20 last-minute holidays to book now, at home and abroad

·11 min read
barbados - Julien Capmeil
barbados - Julien Capmeil

So, the worst has happened. Well, not quite the worst, but something pretty bad. You – or your partner, or your friend, or some other hapless soul in your soon-to-be-flying travel party – has been pinged by the NHS Covid app or Track and Trace, and your holiday plans are in 10 days’ worth of self-isolating ruins. What to do?

The answer, firstly, is not to panic. For all the inconvenience, the prospect of a relaxing holiday has not evaporated on a breeze of technological ill fortune. Even if you have to re-book your getaway – or begin afresh with a new package – there is still plenty of availability for the coming weeks. And even if you have to wait the best part of a fortnight to hop aboard a plane, a beach hotel can still be yours with minimal drama. The options below all involve green- or amber-listed destinations – but are a small sample of what is still feasible before the summer packs its bags for another year…

A far eastern fling in Crete

Amber-listed Greece is an easy possibility for a summer holiday – fully-jabbed British tourists can visit this glorious island nation of the Mediterranean without being tested on arrival. Better still, the largest of those islands is so big that availability is rarely an issue.

Do it: Simpson Travel (020 3944 2510; simpsontravel.com) can arrange a lightning dash to Villa Cleo, a one-bedroom hideaway with a swimming pool at the Muses Beach Villas complex – which sits in the village of Palekastro on the (very) quiet east coast of Crete. A seven-night holiday, flying from London Gatwick on August 17, costs from £1,621 per person.

Homage to Kefalonia

If Crete is the biggest island of the Greek Aegean, Kefalonia plays a similar role in the Ionian, basking in the summer sun on the likes of Myrtos Beach and Antisamos Beach. Again, size ensures that you can grab a holiday at short notice – even during mid-August.

Do it: A seven-night getaway to the five-star Regina Dell Acqua Resort (in the small town of Skala, at the south-east corner of the island), flying from Bristol on August 18, starts at £1,182 per person via Olympic Holidays (020 8492 6868; olympicholidays.com). Read more: The best hotels in Crete.

kefalonia - Getty
kefalonia - Getty

A spa retreat in southern Cyprus

If you are prepared to fly a little further into the Mediterranean in search of sun, amber-listed Cyprus is fully open to double-vaccinated Britons (and to those who aren’t via a PCR test on arrival). And with holiday zones such as Limassol, Larnaca, Ayia Napa and Paphos lining its seafront, room at the inn is plentiful – even at this stage of the year.

Do it: A seven-night break at the Library Hotel and Wellness Resort (a boutique property in a restored 19th-century building, near to south-coast Kalavasos), flying from Heathrow on August 14, costs from £714 per person, through Sunvil (020 8758 4758; sunvil.co.uk). Read more: The best hotels in Cyrpus.

A beach break in Malta

Elsewhere in the Med, Malta is a traditional stalwart of British holiday-making – and is happy to be of service amid the turmoil of 2021. Not only is it on the green list, but it will beckon in all doubly-jabbed UK tourists without the need for self-isolation. Excellent news, as it has some of Europe’s loveliest beaches. Golden Bay, gazing into the sunset on the west coast at Mellieha, is an accurately named case in point.

Do it: A week at the five-star Radisson Blu Resort & Spa, flying from Heathrow on August 16, costs from £1,707 per person, via Expedia (020 3788 0445; expedia.co.uk). Read more: The best hotels in Malta.

Escape to the Adriatic coast

The most holiday-friendly segment of the Balkans is perching precariously on the green watchlist, which means there is a risk of it turning amber. However, it is willing to greet British tourists – even if it is demanding a negative PCR test result from even the fully vaccinated. This is a small price to pay for a week in a country whose long coastline flirts unashamedly with the Adriatic, whether you go for busy Dubrovnik or calmer Istria – or one of its islands.

Do it: A seven-night stay at the five-star Hotel Excelsior Dubrovnik, flying from London Gatwick on August 14, starts at £1,961 per person, via Sovereign (01293 832657; sovereign.com). Read more: The best hotels in Dubrovnik.

Caribbean scenes in Barbados

Several Caribbean islands are also on the semi-confusing green watchlist, but even if they slip into amber status, fully- vaccinated British tourists can still visit them without having to quarantine on return. Of these options, for a dose of tropical warmth, Barbados is probably the most accessible – open to the double-jabbed via a PCR test on landing, plus a short spell of quarantine (around 24 hours) in the hotel room you have already booked.

