Zoom. Microsoft Teams. Google Hangouts. WhatsApp. FaceTime. Facebook Messenger. Instagram. Twitter. Need we go on?
Technology has played a starring role in all of our lives since the pandemic first broke; and for good reason. It’s saved the day time and time again, helping friendships to thrive (virtual quiz, anyone?), employees to brainstorm (“Has anyone told him he’s on mute?”) and has even sparked romance up and down the country, thanks to the advent of the voice note and the zeitgeist of the ‘Zoom drink’.
But it can all get a bit overwhelming, can’t it? When you realise you’ve been chained to a combination of screens for over ten hours in one day, the unread WhatsApps are piling up and you’re scrolling through Instagram every ten minutes just to feel connected to the outside world. We know that everyone needs to switch off occasionally: to reconnect with nature, to clear the mind of those glaring screens — and just to give yourself a break, really.
So with that in mind, we’ve rounded up our top destinations for off-the-grid staycations. By ‘off-the-grid’, we mean off the beaten track and an opportunity to totally disconnect. Prepare for the digital detox of a lifetime.
Loch Lomond, Scotland
Scotland really delivers the off-the-grid goods, doesn’t it? Maybe it’s all that stunning scenery, or that sharp, bracing air. Either way, Loch Lomond is the perfect getaway for anyone longing to escape the travails of urban, interconnected life. Voted in 2005 as the sixth greatest natural wonder in Britain, this stunning destination is sure to press that reset button that’s gone unused for far too long, and help you reconnect with the great outdoors in its most spectacular sense.
Of course, Loch Lomond is a famous destination, and we wouldn’t want your detox time to be interrupted by other equally technologically-fraught visitors. So we’ve selected the perfect Loch Lomond property for you to while away your cares in solitude: Little Eden is a self-catered Highland cottage that merges luxury with an off-the-grid level seclusion. Sleeping four guests, it nestles in a secluded bay on the Loch itself, and boasts two fire pits and underfloor heating for anyone who wants a rural experience with a touch of comfort here and there.
We know that Cornwall isn’t often mentioned in the same sentence as ‘off the grid’ — but we don’t mean Cornwall in the wider sense. We mean the secluded valley of Millook, tucked between the larger harbour towns of Bude and Boscastle. When the conditions are right, there’s a particular seaside spot that can be a surfer’s paradise, with one of the finest left-hand breaks in Europe. Keep your phone in your suitcase, and get your surfboard out; it’s time to reconnect with nature in its most tidal sense.
And we’ve got the perfect Millook property for you: tucked away in its very own little nook on this secluded pebble beach, The Beach Hut has been transformed from a 1920s tearoom into a secluded beachside hideaway. It sleeps two, and is guaranteed to instil that much-needed peace, quiet and calm you’ve been craving for so long. It’s got a log burner (but it also comes with electric heating, for those who aren’t prepared to give up their creature comforts just yet), and it oozes rustic seaside charm from every stripped wooden floor.
The Beach Hut
Lake District Woodland, Cumbria
The Lake District is often associated with soaring panoramas of glimmering waters and towering mountains; but we frequently forget that it also boasts the thick, dense woodland of the sort that would make Robin Hood feel right at home. If you’re looking for rural, then look no further: rural is the word du jour in the lush woodlands of the Lake District, and an ‘off-the-beaten-track’ experience is a certainty as they’re guaranteed to be far less populated and tourist-ridden than those famous lakes. Visitors can expect to find otters, roe deer and kingfishers roaming around on their merry way, and a total disconnect from the rest of the world.
And if you’re looking to hole up for a few nights, there is one property that will tick all those ‘off the grid’ boxes. Shank Wood is — as the name might suggest — a log cabin built out of local timber. With just one bedroom, it’s the ultimate rural experience: solar panels produce all the energy for the lights, and the wood fired oven operates as both oven and hob. There are just two small electric sockets, and no fridge, microwave or TV (we promised you a digital detox, and a digital detox you shall have). There is a wood fired hot tub, however; the perfect addition to a blissfully cosy, rustic retreat.
We said digital detox, and we meant digital detox. Taking the form of a 3,500 acre peninsula on the West coast of Scotland, Ardnish is the ultimate destination for those who want to leave the cares and stresses of daily, technological life behind: and the breathtaking surroundings of rolling hills and pebbly beaches facing out towards the Hebrides don’t hurt, either.
Good boating skills are especially important for Laggan: one of the three self-catered cottages on the estate. Those with strong sea legs will be happy to know that a boat and outboard engine are included in its rental price (“No landlubbers, please,” warns the estate owner, Peter, stressing that strong sea legs are essential); as are the paraffin lamps, calor gas fridge and cooker, and two wood-burning stoves. That’s right: there’s no electricity, but we can guarantee hours of fun spent dashing off to light the fridge or the cooker, and warm, cosy nights lit by that flickering paraffin glow.
Norfolk, East Anglia
If you want to escape that much-talked about ‘beaten track’, you frankly couldn’t do better than the quintessential corner of the UK that constitutes Norfolk. This rural county offers myriad muddy country paths, secluded beaches rife with salt marshes and lush green views as far as the eye can see; and the air feels clearer, too. It’s something we can’t quite put our finger on; but Norfolk allows for deeper breathing and a clearer mind than most other destinations.
We know we’re not the only ones who know this, however; so we’ve selected a property that epitomises ‘off the grid living’ for your Norfolkian stay. The Woodcock is an eco cabin situated in one of Norfolk’s oldest farmyards. Snugly nestled in a meadow among those famous Norfolk marshes and beaches, this rustic property is electricity-less, but comes rife with ample foraging opportunities (guests can pick their own samphire and lavender, among others) and a wood burner that lights both the bath and the open air shower, and that promises cosiness in spades.
Weald Downlands, West Sussex
If you’re London-based, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’ve got to commit to a ten hour drive or a day-long train ride just to get away from it all; but we sometimes forget that the Home Counties can offer just as much rurality as those plunging Highland lochs. The hedges may be smaller and neater, and the villages more evenly spaced: but if you’re looking to escape the well-trodden paths and that hectic city life, this picturesque, remote area of Sussex can offer seclusion, solitude and foraging opportunities aplenty.
And the aptly-named Little Bear may conjure up images of the well-worn fairytale; it’s just as remote as Goldilocks’ original discovery, but significantly more sustainable and luxurious. Nestled among the wildflowers, this off-the-grid hideaway promises an eco hot tub among its various amenity delights — but it’s the surrounding nature that serves as the real pull. Ancient woodland abounds, bluebells (if you’re in season) are the talk of the wood and you can forget TV or WiFi; this truly is the technology disconnect you’ve been craving ever since your life moved onto Zoom. Leave your phone in your suitcase, and get outside to soak up those natural delights in all their God-given wonder.