UK and Ireland holidays: where can you go, and when?

Simon Calder
Snowdonia National Park in northern Wales: Getty/iStock

With quarantine for travellers to destinations outside these islands officially in place until next summer, many holidaymakers are looking at staying within the UK and Ireland this year.

The five nations are opening up to tourism – but all at different speeds. This is the picture right now.

How soon can I take a domestic holiday?

In Northern Ireland, already. The Northern Ireland executive has permitted holiday and caravan parks, camping sites and self-catering properties to open. Ninety-five days after lockdown began, people can officially take holidays involving an overnight stay.

Northern Ireland will also be the first UK nation in which it is possible to have a “normal” holiday. From 3 July, visitor attractions will be able to reopen, along with pubs (with table service only), restaurants, hotels, hostels and B&Bs. But spa facilities at hotels will remain closed.

When will England open for tourism?

Probably on 4 July. Visit England says: “Businesses up and down the land are prepping tirelessly and putting lots of measures in place in readiness to open – which could be as early as 4 July.”

Many hotels have said they will open on that Saturday, including the Macdonald group. In north Cornwall, the St Moritz Hotel & Spa says it intends to reopen all the hotel rooms, self-catering apartments and villas “with all operations in line with, or surpassing, all expected government requirements”.

Attractions are also focusing on 4 July, including Blackpool Pleasure Beach and Alton Towers – though the latter says: “Tickets will need to be pre-booked in advance before visiting.”

When will Wales be open for visitors?

The country has been adopting a cautious approach. A limit of 5 miles for journeys has had the effect of quashing tourism. The government in Cardiff has now announced: “The requirement to stay local will be lifted, if conditions allow, on 6 July.”

That will allow travellers from the rest of the UK to enter Wales, and permit free travel during the daytime.

Initially it was thought that the accommodation industry would start on the same day. But it now looks as though holiday cottages, static caravans and hotels “organised on a self-contained basis” will be open for bookings from 13 July onwards.

The Welsh government said that it will consider on 9 July “a range of specific options for opening” for self-contained holiday accommodation, as well as a “phased reopening of pubs, cafes and restaurants while maintaining strict social distancing”.

In a statement, the first minister said: “I know the wider tourism industry is keen to reopen and to salvage some of this summer’s season.

“I am therefore signalling owners of self-contained accommodation should use the next three weeks to prepare to reopen, working with their local communities.”

When can I holiday in Scotland?

The country is stealing a march on England, by allowing self-contained accommodation for use by a single family to open, as well as caravan parks without shared facilities (or where those facilities will be closed.

In terms of other tourist services, it will be the last part of the UK to open, which is hoped to be on 15 July – though Fergus Ewing, the cabinet secretary for rural economy and tourism, calls it “an indicative date from which we hope the sector can begin to operate”.

He said: “This cannot be definitive. The science and health advice must be in the right place.

“The virus must have been suppressed, the test and protect system must be used effectively, and our route map must be on course.”

This date will be confirmed only on 9 July.

Will the islands be open?

Some residents of Scotland’s western and northern isles hope not. Donald Macsween, who runs crofting tours on the Isle of Lewis, wrote in The Scotsman: “I think it would be madness to accept visitors into the islands, which could potentially undo the work of the lockdown.

“Anyone seen to be risking the lives of their friends and neighbours, for their own short-term financial gain, would have to live with the consequences.”

But Visit Outer Hebrides called the 15 July date “welcome news for us”.

Jonathan Hinkles, chief executive of Loganair, Scotland’s airline, said: “We will be flying, as we have been, right the way through.

“By September, the vast majority of our routes will be flying again.”

When can tourists stay in Ireland?

Unlike the UK, very early on in the Covid-19 crisis the republic set out a detailed road map explaining that tourism was expected to resume on 20 July, with the offshore islands opening only on 10 August. But the government in Dublin now says that hotels and restaurants in Ireland can open sooner than previously planned, on 29 June. Therefore tourists can explore the whole mainland of the island of Ireland from that date.

What about the Channel Islands?

Closed to tourists for now, with no date set for reopening.

The Bailiwick of Guernsey, which includes Alderney and Sark, has no active cases of coronavirus. The official advice says: “Sadly, we will have to wait a while longer to welcome you back to our shores.

“Currently travel restrictions remain in place with those coming into the Bailiwick being required, by law, to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival.”

The government of Jersey says: “Travel across Jersey’s border is restricted to necessary travel only.”

It is the only place in the British Isles that has a testing programme as an alternative to 14 days of self-isolation.

Arrivals who are permitted to travel to the island can agree to be tested for Covid-19 on the date of arrival at Jersey airport and undergo subsequent tests four days and seven days after touching down.

And the Isle of Man?

Flights from Heathrow to the island in the Irish Sea continue, and the first flight for months from London City airport will depart on Sunday 21 June to the Isle of Man.

But the island’s state of emergency was renewed on 16 June and will continue in force until 15 July 2020 at the earliest.

Anyone arriving must be in possession of a letter of exemption issued by the government chief secretary, which tourists are unlikely to have.

Non-exempt travellers “will be refused entry and will be required to return to their point of origin at their own expense,” says the government.

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