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From medieval castles in brooding mountains to elegant cities steeped in history, there are many inspiring places to visit in the UK. Here are the best destinations to reinvigorate your senses and explore this wonderful country.
From medieval towns with history seeping from wonky lanes to breathtaking scenery on spectacular coastlines, Britain is a land of rich rewards.
Forged by its island position off mainland Europe and shaped into diverse counties, Britain is abundant with spellbinding experiences, world-famous attractions cultural diversity, sublime scenery, and proper cups of tea.
Rebalance the soul in wild and remote landscapes; re-energise the spirit in pristine mountain-top lakes; reboot the mind in historic high-achieving cities.
We’ve explored a lot of this beautiful country. We’ve hiked stunning trails, tried the local ale, wandered cute villages, discovered the best weekend breaks, climbed mountains, swam rivers, drank tea, ate crisps, complained about the weather, queued, and discovered some of the most amazing places.
Here is our guide to the best places to visit in the UK.
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MAP / PLACES TO VISIT IN THE UK
Our favourite places to visit in the UK are spread around the country. To help you plan your next British getaway we’ve added them all to the below map. For more, peruse all our UK Guides.
1 – LAKE DISTRICT
The Lake District, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a national park in northwest England blessed with some of the finest scenery in the country including the highest fells and deepest lake.
Craggy mountains frame shimmering lakes connected by rivers that course through valleys. Dry stone walls bound fields dotted with sheep, busy maintaining a neat carpet of green. It’s one of the best places to visit to enjoy nature at its finest or get active in the great outdoors.
Hike Scafell Pike, England’s highest mountain, ghyll scramble up ravines, go mountain biking on exhilarating trails or wild swim in pristine lakes.
Inspired by the natural beauty of the Lake District, authors and poets such as Beatrix Potter and William Wordsworth have called this beautiful corner of England home. In more recent years, expert chefs have given the area more Michelin stars than any other.
MORE LAKE DISTRICT READING
2 – YORK
Starting as a Roman settlement with Viking legacies, York had a building boom during the medieval period filling cobbled lanes with handsome Georgian townhouses. This blend of architectural styles makes York one of the best places to visit for a cosy town with a rich history.
With more miles of intact defensive walls than any other, it’s a charismatic historic city and an interesting place to visit in the UK.
Within the walled fortifications, York Minster, one of the world’s famous cathedrals, stands imposing over the medieval town centre. The Shambles has become one of the most recognised historic streets in the country, thanks in no small part to Harry Potter.
3 – DURDLE DOOR
Durdle Door is the iconic image of the Jurassic Coast. Over time, waves have eroded most of the limestone leaving a glorious natural arch stranded in the sea. Surrounded by towering white cliffs it is one of the most photographed landmarks in the country and a magical place to visit in the UK.
The best of the views can be seen on a short walk along the undulating coastal path from Lulworth Cove. It passes crumpled rock formations, hidden bays and Man-O-War – a secluded stretch of sandy beach.
The limestone stacks of Old Harry Rocks are just east of Durdle Door; another highlight of this excellent stretch of coast.
MORE JURASSIC COAST READING
4 – THE COTSWOLDS
The Cotswolds is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the southwest of England. Famous for rolling countryside dotted with sheep and charming honey-hued villages, it’s one of the best places to visit in the UK for a slice of traditional picture-book England.
The quaint villages of Upper and Lower Slaughter are two of the most picturesque towns in the country, while Broadway has a thriving art scene, old-style tea rooms and quaint antique shops.
See the best of the Cotswolds on one of the great country walks in the area that connect tiny chocolate-box villages and pass through gorgeous bucolic countryside.
MORE COTSWOLDS READING
5 – ISLE OF SKYE
Nowhere in the UK is the scenery more dramatic or more varied than on the Isle of Skye. At its southern end, the Black Cuillins – a seething mass of razor-sharp black pinnacles separated by narrow ridges – is challenging hiking country. But the rewards are a landscape like no other.
To the north is the Trotternish Peninsula. Here the land has slipped away from its rocky supports to reveal strange geological shapes. The Old Man of Storr is an Instagram favourite with its pinnacle pointing skyward and the Quiraing is an other-worldly scene of twisted rocky formations. The whole area ends at dramatic cliffs where the Mealt Waterfall drop into the North Sea.
