Ten best places to visit in the UK
Britain has something for everybody, from mountain ranges to Michelin-star restaurants
The UK is the sixth most popular tourist destination in the world, attracting over 40 million visitors a year.
It may not have the best weather or flashiest food, but it has some of the most remarkable natural beauty on the planet, and an endless collection of historic sites.
And for those of us lucky enough to call it home, there has never been a better time to swap an overseas visit for a domestic getaway.
So grab some Great British Pounds before they lose their value, and enjoy what the UK has to offer.
Bath is one of the UK’s standout cities, offering a taste of true history and some of the most impressive and iconic architecture the country has to offer.
One of its main attractions is the Roman baths, the well-preserved thermal spa used by the people of Bath - then “Aquae Sulis” - in Roman times.
The city itself is a Unesco World Heritage Site, an honour it shares with the Great Barrier Reef and the Galapagos Islands.
The “beautiful surroundings attract creative types and there is a wealth of independent shops, markets and eateries”, says The Telegraph.
And The Guardian calls Bath “a style statement to the rest of the nation... Bath, so cool in many ways, has something volcanic about it.”
Cornwall is home to the UK’s wildest coastline and some of its most beautiful beaches. It is a mixture of the rugged and the refined, boasting everything from choppy seas perfect for surfing, to restaurants, galleries and coastal walks with stunning views.
The harbour town of St Ives is one of Cornwall’s best and most famous places to visit. On top of boats and beaches, it has plenty of excellent restaurants worth a visit after a trip to Tate St Ives, a modern art collection by the sea.
On the opposite coast, Trebah Garden “has the appearance of a Himalayan cloud forest transported to Cornwall”, says The Telegraph. “Camellias, magnolias, azaleas and hydrangeas flood the 25-acre garden with colour”, at the end of which sits a perfect, secluded beach only accessible to visitors of the gardens.
Best of all, Cornwall is the birthplace of the Cornish pasty. What more could you want?
The Isle of Skye is where you will find Scotland’s most iconic landscapes alongside picturesque fishing villages and medieval castles.
There is breathtaking scenery everywhere you look. The Times refers to its “gobsmacking beauty”, adding “Skye has suddenly become sexy”.
It’s also great for fans of wildlife. Otters, seals, whales, dolphins and red deer can all be seen, and bird watchers may be able to spot the White Tailed Sea Eagle.
Skye’s history can be traced through millennia-old Pictish towers, clans and castles - including Dunvegan Castle, the oldest inhabited castle in Scotland, plus historic churches and abandoned villages.
Going further back, would-be palaeontologists can spot dinosaur footprints on the shore at Staffin, and see a host of fossils from Skye at the nearby Dinosaur Museum.
The natural serenity of the Peak District offers a pleasant contrast to the industrial bustle of the surrounding cities of Manchester, Stoke-on-Trent, Derby and Sheffield.
The Peak District National Park covers 555 square miles of natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage. There is an extensive network of public footpaths and cycle trails for a range of abilities, plus opportunities for rock climbing and caving for the more adventurous.
Booking a hotel in one of the Peak District’s charming towns and villages gives visitors the opportunity to extend their trip if camping doesn’t appeal. Hope Valley, High Peak and the Hayloft are all recommended as bases for further exploration.
No visit to the UK is complete without seeing its famous capital.
London has something for everyone and truly does cater for every taste, budget and individual. As the writer Samuel Johnson said, and many social influencers have repeated, “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”
It has some of the world’s best and most famous hotels: The Savoy, The Ritz, The Dorchester, The Langham, The Connaught, The Lanesborough, The Goring and Claridge’s can all be found in London.
And for the quintessentially English experience, indulge your sweet tooth with the traditional treat of afternoon tea.
Historical attractions sit moments away from modern bars, shops and clubs, while the public transport system will get you around the city easily and quickly - though the best way to see London is definitely by foot.
Home to the best university in the country, Cambridge is the perfect location for a day trip.
The Backs - an area of Cambridge city centre - is where many of the oldest and most impressive university colleges back onto the River Cam, and is a perfect place to take in some of the city’s stunning sights.
Punting tours run regularly down the Cam, and brave visitors can even opt to hire a punt unsupervised and have a go themselves - watching tourists fall in is a favourite past-time of students.
There’s plenty of indoor activities too. The Fitzwilliam Museum is full of remarkable art and objects from the ancient world, and it is free to visit. There are plenty of pubs, restaurants and hotels worth your time - not least the University Arms, a former coaching-inn turned luxury hotel.
Most university colleges will allow entry for a reasonable price, and if you happen to be a guest of a student or alumnus, you get in for free.
Edinburgh is steeped in history, most notably the skyline-dominating Edinburgh Castle, and the Queen’s official Scottish residence, Holyrood Palace.
