Don’t Want To Fly? The Perfect Holiday Might Be Closer Than You Think
Old North Wharf, Nantucket Island. Photograph by Nine Ok/Getty Images
It’s official – travel is back. Sort of. After more than a year confined to our homes and their immediate environs, the wider world is now a tantalising prospect again, just in time for summer. There are, of course, restrictions and many of us wish to escape but aren’t keen to board a plane right now. Where can we go for a summer holiday, without leaving terra firma? Whichever side of the pond you live on, there are pockets of extraordinary beauty within easy reach – and with social distancing automatically built in. Whether you’re planning on driving, taking the train or even renting a camper van this summer, these are some hotspots to target for kicking back and basking safely and stylishly in your new-found freedom.
Shandaken Inn, New York. Photograph courtesy of Shandaken Inn
Drive time from New York: 2 hours 45 minutes
After waxing and waning for many years, the Catskills are now firmly back on the savvy traveller’s radar. This bucolic land of rolling countryside and cosy boltholes between New York City and Albany has plenty of fresh accommodation options. A number of classic properties have had major facelifts during the pandemic and design-forward newcomers are popping up to rival them. From glamping or b&bs to luxury retreats, the entire region – part of the greater Appalachian mountain chain – is also motorhome heaven, if you’re that way inclined.
Stay here: The Shandaken Inn, an old golf clubhouse turned boutique hotel on 12 acres of lush country grounds and within easy reach of some of the best hikes in the Catskills.
What to pack
Cowley Manor, The Cotswolds. Photograph by Alamy
Drive time from London: 2 hours 15 minutes
A place that charms and disarms in equal measure, the Cotswolds is the largest Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England and Wales, yet only a short drive from London. Its quintessential chocolate-box villages, scattered among soft green pillowy hills, hide a multitude of sumptuous country house hotels and charming boutique boltholes, not to mention some of the best food-serving pubs in Britain, including The Chequers in Churchill and The Kingham Plough near Chipping Norton. The latter village, in particular, is surrounded by delightful campsites for those who wish to escape the city fully and embrace the countryside by staying under canvas.
Stay here: Cowley Manor, a grand country house retreat set in beautiful grounds, with the addition of a world-class spa and heated indoor and outdoor pools.
What to pack
Straight Wharf, Nantucket Island. Photograph by Atlantide Photo Travel/Getty Images
Drive time from Boston: 3 hours 30 minutes
Nantucket means “faraway land” in the language of the Wampanoag, the island’s native inhabitants. This quaint golden elbow of sand might be only an hour’s ferry ride from Cape Cod, but you feel like you’re entering a different world when you arrive. Nantucket even has its own language – off-islanders are “coofs”, for example, and fancy dinners are “manavelins”. The former are warmly welcomed here and there are plenty of the latter for them to enjoy during their visit, mainly at fine-dining restaurants a seashell’s toss from the shore. Just be prepared for the unofficial dress code. Nantucket reds – cherry-coloured pants or shorts – are part of the fabric of this place.
Stay here: Life House Nantucket, the hip boutique hotels brand’s first northeastern outpost, is a 14-room reimagining of an old innkeeper’s cottage, perched atop one of the highest points on the island.
What to pack
The Lake District
Ambleside, Lake District. Photograph by Mr Ian Cylkowski/Unsplash
Drive time from Manchester: 1 hour 30 minutes
Rushing rivers, tumbling waterfalls and sturdy stone villages. The Lake District is the perfect antidote to city life, whether you’re here to climb the highest peaks in England, sail on majestic lakes such as Ullswater, Windermere or Coniston Water, or dive into the local food scene at hotspots such as the Michelin-starred Forest Side Hotel in Grasmere and The Old Stamp House in Ambleside, an exquisite little restaurant in Mr William Wordsworth’s old office. Those on more of a budget should check out the superb Drunken Duck Inn, also in Ambleside, while considering the national park’s picturesque five-star campsites.
Stay here: The Samling is the ideal, idyllic base from which to explore the Lakes – if you can tear yourself away from this luxurious fellside hideaway, with its cosy fires and excellent restaurant.
What to pack
Santa Ynez Valley
Rosewood Miramar, Montecito. Photograph by Mr Ryan Barnes, courtesy of Rosewood Hotels
Drive time from Los Angeles: 2 hours 15 minutes
Santa Barbara wine country is a little over two hours’ drive from Los Angeles and boasts some of the finest wines – and tasting rooms – in the country. Base yourself in pretty Montecito, Prince Harry’s new ’hood, and venture out into the valley proper to explore bucolic operations such as Folded Hills, the immensely popular brainchild of former beer magnate Mr Andy Busch, and Rusack Vineyards, where you can sip the best drops while sitting in rolling fields, surrounded by cows and alpacas. When you’re ready for a slightly faster pace, head to The Funk Zone in Santa Barbara, where you’ll find a cluster of jaunty tasting rooms a short stroll from the beachfront. With this much booze on offer, plenty of people leave their cars in the city and take the direct train here from Los Angeles instead.
Stay here: Rosewood Miramar Beach, a magnificent new oceanfront property in Montecito that’s already proving a magnet for the rich and beautiful of Southern California.
What to pack
The Southern Highlands
Trossachs National Park, Balloch. Photograph by Mr Gary Ellis/Unsplash
Drive time from Edinburgh: 1 hour 15 minutes
Scotland’s Southern Highlands and islands might not get as much attention as their flinty northern counterparts, but they’re just as beautiful, if not more so. The Trossachs region is a particular treat, with its thickly forested hills, majestic forts and romantic lochs. Small towns such as Oban, with its sustainable seafood scene, and Inverary, with its lochside views and showstopping castle, are waiting to be explored, while there are enough whisky distilleries in this part of the world to keep even the thirstiest of travellers slaked indefinitely.
Stay here: Gleneagles, aka The Glorious Playground, blends luxury and adventure with dazzling aplomb, somehow managing to feel endlessly open and rugged and impossibly cosy at the same time.
What to pack
Texas Hill Country
Commodore Perry Estate, Austin. Photograph courtesy of Commodore Perry Estate
Drive time from Houston: 2 hours 30 minutes
When most people’s thoughts turn to Texas, they picture sprawling, dusty ranches and shining, oil-powered mega-cities such as Dallas and Houston. Which is why Hill Country, with its charming lakes, waterfalls and vineyards, is such a breath of fresh air. Just west of Austin, this is a place where afternoons are spent at swimming holes and evenings around campfires, staying anywhere from a simple sleeping bag under the stars to one of many five-star resorts. Down here in the heart of Texas, the hiking and fishing are legendary and the smoked brisket to be had at small-town establishments, such as Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar.B.Que in Llano and Opie’s in Spicewood, is just as mouth-wateringly delicious as anything you’ll find in the big city.
Stay here: Commodore Perry Estate, a restored historical mansion reimagined by legendary designer Mr Ken Fulk, feels like a flamboyant European retreat.