Dreaming of powdery white beaches, fine wine and sunshine? No need to travel far – the British Isles coast has everything you could wish for in a holiday. Words: Alex Reece
1. FOR ANCIENT CIVILIZATION
Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site, Orkney
The settlement of Skara Brae on Orkney dates back 5,000 years, making it older than Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids in Egypt. The nine dwellings, with their stone-built furniture, are set behind a beach and are held to be the best-preserved Neolithic village in Western Europe. Also part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site are the ancient stone circles of the Ring of Brodgar and the Standing Stones of Stenness, whose windswept, coastal locations add to their awe-inspiring mystique.
EAT & DRINK: The Foveran is a family-run restaurant with rooms overlooking Scapa Flow (thefoveran.com).
STAY: The Orkneyurt is cosily kitted out for glamping. Sleeps two-four people, from £130 for two nights (orkneyurt.com). visitscotland.com
Photo: Visit Scotland/Colin Keldie
2. FOR SUNSHINE
Guernsey, Channel Islands
Guernsey clocks up around 2,000 hours of sunshine every year (compared with a UK average of 1,493). The second largest Channel Island also offers unspoilt beaches and great seafood, such as the Guernsey ormer – a local shellfish delicacy. Try island-hopping or visit Victor Hugo’s exile home, Hauteville House. This year’s events include a literary festival (May) and a spring walking festival (May-June).
EAT & DRINK: Go to Octopus in St Peter Port for seafood (octopusgsy.co.uk).
STAY: The Bella Luce is a family-run boutique hotel in a Norman manor house. Prices from £106.20 per room per night (bellalucehotel.com). visitguernsey.com
3. FOR SHOPPING
Brighton & Hove, East Sussex
For a seaside shopping break, Brighton has it all. In the North Laine, coast recommends Flock for bohemian-style vintage and handmade clothes (flockbrighton.co.uk). In Seven Dials, Ayten Gasson sells British-made silk lingerie, with an emphasis on sustainable fashion (aytengasson.com). And Cad-eau does a fine line in gorgeous gifts (cad-eauonline.com).
EAT & DRINK: Try Merkaba for a post-splurge cocktail (merkababrighton.com).
STAY: The new Brighton Harbour Hotel has chic accommodation. From around £121 for sea view double B&B (brighton-harbour-hotel.co.uk). visitbrighton.com
Photo: VisitBrighton.com/Adam Bronkhorst
4. FOR ARCHITECTURE
Portmeirion Village, Gwynedd
Italian-inspired Portmeirion was designed and built by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis from 1925-75, and was the setting for cult TV series The Prisoner (which is 50 years old this year). The candy-coloured buildings, central piazza and winding streets by the River Dwyryd Estuary create an upbeat Mediterranean vibe, and many events take place throughout the year.
EAT & DRINK: Try the award-winning Art Deco dining room at Hotel Portmeirion.
STAY: Hotel Portmeirion, Castell Deudraeth and The Village offer B&B accommodation from £104 for a double. Prices for self-catering cottages start from £385 for three nights (portmeirion-village.com).
Photo: Tim Richmond Photography
5. FOR FINE WINE
East Sussex & Kent
Holiday in Hastings or Rye and you have access not just to the sea, but an array of wine tours – from the Carr Taylor vineyard, five miles inland, to England’s oldest producer of organic wines, Sedlescombe vineyard. Cross the border into Kent, and you can continue the epicurean trail to the Chapel Down and Biddenden vineyards.
EAT & DRINK: The Globe Inn Marsh in Rye serves Chapel Down wines and rustic local fare (globeinnmarshrye.com).
STAY: Seastar is an apartment in a period block at St Leonards-on-Sea with Channel views. Sleeps four, from £505pw (bramleyandteal.co.uk). visit1066country.com
6. FOR THE SURF
Croyde, North Devon
‘The beaches of North Devon offer quite a variety of breaks,’ says Ian Wicks of the award-winning Surf South West surf school, based in Croyde Bay and Saunton Sands. Furthermore, they are the South West’s most accessible surf spots from London, the Midlands and the North of England. Croyde, an idyllic village with an après-surf scene, makes an ideal destination for a surfing holiday. The beach itself, an arc of golden sand, is also an uplifting place to learn (from £34 for a half-day course, surfsouthwest.com).
EAT & DRINK: The Thatch serves real ales and pub food (thethatchcroyde.com).
STAY: The Surfers Paradise campsite is just 60 seconds from the beach. From £12pn (surfparadise.co.uk). northdevon.com
7. FOR WILDLIFE EXPERIENCES
Northern Experience Wildlife Tours, Northumberland
‘You don’t need to travel anywhere exotic to see amazing wildlife,’ says Martin Kitching, director of Northern Experience Wildlife Tours in Northumberland (northernexperiencewildlifetours.co.uk). The summer months are perfect for one of Martin’s Pelagic Tours in search for whales, dolphins and porpoises. Guided cruises depart from North Shields or Seahouses, lasting four or eight hours, and minke whales and white-beaked dolphins have been seen previously.
EAT & DRINK: St Aidans Hotel in Seahouses has a great pop-up bistro, open evenings Thurs-Sat (staidanhotel.co.uk/bistro).
STAY: Neville Tower is a luxurious let within Bamburgh Castle. Sleeps four, from £650pw (crabtreeandcrabtree.com). visitnorthumberland.com
Photo: Martin Kitching/NorthernExperienceImages.co.uk
8. FOR WORLD-CLASS CULTURE
St Ives, Cornwall
After an 18-month hiatus, Tate St Ives re-opens this year, and is sure to bring culture vultures flocking to this arty fishing town. The first phase of the re-launch begins in March with two temporary exhibitions in the existing gallery. Then, in autumn, the new extension will be unveiled, including a roof garden and twice as much art on view (tate.org.uk).
EAT & DRINK: The Alba restaurant has had a makeover – check out the new cocktail bar downstairs (alba-stives.co.uk).
STAY: The Old Bakehouse is a two-bedroom holiday cottage close to Porthmeor Beach, St Ives. Sleeps three, from £395pw (cornishgems.com). visitcornwall.com
Photo: Adam Gibbard
9. FOR WHITE SAND BEACHES
Lewis and Harris, Outer Hebrides
Closer than the Caribbean, the beaches of Lewis and Harris offer miles of white sand and turquoise waters in a wild, unspoilt setting. Among the finest are Luskentyre Sands and Scarista Beach on South Harris, backed by wildflower-rich machair. Add the islands’ crafts scene plus charismatic wildlife and it’s hard to beat as an away-from-it-all destination.
EAT & DRINK: Digby Chick is an award-winning restaurant in Stornoway showcasing local produce (digbychick.co.uk).
STAY: Lews Castle, Stornoway, will be the third Scottish Natural Retreats venue when it opens in April. From £110pn self-catering (naturalretreats.com). visitscotland.com
Photo: VisitScotland/Kenny Lam
10. FOR AFFORDABILITY
Causeway Coast, N. Ireland
The lower cost of living in Northern Ireland is just one of many great things about visiting here. (Its cities are among the least expensive places in which to live, work and study in the UK.) Not only are the best beaches less discovered than the hotspots of Cornwall and Devon, you can eat and stay nearby economically too. Base yourself on the Causeway Coast for easy access to the Giant’s Causeway and the Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge.
EAT & DRINK: Award-winning beach cafe Harry’s Shack in Portstewart has fish and chips for £10 (facebook.com/HarrysShack).
STAY: Downhill Beach House specialises in group accommodation in a restored Victorian villa by the seashore. From £56 per room for a family of four (downhillbeachhouse.com). ireland.com