The Best Places To Visit In The UK And Ireland- Travel Guide
It was said that the first places to open up to visit would be local, followed by regional travel, long haul estimated to be the farthest into the future. Like many, I will be relieved to get out and explore. I may travel a lot internationally but at least once a year, we have also taken a staycation. These have included some of the pristine small Scottish Islands, to travelling by car to the furthest southern English coast of Cornwall and staying at Lizard Peninsula. Here are some of the best places to visit in the UK from John O'groats to Land's End.
Land's End, Cornwall, UK ©MDHarding
The Best Places To Visit In The UK - Travel Guide
Recently I wrote a travel guide on everything you need to know about Scotland, including the Scottish Islands, Highlands and much more. You can catch it again here: Highlands To The Islands - Scotland.
England, Wales and Ireland have lots to explore too from landmark attractions, historical sites and also the delights to experience from making or tasting a traditional Irish cream coffee, Welsh Cake or going the whole hog with a Sunday lunch. Yum!
Irish Coffee ©MDHarding
Travelling South From Scotland
The first place over the border and most accessible by public transport is Berwick Upon Tweed (not to be confused with North Berwick located in Scotland). Only 40 minutes by train from Edinburgh, the historical town located in the region of Northumberland is filled with character from the Berwick Castle to the Royal Border Bridge. It was once the chosen getaway destination for artist LS Lowry. There is something for all the family to enjoy from following the coastal paths, Lowry Trail, visiting Cocklaw Beach, walking along the Elizabethan Walls or Andy Howey's Birds of Prey Centre. My favourite is the 18th-century Palladian Country House - Paxton House. With its beautiful woodland and landscaped gardens. There are also house and boat tours, with a cafe on-site to rest before enjoying scheduled activities or a stroll through the gardens, with permanent sculpture trail - Entrances. You might also be lucky to see a Highland Coo or two.
Paxton House, Paxton, Berwick Upon Tweed ©MDHarding
On the other side of the coast in the region of Dumfries and Galloway is the town of Gretna, located in Scotland but very close to the English border. Traditionally associated with eloping English couples because of the more liberal marriage provisions in Scots law compared to English law. Read more about Gretna and Touring The South West 300 here.
There are also places in the middle between both the East and West coast, you might like to visit if travelling by car down the A68. I've travelled all three main routes by car from Scotland South, taken the train and also by bus straight between London and Edinburgh. Sad to say I've never stopped on the A68 but continued on to Bradford. Did you know Bradford has one of the countries dedicated photography, film and television museums? Opening in 1983, it was also home to the first IMAX cinema and the largest screen in the UK.
Which route will you follow east or west?
Here are a few suggestions from the East Coast to the West Coast and in-between:
Lindisfarne Holy Island
Holy Island or also known as Lindisfarne is located in the county of Northumberland on the east coast of the UK, only a short distance drive from the Scottish Border. The tidal island has a history dating back to the 6th century and Christianity. The remote island was an ideal base for the monks that used to live there. Today you can visit this small charming island measuring 3 miles (4.8 km) from east to west and 1.5 miles (2.4 km) from north to south. Visiting Lindisfarne Holy Island should be included on any self-drive holiday to Northumberland, with its abundance of history, delicious food and not to be missed, Mead!
Read more on what you need to know about visiting Lindisfarne Holy Island.
Lindisfarne Holy Island ©MDHarding
The coastal town of Bamburgh in the heart of Northumberland is famous for its castle which was used during the filming of Downtown Abbey, Harry Potter and also Robin Hood. It was the seat of the former kings of Northumbria and for its association with the Victorian era heroine Grace Darling, who is buried there. Don't miss the beautiful coastal walks and rolling sand dunes.
Bamburgh Sand Dunes ©MDHarding
The market town of Alnwick dates back to the 7th century, sitting on a hill surrounded by its own protective wall. The castle famous for being filmed in Harry Potter as Hogwarts, today you can visit the home of the Duchess of Northumberland. The multi-award-winning attraction has incredible gardens filled with season interest and also for children a potion garden. Throughout the year there are also Harry potter inspired events, such as dragon quest. I love visiting throughout the year, the cherry blossom trees in spring are spectacular but my other favourite time is autumn with the colourful foliage and eating fresh local produce in the treehouse restaurant (book ahead to avoid disappointment).
