Nostalgia Trip: The Best UK Holidays To Relive Your Childhood

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What’s the first holiday you remember going on in the UK? Whether it was building sandcastles in Cornwall, playing the penny slots in Brighton or flying a kite in the Lake District, most of us Brits have similar nostalgic memories of childhood holidays in good ol’ Blighty.  

According to research, nine in ten (91 per cent) of Britons feel nostalgic when they think back to their childhood holidays. Moreover, the same poll has revealed that 94 per cent of us agree that trips as a child were some of the best of our lives.

Sure, some might say that nostalgia is a disease and sentimental longing can make us blind to the good stuff in our present. But there’s something magical about revisiting the places that shaped our childhood. In fact, we’d argue that reliving positive memories from yesteryear can significantly boost our mood.

Unsurprisingly, Bloomberg reports that summer in the UK is “increasingly about escaping to Brighton, Margate, Cornwall and the Barry Islands, rather than Greece, Italy Or Spain”, just like we used to before package holidays and cheap international flights made far-flung travel so much easier. 

Indeed, while holidays in the recent years have certainly gotten more exotic, it’s often the ones spent closer to home that are remembered most fondly. Today, we’re taking a road trip down memory lane to recreate the journeys so many of us went on as children. Care to join us? 

Brighton, East Sussex

We had to start here. A salty, summer saunter along the most cliched of British piers, checking out cheesy souvenir shops and playing penny slot machines, a tub of pickled cockles in one hand, a My Whippy in the other, and sand between our teeth; if there’s a more quintessential British day out, we haven’t found it.

Even on a wet, windswept summer’s day, Brighton Pier has so much to offer. The seaside resort is one of only two Grade I-listed piers in England. Opened in 1866, the West Pier was originally built as a promenade with an open deck and a splutter of small buildings before a central bandstand was built in 1875 and a theatre added a decade later.

Unfortunately, the West Pier now stands derelict and only a partial frame of its former self remains. However, the Grade II-listed Brighton Pier, built in 1899, still stands proud; a curious hybrid of modern installation inside a Victorian shell. Today, packed with amusement arcades, rides, churros stands and more, Brighton’s second pier is thriving and the ideal place to make memories-on-sea.

Aside from promenading down the front, there’s plenty to do elsewhere in Brighton. Wandering around the lanes, a collection of narrow, densely packed streets home to independent shops, boutiques and restaurants, is a favourite pastime of ours. In fact there’s so much to do in Brighton, we’ve written a whole rundown of the 7 of the best things to do in Brighton… Do check it out sometime.

Hayle, Cornwall

Caravans, Cornwall, the coast, cod, cakes (and scones)…has there ever been a more perfect set of ingredients for a holiday?

Amongst many British families, memories of holidays in Cornwall are handed down from generation to generation. No doubt your grandparents took your parents somewhere in Kernow (the Cornish term for the county). Then, your parents, in turn, took you, and similarly, you may take your own children. 

Our nostalgic memory of camping in Cornwall was in Hayle, which in our humble opinion boasts the best beach in the county, with 3 miles of golden sand. We have many fond memories of reading books in Hayle’s Sandy dunes, eating sandy prawn sandwiches and waiting for the jingle of the ice cream man coming along the beach to serve us thirst-quenching calippos

Nothing beats the community spirit and sense of camaraderie you experienced while on a camping holiday in Cornwall as a kid. Playing cards in the rain in a caravan and eating charred sausages on the BBQ is part and parcel of the fun. Fast forward a decade or two, and Hayle was recently voted as the best coastal staycation town anywhere in the country.

Granted World Heritage Status in 2006, the town itself is charming, with quaint shops and cafes. Nearby, you can visit the iconic St Ives, renowned for its art scene and picturesque harbour. For family fun, Paradise Park offers a delightful wildlife sanctuary and the scenic Hayle Estuary is a haven for birdwatchers. This part of Cornwall is also one of the best places in the county to get a pasty, with Hayle home to Philps Pasties Headquarters. No surprise, then, thet eating one on Hayle’s Gwithian Beach is one of life’s greatest pleasures.

Read: 7 staycation ideas for an incredible holiday in Cornwall

Forest of Dean & Wye Valley, Gloucestershire

Anyone who wants to experience a Great British escape should consider a holiday in The Forest of Dean. This moss-cloaked corner of ancient England, located in the western part of Gloucestershire and nestled between the Severyn and the Wye, is England’s largest oak woodland. It’s also reputed to be J.R.R. Tolkien’s inspiration for the forests of Middle Earth.

