Who needs Europe? The British alternatives to the Continent’s greatest holiday destinations


It was meant to be so different. After two tough summers when the once-simple concept of an overseas holiday was stymied by Covid, PCR tests, border restrictions, lockdowns of various severities, “red lists” and quarantine hotels, 2022 came over the horizon hailed as the year that would mark a return to normality. Travel would slip back into the relatively soft currents it had sailed in 2019, the many obstacles of the pandemic would be cleared away and beaches across Europe would beckon. Everyone back to the airport.

It hasn’t quite worked out that way. While it would be grossly inaccurate to declare that the sunspots of France, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Italy, Croatia and Turkey et al will be inaccessible in the fast-approaching high-season months of July and August, you may already be wondering whether you have the patience and fortitude required to reach them. 

You will have read the headlines. They have been impossible to ignore. Major airlines cancelling flights at short notice. Biblical-length queues for security – lengthy enough, in some cases, for planes to be missed. Mountains of undelivered bags piled outside terminals. Industrial action making even the first part of the journey a hurdle to be leapt. 

Some of these problems are the inevitable ­consequence of a planet – and a travel industry – struggling to regain momentum after so long in a holding pattern. But while the situation is likely to improve as the clock ticks onwards and staffing numbers recover at check-in desks, security ­scanners and baggage-handling facilities, it may be tempting to look at all the commotion and decide that it’s better to stay on home shores.

There is no sense of defeatism in this. One of the lessons learnt during the pandemic is that the UK can be as wondrous a destination as anywhere else – and if you are thinking of keeping it British in the coming weeks, you will find plentiful options to ease your wanderlust. In fact, you don’t even have to abandon the continental holiday you were dreaming of in January. Sort of. With a little lateral thinking, you can still have that Greek-island jaunt, that wine-tasting tour, that mountain escape, without having to go through customs. Here are 15 substitutes for ­classic European breaks. You will need your sun cream, your camera and your floatiest dress. Just not your passport…

Côte d’Azur

Instead of Nice, try Hayle Estuary

It can never be an exact replica. For one thing, France’s south coast revels in average temperatures of about 26C in July; the north coast of Cornwall some five degrees lower. But the trick to a glorious beach break is a fine stretch of shoreline, and a place to stay which pushes all your right buttons. Gaze at the River Hayle where it reaches the sea – the grand arc of Carbis Bay to the west, the epic sands of Hayle Beach and Mexico Towans Beach to the east – and you won’t think that you are in Cannes. But you won’t care either.

How to do it: A seven-night stay for two at the five-star Carbis Bay Hotel, arriving on August 6, costs from £3,080 in total (£3,850 with breakfast; 01736 795 311; carbisbayhotel.co.uk).

‘Ancient’ Rome

Instead of The Colosseum, try Hadrian’s Wall

There is, of course, an endless historic glory to the Eternal City – and there is no point in pretending that, if you dream of Roman history in giant statement buildings, Britain has anything to echo the greatest amphitheatre ever built. And yet, in terms of travels in the Europe of two millennia ago, the formidable dividing line between conquered Britannia and unruly Caledonia offers much more to savour – 73 miles of sturdy stonework, laid down in 122AD, which stretches across the peaks and troughs of Northumberland and Cumbria. Cause enough for a holiday of several days, not just an afternoon’s sightseeing.

How to do it: Headwater (01606 369 882; headwater.com) offers “Walking the Best of Hadrian’s Wall” – a six-day self-guided tour of a central section of the route. From £759 per person.


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