With Wimbledon under our belts and the Olympics underway, it’s not surprising that many Brits are avoiding expensive holidays abroad this summer. But other than a summer of sport and some hefty financial savings, what are the benefits of forgoing an exotic few weeks in the sun?
A term coined by the Americans, the humble ‘staycation’ offers attractions much closer to home whilst saving on the cost of accommodation, meals out and expensive travel. For the typically broke student, this might not be a bad idea. To find out whether ‘staycationing’ is truly a viable holiday option, I’ve decided to see what our home nation has to offer now the sun has finally got his hat on.
The South East
Music lovers should look out for the BT Live Olympic concerts.
If you’re staying in Southampton for summer, or are lucky enough to live within a couple of hours drive, there are plenty of things to do nearby. Both the obvious and unobvious city to visit during the next few weeks is London. If you decide to bravely make an un-Olympic-related visit during the games, the city offers many free day-trip options. If you’re after culture, look no further than London’s plethora of museums and art galleries. Between the Natural History Museum, the Imperial War Museum and the V & A you’ll be spoilt for choice, with a combination of history, science, art and popular culture at your feet. Music lovers should look out for the BT Live Olympic concerts that will be taking place in Hyde Park in August. For guaranteed entry you’ll need to purchase tickets online. Otherwise, entry is subject to capacity so turn up early to queue and try your luck. With Snow Patrol, Stereophonics, Duran Duran and Paolo Nutini headlining the opening ceremony concert and Blur, The Specials, New Order and Bombay Bicycle Club headlining the closing, these free events promise to be well worth the queues.
Of course, one of the major bonuses of staycationing is that the money you save from flights, hostels, hotels and villas can be put to other uses. This means more time spent actually enjoying your time off work. If you are willing to spend a small portion of those holiday savings, why not enjoy a night out in the West End? Many ticket websites offer great holiday savings, and if you’re prepared to spend the whole day in London you can aim to get even cheaper tickets from one of London’s ticket offices.
But if the hustle and bustle of London isn’t for you, there are many quieter alternatives closer to Southampton. Bournemouth beach or the New Forrest are great on a nice day and are a mere twenty-minute drive or train ride away. There a plenty of pubs scattered throughout the New Forrest, so even if you do get lost while out on an ambitious walk, you won’t go thirsty for long.
The South West
If you’re bored of Southampton’s lacklustre architecture, hop on a train to Bath. The Roman Baths and Pump Room are the city’s central attractions, built around Britain’s only hot spring. For a special occasion, £63.50 will get you a two hour session at Thermae Bath Spa, a ticket to the Roman Baths and a 3 course lunch in the Pump Room. Of course, if you’re as stingy as me, you’ll probably prefer a day spent lapping up the sights and sunbathing on the grass by the Royal Crescent.
Grab your friends, a tent and some surfboards and you won’t want to leave!
Devon, Dorset, Cornwall and Somerset are all stunning coastal locations worth a visit in the South West. Croyde in North Devon is renowned for its perfect surf and provides a great range of accommodation; from campsites to houses that sleep twelve or more. Sandy beaches and an old-world charm make this Bay the ideal location for a quiet get-away. Grab your friends, a tent and some surfboards and you won’t want to leave.
Fancy a trip up North? If you’re a big Beatles fan, The Beatles Story experience in Liverpool is definitely worth a visit. The unique museum offers visitors an exclusive insight into the life, music and culture of the iconic band. Adult tickets are £15.95, but helpfully provide guaranteed entry for 48 hours.
If you’re looking for things to do in and around Leeds and Yorkshire, you might want to take a trip to Harwood House. Home to some interesting exhibits, contemporary art, and a renowned bird garden, Harwood House is somewhere you can stroll around with or without company. On a sunny day enjoy the stunning grounds over a pot of tea or some fish and chips. For more of a holiday feel, Harrogate in North Yorkshire showcases bustling market towns set in the beautiful English countryside. The area has lots to offer from water sports and guided tours to historic buildings and trips to the theatre. But if culture isn’t for you and you’re simply missing student night-life, Newcastle, Manchester or Leeds could be the answer. Each has a wealth of restaurants, bars, pubs and clubs that will guarantee a good night out.
The Giant’s Causeway is a must if visiting Northern Ireland.
In that past few years, tourism in Northern Ireland has flourished. Flights to Belfast can be found from as little as £30 return so there’s no excuse not to take a trip. A breathtaking natural landmark, the Giant’s Causeway is a must if visiting Northern Ireland. Visited every day by people from all around the world, the causeway is made up of an estimated 40,000 hexagonal columns, which geologists believe were formed roughly 60 million years ago. Don your mac (just in case) and take a short bus ride from Colraine or Portrush if you can’t find accommodation nearby.
If you’re less outdoorsy, Northern Ireland’s capital might be more up your street. There has never been a better time to visit Belfast, a city currently thriving with tourism. A relatively recent addition to the city, Titanic Belfast is the largest museum dedicated to the RMS Titanic and opened its doors to visitors in March this year. The museum is made up of nine galleries, each exploring a different element of the Titanic and its sinking. These include installations replicating the ships cabins, an interactive ride and a simulation of the ship’s decks. Of course, if the Titanic bores you to tears the city has much more to offer. Like most capital cities, Belfast has shops, bars, restaurants and pubs galore. One of the city’s oldest and most loved landmarks is The Crown Bar. You’re guaranteed to make some new friends during a visit to this lively Irish pub – just make sure you order a Guinness.
St Davids, an idyllic coastal region in Pembrokeshire, is Britain’s smallest city and provides a perfect stress-free getaway. If you’re blessed with sunshine, take a jet boat out to the islands of Ramsey and Grassholm where you can spy on local wildlife. Or try your hand at kayaking, surfing or climbing with the area’s qualified guides. And after a day spent at the beach, there are plenty of pubs, cafes and restaurants nearby for meals out.
The Millennium Stadium in Cardiff will be home to Olympic football over the next few weeks. If you’ve got tickets and plan on doing some sight-seeing while you’re there, here are some places you might want to visit:
- Cardiff Bay
- National Museum and Art Gallery
- Bute Park
- Cardiff Castle
- Mermaid Quay
- Caerphilly Mountain
- The National Assembly
There’s now a helpful Cardiff Visitor Guide iPhone app available if you want more details about events and entertainment.
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival runs throughout August (from the 3rd through to the 27th) and you can download a programme of all events here: http://www.edfringe.com/whats-on/programme
Here’s a selection of the hundreds of shows on offer:
The 101 Comedy Club showcases fresh stand up on a nightly basis. Each evening will see four new acts each perform a ten-minute set. Need more convincing? It’s free and non-ticketed.
The 27 Club. At Assembly George Square, a breathtaking night of music will take place with the UKs finest musicians paying homage to Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Brian Jones and master bluesman Robert Johnson.
Theatre lovers will enjoy an exciting new production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which takes its audiences from a modern, inner city school detention room to a fantastical world of fairies and romance.
So there you have it. The list is endless.
Now there’s no excuse not to make the most of a summer in the UK.