Packing is always a pain, but packing for a UK holiday is the hardest. As those of us who live here know, the weather is unpredictable at best. I think that’s the reason we Brits always love to talk about it so much. Weather in this country genuinely has a mind of its own. Plus forecasts often don’t mean shit. One site will tell you sun, the other rain, and when you look out of the window it’s snowing… Well maybe that’s exaggerating, but if we lived in Spain we probably wouldn’t talk about it at all, as it’s just ‘sunny and warm again’.
That’s why it’s easy to pack for, say, Ibiza: just a load of shorts, floaty dresses and a swimsuit, maybe a light cardi for the evening. When we went to Italy in 2019, we took two regular-size suitcases for the whole family for 17 days, but when we went to Northumberland we had an entire car boot full of coats, wellies, trainers, waterproofs and the (rather optimistic) beachwear that never got worn. This blog is a bit about what I will pack, but also a guide to some of my favourite UK holiday destinations. Just don’t call it a ‘staycation’. If you’re going on holiday in your own country that’s STILL a holiday. A staycation, in my book, is when you stay at HOME but take time off work and do day trips etc. And if anyone tries to call it ‘holibobs’ then don’t come near me.
Here’s what I plan to pack (as a rough guide). This may seem a lot, but really I think it’s quite light for me!
2 x JACKETS. One waterproof (so either my Protected Species jacket or my Barbour) and one all-the-time jacket. I’ll probably take my old khaki shacket (similar here)
1 x DRESS. Last summer I took five dresses to Devon and only wore one. So I’ll cut back this year. I reckon I’ll take either my Albaray or April Meets October gingham dress.
2 x PAIRS OF JEANS. One blue, one black. I’ll go for the Whistles ‘Hollie’ jeans, obvs.
1 x SWEATSHIRT. I’ll take an Anine Bing one as I consider the Tiger one my ‘lucky’ sweatshirt.
1 X LIGHT SWEATER. I think a good Breton will do here. Mine are all old, but this cotton one from & Other Stories looks perfect.
2 x PAIRS OF SHORTS. I’ll take a denim pair and a khaki pair in the hope it’s shorts weather for more than one day.
4 X T-SHIRTS. My current favourites are from Joanie Clothing. Really well made and great prices. Also the plain ones from Uniqlo are excellent.
1 x PAIR OF KHAKI TROUSERS. I have too many pairs, but for summer I’ll go with these from Free People as they are nice and light
1 x SWIMMING COSTUME. Let’s face it, I doubt we will be on the beach all the time, so one should be enough. I’ll take my Santorini from Boden. It’s the only style I feel comfortable in.
1 x CARDIGAN. Because I love a cardi and you need it for over your jumpsuit or dungarees. I’ll take my nice delicate one from & Other Stories.
1 X JUMPSUIT OR DUNGAREES. I’ll probably take both, tbh. This jumpsuit from Spry and my Levis Dungarees.
1 x NICE BLOUSE. For a potential smarter dinner or lunch or for wearing under your dungas. This one from KJ’s Laundry is my new favourite.
1 X PAIR OF WELLIES OR DMs. The Barbour short wellies are a must for me.
1 x PAIR OF SANDALS. But you know I’ll take three. I’m a recent convert to Saltwater. Very comfortable and OK in water, apparently. Although I’m yet to try this.
1 X PAIR OF TRAINERS. Again, I know I won’t stick to one pair. Just take your most comfortable pair for walking. For me, that’s New Balance or Adidas.
This is where we are going at the end of next week. It’s been a particular favourite of our family since the kids were little. We went there with my parents as they had a tenuous link (“Heather-up-the-road’s friend Pat has a daughter who has a house there that she rents out if you want to go”). Sadly, that link has since disappeared but we’ve continued to frequent the area in recent years, now using mainly Airbnbs. Wells-Next-The-Sea is the perfect base for discovering North Norfolk. It has a great beach, famed for its beach huts, and there are two excellent fish and chip shops right next door to each other, plus a really good pub called The Crown. There’s crabbing to be done in the harbour and an amusement arcade that keeps everyone quiet for a few hours when it rains.
