Now has never been a better time to get to know your own backyard. Our guide to the best places to visit in the UK takes you from the sweeping ancient landscapes of the New Forest, all the way north to Hadrian’s Wall and beyond. Then a hop across the North Channel to the dramatic coastlines of Northern Ireland. Visit these places for your fill of great food, culture, and unforgettable views. We’ve also recommended one or more places to stay for each destination if you plan on staying overnight.
Best places to visit in the UK:
- St. Ives, Cornwall, England
- Snowdonia National Park, Wales
- Happisburgh, North Norfolk, England
- Isle of Skye, Scotland
- New Forest, England
- West Sands Beach, St. Andrews, Scotland
- Peak District, Derbyshire, England
- Northumberland National Park, England
- Causeway Coast, Northern Ireland
- River Tay, Perth, Scotland
- St. Abb’s Head, Scotland
1. St. Ives, Cornwall, England
The whole of Cornwall is well worth a visit, but the jewel in the crown of this stunning coastal region is St. Ives, the small seaside town brimming with great food and beautiful beaches. Art lovers and culture vultures will want to head straight over to Tate St. Ives, the Southerly outpost of the Tate museum group. You’ve probably heard of the Tate Modern, London’s most visited museum in 2019. Don’t leave St. Ive’s without visiting the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, where the queen of British modernist sculpture lived and worked. Also, the local surfing culture will have you reaching for a board in no time.
Where to stay in St. Ives:
St. Ives has many good options when it comes to accommodation including The Western, close to the centre of town, and Tate St. Ives. For something a little further out of town but more boutique, try Storm in a teacup.
2. Snowdonia National Park, Wales
Outside the Scottish Highlands, Mount Snowdon, after which Snowdonia National Park is named, is the highest mountain in the British Isles. Climbing the mountain (there’s also a 100-year-old railway that takes you most of the way up) is the main reason people visit Snowdonia. But adrenaline seekers won’t want to miss the National White Water centre for kayaking, and Elidir Mountain is home to one of the world’s largest man-made caverns.
Where to stay in Snowdonia:
Just north of Snowdonia National Park, Lux Apartment is a lovely self-catering option not far from the Menai Strait. Moel View is actually located right in the centre of the national park and nature lovers will appreciate its rustic cottage aesthetic.
3. Happisburgh, North Norfolk, England
Happisburgh is most famous for its iconic red and white striped lighthouse, the oldest working light in the UK. But there’s so much more to discover in this often-overlooked region. The North Norfolk coastline is one of the oldest in the UK, home to fossils and artifacts dating back as far as 850,000 years ago including wooly mammoth bones, earning it the moniker The Deep History Coast. To come face to face with fossils this old you’d have to visit the region surrounding Johannesburg, South Africa, also known as the cradle of humankind. This area of outstanding natural beauty is perfect for those who want to mix culture with coastal trails and dog-friendly beaches.
Where to stay near Happisbugh:
Not only is The Keswick a short drive from Happisburgh Lighthouse, but it’s also perched on a beautiful beach. A little further inland you’ll find Bridge House, your base for exploring the North Norfolk countryside.
4. Isle of Skye, Scotland
The Isle of Skye off the West coast of Scotland is best known for two things, adventure and whisky and couldn’t be further from the hustle and bustle of Glasgow and Edinburgh. Swim in the Fairy Pools in Glen Brittle, take a boat trip to see the white-tailed eagles, the largest birds of prey in Britain, and walk the Quiraing. Make sure to visit Mealt Falls, a 55-metre waterfall that plunges into the Sound of Raasay. The Isle of Skye is home to at least four whisky distilleries, a lot for such a small island, where you can experience how one of Scotland’s best-known exports is made.
Where to Stay on the Isle of Skye:
There are plenty of options to choose from including Cuillin Hills House, close to the centre of Portree town, and its multicoloured harbour homes. For something even more remote and self-catered you’ll find Lighthouse Cottage on the island’s northern tip.
5. New Forest, England
The New Forest is a nature lover’s paradise. This enormous unenclosed and ancient landscape of forests, pastures, and heathlands has been captivating people’s hearts and imaginations for centuries. Famous fans include William the Conqueror, who proclaimed The New Forest a royal forest in the Domesday Book of 1086. Today, it is home to hundreds of villages each with their own charms and more walking and cycling trails than you could possibly hope to complete in one visit. Buckler’s Hard is a beautiful village and former shipbuilding yard for Nelson’s navy, now home to an exhibition dedicated to this period of warfaring industry. Design and auto lovers won’t want to miss the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu, which is home to over 250 rare vehicles including land speed record breakers and Formula 1 cars.
Where to stay near the New Forest:
Why not combine a visit to the New Forest with a visit to the coastal city of Southampton? The Mercure Southampton Centre Dolphin Hotel will allow you to do just that. For something a little more laid back check out The Regent Guest House on the outskirts of Southampton and closer to the New Forest National Park.
