9 amazing country getaways to see the UK in all its glory

·8-min read
Photo credit: Peak District. john finney photography - Getty Images
Photo credit: Peak District. john finney photography - Getty Images

With the pandemic restricting travel abroad over the past year and a half, hundreds of thousands of us have found time to rediscover the incredible countryside around us, right here in the UK.

We’ve returned to old favourites like the Cornish coast and the Lake District, and discovered lesser-visited seaside towns like Ramsgate and Rye, as well as travelling out into the remote wilderness of the Shetland Islands and the Isles of Scilly.

Venturing out into the British countryside isn’t just a summertime activity. In fact, autumn is one of our favourite times to travel in the UK, when you can escape the crowds, save money and see the landscapes change from green to copper right in front of your eyes.

In case you need a helping hand, we thought we’d bring you some inspiration with our selection of the best country getaways for you to explore Britain in style.

From historic train holidays to guided tours with experts, there are so many ways to get to know the UK's wild side this year.

Whether it's short breaks you're after or something longer where you can spend more time in the country, these weekend trips and week-long holidays are just the answer for discovering the wonderful scenes on our doorstep. Prima's exclusive holidays take you to the countryside destinations we know you'll love.

Get your knit on in the Shetlands

Knitting + Scotland = two of our favourite things! Head for the stunning Shetland Islands this summer or next and you'll get to experience both in one fantastic holiday. Why the Shetlands, you ask?

Well, the breathtaking isles have a rich history of wool, textiles and inimitable Fair Isle technique, which make for an excellent location for crafty travellers to visit. If you fancy learning new techniques and meeting fellow knitting enthusiasts, Prima's six-day holiday won't disappoint.

Photo credit: James Warwick - Getty Images
Photo credit: James Warwick - Getty Images

During the break, you'll draw knitting inspiration from the coastlines and powerful landscapes, with their diverse colour pallet providing the perfect backdrop for your creative pastime. You'll learn how world-famous Shetland wool is farmed, woven into yarn and transformed by the locals into hand-crafted items.

There'll also be professional guidance from the 'World's Fastest Knitter' Hazel Tindall, and the ever-talented Kathleen Anderson as you learn traditional Shetland Fair Isle and lace knitting techniques.

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Steam through the Scottish Highlands by rail

You might recognise the grand Glenfinnan Viaduct from the Harry Potter films, when Harry whizzed through magnificent scenery on the Hogwarts Express. This railway really does exist and you can take the epic journey yourself – as well as rides on two other scenic Scottish railways – on an epic country getaway with Prima.

Photo credit: GAPS - Getty Images
Photo credit: GAPS - Getty Images

You can travel over land, sea and loch on this four-day adventure, all powered by steam. There are boat trips on the historic PS Waverley paddle steamer, on the Falkirk Wheel Boat lift, and on the Lady of the Water over on Loch Katrine, with breathtaking scenery throughout.

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Discover the railways and walking routes of the Yorkshire Dales

When it comes to Britain's most glorious countryside, Yorkshire is one of the first places that come to mind. Its breathtaking valleys, drystone walls and quaint villages are just some of its delights. Yorkshire is also an excellent place to follow scenic walking trails and ride on lovely trains with views.

During Country Living's five-day walking and railway escape this summer, you'll get to take in all the wonders of the Yorkshire Dales, while staying active with beautiful walks.

Photo credit: daverhead - Getty Images
Photo credit: daverhead - Getty Images

You'll visit the home of the Brontë sisters, ride on the Embsay and Bolton Abbey Railway, traverse the Pennine Bridleway and explore charming market town Skipton - your base throughout the trip.

On a walk along the Bolton Abbey River Loop, there'll be a chance to spot wildlife and you can explore the world of Wuthering Heights at Haworth, as well as a Bronte-themed walk across Yorkshire's wild moors.

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Explore Norfolk like royalty on four fabulous railways

This is a part of the UK where life moves at a slower pace; even the royal family go to Norfolk to wind down at the Sandringham Estate for their country breaks. We think the perfect way to enjoy Norfolk’s scenery is on a railway adventure: you can't help but relax when you're travelling by steam train and fans of nostalgic travel and the golden age of rail will love this tour.

Photo credit: Juvinar  Santiago  / EyeEm - Getty Images
Photo credit: Juvinar Santiago / EyeEm - Getty Images

You'll pass through unspoiled countryside, poppy fields, thatched cottages and windmills and you’ll stop off at pretty market towns and historic houses. There's time set aside for a visit to the royal Sandringham Estate (with TV's Jennie Bond or Lucy Worsley) and plenty of time to soak up the scenery.

