UK & Ireland

Escape the crowds: 8 unique off-the-beaten path spots for Summer breaks in the UK

Country walks, mountain hikes, city breaks, and pristine beaches await you on these unique places

The UK is flush with places to visit for a summer break and if you know where to look, you’ll find a myriad destination of beauty, relaxation and adventure where you can avoid hoardes of tourists and keep your distance, if you so wish. The varying landscapes of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales provides a breadth of choice for every demographic and type of traveller; families, the solo traveller, couples, friends, the adventurer, the spa seeker, the wildlife enthusiast or the beach bunny.

You’ll find from captivating landscapes on the Causeway Coastal Route and picturesque walking routes in The Dove Valley and Norwich, to sandy beaches and clear blue waters on Jersey and on the Llyn Peninsula. And here are eight destinations that have everything you could want from an escape from the crowds!

South Warwickshire: Take a road trip through literature, art, and nature

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Despite being home to Shakespeare country, South Warwickshire’s historic market towns, pretty roads and meandering canals are often overlooked for the cutesy villages of the Cotswolds. A great way to discover this part of the country is to take a rural road-trip that blends culture, tradition and countryside.

Avoid crowds at Stratford upon Avon and immerse yourself in culture at Compton Verney, a little English parish, home to a historic manor, over a hundred acres of beautiful parkland and a lake. Take a walk through its landscaped gardens created by England’s greatest gardener, Lancelot Brown, and view carefully curated exhibitions at the award-winning art gallery. For a taste of tradition, base yourself at The Bower House Restaurant and Rooms in Shipton-on-Stour, the UK’s 10th happiest town and one of the best towns to live in; discover antique shops, traditional tea rooms, cosy pubs and independent retailers.

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Llyn Peninsula: Enjoy laid-back sandy beaches, water sports, and wildlife

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Sometimes referred to as ‘Snowden’s Arm’, the Llyn Peninsula emerges from North-West Wales, stretching 30 miles into the Irish sea and offering its visitors a plethora of views and activities throughout. You’ll find everything you might want here: surfing and sailing and other watersports, birdwatching, fishing, dolphin-watching and miles and miles of gorgeous sandy beaches, many with disabled access.

Porth Ceiriad, towards the end of the peninsula is a remote and idyllic Welsh pot of gold, a couple of miles from the popular seaside resort of Abersoch. It’s a bit of a trek through fields and down stone steps, but worth it for the clear blue waters and soft golden beach. Sunbathe or choose a watersport; surfing is especially popular here. Take a day to explore Bardsey Island, just 1.9 miles off the peninsula; it’s renowned for its wildlife and you’re likely to sight puffins, seals and manxshearwater.

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Causeway Coastal Route: Explore miles and miles of stunning landscape

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Find solitude in the raw, rugged and breathtaking views of the Causeway Coastal Route, in Northern Ireland. The dramatic stretch of coast runs 100 miles long between Belfast and Derry-Londenderry and is studded with awe-inspiring attractions ranging from historic ruins to beautiful beaches to stunningly good food. Take a week and travel the entire length to enjoy the sheer variety of scenery and local food, or pick a spot to explore over a weekend.

Travelling away from Belfast towards Derry-Londonderry, you’ll come across The Gobbins in County Antrim, a cliff walk that has hugged the basalt cliffs of the Islandmagee peninsula for more than a hundred years. If you’re feeling adventurous, take the tubular bridge (33 feet above the sea) and gaze out at spectacular views and wildlife before you brave stairs carved out into the face of the cliff and explore smugglers caves.

Or take a less challenging route by taking a tour by sea which will give you the opportunity to sight Northern Ireland’s only puffin colony. Stop for lunch at Moreton’s, the family run kiosk at the Ballycastle Harbour, known for the best fresh fish and chips in the area, before taking on Cushendun Caves, made famous by “Game of Thrones.”

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The Black Isle: Rugged landscapes to see bottle-nosed dolphins and salmon

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The Black Isle juts out eastwards above Inverness in the Scottish Highlands; it’s a little-visited part of the country but has much to offer, incluidng rugged landscapes, picturesque villages and whiskey tasting. It’s a peninsula rather than an island, a title given to it because of how it’s sandwiched between the estuaries Moray and Cromarty. Travelling to and from would have been akin to travelling to an Island hundreds of years ago.

Begin at the Falls of Shin where you’ll see salmon leaping upstream, before heading to Moray Firth for sightings of bottle-nosed dolphins who come very close to the shingle beach; they can be viewed from a custom-built wildlife watching boat or directly from Chanonry Point. Nearby, you’ll find the Black Isle Brewery where you can stop for a free tour (including samples of their organic beer!).

If your preference is for whisky (or why not both?), the Glen Ord Distillery, famous for their singleton Glen Ord whisky and the only producer of single malt in the region, is the perfect place to learn about the process and taste the famous tipple for yourself.

There are museums and lighthouses and medieval churches for you to explore, too, and more natural sights, like the Fairy Glen, to discover. With so much to do and see, Newhall Mains, a family-run rural estate is the ideal place to relax and unwind with a cookery lesson or a meal from its luxury food delivery service.

