The Isle of Wight
Best for: Outdoor thrills
Despite being only 38,000 hectares in size, the Isle of Wight – a short zip across the Solent from southern England – punches above its weight for outdoor pursuits. Pretty Bembridge, on the island’s eastern tip, is a brilliant jumping-off point for a range of adrenaline-fuelled activities. After kicking off the day with a killer sunrise from the balcony at the historic Bembridge Coast Hotel, head to the harbour to try stand-up paddleboarding with Tackt-Isle, or visit nearby St Helens for a kayaking adventure. Alternatively, whoosh along the coast aboard a rigid inflatable boat with Bembridge Powerboat Training, or, if you prefer, do a slow-paced beach-hop. The Isle of Wight has more than 60 miles of beaches – many of them award-winning – and as well as Bembridge’s three pebbly offerings, Ryde and Sandown’s golden stretches are in easy reach.
Best for: Garden delights
For a horticultural hit, Herefordshire ticks all the boxes. Set between the Brecon Beacons and the Malvern Hills, the region combines rolling hills, orchards – half of the UK’s cider is produced here – pretty villages, and beautiful gardens. Holme Lacy House, a grand Grade 1-listed mansion on the River Wye, is a strong choice for garden fans, with 8 hectares of grounds – including a lake, orangery and landscaped parkland – to enjoy. Nearby is The Laskett, a garden masterminded by art historian Sir Roy Strong and his late wife Julia Trevelyan Oman, which has a rose garden, blossom-filled Christmas orchard and wildflower meadow. For a Capability Brown hit, visit the National Trust’s Berrington Hall, which showcases the legendary designer’s final work.
Best for: Historical wonder
This summer, follow in the footsteps of the UK’s favourite outlaw with a break in Robin Hood country, Nottinghamshire. From the 180-hectare ancient woodland of Sherwood Forest – Hood and his merry men’s hideout – to the medieval village of Edwinstowe and St Mary’s Church (where Robin wed Maid Marian), there’s history at every turn. At Thoresby Hall Hotel, which sits at the fringe of Sherwood Forest, guests can try archery and falconry, and snooze in grand four-poster beds. Take a day trip to Nottingham for a tipple in what is said to be England’s oldest inn, Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, and from 21 June you can visit the immersive Robin Hood gallery at the newly-revamped Nottingham Castle.
Best for: A foodie getaway
When it comes to gastro breaks, there’s so much more to North Yorkshire than its most famous food export, the yorkshire pudding. In medieval York, birthplace of Rowntree’s and Terry’s, learn about the city’s history as a chocolate hub at York’s Chocolate Story, sample top-notch gin from York Gin, or have a blowout supper at the Michelin-starred Roots restaurant, where acclaimed chef Tommy Banks serves contemporary farm-to-fork fare. Another must-visit is the trendy spa town of Harrogate, to feast on the now-iconic Fat Rascals fruit scones at Bettys, which opened its first branch in the city in 1919. Stay close by at Nidd Hall Hotel, an 18th-century property, where Brit classics such as beer-battered cod, triple-cooked chips, and gin and raspberry jelly are served at its new Brasserie32 restaurant.
Best for: Old-meets-new culture
Marrying picturesque market towns with historical monuments, pretty waterways and a vibrant arts scene, Cheshire is a strong choice for culture seekers. The walled city of Chester combines an imposing gothic-style cathedral and Roman amphitheatre ruins with an award-winning contemporary arts hub Storyhouse, whose summer season (Covid permitting) includes some 200 open-air theatre performances in Grosvenor Park. Curio hunters will enjoy trawling for period furniture, vintage clothing and rare paintings at Dagfields Crafts & Antiques in Nantwich, which is home to more than 250 antiques dealers. Stay nearby at Alvaston Hall Hotel, a charming Victorian property with a nine-hole golf course and a traditional country pub-inspired restaurant.
Best for: Awe-inspiring walking
With rugged mountains, ancient Celtic rainforests and sweeping coastline, north Wales is home to some of the UK’s most inspiring scenery – making it a rambler’s dream. While the region might be best known for Snowdonia National Park and its eponymous 1,085m high mountain, there are walks to suit all abilities; stride through the Clwydian Range along part of the Offa’s Dyke trail, marvel at the rush of the Rhaeadr Fawr waterfall, or take a laid-back stroll along Llanddulas Beach. Stay at Bodelwyddan Castle Hotel, which has 105 hectares of deer-filled grounds to roam and offers self-guided walking breaks.
Best for: Nature lovers
The Suffolk coast is not only a designated area of outstanding natural beauty but it also combines seaside charm with unique wetland and marshes where wildlife thrives. At Carlton Marshes Nature Reserve in the Suffolk Broads, 28 species of dragonfly have been spotted, and sightings of birds of prey – including hobby and marsh harriers – are common. Gunton Warren Nature Reserve is home to a mix of grassland, sand dunes and vegetated shingle, where eagle-eyed naturalists can spot lizards, adders and greenfinches. From the cheery beachside chalets at nearby Corton Coastal Holiday Village, guests can spy on seabirds from their bedroom windows. For a farther-afield adventure, RSPB Minsmere – one of England’s best nature reserves – is about a 50-minute drive away and is legendary among birdwatchers. Look out for avocets and the endangered Dartford warbler.