Travel news latest: Our reporters dash to locations across England as domestic holidays resume

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Domestic holidays in England resume today as the UK hits the first major date in the roadmap out of lockdown.

Self-catering accommodation (including camping and glamping) can reopen in England. Wales has already allowed self-catering accommodation to reopen, but it also lifts rules against non-essential travel to and from other parts of the UK today, allowing English holidaymakers to also take holidays in Wales.

Only those within the same household, linked household or support bubble will be allowed to stay within the same accommodation until May 17 at the earliest, when inter-household mixing indoors will be permitted. This is also when hotels in England will be able to reopen, though many are able to reopen facilities today including restaurants (with outdoor space) and spas.

Hotels in Wales should be able to reopen before the spring bank holiday at the end of May, while hospitality in Scotland, including both self-catering accommodation and hotels, should reopen from April 26, though no date has yet been set for restarting cross-border travel.

To mark the beginning of domestic holidays in the UK, Telegraph Travel has a team of journalists on the road, covering the #GreatUnlock. From glamping in Suffolk to a campervan trip in the Cotswolds, via a self-catering getaway in Devon.

Lunchtime celebrations: no washing up and a spa-side coffee

Our reporters have had lunchtime break, making the most of professionally-cooked meals, without the need to clear up afterwards.

Sharp increase in footfall as England eases lockdown

Footfall across all retail destinations in UK was up 101 per cent by midday on Monday compared to a week earlier, according to the most recent figures from Springboard.

Footfall at shopping centres rose 148 per cent, while high street footfall rose 130 per cent, the figures show. Meanwhile, retail parks saw a 12 per cent drop in footfall.

Across all destinations footfall was still down 36 per cent compared to Monday April 15, 2019. It rose 346 per cent compared to Monday April 13, 2020 –the height of the first lockdown.

Wildlife parks welcome back two-legged visitors

Claire Irvin, The Telegraph’s Head of Travel, has headed to Shepreth Wildlife Park today – and found some baby otters.

Thankfully, the weather has improved since this morning!

Last month, Natalie Paris took made a visit to Longleat ahead of its reopening.

UK farm holidays: ‘Incredible demand for family stays’

Staying on a farm is the perfect antidote to Covid times. It’s outdoorsy, well-spaced and taps into our newfound love of nature. No wonder, then, that one operator, Feather Down Farms, is booking up fast.

Mark Gordon at Feather Down Farms comments:

This year has seen incredibly high levels of interest in Feather Down Farms and our UK business has doubled year on year.  School holiday periods at some farms are currently around 80% booked and whilst there is still some availability, this is changing daily.

This year more than ever before, I think our offering has huge appeal and gives people a very welcome escape to a different and healthy setting and slower pace of life. Feather Down is the only nationwide operator offering an escape back to the simple things in everyday life in the middle of the countryside, away from the all too familiar fraught lockdown world of wifi, screens and instant gratification.

With each tent offering private facilities, we are open again from today and currently have 32 farms in the UK, most within 2 hours drive from major urban centres making them easily accessible short break escapes for either midweek or weekend stays.

anna brock
Anna Brock, manager of Feather Down’s Manor Farm glamping site, prepares the tents, lights lamps and candles, to welcome back visitors 
Luke MacGregor

Comment: ‘Travel is a privilege, not a right – people appear to have forgotten this’

As a child Rob Crossan‘s family rarely went away on holiday – a fact that, he says, his parents found somewhat embarrassing.

However, not going on a summer holiday didn’t, and still doesn’t, mean you’re on a fast track to Benefits Street. It’s actually very, very normal, he writes:

One study, published by Statista, showed that, between 2011 and 2019, between 10% and 23% of Brits took no holidays at all over a 12 month period. So it baffles me that it’s only now, with a wave of pricey Covid-testing and quarantining that looms large for 2021’s potential holidaymakers on the horizon, that a wave of protest has begun, howling that, from now on, holidays will be only for the rich.

Wasn’t it ever thus? The evidence is right in front of us in the form of the current Give Them A Break campaign to give holidays to key workers who have sacrificed so much over the last year. A significant chunk of the population have become far, far too entitled; complaining about the countries on the green list and whining about how unfair it is that they can’t go to Italy, South America or South Africa this summer. It’s a horribly unpleasant, hitherto unexpected consequence of Covid among the vacationing classes.

