1. If you like: mountains and lakes
The northern Italian/Swiss lakes are stunning, and an easy train ride. Connect in Paris for a fast train to Zurich, then onward travel to stations around Lake Como. The train ride itself is worth it for the stunning views over the lakes.
The mountains and lakes of the Lake District are among the most beautiful in the world. This treasured national park has it all, from mountain biking and extreme sports, to museums and art galleries, and bougie food destinations. Take a boat trip or climb England’s highest peak, Scafell Pike.
Trains take you to Penrith for the north lakes, or right to the heart of the action in Windermere. YHA accommodation means there are plenty of options for a budget holiday.
2. If you like: cycling
Dutch cities are famous for their cycling culture, but for something a little less hectic than Amsterdam, try Utrecht. This university city has everything you would want for a Netherlands getaway with canals, beautiful architecture and bikes everywhere. There's even a Miffy museum.
Make it more of an adventure and ride there: it's 85km through the Dutch countryside from Hoek van Holland (ferry from Harwich) or Europort (ferry from Hull), or 68km from IJmuiden (ferry from Newcastle), which takes you through Amsterdam on the way.
Coast to coast
There are plenty of mid-distance cycle routes to choose from in the UK, but perhaps the most iconic is a coast-to-coast route, where you dip your rear wheel in the Irish sea at one end and your front wheel in the North sea at the other. We recommend Hadrian’s cycleway – full of history as well as stunning scenery. The Sustrans website will tell you everything you need to know.
3. If you like: beaches
The northern Spanish beaches are fantastic: plenty of sand, great weather, and not as overwhelmingly crowded as those near Barcelona on the Mediterranean coast. The seafood-lovers paradise of San Sebastian is easily reached from Bilbao or Santander, which is where ferries from England’s south coast arrive.
As the name suggests, this is a beautifully sandy beach on the East Sussex coast, with miles of sand dunes and a wide, flat beach. It's very popular in the summer but beat the traffic by taking the train to the historic town of Rye, and cycling the 3.5 miles along the National Cycle Network to the coast. Rye is worth a visit in itself, with a beautiful harbour, excellent food and a castle.
4. If you like: food
There are few places better than Paris for food. Two recommendations for street markets are Le Food Market and Marché des enfants rouges. Paris couldn't be easier to access from the UK, with a super-fast Eurostar connection, or coach if you're on a budget.
Bristol has a vibrant food scene and is especially good for vegans. You’ll find one of the best food markets in the UK at St Nicholas Markets – overflowing at lunch times, with street food options from all over the globe.
5. If you like: city breaks
The Czech capital is a favourite for stag dos and birthday parties, but there's no need to fly there. Even with multiple connections (in London, Brussels, Frankfurt, Nuremberg and Cheb), it's possible to reach the city from the UK in a single day.
The Scottish capital is always a winning destination, wherever you live. With historic architecture (Edinburgh castle) standing side-by-side with nature walks (Arthur’s seat), views across the Firth of Forth, bustling docks, great shopping and museums, and of course the famous festival, Edinburgh tops our list hands down.
It’s very easy to get to from all over the UK, with direct trains from Glasgow, Aberdeen and Inverness, as well as London, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol and Southampton.