We’ve been using a lot of new phrases since lockdown and it seems the latest word to be passing our lips is ‘STAYCATION’. We need to get used to it too, because it’s something we’ll be saying, and doing, a lot for the rest of the year we reckon.
With quarantine restrictions coming in and out of place, staying in the UK is now a really attractive proposition. More importantly however, here in Wales, and a little further afield, we have some of the best beaches, countryside, towns, cities and villages.
So let’s do the official bit first. What is a Staycation? Well, it’s a joining, or a portmanteau of “stay” and “vacation”, or holistay (“holiday” and “stay”), as some people are saying. Really, it’s a period in which an individual or family stays home and enjoys things or leisure activities within driving distance, and doesn’t require overnight accommodation.
You know the things we mean, getting the paddling pool into the back garden, going off to the beach or park.
Regular staycationers also like to follow a set of rules, such as setting a start and end date, planning ahead, and avoiding routine, with the goal of creating the feel of a traditional holiday.
Staycations usually become popular when we’re in the middle of a financial crisis and the pound is weak against the Euro or Dollar. Or maybe there’s been a pandemic which has thrown the whole world out of line. Or worse still, which we’re in the middle of right now, both.
It appears that staycations are not only about being at home and enjoying things without spending a night away, we are now looking to spend time away in the UK, visiting places almost on our doorstep. With a bit of good weather, and some careful planning, we could discover that what is close, can in fact be best.
Never one to thrown the proverbial spanner in the works, but you need to be aware that so many more of us are thinking about a staycation, which is really going to help the economy, but also means places to stay will be at a premium, and we don’t necessarily mean cost.
There are a few things to consider when going down the staycation route.
- Overall Cost
- Will We Feel Welcome
- Are There Plenty Of Activities For Everyone
- What Can We Do From Our Base
- Is The WiFi Any Good
- Is It Easy To Get Around The Area
Online booking software company, SuperControl, shows daily booking rates have nearly doubled at times during the week, compared to the same time last year. Around 13,500 properties across the UK and Ireland were included in the analysis.
There is more demand as people are desperate to get away from the four walls we’ve lived behind for the last few months. On top of that, there’s the added stress of coping with family, kids, work, shopping and a never ending list of worries we’ve all had to deal with.
Graphs published on the SuperControl website (HERE) show bookings were slightly down in 2020 compared to last year, from the start of the year, and then started to drop off in mid-March when the outbreak hit the UK and we entered lockdown.
“Since early May there has been a steady increase in bookings relative to lockdown levels. For the last few weeks the booking rate has been higher than the same weeks in 2019, and the last week has had daily booking values of up to twice the level as the same time last year.”
Staycations seem to offer a bit of respite and a much needed chance to unwind without the stress and hassle of flying abroad at the moment, so this increase in demand is entirely understandable.
Staycations mean skipping the airport queues, cutting your travel time and experiencing incredible parts of the UK. There is less of an impact on our stress levels and importantly right now, the environment.
More of us are choosing to explore closer to home than ever before. And with so much to discover all across the UK, the only real surprise is that it’s taken us so long for holidaying here to get itself a trendy new name.
We can’t promise to find you a place to stay but what we can do, is point you in a few directions. Places to stay and visit right here in South Wales. If you want to venture a little further around the UK, a few ideas to get you thinking outside your regular holiday routine. And if you are setting up camp at home, things to do right on our doorstep, or your own back garden, which means no packing a suitcase and you get to sleep in your own bed.
CLOSE TO HOME
LLYN Y FAN FACH is a stunning lake at the western boarder of the Black Mountain in Carmarthenshire. I’m sure you’ve heard of the legend the ‘lady of the lake’, well this is where it supposedly originates. But this unique, and incredible landscape offers much more than just a story. It is a place to enjoy and savour. It’s a great spot to explore and enjoy a picnic, which you can collect locally if you don’t want to make it yourself. For details of the myth, places to stay, and so much more, just go HERE
BRECON BEACONS NATIONAL PARK. With its mountains, moorland, stones and castles, you can’t go wrong than pay a visit here. The waterfalls are a lively and vibrant as the locals and they will make you feel very welcome. The Park has so many attractions, both natural and historical, and has something to offer all ages. What we love about the place is that you can explore on foot, bike, or just sit with a sandwich and cold drink and take in the breathtaking beauty. We even like that you can have so much fun even if it’s raining. To find out more go BRECON
The TAFF TRAIL is an incredibly popular walking and cycle path running, probably even more so after lockdown. It runs for around 55 miles between Brecon and Cardiff Bay. Unsurprisingly, it got its name because it follows the course of the River Taff. It is part of the National Cycle Network and for the majority is off-road. And if all that wasn’t enough, the park is also where you’ll find Pen-y-Fan, South Wales’ highest mountain. For more details, head HERE
The good news is you can make bookings at a variety of cottages around the area, if there are spaces available.
