As the warmth of spring breathes life into the landscape, the UK awakens with the promise of new beginnings. And, with them, new adventures. The bite of winter might have faded, but the peak summer crowds are yet to arrive, making May something of a "golden window" for exploring Great Britain from coast to countryside. From the Shoreditch House crowd’s new stomping ground in East Sussex, to Cornwall’s “Hollywood-on-Sea,” we’ve picked out the seven unmissable UK destinations for May. So, pack your bags, lace up your walking shoes, and hotfoot to these May destinations; they’re sure to put a spring in your step.


For gastronomes: Norfolk

On the left, a rustic table through a doorway; on the right, a sandy beach in Norfolk from above

Set sail on a culinary adventure in Nelson’s county, where fresh seafood is scooped straight from the sea and served in exceptional pubs –  a road trip is the way to explore Norfolk. The Gunton Arms near Cromer, The Victoria at Holkham, and The Hoste Arms in Burnham Market (a village which has earned the moniker of “Chelsea-on-Sea”) are the ones to mark on your map; generous plates of succulent crab and garlicky lobster will fuel your journey through 4x4 territory. Holkham Beach, with its towering pines framing the shoreline, immortalised in the final scene of Shakespeare in Love, is a royal favourite. As you pootle along the coast, pause at Stiffkey to look out across the salt marshes, spot plump, languishing seals in Blakeney, and buy oaky, just-smoked salmon next to the iconic windmill at Cley (you might just bump into musician, James Blake, who hails from here). For a change of pace, drift along the Norfolk Broads, a labyrinth of glassy rivers and lakes, hopping off in the villages of Wroxham and Horning to unwind amid the ebb and flow of the waterways.

Where to stay: Originally a stable block, Nyssa is a design-led farmhouse in Colton with a 1970s twist. Complete with a yoga studio, ice bath, sauna, and hot tub, it embodies "positive energy architecture" and restorative design.


For creatives: East Sussex

An art gallery down a cobbled lane in the Georgian town of Rye in East Sussex

East Sussex is a crucible of creativity, so it’s no surprise that East London’s arty crowd have claimed it as their weekend haunt. Start in Brighton, where bohemian spirit fills The Lanes, and provocative street art adorns the walls. Next, venture eastwards to Rye, a modish town renowned for its Georgian architecture and ethereal Romney Marsh that has inspired luminaries including Henry James, who wrote The Turn of the Screw here. For a glimpse into the Bloomsbury Group's salaciously storied legacy, visit Charleston in Lewes, the former home of artists Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. Continue to St. Leonards-on-Sea and Hastings – this is where to pick a mid-century drinks cabinet in a vintage emporium. Cap it off with a walk along the iconic Seven Sisters cliffs, a series of chalky escarpments that have been featured in Atonement, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and Anatomy of a Scandal.

Where to stay: The Matchbox is a wholesome beach house where whitewashed wooden floors create a calming ambience throughout the open-plan living areas, while a wraparound deck encourages time spent immersed in the surroundings of Rye Harbour Nature Reserve.


For romantics: Devon

On the left, a girl walks down a cobbled lane with a basket; on the right, a vintage bathtub

The wild expanse of Dartmoor and the Jurassic Coast, representing 185 million years of Earth's history as the only place where rocks from the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous Periods converge, make Devon an the place for hopeless romantics and budding archaeologists to get lost in the wilderness. Explore Dartmoor National Park on foot or hoof, uncovering ancient stone circles and spotting the iconic Dartmoor ponies – just beware the Hound of the Baskervilles. Hikers are never far from a pitstop-worthy town, like the naval centre of Dartmouth or the village of North Bovey, with its thatched cottages and chocolate-box feel. The “English Riviera” – Torquay, Paignton, Brixham – provide nostalgic seaside entertainment (no one’s too sophisticated for a brief spin on a slot machine, nor a cloud of candy floss) though fossil hunting is an excellent activity for little ones. Foodies will be spoilt for choice; favourites include The Antidote in Ilfracombe for pretty plates and an impressive wine room and The Mason Arms overlooking Exmoor; aside from Michelin-starred grub, we’re willing to bet it’s the only thatched country inn with a Greek-frescoed ceiling.

Where to stay: The Brandy Thief is a coastal cottage retreat perched on the edge of Lee Beach near Ilfracombe, offering sweet relief to explorers looking to hunker down in a land famed for smugglers and contraband.


