I remember the vast blue skies of Cornwall, which was all I could see from the high-sided lanes dotted with gargantuan pink foxgloves. And driving down the hill into Dartmouth, with everything hidden and then suddenly it all lays out in front of you. I remember Salcombe for its impossibly perfect sand – how could Nice or St. Tropez have any better? And I remember the Channel Island ferry crossings where I read Famous Five Stories and then tried to relive them for the rest of the holiday. There’s a reason we love these destinations, and even though these days it’s just so easy to go somewhere exotic, sometimes it’s really nice not to. Here are some of my UK summer holiday family favourites – with very up to date recommendations for where to stay. I’m pretty sure the caravan I stayed in in Cornwall is long gone…
For many us Cornwall’s huge, bare blue skies and high-sided lanes sum up summer. I don’t want to spark controversy, but this is where you’ll fine some of the UK’s best beaches, some truly stunning stretches of coastline, great bucket-and-spade seaside villages, wild moorland and secret valleys. Cornwall’s north coast is known for its big waves, beloved of surfers, and offers 60 miles of dramatic Atlantic Heritage Coast from Bude to Bedruthan – cliffs, coves, market towns, farmsteads and atmospheric Bodmin Moor. The south coast is quieter and softer, with sheltered coves and a more Mediterranean vibe. This is where you’ll find St Michael’s Mount, and a special kind of light much appreciated by painters.
Ah! charming green Devon! Driving into you is like a breath of fresh air, be it seaside air or the air whipping around the moors. There’s so much to do here, whatever age you are, and so many fantastic places to explore, some of them wild and some of them beautifully tamed. Devon’s countryside is as impressive as its two very different coasts, with Dartmoor and Exmoor rising from a landscape of patchwork fields, thatched whitewashed cottages and traditional stone longhouses. When it comes to the coastline, South Devon hosts music festivals and some of its hotels have wellness centres, while North Devon is where you’ll find the grand stately homes set in glorious grounds and the long stretches of sand favoured by surfers.
Practical Details: Devon is well served by the rail network if you don’t want to drive. If you wanted to fly in it would probably be into Exeter Airport. Devon isn’t known for its soaring temperatures, but the summers here are sunny, with average maximums of around 20.
THE ISLE OF SCILLY
The bright colours of the Isle of Scilly are glorious in the summer sunshine, and a summer spent here, amongst the tropical plants, beaches-as-good-as-any-in-the-UK, and wonderful island-hopping opportunities, will be a memorable one. The atmosphere is traditional and the food good, and people know each other and are friendly about it. Spend your days spying puffins, exploring the famous gardens, discovering deserted beaches and walking or cycling around this island paradise.
Practical Details: Fixed wing planes operated by Skybus fly from Land’s End, Newquay and Exeter to St. Mary’s Airport. Alternatively a passenger ferry runs from Penzance to Hugh Town on St Mary’s, and the crossing takes about 2 hours and 40 minutes. The Isles of Scilly are amongst the mildest places in the UK, but the average daily maximum for summer still hovers around 18°C.
THE CHANNEL ISLANDS
So physically close to France, and yet so terribly British, the Channel Islands offer the best of both countries. The climate feels almost tropical compared to the rest of the UK, but you know you’re still in Britain because the fog and tides have a profound, yet charming, affect on travel. This step-back-in-time destination makes for wonderful family holidays – with Enid Blyton type appeal. Walk stunningly varied coastlines, gorge yourself on fresh seafood and take your time exploring. Eating’s not just for pleasure here, it’s in the cuisine of the islands that the French-English cultural blend is possibly at its most interesting.