Things to do in 2016

The social circus in the UK today makes for a diverse cultural experience spanning the shores of Britain. But where to be in 2016? The taste for culture seems to be spilling from the pot of 2016, and the samples of what to do in 2016 from this blog have barely skims the surface of how to experience and sample our Great British culture. Best UK Hotels looks at a sample of young, old and cultured preference and the diversity of samples proves where to be and things to do in 2016 marks the cultural centres of the UK.


Race into Riches

The races is a day out for anyone. But Aintree is the place to be. With the hats, the horses and hordes of champagne, the Grand National celebration is the surely the grandest event in the racing calendar. With the gates opening to thousands of spectators, pockets full and eyes open, the atmosphere becomes more Monte Carlo than Great Britain. What could be a more traditional British event to experience in 2016 than the Grand National itself? The cameras of the world soaking up the famous races and dazzling outfits. Of all things to do in 2016, why not spend a day at the races being treated like the royalty you secretly are?


Rewind All The Way to Perth

Rewind festival is the ultimate hidden gem. Tucked away in the remote Scone Palace of the quiet village of Perth and Kinross, Rewind Festival is one of those events that fans consider a landmark of their year. Taking you back in time to the 1980’s with stars such as Bananarama and Steve Perry gracing the stage, it takes you back to the eighties while camping out, dancing and drinking with all the fun of a modern day festival. Take your wellies, hats, neon paint and roll back in time with us, dancing and raving into the darkness as if time stood still. Or why not try the phenomenon that is Glamping? Taking your style and suave with you into the raving, muddy fields of Perth, Rewind seems one of the ultimate things to do in 2016.

Perfect Pride In The Capital

Of the million things you could attract yourself with in London – the shows, the tours, the shops. Perhaps one of the most not to be missed things to do in 2016 is the LGBT Pride event in London. Having grown from a small festival of dance and celebration, the Pride Parade in London now is a cultural extravaganza that takes over the city, from Trafalgar Square to Oxford Street. Lose the stigma and this is now one of the hottest places to be. With the music, culture, stalls and atmosphere, the celebration of equality and pride is sure to having you grinning like a Cheshire cat and lost in the moment. Stay in the heart of the drama, as this event takes over the whole city, commanding the attention of its audience, and enjoy our tips for why booking direct is always more beneficial as a consumer to catch the best deals.


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Orange and red leaves

Harvesting The Best UK Autumn Festivals

As the leaves begin to change colour and the autumn chill sets in, enjoy the last of the beautiful crisp, clear days before the UK is transformed into a magical, winter wonderland. From apple harvests and harvest festivals, to Halloween and the hint of Christmas in the air, October promises to be a multitude of golden hues and golden festivities as the autumn festivals get underway.

Spooktacular Ghost Festivals

While Halloween may not be one of the more traditional autumn festivals, it certainly is one of the most exciting. With deadly dungeons, haunted castles and a bloodthirsty history, All Hallows Eve throughout the UK is sure to be a horrifyingly chilling experience. Full of historical horrors, London offers up a number of tricks and treats. Whether you take a deadly tour around the Tower of London, walk the walk with Jack the Ripper Ghost Walks or hop a train and brave the Oxford Castle Ghost Fest, miss the terror of London if you dare.

Table with halloween pumpkins, autumn leaves, sunflowers and a basket of produce

Food And Drink Festivals

As the leaves begin to fall and the golden harvest begins, Scotland’s breathtaking scenery and picturesque cities makes it our autumn festivals destination of choice. And since this year is the Year of Food & Drink in Scotland, autumn promises a multitude of foodie festivals guaranteed to leave you hungry for more. If one of the many farmers’ markets or drinks fairs isn’t your cup of tea, master the malt with whiskey tasting in Islay, or get into the swing of things with a Golf Break in St Andrews.