There is also the very middle-class area of Burnham Market where you are required by law to buy a fine selection of cold meats and cheeses in the deli before you leave. Holkham has an expanse of beach so massive that sometimes the sea seems a mile away, and there’s The Victoria, a fancy hotel and pub that now seems to be fully booked for every meal until September. I know, I’ve tried booking to no avail. Also check out Cromer for the pier and a more varied selection of arcades. We love the arcades.
1. Joanie Clothing No Rain, No Flowers T Shirt
2. Anthropologie floral hair scrunchies
3. & Other Stories oversized cotton stripe jumper
4. Mango mom fit denim shorts
5. New Balance 237 colour block trainers
6. Anya Hindmarch recycled nylon eyes bag
Sennen Cove is the last town in Cornwall before you get to Land’s End. We used to go there every single summer when I was a child. We had our honeymoon there and my parents still go every year. I would love to go more often but it’s always fully booked by the time I get around to thinking about it. Maybe next year. Whitesand Bay beach in Sennen is excellent; if the weather is on your side, it’s better than any in the Med. There’s a surf school on site and there used to be a kiosk that sold THE best Cornish ice cream in a cone that you’ve ever tasted. Plenty of great places to visit too. Mousehole is one of my favourites, a really cute harbour town with tiny lanes and little shops and restaurants to explore. Also there’s the Minack outdoor theatre in Porthcurno for some culture. Word to the wise though: take a cushion, as sitting on stone for a two-hour play is not advisable.
Northumberland as a whole is a new one for me. We went last summer and it totally stole my heart. It has the best scenery, the most amazing beaches, more castles than you can visit in even a week and the locals couldn’t have been nicer. Literally the ONLY downside is that it’s a seven-hour drive for us to get there. But we are doing it all again next month. We are staying with Stablewood Coastal Cottages again near Bamburgh. This time I’m going to get myself together and book a visit inside the castle. We saw a lot just from the outside as you need to pre-book everything these days. There’s so much to do in Northumberland. We did a lot last year that I will do again (see Instagram highlight here), but this time I would also like to do Hadrian’s Wall and take a boat to visit Holy Island/Lindisfarne. You definitely need to pack your Barbour jacket as they are a local brand.
If you’re in the south and you fancy a short break, then I can highly recommend Margate. There’s something for all ages. The teens loved Dreamland. As did I, to be fair; I still LOVE a rollercoaster. Once a thrill seeker, always a thrill seeker. No more illegal raves for me, but show me a loop-the-loop and I’ll be first in the queue. For the more sedate amongst you, there is the Turner Contemporary for culture, and the Old Town has a fine selection of vintage shops. My favourite is Junk Deluxe, a real treasure trove of all kinds of goodies. There’s also a great skate shop called Skatepharm that sells some excellent T-shirts. A visit to the shell grotto is a must, if only for its weirdness. It’s an underground building with the walls covered in 4.6 million shells. It was discovered in 1835, but its age and purpose remain unknown. I just love shit like that.
I couldn’t leave without a mention of my fair city. So hard to give you a definitive of what do while you are here. It all depends on what you like and how long you’ve got. I always tell people to take a walk down the Southbank from Waterloo to Tower Bridge. So many sights to take in on that walk: London Eye, Tate Modern, the Globe Theatre, duck into Borough Market if it’s the weekend. Cross over the river at Tower Bridge and then you’ve got the Tower of London, the Sky Garden (pre-book tickets for this if you can, it’s free and the views are amazing) and Leadenhall Market.
For shopping, I’d say go to Liberty and then weave your way through Soho and down to Covent Garden. If possible, try to walk as much as you can as in central London things are much closer to each other than you think. Head east to Brick Lane, Shoreditch and Spitalfields for really cool boutiques like Mercantile and excellent vintage markets on Brick Lane. If you have a football-mad boy or girl in your group, check out Classic Football Shirts, opposite Rough Trade Records (for the vinyl junkies). Avoid Oxford Street, go instead to Coal Drops Yard in King’s Cross. If you’re staying west, then do South Kensington for museums (all free) and wander the streets in search of blue plaques. King’s Road is still cool but Camden Market kind of isn’t, but the teens might still like it.
I could go on and on, but I fear this is becoming very long and I’ve barely even mentioned clothes! I’ll lose your attention. I might do some more in-depth London walks blogs at some point if the interest is there
I am in Wells-Next-The-Sea at the end of this week. Unless the dreaded Covid strikes… Let’s hope that doesn’t happen and that this weather lasts!