How 2021 was the year we rediscovered the beauty of the UK


The grass is always greener – and never more so than when it comes to travel. Despite the UK’s abundance of beauty spots, before coronavirus out-manoeuvred our best-laid travel plans we were a nation of international holidaymakers. To the extent that, in 2018, Brits took more flights abroad than any other nationality.

But if one positive could be taken from the last 20 months, it is this – for many of us, 2020 and 2021 were years in which we rediscovered the joy of travelling closer to home.

Although much was made of the pandemic-induced “staycation boom”, in reality domestic tourism spending has seen a dip in the last two years compared to 2019. The answer to this is simple: with anxieties high and demand in certain hotspots pushing up prices, many chose not to go on holiday at all. But, for those who did, staying within the UK seemed a much safer bet than attempting to navigate the complex rules and restrictions that came with foreign travel, including the British government’s own ever-changing traffic light system.

Destinations like Dorset’s Jurassic Coast experienced a surge in popularity

(British Tourist Authority)

In 2021, campsites and self-catering holiday properties saw a spike in demand in popular spots such as the New Forest, Cornwall and the Lake District. Just over a fifth of domestic tourists stayed in a self-catered accommodation on holiday in 2021, according to an article by The Conversation – with total spending on holiday rentals hitting a 10-year high in the process.

But it wasn’t just the lack of testing costs and restrictions that encouraged us to opt for British breaks; the beauty of this green and pleasant land was enticement enough in itself. As tourism board Visit England puts it: “We have an incredible tourism offer right here on our doorstep. There is just so much to do and see here in Britain: from contemporary culture in our vibrant cities to our stunning coastlines and seaside destinations, from our heritage, countryside and adventure tourism to our outstanding B&Bs and self-catering accommodation, consistently rated as some of the best in the world.”



But it wasn’t just the lack of testing costs and restrictions that encouraged us to opt for British breaks; the beauty of this green and pleasant land was enticement enough

Reflecting this trend of leaning into domestic bliss, a large chunk of my favourite features published by The Independent this year were based right here in Blighty. Talk about diversity: from the trendiest of city breaks to countryside grief retreats, sustainable Scottish SUP excursions to scuba diving with seals in Devon, it became clear that our stable of talented travel writers were enjoying their deep dive into UK exploration as much as the rest of the population.

Our deputy editor Lucy Thackray’s jam-packed city guide to Manchester made me want to down tools immediately and follow my heart up north. “Manchester looms large in Britain’s pop culture consciousness, but it’s never made much of an impact as a UK city break,” she writes in her excellent piece. “When you go there, that seems astounding – not only does the city have its own distinctive look and feel – courtesy of smart, redbrick former factory buildings and placid canal paths strung with festoon lights – but it’s got one of the UK’s most exciting food scenes. You could dine out here every meal of the day for a week and still not scratch the surface of what its chefs have to offer.”

Whitby Abbey, which inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula

(Peter Elia)

Meanwhile, Joanna Whitehead’s feature on being “on the sesh” in Herefordshire with a gut-busting food and drink tour had me gagging for a pint of local cider and scoop of award-winning raspberry sorbet. And Peter Elia’s search for Dracula in Yorkshire’s gothic villages, though published in the height of summer, made me yearning for dark nights and a Halloween-inspired thrill of fear tingling down my spine.

As for me, I’ve long been a UK mega-fan – but this year cemented it for me. Travel became such a complicated mess – and was banned for such a long time – that my first taste of adventure, a trip to a Scottish island, felt dreamlike in its extravagance.



Travel became such a complicated mess that my first taste of adventure, a trip to a Scottish island, felt dreamlike in its extravagance

Eilean Shona, an idyllic private isle about an hour from Fort William off the coast of western Scotland, made me feel I had reached peak “lady of the manor at luxe rural hideaway”. I swam in the icy cold loch with seals, hiked its hills in blazing sunshine, feasted on cockaleekie soup, smoked fish and venison, and even sang Wild Mountain Thyme rather lustily around the piano while three sheets to the wind. Divine.

Of course I’m excited for international travel to open back up; of course I’d like to take these itchy feet and set them loose dancing in far-flung locales. But it was nice to be reminded of what we have right here on the doorstep: unparalleled beauty, charm and possibilities for adventure at every turn…


Source link