The top UK holiday destinations to visit in 2021

Roshina Jowaheer
·11-min read
Photo credit: Norfolk. George W Johnson - Getty Images
Photo credit: Norfolk. George W Johnson - Getty Images

From Country Living

When it comes to escaping the daily grind, UK holiday destinations offer some incredible sites you just won't find abroad. From our amazing railways taking in breathtaking countryside to our quaint villages and historic cities, there's so much to explore right here at home.

Being stuck at home during lockdown is providing us with plenty of time to start planning our staycations for 2021 and when we're allowed to explore the UK again, we'll be ready to visit the most beautiful places on our doorstep.

The best UK holiday destinations are found around Britain, from north to south. There are the Scottish Highlands offering wild, remote beauty and the Cotswolds leaving you utterly mesmerised by its quintessential English gardens.

Snowdonia is a terrific place to experience captivating views, while the Isles of Scilly are perfect for experiencing Caribbean-like beaches without the carbon footprint. The opportunities to see the charms of the UK are endless.

Whether you're planning on travelling as a couple, a group of friends or solo, you'll find a variety of places to choose from in the UK for an amazing staycation in 2021.

Social distancing is easy when you escape for seclusion in the country, but there are always crowd-free spots to be found in cities, from Edinburgh to Bath.

Whichever time of year you're travelling, be it winter, spring, summer or autumn, these are the UK holiday destinations to consider for a 2021 trip on British soil.

1. Isles of Scilly

Sitting 28 miles off the coast of Cornwall, these idyllic islands are the UK's answer to the Caribbean. The heavenly white sands, turquoise waters and slightly milder climate make the Isles of Scilly a UK holiday destination everyone should have on their bucket list. Five of the 140 isles are inhabited (St Mary's, Tresco, St Martin's, Bryher and St Agnes) and boast some of Britain's most outstanding attractions, including Tresco Abbey Garden.

Photo credit: Ashley Cooper - Getty Images
Photo credit: Ashley Cooper - Getty Images

There are dark skies for stargazing, wildlife that thrives (including puffins and Atlantic grey seals), plus the laidback lifestyle that's high on most island holiday wish lists.

Visit the Isles of Scilly with the archipelago's top guide Will Wagstaff, who will show you parts of the islands that many tourists miss, take you on a boat ride to spot seabirds and show you round Tresco Abbey Garden.

When? May 2021

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2. Scottish Highlands

Scenic, remote and one of the real treasures of Britain, the Scottish Highlands offer a truly wild escape, where you can get lost among mountains, lochs and beaches. Aside from Britain's largest national park, the Cairngorms, the legendary Loch Ness, mighty Ben Nevis and Eilean Donan Castle, the Highlands are home to the amazing Jacobite steam train, aka the Hogwarts Express.

Photo credit: RuslanKaln - Getty Images
Photo credit: RuslanKaln - Getty Images

Taking you over the 21-arch Glenfinnan Viaduct, just like Harry Potter and his friends, and close to Ben Nevis, Loch Morar and Loch Nevis, the Jacobite is an absolute must-do. Try it on a four-day Scottish adventure, where you'll also take in Loch Katrine and the Falkirk Wheel.

When? June and August 2021

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Alternatively, you can take in the highlights of Scotland, including Loch Lomond, Edinburgh Castle, Glencoe and Fort William on a four-day trip in spring.

When? May 2021

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3. Isle of Wight

It was a favourite UK holiday destination of Queen Victoria and is the location of her Italian-style summer home Osborne House - and the Isle of Wight is a must-see. It's not all beaches and dinosaur history here, either. There's a warm climate for those after an island escape with a little more sunshine and Osborne House has an impressive garden filled with beautiful fountains, historic creeping plants and gorgeous blooms to see.

Photo credit: Graham Custance Photography - Getty Images
Photo credit: Graham Custance Photography - Getty Images

The unique isle's landscapes go beyond the chalk cliffs and golden sands. You'll want to venture to Shanklin Chine, the breathtaking gorge with more than 150 varieties of wild plants and waterfalls. Then there's Ventnor Botanic Garden which showcases the amazing microclimate of the Isle of Wight's south coast and is where you'll find rare and exotic plants.

Experience the Isle of Wight with TV's Christine Walkden in May 2021, where you'll get to know the glorious gardens of Osborne House and more.

