20 great British weekends
Surfing in Snowdonia
Surfing in Snowdonia? Unlikely as it may sound, the worldâ€™s first wave garden opens at Dolgarrog on August 1: a man-made lagoon the size of six football pitches, with 2m-high waves rising and falling from one side to the other. Beginners and experienced surfers are catered for (with prices from Â£19 an hour, including board hire), while non-surfers can try the Crash and Splash â€” an obstacle-filled lagoon. Mix time in/on the water with walks through the gorgeous Conwy Valley, and make sure to find time for lunch at the Groes Inn in nearby Tyn-y-Groes, a gentrified and cosy pub that does great things with local lamb and steaks, and where you can also bed down for the night.
Details Surf Snowdonia (surfsnowdonia.co.uk) has wooden camping pods, sleeping four, from Â£100 per night B&B. Doubles at the Groes Inn from Â£125 B&B (01492 650545, groesinn.com)
Summer festivals in Brighton
Festival frenzy hits Brighton in the summer , meaning that whichever weekend you pick, thereâ€™s always something going on. The Paddle Round the Pier weekend is at Hove Lawns on July 4-5, the spectacular kite festival comes to Stanmer Park on July 11-12 and Pride takes over Kemptown on August 1. Brightonâ€™s eating scene has moved up a gear recently; try Silo (silobrighton.com), the UKâ€™s first zero-waste restaurant (with a lipsmacking bakery) or the Salt Room (saltroom-restaurant.co.uk). Kick off at the Cocktail Shack, a hidden gem beneath the Artist Residence, a hotel that makes a quirky, affordable place to stay, with each room designed by a different artist. Thank you for stopping by. Before we carry on I needed to give thanks to http://www.dailygambler.co.uk/ for their continued assistance and the support of their online community. Having a company and team like this means a lot to us as we continue to grow our personal blog.
Details B&B doubles cost from Â£105 (01273 324302,artistresidencebrighton.co.uk)
Theme park fun in Margate
Margateâ€™s renaissance continues with the reopening of Dreamland (dreamland.co.uk) on Friday, the townâ€™s iconic pleasure park. Wayne Hemingway brings his own class of designer kitsch to the relaunch, with classic fairground rides â€” bumper cars, a carousel and giant teacups for the tinies, along with more serious coasters, a roller disco and scenic railway. Outside the park, the beachfront and pretty old town offer classic seaside weekend pleasures, from candyfloss to cockles and mussels. If you want class rather than kitsch, book dinner on the terrace at the Turner Contemporary gallery â€” the views are almost as stunning as the food. The rather smooth Sands Hotel, perched right beside the sea, is the billet of choice for beach bunnies.
Details B&B doubles are from Â£120 (01843 228228,sandshotelmargate.co.uk)
Jacobites in Inverness-shire
Discover a slice of Scotlandâ€™s turbulent history at the Glenfinnan Monumentâ€™s visitor centre (nts.org.uk). It has new displays and an audio tour marking the 200th anniversary of the monument, erected to commemorate the Jacobite rebellion of 1745. The charming Glenfinnan House Hotel is on the other side of the loch from the monument, and makes an ideal base for cruises on Loch Shiel or for walks through the surrounding forest. Harry Potter fans should hop aboard the Jacobite train and travel over the spectacular Glenfinnan viaduct (used as a location in the films) to the harbour village of Mallaig. Stop for lunch at the Cornerstone Restaurant (seafoodrestaurantmallaig.com) before heading back to Glenfinnan by train.
Details B&B doubles cost from Â£140 (01397 722235, glenfinnanhouse.com)
Magna Carta and fashion in Durham
One of the UKâ€™s most picturesque cities â€” the dramatic cathedral and medieval streets were awarded Unesco World Heritage status in 1986 â€” Durham is perfect for a cultural break. History lovers should head to the Palace Green Library, where Magna Carta and the Changing Face of Revolt, the exhibition, marks the 800th anniversary of the charter and features its only surviving 1216 issue. Fashionistas should flock to the Bowes Museum, in nearby Barnard Castle, which from July 11 is staging the first UK exhibition dedicated to the life and work of Yves Saint Laurent. Book dinner at DH1 (restaurantdh1.co.uk), where locally sourced ingredients are used to create beautifully simple dishes. Stay at sleekly swank Seaham Hall, home to the best spa in the area.