Did you know you can also visit on a day trip from Edinburgh?
Cherry Blossoms at Alnwick Castle Gardens ©MDHarding
Newcastle Upon Tyne (not to be confused with Newcastle Upon Wear)
The city was built around a Roman settlement Pons Aelius and was named after the castle built in 1080 by Robert Curthose, William The Conqueror's eldest son. The city is a bustling hub for technology, learning, retail and cultural centres.
Back in 2018, Newcastle & Gateshead celebrated the Great Exhibition Of The North with a complex drone light show, fireworks, exhibitions and much more.
There is lots to do for the whole family. Highly recommend a staycation for a few days to enjoy the many museums, parks, beach and culture.
Sage Building, Newcastle ©MDHarding
The Roman walled city of York is famous for the impressive 13th-century Gothic Cathedral - York Minster. Located in the region of Yorkshire, the historic city is a must-visit! Did you know it also has a Viking past? Discover more in Norse of Course - All Things Viking.
Filled with independent shops to explore and local eateries with tasty delights. Don't miss a visit to Betty's Tea Room. It's very popular! Highly recommend making a reservation ahead of time.
The Minster, York ©MDHarding
The seaport and market town was once known as Bishops Lynn until 1537. In the early 18th century, Daniel Defoe called the town "beautiful, well built and well situated". Shipbuilding thrived, as did associated industries such as sail-making and rope-making. Glass-making was prosperous and brewing was another important industry. Today you can enjoy one of the many trails including The Kings Lynn Maritime Trail.
The birthplace of the famous British Explorer and Navigator George Vancouver (1758-1798). His most famous undertaking was his exploration of the North Pacific coast of North America. Starting his naval career at the early age of thirteen under the Captian James Cook on the Resolution. Later a midshipman on Cook's famous voyage onboard the Discovery.
A further fourteen-minute drive along the coast, you will arrive at Sandringham House. The private home of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, whose father, King George VI, and grandfather, George V, both died there. The 20,000-acre landscaped site is open to visitors throughout the year. The outbuildings are home to the rare collection of horse buggies, cars and royal carriages.
George Vancouver, Kings Lynn, Norfolk ©MDHarding
Norfolks Coastal Towns
We were blown away by just how pretty and all that you could see and do in the Norfolk coastal towns. I would highly recommend a visit to Cley, Wells, Sheringham and Cromer.
Discover more about how you could stay in a windmill, visit Norfolks Wildlife Trust oldest and best nature reserve and much more!
Wells Colourful Beach Huts ©MDHarding
The Norfolk Broads
The Norfolk Broads are considered as one of the UK’s largest wetland national parks, with over 125 miles of navigable waterways of both rivers and lakes, located in the English counties of both Norfolk and Suffolk but more generally known as – The Norfolk Broads. The waterways were a man-made accident, forming in the 14th century as part of the flooding of peat works. Nowadays the region is popular for Norfolk broads boating holidays, an ideal vacation for the whole family.
Home to over 21 iconic windmills including Stracey Arms Drainage Mill - Norfolk Broads Windmills.
Read more about how you can enjoy one of the most beautiful parts of the country, on board a modern boat - Norfolk Broads Boating Holiday.
Norfolk Broads ©MDHarding
There is an abundance of things to see and do in London. Each time I visit I always discover something new to experience and enjoy from the incredible Sky Garden to visiting the home of Sherlock Holmes. Are you a Harry Potter fan? If yes, a visit to Warner Bros Studios is a must! Throughout the year the displays change with seasonal interest. Will you try a butterbeer or a chocolate frog?
Maybe an afternoon tea at The Ritz is more your cup of tea or culture at the Barbican?
Being a floral fanatic I love visiting the parks and gardens of London, from Kew's Chinese Pagoda to St James Park and it's pelicans. Yes, 40 of them!
London by night is magical with many of the historical and landmark buildings illuminated. Here is what not to miss while in London.
London can be a challenge for budget accommodation, the rates jump quickly from hostels in multi-bedded rooms to private single rooms in hotels. Chains can work out the best when booked in advance. These days would highly recommend the changeable and refundable option. Can recommend The Nottinghill Hotel 2* it's basic, clean and ensuite rooms. Looking for something more trendy? Chelsea Sloane Square Hotel is very nice. Big fan of Sherlock Holmes? Did you know there is a hotel named after the famous detective - Park Plaza Sherlock Holmes is a 5-minute walk from Baker Street Station and his official residence.