Do it: A week of five-star all-inclusive indulgence at Sandals Royal Barbados (on the south coast, near lively St Lawrence Gap), flying direct from Heathrow on August 15, costs from £2,191 per person via Virgin Holidays (0344 472 9646; virginholidays.co.uk). Read more: The best hotels in Barbados.

barbados - Getty
barbados - Getty

Feeling the magic on Madeira

Portugal’s best-loved Atlantic island has been forced into an awkward line-dance by UK travel restrictions this year. It was on our green list in May, was re-categorised as amber in June and is on the green watchlist here in July. But the inconsistency doesn’t seem to have unduly irritated the locals. Madeira is happy to welcome British tourists, who can go straight in if they are twice-vaccinated – just in time to enjoy August temperatures of 23C.

Do it: A seven-night all-inclusive stay at the four-star Hotel Riu Palace, flying from Bristol on August 16, costs from £1,223 per person with Tui (020 3451 2682; tui.co.uk). Read more: The best hotels in Madeira.

Sun and fun on the Algarve

The Portuguese mainland was also on the green list in May, but has tumbled back into amber since. No matter. Its doors are open for twice-jabbed Britons to wander in without quarantine. And such is the range of accommodation in the Algarve that you can book a trip to said region at any time of year – including in August – at the last minute.

Do it: A week at the Hotel PortoBay Falesia in Albufeira, leaving London Heathrow on August 15, starts at £742 per person via British Airways Holidays (0344 493 0787; ba.com/holidays). Read more: The best hotels in the Algarve.

Autumn road trip in Canada

While, for now, the US remains closed to British tourists, amber-listed Canada has initiated a Covid thaw. Earlier this month, it announced that it will be open to the fully vaccinated from September 7. This gives you a little longer to plan a road trip around the Atlantic provinces (New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland & Labrador) – which offer autumn foliage as fine as any over the border in New England.

Do it: Canada As You Like It (020 8742 8299; canadaasyoulikeit.com) offers a Maritime Treasures tour that charts the region in 21-day detail. From £2,869 per person (with flights). Read more: The best hotels in Canada.

Lake sailing in Finland

The easternmost segment of the Nordic world has made the same declaration this week – and is open to fully-vaccinated Britons with immediate effect. Finland (which is on the UK’s amber list) is better appreciated as a winter destination, when the aurora borealis haunt its skies, but its pastoral beauty is much more apparent in the long days of summer.

Do it: Discover The World (0173 721 4250; discover-the-world.com) offers a Finland Houseboat Adventure that lets you sail Lake Paijanne. This can be taken as a five- or seven-day trip, from £1,241 per person (with flights). Read more: The best hotels in Finland.

finland - Getty
finland - Getty

Overseas holidays are currently subject to restrictions. Check Gov.uk before travelling.


For those who held out on booking a UK break in the hope of an overseas trip, the summer holiday landscape at home might now seem rather barren. But with ever-shifting restrictions, endless forms and testing requirements, there’s no shame in conceding defeat on jetting abroad and turning your attention closer to home for a trip in the immediate future. Though Britain may be booked up, cancellations are more common than ever (is that the distant sound of pings?) meaning there’s still time to bag a break. Here are 10 holidays that have availability this August. On your marks…

Harbour holiday

For a seaside holiday let with a difference, book the Harbour House Stromness, up in Orkney’s main port, which comes with its own pier and slipway. In addition to the spacious main house, guests have use of a boathouse that was once used to build traditional yole boats and now serves as an al-fresco dining area and games room. Expect sea views from most rooms and a nautical feel with blue hues and wood-panelled walls. Out and about, wander the winding flagstone streets of Stromness and visit the town’s museum, which is opposite the house.

Sleeps eight. From £280 a night; hostunusual.com

Taste of Tokyo

If the Olympics have got you longing for a trip to Tokyo, book a stay at Nobu Portman Square to tide you over for now. The hotel feels authentically Japanese with its modern, glassy architecture and simple rooms reminiscent of ryokans. This being a Nobu outpost, food is of course a focus, with the famous black cod firmly on the menu alongside some of the best sushi in the capital.

