If you’re lucky enough to live, or be based, in the UK right now, then you have a wealth of travel opportunities at your fingertips. There’s no need to travel abroad when a staycation in the UK provides some of the most varied, beautiful, and historic cities in Europe.
A staycation in the UK means discovering your backyard in a way that you might never have before. Walking the medieval alleyways of York, seeing the best theatre money can buy in London, and exploring the historic homes and castles of Nottingham.
All of these things are at your fingertips when you’re looking for UK staycation ideas.
That is exactly what we are here to provide you with: six UK staycation ideas for 2021. Six cities across England, Scotland, and Wales that provide you with unique cuisines, myriad art and cultural events (from museums and galleries to theatre and music), and so much tangible, beautiful history.
Choosing to visit York is one of the best UK staycation ideas you can have. If you’ve already had that idea, you’ve got good instincts. York is, arguably, the UK’s most historically rich city (we say arguably because Bath — found below — is a swift contender).
Taking a UK staycation to York means staking several deliberate steps back in time. First, to the 16th Century and the story of Guy Fawkes. The orchestrator of the infamous Gunpowder Plot was born and raised in York, and a pub named after him can be visited.
Taking your next step back in time takes you to the Viking era and the story of Eric Bloodaxe, who was King of York for fourteen years before Scandinavian York was eventually absorbed into what we know call England in 954.
The Viking history of York can still be found, alive and well, in the Jorvik Viking Centre, and in the city’s most beautiful, celebrated historic building: York Minster.
Speaking of York Minster, this is where we take our final step back in time: to Roman England. York Minster is where Constantine the Great was crowned Emperor of the Roman Empire. A statue of him stands (or, rather, sits) right outside the main doors to York Minster.
This little tour of York’s history hasn’t even touched Shambles; York’s oldest street. This medieval cobbled lane is lined with wooden structures that overhand and almost touch as they bend and twist with age.
Then there’s the fact that York is the most haunted city in Europe. On Shambles, you’ll find the York Ghost Merchants. The city also offers a variety of haunted walking tours.
We could go on. The simple fact is that York is one of the most historically rich and fascinating cities in Britain, and a must-visit if you’re looking for UK staycation ideas.
Scotland’s capital is a place of unparalleled architectural beauty and some of the best cultural things to do in Europe. From world-famous festivals like the Edinburgh Fringe and the Royal Edinburgh Military tattoo to some of Scotland’s best galleries, music venues, and bookshops.
In a true medieval aesthetic move, Edinburgh exists as a city built around a hilltop castle, and that castle is arguably the most impressive medieval structure in Britain. There are few views as captivating as gazing up at Edinburgh Castle from the cobbled city streets of Scotland’s capital.
On sights and splendour alone — from Calton Hill to Arthur’s Seat — visiting Edinburgh is one of the best UK staycation ideas you can have in 2021 (or any year at all). But, beyond the city’s architectural splendour, Edinburgh also offers some of the best cultural things to do in the UK.
One of the most rewarding and awe-inspiring things to do in Edinburgh is seeing the Scottish Ballet or Scottish Opera, both of which have made their home in the Edinburgh Festival Theatre.
In our experience, we find that most people prefer one over the other (we prefer ballet to opera) but a visit to Edinburgh Festival Theatre means you don’t have to choose. This iconic venue also serves up comedy and music as well, so make sure to check what’s on before you go. A visit to the theatre always makes for a perfect UK staycation.
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As we’ve already mentioned, the city of Bath is a tough contender against York for the title of UK’s Most Historic City. As such, history lovers looking for the best UK staycation ideas are going to have to make a tough choice between York and Bath.
Bath provides visitors with a unique brand of architecture that has the power to both soothe and inspire. The city’s iconic stonework (fittingly known as Bath Stone) was used for the construction of almost every building in central Bath.
This design style leads to a neat, clean, uniform atmosphere that makes Bath feel like a complete, coherent, perfect paradise of stunning stonework. There’s a sense of serenity that comes from exploring Bath.
