I need a good location for solo writing in the UK, July
June 14, 2010 1:56 AM   Subscribe

I’m London-based and I have a car. I need the focus of being away from home in a new and engaging locale in order to write. I need somewhere in mainland Britain, driveable in 1 day from London (a long drive is fine) where I can find reasonably-priced accommodation.

I have two free weeks in July and it’s time for writing in solitude! I’m up against a big deadline and I have 10 days cleared in early July. The research is done, also several drafts. Time for the final push through.

A writer’s retreat is not quite what I’m after as I need the focus of independent solitude without the lazy allure of home, family, and old or new friends. Also, it’s necessary to be able to be back home in 24 hours in the case of an unlikely – but possible – crisis due to an ongoing illness in the family.

I want to write solidly in the morning / early afternoon and have access to coastline and/or mountains in the late afternoon / early evening. Somewhere more urban within striking distance might also be good for eating / occasional cinema visit.

I do have helpful friends around the country who would put me up but I fear I would be drawn into the kind of socializing I want to avoid during this period.

Any suggestions or recommendations would be greatly appreciated.
posted by Hugobaron to Travel & Transportation around London, England (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You can find surprisingly affordable B&B's in the Peak District, especially if you're willing to camp, or stay in a caravan (if you find someone renting one, obviously). You get...well, 'mountains' might be a slight exaggeration, but there are rather high lumps of land. I stayed just outside of Buxton last summer, and it was countryside enough to feel wonderfully secluded, but close enough to a couple good-sized towns that one could drive there in about twenty minutes. (Discovered when a brief but exciting stay in Buxton's minor injuries unit was required!)

For mountains and ocean, what about looking in North Wales around Snowdonia? It is achingly beautiful, and equally dirt cheap. (On a whim I just checked a random B&B in Rhyl, and it was 20 quid a night.) You'll have mountains to one side of you, and the sea to the other. There aren't particularly large towns up there, but Bangor is good-sized, and Anglesey has a good number of things to do as well.
posted by kalimac at 2:23 AM on June 14, 2010

Honestly, most of the UK is drivable in a day from London - it takes about 7-8 hours to get up to Edinburgh or Glasgow, for example, and with 12-14 hours of driving you could be right up in the remote Highlands.

That said, I think Kalimac is on the right track with North Wales, absolutely stunning, less than six hours drive and cheap as chips.
posted by Happy Dave at 2:30 AM on June 14, 2010

(I'm biased but) South Wales is more accessible from London (3-4 hour drive) and offers both beautiful coastline along the Gower peninsula and stunning mountains in the Brecon Beacons.
posted by ceri richard at 2:59 AM on June 14, 2010

Yeah, you can't really be more than 14 hours from anywhere in the UK with a car, without living at John o'Groats and wanting to be at Lands End. Certainly from London at any time other than rush hour.

Almost anywhere on the coast would fit some of your criteria, but Wales (South or North) would fit, and any town over the mid-size would supply food and cinema possibilities. You're almost being too vague to get any decent consensus of answers.

Having said that, areas that immediately jump to mind are:
South Wales/Pembrokeshire
Gower Peninsula - nearer Swansea on the south coast.
Anywhere in Cornwall or South Devon
Peak and Lake districts
Northumberland coast north of Newcastle upon Tyne

If you don't mind flat land and nice coastlands, East Anglia (North and South of and definitely not including Great Yarmouth) would do as it is relatively easy to get solitude in that area.
posted by Brockles at 3:04 AM on June 14, 2010

Hay-on-Wye! It's got scores of bookshops, mountains, its very own castle and a few very good pubs.
posted by HandfulOfDust at 3:39 AM on June 14, 2010

I'd suggest the north Norfolk coast, akin to Brockles suggestion. The roads get crowded in the summer, but there's still plenty of beach and solitude available. The scenery is fantastic, it's close to London (ca. 3 hours). You can even get there by train (via Norwich to Sheringham) and there's a coast hopper bus if you'd rather not drive.
posted by sagwalla at 4:07 AM on June 14, 2010

You don't mention price, but if you're up for spending a bit, I stayed at Northside Cottage in Staithes and it was lovely. Could be just what you are after. Great wild coastline, within reach of the North Yorks Moors, Whitby just down the road, comfortable and well appointed, broadband.
posted by handee at 4:13 AM on June 14, 2010

The people who think that everywhere in the UK is in a day's drive of London are obviously unaware of the Scottish islands; and I wouldn't advise the Highlands as I personally wouldn't want to have to keep going up and down the A9 every time I wanted to go on retreat. That said, this doesn't really narrow your choices down an awful lot!

I'm another vote for North Wales. Lovely place.
posted by Coobeastie at 4:30 AM on June 14, 2010

I live in South Wales for precisely the kind of environment you want.
posted by dickasso at 4:43 AM on June 14, 2010

Try this website: http://www.underthethatch.co.uk/ I've stayed at the place in Fishguard and really enjoyed it.
posted by smcniven at 6:07 AM on June 14, 2010

Sorry, this website
posted by smcniven at 6:07 AM on June 14, 2010

Some remote, picturesque areas aren't cheap due to the second-homers. If you stayed on the moors around Hexham you could drive into Newcastle easily when you needed--it's a dual carriageway.
posted by Deor at 8:40 AM on June 14, 2010

In summer I'd guess you want somewhere pretty, but not so pretty that rentals cost the earth.

I would recommend Northumbria. Wild coast, very pretty moorland. You can get into Newcastle for anything you want. Not densely populated. Not nearly as popular as places further south. Have a look for "Top Byre Cottage" on this site.

One thing to note: check wherever your rent has a desk or bring your own desk and chair; it would be easy to find the place of your dreams and then spend 2 weeks in an incredibly uncomfortable writing position.

But the north Norfolk coast is pretty lovely too. I just wonder if it might get a little busy/booked up this time of year.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:43 AM on June 14, 2010

The South Coast, specifically West Sussex is pretty, look at Arundel, West Witterings or Chichester.
posted by ellieBOA at 9:42 AM on June 14, 2010

One of the cheapest ways to hang out solo in beautiful parts of the UK, with full board, no singles supplement and nobody to bother you, is to stay at a Christian retreat house. Most of them don't require any profession of faith and will just leave you alone to get on with your stuff in peace if that's what you want. A friend of mine who needed to recharge recently stayed for a while at the Ampleforth Abbey guesthouse and found it worthwhile; if that's too far from London, other retreat houses are listed here.
posted by stuck on an island at 12:30 PM on June 14, 2010

Seconding the South Coast. You could get right the way down into Devon and Dorset or even Cornwall if you want to.
posted by Artw at 4:59 PM on June 14, 2010

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