For a cultural coffee, visit The Elephant House cafe, the so-called “birthplace of Harry Potter”. JK Rowling wrote much of the early Potter canon in the eatery, which now features a wall of photographs of the author writing longhand in cosy corners.
If you do venture in, then “a visit isn't complete without a trip to the restrooms. The white walls are covered in Harry Potter-themed graffiti - everything from raunchy HP jokes to heartfelt odes to Rowling”, says CNN.
By the time Rowling was finishing the last Potter book, she was approaching billionaire status and holed-up in the iconic Balmoral Hotel, adjacent to Edinburgh Waverley Station. The nearby - and equally luxurious - Kimpton Charlotte Square Hotel offers a boutique feel with all the mod cons of a high-end chain.
InterContinental's Edinburgh The George hotel captures the history and charm of the city, and is housed in a listed building near Edinburgh Castle and the Scott Monument.
There are plenty of places to eat and drink in the Scottish capital, and nearly half of Scotland’s Michelin-star restaurants can be found in the city.
Holyrood Park - a short walk from Edinburgh’s impressive Royal Mile - is a 640 acre Royal Park that is home to Arthur’s Seat, a dormant volcano that gives excellent views and is accessible thanks to a gentle incline.
And once in Edinburgh, visiting the Scottish Borders is simple. An hour way from the city is the historic SCHLOSS Roxburghe, a country house hotel with golf club and myriad outdoor activities.
Even Cambridge students would admit that Oxford is among the top two universities in the country.
And the city is certainly among the best. Like the home of its East Anglian academic rival, Oxford boasts some of the most impressive and aesthetic buildings in the country.
“Its rival Cambridge may win on wide open green spaces, but Oxford has imposing spires and picture-postcard cobbles that few cities can match,” says Time Out.
It draws visitors from around the world eager to get a look at the halls and towers that inspired Harry Potter’s Hogwarts.
The cobbled Radcliffe Square is well worth a visit, says The Telegraph. It sits at “the heart of the university, formed by a trio of great architectural gems: the medieval University Church of St Mary the Virgin, the 15th-century Bodleian Library and the Palladian-style Radcliffe Camera”.
But Oxford is far more than just its academic institutions. It has all the things you would want from a city break: museums, charming pubs, top hotels and even a few Michelin-star restaurants. Raymond Blanc’s world famous Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons is a stone’s throw away in the Oxfordshire countryside.
Sitting at the base of volcanic cliffs on the Northern Irish coast, Giant’s Causeway boasts a unique and dramatic landscape, and is considered one of the world’s most impressive natural phenomena.
Around 40,000 huge black basalt columns stick out of the sea thanks to a volcanic eruption that happened 60 million years ago.
The Causeway received a boost in visitor numbers after the coast was used as a backdrop for numerous Game of Thrones scenes set on House Greyjoy’s Iron Islands. “The shoreline can feel part madness, part alien world – thousands of interlocking basalt columns, unmoved by wave after crashing wave,” says The Guardian.
For the most spectacular views, visitors can hire a helicopter and enjoy the 40,000 interlocked basalt columns from above, before taking in the nearby sites of Rathlin Island and Binevenagh's cliffs.
Shrewsbury is the county town of Shropshire, which despite being a well-kept secret in much of the UK, welcomes 15 million visitors a year.
The idyllic town sits on the Severn, the country’s longest river. Its preserved medieval streets boast 660 listed buildings, including timber framed structures from the 15th and 16th centuries. Shrewsbury Castle and Abbey date back to 1074 and 1083 respectively and welcome visitors.
Shrewsbury also acts as a hub from which visitors can venture out to Shropshire’s other standout sites.
Nearby Ironbridge is the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution and was one of the first World Heritage Sites to be designated in the country, while Much Wenlock is home to the Wenlock Olympian Games, the forerunner to the modern Olympics.
The Shropshire hills are classed as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and envelope small towns such as Church Stretton, dubbed “Little Switzerland” because of its exceptional landscape.
Snowdonia National Park
Snowdonia is the highest mountain in Wales and perfect for everything from gentle walks to lengthy treks and high-octane adventures.
Those in need of a thrill after the calming influence of the Snowdonia landscapes can have a go at the world’s fastest zip wire at Zip World.
There’s also great opportunities for coasteering, the mountaineering-cum-swimming that involves participants swimming and scrambling up and around coastline rocks - and occasionally leaping off into the water.
Mountain biking, abseiling, canoeing, climbing and canyoning are also all on offer, as well as fishing, horseback riding, golf and sailing.
“It's the perfect location for five star accommodation, grand country house hotels, small cosy rural Inns, self catering cottages, bed and breakfasts, caravan parks, bunkhouses, hostels of all kinds, glamping sites and much more,” says Visit Snowdonia.
A general rule of thumb is, if you can do it outside, you can do it at Snowdonia.