‘Why I love the UK’: Donna Air on countryside walks and glamorous garden parties
Donna Air talk countryside walks and glamorous garden parties
After lockdown, I want to head straight to country house hotel Cliveden, in Berkshire, and possibly rent its Spring Cottage, an attractive summer house set in woods on the estate.
When I’ve stayed in the past, I’ve had some wonderful garden parties and drinks on a river boat. It’s perfect for some quintessentially English glamour – something we’ve all been lacking these past few months.
I was born in Newcastle upon Tyne, and lived there until I was 15. I try to go back as much as possible. I like to go to places that I used to visit a lot as a child – Jesmond Dene park, for example, as it’s where I used to walk with my grandparents. It makes me really nostalgic.
I now live in Kensington in west London. I love it there – it’s very villagey and green. Hyde Park is in close proximity, and I go there a lot. I now know every square metre of it, and it feels like my park. It was such a blessing to have it so close during lockdown, and I’ve enjoyed endless walks there.
Newcastle will always have a special place in my heart, but my favourite UK city is London, which is why I choose to live there. There’s really nowhere like it in the world, and it’s now as much my home as Newcastle. I find Edinburgh a very buzzy and creative city, too, especially during the Fringe Festival, which I performed at some years ago.
Still waters: Wast water in the Lake District
I crave in equal amounts country and city life. I’m not a really tent or campervan girl – I love hotels or mountain lodges.
Port Lympne Safari Park in Kent is one of the most incredible experiences in the UK. You can stay in one of its beautiful lodges among some of the most rare and endangered animals in the world; Wolf Lodge, Rhino Lodge and Tiger Lodge are particular favourites.
The Aspinall Foundation – a conservation charity that works in conjunction with Port Lympne – is a family foundation, and Damian Aspinall, my daughter’s father, works endlessly reintroducing and protecting species in the wild. We are very proud of the enormous contribution he’s made to conservation.
Croyde Beach in Devon, where Donna regularly goes for a retreat filled with yoga and hiking
Devon is quite a breathtaking place, it’s such a beautiful part of the world, with epic scenery. I regularly go to a retreat called Yeotown to do yoga and go hiking. The food is delicious, and they also have a lovely restaurant in London called Yeotown Kitchen. I’ve been going to the retreat for a few years, and I visit a couple of times a year. It’s very accessible from London and it’s great not having to go through an airport to get there. The walks are amazing. I love hiking from Lynmouth to Valley of the Rocks, and around Heddon Valley.
There are lots of coastal cycle routes along the Tarka Trail, a disused railway track. You can do some long-distance cycling against an incredible backdrop. There’s also beautiful Croyde Beach, which is great for surfing. Another place I frequently visit is the Lake District. It’s very close to home, and I’ve had some special times there. It’s also a great place to meet my parents.
Donna is a patron of The Elephant Family @donnaair Instagram: donnaair Twitter@donnaair
Ready to welcome you back safely
Patricia Yates Director from VisitBritain/VisitEngland
At this time of year, many of us would have been looking forward to the holidays and a break away.
This year, of course, things have been very different. But the tourism industry has been working hard preparing to welcome you back safely once restrictions are lifted.
The recently launched We’re Good To Go – the industry standard and reassurance mark for tourism – is providing a ‘ring of confidence’ for businesses as they work towards reopening.
And we want people to enjoy as much of the British summer as possible and to stretch the tourism season into October and beyond.
We have an incredible tourism offer on our doorstep. Our countryside, coastline and seaside destinations, and our B&Bs and self-catering accommodation, are consistently rated as some of the best in the world. And we have culture, heritage and adventure in spades.
I hope this Check In: Special Edition will inspire you to explore somewhere new, and have an extra break at home this year.
Patricia Yates Director, VisitBritain/VisitEngland