London hosts some of the world’s most iconic tourist attractions. Sights such as Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and those men in funny-looking hats often spring to mind when thinking of booking a holiday to the UK.
However, there is another side to the UK that lies beyond London and is waiting to be discovered by those willing to get off the beaten track. With rugged coastlines, spectacular national parks, alternative city breaks and much more, this list includes something for everyone. These hidden gems are for all those looking to experience a side of the UK less seen by travellers!
1. Tintagel Castle & St Nectan’s Glen, Cornwall
This list begins in Cornwall, an area of outstanding natural beauty which hosts some of Britain’s most dramatic coastline. Tintagel Castle stands out for the myth and mystery surrounding the site, said to be the birth place of Britain’s legendary King Arthur and home to Merlin’s cave, which lies underneath the main castle. You can also find a lesser known, but equally stunning, St Nectan’s Glen too.
Credit: Reading Tom on Flickr
Situated in a picturesque wooded valley, the glen has been cut by water and erosion for the past, who knows how many, millennia. It is seen as a sacred site by many due to its association with the 6th Century Saint Nectan, who had an ancient house there much like the one that Hagrid had in Harry Potter!
Credit: Ant Barrett on Flickr
2. Portmeirion, Wales
A town that looks as though it’s come straight out of a fairy tale, Portmeirion has long been on my bucket list. The town is a living piece of art with beautiful coloured buildings, iconic architecture, scenic surroundings and vast woodland gardens. Another port town and one that was built to stand out, supposedly hoping to mimic coastal towns found on the Italian coast.
Credit: rayand on Flickr
While you might not get the Italian food or weather, Portmeirion is still a wonderfully bizarre place to spend a couple of nights, I hope to see you there!
Credit: Simon Ingram on Flickr
3. Hebden Bridge and Hardcastle Crags
Situated between the better known Northern cities of Manchester and Leeds, is a small town called Hebden Bridge.
Credit: Andrew H on Flickr
This vibrant town, is known for its artistic community, reflected in the cafés and galleries that line its cobbled streets. It is also surrounded by stunning woods, such as Hardcastle Crags, where locals walk to see the bluebells come out in the spring. Fun fact: bluebells were made famous by Peter Pan!
[ P.S. Travelling during peak season? Here’s 10 Essential Travel Safety Tips You Need To Know! ]
4. The Lake District, Lancashire
This lake district is the one of the two national parks on this list. With 12 of England’s largest lakes and its highest mountain close by, this is an area of outstanding natural beauty, reflected by the fact that it was recently named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Though well known to much of the British public, the lake district has countless towns, walking routes and lakes which can appeal to every type of traveller. From those simply looking to have a fun-filled family holiday in the water, to the lonesome explorer looking to get off the beaten track, the Lake District has something for everyone.
Credit: Alejandro Roman Gonzalez on Flickr
5. The Jurassic Coast, Dorset
The Jurassic Coast is England’s first natural UNESCO World Heritage Site and ranks among the Great Barrier Reef and the Grand Canyon as one of the wonders of the natural world.
Apart from enjoying its spectacular landscape, the Jurassic Coast, as the name implies, is a real life Jurassic Park and a famous site for hunting prehistoric remains!
Credit: Chris Parker on Flickr
6. Take in the sights of Yorkshire Dales on-board the Settle-Carlisle Railway
The Yorkshire Dales is the second national park featured on this list and is also the area in which I was brought up. For those with the energy, the three-peak challenge allows you to see some of the Dales most stunning views by walking the highest hills in the area which totals a 24-miles long walk and includes 5,200ft (1,585m) of ascent.
Credit: Alan on Flickr
For the rest of us, I’d recommend taking the Settle-Carlisle railway shown below, where you get the same views without the sore feet. Buy a cup of tea when you get on the train and enjoy Yorkshire’s stunning views as they pass you by.
Credit: Mike Green on Flickr
7. The Brecon Beacons, Wales
The final national park featured on this list is the Brecon Beacons. Having worked and travelled through this part of Wales, it truly is one of the most inspiring parts of the UK.
Credit: M!G Photography on Flickr
With similarly dramatic landscapes to the Yorkshire Dales and The Lake District, and with superb walking, mountain biking and horse riding trails, caves and forests there is plenty to keep you busy during your stay!
8. Abdullah Quilliam Mosque, England’s first mosque
The city of Liverpool is best known for cultural icons such as The Beatles or Liverpool FC. However, the city is also a historic site for British Islam, being the home of one of the UK’s most influential reverts, Abdullah Quilliam, Britain’s first and last “Sheik-ul Islam of the British Isles.
Credit: Terry Kearney on Flickr
Abdullah Quilliam built the UK’s first functioning mosque which is unknown to even most locals. The mosque had been derelict for over a century, however thanks to a growing interest into the life of Abdullah Quilliam it has recently been renovated and is now open to the public. For British Muslims this is a truly historic site and one that won’t be found in many guidebooks!
Credit: İngiltere Newcastle Fikr-i Asım Fikir ve Düşünce Derneği on Facebook
[ P.S. Check out these 15 Breathtaking Mosques Around The World That Prove Islam Embraces All Cultures! ]
9. The Shell Grotto, Margate
The Shell Grotto is one of the UK’s most mysterious places. Discovered in 1835, nobody knows who created it, when, or why. The site itself is a series of underground rooms and passageways covered by 2000 sq ft of exquisite mosaic created with 4.6 million shells.
Credit: Kotomi_ on Flickr
It is an attraction tucked away in the coastal town of Margate that you would be unlikely to spot if you weren’t aware of it.
Credit: Andrew H on Flickr
10. Polzeath, North Cornwall
The second Cornish location on our list is one close to my own heart. Polzeath is a coastal town known primarily for its surfing, however, just a short walk away from the beach lies some stunning locations such as the rumps shown below.
Credit: Ruth on Flickr
Polzeath and the surrounding areas have much to offer families, with numerous beaches and iconic fishing villages such as Padstow and Port Isaac nearby, there’s plenty to keep you busy in the area! It is also my hometown and you’d be welcome to stop by for a cup of tea if you happen to swing by 😊
Credit: sketchybear77 on Flickr
The only city to make this list is Bristol, which comes highly recommended as an alternative city break to London. A vibrant town known for it’s quirky and artistic locals, Bristol is fast becoming one of the most popular cities in the UK especially for younger people.
It is a great place to visit for families, with numerous museums and tourist attractions suited to children. The city itself is full of interesting and unique sights, the best advice I could give is to just take an afternoon to walk through the streets and see what odd and wonderful things the city has to offer.
This list offers just a small glimpse into the hidden treasures that the United Kingdom has to offer outside of London. This is just a drop in the ocean of hidden places waiting to be discovered, we hope and pray that you’ll be given many opportunities to explore this green and pleasant land. Happy travelling!