You might not have realised it until right this very second, but it’s the teeny-tiny, super-subtle things that confirm the arrival of summer in the best ways possible; gently clearing their throats before they shout-whisper the words: whip out your factor thirty and pull on your favourite jeepers-creepers sunglasses because summer is well and truly here.
You know the sort of things we’re spieling about.
The water in your office cooler has begun to taste the best kind of salty, your cologne has started to smell a bit like Piz Buin sun cream, you’ve begun adding iced tea to your lunchtime meal deal, the sound of cars honking on your morning commute have that distinctly Caribbean offbeat to them, the air in your garden is perfectly stained with the white wisps of a neighbours barbecue, you feel the urge to pop a watermelon into your weekly food shop, you look forward to that delightful screech of winding down the windows when you step inside your car, and your boss’ motivational morning speech about how you need to “be better” has started to sound more like “be-eeeer”.
Your every thought has become a summertime postcard as you dream of taking an epic road trip in some far-off pocket of the planet, drinking cocktails out of coconut husks, as you listen to a mashup of Will Smith, Jazzy Jeff and Mungo Jerry, and chat to strangers with the most amazingly contagious accents. That’s what summer is all about. It’s about getting away.
Of course, it’s not as simple as grabbing your passport, packing a pair of funky swimshorts and settling into the economy-plus part of an outgoing plane. We wish it was, but it’s not. Between the days you’ve taken off to attend what feels like a dozen destination weddings, your annual family trip to wherever, the time you’ve blocked out over Christmas and all those days you’ve taken off for premeditated hangovers, you only have about four and half days of holiday left - probably.
That’s where the staycation swoops in wearing a bright red cape and matching mask.
It’s your chance to go on a local(ish) adventure, discover some secret corner of the country you’ve never heard of, and enjoy the luxury that is staying in a cushy bed without the hassle of:
- Getting up three hours before dawn’s crack
- Trying to remember which terminal (read: airport) you booked your flight from
- Dealing with the mayhem that’s caused by another delay
- Spluttering at the “what-a-joke” currency exchange rates
- Trying to find some time to get your “who cares what time it is” pre-flight pint in and, finally...
- Using Google translate to direct your taxi driver to the impossible-to-pronounce resort you booked after a stupidly heavy night out for Dave’s leaving party.
What’s more, we get it. The Great British landscape isn’t exactly synonymous with soft white sands and glistening azure waters, not like Tahiti, Belize and Sumba Island are, which is why you’ll be awesomely surprised to learn there are a plethora of hidden beaches, sensational shores and covert coves dotted along our home coastline, each of them perfect for weekend adventures and celebrating the privilege of spontaneity.
No travel hassles and no need to pack more than an overnight case; the unbelievable beaches offer up something special - a momentary escape from reality and somewhere licked with luxury to lay your head. Mmmm hmmmm.
The string of silver sand beaches that make up Morar are as rare as anywhere on earth; a snapshot of perfection that will leave you unable to trust your own eyes because this sort of sensational seascape is meant to be exclusive to the southern Island of New Zealand, not western Scotland. Yet here is this hush-hushed hideaway of forest-fringed sands, where every grain seems to sparkle like a atom-sized engagement ring, the undulating hills rocking and rolling as far as the eye can see. But it’s the colour of the water that will leave you rubbing your eyes will the balls of your palms more than anything. They are epic AF. More turquoise than the Aegean Sea surrounding Andros and the last of Greece’s other untouched islands. Far from the madding crowd of haggis, battered chocolate and tumblers of whisky mixed with more whisky; this little slice of paradise of soft sand and stallions cantering through the waves feels like something pulled from the pages of a Lord Of The Rings novel. And it sounds like it too. The Silver Sands Of Morar.
Stay in luxury at: The Morar Hotel, of course.
It’s the only place you can wake from a well-earned doze, roll back the curtains and lap up the most breathtaking views of Morar and the Inner Hebridean islands of Rum & Eigg, your peripherals tugging your eyes from left to right so that you don’t miss a single moment of this place. And they do a fantastic breakfast, which ahs got to accrue a handful of Brownie points to say the least.