For beach devotees: Cornwall

A drone image of a beach in Cornwall

Daphne du Maurier described Cornwall’s Trelowarren as “the most beautiful place imaginable”, and the county is a prime contender for the best May bank holiday destination in the UK. Ample beaches, from the surf mecca of Newquay to the upscale Rock and the quiet fishing village of Porthleven, are a major draw for families, not least for the numerous opportunities for ice-cream stops, while there are plenty of dog-friendly beaches too. Yet Cornwall's appeal extends beyond its coastline. The county is home to some of the UK's most beautiful gardens, including the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden in St Ives, which pulses with inspiration to the rhythm of the tides. Don’t miss the awe-inspiring Minack Theatre either, an open-air colosseum carved into the cliffs. Gourmands will relish in Cornwall's thriving culinary scene, with events like the Porthleven Food Festival and the Falmouth Oyster Festival showcasing the region's gastronomic prowess – we’ve also curated our own Cornwall food guide.

Where to stay:  Step inside Tempest and be transported to a world where contemporary design intertwines with the raw beauty of Whitsand Bay, via industrial-chic interiors punctuated by bold splashes of colour.


For history buffs: Herefordshire

On the left, an outdoor copper tub with wine; on the left, the peaks of the Brecon Beacons

Hugging the verdant Welsh borders, Herefordshire is perfectly placed to explore both England and Wales. The county's landscape ranges from the soaring heights of the Black Mountains in the west to the pastorally perfect fields and orchards of the east. Hereford, the county town, is home to a magnificent gothic cathedral housing the rare Mappa Mundi, a 13th-century world map (though we’re sticking to the satnav). Herefordshire’s appeal lies in its quintessentially English character; black-and-white Tudor villages, such as Weobley and Pembridge, dot the countryside, while The Wye Valley, with its snaking lanes, rivals the beauty of the Dordogne. Whether exploring wooded hills, meandering along river valleys, or window-shopping in historic market towns like Ledbury, Herefordshire offers a spring holiday that will leave you restored.

Where to stay: Hollyhocks (part of the larger estate, The Sculptor's Gardens) flaunts nostalgic charm with its vintage style, irregular lines, and polished 1920s parquet floor, while features like the bespoke William Holland hot tub up the ante at this Tudor timber-frame property.


For wildlife lovers: Anglesey

A white lighthouse with a pink door on the coast on the Isle of Anglesey in Wales

Cast drift off the northwest coast of Wales, the Isle of Anglesey is a tapestry of ancient forests, rolling farmlands, and 360 degrees of coast. Anglesey's beaches rank among the best in the UK, with vast stretches of golden sand that bear witness to the ever-changing moods of the Irish Sea. The island is a playground for outdoor enthusiasts, making it an ideal destination for a family-friendly trip. Get stuck into swimming, surfing, kayaking, and hiking along the picturesque 130-mile Anglesey Coastal Path. Anglesey's cliff-wrapped coves and bays are steeped in legend, while the thriving Welsh language adds to the island's enchantment. This linguistic and cultural vibrancy contributes to Anglesey’s unique identity and makes it a bastion of contemporary Welshness. It’s also a haven for wildlife; flourishing colonies of red squirrels run amok, and the island is renowned for its puffin population.

Where to stay: Atop a hill, with views of the Menai Strait and Snowdonia National Park, Isla Windmill mingles art deco and 1970s influences for a stay with personality in spades. And White Beach Cove, with its velvet throne chairs and modern art, is something like "the little cottage that could" — charming, traditional, yet seemingly at the ends of the Earth in one of the UK's wildest corners.


For a bit of everything: Suffolk

On the left, a street in Beccles in Suffolk; on the right, a modular sofa in a glass-walled room

Walk upon England's green and pleasant land in Suffolk, a county leading the way in combating climate change. Aldeburgh, famed for its classic musical festival, is perfect for fish and chips after a leisurely walk along the pebbled beach, salty breeze tousling your hair. In Southwold, experience the best of British seaside on the beach hut-lined promenade. If you venture inland to Saxmundham, you’ll arrive in thriving market town teeming with snug cafés, welcoming pubs, with farm-fresh produce. Suffolk is known for its bakeries, smokehouses, oysterages, delicatessens, so scheduling a picnic is a must. Don't miss Lavenham, one of England's best-preserved medieval villages, with its timber-clad houses and narrow cobbled streets which look as if plucked from the pages of Hansel and Gretel.

Where to stay: With walls of glass and larch that invite nature in, Enkel is an architectural diorama set on five acres of subtle gardens near Suffolk’s Southwold – unwind in the sauna, wander the gardens, or simply forest-bathe.


To find further inspiration for a UK holiday in May, browse our collection of last-minute getaways.