Enjoying a budget weekend break in the UK is easier than you might imagine as virtually every corner of the country has excellent destinations to choose from. You can find culture or countryside for romantic, family or just restful escapes. In some cases, you can even find both within a short distance of each other.

    Our list of the best budget weekend breaks in the UK highlights the top destinations from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Each has something different to offer, which means there’s almost certainly something to your taste.

    What are the best budget weekend breaks in the UK?



    See the old industry and modern art

    The South Yorkshire city of Sheffield is noted for its industrial heritage, signs of which you can find around much of the city centre. Many a derelict factory or mill has been transformed into gardens, galleries and museums, especially around the River Don. Highlights include the Kelham Island Museum, APG Works and Victoria Quays.

    If it’s greenery you’re looking for, Sheffield has plenty to offer. You’ll find a good number of parks and old country estates in and around the city. The Peak District with its many hikes and sights is right on the city’s doorstep, just a short drive to the west.

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    Take a city escape with some country estates

    Derby’s industrial heritage and Victorian-era heyday are on full display around the city centre, especially along the banks of the River Derwent. In fact, a 15-mile stretch of the waterfront that ends at Derby Silk Mill (now called the Derby Industrial Museum) is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Exploring the grand old buildings around the city will certainly keep you busy for a day.

    The riverside is not only industrial in Derby, though. Head north along the west bank of the river and you’ll find the expansive Darley Park, or follow the same bank southeast to find The Sanctuary Bird Reserve and Alvaston Park. Further afield are country estates and gardens like Markeaton Park, Kedleston Park and Elvaston Castle.

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    Explore the glorious Granite City

    Aberdeen may be a little remote, but it’s well worth the trip for its history and sights. As its popular nickname – The Granite City – suggests, a lot of the main buildings in the city centre are made of a distinctive grey granite. Thanks to the city’s long and prosperous association with the North Sea oil fields (among other reasons), many of those buildings are extremely grand and elegant. Famous examples include Marischal College, St Mark’s Church and the Central Library.

    There’s no shortage of museums to explore around Aberdeen, as well as some interesting markets and a very lively nightlife. Given the city’s large student population, you can often find good deals on food and drinks, if you know where to look.

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    Discover Britain’s long maritime history

    Southampton has been an important port city on England’s south coast for centuries, meaning it buzzes with history. Among the top attractions are the Tudor House and Garden, which dates back 800 years, while SeaCity Museum and Solent Sky are home to more recent historical highlights.

    Southampton has a particularly close association with the ill-fated RMS Titanic. You can see all sorts of signs of that association around the city on the free sightseeing trail. Stops include memorials, historic buildings and museums.

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    Have a genuine experience in a popular destination

    Belfast is one of the UK’s most affordable capital cities to visit. It even compares favourably against Dublin in the Republic of Ireland, with lower prices and smaller tourist crowds. That’s not to say that the place isn’t popular – just that it hasn’t been transformed by its popularity, meaning that it retains a genuine, unspoilt feel.

    The ambience is not the only reason to visit Belfast. The city’s proud heritage of shipbuilding, which includes the construction of the Titanic. Within a short drive of the city, you can find many famous filming locations used in Game of Thrones.

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    Scottish Borders

    Take a hike among Scotland’s rolling hills

    The Scottish Borders is an expansive area of hilly countryside, boasting many historic castles and manor houses. It runs along the England-Scotland border and up most of the way to the Firth of Forth. In between are notable highlights as Peebles, Melrose and Jedburgh, to name a few.

    Besides its extensive history, the region also boasts a beautiful countryside. Not only do rolling hills and moors provide plenty of opportunities for landscape photographers, but the various hiking routes add an extra challenge. Head to Kirk Yetholm, in particular – the northern end of the Pennine Way, which starts 268 miles away in Derbyshire.

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    See the illuminations all along the promenade

    Blackpool has been loved as a seaside resort since the mid-18th century and continues to be a popular holiday destination in the UK. Highlights include the famous Illuminations and Tower, as well as Pleasure Beach and the Winter Gardens. Given that the city’s big boom was in the Victorian era, you can expect plenty of period buildings to look around.

    If you’re looking for some quieter distractions around Blackpool, you don’t need to drive too far. The Ribble and Alt Estuaries is just south of the city and provides a massive habitat for birdlife. Alternatively, you can simply enjoy the sandy beach along this stretch of the Lancashire coast.

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    Beautiful beaches as far as the eye can see

    Pembrokeshire is mostly made up of beautiful Welsh countryside. The Pembrokeshire Coast National Park is certainly a highlight, covering about a third of the county and including the lovely Preseli Hills and the 190-mile-long Pembrokeshire Coast Path.

    Being mostly national park and countryside, Pembrokeshire is a wonderful place for those seeking an escape. There are no fewer than 56 award-winning beaches to enjoy, 11 of which have Blue Flags. Further inland, the county is known as a dark sky destination, with plenty of places where you can see the night sky in its full glory. Even the waters off the coast have their attractions, with many shipwrecks attracting scuba divers.

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    Explore a hub of industry and innovation

    Bristol is perhaps best known for its massive growth and innovation during the Industrial Revolution, with many famous structures to see. The Clifton Suspension Bridge, Cabot Tower and the SS Great Britain stand out as the major highlights, though there are plenty more to see.

    Bristol is famously thought to be the hometown of street artist Banksy, and many of his early works can be found on several buildings and alleys. Look out for the many and varied festivals held in Bristol throughout the year, too.

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    An eclectic combination of city and country

    Swansea combines a lot of contradictory elements to create a very interesting destination. Firstly, it’s a bustling city on the Gower Peninsula – an area so stunning that it was designated the UK’s first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. In the city itself, there’s a fascinating combination of ancient and modern buildings.

    Highlights in Swansea range from the modern National Waterfront Museum to the Swansea Museum – the oldest museum in Wales. If you’d rather get out of the city, check out Oxwich Bay, Llangennith Beach or Rhossili Bay for some of the finest beaches in Britain.

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    Ben Reeves | Compulsive Traveller

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