The pandemic should, logic suggests, make us more grateful than ever that we can go anywhere at all. But the opposite seems to be occurring.

Suffolk flourishes on first day of outdoor venues reopening

Simon Parker is today embarking on a 75-ride through Suffolk. One hotel, The Swan, has turned its ‘Garden Rooms’ into individual dining rooms.

Elsewhere, he’s witnessed two men having a Champagne breakfast al-fresco, followed by a 12-pack of beers…at 11.05am. And who can blame them?

Bought a dog over lockdown? How to take it on holiday (and avoid disaster)

Dog sales boomed during the pandemic, and you are among the new owners, Lottie Gross has some expert tips on how to avoid catastrophe on your UK holiday. Below is one; read the rest here.

Follow the hotel’s rules – within reason

Lots of hotels and even some self-catering accommodation will give you a list of rules to adhere to during your stay. The number one request is usually: “Keep dogs off the furniture.” It sounds reasonable enough, but when your dog is used to hopping up next to you on the sofa or snoozing at your feet on the bed, such a simple rule can make your holiday quite stressful. No one wants to be constantly telling their pet off for doing things they’re allowed to do at home.

That’s why I always bring a large throw to chuck over sofas or on top of the bed so when the dog does hop up, it’s protected from any sharp claws and muddy paws. I also bring a foldable crate for Arty to sleep in, which stops him from climbing under the duvet in the middle of the night.

Lottie Gross
Lottie Gross with her dog, Arty
Amanda Forman/Rutland Pet Photography

Brighton busy already as Britons fill the streets

Telegraph Travel writer Ash Bhardwaj is exploring Brighton today. Thus far, he’s enjoyed feasting on oysters and reports bustling scenes as the #GreatUnlock gets underway…

Comment: I am that chav who loves to get drunk in the airport

Julie Burchill fondly recalls her days in the sun, when no breakfast buffet was complete without a Bloody Mary, no beach day any fun without fizz, and no airport experience complete without booze:

At home, because I love writing even more than drinking, deadlines keep me on the straight(ish) and narrow(ish); on holiday, all bets are off. And I like to start as I mean to go on; I am that chav who loves to get drunk at the airport.

Coming back from the Mayr Clinic in Austria, having lost half a stone in a week, I put it all back on drinking butterscotch schnapps at a stopover in Vienna. On the way to Sardinia, I consumed two champagne breakfasts before I got there (one at Gatwick, one on the plane).

Because I am a polite drunk around strangers, kind air stewardesses would invariably let me go on drinking after ruder boozers were curtailed, which meant that sometimes a holiday was in danger of ending before it began; more than once my husband had to run back on to the plane to retrieve my passport while I giggled inanely at customs.

Where star-starved city dwellers should go to see the night sky

Has lockdown had you looking up? Or perhaps you feel it’s been ages since you’ve seen the night sky. In the age of social distancing, there can be few better ways to contemplate and take stock than a staycation with the stars.

Jamie Carter has 20 parks, coastlines and even pub car parks that are some of the best spots to find dark starry skies across the UK, and gives advice on the best times to go.

Heading to the quieter regions of the Jurassic Coast would be one option

Airbnb welcomes back guests in England

The ever-popular rental site is back in business for English holidaymakers.

Amanda Cupples, General Manager for Northern Europe at Airbnb told us:

The re-opening of self-contained accommodation is an important and immensely welcome step towards recovery in England. We know that Hosts are eager to throw open their doors once again and safely welcome those looking to spend time away from home with their household or support bubble. What’s more, the demand for local staycations is an exciting opportunity for Brits looking to boost their earnings through Hosting on Airbnb while also supporting economic recovery in their local communities.

Last summer, Airbnb hosts in the UK earned more than £225 million with the average member pocketing nearly £1,000.

This summer, the top 10 trending destinations Britons are searching for are Saint Clears in Carmarthenshire coming out on top – alongside Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire and Clovelly, Devon.

Best pub walks: 10 post-lockdown rambles in the Cotswolds 

With pub gardens now reopened (albeit under less than ideal weather circumstances), Richard Madden selects the best walks that start and end at a country inn.

