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Most people associate Great Britain with its cities; London of course, and then Edinburgh, Oxford and Manchester etc.
But what a lot of international visitors to the UK don’t realise is that there are many areas of outstanding natural beauty in England. It has some stunning stretches of coastline, rolling countryside hills, quaint villages with traditional English taverns, and thousands of historic gems to discover.
If you’re looking for some holiday destinations UK to escape the city, then don’t miss the countryside hot spots in the British Isles – the places where British people go on their holidays, or vacations for American readers.
The UK destinations we mentioned in this guide are now beginning to emerge and are becoming the hottest places to visit in the UK, and for good reason! Go find out why…
- Best Holiday Destinations in the UK
- 1. The Lake District, England
- 2. Snowdonia National Park, Wales
- 3. The Isle of Wight, England
- 4. The Isle of Skye, Scotland
- 5. The Isles of Scilly, UK
- 6. The Norfolk Coast, England
- 7. Exmouth, Devon
- 8. The Cotswolds, Oxfordshire
- 9. The Peak District
- 10. The Yorkshire Dales
- 11. St Ives, Cornwall
- 12. The Trossachs National Park, Scotland
- 13. Stratford Upon Avon, Warwickshire
- 14. Bath
- 15. The Scottish Highlands
- Getting Around the UK
- Before You Go To The UK
- More UK Travel Guides
Best Holiday Destinations in the UK
These destinations in Great Britain are hot to travel to right now. Several of the locations in this post are also mentioned in our best places to hike in the UK!
1. The Lake District, England
The world started to look towards areas of natural beauty in the UK after the Lakes District in England became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2017.
This stunning region in the North West of England is England’s biggest national park and also contains the highest mountain in England, Scafell Pike.
The area has been incredibly well-loved by the English for centuries and is best known for its fantastic walks and ever-changing weather! It was also home to the famous British children’s author, Beatrix Potter, for which visitors can visit her former home.
There are 14 actual lakes in the Lake District, the largest and best known being Lake Windermere. The area around the lakes is also filled with very cute English villages such as Hawkshead, Keswick, and Grasmere, where you’ll find boutique stores, cafes, and tiny museums (the Pencil Museum is a popular favourite).
In addition to walking, there are many options to explore the lakes – from traditional boat trips to kayaking, windsurfing, canoeing, and much more.
This is one UK holiday destination you don’t want to miss.
Lake District: Ten Lakes Full-Day Tour: Enjoy one of England’s most picturesque regions on a full-day tour of the Lake District. Visit the mysterious Castlerigg Stone Circle and Lakeland villages. Learn more here.
2. Snowdonia National Park, Wales
Snowdonia is in the northwest of lovely Wales in Great Britain and is home to the UK’s most famous mountain.
The national park contains the second-highest mountain in the British Isles, Mount Snowdon. This is an achievable but challenging day hike or you can just take the train to the top. There is a great café there that serves amazing soup!
But Snowdonia has more to offer than just the mountain. Next to the national park is Conwy, a charming medieval walled town with a castle, town walls to walk, and the smallest house in Britain. It is a great town to have a wander around and stop for a spot of lunch.
Then head to the beautiful Bodnant Gardens. Bodnant covers over 80 acres and has a mix of garden styles – from well-sculptured to wild!
This is also a fabulous area for foodies so make sure you stop into some of the fantastic farmer’s markets and local restaurants. It’s a fantastic place to visit in Britain.
3. The Isle of Wight, England
A short ferry ride from Lymington takes you a short distance over the English Channel to the Isle of Wight.
Time seems to slow down when you get to the island making it the perfect place to visit in the UK. It is known for its walks, beaches, fish and chips, and ice cream! The most westerly point of the island is home to The Needles, 3 massive white chalk rocks that are very scenic.
There are watersports, cycling, horse riding, golf, etc all on offer as well, as is every type of accommodation.
The island is particularly family-friendly but also wonderful for anyone looking to slow down.
The Isle of Wight Festival is held every June and features well-known bands and musicians. Make sure you book quite a bit ahead if you plan on attending the festival as it is extremely popular.
To get to the Isle of Wight, you will need to first get to Portsmouth. From there, you can take the ferry or opt for a unique experience.
You can travel on the World’s only commercial foot passenger service, a Hovercraft Flight, which is the fastest way to cross the Solent between Southsea in Portsmouth and Ryde on the Isle of Wight in just 10 minutes Book your ticket here.
4. The Isle of Skye, Scotland
From the calm of the south of England to the wild and rugged northwest coast of Scotland. It is now possible to drive to the Isle of Skye over the appropriately named Skye Bridge!
