There are many beautiful places in Britain to choose as your next holiday destination. From wild and wonderful landscapes to ancient and aesthetic architecture, there is plenty across the region to enchant visitors.
While the locations on this list may not be considered ‘hidden gems’ to the locals, I’ve tried to include suggestions that would be considered off-the-beaten-track, or at least underrated, to international travellers. This isn’t your typical UK itinerary; while there are some traditional holiday spots included, the beautiful places recommended go beyond many first-time holiday spots within England, Wales, and Scotland.
ISLE OF WIGHT
by Zoe from Together In Transit
If you are looking for a beautiful place in the UK surrounded by water, then the Isle of Wight is the perfect location. Find yourself on one of the three main boat options to get there, and spend at least a weekend to get a glimpse into life here. The whole island has a lot to offer for all ages, with many villages and natural areas to explore. It’s easiest to get around by car, but the public transport buses are pretty connected too.
It’s an island with true nature, from beautiful sandy beaches to forests with red squirrels. The island is known for its history too, such as the Royal Osborne House and the Historical Carisbrooke Castle. There are many mountain bike trails and hiking for those looking for some adventure as well. Two main hiking locations not to be missed is; the round route from Alum Bay to Freshwater along with Tennyson Down, and from Sandown to Bembridge over the cliffs.
For a hidden gem, find yourself exploring the small but cosy location of Steephill Cove at the south of the island. Here you can dip your toes in the water at the little stony beach, enjoy a drink or piece of cake at the local cafe and enjoy watching the local fishermen along the shore. It’s also the ideal location to do some stargazing super late at night to spot the Milky Way.
As the population of the island is mostly made up of the older generation, it’s very easy to get around with wheelchair accesses as well as welcome those with disabilities. All main local attractions are suitable and pretty fun for all ages, so consider the Isle of Wight as your next beautiful location to explore.
by Kylie from Essex Explored
A beautiful place to visit in the UK is Dedham Vale on the Essex and Suffolk border. It’s a designated ‘Area of Natural Beauty (AONB)’ and is also known as ‘Constable Country’. East Bergholt was the birthplace of the artist John Constable and many of his paintings took inspiration from the Dedham Vale area. Some of his paintings include The Hay Wain, The Vale of Dedham and The Lock. A popular thing to do in the Essex village of Dedham is to hire a boat and row down the River Stour. It’s peaceful, relaxing and a great way to enjoy the countryside. The Boathouse have rentals for £20 per hour and they also serve up great breakfast, lunch and dinners from the riverside restaurant. It’s best to get there early on warm summer days!
For those feeling fit, it’s possible to row from Dedham to Flatford Mill (located in Suffolk) or walk 1.5 miles along the Stour Valley Path (approximately 30 minutes). Alternatively, the two locations are a 10-minute drive apart. Flatford Mill is now part of the National Trust and dates back to the 1700s. For almost 100 years it belonged to members of the Constable family. Only a couple of the mill buildings are open to the public, but people can enjoy activities such as Geocaching and walking trails. There’s a tearoom and an RSPB wildlife garden, where it’s possible to spot many different species of bird.
The best way to explore Dedham Vale is by car. It’s around 5 miles from the A12. The nearest large town is Colchester which has several places to stay, many restaurants and shops.
by Casandra from Karpiak Caravan
Welcome to Wales. No matter which way you look at it, Wales is one beautiful country. From the quaint villages to the coast, Wales is sure to seduce you with its many charms. The small seaside town of Mumbles is a perfect spot to immerse yourself in Welsh culture. From the cultural havens of Swansea, Cardiff, and Newport or just driving through on your way to the Gower peninsula, Mumbles is a wonderful place to stop and take it all in.
The top things to do in Mumbles is to take a stroll down the promenade to the Mumbles Pier, visit Oystermouth Castle and head to one of the spectacular beaches in the Gower Peninsula like Three Cliffs Bay. A favourite outing is to walk along the coastline from Mumbles to Langland Bay Beach. The coastal path offers some staggeringly beautiful views of the area on this hour-long walk but you can reward yourself with a nice beverage and meal at Langland’s Brasserie, located right on the beach.
In town, the Mumbles Pier was refurbished in 2010-2011 and has always been a popular spot for locals and tourists to gather. The pier offers some great views of Swansea Bay along with occasional live concerts. While you are there, indulge in some decadent ice cream at Verdi’s Cafe or try your hand at the arcade.
