10 best UK holiday destinations for a 2023 staycation
Although the Coronation bank holiday has come to an end, all eyes should stay firmly on the UK when it comes to travel.
Not only is Liverpool gearing up to host the 67th Eurovision Song Contest this Saturday, 13 May, but it won’t be long before the summer holidays are upon us – now’s the time to be cautiously optimistic about a potential three months of sun, sightseeing and celebrations in the Great British Outdoors.
While the pleasures of top European tourist destinations such as Venice, Marbella, Dubrovnik or Positano are undeniable, you’ll still find peaceful beach breaks, culture-packed urban escapes and countryside retreats without leaving UK shores. Whether travelling by train, car or a typically British bus, heading on a family holiday, trip with friends or a solo excursion, there’s a wealth of great options across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Here’s The Independent‘s selection of ideas to inspire your next domestic break this year.
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Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh, adds the excitement of the world’s largest performance art festival to the rich history of its cobblestoned Old Town, medieval castle and Royal Mile come summer. Edinburgh Festival Fringe, running from 4-28 August, is the star of an already impressive itinerary of farmers’ markets, jazz and food festivals and stand-up shows in the city over the summer months.
The Scottish gem has a versatile ability to accommodate both stylish spa stays and eccentric festivals, immersing visitors in comedy, museums and modern art for cultural days out. Regardless of the vibe of a Scotland staycation, trying some haggis is a non-negotiable component of the perfect Edinburgh trip. Fast trains enter and exit the city frequently from across the UK.
Boutique hotel the House of Gods has a central clubland location, bar, opulent suites and Drag Queens performing on weekends. houseofgodshotel.com
The Isle of Wight, England
Watersports enthusiasts rejoice: just across the Solent there is far more to England’s largest island than ferries and clifftops. The Isle of Wight’s sunny charm makes for the perfect summer holiday with adventurous friends. Visit Compton Bay for a staycation full of surfing swells, sea swimming and bodyboarding, or put your core to the test and paddleboard around the famous Needles. Those who head to Cowes at the end of July can catch the international sailing regatta and festival, while the annual Isle of Wight festival kicks off with headliner Robbie Williams on 15 June.
And if that all sounds a bit too fast-paced, relax in West Wight with a visit to Colwell Bay and The Hut restaurant for unbelievable sunsets.
The Royal Hotel Ventnor, one of the oldest on the Isle of Wight, has panoramic sea views, sandy beach access and 200 years of history. royalhoteliow.co.uk
Portmeirion, a charming Italian-style village in Gwynedd, is an ideal spot for a picturesque weekend in North Wales. The coastal Welsh village was created by architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis in 1925 and completed in 1976 as an example of architecture’s ability to enhance natural beauty without destroying it. The pastel buildings, piazza and Gwyllt Japanese gardens transport you from rural Wales to Italy, Japan and back without even having to leave the UK.
Indulge in homemade gelato at Angel Ices, enjoy Portmeirion preserves and pottery and visit the Mermaid Spa treatment rooms for the perfect romantic retreat with your partner. Day tickets are available to tourists at the entrance tollbooth or can be booked in advance online.
Portmeirion Village and Castell Deudraeth Hotel sits on a private peninsula overlooking the Dywryd Estuary. The hotel has an award-winning brasserie, acres of woodland and is in close proximity to Snowdonia National Park. portmeirion.wales/stay/accommodation/portmeirion-hotel
This year’s Eurovision Song Contest makes Liverpool a UK hotspot for 2023. The northern city, still home of the hen-do and unforgettable girls’ weekends, has a rich history of architecture, sports and music; it is a Unesco Music City after all. Taking the global stage as the host city of Eurovision this Saturday, Liverpool Arena will welcome the European contestants on behalf of Ukraine.
With so much to do and see, hop on and off a Beatles-themed bus tour – the musical icons are native to the culturally happening city – and take in the museums and galleries of the Cultural Quarter, the Liverpool Cathedral and Royal Albert Dock. Trains from London to Liverpool take around two to three hours; make the trip from just £14 when booking via Trainline.
The Shankly Hotel in Liverpool has stylish rooms, jacuzzi baths and a central location in the heart of the city. shanklyhotel.com
The Isle of Mull, Scotland
The Isle of Mull, the second largest island of the Inner Hebrides, lies just off the west coast of Scotland. From iconic golf courses to crystal clear sea, white sand beaches and hiking among historical ruins, a staycation to the Isle of Mull appeals to those looking for an outdoorsy staycay.
