By Katie Wilson
After two years of lockdowns, international travel is finally back in a big way.
Here we highlight the emerging UK destinations for the year ahead and put a spotlight on the top travel trends to know about now, from a rise in bookings to lakeside destinations to Brits venturing out for adventures after dark.
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Travel trends for 2022
Work from anywhere
With employers more flexible than ever, and some letting staff work from home permanently, there’s never been a better time to ‘work from anywhere’.
An Airbnb survey found more than a third (38%) of remote employees would rather quit their jobs than go back to working in person full time. The same number said they would live somewhere else and work remotely more often than before Covid.
And more people than ever are living on Airbnb with nearly half (45%) of nights booked for at least one week, while 20% of stays were booked for a month or longer. This means the amenities travellers want have also shifted. Recently, the top searches globally were for WiFi, pets allowed, kitchens, washers/dryers and swimming pools.
More so than exercise or mindful meditation, getting away on holiday is set to become the ultimate form of self-care and one of the most important travel trends. Over three-quarters of people (79%) told Booking.com travel helps their mental and emotional wellbeing more than other forms of rest and relaxation.
After two years of uncertain travel due to varying restrictions, two thirds (66%) admitted they didn’t realise how important travel was to their wellbeing. While 84% said just having a holiday booked had a positive impact on their emotional wellbeing.
What makes travel the ideal form of wellness? Two thirds (67%) said a change of scenery helps them recharge, while almost a fifth (18%) said it was stepping out of their comfort zone that is key to enabling them to reset. For others trying new cuisines (55%) or hearing a new language (35%) makes them feel rejuvenated.
New places and faces
The Booking.com survey found that not only are people reconnecting with friends and family, but 60% of travellers said they are looking forward to meeting new people and socialising while they are away.
This means a resurgence of holiday romances is likely, with 50% hoping to find love on their next trip as people turn away from swiping on dating apps in search of making real life connections.
Some people, quite rightly, just want to bring the party on their next holiday, with 39% saying they want to stay somewhere close to plenty of nightlife options.
Will you be making a ‘night move’ this year? Pinterest thinks so. Predictions for the year ahead reveal the most memorable adventures will happen after sundown – and the UK is at the forefront of this after-hours trend.
There has been a spike in searches for things that happen at night such as ‘night sky’, ‘sea night beach’ and ‘London city night’.
Fancy guided paddleboarding in North Wales in moonlight? How about Dark Sky Canoeing in the Lake District? Twilight tours are available at some of the UK’s top tourist attractions such as the Tower of London, just check any restrictions before you visit. The UK also has some of the best spots for stargazing. Check if any of these Dark Sky sites are near you – or plan your next trip around one of places on this list.
Another interesting Pinterest prediction is ‘Lake it ’til you make it’, which means people will be trading beachfront holidays for inland lake swims, with Gen X and Boomers driving this freshwater travel trend.
Searches for ‘lake resorts’, ‘lake home plans’ and ‘summer lake aesthetic’ are all set to make a splash when it comes to the latest travel trends.
This is good news for British travellers as there are over 40,000 lakes in the UK. The mighty Loch Ness in Scotland is the largest lake by volume, containing more fresh water than all the lakes in England and Wales combined.
Windermere in the Lake District is the largest natural lake in England. While Llyn Tegid (Bala Lake) in Snowdonia is the biggest lake in Wales at four miles long and over 40 metres deep.
In our opinion friends are the best types of travel buddy, and with researchers confirming strong social relationships are the key to happiness, it’s time to book a ‘friendcation’.
Think chic self-catering stays which are great for groups and even better if they come with a hot tub or swimming pool. Some of our favourite group stay websites in the UK include ToWander UK, Unique Hideaways and Kip Hideaways, the latter of which caters for smaller parties of up to six people.
We’re also big fans of a spa break. Some of the best spa hotels in the UK are The Scarlet, an adults-only eco retreat in North Cornwall with clifftop hot tubs. Check out their latest offers here. Other highlights include Thyme, a luxury spa hotel in the heart of Cotswolds, and The Newt, a next-level rural spa retreat in Somerset.
Where to stay in the UK
Llandudno is already the largest holiday resort in Wales and boasts Wales’ longest pier. But it looks set to receive even more visitors from around the globe after Booking.com named it an emerging travel destination, the only UK location to recently make the list.
Known as the ‘Queen of the Welsh Watering Places’, this seaside gem is famous for its natural landmark, The Great Orme, a large headland which the vikings thought looked like a sea serpent, and is also a country park these days. The most impressive views from its summit can be reached by foot, car, cable car or tram.