THE COTSWOLDS is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is one of England’s most loved destinations. For us in South Wales, depending where you are of course, it’s certainly something you can do in a day. If you’ve never been, it is well known for its hundreds of honey-colour limestone villages in a beautiful rural setting. Hence the Cotswold Stone thing. It has everything you need for a day, or more out. Beautiful gardens, busy farmers’ markets, walking, cycling and if you enjoy a bit of cafe life, they have more than their fair share of those too. If you want to learn more, and plan yourself a trip out, then go here. COTSWOLDS
BATH is something very special and a totally unique city. Whichever direction you approach it from, particularly the M4 down the A46, you get a view and a feel for this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Bath is steeped in history and its beautiful Georgian Townhouses really give you a sense of how life was back then. When things are returned to normal, the Roman Baths will give you a trip back in time, without the need for a tardis. You can explore the history, stories, and, of course, the baths. Find out more, here. ROMAN
Renowned for its natural spas, shopping a little different to the norm, and of course its heritage, Bath is bursting with something for everyone. Make more plans right here. BATH Incidentally, their Christmas Market is something very special.
It’s a simple fact, we have some of the best beaches you’ll find anywhere, and I hope the photographs our team have provided will do them justice.
South Wales has plenty to offer any sea-lover. Newport and Cardiff, were once busy ports, shipping out thousands of tons of coal each year. The docks in Cardiff are now redeveloped and a place where tourists and locals head to enjoy the views and places to shop and eat.
Barry is a place like no other with traditions of funfair and fish and chips, and more recently bringing tourists into town to do the Gavin and Stacey trail. In fact we have a whole page give over to that which you can see right HERE. If you do visit Barry, make sure you go for a long walk over the cliffs. The view across the channel is stunning, and the little bays you can get down to are really lovely. Of course, fish and chips and a visit to Marcos must be on your agenda as well.
See our special feature on Barry right here. BARRY ISLAND
Swansea is as lively a maritime city as you’ll find. Perfect for the beach and within easy access to the Gower. In total you have over 15 mile of the peninsula which makes it perfect for walkers and surfers alike.
Tenby, is a picture perfect town dating back to the Norman Conquest, which you can still see as you walk around with its huge castle. It also marks the start of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, with its unspoilt sandy beaches which runs for miles along the cliff-lined coast.
Fishguard is a small town with a lovely quayside area and small cottages lining the waterfront. St David’s is famous for its huge cathedral, said to house the remains of St David himself, our patron saint of course.
Milford Haven was established as home to the UK’s sixth largest fishing fleet in its time. Fishing may not be as strong nowadays but oil is, several refineries are built along the Haven.
For the best in South Wales, look no further than picturesque TENBY and the town’s North Beach. It’s a fact that this spot is one of the most photographed locations in Wales and any picture will show you why. The sandy beach is lovely and with Goscar Rock sticking out of the middle of it, what photographer could ask for any more. The beach and town are almost one, as tourists wander around shops, cafes and restaurants before heading to the sun trap that is North Beach.
By the way, if your going for a dip, the water is pretty good too. In fact it has a Blue Flag for its water quality.
While you’re there you need to take in the cliff-backed beach, another Tenby stretch that needs a mention. At high tide, it’s almost impossible to see Castle Beach, at low tide, it’s an absolute gem. It’s not a large beach, in fact it’s just 150m wide. The cove is about as beautiful as you’ll get, add in the ancient ruins of Tenby Castle and you can see why this was previously named the best beach in the UK. For more details on the town and what it has to offer, go here. TENBY
SAUNDERSFOOT is another really popular family destination. For those of you who enjoy a swim, the shallow water is ideal for getting wet. and has shallow water. If you’re looking for Saundersfoot on the map, it’s nested very nicely between Tenby and Amroth. Even though it’s close to those, it really does have a character all of its own. There is a busy harbour at the south end and a plenty of shops, restaurants, cafes and pubs all along the beach front. We really like it there and try to do all three places as often as we can.