When? May 2021

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4. Cotswolds

One of the most picturesque pockets you'll find in all of Britain, the Cotswolds are where you'll fall in love with chocolate box villages, miles of rolling countryside and grand stately homes. Covering 800 square miles of Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire, you can only imagine how much there is to explore - from 'England's prettiest village' Castle Combe to the gardens of Prince Charles' private residence Highgrove House.

Photo credit: Carausius - Getty Images
Photo credit: Carausius - Getty Images

On an exclusive trip to the Cotswolds with The One Show's garden expert Christine Walkden, you'll visit the gardens of Highgrove House, Hidcote Manor and Broughton Grange.

When? June 2021

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Alternatively, you can join TV farmer Adam Henson on his rare breeds farm. You'll also visit Painswick Rococo Garden, have afternoon tea at the Lygon Arms and take a guided tour of Cheltenham.

When? April 2021

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5. Northamptonshire

With its sprawling estates, historic houses and manor gardens, Northamptonshire is the underrated UK holiday destination to add to your 2021 bucket list. It's home to Althorp House, the home of Earl Spencer, which is one of the highlights of the county. The magnificent 13,500-acre estate features a 90-room Grade I-listed stately home filled with art, furniture and ceramics.

Photo credit: Althorp
Photo credit: Althorp

Northamptonshire makes for a perfect day trip from London too, where you can ride the glamorous Belmond British Pullman from London Victoria to Northampton. The stylish train journey takes you through superb countryside while you drink and dine in an elegant Art Deco carriage.

You can meet Earl Spencer at Althorp and ride the Belmond British Pullman in one day with our exclusive experience.

When? July 2021

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6. Hebrides

The wildlife, white sand beaches and ample walking opportunities, Scotland's Inner and Outer Hebrides are an utter delight. The more than 50 inhabited islands off the west coast of the country offer island hopping at its finest - because who needs Greece and Croatia when the islands of islands, like Islay, Mull, Harris and Lewis await?).

Photo credit: Mike Cave / 500px - Getty Images
Photo credit: Mike Cave / 500px - Getty Images

It's here that you can truly immerse yourself in Britain's natural beauty by spotting puffins, eagles and deer. There are enchanting castles to discover too, such as Duart Castle on Mull and Dunvegan Castle on Skye, plus there's whisky to try and dark skies for stargazing.

Try island hopping around the Hebrides on Country Living's spring cruise.

When? May 2021

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7. Peak District

We can't think of a better place for an isolation-inspired break than the Peak District, where you can make the most of the great open spaces and soak up the views of England's wild beauty. It's also a fabulous spot to marvel at sprawling stately homes and do some antiques shopping, with Chatsworth House and Chesterfield Flea Market being two of the top places you'll want to visit.

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

On an exclusive four-day break hosted by Flog It!'s Paul Martin, you'll visit Chatsworth House, hear antiques shopping tips from Paul and go on a guided tour of Haddon Hall.

When? May 2021

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8. Norfolk

With its royal attractions, wonderful wildlife and stunning natural scenery, Norfolk is a marvellous destination for your UK bucket list. Marvel at its windmills, watch the seals and their pups, and be amazed by the unspoilt countryside. There's no better way to explore Norfolk's charms than by train, with the Bittern Line, Poppy Line, Bure Valley Railway and the Mid-Norfolk Railway providing relaxing rides.

Photo credit: Ian_Sherriffs - Getty Images
Photo credit: Ian_Sherriffs - Getty Images

For something truly special, you can also join royal correspondent Jennie Bond on a visit to Sandringham and ask her all your questions about the royals in Norfolk, cruise the Norfolk Broads and ride historic railways.

When? July 2021

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Can't make a trip in July? We've got another summer rail trip in Norfolk, where you'll experience the Broads, railway views and visit Sandringham.

When? August 2021

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If you're fascinated by Sandringham's past, you can experience a trip with BBC historian Lucy Worsley, who will take you on a captivating journey through the incredible estate's past.

When? June and August 2021

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9. Sussex

Downton Abbey fans, this one's for you. Let Sussex be the next TV location you visit as you ride the delightful Bluebell Railway, running for 11 miles from Sheffield Park to East Grinstead and stopping at the 1930s-themed Horsted Keynes Station, which featured in Downton.

