If you’re anything like us you try to pepper your main summer holiday with a sprinkle of UK mini-breaks every year, right? A Cheeky short break away to unwind. And, there are sooo many places to go for the weekend in the UK we never run out of options.
But, sometimes you want romantic getaways for couples, sometimes a girly weekend and other times a place for a cheap family break. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! We’ve done the leg work (it’s such a bind going on all these mini-breaks you know) and we’re about to tell you our best weekend break ideas.
U.K. breaks come in all different shapes and sizes but with our Top 20 list you won’t be running out of ideas for a long time. Now pour yourself a cuppa – you’re about to plan your weekend!
London will always be top of the list for UK weekend break ideas, it’s one of the best cities in the world! Hundreds of tourist attractions, beautiful architecture and masses of free museums. But what if you’ve already been a handful of times, you’ve seen Big Ben, done the London Eye visited Buckingham Palace? Well, how about looking at it from a different perspective. London is like a dozen towns rolled into one and you really could pick one area for a weekend and still not discover everything. Have a read of our post – London’s Top 5 Coolest Area’s Worth Exploring to see which neighbourhood tickles your fancy.
Or maybe you keep seeing all those unique photo’s on Instagram of places in London but you can’t fathom where they’re hiding? Take a look at our London Hidden Gems post and you’ll definitely discover a side to the capital you’ve never seen before!
And if you’ve just never been to London, what are you playing at? Don’t even bother reading the rest of the article, just book somewhere now!
When anyone ever asks me for ideas on where to go for a short break in the UK my first question is ‘have you been to Oxford?’ And, it’s not that Oxford is my absolute favourite mini-break destination, it’s simply that there is so much to do and there’s no chance they’ll return home moaning they didn’t like it! What’s more, if you’re looking for a city break with places to go when the weather is bad, Oxford scores high too. So, yes it’s beautifully old and grand and you’re surrounded by the brains of the future but practically speaking you only have a short getaway window and English weather being a bit moody on occasion, it’s impossible to get rained off in Oxford.
If you do have great weather then make sure you take in as much of the University campus as you can – open those large wooden gates, step through doorways into courtyards and gardens and slope into little churches at choral practice. Oxford University is Oxford and it wouldn’t be right to visit and not absorb at least a bit of the fairytale student life. In fact, if you’re a fan you should book yourself onto a Harry Potter walking tour and see just how much of Oxford is portrayed.
Whilst slightly lacking in good places to eat (except brunch at Gee’s is a dream), Oxford does have a great nightlife to write about. There are a good handful of great old fashioned English pubs around the centre and the Jericho neighbourhood has another handful of really cool cocktail bars. We always stay at the Macdonald Randolph for its great location, sumptuous bedrooms and the very same bar Inspector Morse would solve murders sipping a whisky – it seems this town is full of filming locations, but then of course when you look this good.
Oxford definitely has some of the best museums in the UK and I challenge even museum-haters to not be impressed. Visit the Pitt Rivers & Natural History Museum and the Ashmolean for definite but if you do have the time, or the bad weather, the Museum of Oxford is great too. Who says you need a student loan before you can learn something in this town! A weekend in Oxford is good for the old grey matter.
It might be the Cotswolds that are famed for their quintessentially English villages and chocolate box cottages but Suffolk has all of that without the hoards of tourists. A perfect weekend away in Suffolk would consist of slow meanderings around some of the oldest and prettiest British countryside towns, each with its own handful of pubs and popular microbreweries. Finished off with walks on the beach and a bag of fish and chips at the gorgeous coastal town of Aldeburgh – a quaint sea-side village full of art galleries and book shops and a good handful of young and trendy city dwellers taking a weekend away from London and sampling a pint at the White Hart Inn on the High Street.
Stay in Woodbridge or Halesworth to take advantage of the antique shops and cosy pubs and really get away from it all. Or, if you’d prefer a bit more of a seaside weekend break for some fresh air and quiet beach strolls, Aldeburgh is not to be missed.
P.S. Suffolk is home to Englands prettiest village – Lavenham. But shhh – not many people know that! For more secret spots and hidden gems in Suffolk, have a read of this post.
