It goes without saying that the lockdown has given everyone a serious case of cabin fever. And while, travel restrictions might be lifting for certain countries around the world, there’s still a great deal of uncertainty around travelling abroad.
Form surveyed 1,672 people on their changing lifestyles as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, and found that 42 percent were set to travel less overseas while 62 percent said they would look to spend more time outdoors.
Our advice then is to fight any lingering impulse to jet off abroad immediately, and look a little closer to home for a summer break.
From art hotels to craft camps to yoga retreats, there are an abundance of places here on our shores that can give you that same feeling of escape – and better yet, these will be spaces where the stress of social distancing will have been thought about by someone else. So whether you were planning to get away to experience great culture, exercise or simply go somewhere to luxuriate in not cooking for yourself for a few nights, here’s a selection of superb staycation spots here in Britain that you should check out before looking to foreign shores.
If you want to stay in and order room service…
Location: The Cotswolds, Gloucestershire
There’s a reason so many stressed-out city-dwellers end up migrating to the Cotswolds when they need a break: the region’s quaint, undulating villages and lush green lanes are the absolute antithesis to life in a built-up metropolis.
Thyme is the perfect distillation of the area’s charm. Set around a restored manor house and farm, the hideaway is a village within a village comprising a series of cottages to stay in and repurposed outbuildings that contain the Ox Barn restaurant, The Swan pub and the Meadow Spa, as well as cookery and floristry schools.
While there will be changes to the programmes of activity and limitations to the number of people in the dining establishments in line with social distancing and current regulations (spa treatments that involve person-to-person contact are not available, for obvious reasons), lots of the things you could do here pre-lockdown will still be open: tennis, boules, badminton and croquet are all still on offer (although the pool is closed until further notice).
Perhaps the biggest change will be when it comes to food and drink on site: for residents, breakfast baskets and picnic lunches will be provided instead of in-restaurant dining and homemade cocktails will be served in glass bottles and provided in basket bags so you can take them out into the grounds – which all sounds pretty great as we prepare for the August heatwave.
Cottages open now. Hotel rooms available to book from 27 August. Rooms start from £490 based on a two night stay. thyme.co.uk
The Pig at Harlyn Bay
Location: Padstow, Cornwall
After having to stall its planned 25 April launch earlier this year, the latest addition to The Pig’s stable of luxury retreats is finally getting the chance to take bookings. Located just a pebble’s throw from both Harlyn and Constantine Bay beaches in Cornwall, this completely renovated 15th century manor house has picturesque views across the countryside and out towards the sea.
Alongside the bedrooms in the main house, the hotel also offers four Shepherds’ Huts hidden away in the grounds with views out across the fields. While the spa is currently closed for treatments, there is still plenty to do both on site and off. Padstow, home to the restaurants of famed chefs Rick Stein and Paul Ainsworth, is only a 10-minute drive away (although we recommend booking in a socially distanced table as soon as you possibly can to avoid disappointment). There is also Trevose Golf Club in the vicinity as well as plenty of designated coastal walks to take really make it feel like you’re far away from town.
Opens 31 July. Rooms start from £155 per night not including breakfast. thepighotel.com
If you want to get away from the mainland…
Location: River Blackwater, Essex
Accessed via a mile-long tidal causeway (or water taxi if you get your timings mixed up), Osea Island is an idyllic retreat in the mouth of the River Blackwater. Once on the island, you’ll find a picturesque little village of clapboard beach huts and 19th century cottages surrounded by 550 acres of farmland and orchards (there have been settlements here for 5,000 years) – all now renovated into a beautiful off-shore resort.
As you can imagine, the real selling point of Osea Island is its seclusion, with each cottage and beach hut individually rentable. There are also bedrooms within the Clubhouse, the spiritual heart of the village, home to the cafe and car, and hub for all activities (you can pick up free-to-use fishing poles and bikes for exploring the island from here).
There is also tennis, table tennis, croquet, mini golf, and volleyball on offer, as well as a heated outdoor pool from October, bird watching and beach walks, and many more that can be arranged for an added cost (clay pigeon shooting, socially-distanced yoga classes, paddle boarding). Whatever you decide to go for, every property is self-catering, so if you bring food with you from the mainland, you don’t need to run into another person if you don’t want to (you can even rent out the entire island if you really want to minimise human contact).
And if you don’t bring food, don’t worry, staff can arrange an order from the mainland using local grocery shops. Speaking of the mainland and food, the town of Maldon, home of Nigella Lawson’s favourite salt flakes, is only a 20 minute drive away if you do feel like stocking up.