Photo credit: Shutterstock
Photo credit: Shutterstock

TV credentials aside, Sussex is filled with splendid sites to visit, such as mighty Arundel Castle, pretty Chichester Harbour and grand Petworth House.

When? June and September 2021

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10. North Wales

This impressive part of Wales is where you'll find some of the most attractive UK holiday destinations. The Snowdonia National Park is the biggest draw and this walkers' paradise offers amazing views from Mount Snowdon. You can take a ride up on the Snowdon Mountain Railway, which climbs to 1,085 metres above sea level and provides you with a panoramic view, which was voted the best in Britain.

Photo credit: Edward Haylan - Getty Images
Photo credit: Edward Haylan - Getty Images

Other curiosities in North Wales include Portmeirion, the Italian-style village with colourful buildings. If you love nature, you must check out the cute village of Betws-y-coed, too. It's a joy to walk around and the nearby Swallow Falls are remarkable.

Experience Snowdonia, Portmeirion, Betws-y-Coed and more as you see North Wales by rail with Country Living.

When? April 2021

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11. Belfast

Arguably Britain's most underrated capital city, Belfast is compact but packed with delights, from its Botanical Gardens, which are free for everyone to visit, to its maritime history, which you can get to know at the architecturally-stunning Titanic Belfast. For more history, you'll want to stroll in front of City Hall and stop for a pint at one of the most beautiful British pubs around, the National Trust-owned Crown Liquor Saloon.

Photo credit: Chiara Salvadori - Getty Images
Photo credit: Chiara Salvadori - Getty Images

The best thing about Belfast? It's a city that nature-loving active travellers will appreciate. Due to its size and location, you're just a few minutes from beaches and scenic Strangford Lough. This is the place to get up close to wildlife by kayaking the calm waters (try an experience with Mobile Team Adventure), where you'll spot seals and make your way to the lough's deserted isles.

You can spend a day in Belfast during a cruise on a beautiful ship that's powered by nature for an eco-friendly holiday like no other. There'll be visits to various parts of Britain as you take in remote islands and enjoy a few luxuries along the way.

When? May 2021

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Alternatively, you can discover Belfast and other UK cities, including Glasgow and Edinburgh during an affordable cruise that takes in Britain, France and Ireland.

When? July 2021

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12. Kent

A haven for gardeners, Kent is a superb county for seeing England at its very best. Here, you can stroll through writer Vita Sackville-West's Sissinghurst Castle Garden, take in impossibly pretty manor house Ightham Mote and sip delicious wine at Chapel Down.

Photo credit: White Garden. National Trust Images/Andrew Butler
Photo credit: White Garden. National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

There's plenty to explore in Kent, from gorgeous gardens to vineyards and castles. A great place for a couples' escape, there's romance all around and if you're after a quintessential British country getaway, there's miles of it to discover on two feet - or two wheels!

For a boozy break in Kent, where you'll sip the finest wines from vineyards that rival those in France, try our summer trip with TV wine expert Susy Atkins.

When? June 2021

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You can also join garden designer Sarah Raven in Kent and Sussex, where she will join you at an after-hours evening at Sissinghurst Castle Garden.

When? June 2021

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Alternatively, Gardeners' World star Carol Klein will join you for lunch during a wonderful tour of Kent's gardens. This is your chance to get tips and tricks for your own garden, while spending five days being inspired by Kent's famous gardens.

When? June 2021

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13. Jurassic Coast

A place so beautiful it often features on posters for British tourism, the Jurassic Coast is a UK holiday destination everyone should visit at least once. It was England's first natural UNESCO World Heritage Site and if you like beaches, you'll find a whopping 95 miles of dramatic coastline to discover.

Photo credit: joe daniel price - Getty Images
Photo credit: joe daniel price - Getty Images

Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door are its most iconic spots, while the pretty seaside towns of Swanage, Lyme Regis and West Bay are worth adding to your list. This spectacular region in Dorset has plenty of history, too - we're talking dinosaur history! Famous around the world as one of the richest heritage sites for prehistoric remains, the Jurassic Coast is the place to join a fossil hunting walk.

While here, you'll also want to see some countryside and there's nowhere better to do this than at River Cottage in Axminster, on the Devon border. You can meet TV's Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall here while soaking up the sights, sounds and smells of the estate with Country Living. During our exclusive tour, you'll explore the Jurassic Coast and visit Somerset.

When? August 2021

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