4. St Andrews
It might be the home of golf but a mini-break in St Andrews doesn’t have to involve tartan trousers and 4 hours chasing little white balls. This upper-crust university town on the east coast of Scotland has the posh-youth vibe you would expect from the former temporary home of Will and Kate. Imagine less la-di-da and more la-la-la though as you spend your weekend away singing in pubs and bars with happy Scottish students. The high street is awash with funky eateries and whisky bars and conjures all the fun and laughter you would expect from a short break in Scotland partying with the locals.
Seeing as you’re here, take a drive down the coast to the little Scottish fishing villages of Pitenweem and Anstruther to admire the rugged coastline and cute stone cottages. Experience some of the UK’s best seafood at The Waterfront Restaurant in Anstruther or a bit of dressed crab at Heron Bistro in Pitenweem. Back to St Andrews for a night at the Old Course Hotel and take advantage of their rooftop spa and hot tub.
For your second day in St Andrews start with a wander along West Sands Beach where the opening scenes from Chariots Of Fire were filmed. Maybe have a picnic or read a book whilst you watch the brave bathers which inevitably appear on most Scottish beaches despite the bracing weather – rock hard I tell you! Then in town finish with a good hearty Scottish meal at Forgans (an old golf-club factory) after the inevitable selfie on the famous Swilcan Bridge before you head home.
No matter the time of year this part of the country is so beautiful for a weekend away. Book yourself two nights at The Drawing Room – a recommendation that we have been dishing out for nearly 10 years because it’s one of the nicest bed and breakfasts we’ve ever stayed in – true story. You’re a stones throw from the quaint little market town of Hay-On-Wye, famous for its literary festival in May and June but perfect any time of year for a half-day wander and a perusal in the 20 bookshops, or the honesty book wall at the base of Hay Castle.
Hay has a farmers market on Saturdays so grab yourself something local and cheesy for lunch, or a Hay meaty pasty, and carry on your stroll through to the flea market located at the Butter Market. For more hearty pub grub The Old Black Lion prides itself on the quality of its fare and uses locally sourced produce in most of its dishes – to be honest though, in this part of the country ‘locally sourced’ comes as standard.
The countryside around the Drawing Room is perfect for quiet Sunday morning walks; a stunning bumpy landscape which breaks only a mild sweat but affords some beautiful vista’s. Alternatively, if you want to get the heart-rate up before you tuck into a Welsh lamb roast, Hay is on the borders of the Brecon Beacons – one of the UK’s prettiest National Parks. All in all, a weekend break idea if a bit of rest and recuperation is your inclination.
A short break in Pembrokeshire may actually prompt a rebook for a whole week later on in the year once you’ve experienced this stretch of Welsh coastline. Nevertheless, it’s a pretty nice place to visit in the UK for a weekend too. Nowhere else in the UK have so many seaside, coastline and beach awards been dished out and if you’ve never been to the area then you really should come and see the reasons why they’ve claimed so many trophies.
Freshwater West and Broadhaven South are sprinkled with surfers and are great places to book yourself a surf lesson if you fancy a bit of an activity weekend. Or, if you prefer the more secluded coves reminiscent of pirates then check out Cwm-yr-Eglwys, complete with its own mini-castle and cute fishing boats. Or the larger scale Tenby – a 13th-century fortified town with an amazing history and an equal amount of great places to eat and drink too.
Pembrokeshire is also a great mini-break idea for hikers as well – miles and miles of easy-to-navigate coastal paths of some of the most breathtaking scenery you will experience anywhere in the UK. You can walk volcanic headlands, flooded glacial valleys, pretty little estuaries, red sandstone cliffs and more if a hiking break is what you’re after.
Stay at The Grove near Narberth – a cosy boutique retreat if you’ve been on your feet all day. But also perfectly located for exploring the gastronomic hub of Narberth and its array of unusual shops and local arts and crafts. Get your wallets ready though – such quality handcrafts are hard to resist!
Cambridge is surely one of the most romantic destinations in the UK, right? Taking a punt down the River Cam beneath all those floaty Willow trees flowing by some of England’s iconic buildings, whilst the bicycles pass by on land – are you getting the picture? But, if you’ve left your sea legs at home there’s also the option of seeing the famous Cambridge College’s from the circular pathway around the city that locals call ‘the backs’. And so many green spaces that a picnic is almost compulsory, especially with delightful names like Midsummer Common, Parker’s Piece and Jesus Green! Cambridge is a great mini-break for couples wanting a slow-paced few days away and one of the best city breaks close to London.
