With restrictions lifting soon, and decorations emerging from the loft (if they’re not up already!), we’re starting to get into the festive mood.
And while things may be somewhat different this year, we’ve got a few things up our sleeve to get you through the last week of Lockdown 2.0 and help spread some Christmas cheer.
Our ultimate Christmas gift guide
From hampers chock-a-block with local produce to unforgettable hotel stays and afternoon teas, check out our round-up of Christmas gift ideas and experiences from businesses (big and small) up and down the country.
Being indoors doesn’t mean you can’t venture further afield. Take a virtual tour of a hilltop castle, stream your favourite play or get hands-on with learning a new skill, from baking to bike building to at-home wine tasting.
Although we’re still living in pretty uncertain times, one thing’s for sure – England’s wonderful landscapes and scenery aren’t going anywhere. Plan ahead for when you can finally stretch your legs with these idyllic coastal walks.
There has never been a summer quite like this one, so make it extra memorable by discovering the best that the UK can offer.
From historic gardens to piers and amusement parks, attractions across the UK are finally reopening with their own ways to protect us. Think inventive queueing set-ups, one-way systems and quirky new signage.
Glorious: The enchanting gardens at Spetchley Park in Worcester are an ideal outdoor space for families to come together for a safe and socially distanced picnic in stunning surroundings
Be in the know before you go
Adventures are a little different these days. To avoid disappointment, make sure you’re clued-up before you leave the house.
NEW RULES Check the website before visiting any UK attraction, just in case its rules have changed since reopening. From parking restrictions to pre-booked tickets, you don’t want to miss something important that could spoil your day.
EVERYDAY ESSENTIALS What’s an outing these days without hand sanitiser? Facilities are limited at some attractions, so carry cleaning wipes or gels to keep you germ-free throughout the day. And don’t forget to check whether you need to wear a face mask – some venues may insist on it.
SCENIC ROUTES Where possible, enjoy your destination on foot or by bicycle. Not only does it reduce congestion on roads and in car parks, but buses and trains will be less crowded as a result. And you never know what you’ll discover along the way!
With so many delights right here at home, now is the time to find the hidden treasures you’d forgotten about and the ones you never knew existed. So, take a much-needed staycation and plan that local meet-up – you might just wonder why you ever went elsewhere!
In Part One of our brilliant series covering everything you need to know to enjoy a fun-packed, safe summer, here are our ten of our top picks for fun days out and trips in the UK.
1. Spetchley Park, Worcester
Open again since June, the enchanting gardens at Spetchley Park in Worcester are an ideal outdoor space for families to come together for a safe and socially distanced picnic.
‘The front lawn overlooking the lake is my favourite spot,’ says operations manager Sarah Bird. ‘Spetchley Park is a true hidden gem – very romantic and peaceful, and there’s plenty of space for groups to feel like they are alone, together.
‘Pre-order your picnic from the Granary Coffee Shop on arrival for some delicious homemade treats.’
Book tickets in advance and look out for additional signage and new one-way systems.
3. The Unruly Pig Gastropub, Suffolk
A popular British food haunt, the Unruly Pig in Woodbridge is ready to serve its delicious menu once again.
Confidently trained in new safety requirements, team members will warmly welcome guests back to pre-booked tables.
An open-sided marquee in the pub garden also offers ‘outside in’ dining.
Visitors can once again enjoy Mother Shiptons Cave, England’s oldest tourist attraction
Visitors to the cave in Knaresborough must arrive by car, not on foot, to reduce contact on entry.
4. Ballygally Castle
Ballygally Castle is a beautiful coastal hotel by the Irish Sea that has once again opened to guests
This is the perfect opportunity to stay local and staycation. And for the team behind Ballygally Castle, a stunning coastal hotel overlooking the Irish Sea, the chance to welcome you ‘home’ is all part of the charm.
‘Many people haven’t stayed in Northern Ireland for their summer holidays in a long time,' says general manager Norman McBride. 'So we can’t wait to remind everyone why their childhood coastal holidays were so fantastic.
‘We’ve gone above and beyond the UK Government’s safety guidelines because we want to give guests the confidence to spend their first nights away from home with us.’
5. Let's Go Hydro, County Down
Get the whole family enjoying an action packed day at Let's Go Hydro water park
Watersports park Let’s Go Hydro is officially back in action. Taking bookings for action-packed day trips, Belfast’s top activity resort now operates a one-way system with cash-free payments and guests arriving in ‘bubbles’.
Wetsuits will also be quarantined for 24 hours before use.
The park also boasts an open air cinema and cable assisted water sports.
6. Milk Barn Cafe, Falkirk
Milk Barn Cafe serves up mouth-watering handmade ice cream in a safe, socially distanced cafe
'Suzannah, 44, and Alistair Reid, 47, were thrilled to reopen their artisan ice-cream parlour in the rolling Stirlingshire hills earlier this month – just in time for summer.
‘We’re so glad to be back,’ says Suzannah. ‘We’re now serving 18 delicious homemade scoops, including a popular Scottish tablet flavour and, for young farmers, there’s a brand-new picnic box featuring lunch and a fun puzzle.’
Despite the business owners’ excitement, reopening has been ‘a big responsibility’ she says, with rigorous new safety measures put in place.
‘The staff are fantastic – they all wear masks and clean continuously throughout the day. It’s become second nature.'
7. Blair Drummond Safari Park,Stirling
For a really wild day out, explore Stirling’s thrilling safari and adventure park via new socially distanced walking routes, past Lemur Land, through Pets’ Farm and over to the Birds of Prey.
While live shows are temporarily suspended, the animals are very much still in action!
8. Atholl Arms, Perthshire
Enjoy an al fresco meal or drink on the Atholl Arms terrace over looking Highland Perthshire
Leading down to the banks of the River Tay, the newly reopened beer gardens at the Atholl Arms serve up stunning views of Highland Perthshire.
Food and drinks are now available for outdoor table service – just remember to wash your hands regularly and walk or cycle to the pub where possible.
*In Scotland, a phased reopening of hotels, museums, galleries, cinemas, monuments and libraries began yesterday. Other attractions, such as nightclubs, theatres, live events and indoor gyms, will be reviewed before a new announcement on July 23.
9. Farmers' Welsh Lavender, Builth Wells
Farmers' Welsh Lavender site is a great destination for a day out
An hour from the Brecon Beacons, the rolling lavender fields of Builth Wells are quite a sight to behold. With two-and-a-half acres and plenty to do, the recently reopened Farmers’ Welsh Lavender site is a safe day out for couples and families.
‘The gardens are really spectacular,’ says director Nancy Durham, 67. ‘We’ve been working on them for many years. There’s a large viewing swing overlooking the fields, a wild-swimming pond and even a fantastic glamping spot to stay overnight.
‘Self-guided tours will operate in bubbles, but we love that people can really spread out here. There’s also great new signage to guide everyone. We want people to come and have fun, but also be safe.’
10. Zip World, Snowdonia National Park
Social distancing is well and truly in place as visitors sail through the air at Zip World
One of North Wales’s biggest outdoor tourist attractions returns this month in a limited capacity and with a robust safety strategy in place.
Measures include signage to navigate the site, contactless-only payments and enhanced hand-washing. It’s also recommended that all guests wear face coverings.