But as the hot weather began in earnest, we just couldn't contain the excitement at Swan headquarters. So, we asked some of our team to introduce their favourite places to visit. They've also offered some insider tips on what to do while you stay.
Edinburgh is a wonderful city steeped in a rich history. It has something to suit all interests, whether you are a fan of rugby, history, food, drink or entertainment.
Things to do
My best advice for visiting Edinburgh would be to head towards the Old Town and let yourself get lost in it. Have a wonder round, take in all the older architecture, the cobbled streets, the sights and the sounds of the city.
If you have the time and the energy, have a walk to the top of Arthur's Seat. This is the top of an ancient, inactive volcano that has amazing 360-degree views of the city and the surrounding areas.
A fan of history? A visit to Edinburgh Castle will be well worth your time. Standing proud atop Castle Rock, it houses the Crown Jewels and the National War Museum.
If you're a rugby fan, or just a sports fan in general, take a guided tour of Murrayfield. This is the home of Scottish Rugby. You'll be shown all the behind-the-scenes parts of the stadium that are normally hidden from view.
These are just a few of the things you can do around Edinburgh, but don’t forget there is plenty more. To mention just a few: Edinburgh Zoo, Edinburgh Dungeons, and shopping in New Town. Plus, there's many more historical buildings and of course food and drink!
Places to eat and drink
-Aizle: A bistro-style casual setting with a menu inspired by seasonal and local ingredients.
-Timberyard: A stylish/hipster setting with unusual ingredients and interesting dishes.
-Ting Thai Caravan: Cheap but delicious Thai street food, nice and simple.
-21212: For fans of fine dining, you will enjoy some of the best dishes in Scotland at this Michelin Star restaurant.
Food at Aizle
-Cold Town House – 3 storeys with a rooftop terrace for summertime drinking.
-Brewdog: If you're a fan of Brewdog, this is the place for you.
-Salt Horse: In the heart of old town, not the biggest but a great place for a pint and a burger.
-Frankenstein & Bier Keller: Monster-themed bar with daily live shows.
-The Cauldron Edinburgh: Magic themed cocktail bar.
-Boteco Do Brasil Edinburgh: Carnival fun, a great night out.
Cold Town House – Edinburgh
Manchester is one of my favourite cities in the UK, with so many amazing places to visit. Whether it's wet and rainy or dry and sunny, there’s so much you can do!
The city has some great hot spots, and it's very accessible thanks to the free metro buses they have to get you around the city!
Things to do
Roxy Ball Room Manchester has everything you need if it’s a rainy day up north: mini golf, pool, bowling, arcade machines, beer pong and of course ping pong! Located in the heart of Deansgate, this place is a great way to fill your afternoon/evenings.
Or, if you love to shop until you drop, the Arndale shopping centre is the place for you! It features over 200 stores from Apple to Aldi, and also has some great restaurants to keep you going while you shop.
Where to stay
Cheap and cheerful: The Gardens Hotel Piccadilly is only a 5-minute walk from Piccadilly station. It's a great choice if you are on a budget or want to be close to everything!
Treat yourself: The Edwardian Manchester is on more of the expensive side. However, I think it’s worth it if you want to splash out. It even has its own spa and gym included in the price! It's located near Great Northern Square, which has some amazing bars and restaurants, including the famous Peaky Blinders themed bar.
Want to be up high?: The Hilton Manchester Deansgate is set in the amazing Beetham Tower and has some amazing city views. The hotel is home to the incredible Cloud 23 bar, which serves some amazing cocktails!
Cloud 23 – Manchester
Birmingham is one of the UK's most vibrant and exciting cities, and offers so many different options for a fun day out.
Things to do
If you're staycationing with friends, why not head over to Flight Club for a game of social darts? Don't worry, this isn't your usual quiet game of darts down the local pub. As they say themselves, they've "reinvented darts for the twenty-first century." And you can even get a slice of pizza and a glass of fizz while you play!
