Quite often, it appears that ‘Great Britain’ can be summed up in people’s minds as a trip to London. But, there are just so many amazing places within the borders of this island, which may I remind you, consists of THREE countries – England, Wales, and Scotland. Having lived there, during two separate occasions, as a foreigner, I took every opportunity I could to explore the areas around me. Even after a combined 1.5 years, I still did not manage to see every place on my list! However, I did see quite a lot…
Based on these experiences, I’m going to share with you my favourite destinations in Great Britain. I’ll also provide a brief little synopsis of some highlights in those locations, so perhaps you can decipher which ones may be more up your alley – and worth the trip outside of iconic London.
So, without further ado… The Best of Britain (in my humble opinion & in no particular order):
Located on the River Thames in southeast England, less than a 30-minute train journey outside London, Windsor is the perfect day trip. Historical, charming, and the official residence of the British Royal Family, this town is home to the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world. Wander down the Long Walk and keep your eyes open for Red Deer as you approach the Park (there are 500-some that roam freely around the enclosure). Be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes for this day, as walking is by far the best way to see the town! Pop by the Windsor & Eaton Brewery, marvel at The Crooked House of Windsor, and simply take in the quaint, winding cobblestone streets that take you over the bridge and through the community. ‘Charming’ doesn’t even begin to capture this royal little town.
Hands down, one of my favourite places in Britain. A town set in the countryside of southwest England, Bath is quaint, intriguing, and beautiful. If you’re a history buff, be sure to give yourself plenty of time in this place, as a visit to the famous Roman Baths can easily take up more than a large portion of your day! Stepping back in time, the town and its 18th-century Georgian architecture had me in absolute awe. During my second visit, my brother, and my partner and I had the opportunity to indulge in the Bath Christmas Market… completely blowing my “as-if-this-town-could-be-more-magical” feeling out of the (bath) water. Oh, and if you’re even remotely a fan of magic, or slight-of-hand entertainment, you must pay a visit to the “Sleight” bar. A highlight of both my trips to Bath, this place provided some of the most impressive live and fun entertainment I’ve ever seen. Bath is also home to some great craft brews. Be sure to check out “Beer Craft of Bath”, if unique beer is your thing!
Another destination high up on my list is Edinburgh, which has to be my favourite city in Scotland. With its beautiful rolling hills, medieval Old Town, and spectacular views from its castle atop the city, Edinburgh has it all. If you’re into hikes, enjoy Arthur’s Seat; if you’re into the arts, enjoy the Fringe Festival or Tattoo; if you’re into medieval tales and getting a bit spooked, take part in a ghost walk… there’s something for everyone. Additionally, the city is just very, very picturesque.
A city by the Bay, this destination is often referred to as an ‘alternative’ tourist destination. I would say that this city is a bit more laid back, offering relaxed coastal vibes as well as fun party ones. The city is also host to many national cultural and sporting events, as well as prestigious performances of the arts. To read more information on this city or for more inspiration to visit Cardiff, check out my blog post “48 Hours in Cardiff”.
Famous for its status in academics, boasting the oldest university in the English-speaking world, Oxford has been home to some of the most brilliant minds ever known. In addition to its impressive University and historical significance, the city (another from southeast England) is filled with beautiful winding cobblestone streets and stunning architecture – some locations even famous for having been chosen as inspiration and filming locations for Harry Potter. Check out where the Great Hall was first envisaged, or some of the intricate halls of Hogwarts… you can even find the hidden watering hole where the cast enjoyed a pint (or several) between filming. You can find the Turf Tavern, dating back to 1381, located at the end of “St Helens Passage” (a small winding alley), near the famous Bridge of Sighs. Outside of Harry Potter cast and crew, you’ll also see that other celebrities and public figures have included CS Lewis, Stephen Hawking, Margaret Thatcher and more. Oh yeah, and if you like a good milkshake, be sure to check out “Moo-Moo’s” creative treats. Choose from over 100 different flavours at this gem located in “The Covered Market”.
Isle of Skye
A nature lover and outdoor enthusiast’s dream, this island is the largest and most northern of all the major islands of Scotland. With rocky slopes, you’ll find some of the most dramatic mountain sceneries in the country, filled with hiking paths for individuals of all abilities. Beautiful as can be, Skye is home to popular geographical formations including The Storr, Quiraing, Neist Point, and the famous Fairy Pools. It’s all quite the trek, but it’s 110% worth it.
Located in northwest England, this city is most commonly known for its Premier League Football Club, Liverpool F.C. and The Beatles. A seaport, the city is a common place for travellers to connect to Ireland (Belfast) via ferry, and has a fairly booming music and party scene. In the 18th century, it was the second most important port in Britain and became a major element of the Trade Triangle — the transatlantic slave trade route. It is also the city which housed the office of the White Star Line, the managing company of the Titanic. With strong ties to historically significant events, Liverpool is a city with a wealth of interesting museums, tours and memorials to commemorate these times.
A small village in the Conwy County Borough of Wales, it is a stunning getaway within the boundaries of Snowdonia National Park. As if you’ve stepped into your own little fairy tale, the village is romantic and quaint. A popular destination for those seeking outdoor activities (as a result of its proximity to major hiking and activity routes), the village is mostly filled with bed-and-breakfasts and inns, with plenty of coffee shops and restaurants. Nonetheless, even if you’re just passing through the area in northern Wales, the charming bridges, walkways and waterfalls will surely offer the perfect afternoon of peace and relaxation.
Colourful, laid back, and PRIDE-full, Brighton is a seaside town on the south coast of England. With a beautiful pier, resembling one out of the California Coast, wide beaches, and brightly painted homes, this destination ranks high, particularly for the summer months. Plus, if you can manage your trip here around their annual Pride event (usually the first week of August), you’ll certainly be in for a treat! Brighton Pride is the biggest Pride festival in the United Kingdom, bringing together a beautiful and inclusive community, with visitors from across the globe. The event is comprised of music, art, film, and many other celebrations. The Pride Village Party is pretty fun too! 😉
Another world-renowned university city making this list, Cambridge is located in east England. With many beautiful colleges, including King’s (famous alone for its gorgeous Chapel), it is well-known for its intricate Gothic architecture. It was on these grounds that the first atom was split, where Darwin developed his theory of gravity, where the structure of DNA was first discovered, and where Stephen Hawking lived and worked. But not only is the city an incredible place to take in the history of brilliant minds, it is also a great place to relax and have some fun. While you may have been aware of the University’s reputation, what you might not know is that the River Cam runs through the heart of Cambridge, consisting of winding canals within which you can take a ‘punting tour’ – Think Gondola rides in Venice, but in Cambridge, UK. Better yet, you can pack a bottle of wine and rent your own boat by the hour so you can punt yourself and your crew through some of the iconic sites of the city including King’s College Chapel, The Wren Library at Trinity College and the Bridge of Sighs.
Okay, to be fair, this wouldn’t be a ‘Best of Britain’ post without London. A melting pot of culture, an iconic global phenomenon, and a leader in the arts, entertainment, fashion, media and more, London is one of my favourite cities in the world! Especially if you can dig a little deeper than the basic tourist hot spots, this city truly has so many unique things to offer any traveler! Stay tuned, because this city will soon receive its very own dedicated blog post.
And there you have it, my favourite destinations around Great Britain. Some of you may wonder why I chose ‘Great Britain’, instead of the ‘United Kingdom’? This is because Northern Ireland is technically considered to be a part of the United Kingdom and I would like to dedicate another post to the beauties around Ireland as a whole. I’d love to know, what are your favourite places in Great Britain?