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The United Kingdom is one of the best places to travel whether you’re looking for a summer break, winter getaway, or a fun cultural trip during the fall or spring. If you’re looking for your next vacation destination, the UK has a little something for everyone. The island is full of bustling cities as well as great natural sights, historical monuments and plenty of fun things to do. The country is even producing great, high-quality wine now! It also has some of the cheapest airports to fly into and is well-positioned between the US and the rest of Europe.
When most people think of traveling to the UK, they most likely think of London. However, while London is a great place to visit, you shouldn’t miss out on the other great towns, cities, parks and attractions the UK has to offer. It hosts great destinations for everyone whether you enjoy nightlife, history, or nature. We highly recommend flying into a major city, renting a car, and taking a road trip across this amazing country. Here are 14 of the best places to visit in the UK. Get notified when flight prices drop here.
IN THIS GUIDE:
- Snowdonia National Park
- New Castle
- Isle of Skye
- St. Andrews
- …and more
London is often the first stop people make in the UK. After all, this is the capital city and it also has six major airports, making it one of the busiest travel hubs in the world. Of course, the city is also huge and full of diverse neighborhoods, offering something for everyone whether you’re looking for art, museums, shopping, or nightlife.
Victoria is one of the best neighborhoods to check out. Not only does it have cheap hotels, but it’s also close to major attractions such as Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, and the River Thames. You should also check out Soho, the liveliest part of London with plenty of shops, nightclubs, and amazing places to eat. Other top things to see include Hyde Park, Tower Bridge, The Tower of London, the National Gallery, and the British Museum.
While London is the most popular place to visit in the UK, the capital of Scotland is arguably even more impressive. Edinburgh provides the perfect mix of big city vibes and a historical backdrop. Just minutes away from the main shopping square you can find Edinburgh Castle, the National Museum of Scotland, and Calton Hill.
You can find plenty of attractions just venturing through the city center and the Royal Mile. Of course, no trip to Edinburgh is complete without a trek around Holyrood Park. This enormous park gives you views of the entire city and also hosts historical landmarks such as the famous Arthur’s Seat. Edinburgh is also easy to get to thanks to its international airport and gives you links to the rest of Scotland.
Being the historic city that it is, it’s no surprise that there are a number of ghost stories, legends and opportunities to dive deeper into the culture of the city. A variety of activities and tours are able to be scheduled if you’re looking for a more immersive experience. Some of our favorites include:
A dark side of Edinburgh walking tour, covering murders, mysteries and a variety of legends throughout the ages
A guided day trip that leaves from and returns to Edinburgh on a comfortable coach showcasing the Scottish Highlands with stops at a variety of highlights
If you’re looking for somewhere as diverse and lively as London but with lower costs, Manchester is your best bet. This major city is known for its huge shopping centers, great nightlife, and its food, music, and sports scenes. No matter what your interests are, you’ll find something fun to do here.
Sports fans can take a visit to Old Trafford or Etihad Stadium to catch a football match. There are even behind-the-scenes stadium tours. Shoppers will love the Arndale and The Trafford Center. Fans of nightlife can have great nights out in the Northern Quarter or the Printworks. You can also take day trips to the Peak District, the Lake District, or the Alton Towers Theme Park. Walking tours are abundant and will help new travelers understand the city to a deeper extent.
Scotland’s biggest city offers an excellent alternative to Edinburgh. Not only is it cheaper, but this city is full of interesting sights, entertaining attractions, and plenty of pubs, bars, and restaurants to enjoy. Whether you’re traveling as a family, a couple, or even solo, you’ll find more than enough things here to pack into your itinerary.
Glasgow has many free galleries and museums, including the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, the Burrell Collection, and the Riverside Museum. It also has some of the best live music venues in the UK, including the Barrowlands and King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut. You’ll also find plenty of good food and excellent nightlife. Plus, if you somehow get bored of the city, it’s easy to take a day trip to Edinburgh, Stirling Castle, or the seaside city of Ayr.
One of our favorite scenic destinations in the UK is undoubtedly Snowdonia National Park, located within Wales. Covering over 823 square miles, this natural and historic wonder is brimming with things to do. Whether you’re a fan of exploring historical landmarks and castles, looking for breathtaking nature walks and mountain hikes or simply want to take a beautiful country drive, Snowdonia is sure to please. One innovative method for exploring Snowdonia is by utilizing a private 7-day pass program that helps you navigate the park and earn prizes along the way.
Snowdonia also plays host to a number of railways, which make for a unique and fun method to traverse the park and witness all it has to offer. If trains aren’t your thing, rent a bicycle and navigate any number of the many cycling routes. Throughout the park, you can also find a variety of facilities and locations that host climbing walls, badminton courts, swimming pools, and squash courts. There are also companies that help teach you how to scramble and climb. One could argue that a visit to Snowdonia could be a vacation in and of itself.
