The Safecation Report

As lockdown looks set to end just in time for summer, our consumer spending experts have mapped out the perfect location for a socially distant staycation in the Safecation Report.
Share this guide
A graphic showing a sandcastle in a pink circle. Underneath the title reads: Safecation. The new post-lockdown staycation. Brought to your by money.

From secluded getaways to acres of open space, our experts have created a new criterion for the perfect staycation in a post-lockdown UK, looking at the most beautiful and sometimes overlooked locations that are perfect for those looking to explore the UK in a safe and socially distanced way.

Compare 0% purchase credit cards to spread the cost of your safecation

The 10 best and worst destinations for a socially distanced staycation

Safecation guide to socially distanced locations in the UK

With open spaces being a priority at the moment, we've taken a list of UK locations that are home to the largest public parks (according to Ordnance Survey), and compared them against the UK's most-visited destinations to reveal the safest staycations in the UK.

The safecation criteria included:

  • Space (km2)

  • Contactless payment availability

  • Free activities

  • Dog friendliness 

  • Number of beaches within a 50km radius

  • Number of caravan parks/camping sites within a 50km radius

  • Crime rate for December 2020

  • Visitors per year to the county

  • Park entry fee

  • Car parking charges

Forget crushing into overcrowded traditional beauty spots and instead head to the UK’s hidden gems. From the size of the local parks to the number of visitors, the Safecation Report reveals the best places to go for a socially distanced holiday. 

The best new UK staycation destinations for social distancing

Gower takes the crown as the UK’s safest place to take a staycation in 2020

Gower, in the county of West Glamorgan in Wales, has topped the list for the best new destination for a socially distanced staycation in the UK, scoring 76.5 out of 100. With only 149,089 visitors per year to the county of West Glamorgan, the remote location offers plenty for those looking for a crowd-free option. Rhossili and South Gower Coast is a must-visit attraction with large open spaces that can accommodate up to 2,230,410 visitors, while all maintaining a one metre distance. 

Keswick in Cumbria came in second position with forested mountain park Whinlatter Forest Park offering 13.49Km² of walking and biking trails, plus rich wildlife to see and explore. In these crowd-dodging times, open space is a must. Thankfully, Keswick is one of the easiest destinations to keep your distance as the Whinlatter Forest Park is able to accommodate up to 13,076,362 visitors, even when adhering to social distancing guidelines.

With only 103,447 visitors to the nearest county of Ayrshire and Arran, the town of Kilwinning in Scotland takes the third position in the Safecation Report. Even better with only 15,908 reported residents, Eglinton Country Park offers up to 1,342,270 visitors the freedom to enjoy country walks across the park's 4.67Km² of open space.  

The worst UK staycation destinations for social distancing

As restrictions ease and many attractions reopen their doors, there are fears that there will be a rush of people descending on popular UK tourist destinations and beaches. With this in mind, the Safecation Report has looked into traditional UK destinations and listed the ones that scored the lowest based on our criteria for a safecation. 

Devon, with sandy beaches, fossil cliffs, medieval towns, and moorland national parks, took the top spot as the most popular traditional UK staycation destination. The picturesque, south-coast harbour town of Torquay, situated in Devon, also scored highly within our report. However, with over 2,510,000 visitors to the county each year, it is a hotspot for overcrowding. 

Bowness-on-Windermere in Cumbria, England takes second place in the traditional staycation. Due to its position on the banks of Windermere, the town has become a tourist honeypot resulting in over 1,510,000 visitors to the county each year. Outdoor attraction Brockhole on Windermere could only occupy up to 34,491 visitors with everyone maintaining a one metre distance. 

Anglesey, an island off the mainland's northwest coast town in North Wales, takes the third spot, with a whopping 1,710,000 holiday seekers flocking to the county each year. Holyhead Breakwater Country Park is a coastal park in a former rock quarry featuring scenic trails, birdwatching and a lake with fishing. Covering a space of 2.39km², the area can accommodate up to 686,943 visitors while maintaining a one metre distance.