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Jersey: A paradise for sun-chasers, sunbathers, and walkers alike

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Jersey is Britain’s sunniest vacation spot but often overlooked for mainland holidays in Devon or Cornwall. There are a wealth of sights and activities here; beautiful beaches, a national park, rich history and family-friendly attractions. As well as flights from across the UK, Jersey is accessible by Condor ferry from Portsmouth or Poole, making it easily accessible. Just nine miles by five, Jersey is easily explorable over a long weekend.

What’s more, with Jersey embracing slow travel, the 45-mile network of green lanes where pedestrians and cyclists have priority over cars, allows guests to explore the island’s natural beauty at leisure.

There are so many gorgeous beaches to choose from in Jersey, each with its own unique vibe. Plemont is a bay sheltered by towering cliffs where you can swim in low tide–it has shallow waters and rockpools and the sandy beach is a perfect haven for sunbathers. Families will find plenty of activities to keep children entertained at St. Brelade’s Bay; there’s trampolining, kayaking and paddle-boarding.

St. Ouen’s Bay is particularly popular with surfers and swimmers alike and the Havre des Pas Lido offers swimmers of all ages a safe space, away from temperamental currents. Away from the beaches, you can take a Bushcraft course and explore Jersey’s natural habitat; you’ll learn how to forage for edible plants and sea herbs and practice building your own fire.

After a weekend of activity, take a day to completely relax at The Palm Club, the Atlantic Hotel’s elegant and sophisticated wellness centre. Opt for an Ocean Massage or a range of treatments, or simply relax in the spa pool.

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Norwich: A place to truly enjoy a quiet city break

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Norwich is the only city in the country within a national park, so naturally it has the best of both worlds (or best of three, if you count its proximity to the sea!); the serenity of green spaces and the conveniences of city life.

Start with an urban walk, taking in Norwich’s architecture where even the residential stone clad houses are beguiling. Stop for the some of the region’s finest fish and chips at Grosvenor Fish & Chips and soak up some sun at St. Gregory’s Green before exploring the city’s magnificent Romanesque cathedral, set in 44 acres of beautiful grounds; it’s a perfect place for solitary reflection or a picnic with friends or family. From there, take a 15 minute walk to Mousehold Heath, for the best views of Norwich.

Cycling is another great way to discover Norwich, particularly the route of the Marriott’s Way; it offers plenty of wildlife, woodland and wild meadows. Summer sees the whole route with lush green canopies of overhanging ancient trees. Butterflies and darting dragonflies are aplenty–look out for geese, ducks, kestrals, magpies and owls. The route is also known as a place to forage wild strawberries. Norwich market is also a fantastic place to pick up fresh local produce, including fruit and veg and artisan bread and coffee. For a relaxing end to your experience, take a scenic cruise along the River Wensum.

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South Pennines: Enjoy arts, craft, and culture in vibrant towns and villages

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If the North Pennines are for holiday makers keen for serious outdoor activity, the South Pennines is where you might go to relax over local craft beers, peruse antique shops, absorb literary culture and get to know its creative and friendly residents, all whilst being surrounded by beautiful and sometimes dramatic landscapes. Each little town and village has its own unique character; choose your base and explore each at your leisure.

Imagine a place where fruit, vegetables and herbs grow in public places and you’re encouraged to help yourself; this is the brainchild of a group of friends in Todmorden, now a worldwide movement called Incredible Edible. Local produce is very important in Todmorden and you’ll find this resonates with restaurants and cafes. The Bear Café encourages a food philosophy that is less environmentally damaging and prides itself on using free-range and organic produce; it’s the perfect spot for a light lunch or a coffee break after visiting Todmorden’s many galleries and art spaces.

Take a day to visit the nearby Saddleworth, a cluster of stone villages with a rich heritage of activism. Residents are proud of their involvement in the Suffragette and Cooperative movements and boast some fantastic pubs and micro breweries. The Church Inn is where you’ll find Saddleworth Brewery and celebrated local beer. You won’t want to miss Ilkley, a spa town known for its food. Choose from one of its many gastro pubs or book dinner at the award-winning Box Tree restaurant.

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The Dove Valley: Discover scenic walking routes and explore ancient caves

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On the edge of the popular Peak District sits the lesser known, less frequented but just as beautiful, Dove Valley, carved out by the River Dove. It’s the perfect place for a solitary summer break exploring miles of countryside via picturesque and adventurous walks. You’ll stumble upon fascinating natural and man-made sites but could walk for miles in the open country-side without seeing another soul.

For a taste of ancient history, hike to Thor’s Cave, a natural opening in a limestone cliff towering above the Manifold Valley, the River Dove’s famous tributary. Having been inhabited for centuries, excavations have uncovered a variety of bronze jewellery and Samian and Roman coins. For panoramic views of the Dove Valley, take a walk to the top of The Weaver Hills, before descending to the village of Ellastone for a Bib Gourmand-awarded menu dinner at The Duncombe Arms.

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