Outdoors splendour in the Lake District
What A quiet, made-in-heaven hill in the Buttermere Valley with epic views of the Lake District that goes blessedly overlooked by Cumbria’s summer hordes. But why now It’s one of the few places in the UK where wild camping – pitching a tent in the wilderness – is legal. It also happens to be stunningly beautiful.
Where to stay Anywhere on the hill’s 600m summit. Or, for non-outdoors types, Victorian manor Forest Side in Grasmere (theforestside.com) is the bookish, back-to-nature fairy tale come to life. Where to eat Oddly enough, the Lake District has some of the UK’s best restaurants: we love ex-Noma chef James Cross’s Lake Road Kitchen or there’s Simon Rogan’s dependably brilliant L’Enclume.
Oh, and another thing The medieval village of Cartmel has what is broadly accepted as the best sticky toffee pudding in the world.
Getting there Around two hours by train from Manchester Airport to Windermere station.
Wild swimming in one of the north’s most beautiful market towns
What A lively, delightfully eccentric market town in West Yorkshire is home to writers and artists and, according to The Guardian, could “feel festive even on a wet winter Tuesday”.
But why now The UK is in the grip of a wild-swimming craze and Lumb Falls, an open pool circled by stunning waterfalls and mossy cliffs, is the most beautiful spot for an outdoor dip.
Where to stay With log fires and decent ales, The White Lion is the town’s plush-but-not-stuffy country inn of note.
Where to eat Well-reviewed, boundary-pushing chef-owner Alisdair Brooke-Taylor’s rethought British cooking at The Moorcock Inn is worth the trip alone.
Oh, and another thing Pack the boots: Hebden Bridge is a hill-walkers’ paradise.
Getting there 35 minutes by train from Manchester Victoria.
The just-as-beautiful, less touristy alternative to the Lake District
What All scenic valleys, rolling hills and period, petite, Jane Austen-y villages, it’s the northerly rural escape you haven’t heard of with the renowned stately home you definitely have: Chatsworth.
But why now After a $40m renovation, Lord and Lady Devonshire’s giant country pile has been restored to its former glory just in time for the release of the long-awaited Downton Abbey film due out in September.
Where to stay The Cavendish Hotel (cavendishbaslow.co.uk) is set on the Chatsworth Estate and offers easy access to the Derbyshire countryside. Or try Hassop Hall for more spendy aristo-glam.
Where to eat Michelin-anointed Fischer’s happily dispels all stereotypes of British cooking with a heavy emphasis on local produce.
Oh, and another thing The pubs are welcoming: try The Maynard for real ale and epic views of the Derbyshire hills.
Getting there The High Peak Skyline 199 bus runs from Manchester Airport to Chatsworth.
The university city gets a visit from a not-so-quiet American
What The old-school, got-the-lot charmer bang in the middle of England is still one of the UK’s most nourishing, characterful weekends away.
But why now Two reasons: a major new Jeff Koons exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology (until 9 June) and what’s fast-becoming one of the UK’s best-loved festivals: Wilderness (1–4 August) at the glorious Cornbury Park, a 5,000-acre estate with some of the oldest forest in the country.
Where to stay Outside term time, the colleges’ charming student halls are a bargain or for a more traditional city-centre overnighter, the 17th-century Old Parsonage Hotel has few peers.
Oh, and another thing You can’t come to Oxford and not take a punt: for that, the Cherwell Boathouse has got you covered.
Getting there Just under an hour by train via London Paddington.
The once-shoddy seaside town comes back to life with artsy aplomb
What The steady migration of priced-out London creatives and the revamp of Dreamland (pictured), the UK’s oldest amusement park, have heralded an influx of stylish new restaurants and bars, and has changed this once-drab no-go seaside town into one of the coolest culture trips out of London.
But why now This year the always headline-worthy Turner Prize comes to Margate’s Turner Contemporary for the first time (28 September – 12 January 2020).
Where to stay One of three impeccably designed rooms at The Reading Rooms or, for eccentric seaside charm, try the Walpole Bay Hotel.
Where to eat For fresh-off-the-boat fish try Angela’s or cheese-temple cheap-eat Cheesy Tiger on Harbour Arm. Oh, and another thing Check out the Shell Grotto, a passageway covered in 4.6 million shells. Discovered in 1835, no-one has ever been able to figure out who made it or why.
Getting there An hour and a half by train from London St Pancras.
Rock out on the beautiful, cult-cool Sussex coast
What The colourful, boho-chic party town on the UK’s south coast with a seriously evolved veggie-vegan dining scene still has artsy-cool charm to spare.
But why now For the annual Mod Weekender (24–26 August) which this year marks 40 years since the release of cult Brighton-set mods-vs-rockers movie Quadrophenia.
Where to stay For the full-on mod experience, it has to be a room at Hotel Pelirocco for its special “Modrophenia” room, complete with a scooter bedside table, parka bedspread and original Keith Moon print.
Where to eat Terre à Terre does easily some of the city’s most creative plant-based cooking. Or Silo makes a sustainable and surprisingly delicious, zero-waste alternative.
Oh, and another thing For a swankier stay, Soho House is opening an outpost here this year opposite the loveable kitsch-y pier. Getting there Just under an hour by train from London Victoria station.