Rooms start from £245 per night (min. 2 nights stay) for a one bedroom. oseaisland.co.uk
Torsa House and Island
Location: near Orban, Argyll and Bute
Sitting just off of Scotland’s west coast, the Island of Torsa is totally private – the only building being the old farmhouse. Reached by dinghy (bring your wellies – there’s no jetty on the island), the self-catered farmhouse can be booked for a minimum of seven nights and sleeps four adults and two children across three bedrooms. There’s even a walled garden in which to let your dog run wild.
At one mile long by half-a-mile wide, the Torsa is the perfect size for rambling, but you also get exclusive use of a motorboat for the entirety of your stay if you want to explore the other islands and waters surrounding it too. If you do want to venture a little further afield, the Atlantic Islands Centre in Cullipool is worth a visit and residents of the farmhouse get complementary use of the facilities at the Ardmaddy Castle Estate back on the mainland at Caddelton (where you’ll find a tennis court, fishing lochan and gardens).
Seven nights from £1,300 for the entire property (dogs an additional £40). torsa-island.co.uk
If you’re craving some culture…
The Fife Arms
Location: Braemar, Aberdeenshire
There are many reasons why a person would want to book a room at The Fife Arms: the peaceful backdrop of verdant Aberdeenshire hills, the opulently appointed rooms, the incredible food and drink, the attentive service. However, one thing that sets this hotel apart from many others in the country is the stack of world-class art hung on its walls, from a creepy Picasso in the drawing room and a majestic Brueghel the Younger landscape in the dining room, to one of Louise Bourgeois’ iconic bronze spiders standing tall in middle of the courtyard.
Closed for lockdown, the regulations seem to have only served to enhance the hotel’s appeal moving forward. The biggest change to the location is that a new army of ghillies (or “staff”) has been employed to take care of your every whim in as socially distanced a way as possible. These duties range from arranging private foraging excursions, recommending self-guided hikes around the area, coordinating picnics for trips (in Fife Arms branded backpacks, filled with with homemade pies, sandwiches and sweets), or organising private pre-dinner drinks in your room.
Opens 1 August. Rooms starting from £650 (including breakfast) for a two night stay. thefifearms.com
Ffin y Parc Gallery
Location: Llanrwst, Conwy
Nestled in the northern tip of Snowdonia National Park, the Ffin y Parc Gallery space was founded by Ralph Sanders in 2010. A decade later, and it’s become one of the best spaces in the country to see contemporary (and affordable) Welsh art.
Housed in a Victorian country house which sits in over 14 acres of land, Sanders has converted part of the former coach house and dairy complex into two fully kitted out, beautifully decorated self-catering cottages: The Old Laundry (which sleeps two) and Caretakers (which sleeps four). Both make perfect jump-off points for exploring the area – or an equally perfect place to have a lie in, order a pastry and coffee from the gallery cafe and have a lazy day in the sun on the vast lawns at the estate.
Seven days from £550 for The Old Laundry and £650 for Caretakers. welshart.net
If you want to get active…
Camp Glen Dye
Location: Banchory, Aberdeenshire
Camp Glen Dye is for people who really want to get as far away from lockdown city life as possible. Set in 30,000 acres of wilderness on the banks of the River Dye in the Scottish Highlands, the site hosts a series of four-night camps through the year that focus on community and learning new skills. The next one, commencing on 9 October, is all about craft and will include workshops from a series of artisans such as Tom Frost on printmaking, David White on toolmaking and Helen Jackson on basketweaving.
For accommodation, you can choose between a selection of beautifully appointed cottages, cabins and bell-tents on site, or you can even bring your own caravan or tent. And if the new skills you’ll be learning aren’t enough of a draw, just wait until you experience the food, which takes campfire cooking to a whole new level (think wood-fire pizzas, pickled seasonal veg and local produce grilled to perfection). You can also cater your cabin yourself if you wish, and there are plenty of hills to climb and rivers to swim in if you want to branch out from the group.
Open from 3 July. Prices from £795 to £995 per person for four nights. glendyecabinsandcottages.com
Location: Achnasheen, Wester Ross
If you want to do some physical activity in the great outdoors, but want to do so knowing you can crash afterwards in five-star luxury, check into The Torridon. Surrounded by almost 60 acres of oak land with a loch just a pebble’s throw away, this grey stone Victorian hotel is nestled among the snow-topped mountains and forests of the Scottish Highlands. Its activities programme – Torridon Outdoors – is second-to-none. Here, staff will help you to organise incredible adventures from learning to kayak on long summer evenings to gorge-scrambling in crystal-clear water, bouldering over ancient rocks or hiking to the summit of a Scottish Munro (all suitably socially distanced, of course).