When we talk best beaches then you have to put RHOSSILI BAY right at the top of that list. Now if you’re going to tell me you’ve never been, then you have to make a staycation a reason to visit. It is simply beautiful. Three miles is three miles of sand and coastline, right on the Gower Peninsula. If you like walking, watersports, or just sitting and taking it all in, then this is definitely the spot for you.
It’s been voted the best beach in UK and one of the 10 best in the world and it never fails to impress. One of the real benefits about our lockdown period, is that nature has had a chance to recover from our input, Rhossili Bay is even more stunning right now. With its dramatic views and the fact it is dog-friendly, you need to put this high on your places to visit. Just a little word if your taking very young children/babies. There’s a steep walk down to the bay and it really isn’t suitable for buggies or pushchairs.
Take a look at The Nation Trust pages before you go, they’ll really help. RHOSSILI
THREE CLIFFS BAY is also on the incredible Gower Peninsula and the perfect place for the family with a dog. You’ll have a bit of a trek along the clifftops to reach the sand from the car park, about a mile by our pedometer. This does however have a few advantages. This walk and limited access means you won’t find many people on this spectacular stretch of beach. On a good day, it could be all yours.
Here are the top ten beaches in South Wales according to the UK Beach Guide. We’ve linked each place so you can find out more and take a look at their pictures. We would like to add Penarth into that mix too. It’s worth a visit at anytime and the pier is certainly the place to enjoy a few hours, and an afternoon tea of course.
- St Brides Haven
- Llangennith Sands
- Druidston Haven
- Torbay Crawley Woods
- Swanlake Bay
- Nolton Haven
- Abermawr Bay
We have a special feature on Penarth and you can view the video here. PENARTH
A NIGHT AWAY
This is difficult to write with current restrictions but we do know that a lot of our hotels, guest houses and B&Bs are trying to accommodate us as best they can. They really have missed doing what they do so well here in South Wales.
It would be impossible for us to mention every place, and it would be a very long read for you too. So what we’ve opted for a few ideas which might help you slot them into your staycation plans.
A night away doesn’t necessarily mean travelling long distances. Having a night away could be somewhere on your doorstep. I think the closest we’ve stayed to home is less than half a mile, which might sound ridiculous, but when you have a nice place, great service and fantastic food and facilities, a long drive is sometimes the last thing you need.
The first thing you need to decide is what you need from your accommodation. Is it a place for the whole family which would mean keeping the kids entertained during your stay. Perhaps you are an active lot and need walks or cycle paths so you can take the biles and get out into the open air. Or even a trip away without the kids, so then it would include food, relaxation and plenty of time together.
And of it is for the whole family, get the kids on board with the planning. They will like. nothing better than helping choose a place you can all enjoy.
Celtic Manor Resort – The Resort really is a one-stop destination for any family. With golf and activities galore, great food, specatacular views and rooms, you can easily check in and never leave the resort during your stay. There are family rooms which offer cots and children’s beds and you can get a connecting room so you can all have you own space. They are in Coldra Woods, Newport in the most magnificent of settings. Call 01633-413000. And to read our feature on the Celtic Manor reopening, go here. RESORT
Warpool Court Hotel – This all about location, location, location. They have 22 en-suite bedrooms, a restaurant and other facilities including a heated pool, tennis court and croquet lawn. It’s not only the kids you can take along, Warpool is a dog-friendly place, so no need to leave your four-legged friends behind. They are in St Davids, Pembrokeshire and the views down into St Bride’s bay are fantastic. Call 01437-720300.
Fourcroft Hotel – Has an outdoor pool, a wide variety of family rooms and just five minutes walk from the walled town centre. The setting is perfect as it’s right on the cliffs above Tenby’s North Beach. They are in The Croft, Tenby. Call them on 01834-842886.
