British Travel | 9th June 2023
Wild times: Three of the best UK staycations for nature lovers
Who's ready for a breath of fresh air?
Who's ready for a breath of fresh air?
We’ve handpicked some of the best UK staycations for soaking up picture-perfect scenery and outdoor activities that are designed to get your heart racing and boost your wellbeing. Whether you dream of strolling barefoot along a pristine beach, picnicking in lush meadows or dialling up the thrills with high adrenaline adventures, these truly great rural retreats offer the best nature holidays for those who love to walk — paddle or swim — on the wild side.
Eryri adventure activities
Clamber up to the summit of Yr Wyddfa (Mount Snowdon) if you really want to (and who wouldn’t want to relish the high tea in the café and view from the top?), but there’s so much more to Eryri National Park than its eponymous snow-capped peak.
Covering 823 square miles, it’s a vast playground for hiking, rock climbing, white water rafting, boat tours, horse riding, ziplining and paragliding is the most popular destination for adventure activities in Wales. Other more hard core adventure activities include canyoning and scrambling — climbing up boulders and rocks using both your hands and your feet — and you’ll find an abundance of adventure and sightseeing tours to suit all levels of fitness and experience.
Try mountain biking at Coed y Brenin
The sheer range and quality of experiences make Eryri one of the best UK staycation destinations. And few locations are quite as appealing to dedicated cycling buffs than Coed y Brenin. Arguably Britain’s best mountain biking centre, here you’ll find a choice of eight bike trails through the forest - from loops that are more easy on the legs that range from 3 to 12 kilometres to longer routes on tougher terrain (Temtiwr - 9km and Cyflym Coch - 12.6 km). Or you can seriously up the ante and tackle the brutal MBR (17.7km), Tarw Du (20.1km) and the Beast (35km) trails.
Ride waves in the countryside
You’ll find some of the most exciting Eryri adventure experiences at Adventure Parc Snowdonia. It’s one of the region’s top attractions for all manner of thrills and spills but the major draw is its dream wave, the world’s first inland surfing experience created on a man-made lagoon in the middle of the countryside. The powerful two-metre wave peels perfectly for 492 ft (150m) along the Conwy Valley. Even better, consistent waves that roll every 90 seconds make this the ideal environment for absolute beginners as well as surf acifionados. The onsite surf academy offers friendly expert tuition, as well as wetsuit and board hire. For those looking to enjoy a more gentle sport, a spot of flat-water stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) is also available.
Go white water rafting in Bala
Nerves of steel? Make your way to the National Whitewater Centre on the banks of the Tryweryn river in Bala, and get ready for an unforgettable white- knuckle ride. A dam has transformed the upper reaches of this otherwise leisurely waterway into Olympic-grade rollercoaster rapids. It’s a fast and furious hour-long blast of an experience. Fancy an easier ride? You can also go on a gentler rafting safari on the lower river where you can swim and play along the way.
Best hotel in Eryri for fishing experiences
If you’re seeking the perfect base from which to explore Eryri (Snowdonia) National Park with some prime fishing opportunities on tap, the uber elegant Palé Hall ticks all the right boxes. This exclusive, independently-owned country house hotel with a Michelin-starred restaurant offers coarse angling and fly fishing experiences in the Dee Valley for both novice or experienced anglers.
Fresh air adventures in the South Downs
If you love rambling over picturesque but somewhat less challenging peaks, get ready to ‘walk the chalk’ — mile upon mile of breathtaking walking routes through the glorious South Downs National Park in Sussex. Here, you can explore a charming network of trails snaking around riverbanks, through buttercup-studded hills or valleys and along rugged coastal paths. The best hikes in South Downs National Park take in the must-see highlights including the stunning shoreline of Cuckmere Haven, the famous Seven Sisters — a series of dramatic chalk sea cliffs — as well as the historic landmarks of the Birling Gap, Belle Tout and Beachy Head lighthouses.
Adventurers are sure to be in their element in the South Downs. Cycling, kayaking and parasailing are just a few of the South Downs National Park Experiences — organised tours and adventure with expert guides — are available to book in advance. Whether you just want to enjoy the sunshine or long for high octane adventures, the easy access to beautiful landscapes makes this one of the best UK staycations for nature lovers.
