Where are the best places to visit in Britain?
Did you know we have fossils in our coastline, a volcano in the North, and a wealth of free museums in the capital? For natural wonders and cultural delights, these are the best things to do in Britain…
1. A volcano in Edinburgh
Scotland’s capital is home to some of Scotland’s loveliest sights, but one of the most unexpected is the ancient volcano that looms over Edinburgh. Arthur’s Seat rises above the city to 1,115ft, and it’s one of the best places from which to enjoy views of Edinburgh. Start in Holyrood Park in the city centre and hike to the summit; you don’t have to be a super-fit walker to be able to reach the top.
2. Kew’s Royal Botanic Gardens
It’s the largest Unesco World Heritage Site in London, yet it’s a world away from the bustle of the capital city. Marvel at the extraordinary plant life that thrives in the glasshouses, and get a lofty view of the gardens from the top of the Treetop Walkway. Spread across more than 320 acres, Kew Gardens offer one beautiful treat after another, including the vivid colours of the Great Broad Walk Borders.
3. Cornwall’s beaches
There’s something magical about Cornwall’s sea air. After a few hours on its wild beaches pocked by dusted with wind bown cliff-tops and icing-sugar white bays it’s easy to feel revived. There are plenty of quaint towns and dog-friendly pubs to keep you entertained, too.
4. The Scottish Highlands
As a general rule, the higher north you travel in Scotland, the more breath-taking the scenery gets. And, the best way to see it is by rail. The dramatic hills, glens, coastal paths and ancient castles of the Scottish Highlands offer rich pickings, with walks near Loch Shiel where you can see the superb Glenfinnian Viaduct (which Harry Potter fans will recognise) and Ben Nevis, the highest peak in the United Kingdom. There’s also sights like the Falkirk Wheel to factor in – and you can also keep your eyes peeled for any elusive movements in the water over at Loch Ness.
5. An elegant Roman city
Bath’s elegant Georgian architecture isn’t the city’s only draw – although it’s a pretty compelling one, especially when combined with all of the attractions for Jane Austen fans. The Roman Baths complex is a fascinating and well-preserved relic of a Roman public bath – and it’s still fed by a thermal spring. Although you can’t bathe in these baths, you can wallow in the warm waters of Thermae Bath Spa, which is in fabulous rooftop location.
6. The mystical Giant’s Causeway
Northern Ireland’s first and only Unesco World Heritage Site really does look as though it had been created by giants in some mythical ancient time. In reality, Giant’s Causeway came about after a volcanic eruption six million years ago that left about 40,000 short basalt pillars covering this part of the Antrim coast. It’s a truly astonishing sight, framed by crashing waves and the surrounding mountains, and forms part of the Causeway Coastal Route from Belfast.
7. Edinburgh’s Military Tattoo
The drama and theatre of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo is unrivalled – hence why it’s a sell-out every year. Sit ringside for one of the greatest shows of dance, music and precision-led performances along with a cast of pipers, drums and beyond, set in the world-famous Edinburgh Castle Esplanade.
8. London’s free museums
London has some of the finest museums in the world and – in contrast to many other cities – they’re all free to visit. Start with one of the UK’s best art galleries, the National Gallery, for some of the best-known Renaissance and Impressionist works. Carry on to Tate Britain for paintings by Constable and Gainsborough before heading towards Tower Bridge to see contemporary art at Tate Modern. The Museum Quarter in South Kensington is your next stop, with the Natural History Museum, Science Museum and the V&A clustering around each other.
9. Medieval York streets
Travel back to the Middle Ages when you walk along Shambles in York. Possibly the most picturesque street in the UK, this medieval lane used to be home to York’s butchers, but now it’s full of boutiques, food shops and inviting cafés. And while you’re in this delightful cathedral city home to York Minster, treat yourself to afternoon tea in the warm surroundings of Betty’s Tea Room in St Helen’s Square, just a few minutes’ walk away.
10. Lake Windermere
Have your own Swallows and Amazons adventure on a boat trip across England’s largest lake. The views from the boats that travel across Lake Windermere will have you enthralled, as you’ll be right in the heart of the Lake District. Sail past forested islands and see mountains rise up in the distance. Choose from a short journey or a whole day spent pootling about from one lakeside town to another, including Ambleside and Bowness. If you love it, try the Peak District for your next trip. It’s entirely different, yet equally as stunning.
11. The prehistoric Jurassic Coast
Good or bad weather, local or tourist, a visit in England has to include a visit to its beaches. Stretching for nearly 100 miles from Devon to Dorset, the Jurassic Coast combines a captivating coastal path with some of the most appealing towns in England. As you explore the millions of years of history and hunt for fossils, you can stop in pretty Seaton or historic Lyme Regis. Gawp at the natural wonder of Durdle Door, a natural arch that dips into the sea, and stroll along the shingle of Chesil Beach.
12. Coastal paths of Gower Peninsula
Back in 1956, the Gower Peninsula was designated the first Area of Outstanding Beauty in the UK. It’s easy to see why as you roam the awe inspiring national park’s speckled with limestone cliffs and sandy beaches. Jutting out eastwards from Swansea, the Gower is home to some of the UK’s most gorgeous beaches, including sweeping Rhossili Bay and pocket-sized Pwll Du. Start at the food-focused town of Mumbles and follow the Wales Coast Path for 19 enchanting miles.
13. Wales’ highest peaks
This narrow-gauge rack-and-pinion railway has been chugging up to the summit of Mount Snowdon since 1896, giving people heavenly views from the top of the highest peak in Wales. If it’s a clear day, you can see as far as Ireland. The train starts in Llanberis, and meanders through jaw-dropping scenery of rocky landscapes and lush valleys. If you like, you can take the train up to the top and hike your way back down.
14. The Outer Hebrides
Strung out in the Atlantic beyond Scotland’s western coast, the islands of the Outer Hebrides offer a taste of Scottish life at a mellow pace. Only 14 of the 116 islands are inhabited – including Lewis and Harris – and they’re linked either by causeways or ferries. Wander along endless empty beaches and follow the food trail of local producers of whisky and salmon. Take the CalMac ferry from Harris to Berneray to spot puffins, eagles and porpoises.