Baskets filled with various fruit at a market

Medieval And Middle Age Festivals

Enjoy a variety of mixed literature, fine and performing art, pop culture and comedy shows at the Canterbury Festival from the 17th to the 31st of October. Growing in size and stature, the Canterbury Festival now has its very own Fringe. And as one of the most important cultural events of the South East, the autumn festival in the heart of this Middle Ages city is no laughing matter. If you’re more of a medieval history fan, join in the celebrations and festivities of the Gwledd Cowny Feast. From 24 – 25 October, the medieval town of Cowny will play host to the largest celebration of music, art and food in Wales. The charming quayside, castle and medieval streets will be bursting with fun and flavour in one of our favourite medieval autumn festivals.

Cowny medieval castle in Wales

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Labrador dog lying down

Pet Friendly Accommodation That’ll Give You Paws For Thought

When planning your next UK city break, there is no reason to leave your furry family behind. No matter your destination, the UK has a number of pet friendly accommodation options that’ll bring out the animal in you. From long walks on the beach and scenic escapes, to dog friendly parks, pubs and cafes, it’s a dog eat dog world for anyone offering pet friendly accommodation in the UK.

Cat lying stretched out on its bed

England: Barking Up The Right Tree

For centuries the English have worked hard to secure their reputation as fierce horse and dog lovers. And while it isn’t always easy to cart your horse around on holiday with you, the many pet friendly accommodation options throughout the country make up for any holiday horsey inconvenience.

Dog under a tree perched with front legs on a stone

Where to stay:

Forest Holidays understand just how important your dog is to you. It’s why they have a number of pet friendly cabins in forests across England and Scotland. Their cabins can accommodate up to 4 dogs in addition to their human companions. All they ask is that your dog is loved, well looked after, never locked up in your cabin and on a lead when you venture out into the forest.

Scotland: Taking The Highlands Highroad

The Scottish Highlands are synonymous with natural beauty and untamed wilderness. It’s not surprising then that this scarcely populated holiday destination offers a multitude of pet friendly accommodation options for animal lovers and their furry companions.

Dog up the hills looking at the view

Where to stay:

As one of the few carbon neutral holiday destinations in the world, Eagle Brae is not only eco-friendly, they’re animal friendly as well. Home to a number of Highland animals, it’s the perfect place to relax, unwind and reconnect with nature.

Wales: Pet Friendly Holidays Are A Beach

With some of the prettiest beaches in the UK, the Welsh coastline isn’t just beautiful, it’s fun for the whole family too. With long sandy stretches, rolling dunes, crashing waves, cool rock,pools and plenty of seagulls to chase, there’s no end to the fun you and your loving pet can get up to.

Collie dog chasing a ball on a beach

Where to stay:

Culver House has eight luxury apartments with beautiful balconies overlooking breath-taking sea views. With a blue flag beach on your doorstep, their pet friendly accommodation makes them a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and their lovable critters.

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Image of a bedroom with text saying great reasons to book direct with us

5 Reasons Why Booking Direct Pays Off

If you’re a savvy traveller planning a trip away, you would of course shop around for the best deal. In the age of online booking, finding price comparison sites is easier than ever. But can you be sure that you’re getting the best holiday deals? The answer is not always as clear-cut as it seems. Sometimes it’s better to go straight to the source. It’s why we’ve put together 5 reasons why booking direct is guaranteed to get you the best deal.

Your Time Saves You Money

While it’s easy to leave your accommodation arrangements to the whims of a travel agent or online comparison site, most hotels have secure, easy-to-use online booking engines. A few clicks and you’re booked. By taking matters into your own hands and booking direct from the hotel, you can ensure your accommodation is tailored to your needs and not the other way around. And by cutting out the middle man, you can save a pretty penny too. Which brings us to our next point.

Piles of pound coins

Cut Out the Middle Man

Online travel operators and comparison sites like Expedia and are great tools to shop around and see what accommodation is available for your chosen destination. But don’t be fooled by the attraction of cheap rates on third-party sites. Keep in mind that these companies aren’t providing this fantastic service entirely for altruistic reasons. At the end of the day, they are still a business and their goal is to make money.

But when you cut out the middle man, you cut out the commission which is typically somewhere in the region of 18%! That saving can be passed on direct to the customer (or at least some of it, hotels are businesses too after all). Many hotels have a “best price guarantee” for booking direct, so it’s always worth having a look to see if there’s a better deal available from the hotel.

