The United Kingdom (made up of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland) has long been one of the most popular destinations in Europe, with much of its appeal coming from its rich heritage and diverse scenery. Not only is the UK full of a wide variety of places to visit, it’s easy to get around and explore the country. From the quaint villages of The Cotswolds to the rugged landscape of the Scottish Highlands to the historic, yet modern city of London, the country is home to a wide range of fascinating destinations. Here’s my list of the best places to visit in the United Kingdom.
A fascinating and attraction-filled city, London is bursting with art galleries and museums, a thriving theater scene, world-class dining, excellent shopping, beautiful green parks, historical sites, and so much more. Many of the famous museums in the city offer free admission, such as the Tate Gallery, National History Museum, and the British Museum. You also can’t visit the United Kingdom’s capital city without seeing Buckingham Palace or Big Ben. History buffs may also want to make a stop at the Tower of London. Knightsbridge and Oxford Street are the places to go for shopping in London.
The Scottish Highlands region is the picturesque, scenic, and rugged northwest and northern part of Scotland. This is the place of awe-inspiring landscapes that comes to mind when travelers think of Scotland. Several mountain ranges dominate this region, including Ben Navis, the country’s tallest mountain. The Scottish Highlands are also home yo the famous Loch Ness.
Scotland’s capital city, Edinburgh stands as a seamless blend of new and old, home to both an UNESCO World Heritage Site Old Town and a vibrant bar and clubbing scene. If you’re here during the New Year, you can witness the traditional Scottish celebration of Hogmanay, which features a parade and fire balls. If you’re a fan of the arts, Edinburgh also hosts the Festival Fringe, the world’s largest arts festival. History and historic buildings, however, may be the city’s main draw for travelers. You’ll find the city’s most famous street, the Royal Mile that connects Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyrood, in Old Town and where many travelers start their visit.
Located just around two hours from London, the Cotswolds are an area of natural beauty and idyllic, charming scenery. One of the best places to visit in the United Kingdom, a car offers the easiest way to explore the rolling hills, towns, and tiny hamlets. One of the prettiest villages to visit in the Cotswolds is Bourton-on-the-Water.
Located only a couple hours from London, the walled city of York boasts a rich heritage situated where the River Ouse and the River Foss meet. A number of attractions are packed into the ancient city along its cobblestone streets. The commanding York Minster is full of impressive works of art, while the medieval Clifford’s Tower offers panoramic views of the city. Other highlight attractions in York include the authentic Victorian street at the Castle Museum and the Railway Museum that explores 300 years of history.
The Lake District is the United Kingdom’s second largest national park. Located in northwest England, the region attracts visitors with its lakes, hills, and mountains carved by glacial erosion, offering visitors dramatic natural scenery. The Lake District is also one of the best destinations for climbing and hiking in England. The area is home to several quaint villages and towns as well.
Cornwall attracts travelers with its more than 300 miles of coastline featuring medieval architecture, craggy cliffs, and rolling sand dunes. A place once home to smugglers and pirates. Popular activities here include picnicking on the beach, climbing, and rambling. For the more adventurous visitors, the coast offers ideal opportunities for body boarding and surfing, with the area being famous as the country’s premier destination for surfing thanks to its perfect barrels and churning seas. Cornwall itself is a bit of a contrast: rugged, yet charming.
Snowdonia is an amazing national park in Wales where hikers are rewarded with breathtaking 360-degree views of the coast, mountains, and valleys below, or even all the way to Ireland on a clear day. Snowdonia is also home to the largest lake in Wales, one of the country’s highest mountains, and is a dream destination for mountain bikers and hikers. Climbing Snowdon itself can be challenging to most hikers, however, other trails in the park can be easily walked by visitors. There is also a narrow-gauge railway for anyone who would rather take in the gorgeous scenery in a more comfortable way.
Canterbury is probably most well known for its cathedral, the famous 14-century “Canterbury Tales,” and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The small city features many historical places worth visiting, such as the St. Augustine’s Abbey, a Norman-era castle, and the remains of the city walls. There are also several theatres and museums in Canterbury as well.
One of England’s most famous ancient sites, Stonehenge is one of the best places to visit in the United Kingdom, but that also makes it one of the most popular. According to record, the actual stones came from western Wales, yet there is still no conclusive idea what the stone’s represent or why the site was built. If you’re wanting to visit Stonehenge with less crowds, be sure to go at off-peak times (early morning or right before closing).