Nothing excites kids more than the prospect of the long summer holiday!
In the UK, the summer holiday promises around five to six weeks of fun, relaxation, adventure, and a welcome break from routine.
Most of us remember wishing the summer holidays would never end, and that sense of excitement persists even as an adult – especially if you’re lucky enough to get away during these beautiful hot months.
But before you book any breaks or trips in the UK over the summer, it’s important to know exactly when the school summer break dates fall in the UK, as they vary between counties and schools.
Generally speaking, schools in England and Wales tend to break up for the summer holidays near the end of July. They then enjoy weeks of summer bliss until returning for the new school year during the first week of September, depending on when they break up.
What Is a Typical UK Summer Break in Weeks?
A school summer holiday is around six weeks (including weekends) with some variations. The actual duration of the school summer break can vary slightly each year.
It tends to include the August Bank Holiday as well, which is relevant for working parents planning their leave.
Scotland and Northern Ireland Summer Break Dates
Students in Scotland and Northern Ireland tend to break up earlier in July. Scottish schools start the new academic year in the middle of August, and Northern Irish schools return later in September for a longer holiday.
Private schools and differing term times
It’s worth noting that private schools in the UK can run their annual holiday calendars with slightly different dates to state schools. It’s important to check directly with the relevant school before booking a summer holiday.
What Day Do UK Schools Finish for Summer Break?
It’s important to know that UK schools don’t always break up for summer on Friday! Many schools will break up in the middle of the week.
This is usually because the teachers have a scheduled INSET teacher training day, which is a standard part of the annual school calendar.
To minimize mid-term disruption, many schools add these teacher training days at the end of the term.
Other UK Summer Holiday Differences to Note
Students in Year 11 tend to break up earlier for summer in their final year of school because they don’t need to return to school after sitting their GCSEs. This can give them a longer summer break before they move into college or training.
How Parents Plan UK Summer Breaks
The best advice is always to check directly with the relevant school before booking a holiday over the summer. Schools publish their annual calendars far in advance, and these are available from the school directly or from the school website.
The relevant local authority (or council) will also have these dates published on their website, usually for the year ahead. This helps parents to plan in advance.
What to Know About School Fines for Early Holidays
If parents do book summer holiday breaks in the UK before term time has finished, the local authority can apply a fine via the school. There are various rules and exceptions in place, and some schools may be able to offer flexibility.
The best approach is to discuss your plans with the school headteacher before making a booking and see whether any flexibility can be offered.
Taking fines into account
Some parents decide to book summer holidays in the UK before the holidays end and take the fine payment into account! This is because the cost of booking slightly off-season can be significantly lower, even with the fines included.
The topic of holiday expenses and the need for families to have affordable breaks together is a hot one in the UK, so watch this space!
How Can You Plan Summer Break for Multiple Students?
One big challenge for parents is to work out when to book summer activities for multiple children in the family. Although term dates will largely align within a county, there may be some variations between schools.
You can contact each school office for their annual term date calendar, which is often available in September for the year ahead. You can also check the relevant local authority website.
Finding Specific Holiday Dates for 2023
The central government website is a great resource for finding the summer holiday dates of any school in the UK. You only need to enter your postcode, and you’ll see tailored results for that particular area.
Where to Go on Summer Break in the UK
The UK may be relatively small, but this vibrant little island is packed with sights, activities, and destinations that will delight families everywhere. Whatever your needs, you’ll find something to enthral you all and make the most of the summer break. Here are some ideas to consider:
1. Britain’s coastline
The UK is blessed with a fantastic coastline, and summer resorts are a classic British holiday experience.
The trend-set have long loved Cornwall for its golden beaches and famous celebrity-chef restaurants, but there are a huge number of popular family beaches with wonderful sands, classic fairgrounds and arcades, fish and chips, and other family attractions.
These include Bournemouth in Dorset, Scarborough and Whitby in North Yorkshire, Frinton-on-Sea in Essex, and Ilfracombe in North Devon.
For seclusion, check out Traeth Mwnt Beach in Pembrokeshire, Lulworth Cove in Dorset, and Ravenscar Beach in Yorkshire.
2. Outdoor playgrounds
If you love hills and mountains, vast lakes (or lochs), awe-inspiring scenery, and fantastic visitor attractions, then Britain’s National Parks are a must-visit.
Check out Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park in Scotland, Snowdonia in Wales, Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, and The Lake District in England.
You can hike, ride, boulder, climb, paraglide, visit historic sites, enjoy cream teas, and generally have a ball in these exciting green spaces, with plenty of superb visitor accommodation.
3. Wild ponies in The New Forest
If you’re down in the South of England, the New Forest is another must-visit. It’s renowned for its wild ponies, beautiful historic towns, and varied landscape, which includes ancient woodlands, cliff-top walks, and peaceful glades.
