From idyllic countryside views and historic villages to majestic mountains and world-famous attractions, we share the best places to visit in the UK.
The UK has long been a popular European tourist destination, with over 40 million overseas visitors flocking to the islands in 2019 alone. And thanks to its manageable size and excellent transport system, you can easily travel from rugged heathland to dazzling beaches in a matter of hours.
But with so much to see and do, choosing where to visit can be a challenge. So to help narrow down your options, here are some of our favorite places to visit in the UK for those looking to enjoy all the country has to offer.
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The Cotswolds: postcard-perfect England
If a quintessential English country retreat is what you’re looking for, then it doesn’t get much better than this. The rolling hills and quaint villages of the Cotswolds are spread over six English counties, meaning there is plenty to explore. From stately homes and castles to acclaimed reserves and arboretums, this beautiful rural region offers stunning landscapes; not to mention an authentic flavor of England from times gone by.
The area is home to nearly 5,000 kilometers of footpaths and bridleways, including the famous 164-kilometer-long Cotswold Way walking trail. And wherever you venture, you’re sure to find a cozy pub that serves the finest ales on tap. The region’s charming honey-stone villages are also scattered with famous tearooms, delis, antique shops, and farmers’ markets; making them perfect for whiling away an afternoon. And while each village has its own distinct character, they all share the same timeless beauty that makes the Cotswolds one of the most beautiful places to visit in the UK.
Cornwall: a charming coastal retreat
Boasting more than 480 kilometers of coastline, Cornwall is one of the places to visit in the UK if you are looking to enjoy a seaside getaway. Located on England’s rugged southwestern tip, the picturesque county is home to wild moorland, fishing villages, and smugglers’ coves. It also features more than 300 beautiful beaches, of which the most famous is Fistral, in Newquay. This becomes a bustling surfer’s paradise during the summer months. Indeed, the rolling Atlantic swells make it one of the best places to visit in the UK if you want to catch a wave.
Away from the beach, the coastal town of St Ives is a great place to discover traditional and modern paintings and sculptures, including those on display at the Tate St Ives. Lined with slate-roofed fishermen’s cottages, the quaint cobbled streets of the town also make this one of the prettiest in Cornwall. Meanwhile, further north, the charming fishing port of Padstow has put the region on the foodie map thanks to celebrity chef, Rick Stein. His empire of internationally acclaimed seafood restaurants has attracted exciting new ventures from Michelin-star chef Paul Ainsworth, along with the introduction of new fishmongers-meets-seafood spots.
Yorkshire Dales: the darling of the North
Home to valleys and moors, and rivers and streams, the Yorkshire Dales National Park is a great place to visit in the UK if you enjoy the great outdoors. The Dales, as they are frequently known, offer an incredibly diverse landscape that is perfect for adrenaline junkies looking to go caving, rock climbing, and abseiling down waterfalls. Guided walks, meanwhile, offer visitors a more leisurely way to enjoy the scenery. If you are looking for something more challenging, though, you can always take on the iconic Three Peaks Challenge. Covering more than 36 kilometers, this arduous route encompasses the peaks of Pen-y-Ghent, Whernside, and Ingleborough, and offers breathtaking views.
However, the best way to explore the Dales is on two wheels. During your ride, you can explore the picturesque villages of Burnsall and Malham, or sample some delicious cheese at Wensleydale Creamery. History buffs should also hop off at some of the region’s numerous historical sites. This includes the 14th century Bolton Castle and the Fountains Abbey; one of the largest ruined Cistercian monasteries in England. And, with some of the UK’s darkest skies on display above, stargazing is an absolute must. If you time it right, you may even see the Northern Lights!
