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Stay and Play

From country getaways to coastal gems, these UK holidays have all the allure of the Med but none of the hassle getting there

There’s a lot to be said for the humble staycation. With demand up 70 per cent on 2016, it seems more of us than ever are finding UK holidays too good to resist. The ability to jump in the car or hop on the train and go – rather than deal with the stress, cost and hassle of shuttling the family through the airport – is seriously appealing. And with UK breaks often a lot kinder on your wallet, is it time to look closer to home for your next hols?

Summer set

While Cornwall and south Devon often get the limelight (and the summer traffic), Somerset offers all the beauty and beaches and a more manageable travel time. With everything from 4×4 safaris, kayaking, mountaineering and horse riding to literary trails, beach walks, farms and steam railways, Exmoor is a natural wonderland full of adventure.

Lucy Green set up Exmoor Character Cottages near Minehead after being inspired to restore (and in some cases rescue) historic buildings in stunning parts of Exmoor and transform them into luxury lets. “My expectations for a holiday cottage sit at the five-star boutique hotel end of the scale, and this is what we aim to achieve.”

Sleeping between six and eight people, the four cottages are child friendly but also suit group getaways. Our favourite? The Olde Sweet Shop – a picture-perfect thatched cottage walking distance to the beach and village pub and boasting its own hot tub.

www.exmoorcharactercottages.co.uk

Forest fancy

Less than two hours from London, the New Forest National Park covers around 571 square kilometres, has resident wild ponies that roam free and is bordered by pretty coastal towns such as Lymington. With acres of woodland dotted with charming villages there’s never a bad time to visit. Cycle, hike and mess about on boats in summer, come for the autumn colours as the leaves turn, and cosy up by inglenook fireplaces in winter.

If you’re a hotel lover rather than a self-catering convert, the Montagu Arms at Beaulieu offers country house ambience, Gertrude Jekyll-inspired gardens and a much-celebrated three AA Rosette restaurant. While the main house is full of quintessential British tradition, the hotel’s new Hayloft Suites are cool and contemporary with a hint of countryside for good measure. The 1820s hayloft barn has been sensitively converted into two luxury duplex suites. Expect free-standing baths, billowing pillows, original beams and sloe gin on the night stand. If you can drag yourself away from the Montagu’s towering cream teas, the charming village of Beaulieu is on your doorstep, and Buckler’s Hard and the New Forest’s beautiful ‘secret’ coast is only minutes away.

www.montaguarmshotel.co.uk

Close to coast

If you don’t want to venture too far from home, Sussex, Kent and the Home Counties are great options for stress-free staycations. With museums, parks, castles and outdoor attractions, there’s heaps to keep even the most activity-hungry groups occupied. Less than two hours from the capital, Sussex’s protected beaches are ideal for family getaways where kids can go crabbbing and mess about on the water to their heart’s content. Wellies & Windbreaks is a small holiday company offering 22 unique properties around the marigold sands and coastal reaches of the Witterings in Sussex. With great spaces for kids and cool interiors, the characterful rentals suit large groups of family or friends.

www.welliesandwindbreaks.co.uk