Since Brexit was announced in 2016, the UK-based holiday has surged in popularity with foreign visitors enticed by the plummeting value of the pound and UK residents having being priced out of excursions abroad. Although this resurgence has primarily been driven by the budget travel market, there are also plenty of luxurious vacations to be had by the affluent traveller. In this article, we take a look at the best seaside, city and countryside escapes the South of England has to offer for the quintessential British vacation.
The Best Seaside Escape: St Ives
Gourmet chocolate cake and A-list chefs, amateur water-colourists and windswept surfer dudes, fearless seagulls and more clotted cream teas than your cholesterol can cope with: St Ives attracts a colourful medley of characters to its sheltered coves and sandy beaches. Cottages with sugary sweet names like Puffin’s and Polly’s hide behind poster paint coloured doors, climbing down to the hundreds of years old fishing port at Downalong where indie artist studios lurk along tiny, wonky streets.
Generations of artists and writers have flocked to this quaint Cornish town for the unique quality of its light and its film-set atmosphere: one of the Tate’s few British outposts is based here, while Virginia Woolf’s famous lighthouse stands in the centre of a rocky bay, exposing itself to the full fury of the Atlantic. An unlikely setting for a thriving fine dining scene, perhaps, but St Ives delivers – however, there’s always the possibility for a hand-warming pasty while the sea air blows away those city cobwebs, if that’s more your scene.
The Best City Break: Oxford
Honeyed hues, dreaming spires, and the leafy snake of the Thames; Oxford is romantic, intimate, and irresistibly picturesque. Tourists flock from all over the world to wander its quaint, cobbled streets and quirky boutiques; to circuit Oxford University’s gold-tone gothic colleges and manicured quadrangles; and to take to the murky, green waters of the river for a spot of old-fashioned, summertime punting.
It is its milieu of ancient history and scholarship, however, which is Oxford’s most globally revered and quintessentially British facet. From the baroque grandeur of Blenheim Palace to the antiquated treasures of the Bodleian Library, visitors can unearth a millennium of history in the city’s countless museums, castles, palaces and pubs.
Meanwhile, breathe in the air of intellectual sophistication seeping from every lattice window and embellished turret of Oxford University, whose ancient traditions and notable alumni are deeply entwined with the city, and the country’s, past and present character. The university endures as one of Oxford’s biggest draws for tourists looking to walk its hallowed corridors and tour its immutable colleges.
The Best Country Retreat: The Cotswolds
The 800-square-mile expanse that makes up the Cotswolds has been declared as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and while you would be hard-pressed to make a bad decision in choosing any of the five counties (Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire) we highly recommend opting for Gloucestershire.
The Cotswolds also has a strong literary connection. The works of Laurie Lee often championed the beauty of this region while his magnum opus, Cider with Rosie, is a particularly nostalgic portrait of his Gloucestershire upbringing. Another highlight is the local produce in which Gloucester also features heavily with Old Spot pork, lamb, fruit and veg, as well as the protected double and single Gloucester cheese. Visit during the spring bank holiday and you will see the famous dairy product take on a new role, or should we say roll. The annual Cheese Rolling event on Cooper’s Hill in Brockworth attracts thousands of visitors in which daredevils and thrillseekers fling themselves down the hill in pursuit of a wheel of cheese.