The United Kingdom (UK): the place I am (mostly) proud to call my home. Inventors of fish & chips, chicken tikka masala and the deep fried Mars bar. It’s a place full of diversity, originality and personality. Yet so many people I’ve met on the road have either never been, or only visited our famous capital. But what is it about Great Britain that makes it so ‘Great’? Well, lots actually.
I’ve been fortunate enough to visit a number of places across our nation, though admittedly not as many as I’d have liked to. However, some of the places I have visited have been incredible, so I’ve stuck them all in a list with some reasons why you should visit!
I may be relatively biased by marking out Manchester as one of the best places to visit in the UK – I live and work here (for the tourism board, no less) and therefore it seems a little unfair to pinpoint Manchester first. But it’s with good reason. I’m not actually from Manchester – I moved here a little over five years ago and didn’t fall in love with it straight away. The love of this great city was a progressive thing for me, it took me some time to really appreciate it. But now I see why so many people love the city I now call home.
Reachable by train from London in just over two hours, and with an increasingly international airport, Manchester is the gateway to the North of England, meaning its transport links and central location act as a gateway to some of the North of England’s most incredible cities and scenery.
That aside, Manchester itself is absolutely packed with so much to do, including a huge amount of free museums and galleries. A few favourites of mine include The Whitworth, the John Rylands Library (think Hogwarts) and The Pankhurst Centre. I am still yet to visit a couple of museums despite having lived here for so long – there is just so much to see and do.
The food and drink scene is increasingly great, cultural, music and sporting events are in their hundreds throughout the year, and Greater Manchester’s boroughs are bursting at the seams with things to do.
I could write about Manchester all day, but I’ll stop there. It’s a wonderful place to visit in the UK, and you wouldn’t struggle to fill a week here. Shameless plug – but visitmanchester.com is the place with all the info!
Despite only being 50 minutes from Manchester, I’ve only visited Liverpool a handful of times. It’s another city full of character and with plenty to do, and the accent alone is enough reason to visit – it’s epic.
The Royal Albert Dock is the epicentre of activity, and a great place to visit on a sunny day. Home to most of Liverpool’s best museums including the Beatles Museum, Tate Liverpool and the Maritime Museum, The Albert Dock is one of my favourite parts of the city.
Really close by is the Camp and Furnace. We headed there one evening for some street food, though the venue often plays host to live music, club nights, art exhibitions and performances. It’s a really cool place with a chilled out vibe – and the street food is delicious.
On one occasion, we stayed at The Georgian Townhouse which was a stones throw from the Baltic Triangle, Liverpool Cathedral and the Camp and Furnace. It was a gorgeous hotel with huge rooms so I can highly recommend it if you’re planning on staying a few days.
Snowdonia National Park
A relatively short drive from the North West of England, Snowdonia National Park in Wales is the perfect getaway for nature lovers. Quite obviously home to Mount Snowdon, the national park also offers miles and miles of rolling hills and breathtaking scenery.
On our last visit, we stayed in a tiny little village called Trawsfynydd which was adjacent to a huge lake of the same name, and was a great base from which to explore the national park. We spent a bank holiday weekend hiking around the lake and through the surrounding fields, and driving to a number of country pubs in the area for some good old fashioned pub grub.
The scenery in Snowdonia National Park is absolutely out of this world, and there are so many places to visit to go hiking, rowing and biking. It’s a nature lovers dream.
While we’re on the subject of Wales, another favourite of mine is Conwy. Situated on the north coast of Wales, Conwy is mostly famous for its castle, which is well worth a couple of hours to explore.
A walled market town, Conwy is a World Heritage Centre. Surrounded by the stunning Welsh countryside and with the mountains of Snowdonia in the distance, it’s a beautiful place to visit. Take a trip down to the Quay to grab some fish and chips, cosy up in one of its many pubs, or just take a walk through the town.
Conwy is also home to Britain’s smallest house. Measuring just 72 inches across and 122 inches high; you’ll be able to spot this curious attraction thanks to its bright red exterior, and the lengthy queue outside.
The Peak District
From this entire list, the Peak District has to be one of my favourites. I grew up in the relatively small city of Derby, which is a matter of minutes from the south of the Peak District. As a kid, I didn’t appreciate this at all, but as an adult, I now understand the beauty of the place.
The Peak District is huge, with so many towns, villages and hiking regions that are all part of its make up. A couple of firm favourite places to visit include Matlock Bath, Buxton and Dovedale. All equally beautiful in their own right, and with a multitude of activities and hiking routes.
