“My childhood holidays were spent in Millport on the Isle of Cumbrae, just off Scotland’s western coast. It was everything you’d expect of a beach holiday in Scotland – freezing temperatures, getting stung by jellyfish and avoiding the sewage outlet as you tried to swim in the sea. If there was a glimpse of sun, there was an imperative to put your trunks on even if it was pretty miserable. But that’s what childhood memories are all about isn’t it? I loved it.
Even though my older brother and sister were there most years, I used to go off on my own for hours to climb over rocks looking for crabs. There was lots of cycling as well. Cumbrae is such a small island that you can get around it in about an hour. I came off my bike once in the high street and cut my head open. I was unconscious for a while and then I started talking gibberish. I remember waking up in a tiny country hospital having no idea where I was.
As we got the ferry to Cumbrae every year, I’d never been on a plane until my family decided to go to some awful package destination in Majorca. In my mind, people who went abroad visited mythical lands where they wandered around in their underwear, turning lobster pink by the end of the first day. It rained every single day we were in Majorca. It was a bit of a disappointment to finally visit one of these mythical lands only to discover that the weather was better at home.
These days I don’t really see the point of holidays. I never quite know what you’re supposed to do. It changes a bit when you’ve got kids but I’m very happy staying at home and pottering around. I’m away so much for work that when I’ve got time off I just want to stay in London.”
“For me a holiday is about adventure. It certainly does not have to be luxurious to be magical. This year my partner [businessman Robie Uniacke] and I boycotted Christmas, hired a Winnebago and went on a pilgrimage to Joshua Tree, California, with his children and our two-year-old son. We’re country fans so we liked the idea of seeing where Gram Parsons’s body was cremated after his friends kidnapped it from LA airport.
We refused to check into a campsite so we had to make everything last. No one quite knew how to work the generator or how many showers we’d get before the hot water ran out. Christmas dinner was fried steak and egg sandwiches washed down with champagne. You end up treasuring memories that go against the grain like that, I think.
After I left university I went backpacking around Vietnam with two girlfriends. It was around the time The Beach came out, when every traveller was in search of a mythical beach. So we took a local fishing boat to an island we’d seen on the map to find our own piece of paradise. We were welcomed by a family who put us up in exchange for some dollars. Gradually it became clear that the locals had clubbed together to prevent us getting off the island until they’d extracted all our money. Not in an overtly aggressive way, but it was uncomfortable.
Eventually we had to get up very, very early, sneak out of the house and hope the boat – which came in once every couple of days – would be there. That evening we were eating dinner in Hanoi when suddenly there was this extraordinary footage on the TV: two planes flying into the World Trade Center. Nobody else paid any attention because it had happened two days previously. It was odd to think that the entire world was talking about it and we had completely missed it.”
My family has rented a cottage in Robin Hood’s Bay every summer since I was five. It’s like a 17th century Cornish fishing village that’s somehow found its way onto the North Yorkshire coast. Everything is built on a slope and there’s a honeycomb of little alleyways that connect the fishermen’s cottages. It’s a tiny bay with the most brilliant bucket and spade sand and rockpooling.
You do get lovely days but it’s usually your classic British summer holiday: wind-blown, rain lashing against the pub windows. Which suits me because I can’t stand sunbathing. The other great thing is there’s no phone signal. They’ve got internet but it’s terrible and long may it remain so.
My holidays abroad haven’t been incredibly successful. Alexander Armstrong and I once booked a honeymoon holiday by mistake. On our first evening it suddenly dawned on us that all the other couples in this hotel in the Maldives were newlyweds. We had many candlelit evenings and intimate trips on boats where we had garlands hung round our necks and drank cocktails for two.
The Maldives would be an incredible honeymoon destination but it’s not really the place for two 20-something sketch comedians. We enjoy one another’s company, but not that much. I remember we bought a box of 30 cigars at Heathrow airport and we’d smoked them all by day three just to avoid looking longingly into each other’s eyes.”
What We Did on Our Holiday is in cinemas from today