Swap South Cornwall….for Abersoch, North Wales
Wales has just reopened after months of lockdown and my, how we’ve missed its beaches and mountain ranges. Those seeking to avoid the Cornish hoards would do well to make a beeline for Abersoch on the Llyn Peninsula – a hidden gem on the North West coast. The slog across mid Wales puts off most of the crowds so you can holiday in peace once you’re there. You’ll be rewarded with golden sand, crystal clear waters and epic views over the Welsh countryside. Eagle-eyed sunbathers might spot Bear Grylls jetting in from his private island which lies a couple of miles off shore.
Swap Devon for…Northumberland
Have an adventure straight out of Narnia on Northumberland’s Bamburgh Beach, which comes complete with its own castle. The beach was used in the BBC adaptation of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and is expansive enough to make social distancing a doddle. You can gaze across to the Farne Islands on a clear day or seek out one of the more sheltered coves nearby.
The turquoise waters of the poetically named Rumbling Kern will keep rock poolers happy for hours. Such is this cove’s seclusion that it was a firm favourite with whisky smugglers – a surefire way, then, of avoiding this summer’s post-Covid crowds. Try the nearby village of Beadnell for holiday cottages galore and quick access to Beadnell Bay – another stellar beach.
Swap the Lake District for…The Yorkshire Dales
Rishi Sunak famously resides in a manor in Northallerton, North Yorkshire and, as far as constituencies go, it’s safe to say he lucked out with God’s own country. The neighbouring Lakes charmed Wordsworth and Coleridge for good reason but the Dales have a darker edge that belong firmly to the Brontes. The further north you venture, the wilder and steeper the dales.
Swaledale is a personal favourite – stay in a cottage close to Reeth in this valley and you’ll soon feel as though you’ve slipped off the edge of the map and travelled back in time. Walkers can dip down to transparent, wooded streams before heading up onto the heights of the dales again – all whilst rarely passing a soul. Sampling Wensleydale -named after the valley in which it is produced – is an absolute must, as is barbecuing a string of Heck sausages. If shops and restaurants begin to open up then Harrogate really is the jewel of the North – Georgian streets and a world-famous tearoom await.
Swap The Cotswolds… for Somerset
Cotswold favourites such as Bourton on the water and Stow are already reporting an influx of day trippers. So why not swap these honeypots for lesser known Somerset? Chocolate box villages and rolling fields are in equal abundance here. The Glastonbury festival may be cancelled but you can still climb the famous tor or for even more drama, take a trip down the Cheddar Gorge. Enjoy pony spotting on Exmoor or explore the Elizabethan architecture of National Trust owned Montacute House.
Bath is always a delight – strolling through its Georgian streets, which were built with promenading in mind, is bound to set you up for the day even if you can’t yet round off the experience with tea in the pump room. Try a picnic next to the magnificent Royal Crescent instead, or head up to the famous Palladian bridge in Prior Park, set in beautiful landscaped gardens owned by The National Trust.
Swap Dorset…for North Scotland
The crystal waters and white sands of Mellon Udrigle Beach rival anything you’ll find at Studland or the Jurassic Coast, especially when you can combine it with a road trip through the Scottish Highlands. This unique stretch of Highland sand has been attracting a steady crowd of artists and photographers for some years now and it’s not hard to see why: it’s the perfect blend of seascape and mountains. There’s a campsite right next to the beach but few other facilities, making it a surefire way to escape the summer hoards.
Other Highland options are Big Sand beach where you can take in the view across the mountains of Skye and Torridon and Sandwood Bay which can only be reached via a four-mile hike – a boon in the current circumstances. Part of the joy of the Highlands is tracing the coast to see what hidden gems you stumble across – Camus Mor, pictured above, is just one of many coves that pepper the West Coast. Keep a close eye on the Scottish travel rules: Nicola Sturgeon is set to east Scotland’s lockdown restrictions on the 28th May.
Swap the New Forest… for the Forest of Dean
The New Forest’s plentiful streams and pony-strewn lanes have always made it a popular bolthole for Londoners, especially with its new gastronomical edge. The Pig, Chewton Glen and Limewood are just three of the luxury hotel restaurants drawing weekenders in their droves. So where can you find a quieter forest?
Step forward The Forest of Dean. It’s a much more rugged affair than anything you’ll find in Hampshire. Perched on the English/Welsh border, it’s home to Puzzlewood – a forest with a near-magical network of protruding tree roots that look like something out of Lord of the Rings. Indeed, the TV series Merlin was shot here. These lodges and log cabins allow you to stay in the heart of the forest and, with several boasting hot tubs, you’ll soon slip into the holiday spirit. Head to the ruins of Tintern Abbey for a hike or canoe along the river Wye for near perfect isolation.