Cart is empty
Whether it’s the dramatic landscapes of the Scottish Highlands, the quintessential charm of the coast or simply that inimitable community spirit you don’t get in cities, get away from the bright lights of London in one of these pretty places.
1. Gower Peninsula, Wales
Writer Wynford Vaughan called the Gower Peninsula “a secret that people hug to themselves” and on arriving at this quaint stretch of coast town you’ll soon see why. The UK’s first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Gower’s landscape is magical; limestone cliffs, wild moors and sprite-laden oak woodlands. Signs of civilisation are minimal, manifesting as country pubs, cosy B&Bs and sandy towels crumpled on the beach. Medieval ruins and tawny shores are the main attraction, with everyone offering a different opinion on the best of both. Our favourite beach is Rhossili. Sitting inconspicuously at the end of a cliff path means fewer people make the journey out to these three miles of coast. Daredevils can try their hand at coasteering, a sure-fire way to get the blood pumping in this otherwise languid town.
2. Portmeirion, Gwynedd, Wales
Out of the way and seemingly out of time, Portmeirion is an intriguing spot in north Wales. Designed and built by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis between 1925 and 1975, the fanciful product is a purpose-built tourist village that is both kitsch and enchanting. From above, the colourful cliffside buildings almost appear like a speck of Amalfi Coast in the UK, and Portmeirion that has captured hearts across the country. With only two hotels, a cluster of historic cottages, a handful of boutique shops, one spa, a resident artists gallery and a sole Italian ice-cream parlour, you’ll easily cover it all in one day. Don’t miss the Portmeirion Gardens, bursting with vibrant colourful blooms that put the finishing touch on this quirky spot.
3. Crail, Fife, Scotland
Small, mighty and hailed as the country’s sunniest spot (no mean feat in Scotland) Fife is a wee haven of warmth which, although just north of Edinburgh, feels worlds away. Fishermen set out to sea in the mornings, cobblestone streets lead the way to World War II bunkers and hole-in-the-wall ice-cream shops selling 99s. It’s a time-warped scene completed by a backdrop of rocky shores and the ruins of formidable castles perching on the edge of sandstone cliffs. For landscapes less menacing, you’ll find Fife is also home to soft shores perfect for a fish and chips picnic before a dip in calm waters. St Andrews’ West Sands beach should be your go-to, or head offshore to the Isle of May, a nature reserve where puffins and guillemots thrive. Visit Scotland’s iconic Secret Bunker that resides beneath a fake farmhouse and be sure to eat at the Lobster Hut, a longtime Fife establishment serving fresher-than-fresh catch.
4. Mousehole, Cornwall
St Ives is heaving on a summer’s day but Cornwall has plenty of lesser-known treasures, including the tiny town of Mousehole. With a name pronounced “mau-zul”, this postcard place is well deserving of writer Dylan Thomas’s acclaim as “the loveliest village in England”. The majority of your days will consist of coastal rambles, reading books beneath parasols, and cream teas at Rock Pool Café. Aside from the obvious seaside allures, Mousehole also offers contemporary art at The Tyler Gallery and first-class theatre at the Minack, an open-air stage carved into the granite cliffs of Porthcurno. This is old-fashioned Cornwall at its most idyllic – get there before the masses descend.
5. Clifton, Bristol
When the sun is shining in Bristol, it’s hard to beat a stroll among the Georgian townhouses of Clifton before heading to the (remarkably student-free) rooftop terrace at Primrose Café for some pan catalan. From there, its onwards to Clifton Suspension Bridge before another stop – this time local cider at The Coronation Tap. If a little relaxation is required, there’s nowhere better than The Lido, a boutique spa sitting smack bang in the middle of town, detectable thanks to a small sign overhead and the enticing scent of spa products wafting out. Come night-time, Bristol adopts an altogether different scene and when Clifton goes to bed, Stokes Croft really comes into its own. The famously edgy part of Bristol, the area showcases the city’s independent spirit (and thumping drum ‘n’ bass scene). For a bit of both head to Lakota, while the The Canteen offers live music, cheap beers and a local crowd.
6. Broadway, Cotswolds
There are few places that exude as much quintessential English countryside charm as the Cotswolds, an area synonymous with chocolate-box houses, winding streets and fields of heather dancing in the breeze. Sitting at the base of Worcestershire hills is Broadway, a particularly pretty village in an area of particularly pretty villages. Start your day with an invigorating walk to Broadway Tower, dramatically standing alone at 65 feet you’ll find yourself overlooking 16 counties from the second-highest viewpoint in all the Cotswolds. Although slightly further away, the walk between Upper and Lower Slaughter along the River Eye is always a pleasant one. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, circle back to Broadway High Street where honey-stoned houses crawl with vines and flowers spill out of baskets perched on window sills. Stop for lunch at Broadway Deli, a neighbourhood favourite beloved for its locally sourced ingredients and fresh pastries. Head to Buckland Manor for supper, where your evening meal begins with fizz and canapés in front of a log fire.
