Remember all the way back in March when we were buzzing about being able to work from home for a couple of weeks? How things have changed in the past year. Although a few people managed to get away in the summer of 2020, a lot of us were stuck in the same 4 walls for months on end. And whilst it looks like it’s going to be a while before we can escape again, we can use this time to plan ahead. If you want some inspiration for your 2021 getaway, read on to discover the best places for a city break or a rural retreat.
Do you crave culture, architecture, and a vibrant nightlife? If so, a city break is the perfect getaway for you. Read on to discover 3 of the most underrated city breaks in England.
Bristol is a city that has been consistently on the up for the past few years. Although the city once got overlooked in favour of its next door neighbour, Bath, it is now getting the attention that it deserves. Bristol has something for everyone, so whether you’re an architecture admirer, shopping enthusiast or culture connoisseur, this might just be the perfect city break for you.
If you’re looking to splash the cash or treat yourself to a new wardrobe whilst you’re there, your first port of call should be Cabot Circus. This shopping centre has all the biggest brands and best eateries, making it the perfect place to spend a few hours and splash the cash. And if you’re travelling with kids, make sure to check out the crazy golf to get some quality family bonding time (or more likely some fierce competition and a few tantrums!).
If independent shops are more your thing, you’re certainly not short of choice in Bristol! To start with, check out BAM. This shop has a bit of everything, from art, to beauty, to books. It’s a non-profit shop that supports the community and local artists. And as if that wasn’t enough of a reason to visit, the products are amazing too! It’s the best place to get high quality, affordable goods, so make sure to check it out. Rhubarb Jumble is another great independent shop that sells a variety of quirky vintage clothing and furniture. Not only is this vintage paradise popular with Bristolians, but they have an Etsy store with hundreds of highly rated products, so make sure to pay them a virtual visit too! To find more independent Bristol shops, check out this extremely comprehensive list from This Bristol Brood.
Of course, there’s far more to the city than just shopping. Bristol is known for having an electric music and arts scene. Exchange is a pioneering venue, as it’s the first ever one to be owned by the local community. And the Fleece is a music lovers paradise, which has played host to countless big names, including Oasis, Radiohead, Amy Winehouse and many, many more. The last unmissable place to visit in this wonderful city is the Clifton suspension bridge. This mightily impressive feat of engineering was created in the 19th century, and it’s now the symbol of the city. Head up to Clifton Observatory to see it from afar and get the best view in Bristol.
If you’ve never visited Leeds before, you’re really in for a treat. This city has so much to offer, but unfortunately much like the next city on the list, it’s criminally underrated. To start your day off, take a stroll around Roundhay Park. Not only is this one of Europe’s largest parks, but there’s plenty to keep you entertained here too. Bring your knee pads with you to check out the impressive skate park and show off your skill (or lack of it!). If you’re travelling with children, they’ll never forgive you if you don’t visit the park’s highly impressive playground (that was organised by a group of fundraisers!). And if all this activity has left your stomach grumbling, head over to Lakeside Cafe for some great views and tasty treats.
To get your fill of culture, Leeds Art Gallery is the number one place to visit. Good news for those of you who are watching your budget — entrance is completely free! The gallery is full of modern and contemporary art, which comes in a variety of forms. There’s a mixture of permanent and temporary exhibits, so even if you’ve been before you’ll always find something new to see. Make sure to check out the Central Court to get a real feast for the eyes. This space uses natural light to enhance the beauty of the artwork shown — the court alone makes this gallery a must visit.
If history is more your thing, then Leeds City Museum is definitely worth a visit. The museum is full of information on not just Leeds, but the entire world. A particular highlight is the Voices of Asia gallery. Located on the first floor, this exhibit details the fascinating history of Asain communities in the city, and how they have developed over time. Entrance to the museum is also completely free, so it’s a definite must-see — and you’ll get a chance to splurge the money that you saved at your next stop!
The Corn Exchange is a shopping centre, but it’s far, far more than just that. The Victorian grade 1 listed building is absolutely remarkable. In fact, it’s worth paying it a visit just for the building alone! The interior of this grand building is oval shaped and it runs over several floors. What truly makes the structure special is the magnificent dome shaped roof that fills the building with natural light. But the most important part of any shopping centre is, of course, the shops! And fortunately, Leeds Corn Exchange doesn’t let us down on this front either! There are a range of fabulous shops which offer a variety of goods. Just a small sample of the offerings include jewelry, prom dresses, tattoos, ceramics, plants, and so much more. The highest quality goods and the beautiful surroundings certainly make this shopping trip one to remember.
Newcastle upon Tyne
Yes, I know — my hometown bias is showing again. But I can’t help myself! Newcastle has the architecture, the nightlife, the arts scene, the best food — yet it’s always overlooked as a tourist destination. So I’ve taken personal responsibility to hype the city up!
For the art lovers out there, your first port of call should be to the Baltic. This contemporary art centre can be found on the city’s Quayside. Before the gallery opened in 2002, the building was a disused former flour mill. The abandoned building was certainly put to good use, as the gallery is now one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. Entrance to the Baltic is completely free, although there is a donations box that you should consider contributing to if you can afford it. The best thing about the arts centre is that there are no permanent exhibits, so there’s always something new to see. And even for those who aren’t keen on modern art, you should still visit just for the amazing panorama that you get from the viewing platform. And make sure to check out the onsite shop too. There’s a wide variety of goods on offer, and there’s something to suit every budget. To get an idea of what’s on offer, check out the online shop here.
