Whether you’re looking to save money or minimise your carbon footprint, a staycation can be the answer to your holiday guilt. Luckily, the UK is full of gorgeous landscapes, buzzing cities and beaches made for relaxing on, so driving a few hours up the road truly can feel like getting away from it all. From relaxing countryside breaks to stunning beaches that could pass for somewhere far more exotic, these are the best places to visit in the UK.
Picture-perfect from practically every angle, York is what you’d envisage when you think of a postcard English city. Surrounded by medieval walls, but with modern touches from shops and restaurants, York is the perfect mixture of history and contemporary sights – plus the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors are nearby. No wonder the Sunday Times voted it as the best place to live in the UK.
Certain UK towns are always referred to as ‘up-and-coming’, but Bristol really is the new cool city. The Office for National Statistics found that over 13,000 people left London to move to the city between 2015 and 2017, making it more popular than even Brighton. For those just visiting, it’s worth seeing the museum & art gallery, and Bristol Zoo Gardens.
Isle of Skye, Scotland
If stunning scenery is your bag, the Isle of Skye should absolutely be on your travel checklist. Home to some of Scotland’s most incredible landscapes, it’s like driving through a film set. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights during your trip.
Cornwall is undoubtedly one of the most stunning places in the UK. Known for its local surfers, artists and nature, the area is a must-visit. We recommend Falmouth, where you can visit the National Maritime Museum and Pendennis Castle, a well-preserved 16th-century fortress built by Henry VIII.
Whether you’re up for a night on the Toon or a trip to see the iconic Angel of the North, Newcastle is a hive of activity and excitement. From the hip cultural quarter to the metropolitan Gateshead and endless pubs, you’ll never be bored here.
From the zoo to the whiskey and, of course, the annual Fringe Festival, Edinburgh is a constant hive of activity and fun. Locals are friendly and only too happy to offer a recommendation – pick their brains to find the best side streets to explore and restaurants you shouldn’t miss.
What’s a list of places in the UK without London? The capital city is certainly the most-visited part of the isles, but with good reason – history, architecture, dining and theatre all reign supreme here. Pack your comfy shoes; there’s plenty to see!
Shakespeare fans from around the world flock to Stratford-upon-Avon to see the places that inspired the 16th-century poet, and of course visit the The Royal Shakespeare Theatre and its two sister theatres – The Swan and The Other Place. After you’ve caught Macbeth or Hamlet, make your way to a local pub for a truly British evening.
Ballycastle, Northern Ireland
In the north-easternmost coastal tip of Ireland you’ll find Ballycastle, a true Irish gem without the crowds. The perfect place to drive to on a road trip, it’s home to lots of great restaurants. Lonely Planet recommends adding Kibane Castle to your must-visit list.
Those with a sweet tooth will have a whale of a time trying out the local delicacy; the Bakewell pudding (never tart!). The Peak District town is also home to great cycling trails, an excellent market and the stunning Chatsworth House (believed to be the inspiration for the home of Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice).
Most people visit Inverness in the hope of catching a glimpse of the Loch Ness Monster, but there’s a lot more to the Scottish city than mythical (maybe) creatures. A hub of highland culture, it’s ideal if you want to see men in kilts, listen to bagpipes and drink whiskey – which, of course, we absolutely do.
The perfect destination for those who love to be out and about, the Pembrokeshire Coast Path is the UK’s only true coastal National Park and has 186 miles of trails with over 50 beaches along the way. The challenge is deciding which ones to stop at.
Belfast, Northern Ireland
The capital of Northern Ireland was voted the best place to visit in 2018 by Lonely Planet, and its food, drink and history are just part of the reason. As the birthplace of the RMS Titanic, the city has dedicated an entire museum to the sunken ship, and the result is fascinating. If pop culture is more your thing, Game of Thrones fans will love to visit some of the show’s most well-known filming locations.
Isle of Wight
A short boat ride from the south coast of England, the Isle of Wight is often forgotten about, but those who’ve seen its nature, landmarks and architecture return regularly. Be sure to do one of the coastal walks to get the best view of the island for your Insta.
Glasgow has been voted the world’s friendliest city and is also the biggest in Scotland. Lonely Planet calls it ‘one of Britain’s most intriguing metropolises’, probably thanks to the excellent museums, endless independent business and, of course, cosy pubs. The accent is something of a draw, too.
Lake District, England
No list of stunning places in the UK would be complete without the Lake District. Probably one of the most well-known holiday destinations, the glassy lakes and rolling hills are as idyllic IRL as you’d hope. Luckily for us, it even looks breath taking in the rain – just be sure to pack your wellies, in case.
With beaches so stunning you’ll wonder if you’re actually in the UK, Anglesey is a peaceful gem if a seaside getaway is what you’re looking for. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge lived in the Welsh isle after getting married, and said they would “miss it terribly” after leaving – and with views like that, who can blame them?
Whether you’re keen on history, architecture or Harry Potter (multiple scenes in the films were shot in various locations in the city), there’s no denying that Oxford is a must-visit. The famous university should be toured, and the Botanic Gardens and Arboretum are also worth seeing.
There’s more to Liverpool than just Beatles tours (although they’re pretty fascinating, if that’s your thing). The city is full of culture, and a great place to catch some live music at its many bars. Liverpool has the second-highest number of museums, after London, and the architecture also rivals the capitals. Don’t miss the relatively new Baltic Triangle, which is bursting with delicious street food pop-ups.
News from Cosmopolitan