Six places for Peaceful Staycationsaround the UK

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Many of us are happy enough with having a UK holiday this summer, but what if everyone is heading for the same popular places? Here are six less well known staycation destinations with wide wild countryside or long miles of beach where you can (probably) escape the madding crowd.

  • County: around the UK
  • Great for: beaches | bird watching | flowers and gardens | riverside walks |
  • Refreshments: picnics, takeaways, local pubs and cafes
  • Please note: researched/updated in November 2023. If anything’s changed or you have more tips to share, do get in touch:
  1. 3. Penrith

    While the southern lakes are packed with tourists, thronging Bowness-on-Windermere or admiring the narrow lanes of Grasmere, the northern lakes are a little quieter. This isn’t because they’re any harder to get to. Fast, comfortable trains from London reach Penrith in half the time it takes to drive. From there, buses run to peaceful Ullswater, where a beautiful 20-mile walk rings the rocky shore that Wordsworth wrote about.

    • What is there to see and do around Penrith? Take a boat trip over Ullswater, the Lake District’s second largest lake. Enjoy a waterside pint, stroll through the woods and admire Aira Force, a high waterfall in a Victorian arboretum. There are lots more ideas in our detailed car-free guide to Penrith.
    • Where can I get something to eat? In the cheerful Fyr restaurant in Penrith’s North Lakes hotel, there are high beams, decorative birch trunks and an appetising smell of barbecue. Kebabs hang on huge, looping stands and the “taste table” offers a plateful of protein, but the simplest offerings are best: slabs of ribeye steaks with goose fat chips or sea bass with grilled lemon and spinach. Ask to sit near the open log fire and watch the chef flame-grilling the dishes. Fyr does serve several vegetarian dishes, but if the atmosphere’s too carnivorous, you could head for the veggie-friendly Four and Twenty on King’s Street or the Simple Goodness bistro.
    • And where can I stay? There are lots of options in Penrith itself and these are often the best value, but there are also some places to stay near Ullswater. YHA Patterdale is a 1970s chalet near Glenridding with bus stop and “red squirrels crossing” sign right outside. At the other end of the budget spectrum, Another Place, also with a bus stop at the end of the drive, is an extraordinary hotel if it’s a very special occasion. There’s a 20-metre pool overlooking the lake, a private jetty on Ullswater, and two great restaurants on site.
    • So how do I get there? Bus 508 from Penrith railway station. A Bus and Boat day ticket gives you unlimited day’s travel in the North West and a cruise on Ullswater. Follow Good Journey’s directions.
  1. 4. Coastal Fife

    With a gentle long distance coastal path and excellent public transport connecting its ruined castles and sandy beaches, Fife is one of the UK’s car-free staycation gems. There are picturesque fishing villages and harbour-side tea shops, flowering headlands and surprisingly good weather.

    • What is there to see and do around coastal Fife? There are sights enough for several holidays here. Visit the lovely gardens at Cambo, the Fisheries Museum in Anstruther or the atmospheric castle at Aberdour. For more ideas see our detailed guide to coastal Fife or this car-free feature I wrote for the Guardian.
    • Where can I get something to eat? The cafe in Cambo gardens is particularly good, with its garden veg and vegan cakes. There are lovely cakes too at the Harbour Gallery in Crail and spectacular suppers at the Ship Inn in Elie.
    • And where can I stay? You can stay at the beachside Ship too, with doubles from about £120, B&B. Cheaper options include the down to earth Beveridge Park Hotel right near Kirkcaldy train station with doubles from £40, B&B.
    • So how do I get there? It takes about an hour by train from Edinburgh to Kirkcaldy station. The X60 bus runs hourly from Kirkcaldy (or direct from Edinburgh) to St Andrews, stopping at villages like Elie along the way.
  1. 5. Barmouth

    Another underrated and idyllic stretch of coastline are the sandy beaches, salt marshes, dunes and wooded cliffs that stretch out around Barmouth. Trains along the coastal railway have some of the best views of any rail journey in the world and buses mean you can also walk inland along the Mawddach Estuary too.

    • What is there to see and do around Barmouth? Walking, cycling, swimming, steam railways and lots more.
    • Where can I get something to eat? Fish and chips from the Harbour Fish Bar, with a view of the long wooden viaduct is about as good as life gets – in the right weather. If you need to take shelter, head to the flower-decked 15th-century Last Inn for locally caught fish and a pint, surrounded by old ships beams murals, lanterns, and an ivy-draped grotto with a natural spring.
    • Where can I stay and how do I get there? See our car-free guide to Barmouth
  1. 6. Bodmin

    Cornwall is well known for its summer overcrowding (although winter is another matter). But inland Bodmin has a lot to offer without necessarily drawing the same numbers of tourists as nearby Padstow or arty St Ives. It’s a fabulous centre for car-free days out and the historic heart of the county.

    • What is there to see and do around Bodmin? Steam train rides, woodland walks, a military museum, a popular cycle trail, a spooky old Jail and an award-winning vineyard.
    • Where can I get something to eat? The Camel Trail tea garden serves crab salads and cream teas in a terraced apple orchard a couple of miles outside Bodmin – a great stop for walkers or cyclists following this route to the vineyard.
    • And where can I stay? For budget travellers, there’s a Premier Inn on the Lanceston Road. For something really different, a luxury hotel has just opened in Bodmin Jail.
    • So how do I get there? Get the train instead of driving to Cornwall and you will never look back. It’s quicker, with better scenery. The railway crosses valleys and viaducts, running beside the wide Exe estuary and red, rocky Devon coast. Instead of crawling along inland roads and crowding into services, you can play cards, have a picnic and watch the countryside get steadily more dramatic. Book ahead for cheaper tickets from London to Bodmin, with GWR. When you arrive at Bodmin Parkway, you’ll need to catch Bus 11 into Bodmin itself.