Last Year I stayed at the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge, the location is amazing for walks and exploring along the Thames, London Eye and of course a visit to Westminster.
Have you visited London? Do you have a favourite hotel?
The Great Hall At Christmas, Harry Potter Warner Bros Studios, London ©MDHarding
The port city of Southampton famous for its association with the RMS Titanic, the iconic Spitfire and today a port to the world's largest cruise ships. There is also the Tudor House & Garden displaying artefacts covering over 800 years of history, including a penny-farthing bike.
It is also the gateway to the Isle of Wight.
QMII Docked In Southampton ©MDHarding
Isle of Wight
We flew early morning on a direct flight from Edinburgh to Southhampton with Flybe. Sadly the airline is no longer operating, today you can fly with Scotland's number one airline - Loganair. On arrival, there are local buses running from the airport to the ferry terminal.
The one-hour ferry crossing to Cowes, with the Red Funnel Ferries, is good fun. Did you know Red Funnel dates back to 1840 and was known as one of the shipping pioneers of the time?
It was a lovely summers day in mid-July the flight was smooth, as well as the ferry crossing too. Arriving early afternoon for a three-night stay. It's really easy to navigate the island with local transport. Vectis Southern Buses run a regular service throughout and you can now pay via contactless.
We took trips to visit the thatched houses of Shanklin, Shankin Chine a historic gorge that first opened in 1817 with waterfalls and streams. Due to the microclimate, it is also home to rare plants. There is also a tea garden and shop.
The Model Village - Godshill, Dinosaur Isle - the first purpose-built dinosaur museum in Europe, located in Sandown in the shape of a giant pterosaur. Did you know the Isle of Wight is the Uk's Dinosaur capital?
A must is also a visit to Alum Point. Take the Needles Chairlift to enjoy the coastal views and iconic chairlift to get a birds-eye view of the Needles. There is also a sweet manufacturer, glass making, 4D cinema and more. It's a great day out for all the family.
We could have easily stayed longer, as there is so much to see and do.
Shanklin Village Thatched Houses ©MDHarding
A few years back we visited one of the Channel Islands - Jersey. After driving from Edinburgh to visit Cornwall, we drove to Plymouth in time to catch the Condor Ferry to Jersey. Today the fastest route is serviced from Poole by the Condor Liberation a sleek and efficient high-speed trimaran with a duration of only 4 hours 40 minutes.
We stayed for 5 nights at the beautiful independent Victorian guest house - La Bonne Vie. Located only a few minutes walk from the beach. On arrival, we were welcomed with fresh warm and delicious chocolate chip muffins (Delicious!). The double en-suite room was really spacious and comfortable.
During our visit in the high season of August, we were able to enjoy Jersey Battle of Flowers. First staged in 1902 for the Royal Coronation, today it's one of the largest floral parades in Europe. The annual event over two days has two events, the daytime and moonlight parades. We decided to do both and weren't disappointed. The floats are covered from head to toe in the most elaborate, creative and colourful floral displays. Taking place along the promenade in St Helier, the seating stands can't be missed.
We visited the Shell Garden one of the largest mollusc shell collections in the world (sadly it's no longer there), as well as an authentic tour with Waverley Coaches sampling black jam and the beautiful lavender farms on a vintage bus. You might have watched The Durrells t.v drama recently. Did you know you can visit The Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust (Jersey Zoo)? The youngest son - Gerry founded the zoo in 1959 to save threatened animals from extinction, no matter what the odds.
There is also the possibility of visiting some of the neighbouring Islands. Such as a day trip to the Isle of Sark.
Shell Garden ©MDHarding
Isle of Sark
The one hour 10-minute sailing run by Manche Iles Express is a great trip to be enjoyed by the whole family. You can explore the length and breadth of the island ( two square miles) on foot, by bicycle or take the horse and carriage tour. We opted for the horse and carriage tour which was great fun! Afterwards, enjoying a snack at the cafe before taking the return ferry.
The Small High Street, Isle of Sark ©MDHarding
The ancient city of Exeter is filled with an abundance of history. It is surrounded by Roman walls and an underground labyrinth of medieval passages. There is lots to see and explore including Exeter Castle, gardens and museums.
