Written by Lizzie Pook
From the soaring hills of the Peak District, to new clifftop retreats in Dorset, these are the best spots to staycation in this October.
October is a fine time to travel around the UK: when the weather is still sort of clement (by UK standards at least), and the great outdoors is ripe for exploring. Plus, after the summer rush, you’ll find beaches uncrowded, rooms at the hottest hotels available for booking and miles and miles of untrammelled coastline ready for hiking, road-tripping or simply moseying along.
The month also sees a glut of new UK hotel openings too, from spectacular clifftop lodges in Dorset, to an exciting new spa in the staggeringly beautiful Peak District.
So what are you waiting for? Here’s our pick of the top staycation spots for October.
If you’ve seen Ammonite, you’ll be familiar with the moody loveliness of Dorset’s Jurassic Coast. This is a place where eel-coloured clouds hover low over the sea and dinosaur bones are uncovered in the cliffs.
October is a prime time for exploring these shingly beaches, holing up in tiny fish and chip huts and – if you’re feeling brave – getting in a brisk paddle before the British winter descends. But the county offers much more than just the Great British Seaside. Inland, you’ll find the bucolic landscapes that inspired Thomas Hardy, from fairytale castles to Iron Age hill forts, and enough wide open spaces to wild swim, river kayak and hike to your heart’s delight.
Where to stay?
Just opened, are two brand new (and thoroughly lovely) spots to rest your head. The historic King’s Arms in Dorchester has hosted rock stars and royalty – from Queen Victoria and King George IV, to The Beatles and The Rolling Stones – over the last three centuries (it’s also featured in more than one Hardy novel). But a £5million overhaul from The Stay Original Company has brought the previously-dreary hotel bang up-to-date, with 20 contemporary rooms and a restaurant run by ex-River Cottage chef Tom Blake.
On the coast, the brand new Clifftops at the Pennsylvania Castle Estate look set to be the sought-after lodges of the season. Carved into the stone cliffs, the Scandi-inspired lodges are so inspired by nature, you’ll even find fossilised sea creatures captured in the rough-hewn walls.
Why Northern Ireland?
While lockdown restrictions mean we can’t travel too far afield, Northern Ireland is still just a ferry trip away (and there’s currently no need to quarantine there or when you return). A land of hip cities and rolling emerald-green countryside, it is fringed by dramatic coastlines such as the higgledy-piggledy Causeway Coast, where the sea froths wildly against spectacular rock formations and hexagonal stone columns.
Where to stay
NI is also a prime place to make the most of the darker skies come October, with cool glamping spots and cosy cabins scattered like jewels across the countryside.
At Sperrin View Glamping, you’ll find a series of luxury glamping pods with kitchenettes, shower rooms and beds for up to five people. The pods sit in one of Northern Ireland’s recommended Dark Sky sites (meaning skies are free from light pollution and stars are bright as diamonds) and each has its own ‘viewing window’ in the roof, which allows you to lie back and gaze upon the dazzling night sky.
Further north on the Antrim coast, just a mile from the Giant’s Causeway, Aurora’s Canadian-style cabins come with stunning interiors, uninterrupted sea views and wallow-worthy copper bath tubs.
Hampton Court, London
Why Hampton Court?
While this part of Greater London is perhaps best-known for its history, it’s something shiny and new that is luring curious staycationers to this riverside address. The newly-overhauled Mitre hotel, opposite the imposing Hampton Court (home of Henry VIII), is actually a 17th-century coaching inn, but it has been carefully-yet-solidly refurbished to create a buzzed-about brand new opening.
Where to stay?
The building’s previously dated interiors (which have seen everyone from Charles II to Shirley Bassey pass through the doors) have been entirely brought up-to-date by Hector Ross, the man responsible for the eclectic-luxe décor at Surrey hotel Beaverbrook – think copper bathtubs, bold Ottoline wallpaper and clashing paintwork (that really works). That’s not to mention the antique books and knick-knacks scattered about the place, and the many references to Henry VIII that you’ll find on the walls, on the ‘do not disturb signs’ and in the room names.
Out and about you can book horse rides, boat trips and picnics via the concierge, and guests also get free tickets to explore the sprawl of Hampton Court over the road. Food-wise, you’ll find two restaurants: Coppernose and 1665, serving up fresh fish and crab toasties, while the terrace tables are as close to a slice of the south of France as you’ll get in the capital.
The county, that borders Norfolk to the north and Essex to the south, delivers picture-postcard villages, market towns and lovely seaside spots to explore. Some of the best places to sleep include arty hotel Westleton Crown (with newly-refurbished interiors inspired by wildlife and nature) and the sublime Swan at Southwold, where coastal chic meets seriously cool interior design.
The Great British staycation rush meant that many places were bursting at the seams in September, so it was slim pickings when it came to availability at the UK’s hottest hotels. But October means some of the coolest places in the country have more availability. Case in point: Wilderness Reserve in Suffolk, which opens its new exclusive-use Chapel Barn at the end of September.
This is the perfect countryside-luxe escape for highly-strung Londoners, many of whom flock here to boat on the lake, explore its cycling trails and generally gad about the 5000-acre private estate. You’ll find country houses, luxury farmhouses and cosy cottages for rent here, but it’s the brand new Chapel Barn that’s the real blow-out property.
This traditional Suffolk barn – which sleeps a whopping 42 people – has been painstakingly refurbished and features a lower-level pool and hot tub. But given current government guidelines, it’s more likely you’ll want to bed down in one of the surrounding restored worker’s cottages and barns, which include two new and undeniably romantic one-bedroom boltholes – perfect for squirrelling yourself away as the weather gets colder.
The Peak District
Why the Peak District?
Thundering across the Pennines’ southernmost hills, the Peak District is a jumble of ancient stone villages and soul-stirring landscapes.
This is a hiker’s dream, where moorlands call out to be trudged across (in the manner of an emotional Regency-era heroine) and dramatic limestone dales are ripe for exploring. That’s not to mention an exciting new spa opening in the region, which is perfectly-placed to offer a muscle-soothing escape, for when you’ve hiked as far as your legs will take you.
Opening in October, the brand new Buxton Crescent Hotel is the first UK opening from Ensana, Europe’s largest health spa operator. The beautiful Georgian building has been sensitively restored, to offer 81 rooms and suites and an expansive spa which will revive the wellness traditions of Buxton, by harnessing the therapeutic quality of the mineral-rich water within its treatments.
Other cosy little spots in the area include The Peacock at Rowsley (all sultry velvet interiors and romantic four-posters) and The Cavendish Hotel, which is walking distance from the sprawling Chatsworth Estate.
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