The latest must-do holiday is shorter than a two-night weekend, it’s a one-night nano break.
Until recently, many establishments demanded a minimum stay of two nights, but since it makes economic sense to fill every available slot, one night availability has become commonplace.
There are plenty of suggestions on the net for activity breaks, cruises, 18-30s, over 50s, or for the disabled, but what of people who merely have compromised health and who want or need to take it easy; people who find steep hills difficult and are not able to walk long distances? This article is designed with them in mind but the ideas could easily be adapted for those who are more energetic.
Taking the train makes the trip a relaxing experience (usually!) so the following list of suggestions assumes you are going by rail and using public transport. It is also a way to reduce the carbon footprint. Breaks can easily be adapted for those who prefer to use the a car.
NB: The recommendations are the opinion of the author and in no way should be seen as a guarantee.
Key to the Perfect Nano Break
- Choose a location within a travel time of 2-3 hours; a place where you can arrive by lunchtime.
- Research online using Google Maps and TripAdvisor and choose accommodation within easy walking distance of eateries and attractions.
- Research menus of eateries and book evening meal in advance to save disappointment and time.
- Travel as light as possible. One small wheelie case is big enough for two.
- Check weather before you go and only pack clothes you think you will need. Be ruthless! You need to be comfortable and unless you are having dinner in a very swanky hotel or restaurant, you don’t need to dress up.
- On arrival, ask the hotel to look after your luggage while you have lunch. You may even have time to explore the locale before checking in.
- Check out after breakfast and again leave your luggage to be picked up after lunch or supper, allowing the best part of another day before travelling home.
The following are a few of my experiences of nano-breaks to various UK destinations. As I live in the South East, some of these destinations will have longer travel time for those living further away. If travel time is longer, it may make sense to turn the nano to a two-night micro or three-night mini break. Scroll down and see I’ve included some extended micro or mini breaks too – that is, breaks where getting there may take more than a day. Hotels and eateries are all highly rated on TripAdvisor. Some are luxury choices, but not all. Location is the main reason for the selection.
A favourite city break and a place to return to again and again. Perfect for sloths as everything is packed into a small, mostly flat and easily walkable area. The cobbled streets and Walls need extra care if less sure-footed. Recommend at least a two-night break, but if nano is your thing, then you’ll have plenty to keep you busy.
Where to stay: The Dean Court Hotel is a boutique hotel almost next to the Minster, just beyond the church in the photo. Recommend booking direct to check room accessibility requirements as not all are served by lift. It is a pleasant half mile walk from the station, round the corner from one of the sightseeing bus stops and within very easy reach of shops, pubs, eateries, the Shambles, a section of the Walls and, of course, the Minster. The Theatre Royal is close by and also the Museum Gardens – a great place to relax on a sunny afternoon.
Where to eat: We breakfasted at Bennett’s beside the Minster and there are several cafes near the hotel. We ate both at the hotel and at Pizza Express down the road. The street food section of the Shambles market is very good value too, with a relaxed, buzzy and studenty atmosphere. The Star Inn the City is an atmospheric pub and eatery by the river, a short walk from the hotel.
What to do: There is so much to do in York that it would take several nano trips to see everything. The sightseeing bus tour is a good place to start and there are exhibitions at various drop-off points. We enjoyed the Richard lll exhibition and walked a section of the walls nearby. Also a boat trip on the river shows the city from a different perspective. The Minster is a must and the exhibition in the undercroft is a place very much worth spending time. The shops and the Shambles are a great place in which to stroll and the Chocolate Story is in the heart of the city.
Perhaps not the first place you would think about for a nano break – but think again. Whitehaven on the West Cumbrian coast, was once a thriving port and is steeped in history.
Where to stay: The Georgian House Hotel, in a back street, a relatively easy half mile walk from the station, may not have views, but is a most delightful boutique hotel with arty décor and the most fabulous food that makes a stay here worthwhile in itself. Two minutes from the seafront, the shopping streets and a couple of attractions.
Where to eat: The hotel. For evening meals it is perfect. Tapas-style as well as a regular menu with Asian-fusion cuisine to rival the best.
