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A Summer of staycations? It’s time to explore England

With many of our favourite attractions now beginning to reopen their doors, VisitEngland have rounded up some ways to enjoy outings across the country. Plus, with breaks away now possible from 4th July, restaurants, pubs, campsites and accommodation providers are busy putting measures in place to welcome people back. Look at some of the creative ways England‘s amazing tourism industry is adapting. Gardens re-awakening With gardens in full bloom and long summer days, it’s never been a better time to reconnect with the beauty of our English gardens and landscapes! The Eden Project in Cornwallhas partially reopened its 30-acre outdoor gardens with miles of scenic routes to explore and it won’t be long before we can visit the huge Biomes which house stunning plants in the largest rainforest in captivity. Tickets must be pre-booked in advance. Trentham Estate in Staffordshire has re-opened to members and those with pre-booked tickets. Meander along the flowing weir and meadows of the Capability Brown designed Trentham Lake. Take the Fairy Trail and discover the fairies that live in the magical woodland and gardens. The gardens at Hever Castle are home to an ever-changing display of wonderful plants and shrubs throughout the seasons, with the rhododendrons, azaleas and roses blossoming, providing a kaleidoscope of colour and wonderfully perfumed aromas this month The lake walk and boating alongside some takeaway options are also open. Entry tickets must be pre-booked. Warwick Castle has opened the grounds and gardens with plans to reopen the castle and other activities from 4th July. The Peacock Garden is blooming a rainbow of summer florals and topiary to a backdrop of the grand fountain and over 20 roaming peacocks! Stroll along the rolling lawns of the Pageant Field, along the River Avon and see what nature you can spot as you explore the wooded areas. Witness the beauty of the portcullis of Warwick Castle and marvel at the splendour of the castle’s ancient architecture in the main courtyard and iconic East Front. The National Trust has reopened many of their gardens, parklands and beaches. With over 780 miles of coastline or leisurely strolls across manicured lawns and gardens brimming with vibrant colours and floral scents in over 200 properties, there’s something to please all pleasures. Beeston Castle and Woodland Gardens in Cheshire; Brodsworth Hall and Gardens in Yorkshire; Old Sarum in Wiltshire, and Battle Abbey, the site of the 1066 Battle of Hastings, in Sussex are now open for the public once again. More of their iconic sites are opening at the beginning of July including the UNESCO World Heritage Site Stonehenge, Whitby Abbey, Dover Castle and Tintagel Castle. Take a walk on the wild side – the re-opening of zoos ZSL Whipsnade and ZSL London Zoo’s resident animals are fluffing up their feathers and stretching their legs to welcome back visitors after three months of closure. The zoos reopened with only outdoor activities on offer in a first phase on 15th June for pre-booked ticket holders, with further phases in the planning. Marwell Zoo is the perfect place to visit when looking for things to do with kids in Hampshire. The 140-acre wildlife park is home to hundreds of animals, from endangered Amur tigers, snow leopards and white rhinos to giraffes, gibbons and penguins. Marwell Zoo will reopen its doors yesterday for members, with a general reopening on 3rd July for pre-booked tickets. Wild Place Project, which aims to inspire families to enjoy nature with a number of outdoor adventures, has reopened with a new timed ticketing system. Discover wildlife from the UK and around the world including Bear Wood; and explore the woods, parkland and trails. Drive-in cinemas, discos and even comedy festivals popping up across the country @TheDriveIn will show 12 movies across England from July to October, so if 80’s retro movies and noughties classics are your thing then get set for an evening of entertainment in the comfort of your car under the twinkling stars. They have also confirmed stand-up comedy, bingo and silent car discos! Cinema will cost from £35 per car with destinations including