Swiss Cottage, Staffordshire
Alrewas is the kind of village where roses grow over whitewashed walls and candlelit pubs serve good old-fashioned pints. This half-timbered cottage, just steps from the canal, has a patio with wrought-iron chairs. There are 150 acres to explore in the National Memorial Aboretum, just a walk away, with a sensory play garden, Children’s Wood and Stick Man trail, not to mention poignant history. The arboretum launched a new free augmented reality app in March and an Outdoor Escape challenge opens on 29 May. Drayton Manor theme park and Tamworth Snowdome are both within 20 minutes’ drive and it is half an hour to Boscobel House, which has just reopened after a major upgrade. Besides a Victorian farm, an interactive trail and the oak tree where Charles II hid, there’s a new hide-and-seek themed playground.
Sleeps 4, £969 for 7 nights from 28 May, welcomecottages.com
Ettrick Valley Yurts, Scottish Borders
It may be only 1½ hours’ drive from Edinburgh (and less than two from Glasgow), but this is wild, rolling country of lochs and waterfalls. Scottish schools have long weekends rather than a full summer half-term but some of these yurts are also (currently) free near the start of Scotland’s earlier summer hols (and for English and Welsh half-term). Furnished with embroidered patchwork, solar lamps and fairy lights, they are set among looming fells and fields of sheep, under night skies full of stars. The price includes bedding, the woodburner is lit before you arrive, and each yurt has its own firepit. Scotland’s biggest hedge maze, in the lovely grounds at Traquair, the country’s oldest inhabited house, is close by too.
Sleeps 6, from £330 for 2 nights midweek in high season, ettrickvalleyyurts.co.uk
Rosslare Cottage, County Antrim
Just 45 minutes’ drive from Belfast and 20 minutes from the beautiful Antrim coast, this cosy whitewashed cottage in startlingly green, cow parsley-laced countryside has high wooden ceilings, a log-burning stove and a farmhouse kitchen. It’s got two double bedrooms, which won’t suit every family, but the location is perfect for climbing rocky Slemish mountain, where St Patrick is said to have herded cattle, and exploring the forests, glens and waterfalls nearby. Volunteer-run Broughshane bird sanctuary is a couple of miles down the road, and it’s a good time to spot fluffy cygnets and goslings. Nearby, the Millside Gracheill restaurant in Ballymena, serves kids’ meals and salted caramel apple pie,and the River Room (which hasthree AA Rosettes and a thumbs up from Michelin) still has the odd slot free for dinner (book ahead, galgorm.com/river-room).
Sleeps 4, £575 for seven nights from May 29, sykescottages.co.uk
St Cuthbert’s, Herefordshire
A few champing sites (camping in old churches) have availability for at least part of half-term, some with a temporary special £1 rate for kids. This one’s free until Friday 4 June. It’s a late 13th-century sandstone beauty near the village of Holme Lacy, with stained glass, spooky tombs and carved medieval stalls. You sleep on a row of camp beds (pictured above) and there’s a fairy-lit sitting area. Outside, the River Wye snakes through fields with a footpath and views of the wooded hills beyond. There are kayaks and canoes to hire at Holme Lacy Bridge, and Hereford, with its chained cathedral library, is five miles away.
£51.50 a night adults, £1 a night under-16s, champing.co.uk
Granary Cottage, Cotswolds
This treacle-coloured Cotswold cottage, with slate floors, beams and woodburner, is next to a farm in the village of Ebrington. It’s a couple of miles from gold-stoned Chipping Campden, start of the epic Cotswold Way long-distance path, which runs over hills to Bath. No need to tackle the whole trail; take a kite and a picnic and climb a mile or so from the cottage through woods to Dover’s Hill, for Cotswold views. The area is heaving with attractions, from model dinosaurs and soft play at All Things Wild in Honeybourne to the Arts and Crafts garden at Hidecote Manor.
Sleeps 4, £1,039 for 7 nights from 28 May, cottages.com
Caravan with hot tub, Isle of Wight
The Lakes Rookley, a holiday site with heated pools, playground and acres of parkland, added some fancy caravans with hot tubs a couple of years ago. They also come with decent kitchens, private decks, en suite doubles and twin rooms for kids. At nearby Carisbrooke Castle you can walk round the walls, meet the resident donkeys, and catch half-term shows and stories, while neighbouring Godshill has a model village, complete with miniature trains, pubs, a cricket match and hundreds of bonsai trees.
Sleep 6, £536 for 4 nights from 31 May, hoseasons.co.uk
The Log House, Outer Hebrides
This recently built wooden cabin four miles from the cafes and castles of Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis has quirky, colourful decor, including Masai spears, neon-pink curtains and bar stools, and a balcony with views across the long flat fields to Broad Bay. There are white sandy beaches with turquoise water (in the right light) close by and, half an hour’s drive across the island, the mysterious Calanais standing stones are older than Stonehenge. The Hebrides, off the west coast of Scotland, are 100 miles long; look out for dolphins from the CalMac Ferry on the 2½-hour boat ride to Stornoway from Ullapool in the Highlands (check it’s definitely running before you book).
Sleeps 6, £729 for 5 nights from 29 May, lastminute-cottages.co.uk
The Old Dairy, Powys
This former farm building in the middle of the countryside is both cosy and immaculately converted. With one double and a sofa bed, it could be a bit of a squash for a family, but the long-horned cattle and deer outside make up for it. Book a half-hour ride for small kids on a quiet pony or a full cross-country hack through the high moorland of the Bryngwyn Riding Centre two miles away. The grassy mound of a medieval motte is just down the road in Painscastle and book-filled Hay-on-Wye is eight miles away.
Sleeps 4 (at a pinch), £939 for 7 nights from 28 May, cottages.com
Longridge Glamping, Marlow, Buckinghamshire
This family-friendly riverside glamping site offers bell tents in a peaceful corner of Longridge Activity Centre (beds and bedding can be supplied for a fee) a mile across the Thames from Marlow’s pubs, cafes and railway station. Salters Steamers do boat trips and the nine-mile stretch of Thames Path to Henley passes abbeys, locks and Temple Island. Henley’s River & Rowing Museum will be open every day over half-term, with a Mr Benn dress-up day on 5 June and an exhibition featuring Elmer the patchwork elephant. It also has scenes from Wind in the Willows and outdoor smartphone trails.
Sleeps 4, £220 for 2 nights, pitchup.com