But whether you’re here with your beloved or a bunch of friends Cambridge is a great choice for a fun weekend getaway. After you’ve seen the must-see sights like the Mathematical Bridge, Trinity College and the Corpus Clock make sure you stop off for a famous Fitzbillies Chelsea Bun – one of Stephen Fry’s favourite establishments apparently. And, come 5.30 during term time a little secret is you can get to see King’s College Chapel for free – the famous chapel is open to the public for an hour of beautiful even-song by the college choir, a real Cambridge highlight.
Thankfully the city has been on the up in terms of great places to eat over the last few years and has a few show-off restaurants where you might like to book a table for two. Midsummer House hold’s the Michelin stars but you could also try Six; a panoramic brasserie with beautiful views of the romantic Cambridge skyline. Or just take advantage of this Cambridge rooftop bar and order yourself a birds-eye cocktail.
Cambridge has a daily market selling local produce and antique books amongst other expected market-tat and has all the high street stores you would expect but set in the most appealing Edwardian and Victorian traditional store-front way. Cambridge really is one of the most beautiful places in the UK in terms of architecture and if you have never been then it really should be on your ‘quick breaks UK’ bucket list!
8. The Cotswolds
As much as it irks me a little that the Cotswolds has emerged as a massive tourist destination over the last few years and in-turn inevitably become a little spoiled I couldn’t leave it off this British-weekend-break list. Anyone would think a cruise liner docked somewhere nearby but to be fair, I do see why it attracts the foreign crowds – it’s definitely one of the most picture-postcard places to visit in England. Even Disney built his England section at Epcot around scenes like these. Plus, it’s easy to reach the Cotswolds by train from London.
But, despite being one of those famous places in England, it is still possible to have a nice weekend away here – you just have to know where to go!
Stay in Burford, a town that clings on to its local identity but is still within easy reach of the most popular towns in the Cotswolds like Stow-on-the-Wold and Bourton-on-the-Water. Burford is also a better option for more reasonably priced accommodation and you have a great selection of pubs and restaurants, all serving top class food. We love the Highway Inn on the Main Street for its traditional appeal with modern touches – the rooms are gorgeous and the breakfast will keep you going all day.
There are certainly some pretty drives in the Cotswolds and you want to take advantage of a little trip through Upper and Lower Slaughter for the best representation of the Cotswold stone cottages and babbling brooks. And, whilst you’re on the road, Bibury has to be one of the Cotswolds most beautiful villages and you need that shot for Instagram. But, it’s not all about the pretty villages and thatched stone cottages : Visit the fascinating Lodge Park (free to National Trust members) for an insight into the life of one of England’s 17th-century playboy’s. John ‘Crump’ Dutton created his very own Cotswolds rooftop bar and racecourse and was totally loving life! Take a picnic and go for a walk in the very attractive Sherborne Estate which adjoins the lodge – there is nothing more pleasant than a stroll in the Cotswolds countryside.
And, to bring your mini-break into the 21st century, you should book yourselves in for a Gin tour at the Costwolds Distillery near Stourton. You will sample their full range of spirits and is 45 minutes of a fun alcoholic education. Just down the road at Long Compton the Red Lion Inn is perfectly placed to soak up your slightly inebriated state with some great pub grub and a pint of locally brewed Hooky – one for the road eh.
Nottingham is definitely one of those places that is greater than the sum of its parts and often gets overlooked as a UK weekend break idea. However, as a local I’m telling you it is definitely a great place for a fun weekend getaway. It’s good to go for a city-break of culture, food and shopping and we can tell you all about the places you don’t want to miss whilst you’re here…
Start with our walking tour to get a feel for Nottingham – a town which merges medieval royal history with our famous Victorian architecture by Watson Fothergill. It’s a city big on the arts too and particularly in the ‘Creative Quarter’ of Hockley and the Lace Market you can experience some of our offerings of music venues, craft workshops and art museums. However, all that aside, you should definitely come to Nottingham for a gourmet weekend. The food, oh the food. From the street food markets at Intu Victoria and Sneinton Market to the independents around every corner, you will leave Nottingham with no longer any need for your belts! So, if you see yourself as a bit of a wandering gourmand, book a weekend break in Nottingham.