With a cruise on the Norfolk Broads and free time to explore the villages of Wroxham and Horning, this trip offers everything you need to relax and unwind in style.

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Explore the Welsh wilderness by rail

Snowdonia National Park has it all: glassy lakes, tumbling rivers and waterfalls, rugged mountains and spectacular beaches. We love chugging up the mountainside on the fantastic Snowdon Mountain Railway, to take in panoramic views over Snowdonia. It’s not surprising it was recently voted the best view in Britain!

Photo credit: Alan Novelli - Getty Images
Photo credit: Alan Novelli - Getty Images

Wales has plenty of tourist attractions too, like the magical Italianate town of Portmeirion with its pastel-coloured houses, quaint Betws-y-Coed in the heart of the Conwy Valley and Caernarfon Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Travel with Prima by train, taking a steam ride up to mighty Snowdon, visiting enchanting Portmeirion and enjoying the iconic Welsh Highland and Ffestiniog Railways.

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Bliss out in Leicestershire

This historic county is no one-trick pony. The birthplace of Red Leicester cheese and the Melton Mowbray pork pie also does health spa wholeness. Our favourite for discounted breaks that combine country walks with spa treatments is Ragdale Hall.

Photo credit: Ragdale Hall
Photo credit: Ragdale Hall

This spa hotel marries state-of-the-art facilities and treatments with the charm of traditional Victorian architecture to create one of the most luxurious and relaxing health spas in the country. It’s won a string of awards for its facilities - including the fabulous Rooftop Infinity Pool, Candle Pool and Outdoor Waterfall Pool - and outstanding customer service.

So whether you want to be pampered, kick-start your health regime or just enjoy the beautiful surroundings, Ragdale Hall's amazing spa facilities make it the ultimate relaxing break with a range of treatments to suit everyone.

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Tour stately homes in the Peak District

It may be small, but it’s also mighty. The Peak District is home to some of the nation's finest country houses, among them Chatsworth House and Haddon Hall. The stunning Chatsworth House has featured in all your favourite period dramas, from the 2005 Pride and Prejudice starring Keira Knightly, to the 2011 Jane Eyre, and May Carleton’s country house in Peaky Blinders.

Photo credit: john finney photography - Getty Images
Photo credit: john finney photography - Getty Images

The neighbouring country estate, Haddon Hall, is also cloaked in glamour, with gorgeous Elizabethan gardens, antique furniture and lovely stained-glass windows. Top tip - if you’re into antiques, you have to visit Chesterfield Flea Market, which you can do so with TV's Paul Martin on our exclusive tour. We love Buxton, with its regal-feeling Opera House and the pretty Pavilion Gardens.

Where to stay? Old Hall Hotel is reputed to be the oldest in England, so you’ll feel you’re staying in your very own stately home, with flat-screen TV and tea and coffee in your room, plus afternoon tea in the Cockerel Wine Bar and the traditional restaurant for evening dining.

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Discover rural Essex on a country retreat

Better known for its vivacious local characters and homely cities like Chelmsford and Colchester, Essex has some beautiful countryside to explore too. Practically an island paradise, Essex boasts 35 islands off its coast. Then there’s the verdant Epping Forest, perfect for country walks near London, vineyards like Dedham Vale and Crouch Ridge.

Photo credit: Wivenhoe House Hotel
Photo credit: Wivenhoe House Hotel

We love staying at Wivenhoe House, which has the feel of a country house hotel, but is within easy reach of the town and city. The prices are affordable (especially with our exclusive offer) but the rooms are still luxurious, and with 24-hour room service you can feel properly pampered!

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Have a quirky country escape on the Kent-Sussex border

As the weather begins to get cooler, the leaves turn orange and red and the first frosts settle in, we start to feel like hunkering down in a countryside hotel. To make the most of the countryside, we recommend The Bell in Ticehurst, which lies on the border between two beautiful British counties: Kent and Sussex.

Photo credit: The Bell in Ticehurst
Photo credit: The Bell in Ticehurst

Bewel Water nearby is perfect for bike rides, fishing and wild swimming and Scotney Castle and Pashley Manor Gardens make for a lovely day out.Back at the hotel, you can relax in oast house-style lodges in the garden which are particularly cute, like something from Enid Blyton's The Faraway Tree, or head to the eccentric pub, where you’ll spot top hat lamps and giant stacks of books.

We love feeling immersed in the countryside at the Bell, despite the modern services. It’s the little touches - like the bright gardens, floral displays and the room with a tree growing through it! Stay at the quirky and fun Bell in Ticehurst with Prima's exclusive offer.

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