Hands up if you had a holiday cancelled by COVID-19. Yes? You’re not alone. Most people have had at least some travel plans scuppered this year — forcing us to keep those new swim shorts in the cupboard and pop our passports back in the bureau.
But all is not lost. Obviously we’re all being very, very careful — but the travel and tourism industry is, thankfully, starting back up. That means no more spending our days off in the back garden, or wasting bank holidays on baking (haven’t we all had enough of sourdough by now?). Instead, we can finally pack our bags, and go on a break.
And where better than Britain? After four months at home, even heading 10 miles down the road will feel like fleeing to a foreign country. So why not put off planes for the rest of the year, and instead chart a course for somewhere within our fair isle? We’ve rounded up a handful of the best — from a sweeping Suffolk estate to a strapping Lake District lodge. Take a look…
Wilderness Reserve, Suffolk
The elegant and expansive Wilderness Reserve is the ideal destination to escape to this summer. Close to home and with quaintness in spades, you’ll find 14 properties across the 4,500 areas of wild meadows, woodland, open fields and freshwater streams — from the 19th century The Cartshed to superluxe escape The Walled Garden.
And there’s much to do — considerably more so than popping to the shops, working from home or whatever else you’ve been doing during lockdown. Pack your hiking boots and take along your binoculars to watch local wildlife, enjoy a day out in the rowing boats or even saddle up on the complimentary Pashley cycles and go for a ride up the serpentine drive.
The Fife Arms, Braemar
From August, The Fife Arms, in the Highland village of Braemar, will throw its typically hospitable doors back open and start welcoming guests. And, if you’re looking for somewhere charming and friendly to see you out of lockdown, there’s nowhere better. There’s always been a ghillie on the team at The Fife Arms — a local name for an attendant on an expedition, sort of an outdoor butler — and they’ve employed even more to further ensure everyone’s enjoyment.
That means you’ll have your personal space, peace of mind and many options and activities to pass the time. From fishing and shooting to golf and even foraging for cocktails, everything will be centred around your safety. Our favourite option? A Highland Picnic, stuffed with homemade pies and hearty sandwiches, that can be organised through the ghillies.
Camp Hox, Oxfordshire
Now here’s something a little different. We’ve all heard of The Hoxton — the über-hip hotel chain with establishments in Shoreditch, Paris, Amsterdam and more — and this is a post-COVID offshoot from the brand. Camp Hox will pop-up in Oxfordshire during August, springing its lotus tents up in the grand grounds of the 18th-century Eynsham Hall.
And all the good stuff you’d expect from the hotel chain will be here. Each tent will feature a proper bed, with Hoxton pillows and duvets. There’ll be greenery from Patch plants, a bottle of Altano natural wine waiting for you and even a pour-your-own Graham’s Port and tonic bar. There’s also a barbecue — obviously the best part of camping — and a classic Hox breakfast bag delivered every morning.
Lodore Falls, Lake District
It looks like something straight out of the Canadian wilderness — and sounds like it, too. But Lodore Falls is thoroughly and quintessentially British, standing proud in front of the Lake District waterfall from which it takes its name. And if you’re looking for a spot of relaxation this summer before we all return to our offices, there’s no place better.
The Falls Spa is perhaps the jewel in the crown of this Northern getaway. There are 18 luxury new spa bedrooms, a pan-Asian restaurant — with a cracking six-course tasting menu — and a Champagne and deli bar. Or wander off-site, and explore the woodland trails that wind through the forestry and down to the shore of Derwent Water.
Hales Hall, Norfolk
The Norfolk countryside is something of an escape itself — so Hales Hall is like an oasis within an oasis. And this medieval getaway, surrounded by breathtaking gardens and wild meadows, is the ideal way to spend a British summer. It’s also perfect for a post-pandemic break — as the accommodation is spread across four different properties.
But the best thing about Hales Hall? The food. Not only is the property surrounded every season by acres and acres of fresh asparagus and ripe red strawberries, but it also sits by seas teaming with magnificent lobster. The local dairy makes brie so authentic it could be French and — get this — the nearby vineyard just won the Decanter award for ‘best single-grape white wine in the world’.