With a possible travel bubble on the way between Australia and the UK, it’s time to start thinking about the best places to visit in the UK.
The Lake District
The Lake District, also known as the Lakes or Lakeland, is a popular tourist destination located in North West England. It isn’t surprising as to why. The Lakes have inspired poetry and art from William Wordsworth to Beatrix Potter to John Parker, all of whom have praised the district’s beauty.
The 17th century English writer, Celia Fiennes wrote about the area in beautiful terms,
“As I walked down at this place I was walled on both sides by those inaccessible rocky barren hills which hang over one’s head in some places and appear very terrible; and from them springs many little currents of water from the sides and clefts which trickle down to some lower part where it runs swiftly over the stones and shelves in the way, which makes a pleasant rush and murmuring noise and like a snowball is increased by each spring trickling down on either side of those hills, and so descends into the bottoms which are a Moorish ground in which many places the waters stand, and so form some of those Lakes as it did here.”
I don’t think I make it sound much better than that. Since the 18th century, stations were posted around the lakes as viewpoints in which people can appreciate the beauty of the Lakes. You can still see one of these stations, Claife Station, today.
Corfe Castle is one of the classic images of a medieval castle. Built by William the Conqueror back in the 11th century, the castle is now a ruin but like many ruins, its decay lends it a romantic quality.
At the time it was built, it was one of the few stone castles in England which lends credence to the idea that the castle was considered quite important at the time. Most other castles were built of earth and timber. While today we constantly think of castles sitting atop hills, it’s actually not the norm as most are in valleys and near important transport like river crossings.
It is a two- and half-hour drive from London so it isn’t exactly a day trip, but the castle does sit atop a little village of the same name. Accommodation and food can be found there if you want to visit the castle and explore the surrounding area.
The Cotswolds are considered one of the most beautiful places in England having been designate as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1966 by the British government.
Much like everything in England, it has a lot of history. There is evidence of a Stone Age settlement there based on burial chambers that have been uncovered. Even Romans built villas there because it was so beautiful.
The name Cotswold is considered to have come from the breed of sheep, known as the Cotswold Lion, which the area became famous for in the Middle Ages. Cotswold is popularly though to mean, ‘sheep enclosure in rolling hillsides.’
The area has many little idyllic stone villages plus several castles and manors (Sudeley Castle, Beverston Castle, Calcot Manor, Owlpen Manor). One of my favourites is the lone standing Broadway Tower.
Bath is an ancient city that offers up examples of all the significant stages of the history of England. It starts with the Celtic presence before the Romans arrived, who were already aware of the natural hot springs found there. You’ve got the famous Romans baths of course. Then the Royal Crescent, a beautiful example of Georgian architecture built between 1967 and 1774. Recently you’ve got the Thermae Bath Spa which combines the ancient and the modern history of Bath in one location. There is simply so much to see and enjoy in Bat, with 80 hotels, 180 bed and breakfasts, 100 restaurants, and over 100 pubs and bars. You could accidentally spend your whole holiday there!
Cambridge & Oxford
These are both university towns that have had a friendly rivalry for God knows how long. Oxford is believed to be the oldest university in the English-speaking world and Cambridge has had people living there since the prehistoric era. The buildings and history in both these cities are amazing. For the architecture nerds out there, Oxford has buildings in every style of English architecture from the late Anglo-Saxon period. For the booklovers, Cambridge has the largest legal deposit library in the world. Either of these locations are a perfect destination for students and lovers of architecture.
The Scottish Highlands
The Scottish Highlands are one of the most beautiful and romantic regions in all of Europe. It’s also one of the most sparsely populated regions in Europe! What this means is that everywhere you look, there is natural beauty. You’ve got the many, many Loch’s (lakes), the most famous being Loch Ness, home of Nessy. If you’re after something a little more urban, you have Inverness with such sights as Inverness Castle and Cathedral. There’s the tallest mountain in the British Isles, Ben Nevin. The Isle of Skye. The Kyle of Durness. There’s just so much natural beauty and isolation that if you are after a proper getaway, this is the place.
It might be a bit cliché but if you’re visiting the UK, you can’t not visit Stonehenge. It’s a prehistoric monument whose purpose we are still not entirely sure of. The culture that built Stonehenge left no written records so the monuments purpose can only be guessed at. Some have suggested that it was an astronomical observatory, some claim it was a religious site. More recently, it has been suggested it was a place of healing but also a place of ancestral worship. We may never know how and why Stonehenge was built, but that is part of the mystery of the site. Though the mystery is a bit ruined by its proximity to roads and towns it’s still something to behold.
The historic city of Edinburgh has so much to do and see. The architecture is beautiful ranging from classic castles like Edinburgh Castle, the Gothic Scott Monument, the funky looking Forth Bridge, and the exciting Princes Street. There are museums and art galleries for fun and a seriously fun and quirky night life. Edinburgh has a little something for everyone.
Much like Stonehenge, you can’t not visit London. Odds are you likely will anyway because London has so much. You’ve got the British Museum, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Elizabeth Tower, the London Eye, Trafalgar Square, the Tower Bridge. Need I go on? London is one of those cities that has something for everybody. It’s a must see for anyone visiting the UK.
Yorkshire is the biggest county in England, and it contains a tonne to do. You’ve got little historic things in York like the Shambles, which is an old street with overhanging timber-framed buildings that date back to the 14th century. It used to be called the Great Flesh Shambles because by 1885, 31 butcher shops were on the street, though none of them are there anymore.
Again, there are a bunch of castles, like Castle Howard but there are plenty of other architectural beauties too like Leeds Town Hall and the massive Piece Hall. There are massive estates to visit, like Brodsworth Hall and Wentworth Woodhouse. Of special note is Studley Royal Park that features beautiful water gardens, St. Mary’s Church and several little interesting bits of architecture.
The Jurassic Coast
The Jurassic Coast showcases some of the best the English coastline has to offer but that’s not the only thing. The Jurassic Coast has unique rock formations that span 185 million years of geological history. This sounds more boring than it actually is because what this means is that you can visit and go fossil hunting! Yes, you can dig up your very own fossil and keep it.
The reason for this is due to the rock formation of the coast showcasing perfectly the rock from the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous. The area was once a desert, a shallow tropical sea, and a marsh so there are heaps of different kinds of fossilised creatures to find. This might not be for everybody, but it is certainly a one-of-a-kind experience for those interested. Even if you aren’t interested in fossils, the coastline itself features many beautiful natural features that don’t require any previous interest to be able to enjoy.
St. Michael's Mount
Mont Saint Michel is a very well-known tourist destination in France but the one that doesn’t seem to get as much attention is England’s own St Michael’s Mount. They are intentionally related to each other. Both are tidal islands that can only be reached at certain points each day, and both have monasteries atop each island. The island is beautiful and full of stunning architecture. If you aren’t making a trip to France, then this is your best bet.
There are also heaps of myths surrounding the island, including one involving the slaying of a giant, known as ‘Jack the Giant Killer.’ It was also featured in the 1979 Dracula film where the monastery was used as the exterior for Castle Dracula. The island is also currently being used to film the upcoming Game of Throne prequel, House of the Dragon.