6. West Sands Beach, St. Andrews, Scotland
There are plenty of reasons to visit St. Andrews, from the world-famous golf course, the birthplace of the sport, and the university town’s historic buildings. St. Andrews is also known for West Sands Beach, home to the weird and wonderful sport of land yachting. West Sands is one of the few places where you can try land yachting, a cross between go-karting and windsurfing. Film lovers will also recognise West Sands from the film Chariots of Fire.
Where to stay near West Sands Beach:
On the outskirts of St. Andrews a short drive from the town centre and West Sands Beach you’ll find Dukeside Guest House.
7. Peak District, Derbyshire, England
The Peak District is one of those places that makes you proud to be British, so beautiful are its sweeping landscapes and rich its history. The Peak District was the first area of natural beauty to be called a National Park in the UK and it’s easy to see why. While there’s plenty of kayaking, cycling, and trail walking to be done you can also embrace your inner geologist. Head to the Poole’s Cavern, vast underground limestone vaults pierced by stalactites formed over millions of years. Visit Heights of Abraham, Britain’s first alpine style cable car, affording views of the Peak District like no other. Don’t leave the Peak District without climbing Mam Tor, a 3 mile (2 hours) circular walk through the Edale Valley to Kinder Scout and the Derwent Moors.
Where to stay in the Peak District:
For rustic cottage vibes check out Fern Bank on the south side of the Peak District National Park. There are also plenty of great pub inns to choose from including: George Inn Tideswell and The Miners Arms.
8. Northumberland National Park, England
Another of the best places to visit in the UK is Northumberland National Park is home to one of the country’s most iconic landmarks and a reminder of its storied past. The famous barrier, Hadrian’s Wall, was once the last bastion of the Roman Empire, the largest of the ancient world. Head to Cawfields for stargazing a stone’s throw from the wall, where the zero light pollution makes the celestial show above clearer than you could hope for. Stonehaugh and Harbottle are also great stargazing spots. See a shooting star or two and don’t forget to make a wish. Hadrian’s Wall isn’t the only impressive Roman ruins you’ll find in Northumberland National Park. Housesteads Roman Fort, once home to 1,000 soldiers, is a well-preserved example of ancient architecture.
Where to stay in Northumberland National Park:
Head to the Dyke Neuk Guest House – Guest House for quiet country surroundings within a short drive of Northumberland National Park. For a more homely atmosphere check out Northumberland Cottage B&B. Finally, for the full rural experience you can even stay at Silverdale Farm House *farm animals included*.
9. Causeway Coast, Northern Ireland
The Causeway Coast is one of those places you simply can’t miss when visiting Northern Ireland. The route is home to hundreds of beautiful villages, towns, and landmarks, not least of all the Giant’s Causeway, an ancient rock formation, and UNESCO World Heritage Site, our ancestors believed was home to mythological creatures. Traverse thousands of basalt columns, dating back to the volcanic age, around 60 million years ago, that stretch along the coast and down into the Atlantic Ocean. The Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, just outside Ballintoy, is another of the Causeway Coast’s iconic landmarks, as are Mussenden Temple and Benone Beach. The beach, one of the finest in Northern Ireland, is a popular spot for adrenaline seekers with wild swimming, jet-skiing, surfing, and kayaking on offer.
Where to stay on the Causeway Coast:
You’ll come across hundreds of appealing hotels, B&Bs, and inns on your way along the Causeway Coast including Harbour Heights B&B. Not only does it overlook Portrush Harbour but it’s also a stone’s throw from Royal Portrush Golf Course, one of the UK’s most famous links courses. For something a little more out of town, but no less inviting, check out Magherabuoy House Hotel.
10. River Tay, Perth, Scotland
Traversing the length of Scotland’s longest river, you’ll experience first hand why Scotland is celebrated as one of the most beautiful countries in the world. The River which stretches 119 miles is best explored from Kenmore, Aberfeldy, Dunkeld, and Perth. In Perth, you’ll find the River Tay Public Trail, 25 sculptures dotted along the river, and Bellwood Riverside Park. The river is also home to some of the best fly fishing in Scotland, something even novice anglers will enjoy.
Where to stay along the River Tay:
Close to Perth Station and the River Tay you’ll find The Parklands Hotel, as the name suggests, also happens to overlook South Inch Park. Check out charming guesthouse The Fitzroy, located a little further out of town.
11. St. Abb’s Head, Scotland
Just an hour’s drive East of Edinburgh you’ll find St. Abbs Head National Nature Reserve, best known as a haven for Scotland’s wild birds, earning it the moniker ‘seabird city’. Head inland to the Mire Loch in search of swans, ducks, damselflies and butterflies. Learn more about the wildlife, geology and history of St Abb’s Head at the Nature Centre.
Where to stay near St. Abb’s Head:
The Home Arms Guesthouse is just a short drive from St. Abb’s Head Lighthouse and the nearby National Park. For something a little more rustic check out The Craw Inn, with rooms above a cosy local pub.
Want to read more?
Finished reading about the best places to visit in the UK but want to continue being inspired by staycation ideas? These should help:
- 12 of the most beautiful villages in the UK
- The 11 Best mini-break destinations in the UK
- How to spend 24 hours in London without leaving home