Home or Away?


As we emerge out of lockdowns, restrictions and the new “normal” of living with Covid, your thoughts may well be turning to the future and our travel plans.  With this in mind, what can we expect in the next year or two in terms of travel?  Is going abroad a viable option or should we still be very much reaping the rewards of staying on our own beautiful shores? Westender turned to the experts for their opinions: Mary Sewell, Personal Travel Consultant at Not Just Travel and Jo, owner of The Dolphin Inn, Dunbar.

If You’re Fond of Sand Dunes…

I don’t know about you, but far and away (if you’ll pardon the pun) the thing I have missed most during COVID has been the ability to travel.  With restrictions lifting, what can we expect in terms of going further afield in 2022 and beyond?  Can we be hopeful of travelling abroad more easily and how do we safeguard ourselves?

“Most definitely” says Mary. “Now restrictions are starting to ease we are seeing a surge in 2022 and 2023 bookings. I would advise everyone to ensure they book with an ABTA or ATOL bonded company so their money is protected and will get a full refund or alternative holiday if borders close again. What a lot of people don’t realise if they book things all separately, although maybe slightly cheaper, it can cause all kinds of issues if one part is cancelled. That’s why booking with a travel company, like Not Just Travel, that has the ABTA or ATOL protection, is advisable.”

Mary Sewell from Not Just Travel

It’s looking positive for getting away then. But does Mary feel there will be some continuing restrictions in the way we travel e.g., showing we have been double vaccinated, wearing face masks on planes?

“Personally, I do” she says. “I think we now have to learn to live with some of these restrictions when travelling, however, they are easing on the 4th of October which is great news.”

And the ever-changing traffic light system?

“The UK Government are dropping the traffic light system from Oct 4th” says Mary “however they are keeping the Red List.” She hopes only having a red list, coupled with the double vaccination will suffice but notes “as the virus changes so might the restrictions.”

And now the fun part. Where is looking promising for next year?

“Booking for long haul destinations are up, I think (be)cause we have all been locked down we all now want to be more adventurous” says Mary. “The Maldives is proving a huge hit for next year and also Florida with Disney World.  Let’s face it we could all do with a bit of Disney magic in our lives.”  Never a truer word was spoken!

So, for those of us understandably still nervous about travelling abroad in the next year or two, what does Mary recommend?

“My advice is to book with an ABTA and ATOL protected travel company.  You need to book with a company that you can trust will get your holiday changed or refunded with no fuss or wait. That’s why Not Just Travel takes the concern away as you can book your holiday today and change it tomorrow.” 

As part of Hays Travel which is the number 1 independent travel agency in the UK, Mary’s fully ABTA and ATOL protected company, as the name suggests, is more than just a travel company. She says “I also have over 20 years of working in the travel industry and have travelled extensively so I have a lot of insider information I can share about certain places. Most of all my customers deal with me and only me, no waiting to get through on the telephone for hours or talking to 6 different departments about a change in their holiday. I deal with everything.”  

If there was one piece of advice Mary would leave you with?

“I would (also) advise starting to plan and book now as the restrictions are easing the prices will rise.”

I can hear the waves already.

Caledonia, You’re Calling Me…

But, let’s face it, we are pretty spoiled when holidaying here in Bonny Scotland.  Has Covid changed how we think about travelling?  Jo at the Dolphin Inn, Dunbar, thinks so. “We have all become quite spoiled and a little thoughtless with our holiday plans and it has been so easy to jump on a plane and book into a resort, whether seeking to unwind or to party through the night. Covid very quickly turned this on its head, and I think we have had a little time to reflect on what holidays mean to each of us.  For some the advantages of an overseas holiday can never be met by a staycation whilst others have been forever changed by a holiday at home.  With COP26 taking place in Glasgow this year there is an extra reminder of why we should also reconsider our ‘holiday footprint’.”

As travel opens up, Jo has some pointers as to why we should still consider a vacation here. “To holiday in Scotland has particular advantages; it is hugely convenient – travel itself is much more flexible, no finite departure times and fixed holiday periods.  Take a break for two days, ten days or as many as you wish.  Travelling twenty minutes from home can feel like a complete change of scene, there is no need to spend a day travelling to achieve this.  In Scotland you can quickly escape to the quiet of the countryside just as easily as you can escape to the nightlife of one of our larger cities. It is much easier to include family members who might otherwise make travelling overseas more challenging.” 

Jo notes that the beauty of the country is well renowned but feels there is so much more to Scotland than that. “Travelling and holidaying in Scotland is also a wonderful way to not only get to know your country but also its people through hearing their stories, supporting their businesses and connecting through culture and sport.  In particular, Scotland’s outdoors offer an enormous range of activities from gentle walks and cycles to surfing and mountaineering.  Scotland has a wealth of local events and local creative talent that can also enrich holiday plans.”

Jo’s own hostel The Dolphin Inn in Dunbar East Lothian, ticks many of the “Staycation” benefits boxes.  With the building dating back to c1750, it’s seen many incarnations over the years: tenement, hotel, railway tavern.  Sadly, it fell into disarray after the bar closed and the rooms were no longer being used.  Jo and her husband watched the sad demise of the hotel as it lay empty for 6 years.  Finally in 2019 they bought it and took on the 2-year renovation project to bring the building back to life.  Salvaging many of the items from the original building, the couple have sourced vintage furnishings to ensure their finished product had the retro vibe they were looking for. 

Dunbar Harbour

Three months after opening, what have guests thought? “(We) are delighted with the guest feedback which has been fantastically positive.  We offer beds from £25 in our bunk room but mainly our rooms are twins and doubles (some en-suite) as well as a larger family room.  The public areas comprise a lounge, dining room and kitchen area and we have a generous outdoor courtyard with storage for boards and bikes as well as a laundry and drying area.  Relax here in the sun after a busy day and make plans to do it all again the following day.” 

And what about the sunniest place in Scotland?  Dunbar being thirty miles from Edinburgh by road, it’s also only 20 minutes by train from the capital.  Jo says “It is the gateway to both East Lothian and Berwickshire – walk, cycle, drive or take the bus to explore its cliffs and beaches, nearby hills and countryside in between.” 

Wakeboarding at Foxlake

And with surfing, wakeboarding and kite surfing on your doorstep, Jo’s labour of love does seem the perfect base for a gloriously outdoorsy staycation, within hitting distance of the capital.

Should I stay or should I go?  The world (including glorious Scotland) is your oyster!






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