5 overlooked staycations within easy reach by train

James Massoud
by James Massoud
19 May 2021

Parks are in bloom, lockdown is easing, and the first bluebird skies of the year – cautiously, Britain is regaining the spring in its step.

Staycations are hot property in 2021. We’re here to shed light on the lesser-known spots many have overlooked. Places you can visit for blissful R&R, soak up some green therapy in the countryside and enjoy a reward (or two) with your Virgin Points as well.

Virgin Red makes staycations even more rewarding with Virgin Trains Ticketing. Book your rail travel in the Virgin Red app, and you’ll earn three points for every pound spent on train tickets, nationwide. And you won’t pay a penny on e-ticket booking fees. 

So ditch the car, hop on a train and relax while you speed somewhere special.

A theatre break worth shouting about from Aylesbury

Shutterstock | Aylesbury

Just an hour by train from London is this gorgeous ancient market town. Among the verdant Chiltern Hills in Buckinghamshire is Aylesbury – an historic landmark rich in wildlife and a firm favourite among keen ramblers. This large town is filled with Georgian, Jacobean and Tudor buildings, including the 13th Century St. Mary’s Church which is well worth a selfie. Enjoy a pint or two in the historic pubs and don’t forget to visit the Roald Dahl Children’s Gallery. The staycation bonus? Just outside of town is Waddesdon Manor – a French-style chateau with period furniture and gardens fit for a picture-perfect postcard.

Points power: Tickets to the West End 

Be a tourist in your own city and grab some theatre tickets through Virgin Red to & Juliet. Get a train from Aylesbury to Marylebone, and Shaftesbury Avenue is a tube or bus journey away, so it could be the perfect ending to your staycation in Aylesbury.

Grab the best sausage roll in the country in Newbury

Shutterstock | Newbury

Newbury has made a name for itself with punters who flock to its racecourse every year, but there’s way more to this market town in West Berkshire. Nestled nicely in between Reading (great for bars and restaurants) and Hungerford (your local go-to for antique stores), this quintessentially British getaway offers idyllic countryside spots aplenty. If a splash of staycation luxury is your thing, then Newbury has some top-notch, high-end restaurants and hotels. The Vineyard is an unmissable 5-star hotel with a 30,000 strong wine cellar, while Henry & Joe’s offer Michelin-starred cuisine.

Points power: Lunch is served

Equally as compelling as any fine dining dish is of course a deliciously flaky pastry covered bite from Greggs. You’re in luck, because the store in Newbury was nominated the best of the year in 2020. Pop in on your visit to Newbury town centre and treat yourself to an infamous Greggs Sausage Roll using your Virgin Points.

Live like a king in Worcester

Shutterstock | Worcester

A cathedral city with a reputation for its sauce, what else do you know about Worcester? Located in the West Midlands, Worcester is absolutely bristling with history. Its famous Worcestershire sauce was founded by a pair of chemists in the first half of the 19th century. And thanks to the medieval Worcester Cathedral – by the River Severn – it’s also home to royal tombs, a crypt and cloisters… Not spooky at all! While you’re enjoying your staycation, be sure to take a trip to The Commandery. It’s a museum that traces the building’s evolution from the Middle Ages right through England’s Civil War and into the 1950s – sure to be a major hit with history buffs. The Tudor House Museum is another spot not to be missed – focusing on life in Tudor times and 17th-century Worcester, with displays on traditional brewing and weaving. 

Points power: Fall for a charming British inn you’ll call home 

A train journey to Worcester will offer gorgeous views of rolling hills and sweeping green fields, which certainly beats the M25, right? But the main draw should be a night for two in a charming British inn, booked with Virgin Points through Virgin Experience Days in the Red app. Greene King is a legend in its own right when it comes to hotels, pubs and restaurants around the country and this Worcester edition will be your home away from home. Expect a restful night’s sleep after a busy day of sightseeing, followed by a delicious cooked or continental breakfast in the morning.

Enjoy award-winning cuisine in Christchurch

Shutterstock | Christchurch

Fancy a trip to the seaside? Who doesn’t. Time to consider Christchurch in Dorset, which has six fabulous beaches! Each one offers something different, suitable for all kinds of visitors. Fun options for all the family are Friars Cliff or Avon, but if you’ve got the dog then you’ll want a spot on Mudeford Sandbank. If you simply want somewhere photogenic that’ll look awesome on the Gram then head for Highcliffe Castle Beach. It’s probably the best looking of the bunch, thanks to its rural shingle and sand beach, and its tree-lined cliffs. Phwoar. 

Points power: Visit Raymond Blanc’s gastro pub 

What’s more, use your points to book you and a plus one in for a two-course meal with Prosecco at Raymond Blanc’s White Brasserie Gastro Pub. Think British pub with French flair. There are 18 locations to choose from, including Christchurch and you’ll receive a glass of Prosecco on arrival, before choosing two courses from a mouthwatering menu of starters, mains and desserts. Steak Frites ‘Express’ anyone?

Learn to fly in Durham

Shutterstock | River Wear

They don’t call it dreamy Durham for nothing. Unsurprisingly, County Durham’s main city is... Durham – and it’s a city well worthy of staycation status. Just south of Newcastle, grab a sarnie along the mazy River Wear, which loops around Durham’s Romanesque Cathedral and the city’s impressive Norman castle. See both for a splash of culture or, north of the castle, visit the 13th-century, medieval Crook Hall, home to magnificent gardens and a maze you’ll definitely get lost in. South of the river at Durham University is a Botanic Garden with so many tropical plants that could pass as Borneo. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but still, holiday vibes. And lastly the Oriental Museum here has a fascinating collection of Asian, Egyptian and Middle Eastern artefacts so you can channel your inner-Indiana Jones. 

Points power: Soar the skies

Double down on creating the ultimate staycation by using your Virgin Points to bag an incredible birds-eye view of the city with a 30-minute Flying Lesson from Virgin Experience Days. You’ll get to soar the skies in a one-to-one tuition with a Civil Aviation Authority-licensed instructor, who’ll show you how to use the controls in a breathtaking lesson thousands of feet up.

For more information on any of these rewards, simply download the Virgin Red app from the App Store and Google Play, or visit the Virgin Red website.