There are few areas of England more befitting a ramble

Woodland stays for later this year

If a stay in a cabin in the woods has piqued your interest, here are some potential packages with Forest Holidays for later this year:

Early summer: Three-night break on June 11 2021 in a Silver Birch 2 bed cabin in Argyll from £615

School summer holidays: Three-night break on July 23 2021 in a Silver Birch 2 bed cabin in Strathyre from £755

Autumn break: Threenight break on October 1 2021 in a Silver Birch 2 bed cabin in Keldy from £520

October half term: Three-night break on October 22 2021 in a Silver Birch 2 bed cabin in Keldy from £720

North York Moors and Cornwall popular for Forest Holidays

City-dwellers hoping to immerse themselves in nature might opt for a stay at one of Forest Holidays’ locations, seven of which have reopened in England today.

The accommodation provider has seen large demand for smaller cabins for people travelling with immediate family. However, there’s still good availability for those looking to book with larger groups in the autumn.

The most popular locations for bookings have been Cropton and Keldy located within the North York Moors. Deerpark in Cornwall is proving the most popular for summer stays while new location Delamere Forest is seeing a surge in bookings for its opening month in April and through May. Its two locations in Scotland will reopen from April 26 and Beddgelert in Wales began a phased reopening to Welsh visitors on March 29.

Bruce McKendrick, chief executive of Forest Holidays, said:

Nature is fundamental to the nation’s wellbeing. Simply being in the forest can be great for your health, helping to reduce anxiety and boost the immune system. Every day we see the real, tangible benefits that just a few days spent in nature offers our guests. More than anything, we look forward to sharing these benefits with them with all our England sites opening today and with our Scottish sites opening in a few weeks.

A 75-mile bike, anyone?

Keen cyclists might celebrate the #GreatUnlock like Simon Parker, with a long bike ride. Check out the views on his Twitter feed.

Crowds build at the Kumbh Mela festival in India

Tens of thousands of people have headed to the sacred Ganges river at the Kumbh Mela festival in the town of Haridwar in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand.

A Naga Sadhu, or Hindu holy man wears a mask 
A Naga Sadhu, or Hindu holy man wears a mask before the procession for taking a dip in the Ganges river during Shahi Snan at “Kumbh Mela”, or the Pitcher Festival

Police officials say they are struggling to control Covid-19 safety protocols and issue fines to those not following the rules due to the huge crowds at the site.

evening prayer on the banks of ganges river 
Devotees gather for an evening prayer on the banks of Ganges river during Kumbh Mela on April 11 

A stay fit for a king: Warwick Castle reopens to visitors

History-lovers might fancy following the lead of Natalie Paris. She’s heading to Warwick Castle, which was built by William the Conqueror.

No fair-weather travellers: Britons make the most of reopenings

Despite today’s low temperatures (sitting at 4°C/39.2°F in south-west London, in case you were interested …), many Britons have made a beeline to pub gardens and theme parks as lockdown rules ease. Traders and staff in non-essential shops are also welcoming customers.

people drinking beer
An start for beers at The Fox on the Hill pub in London
visitors to thorpe park
It’s a rush for the rides at Thorpe Park today
covent garden
Two for a pound? Market traders in Covent Garden set up their stalls for the first time this year
Joseph Okpako/Getty

‘Despite an affinity for In Bruges, I left the the city out of my plans’

For those among you daydreaming of a trip to Europe, this fairytale Belgian town might be on your wishlist. Ben Parker explains why he’s yet to visit.

One of the many attractive corners of Bruges 

Ralph Fiennes is the reason I’ve never been to
Bruges. Him, Colin Farrell, and Brendan Gleeson. In fact, I’ll lay the blame squarely at the feet of the 2008 film
In Bruges, a black comedy set in the city in western Belgium, and starring the aforementioned trio.

Not because it’s a hatchet piece on Bruges; beyond the gritty nature of Martin McDonagh’s critically lauded flick, the city enthrals: the “lake of love” in Minnewaterpark, Rozenhoedkaai from the water, market square. For many years, after closing time at the pub (remember that?), I’d totter home and play an In Bruges DVD, dozing as shots captured the ancient Church of Our Lady or the botanical garden.