Oystermouth Castle is said to have been built in the late 13th century. It is a Norman castle that stands on a hill overlooking Swansea Bay with some great views of Mumbles and its surrounding areas from up there. However you choose to spend your time in Mumbles, you will not be disappointed. It is a wonderful place to start your trip in Wales.
BRECON BEACONS NATIONAL PARK
by Natalie from Voyage Scribe
The Brecon Beacons isn’t as well-known as Wales’ more popular national park, Snowdonia, but it’s equally beautiful. Located more to the south, the mountains aren’t as high as up north in Snowdonia, but you can still get a good workout in! The highest peak to climb in the Brecon Beacons is Pen y Fan, and the hike will be well worth it. The views are stunning!
You can also hike the Black Mountains or go on a waterfall hunting hike. Henrhyd Falls just might be Wales’ most famous waterfall, having been featured in The Dark Knight as the entrance to the Bat Cave. If you’d like a longer hike, the Four Waterfalls Walk is also stunning. It’s a loop that takes you to—you guessed it—four beautiful waterfalls.
If hiking isn’t your thing, you can see a lot of the breathtaking scenery while just driving around. And there are plenty of other attractions. Typical of Wales, you will find lots of castles in the Brecon Beacons. I visited Carreg Cennen Castle and can highly recommend it—not only for the castle for the views surrounding it. If you’d like to catch sight of the majestic Red Kites (large birds), head over to the Red Kite Feeding Station.
My absolute favourite town in the Brecon Beacons is actually on the outskirts, but it’s worth the drive. Hay-on-Wye is self-proclaimed the world’s first literary town, and if you’re a book lover you will be in heaven with all the bookstores. The town is a great base to stay and explore the Brecon Beacons, especially if you love to write and want to visit the Brecon Beacons on a solo writing retreat.
by Shireen from The Happy Days Travels
One of the most beautiful places to visit in the UK is Pembrokeshire in West Wales. The uniqueness of this area is the range of landscapes from the Pembrokeshire Coast, islands and seaside towns to the rugged hills, vast countryside and medieval castles and forts.
One of the best things to do would be to walk the Pembrokeshire Coast Path which is 186 miles long starting at Amroth and ending in St Dogmaels (South to North). Discover some of the best stops in South Pembrokeshire here including the Bosherston Lilly ponds, Barafundle Bay (voted one of the most beautiful beaches in the world) and Pembroke Castle, the home of the only Welsh King in Britain.
You’ll be spoiled for choice for places to stay for a UK staycation or road trip and while a lot of tourists stay in popular Tenby, try out a hidden gem in Solva with crystal clear waters and fresh fish caught that day! Solva is an ideal stop as it’s halfway through the Pembrokeshire Coast Path and perfect to break up the journey. Don’t forget to do a boat trip along the way to spot marine life like seals, puffins and dolphins!
by Bec from Wyld Family Travel
Wales is a stunning, rugged country with an ever-changing landscape. It’s a country of mighty history, Welsh slate and quaint towns that seem like they are straight out of a picture book. And if you want to see the very best of Wales, North Wales is the perfect place for your holiday in the UK. From epic landscapes that you can hike to castles that once held the defenders of the land all the way back to Slate mountains and museums.
There is an abundance of places that you can make your base to explore North Wales. Many popular towns like Llandudno, Llanberis and Conwy have a plethora of accommodation options that will suit every traveller. The roads are easy to navigate as many of the towns are spread out and public transport may not get you to the doorstep of the attractions you want to see. Smaller towns like Betws-y-coed, Beaumaris and Blaenau Ffestiniog will give you a real sense of small-town Wales with their stunning backdrops and welcoming locals.
You can easily learn about how important Slate mining was done in the National Slate Museum with demonstrations and exhibits of a time long gone. If you prefer a more hands-on experience there are tours of the above-ground Slate mines and underground mines at Llechwedd Slate Mountain which is also home to ziplining over the old mine, mountain biking through it and one of the most unique accommodation experiences in North Wales, glamping overlooking the mine.
For people travelling to North Wales on a budget, you can easily see some of the best castles from the streets without paying the expensive ticket prices to go inside. Ruined castles like Flint and Rhudand are easily seen from the road whereas Chirk Castle, Conwy castle and Caernafon as better experiences from the inside. There are so many hikes around North Wales too.
For families on holiday in North Wales, you can visit the Welsh mountain zoo or you can visit one of the arcades for some time out. Llandudno and Rhyll have so many arcades to keep the kids happy and Towyn is home to the Knight;y’s fair which is a great fun activity for kids in Wales.
by Ania from The Travelling Twins
Talking about hidden Gems in the UK – my favourite spot – Shrewsbury is a historical English town located in Shropshire, England.