For the ultra-competitive among you, The Floodgate is the perfect choice, offering a wide range of fun games, from curling and baseball to crazy table golf – as well as those necessary refreshments!
Or if you're after a more educational option, visit the Sea Life Centre to meet penguins and otters, sharks and turtles, and all the tropical fish you could possibly want! You can even talk a walk through the UK's only 360-degree ocean tunnel for a fully immersive experience!
The Flight Club – Birmingham
Where to stay
A little luxury: The Clayton Hotel offers an amazing location, just outside of town but only a 5-minute walk to the Bullring/City Centre. If you’re looking for a luxury stay, this hotel is for you!
An unusual setting: The Malmaison is located within the Mailbox's upscale shopping centre. This polished hotel is a converted Royal Mail sorting office, and is only a 7-minute walk from the Birmingham New Street train station.
High rise living: The Hyatt Regency, located opposite The International Convention Centre, is an upmarket high-rise hotel that's just a 5-minute walk from the National Sea Life Centre and a 13-minute walk from shopping at The Bullring.
Places to eat and drink
-Lost and Found: classic British food, plus sandwiches and cocktails, in quirky rooms in a grand Victorian building.
-Marco Pierre White Steakhouse, Bar & Grill: serving a menu of modern comfort food and champagne with 360-degree views from the 25th floor.
-The Canal House: a country-style tavern offering elevated British fare, creative cocktails, live music & canal views.
Marco Pierre White Steakhouse, Bar & Grill – Birmingham
Liverpool is one of my favourite cities. After moving there for university, I instantly fell in love with the place. It may be one of the smaller cities in the UK but it’s definitely not the quietest. This lively place has so much to do, from exploring the docks and shopping at Liverpool ONE to trying a new cocktail at one of Liverpool’s many bars and restaurants, visiting museums, and not forgetting the endless culture around the city, including the Baltic Triangle.
Things to do
The Albert Docks is a great place for taking a stroll. The beautiful views are not the only thing this place has to offer. With unique exhibitions and galleries to explore at the Tate, it also offers shopping and music, as well as plenty of restaurants to wine and dine in!
If you're looking for the perfect place to go with friends or on a date, head over to Ghetto Golf. Located in the heart of the Baltic Triangle, it offers an 18-hole crazy golf course, music and endless options of cocktails.
And if shopping is what you’re after, Liverpool One has a collection of high-end designer and high street shops with plenty to choose from. Including Zara, John Lewis, H & M, Flannels, Levi’s and more! Or, if you’re looking for some vintage bargains, head to Bold Street! It has plenty of charity shops and vintage places for you to choose from.
Where to stay
Feeling fancy?: Treat yourself and have a weekend away at the Hilton! This 4-star hotel has views over Albert Dock. Hilton Liverpool has a 24-hour gym and stylish rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows.
Eye-catching architecture: The Richmond Hotel: BW Signature Collection is set in the heart of Liverpool city centre in an iconic Grade II-listed building. Situated in Hatton Garden, which is 5 minutes' walk to nearby Walker Art Gallery, 10 minutes’ walk to the Famous Beatles Story and Albert Docks, and 5 minutes to the fantastic shops and boutiques Liverpool has to offer.
Cultural surroundings: Situated on the Docks, the Holiday Inn Express at the Royal Albert Dock is perfectly located for the culture vultures out there. This lovely hotel is just a 2-minute walk from The Beatles Story Museum, and 550 yards from Tate Liverpool. The Liverpool ONE Shopping Centre is just a 10-minute walk away.
Places to eat and drink
-NQ64 Bar: This quirky bar offers the nicest cocktails and beers, a great atmosphere and a night of playing retro arcade games! What more could you want?
-Boujee: New on the scene! Grab your gal pals! Boujee is a new Instagram heaven, with a cheeky, playful edge, pairing designer cocktails with exquisite sushi and small plates.
-Bierkeller: Are you taking a trip to Liverpool to watch a match or the races? We can bet Bierkeller will be showing it! This sports bar is the perfect place for a game of snooker or couple of beers watching sports!