But an overexposure caused Bruges to slip from my plans. Instead of booking to see the “
all those canals and bridges and cobbled streets and those churches”, as Harry, Fiennes’ crime boss character puts it, the city felt too familiar, especially when compared to something “different” (the Museum of Medieval Torture Instruments in
Prague, for example).

Planning a weekend trip to Brighton?

Just a couple of weeks ago, local sunseekers made the most of the mini heatwave on Brighton beach. While today’s weather is less inviting, the seaside resort still has plenty on offer as self-catering stays reopen.

Telegraph Travel writer Ash Bhardwaj is testing it out for us today.

Thailand reports highest daily increase amid New Year holiday

Thailand reported 985 new coronavirus cases on Monday, its highest daily increase since the start of the pandemic, and health officials said they were worried the number of new infections could be far higher after this week’s traditional Thai New Year holiday.

Health experts said the third major surge in the country was proving more difficult to control as it was mostly a variant of the virus first found in the U.K. and has mostly affected younger people because it broke out at nightclubs and bars.

“The third wave is different. The origin is the young generation who have active lifestyle. They went to clubs, go back to their hometowns on very long holidays and caused the wide spread,” said Dr. Tawee Chotpitayasunondh, a senior consultant for Health Ministry.

Millions of Thais are traveling around the country – often from urban areas to rural villages – for this week’s annual Songkran festival, which marks the traditional Thai New Year. The government has not prevented people from traveling, as it did when it canceled the festival last year.

Where are the goats of Llandudno?

Travel writer Richard Franks is in Llandudno making the most of the relaxed border rules that came into effect today, permitting non-essential trips between England and Wales once more.

However, he’s yet to spot the local herd of wild Kashmiri goats that became somewhat of an internet sensation in the first lockdown when they headed onto the town’s deserted streets.

Record summer on the way for UK breaks, predicts holiday let firm

Hot tub holidays and pet-friendly breaks look likely to be two of the most popular types of UK getaways in 2021, according to one of the largest providers of holiday properties,

As self-catering breaks return in England today, said it has seen bookings for properties including a hot tub rise by 135 per cent compared to the same point in 2019, while pet-friendly breaks are up more than 100 per cent over the same period.

Demand for the brand’s luxury properties is up 145 per cent as holidaymakers look to treat themselves after a long lockdown, while sales of seven-night summer breaks are a huge 200 per cent up on 2019 as people look to get away for longer than just a few days.

Simon Altham, Group Chief Commercial Officer at Awaze – the parent company of, said:

Everything we are seeing suggests it’s going to be a year like no other for the domestic holiday industry. People have clearly had enough of the uncertainty surrounding foreign travel and are locking in their summer staycation now to make sure they have something to look forward to.

Self-catering providers welcome the #GreatUnlock

Holiday accommodation businesses across England have spent weeks preparing to reopen to guests today.

Among them is Helen Masse, owner of Runswick Bay Cottages, which includes 16 properties on the North Yorkshire Coast.

runswick cottages
Guests of Runswick Bay Cottages can expect views such as this
Runswick Bay Cottages

Helen said:

The feeling is like the very first day I opened 15 year ago. Guests are super excited to get away, some of whom are taking the holiday that they should have had this time last year so hopefully there will be lots of smiles and positivity!  I’ve got a few dates available here and there over the coming weeks but largely everywhere is booked from today with people eager to get away and enjoy a change of scenery.

Spas reopen in England today

Charlotte Johnstone, Telegraph Travel’s resident spa expert, is heading to Sussex this morning. She’ll be covering the reopening of spas with a trip to South Lodge, a country house hotel and spa.

Spanish tourism boss ‘concerned’ by Global Travel Taskforce report

A leading Spanish tourism official has voiced concern at the “lack of certainty surrounding summer holidays” based on the Global Travel Taskforce’s (GTT) framework for a return for international travel for people in England.

Jet2, the UK’s second-largest tour operator postponed its holiday programme until June 24 following the publication of the GTT’s report.

Andalucia’s tourism minister Juan Marin said: “We are saddened to hear that major airlines such as Jet2 have taken the difficult decision to postpone their operations given the lack of clarity around likely start dates or requirements.”

Mr Marin, who represents one of the most popular holiday regions in Spain, added: “While the announcement of the Global Travel Taskforce’s framework for restart highlights a route out of the pandemic and back to international travel, we are still concerned at the lack of certainty surrounding summer holidays.