Blackpool Sands, Devon
There aren’t many places you can run away and just forget the world, escaping the mundanities of everyday life, as you hide on the sort of beach that has all the makings of a old school adventure, but this soft-shingle cove has that sort of vibe scrawled all over it. It’s like a moment from Swallows and Amazons. It’s a crescent-shaped secret surrounded by pine-covered cliffs, their scent floating in the air like the perfume of some sixties screen siren, all of it dancing on the edge of these clear-clear waters. It’s the perfect weekend escape for those madly in love, the winding coast road above the beach deliciously specked with pretty trees making it totally perfect for a stylish entrance into what feels like the south of France, your classic convertible purring as your gorgeous lady holds onto her silk headscarf. It’s nothing shy of idyllic.
Stay in luxury at: Ellesmera Mill.
This 400-year-old property is the most enchanting blend of rusticity, grace and charm, offering you the most - and we mean the most - romantic and bewitching bolthole for that out-of-the-ordinary escape. There’s even a wood-fired hot tub tucked behind the old stone house. So grab a few bottles of expensive bubbly on your way down and clink glasses while stargazing from the gardens of this storybook haven.
Sat quietly beneath the Minack Theatre clifftop is a version paradise that requires no plane, the lichen-encrusted granite cliffs sparkling from sunrise to set as they protect one of the most breathtaking bays of golden sand you will have ever curled between your toes. It’s that dream escape chock-full of simple pleasures: wild-swimming, fine dining and hours whiled away while chit-chatting on sandbars beneath the truly ancient cliff fort of Treryn Dinas, your shins gently slapped by the Grecian-blue waters. It’s that special somewhere for part-time adventurers and full-on foodies, the mornings spent timing the tide as you stroll from one bay to the next, the afternoons spent hanging out at the trendiest eateries outside of the Capital.
Stay in luxury at: Delphin.
This Scandi-inspired luxury beach house may be a half-hour drive along one of the most breathtaking coasts this country boasts, but after a day of swimming in the sea and indulging on fresh seafood, nothing will beat listening to vinyls by the fire as you stare across the sweeping bay between Marazion and the Lizard Peninsula from your clifftop perch.
Watergate Bay, Newquay
There is no other way of describing this two mile stretch of royal gold sand: it’s an assault on your senses. It’s a coastline decorated with towering cliffs and intriguing caves, a cacophony of peregrine falcons and fulmars looping and swooping overhead like gravity-defying Catherine Wheels, the Atlantic Ocean swelling over and over and over again, each perfect wave rolling in like clockwork. And that’s just a slice of adventure - and a milder slicer at that. Down at sea level, you have kite surfing and land yachting, with coasteering and zip wiring on the cliff tops above Lusty Glaze beach. As for those seeking a bit of of real Cornish liveliness, what could be more perfectly cliched than riding a bicycle made for two along the Camel Trail between Wadebridge and Padstow, lining your belly with fish and chips along the way before clicking drinks in every old surfer’s favourite town: Newquay.
Stay in luxury at: Sundance.
When in Rome, do as the Romans do. But when you’re in Cornwall, do something unique and book this bohemian-inspired prairie wagon hidden in the wilds of Mawgan Porth, where upcycled furnishings and wildflower gardens get to enjoy the limelight. It’s one of those rare spaces where you’ll get to dismount from normality and unleash your inner Huckleberry Finn, a tin of root beer warming in your palm as you lay back on the front deck after an evening galloping along the nearest shoreline on horseback. In short: this place is badass.
“Big sky thinking” is one of those sickening buzzwords that encourages a grimace to play about at the corner of your mouth. But make your way to the north Norfolk coast, hot step it across the worn wooden boards and onto this pine-fringed beach and you will stumble across a whole new meaning to the word “big sky”. It’s like nowhere else you will have ever been, the almost endless vista of sand, sand and more sand disappearing into the North Sea between a gully of grass specked dunes. It’s that Insta-perfect place to lay down a spotted-blanket, pop a conch shell on each of the four corners, and enjoy a rather liquid-heavy brunch, which you can then burn off on a long stroll through coastal woods to Wells-Next-Sea, where the Albatross - an 18th Century pirate ship (read: schooner) - is waiting to douse you in a pint of local ale.
Stay in luxury at: The Triumphal Arch.
If your dream escape features a stay in a truly romantic gatehouse of England’s most celebrated stately home, waking up to bird song, the clip-clop of deer herds and views down the south avenue that lead to the Obelisk, Holkham Hall and beyond, then this 18th century, grade I listed building set just outside the walls of Holkham is going to blow your bloody socks off. It’s a cocktail of elegance, charm, romanticism and wow, shaken twenty-times and then poured into a rocks glass. That’s pretty much the only way to put it.