Finger pointing to a list of booking direct benefits

Perks and Upgrades

Not everything in life, or in holidays, comes down to brass tacks. There are a whole host of other benefits to booking direct that can’t be summed up on a receipt. A direct exchange between buyer and seller inevitably results in a closer connection. Hotels place great value in their direct bookers. This usually manifests in great special offers or deals not available to everyone else. For example, breakfast is often included in the price for a direct booking. And by communicating directly with the hotel staff, who know all about their own wares, room upgrades and transfers are more common as they are better placed to accommodate your needs.

Breakfast with a croissant and fruit, juice and tea

Rewarding Your Loyalty

Hotels love to have return guests. Many offer loyalty schemes to encourage guests to come back again and again. If you do find that perfect home away from home, the only way for the hotel to reward your loyalty is if you let them know it’s you again. The simplest way to do this is by booking direct. Most modern online booking engines, even for the smallest independent hotel, will be able to save your details. This not only speeds up the booking process for you, it lets the hotel keep track of how often you visit which can lead to some really juicy rewards.

Accommodating Your Travel Needs

If your trip doesn’t turn out exactly as you planned and you need to change dates or even cancel your accommodation outright, you will often find that hotels are far more accommodating with direct bookers. Booking through a comparison site may leave you at the mercy of their terms and conditions, which are designed to protect their commission. Whereas booking direct with the hotel can often have far more favourable conditions, especially if you’re a valued loyal customer. Date changes are often free, provided rooms are available. Outright cancelations may incur a fee, but it is unlikely to be as high as the penalties from comparison sites. At the end of the day, the hotel wants you to book again when you are able to. They don’t want to part ways indefinitely because of an unfair cancelation fee that could ruin any chance of repeat business.

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Inside whisky distillery

Malt in Your Mouth Whisky Distilleries in Islay

If you’re looking for a UK winter getaway, Islay is home to a number of world famous Scottish whisky distilleries. Since the fourteenth century Islay has been fermenting grain mash into smooth, distilled, traditional whiskies. An island ideal for growing barley, Islay’s pure water sources, fertile lands and abundance of peat has put Islay at the top of every whisky connoisseur’s bucket list.

5 Whisky Distilleries Off The Peat-en Track

Laphroaig Distillery

For over 200 years, Laphroaig Distilleries has been crafting the world’s most richly flavoured Scotch Whisky. Join in a one-hour tour of the Laphroaig Distillery and experience the sights, sounds and smells of the Laphroaig process. You can also test your taste buds in a flavour or premium whisky tasting with an experienced Laphroaig Host.

Exterior of Laphroig whisky distillery by the sea

Image title Laphroaig Distillery by Ed Wolstenholme is licensed under (CC BY-SA2.0)

Lagavulin Distillery

Situated in the picturesque Lagavulin Bay, the Lagavulin Distillery is well worth a visit. Take a tour of the distillery, watch the distillers at work and discover the rich peaty flavour of the Lagavulin magic. Nestled in a small and beautiful bay on the south of Islay, Lagavulin’s guided tours and local legend (Ian McArthur) will divulge all the secrets of their world famous malt.

Exterior of Lagavulin Distillery by the sea

Image title Lagavulin Distillery by Stephane Farenga is licensed under (CC BY 2.0)

Ardbeg Distillery

Since 1815, Ardbeg has been distilling their distinctive single malt Scotch whisky. To get a feeling for the true spirit of Ardbeg, you can visit the distillery where their whisky is, has been and always will be crafted to perfection. With regular tours, a great shop and an excellent café, Ardbeg is a favourite among the whisky distilleries on the island.

Bowmore Distillery

Established in 1779, Bowmore is the first recorded distillery on Islay, and one of the oldest in Scotland. Renowned for its peaty flavour, Bowmore malts have been brewed the same way for over 200 years – carefully smoked in a peat-fired kiln. Bowmore itself is home to almost a third of the island’s population. Besides the distillery, it is well known for its white-washed houses, stone-built harbour and iconic Round Church.