Rooms from £345; london-portman.nobuhotels.com

Welsh waterways

Hike, bike and kayak on a small group trip through the Wye Valley. This five-night tour follows the River Wye from its source in the Welsh Mountains all the way down to the town of Ross-on-Wye. Highlights include cycling in the Elan Valley, where the lakes give Scottish lochs a run for their money, visiting a cider farm and kayaking to Hay-on-Wye for lunch and then on to glamping pods perched on the riverbank, where guests will stay for two nights.

August 15 departure still has some space. From £1,143pp for five nights; intrepidtravel.com

elan valley - Getty
elan valley - Getty

Cabins on the loch

The two little larch-clad cabins at Loch Rusky Glamping sit on the shores of an inviting loch, surrounded by 160 acres of pine forest, and little else. The only other life you’ll likely spy is grazing wild roe deer or red kites soaring overhead. Days can be spent going wild swimming or taking the cabin’s rowing boat out for a cruise. The cabins themselves are simple, equipped with little kitchenettes (toaster, kettle and fridge) and shower rooms only. Sheepskin rugs, plaid blankets and a few books keep things cosy. Somehow, they also have Wi-Fi.

Sleeps two. From £135 per night; hereandnowpods.com

Rye times

Get in quick and there’s still a chance for an August stay at Tudor Cottage, one of the oldest properties in frozen-in-time Rye. Beams and latticed windows are paired with fresh minimal interiors to create a polished but characterful rental. With three king-size bedrooms, the cottage suits a family or groups of friends, though the taller among your party might struggle with the low ceilings. In terms of beaches, as well as the always popular Camber Sands, there’s the otherworldly, desolate landscape of Dungeness, half an hour’s drive away.

Sleeps six. From £300 a night; kiphideaways.com

Glastonbury glamping

Festivals might be in short supply this summer, but you can still get a taste of Glastonbury with a camping holiday at the famous farm. Family-focused Worthy Pastures offers pre-erected tents sleeping up to eight and campervan pitches. Wake up to a view of the skeleton structure of the hallowed Pyramid Stage and wander up to the famous stone circle. The Eavis family have gone all out to create a magical stay for children, with free outdoor games (from badminton to boules) and bedtime story sessions from visiting authors. Adults will enjoy the arts-and-craft market and festival-style food stalls.

From £425 for a family of four for three nights in a bell tent; worthypastures.com

Cotswolds cottage

Those looking for that postcard-pretty summer break are in luck. Stable Cottage, a short jaunt from the likes of Burford and Charlbury, has all the hallmarks of a classic Cotswolds break, with its honey-stoned exterior, wood-burning stoves, Aga and even a tree house outside. Interiors are a cut above most holiday rentals, with a freestanding blue bath and painted floorboards among the design flourishes. The cottage is available for a good chunk of August.

Sleeps six. From £3,500 a week; luxurycotswoldrentals.co.uk

stable cottage
stable cottage

Country house classic

If self-catering feels too much like hard work, opt for a cosseting hotel stay in the West Sussex countryside. South Lodge is a neo-Jacobean property surrounded by woodland and ornamental gardens that offers everything a good country house hotel should. The supersize spa is a big draw, with its wild swimming pool (one of three pools) and thermal suite. Dining-wise, guests can choose between fine-dining restaurant the Pass, with rotating chef residencies, British-inspired Camellia and new plant-focused spot Botanica. Rooms are all individually designed; two of the best have balconies with hot tubs.

Rooms from £285; exclusive.co.uk

Northern rock

Blow away the cobwebs with a bracing four-day self-guided walking tour along the Northumberland coast. Kicking off in the fishing village of Cresswell, the path follows the sweeping sands of Druridge Bay and passes Warkworth Castle – the first of many, including the ruins of Dunstanburgh and Bamburgh. Finish with a stroll to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, which is cut off from the mainland at high tide. With stirring scenery and pubs shucking highly prized local oysters, you might want to get stuck there.

Macs Adventure can organise trips throughout August. From £545pp for six nights, including accommodation; macsadventure.com

Wilderness walking

Go off-grid with a small group trip to Scotland’s isolated Knoydart peninsula, which can only be accessed by boat or foot (with difficulty). Over the week, guests will explore what has been touted as Britain’s last wilderness, staying at an alpine-style lodge right on the beach. A boat will whizz the group over for hikes on the islands of Skye, Rum and Eigg and the tour finishes with a pint at the Old Forge, Scotland’s most remote pub.

August 21 departure still has space. From £1,685pp for six nights; wildernessscotland.com. For more ideas on where to stay, see Telegraph Travel's guide to the best hotels in the UK.