Even if you don’t want to sign on for one of the organised activities, there’s plenty of local rambling routes as well as the opportunity for nature lovers to spot pine martens, sea eagles, herons, curlews, seals, and otters. While the hotel itself is a stunning place for a stay (with 18 spacious, plush rooms all with jaw-dropping views and many with free-standing baths), those who want a little more privacy can book in at the establishment’s two-bedroom private cottage, the Boat House, down on the edge of the loch on the property which has self-catering facilities and unparalleled views across the property or you can try one of the cosy double rooms down at The Stables, also in the hotel grounds, which serves as the establishment’s resident pub.
Hotel rooms from £260 for two people for two nights (including breakfast). Rooms in The Stables from £160 for two people for two nights (including breakfast). thetorridon.com
Location: Hemingstone, Suffolk
Tucked away in the heart of the Suffolk countryside, Retreat East is a 35 acre former farm that’s been transformed into one of the most luxurious little resorts in eastern England. With all the benefits of a member’s club spread across a series of luxuriously renovated barns, perhaps the biggest draw of Retreat East is its wellness activities (all now socially spaced in line with new pandemic regulations).
Cycling, yoga, personal training, clay pigeon shooting and horseback riding can all be enjoyed, along with incredible food and drink in the Grand Barn, local wine tasting on the terrace as the sun goes down, and rooms stocked with Aesop toiletries, decadent freestanding baths and deep beds that are melt-into-the-mattress soft.
Open from 6 July. Prices from £225 per night. suffolk.farm
If you want to be one with nature…
Location: St Mary’s Bay, Kent
Cabu-By-The-Sea is the kind of holiday camp that will change your mind about holiday camps. Situated on a stretch of private grassland facing out towards the English Channel, the resort was set up by slick modular housing company Cabu. It’s perhaps not surprising that the complex comprises a selection of cosy, clapboard, and tin-roofed self-catering cabins (think log burners and plate-glass windows out to the coast) that all look like they’ve been ripped out of an interior design magazine then.
These are all set around Cabu House: a central meeting spot where you can pick up groceries, book activities, or just kick back with a glass of wine. Days can be filled with exploring the sea wall, having an al fresco dinner using the outdoor pizza oven that’s available for guests, or taking a dip in the heated pool if the sea is still nipple-tinglingly cold (subject to pandemic restrictions, of course).
One of the best things about Cabu though is its location on the Romney Marshes, the entire complex a site of environmental interest planted with wildflowers that encourage pollinating insects and small mammals (animal fans should note that the resort is very proud of the sheer number of rabbits you’ll see hopping around the site).
Rooms start from £145 per night for a studio cabin (minimum stay 2 nights). cabu.co.uk
Location: Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire
Take the good-time vibes of Soho House’s members clubs in the city, relocate them to a bucolic, car-free retreat in the heart of The Cotswolds and you’ve got Soho Farmhouse. While the private cabins are delightfully indulgent, if you’re looking for something a little cosier – and quirkier – try booking up one of the Piglets instead.
Opened last year, these former pig pens have been refurbished to be an experience that’s as close to camping without being in a tent. Inside the curved metal beauties, you’ll find a decadent emperor-sized bed and flat-screen TV, as well as a bathroom with a rainforest shower. Of course, one of the big attractions of Soho Farmhouse is all the dining options on offer, and while The Mill Room (the resort’s pub) and the Deli are closed currently, Pen Yen down by the lake is still open for socially-distanced dining. Plus, rather excitingly, new food trucks from Pizza East and Dirty Burger have been installed on the Lazy Lawn.
Throw in complimentary hire bikes to cycle around the area, plenty of activities on-site and impeccable service from the staff, and you’ll feel as content as a pig in mud – who’s then been scrubbed down with Cowshed products.
Piglets from £270 per night. sohohouse.com
Cotna Eco Retreat
Location: Gorran Churchtown, Cornwall
Down on the Roseland Peninsula by the South Cornish coast, Cotna is an organic smallholding that offers a truly exceptional escape from the daily grind. In among the orchards of fruit trees and plots of vegetables you’ll find three yurts, complete with wood burners, double beds, silk wall hangings, and gas stoves, where you can cook some of the local produce. If you don’t fancy cooking, you can also order a delicious organic food hamper from the owners which includes fresh salads, sourdough, and homemade preserves.
While the cooking school is currently suspended due to pandemic restrictions, the foraging and gardening classes are still available to book up, while each yurt has had a private shower and compost loo assigned to them to ensure as little human contact as possible. If you fancy getting out and about, horticulture fans can also visit the nearby Lost Gardens of Heligan; just make sure you book a slot in advance to avoid disappointment.
Yurts from £80 per night (minimum stay three nights). cotna.co.uk