Details B&B doubles cost from Â£186 (0191 516 1400, seaham-hall.co.uk)
Spa and stay in Bath
The long-awaited opening of the Gainsborough Bath Spa finally takes place on July 1, when the hotel becomes the first in the UK to have on-site thermal waters. Mix long relaxing soaks in the hotelâ€™s spa with strolling around Bathâ€™s elegant streets; a visit to the 15th-century Sally Lunnâ€™s tearoom is a must, and for an upscale pub lunch, the King William pub (kingwilliampub.com) serves modern British cuisine in a lovely, white-linen dining room above the bar. If you visit in July or August, join the Roman Baths by Torchlight tour, which offers the chance to experience the historic baths lit by dozens of flickering torches.
Details Room-only doubles cost from Â£242 (01225 358888,thegainsboroughbathspa.co.uk). Spa entry is complimentary to hotel guests
Castle and kayaking in Cardigan
After a four-year, Â£12 million restoration project, Cardigan Castle reopened to the public in April, complete with on-site cottages to stay in, a glass-walled restaurant, medieval walls, Regency-style grounds and the Georgian manor house to explore. The pretty Welsh town, with its gallery-dotted high street, makes a great weekend base, with dolphin-spotting trips in the bay, kayaking, dinghy sailing and power-boating all available at nearby New Quay. For a top-notch classic pub supper, the Daffodil Inn (thedaffodilinn.co.uk) in Penrhiwllan is a great choice; donâ€™t miss the coracle-caught local trout.
Details Family rooms for four cost from Â£90 B&B, or a one-bedroom cottage is from Â£380 per week (01239 615131,cardigancastle.com)
Seaplanes over Skye
One of the most dramatically beautiful Scottish islands, Skye can be seen from above on new seaplane tours. Loch Lomond Seaplanes now also operates from Skye, with a 70-minute flight that includes a take-off and landing on water, for Â£129pp. Back on firm ground, settle in to the romantic isolation of Kinloch Lodge, perched right beside a tranquil loch, and use it as a base for exploring the lush southern tip of the island, known as the Garden of Skye. Through July and August, the Skye Festival means live music, theatre and arts performances across the island. Donâ€™t miss a seafood-themed lunch at tiny Creelers of Skye (skye-seafood-restaurant.co.uk) in Broadford.
Details Doubles cost from Â£340, including a five-course dinner and B&B (01471 833333, kinloch-lodge.co.uk)
Hiking and biking in Pembrokeshire
It may have some of the UKâ€™s most beautiful beaches, but Pembrokeshire doesnâ€™t draw the same crowds as Cornwall, making it a far more peaceful summer destination. Base yourself at the Grove in Narberth, an elegant 20-room country house hotel, and spend a day or two walking or cycling the new 26-mile Pembrokeshire Trail, which heads over the tranquil Preseli hills from Newport to Amroth. Stop for a restorative pint at the Amroth Arms, which overlooks the sea, but for the ultimate lunch with a view head to the newly opened Coast (coastsaundersfoot.co.uk) in nearby Saundersfoot, just above the beach and with floor-to-ceiling windows giving widescreen sea views.
Details B&B doubles cost from Â£165 (01834 860915, thegrove-narberth.co.uk)
Safari treehouse in Kent
Itâ€™s pricey, but the new treehouse hotel at Port Lympne Reserve in Kent, opening this summer, promises an unforgettable family night among the treetops, with the chance to join the safari truck tour through the animal enclosures by day. Nearby Folkestone might seem unassuming but is home to one of the best restaurants in the area, Rocksalt (rocksaltfolkestone.co.uk), with weekly-changing menus based around the availability of local produce. Work up an appetite with a bracing walk along the clifftops of the Dover-Folkestone Heritage Coast or take a stroll through the East Cliff and Warren country park, home to three imposing Martello towers, built to help deter an invasion by Napoleon.
