Bradt on Britain

Closer to home is the new faraway

As restrictions ease, Hilary Bradt explains why UK residents who have had to cancel foreign trips shouldn’t feel too disappointed at holidaying at home this year instead.

‘The message is clear,’ said the minister on the BBC News recently, ‘do not visit crowded places.’ As Bradt followers will know, that’s what we’re all about! Our international guides celebrate the less-known parts of the world, and our Slow guides and other books about Britain celebrate the less-known parts of our island.

Hot spots and recognised beauty spots will always be crowded in fine weather. But our readers are not part of the problem – they lead the way to a new responsibility. Not to stay home (that, we hope, is in the past), but the delightful responsibility to enjoy the wonderful variety our country has to offer and to experience those special places that few know about but that our authors have sought out and shared through their Slow Travel (and other) guides.

In those wonderful sun-filled days of April and May I got to know my area like never before. I walked every local footpath, wound my way past wild daffodils and early buds, then bluebells and that lovely tender green of May beech trees, and now the heavy foliage of mid summer. I sat and watched a woodpecker go back and forth to her tree hole to feed her young, and enjoyed the skittishness of rabbits as they crop the new grass. This is the reality of Slow.

I had so many foreign trips planned for May and June, but you know what? After the initial disappointment when one after another was cancelled, I will look back on this year as one of the best ever. I think about all those ‘secret’ places that I explored and wrote about in the three Devon Slow Travel guides: open gardens that see only one or two visitors a day because, as one owner told me ‘ We don’t really want everyone to know about it’; little village churches (one of my passions) with all that history and intriguing medieval art; and expanses of countryside networked with footpaths and cycle routes, with unsung villages, grateful not to be at the epicentre of tourism, hidden in the valleys.

Most of these pleasures are free, which means there is absolutely every reason to indulge in a splendid dinner at the end of the day. Restaurants will have just opened again when you read this and they need you!

My cancelled foreign trips have given me the opportunity to make plans for walking the Devon Coast to Coast path across Dartmoor and Exmoor. I describe it in my guides but have only walked sections. In August I shall do (or hope to do) the whole damned 117 miles of it, staying in hand-picked accommodation and, you bet, eating lavishly at the end of each day!

At Bradt Guides we’ve been championing the benefits of slow travel, wildlife watching and getting the most out of Britain’s special places since long before lockdown. We have more general guides to British travel than any other publisher – more than 40 in total. Wild camping, walking, waterways and whisky tours – however you’re looking to explore Britain this summer, we’ve got a book for you. Head over to our shop or browse the articles below for inspiration.

Our ‘Slow Travel’ series

Our guidebooks and literature titles

The best wild swimming spots in South Devon

There are so many wild and watery places to explore along Devon rivers, estuaries and coastline.

The best family days out in Somerset

A grand day out: the best stately homes in Cheshire

Walk of the Week: Exploring The Wrekin, Shropshire

Discovering hirath: Going Slow in Cornwall

Only in Cornwall could there be a word that means 'a deep belonging to a place'.

Accommodation in Cornwall

Food and drink in Cornwall

Unique sleeps: the best quirky accommodation in England

Socially distant travel: the Chilterns & Thames Valley

Five family days out in Shropshire

Not-so-obvious Northumberland

Discover the county’s lesser-known treasures.

Size isn’t everything: the best small hills in England

Phoebe Smith picks five of her favourite small hills in England that all the family can enjoy.

Our favourite gin distilleries in Britain

Walking for England: 11 of the country’s best walks

12 places that inspired the UK’s greatest writers

Island life: Orkney’s cultural treasures

Orkney's rich history is markedly visible across the islands in its well-preserved Neolithic villages and chambered cairns.

Secret Britain – sites to savour in Yorkshire

BBC's Ellie Harrison and Adam Henson seek out the hidden sites few tourists see.