Visitors can also experience CBeebies childhood classic Balamory in real life; the rainbow houses were based on the colourful waterfront of Tobermory, the island’s capital. Boat trips from Tobermory allow the opportunity to spot the Scottish isle’s extraordinary wildlife, including puffins, whales, eagles and otters.
If stylish bedrooms, ocean views and a cosy spa are what you look for in a hotel, look no further than the Isle of Mull Hotel and Spa. crerarhotels.com/isle-of-mull-hotel-spa
Cardiff, the Welsh capital, attracts sports fans, history buffs and party animals alike. Some may spend their weekend supporting Wales’s rugby team at The Principality or from the pub with the locals. For others, staying central to shop till they drop in the St. David’s centre before enjoying a meal in the Brewery Quarter and ending the night in the infamous Live Lounge might be on the cards. A visit to Cardiff Bay for a waterfront cocktail by the Senedd is also an ideal summer activity. Or visitors can keep it simple, learning the history of Cardiff Castle and heading out to the fairy tale Castle Coch for an escape from the hustle of city life. Train tickets from London to Cardiff start from £29, with an average journey time of 2h 30m.
Park Plaza Cardiff sits just 10 minutes’ walk from Cardiff Castle, the winding alleys of the Cardiff Arcades and the Principality Stadium. parkplazacardiff.com
Enniskillen, Northern Ireland
The largest town in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, has also been named the UK’s friendliest. Enniskillen’s welcoming waterfront setting is abundant with history. Visit the 15th century Enniskillen Castle to learn all about it from the two museums inside. The Marble Arch Caves too, formed over 340 million years ago, are an unmissable natural landscape of rivers, woodlands and waterfalls just a short journey from the centre of this Northern Irish jewel.
Back in the quaint town, the Enniskillen Buttermarket hosts 16 creative studios, shops selling local jewellery and ceramics and cafes with local produce. Make sure to leave time to tour the lakes of Lough Erne while on your staycation. The Lough offers waterskiing, rowing and angling, or set sail to explore the hundreds of tiny islands on the water.
Luxury hotel Lough Erne Resort boasts two golf courses, an infinity pool and lake views. A Thai spa offers steam and relaxation rooms. lougherneresort.com
The city of Brighton and Hove has a renowned arts scene, quirky shopping on the Lanes, diverse culture and lively nightlife. Brighton Pride, the biggest Pride festival in the UK, takes place on the first weekend in August with the Black Eyed Peas and Steps announced as the main headline acts this year.
No trip to the coastal city would be complete without a visit to the pebbled seafront of Brighton Beach. Brighton’s proximity to the English capital means direct trains run from London Bridge in around an hour from only £6 one way. Once you’ve hit the beach, settle in for a British classic with fish and chips from Bardsley’s, before heading to the pier to try your luck in the arcades.
Funky and friendly B&B Snooze offers retro rooms and attic suites just a five-minute stroll from the bustling Brighton seafront. snoozebrighton.com
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Combine fascinating landmarks with science and literary exhibitions on a trip to the Northern Irish capital. Belfast, once a major 19th-century port, was the home of the shipyard where the RMS Titanic was built before its tragic voyage in 1912. A visit to the Titanic Belfast Museum is a must to experience an interactive tour, including galleries recreating the sights, smells and sounds of the fated ship.
Belfast’s Botanic Gardens, the architecture of the Queen’s University campus and the quirky bars of the Cathedral Quarter also deserve exploration. Ryanair flies from London in 90 minutes or, for a journey with a much lower carbon footprint, catch the Stena Line ferry service from Liverpool.
The Titanic Hotel Belfast is an art deco hotel with tasteful, modern rooms and well-fitted family suites near the SSE Arena. titanichotelbelfast.com
Revel in the colourful history and architecture of the iconic 16th-century University of Cambridge buildings at the core of this university city. Get a feel for the traditional institution by taking a punt with friends on the River Cam. Tours down “The Backs” of the old colleges, under the geometric Mathematical Bridge and past the Bridge of Sighs, create a river transport experience to rival the canals of Venice.
Further back in time, St Mary’s Church offers a great view from above the city centre – 123 steps up that is. Finally, get stuck into local produce and crafts at Cambridge Market Square. Trading an array of goods since the Middle Ages, this vibrant market is where to pick up a souvenir or some delicious street food to fuel your walking around this remarkable city.
The Graduate Cambridge sits right in the heart of the city’s historic centre on the banks of the River Cam and offers complimentary bike rentals, luxury culinary experiences and visits to the university campus. graduatehotels.com/cambridge
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