Oxwich Bay Hotel – This award winning hotel is right on the water’s edge, the hotel sits on the western side of the beach, which has been voted one of the best in Britain. It’s cottage rooms are perfect for a short break with the family and the dog. They are on Oxwich Bay on the Gower in Swansea, and as you can image, the views here are pretty spectacular. Give them a call on 01792-390329.
Novotel Cardiff – Is a really nice, short walk from Cardiff Castle. After a day in town, shopping and sightseeing, you can chill in the large rooms while the kids hog the free WIFI. There’s an indoor heated pool for you all to unwind in, and a play area with video games for the kids. They do have connecting rooms on offer, which is always a bonus when you have hyperactive kids with you. They are on Atlantic Wharf in Cardiff and close enough to enjoy all the City has to offer. Call them on 0292- 1132800.
Of course, all the properties above are more than suited to couples, but we want to throw a few others into the mix that facilitate a more romantic vibe.
The Bear Hotel – In Crickhowell this old coaching inn full of character and atmosphere. There’s a cobbled forecourt, an archway into the inner courtyard and a feel of the 19th-century in the bar. The Bear’s is great in the summer, especially if you enjoy a walk around Crickhowell. Winter time is pretty good too with their roaring log fire.
Newbridge On Usk – This is part of the Celtic Collection and gives you the best of both. It’s very much about relaxed luxury in the heart of the countryside but you can use the Celtic Manor’s facilities. It may have rustic charm but nevertheless it is modern with six very stylish en-suite bedrooms, each individually designed.
The Great House – Bridgend is blessed to have such a magnificent place. This historic house has a wealth of period features like oak beams, stone archways and inglenook fireplaces. If you can’t unwind and relax in their bedrooms, you can’t do that anywhere, they are beautiful. They also have a restaurant and health suite with multi-gym, sauna and Jacuzzi.
St David’s Cardiff – This is the building you can’t miss when you head to the Bay. It’s a five-star hotel which has it all. We guarantee you’ll be spending a lot of time in this fabulous property. The views are pretty special, particularly across the water from a private balcony. We have checked their site and it appear they won’t be reopening until September, they do however have some special deals right now.
Peterstone Court – Is perfectly placed for exploring the hills and mountains of the Brecon Beacons National Park. The magnificent historic has all the grand features you’d expect, spacious bedrooms and a spa with plenty of treatments. The food is excellent, with an ever changing, seasonal and sustainable menu using local ingredients.Pretty much all the meat and poultry comes from its nearby family farm.
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If you’re planning to go a little further afield, but still want to keep it UK, here are six of our favourite spots to visit. The nice thing is, you can make the holiday as long or short as you like. With a bit of planning then getting to your destination could be part of the fun, maybe a few nice stop-off points along the way. Most importantly though, you’ll be exploring the things the UK has to offer and yet sometimes choose to ignore for the guarantee of sun and sand.
Let’s start pretty close to home……
We have some beautiful places here in South Wales and that’s exactly what they have in the North. Like here, it has a real mix of stunning landscapes, beautiful, picture-perfect villages and some great nightlife, if that’s your thing.
You’ll find one of the best loved national parks in Snowdonia, there’s the stunning island of Anglesey, Welsh coastal towns like Conwy, and family holiday classics like Llandudno and Colwyn Bay. If conquering Snowdon’s summit isn’t enough for you, then we reckon the largest zipline in Europe will satisfy any thrill seeker. Trust us, ZIPWORLD is absolutely epic. You want more? Well how about the artificial waves at Surf Snowdonia, and some incredible wakeboarding in Conwy.
North Wales isn’t officially a region, but draw an imaginary line from Aberdyfi on the coast to the small town of Chirk on the English border and that is pretty much it.
Some really nice places to stay depends on what you enjoy/ Dolgellau is great if you are looking to climb Snowdon. Beaumaris is and ideal base if you plan to explore Anglesey. Llandudno is great if you are looking for all the elements of a family holiday. And if it’s picture perfect you’re after, then Conwy is worth a visit.
If you’re a nightlife sort of person then it would have to be Bangor. While for those who want their holiday full of tradition and history, then the royal town of Caernarfon is definitely for you.
To see everything the North has to offer, go here. NORTH WALES
Going Cornish isn’t all about the pasties and cream tea, with Cornwall relatively close, who needs a sunny Spanish beach.