For keen hikers, I can highly recommend walking Jacob’s Ladder. Situated close to Edale, Jacob’s Ladder is a relatively difficult climb, and can act as the beginning of a larger hike up to Kinder Scout – the highest point in the Peak District. The views from the top are absolutely magical. Once you return back down to Edale, the Rambler Inn is a good place to stop for food and a well-deserved pint.
The Lake District
Another natural stunner, The Lake District is a beautiful mountainous region in the North West of England. Again it’s huge – huger than the Peak District in fact. I have only visited the popular town of Bowness-on-Windermere and the surrounding areas, but this alone was enough to push The Lake District into being one of my favourites.
The town of Bowness is the epicentre of activity in the south of the Lake District, mostly due to its position on the banks of Lake Windermere. From here, you can catch passenger ferries across the lake, hire boats, learn to sail, or just take a walk through the idyllic town and around the banks of the lake.
The Angel Inn is one of my favourite places to grab a bite to eat in Bowness. The menu is always top notch, and its position on the side of a hill means it has wonderful views across the lake – I’d highly recommend heading here for a drink at sunset.
It would be almost rude of me to create a blog post about the best places to visit in the UK without including London. As much as I didn’t want to include for the simple reason that everyone knows of London’s existence, it’s impossible not to give it a mention. I love the place, I really do. There’s something magical about England’s capital city that I still can’t quite put my finger on despite 15+ visits over the years.
Aside from the tourist hotspots, the less touristy sides of London are equally as impressive. The neighbourhoods of Peckham, Lambeth and Vauxhall are some of my favourites to spend time in thanks to their food and drink scene. For a slightly different angle on the London skyline, head up to Frank’s Cafe in Peckham during the summer months.
Hyde Park is lovely to stroll around and escape the hustle and bustle of the city a little, and a trip to the admittedly more busy Camden Markets and Covent Garden are a great way to pass the time. London is full to the brim with things to do and see, and even now I don’t feel like I’ve scratched the surface. Despite heavy criticism from the locals, Transport for London have got the transport network pretty well worked out, so it’s easy to navigate this huge city. If you’re feeling brave, hop on a Boris bike to see the city above ground and at your own pace.
Edinburgh blew me away when I visited. I wasn’t expecting it to be so beautiful. Unfortunately, I was only there on a business trip so am still in need of a revisit to explore properly, but the city is well deserving of a place on this list.
In the short time I did have to explore, I took a stroll down the Royal Mile – a succession of streets forming the main thoroughfare of the Old Town. Edinburgh Castle is perched at the top of the mile, and is certainly worth the visit if you have time. I also had the chance to go on the Free Ghost Tour which was loads of fun and I can highly recommend. It starts on the Royal Mile everyday at 5pm, 7pm and 9:30pm and recounts tales of Edinburgh’s dark side including body snatching, public executions, gruesome jails and tortures.
Last but certainly not least, is one of my favourite places in the world. Southwold holds a special place in my heart. It’s the place I spent every summer on family camping holidays, and some of my fondest memories with some of my favourite people have been created here.
I genuinely believe part of my heart lives on this small coastal town in Suffolk, and will do long after I’m gone.
My family aside, I know a number of people who feel the same way as I do about Southwold. The home of Adnams doesn’t have much to offer in the way of attractions, but has a sense of feeling that causes any visitor to instantly relax and forget about the worries of life.
Having said that, an afternoon in the arcade is an afternoon well spent. A visit to the Adnams brewery to taste old favourites, and new brews of their delicious beer is an absolute must, too. Take a walk to Walberswick and stop for a pint of the aforementioned Adnams and a portion of fish and chips in the Bell Inn, or take a stroll down the beautiful stretch of Southwold beach. The Lord Nelson, or ‘The Nelly’ as it’s more commonly known is another local and family favourite for food and drinks, and The Crown is wonderful for a slightly fancier meal if the budget allows.
However you choose to spend your time in Southwold, spend it wisely. It won’t be long til your trip is over and you’re aching to head back, trust me.
Other great places to visit in the UK
This list could be never-ending. The UK has so much to offer, and I can strongly advise a visit to our small but perfectly formed island nation. Below is a list of another ten destinations in the UK of which I have been to, and can highly recommend. You will notice a lack of places in the South of England and Northern Ireland. Not because these aren’t beautiful; only because I haven’t got round to visiting them yet!
- Lytham St Annes