Lastly, when it comes to accommodation, Snowdonia provides options suitable for every budget. Camping (and glamping) is a popular option in the park. Many travelers choose to set up camp or bring motorhomes to a variety of locations throughout Snowdonia. Upscale glamping in treehouses and cabins are also options. If luxury is more your thing, stay at any number of upscale vacation rentals or hotels in towns like Llanberis or Conwy, among others. Just be sure to book your accommodation well in advance as the park is quite a popular tourist destination. The luxurious Bodysgallen Spa Hotel & Resort is our top pick in this area of Wales.
Newcastle is the best city in the UK for nightlife. Not only is the city center crowded with lively bars and nightclubs, but the drinks here are incredibly cheap. The city is famous for its bars offering treble vodkas for as little as £2, meaning you can have a legendary night out while barely spending anything.
Of course, Newcastle has a lot more to offer than just its nightlife. Exploring the Quayside is great during the daytime, especially as you’ll find plenty of great local cafes and restaurants. History buffs will love the Georgian architecture of the old town area. It’s also a great spot for day trips. You can visit Hadrian’s Wall, Durham, the beaches of Tynemouth, and Alnwick Castle, also known as the filming location for Hogwarts in the Harry Potter movies.
A mystical destination on the west coast of Scotland, The Isle of Skye has become a history buff and photographer’s dream in recent years. It’s best known for its dramatic and stark landscapes, with ancient ruins and castles dating back to the medieval period dotting the island. It’s a destination replete with historic and famous Scottish clan squabbles, dinosaur fossils and a plethora of wildlife. If you’re a hiking or climbing enthusiast, Skye won’t disappoint on those fronts either.
If you’re looking to visit this special place, plan to travel across the bridge from the mainland ultimately to the town of Portree. After a few days of hikes and outdoor activities, spend some time roaming Portree’s seaside pubs and shops. Once you’ve had your fill, be sure to explore some of the other boutique villages including Staffin, Edinbane, Uig and Dunvegan. Privately guided day tours are available, as are train rides on the famous “Hogwarts Express” from the Harry Potter films.
Travelers looking to explore the Scottish highlands should set Dornoch as their northern-most destination on their GPS. En route, you’ll encounter stunning landscapes, whisky distilleries, and wildlife that will take your breath away. Dornoch is located in the far north of Scotland, not far from Inverness. It has a number of cool-climate beaches and famous golf courses that are well worth exploring. This is another destination that’s great for outdoor enthusiasts looking to hike, golf, hunt or shoot trap and skeet.
If you’re looking to stay in the north of Scotland in Dornoch, we personally recommend staying at the Links House next to the Royal Dornoch Golf Course. This recently and tastefully renovated 5-star boutique hotel offers white-glove service and home-cooked 4-course meals. You won’t be disappointed.
We would be remiss if we didn’t mention Inverness as a must-stop while touring the UK. Especially because it’s here that the famous Loch Ness Monster is said to live. “Nessie,” as he/she/it has famously been nicknamed, has reportedly been sighted as far back as the 6th century. It still remains a mystery as to what this creature actually is, and if it’s still alive or ever existed at all.
Inverness is one of the largest Scottish towns in the north and plays host to a wide variety of accommodations, pubs, and a vibrant culinary scene. It’s also a great home base for those who are looking to explore Scotland’s highlands and spend time outdoors. For those who are fans of the show Outlander, it’s also a must-visit as Inverness is located near to where the Battle of Culloden took place. There is also a full-day tour that will take you to many of the locations where scenes from the show were shot.
An ideal day trip or road trip stop to make if you’re planning on spending time in Edinburgh, St. Andrews is a gorgeous and historic oceanfront town just north of the capital. It’s perhaps best known for its golf course, or “Old Course.” St. Andrews is believed to be the “birthplace of golf” when first swings were taken as early as the beginning of the 15th century. Interestingly, the sport was temporarily banned by King James II because the population was found to be spending too much time golfing instead of practicing archery. James III later got rid of the ban, being an avid golfer himself.
This quaint town harbors much more than golf, also playing host to the University of St. Andrews and the dramatic ruins of St. Andrews Cathedral, a breathtaking and expansive historic monument that many students and travelers alike choose to spend their free time relaxing or picnicking while inhaling the revitalizing sea air blowing in from the northeast. This hip but historic town is also full of wonderful boutique restaurants and pubs.
If you want to see the best beaches the United Kingdom has to offer, make sure you head down to Devon. This region is known for its unique, laid-back culture and beautiful coasts where beaches are surrounded by breathtaking cliffs and nature reserves.