Don’t forget to stop and check out Eileen Donan castle before you head over – and you will probably need to stop in again on the way back as the weather will most definitely have changed!
Skye is a magical and wild place – one of the hottest destinations in Great Britain.
The weather is a key feature as it is always changing and brings with it incredibly strong winds. It is quite a large island so it is best explored via car. Portree is the main town and a great base.
The Cuillin Hills offer stunning opportunities for walks in the wild landscape. Go with a guide or make sure you know what you are doing with a map as the constantly changing weather can have a big effect on visibility.
Perhaps the most scenic drive is the one around the coastline of the most easterly tip of the island.
Here you will encounter everything from the Old Man of Storr rock to a Fairy Glen (yes it is supposed to contain fairies!) to Tartan Rock – a rock that looks like, well, tartan!
There will also be a lot of sheep along the way and the view will change from completely clouded over to stunningly clear blue skies. If fairies do exist I am quite sure they would choose to live on the Isle of Skye!
For more ideas about things to do on that road trip, planning information, beautiful photos, and practical maps to help you plan your travels, check out ZigZag On Earth’s eBook: The Road Trip Guide: Edinburgh to Skye and if you are traveling further in Scotland, you will want her Road Trip Scotland guide.
Here are some of our favourite tours of the Isle of Skye:
From Edinburgh: 3-Day Isle of Skye, Highlands & Loch Ness: Enjoy a 3-day tour experiencing the dramatic scenery the Scottish Highlands has to offer. Spend time in Glencoe, explore the Isle of Skye, the Eilean Donan Castle and mysterious Loch Ness. Book your tour here.
Inverness: Isle of Skye and Eilean Donan Castle Day Trip: See the best of the Isle of Skye on a day tour from Inverness, including the capital Portree and the natural wonders of Kilt Rock and Lealt Falls. Admire Loch Ness and Eilean Donan Castle on the way. Learn more here.
5. The Isles of Scilly, UK
The Scilly Isles are perhaps the least well-known of the Great Britain destinations in this article.
This is bound to change once the word gets out as they are a stunning and unique archipelago off the coast of Cornwall. There are 5 inhabited islands and only one allows cars.
There are 2 options to get to the Scilly Isles – a short flight or a longer boat trip.
The boat trip can apparently be quite difficult on the stomach.
The flight could be a tourist activity in its own right. If you get a nice day the views from the plane are jaw-dropping. And as the Scilly Isles has one of the mildest climates in the British Isles so the odds of that are quite good!
St Mary’s is the biggest island and home to the most shops, restaurants etc. Importantly it is also home to most boats!
One of the many charming features of Scilly is that boat trips for the day are not announced till that morning – so essentially you wander down to the port and see what the options are.
There are also boats run between the islands in the evenings that allow you to head over and have a walk, a pub dinner and then catch a boat back. So lovely!
Tresco is the second biggest island and home to the number one tourist attraction of the Scilly islands – the glorious Tresco Abbey Gardens.
Due to the unique climate of the Scilly’s, these gardens have more than 20,000 plants from around the world – the majority of which cannot be grown anywhere else in Britain.
The gardens are beautifully sculpted and oh-so photogenic!
6. The Norfolk Coast, England
Norfolk is in the east of England and appears to be best known for being rather flat! This does however give the area that lovely big sky feels and makes for some stunning views.
It is also home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Europe – particularly Holkham which was made famous in the movie Shakespeare in Love.
This area is best explored by car. It is full of great views, lovely towns, fantastic food, and quite a few windmills!
Don’t miss the lovely town of Burnham Market – a favourite of weekending Londoners.
Cromer is the home of delicious crab – best enjoyed in a crab sandwich!
Wells by sea is delightful and over on the western side is the lovely beach area of Hunstanton.
Norwich is the closest major city. Although Norwich is a lovely city do head out of it and stay around the coastal area. If you do have some extra time head further and explore the stunning Norfolk Broads – the marshy home to many boats!
7. Exmouth, Devon
The picturesque coastal town of Exmouth sits at the beginning of the Jurassic Coast, which extends East towards Sidmouth, Lyme Regis and ends in Studland Bay in Dorset.
Exmouth is the perfect place to base yourself for a Devonshire holiday, since it’s within 30 minutes’ drive of Exeter City, a short Star Cross ferry journey away from Dawlish Warren and Star Cross, and just 40 minutes to the entrance of Dartmoor National Park.
Take a walk around Powderham Castle, head over to The Donkey Sanctuary in Sidmouth, take the kids to the World of Country Life or simply kick back on the sandy beach surrounded by iconic red cliffs.