Cornwall does have pretty stunning beaches, but it is much more too. Think, fish and chips, courtesy of Rick Stein. Surfing is high on the agenda in Bude, Newquay and Perranporth. There’s the incredible Eden Project and Tate in St Ives. And, of course, no trip to Cornwall would be complete without a visit to Land’s End.
The pretty harbour at St Ives and Padstow pretty typical in Cornwall. These little seaside villages are spread all along the coast, making it the perfect stop for a week by the sea. Incidentally, if you are in Padstow we can recommend a stop at Rick’s takeaway fish and chip shop. Eating them, looking out into the harbour is almost near heaven.
Newquay and Falmouth are bigger, both have really great beaches, which is ideal if you have the family with you. The kids will love them, they have it all. If you get decent weather, then one of the campsites make for a more affordable holiday with some incredible scenery, especially as most of them are so close to the beach.
The Tourist Board pretty much have the place covered with all the info you need CORNWALL
You will get yourself an amazing cream tea in Devon, of that we can guarantee. But there’s also coastal cliffs, the sometimes dramatic moors and stunning beaches, among them is Woolacombe, which is acclaimed as one of Britain’s best. But don’t make that the only one you visit. Banthan, Watcombe and of course you must pop your head into Torquay, if only to say hello to ‘Basil….’
If you like your staycation to be an active one then Devon is brilliant for hikers.Devon’s coastal areas are a dream for hikers. The South West Coastal path is a must do, and really easy-to-follow. In fact both of Devon’s coastlines can be walked in their entirety.
You really are spoilt for choice with places to stay, be prepared for a busy booking period after lockdown. We love Croyde if you prefer a bit of city life, but of it’s your typical seaside holiday you’re after, then it has to be Lyme Regis, Salcombe, Woolacombe and Ilfracombe.
The larger towns such as Exeter, Torquay and Plymouth have a mix of B&B if you want to keep it more affordable, or some very nice luxury hotels if you’re splashing out after so much time at home.
Once again, the Tourist Board will give you more details. DEVON
I can’t deny we love the The Lake District here. We’ve had many a holiday there and must confess caught the biggest pike I’ve ever seen. Or maybe that’s just a fisherman’s fantasy. You’ve got it all in the Lake District, if you like something outdoorsy that is. There are high fells, unsurprisingly lakes, lots of them and the likes of which you’ve never seen before. It is peaceful, romantic, fun and more than a little inspiring. Just ask Beatrix Potter and Wordsworth.
It is a National Park and there are 16 main bodies of water which make up the lakes. You’ve got England’s tallest mountain in Scafell Pike, the second peak in the Three Peaks Challenge is also located there. If its stunning walking, natural history and lakeside life you’re after, just go to Bowness-on-Windermere and Keswick (home of the big pike).
It is Britain’s most popular national park, which means two thing. First of all there’s usually plenty of accommodation available. Keswick is a favourite, along with Buttermere and Windermere. Some of the smaller villages offer excellent places to stay too. Which brings us to the second point. It’ll be exceptionally busy this year after lockdown, so get booking fast.
This is the official site for this magnificent area. Give yourself plenty of time to explore it though. LAKE DISTRICT
We know, London you’re saying, why one earth would we want to have our staycation in the capital? Well, let us try and tempt you with a few ideas.
First up, whatever you may think, it’s one of the world’s greatest cities and has something for all budgets. We have a feeling you may get a little bargain or two post lockdown as well. It’s also really easy to get to, all the places you’ll see have been on the telly or in Harry Potter, so the kids will love the sightseeing.
We can’t deny it can be very expensive, but there is affordable and trust us, so many free things to do. We’d like to bet you could fill your days and spend no more than the price of food and drink. Event then you could buy a meal deal and eat it on the banks of the Thames.
When everything is operational and fully open it has some pretty awesome museums and they all offer free entry. We guarantee you’ll come out of The Natural History Museum and wonder where the whole day has gone. You also have the National Portrait Gallery, Tate Modern, the British Museum and the list goes one.
We won’t tell you about theatreland as that will make us a bit sad, although some show have managed the social distance thing pretty well, take a look at our story on The Mousetrap.
