Half term chaos as 'too many' Britons pile onto Greek and Spanish islands

Annabel Fenwick-Elliott
·4 min read
lanzarote - JAVIER FUENTES/EPA-EFE
lanzarote - JAVIER FUENTES/EPA-EFE

Travel carnage looks to be on the cards for foreign holidays this half term, as hordes of Britons pour into the small handful of destinations that remain on the UK's 'green list'.

Last night on the Greek island of Rhodes, frenzied crowds formed at the small airport as at least five flights back to the UK were scheduled to depart within a matter of hours, carrying passengers home from holidays taken before most schools had even broken up.

One passenger Tweeted: "Absolute chaos at #Rhodes airport. Fights and arguments breaking out. No one knows where they are going or what they are supposed to do. No staff, no control."

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A family who was travelling with Jet2 told Telegraph Travel: "It's the Government's fault for its quarantine policy; it's inevitable when there are so few places left to go on holiday, that companies will funnel everyone into these tiny regions that can't cope."

Airlines and tour operators including Tui, Jet2, Ryanair and easyJet have been adding extra capacity to meet soaring demand for the Greek islands in recent weeks as new travel corridors have been granted.

With the Spanish Canary Islands also added to the FCDO's quarantine-exempt list on Thursday, Britons were this weekend already descending upon Lanzarote's airport.

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With much of the UK under local lockdowns, and travel corridors evaporating by the week, it’s not easy for would-be travellers and life enthusiasts to find a silver lining. Happily, I’ve found one: it’s pandemic panic purchase season again! I’m not talking boring household goods like loo roll or tins of yeast. I’m referring to all the newly minted kitesurfers, paddleboarders, unicyclers, jugglers, rollerbladers and scooter-users out there.

Much as the early lockdown days of March and April were strange, sad and scary, I took great delight in watching friends, family and strangers proudly debut their shiny new hobbies, sports and pastimes. It reminded me of Boxing Day, when children show off their new toys at church, which I know is a fairly romantic view of furloughed advertising execs on electric scooters. But romance was made for times like these, to get us through the drear.

moscow - Sergei Fadeichev

moscow -  Sergei Fadeichev
moscow - Sergei Fadeichev

turkey - SEDAT SUNA/EPA-EFE

turkey -  SEDAT SUNA/EPA-EFE
turkey - SEDAT SUNA/EPA-EFE

wales - Ben Birchall/PA

wales - Ben Birchall/PA
wales - Ben Birchall/PA

Wandering through apple orchards and bountiful floral borders, it is easy to see why producers selected Helmsley Walled Garden as the film’s headline character. Ageing vines cling to crumbling high walls, pathways trail through rose bushes into secluded corners and a blue timber gate begs to be unlocked.

Built in 1758 as a kitchen garden for the Feversham family at nearby Duncombe Park – which serves as Mary’s new home, Misselthwaite Manor, in the film – it sits in the shadow of a 12th century castle, at the foot of the North York Moors. Following various incarnations, it was abandoned in the 1980s until local nurse Alison Ticehurst had a vision for transforming it into a place for horticultural therapy in 1994.

secret garden

secret garden
secret garden
Coronavirus Sweden Spotlight Chart - Cases default
Coronavirus Sweden Spotlight Chart - Cases default
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Coronavirus UK Spotlight Chart - deaths default
Coronavirus Spain Spotlight Chart - Cases default
Coronavirus Spain Spotlight Chart - Cases default
Coronavirus Czech Republic Spotlight Chart - Deaths default
Coronavirus Czech Republic Spotlight Chart - Deaths default
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Coronavirus Italy Spotlight Chart - deaths default

If you know the elegant Lutyens bridge that straddles the Thames between London and Surrey at Hampton, you may have glanced at The Mitre and inwardly sighed: a fine landmark gone to seed, the sort of clapped-out place you hurry past.

In fact, it has always been a hostelry, built in 1665 to accommodate the courtiers of King Charles II when he occupied Hampton Court Palace, which stands opposite. It had a moment in the 1960s, when Shirley Bassey would pop in for lobster thermidor, but after that its fortunes dipped.

Enter Hector Ross, formerly in charge of the Bel & the Dragon pub chain and Beaverbrook hotel. He is young yet, but he knows what he’s doing.

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Coronavirus Italy Spotlight Chart - deaths default

Rome - GIUSEPPE LAMI/EPA-EFE

Rome - GIUSEPPE LAMI/EPA-EFE
Rome - GIUSEPPE LAMI/EPA-EFE

poland - ADAM WARZAWA/EPA-EFE

poland - ADAM WARZAWA/EPA-EFE
poland - ADAM WARZAWA/EPA-EFE

london - anadolu

london - anadolu
london - anadolu
Coronavirus Spain Spotlight Chart - Cases default
Coronavirus Spain Spotlight Chart - Cases default

"I think the issue here is pent-up demand, lack of certainty and the rush to get in somewhere before corridors close again. Travel corridors need to be much better organised and have a long-term element to them rather than just a random destination or two opened for an unspecified period of time."

Weihnachtsmarkt - Schweiz Tourismus/Andreas Gerth

Weihnachtsmarkt - Schweiz Tourismus/Andreas Gerth
Weihnachtsmarkt - Schweiz Tourismus/Andreas Gerth
Wales lockdown
Wales lockdown

“The experience made us feel both anxious and disappointed as we felt the safety measures on our outbound flight and at our hotel were excellent only to be let down at the end. Some of the other passengers were visibly distressed which was quite upsetting to see and the airport staff either weren't visible or didn't seem to care [...] scheduling that many flights to depart at the same time is a bad idea even in a non-pandemic situation but to do it now is just madness.”

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Coronavirus Czech Republic Spotlight Chart - Deaths default