What to do: The Rum Story round the corner from the hotel tells of Whitehaven’s dark past in a no-holds barred but balanced way and is a great wet-weather activity. There is much more to it than meets the eye and it is a good-value and worthwhile visit. The Beacon museum is a modern attraction by the harbour that tells the story of the old mining town and the history of the harbour and also of Sellafield down the road. The train journey from Carlisle takes in a sizeable section of the Solway coast (see photo) and is a delightful way to travel to the town. Also visit Ravenglass via train and take a trip to Eskdale on The La’al Ratty. For science enthusiasts, visit Sellafield. If time, take a half hour trip by bus to the market town of Cockermouth on the edge of the Lake District.
A popular south-coast seaside resort with a glorious arc of sandy beach.
Where to stay: The seafront is lined with guest houses and The Prince Regent Hotel among others. Tripadviser is a good place from which to choose. We discovered the Bay View Hotel – a guest house about half a mile from the station and a short walk from main bus stops. Conveniently located within walking distance of many pubs, shops and eateries, it is a very popular place and quite difficult to secure a booking (particularly a sea view) in the main season.
Where to eat: If you enjoy seafood, you are spoilt for choice. Conveniently located suggestions at the western end are Crustacean and Les Enfants Terribles and on the other side of the harbour bridge, around the Square off Cove Street are several popular small cafes. At the centre of the prom and jutting out into the sea is the Italian restaurant Al Molo with great food and views, and a short trip away on the No1 bus is The Crab House Café near the ferrybridge. Here, be prepared to get messy and dissect your own deliciously fresh crab. On Portland itself, enjoy the most fantastic views of Chesil Beach with a lunch at the Portland Heights Hotel (and visit the Olympic Rings sculpture while you’re there).
What to do: Weymouth town centre contains a multitude of independent shops in which to browse and there are galleries in and around Cove Street as well as the Tudor House Museum. The promenade and beach provide scenic walking opportunities. Take a boat trip along the Jurassic Coast or across to Portland, or a ‘Coaster’ bus from the King’s Statue to the arty town of Bridport. Inland, visit Dorchester and Poundbury and a range of Thomas Hardy experiences and museums in the area.
Where to stay: The Fishermen’s Huts run by Hotel Continental and situated at the top of the beach are a delightful experience, conveniently situated near the harbour and the town centre. Complete with microwave, plates and cutlery, they are geared up for you to enjoy a fish and chip supper from one of the many outlets.
Where to eat: Seafood eateries are everywhere and are quite expensive. But that’s what Whitstable is all about. The Harbour Garden Cafe is conveniently located and has both inside and outside seating. The Hotel Continental has great views and a decent bar menu. Breakfast there is included in the cost for their Fishermen’s Huts – and it’s a good one, worth the half mile walk or short drive. For something more upmarket, our taxi driver recommended The Sportsman, a gastropub in nearby Seasalter.
What to do: Browse the array of traditional shops in the long High Street and visit the museum at the far end. Take a boat trip or walk the Sea Wall to Tankerton Beach and beyond where the views are lovely. Chill out on deck chairs, gazing across the shingle to the oyster beds.
Where to stay: The Arden Hotel – luxury boutique opposite the RSC theatre, near the river and the boating, steps away from a tour bus stop and only a short walk to the High Street and to a range of excellent eateries. Lots of little extras and cosy charm.
Where to eat: Spoilt for choice from the hotel Brasserie to restaurants in Sheep Street and the High Street. Loxley’s at the top of Sheep Street impressed with specially adapted menus for dairy and gluten free diets, and with excellent service and cooking. The Dirty Duck nearby does good bar lunches and snacks from early till late.
What to do: Go to the theatre, take a river cruise on the Avon or hire a rowing boat. The hop-on, hop-off bus tour stops at 5 houses of Shakespearian interest and has an interesting commentary as well as showing some of the countryside outside Stratford. There’s a butterfly farm across the river. Wander along the waterside or browse the shops in the high street and marvel at the fascinating Tudor architecture.
Where to stay: The Sands Hotel – luxury boutique with divine views from the rooms at the front. Gorgeous toiletries help to justify price-tag. A half-mile, mostly flat, walk from station along the prom saves a taxi fare.
Where to eat: The hotel restaurant and bar; the Buoy and Oyster next door if you like fish; Manning’s seafood stall up the road towards the harbour.
