This weekend, you probably haven’t failed to notice, is a long one – a three-day hurrah expanded from the usual Saturday-Sunday scenario by the arrival of the May Day Bank Holiday on Monday (May 1, appropriately enough). Barbecues and sunglasses all round.
Except, well, no. The British weather, having flirted with what has felt like summer for the past few weeks, has now rekindled its relationship with winter, and is intent on casting cloud and drizzle over the country this weekend. Temperatures are unlikely to leap above 15°C, and may be considerably lower, while the sky is set to do that glowering grey thing that you expect to see in February. Barbecue in the garden? You’ll need an umbrella, a thick raincoat, a sense of humour and some very hardy house-guests.
Alternatively, you could throw caution to the wind, and simply leave the UK. Not forever. Just for the long weekend. Remarkably, though we are now at the stage which might be described as “very short notice” for booking, deals are still available – plenty of them at low prices. The following holidays are all priced to depart from a UK airport this Friday (April 28) – and all should provide a warmer context for relaxation than domestic shores.
1. Turkey – for £298
Question marks abound over Turkey’s suitability as a destination – the south-east corner of Europe has been harmed by political ructions, terror attacks and a failed coup d’etat in the last year. But if you want a cheap beach break, there are few places less expensive. This week, Telegraph Travel spotted a remarkable package – a two-week self-catering break in Marmaris for £90 per person, including flights. While you will not find anything quite as astonishingly low-cost as this two days before departure, budget getaways are still available. A three-night all-inclusive stay at the SunConnect Grand Ideal Premium resort in Marmaris – a four-star property with large pool, 100m from the beach – flying from Gatwick, starts at £298 a head via Thomas Cook (01733 224808; thomascook.com).
2. Cyprus – for £348
Located in the same easterly corner of the Mediterranean, but not as afflicted by tensions as turbulent Turkey (the 43-year existence of the Green Line aside), Cyprus is an ever-reliable proposition for early-season sunshine. Proof of this is that you can pop there this very weekend to enjoy temperatures which tend to creep up to around 24°C as May slots into position. Thomson (0871 231 4691; thomson.co.uk) can offer a two-night stay at the five-star TUI Sensimar Pioneer Beach Hotel in west-coast Paphos, from £348 per person. This price includes return flights from Gatwick, half-board accommodation and transfers.
3. Tenerife – for £463
The words “winter sun” can almost never be uttered without subsequent mention of the largest of the Canary Islands. And Tenerife is just as welcoming if you are seeking hotter weather as the British spring works out whether it is coming or going – 21°C is the sort of figure you are likely to find on the thermometer if you flit to this Atlantic archipelago this weekend. If you can stretch your long weekend into half a week, On The Beach (0871 474 3000; onthebeach.co.uk) can offer a four-night half-board break at the five-star (though inaccurately named) Mediterranean Palace Hotel in the south-coast resort hotspot Playa de las Americas – from £463 a head, including flights from Glasgow and transfers.
4. Madeira – for £699
The Canaries’ neighbour (in relative terms), Madeira proffers the same spectacular style of volcanic scenery – albeit with Portuguese rather than Spanish as the defining language, and somewhat cooler weather (18°C rather than 21°C is likely to be the general situation this weekend). The island capital Funchal has a certain refinement, which might best be appreciated from the Quinta Bela Sao Tiago – a delightful four-star property slotted into an 1849 manor house on the edge of town. Friday departures are still available through Kirker Holidays (020 7593 2283; kirkerholidays.com) – a three-night stay will cost from £739 per person, including flights from Gatwick, private transfers and breakfast. Curiously, “longer” means “less” – a four-night getaway, cosying up at the hotel from Saturday (April 30) to Wednesday (May 3) costs from £699 per person on the same basis.
5. Cape Verde – for £331
If you are going to flee into the Atlantic and don’t mind flying a little further (six hours rather than the four to Tenerife), Africa’s off-shore holiday archipelago is also feasibly in reach for a long weekend. A four-night all-inclusive holiday at the four-star Sol Dunas Resort, on the island of Sal, costs from £331 per person, including return flights from Birmingham and transfers, via First Choice (0871 231 4691; firstchoice.co.uk). The hotel has three swimming pools and five bars – while 26°C is a reasonable expectation in May.
6. Ibiza – for £753
The spring celebration that is May Day is also a cue for the most party-centric of the Balearic Island to start putting restaurant tables out on the streets and day-beds on the hotel verandas with gusto – and an immediate trip to Ibiza is perfectly possible, whether you want to hit the just-reopening clubs or cool your heels amid the rustic calm of the interior. A three-night stopover at the five-star Hard Rock Hotel Ibiza – on the south coast at Playa d’en Bossa – flying from London City this Friday, costs from £753 per person, including breakfast, through British Airways Holidays (0344 493 0787; ba.com/holidays).
7. Paris – for £489
The simplest way to sneak out of Britain this weekend, assuming you live relatively close to London, is to hop aboard a Eurostar train and spend 48 hours or so warming your soul amid the cafes, bars and boutiques of the French capital. And there are still plenty of seats on services speeding under the Channel to Paris. A package of return tickets for a Friday departure, and three nights at the chic 1K Hotel in the effervescent Marais district, costs from £489 per person, on a room-only basis, via Eurostar (0343 218 6186; eurostar.com). Want a hearty dose of culture to go with your coffee? The Louvre’s current exhibition on the 17th century Dutch master Johannes Vermeer continues until May 22 (louvre.fr; €15).
An insider’s guide to Paris
8. Naples – for £675
Paris, of course, has almost as much of a propensity for rainy days as London. Naples, on the other hand, does not. It may be as hot as 23°C this weekend in an Italian city which boasts an excellent food scene – while living in the literal and historical shadows of both Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii, for those who fancy leg-stretching hikes and/or day-trips into the Roman era. A lightning leap to Campania, holing up for three nights at the four-star NH Napoli Ambassador (on a room-only basis) costs from £675 per person, including return easyJet flights from Stansted, with Kayak (0843 538 8057; kayak.co.uk).
9. Athens – for £751
Culture, weather and the ancient world also collide in the Greek capital – where the Acropolis Museum (theacropolismuseum.gr) is a fine tribute to Athens’s deep democratic roots, and the sun is already up in the May sky with 24°C on its mind. A Friday departure with easyJet Holidays (020 3499 5251; easyjet.com/holidays), including flights from Gatwick and three nights at the five-star Hilton Athens (room only), starts at £751 a head.
10. Sunny Beach – for £1,538 (or £272, if you can wait)
Travel features which gather cheap last-minute deals to European coastlines invariably, at some point, mention Bulgaria’s Black Sea shore. And with good reason. The eastern edge of this underrated country is fertile terrain for a week on the sand if you are not desperate for ultra-luxurious accommodation, and want to glimpse somewhere a little off the beaten path. Alas, if you wish to go this weekend – and you can – you cannot do so without a considerable amount of expense. Sunny Beach (or “Slanchev Bryag”, to use its less marketing-speak Bulgarian name) is certainly a low-coast oasis. But if you want a three-night sojourn beginning this Friday – staying at the Olymp Apartcomplex in Sveti Vlas, on a self-catering rate – the bill will be £1538 per person, through Expedia (020 3564 0868; expedia.co.uk), including flights. Better to wait for summer, when the charter air links kick in. A one-week break at the same hotel, on the same basis, flying from Luton on July 8, costs from a distinctly more palatable £272 per person (also through Expedia).