So Christmas is over and the last minute dash for New Year’s Eve accommodation a distant memory. But then what?
Well, having avoided the perils of Blue Monday and to keep you focused on your New Year resolutions, you’ll have to book your 2016 holidays won’t you. There’s nothing better at keeping you focused than having a holiday to look forward to, although you don’t need us to tell you that.
But what to do, when and where to go? Don’t get your knickers in a twist over it. Here’s our guide to the 2016 UK school holidays, so that if you’ve got kids, you know when you’re free to go. And if you’re child free, you know when it’s going to be crazy busy or blissfully quiet.
Now for the noteworthy bit
Some school term dates do vary from county to county as these are determined by local education authorities. So we’ve plumped for the dates applicable to our home county of Oxfordshire as our main guide.
Obviously, it’s worth being mindful that these term dates apply to state schools. So private schools will finish two to three weeks earlier for summer and will likely have three weeks for Easter instead of two.
Other than that, there might be the odd inset day here and there (to a maximum of five in any academic year). But that’s unlikely to impact holiday prices or a mass traffic exodus on the motorways.
So off we go…
February half term: Monday 15 to Friday 19 February 2016
It’s cold, likely frosty, maybe snowy and perhaps a little damp at this time of year. It’s also the holiday period that competes with Valentine’s Day for our holiday budget, depending on how romantically inclined or how desperate to escape the kids we are. Naturally, one bed cottages will be in demand for romantic breaks over the first weekend of this half term, but if you’ve got kids in tow that’s unlikely to impact your choice of accommodation or location. But where to go in the UK for a wintery break that won’t burst the budget so early in the New Year…
Why not try somewhere off the beaten track, somewhere that wouldn’t immediately strike you as an obvious holiday destination. We’re thinking about letting the wind blow us around on the beaches of northern England. What are the chances of a donkey ride in Scarborough at this time of year? If brisk weather doesn’t bother you and you’ve got all the gear, head for the hills and the cosy quiet of a Peak District cottage with walks and trails in abundance. Chuck in your boots and the bikes, and away you go. You’ll likely have the place to yourselves but for the most avid of ramblers.
Easter 2016: Thursday 24 March to Friday 8 April
Good Friday is 25 March and a bank holiday in the UK. Easter Sunday is 27 March, which means there’s also a bank holiday on Monday 28 March. So for those looking to take advantage of a holiday that doesn’t eat into your annual holiday allowance, that’s the time to go. That said, Easter is naturally a busy and costlier time to travel and book accommodation.
The other tricky thing with late March, early April, is the simple unknown of the British weather. Oh you may laugh, we know it’s unpredictable at the best of times, but we’ve known spring heatwaves in March and snow in April. So what to choose?
For those seeking a long weekend away and some bank holiday sale shopping, you’ll need a city break. And you can’t beat the shopping in Glasgow. For an escape to the country while you’re up there, a 20 minute drive or train ride will have you in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park. Either soak up the views over a steaming hot chocolate or opt for a boat trip on the loch.
If you’ve got a young family in tow we’re imagining Easter egg hunts in the gardens of country cottages of the rural retreat ilk. That way, if it’s sunny you’ve got a pretty cottage garden to enjoy and if it’s soggy you’ve got a lovely locality with plenty of local shops and activities to keep you entertained – plus a log fire to come home to while you work your way through the board games and book selection.
If two weeks with the kids requires a destination providing ample opportunity for letting off excess chocolate-induced energy then how about some sailing or windsurfing in Wales? Go on, be brave!
May bank holiday: Monday 2 May 2016
A timely extra day to recoup some order and refresh one’s sanity. Use this long weekend to experience an event for the first time, while exploring a pretty market town. We’re thinking cute Cotswold cottage near Cheltenham from where you can combine a spot of shopping on the Promenade with a Roman themed day at Chedworth Roman Villa. You refresh your wardrobe and the kids get crafty while dressed up as Romans in the serenity of a National Trust property.
