Cheap UK holidays 2023: 10 destinations for a budget staycation
As summer approaches, many will be wanting to take advantage of longer nights and better weather to go on holiday. With a cost of living crisis meaning people are considering the price of holidays more than ever, some have turned to staycations as their best option for well-deserved break.
Luckily, the UK has a wealth of potential destinations that are accessible on a budget, from stunning beach holidays to culture-rich city breaks and activity-fuelled countryside getaways.
From the Scilly Isles to the Outer Hebrides, Britain is blessed with a range of places that work brilliantly for almost any kind of break, from a trip with friends to a family getaway during the school holidays.
Whether wandering the canals of Liverpool to hiking the hills of the Lake District, here is our pick of the best budget staycations to get you even more exciting about the coming summer months.
Newcastle is famous for a nightlife scene made notable by university students and a certain long-running Geordie TV show. What many people don’t know is that the city is remarkably picturesque, with a range of architectural styles visible within the city centre. The jewel of the eclectic mix is Grey Street, with a range of 19th-century buildings that includes the city’s Theatre Royal and Central Arcade.
The Tyne Bridge and the Angel of the North are the main monuments, but other areas – such as Ouseburn or the Quayside – are worth exploring. Direct trains from York run regularly and can be picked up from £7.80 one way; despite the distance, return trains from London can be picked up for as little as £29 if booked in advance.
INNSide, a hotel project from the Melia group, has cheap double rooms in an excellent city centre location; some rooms even overlook the Tyne Bridge.
Read more on UK travel:
Consistenly ranked as one of Britain’s favourite UK holiday destinations, the Lake District can offer reasonably priced accommodation alongside dozens of activities for all ages. Lake Windermere, the biggest in England, is the main lure, but others such as Buttermere and Derwentwater also provide a scenic setting for walking, picnicking or hiking. Brockhole, a not-for-profit attraction run by the National Park Authority, lists cave exploring, archery and laser clay among its activities, while water sports fans can canoe, kayak, dive and rent boats while on the lakes.
Head to Keswick or Bowness-on-Windermere to see tranquil English towns and the several Beatrix Potter-related sights, including her house and the World of Beatrix Potter Attraction.
Return trains from London to Oxenholme cost around £66, while those from Manchester are priced as low as £18 return.
The Rayrigg Villa Guest House sits just over a mile from Lake Windermere and is right in the town. Offering a traditional English breakfast every morning, this ivy-coloured Victorian villa is perfect for couples.
The host of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest is a Unesco Music City that still thrives off its musical history. The Beatles museum is an ever-popular attraction (as is Penny Lane), while the Liver Building and cathedrals are among the architectural sights. Most visitors will want to take a walk around the canals and the Royal Albert Docks, while those who prefer museums and galleries have the pick of the Tate Liverpool, the Maritime Museum or the International Slavery Museum among others.
A visit to this bustling city wouldn’t really be complete without a night out, so head to the Cavern Club for a (perhaps ‘touristy’ but definitely worthwhile) peek into the city’s music scene, or take your pick from any of the dozens of popular pubs and clubs.
Return tickets from London can be found for as little at £50, while those from nearby cities (such as Manchester and Leeds) can be bought for as little as £6.60 and £20, respectively.
The Leonardo Hotel is located right on the waterfront, a mile from the city centre but only 0.2 miles from the Albert Dock and 0.6 miles from the Liver Building. Formerly a Jurys Inn hotel, the location is also perfect for anyone attending events at the arena.
Nominated in the nature category for National Geographic’s ‘Best in the World’ series, the Highland area spans almost 26,000 square kilometres and is home to just 600,000 people, making it one of the most sparsely populated places in Europe. It’s home to both Ben Nevis (the highest peak in the UK) and Loch Ness (the largest lake by volume in the UK), and the vast woodland area contains dozens of lakes, waterfalls and even beaches.
Some of the other best natural attractions include Achmelvich beach, the Falls of Glomach and Loch Lomond. Inverness is the main city and is likely where you’ll travel to at the start of your Highland adventure, but due to the distance from London train tickets can be very expensive. The best bet is to fly, with easyJet running direct flights from both Luton and Gatwick for as little as £58 return.
Use Inverness as your base with a stay at the Royal Highland Hotel – located just 150 metres from the station – before heading out to explore the Highlands.
Scotland’s largest city may not have the historical attractions (or Fringe Festival) of Edinburgh, but it is the country’s “cultural heart”, with a vibrant arts scene including the Centre for Contemporary Arts, the Hunterian Art Gallery and Kelvingrove Gallery and Museum. Those in search of music or a night out can head to venues like the O2 Academy, Barrowlands or SWG3.
There are shops, restaurants and cafes aplenty in the centre (make sure to take a walk down Buchanan Street, the city’s picturesque main shopping street) and areas such as the South Side neighbourhood, where artisan bakeries and delicious brunch spots meet Michelin-rated restaurants. On the first and last Sunday of the month, the area also hosts the Park Lane Market, where local artists and businesses showcase their work.