You can eat all you can manage for £8, go into the M & M shop and spend twice that on bags of your favourite sweets. You can grab a coffee for a pound or spend £11 (we kid you not) on the smallest cup you’ve ever seen. London is precisely what you want to make and whatever the cost.
Finding somewhere to stay in London shouldn’t be a massive issue, even as we continue to ease out of lockdown. It is huge, so bear that in mind when you book somewhere and plan any activities. You cannot do it all in a day or two, so definitely need to do some planning to get to the places you and the family really want to see.
Of course, you’ll want to do the big ones – Tower Of London, Buckingham Place, Parliament and Number Ten. If they are on your agenda you should think about staying central, Covent Garden, Blackfriars and the like. Personally, I would opt for a little out of the very centre, maybe Hammersmith or Olympia. There are some really good hotels around there and definitely some bargains to be had. You are close to Westfield Shopping Centre, which is phenomenal, and has so much going on for the kids. Getting into town is easy too. A bus will stop close to you hotel and the ride in can be really exciting as you pass by some well know landmarks.
Make sure you take a look at the Transport for London website to see if the area you are looking at is on a bus route or tube line. If you drive into London, just remember the congestion charge, you have a very small window in which to pay it, failure to do so will give you a hefty fine. Been there, done that.
The Visit London site is a great thing to have on your device if your planning a trip, or even a day out. Look at it here. LONDON
Okay, it’s a long way and you will inevitably have to drive if you have the family, cases, and a boot full of ‘stuff’ but Scotland is so worth it. You have Cairngorms – Britain’s largest national park; Ben Nevis – Britain’s highest mountain; and Loch Ness, one of Britain’s, if not the world’s most famous lakes. I have had a boating holiday up and down Loch Ness and the size is a monster, sadly no monster was seen though.
They have remarkable castles, traditional Scottish clan history, incredible golf courses (including St Andrews) and the friendliest of people you’ll meet outside of South Wales.
If you have a love of walking and whisky, Scotland can easily tick those boxes. Not only do the Highlands have some of the most beautiful scenery, but some of the world’s best malts are made there too.
When we say the Scottish Highlands are big, we reckon that’s a bit of an understatement. They are in fact roughly the same size area as Belgium.
It really just depends on what you enjoy as to where in Scotland you’ll head. For mountains, there’s Fort William, near Ben Nevis, or Aviermore in the Cairngorms. If it’s lakes you prefer, there’s Drumnadrochit on Loch Ness. And of course cities are more than catered for with Inverness, Glasgow and Edinburgh.
Edinburgh is a place we’ve visited a lot and each time found something new. It is dripping in history and culture. The castle, which stands right in the centre of the city, is the place you must visit. Grab a set of the headphones, do the self-guided tour and wait for the cannon to go off. You’ll know what we mean when you get there.
Edinburgh’s centre is pretty compact and very easy to get around. We’ve always gone for a hotel in and around the Royal Mile and the Grassmarket.
You can always head to Leith, as in the song and movie, a place packed with cafes and restaurants, and is ideal for food lovers who prefer to stay by the sea. The Visis Scotland site has all the information you need. SCOTLAND.
What is great about Scotland is that you can pitch your tent where you like. Wild camping is legal on most unenclosed land in Scotland. Just make sure you adhere to the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.
Classic Seaside holiday through and through. The Pleasure Beach, Sandcastle Water Park and the Tower, each of them iconic in its own way. Whatever you think about Blackpool, it is what it is and you will get fantastic value for money.
A revamp of the promenade has given a new lease of life into Blackpool. The promenade itself is a must do on your list, you could visit Blackpool Zoo and the Sealife Centre. And if you are a fan of Strictly, the Tower it is.
To really immerse yourself in the place you can’t beat Blackpool’s long promenade, so staying close by is a must. There are endless budget B&Bs and hotels up and down the town’s long coastline. Nearby South Shore and Lytham Saint Annes are also packed with accommodation options. The Blackpool Tourist Centre is always a useful one to keep close by. BLACKPOOL.
Whatever you decide to do, and wherever you choose to go or stay, it looks like this year, for most of us, a STAYCATION is the thing to do. And you know what, maybe that’s not such a bad thing after all.
Here’s a few more of the OUR SOUTH WALES features which will give you some idea of what is right on our door step.