“We would like to re-emphasise that Andalucía is a safe destination, ready to receive visitors with a series of measures in place including our international travel insurance for Andalucía. The international travel insurance offers travellers up to €4,000 of cover on medical expenses, sanitary repatriation and extension of stay in the case of a Covid-19 infection, providing visitors with the confidence that they are safeguarded during their trip.”

Fancy a trip to Devon? We’ve got your questions covered

Telegraph Travel’s Emma Cooke is on her way to Devon for the #GreatUnlock. Send your questions her way, or tweet @TelegraphTravel

Train bookings up 135pc

Trainline data reveals bookings for travel this week have increased 135 per cent compared to last month and are up 52 per cent since only last week.

Cornwall is proving one of the most popular destinations for spring breaks

Longer trips departing this week are also on the up, with bookings for open return journeys up 204 per cent compared to four weeks ago, as self-catering accommodation options start to open.

Same-day returns for travel next week are also up 192 per cent as more shops, restaurants and other amenities becomes available to visit. Stations at beach destinations have seen some of the greatest relative growth in comparison to four weeks ago, with bookings to the following revealing the greatest increase in popularity:

  • Blackpool Pleasure Beach
  • St Ives
  • Clacton-on-Sea
  • Penzance
  • Brighton

Similarly, stations in countryside destinations have seen a significant relative increase in bookings, notably Totnes in Devon and Penrith in the Lake District.

Seaside trips to Wales back on for English visitors

Non-essential trips between Wales and England are permitted from today. Travel writer Richard Franks is in Llandudno for Telegraph Travel. Thankfully, his beach trip comes without a smattering of snow.

India and Sri Lanka secure air bridge

India and Sri Lanka have secured a bilateral air bubble arrangement, it was reported over the weekend.

This will allow the operation of special international passenger flights between the two countries.

“India has finalized an air bubble agreement with Sri Lanka, making it the 6th such arrangement in SAARC region and the 28th in total,” the Civil Aviation Ministry said on Twitter.

“All the eligible passengers will be able to travel between the 2 countries in the near future,” it added.

Scheduled international flights have been suspended in India since March 23, 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, special international passenger flights have been running under the Vande Bharat Mission since May 2020 and under bilateral air bubble arrangements since July 2020.

UAE celebrates vaccine roll out with ‘fully-vaccinated’ flight

A “fully-vaccinated” Emirates service took passengers on a four-hour round trip flight this weekend.

It took off from DXB at 12.30pm on Saturday and landed in Dubai at 4.30pm.

The UAE has delivered 8,975,014 vaccine doses thus far and is third in the worldwide vaccination league table, behind Israel and the Seychelles.

Pubs and restaurants face confusion under new rules

Scores of pubs and restaurants face confusion as Covid rules ease on Monday after being told their outdoor seating spaces primed for reopening do not count as outdoors, reports Ben Riley-Smith.

Government guidance says that shelters, marquees, and other temporary structures with roofs must have half their walls open at all times to be classed as outdoor areas.

Local authorities are interpreting the rules differently, leading to outcry from some landlords and restaurant owners who have only just been told they supposedly fall foul.

One Lancashire publican has written to the Prime Minister after being told his walled bar garden is not compliant, meaning he cannot reopen despite taking bookings for 1,000 meals. Another landlord in Brighton said he was “devastated” after being told his pub garden in the city, which is just below street level and walled, did not have sufficient air flow to be allowed.

Airlines call for investigation into Covid test prices

Airline trade body IATA has called for an investigation into the costs Covid tests travel as the industry warns that the PCR tests required under the Government’s traffic light scheme will effectively block most people from foreign holidays this year.

Iata director general Willie Walsh demanded ministers enable more cost-efficient rapid testing, exempt tests from VAT, and engage the UK Competition and Markets Authority to launch an immediate investigation.

IATA said in a statement: “Engage the UK Competition and Markets Authority to act in the interests of consumers and launch an immediate investigation into coronavirus testing charges.”

The CMA said any new cases or investigations would be announced on its website.

A chilly, but hopeful day in the Cotswolds

Lottie Gross is among the writers reporting on the restart of domestic holidays for Telegraph Travel today. You can follow her journey on Twitter.