Skye: isle of rugged beauty
Overflowing with glorious scenery, the Scottish island of Skye is one of the most enchanting places to visit in the UK. Among its many iconic natural attractions are the soaring Cuillin Hills and the impressive Old Man of Storr; one of the most photographed landscapes in the world. Skye is also a world-class destination for walking and climbing. Indeed, there are a number of climbs for those who are up for the challenge. For the ultimate Skye experience, however, make sure to tackle the spectacular Trotternish Circuit; an 80-kilometer-long loop around the island. This route connects several attractions while offering stunning views of rugged Skye and beyond.
Away from the hiking, Skye is also home to a plethora of historic sites. Visitors can journey back into the past and learn about clan warfare, Bonnie Prince Charlie, the Highland Clearances. Wildlife enthusiasts are also in for a real treat, as the island is one of the best places to witness the white-tailed Sea Eagle, Britain’s largest bird of prey. And that’s not all. They will also have the opportunity to spot otters, seals, whales, dolphins, and more impressive creatures on and around the island. The Skye really is the limit!
Devon: the jewel of the South West
Famous for its spectacular coastline, gorgeous beaches, and the world-famous Devonshire Cream Tea, Devon is the jewel of the South West. From the pretty Mediterranean-like beaches of Salcombe and beautiful white cliffs of Lyme Bay to Dartmoor National Park, one of the last great wildernesses in the UK, nature lovers will be truly in their element in this scenic county. Off the coast, you’ll find Lundy Island, dubbed by some as ‘Britain’s Galapagos’. Stay a few nights on this rustic outcrop and you’re sure to spot seals, seabirds, puffins, and basking sharks.
Back on the mainland, thrill-seekers will be spoilt for choice in Devon. Throughout the county, you’ll find a host of outdoor activities including climbing, whitewater rafting, horse riding, and various others that are sure to challenge and excite you. But many who love Devon do so because of the gentile delights of its many historic seaside villages. Here, you can follow a day on the beach with a laid-back cream tea (cream first, of course), a dinner of fish and chips, or maybe a homemade ice cream while you wander along the seafront. English summer at its finest.
Causeway Coast: the 8th Wonder of the World
On the north coast of Northern Ireland, the otherworldly Causeway Coast is home to the spectacular Giant’s Causeway. This UNESCO World Heritage site is home to 40,000 interlocking hexagonal basalt rocks that stretch along the coastline. These were formed by volcanic action around six million years ago, but today form one of Northern Ireland’s most famous tourist attractions. You can explore the history of this natural wonder at the visitor’s center. However, you may want to take some waterproofs with you as it can get pretty wet and windy up there!
However, the excitement doesn’t end there. With tales of feuds, romances, ghosts, and more, this corner of the UK is steeped in rich history. For a regal look into the past, the clifftop ruins of Dunluce Castle are a must-visit if you’re a fan of Irish history. But if Game of Thrones is more your thing, you’ll no doubt revel in the sight of the stunning backdrop behind them; including the famous Dark Hedges. And, of course, you can’t visit the Emerald Isle without sampling some Irish Whiskey. And you won’t find an older distillery than Old Bushmills; the perfect spot to sample the liquid gold on the Causeway Coast.
The Lake District: a literary escape
The mountainous Lake District is England’s largest National Park, making it one of the best places to visit in the UK if you truly want to escape to nature. Home to Scafell Pike, England’s highest mountain, and Wastwater, its deepest lake, it’s easy to see why this UNESCO World Heritage Site has inspired so many great writers over the years. Indeed, both William Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter called the region home. Featuring rugged moors, glacial ribbon lakes, and rolling green valleys, the area offers plenty of outdoor pursuits, too. From canoeing and lake cruises to cycling and mountaineering, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
In the picturesque village of Grasmere, be sure to sample the famous gingerbread, which is made from a 160-year-old recipe. Brockhole, on the other hand, is a must-visit for families. Whether your little ones want to go kayaking, try archery, or explore the enchanted Woodland Faerie Trail, there is plenty to spark their imaginations. All the while, visitors can enjoy the finest views of the world-famous Lake Windermere. But whatever you do and wherever you go, there will always be a cozy cafe or pub just waiting to welcome you inside, come rain or shine.