Details The treehouses cost from Â£300 a night for four but the park also has a variety of other accommodation (0844 842 4647,aspinallfoundation.org)
Shakespeare in Oxford
Oxfordâ€™s spires are never more dreamy than in summer, and although the city does get busy, the trick is to sleep near by and dip in and out of the centre. Stay at Killingworth Castle, a 17th-century coaching inn in nearby Wootton, and spend a day at Blenheim Palace (blenheimpalace.com), the ancestral home of Winston Churchill. The palace is marking the 50th anniversary of his death with a new walking trail and a revamped exhibition. In Oxford itself the Castle Quarter is holding a new Shakespeare Festival, with eight weeks of open-air performances in the castle yard (oxfordcastlequarter.com). For a pre-theatre treat, book a table at the Oxford Kitchen (theoxfordkitchen.co.uk), or go for Sunday lunch, when thereâ€™s live jazz throughout June.
Details B&B doubles cost from Â£112 (01993 811401,thekillingworthcastle.com)
Seaside stay in Dorset
For a seaside break with serious class, head to Burton Bradstock â€” home to the Seaside Boarding House, a retro-chic B&B owned by the couple who started the Groucho Club. The village also boasts one of the areaâ€™s best seafood restaurants, Hive Beach cafÃ© (hivebeachcafe.co.uk), which is right on the waterfront, where there is a gently shelving beach thatâ€™s perfect for swimming. Dorset has been a star of the big and small screen in recent years, with bothBroadchurch and Far from the Madding Crowd filmed in the county; the tourist board has put together two new trails, one based on Thomas Hardy and one on Madding Crowd locations; you can download them at visit-dorset.com.
Details B&B doubles cost from Â£180 (01308 897205,theseasideboardinghouse.com)
Stately homes in the East Midlands
A host of galleries, stately homes and cultural sites around Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire have come together this summer for a celebration of the 18th-century Grand Tour, when wealthy travellers visited Europe, coming back with art treasures and ideas for their houses. Exhibitions by contemporary artists will shine a 21st-century light on the Grand Tour; see Pablo Bronsteinâ€™s work at Chatsworth House or Rem Koolhaasâ€™s Elements of Architecture at the Welbeck Estate, while Grand Tour art walks will take place at Newstead Abbey and Nottingham Castle (thegrandtour.uk.com). Base yourself at Breadsall Priory, just outside Derby, and lighten the cultural load with a tour of the cityâ€™s pubs and dinner at Zest, the townâ€™s restaurant of the year (restaurantzest.co.uk).
Details B&B doubles cost from Â£89 (01332 832235, marriott.com)
Seaside zip wire in Bournemouth
The joy of a classic seaside resort is, that in order to stay fresh, every summer brings new offerings. Bournemouth is no exception. Kids will love the new pier-to-shore zipwire, which flies 25m above the sea â€” and there are two lines, so family members can race each other (rockreef.co.uk/pier). Fans of the art deco artist Alphonse Mucha can see a spectacular collection of his work at In Quest of Beauty, an exhibition at the Russell-Cotes Museum (russellcotes.com, until September 27), while foodies should visit between June 19-28 for the food and drink festival. West Beach (west-beach.co.uk) ticks the seaside-gastro box with the local fishing fleet delivering many of the ingredients, while the Green House is a chic boutique hotel in the heart of the town.
Details B&B doubles are from Â£109 (01202 498900,thegreenhousehotel.co.uk)
Glamping in Cromer, Norfolk
Now that Prince William and Kate call Norfolk home, the quiet county is bound to attract more attention, and thereâ€™s plenty to discover besides the long sandy beaches and bird-filled skies. Cromer gets its first glamping site this summer with the opening of the Grove, while a new 26-mile stretch of the Norfolk Coast Path opened last winter, running between Weybourne and Sea Palling. Venture inland for lunch at the Dial House in Reepham (thedialhouse.org.uk), an upscale eaterie in a gorgeous Grade II Georgian mansion overlooking the town square, and stop off for a stroll around Sandringham, for a glimpse of how Britainâ€™s first family live.