Kilchoman Distillery

Established in 2005, Kilchoman is the newest addition to Islay’s famous whisky distilleries. Not only is it one of the smallest whisky distilleries in Scotland, it is also the first whisky distillery to be built on the island in 125 years. Set on a farm on the rugged west coast, Kilchoman has gone back to the roots of traditional Scotch whisky distilling. From barley to bottling, Kilchoman farms its own barley and is one of only a handful of whisky distilleries still practicing floor malting. Unlike other whisky distilleries, Kilchoman¬ is the only distillery to complete all parts of the whisky making process on site.

Visiting Islay

If a tour of Scotland’s most notorious whisky distilleries is for you, you can book in to Islay Cottages’ self-catering holiday accommodation. Perfectly positioned in both rural Kilchoman and the main village of Bowman, you can make the most of Islay’s vast whisky presence in its small village setting.

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Attracting Edinburgh Attractions You Have to Visit

If you’re planning on spending Christmas in the UK, Edinburgh was voted one of the best cities in the world to enjoy a winter break. And while Edinburgh may seem small compared to other cities, in terms of unique Edinburgh attractions per square mile, it’s top of the table. The city is packed with amazing things to do, so unless you’re planning on making your stay a permanent one, you’re going to struggle to see even half of what’s on offer. To help you get the most out of Edinburgh attractions, we’ve put together a list of the top things to do in Edinburgh to get you started.


Greyfriars Bobby Statue

This wee dog has had a vice grip on the hearts of the British public since the late 19th century. Greyfriars Bobby was a Skye terrier who stood vigil at his master’s grave for years until his own death. In life he was dearly loved by the people of Edinburgh and the intervening years has done little to diminish that. His fierce loyalty has inspired books and even a movie by Walt Disney! A life-size statue was erected in recognition of his fierce loyalty at the corner of Candlemaker Row and the George IV Bridge.

Statue of Greyfriars Bobby Image title bobby’s bar by zoetnet is licensed under (CC BY 2.0)

National Gallery Of Scotland Complex

The Scottish National Gallery and the adjoining Royal Scottish Academy form a complex in the heart of Edinburgh city. Situated just off Princes Street, the galleries are Edinburgh attractions in their own right. They house a magnificent collection of both classical and contemporary art. The complex is comprised of distinct buildings, linked via an underground tunnel, and both are the designs of the renowned architect William Playfair. The complex also includes the Scottish Café & Restaurant, which boasts spectacular views of Princes Street Gardens.


The Royal Botanic Garden

This magnificent 70 acre garden is the second oldest of its kind in Britain. It is home to a herbarium, Britain’s biggest palm house, a tropical house, a terraced moorland garden and many other delights. The Gardens also host many exhibitions where you can learn more about the beautiful species on display, and join a guided tour of the gardens.

Edinburgh Botanic Gardens  and the glasshouse

Image title Rhododendron at Edinburgh’s Botanic Garden by Karen Bryan is licensed under (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Our Dynamic Earth: Edinburgh’s Science Centre

Our Dynamic Earth is an amazing multimedia journey back 500 million years through Earth’s history. Located at the foot of Arthur’s seat near Holyrood Park, the science centre is housed in an ultra-modern tent-like structure and invites guests to take part in a series of interactive exhibits. State of the art technology brings it all to life with an amazing 360 degree full dome film theatre.

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Fireplace at Christmas time with decorations and tree

Christmas in the UK – a Claus For Celebration

As the days begin to grow shorter and the winter chill sets in, the UK is transformed from a bustling summer getaway to a wonderful winter wonderland. It’s a time to cozy-up in front of a fire, snuggle down with a good book and enjoy all the age-old traditions of a traditional Christmas in the UK. And while there may be no place like home for the holidays, by the time the festive season is over, you’re often in need of another holiday. If that sounds about right, check out our top tips for getting the best holiday deals, book early and enjoy a Ho-Ho-Ho-liday with Christmas in the UK.


