The August Bank Holiday is on its way! Which means it’s time for you to start planning how you’ll spend the long weekend. To help you on your way, we’ve pulled together this short guide, full of great ideas on how you can spend a fun few days exploring an exciting destination, off the beaten track.
When it comes to things to do this Bank Holiday weekend, the GWR network has an embarrassment of riches, with amazing cities, beautiful beaches and countryside boltholes. Here, we’ve focused on those hidden gems, where you’re less likely to run into huge crowds, and with a better chance of relaxing and enjoying the peace.
As for Bank Holiday activities, we’ve got all bases covered, with water sports, walking, museums and more. Not to mention some great places to grab a bite to eat and enjoy a local brew.
Visitors have been flocking to Exmouth to enjoy the beautiful seaside for a very long time. In fact, the South Devon town is said to be one of the oldest resorts in the country.
That Exmouth has been a consistent source of seaside joy will come as little surprise to anyone who has visited Exmouth Beach – two miles of golden sands and the gateway to the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site.
Here, visitors can try their hand at all kinds of water sports, including kite surfing, kayaking and standup paddleboarding, with lessons and board hire available nearby. Alternatively, Exmouth Beach is also a great place to hang out, build a sandcastle and enjoy the warm weather. When it comes to finding things to do in Exmouth, you’re unlikely to be stuck for options.
If you’re looking for a spot of food, why not try something a little different? River Exe Café is housed in a stylish barge, floating well offshore in the Exe Estuary. To reach the venue, you’ll need to take a short water taxi journey from Exmouth Marina, only adding to the excitement of visiting this fun and tasty seafood restaurant.
As Cornwall’s only city, Truro is a hub of activity, attracting visitors from all around. Perhaps a little overlooked by those on the hunt for a traditional Cornish beach resort, Truro has nonetheless plenty to offer those willing to give it the time and attention it deserves. Take the city’s cathedral, for starters: a Gothic Revival masterpiece, emblematic of the area’s industrial heyday as a mining heavyweight. Open daily, it’s well worth a visit.
If you’re out to discover more about the area’s fascinating history, head over to the Royal Cornwall Museum, where you can explore the region’s rich heritage, including how the defiant people of Cornwall once made their own currency.
Cornwall is also a top beer-producing region, home to a number of breweries, including Truro’s very own Skinner’s. Just a short walk along the banks of the Truro River and you’ll reach the brewery where you can take a tour and sample the fine ales on offer.
As far as grub is concerned, you can’t go far wrong with the Hooked!, serving fresh fish from Cornish waters. How does crab nachos sound, followed by half a Cornish lobster?
The Cornish town of Looe is a bustling and attractive coastal destination, complete with pretty houses built into the hillside overlooking the busy harbour. A working fishing port, Looe is proud of its seafood, which is some of the freshest around.
For starters, head on over to the beach in East Looe, directly in front of the old town, where you can relax in the white sands and take a dip in the sea.
The South West Coast Path passes through town and is a great way to explore further afield. The walk to the neighbouring town of Polperro is a popular stretch and well worth checking out, taking approximately two hours and 30 minutes.
Of course, a trip to Looe wouldn’t be complete without sampling the local seafood cuisine, and where better to enjoy a bit of fish than with a great view of the harbour? The food at the Plough on the Quay is simple and tasty and includes muscles with a good selection of broths, such as the fragrant Thai option.
In its heyday, Severn Beach was a hugely popular resort, frequented by Bristolians and holidaymakers from all around, with amusements and outdoor pools. Today, the coastal town’s attractions are of a much quieter nature – a pull for those looking for a peaceful day out with a scenic walk and a trip to a café.
The promenade walk is a stunning open space, with great views over the Severn Estuary and the Second Severn Crossing bridge. The walk is hugely popular among locals – you’ll see plenty of people out with their dogs – and bird watchers. Keep an eye out for some great coastal wildlife, including oyster catchers and the occasional seal.
For a bite to eat, head over to Just As You Are Tea Cottage. Grab a coffee and one of the many sweet treats on offer, including homemade cakes and ice-cream milkshakes.
Upgrades in the Bristol area
Rail improvement work will run from Saturday 10 July to Friday 3 September 2021 to remodel the track layout and improve capacity on the approach to Bristol Temple Meads station. This will impact some journeys into Bristol during this period, visit Bristol Rail Regeneration to find out more and plan your journey. GWR’s Severn Beach Line services will be running from Bristol Temple Meads on the August Bank Holiday weekend.
At the far northern reaches of the Cotswolds, just a short train journey from Oxford, is the market town of Banbury. Perhaps best known for its inclusion in the famous nursery rhyme ‘Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross’, the Oxfordshire destination is a thriving commercial centre with plenty of old-world charm, including some impressive historic architecture.
Explore the old town’s atmospheric streets, lanes and marketplace, where you’ll find loads of independent shops, cafes and restaurants, alongside big national brands. Don’t miss Ye Olde Reine Deer Inn, where you can enjoy a drink and a bit of lunch in the spot where Oliver Cromwell is said to have planned the Battle of Edgehill.
Running through the heart of Banbury is the Oxford Canal. It’s a great place to while away the time watching canalboat users work the lock as they pass through the town centre. Overlooking the waters is Banbury Museum & Gallery – a perfect introduction to the area’s fascinating history.
Worried that plans may change? No need! Until 31st December, you can change your advance purchase tickets fee free with GWR, so you can book, and travel, with confidence. Find out more here. GWR will be operating a revised timetable from Monday 26th July 2021, please check before you travel.
Thatched-roof cottages, golden stone buildings, great pubs and British countryside. Visit the Cotswolds with GWR. Check out one of the prettiest patches of rural England, only a short journey London Paddington.
With plenty of beautiful beaches just a train-ride away, there’s no need to travel abroad for a seaside holiday this summer. We’ve picked some of our favourite UK beach retreats from across the network for the whole family to enjoy – just don’t forget to pack your shades!