What to do: enjoy the sandy beach; walk along the prom. Visit the Turner Contemporary Gallery. Coordinate visit with an event at Dreamland – or visit the amusements.
Where to stay: The Daffodil Hotel and Spa – arty décor, breathtaking views over Grasmere or fells. Close to the main road with bus stops near by. Opposite Dove Cottage, the home of William Wordsworth. Easy to catch 559 or 555 bus to and from Windermere station.
Where to eat: the hotel restaurant or lounge bar. Or take 559 bus or walk into Grasmere where there are loads of eateries.
What to do: Bus or walk to Grasmere (0.6 of a mile to the Heaton Cooper Studio at the far end). The village is awash with quality gift shops, a gallery and the famous Grasmere Gingerbread shop. Eat at Green’s Café (by the green!) — excellent for dietary requirements. Or in one of the many other cafes or pubs. Bus to Waterhead Pier at the top of Lake Windermere. Take a launch round the top of the lake to Bowness and back (the red route). Or hire a rowing boat. Lunch at Wateredge Inn or Waterhead Hotel. Visit Dove Cottage opposite the Daffodil Hotel. If extending visit, take a 555 bus to Keswick. All the bus journeys take in lakeland views and are a tour in themselves. For the more energetic, walk around the lake and visit Faeryland where rowing boats may be hired.
Winchester (winter, pre-Christmas trip)
Where to stay: The Old Vine Inn opposite the cathedral and therefore close to the Christmas Market
Where to eat: Rick Stein’s restaurant, a short, flat, walk away. Lunch at the Old Vine.
What to do: Visit the Christmas Market (open for a month before Christmas) and the cathedral. http://www.winchester-cathedral.org.uk/events/christmas-market/
Where to stay: Premier Inn at the Albert Dock. Short cab ride from station. Next door to Beatles’ Experience; opposite Wheel and bus tour stop. Close to Echo Arena, museum and a short waterfront walk to the ferry terminal.
Where to eat: A range of eateries in the vicinity of the hotel including a steakhouse round the corner and a good Pizza Express opposite.
What to do: Beatles Experience; Open top hop-on, hop-off bus (hop off at the iconic Philharmonic Pub for a lunch). Stroll along the waterfront or take bus to the ferry terminal for trip around the Mersey. Coordinate with an evening event at the Echo Arena. Take a trip round the Wheel.
Where to Stay: The Ship Leopard boutique hotel. A short walk across the road from the station and near the harbour.
Where to eat: The Loch Fyne restaurant in the shopping centre. The Ship Anson – pub near hotel.
What to do: The Mary Rose Exhibition; HMS Victory; HMS Warrior and other dockyard museums and experiences. https://www.historicdockyard.co.uk/ Coordinate visit with a show at the Guildhall for evening entertainment.
Where to stay: The View Hotel. Centrally located on the seafront with great balcony views. No frills, though. Within short walk of eateries, bus tour stops, pier. Short cab ride from station.
Where to eat: Morgan’s restaurant, an easy half a mile flat walk inland; lunch at the hotel bar. Plenty of other options nearby.
What to do: Walk the promenade and pier; take the hop-on hop-off tour bus from the bandstand, the pier or opposite the Grand Hotel. A great way to see the surrounds of Eastbourne. Hop off, at Beachy Head for the energetic, or the historic Tiger Inn for lunch.
Extended Micro or Mini Breaks
Sometimes it is impossible to do the trip in a day as getting there will be an adventure in itself. And if you’ve taken the trouble to go this far, you may want to stay two or three nights and turn the nano into a micro or mini.
Plockton (Highlands of Scotland)
‘Plockton?’ they say when I mention it. ‘Where’s Plockton?’ For walkers and those with cars, it’s a great base from which to explore. For sloths on public transport, it has heavenly views and delightful palm-tree-scattered main street along which to stroll. Yes, palm trees. It has a micro-climate, being sheltered from the westerly winds. It is seafood heaven and you must try the delicious Plockton Prawns – the most enormous langoustines you have ever seen.
Getting there: From London Euston, take the Caledonian Sleeper to Inverness. Breakfast at Artysans Café in Strothers Lane parallel to the railway line. Then browse the local indoor market opposite the station, take the mid morning Kyle of Lochalsh train to Plockton and enjoy some of the most beautiful wild scenery you will ever have seen.