People must behave ‘responsibly’ as lockdown eases

Boris Johnson has called today’s easing of lockdown a “major step forward” to “freedom”, but warned people must still behave “responsibly”.

Pubs, restaurants, cafes and social clubs will be able to start serving outdoors again for the first time this year, with takeaway pints allowed too.

As outlined above, staycations in self-catering accommodation return with people able to spend nights away from their homes, providing they do not mix with other households, and retail shops can open their doors once again. However, indoor meet-ups to socialise are still barred and social distancing rules remain in place, as the Government attempts to loosen rules while keeping down Covid-19 cases.

Mr Johnson said: “I urge everyone to continue to behave responsibly and remember ‘hands, face, space and fresh air’ to suppress Covid as we push on with our vaccination programme.”

Cruise ships deployed in St Vincent evacuation effort

Cruise lines have sent ships to help rescue people who have been forced to escape the Caribbean island of St Vincent following two powerful volcanic eruptions.

Neighbouring islands have opened their borders for the evacuees: Royal Caribbean has taken some of the estimated 16,000 people to St Lucia on its vessels.

Celebrity Cruises and Carnival Cruise Line have also sent ships to assist with the rescue mission.

However, St Vincent prime minister Ralph Gonsalves said: “The chief medical officer would be identifying the persons already vaccinated so that we can get them on the ship.”

It is the first time in 40 years that La Soufriere volcano has erupted, creating a 3.7-mile plume of ash and causing power cuts across the southern Caribbean island.

Malta to pay tourists who visit this summer

Malta plans to offer foreign visitors a handout of up to 200 euros (£173.45) each if they stay in the country at least three days this summer.

Colourful Boats in Harbour of Marsaxlokk,
A springtime view of the harbour of Marsaxlokk, Malta

The Mediterranean island could also be set for the UK Government’s green list based on its vaccination rate: 35 per cent of its population has received at least one dose.

Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo announced the scheme to boost the tourism industry on Friday, saying that with most Covid restrictions expected to be lifted by June 1, tourists booking summer holidays directly through local hotels would receive the handout.

The country attracted more than 2.7 million foreign visitors in 2019 but figures have fallen by more than 80 per cent since the virus was detected in March 2020. Mr Bartolo said tourists booking accommodation at a five-star hotel will get 100 euros from Malta’s Tourism Authority, which will be matched by the hotel for a total of 200 euros.

In a similar arrangement, those opting for a four-star hotel will receive a total of 150 euros and those booking a three-star hotel will receive 100 euros. The grant grows by 10 per cent when bookings are made with hotels on the smaller Maltese island of Gozo, two miles north of the mainland.

Private firms charge holidaymakers £300 a Covid test

Private Covid testing firms have been accused of profiteering with charges that can add up to £1,000 to the cost of a family of four’s summer holiday, reports Charles Hymas.

The firms are charging up to £300 for a single PCR test despite the chemical processing costing little more than £20, an investigation by The Telegraph has found.

The cheapest companies on the official list of Government-approved firms are charging as little as £60 for providing PCR test results within a day. But the most expensive companies on the list are four times that price and five times if you want a 24-hour turnaround for results out of normal office hours at the weekend.

It is the difference between adding £1,000 to a family of four’s summer holiday abroad and a potentially more affordable charge of £240.

Domestic breaks are back  – but how about foreign holidays?

A traffic light system will replace the current ban on overseas holidays the Global Travel Taskforce report confirmed last week. The system looks likely to come into force sometime in May.

Countries will be labelled green (no quarantine on return, but testing requirements), amber (self-isolation on return and testing) and red (a stay in a quarantine hotel for returning Britons and a ban on direct flights).

However, the most popular destinations for British holidaymakers, including Spain and France, look set to be off limits this summer, with much of Europe failing to meet the Government’s criteria to make the new “green” list.

The Government has said it will consider infection rates, variants prevalence and access to genomic sequencing, as well as vaccination rate. It is expected to deliver information on which destinations will meet its criteria for the green list in early May.

It’s a snow day for the #GreatUnlock

Our roving reporters are setting off to experience the reopening of self-catering accommodation and more today.

Travel writer Lottie Gross has been greeted by an unexpected view before heading off on her camping trip. Follow her journey on Twitter with #GreatUnlock