Even when lockdown ends in Britain it may be a while longer before international borders begin to reopen. But not being able to hop on a flight doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy an exotic escape. There are plenty of beautiful spots across the British Isles that make you feel as though you’re hundreds of miles from home. Here is our pick of the best.
Somerset Lavender Farm, Somerset
Sipping a coffee al fresco and gazing over the lilacy haze of fields at this family-run farm, you’d think you were in deepest Provence. In fact you’re just 10 miles from the UNESCO world heritage city of Bath and right on the fringes of the Cotswold Hills.
The working farm has around 50,000 plants, including five acres of different types of lavender and a rose garden. It is a haven for bees and butterflies.
There’s a tearoom where you can taste homemade cakes, ice cream and tea – all concocted from lavender grown in the fields outside the door. In the farm shop you can buy lavender oil, toiletries and a whole range of plants. Make sure to ask the friendly owners for some tips on how best to care for them.
Somerset Lavender is open to visitors from May through to September everyday except Mondays and Tuesdays.
The Inner Hebrides
Sitting on the west coast of Scotland this archipelago is a hotspot for nature lovers and hikers. The emerald and turquoise landscape bears a remarkable resemblance to the Norwegian fjords and is best enjoyed via a boat tour of the islands.
Occasionally you’ll see a lonely stone house standing next to a pine tree, but for the most part views will be of dramatic cliffs tumbling down into the sea and Jurassic rock formations covered in moss and ancient ferns.
More built-up towns can be found on the isles of Skye and Mull but for the true off-the-beaten-track experience, book a stay on Eigg, an island of 100 residents with just one food shop. The surrounding waters are home to several species of dolphin, porpoises and minke whales.
You also don’t need to travel to Norway to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights. This unforgettable light show can sometimes be seen from the isles of the Inner Hebrides.
The Isles of Scilly
It takes around 10 hours to fly from London to Cuba. Whereas a flight or ferry from Cornwall to the Isles of Scilly can take as little as 20 minutes.
Within the same day you can be snorkelling with seals, diving among more than 900 shipwrecks and exploring hidden coves and stretches of pristine white sand that could rival the Caribbean.
Only the lack of salsa music will alert you to where you really are.
Explore the Abbey Garden on Tresco to discover sub-tropical plants and flowers you would never believe could flourish in Britain – from soaring palm trees and prickly succulents to the strange red cockle-shaped buds of the Lobster Claw plant.
Sipping on chilled white wine and fresh seafood at a beachfront restaurant, normal life will feel a world away.
St Michael’s Mount, Cornwall
A delicate spire emerging from a mound of cobbled stones set in azure water: the silhouette of Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy is both exquisite and unique – well…almost. There is in fact another small tidal island and abbey dedicated to Saint Michael and it sits less than a mile off of the Cornish coastline.
It takes 15 minutes to make the crossing to the mainland via a paved granite causeway, but this can only be done at mid or low-tide. Visit the medieval castle and modern Barge House to discover the island’s chequered history, from a 23-week siege against 6,000 men to its time as a refuge for plotters trying to overthrow the Tudor dynasty.
Langham Wine Estate, Dorset
Who needs Napa Valley when you have Durdle Door and the Jurassic Coast? Dorset is famous for its fossil-covered beaches and spicy apple cake, yet few people know that it is also home to one of Britain’s most boutique vineyards.
With its south-facing, chalky terroir and warm microclimate, if it wasn’t for the thick West Country accents you’d think you were in the heart of Californian wine country.
The vineyard produces a highly regarded sparkling wine and takes a low-intervention approach to grape growing that keeps environmental impact to a minimum.
The estate offers guided tours and tastings or, if you’re visiting at harvest time, you can muck in with picking grapes and filling up the press.
Afterwards enjoy a picnic on the lawn or a sparkling wine afternoon tea in the 19th-century milking parlour.
Little Venice, London
For travellers that prefer a European city break to a country escape, there are plenty of corners of Britain’s capital that make you feel as though you’re in a different country.
There’s the six-mile stretch between Turnpike Lane and Green Lanes stations, affectionately known as Little Istanbul, where the sweet smell of baklava and sizzle of grilled meat are inescapable, and the limestone carved Hindu temples and glittery sari shops that line the Ealing Road. One of the best places for a little escapism is Little Venice, where you can wander along the canal hopping from espresso to espresso at the quirky outdoor cafes lining the water.