Luskentyre, Outer Hebrides
Forget about the Bahia Emerald. Forget about the Neelanjali Ruby. And forget all about the Golden Jubilee Diamond. The most staggering gem is hidden at the end of long winding track on the wild west coast of the Isle of Harris, a moment of secluded beauty that will have your heart fluttering like a caged butterfly. Everything about this place is paradisiacal. The white sands are so brilliant they threaten to light up the night sky and the shallow azure waters are so startling, when you finally manage to pull yourself back to reality, you’ll do so with a million pinch marks up and down your arm. But it’s the locals that steal the show more than anything else; a motley crew of wild ponies, swaggering otters, seals, deers, dolphins and even eagles. All of them call these windswept islands home, while the steel-grey rollers surrounding them are their playground.
Stay in luxury at: Kinloch Follart.
With enough space to sleep a dozen people twice over, you’ll want to round up your mates, fill a handful of cars with booze, food and welly boots and head to this magnificent home set on the shores of Loch Dunvegan, where the ever-impressive MacLeod's Tables will become your backdrop for the weekend. It’s that somewhere special to rally around a summertime fireplace, corks popping so fast it’s like the word excess hasn’t been invented yet, as you recover from a loch shore walk of astonishing beauty. There are country escapes and then there are country escapes, and this one’s the latter. Oh sh*t is it the latter.
West Bay, Dorset
West Bay beach is quintessentially English. The best kind of rare imaginable; dramatic in every direction, no matter how far back you crane your neck. It’s a cocktail of gut-twisting views, the golden glow of the sandstone cliffs reflecting on the beach below, where the sand is so ridiculously soft it’s almost like tip-toeing across tiny beads of discarded silk. There are no two ways about it: this might be the most breath-snatching example of the Jurassic Coast - a coastal escape that promises to have you picking your jaw off the floor as you make your way down this rugged paradise where a million moments wait to be captured and kept.
Stay in luxury at: Sugar Ray.
Perched above the muscovado sands of Hive Beach, Barely a fossil throw from West Bay, you’ll find a cool AF clapboard beach house that’s surrounded by take-your-breath-away vistas. From the endless sea views at the front, rolling hills to the back and understated seaside elegance dancing along the thin gold line in between - it’s all epic. It’s a suave shack with a sunny disposition, where you can start your days by rolling out of bed and into the pool, spend your afternoons enjoying some sand-between-toes sort of forays, and end your evenings with a cool glass of local white around a star-specked fire pit. It’s heaven, but understated.
This place is rare. Proper rare. A single step onto the sands here and you’ll be whisked back into a bygone time, the sound of oars smashing into the sea almost audible through the lightly crashing waves that roll over the undulating sands of this wind-whipped beach, the awesome sight of Bamburgh Castle staring down at you so impressively you’ll feel like little more than a pin prick on this vast stretch of wild coastline. Yeah. That’s what this shore feels like. It feels invincible. It feels untameable. Rough, raw and ready to stir your soul as you paddle through the glass-clear waters along what might be the most pristine beach between Lands End and John O’Groats. But head here on an ice clear day, when you’re able to catch a glimpse of of Lindisfarne and the Farne Islands, and your heart will start thumping so hard it will lift your linen shirt up and down. Bamburgh Beach really is something very special indeed.
Stay in luxury at: The Stables
This is what every escape to country should look and feel like. It should be a lavish stay in a converted stable at the historic Brinkburn Estate, the ancient stone facade playing home from home for a few nights, your mind, body and soul slipping into five-star peace and quiet as the sound of rustling woodlands and splish-splashing rivers fill the quiet. With somewhere this charming and enchanting to lay down, recoup and relax, the question shouldn’t be why, it should be why the hell not, man.
And there we have it.
Eight mind-blowing spots that raise a glass of bubbly to easy escapes. Staycation celebration. Sure, zig-zagging off to some far-flung corner of the planet you’ve never been too is always the dream, but these down-the-road beaches will turn your “what to do weekends” into the best kind of adventures - the spontaneous kind - your car packed with the bare essentials and your face flickering with an ever-growing smile. Where to disappear off to is never an easy choice. But you can sleep easy knowing no matter which of these you pluck from the hat, you’ll leave with polaroids worthy of a whole new photo album.
Thanks for reading. For more ideas on how to embrace the endless summer, chase the horizon and keep your skin sun-kissed all year round, follow us on Instagram, Facebook and sign-up for a naughty-little newsletter below! (you’ll get a cheeky 10% off if you do).