Iconic Bath buildings include Bath Abbey — which you’ll find at the very heart of the city — and the Royal Crescent: a row of thirty terraced houses in a captivating crescent shape. These are Grade I listed buildings that have stood since the 18th Century.
Another Grade I listed building that has also stood since the 18th century is Pulteney Bridge, designed by Scottish architect Robert Adam in a Venetian style. Fitting since you’ll find a shop in the bridge that sells hand-made authentic Venetian masks.
And, while you explore, make sure to hit all of the independent bookshops of Bath. Bath is a writer’s and reader’s city. Here, you’ll find some of the best bookshops in Britain, including personal favourites like Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights and the iconic Topping & Co.
For any lover of architecture and design on the hunt for UK staycation ideas, put Bath at the top of your list. Check it twice if you’re a bookworm looking for some of the most beautiful and vibrant bookshops in the UK.
Where on Earth do you even begin when talking about London? According to countless people, England’s capital is the greatest city in the world, and we are not about to disagree with that.
No matter how you spin it, London comes out on top for architecture, history, theatre, literature, art, poetry, and more. It’s easy to have a perfect UK staycation when London is on your doorstep.
Take one of the above topics and make an itinerary out of it. If you’re a bookworm, you can explore the still-living literary history of London. From Charles Dickens and the Bloomsbury Group to the literary and cinematic spots linked to the Harry Potter franchise.
Or how about theatre? Both new and old, of course. London’s West End is always busting at the seams with exciting shows. From bombastic modern musicals to fresh adaptations of Russian classics.
Then there’s Shakespeare’s Globe, which puts on faithful adaptation’s of plays by history’s greatest writer.
If you’re looking for the UK’s food capital, that would also be London. From pubs that sell the best of British cuisine to authentic restaurants offering food from every corner of the globe.
Many of the places we’ve explored on this list thus far have focussed on cultural travel, history, and city architecture. What sets Nottingham apart, when it comes to good UK staycation ideas, is its connection to nature. If you’re looking to explore the great outdoors, head to Nottingham.
Everyone knows the story of Robin Hood. And, with Nottingham’s medieval roots, it only makes sense that the city has something of an affinity for archery. A visit to Sherwood Forest or the annual Robin Hood Festival will give you a chance to test your mettle as a budding archer.
Speaking of Sherwood Forest, today it exists as a 450 acre nature reserve in which countless species of birds and mammals make their home. Beyond the legend of Robin Hood, Sherwood Forest is also famous for its thousand ancient oak trees, the most adored of which being Major Oak, who needs to be seen to be believed.
Country walks that blend history with natural beauty can also be enjoyed at Newstead Abbey and Wollaton Hall and Park. The grounds of these outstanding historic buildings provide serenity and astonishing views at every turn.
Speaking of the allure of the British countryside, what Nottingham provides with its forests, Swansea offers in the form of a breathtaking coastline. While it is often overshadowed by the Welsh capital of Cardiff when it comes to shopping and nightlife, Swansea cannot be beaten if your UK staycation ideas involve natural hikes and a trip to the coast.
The coastline we’re referring to is the Gower: crown jewel of the Swansea area. The Gower is an area of natural splendour, beloved by Welsh writers and artists for centuries. Inspiring, breathtaking, and serene, the Gower Peninsula is a must-visit area, especially during the summer months.
The most iconic sight in Gower would be Worm’s Head, whose name derives from the old English ‘wyrm’ or dragon. One look at Worm’s Head is all it takes to understand why this outcropping of rocks would be named after a dragon.
While it certainly is a captivating sight, be warned. Welsh writer Dylan Thomas once got himself trapped at the tip of Worm’s Head when the tide came in, and was forced to spend a full night alone there. After the incident, Thomas called Worm’s Head “the very promontory of depression”.
While recent visitors have found themselves trapped the same way, they were all rescued by the coastguard. Famous writer Dylan Thomas had no such luck.
This post was created in collaboration with Hotels.com, but all views are our own.