If you’re only in town for a couple of days, make sure you see the city and its sights first but you absolutely must also visit Wollaton Park. Only a ten minute drive from the city centre in the leafy suburb of Wollaton, you can visit this Elizabethan mansion and explore the deer park for free! It’s a stunning piece of architecture and was used as Wayne Manor in Bat-Man – Dark Knight Rises, and yet its also a great natural history museum, the most incredible piece of park-land to take an afternoon stroll and a perfect spot for coffee and cake too. Nottingham has several little gems like this and most of them get a mention in the Nottingham section of our blog, so if you need any more ideas or places to stay click here.
If there was ever a perfect winter weekend break idea it’d be Rye in East Sussex. Only a quick train from London, you’d think it’d be a more popular travel destination but as of yet it seems to be still something of a local secret. There are many famous celebrities in the area though so you could find yourself having a pint with Sir Paul McCartney or Kate Winslet at one of the local pubs.
Check yourself into Jeakes House on Mermaid Street (named one of Britains most beautiful streets) for a 5 star luxury bed and breakfast experience and hole up in this 13th-century town for a few days of easy living and briny air. Just the history of this town alone is alluring and you can learn more about its run-ins with the past at the Lamb House Museum or the Rye Heritage Centre. Or, you can hop from pub to pub where the friendly locals will happily share a few old Rye-tales by their open fires.
Back on the quaint cobbled streets there are plenty antique shops and boutiques of hand-crafted wares to keep you going for a few hours, enough to work up an appetite for some locally caught fresh fish – it’s amazing what a sea-breeze makes you crave. The eclectic gastro-pub Globe Inn Marsh Rye will settle your appetite, no worries.
Only 2 miles in from the coast, Rye and the surrounding area have historically been associated with foreign invasions and it’s a great location to go castle hunting and collecting Napoleonic stories. The handsome medieval Bodiam Castle is worth a visit as an impressive example of the south coast’s ancient fortifications against invasion.
Before you leave Rye, and East Sussex, make sure you save some room for a bowl of smoked cod chowder at the Dungeness Crab Shack. It is worth visiting Dungeness just for the fresh seafood but you’ll be as equally impressed, more like fascinated, by the otherworldly feel of this desert-like headland – it’s one of the most interesting places to visit in England (It got under our skin so much, we wrote about it here) A unique stop-off to complete your weekend story in this special part of England.
Even ahead of Edinburgh and the Cotswolds York is only 2nd to London in the most popular cities in the UK for a weekend break. Why? Well, the northern charm of this ancient historic city is unparalleled and everyone feels its magic.
The Vikings, Romans and medieval tradesmen have all left their mark on York and if virtual history books were a thing then they’d look like this! In fact, with so many character-lead walking tours taking place around the city (from haunted walks to Viking hang-outs to Harry Potter location tours) you’d swear you were back-stage at a Horrible Histories theatre production.
When you arrive in York you should get yourself up on the city walls, and at least see some of the 3 mile circle. It puts you in perspective of your whereabouts and gives you a birdseye peek at what you can explore once you’re down on the ground; some of the key sights of York.
There is SO much to see in this city and with more attractions per square mile than anywhere else in the UK your short break here will be packed, but here are some of the main attractions in York;
- The famous York Minster – one of Europes largest gothic cathedrals. It’s awe-inspiring and took nearly 250 years to build, plus it costs York £10,000 a day to run!
- The Jorvik Viking Centre – back in 1976 a small archaeological dig unearthed some ancient Viking artefacts, little did they know that would lead to the most remarkable and revolutionary discoveries about the Viking age. This is one of the most interesting museums you will ever visit.
- No trip to York would be complete without a walk down The Shambles. The beautifully preserved storefronts of these overhanging 14th-century buildings are a sight to behold, not to be missed.
- A cup of tea at Betty’s Tearoom – and a ‘Fat Rascal’ scone if you can fit it in. Betty’s is an institution and you can’t come to York without visiting.
