Maybe we’re biased but if the weather is kind, few places in the world can match the beauty of the British countryside in the summertime. After a difficult winter, we can hardly wait for longer days and the lovely golden shadows of early evenings spent outdoors. But where are the best places to spend these precious sun-drenched days? After much debate, we’ve narrowed it down to three of our favourite regions. Agree with us? Let us know in the comments below.
This ancient patchwork of rolling hills and rural market towns is one of the UK’s most popular tourist regions, and it’s easy to see why. Most of the honey-coloured limestone villages really do look like cliched chocolate box covers, and the idyllic countryside that surrounds them is impossibly pretty. On top of all that, a certain eccentricity and old-fashioned charm gives the region a unique flavour, brought to life in events like the annual cheese rolling race and the Cotswold Olimpicks – though it’s easy to see how the area’s reputation as a modern day bolthole for stressed celebrities and London media types came about too. Gorgeous country gastropubs like The Five Alls and high-end venues like Daylesford Organic do a fine line in cosmopolitan country grub, and you never know who you might bump into.
It’s not hard to find a beautiful place to stay in the Cotswolds: Glorious manor houses, cosy B&Bs and small village hotels are everywhere. Three Ways House in Mickleton is one of our favourites (don’t miss the weekly Pudding Club nights) as is Lower Slaughter Manor, one of the UK’s finest country house hotels and a member of Virgin Atlantic Flying Club partner Preferred Hotels.
With months of relentless wet weather, Cornwall has endured one of the toughest winters in decades but this county at the western extremity of the UK remains one of our most popular holiday destinations. Why? Well, for starters there’s the sheer variety of beaches: secluded coves backed by jagged cliffs, natural rock pools ripe for exploring, and mile upon mile of golden Atlantic-facing sands. Then there’s the dramatic coastline punctuated by jumbled fishing villages and harbour towns; the opportunity to try your hand at activities like rock climbing, abseiling, surfing and wakeboarding, and plenty of things to do if the rain should return for a few hours – the Eden Project and Tate St. Ives to name but two.
From family-friendly farmstays with daily tractor rides and animal feeding sessions, to clifftop self-catering cottages and sophisticated beach hotels overlooking the sea, Cornwall is packed with accommodation for all budgets. Young families will love to get stuck in at Higher Lank Farm in the village of St. Breward near Bodmin, or if you’re looking for a little slice of urban style by the sea, check out the cool white architecture of St. Moritz on the north coast.
The Lake District
It’s “the loveliest spot that man hath found,” said William Wordsworth about Grasmere in the Lake District, and it’s hard to disagree. This region of far northwest England is simply unbeatable in summer, whether you want to explore by car, bus, bike or by lake cruiser. But one of the best ways to discover the Lake District – especially at this time of year – is on foot. England’s largest national park is criss-crossed with walking trails for all abilities, from simple lakeshore strolls to challenging hikes up some of the country’s highest peaks. There’s even a number of multi-day Ale Trails which combine stunning scenery with cosy places to stay, great local food and fine real ale.
Incredible views are everywhere in this heavenly corner of England, but particularly photogenic locations include Buttermere – especially when approached from Borrowdale via the Honister Pass; Derwent Water from the hillside viewpoint known as “˜Surprise View’, and Wast Water looking out towards Wasdale Head with Scafell Pike – England’s highest peak – in the background. But after a hard day’s walking it’s time to relax. The Lake District is home to accommodation ranging from five star retreats like Gilpin Hotel and Lake House at Lake Windermere, to pubs with rooms like the Drunken Duck Inn above Ambleside. Or why not really get away from it all at Howthwaite: a handsome 8-person self-catering property at Grasmere, which shares the same view as Wordsworth’s own Dove Cottage.
Header photo of the Cotswolds © Edward Dalmulder