Details A bell tent, sleeping four, costs from Â£100 a night (01263 512412, thegrovecromer.co.uk)
Heritage sailing on the Broads
The Norfolk Broads are a perennial holiday favourite, but for the first time this summer, experienced sailors can get a touch of old-style glamour by renting the vintage craft. Waterways Holidays is bringing back Norfolk Heritage Fleet Trustâ€™s 1930s mahogany sailing yachts, with a traditional gaff rig and original oil lamps (no gas or electricity). Pick them up from Ludham, on the River Thurne, and mix time on the water with stops at waterside pubs; the Ferry Inn at Stokesby (ferryinn.net) is one of the best, with a nice line in pub grub.
Details Three-night breaks on a two-berth boat cost from Â£358 (01252 796400, waterwaysholidays.com). Other sized boats are available
Dinosaurs and Stonehenge in Wiltshire
Settle into the Bath Arms on the Longleat Estate for a great family weekend: visit Stonehenge to check out Wish You Were Here, the exhibition which traces the ancient siteâ€™s role as a tourist attraction; dip into Salisburyâ€™s picturesque streets for a spot of shopping, and spend a day at Longleatâ€™s new Dinosaurs Alive attraction (tapping into the new film, Jurassic World). Pick up picnic supplies at the wonderful Fish Row Deli Cafe (fishrowdelicafe.co.uk), or, if itâ€™s a kids-free weekend, book a table at Charter 1227 (charter1227.co.uk), the townâ€™s hippest dining spot.
Details B&B doubles cost from Â£75 (01985 844308, batharms.co.uk)
Culture in Manchester
Summer doesnâ€™t have to mean the seaside; those in search of culture rather than candyfloss should book in at the shiny new Hotel Gotham and check out the programme for the Manchester International Festival (mif.co.uk), the worldâ€™s first festival dedicated entirely to new works, held from July 2-19. This summerâ€™s highlights includes wonder.land, a modernist musical loosely based on Alice in Wonderland with music by Damon Albarn, and appearances by Bjork and FKA Twigs. There is news on the restaurant front, too; London eateries IbÃ©rica (ibericarestaurants.com) and Hawksmoor (thehawksmoor.com) have both opened Mancunian branches in recent months.
Details B&B doubles cost from Â£125 (0843 1787188,hotelgotham.co.uk)
Food and festival in Penzance
Check in to the townâ€™s newest address: Chapel House, an elegant Georgian townhouse with six sumptuous bedrooms, which opened last month. Penzance, with its pretty cobbled streets and lively harbour, is steeped in Cornish tradition; visit on June 19-28 to experience the arty summer solstice Golowan Festival. Itâ€™s a pleasingly foodie town; buy picnic supplies from Lavenders Deli Bakery (lavendersdelibakery.co.uk) and head to the beautiful gardens at Trereife (trereifepark.co.uk); or book a table at the Bay (thebaypenzance.co.uk) where the sea views match the seafood. The art-focused town of Newlyn is an easy drive away; see fine art at the Newlyn Art Gallery, or go in late August for the Newlyn Fish Festival (August 31).
Details Doubles from Â£180 B&B (07810 020617, chapelhousepz.com)
Music in Isle of Bute
If youâ€™ve peaked on mega-festivals but still fancy a music-themed summer break, take the ferry to the Isle of Bute, which is holding its first Butefest (butefest.co.uk) on July 17-19, showcasing the best Scottish folk, soul and rock. Camping is free, but for something a little less basic, check into the Victoria Hotel, right on the waterfront. Even if you donâ€™t go for the music, this island, which is 15 miles by 4 miles, is worth seeing. Thereâ€™s a marked walking trail called the West Island Way to follow, you can go seal spotting on Scalpsie Bay, and explore the gothic revivalist Mount Stuart House and gardens. Be sure to check out the Victorian toilets at Rothesay by the pier. After a stroll on the sands at the beautiful Ettrick beach, feast on the islandâ€™s best fish and chips from the Squat Lobster in Rothesay.
Details B&B doubles cost from Â£89 (01700 500016,victoriahotelbute.com)