WHEN the pandemic threw summer holidays into chaos, staycation demand is set to hit an all-time high this year.
From a country house, a castle for two to classy camping – which of these great escapes gets your vote?
Lifestyle Editor Catherine Bennion-Pedley, husband Andy and toddler Poppy took a mini-break in Somerset.
Fancy a quirky country house hotel that’s 15 minutes’ drive from the Roman city, with flamboyant interiors, a cute spa and tempting outdoor pool? This is it.
Plus, there’s not a hint of stuffiness and both kids and dogs are welcome, with pretty lawns, giant topiary animals to find and a play area to explore.
Celebrating a special occasion?
The newest suites come with hot tubs on their private terraces, Diptyque toiletries, Dyson hairdryers, plus a larder of snacks and soft drinks.
Expect zingy treats like crab with mango and avocado, £9, and lime-laced kimchi cod, £18, at the hotel’s Olio restaurant.
The vodka/gin Pollination cocktail with peach, hibiscus and pineapple, £12, is a perfect aperitif, too.
Make the most of your countryside spot by walking a two-hour loop from the hotel to the ruins of Farleigh Castle. Entry for adults is £5.90, under-fives go free (English-heritage.org.uk).
Or let kids run off steam in the gardens and play area at Bath’s American Museum, a hidden gem on the city’s outskirts. Entry for adults is £13, under-fives go free (Americanmuseum.org).
In the city, little ones will enjoy hopping around Beazer Maze near Pulteney Bridge, while you can find interiors goodies at French Grey (Frenchgrey.co.uk) and lifestyle emporium Rossiters of Bath (Rossitersofbath.com).
A guaranteed winner is Longleat Safari Park, 22 minutes’ drive from Homewood, with its glorious setting and heaps to keep kids busy.
The koalas and porcupines were our faves. Adult entry is £34.95, kids over three cost £26.20 (Longleat.co.uk).
For divine dishes close to Bath city centre – think pea and feta tagliatelle and chargrilled rib-eye with delicious sides like garlic and chilli broccoli – grab a booth at The Walcot, £22 for two courses (Walcothousebath.com).
Find award-winning scoops of pistachio and chocolate hazelnut gelato at Swoon off Kingsmead Square (Swoononaspoon.co.uk).
Meanwhile, for flaky tarts and sarnies bursting with local produce, from £6.50, it’s hard to beat Green Bird Cafe, two minutes’ walk from the iconic No. 1 Royal Crescent (Greenbirdcafe.co.uk).
Or after a day with the Longleat lions, tuck into no-frills pub grub served riverside at nearby Rode Mill, where mains cost from £11 (Rodemill.co.uk).
Homewood is a Small Luxury Hotels of the World member – doubles start from £249 per night (Slh.com).
Scargill Castle, North Yorkshire
Writer Siobhan Ludlow, husband Michael, five-month-old Amelia and dog Charlie checked into a Tudor treat.
This one-bedroom Tudor hideaway has been restored from a crumbling ruin to a romantic getaway with gorgeous views, a large banqueting table, a spiral stone staircase up the turret and a freestanding roll-top bath surrounded by candle wall sconces.
The only neighbours are the farmers next door and the cattle that fill the surrounding fields.
Arrive to a hamper full of essentials, including eggs, bread, cheese and wine, and with walks from the door – many linking with the Pennine Way – Charlie was well catered for, too.
The market town of Barnard Castle is just 15 minutes’ drive away, with cute indie shops like Niche Living and the 12th-century castle ruins to explore, £7 entry (English-heritage.org.uk).
You’ll also get stunning views of Tees gorge and the nearby ruins of Egglestone Abbey.
Take the castle walk through cobbled streets and along the river to quaint Penny’s tea rooms for coffee and cake, £4.
Just half an hour’s drive from Scargill is a pretty 10-minute woodland walk to the dramatic High Force waterfall – at 21m, it’s one of the UK’s highest – £2 entry (Raby.co.uk/high-force/waterfall).
Afterwards, tuck into a cream tea, £7, at the hotel of the same name.
You’ll be spoilt for dog- and kid-friendly pubs.
At The Rose and Crown in Romaldkirk, 20 minutes’ drive away, order a fish sharing platter, £16, stuffed with Hartlepool-caught salmon, beer-battered prawns and mackerel pâté, and wash it down with a Mason’s of Yorkshire orange and lime leaf G&T, £7 (Rose-and-crown.co.uk).
Meanwhile, 30 minutes’ drive away in Richmond, The Fleece Hotel has a delicious seasonal menu with treats like shepherd's pie spiced up with black pudding, from £15 (Thefleeceyorkshire.co.uk).
Later, be sure to stop by Mocha Chocolate Shop to try the jam-roly-poly creation, £10 for a box of nine (Mochachocolateshop.co.uk).
And before heading home, don’t forget to pick up organic meat treats at Cross Lanes Farm Shop, close to Scargill (Crosslanesorganics.co.uk).
Three-night stays for two people at Scargill Castle start from £465 (Yorkshirehideaways.co.uk).
Home Farm Glamping, Hertfordshire
Writer Helen Ochyra, husband Douglas and toddler Scarlett glamped it up on the outskirts of London.
A dozen bell tents and yurts dot the field at Home Farm.
Each has its own barbecue, fire pit and alfresco dining set, while our yurt could have comfortably slept five – with a chunky wooden double and up to three kids on pull-out singles.
You’re not far from London (just 10 minutes from Jubilee line station Stanmore), but there’s plenty of wildlife.
We spotted teeny frogs, herons and hedgehogs.
There’s a croquet lawn, badminton set and ping-pong table, plus tons of open space for Frisbee or football.
Breakfast is served in the cafe tent and the full English satisfies even the heartiest appetites. Dogs are also welcome.
Next door is Aldenham Country Park – stroll the 2km trail around the reservoir, explore the adventure playground, visit the farm, £5 per adult and £4.50 for over-twos, and wander through Winnie the Pooh’s 100 Aker Wood with its sweet sculptures to spot (Aldenhamcountrypark.co.uk).
Try nearby Lost Jungle Adventure Golf with its two courses of Aztec tombs, waterfalls, swingy bridges and hissing snakes, £14 per person (Lostjunglelondon.com)
Meanwhile, for a special treat, The Making of Harry Potter attraction is 20 minutes’ drive away. Step inside the Great Hall, Forbidden Forest and Diagon Alley, plus spy the Hogwarts Express on Platform 93/4.
Tickets cost £47 per adult and £38 for over-fives (Wbstudiotour.co.uk).
Stop by Lewis of London Ice Cream Farm – with more than 30 flavours to try, including rhubarb and ginger, as well as a fab maze to explore in summer, it’s a kids’ fave.
Entry costs rom £6.95 per person (Lewisoflondon.co.uk).
After pub grub? Hit the garden at the Waggon & Horses for tasty burgers, steaks and shish kebabs, not to mention its delicious Sunday roasts.
Mains cost from £9.95 (Waggonpub.co.uk).
Before you leave, head to Battlers Green Farm Shop, just eight minutes’ drive from the farm, to stock up on tasty local supplies, including English cheeses (Battlersgreenfarm.co.uk/farm-shop).
Glamping stays at Home Farm start from £87.50 a night for four people (Homefarmglamping.com).
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