England: a Festoon of Festivities

Spreading Christmas cheer from the West End to the far South, the English capital dons a special sparkle throughout the festive season. From the giant Christmas tree and traditional caroling in Trafalgar Square, to the annual Nut Cracker ballet at the Royal Opera House, outdoor ice-skating rinks, Christmas markets and the bright lights of the London Eye, London is transformed into our very own tinsel town.

What to do:

Enjoy some retail therapy with Christmas markets in Bath, Lincoln, Birmingham and Salisbury. Experience ‘squibbing’ at the Bridgwater Guy Fawkes Carnival, take to the streets in Worcester’s Victorian Christmas Fayre and eat your heart out at the Slindon Pumpkin Festival.


Scotland: Scenic Extravaganzas

Famous for its hilltop castle, cultural festivals and Hogmanay street party, CNN has voted Scotland’s majestic capital as one of the best cities in the world to enjoy a winter break. With a huge line up of Christmas markets, glittering lights, fairground rides and Europe’s largest open air ice rink, Christmas in the UK this year promises not to disappoint.

What to do:

At the heart of the festivities, St Andrew Square will host a variety of live shows, festive markets, fantastic food and musical extravaganzas. If you’re looking for a quieter winter break with friends and family, escape the city with a Railway Holiday to the Highlands and discover a side of Scotland you’ve never seen before.


Wales: a Winter Wonderland

When it comes to spending quality time with family and friends, Christmas in Wales will ensure you get all you could ever want for Christmas. With all the charm of quiet village living, as well as the festive season madness of the bigger cities too, Wales offers anyone looking to spend Christmas in the UK the best of both worlds.


What to do:

Enjoy ghosts of Christmas past at a Welsh Castle, take a walk along the Coastal Path or go shopping at the Swansea, Cardiff and Blackwood markets. Wrap things up with the Caerphilly or Llandudno Christmas Fayres, take a Santa Special train ride in Llangollen and let the Abergavenny Christmas Food Festival leave you hungry for more.

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Spooky room with spooky shadows

Spook-tacular UK Halloween Destinations


Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble, All Hallows Eve is approaching on the double. With deadly dungeons, haunted castles and a bloodthirsty history, enjoy heart-stopping tours, potent pub potions and ghoulish creatures with the most horrifying UK Halloween destinations.


London terrors

At the top of any UK Halloween destination list has to be the Tower of London. As London’s most notorious prison famed for torture and executions in the days of yore, the Tower of London is full of wonderful historical horrors.

If you’re in the mood for things that go bump in the night, take a night crawl through London’s cemeteries, walk the walk with Jack the Ripper Ghost Walks or brave the spookiest locations in London. With loads of horrifying events, eerie tours, blood-chilling venues, zombie dawn raids and costume scare tactics, make London your UK Halloween destination of choice … if you dare.


Haunted Edinburgh

If you’re looking for horrific history, Edinburgh is one of the spookiest cities in the UK. Each year, Edinburgh plays home to a host of traditional Halloween festivities. From fancy dress and bobbing for apples, to trick-or-treating, making Jack-o-lanterns, chilling ghost stories and Halloween parties, Edinburgh will push your scare threshold to the limit.

For a truly chilling Halloween experience, hop on to the Ghost Bus tour, enjoy a night of the living dead with a City of the Dead tour, celebrate Halloween at the Dungeons or relish in one of the many ghost tours throughout the city.


Ghoulish Wales

Steeped in a history of myths and legends, Wales is the UK Halloween destination of choice for all things paranormal. With haunted houses, haunted castles and haunted tours, Halloween in Wales will leave you breathless.

Deck the halls with home-made Halloween decorations, dive six feet under with Dolaucothi Gold Mine tours, search for bats at Tudor Merchants House and enjoy spooky stories at the National Waterfront Museum and Dyffryn Gardens.

Spooky old doll

Spooky Ireland

Take a walk on the dark side of Northern Ireland this Halloween. Whether you’re looking for scary outdoor adventures, spooky family activities or horrific Halloween festivals, Northern Ireland is taking fright night to a whole new level. Visit creaky homes and haunted landmarks, explore Dracula’s lair on location of the newest blockbuster, mash things up at the Metro Monster Mash in Belfast or get your scream on at the Halloween Howler in Lisnaskea.


