What should you do over your summer holidays if you can’t afford to go jetting off abroad? Are you doomed to spend the entire summer at home? Well fear not; whatever your interests, there are sure to be places close by that will satisfy them.
One of my favourite British summer holidays involved a road trip to the South-West. First stop was the prehistoric site of Stonehenge where, provided with an audio guide to learn about these ancient rocks and the mysteries surrounding them, we wandered around taking pictures for the Facebook holiday album- two birds, one stone! Keeping within the historical theme the next stop was the spa town of Bath and a visit to the Roman Baths themselves. Again an audio guide and photos provided the same ‘heritage’ entertainment that you would find if you forked out for a trip to Rome, it’s Classics on a budget (and as a former Classics student myself I can highly recommend it). The final place on our tour was Longleat, which plays host to the lavish Elizabethan residence of Lord Bath. The house is open to the public and is set alongside a safari park where you can get up close and personal with exotic animals, without the expense of flying to Africa, and in the safety and comfort of your own car- although I would suggest avoiding the monkey enclosure if you are particularly attached to your windscreen-wipers!
If you are still left wanting more, heading down to Newquay isn’t too much of a stretch and there you can don your wetsuit and hit the waves in proper summer holiday, surfer style.
It’s also worth mentioning London. Tourists come from all over to see the highlights of the UK’s capital city and its landmarks and attractions: London Dungeons, Madame Tussauds, the London Eye, Big Ben, museums, markets, theatres, galleries- I could go on. All the things that you would do if you visited a foreign city, you could do in London. Admittedly it may be far from the cheapest city in the world but once you take flights out of the equation that frees up a bit of extra cash and there are bargains aplenty. Many museums and galleries are free of charge, Camden Market has an amazingly authentic and worldly food-court, as well as many incense-scented stalls, evocative of more exotic places, and with a constant stream of street performers, Covent Garden is a great place to grab some free entertainment.
If none of that is to your taste then there’s always the traditional English Beach holiday. Walks along the promenade, fish and chips, stripy beach chairs and ice-cream and arcades can be found in places like the Suffolk town of Southwold. Admittedly some of its shops and restaurants are a little pricey but with a lot of seaside towns becoming run down and commercialised, Southwold is a great place to go if you want tradition (although chain shops are starting to emerge). What’s more, in July it hosts the chilled out, indie Latitude Festival. So after three days of camping out, shower-free, delighting in some music and comedy, you can chill out on a beach and explore a lovely seaside town. Not too shabby, eh?
That’s another thing that can be said about England, there is no shortage of festivals: Glastonbury, Reading & Leeds, V Festival, Download, Bestival, Hard Rock Calling, T in the Park… and that’s just to name a few. Whatever your music taste there’s always somewhere that gives you a chance to pull on your wellies, camp and jump around to some unforgettable tunes.
So there you have it, festivals, beaches, tourist attractions, animals and classical culture all in driving distance on our little island, not to mention the many national parks spanning the length of the British Isles. It may not quite match up to the glamorous beach holidays associated with places like Spain and Greece, but you can still take a road-trip, soak up culture and attempt a tan whilst on a budget. It’s always easy to overlook things to do close to home but I suggest it’s time to check out what home has to offer.
Originally written for Impact Magazine