I couldn't wait to explore more of the surrounding areas including the famous Somerset Downs. You can read about it at Alchemy In Rural Somerset.
You can reach somerset by train from London or by regional and international flights.
A few years ago we took the opportunity to stay for a week at the most south-western point in the UK - Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall. We opted to stay in one of the static caravans at Mullion Holiday Park. It was an ideal location to explore the area. Each day visiting a new location including Turo, Falmouth, St Ives, Newquay, Tintagel, Portreath - Cornish Gold Centre where you can see a one million gold bullion, make jewellery, try your hand at pottery and see the Da Loren from Back To The Future. There is also the opportunity to enjoy the scenic coastal train journey from Penzance to St Mounts Bay near Marazion with splendid coastal views while having a traditional Cornish afternoon tea. We didn't make it to St Michael's Mount on this occasion. An excuse to return someday (wink).
You can't go all the way to Cornwall without visiting Land's End. There is something here for the whole family including small rides, candy floss and other treats. We opted for the sky chair taking us up and over the white chalk cliffs. Incredible!
What do you enjoy doing while on holiday or visiting someplace new? Attractions, restaurants or walking perhaps?
Minack Theatre, Penzance, Cornwall ©MDHarding
The Isles of Scilly - St Marys
The Isles of Scilly located just off the Cornish coast are very beautiful and worth a visit. With beautiful coastal walks, local crafts and don't miss a scrumptious bite to eat at Juliet's Garden. The views are spectacular from the open terraces, as well as the incredibly tall agapanthus.
We took the faithful Scillonian Ferry servicing the isles for more than 40 years. This was one of our most crazy day trips. Sailing from Penzance to St Mary's taking 2 hours 45 minutes.
Tresco another of the five inhabited islands is famous for its subtropical plants at Tresco Abbey Garden and also the Valhalla Museum, displaying shipwrecked figureheads.
Incredibly Tall Agapanthus, St Mary's, Isles of Scilly ©MDHarding
The World Heritage Site - Bath famous for its Roman Baths dating back to AD 43, is a must-visit! It is possible to visit on a day trip from London but why not stay longer and soak up the atmosphere of this great city. It's really easy to explore on foot and visit its many sights such as the Jane Austen Centre. You might also like to explore the surrounding areas such as neolithic Stonehenge with its prehistoric stone circle. Located in medieval Sailsbury a cathedral city. Have you heard about Westbury White Horse? The larger than life chalk horse stands 180 feet (55 m) tall and 170 feet (52 m) wide on the rolling Salisbury Plain.
Cardiff Castle, welsh love spoons and Welsh cakes are at the top of my mind when I think of Wales, oh yes and Tom Jones (wink). I really do need to make another visit, as there is so much more to explore and enjoy!
You might wonder why on earth Worchester? Would it surprise you if I said it was like a smaller version of Cambridge? Okay, it's not very glamorous and quite low key but it's peaceful with pretty River Severn walks, Tudor House Museum and the medieval cathedral houses royal tombs. Do you love pottery? The home of Royal Worchester the oldest remaining English porcelain. Established in 1751 the luxury tableware includes dining wear and gift sets. Sadly, production has ceased in Worchester but you can visit the Royal Worchester Museum, the former factory site.
Worchester Sauce might also spring to mind. The fermented condiment created by two chemists John Wheeley Lea and William Henry Perrins, in the first half of the 19th century. Who later went on to form the company Lea & Perrins. Tasty in a Bloody Mary and more recipes.
If you have been reading my blogs for a while, you will know I'm a bit of a chocoholic (wink). Did you know you can visit Cadbury World? There is also museums and galleries of course but well, I went for one reason and one reason only to visit Cadbury World. Jumping onboard the hop on and off city sightseeing tour bus I enjoyed hearing more about a city I hadn't really considered visiting before. Known for being an 18th-century industrial powerhouse it is also home to a network of canals. You can even visit Cadbury World via the canal!
The self-guided tour takes anything up 2 hours but many visits last 3-4 hours as you can enjoy the 4-D Chocolate Adventure, onsite cafe, workshops and of course the gift shop.