Best parks for social distancing

Avoid overcrowded traditional beauty spots and head to the best parks in the UK that are perfect for social distancing. Fortunately, there are plenty of alternatives to the obvious tourist destinations with countless numbers of large open spaces to explore on our shores so that more people can enjoy the great outdoors. 

Social distancing parks index

Windsor Great Park in Windsor topped the list of best parks for social distancing with a whopping 28.53Km² of space for visitors to explore and relax in. The large park can occupy an incredible 8,200,207 visitors with all maintaining a one metre distance. 

In second place was forestry Cannock Chase Country Park in the town of Milford. The large park encompasses 19.56Km² and lies within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Even with the government’s social distancing guidelines, the woodland park can easily allow for up to 5,622,013 visitors. 

Rutland Water, in Rutland and Whinlatter Forest Park, in Keswick came in third and fourth positions respectively, with the parks boasting an impressive 16.95Km² and 13.49Km² of open space. Whether you are looking for some adrenaline-fuelled fun or a relaxing break from the daily hustle and bustle, Rutland Water can occupy up to 4,871,837 social distanced visitors. Whereas, Whinlatter Forest Park can occupy 3,877,350 visitors with a one metre distance. 

In comparison the traditional parks are much smaller in size such as, The Japanese Garden in Newquay, Cornwall covers an area of 0.004Km², resulting in a maximum number of 1,150 social distanced visitors. 

Shanklin Chine on the Isle of Wight and Bourton House Garden in The Cotswolds, can both accommodate up to 3,449 socially distanced visitors in their 0.012Km² park areas. 

The top 10 best parks for social distancing can occupy millions of visitors with a one metre distance between each other, whereas the more traditional hotpots can only occupy just thousands at one time. 

Contactless staycation destinations revealed

Contactless staycation index

As well as limiting our travel, the coronavirus pandemic has changed how we live our daily lives. It has affected everything from how we use our time to how we wash our hands, and even how we pay. As COVID-19 can be spread through things we touch there has been an increased focus on using contactless payments. With this in mind, the Safecation Report looked at the top 10 new and traditional destinations for contactless payments within the park facilities. 

The report found that 52% of the new destinations had contactless debit or credit card payment options available for parking, food and drinks, shopping and leisure activities.

Traditional staycations in the report were very similar with around half of the park facilities accepting contactless payments. 

Find the best credit card for you, whether you're looking for 0% card for balance transfers or purchases or day to day spending and rewards

Safest staycation destinations revealed

Safest Staycation Index

Holidaymakers can be a tempting target for criminals. Even minor incidents can spoil your holiday, so our Staycation Nation report has revealed the safest new and traditional destinations in the UK to ensure your holidays are plain sailing. 

With the lowest crime rates, the report reveals that Scotland is the UK’s safest region for a staycation.

Out of the top 10 safest new staycation destinations, half of the holiday retreats were located in Scotland. In fact, Kilwinning, Motherwell, Isle of Harris, Paisley, and Dunbar all recorded no crimes in December 2020.

The remaining five locations in the safest category were Leigh, Holkham, Beddgelert, Rutland and Disley with all crimes reported in December 2020 totalling under 30. 

As for the most popular and traditional staycation destinations it was a different story with crime rates soaring. 

London recorded the highest crime rate in the report with 3,940 crimes in December 2020 which was followed closely by Devon (3,614), Dyfed (2,920) and Blackpool (2,251).

Brighton, York, Conwy, the Isle of Wight, The Cotswolds, and Weston-super-Mare all had significantly higher crime rates than the new staycation destinations. 

Best dog friendly parks for social distancing 

Dog Friendly Parks Index

It is estimated that 60% of dog owners plan their holidays around their pets. So, the Safecation Report has revealed the top 10 best dog friendly destinations and parks for both you and your furry friend. 

