Britain is renowned for its lush green countryside, rolling hills, and eclectic coastline, as well as an abundance of historical sites, splendid architecture and areas of cultural importance. For those planning to visit the UK, there are plenty of must-visit attractions to suit every taste, so what will you discover next? Here’s a breakdown of what to see, divided up by cities and regions…
A mega-city with a wealth of different attractions, London has something to offer everyone. Delve into one thousand years of history at the Tower of London, learn the legend of the ravens and gaze upon the splendour of the Crown Jewels. Surround yourself with rare and exotic plants at Kew Gardens, look out over the capital from one of the London Eye’s pods or take in one of the many free museums and galleries. Particular stand-outs include the Natural History Museum, the leading art and design collections at the V&A, the ingenious exhibitions of the Science Museum and the remarkable tales of heroism at the Imperial War Museum. If art is more your thing, the National Gallery, Tate Modern and the Saatchi Gallery have an abundance of quality permanent and temporary exhibitions.
The Lake District
A picture book of greenery and untouched landscapes, the Lake District offers unforgettable scenery. Cruise across Lake Windermere, taking in the region’s beauty in the process, or visit the Honister Slate Mine to try the via Ferrata rock wall or to ride a 1km long zip wire across the mine – set to open very soon! Literary lovers can explore the area’s strong connections with Beatrix Potter, while hikers can try their luck at conquering the heights of Scafell Pike, England’s tallest mountain.
Bristol, Bath and the Cotswolds
Bristol has a rich artistic heritage, as the birthplace of Banksy among many others, with street art adorning many of its buildings. Discover its creativity with a walking tour or visit during UpFest – Europe’s largest street art and graffiti festival – to see artists at work. The Bristol International Balloon Fiesta welcomes hot air balloons from all over the world in the summer, while you can easily get lost among the spectacular Georgian architecture in the UNESCO World Heritage city of Bath. It’s just one of a number of sights to be wowed by in the region. The city’s Roman baths date back to around 70AD, while the chocolate-box villages and narrow lanes of the Cotswolds continually spark the imagination.
The Royal town on the banks of the River Thames is home to the world’s largest, and oldest, inhabited castle. Often a residence for the Queen, St George’s Chapel is one highlight, while popular theme park LEGOLAND Windsor is on the outskirts of the Berkshire town.
With more coastline than any other English county, the Kent seaside offers spectacular views and ample opportunities to relax. The White Cliffs of Dover and Botany Bay are just two examples of the power of the natural world, while Leeds Castle, which celebrated its 900th anniversary in 2019, serves as a reminder of splendid medieval engineering. The Garden of England is also renowned for its wineries, many of which produce award-winning produce.
A UNESCO World Heritage-listed stretch of coastline that runs along 95 miles of the south coast between Devon and Dorset, the Jurassic Coast details 185 million years of history! Discover striking rock formations including the limestone arch at Durdle Door, or relax amid the scenic beauty of Lulworth Cove or within the confines of the New Forest where wild ponies and other wildlife wander freely.
Midlands and the Peak District
Britain’s ten National Parks showcase the natural world at its very best and the Peak District in the centre of England is no exception. Its moorlands and outdoor spaces are a haven for wildlife lovers and adventure-junkies, while the Derwent Valley Mills is a World Heritage Site containing a number of iconic landmarks that help to drive industry at the turn of the 19th century. Indeed, the world’s first factory can be found in the region, and it’s currently being transformed into the Museum of Making, set to tell the story of manufacturing when it opens in 2020. A number of monuments and stately homes can be found dotted across the region too, including Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of Winston Churchill and Chatsworth House in Derbyshire. Delve into history at Warwick Castle, which dates back to the time of William the Conqueror, or hunt for thrills on the rollercoasters at Alton Towers in Staffordshire.
A city with a rich industrial heritage, much of Manchester’s architecture serves as a reminder of its pivotal role in the Industrial Revolution. Find out more about the history at the Science and Industry, or learn more about the beautiful game at the National Football Museum. The Lowry, named after the renowned British painter, hosts exhibitions and shows throughout the year, while Manchester Art Gallery houses one of the largest art collections outside of London. Be watchful for the opening of RHS Bridgewater in 2020 too – the ground-breaking project to transform a historic space in Salford is set to feature a wellbeing garden, as well as a host of other trees and plant life.
From the splendid architecture of Liverpool’s UNESCO Heritage-listed waterfront to reminders of its eclectic music scene – after all the city has the world the Beatles – Merseyside has plenty to keep people entertained. Uncover the Beatles story in the heart of the historic Albert Dock or enjoy an immersive experience in the city’s symbolic Liver Building, before taking in panoramic views from 15 stories up. Chester Zoo is around an hour away too, home to more than 20,000 animals, including some of the most endangered species on the planet.
