As you open your laptop, your tablet buzzes… Your message tone pings and the phone starts to ring. So many bleeps, and it’s not even breakfast time. This multi-screen, app-heavy, flashing, vibrating way of life is the norm these days, now gadgets have infiltrated every moment of our waking lives. But it’s becoming ever clearer that a tech addiction can have serious effects on our wellbeing and a digital detox could be just what the doctor ordered, both literally and figuratively. But how will you manage it, will you feel the benefits and – most importantly – where will you go?
Why should you unplug?
The advantages of cutting down your screen time are undeniable; from your physical health to your state of mind, glowing gadgets and our time spent hunched over them is taking its toll. While it’s reported the average person checks his or her phone some 200 times a day, ever more frequently we’re realising the drawbacks outweigh the appeal. Not only are smartphones described as being as addictive as cocaine, the constant staring is giving us eyestrain, poor sleep patterns and pain in our necks and backs. If that weren’t enough, research has shown social media users reported higher levels of dissatisfaction with their lives and the constant comparison with friends and colleagues is leaving us depressed and disappointed.
If simply switching off your phone is harder than it looks, the best way to make the most of your time offline to take a full-on break from your tech and head somewhere WiFi can’t reach. What we really crave when ditching the gadgets is surely a return to our rural roots. What could be further from the pings of a smartphone or its gaudy glowing screen than the wind in your ears and the salty air of a far-flung beach or jaw-dropping mountain view? Fortunately you don’t have to travel far, as the UK is bursting with idyllic spots for your digital detox.
The best destinations for technology-free travel in the 21st century
Named as one of the world’s best regions by Lonely Planet, the northern part of Wales boasts some unrivalled mountain terrain and spectacular views, but it’s the heart-thumping adventure holidays it offers which will keep you so distracted that posting online will seem like a waste of time. Try underground trampolining which will drag you out of your inbox and back into real life, reminding you not only of your body’s potential, but the rugged charm of Wales’ stunning caves too. The best thing about a Welsh action holiday is it removes even the slightest temptation to reach for your devices. Keeping your hands and mind busy and gadget free is a detox tip you can transfer back to real life.
Cornwall is full of stunning spots for your digital detox. Head to picturesque Mousehole for a tech-free getaway sprinkled with fairytale quaintness and magical sunsets, or Newquay for some surf action on the crashing waves. In rural Tintagel you’re guaranteed not to spy a single bar of network coverage, and WiFi is the least of your worries when your surroundings are this idyllic. Tuck into a tasty cream tea in one of Cornwall’s many adorable cafes or tea shops or go rock pooling to discover miniature seaside worlds. After a dreamy coastal walk alongside the bobbing boats and crunching pebbles, curl up with a cup of hot chocolate, a board game, and a roaring fire, with no need to click, tap or zoom whatsoever.
With stunning national parkland, dreamy valleys and stretches of stark sky, Dartmoor is a far cry from the bustle of the underground and your usual busy commute, and will make it hard to reach for the gadgets since you’ll want to spend all your time drinking in the view. Explore the misty moors and let the bracing wind and rain do their worst – what could leave you feeling more alive? Ponies roam Dartmoor’s windswept landscapes, while there’s plenty of history to discover, from bronze-age stone circles to neolithic tombs. The area’s forests are a joy to get lost in, with wild rivers splashing and craggy rock formations known as tors standing majestically on hillsides. Your gadgets won’t survive in your anorak pocket, so leave them behind and but you’ll be blessed with heart-thumping terrains to march across and so much fresh air your lungs will thank you.
Ballycastle, Northern Ireland
This small town in County Antrim, Northern Ireland is an outstanding example of the region’s natural assets and traditional charm. If you’re feeling brave, stride across Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, which spans the gap between the mainland and the tiny island of Carrick-a-Rede. Fair Head is a massive rocky cliff where you can walk or climb, so let the Action Man in you free and get your pulse racing. Ballycastle beach is a gorgeous place to chill as the tide comes in, and when it does, a laid back seaside cricket match seems as good a use as any for the remaining stretches of sand.
The beautiful stretches of West Dorset’s pebble beach are the ultimate spot to quit your tech. With waves crashing, seagulls calling and grassy green hills rolling down towards the sand, lock gadgets out of sight and wing your way to device-free bliss. Durdle Door is a head-turning limestone arch on the coast near Lulworth, which is a must-see for adventurers around these parts. Just along the coast, pretty Lulworth Cove is also a cracking spot to explore. Stretches of Dorset’s Jurassic Coast are a paradise for fossil hunters, so let your inner Ross Geller free as you scour the beach.
With some of the UK’s most magical beaches, the north of Norfolk is a brilliant and lesser-known setting to unplug and unwind. Horsey has charming stretches of coast, while the beaches at Brancaster and Wells-next-the-Sea should make your to-visit list. Since it doesn’t always show up on tourist radars, you’ll be pleased to find a touch more peace and quiet than other spots, meaning not only will you be gadget-free, but you’re less likely to be distracted by intrusive ringtones or overheard phone calls. Take the dog for a leisurely seaside wander, or stare out across the waves and feel your mind and body begin to truly switch off.
The Lake District
There’s truly nowhere more calming than the UK’s Lake District – especially if you pick one of the area’s more tranquil accommodation options. Your phone will lie forgotten as you venture out for a gentle row on the still water – surely the most laid-back of the elements and guaranteed to help you switch off from the day-to-day buzz of your gadgets. Even if you do want to get moving, whether on a bike, on foot or in a kayak, your verdant surroundings will mean things remain at a pressure-free pace. Ramble through wild countryside, brave the District’s dripping caves and caverns or let the rush of a waterfall hypnotise you ‘til your email anxiety washes clean away.
This 800-mile-square stretch of charm is a grand location for your digi hiatus. Running through Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Warwickshire, Wiltshire and Worcestershire, the Cotswolds, with its cottages of honey-golden brick, blooming floral displays and friendly local pubs, are the sort of place it would be simply rude to check your Twitter feed. Arguably one of the quaintest slices of old England, the Cotswolds and its gentle pace of life deserves your full attention, with fresh-air strolls and tall pints of real ale easily filling a lazy afternoon. Named an official Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Cotswolds branches up from the meadowy banks of the River Severn and offers plenty of history, housed in its regal stately homes and fascinating little museums.
Far from the madding crowd lies the breathtaking county of Powys in Wales. With crumbling castles to awaken your inner history buff and the kind of views that will leave you speechless, this off-the-beaten-track destination makes an ideal backdrop for a tech-free fortnight. Lose yourself in the greenery of Ynis Hir wildlife reserve, where you’ll spot rare birds and animals, or give falconry a go for a Game of Thrones-style ego boost. With wild open grasslands to hike across and colourful gardens galore, Powys’ appeal is in its vibrant natural beauty. Soak up its loveliness for yourself…social media need never know.
For the Aspiring Gentleman in search of adventure, Scotland’s magnificent Highlands are the ideal way to cut ties with your tech. Will you spot the mysterious creature lurking in the depths of Loch Ness? Or catch the dolphins as they splash in Moray Firth – an inlet of the North Sea? Striding up weather-beaten hillsides with your waterproofs on and the wind whistling around you, fumbling for your phone is the last thing on your mind. Channel your inner Braveheart by exploring stunning lochs and trekking through lush green landscapes, so thoughts of your old life online are blown away like cobwebs in a gale. The mountains and coastal trails of Argyll and Bute could be an ideal place to whet your analogue appetite.
Your digital detox awaits…