Weekend Breaks. Backyard breakaway
14 April 1998
England has plenty to offer dedicated holiday-makers, from youth hostelling to luxury hotels. London is still the UK's top destination. The traditional weekend stay will often include a West End show, and if you do not want to go to the trouble of making the travel arrangements, a number of hotels and ticket companies will sort them out for you and include it in the package price.
Forte has a one-night theatre break at the mid-range Posthouse Bloomsbury Hotel starting at £87 per person, with tickets for a variety of shows from An Inspector Calls to Rent.
The price of a first-class return rail ticket starts at £26 travelling from Birmingham to London and Forte throws in free travel on buses and the London Underground.
The city's hotels are among the most expensive in the UK but Forte's Posthouse chain is good value, while another good-value option is the new Stakis Islington.
For trendiness, The Metropolitan on Park Lane is the place to be seen. For a more traditional setting try Brown's Hotel in Mayfair, which is famous for its afternoon teas and discreet service. It is now owned by the same people who own the Raffles Hotel in Singapore, so expect a tinkling piano, gorgeous cakes and luxury.
A romantic weekend can take anyone's mind off their in-tray. Away from the capital, in Bath, you will find one of the city's grandest hotels, the Bath Spa, which is luxurious without being stuffy. Not only can you try a four- poster bed for size, the hotel is only a short stroll away from the city centre with its many interesting shopping arcades and boutiques.
The city is busy in the summer, so autumn and spring are probably the best times to take time out to admire its architecture, including a wander around the Royal Crescent.
Do not attempt to drive as the traffic jams coming into Bath are notorious, but the compact city centre is easily walkable.
The Roman Baths and the Museum of Costume are top attractions, but there is also time to catch a canal barge along the river, watch the weir at Pulteney Bridge, or catch a game of rugby.
Balloons are a regular sight in this area, with take-off points in Bath, often near the Royal Crescent and in nearby Bristol, home of the country's most famous balloon festival. Trips usually cost about £100.
The coastlines of Cornwall and Norfolk provide a rural resting place for those seeking isolation. Walk along a seaside path being buffeted by the wind, with screeching seagulls circling, and work crises seem to recede into the distance.
North Norfolk is the most undeveloped part of the county's coastline with flint cottages and shops selling crab sandwiches. Cromer's glory days as a seaside hotspot are slipping away. At one time it was a popular destination for people from the the Midlands who packed the town's boarding houses for their annual summer holiday. But on a wintry day Cromer is still appealing. Fish and chips, watching the lifeboat crew down at the station and a walk down the pebbly beach are all an escape from the urban routine.
For a short stay, from a weekend to a week, renting a cottage is often the best value option. The National Trust has a selection of cottages at excellent prices, while the Landmark Trust provides homes to rent which are a little grander.
The Youth Hostel Association is trying to improve its image and get away from its reputation for spartan properties with hard beds and cold water. Recently it is has been promoting its more unusual locations, like the eleventh-century St Briavel's Castle in the Wye Valley.
You may still have to put up with dormitory-style sleeping, unless you opt for one of their family rooms. Or another option is to get a group of friends together and rent the whole hostel, such as the one at Carrock Fell in the Lake District, which has stone walls, fireplaces and beamed ceilings.
London Tourist Board: 0171 932 2000
Youth Hostel Association: 01727 855215