Stratford Upon Avon
Home of William Shakespeare, Stratford-Upon-Avon is located on the canal too but is much more scenic and countryfied. The Tudor buildings line the town centre, not as straight as they once possibly were but in their glory all the same. The town centre can be conveniently explored on foot but for places of interest further afield such as Mary Arden's Home (Shakespeare's birthplace) you might like to take the hop on hop off tour bus. It's not only a great way of seeing more but also to learn more with the great audio commentary.
Don't miss a visit to the Royal Shakespeare Company, the theatre has incredible views from the tower and a rooftop restaurant. You can also enjoy a tour backstage, hear about the history, upcoming productions and possibly a glimpse of the action.
You can reach Stratford-Upon-Avon by car, bus and also train. We stayed at YHA Stratford Upon Avon. It's a grand white Georgian Manor house set in 3 acres of land just outside the centre. We travelled back and forth on the local bus exploring more of the area. It's also a great base to visit Warwick Castle.
Vintner, Stratford-Upon-Avon ©MDHarding
Many fans will recognise Nottingham as the birthplace of the legendary Robin Hood, it was also once the world's lace-making centre. Located in the Midlands, it is easy to reach with most public transport options. If you are going to stay in Sherwood Forest you might like to drive there. Set outside the city centre, it is located on a bus route but it is also a main busy road. Staying in one of the cabins was idyllic, birds whistling and the sounds of the trees rustling in the wind. Bliss.
In the city centre, there is the castle, a number of museums and galleries.
Legendary Robin Hood, Nottingham ©MDHarding
Are you a huge Beatles fan? Sounds like music to my ears might be for you.
Ferry Cross The Mersey, Liverpool ©MDHarding
Stoke On Trent
Known for its pottery, Stoke on Trent has something for everyone from Trentham Monkey Forest, Alton Towers, Waterworld and my favourite Trentham Gardens.
Do you ever feel your away with the fairies? You might at Trentham Gardens. Can you spot them all? Created by artist Robin Wight, the wire sculptures bring a magical element to the beautiful gardens. For more Magical places to visit in the UK visit here.
Away With The Faries, Trentham Gardens ©MDHarding
The seaside resort of Blackpool known for its iconic landmark Blackpool Tower with its ballroom, glass viewing platform and circus. The Eiffel Tower look-alike was built in 1894, sitting alongside Blackpool Pleasure Beach and vintage amusement park. There is something for all the family to enjoy throughout the year, with annual celebrations including the Blackpool Illuminations.
Blackpool Pleasure Beach From Blackpool Tower ©MDHarding
One of the UK's beautiful National Parks - Lake District is a must-visit. With rolling hills and glacial lakes, it's a great place to go hiking, enjoy water sports and also famous as the second home of Beatrix Potter the author and illustrator of Peter Rabbit.
Ideal bases are the old market towns of Kendal, Ambleside and by Lake Windermere.
Views of Lake Windermere, Lake District © MDHarding
I'm a huge fan of Ireland and love the banter (chat). My last visit was two years ago to Belfast and a long-awaited trip to the Giant's Causeway. One of the most magical sites. Did you know it's only one of two sites in the UK made of basalt, volcanic rock? You can read more about how to get there and more in the Top Two UK Volcanic Rock Formations.
Sometimes it's the big cities we hear about first and as we dive into discovering more, we read about the smaller places of interest. I'm so glad that I have on a number of occasions. Have you heard of Tralee? The town in southwest Ireland has some interesting and family-friendly places to visit such as the Kerry Country Museum, Tralee Bay Wetlands Eco and Activity Park not forgetting the incredible The National Folk Theatre of Ireland - Siamsa Tíre. They put on the best Irish and dance performances.
Not too far away is Killarney with its beautiful gardens, national park, horse-drawn buggies, Ross Castle, Muckross House, Killarney House and more. History, culture and loads of good banter guaranteed.
Ireland is so easy to get around on public transport but to have more flexibility, you might like to rent a car or possibly even a campervan.
Visit Celtic Ireland by cruise. That might not be an option at the moment but something you would like to plan for in the future.
Top Tips: Try an Irish coffee, Guinness, stew. You can do all three in one night at the local pub. Highly recommend.
Killarney House and Gardens, Killarney ©MDHarding
I hope you have enjoyed reading and inspired to visit some of these great UK locations.
Please do check before you travel to confirm if open and any restrictions due to Covid-19.
Stay safe & well x