In between the scenic highlights of Skye, find the colourful town of Portree, the whisky distillery of Talisker, and a host of rustic pubs. You just need to keep your fingers crossed for some decent weather.
6 – PEMBROKESHIRE COAST
The Pembrokeshire Coast is an under-visited gem on the south coast of Wales where multi-coloured cliffs fall abruptly into the ocean and forgotten beaches are framed with golden arcs of powder-soft sand.
It’s a beautiful place to visit in the UK, a nature lover’s paradise, and home to several adventure-based activities including rock climbing, kayaking and snorkelling.
Coasteering was invented at the Blue Lagoon in Pembrokeshire where you jump from cliffs and scramble along the shoreline under the supervision of a guided instructor.
For less energetic endeavours, St David’s Cathedral, the colourful fishing village of Tenby or picturesque Pembroke Castle are all interesting landmarks in South Wales.
MORE PEMBROKESHIRE READING
7 – CAMBRIDGE
With its imposing late-Gothic architecture, cobbled streets and immaculate college greens overlooking the river, Cambridge is a beautiful city. As charming to the eye as it is to the camera.
The gorgeous buildings are best seen on a punting tour along the River Cam. Listen to past and present students entertain with tales of the university’s captivating history; arming you with more great things to do in Cambridge.
One of the most impressive colleges is St Johns, beautifully set across both sides of the river connected by the famous Bridge of Sighs.
For a memorable evening in one of the world’s most famous university towns, listen to evensong in the stunning King’s College Chapel. An initiative of King Henry VI, it has the largest fan-vaulted ceiling in the world.
8 – SNOWDONIA
Situated in the northwest of Wales, Snowdonia is a land of incredible rugged beauty. Craggy buttressed mountains, steep-sided pinnacles and pristine lakes provide the playground for stunning walks, wild swimming and adventure activities.
The highlight is Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales. There are several trails to reach the top, the best for first-timers is the Pyg Track, an easy-to-follow path that climbs steadily. The views from the summit overlook stunning landscapes and it’s easy to see why it’s such a popular place to visit in the UK.
Snowdonia is also home to several well-preserved defensive fortifications including Harlech Castle, Caernarfon Castle and Conway. Read more in our guide of things to do in Snowdonia.
9 – LONDON
As a collection of villages amalgamated without plan over the centuries, London is a capital city that still manages to hold a few secrets despite being the most popular place to visit in the UK.
It’s also a surprisingly accessible city. Contained within central London, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament are all easily walkable. Many of the world-class art galleries are completely free of charge.
A great way to spend a getaway in London is by visiting one of the local markets. Broadway Market in Hackney has food vans from various nationalities, Borough Market has the best artisanal produce and the Colombia Road Flower market buzzes with atmosphere on Sunday mornings.
Surrounded by green parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty there are also plenty of great walks from London that make the most of the beautiful countryside.
MORE LONDON READING
10 – WATERGATE BAY, CORNWALL
Watergate Bay is a beach on the north Cornwall coast and one of the best in England for surfing. Facing southwest towards the Atlantic rollers, the 2-mile stretch of golden sand provides excellent conditions for both beginners and the more experienced looking for outdoor adventures in the UK.
When evening arrives, it is one of the most beautiful places in the UK to watch glorious golden sunset.
Even if the surfing doesn’t entice, Watergate Bay is a great base for exploring other great things to do in Cornwall. Sandy Beaches protected by high cliffs, coastal trails framed with heather, wooded glens teeming with wild garlic and the remnants of Cornwall’s mining industry are all nearby.
MORE CORNWALL READING
11 – STONEHENGE
Archaeologists believe Stonehenge was built as a giant solar calendar with each of the 30 stones representing a day of the month and special stones marking the start of the week.
Extraordinarily, the design factors in leap years with five structures holding vertical stones representing a 5-day month required to synchronise the calendar.
Although it’s one of the most famous places to visit in England, the ingenuity of this 5,000-year-old structure leaves you in awe.
The most important day of the year at Stonehenge is the Summer Solstice, the only time of the year when it’s possible to walk among the stones and admire the symmetry with the summer sunrise.
