Last week I took my first holiday of 2020. Okay, I didn’t go anywhere exotic (there is no way I’ll risk going abroad during the pandemic) – instead I decided to have a staycation.
I visited places that I’d wanted to go to for ages but never got round to visiting. I discovered small villages along the Norfolk coast, explored the pretty lanes and Cathedral at Ely, and took a trip down to Hampton Court. It’s not how I would normally spend a week off work, but spending time to explore places that are not too far from where I live felt safe and still gave me the change of scenery and mental break that I needed.
In fact, although I love travelling abroad and can’t wait until it is safe for me to grab my passport and head to the airport for a new adventure, I also love a UK break.
I’ve visited and have run races in some amazing UK cities and, as the pandemic is likely to be with us for a while, I’d thought I’d share some of my favourite UK cities in case you’re planning a staycation this autumn.
My favourite cities for a long-weekend
Maybe not the most popular choice for many, but for me London is always top of my list. I’ll confess here that I may be a little biased as I’m a born and bred Londoner and a little part of me will always think of London as home. But I also believe it is one of the world’s best cities. Of all the cities I’ve visited, none have so much to do and see as London. It has history, theatres, museums, art galleries, shopping, historic buildings, bars, restaurants, sporting events, parks – the list is endless. I’m lucky that although I don’t live in London anymore, I’m still just a couple of hours away on the train and I love heading back to the capital whenever I can. Also I was also so grateful that I got to run the London Marathon last year – it was a dream come true and it completely lived up to my expectations.
My maternal grandparents were from Cardiff, so I always have a soft spot for this city and I’ve been a few times – as a child to visit relatives and as an adult to watch the Wales rugby team and run the Cardiff Half Marathon. Cardiff was the last city I visited just before lockdown – I had travelled to watch the Wales vs Scotland 6 Nation game and was gutted when it was cancelled at the last moment. I did get to have a night out in Cardiff though, so all was not lost! Even if you’re not going to watch the rugby or run races (although I would recommend the Cardiff Half Marathon, which I’m hoping to run again next year), Cardiff is a city worth visiting. It has fantastic shopping and nightlife, and the people are friendly. Plus there is a little bit of history to see as well.
York is one of the few cities on this list that I don’t have a personal connection with. I’ve only been once, back in 2018 to run the Yorkshire Marathon. Although the race didn’t go well, I loved the city. I wasn’t sure what to expect before I went and, despite not getting to see much of the city, I loved my trip. I enjoyed exploring the old streets, visiting a museum (it might have been a chocolate museum but it still counts as culture!), learning more about the history of the city, and finding independent cafes to eat in. York is a city I would love to revisit one day.
My favourite cities for a day trip / overnight stay
I went to Cambridge for a day trip last year and it was a great city to explore, with brilliant shopping and lots of places to eat. Saying this, I’m not sure how much there would be to do to fill up an entire weekend. If you’re in the local area, I would definitely recommend it for a day trip or for an overnight stay, any longer and I think you might start to get bored.
I might be doing Bath a bit of a disservice putting it in this section, but I’ve only been to Bath on a day trip so I’m not sure what the nightlife and restaurant culture is like. I do like Bath a lot though and there were some lovely cafes when I went, plus lots of museums. I visited the Bath Spa, Jane Austen house and the fashion museum. This, plus good shopping, makes it a city that is definitely worth a visit.
Cities that I’m planning to visit in the future:
These are some of the cities that I’ve heard are great to visit, but just didn’t make the list because I’ve not been there yet:
- Edinburgh – hopefully I’ll get to run the Edinburgh Marathon in 2021.
- Chester – the Chester Marathon is another UK based race I’m really tempted to run.
- Newcastle – I’ve never done the Great North Run so obviously on my wishlist.
- Salisbury – mainly because I want to visit Stonehenge.
Is there any city that I haven’t mentioned that you think should be on the list?