The best of the UK for 2021

While overseas travel is ruled out, there's plenty to discover at home


With overseas travel out of bounds for much of 2020, many of us have been rediscovering the glories of the UK — and that trend looks set to continue this year too.

Advance bookings for glamping and camping are up 163 per cent on last year, according to, and with postponed events and new openings finally set to take place, there’s plenty to keep you holidaying at home.

Scotland is continuing to celebrate the Year of Coasts and Waters, while Wales is planning to make 2021 the Year of Outdoors. And England’s ongoing campaign to ‘Escape the Everyday’ with a short break close to home or something longer, is a good reminder that where there’s a will to travel, there’s a way. Here’s some of what you can look forward to.

Cities in the spotlight


UK City of Culture for 2021, Coventry’s programme of events is due to take place from May, with a line-up featuring art, theatre, dance and literature.

Kicking off with Coventry Moves, transforming the city with installations, performance and digital works, there will also be artworks celebrating the history of refugees, the Coventry Biennial and the UK Asian Film Festival, while the city will also host the Turner Prize in the autumn.


Best known for its links with Jane Austen, it’s Mary Shelley who’s being celebrated in 2021. Mary Shelley’s House of Frankenstein looks at the author’s life as well the inspirations for the novel, most of which was written while she lived in Bath. The four-floor immersive experience promises unusual artefacts and multi-sensory experiences when it opens in the spring.

Visitors to the city will also be able to discover previously unseen areas of the Roman Baths, including a sauna, along with the new World Heritage Centre opening as part of the Archway Project.


Several of Manchester’s museums and galleries are expanding in 2021, starting with the Science and Industry Museum, whose new Special Exhibition Gallery opens in March, starting with Top Secret, an exhibition focused on spying and intelligence.

A new gallery is also opening at the Manchester Jewish Museum: set in a former 19th century synagogue, it will also have a shop, café and new performance space. And in November, Manchester Art Gallery will be opening a dedicated Fashion gallery.

There will be two new hotels to check in to as well — Scottish brewers BrewDog are opening their first hotel in England, with Punk IPA on tap in every room, while climate conscious Qbic will have rooms made from largely recycled materials.

What’s on in 2021

Celebrating the National Parks

The Peak District, Lake District and Dartmoor National Parks all celebrate a birthday in 2021, 70 years since their official formation in 1951.

And visitors to the Peak District are being encouraged to explore in a more environmentally-friendly way with the launch of the first phase of Peak Resort Adrenaline World and Gateway Hub project in Derbyshire, offering accommodation, services and transport, not to mention activities from caving to zip lining.

The Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors National Parks have also now been designated International Dark Sky Reserves, bringing the total to seven across Britain, with the Dark Skies festival scheduled for February.

Mayflower 400

With last September marking 400 years since the Mayflower set sail from Plymouth, taking the first pilgrims to America, the commemoration events are continuing in 2021, including some postponed from last year.

The Mayflower International Festival will take place in July, along with new tours focused on the lives of the pilgrims; these include a self-guided walking route around the city, plus a chance to visit Plymouth’s newly opened museum and gallery, The Box.

England’s Creative Coast

England’s coast is staying in the spotlight for 2021: the 2,700-mile England Coast Path is nearing completion with another stretch due to open early in the year. And art buffs can discover England’s Creative Coast, with a new cultural treasure hunt along around 870 miles of the south coast.

Postponed from 2020, the world’s first art GeoTour trail is set to connect the area’s galleries, including Margate’s Turner Contemporary, Bexhill’s De La Warr Pavilion and Hastings Contemporary, with a map of seven coastal artworks to find from April.

It’s also the 200th anniversary of Keats’ death, with events expected to mark this in Margate where he lived and wrote, while the second Estuary Arts Festival is also planned for May across the Thames Estuary, including South Essex and North Kent, celebrating the region, its culture and landscapes.

What’s new in 2021

Nottingham Castle

After a £29.4 million investment, Nottingham Castle, along with the Ducal Palace and sprawling cave system below, is set to reopen early in 2021.

With links to Richard the Lionheart, Robin Hood and the English Civil War, there are stories of power and rebellion across almost 1,000 years to discover, and a new visitor centre to help do just that.

There’s also an interactive Robin Hood Gallery, animated tours of the caves with access to new areas, and year-round outdoor events programme lined up.

RHS Bridgewater, Salford

The new garden joining the RHS’s portfolio is the first to be added in 17 years, originally planned to open last summer and now due to welcome the first visitors in May.

The 156-acre garden will sit in the grounds of historic Worsley New Hall, a short drive from central Manchester. The largest gardening project in Europe, it will include an 11-acre walled garden, kitchen garden, heritage orchard and therapeutic garden.

The Great Tapestry of Scotland, Galashiels

There’s a new home for the Great Tapestry of Scotland this year, as the Great Tapestry of Scotland Visitor Centre opens in Galashiels in the Scottish Borders.

The attraction tells the story of the country from 8500BCE to the present day, through one of the world’s largest tapestries, created by more than 1,000 people in communities across Scotland. Made up of 160 panels, it uses 300 miles of wool — enough to stretch from the tip of Shetland to the border with England.

Imperial War Museum, London

Two new galleries are opening at the Imperial War Museum in London, following a £30.5 million investment. Focused on the Second World War and the Holocaust, the exhibitions will mix personal stories and objects, as well as eye-catching and engaging displays, to look at the conflict and its horrors. Set to open in July.

Great British Car Journey, Derbyshire

A new vintage car museum is opening in the heart of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site, charting the history of British car manufacturing from the 1920s to the 1970s.

Great British Car Journey will have over 100 vintage vehicles on display at the attraction set in a former wire factory, as well as experiences, including the chance to test drive a vintage car. Opening in spring.

2021’s hottest hotels

Eden Project Hotel, Cornwall

The new 109-bedroom hotel at the Eden Project is designed to blend in to the countryside, incorporating old trees and stone walls as part of its sustainable focus, as well as having a new meadow and orchard planted around it. Opening by end of 2021.

The Hilton Garden Inn at Adventure Parc Snowdonia

Set to be one of the largest hotels in North Wales, the Hilton Garden Inn will sit on the edge of the Conwy Valley’s inland surf lagoon, with free freshwater swimming sessions and lagoon-side glamping.

As well as an indoor/outdoor spa, there’ll also be an adventure concierge to book activities in this adrenaline-fuelled part of the UK. Opening March.

The Londoner, London

Dubbed the world’s first super boutique hotel, the five-star property near Leicester Square will stretch over 15 storeys with an underground spa, nods to the area’s theatreland setting and a focus on sustainability. Opening March.

The NoMad Hotel, London

The first property from US brand NoMad outside America, the hotel is housed in a Grade II listed building in Covent Garden, which once housed the 19th century Bow Street Magistrates’ Court and Police Station.

Along with 91 bedrooms, there will be exhibitions on the history of the Metropolitan Police. Opening February.

Bodmin Jail, Cornwall

A four-star boutique hotel will sit alongside the new immersive visitor attraction which opened in October — expect to see bars on the windows and stone walls, although with a lot more space and mod cons than the original inhabitants had. Opening February.

Leopard Creek, Kent

A slice of Africa in the Kent countryside, the new addition to the 600-acre Port Lympne reserve overlooks a pair of Amur leopards and two white rhinos. Opening April.

The Pig, West Sussex

The latest in the stylish collection of Pig hotels will be opening in the Grade II-listed Madehurst Lodge near Arundel, with the usual focus on sustainability and fresh homegrown produce in the restaurant — anything not grown in the kitchen garden will be sourced within a 25-mile radius. Opening summer.


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