12 – EDINBURGH
From the Fringe Festival to the historic royal streets, Edinburgh is an unmissable place to visit in the UK. In a town where the charm offensive is in overdrive, both the mediaeval old town and the neoclassical new town have UNESCO World Heritage classifications.
Edinburgh Castle, where Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to the future King James VI, contains historical remnants and sweeping views of the Edinburgh skyline. The Royal Mile connects the Castle with Holyrood House and contains several notable attractions including the Edinburgh Museum, St Giles’ Cathedral and the Scotch Whiskey Experience, where you can learn about the origins of Scotland’s favourite tipple.
Don’t miss Edinburgh’s Harry Potter locations including the Elephant House café where JK Rowling did some writing, West Bow Street which helped inspire Diagon Alley and Greyfriars Kirkyard where you might recognise some of the names on the tombs which became leading characters in the novels.
At the end of the day, head up to Calton Hill for a beautiful sunset view of the city.
13 – SEVEN SISTERS CLIFFS
The Seven Sisters Cliffs is an iconic stretch of coastline in southern England where glistening white cliffs form a chain of photographic undulating peaks. With a carpet of rolling green farmland on top and the ocean glistening below, it’s one of the most beautiful places to visit in the UK.
The popular walk along the top of the Seven Sisters Cliffs visits several stunning viewpoints including the Coast Guard Cottages at Cuckmere Haven, and the iconic Beachy Head lighthouse.
Our recommendation is to finish the walk in the village of East Dean where the traditional pub has a grassy beer garden for a post-walk pint.
For unspoiled coastal scenery beside rolling farmland, Seven Sisters Cliffs is an unmissable attraction in England.
14 – OXFORD
History, tradition and English grandeur combine in Oxford, a medieval city centre kept young by 25,000 university students. Stroll cobbled streets laced with golden-hued historic buildings and it will soon become apparent why this is one of the most appealing places to visit in the UK.
Throughout a day in Oxford, explore the beautiful architecture of Christ Church College, the inspiration for the dining halls in the Harry Potter films, and try out Oxford’s vibrant café and restaurant scene.
The surrounding countryside is also not to be missed. Blenheim Castle is only a short drive away and the tributaries of the River Thames offers some fantastic wild swimming opportunities just a few minutes’ walk from the centre of town.
15 – WYE VALLEY
The Wye Valley is one of the most underrated places in the UK. Located near the border of England and Wales, it’s a lush green valley with a central river that, in places, forms the haphazard border between the two countries.
With its strategic historical location, the Wye Valley has several atmospheric castles and ruined buildings set amongst the woodland setting. Chepstow Castle is the oldest surviving post-Roman fortification in Britain and Tintern Abbey is the remains of an engrossing religious building originally founded in 1131.
One of the best ways to experience the area is via canoe where you can try anything from gentle paddling past serene pebble beaches to more adventurous white-water rafting.
16 – DUNSTANBURGH CASTLE
Dunstanburgh Castle is one of the most evocative ruins in England. Perched on a remote east coast headland in Northumberland, it’s the ideal destination for history buffs. The daunting scale recalls the historic battles it served between England and Scotland and the famous War of the Roses between the Houses of York and Lancaster.
The most prominent section still standing today is the Great Gatehouse; a commanding focal point surrounded by gorse-clad pastures and working farmland.
The best views are from the short walk from the nearby coastal town of Craster, where the magnificent scale of the ruined building comes into focus past the local fishing boats bobbing in the bay.
MORE NORTHUMBERLAND READING
17 – HADRIANS WALL
Hadrian’s Wall in the north of England was built by the Romans around the year 122 as a defensive fortification to protect the northwest frontier of the empire.
The wall is 73 miles long and includes 158 turrets, 80 guard posts and 17 forts built to station the Roman soldiers sent to patrol the border.
It’s fascinating to witness what remains of this remarkable Roman construction, but it’s also set in beautiful scenery in northern England. The ruined wall and forts undulate across rolling hills, past glacial lakes, and over rocky crags.
The best section to visit is the 15 to 20 miles from Greenhead to Chesters, where you can enjoy excellent walking along the best-preserved section of the wall. All the details are in our guide to visiting Hadrian’s Wall.