Shrewsbury is an old medieval market town with lots of history, small winding streets and ideally situated on the Welsh border
There are some lovely places to visit in Shrewsbury that are well worth seeing. When you are visiting Shrewsbury look out not only for places such as Shrewsbury Castle, Shrewsbury Abbey and the Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery. The town has great small art/silver galleries and various charity shops always filled with a vast selection of books.
Shrewsbury also has a wonderful selection of places to eat from traditional pubs to some brand new gastropubs offering great food with an upmarket feel.
When you get bored with wandering around the town, go for a picnic to one of Shrewsbury’s many public gardens, one of my favourites is Quarry Park. You can go here for a boat ride along the river Servern which loops around the old town and the park.
Shrewsbury is a great place to visit and enjoy a bit slower pace of life.
by Cristina from My World of Travel
Knaresborough is a lovely market town located near Harrogate in North Yorkshire. Despite the size of this town, you’ll love exploring and discovering the unique things you can do in Knaresborough.
Its main attraction is Knaresborough Castle, a ruined fortress that overlooks the River Nidd. You can visit the castle independently or with a tour guide that will tell you everything about the history of this medieval castle, including the history of the King’s Chamber.
The castle is also surrounded by green spaces that are perfect for a picnic, and stunning viewpoints of the river and arched bridge.
From the castle’s hill, you can walk down to the beautiful scenic riverside where you’ll find restaurants and ice cream shops to enjoy some food with a view. However, one of the best activities to do in Knaresborough is hiring a rowing boat which is only available from March to October due to the weather condition. Not only will you have fun, but you’ll see a different angle of this lovely town.
Another unique location is Mother’s Shipton’s Cave, England’s oldest tourist attraction. The place consists of an enchanting forest where you can go on a walk, visit the famous Petrifying Well, and learn about Mother’s Shipton. This is the perfect place for any nature lovers and families with kids.
Unfortunately, Mother Shipton’s Cave might not be accessible for people with impaired mobility as there is no access for wheelchairs because both attractions – the Cave and Petrifying Well are natural rock formations that can only be accessed through the stairs.
Staying in Knaresborough is also a great way to explore other nearby towns such as Harrogate and Skipton, or bigger cities such as Leeds and York.
by Hannah from Get Lost Travel
Nidderdale in North Yorkshire is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) that is one of the most beautiful places to visit in the UK. The striking Yorkshire Dales landscape is inspiring. It is the ideal place to escape to on a UK break.
There are many incredible attractions in Nidderdale. One of the most popular is Brimham Rocks. These unique rock formations were formed around 320 million years ago. Today, the site is maintained by the National Trust and it is a popular spot for walkers and climbers to admire this unusual landscape.
Another world-class sight in Nidderdale is Fountains Abbey. Fountains Abbey is one of the largest and best-preserved ruined Cistercian monasteries in England. A visit to Fountains Abbey also includes the beautiful Studley Royal Water Gardens. You’ll need to allow a full day to see everything on this huge site! And if you love ruined abbeys, Jervaulx Abbey is another popular attraction in the region.
The market town of Pateley Bridge is the ideal place to stay in Nidderdale. This charming town has a lot of things to do right on the high street. You can pick up local artisan gifts and even visit the oldest sweet shop in the world!
Nidderdale is also home to many hidden gems. On your visit, make sure you don’t miss Coldstones Cut which is a large public art piece on the edge of Coldstones quarry; Hackfall a charming fairy tale woodland walk; and Stump Cross Caverns for a unique opportunity to head beneath the Yorkshire Dale into a dramatic limestone cave system.
You certainly won’t be left disappointed by a visit to Nidderdale!
by Agnes from The Van Escape
Whitby is an unusual place for many reasons. Situated in North Yorkshire, on the estuary of the River Esk into the North Sea, and surrounded by the North York Moors National Park, it offers breathtaking views. The town is located just 77 km from the famous York, so it’s a perfect idea as a day trip.
There is an aura of mystery in the air. Above the city, from every possible side, there are ruins of the medieval Benedictine Abbey, from which it is impossible to take your eyes off. This view makes Whitby one of the most picturesque and mysterious towns in the UK. Already coming from the fabulous moors from Goathland, we see them on the hill. Steep cliffs, the scream of gulls, and the sound of the sea surround visitors.
