The best weekend breaks in the UK

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We often cast our gaze to hazy tropics and far-flung cities when planning our getaways. But it’s easy to forget that simply heading to the best places in the UK can mean white-sand beaches, stirring metropoles, dramatic landscapes and pretty villages. With unspoilt stretches of coast just a few hours from London, towns of honey-stone scattered among rolling hills and interesting cities in every corner of the country, a full-on escape can be undertaken with a simple few days away from home. So we’ve rounded up the best weekend breaks in the UK – with ideas on what to do and a handful of smart places to stay – to make the most of what’s on our doorstep.

For more inspiration, see our UK guides:

  • The best hotels in the UK
  • The best holiday homes to rent in the UK
  • The best airbnbs in the UK
  • The best holiday cottages in the UK
  • The best log cabins in the UK

Where can I go for a weekend break in the UK?

  • The best weekend breaks in the UK

    1. The Cotswolds

    The quintessential British weekender. The Cotswolds’ butter-hued villages have long been drawing city dwellers in need of brisk country air. Areas are packed out with clever homeware and antique shops, with old pubs and historic houses the pinnacle of rural life here. A string of towns spans five counties, with quiet corners to be found among the bustling riverbanks and cobbled streets – see our guide to the prettiest Cotswolds villages. For things to do in the Cotswolds, head to beautiful gardens attached to extraordinary manor houses and seek out smart-as-can-be independent stores.

    Where to stay for the weekend in the Cotswolds:

    Our guide to the best hotels in the Cotswolds includes our favourite stylish pubs with rooms and country piles. Thyme in Southrop is a grand house turned hotel, cookery school, restaurant and spa, while Daylesford matriarch Carole Bamford’s Wild Rabbit is an antique-filled inn and Barnsley House is a serious estate – we recommend booking the Potting Shed, a cottage on the grounds with a wood-burning stove and its own garden. For large groups, you can take over this historic Gloucestershire major house that sleeps 36. Set within 14.5 acres of countryside, it’s one of our favourite Airbnbs in the UK.

  • The best weekend breaks in the UK

    2. Cornwall

    This corner of England’s south-west looks the least British of any part of the UK. The best beaches in Cornwall are made up of sugar-sand bays buffeted by the brightest blue sea along the wild coastline. These stretches, with their deserted coves and buzzing surf scenes, are made all the more appealing as Cornwall has the warmest climate in the country. Plus, the county has some of the tastiest food in the world – the long-standing best restaurants in Cornwall, such as Rick Stein’s Padstow seafood spot, are now being joined by joints from London’s top chefs. Plus there’s a buzzing art crowd – such as in Penzance, where indie shops and art galleries are drawing visitors.

    Where to stay for the weekend in Cornwall:

    In Penzance, an outpost of cool hotel group Artist Residence fills rustic rooms with repurposed furniture and original murals by local creatives, while Chapel House is set inside a red-brick Georgian townhouse. Elsewhere, the best Cornwall hotels include The Idle Rocks in St Mawes, where bedrooms have a view of the sea. For a private stay, we love the look of this three-bedroom stone cottage on Airbnb with views of the water and just a 20 minute drive from St Mawes by car.

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  • The best weekend breaks in the UK

    3. Dorset

    Less shouted about than neighbouring Devon, Dorset’s coast is made up of some of Britain’s loveliest beaches. The Jurassic Coast, a 95-mile stretch of shoreline that rolls across most of the county, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, named for its 185 million years of geological history. Durdle Door, the famous limestone arch that extends into the inky water, sits near two quiet coves, St Oswald’s Bay and Man O’ War. Meanwhile, the inland countryside inspired Thomas Hardy’s best-loved novels.

    Where to stay for the weekend in Dorset:

    The Pig hotels are synonymous with smart getaways to the country or the sea. Dorset’s outpost, The Pig on the Beach in Studland, is actually a restaurant with rooms – which have sea views and wood carvings rescued from the Palace of Westminster. See our guide to the best hotels in Dorset for more.