18 – BATH
Blessed with one of the world’s best-preserved Roman bathhouses, Bath has been certified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. But it’s perhaps the handsome Georgian architecture that gives it the allure that makes it an unmissable place to visit in the UK.
Independent shops with an artisan bent and charming cobbled streets give Bath a unique energetic element. Try a Bath Bun (a milk-based sweet bun), enjoy a quality coffee, visit the stunning cathedral, Bath Abby, and inspect the beautiful Royal Crescent.
We’ve captured all our favourite things to do in Bath that showcase the different sides of this historic town.
19 – LLANTHONY PRIORY
Llanthony Priory, set in a remote steep-sided valley in the Black Mountains, was once one of the greatest medieval buildings in Wales. It was active as a monastery from 1118 until suppression in 1539 by King Henry VIII.
Today the priory is an evocative ruin set against the backdrop of the rugged Black Mountains. Rows of pointed archways still stand with other visible remnants of the blend of Norman and Gothic architectural styles, now resting on a blanket of green grass and often covered in mist from the valley.
Llanthony Priory is in an under-visited place in Wales, but you can read more about this mysterious location in our guide to the Wye Valley.
20 – CORFE CASTLE
Corfe Castle was one of the first royal palaces built after the Norman conquest over England in 1066. It was designed to be impressive, sitting atop a 55-metre hill, it peers over sweeping rural countryside and out to sea.
It was a key stronghold on the royalists’ side during the English Civil War but it was seized and destroyed by an act of Parliament in 1645. Since then, Corfe Castle has stood in dilapidated glory as one of the finest castle ruins in England.
The pretty village of Corfe, lying just outside the castle walls, is also worth exploring. The most stunning views are from up West Hill – a short steep climb northwest of town.
21 – YORKSHIRE DALES
There are few places to visit in the UK that capture the wild and dramatic side of the country quite like the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Vast windswept moorlands overlook a patchwork of green fields clinging to undulating valleys hiding stoic old-world villages.
It’s an epic landscape with geological features that make it a unique place to visit. The natural highlights include Malham Cove, a curved limestone amphitheatre with an underground river, and Swaledale, a rugged untouched landscape.
For a stunning setting straight out of a Jane Eyre novel, head to Bolton Abbey, one of the best things to do in the Yorkshire Dales.
22 – ST MICHAELS MOUNT, CORNWALL
Crowning a rocky island off the coast of the beautiful county of Cornwall, St Michael’s Mount is one of the best places to visit in the UK for photography opportunities.
It began life as a church and priory but over time it was converted into a castle. Viewed from the shore, the castle sitting on the tiny island is perfect for capturing sunrise shots.
At high tide, the island is cut off from the mainland, but at low tide, a causeway stretches from the village of Marazion to the castle. It’s well worth strolling over the causeway to explore the island and pay to enter the castle itself.
MORE CORNWALL GUIDES
23 – SCOTTISH HIGHLANDS
Covering the northern half of Scotland, the Scottish Highlands is a remote and wild must-visit place in the UK. Here the highest mountains in the country drop into deep glens (valleys) & lochs (lakes). There are a hold host of adventures to try, and you can get a taste for Scottish history and its world-famous whiskey.
The highlands cover such a large area its worth picking a couple to focus on. The NC 500 is a 7-day road trip that explores the northern section of the highlands winding its way around the coast from in a loop from Inverness to the far northwest and back again.
On route, the NC500 passes Assynt and Torridon. Formed from the oldest rock in the country they are a mix of ‘island mountains’ rising over a crinkly carpet of hillock and lakes and mighty sandstone mountains cut into giant steps.
Finally, the adventure playground of Lochaber includes Glencoe and Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the UK. Enjoy a host of activities including hiking, sailing, climbing, kayaking and mountain biking to keep you entertained, or simply drive along Glencoe and stare up at some of the most famous and photographed mountains in the country.
As London-based travel bloggers, we’re often exploring exotic destinations far from home, but there’s a wealth of great experiences to be had within the UK. Here are some of our favourite guides to our home country. For more see our Britain page.
HIKING & OUTDOORS
Best wild swimming locations in the Lake District
Best things to do in Pembrokeshire
Wild Swimming in the Thames
Our curated guide to Oxford
A wonderful day exploring St Ives
Best things to do in colourful Tenby
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