Back-up Britain? We are blessed to be marooned on this fine island
Losing Portugal is a blow, but we have all the holiday riches we need on home soil
there’s no use beating around the bush. Today is a grim milestone for our hopes of a holiday abroad this summer. As of 4am this morning, everyone arriving back from Portugal has to enter a mandatory ten-day quarantine.
We hoped the latest ‘green list update’, delivered last Thursday, would bring us more holiday options, but instead it ended up demoting our most viable summer sun destination. What followed was the inevitable scramble as thousands of holidaymakers flew home early at significant expense. In the coming days and weeks, thousands more will have to battle for refunds on flights to Portugal and hotel cancellations.
It is exasperating news for holidaymakers, and hugely concerning for the already decimated travel industry – not least when you look at the somewhat modest uptick of cases in Portugal that has caused its reclassification as ‘amber’. EasyJet will be particularly naffed off, with its Algarve hub in Faro due to reopen its doors this month.
So where remains on the green list? We now have eleven quarantine-free countries at our disposal, but the snag is that only two will let us in: Gibraltar and Iceland. So it’s fish and chips on The Rock, or herring and chips in a fleece. But if that doesn’t tickle your fancy, there is one more option.
Whisper it, but there’s a country on our holiday green list with long sandy beaches, a world-beating foodie scene, cultural and historic attractions coming out of its ears and up to 2,000 hours of sunshine a year. No tests required, no quarantine, you don’t even need a passport.
We have come to look at holidaying on home soil as something of a back-up option. Whenever the Government dashes our hopes of a holiday abroad, they’ll roll somebody out (today, it was George Eustice’s turn) to deliver the sombre prognosis: “It’s going to have to be a holiday in Britain, this summer. I’m so sorry for your loss.” (I paraphrase.)
It’s in our nature to be self-deprecating about holidays on home soil. Those of us who are used to holidaying abroad have come to see a getaway in Blighty as unambitious – the Carabao Cup of holiday options, if you will. Just last week, Telegraph Travel’s very own Chris Moss used a few less than flattering adjectives to describe our favourite spot in the land, Cornwall – “overtouristed, corny, fusty, tired, jaded, spent, overpriced, over-promoted” he said, with tongue firmly in cheek, I am assured.
My experiences in Cornwall during a holiday last week didn’t quite tally with any of these slurs. What I found was a destination well-prepared for visitors (whether holidaying, or politicking – the G7 arrives in St Ives this week), and fully deserving of their attention. One sublime option among many across the land.
With overseas travel in doubt and Government advice to holiday at home, we can expect to see an ongoing uptick in demand for home soil holidays. But the bluster around ‘chaos’ and ‘mayhem’ on the roads must be taken with a significant pinch of salt. I drove to Cornwall on what was predicted to be the busiest day of the year – Bank Holiday Saturday – and saw none of the wall-to-wall traffic forecast. Yes, we crawled for periods on the A30, but in total our journey from London was extended by less than one hour. I received similar dire warnings on my drive up to the Lake District for the early May Bank Holiday, which never materialised.
As for the beaches? The ones I visited (including Mexico Towans, and Kynance Cove) were buzzing with activity but were by no means overrun – even with the mercury pushing the twenties and the schools off for the week. With that sun shining, toes dug in the sand and the waves rolling in, you really could close your eyes and pretend to be in the Algarve. (And an ‘Anne’s Cornish Pasty’ kicks a Pastel de Bacalhau out of the park any day of the week.)
Yes, of course Cornwall does fust. As does every corner of Britain, and as does every corner of Europe. The boozer closest to where I was staying, The Royal Standard, is a spit and sawdust kind of place. But the snobs who don’t make it past the front door will never discover the expansive grassy pub garden, nor the superb Porthleven Pale Ale served on tap. Inside, one table will be reserved for the entire summer season, for the locals who keep things ticking along during the winter months. (Sidenote: those snobs could do worse than driving on to the Gurnards Inn in Zennor, with its stupendous garden views and divine three-course menu for £35).
Perhaps I am viewing our prospects of a summer holiday on home soil through rose-tinted glasses, what with the arrival of the nice weather and all. But this is no freak event: British summers are getting hotter. The top ten hottest summers on record were since 2002, including the notable heatwave of 2018. Rising temperatures is nothing to feel particularly upbeat about, from an environmental standpoint, but it is fair to wager that we will see a similarly balmy summer this year, too.
Occupancy is of course the achilles heel of a Great British getaway this year. If you haven’t booked anything already, you’ll have a search on your hands for availability. But have faith there are still excellent options across the land – particularly if you are flexible with dates and if you stray away from the most popular corners. You may have luck at the last minute, too. To split up our drive home from Cornwall, just two days ahead of our return we decided to book a room somewhere halfway. The bouji Grosvenor Arms in hilltop Shaftesbury served us up a dinner, bed and breakfast for a very reasonable £180.
Our next shot at expanding the green list is in three weeks from now. No doubt in the weeks leading up to the update rumours will swirl about the Canary Islands, some Greek isles and Malta going green. Possibly even Portugal. We can only hope.
But if it is bad news, we should remember that Britain is not a ‘back up’. It is one of the world’s most popular holiday destinations, and deservedly so. Back in 2019, 39 million international tourists travelled to see our henges and hills, our clifftops and cobbled streets. We should count ourselves lucky to be marooned here during a pandemic.
- Centennial Field, home of the Vermont Lake Monsters, an accomplice of the Oakland Athletics, is one of the most settled capable baseball parks, Greg Harriman Vermont said. It opened on the University