Look out for the Llandudno goats, which roam The Great Orme, and caused havoc during lockdown when they decided to venture into the town as there were no people around.
Walk the Wales Coast Path or visit the two main sandy beaches. North Shore Beach next to the pier is the most popular and you can try water sports or hop on a boat ride. Or escape the crowds at West Shore Beach, which is known for its stunning sunsets. You might even spot dolphins in the summer months.
Inland, thrill seekers should head to the Llandudno Snowsports Centre for the longest toboggan ride in Wales.
Known as the Garden of England for centuries, Kent has been named one of the six best places in the world to rediscover nature and beyond by National Geographic.
The region is set to reintroduce bison to the area, which were hunted to extinction thousands of years ago. They have appointed the UK’s first bison rangers, Tom Gibbs and Donovan Wright, to release four European bison into Blean Woods in Canterbury in spring 2022.
Once the foursome have settled in, Donovan – who previously led Big Five walking safaris in Africa – will run Wilder Kent Safaris, allowing visitors to approach the bison respectfully on foot.
Where to stay: The PIG at Bridge Place in Canterbury is top of our hotel list. Make sure to book a table at The Coach House restaurant, which non-guests are also allowed in. The Falstaff near the medieval West Gate has delightful boutique rooms. For a unique city centre stay, book a room at Canterbury Cathedral Lodge.
Another UK destination getting a mention in National Geographic’s Best of World list is the East Midlands county of Nottinghamshire, famed for its associations with Robin Hood.
Following an exciting £30 million revamp, the 1,000-year-old Nottingham Castle has reopened its doors as a premium tourist attraction. For the first time join Robin Hood’s band of Merry Men and travel back in time to see if you could survive medieval Nottingham.
Dress as one of Robin’s outlaw pals and try your hand at interactive games like the Golden Arrow competition, longbow firing, or fight Little John on the bridge with a quarterstaff. A little further afield, follow in Robin’s footsteps with a trip to Sherwood Forest and visit the famous Major Oak tree where he is said to have lived.
Other highlights include a visit to the Nottingham Caves, a secret network of underground tunnels which snake all the way underneath the city and were once used by smugglers. Wollaton Hall, where Batman was filmed, is currently showing the first real Tyrannosaurus Rex to be displayed in England for over a century. While Nottingham Contemporary in the iconic Lake Market area of the city is one of the largest galleries of contemporary art in the UK.
Nottingham is also one of the UK’s best shopping destinations and has a wealth of good restaurants, bars and pubs, a must-visit being Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, the oldest inn in England. Hockley is where to head for a night out, whether it’s for a drink in one of Nottingham’s best secret bars or catching a film at the Broadway independent cinema.
Where to stay: The Lace Market Hotel, Mercure or Park Plaza are best in the city centre, River Rooms in West Bridgford is great for those visiting for cricket or football. Blow the budget at two Michelin-starred Sat Bains Restaurant & Rooms.
The English capital has also earned itself a mention as one of National Geographic’s unmissable cultural experiences for the regeneration of the iconic Tin Pan Alley in the West End, the birthplace of British punk music.
Denmark Street is the centre of all the action. Once home to recording studios, rehearsal rooms and dimly lit clubs which played host to the likes of the Sex Pistols, The Clash, David Bowie, Black Sabbath and The Rolling Stones, the music had all but died save for a few surviving guitar shops.
Now it’s been revived as part of a £1 billion immersive media and entertainment district called Outernet London. It features a new 2,000 capacity live events venue, the world’s largest high resolution wrap-around exhibition screens, plus the revival of some of the street’s most iconic shops and clubs.
New hotel, Chateau Denmark, has also open its doors with 55 session rooms, unique apartments and rock-inspired hotel rooms.
Voted one of the best city breaks in Europe by Time Out, we can see why this up-and-coming UK destination is getting a well deserved mention.
Once a global steel-making hub, which was described by George Orwell as the ‘ugliest town in the world’, this south Yorkshire city has scrubbed up so well it has just been named the greenest city in the UK in a study by NatWest and experts from the University of Southampton.
Crowned so because of its 22,600 acres of green space and 4.5 million trees (more per person than any other city in Europe), explore the Sheffield Greenground map, which connects all the green areas in the city and highlights walking and cycling trails, plus other outdoor activities such as climbing and bouldering. Known as The Outdoor City, part of Sheffield also falls within the Peak District National Park.
