UK & Ireland Staycation Ideas
Take a trip to Kent and you'll find stunning historic mansions and townships steeped in history. Hever Castle (which I can personally recommend) is well known for being the childhood home of Anne Boyelyn and has been a backdrop and scene for many famous films. Leeds Castle is also well worth a visit. The sprawling grounds are home countless plant and bird species, including an impressive collection of Birds of Prey.
While you're at it, add Walmer Castle and Canterbury Cathedral to the list as well. As well as the cathedral, in the bustling historic medieval market town of Canterbury, you can also create your own sweets in a unique Fudge Making Experience with Fudge Kitchen. And how about some gin tasting at Copper Rivet Distillery or beer tasting at Shepherd Neame Brewery and The Foundry Micro Brewery?
You can't take a trip to Kent without exploring the stunning vineyards of Chapel Down Winery (yes, right here in the UK!) Walk around the grape vines, learning about the wine industry before sampling the fruits of the harvest. Make sure you try the sparkling wine!
The Kerry Way, Ireland
The Kerry Way is the Emerald Isle's longest trail. It stretches 210km across Ireland, offering fantastic views of the unspoilt landscapes. A walk here will swathe you in 10,000 years of dramatic Celtic history.
You'll be treated to beautiful landscapes at every turn - from rugged cliffs to some of Europe's finest golden beaches, small friendly villages and velvety green fields to picturesque mountain ranges.
You can take on the Kerry Way as a self-guided tour, which means you'll be given the tools (map, notes and GPS) and freedom to go at your own pace, whilst having your accommodation and luggage transfers organised for you. It's an excellent choice for those who like to hit the trails on their own and absorb the serenity in peace. Otherwise, there are plenty of tour operators and hiking groups you can complete the walk with.
Snowdonia National Park, Wales
There are two main ways to see the stunning Snowdonia National Park - by hiking some of its epic trails, and by kicking back in the comfort of a rail car.There is no shame in either - both are equally beautiful. In fact, you can have the best of both worlds!
Begin your journey on the coast at Porthmadog and enjoy a night by the marina before heading into the National Park. The network of trails will take you through the idyllic natural landscapes of Welsh wilderness, with the beauty of the park on full display. Explore woodlands, wander along ridges, cross rivers and circumnavigate sparkling blue lakes. If you're up for it, end with the summit of Snowdon. At 1,085m, it's the highest point in the British Isles outside the Scottish Highlands.
There are plenty of routes which combine walking with sections of travel on the Welsh Highland Railway, allowing more distance to be covered and giving your weary legs a rest from time to time.
Scotland by train
How about a bit of the Orient Express glamour in Scotland? The adventure begins as soon as you step aboard the elegant carriages of the Northern Belle. You'll be escorted to your plush seat by an attentive steward. Your table is then set with pristine white linen, bespoke silverware and sparkling glassware, ready for a fine dining experience.
Admire the exquisite details of your carriage; the opulent furnishings and craftsmanship evoke the glamour of 1930s “Belle” trains. Take a slurp of your sparkling Bellini cocktail and prepare yourself for a three-course brunch.
Enjoy the splendid scenery through your window as the train makes its way north to Arrochar on the West Coast Highland Line.
You'll spend the afternoon exploring West Scotland’s most iconic castle, sitting on the banks of Loch Fyne. Inveraray Castle boasts an abundance of lavishly-decorated rooms and acres of stunning gardens. It was even a filming location for the BBC hit drama Downton Abbey. After your afternoon’s sightseeing, return to the train for a champagne reception and a sumptuous five-course dinner.
I've watched this stunning train pass by as I was walking the West Highland Way and I can guarantee you'll be blown away by the view
I couldn't finish off my staycation list without promoting the wonderful Northern Ireland. Make sure you have a few nights in Belfast. You'll need time to take in the sights. A visit to the world famous Titanic Exhibition is a must. Take a black taxi tour to get some insights into the history of the troubles, then hang out in the bars in the Cathedral Quarter and listen to some live and local music. You'll also be spoilt for choice when it comes to dining options.
Getting outside Belfast, a trip to Northern Ireland would not be complete without following in the footsteps of a giant. While visiting the Giant's Causeway, have a wander along the stunning Strand Beach - you will often see horses galloping by the water.
Stop off for some whiskey tasting at Bushmills Distillery or treat yourself to a day of relaxation at the luxurious Galgorm Spa.
For Game of Thrones fans, there are plenty of filming locations to visit. The Dark Hedges and Ballintoy Harbour are two of the most popular. Both are stunning in their own right, even if you haven’t watched the series.
And don't forget my home town of Derry, an ever evolving artistic and cultural hub. It hosts many fantastic events such as the Round the World Clipper Race and Halloween celebrations (which may be on hold this year for obvious reasons).
And best of all, you can get the ferry and bring your own car if you want.