Looking for adventure but not wanting to travel too far afield? Rising fuel, energy and grocery bills are making many of us tighten our purse strings and cut down on luxuries like far-flung holidays and weekend city breaks.
But there are ways to holiday like a jetsetter within a couple of hours drive from Birmingham. You just have to be a little bit creative in your planning.
We’ve put together a guide to some of the most stunning villages, towns, viewpoints and natural phenomenons that are beautiful enough to match top travel destinations around the world. What’s more, you can reach them all without having to book flights.
All of these destinations can be enjoyed as day trips so you could fill the school holidays with lots of great adventures. Or you may choose to camp or book into a cottage or b’n’b to extend your stay and make it feel even more like a proper vacation.
Take a look at our photo gallery of dreamy copycat staycation ideas here:
Dreaming of Monument Valley in the USA? Why not try Kinver Edge Caves?
Monument Valley is said to be one of the most photographed places on earth. Straddling Utah and Arizona, it features towering sandstone rock formations that have been sculpted over time by nature. It’s easily recognisable as it has been used as the backdrop to countless films.
But did you know there are amazing sandstone rock formations near Stourbridge? Nanny’s Rock (pictured above) is a real spectacle to behold. It is part of Kinver Edge, a high sandstone ridge with sweeping views, where you’ll find unique homes carved straight into the rock.
Nanny’s Rock is a large cavern with five compartments and it is thought that a woman known as ‘Margaret of the fox earth’ may have lived there up until her death in 1617. The Holy Austin rock houses were inhabited until the 1960s.
Now owned by the National Trust, you can go for a tour of these fascinating cave dwellings. One house has been restored to a Victorian appearance, and the Martindale Caves show what life was like in the 1930s. The cottage gardens and an orchard are being replanted and restored.
There are some wonderful walks around Kinver Edge too, which are free to access. You can park easily then climb to the top to take in views that stretch all the way across the Midlands and beyond.
Look out for gorse and purple heather, ancient oak woodland and exposed areas of sandstone. Try the circular heathland trail walk which takes around 45 minutes to an hour. Start at the old Warden’s Lodge, the follow the red arrows that waymark the route through rare heathland up to sweeping views from the Iron Age Hill Fort. We like to picnic right at the top! And there’s also a farm shop and cafe where you can stop for lunch, hot drinks and snacks.
Warden’s Lodge, Comber Road, Kinver, Staffordshire DY7 6HU
Listen to our Brummie Mummies podcast about the very best days out around the Midlands here
New Zealand’s Middle Earth? Try Puzzlewood
New Zealand is famous for its Hobbiton links to Middle Earth, which formed the backdrop to Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. But did you know there’s a ‘magical forest’ full of ancient gnarled trees and moss-covered rock formations just 90 minutes from Birmingham?
If you have children, you need to take them to Puzzlewood in the Forest of Dean. It’s like a fairy tale version of Disneyland that’s completely natural and green. You’ll recognise it from films like Star Wars, The Huntsman, Doctor Who, Merlin and Atlantis. Little ones will know it from the opening sequence of CBeebies Tree Fu Tom.
There’s something other-worldly about Puzzlewood. As soon as you step into the forest, a darkness drops as the sky becomes overtaken with towering, intertwined branches. Occasion glimpses of sunlight flash through the trees, illuminating brightly-coloured lichen and large, eerie rocks that rise vertically, creating natural corridors through the woods.
Fence-lined pathways lead to hidden benches and secret doorways, balancing beams, pretty archways and even dinosaur prints. There’s also bridges to cross (crossed by Stormtroopers no less!) plus a two-storey indoor maze complete with doors and tunnels plus donkeys, Shetland ponies, ducks, sheep, goats and chicken to visit. And be sure to leave time to go to cafe for lunch and the children’s play area too.
Puzzlewood, Perrygrove Road, Coleford GL16 8QB
Fancy living it up in Portofino? Take a trip to Portmeirion
Wishing you could live the high life of the Italian Riviera for a day? Did you know there’s a place in Wales designed and built to look similar to the colourful Portofino.
Portmeirion village and gardens is one of Wales’ premier visitor attractions, welcoming over 200,000 visitors every year. You have to pay to enter but its well worth it to enjoy the pretty buildings, Italianate architecture and beauty spots tucked away down its backstreets.
There are cafes, shops, hotels and, of course, pizzerias and ice cream parlours to enjoy. And, whilst there, head to Porthmadog, which is billed as the place ‘where the mountains meet the sea’. Portmeirion is slightly further than the other destinations on this list, taking around two hours and 40 minutes to reach from Birmingham.
Portmeirion, Minffordd, Penrhyndeudraeth Gwynedd, LL48 6ER
The Lake District? Head to Kingsbury Water Park
If you’d love a Lake District break but are worried that it will cost you an arm and a leg in petrol to get there, why not spend a day enjoying the lakes near Sutton Coldfield? There are 16 lakes in the Lake District but did you know that there are 15 lakes at Kingsbury Water Park?