If you fancy heading eastwards, Norfolk is brimming with events at this time of year and you can mix in a trip to the seaside while you’re there. Bluebell Weeks continue through to mid May at Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden. Or for the classic car fan in your family, make a Norfolk holiday home your base for the 40th Stradsett Park Vintage Rally.
Summer half term: Monday 30 May to Friday 3 June 2016
We can only hope that things are starting to warm up by now and that the prospect of any beach break in the UK is feasible, whichever edge of the coast you’re near to. So how about that donkey ride now? North Wales usually satisfies this one along with its fair share of amusement arcades and fun fairs. Fill your lungs with seaside air while you’re hurled around on the waltzers – this is what Wales holiday memories are made of! The great thing about staying in a Welsh cottage is that you’re almost always guaranteed thick stone walls and open fires. So if it is a little chilly, you can snuggle up inside after a brisk beach walk on the Llyn Peninsula or a spot of pony trekking in the foothills of Cader Idris.
Whitsun bank holiday falls on Monday 30 May. So if an extra day is all you have, how about a cultural break from a Bath apartment. And treat yourself to a spa treatment while you’re there.
Summer holidays: Wednesday 20 July to Wednesday 31 August 2016
School’s out for summer! With six weeks to play with, the world of UK holidays is your oyster. The traditional industrial fortnight of old, still sees the largest rush of holidaymakers heading for our airports and shores, so you might want to save yourself for mid August. Either way, Cornwall is the UK’s most popular holiday destination, so watch the seaside resorts of Rock, Padstow, Mevagissey and Looe pack out with families. A holiday cottage in Cornwall at this time of year is hotly sought after, so definitely one to book early. Demand for Devon cottages is equally high, so again if you want to bag the best, bag it early.
This is also a wonderful time to explore northern England and Scotland. Theoretically, it’s the warmest they’ll be. Northumbrian beaches are achingly beautiful stretches of sand and for the kids there’s obviously the Harry Potter connection with nearby Alnwick Castle. Skipping west, the Cumbrian hills and the wider Lake District draw those seeking activity and adventure. If your kids are competitive, they’ll love the opportunities for new experiences on offer here, plus they’ll nail the ‘show and tell’ when they get back to school. The Scottish Borders are renowned for salmon fishing on the River Tweed. As unexciting as that may sound to Mum, for Dad and the boys is could prove perfect bonding time. At least Mum can then escape to a nearby spa for a day! (No gender stereotyping intended, just our experience!)
The last weekend of the summer holiday is the August bank holiday weekend. Traditionally, this is the biggie for traffic chaos in the UK. Well it is summer. And if we’re lucky enough to have a proper summer in 2016, it’s likely to spark a mass race for the nearest beach, however far away from it you live. So Bournemouth and Brighton naturally spring to mind, but so does the less well known Camber Sands where the beach is so long it blurs into the horizon. Naturally that makes it a haven for kite surfers, but across the estuary is historic Rye. So here you’ll get your fix of fun and your fill of kitsch tearooms – what a combination!
October half term: Monday 24 to Friday 28 October 2016
Despite a long summer at home with the kids, as soon as they’re back in school and the stress of settling them in has passed, the nation becomes desperate for another break before the clocks change and the darkness of winter swoons in. How wonderfully timed then that October half term offers the last hope of long(ish) days and autumn sunshine. It’s the last chance to hit the surf in Cardigan Bay before the summer warmth of the water fades. As the nights get cooler and crisper, it’s the perfect time for stargazing in the Brecon Beacons National Park Dark Sky Reserve. And if you’ve booked yourself a rural retreat for the occasion, pack your torch!
Well that’s our whistlestop tour of 2016 school holidays and more than one way of working your way around the country with the kids in tow (or not). All that’s left is to get planning. Early birds, go catch those worms that we call holiday cottages!