Upgrade your bank holiday weekend

Lesser-known destinations that punch above their weight

Obviously, we all love those well-known places for a mini break. Bath, York, Brighton – all the usual suspects. They’re popular for a reason, of course, but they’re also packed with a metric tonne of other visitors all trying to enjoy the same things. So we’ve scoured the train tracks for some alternative bank holiday getaways, and found the best fares to get you there.


3hr 37m direct from London Kings Cross
Cheapest upgrade £10 travelling with LNER

If you’ve travelled by train between London and Scotland, you’ve likely been through this little station. It’s just north of Newcastle, around where the seaside scenery from the train gets really good. The small, pretty village of Alnmouth is nestled right on the stunning Northumberland Coast with its miles of sandy beaches. It’s a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and perfect for blowing any kind of cobwebs away on a bank holiday stroll.

Alnmouth station is also the gateway to the market town of Alnwick (pronounced Annick), which is absolutely stuffed with brilliant things. Pack your wands, because Alnwick Castle starred as Hogwarts for the first two Harry Potter films. The Alnwick Garden has everything from a bamboo labyrinth to a poison garden (if you dare – apparently three people a week faint while visiting the world’s deadliest garden). And if you’re into trains – or books – or both, Barter Books is an absolutely stunning secondhand bookshop inside the old Victorian Alnwick station. There are squishy sofas, roaring fires, a buffet serving homemade food in the original tiled waiting rooms, and a little train whizzing around a track above your head. Fun fact – it’s also the place that popularised the classic Keep Calm and Carry On poster.


Around 3hr 9m from London Euston, with one change at Crewe
Cheapest upgrade £35 (to Crewe) travelling with Avanti West Coast

If you’re looking for that quaint, pretty, historic town vibe that’s photogenic as all heck – this is your place. It’s so quintessentially English that the high street shops are in black-and-white Tudor buildings. But it also has a thriving foodie scene, and stunning surrounding countryside for lovely strolls that end at a great pub with local ales.

Ludlow is eminently walkable, so taking off for a gentle meander is the perfect bank holiday activity. Be sure to include some of the historical landmarks on your travels, like the Feathers Hotel dating from 1619 (and serving an excellent afternoon tea), the 11th century St Laurence’s Church, the medieval Broadgate leading to the river, and the 13th century Castle Lodge, allegedly haunted by Catherine of Aragon. And of course, the main historical attraction towers up in the middle of town – the 11th century Ludlow Castle. The tower has fabulous views, and the public park around the castle walls is ideal for a break and a picnic.

Need provisions? Ludlow Market has been operating on the same site (Castle Square) for more than 900 years, and you can find everything from cheese to chairs. It’s also worth wandering to Quality Square to explore the independent shops, galleries and eateries.


1hr 41min direct from London Victoria
Cheapest return from £26.90 with Southern trains

Let’s get thatched. Amberley is a bucolic Sussex village between the South Downs and the River Arun, with flint houses dating back hundreds of years. It’s perfect for a weekend of gentle exploration and getting out into nature (if the weather behaves).

Amberley Castle is a medieval fortress that you can both explore, and stay in – it’s now a luxury hotel and restaurant. In the grounds you can find the ruined castle walls, an oubliette dungeon and the resident white peacock. Inside, you can settle in for an afternoon tea, or book into the restaurant for some fine dining.

Another jewel in Amberley’s crown is the Amberley Museum (which is also dog friendly, yay!). In a former quarry and limeworks, you can explore the history of the area through loads of fascinating exhibits, including working vintage buses and railways, nature trails and crafts.

When you’re ready to get out in nature, stop by the Riverside South Downs. You can hire boats and bikes, indulge in locally-sourced breakfast, lunch or cream tea, or just sit back with a glass of wine on the riverside terrace. Dreamy.


2hrs 48mins direct from London Kings Cross, or 3hrs 1min with 1 change
Cheapest upgrade £6 travelling with Grand Central

York holds the crown for weekend breaks in Yorkshire(and understandably so), but there are some great towns and cities flying under the radar. Halifax is one of them. It’s such a rising star, it’s been nicknamed Haliwood for all the movies and TV shows that are starting to film here. Once the home of the English wool trade, it’s packed with some of the best-preserved Georgian and Victorian buildings in the north – and is staking its claim as a destination for foodies and culture fans.

Start your weekend at Piece Hall. A Grade I listing Georgian cloth hall, it’s been beautifully restored and is now enjoying a new life housing galleries, independent shops, bars, cafes and restaurants around a big airy courtyard. It was also a backdrop to Samuel L Jackson battling aliens in Marvel’s Secret Invasion. Naturally.

Nearby, there’s Eureka! The National Children’s Museum – perfect for keeping kiddos busy for hours. Round the corner, look out for the 16th century Holdsworth House Hotel, which was the filming location for the BBC’s Last Tango in Halifax. Continue your Haliwood tour at the beautiful Shibden Hall – a 15th century house that was home to the diarist Anne Lister, who was immortalised in the BBC’s Gentleman Jack. Described as ‘the first modern lesbian’, her diaries formed the basis of the period drama, and much of it was filmed on site here on the stunning estate.

Of course, Halifax is also a perfect gateway to the stunning scenery of the Dales, ideal for a proper bank holiday hike. But keep an eye out – Mission Impossible was filmed here, and Tom Cruise was spotted whipping around on a motorbike more than once…


1hr 23mins direct from London Victoria
Cheapest return from £37.90 travelling with Southern trains

Once, Eastbourne may have conjured up images of OAPs and naff arcades. But cast those ideas aside – it’s now cool. The Turner Prize was hosted at Eastbourne’s Towner Gallery in 2023, catapulting Eastbourne to the attention of the art world and beyond. No wonder – the Towner is a bright, modernist marvel painted in bold geometric colours, with exhibitions as excellent on the inside as the insta-worthy brilliance of the outside.

Continue your Eastbourne art journey at the Emma Mason Gallery, where you can see work by printmakers from the 1950s onwards, then to VOLT, a gallery near the seafront showcasing work by emerging and mid-career artists. Scratch your cultural itch with a concert or play at one of the theatres in the Devonshire Quarter (the Congress is the only place outside London you can see the London Philharmonic perform). Then spend some time in Camilla’s Bookshop, a beloved secondhand bookshop with literal mounds of books to search through. Look out for the resident parrot, who loves to hide in the stacks and scare the living daylights out of unsuspecting shoppers.

Of course, you’re also by the sea, so don’t miss the chance to enjoy a salty stroll along the pebbly beach. At the eastern end of the Royal Parade, grab a legendary crab sandwich from fishmongers The Fish and Crab Shack, then head to Gelato Famoso for a creamy seafront ice cream. Done.

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