Kayaking for beginners
While there are numerous opportunities for more adventurous kayaking experiences in the South Downs, you’ll also find some very sweet spots for a gentler paddle. South Downs National Park Experiences include a Lewes to Hamsey by canoe tour on the River Ouse. Starting in the ancient market town of Lewes, famous for its legendary Bonfire Night celebrations and Harvey’s Brewery, you’ll then head inland and travel through the picturesque Sussex downland where you can spot heron, swans, cormorant and believe it or not even Llamas and Alpacas en route.
Best Sussex vineyard tours
If strolling through vineyards and quaffing the fruits of the vine is more your idea of the best nature holiday in the UK, this is also the destination for you. The South Downs are home to a number of prestigious wineries that produce some internationally celebrated English sparkling wines. Grapes have been growing in the area, which is very similar to the Champagne region in France, since Roman times.
Wildlife experiences in Sussex
The chance to spot rare and unexpected species also makes the South Downs one of the UK’s best destinations for wildlife tours and experiences. Keep your eyes peeled for the local characters, including round-headed rampion, otter, skylark, barn owl and brown trout. The eagle-eyed may also catch a glimpse of other residents such as the barbastelle bat, the chalk carpet moth and sundew - a carnivorous plant.
Best hotel for staycations in the South Downs
If you’re looking for a restorative abode within striking distance of the South Downs, check out Park House Hotel & Spa. Set in West Sussex, in an area of outstanding natural beauty, the hotel offers golf and grass tennis courts, an indoor and outdoor pool, croquet lawn, as well as award-winning spa facilities and wellbeing treatments.
Magical coastal adventures in Cornwall
If the ocean’s calling, pack your swimmers and head to the ‘Cornish Riviera’, England’s southernmost beachside retreat and surfer’s paradise. Here you can explore more than 600 miles of coastline, and the region is awash with opportunities for all manner of watersports from kayaking, paddleboarding and waterskiing to sailing and sea fishing. But there are also tranquil spots tucked away from the hubbub where you can simply enjoy barefoot strolls, picking up shells and watching the waves.
Of all the many lovely stretches of sand, Carne and Pendower, are arguably the finest locations for those looking for some coastal R and R.
Situated on the beautiful Roseland Peninsula, Carne Beach, set against the backdrop of Nare Head rising 300 feet over Gerrans Bay, is a charming haven loved by beachcombers and those seeking a more tranquil pace of life. Towards low tide, Pendower Beach joins up with it to form a huge sandy beach stretching over a mile across the bay. It’s one of the best UK staycations for families all year round, and if you’re travelling with little ones they’ll love playing in the rock pools — and the stream that runs across the beach will keep them occupied for hours.
Coastal walks in Cornwall
Carne is the starting point for a four-mile (6.4 kilometre) walking trail that will take you to ancient hill forts and through farmland, before going round Nare Head and onto the South West Coast Path — the longest national trail in England. This award-winning coastal trail offers stunning coastal walking around the entire Southwest peninsula, making it a top attraction for adventures in Cornwall.
Coastal cycling trails in Cornwall
Pendower is situated on the Cornish Way Cycle Route — a 180 mile (288 km) cycle route which forms part of the National Cycle Network that runs from Land's End, at the western tip of Cornwall all the way to Bude on the Devon border. Clock up the miles if you want to, or simply take a gentle ride across the bay to Nare Point and soak up the views.
Beach foraging in Cornwall
Carne Beach is also one of the best locations to go beach foraging for edible plants and shellfish. So remember to take your bucket and spade and have a go at digging for razor clams buried beneath the soft sands. There’s a knack to it: you’ll need to find their breathing holes in the sand, then pour a small amount of salt down them till they ‘bubble’ and begin to surface. Then you can grab them and pull them out. You can also collect cockles, mussels and winkles — and 400 varieties of edible seaweed.
Best hotel in Carne Beach, Cornwall
Few hotels in Cornwall channel the luxe but laid-back hippy vibe quite like The Nare Hotel. This boutique five-star abode boasts panoramic sea views over Carne beach and is surrounded by beautifully landscaped gardens and rolling hills in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, south of Truro. It’s the ideal peaceful base from which to explore the local history and castles, as well as the neighbouring pretty coves and harbours.