Bram Stoker, the author of the cult novel “Dracula,” changed the fate of the picturesque romantic town of Whitby. From 1897, from the book’s premiere, Whitby becomes a place that attracts fans of the novel, fascinated by the unique dark atmosphere they soaked up in the novel. Stoker found some of his inspiration for his novel while staying in Whitby in 1890.
It’s also worth visiting Whitby Cemetery, next to the ruins of the Abbey. It houses the grave of a Swales -Dracula’s first victim in England. 199 steps, described in the novel by Stoker, lead to the Whitby Abbey.
The Whitby harbour squeezed between the cliffs is also delightful. Moreover, in the 18th century Britain’s greatest explorer, Captain James Cook, had an internship in a cosy old quarter east of the harbour. No visitor should come to Whitby without also visiting the Captain Cook Memorial Museum.
At the end of the walk, enjoy delicious fish and chips in one of the bars in the port or relax on the beach.
by Kenny from Knycx Journeying
Located merely about 220 kilometres away from Edinburgh and 30 kilometres away from Newcastle upon Tyne, Durham is Northern England’s hidden gem. While the city is often overshadowed by the more populated neighbourhoods or famous cities like York, which is worthy of a visit with York Minster and many other heritage sites. Durham is a historic Romanesque town; It is cosy and the size is perfect for a day trip; It is also a university town – this is where Durham University is located.
One of the best ways to get there from either north or south is by train. As the train approaches Durham, a striking and enormous Norman cathedral comes into view, standing in the centre of the cluster – the Durham Cathedral. Dating back from 1093, it was originally a monastic Cathedral and remained so for over one thousand years.
Visitors are welcome to visit this UNESCO World Heritage Site for free, and it is also the venue of various ceremonies and events, including the congregation of the nearby Durham University throughout the year. Do not forget to walk through the cloisters in the cathedral, they were featured in the first two Harry Potter movies as the courtyard of Hogwarts.
Apart from Durham Cathedral, take a tour of the Durham Castle Museum, which is part of the oldest college in Durham University; explore the hilly and cobbled streets in the historic town centre, and take a pleasant walk along the wooded riverbanks of River Wear and admire the many stone bridges including the Framwellgate Bridge, Prebends Bridge, Elvet Bridge, and Kingsgate footbridge.
by Sarah from Northumberland’s Best
Off the beaten Track UK – the Holy Island of Lindisfarne in Northumberland
To get to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne you’ll need to plan carefully. This tidal island is located in Northumberland, England’s most northerly county and is only reachable by an ancient causeway that is only passable at certain states of the tide. When the low tide falls during the daylight hours you can take a public bus here, but it’s generally best to drive here. When the day-trippers have left to catch the tide, the island is gloriously empty and peaceful.
Holy Island has been home to Christian Pilgrims for centuries and is home to Lindisfarne Priory which has been an important centre of Christianity for centuries. The ruins of the priory remain and are free to enter for English Heritage members. Nearby Lindisfarne Castle is under the stewardship of the National Trust and hosts an interesting history and stunning gardens. There’s also an ancient “meadery” here St Aidan’s Winery makes Lindisfarne Mead an ancient recipe used by Monks from the Priory. The main road on the island is suitable for wheelchairs but going much further afield is somewhat rugged.
You’ll find gorgeous cottages to rent and there are a couple of bed and breakfasts on the island – it’s worth trying to stay at least a couple of nights, to experience the island when you’re cut off. The walking here is great, peaceful and windswept – you’re likely to spot some of the famous Northumberland sea life while you’re walking the coastal paths.
by Heather from Conversant Traveller
The pretty town of Melrose lies deep within the Scottish Borders and makes a great base for exploring this often overlooked part of Scotland. Lying in the shadow of the famous Eildon Hills, Melrose is packed with history and beautiful undulating countryside scenery.
There are lots of interesting attractions in the Scottish Borders, but visiting the remains of Melrose Abbey is one of the best. Located in the heart of the town, this 12th-century abbey is home to Robert the Bruce’s heart. Don’t miss the small museum which has several medieval artefacts to admire. You’ll also find the walled garden of Priorwood just a few steps down the road, which is well worth a visit too.
Head up to the lookout point at Scott’s View for incredible panoramas of the River Tweed and surrounding hills, and take a picnic if it’s sunny. Literary buffs will love visiting Abbotsford House, just a couple of miles outside Melrose. This imposing manor was home to Sir Walter Scott, and you can explore the rooms and grounds, and see where he wrote many of his greatest works. Spend an afternoon rambling along the woodland paths, and enjoy a spot of afternoon tea at the café.