Perhaps you are catching my drift that a short break to York would be a busy one? Well, no worries, you’re ‘up north’ now so there are plenty of excuses to rest your weary feet at some of the cities many old pubs. And, if you’re here over a Sunday then you really must sample a proper Sunday Roast complete with giant Yorkshire pudding. Try Brigantes on Micklegate.
No list of UK weekend break ideas would be complete without an entry for the perfect girly weekend away and it would be hard to beat Manchester in this respect. It’s not the most attractive city in the UK (although it does have a slightly polished industrial charm) but boy is it great for shopping!
There are the obvious winners like the Arndale Centre (think High Street brands and well-known labels) and Selfridges on Exchange Square, but having one of the top fashion universities in the country, Manchester takes current trends seriously. If you prefer independent stores and smaller boutiques head on over to the Northern Quarter for quirky one-off shops and the glorious Affleck’s, an eclectic emporium of vintage collections. Or if you like to splash the cash on higher-end designer labels then Manchester has its very own Harvey Nichols to sink your teeth into.
Don’t shop till you drop though because you’re going to need a Red-Bull amount of energy to keep you going till bedtime – Manchester has enough bars and restaurants for even the most party-loving group of girls! Or, book yourselves some rooms at the King Street Townhouse Hotel for the best girly pampering session in their rooftop infinity spa pool and the most luxurious bedrooms ever!
Finish the weekend off with a posh brunch at 20 Stories in the Spinningfields district and a last look around the shopping complex next door. Manchester; tick!
13. Bowness-on-Windermere – Lake District
You know when you hold the two buttons down on your phone and it does a reset? So, that’s what the Lake District does to you, cleanses your soul. But whilst some make the Lakes their adventure destination of choice, tackling Scafell or Blencathra, we think a 2 day break in the Lake District works for everyone. And, it’s especially a nice short-break idea if you need a dog-friendly weekend option.
Stay at the lovely Craigholme Bed & Breakfast in Bowness-on-Windermere because you can abandon the car for a few days and get to everywhere on foot (Jackie also does the best full-English breakfast and has a great DVD selection if you want a cosy night in). Start with a small hike (10 minutes) up to Post Knott to take in the epic views of your home for the next few days then back down into town for a wander. Bowness is what you would expect from a town in the Lake District – lots of hiking shops, Beatrix Potter memorabilia and a few art galleries and gift shops. However, it also ticks the box for a gourmet weekend because of the high quality of restaurants. Ditch the hiking boots, put on your best shirt and book a first-floor window seat at Jackson’s Bistro for some great food with a bit of street entertainment.
There are plenty of strolls, walks or hikes to suit any ability or preference from Bowness but one of the best lake views you’ll get in Cumbria is just a few miles (albeit up and steep hill) outta town to Brant Fell Viewpoint. Or if you’d rather not break a sweat at all this weekend how about a boat trip on Windermere. The Windermere Lake Cruises are perfect for exploring the area around Britains longest lake : take a 45 minute cruise around the islands for views of Victorian millionaires mansions, pretty tranquil bays and breathtaking mountain scenery – after all, that’s what you came to see wasn’t it?
Even in the rain or howling wind you can’t prevent the deep cleanse that the Lake District performs on your soul – the awe-inspiring landscapes are spiritual healing for even the biggest agnostics. However, if the rain is doing that Cumbrian heavy pelt thing, slip inside for a showing of the latest blockbuster at the quaint old-fashioned Royalty Cinema in Bowness. Bowness-in-Windermere really has every weekend eventuality covered and makes for such a nice UK break.
14. Wirksworth, Derbyshire
When looking for some respite from the working week many people choose a weekend away in the Peak District. Why not, it’s lush and green, got some of the prettiest villages in the UK and is not short on country pubs. But whilst popular towns like Matlock, Ashbourne or Buxton fill up their hotels as good bases for Peak explorers, Wirksworth quietly congratulates itself as a hidden gem with a quick knuckle polish.
Geographically speaking you’re in the perfect place for day trips to Bakewell and Matlock – Victorian Derbyshire towns worth visiting at some point in your life, if only to try the famous Bakewell tart. However, you could actually book for a weekend break and never leave Wirksworth. There’s a network of lanes and alley’s which uncover a multitude of pretty sights and interesting things. Art galleries and gift shops alongside cute little cafes and micro-pubs so small you will have no choice but to get into conversation with a local. To be honest, Wirksworth is the kind of place you might even nab yourself an invite to an after-party or Sunday lunch – there’s something about Derbyshire folk and their affectionate hospitality.