So if you’re looking for a traditional, scare-the-socks-off-you Halloween experience, book the perfect UK city break and experience all the horrors that UK Halloween destinations have to offer.

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A photo of a beach and flipflops

Top Tips for Getting the Best Holiday Deals

With so many taxes and fees being whacked on at the payment page of a website, it can seem like you’ve already spent a small fortune before even booking your holiday. Looking for a budget escape away? Don’t worry – simply follow our top tips for getting the best holiday deals!


Book Direct – Best Holiday Deals

We cannot emphasise this tip enough – when booking your holiday, always book direct with the hotel you’re planning to stay with. Whilst rates may not necessarily be cheaper than when booking through the likes of Expedia or, often booking direct with a hotel is inclusive of additional perks – such as a free breakfast.


Book Mid-Week – Best Holiday Deals

If time isn’t an issue and you’re simply looking for a lovely getaway, then consider booking a break that departs mid-week. Booking onto a Friday or Saturday flight typically tends to be more expensive – and it makes sense – it’s the time when most long-distance commuters return home!

Even when booking with a hotel, mid-week rates are typically cheaper as this is when people are less likely to stay.


Always Book in Advance – Best Holiday Deals

Despite the age old adage that it’s best to wait last minute to book a bargain, this does not ring true with long-haul flights. Long haul flights typically tend to point toward destination business central hubs (such as New York to London, etc.) and as such rarely come down in price, but in fact actually increase.

If you’re planning to visit a particularly popular destination, it serves well to book in advance, not only to get the best price, but ensure you have a spot on the flight too!


Tips for the Best Holiday Deals

Stick by our tips and you’ll not be without the best holiday deals possible! Not sure where you want to go? Check out some of our suggestions here.


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a photo of a man open swimming

Wild Swimming in the UK

Wild swimming in the UK – it’s the new sensation sweeping the British nation and with Great Britain boasting so many platforms and terrains to try it out, it’s hard to know where to begin.

Wild swimming is the sport or practice of swimming in open natural waters such as rivers and lakes. With a summer heatwave rising temperatures across the UK of up to 28 degrees Celsius, it’s easy to see how wild swimming fever has grown in popularity.


Wild Swimming in the UK – Safety


Before you pull on your goggles and head straight for the lake, it’s important to remember that wild swimming, like any sport comes with risks. We share a few top tips for you to bear in mind when wild swimming in the UK:

  1. Never swim in canals and urban rivers. Asides from the nasty critters and bugs you can pick up in these waters, there’s also the risk of being injured by passing boats as well as being swept away by river rapids.
  2. Under all circumstances, avoid contact with green or blue algae. This sort of algae can be harmful to human health and is not something to be trifled with. If you’re unsure, we recommend staying out of the water. Always remember to cover cuts and scrapes with waterproof dressings before swimming to prevent any infection.
  3. Never ever swim alone. It’s also good practice to keep an eye on other swimmers and ask your swimming partner to keep an eye out for you if you don’t have great confidence in the water.
  4. Always have an escape plan. In the event you find yourself in a sticky situation, it is important to know how you will exit the water before you even enter it.
  5. Keep an eye on depth at all times. It is not advisable to jump or dive in shallow areas. Especially when wild swimming, make sure to wear footwear – there’s no smooth chlorinated pools here!


So, where can I go wild swimming in the UK?


The Outdoors Swimming Society is a great authority to refer to when search for your next wild swimming spot. Head on over to their website to find out if there’s a spot near you! In the meantime, you may wish to head to these popular wild swimming spots:

  • Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye
  • Serpentine Lake, London
  • Lllyn Cau, Snowdonia
  • Port Meadow, Oxford

Have you tried wild swimming in the UK? Share with us your top tips for staying safe as well as your favourite spots in the comments! Keen to explore more of the UK? Check out more attractions in the UK here.


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