donkeys Salt and Pepper. Accommodation includes beach cottages and the 10-bedroom, Martha's Vineyard-esque Manor House. Post-lockdown reunion, anyone?

Stay: The Manor House


The Lake District

The Lake District is the antidote par excellence to lockdown cabin fever and one-too-many Deliveroo dinners. It's home to England's most green and pleasant land, forage-to-fork restaurants and more Michelin stars per capita than London. Whetted your appetite? Set your sat nav for Cartmel. The chocolate-box village has been on the gastronome's map since L'Enclume snagged its second star, but the restaurant's new, green accolade - a hallmark of environmental responsibility - is a good excuse to revisit. As is the nearby sticky toffee pudding shop. Fuelled up, stomp between the national park's peaks and tarns, skipping popular Windermere and Keswick in favour of wild swimming in Rydal Water, exploring the lesser-visited Langdale Valley or dropping into Wordsworth's former home for a reading. Cheers to freedom at The Lakes Distillery.

Stay: Another Place


United Kingdom

Often overlooked by travellers beelining for the Brecon Beacons or Stratford-upon-Avon, Shropshire's "blue remembered hills" are prime territory for eeking out social distancing. A pocket of arcadian bliss between the Midlands and Wales, the county is among England's most sparsely populated. It's cities? There are none. Crowned by a castle, Ludlow's historic streets are peppered with buzzy restaurants, while market town Shrewsbury is lined with the country's longest row of uninterrupted independent shops. Elsewhere, hike the Wrekin, paddleboard on the Severn or sip through family-run vineyards - Wroxeter is our tipple of choice. If Shropshire's folkloric tales don't capture your imagination, check into one of the new luxe lodges at the nearby West Midland Safari Park in Worcestershire. There aren't many UK destinations where you'll wake to elephants and cheetahs outside your window.

Stay: Old Downton Lodge


United Kingdom

So you'd been hoping to frolic among the perfumed fields of Provence? Norfolk's lavender meadows are a delightful alternative, while the pinewood-fringed Holkham Beach is so vast, its skies so endless, that it seems to make up for all that space you were missing in 2020. Get back to nature on Salthouse Heath, spot England's largest grey-seal colony from Blakeney Point or rent a canal boat to glide past windmills along the Broads. Want to keep your feet on dry land? Newly opened, The Harper in Langham is a self-professed "breath of fresh air". Think laid-back luxe, East Anglian menus and wellness practices inspired by the elements of North Norfolk.

Stay: The Harper

Giant’s Causeway

Northern Ireland

Few things are likely to refresh your perspective as a giant's footprints. Cue, a trip to Northern Ireland's Causeway Coast. Lashed by the North Atlantic, its Tetris-stacks of basalt columns - 40,000 of them - make this one of the UK's greatest geological wonders. Yes, scientists have put the formation down to a volcanic eruption 60 million years ago, but we're sticking with the legend of Finn McCool, a giant who built a bridge across the North Channel to fight Benandonner, his Scottish rival. Want to get farther off the beaten track? Follow the Causeway Coast Way to neighbouring Portrush where centuries of waves have sculpted the limestone cliffs of Whiterocks Beach. Or, catch a ferry from Ballycastle to Rathlin Island, where the WiFi is weak, people are few and seabirds are many.

Stay: Aurora Log Cabin



Tides are turning in this once-faded seaside town. Less than an hour from London by train, Southend is shaking off its oh-so Essex reputation thanks to a local community of grassroots creatives who are nurturing a cultural revival between its noisy casinos, greasy chippies and garish nightclubs. You'll see it in the contemporary Focal Point Gallery, arts hub Metal and a world-first digital-art park. Elsewhere, stretch out your legs between its glorious stretches of sand, refuelling at Leigh's famous cockle sheds before following the pier - the world's longest - more than two kilometres out into the Thames Estuary.

Stay: Seven

South Downs


The Sussexes (by which we mean East and West, not Harry and Meghan) practically sparkle with staycation-worthy gems. Think sandy shores in West Wittering, almost saccharine Rye and historic-meets-hip Hastings. And thanks to a new open-air swimming pool along Madeira Drive and the prospect of a local branch of Soho House, Brighton's day-trip appeal doesn't look like it's set to diminish anytime soon. Take a walk on the wilder side (by which we mean the rolling South Downs) to admire nighttime views of the Milky Way and the world's first geocached art trail. A project by England's Creative Coast, its waterfront installations will stretch from the Thames Estuary to East Sussex. Farther west near Arundel, The Pig's seventh hotel is set to open this summer, complete with its own vineyard.

Stay: The Pig in the South Downs



The end of the Jubilee line might not be the most obvious choice for a staycation. But we're calling it, Stratford is the east-London neighbourhood to watch. Among the places to know: Number 90 Bar, Copper Box Arena, The Yard Theatre, Stour Space, Chisenhale Gallery and Crate Brewery, sitting merrily on the banks of the River Lea. Hilton recently opened The Gantry here, but it's easier to tap into the local community at The Stratford thanks to its cultural events. It's part of an urban regeneration project that will eventually welcome a new V&A Museum outpost and Sadler's Wells dance theatre. Sandwiched between Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and Stratford International, The Stratford has the design credentials, sky terraces and network-friendly lobbies ideal for "workationers" needing to put in a few hours.

Stay: The Stratford Hotel



Wiggling into a wetsuit, chugging briny air and chomping down on a pasty is the stuff of which summer dreams are made. Small wonder the Cornish Riviera gets so busy as the mercury rises. Thankfully, you can skip the crowds of St Ives without missing out on its arty vibe. Enter: Falmouth, where an eclectic cultural scene is adding a splash of colour to the town's maritime history. On the sloping Old High Street, Inspire Makers and the Old Town Hall are beacons of contemporary local art - roll up your sleeves and join a workshop before mingling with the cool crowd at Old Brewery Yard. Take a look at the calendar of events at The Poly and you'll understand why this seaside town is making a splash.

Stay: Highcliffe Bed & Breakfast

West Coast


The call of the untamed Highland mountainscape has never felt so strong. But we say, put the brakes on plans to drive the North Coast 500 - it's expected the route will get busy in 2021 as travellers finally put pedal to metal. Trickle down the west coast, however, and it's likely to be a different story. Spend time island hopping from the Firth of Clyde to the Outer Hebrides, skimming past Skye in favour of lesser-visited isles such as Eigg, Lismore and Rona. If wild camping (legal in Scotland) doesn't feel like a treat, check onto the private, car-free island of Eilean Shona - it's said to have inspired J. M. Barrie's Neverland. Here, days of wild swims, hikes and nature watching are best concluded around a campfire.

Stay: The Old Schoolhouse

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