  • The best weekend breaks in the UK

    4. Somerset

    Home to the quietly charming city of Bath and bordering boundary-pushing, indie Bristol, Somerset has a diverse landscape that includes countryside, international art spaces, some of the most talked about places to stay in Britain and the site of one of the world’s largest festivals. In the wake of the Hauser & Wirth gallery arriving in once-sleepy Bruton, the town quickly became the creative epicentre of the West Country. And the resulting ripples have drawn smart hotels and some of the UK’s top tables to the area – the best restaurants in Somerset rival Cornwall and London.

    Where to stay for the weekend in Somerset:

    For a stay in the city, The Royal Crescent Hotel in Bath is set in a pair of Grade I-listed Georgian townhouses. Number One Bruton is half hotel, half wonderful restaurant, Osip. The Newt, meanwhile, was the biggest opening in the UK in 2019 – a huge estate with orchards, gardens and restaurants to explore. See our guide to the best hotels in Somerset for more.

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  • The best weekend breaks in the UK

    5. Kent

    It’s close enough to the capital to make it one of our favourite day trips from London, but this diverse corner of the country deserves an overnight stay to explore it properly. Along the coast, a string of Kentish beach towns range from hipster – Margate’s Shoreditch-on-Sea reputation is backed up by its natural wine bars and cool record stores – to quaint (Whitstable has a pretty main street and a penchant for oysters on the beach). For foodies, there’s a clutch of interesting vineyards – Hush Heath Estate, where Balfour wines are made, is set in 400 acres of orchards which are open to the public – while the best restaurants in Kent include Michelin-starred pubs and a pizza shack right on the beach.

    Where to stay for the weekend in Kent:

    The Rose in dinky Deal is the beach town’s first boutique hotel, with bold wallpaper to make you smile and a restaurant overseen by Rachel O’Sullivan, formerly of London’s Polpo and Towpath Café. The Grade II-listed Bridge Place was taken over by The Pig crew in 2019 for a rural hideout close to the buzz of Canterbury.

  • The best weekend breaks in the UK

    6. Isle of Skye, Scotland

    Of all of Scotland’s islands, Skye is the best-known and loved. And for good reason – with a craggy landscape dominated by the Cuillin mountains, the scenery here is as otherworldly as anything you’ll find further afield. Much of the isle remains almost deserted, but there’s a distinct culture to be found here, too – The Three Chimneys restaurant opened in the 1980s and still draws travellers from across the world.

    Where to stay for the weekend in Isle of Skye:

    Kinloch Lodge has had a serious makeover, but the historic portraits on the walls belie its 16th-century past. For something more low-key, The Black Shed is one of the best log cabins in the UK, with oversized windows overlooking Loch Dunvegan.

  • The best weekend breaks in the UK

    7. Donegal, Ireland

    If you have longer than a weekend, a trip along Ireland’s coast, flitting from town to town, is a brilliant getaway. But for those with limited time looking for one spot to hunker down, wide-skyed Donegal in the remote north-west corner of the country has brilliant beaches and is known for its music and soft landscapes. The county is also part of the Wild Atlantic Way, a road that clings to the ragged coast of western Ireland.

    Where to stay for the weekend in Donegal:

    Danny Minnie’s is easily the best table to book in the area and has a handful of rooms to tumble into after supper. Or take over one of the Donegal Thatched Cottages as your own – they sit right on the Atlantic Ocean.

  • The best weekend breaks in the UK

    8. Wye Valley

    On the border of England and Wales, the Wye Valley’s exceedingly pretty towns are scattered throughout the countryside carved by the River Wye. The most famous of the villages, Hay-on-Wye, is known for its annual literary festival, but there’s a string of market towns to visit, too. Walking is a big draw here: hike up the Black Mountains or along some of the Wales Coast Path’s 870-mile route.

    Where to stay for the weekend in Wye Valley:

    The Bear Hotel in Crickhowell is a charming little coaching inn in the middle of the Brecon Beacons National Park.

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