Where to stay: The Plockton Hotel – a touch of luxury with amazing views. And they will pick you up from the station if you let them know arrival time in advance.
Where to eat: lunches at the hotel were lovely. We also tried The Plockton Inn and the Plockton Shores Restaurant. Both excellent – but book in advance.
What to do: Browse the arty shops and galleries; take a trip round the loch with Callum’s Seal Trips; hire a taxi for a morning trip to Eilean Donan Castle, visit the viewing point shown in the photo below, and then across to Skye – to say you’ve been there. We hired Brian Macone from http://www.alanstaxikyle.co.uk/ Book well in advance and discuss your requirements. He’s a fund of local knowledge and anecdotes. Or you could do a whole day on Skye. In Plockton, stroll along the waterfront of Loch Carron. The energetic may use hotel as a base for walks around the top of the loch or into the surrounding hills.
Getting back: do the trip in reverse. Afternoon train to Inverness. Eat at the wonderful River House Restaurant (booked in advance), then take the Caledonian Sleeper back to London Euston. Breakfast at Leon’s on the mezzanine level. Extend the trip with an extra night in Inverness and cruise Loch Ness while there.
Alternatively, make the return trip via Skye. Bus or taxi to Armadale; ferry to Mallaig for an overnight stay, perhaps, and then train to Glasgow, another overnight stay and then train to London Euston. Or take the train from Mallaig to Fort William and catch the Caledonian overnight sleeper from there. Either of these are more complicated and time-consuming options, but give a chance to travel on the famous Highland Line and spend some time in other places.
Isles of Scilly
Getting there: For us it’s a train to Penzance, an overnight stay at Chy an Mor guest house (evening meal at the Navy Inn or the Dolphin), and the Scillonian Ferry to Scilly. Guest house ideally situated a 10 minutes walk or taxi from station. 5 minutes walk from the boat. Seconds from walks along the prom. Alternatives are to fly by Skybus from Exeter, Newquay or Lands End, or take the helicopter from Land’s End. https://www.islesofscilly-travel.co.uk/ Note: the boat nearly always goes. Bad weather, including fog, often halts flights. However, for those with weak stomachs, flying may be the only option. Remember to take out delay insurance.
Where to stay: Schooner’s Hotel on St Mary’s is ideal for a short break but note it has a minimum stay of 3 nights. A small boutique hotel overlooking the harbour and a short flat walk from the quay and connecting boats to other islands https://www.islesofscilly-travel.co.uk/
Where to eat: Schooner’s do good value evening meals (not Sunday’s). The Galley restaurant nearby is excellent but must be booked well in advance. Lunch at the Atlantic Inn comes with option of harbour views. Kavorna Café do great crab sandwiches and cater well for dietary requirements. Juliet’s Garden – a walk or short taxi ride away – has stunning views and is very well-regarded. If mobility is an issue, let Toots Taxi service take the strain – very reliable and accommodating.
What to do: Tour St Mary’s on the tour bus or hire a bike or buggy. Take a boat trip to another island but be aware of drop off and pick up points as sometimes the walk between is undulating and may be beyond your range. Tresco’s Abbey Gardens is often a must for garden lovers. St Agnes has same drop off and pick up point with the Turk’s Head pub at the top of the quay and great views from the outside seating. For the more energetic, walk round the mile square island and discover breathtaking views and the Troy Town Maze on the far side. Round boat trips to the small islands or the Bishop Rock lighthouse are a good way to spend a morning or afternoon. Check the boards at the harbour to see what’s on. If wet, the museum in High Town is full of fascinating information.
Getting home: boat leaves late afternoon; planes leave throughout the day. We do the trip in reverse and stay overnight at Chy an Mor in Penzance before catching the train back to London the following morning.
Scilly is the type of place you’ll likely want to go back to so don’t leave it too late in life to start exploring. Here’s why, in a guest blog post I wrote for TripFiction https://www.tripfiction.com/talking-location-linda-macdonald-isles-scilly/
You will also find visitors book the same slot year after year and it can be tricky to secure accommodation in peak times, particularly self-catering on the smaller islands. To increase your chance of finding somewhere, make enquiries a year ahead of when you intent to visit. There is a little more flexibility with the hotels – but even they are often booked up very early, as are the guest houses.