While international trips are back on the cards, many of us are opting for a staycation instead this summer. But what does a holiday in the UK actually look like right now? Cosmopolitan’s travel editor Amanda Statham tells all about her trip to Devon..
If you’ve already boarded an easyJet flight and are currently sunning yourself on a beach in Ibiza, congratulations! Have an Aperol for us (just don’t forget to remove your mask). But if you’re part of the majority who actually aren’t ready for the fuss and fear of a flight yet, a staycation is the dream.
As lockdown continues to lift (goodbye roots, hello manicure), scouring websites for cute, cheap, Instagrammable UK escapes has replaced our ASOS habit. What’s it really like to be out out again and are then any decent places left to book anyway?
Getting to Devon
When your longest trip in four months has been to Tesco, driving to north Devon for a week feels incredibly exciting and intrepid. The positives: travelling in a car meant no mask-wearing, the roads were blissfully traffic-free and I could fill it to the brim with essential ‘stuff’ like anti-bac wipes and biscuits.
The negatives? Having to stop for petrol and unavoidable toilet breaks at vast, eerily empty service stations, with masked-and-gloved staff, touch screens and a strong whiff of chemicals in the air, an experience my S/O accurately described as, ‘A bit Covidy’.
What are the Devon/Cornwall beaches like?
Forget those images of crammed Bournemouth beach on Bank Holiday – if you choose the right stretches of sand in the south west, you’re not going to be needing to don a mask. Saunton Sands is a choice spot, miles of sand, surfing and backed by Braunton Burrows, a UNESCO biosphere reserve with towering sand dunes (some of the largest in the UK) which are higher than a house and fun to climb up and roll down whether you’re two or twenty.
Croyde is another beautiful bay, with plenty of space and surfing lessons available, which is probably the best socially-distanced sport you can take up right now. Westward Ho! (the only place name with an exclamation mark in the UK, grammar geeks!) is so long and wide it could handle a large chunk of the UK population, sprawled on towels at two metres, before things became a problem.
What about eating out?
Interesting. I was in self-catering accommodation, so it made sense to visit local shops to stock up on quality food like fresh croissants, veg, charcuterie and wine from Cawthornes Foodmarket in Braunton. Most stores had screens up, but staff weren’t wearing masks or gloves FYI.
Queuing for fish and chips from Atlantic Bay in Westward Ho! took a while due to social distancing, however I quickly discovered they now have an app so you can click and collect to bypass the wait. Best of all was Slice Pizza Ilfracombe a cheery takeaway overlooking the town harbour, selling delicious dishes like crab-coated fries, calamari in a cone and stonebaked pizza for £4.50, which we ate al fresco on the beach. Bliss.
And what about accommodation?
I split my trip between two places to make the most of my first post-lockdown break. Check-in was contactless at The Woodland Retreat (£205pn, sleeps eight; availability in September) and there was a lot to love about this place, including an outside deck with log burner, comfy sofas and a long dining table for al fresco suppers. It’s a great space for a group of friends or extended family reunion thanks to a large living room with a great sound system and adjacent fields where you’re encouraged to sit around the campfire toasting marshmallows and drink wine, well into the night.
After three nights I travelled twenty minutes down the road to Paradise Pines (£258pn; sleeps six; bookings availability in September), a Scandi-style eco retreat set in a 65-acre pine forest. It’s even more wow IRL than it appears on the website, with simple yet immaculate features like a huge bronze tub in the master bedroom, floor-to-ceiling lounge windows which fold away to bring the outside in (though hopefully not the squirrels), comfy armchairs upholstered in leaf prints, the best self-catering kitchen I’ve every cooked in (it’s also sparkling clean) and a stylish fire place set into a wall which made the whole house toasty at night.
Where can you stay in Devon right now?
If you’re fed up of trawling websites for available places only to find the ones left look like your nan’s house, fear not, we’ve done the hard work for you. Below is a list of accommodation with some availability in July and August. You’re welcome…
Bluebird Bus, Devon
There are still some days left in July and August aboard this converted bus for two in the heart of the Devon countryside with wood floors, wet room and hammock. From £145pn.
The Lovejoy Studio, Essex
Converted coach house with tasteful open-plan living area and two bedrooms in the grounds of beautiful Belchamp Hall. Ian McShane not included. Four nights, £604.
Rivington Bell Tents, Yorkshire
If you don’t want the hassle of hunting out your tent (or buying one), pay someone to do the hard work and book a couple of nights in a fancy bell tent instead. Double bed, soft linen, even a table and chairs, job done. From £40pn.
The Gate House, Suffolk
Still some dates left in August at this theatrical hideaway with a four-poster, private garden and even a beach hut to hang out in in nearby Southwold.
Kushti Camp, Berkshire
Outdoor kitchen, communal firepit, swimming pool and three pods to sleep six – a great place to chill with mates this summer.
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