NQ64 – Liverpool
-Panoramic 34: Dining with a view! Feeling Fancy? Why not head to Panoramic 34 for dinner or cocktails and enjoy the magnificent Liverpool skyline.
-Roxy Ball Room: The perfect place if you’re a competitive personal and fancy a few games of ping pong or beer pong! Roxy Ball Room is the home of competitive social gaming all set to a rock and indie soundtrack and a fantastic food and drink selection!
Boujee – Liverpool
There are many reasons why I love Edinburgh. Firstly, my parents are Scottish, so there has always a part of me that’s had an affinity with Scotland. Unless it comes down to sport, of course – then its England all the way.
Luckily, I have had the chance to visit Edinburgh for personal and business reasons, and it's probably my favourite city in the UK.
Travelling to and from the city is easy, with the train station right in the heart of the action. In fact, when I toured the city, the guide mentioned that an American once marvelled that they had luckily built the castle so close to the station. (The castle is over 1000 years old!)
Once arriving at the station, the first thing that hits you is that it’s so incredibly hilly! That is because the city is in fact built on seven hills. Castle Rock is the one the castle is built upon, while Arthur's Seat is actually an ancient volcano.
Things to do
Auld Reekie means Old Smoky, which is the Scots nickname for the city, but it's also the name of the amazing ghost tours you can do in the city. I would highly recommend the haunted ghost vaults that lie under the city.
The suggestion to visit Edinburgh Castle really does speak for itself. Situated at the top of the Royal Mile. At the entrance you are greeted by statues of William Wallace and Rob Roy. At one o’clock every day the cannon is sounded. This was to let all the ships out at sea know the time.
And if you're interested in history, why not visit The Palace of Holyrood, the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland? The palace is situated at the other end of the Royal Mile from the castle (at the bottom of the hill) and opposite the Scottish parliament building. When King James VI of Scotland became King James I of England he moved down to London, so the palace was no longer the seat of permanent royal court. After the Union of Scotland and England in 1707 the palace lost its principal functions. Famous occupants include Mary, Queen of Scots.
The Royal Mile itself forms the heart of the old town. It offers plenty of great coffee shops, restaurants and pubs on either side of the pedestrian-only road. You can even see the coffee shop where the first Harry Potter novel was written in by J.K Rowling!
Outside of the city centre, you can find the fantastic little port district of Leith. Waterfront restaurants and traditional pubs line the shore area. The Royal Yacht Britannia, which was the former ocean-going royal residence, showcases elaborate state apartments and an onboard Rolls-Royce. The riverside Water of Leith Walkway and Leith Walk, a busy street with food and thrift shops, link the area with the city.
Places to eat and drink
-The Dagda Bar: Dagda is a powerful Celtic god, but also this boozer is a popular hangout for comedians during the Edinburgh Fringe festival.
-The Banshee Labyrinth: The most haunted pub in Edinburgh. Haunted-themed spot with bars, cinema, live bands and music nights from metal to punk and rave.
-Brewhemia: A little taste of Germany close the station in the Old Town.
Brewhemia – Edinburgh
I’m not sure where to start with explaining Stoke-on-Trent. It’s an easy place to take for granted once you’ve spent 25 years here (where isn’t!?) but there’s a cheeky charm that stops you from staying away from home for too long. Both lockdown and a move from one side of Stoke-on-Trent to the other have played a huge part in my discovering more amazing adventure grounds and things to do!
If it's walks, countless nature spots, decent pub grub and amazing views you’re after, book yourself a little trip to Stoke right this second! Wherever you find yourself based in the city, it'll only be a stone's throw (in the car, you definitely need a car!) to your next wide-open space, whether you’re after reservoirs, forests, or even the Peak District!
And if you’re after city vibes? There are some very cool places to visit across Stoke-on-Trent and they often hold festivals, gigs and events in and around the city, as well as charity events that hold the community together! The people of Stoke are supportive of one another and are always offering each other a helping hand. Come and visit us to see for yourself!
