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Best of British: Autumn City Breaks

That’s it, the British summer is really over this time. It’s farewell to the surreal process of slapping on sunscreen under a blistering October sun and back to the chilly business of autumn.   

It’s disappointing of course, but the good news is that this is a great time for a city break -- crisp mornings, dwindling crowds, cosy hotels to hide away in, and restaurants and pubs to unearth.

There are also some great bargains to be had. And where better to start than at home? Below, in descending order, you’ll find the UK’s five favourite cities (as voted at the Guardian Travel Awards 2011) along with some great deals to get the best out of each one. 

Voted Britain’s favourite city for the 12th consecutive year, the Scottish capital is a perennial New Year’s favourite and similarly packed during the Fringe Festival in August. But there’s no bad time to go, and with temperatures falling, this is the perfect time for a Scotch Whisky Experience Tour. If you think you can take it, a dark and chilly evening is just the time for a City of the Dead walking tour which takes in a haunted graveyard, the underground city and lots of other creepy stuff. If you need cheering up after that, get yourself down to the Royal Oak pub for some fiddletastic folk music.

With this deal from the 4-star Macdonald Roxburghe Hotel, you can grab a 3-night stay in Edinburgh from £188, until the end of March, 2012. The Malmaison is also offering discounted rates for autumn, with prices slashed to just £99 per room, per night, with dinner and wine thrown in.

Where better to see the changing autumn colours than in one of Britain’s National Parks? Fortunately, Durham has three of them within striking distance -- The North York Moors, Northumberland National Park and the Yorkshire Dales. And when you’ve finished kicking through leaves in the countryside, the city is awash with historic landmarks to check out, with the Castle, the Cathedral and the Light Infantry Museum to name just a few.

The best bit? With this deal from Days Inn, you can stay in this historic city from just £29 per night, between now and 30 November.

For a small city, Bath packs a big punch. Stunning architecture featuring characteristic golden limestone, museums, art galleries, top-notch restaurants and, of course, the beautifully preserved Roman Baths -- no wonder it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.

Its compact size means it can feel a little overrun in the hot summer months, but autumn is much more manageable. Top of your list should be a visit to the Thermae Bath Spa -- nothing beats sitting in the heated rooftop spa pool on a cold evening looking out over the city.

We recommend bagging this deal in neighbouring Bristol -- a 2-night package in a boutique hotel for just £99 per person, with dinner, cocktails and an upgrade included. The two cities are only minutes apart on the train, giving you the chance to experience Bath by day and Bristol’s Floating Harbour by night. 

Malmaison’s Autumn at the Mal offer (£99 per room, per night for accommodation, dinner and wine) is valid at the Newcastle branch. So why not bag yourself a cheap hotel stay and check out the Northeast’s thriving cultural hub. Kick things off with a visit to the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art (a huge gallery housed in an imposing industrial building on the south bank of the River Tyne in Gateshead), before heading down the Durham Road to get up close with Britain’s largest sculpture, Anthony Gormley’s Angel of the North. When you’re done with that, balance things out with a little retail therapy at Eldon Square, one of Britain’s largest shopping centres, before grabbing a bite in what is thought to be the country’s oldest restaurant, Blackfriars.  

Whether it’s a sea of red shirts swaying in unison to a chorus of “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, images of The Beatles in their pomp, or the iconic Albert Dock, Liverpool is one of those cities that captures the imagination.

And if you live in the south, it’s about to become even easier to get there. Between 22 October and 6 November (including half-term dates) London Midland is offering tickets for unlimited daily travel on its network for just £10 (£5 for kids). That means you could travel from London Euston to Liverpool and back for a tenner. And if you want to overnight when you get there, look no further than Malmaison’s Autumn at the Mal deal.

For an alternative dining experience, Vista Bar & Restaurant’s waterfront dinner for two for just £39 is hard to top. Usually £82, this riverside treat includes a glass of bubbly and some of the best views in the city.

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Tips by

Deal Expert, London
Tuesday, 11 October 2011
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Rory Batho