The top six destinations in the report scored top marks for dog-friendliness with Whinlatter Forest Park (Keswick), Delamere Forest Park (Northwich), Windsor Great Park (Windsor), Cannock Chase Country Park (Milford), Ferry Meadows Country Park (Peterborough) and Rutland Water (Rutland) all being the ideal open space for social distancing and taking your four-legged friend on a day out. 

The vast parks contain a number of trails to take the pooches on, both on and off the road. With lakes around, as well as picnic areas and cafes, these are the perfect staycation destinations for all the family. 

Budget-friendly destinations revealed

Cheapest Index Table

If you are looking for a budget-friendly UK staycation this summer, our report reveals the best locations packed with lots of free activities. 

The cultural town of Armagh in Northern Ireland, came out on top for the new cheapest staycation destination, with Slieve Gullion Forest Park offering a great day out for all. Slieve Gullion is Ireland's Mountain of Mystery. The Forest Park offers walking trails, a scenic drive, an Adventure Playpark, Giant's Lair children's story trail, and Courtyard with coffee shop. With no admission fee and a free car park, the park is the perfect spot for a socially-distanced day out. 

Motherwell and Gower take second and third positions, with Scotland’s Strathclyde Country Park, and Wales’ Rhosili and South Gower Coast, making the ideal locations for a beautiful and breathtaking budget-friendly day out for all the family. 

At Strathclyde Country Park expect lots of nature trails, adventure play parks and water activities for all abilities and ages. Even better, no admission fee or parking charges. Rhossili and South Gower Coast is a tranquil escape for all the family. The perfect place to sit back and soak up the summer sun, plus the home to a variety of birds and insects including the rare black bog ant. No admission charges, but parking charges apply. 

Planning your staycation

If you want to spread the cost of your staycation, you may want to consider a 0% purchase credit card. A credit card requires regular repayments and can accrue interest if you do not pay back the full amount.

If you are traveling in the UK by car, it is essential you make sure your car insurance is up to date. Additionally, if you're planning to take expensive items on your staycation, it may be worth checking your home insurance provides the cover you need.

Work out your walkies calculator: the parks edition





Taking a list of the largest park locations from the Ordnance Survey, each location has been scored out of 100 based on factors that matter most when social distancing, such as:

  • Space (km2)

  • Contactless payment availability

  • Free activities

  • Dog friendliness 

  • Number of beaches within a 50km radius

  • Number of caravan parks/camping sites within a 50km radius

  • Crime rate for December 2020

  • Visitors per year to the county

  • Park entry fee

  • Car parking charges 

The 50 destinations in the report include: 

Gower, Keswick, Kilwinning, Armagh, Northwich, Motherwell, Windsor, Isle of Harris, Leigh, Milford, Ringwood, Beddgelert, Peterborough, Antrim, Middleton, Rutland, Disley, Durham, Paisley, Sevenoaks, Holkham, Royal Town of Sutton Coldfield, Dunbar, Bath, Richmond, Devon, Bowness-on-Windermere, Llandudno, Torquay, Skegness, Anglesey, Whitby, Dyfed, Blackpool, Inverness, Weymouth, Edinburgh, Aberystwyth, York, Glasgow, Newquay, Weston-super-Mare, Isle of Wight, London, Brighton, St Ives, Tenby, Colwyn Bay, Conwy and The Cotswolds

Index table sources:

Work out your walkies calculator: the parks edition

The 'Work out your walkies calculator: the parks edition' has used the area data from the Ordnance Survey and assumed circular laps of the parks in order for us to estimate how many times you'd need to walk around it to get your dog's daily exercise.

All data correct as of 23rd February 2021

About Salman Haqqi

Salman is our personal finance editor with over 10 years’ experience as a journalist. He has previously written for Finder and regularly provides his expert view on financial and consumer spending issues for local and national press such as The Express, Travel Daily, and The Daily Star.

View Salman Haqqi's full biography here or visit the press centre for our latest news.

Graphic of the creative commons logo

About Salman Haqqi

View Salman Haqqi's full biography here or visit the press centre for our latest news.