There are also various interesting family attractions, and it’s easily within reach of London.
4. The Big Smoke!
England’s capital city is a must-visit at any time of year, but the summer holiday can be a surprisingly good time to take in its family attractions.
Many of London’s museums are free, along with its vast and impressive Royal parks.
Wander along The Thames, ride The London Eye, and immerse yourself in favourites such as Madame Tussauds.
There’s something for everyone in this vibrant, ancient, and endlessly-exciting city.
5. Historic hotspots
The UK has so much history to discover, and kids will love learning about ancient times at castles, stately homes, interactive museums, ancient ruins, and other historic venues.
The Tower of London is a hugely popular visitor attraction, and York is a city entirely built on ancient history.
Edinburgh Castle is a feast for the senses, and the historic cathedral of Winchester is just one of the main draws in this beautiful part of the world.
6. Hidden gems
Everyone loves the feeling of discovering a gem somewhere off the beaten track! In the UK, it’s easy to do, with plenty of smaller attractions and hotspots that stay slightly under the public radar.
Some of our favourites include Dumfries & Galloway in Scotland for its incredible coastline, Broadsands beach in Ilfracombe, the Furness peninsula in south Cumbria for cycling, the rediscovered Dewstow Gardens in Monmouthshire and Cairn Lick (a largely forgotten Munroe) in the Cairngorms.
Best Ways to Spend Summer Break in The UK
Many parents find that they still need to work over the long summer holiday. It can be lovely to have the kids home for the long break, but it can also be difficult to schedule fun activities around work and regular commitments.
However, there are plenty of ways to make your time together fun, and to create special memories without anxiety or too much expense. Here are some ideas for making the most of the summer without needing to go too far from home:
1. British green spaces
The UK has lovely green spaces, from local parks and recreation spaces to large National Parks, coastlines, forests, and more.
Many of these spaces also host activities for children over the summer holiday, from outdoor bushcraft to nature spotting.
2. Summer camps
Older children may enjoy summer camps or day-long clubs where they get to meet new friends, experience new activities, and work on their skills and confidence.
These camps can be hugely rewarding and provide wonderful memories and new connections.
3. Outdoor events
Look out for local outdoor cinema screenings, music concerts, performance art, circuses, fairgrounds, and more over summer, as life moves outside!
Just remember your umbrella if famous British rain showers are due!
4. Sports and skills workshops
Local leisure centres, sports clubs, schools, attractions, and community centres often offer summer holiday skills activities where kids can work on their art and sports or learn about the environment.
There are usually sessions designed to cater for all ages and abilities. Sometimes they are even free.
Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your UK Summer Break
As they say in the UK, ‘the devil’s in the detail,’ so put some time into your planning, and you’ll really maximise your chances of a memorable summer break (for all the right reasons!)
Here are some top tips for getting the most from the holidays:
1. Look for early bird deals
If you can pick your holiday dates well in advance, you can take advantage of early bird bookings for accommodation, offering useful discounts. Some include cancellation cover, so you needn’t worry about missing out if your dates change later on.
If you can slightly flex your dates, you can also often find better prices and more availability. Look for the ‘+/-‘ option when booking accommodation online.
2. Consider camping
The UK has some excellent camping sites that can be great value for money. Not a fan of tents? Check out luxury bell tents, yurts, eco-pods, and glamping accommodations simply waiting for you to turn up and settle in!
3. Save on attractions
A National Trust family card will get you entry to over 500 historic sites across the UK. You can also look at English and Scottish Heritage cards for similar attraction benefits.
This can save you a great deal of money compared to single-entry tickets.
4. Don’t forget leisure centres!
Commercial waterparks and amusement parks can be expensive, so don’t forget local leisure centres! These are extremely good value for swimming and other sports activities, and they sometimes include inflatable sessions.
Look out, too, for parks and outdoor recreation spots that have their own hot-weather water attractions.
5. Sign up for emails and watch local media
If you know you want to visit a certain family attraction in the holidays, sign up for its newsletter and follow it on social media well in advance. You may find you receive a discount code as an incentive to book.
Equally, keep an eye on local and national newspapers, which often run summer holiday promotions to save money at popular tourist locations.
Look at local cards and ticketing schemes to gain open access to a series of venues in the area. Most counties have their own schemes, and companies do the same where they partner with other attractions or have more than one location.
Thinking Ahead to the UK Summer Break
It can be a challenge to prepare for summer break and organise the long holiday in a way that keeps everyone happy. But with a little planning and creativity, this special summer holiday period will create lasting memories for you all.
Whatever you decide to do, whether enjoying local activities at home or heading off on an adventurous holiday, that precious family time will provide the rest, shared experiences and lasting memories that really matter! Have fun!