Belfast Telegraph

Home News UK

In pics: Prime Ministers on holiday through the decades

We take a look at how the leaders of our country spent their holidays.

Theresa May’s holiday snaps with husband Philip in northern Italy are the latest in a long line of prime ministerial photocalls which reflect changes in both political presentation and tourism trends.

Back in the 1960s and 1970s, like the majority of voters, prime ministers tended to take their holidays in Britain. But the kind of breaks they took said a lot about their political style.

Harold Macmillan walking with the Duchess of Devonshire at Barden High Moor, Yorkshire (PA Wire)

True to his patrician, old Etonian background, Harold Macmillan could be seen in tweeds and plus-fours stalking the grouse moors with aristocratic friends on a shooting holiday.

Harold Wilson sitting on a rock during his summer holiday in the Isle of Scilly (PA Wire)

Labour’s Harold Wilson, by contrast, was pictured in shorts and sandals, enjoying a pipe on the beaches of the Isles of Scilly, a venue he returned to repeatedly and where he was laid to rest after his death in 1995.

Margaret Thatcher took more up-market breaks at the lakeside home of friends in Switzerland – also a favourite destination of the Mays.

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher with her husband Denis at Constantine Bay, near Padstow, at the start of their annual Cornish holiday (PA Wire)

But she also made regular trips with husband Denis to Cornwall, where she was pictured walking dogs on the beach and enjoying walks by the seaside.

As Prime Minister, John Major repeatedly returned to the quiet Spanish town of Candeleda, a long way off the tourist trail in rural Avila province, between Madrid and the Portuguese border. His loyalty to the modest municipality led to a road being named Avenida de John Major in his honour in 2013.

Tony Blair and his wife Cherie sheltering under an umbrella at St Bees in Cumbria whilst on holiday (Owen Humphreys/PA Wire)

In stark contrast to the low-key breaks favoured by his Tory predecessor, Tony Blair’s holidays took in glitzy locations, celebrity friends and occasionally bizarre pastimes.

The Labour PM holidayed as the guest of Silvio Berlusconi in Sardinia, at Cliff Richard’s home in Barbados and in luxury hotels on Egypt’s Red Sea coast. He and wife Cherie reportedly underwent a Mayan rebirthing ritual in a Mexican steam bath. As the UK tourist industry reeled following the foot-and-mouth outbreak of 2001, however, he broke off from a Tuscan holiday to spend a week in Cornwall on a rare “staycation”.

Gordon Brown’s holidays reflected his image as a man who would rather be at his desk than on the beach.

Gordon Brown and his wife Sarah walking through Whitlingham Country Park in Trowse, Norfolk, whilst on holiday (Darren Staples/PA Wire)

Invariably taking his summer break in Britain, he would be pictured in formal jacket and sensible shoes, his only concession to the holiday spirit apparently being to remove his tie and undo his top button.

Always ready to be called back from his breaks, he once returned from a holiday in Dorset after just four hours to take charge of the response to another foot-and-mouth crisis.

David Cameron and his wife Samantha sitting on a bench outside a cafe overlooking the beach at Polzeath (Matt Cardy/PA Wire)

His successor David Cameron took a decidedly more laid-back approach, “chillaxing” with wife Samantha in popular resorts from Ibiza to the Cornish Riviera, often dressed in his holiday uniform of navy-blue polo shirt and chinos or shorts and sometimes even photographed taking a dip in the sea in his swimming shorts.

Mrs May’s walking holidays in the Alps possibly betray a more serious-minded approach to her leisure-time, with healthy activity in mountain settings taking the place of relaxation on the beach.

But she may rue not relaxing a little more during a hiking break with Philip in Snowdonia earlier this year, when she took the fateful decision to call the snap election which cost her Commons majority.


From Belfast Telegraph