There are lots of accommodation options for overnight stays, including the Waverley Castle Hotel and Dryburgh Abbey Hotel. Melrose is centrally located in the border region so day trips to places like Edinburgh can also be on the cards.
ISLE OF HARRIS
by Kristin from Adventures with Ensuite
The Isle of Harris is an island in the Outer Hebrides, north of mainland Scotland. The main reason to visit is the amazing scenery with white sandy beaches and turquoise waters.
On a sunny day when the tide is out the walk along the beach from Luskentyre towards Seilebost must be one of the prettiest walks in the UK. In fact, despite not being that well known, Luskentyre beach often features in the Tripadvisor rankings for the best beaches in Europe.
Along the western side of Harris, there is one pretty beach another – a full list can be found here. On the other side of the island, the landscape is rocky and craggy and is a perfect place to look for seals in the small coves.
Getting to the Isle of Harris is more time consuming than other destinations in Scotland which is probably why it sees much fewer tourists. The only options are either a short flight from Inverness or Glasgow to Stornoway or a ferry from Ullapool or Uig on the Isle of Skye.
Self-catering cottages are the most popular accommodation option, partly because there are few restaurants on the island. However, Temple Café in Northton is well worth a visit for lunch or coffee and for dinner, Scarista House is a great option.
Summer is the best time to visit since many restaurants and shops are closed during the off-season. Accommodation and ferries book up early so plan your visit well in advance.
STANDING STONES OF CALLINISH
by Monique at Trip Anthropologist
The islands of Lewis and Harris are some of the most haunting landscapes in the United Kingdom. Neolithic peoples lived extensively on these lonely islands in the Outer Hebrides, and they left behind eerily beautiful standing stone circles.
One of the most significant and impressive are called the Standing Stones of Callanish, just outside the village of Callanish on the Isle of Harris. A Visitors Centre has been built next to the Standing Stones. 13 stones form a circle that intersects with other Standing Stones that form the shape of the cross. In the centre of the arrangement is an enormous monolith. This Neolithic site was made between 2900 and 2600 BC and related to the stars, the moon, and the seasons.
For such a remote part of the world, it’s surprisingly easy to get to Callanish. You can fly into Stornoway, the largest town on the Isle of Harris, or take a ferry from towns and cities along the Scottish coast to Stornaway. Once in Stornaway, it’s a 25-minute drive to the turnoff to Callanish along the A859. Once in the village, you park at the picturesque Callanish Visitors Centre near the shores of Loch Roag. From here you can glimpse the main Standing Stones circle at the top of the rise. It’s a short walk to the centre of the Stone Circle. The entrance is free and it’s always open.
Hiring a car in Stornoway allows you to access all parts of the beautiful countryside. Lewis is a small isle and only 10 minutes away is the 1st Century Broch of Dun Carloway in an area of the Scottish Highlands filled with Stone Age history. Don’t miss seeing the Norse mill and kiln, the Brochs, Blackhouses, and make sure you come home with some Harris Tweed!
by Suzanne from Meandering Wild
The Orkney Islands are located 8 miles off the north coast of Scotland and can be reached by ferry or a short flight from several Scottish cities. As soon as you arrive you feel the wild and exposed nature of the islands that are exposed to the north Atlantic weather. The landscape is open with sheer sea cliffs and small calm lochs.
The whole area is steeped in history and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The oldest Neolithic village in the UK, Skara Brae, has been uncovered as well as ancient burial mounds and the Ring of Brodgar, a stone circle overlooking a loch. Much of the history on these islands is much older than even Stonehenge in the south of England.
The main town is Kirkwall, and this has a beautiful cathedral and Bishops Palace and south from Kirkwall on a smaller island is the Italian Chapel, built by Italian prisoners of war during WW2. The whole landscape is a combination of history and natural beauty.
North of Kirkwall and Skara Brae the coastline is rugged and is battered by winter storms. The northern tip of Mainland Orkney is called Birsay and here a small tidal island is a perfect place to watch the sunset or wait for the northern lights to appear. At low tide, you can walk across a causeway to the island and the lighthouse and watch the puffins in the summer months or search for passing whales.
The whole island and landmarks are accessible although some of the more remote and less-visited places can be more difficult.
Hi, I’m Cassie, and I’ve been solo travelling the globe since May 2018. In this time, I’ve backpacked around Southeast Asia, Japan and The Balkans, alongside spending a year living in Australia. Currently isolating in New Zealand.