City breaks invariably mean crowds, and the use of masks if travelling by public transport or visiting museums and other attractions. A UK countryside break, however, means a mask-free car journey for most people, and the chance to avoid crowds, walk in the country and get plenty of fresh air and exercise.
From castles to cottages, these are our suggestions of 10 of the best countryside holidays from around the UK.
1. Glenapp Castle, Ayrshire
A countryside holiday doesn’t mean roughing it; you can indulge yourself in places like Glenapp Castle on the breathtakingly beautiful Ayrshire coast of west Scotland. This late 19th Century building is now a 5-star Relais & Chateaux hotel with 17 luxury rooms.
Dining on fine Scottish produce in their award-winning restaurant can be the reward after enjoying outdoor activities all day. These can range from taking romantic walks in the estate’s 36 acres of grounds and gardens, to booking a sea safari to the Hebridean islands or going foraging, mountain biking or learning falconry.
2. The Sun Inn, Dedham, Essex
On the Essex/Suffolk border, the Sun Inn is a 16th Century coaching inn, now a 5-star pub whose food is acclaimed by The Good Food Guide, amongst others. Dedham is the heart of Constable Country, its landscapes made famous by artist John Constable in paintings like Dedham Vale and The Hay Wain.
You can hike around here and see that some places have changed little since the 19th Century, and you can get the same view today of Willie Lott’s Cottage that Constable painted.
3. The Hop Store, Ledbury, Herefordshire
Outside the pretty little market town of Ledbury, between Hereford and the Malvern Hills, The Hop Store is a self-catering property on one of the last remaining working hop farms in England.
With 150 acres around it, there should be enough social distancing for everyone, though kids will want to meet the two resident donkeys. The living room has a wood-burning stove and views of the Malvern Hills, while a welcome hamper includes beer and cider made from hops from the farm.
4. Speyside Whisky Canoe Tour
Hiking isn’t the only way to enjoy a break in the UK countryside. You can take a guided canoe trip along the River Spey in the Scottish Highlands, through Britain’s most famous whisky-making area.
You paddle through pine forests in the shadow of Ben Aigan through the Rothes Glens, then tie up at night and enjoy a wee dram (or two) while your dinner’s cooked for you.
5. Grantley Hall, Ripon, North Yorkshire
On the edge of the Yorkshire Dales and a few miles from Fountains Abbey, Grantley Hall dates back to the 17th Century. It offers a chance to walk in its grounds and in its Kitchen Garden and listed Japanese Garden, as well as in the nearby Dales.
One option is to enjoy a health and fitness holiday making full use of its Three Graces Spa, while in the evening indulging in the fine food of acclaimed Yorkshire chef Shaun Rankin.
6. Walking the North Norfolk Coast
‘Very flat, Norfolk,’ playwright Noel Coward once said, making it ideal for a hiking holiday for those who don’t like long slogs up steep hills. The north Norfolk coastline is especially attractive, a unique and often overlooked part of the English coast.
It’s a landscape of endless skies, of sand dunes, beaches, nature reserves and marshes which attract huge numbers of birds. You can go seal-watching here too. There are seaside towns large and small, with great fresh seafood, and a self-guided walking holiday is the ideal way to enjoy the coast’s haunting beauty.
7. Balmer Lawn Hotel, Brockenhurst, New Forest
If you’d like to share your UK countryside break with a bunch of pigs, head for the 71,474-acre New Forest in Hampshire in the autumn.
That’s when an ancient tradition called pannage, takes place, when the local pigs are released into the forest to snaffle up the acorns and crab apples that are poisonous to the wild New Forest ponies and donkeys.
The 4-star Balmer Lawn Hotel puts together a special three-night pannage package break. Based outside the small village of Brockenhurst, there are numerous walks on the doorstep.
8. Welsh Glamping, Abergwesyn, Powys
Surrounded by 185 acres of wild farmland, this brand new glampsite is on Glangwesyn Farm, whose owners have planted 50,000 trees to replace the farm timber that was used to build the site.
It offers three log cabins, three bell tents which overlook a valley, and the private Seren Fach Cottage, for the couple who want a slightly comfier experience. The cottage has a private deck with a wood-fired hot tub, a fire pit and valley views.
9. Lemons Cottage, Atherington, North Devon
Atherington is a village of just a few hundred people and surrounded by glorious unspoilt countryside and with the nearest beaches a 30-minute drive away.
Lemons Cottage is a luxury thatched three-bedroom property with gardens front and back (guests are welcome to pick anything they like), some original features but modern amenities such as a cinema room with a 75” Sony Cinema TV with surround-sound.
10. Linthwaite House, Bowness-on-Windermere, Cumbria
Despite its huge popularity, you can still wander lonely as a cloud in parts of the Lake District. Linthwaite House is a country house hotel that has 14 acres of grounds including gardens and private woodland.
With just 36 stylish rooms, you’re sure to enjoy some space to yourselves in the hilltop setting overlooking Lake Windermere. The hotel even has its own small lake with a rowboat guests can use, as well as bikes you can borrow in a ‘Pedal and Picnic’ package.
In the evening, Michelin-starred chef Simon Rogan’s Henrock restaurant serves some of the best food in the area, much of it sourced from his own farm in the nearby Cartmel Valley.
Life as an award-winning travel and drinks writer has led to Mike drinking vodka with breakfast in Siberia, cognac in Cognac, sherry in Jerez, port in Oporto, champagne in Champagne, rum in Jamaica, jenever in Amsterdam, gin in Iceland, beer at the Great American Beer Festival, bourbon in Kentucky, whisky in Scotland, and visiting vineyards and distilleries all over the world. Dividing his time between Cambridgeshire and Arizona, Mike's written for BBC Good Food, Waitrose Drinks and American drinks magazine Chilled, where he's an Editorial Staff Writer.