7. Frome, Somerset
Far from just a pretty face, Frome has held on tight to its history of nonconformism, strong community and grassroots politics, today manifesting in things like a communal fridge where you can donate leftovers, a suspended coffee scheme where patrons can pay ahead for those in need and a share shop where goods can be rented for a pound or so. It’s the kind of place that welcomes everyone with open arms and a cup of tea; when Brexit was announced the locals threw a party for the town’s immigrant population to ensure they felt welcome. For a hip vibe head to Catherine Hill, the town’s artisan quarter. Here, you’ll find independent shops lining labyrinthine streets which eventually lead the way to Valentine’s Lamp, a gaudily painted gas light. Kiss it for good luck or send a letter to your beloved in the attached post box titled “Love from Frome…”. If you’re into markets, The Frome Independent is held on the first Sunday of every month, there are general markets every Wednesday and Saturday and the country market is on Thursday.
8. Kimmeridge, Dorset
Across the 150km sprawling from East Devon to Dorset, The Jurassic Coast spans 185 million years of history and boasts a plethora of natural gems (and fossils) ready to be discovered. A hotel as picturesque as its painterly setting, the Pig on the Beach is the perfect base for exploring the rippling green fields, craggy limestone cliffs and flaxen sand which sweeps across Studland Bay in a golden brush stroke. After check-in, don your hiking boots and head for Kimmeridge Bay, a site of historical significance and literary inspirations. The first thing you’ll spot is Clavell Tower. Utterly romantic, the dusty pink, Grade-II-listed Tuscan-style tower stands proudly against an equally majestic setting of hills and heather fields. Since being built in 1830, the tower has captivated the hearts and minds of writers like Thomas Hardy and P. D. James. From there, it’s a short stroll along the coast to the bay, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty where dramatic cliffs form a crescent across the jagged coastline. During the summer take a dip in the rock pools at high tide. In winter, spend time hunting for fossils in the Kimmeridge clay beds or reading a book by the fire back at the hotel.
9. Deal, Kent
While Margate has been hailed the new hub of east Kent coast culture and reinvention, Deal has undergone a similar transformation that an in-the-know crowd are slowly getting wind of. The boisterous seaside town boasts an intriguing history as a smuggler’s haven in the 17th century. Today, Dent’s lawlessness and mischief translates to an individualistic spirit and amalgamation of independent cafés, boutique shops and galleries lining the jumble of Georgian streets backing the seafront. Expect all the typical seaside comforts: fish and chips on the beach, gaudy amusement arcades and stalls selling whelks. The Saturday market is also a must – go with an empty picnic basket to peruse the epicurean offerings. Once your arms can’t bear any more load, head to the pebble beach to devour your findings and nurse your food baby. Deal is also the unlikely home to a vibrant music scene best observed at Smuggler’s Records, a vinyl shop that puts on an annual music festival in the forest. The opening of the town’s first boutique hotel, The Rose, has firmly put Deal on the map.
10. Uig, Scotland
In its majestic vastness, the Scottish Highlands encompass a myriad of adjectives at once; romantic, rugged, daunting, bewitching, dramatic, beautiful. Sparsely populated, chances are you’ll see more animals than people here but if you want some human companionship, you can’t go wrong in the small village of Uig. Roads that snake past rural houses, rustic barns and undulating hills lead the way to this sheltered inlet town. Uig is a charming port sitting at the edge of a harbour surrounded by sheer slopes, woodlands and waterfalls – a sublime scene typical of the Highlands. Like something lifted from Tolkien’s imagination with a pinch of luxury thrown in, The Cowshed is a boutique bunkhouse complete with underfloor heating and a deck perfect for evenings spent gazing out into the abyss as salty breeze wafts across the water. Head to Ella’s Café for a hearty breakfast before picking up some picnic fodder at Rankin’s Bakery & Grocer and donning your walking boots to explore some of the 56 walking trails. Be sure to include a trek to The Fairy Glen on your itinerary – a delightfully strange landscape of small, grassy knolls protruding from the earth as if by magic. The walk itself is beautiful, taking you through hillocks, small pools, running streams and, of course, herds of sheep.
You May Also Like
You know how you have that one incredible friend who knows their city inside out? That’s us. We take the world’s most dynamic destinations, hand-pick the best bits and give them to you in one place. This is the kind of guide that you don’t need to run by a local – it was written by one. Eat your heart out, shop until you drop, drink like a fish, dance your socks off, sleep – then repeat.
Embrace the adventurous appetite of the next generation with an annual subscription. SUITCASE Magazine challenges travel perceptions with thought-provoking photo journals, city guides and articles by award-winning international writers.
We'll tell you where you can find the perfect boutique hotel in Paris for under £150, if you tell us about the best dive bar in your city. Deal? Share your stories and photos with #SUITCASEtravels.