These 10 rural holiday destinations in England and Wales take advantage of the numerous National Parks, miles of open countryside and secluded beaches on our doorstep.
Before ‘social distancing’ became a common phrase, these sparsely populated locations naturally lend themselves to the concept, all of which can be enjoyed from a cosy country cottage, luxury yurt or even a narrowboat.
Few places in Britain can compare to the diverse wildlife and dramatic coastline of Pembrokeshire, perfect for a seaside break in Wales. Breathe in all the fresh ocean air on a Sea Safari in search of seals and porpoises, or sail across to the remote Skomer Island, home to Southern Britain’s biggest puffin colony.
For a relaxed beach holiday in Wales you’ll find secluded sandy bays such as Barafundle and Broad Haven between Pembrokeshire’s rugged headlands, far away from crowded beaches that repeatedly crop up in the media during a British heatwave.
Shimmering waters reflecting the colourful landscape above, the Lake District is well known for inspiring creators like Beatrix Potter and William Turner. For an active holiday in the Lake District, embark on a cycle ride from Brockhole or Coniston Water and hike up England’s highest mountain, Scaffel Pike, one of Britain’s best walks.
If you desire a rural retreat with just the essential bakery, butcher or post office on your doorstep – look no further than the chocolate box villages in The Cotswolds.
Booking a self catering cottage (with a log burner no less) means a cosy country escape is guaranteed should the English weather take a turn.
Visitors often flock to the picturesque Castle Combe and Bibury (particularly in the summer months), so you may prefer a peaceful Cotswold property amongst the farmland near Broadway and Chipping Campden, or one with direct access on to The Cotswold Way, a 102 mile footpath linking Chipping Campden to Bath.
A paradise for hikers, Wales’ largest national park is big enough to spread the seasonal crowds who come to soak up Snowdonia’s many viewpoints, river trails and castle ruins like Harlech, Conwy and (a little east of the park) Gwrych Castle. City dwellers will appreciate a break from the hustle and bustle in Beddgelert or Betws-y-Coed where just a few hundred people live permanently.
Snowdonia has a wealth of outdoor activities for a fun family holiday in Wales, including the World’s fastest zip line, forest coaster and quarry used for go karting. Just a few miles away near the village of Abergale, the spotlight was put on Gwrych Castle when it was used for the ITV show I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here. If you’d like to visit the castle ruins and filming locations check Gwrych Castle‘s site for the latest information as restoration works are taking place.
There’s an abundance of scenic rail journeys in Snowdonia, starting with the Snowdon Mountain Railway (up Wales and England’s tallest mountain) and an authentic steam train ride between Porthmadog and Blaenau Ffestiniog.
The rolling hills of the Yorkshire Dales is a wonderful option for a scenic outdoor holiday in England. If you’re feeling energetic, tackle the three peaks challenge or set off on a mountain bike ride. Enrich your break in Yorkshire with a luxury yurt stay at The Wensleydale Experience and enjoy leisurely tours of the local farmland.
The Elan Valley
Located in one of the most sparsely populated regions in Britain near ‘the Green Desert‘, the Elan Valley is an ideal choice for a rural break in Wales. The impressive dams were built by the Victorians to supply fresh water for the people of Birmingham, which you can drive to yourself or see on a bespoke tour of the estate.
If you’re looking for a base with access to convenience stores, pubs and B&B’s, look to stay in and around the towns of Rhayader and Llandrindod Wells.
The Gower Peninsula contains some of Britain’s best beaches, for example the vast bays of Three Cliffs (pictured above) and Rhossili. Even in the height of summer these stunning sandy shores can feel very remote, but rest assured there’s all the familiar delights of the seaside (pubs and chip shops…) to be found in places like The Mumbles and Port Eynon.
If you book a holiday home in the Gower you’ll be only metres away from bars and cafes dotted along the Wales Coast Path.
The southern counties of Devon and Cornwall have long been popular for a UK staycation meaning many bypass the sights of Somerset along the way. For a picturesque road trip in England, drive to the Quantock and Mendip Hills and weave between the soaring cliffs of Cheddar Gorge.
There are numerous National Trust properties and gardens to discover in Somerset, including the rural Fyne Court, Dunster Castle and Tyntesfield. If a beach break in England is preferable, head to Brean and Weston-Super-Mare, or alternatively set off on a coastal trail through Exmoor National Park. Exmoor also has some of the darkest skies in Britain for stargazing, and the 300 miles of Bridleways are ideal for a UK horse riding holiday.
The Kennet and Avon Canal runs through Wiltshire from Bristol to Reading which is now used for narrowboat holidays and canoeing. The towpath is great for walking and cycling opportunities with numerous stop off’s along the way, from pretty pubs in Bathampton and Avoncliff to an award winning tea room in Bradford-on-Avon.
For a laidback holiday in England, consider Lacock where you can start your days at the village bakery before wandering Lacock Abbey’s grounds, used as a filming location for Harry Potter.
The Brecon Beacons is one of the best areas in Britain for outdoor adventures like kayaking, abseiling and rock climbing. For an exhilarating experience plan a visit to Waterfall Country and walk behind the cascading waters at Sgwd yr Eira and Henrhyd Falls.
Related: 7 beautiful places to stay in Wales
There’s plenty to do in the Brecon Beacons even when the rain falls, such as an exploration of underground caves at Dan Y Ogof National Showcaves Centre, or a journey through the region’s industrial heritage at the Blaenavon World Heritage Site inside a real coal mine.
Feeling inspired? Start planning your next holiday in England or Wales by booking a holiday cottage in one of these picturesque and rural places.