Friends, charge your glasses and raise a toast to St Lubbock. A century and a half ago, Sir John Lubbock authored the Bank Holidays Bill 1871 that gifted to the nation the three-day weekend, with the holidays nicknamed “St Lubbock’s Days” in his honour. This year also marks the half-century of the late-August bank holiday; originally scheduled for the start of that month, in 1971 the date was shifted to its current slot in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (Scotland has St Andrew’s Day in November instead).
For most, the upcoming bank holiday is summer’s last-chance saloon: an expanded window to snatch a final hurrah from the jaws of impending autumn and the start of the school term.
As a child of the 1970s, my memories of summer bank holidays are grim: cowering in seafront bus shelters while the flake from my 99 ice cream plopped in a puddle; nettle stings and soggy canvas; overheated car radiators and the underheated Bristol Channel. Thankfully, the short-break landscape has been radically remapped since then.
Though we won’t be revelling at the Notting Hill Carnival and overseas holidays are restricted, there are plenty of options for beach breaks, family adventures and exotic escapes. Availability in the most popular regions is limited, but possibilities remain for appealing seaside stays, while away from the coast you’ll find a good number of city hotels and country-house retreats offering enticing deals. Many overseas destinations are offering discounted rates. Add a day or two to your standard bank holiday and you can create a satisfying four or five-day jaunt with a level of relaxation, activity, indulgence or indolence to suit sybarites, weary workers and families alike. Thank you, St Lubbock.
Kids come first
Paddle in Provence
Gouged from the Provence Alps by the spectacularly turquoise Verdon River, Europe’s largest ravine – over 15 miles long and nearly half a mile deep – is a playground for adventurous families. Gane & Marshall’s four-day Verdon Gorge Short Haul Activity Break, based in an attractive hotel in La Palud in the heart of the canyon, tailors kayaking, hiking and cycling excursions to your family’s experience and interests.
From £1,569/£998pp guided/self-guided, based on a family of four, including three-star accommodation, most meals, bike and kayak hire, and transfers from Marseille station (01822 600600; ganeandmarshall.com). Marseille is less than seven hours from London on Eurostar/SNCF trains (eurostar.com).