Once you’ve finished your visit, take a stroll down the quayside for some of the best views in the city. Not only are you walking beside the famous Tyne river, but you get a fantastic view of the symbol of Newcastle: the Tyne Bridge. Although you can walk along the bridge itself, to truly capture the beauty of the structure make sure to view it from afar too. It can be seen from all along the quayside, but the best spot to see it in full is from the Millennium bridge, which is a work of art in itself!
When it comes to finding somewhere to eat, you’re completely spoilt for choice in this foodie city. For breakfast, you should definitely pay Olive and Bean a visit. I’ve sampled a range of products on their vast menu, and I’ve been impressed every time! It’s got plenty of options for those of you with big appetites, such as The Business (their take on a full English) and waffles. Smaller appetites are catered for too, with their range of egg dishes and toasts.
Another great eatery (possibly my favourite in the entire city) is Uno’s. This gorgeous Italian restaurant can be found on the quayside, nestled away underground. The basement location and the warm lights make this restaurant feel so cosy and inviting. And the food itself simply cannot be beaten — it’s filling, full of flavour, and absolutely delicious. A meal at Uno’s is the best way to round off a visit to this beautiful city.
If you prefer exploring the great outdoors, you’re probably looking to make your next getaway a rural retreat. Whether you’re after a tranquil rural weekend, or an outdoor adventure, the next two destinations will be perfect for you.
Northumberland National Park
If you really want to get away from it all, there’s nowhere better to visit than England’s northernmost national park. It’s the least populated area of the country, and surprisingly the least visited of our 10 national parks. Although the park is shockingly underrated, this can actually work to your advantage. It’s the perfect place to explore nature without the bustling crowds that you often find in the Lake District.
One of the best parts (and most well-known) parts of the park is the section of Hadrian’s Wall that runs through it. This famous defensive wall was built by the Romans in 122 AD, and it stretches an impressive 73 miles long. This historical masterpiece has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987 and it’s one of the most popular tourist attractions in the North East. For some of the most scenic walks along the wall, make sure to check out the Northumberland National Park website.
One of the most popular walks along Hadrian’s Wall by far, is the bewitching Sycamore Gap. The striking image of a single tree emerging from the dip in the land which Hadrian’s Wall runs along is so simple, but so beautiful. It’s a sight to behold in every season, no matter what the weather, so don’t let the rains top you from visiting this masterpiece. If you can, pay a visit to the gap at sunset. The silhouette of the tree standing in front of a striking, colourful sunset is an image that you’ll never forget.
If you’d rather take a stroll by the river, you’re not short of options either. Hareshaw Linn is one of the most striking waterfalls I’ve ever seen. This 2 hour walk has so many gorgeous views on the way, so don’t be surprised if it ends up being a bit longer than you think! And of course, you’ll need to factor in some time to admire the staggering 30 foot drop waterfall. To find out more about this amazing walk, check out my article on it here. Another gorgeous waterfall in the park that’s a definite must-see is Linhope Spout. This waterfall has an impressive 60 foot drop, and it’s surroundings of tall, spindly trees and flat rocks make it so peaceful. Click here to find out more about the walk and the waterfall itself.
Taking up the final spot on this list is one of the most gorgeous coastlines in the country. The Jurassic Coast stretches an impressive 95 miles over two of the South West’s most popular counties, Devon and Dorset. There are so many remarkable places to visit along this coastline. I’ll just be focussing on a handful, but if you want a detailed guide then check out the Official Guide to the Jurassic Coast for only £4.95.
Starting us off with the most well-known stretch of the coastline, is Durdle Door. This is one of the most iconic landmarks in the UK, and tourists flock from all over the world to see this natural wonder. The iconic stone arch was formed by soft rock eroding behind the hard limestone. When it crumbled beneath the harsh and rocky waves, the arch was formed. The iconic symbol of the South West has been used in a number of music videos, including Loverboy by Billy Ocean. Make sure to bring a camera, as you won’t want to miss picturing this iconic spot. To make the most of your time there, take a picnic, sit back and enjoy the view.
Just half an hour’s walk away from Durdle Door is your next stop. Perhaps not as iconic, but still just as beautiful, is the breath-taking Lulworth Cove. The always mesmerizing deep blue water makes this spot picture perfect all year round. The oval shape of the cove makes it the perfect place to go swimming, especially if you’re taking the little ones with you. When the tide is low, make sure to keep an eye out for sea creatures hidden in the rock pools!
The last spot on the list is a little further away — it takes around an hour and a half to drive there from Lulworth Cove. But it’s seriously worth it. Beer (yes, you read that right) is a quaint and picturesque fishing town situated on the Jurassic Coast. If you asked an artist to paint you a picture of a stereotypical English village, they would simply recreate Beer. It’s completely idyllic and the perfect place to unwind. Relax on the village’s picture perfect beach, and make sure to bring a picnic — it’s the perfect place to have one according to Countryfile! Or if you’d rather, grab yourself some fish and chips in the evening and watch the sun set over the sea. A perfect way to end any English holiday.
Where are you going for your next English getaway? Let me know in the comments down below!