Visitors can explore the dense, ancient woodlands of the Forest of Dean, which are perfect for hiking, cycling, and wildlife spotting. Indeed, it’s a place where the air is thick with the sound of birds and the grunting of wild boar. 

The forest’s history stretches back for decades and, most notably, from the time of the Norman conquest in 1066 until 1971, the Dean was a Royal Forest. Then, it was used by the Normans as their hunting ground, stocked with deer and wild boar.

The nearby Wye Valley, with its stunning river landscapes, provides opportunities for canoeing, kayaking and fishing. For a truly nostalgic experience, you can even stay in a treehouse.

Nestled deep in secluded Gloucestershire’s ancient woodland, The Hudnalls Hideout treehouse is perhaps our favourite. Accessed via a suspended wooden bridge from a woodland track, this luxurious treehouse is exclusively for adults. Complete with a woodland sauna with a window overlooking the surrounding woodland and and a gorgeous copper bath for long soaks. There is even a bar, and if you’re super quiet, from your perch in the trees, you may even spot those elusive boar that we mentioned (twice) earlier roaming about the woods. It’s also the ideal spot to play Robin Hood and Maid Marian, in an adult way. 

Read: The UK’s most magical treehouse stays for 2024.

Shannklin, Isle Of Wight

Epic car journeys are surely one of the biggest childhood holiday memories for Brits, and none were quite so long as making the trip to the Isle of Wight, especially since you had to wait to get the ferry over. Although from London you can get to the Isle of Wight in less than 2 hours, when you’re a kid those 2 hours can seem like an eternity. 

The Isle of Wight is, in many ways, the quintessential British holiday destination; warm but windy, refined and rustic, often gaudy yet occasionally glamorous, it encapsulates the Great British summer getaway rather succinctly. 

Shanklin is one of the Isle of Wight’s most famous seaside resorts. It’s a charming place with a traditional seafront promenade vibe – think Punch and Judy, buckets and spades. The promenade is bustling with amusements including traditional arcade games and bowling. If you’re feeling peckish several cafés and kiosks serve up the usual seaside fare like fish and chips, hotdogs and ice cream.

Shanklin’s sandy beach makes it perfect for a spot of swimming and there are a range of beach huts and deckchairs to hire for those who want to take their time with the spectacular views. Sounds idyllic to us.

Read: The best restaurants on the Isle Of Wight

Whitby, North Yorkshire 

Whitby is yet another seaside town that tops lists of Brits favourite nostalgic holidays. This seaside port town, complete with a lovely beach, amusement arcades and a popular promenade, is one of our favourite places in North Yorkshire. With a bustling harbour and busy fishing port bringing in catches of cod, pollock, mackerel and so much more, Whitby is ideal for visitors with a penchant for deliciously fresh fish too.

Infact, if you’re looking for a restaurant which serves up some of the best in the country, look no further than Quayside, a lovely restaurant overlooking Whitby harbour which was previously winner of the prestigious Fish and Chip Shop of the Year. 

If you fancy having a go at catching your own fish dinner, Whitby West Pier is an all time favourite for anglers all over Yorkshire. Of course, no traditional trip to the seaside would be complete without sampling an old-fashioned afternoon tea room. Enter the award winning Botham’s of Whitby on Skinner Street. Their apricot and orange tea bread is particularly popular with the locals (and us!).

Windemere, The Lake District

A recent study showed nearly one third of the nation (that’s 27%) go back to their childhood holiday destination every few years and, unsurprisingly, the Lakes was one of the most popular childhood locations. Proudly named as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Lake District’s breathtaking landscapes and range of outdoor activities – both active and languid – make it a year-round attraction for us Brits.

Windemere is the largest of the lakes and somewhere many Brit’s happiest childhood memories come from. It’s the kind of place where you learn to skim stones across the lake’s surface, where you clamber over rocks of the surrounding peaks and have a picnic or two, enjoying classic Lakeland souvenirs like fudge and Kendal mint cake. 

The Bottom Line 

Whether playing the penny machines in the arcade in Brighton, eating sandy sandwiches on the beach in Cornwall or jumping into lakes in the Lake District the great British tourism industry is booming, and we’re very much here for it.

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