Visit at sunrise or sunset for spectacular views across Heron Pool, Kingfisher Pool, Bodymoor Heath Water, Willows Pool, Mill Pool and more. Spanning 600 acres of countryside, there are specially marked-out routes to ensure you don’t get lost and plenty of surfaced paths making it ideal for pushchairs and wheelchair users too.
As you would expect, the area offers an abundance of wildlife, especially birds making the most of the waters. You can hire a bike, go sailing, fishing, geocaching and horse riding. And be sure to take the kids to Broomey Croft Children’s Farm, where they can meet lots of furry and feathered friends for less than a fiver. The play area is large, with lots of challenges for all ages, and there’s a lovely outdoor seating area at the cafe.
It’s worth heading to the Information Centre where you can pick up maps and activity leaflets to help you plan out your day. There’s also a gift shop selling souvenirs, toys and books, many of which have been made by local crafts people. The Information Centre is open every day except Christmas Day.
Bodymoor Heath Lane, Kingsbury, Sutton Coldfield B76 0DY
Yearning for a bit of Barcelona culture? Discover history and stunning architecture in Lichfield
Barcelona is famous for its Gaudi architecture, lively nightlife, gorgeous beaches and its stunning gothic-style cathedral. If you’re looking for a bit of history and culture, why not head to Lichfield, which is the only medieval three-spired cathedral in the UK.
It is one of the oldest places of Christian worship, and the burial place of the great Anglo-Saxon missionary Bishop, St Chad. There has been a Cathedral in Lichfield for over 1,300 years. Look out for the St Chad Gospels, an eighth century Gospel Book housed in the Cathedral’s Chapter House and the medieval Lichfield Angel sculpture, which was discovered in 2003 and is a carved limestone panel, which is dated to around 800 A.D. and thought to have formed the corner of a shrine chest, possibly that of St Chad.
The famous Herkenrode Glass is considered to be one of Europe’s greatest artistic treasures, and was installed in Lichfield in 1803 when it was rescued from destruction during the Napoleonic Wars.
There’s plenty to do in and around Lichfield, from taking the kids to play at Beacon Park to visiting nearby Drayton Manor and the National Forest Adventure Farm.
The Close, Lichfield WS13 7LD
Wishing for a weekend in Amsterdam? Try Tenbury Wells
Amsterdam is known for its colourful buildings and cafes. But the pretty Pumps Rooms in Tenbury Wells are equally picturesque. This spa town is a lovely place to go for independent shops, pubs and cafes, and some very interesting architecture.
Set on the River Teme in the heart of Worcestershire, you’ll find a chocolate factory and shop, selling handmade Belgium chocolates, sweets and cakes. There’s also an art deco cinema and theatre plus a lovely playground for kids.
The Pump Rooms are tucked away at the end of Teme Street, so you need to know where to look to find them! There’s also the Old Post Office which dates back to 1902 and Tenbury House which was erected in 1815 and features buildings that date back to the early 18th century.
Whilst in Tenbury Wells be sure to visit the Malvern Hills for a walk with some breathtaking views and stop off at The Hive in Worcester and for a walk down the River Severn on your way home.
Teme Street, Tenbury Wells, Worcestershire WR15 8BA
Scottish Highlands? Wye Valley
With its rugged mountains, deep blue lochs and empty glens filled with birds of prey and deer, its easy to see why the Scottish Highlands are seen as romantic. But you can find unspoilt nature and an abundance of wildlife in the Wye Valley.
Straddling the English-Welsh border from the Forest of Dean to Monmouthshire, this is a protected Area of Outstanding Beauty. For the most spectacular viewpoint, head up to ‘Eagle’s Nest’ at Wyndcliff – a double-decker viewing platform perched on the edge of the cliff looking out over the sweeping curve of the Wye around the Lancaut Peninsula. On a clear day you can see seven counties.
Other must-see places include the Devil’s Pulpit where legend says that the devil preached to the monks down below at Tintern Abbey, Symond’s Yat Rock where the Wye meanders in a huge loop, hundreds of feet below and the stunning limestone cliffs of Wintour’s Leap, where peregrine falcons nest.
Woodcroft, Chepstow NP16 7HX
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Want the exhilaration of Niagara Falls? Visit Pistyll Rhaedr in Powys
Niagara Falls in Canada attracts tens of thousands of tourists from around the world every year. It is around 51 metres tall but did you know there’s a waterfall that’s bigger than Niagara Falls less than a two-hour drive from Birmingham?
Pistyll Rhaeadr is Britain’s tallest single-drop waterfall, spanning a breathtaking height of 80 metres, or 240 feet. It’s in Powys, west of Oswestry and Shrewsbury, just the other side of the Welsh border in the Berwyn Mountains.
And it is so beautiful, it was the destination chosen as the backdrop for David Beckham’s advert for men’s moisturising range Biotherm Homme. You can go for the day, parking at the foot of the falls and taking a 20 minute walk up the public footpath to the top for exhilarating views.
Back at the bottom, there’s a tea room for you to enjoy some refreshments before enjoying other scenic walks in the area around the mountainous farm land.
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