It’s great all year round but its one of the best places to visit in September in the UK whilst the Wirksworth Festival is going on. All the local artists (and there are a tonne of them) come out of the woodwork and display their creations around the town on the Art and Architecture trail – a great excuse to have a nosey around other peoples (usually amazing) houses. Plus an armful of events, typically music or food related, go on over the festival weekend too.
If you just want to make Wirksworth your base for the weekend, that’s a great idea. Take advantage of the good pubs when you return in the evening but spend the day time in the Derbyshire Dales or visiting one of the UK’s best stately homes – Mr Darcy’s residence, Chatsworth House (Pemberley) is only a few miles away.
Alternatively, from Wirksworth you have the lovely High Peak Trail to Middleton Top which starts at the back of the village and quickly raises you to heights of beauty.
For all the creature comforts stay at the Counting House, eat at Le Mistral (tried and tested French favourites with homely hospitality) and take in a film at The Northern Light Cinema – a quirky living-room single screen serving up box office hits and classic favourites. Order yourself a g&t at the bar and settle down on a sofa for the cosiest cinema experience ever. Wirksworth is like home from home and you’ll be very happy you discovered this quirky secret UK bolthole.
A city break within a city! Richmond-upon-Thames, like its name suggests, is a borough of London and happens to be a really nice place for a weekend away. It takes 40 minutes by train from London Victoria and as soon as you arrive you know you’re in the posh bit of the city. Understandably, living close to so many huge parks (about 100) and yet a commute to the city centre (only 10 miles away), houses and the families which habit them are definitely more upper-crust. With that comes a lovely little neighbourhood and a quick getaway from busy city living. But actually, this area of London has always been a short break destination and has been attracting the royals, rich and famous for centuries.
Book yourself into the Richmond Hill Hotel for a taste of Georgian luxury and upmarket elegance. It’s the kind of hotel where you won’t want to leave the room but thankfully there’s an epic cocktail lounge to draw you downstairs.
Once you’ve pulled yourself away from the bar, take a stroll around the royal Richmond Park for a bit of deer spotting and a cup of tea at the Grade II listed Pembroke Lodge to replenish lost fluids. I don’t mean to suggest that Richmond can only be taken with beverages but it’s about time you took to the river path and nipped into one of the pubs for a swift half. They’re fascinating places and especially lively when the sun is out but it’s worth noting that when the tide is high you might end up standing on the tables or borrowing a pair of the pub’s communal wellies – no amount of water will deter a cockney from a pint at the pub!
Richmond-upon-Thames is also home to the famous Kew Botanic Gardens and a great place to spend a day. Whether you love garden centre’s for their potted plants or pots of tea and cake you cannot not like Kew. It has its own official police force, it’s home to the smallest Lilly and smallest palace, has its very own Gin and the best art installation for miles – The Hive. It’s a day well spent whatever colour your fingers are.
Other local tourist attractions include Hampton Court Palace, Ham House and The National Archives, plus you’re only down the road from Twickenham and Wimbledon so as you can see, there’ll be lots to do on a short break to Richmond.
Edinburgh is the 2nd most popular place to visit in the UK for oversea’s visitors. Now whether that’s because they’ve heard about the whisky and blokes in skirts or because word has got out that it’s the most attractive city in the UK, who can tell? Whatever the reason, Edinburgh is a whole lot of fun! It’s one of the best places to visit with kids in the UK but equally makes for a perfect romantic break for couples too. Why is it so versatile? Well, whatever your age you can’t fail to be impressed by the likes of Edinburgh Castle or views from Calton Hill but there are an equal amount of tourist attractions to suit everyone’s taste.
Kids would love the Camera Obscura, the National Museum and Edinburgh Zoo. The outdoorsy type should visit the Royal Botanic Gardens, hike Arthurs Seat and take the picturesque walk from Dean Village down to Leith Docks. But if you want to book a nice weekend away for just the two of you, the possibilities are endless…
We love Tigerlily on elegant George Street – it’s downright sexy and the perfect setting for a fun weekend away with your better-half. Will you make it out of their funky cocktail bar? That’s between you and your willpower, but there are so many pubs and bars to explore in Edinburgh – we love Panda & Son’s, a hidden cocktail bar with a side helping of cloches and fire-balls.
