IF a bit of me time, or us time, has been on the back burner this year, what with homeschooling, homeworking and the many other challenges, autumn offers the chance to down tools and take a well-earned break. Whether it’s an indulgent day away, a pampering long weekend or a week’s escape, why not treat yourself here in the UK?
Fine dining … the Merchant Hotel in Belfast has a Victorian interior and Ireland’s largest chandelier
What’s out there might surprise you or, better still, surprise someone you love. You can blink in disbelief as you check into a fairytale castle in Wales or, for just £38.50, savour a Michelin-starred three-course lunch in Scotland’s capital. Feel the wind in your hair driving a sports car for the day, or de-stress as you picnic on a private boat.
Wherever you are, you’ll always find the ultimate British treat: afternoon tea. Try it with a local twist – Welsh cakes, Irish smoked salmon sandwiches, Scottish oat cakes or a glass of English bubbly.
As well as taking time to relax and recharge, by enjoying yourself you’ll be giving a boost to the UK’s hotels, restaurants, pubs and attractions.
You can easily plan ahead by checking that anywhere you visit has the We’re Good To Go mark, meaning they have all the Government’s Covid-19 public health requirements in place.
VisitBritain’s Know Before You Go page has regularly updated information about safe travel in the UK, including what’s open and links to Government guidelines, so you can find out exactly what restrictions and measures are in place in each of the four nations.
Tempted? Of course you are – now go and discover your own Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Still magic … visit Darnley’s Gin Distillery in Fife for a tasting tour and you’ll get to see the traditional 350-litre copper still
In Edinburgh’s historic port of Leith, you’ll find Restaurant Martin Wishart – a Michelin-starred spot with a chic dining room and mouthwatering Scottish ingredients. Book for the great value £38.50 three-course lunch, Wednesday to Friday, and expect local produce with a twist, such as ceviche of Gigha halibut.
A ginspirational visit
Gin aficionados will love Darnley’s small-batch distillery near St Andrews in Fife, where you can see the traditional still called Dorothy, taste the selection and even mix your own perfect G&T inspired by what you’ve learnt, whether it’s with Darnley’s Spiced or Navy Strength. Ginspiration tour, £25 per person, bookable in advance.
The sky’s the limit
Fancy a romantic night out with a difference? Head for one of Scotland’s Dark Sky Parks – Galloway Forest in the south, which was the UK’s first Dark Sky Park and is also home to the Scottish Dark Sky Observatory (book ahead), or Tomintoul and Glenlivet in Cairngorms National Park, the world’s northernmost Dark Sky Park. At both, low levels of light pollution mean you can make the most of inky black sky lit up by thousands of stars, planets and meteors – even the spectacular northern lights, also known as aurora borealis. Make sure you wrap up warm and take a torch. It’s so atmospheric and chilled out, you’ll never forget it. Find more information at visitscotland.com.
New perspective … hire a GoBoat and steer it along London’s canals
London by boat
See London from a different angle, motoring along the Regent’s Canal in your own boat. GoBoats have central tables, so pack a picnic and watch the world go by, passing Little Venice, ZSL London Zoo and Camden Lock. To hire from £79, goboat.co.uk.
Drive a classic
Leave the hatchback at home and instead get behind the wheel of a Morgan sports car. You can hire a new Plus 4 model (designed in the 1950s) for the day, or take the wheel of the iconic Morgan three-wheeler, picked up from the Morgan HQ in Malvern, Worcestershire. From £235 per day.
Me old china
For retail therapy in an unusual location, visit the Emma Bridgewater factory shop in Stoke-on-Trent, the historic home of British pottery. Pick up her much-loved mugs and other classy gifts at reduced prices and afterwards enjoy afternoon tea in the pretty café. £12.50, bookable in advance.
Welsh charm … the Grade II listed Chateau Rhianfa stands out against the green banks of the Menai Strait
The cosy Bear
If you are craving a pub with character then The Bear in Powys has it all – flagstones, a log fire, oak beams and bags of atmosphere. The 500-year-old coaching inn is in the pretty town of Crickhowell, voted the best place to live in Wales in 2019, and is popular with walkers.
Chateau Rhianfa has to be seen to be believed. Despite how it looks, the mid-19th century castle is not in the Loire but rather sits on the banks of the Menai Strait in Anglesey. Book an indulgent stay and sip on a glass of chilled local fizz as you gaze out on the water. Doubles with breakfast from £200.
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If you’ve always fancied…
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