If you have any sort of railcard, trains are available from London for around £45 and Manchester for £33 (£51 without railcard). Alternatively, a another choice if travelling from the south would be flights, available from Luton, Stansted and Bristol for around £54.
SafeStay Glasgow is situated near Charing Cross station, just a mile from O2 Academy and 0.7 miles from George Square, offering double rooms from as little as £38.
Perhaps the UK’s most famous seaside resort, Brighton has long attracted visitors for its city setting, beach, excellent dining and nightlife. One of the main attractions is the Palace Pier, stretching over 500m into the sea and filled with an arcade, dozens of rides and plenty of food and drink options. If you’d prefer to enjoy something more than pier food, the centre of the city has dozens of excellent eateries such as Casazul, VIP Pizza and Etci Kitchen.
Brighton is a hotspot for clubbers, partygoers and stag weekends (especially in summer), with people visiting to experience events such as one of the largest pride festival in the UK, along with the opportunity to enjoy relaxing beach days and wild club nights.
The city’s proximity to London means that tickets can be purchased on the day from as little as £6 one way (leaving from London Bridge).
Found in the centre of the city and less than a mile from the beach, the pier and the Royal Pavilion, this ibis will provide a great base for exploring whatthe city has to offer with all the simple amenities you could need.
With over 400 kilometres of shoreline and a coastal path that runs for almost 300km, this county in south-west Wales has no shortage of opportunities for a day spent hiking or sunning yourself by the sea. The county welcomes just over four million visitors a year, with holidaymakers enjoying some of the UK’s best beaches, including Barafundle Bay and South Beach.
The largest town is Haverfordwest, but St David’s is perhaps the most well-known. Britain’s smallest city is home to the cathedral (the burial site of the country’s patron saint), the Bishop’s Palace and the Wales Coastal Walk.
There are no direct trains to Pembrokeshire from London, so buy tickets to Swansea (around £60 return) and then separate tickets to stations such as Haverfordwest (£19 open return).
With double rooms from as little as £67, Ty Milford Waterfront is a great option for travellers in an area where places to stay aren’t in abundance (and get booked far in advance). As the name suggests, this hotel sits on the waterfront in Milford Haven, with lovely views of the town and its harbour.
Sitting along the River Avon in the south-west of the UK (and very close to the England-Wales border), Bristol has developed a reputation as one of the best places to live and work in the UK. The council states that the city’s reputation as a cultural centre “has grown dramatically in recent years”, propelled by a booming arts scene, dozens of cultural and historical attractions (including the SS Great Britain, designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, one of the UK’s most ingenious engineers), and various sights such as the suspension bridge and the houses of Cliftonville.
Clifton Village is the perfect place to explore on foot during the mornings, with a wealth of independent coffee shops. Stokes Croft, its the more characterful, edgy cousin and with its roads lined with street art which leads up to Gloucester Road, credited with being the longest street of independent shops in Europe.
Return tickets from London are available on Trainline for £45; Manchester is a lot more expensive at £100 for an open return, although coach options start at just £11.85.
Although a little far from the centre, the Clifton Hotel offers charming accommodation withinwalking distance of the village and just a short bus ride (or 20-minute walk) from the central parts . Attached to it is Racks, a lively bar and restaurant (with heated outdoor terrace) that’s popular with students and locals.
Portrush, Northern Ireland
Found on a mile-long peninsula on the Atlantic Coast, Portrush was once a “humble fishing village” that has grown into a popular seaside town for Northern Irish and international tourists alike. The East and West Strand beaches have long stretches of golden sand and crystalline waters, while Whiterocks provides a more natural setting surrounded by white rocks formations and cliffs. Water sports are the main activities here, with surfing, kayaking, sailing and diving all popular.
Coleraine is the “informal capital of the Causeway Coast” and offers all the basic amenities, while the town of Portstewart (and its beaches) are just four miles away if this section of County Antrim proves too small.
Visitors to Portrush will likely have to go through Belfast; the easiest way to reach the town from England is via plane, with regular flights from Gatwick, Stansted and Manchester from £30. Flights from Glasgow are start from around £50.
Built in a classic US motel style, the North Coast Motel receives consistently excellent reviews from guests for its location, cleanliness and the standard of rooms. Within walking to distance to several beaches and local attractions, it’ll make the perfect base for a seaside retreat.
Visitors flock to Weymouth for its impressive beaches and the pastel-coloured Georgian buildings that line its harbour (and house several shops, cafes and restaurants). More picturesque than neighbouring Bournemouth, the town also benefits from being along the Jurassic Coast – one of the UK’s Unesco World Heritage Sites – with easy travel to exceptional beaches such as Durdle Door or Chesil Beach.
A truly charming English seaside resort, Weymouth has everything that the stereotypical British seaside getaway needs: long stretches of sand, chippies, ice cream parlours, and bars and restaurants with waterside seating and music. Perfect for reliving childhood memories, a return train journey from London is priced under £30.
While a lot of the town’s accommodation can get expensive, B&Bs such as The Bay Guest House offer a more charming, quaint setting. Just one minute away from the seafront (and six from the station), all rooms offer en-suite bathrooms and guests can look forward to a traditional full English every morning.
Read more reviews of the best UK hotels