During the light-hours (don’t worry, it gets dark early in Scotland!) you’d be aswell to soak up some culture in one of Edinburgh’s many museums – we love the National Portrait Gallery for its impressive neo-gothic architecture and hidden Victorian lavatory, and the Surgeons Hall Museum for some risque blood and guts. Then, for the perfect pre-dinner appetizer, a pre-booked slot at the Scotch Whisky Experience will get you in the mood for another great evening of Scottish sociability and glass chinking.
Perhaps a more subdued Sunday would be appreciated after last night’s frivolities? Go for a man-size Scottish breakfast at The Larder just off the Edinburgh Mile then hop on the number 41 or 43 bus and take a short trip to Cramond. Cramond is one of the most coveted residential area in these parts (former home of J.K.Rowling) because who doesn’t want bobbing row-boats in their living-room view? It’s also a great place to grab a bag of fish and chips and take a wander across a tidal causeway to the little island of Cramond. The giant concrete pylons and WWII shelters aren’t conventionally the most beautiful ornament an island has ever owned but somehow Cramond’s often ethereal light makes these heinous crimes captivating – the handful of photographers give that much away.
If you arrived in Edinburgh by car, and not by Megabus (just why?), you may leave this city with a bang and take the South Queensferry route to soak up the sight that is The Three Bridges – no trip to Edinburgh is complete without at least a peek of this UNESCO marvel!
17. Whitby (Robin Hood’s Bay)
You should definitely treat yourself to an overnight stay in Whitby at some point this year – it’s cosy coves and quaint steep streets are the perfect place for a bit of chilled out ‘me-time’ and have been attracting holiday-makers since the Victorian era. (Note: If you’re not the biggest fan of witches and goths, avoid the town in April and October when the country’s dark and devilish all convene for Whitby Goth Weekend) There are also more than a handful of unique places to stay in this old pirate neighbourhood and it could really turn into a special weekend break.
Robin Hood’s Bay, 5 miles down the coast, is so Popeye you’ll feel out of place in anything less than cable-knit and a pair of wellies. But it’s old-English and beautiful and doesn’t need too much imagination to picture it 100 years ago. The best accommodation choices to soak up this north-eastern gem would be something with views out to sea like some of the Airbnb options out there.
There are a number of things to do in and around Whitby, like the Captain Cook Museum for a bit of background about the guy who put the north-east of England on the map plus everything sailing-related. North-easterners are very proud of their seafaring heritage and Whitby is a great place to experience a bit of this, plus the perfect opportunity to sample the best fish and chips in the UK – fact.
Dominating the town, high on a hill, is the old ruin of medieval Whitby Abbey. Even in ruins, it’s a unique sight against the rugged cliffs and rough sea below. Once a year in summer, a popular performance of the Dracula story is performed at the Abbey – a reminder of the local inspirations which contrived Bram Stokers famous vampire. For more Dracula fun, you could book a tour at the Dracula Experience in town.
But putting all the macabre aside, Whitby and Robin Hood’s Bay make a wonderful base for a weekend of beach walks, fresh fish platters and dramatic scenes that have been inspiring poets, writers and artists for decades – it’s a pretty romantic place after all.
If you asked the Queen where to go for a short break in the UK, obviously she’d say Windsor. She loves it cos’ it reminds her of Harry and Meghan’s wedding, we love it cos’ it’s old, it’s pretty and has the best castle in England, owned by Her Majesty no less.
Our favourite place to stay in town is definitely the Macdonald Windsor – it’s classy and comfortable and this close to the castle there’s a chance you might see Liz in her dressing gown when you pull the curtains back each morning! Plus it’s a convenient 2 minute walk from the Two Brewers Pub on Park Street, a traditional proper pub with good ales and great pub-grub.
It’d be a busy few days if you wanted to see it all but it’s also just one of those nice places to visit in the UK for a weekend.