When it comes to food and drink, Sheffield has a wealth of microbreweries so be sure to grab a pint (or three) while you’re in town. Follow the ale trail through Kelham Island, once home to factories but now occupied by independent businesses and artists, including a lot of pubs. Other cool places to head for a drink include Public, a former underground toilet turned cocktail bar which gives us serious Wes Anderson vibes.
The Cutlery Works is the biggest independent food hall in the North of England. Peddler Warehouse is home to the award-winning Peddler Market, a mix of street food, craft beer, cocktails and live entertainment. Michelin-approved Joro restaurant in a converted shipping container is where to head for fine dining.
Where to stay: Joro, which recently opened four boutique rooms, would be our first choice. While hotel and restaurant, Brocco on the Park, has dreamy copper baths in some rooms. Other boutique hotels include The Psalter or for a quirky stay book the Garrison Hotel in an old guardhouse.
Liverpool hosted the UK’s Turner Prize in October 2022 for the first time in 15 years, but this isn’t the only reason the north west city has been named one of the best places to visit by Time Out.
Famed for being the birthplace of The Beatles, a must-visit is the Cavern Club where the Fab Four used to play. You can also take an immersive Beatles tour through the city to learn all about the iconic band’s rise to fame and pop into the Beatles Museum.
Other unique offerings include Radio City Tower, known as St John’s Beacon to locals. Towering 400ft above the city, take the lift up to the viewing platform to admire 360 degree views of Liverpool. On clear days, you can see as far as Blackpool, the Lake District and Snowdonia.
Back on the ground, take a stroll around Albert Dock, now home to Tate Liverpool, the Merseyside Maritime Museum and International Slavery Museum, alongside shops, bars and restaurants. It’s also worth visiting the beautiful Central Library, one of the largest in the UK.
The Ropewalks area is where to head for independent shopping, Baltic Triangle is Liverpool’s creative district (and home to Cains Brewery Village) and don’t forget to look up and admire the architecture of the city’s Georgian quarter.
If you want something more substantial than beers and street food, Röski restaurant on Albert Dock is fine dining from MasterChef: The Professionals winner Anton Piotrowski. Michelin-Guide approved The Art School is a unique venue in a former Victorian children’s home. Panoramic 34, one of the UK’s highest restaurants, is where to head for skyline views. While Maray serves up some of the best veggie food in Liverpool.
Just outside the city centre is Sefton Park, a grade I listed green space which is also home to Palm House, an impressive Victorian conservatory full of exotic plants. These days it is a culture and arts space with a pretty cafe serving up afternoon tea.
Where to stay: Book the rooftop suite at Scandi-style Hope Street Hotel for sunset views of the city from your own private hot tub. The Titanic Hotel on Stanley Dock honours Liverpool’s maritime past and has a chic spa. Hardcore music fans should stay at Hard Days Night, the world’s only Beatles-inspired hotel.
Another UK destination to make Time Out’s best city breaks in Europe list is Inverness, the capital of the Scottish Highlands and home to Loch Ness and its famous lake-dwelling monster, Nessie.
Cited as the ideal base for a Highlands break, local attractions include the ruins of Urquhart Castle which overlooks Loch Ness and Ness Islands, a collection of natural islands in the middle of the water.
There is also Culloden Battlefield, the scene of the Jacobite Risings and site of the last big battle fought on British soil. Clava Cairns is a 4,000-year-old ancient burial ground dating back to the Bronze age which is said to have inspired the Outlander series.
Other highlights include Inverness Castle, Inverness Botanic Gardens and Fairy Glen. Walk along its beautiful woodland paths and look out for the waterfalls and ‘Monkey Tree’, which has hundreds of old coins hammered into its bark as offerings to the fairies.
The Gathering is a new artwork on the River Ness. A curved stone-built pier, it is meant to be a place where people can meet up and enjoy some normality after the pandemic.
The Victorian Market is where to head for shopping, Eden Court Theatre and Cinema is the biggest entertainment venue in the Scottish Highlands and has rotating programme of film, music, theatre and comedy. It’s also worth poking your head into the quirky Leakey’s Bookshop. While whisky lovers will love the Black Isle, home to some of Scotland’s best distilleries.
Where to stay: Newhall Mains is a boutique hotel with self-catering cottages in the grounds which opened in 2021. It’s close to North Coast 500, Scotland’s answer to Route 66 for those taking a road trip. Highland Escape is a luxury holiday home on the banks of Loch Ness. While those wanting to stay in central Inverness should book a room the Black Isle Brewery, which is also a pub.
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