Although Devon has a couple of major cities, the best way to experience the region is in one of its seaside resort towns. Whether you’d prefer to stay in a cottage, a mobile home, or a tent, you can find many great places to stay. While you’re here, make sure you try cream teas and grab a pasty from one of the bakeries.
Sussex is actually a region, not a city, that can be found in England’s southeastern corner. In recent years, the area has seen a somewhat dramatic increase in vineyard and winery properties. If you fancy getting out in the country, taking a leisurely drive and perhaps tasting some remarkable English sparkling wine, Sussex is well worth a stop.
The region is particularly ideal for growing grapes due to a number of key factors. First, it’s one of the sunniest locations in England and receives little rainfall. The soil composition here is primarily made up of limestone, a noteworthy characteristic of vineyards known to produce terroir-driven wines. Not unlike the Champagne region, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier dominate Sussex vineyard plantings. Located on the 50th parallel, Sussex is one of the world’s most northern high-quality wine-producing regions. If you’re looking to go wine tasting, be sure to check out some of our favorite wineries including Nyetimer, Ridgeview Wine Estate, and Rathffinny Estate.
A couple of hours west of London you’ll find Bristol, the port city known for its rich culture and unique atmosphere. This is the go-to spot for hipster types as it’s a major center for arts, culture, and music. Bristol is the home of Aardman Productions, Portishead, Massive Attack, and the TV show Skins, just to name a few of its cultural exports.
You can check out sights such as the Clifton Suspension Bridge and Cabot Tower, or simply explore the awesome street art throughout the city. You’ll also find a range of cool bars, cafes, pubs, and restaurants. It’s also a prime hub for day trips due to its proximity to Bath, Cardiff, and Mendip Hills.
A staff favorite destination to visit in Scotland (most of us are history buffs), Stirling is sure to please anyone with a passion for Scottish culture and whoever might be fans of historical figures like William Wallace featured in Braveheart.
It’s at Stirling where you can find the dramatic Stirling Castle, which has seen its fair share of battles and intrigue over the past several centuries. Not far from the castle is also the Wallace Monument, where the real William Wallace and his men prepared for and ultimately won the battle for Stirling Bridge located between the monument and the castle to the southwest.
Tours are offered periodically throughout the day at Stirling Castle, and if you decide to visit the Wallace Monument, you might get surprised when a tour guide dressed in 13th-century Scottish garb appears out of the woods. We’re serious!
If you’re looking for a fun and relaxing beach holiday, Bournemouth is well worth checking out. While it’s not as lively as some other beachside cities such as Brighton, this resort town still has a ton to offer.
Bournemouth offers miles of beautiful coastline surrounded by cliffs. You can spend hours walking along the seaside and enjoying cafes, attractions, and fish and chips. The city also offers art galleries, museums, an aquarium, and tours of the Jurassic Coast.
Winchester (located in Hampshire) is both an intriguing and beautiful city to visit in England. It’s actually the original capital of the country, and its roots date back to ancient Roman times. It has seen its fair share of historical events, and was a primary target for Viking raids during 8th, 9th and 10th centuries.
Today, it’s an affluent city and is most famous for the beautiful Winchester Cathedral. It’s also conveniently located near attractions like Stone Henge (just a 40-minute drive), and one of our favorite English sparkling wineries, Hambledon Vineyards.
Being both North Ireland’s capital and one of the few Irish cities that are officially part of the United Kingdom, Belfast warrants a visit. A fun little-known fact about Belfast is that it’s actually where the Titanic was constructed. You can visit the Titanic Belfast, which is a museum designed to mimic the hull of the ship itself. The slipways nearby now also plays host to a variety of outdoor concerts. From Belfast, you can tour the coastline, make stops at castles like Dunlace and visit the village of Ballycastle.
Game of Thrones fans will also be pleased to know that a variety of scenes from the show were shot in Northern Ireland. Guided tours to many of these sites are available, and your guide will provide insight and comparisons to the on-screen and real-life locations. The UNESCO Giant’s Causeway is also a must-see while in the area.
Fun Fact: You might be wondering why we only mentioned one destination to visit in Ireland in this article. That’s because the majority of Ireland is not actually a part of the United Kingdom. Ireland is divided into two sections, the Republic of Ireland (its own sovereign country), and Northern Ireland, (a part of the UK).
Take the trip!
If you’re planning a trip to the United Kingdom, make sure you explore some of these amazing spots. Whether you’re looking for historical sites, beautiful nature, or lively parties, all of these places have something to offer. Of course, these are just a few of the best places to visit in the UK and you could also consider Bath, Liverpool, Brighton, York, Cornwall, and the Lake District.
Also, while it’s not “officially” part of the UK, we highly recommend stopping in Dublin, Ireland! Cheap flights from the US can be found into Dublin, and it makes for a good jump-off point to many of the destinations we mentioned above.
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