If you do have the time then in our opinion Windsor Castle is one of the best UK attractions to visit, especially for the state apartments, Mary’s Dolls House and King Henry VIII’s resting place. However, Sundays aren’t the best day to plan a trip because the chapel is mostly out of bounds and that’s half of the best bits! Be there for 11am if you want to see the changing of the guard – a sure England bucket list feature.
But if you’re not that bothered about the Royals (who even are you!?) then a mosy around Windsor is just as lovely. Try Market Street and Church Street for tea rooms and gift shops in crooked timber houses or Peascod street for a spot of car-free shopping lanes.
Windsor was one of the wealthiest towns in England in the middle-ages and some of the posh residences and storefronts still stand today which makes a walk around the centre a really lovely one. Make your way down to the River Thames for a riverboat cruise with a cup of tea and a scone for a unique view of Windsor Castle and a bit of the town’s history.
The posh-boy school town of Eton is Windor’s smaller neighbour and is only a short walk from the river across the Eton Bridge. You may recognise it from scenes in Chariot’s Of Fire or Shakespeare In Love, because well, this could still be the 1600’s!
Eton may have given us Boris Johnson but we’ll forgive it that and swiftly move on to its better concoction – the Eton mess pudding, available for desert at most eating establishments in the area. However, since you’re here, be sure to stop at Eton’s only independent coffee shop for a warm-up brew and something from their eye-watering menu; homemade pies, pastries, cakes and soups for the harshest of food critics. Finish off your Eton tour with a visit to the Museum of Antiquities (currently only open Sundays) for a look at some of the most exquisite artefacts and fascinating finds before you head on home.
Windsor is so easy to get to by train (less than an hour) and is one of the best city breaks close to London if you’re enjoying a visit to England from abroad
19. The North Norfolk Coast
Summer breaks in Norfolk are commonplace for the English resident wanting a seaside holiday, but how about heading to this unique stretch of coastline for just a weekend? You’ll need the car though because the best way to see this pretty area of England is on a road trip.
Tiny villages built in flint are the backdrop to your weekend away but there’s more to it than cute little towns. Have a read of the post we wrote about North-Norfolk’s coastal beauty spots before you determine where to stay.
You could go seal-spotting in Wells-next-the-Sea, or for a stroll down the award-winning pier at Cromer (make sure you dip into the most inspirational Henry Blogg museum at the end of it mind you). But there are also posh inland villages filled with Londoner’s second homes and rickety crab shacks on the edge of wetlands by contrast – Norfolk can be quite diverse!
For an in-depth article about all that’s on offer, click here. Norfolk will not disappoint.
If you like country escapes, England has its fair share. However, if you want country escapes to places that are unspoilt and a little unknown then Northumberland is for you this weekend. It’s ruggedly beautiful, full of history and there’s barely a soul around (unless you visit Alnwick Castle with all the myriads of Harry Potter fans). Frankly, it’s easy to see why Scotland fought for this area so often.
Walks on the wide sandy beaches of the Northumberland coast are a must but also a trip to the tidal Holy Island of Lindisfarne is pretty cool too – just make sure you get out before the tide comes in!
Northumberland has some really impressive castles and strong-holds, due to its tumultuous borderland past and we can wholeheartedly recommend Bamburgh Castle and Warkworth Castle – now these are what castles should look like!
Visit the cute little town of Alnwick and make a stop at the infamous bookshop Barter Books set in an old train station and piled from floor to ceiling. In fact, if you wanted to stay in Alnwick, The Cookie Jar Hotel is gorgeous for a romantic break for couples.
You can’t come to Northumberland and not sample the sea-food and in our opinion the best place for this is Craster. Book a table in the conservatory of Robson’s Smokehouse for lovely views over the harbour whilst you try their highly acclaimed kippers (cured herring). It’s one of those places which has famously terrible service but folks keep on coming for the food. Then, a pint at the Jolly Fisherman will send you on your way.
Being as it’s a little off the beaten path and not as popular as some areas of the country, Northumberland could turn out to be a cheap UK break if you were looking for a bit of a bargain and it’s certainly one of the most beautiful places to visit in UK.
So there you have it – our Top 20 list of some of the best places to visit in the UK. We hope we’ve given you some weekend break ideas but if you have any questions about any of the destinations, don’t hesitate to drop up as line. Where are your best short break destinations? Do tell!
pin for later…