Brighton, Southampton, Bristol, London; Liverpool and Newcastle on offer. INDOOR Drive-In Cinema are planning the World’s First Comedy Festival in a Drive-in Cinema with COMEDY IN CARS, packed full of leading comedians from the UK and International comedy circuit, teaming up with sister company the Award winning Grinstock Comedy to bring a comedy festival and shows, like nothing ever done before. More details and locations coming soon. Pub in The Park, the UK’s biggest food and drink tour, will this year bring the ultimate drive-in theatre experience to eight different locations across the country in July and August including Tunbridge Wells; Marlow; Bath; Chichester; Warwick; St Albans and London. Enjoy classics and new films on the big screen while munching into gourmet food curated by Michelin-starred chef Tom Kerridge. Overnight stays – when we can finally have that night away! Rockliffe Hall in Darlington, Durham is offering the ultimate in luxury distancing.  The five star luxury golf and spa hotel has created a number of in-room and distanced experiences to welcome back their guests. With a Champagne and Cocktail trolley service bringing the bar to guests, wine and dine ‘al fresco’ on the sunny patios and terraces, or the option of ordering a picnic hamper to take on a leisurely stroll of the estate. If you are looking for ultimate relaxation, Rockliffe have created a ‘Spa in a Box’ skin care kit complete with a guided video on how to perform a treatment yourself in the comfort of your five-star bedroom. For those who like to get outdoors, the hotel will be offering complimentary bike hire for all guests along with tennis and croquet on the lawn. Tudor Farmhouse, a 20-room boutique hotel in the Forest of Dean, has just announced a new three-night Breakout Escape, the perfect way to enjoy long summer days when the hotel reopens on thwww.bicsport.comhe short break brings together a choice of life affirming outdoor activities such as wild swimming; stand up paddle boarding as well as the chance to go on a wildlife safari, with a boutique hotel stay in the heart of the Forest of Dean. London Fitzrovia’s The Mandrake Hotel is set to reopen July 4 and with this, launches a reimagined spiritual wellbeing offering tailored to the needs of post-lockdown society. The two-night package will cost from £300 and include access to wellness sessions including morning meditation; Crystal Bowl Sound Healing; Breathwork; Gong Baths and Cacao ceremonies, a form of Shamanic healing. Also in time for July, the hotel will reopen the restaurant YOPO serving food to nurture both physical and mental health; unveil a new exclusive ‘Cabanas’ private dining option opening out onto the terrace, one of the largest outdoor spaces of any hotel in London as well as a rich calendar of retreats and  cultural and virtual events. New ways to dine 10 dining pods at White Hart of Wytham, Oxford have been constructed out of mostly recycled materials. Structures made of wood and plastic sheeting, covered in vine leaves and dotted with fairy lights will make for an ambient experience. Or what about feasting on a rooftop allotment at Where The Light Gets In, Stockport? This Manchester restaurant will accommodate their guests on the roof, turning a disused concrete patch into an allotment-like oasis. The space, which already houses their community garden, will have small barn-style buildings for happy diners. Rock’s St Moritz Hotel & Spa set to launch new purpose-designed and built socially distanced restaurant  Nicknamed ‘The Anti-Social Club’, the new pop-up dining concept at this North Cornwall hotel, will consist of 16 private dining rooms, with a maximum of 96 covers.  Mixing the elements of private members clubs, private dining rooms, cool beach clubs and summer pop-up restaurants, the Anti-Social Club will feature multiple dining times, clear guidance and exacting operating procedures that ensure the social distancing rule and new environmental health requirements are met at all times. This will usher in a new ‘bubble’ dining ethos as an exclusive dining opportunity. Before you travel check out https://www.visitengland.com/know-before-you-go for the latest guidance and top tips to help you plan responsibly and respect, protect and enjoy England when out and about.

Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson is Editor of A Luxury Travel Blog and has worked in the travel industry for more than 30 years. He is Winner of the Innovations in Travel ‘Best Travel Influencer’ Award from WIRED magazine. In addition to other awards, the blog has also been voted “one of the world’s best travel blogs” and “best for luxury” by The Daily Telegraph.

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  1. I went to Warwick castle quite a few years ago but sadly missed the dungeon part, which I wouldn’t mind checking out if I ever go back. Even without that is was a full day of enjoyment, especially with the good weather as we were able to make the most of the outdoors to sit, eat, walk around and generally do as we pleased. There’s plenty to look at and explore in the castles too. I don’t recall the Peacock garden when I went, though it was several years ago, maybe 8 or so as time seems to fly faster than I can keep track. I definitely wouldn’t say no to going back and probably staying overnight nearby next time. It’s good to hear that the National Trust are re-opening some of their parks, gardens and coastlines. They’re so important for people to get some fresh air and exercise, and getting out in nature does wonders for our mental health.

    I’ve read about these drive in cinemas. There’s something coming to Gloucestershire in Summer I think, maybe a mix of music and film that you can drive to and enjoy in the safety of your car or, I think, the patch of land next to it as an image I saw to showcase the idea suggests it’ll be like a grid space where you can park and sit outside next to your car (don’t hold me to that, but it’s what I took from it). That wouldn’t be such a bad idea but I’d be worried about lack of toilet facilities unless they start reopening public toilets, especially in venues like this where you’re going to be there for at least an hour or two, not including travel to the venue. Still, an interesting idea and it’s great to see the initiative being taken to keep leisure entertainment going safely despite the virus.

  2. Love the idea of “The Anti-Social Club”. I hope that one of the benefits of Covid is that it changes the way we dine.

    Some restaurants were trying to cram more diners into their rooms. Taking a normal year of colds and flu putting loads of people into small spaces is asking for trouble. When you have to ask people to move their chairs so that you can get to your table and the waitresses have to be size zero to squeeze through you know that the restaurants are getting it wrong. There were a lot of cafes and restaurants that were simply the wrong shape.

    If we come out of this able to eat in space and peace, even if we have to pay more, then it will be a good thing. I’d rather pay more to have a good experience. Personally I wouldn’t mind if I can’t eat out so often.

  3. You write about gardens re-awakening. I think 2020 is a vintage year for British gardens. Spring came early and brought a lot of early warmth to encourage plant growth. I know that the long dry spell lasted perhaps a little bit too long but since then we’ve had almost sub-tropical spells of rain followed by hot sun. Moving away from the professional gardeners the villages near me are looking magnificent. Lockdown encouraged people to spend more time in their garden: fences have been painted, shrubs pruned, flower beds weeded and lawns regularly cut. It is as if every village is competing for A Village in Bloom title. With less air pollution, Britain is looking in better shape than it has for many years.

    1. It’s probably just sour grapes because I don’t fancy getting embroiled with quarantine / temperature checks / hours in a mask and no in-flight magazines but there are definite advantages to a staycation in England.

      For once I’m not going to miss the queue for immigration after a 10 hour flight, the immigration official who looks at me as if I’m number one in Interpol’s Most Wanted list, the taxi driver who demands at least £70 go take me to my hotel and the family of mosquitoes who hitch a lift with me but don’t keep themselves to their selves.

      Yes, a staycation might make a nice change. Who knows we might even get used to it?

  4. Among the places I planned on visiting when lockdowns have been lifted were safaris, gardens, and the Outback. I’m still wary of places that have a tendency to attract a lot of people, such as popular tourist sites. I know I can visit those when it is completely safe to do so, meaning there is no danger of COVID anymore. For now, I just want to be able to travel, and seeing as these amazing gardens and zoos in England will be opening this month or the coming months, I will certainly plan a trip to one to enjoy the scenery and the fresh air. Being cooped up for too long is not good for your mental health.

  5. I never thought that I would see drive-in cinemas come back to life again. It is probably the only thing that excites me given the bad things happening all over the world. However, I also miss how we used to spend summer days before the existence of the pandemic. I understand that there are activities that we will not be able to enjoy anymore or it may require us to be cautious considering that we are trying to keep the virus at bay but this should not hinder us from exploring other things that we may eventually enjoy.

    Gardens do not only exist for aesthetic purposes. According to research, gardens also promote social unity, provide mental health benefits, and improve the temperature in nearby areas where it is established. On the other hand, booking private villas can also be an option if you just want to relax and explore local boutiques and try out foods from different restaurants. I am still figuring out other activities that my family can enjoy when we visit England and this article gave me a few ideas on polishing my itinerary. The pandemic may have altered my expectations but it will not stop me from having a good time and exploring England.

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