Let’s face it, for most of us, 2021 is going to be the summer of holidaying on home turf.
It’s true that much has been said on the matter. It’s also true that we, too, would like to be looking out across the Med this summer, sangria in hand. Nevertheless, in true British fashion, we must keep our pecker up and look at the positives.
If there’s anything our 21 years in the placemaking industry has taught us, it’s that this country of ours is rich in history and, with a little digging, every place has its own story to tell.
As the novelist Marcel Proust famously said:
Over the years we’ve made it our mission to tell the stories of places the length and breadth of our nation. We’ve helped visitors – both first-timers and regulars – to see places with new eyes.
Perhaps now is the moment to go back to our roots and explore the holiday destinations of our parents (and parents’ parents). Places we’d long since disregarded in favour of hotter climes.
So, chin up! Here are our top five picks for traditional holiday destinations that deserve a second look this summer. Trust us, there is more for you to explore than first meets the eye.
Towner Art Gallery, Eastbourne
20 miles east of its bigger and noisier neighbour, Brighton, Eastbourne has a strong cultural centre, boasting more theatres and entertainment venues than you can shake a stick at.
The Devonshire Quarter comprises the Towner Art Gallery, Congress Theatre, Devonshire Park Theatre, Winter Garden and the new Welcome Building conference centre. Whilst many of these venues have been closed over recent months due to restrictions, things are now opening back up so check out their website for the most up to date information.
And don’t forget the historic Devonshire Park lawn tennis club, home to the annual Eastbourne International Tennis Festival. As the final British grass-court tournament to be held before Wimbledon each year it attracts many of the world’s major grass court players.
The town centre has recently undergone investment and regeneration, bringing a new lease of life with it. And beyond the town centre there’s the beach (shingle, like Brighton) and the stunning Beachy Head, Britain’s highest chalk cliffs with dramatic views over Eastbourne and across the English Channel.
South Bay, Scarborough
Britain’s first seaside resort fell out of favour with tourists after package holidays abroad became popular in the second half of the 20th century.
But, things are a-changin’ for this historic destination and it is experiencing somewhat of a comeback. The coastal resort has turned around its fortunes by investing in the promenade along both the North and South Bays and in its cultural quarter.
If you’re looking for Scarborough’s famous healing waters, Scarborough Spa is, confusingly, not the place to go. It’s now an events venue playing host to a wide variety of entertainers including the Scarborough Spa Orchestra performing in the famous Suncourt Enclosure. But fear not, you can still get your health and beauty fix at the luxury Crown Spa Hotel set back from the seafront along the esplanade.
There’s also the old town nestled by the harbour and the historic castle which offers amazing views back over the harbour and town. And with further investment recently approved for the town centre, Scarborough is an exciting and lively place to visit.
Fingerpost in Harrogate
Another of Britain’s historic spa towns, the first thing you notice when you visit Harrogate is that the town centre is surrounded by huge swathes of public open space, known as the Stray. An area of around 200 acres of common land, the Stray was established in the 18th century to link the town’s natural springs and make sure they would be freely and permanently accessible to the public.
The natural springs also drew in visitors from high society in Victorian Britain looking to escape the big cities and find space, clean air and therapeutic treatments. It’s still perfect for a weekend getaway, whether its for the spa (the exquisite Turkish Baths are a delight to behold even before you change into your bathing suit), the boutique shopping experience or Harrogate’s famous tea rooms, Betty’s – Yorkshire’s finest.
If you’re tempted, take a week to explore the stunning countryside and market towns that surrounds the town. Harrogate is the ideal base to explore North Yorkshire. Ripon, Knaresborough and Pateley Bridge are all a short distance away, as well as the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Located on the beautiful Angus coastline, Carnoustie is a small but perfectly formed Scottish town famous worldwide for one thing: its iconic Championship golf course.
It’s no doubt that golf has played a huge role in Carnoustie, and for good reason. The Championship golf course is a stunning links course positioned right on the seafront.
If golf is your cup of tea then you won’t be disappointed: the Championship golf course is just one of many in the local area where visitors can book in to play. On top of the Burnside and Buddon Links courses at Carnoustie, there’s Arbroath Golf Links along the coast to the northeast, Monifieth Golf Links to the southwest.
Carnoustie has more sporting options that just golf, however. It’s ideally positioned for a variety of water sports in the North Sea: sailing, windsurfing, swimming and, of course, fishing are all popular.
And the adventures don’t stop there. At nearby Monikie Country Park you can try your hand at paddleboarding, windsurfing, sailing, rafting, kayaking and canoeing.
The busiest UK-Irish ferry port dominates visitors’ first impression of this town. In fact, Holyhead has a long history as an important port and point of defence against invaders. Its position, only 70 miles by boat from Dublin, may have something to do with that.
The remains of the Caer Gybi Roman fort lies in the grounds of St Cybi’s Church (itself dating from about 550AD) which is still surrounded by the original fort wall. You can enjoy excellent views across the port from the ground of St Cybi’s Church (which is probably why the Romans picked this spot).
If you’re looking for a bit of countryside, visit Breakwater Country Park, an AONB west of the town to discover more of Holyhead’s industrial heritage as well as wildlife and stunning coastline. Go further west still and you will end up at the South Stack Cliffs, an RSPB nature reserve comprising a lighthouse perched on the very edge of the cliffs and an excellent spot for bird watching.
So there you have it. Five traditional British holiday destinations that each have a story to tell. And perhaps a glass of Pimms is a fine replacement for a sangria anyway. If we have to stay domestic this summer, let’s make the most of it, and get exploring.