Stoke-on-Trent is made up of six towns: Burslem, Fenton, Hanley, Longton, Tunstall and Stoke! In all six, the people refer to each other as duck or duckie. If you get called duck or duckie whilst you’re visiting, consider it a rite of passage and a sign you’ve been welcomed with open arms (it’s most likely you will be).
Bring the pets: This cosy cottage (with hot tub!) in Penkhull Village is a fantastic little hidden gem available through Airbnb! You’ll be located deep in the heart of Stoke, but if you’re after that lovely peace-and-quiet, get yourself relaxing in this gorgeous back garden. This one-of-a-kind Stoke-on-Trent stay sleeps up to two guests and four-legged friends are welcome! There’s definitely a reason this cosy cottage is filling up fast with bookings!
Perfectly located: Stay at The Silk House in Leek and you’ll walk out of the accommodation onto a street situated in one of the most beautiful little towns in the UK. Leek has architecture, endless character, a friendly community spirit, history, a general sense of comfort, independent shops, cafes, restaurants and bars. Just in case I didn’t make that clear enough, Leek has it all. You’ll also be a 15-minute drive from The Roaches, which is located on the edge of the Peak District. Views for days!
Airbnb Stoke – Cosy cottage with hot tub owned by Arlene
Country living: The Upper House is situated in beautiful Barlaston, one of Stoke-on-Trent’s hidden gems! Surrounded by blissful countryside, you’ll have yourselves an escape retreat like no other. The rooms are full of character and very well kept by the friendly staff. Also, this residence is only 3.6 miles from Trentham Gardens, where you’ve got a shopping district, restaurants, a home and a garden centre (are you sold yet?!). Plus, the gardens themselves are filled with activities for the little ones!
Action and adventure: It’s unlikely you’ll have heard of Alton Towers without having heard of Stoke-on-Trent too, and vice versa. This is a particularly wild and thrill-seeking theme park we’re talking about! Alton Towers also carries three theme hotels at the resort, including CBeebies Land! If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can also stay in Stargazing Pods between activities like visiting the AT Dungeon, and our favourite, the AT Waterpark! You’ll need a few days at least at Alton Towers just to fit all of this excitement in!
Places to eat
-The Black Lion: It is a certainty that you will be looked after at this free house establishment. The Black Lion is your classic, cosy, country pub. Hosting a mouth-watering display of light to dark ales, the funniest (and most mischievous) locals and THE tastiest Fish Finger Sandwiches you will ever taste! The building is beautiful while the staff are beyond kind, helpful and efficient. The Village of Cheddleton carries so much charm and history that it is inevitable to fall in love with every part of it instantaneously. The Roaches are also only a 20-minute drive away! Although the view-filled walk is recommended before the pub visit because the only thing you’ll want to do after a pint and a plate of traditional pub grub is nap! When the pubs cosy interior is gently heated with log burners, it certainly becomes a home away from home. A definite must-visit!
-Blockhouse at Sheet Anchor: Let there be meat! This restaurant is one of the many (totally boss) places to eat under the Paragon Group umbrella. The interior décor of this place alone is enough to visit for, but a few cocktails and a rack of ribs doesn’t go amiss either!
The Black Lion, Stoke-on-Trent
-The Slamwich Club: This is situated in the centre of Stoke, Hanley. It’s quirky, jaunty and there’s no way you’ll only be able to visit once while you’re in town. The sandwich so nice, you gotta eat it twice! There’s a special charisma on this street, and I think The Regent Theatre being there has something to do with it. Here, you can sit out and people watch until the food has you defeated.
-Oatcake shops: There are over 18 Oatcake shops to choose from. Never tried one? Well, be prepared for one of the best dishes of your LIFE (not biased, honest!). If you’re completely new to the idea of Oatcakes, you might want to come and try one, they’re kind of a big deal around these parts. Therefore, I trust all of the Oatcake shops in Stoke will know what they’re doing with making you an Oatcake (no pressure stokies!).
The Slamwich Club, Stoke-on-Trent