The Staycation Guide For Summer 2009

Posted on: 23 June 2009 by Gareth Hargreaves

Independent UK travel journalist David Atkinson has compiled the definitive guide to staycationing this summer.

This Summer is most definitely the Summer of the ‘Staycation’, with more people than ever expected to holiday in the UK rather than abroad in order to cut down on costs.

The UK has loads of exciting cities, lively towns and picturesque places waiting for you to explore. Getting there by train is a great way to beat the traffic jams and enjoy the sights throughout the journey.

To help uncover the hidden gems of the UK, Senior Railcard has teamed up with award winning independent UK travel journalist, David Atkinson, who regularly writes for Wanderlust, CNN Traveller and several national newspapers, to provide us with tips to the top five destinations this summer, all within easy reach by train.

“Not going abroad doesn’t mean you should have any less fun this summer,” says David.

“The UK has an amazing array of vibrant, fun and exciting places to visit, and by taking advantage of practical money-saving tools like the Senior Railcard, you can do it all without breaking the bank. Let’s just hope that the predictions ring true and we get that barbecue summer.”


Nearest station: Penzance

Genteel Penzance, the hub town of West Cornwall, is known for its temperate microclimate and attractive Georgian architecture. It enjoyed a heyday as a fashionable seaside resort at the beginning of the 20th century. Today, the terminus of the five-hour journey from London Paddington, remains a popular base to explore the Land's End peninsula with its tip-of-the-country landscapes.

The promenade remains an ideal spot for summer strolling, while the open-air, seawater Jubilee Bathing Pool is one of the oldest surviving Art Deco swimming baths in the country. Well worth a visit is Morrab Gardens, one of the largest outdoor tropical gardens in the UK, where sub-tropical plants are part of the lavish garden designs.

Penzance is a good base to explore coastal paths around the headland to St Ives, while the stretch of Blue Flag beaches along the Penwith coastline includes the sandy Long Rock beach in the heart of Mounts Bay, looking across to the historic island community of St Michael’s Mount.

West Highlands

Nearest station: Fort William

The western uplands of Scotland, where the mountains and the sea collide, make for one of Europe's last great wildernesses. Don't expect a mobile signal round here. The rugged wilderness is a wide, empty expanse of moors, lochs and mountains shrouded in blankets of purple-flowered heather. Make your base the hub town of Fort William, dominated by Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the British Isles.

If you don't fancy tackling the single-track roads, the West Highland Line from Mallaig to Fort William (and onto Glasgow) is the way to travel. The line was voted the top rail journey in the world this year by readers of the travel magazine Wanderlust.


Nearest stations: Gloucester, Cheltenham, Stroud, Cirencester, Tewkesbury

The Cotswolds conjures up images of the idyllic, rosy-cheeked English summer. Think rows of sleepy, limestone-built villages, flower-strewn country lanes and rustic pubs all dotted around the Severn Vale from the regency splendour of Cheltenham to historic Gloucester with its Gothic cathedral. The latter two make for an obvious touring base, but you can avoid the high-season hordes by opting for charming Stroud, Cirencester and Tewkesbury.

But, this summer, the Cotswolds is all about country, not town. A new campaign, aimed at positioning the area as Britain's Rural Capital of Culture, comprises an array of art, performance, sport and foodie events. For example, Gifford's Circus offers a revival of the Cotswold country circus under canvas, while the Longborough Festival Opera brings world-standard opera to a former chicken barn.

For some local home comforts, book into the Grey Cottage, located some 20 miles from Cheltenham. The owner, Rosemary Reeves, is a former winner of the AA Friendliest Landlady of the Year Award and runs a tight ship in the true spirit of the Great British B&B.


Nearest station: Aberystwyth

The arrival of the railway in 1864 transformed Aberystwyth into a fashionable seaside destination. In 1872 it was chosen for the first college of the University of Wales and in 1907 became the home to the National Library of Wales. Today Aberystwyth combines brash seaside charms with some stately Georgian architecture, and retains a strong sense of Welsh identity with independent shops and Welsh widely spoken on the street.

To get a sense of how the town is evolving, catch the Victorian Cliff Railway, the UK’s longest, and slowest, electric funicular, to the top of Constitution Hill for wind-blown views of Cardigan Bay. The Victorian camera obscura survives as a testament to the resort's erstwhile genteel charms.

Some of the seaside hotels are looking rather tired, but the opening of Gwesty Cymru has brought a frisson of boutique-chic to Aberystwyth. The character property feels very Welsh with grey-slate features throughout and cosy rooms, some with sea views. And don't miss dinner at Ultra Comida, a seriously upmarket deli with a heady blend of Spanish, French and Welsh flavours.

Lake District

Nearest stations: Windermere, Hawkshead, Kendal, Settle, Penrith

The domain of romantic poets, hill walkers and the soon-to-retire Lord Melvyn Bragg, the Lakes is the largest national park in Britain. But don't worry. While your walking boots and Gore-Tex will be put to good use, there's a gentle stroll in rolling pasture for every calf-burning yomp up Scafell Pike. 

New projects for summer combine some easy-paced walking with Cumbrian heritage and culture. The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has produced a Beer By Bus trail, combining a short walk in the heart of the Langdale Valley with visits to real-ale pubs in the Ambleside area. Statesman Rail, meanwhile, launches the first steam-train service to Carlisle for over 40 years from 29 July. The trains snakes a unique 260-mile round trip along the world-famous Settle to Carlisle line in authentic 1950s carriages.

For foodies, the owners of the George & Dragon near Penrith have added stylish new accommodation to complement the locally sourced, seasonal food. Meanwhile, the Michelin-starred Sharrow Bay Hotel near Ullswater is now even selling its legendary, secret-recipe sticky toffee pudding in Harvey Nichols.

For only £26 a year, the Senior Railcard offers holders aged over 60 an epic 1/3 off the price of adult train tickets. Also available, online only, is the 3-Year Railcard for just £65, which saves cardholders an extra £13 on the cost of renewing for three consecutive years.

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