From the wild expanses of Northumberland National Park to the region’s rich coastline, northern England has numerous attractions to offer. The imposing walls of Bamburgh Castle stand proudly overlooking the coast, while visitors can walk the length of Hadrian’s Wall, a set of remains that once crowned the very top of the Roman Empire. If the tidies low, follow the sticks in the sand to discover the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, following in the footsteps of pilgrims from days of old.
Cornwall and Devon
For a tranquil countryside escape, head to Cornwall or Devon in the southwest of the country. With miles of rugged coastline and sandy beaches, the region is also home to the staggering biomes of the Eden Project, the mysteries of Tintagel Castle and the Minack Theatre, an open-air acting space carved into a granite cliff! Uncover more secrets within the Lost Gardens of Heligan and explore old smuggling routes on the South West Coast Path.
A city set in the shadow of its imposing castle, which also houses Scotland’s National War Museum and National War Memorial, there’s plenty in Edinburgh to explore. Try a dram of the nation’s famous drink at the Scotch Whisky Experience, be immersed in history at the opposite end of the Royal Mile at the Queen’s official residence, the Palace of Holyroodhouse, or climb Calton Hill or Arthur’s Seat for spectacular views of the city if you’re feeling particularly athletic.
Take in a performance at the National Theatre in Glasgow before discovering architect Zaha Hadid’s Riverside Museum on the banks of the River Clyde, an award-winning tale of the history of transport. The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum delves into the art and natural history of Scotland, giving visitors a chance to immerse themselves in the country’s culture and heritage.
National Parks and driving routes
Scotland’s rugged landscapes are best explored via a number of walking and driving routes. Loch Ness 360 weaves its way around the banks of the famous loch – remember to keep your eyes peeled for Nessie – while the North Coast 500 offers a means of discovering some of Scotland’s finest countryside and wildlife, as well as the many castles and historic homes that are dotted across the landscape. Alternatively, hikers may wish to explore the Pilgrim Way, a route through the Fife countryside that tracks an old historical route. Both Loch Lomond and the Trossachs and the Cairngorms National Park provide ample opportunities to discover nature – although you’ll want to have plenty of time to explore.
The Welsh capital Cardiff has an array of historical sites and architecture to explore, as well as activities for people of all ages. Those with an active streak should visit Cardiff International White Water Centre to try their hand at numerous waterspouts, while those looking for a dose of culture should seek out a show at the Wales Millennium Centre or the country’s National Theatre. Just outside Cardiff is the St Fagans National Museum of History, an open-air complex showcasing historic buildings relocated from across Wales, while the Rhondda Heritage Park at the site of the Lewis Merthyr Colliery hosts the Welsh Mining Experience – detailing processes that helped to shape the country’s history. Further to the west lies the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, another area of striking beauty with golden sandy beaches, striking cliffs and miles of walking routes.
The rugged wilderness of Snowdonia, containing the peak Mount Snowdon, dominates much of North Wales, offering a diverse range of landscapes and activities. Try out surfing against the spectacular backdrop at Adventure Parc Snowdonia, or visit Zip World to try out Velocity 2 – a zip wire stretching over Penrhyn quarry where it’s possible to hit speeds of 100mph! Anglesey, linked to the mainland by the Menai Suspension Bridge, offers a chance to see rare puffins and guillemots and is home to Beaumaris Castle – one of four huge military structures in the region that forms a UNESCO World Heritage Centre, alongside castles at Caernarfon, Harlech and Conwy. Llandudno, with its funicular tramway and Victorian seaside, is another must-visit if in the region.
A number of Northern Ireland’s must-visit locations can be found on its rugged coastline, including the mystical hexagonal landscape of Giant’s Causeway, a set of basalt columns caused by volcanic fissure thousands of years ago. Another popular destination is the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge near Ballintoy, part of a stunning coastal hiking trail that also passes the clifftop ruins of Dunluce Castle, perched on a rocky outcrop on the country’s north coast. Eagled eyed viewers will recognise the ruins from hit TV show Game of Thrones, and it’s one of many filming locations in Northern Ireland, in addition to Dark Hedges and Castle Ward. The Ulster Museum is a treasure house of art and culture, while also exploring Ireland’s turbulent history. The Titanic Museum in Belfast sits in the middle of the city’s Titanic Quarter, having opened in 2012, a century after the ship’s sinking. Found on the site of the former Harland and Wolff shipyard, the striking building is almost as spectacular as the harrowing tale told within.