If you enjoy getting active, you can partake in a host of water sports in Exmouth, since it sits on the mouth of the River Exe, making it the perfect spot to do some kite surfing, jet skiing or sailing.
8. The Cotswolds, Oxfordshire
When you think of countryside villages in England, your mind probably conjures up pictures of the Cotswolds. With tiny, limestone cottages with foliage growing up the sides, narrow cobbled streets, and tiny rivers crossed by stone arches bridges.
This is the Cotswolds for you! Located just a 40-minute drive out of Oxford, it’s easily accessed on a day trip from London or Oxford, though best explored with a car since life seems to slow down a bit here and buses are infrequent.
Go punting, walking in the rolling hills, or sitting in a tearoom eating scones on a rainy English day. There is something blissfully charming about The Cotswolds and its ability to force you to slow down the pace.
Be sure to stay a few days in one of the historic holiday cottages and really embrace the calmness of the Cotswolds.
9. The Peak District
Another popular holiday destination in the UK for hikers is The Peak District. As well as being home to stunning landscapes and scenery, the Peak District is also known for its caves.
Some ancient caves, such as Speedwell Cavern, Treak Cliff Cavern and Peak Cavern to name a few, were formed thousands of years ago. The most impressive cave is Titan Cave in Castleton, which was only discovered in the year 2,000. It’s the highest natural cavern in the UK, measuring at 141.5 meters.
Be sure to check out the stately home of Chatsworth House and take some guided walks in the moors.
10. The Yorkshire Dales
When it comes to finding the best UK holiday destinations that offer stunning nature, quaint villages, and cheerful locals, you will want to head “up north” as they say in the UK.
The Yorkshire Dales National Park is a rural countryside location known for its unrivalled natural beauty. It’s made up of miles and miles of moors, valleys, hills that look like the setting of Lord of The Rings.
Popular highlights include the Bolton Abbey Estate which house the ruins of a 12th-century monastery, Gordale Scar, a beautiful limestone waterfall, and the quaint rural villages of Malham and Burnsall.
Hikers will enjoy tackling the three peaks walking trail, which takes you up Pen-y-ghent, Ingleborough and Whernside peaks.
To the North of the Yorkshire Dales, you’ll find it connects to North Pennines AONB, a UNESCO Global Geopark that is known for its heather moors, dales, and meadows.
Be sure to head to the city of York just to the southwest of the Yorkshire Dales, the most haunted city in England, to check out the historic sites there. The Minster cathedral is a work of architectural beauty and the Shambles, the famous shopping street, looks like Diagon Alley in Harry Potter.
11. St Ives, Cornwall
St Ives in Cornwall, is an incredible destination in the UK for any type of traveller. This picturesque seaside town has a rich history that dates back to 12th century when it first began as a fishing village – in fact, you can still visit The Sloop Inn, which was founded in 1312 and is the oldest pub in Cornwall.
While in St Ives you can easily fill your days doing all kinds of activities – take long walks through the quaint cobbled streets, soak in unforgettable coastline views, visit some of the many beautiful art galleries and art museums, or shop around for local boutiques.
During summer months you can even catch a boat out to see seals or bask on some of the spectacular beaches.
St Ives has something for everyone – whether you’d like to treat yourself to some shopping and sightseeing or partake in more active adventures, there’s something for everyone here!
12. The Trossachs National Park, Scotland
The Trossachs National Park in Scotland is a serene, wild stretch of beauty like no other. With its rolling hills, winding lochs, and forest paths and trails, the Trossachs is unparalleled in offering the best outdoor experiences imaginable.
This national park was established in 2002, but has been capturing the imaginations of poets and artists with its picturesque landscape for years. Three great English writers have explored here, William Wordsworth, his sister Dorothy Wordsworth, and poet Samuel Coleridge.
Today, visitors have many ways to enjoy their time here. Whether you want to swing a golf club, explore on two wheels or four feet across hundreds of miles of routes built for walking and cycling; sail on one of Scotland’s beautiful lochs such as Loch Lomond; try your hands at fishing; or simply take in the sights – it’s all possible at The Trossachs!
The Trossachs radiate tranquillity and harmony, so if you’re looking for holiday destinations in the UK that can truly help you relax and disconnect from the hustle and bustle of daily life – The Trossachs National Park is most certainly one of them!
13. Stratford Upon Avon, Warwickshire
Stratford Upon Avon is the home of the great English playwright and poet, William Shakespeare, but it offers more than just Shakespearean attractions – although if you can catch a Royal Shakespeare Society play at The Swan Theatre, you should absolutely add this to your itinerary.
This beautiful and bustling town is nestled in the heart of England and has always had a historically important position. Its history dates back thousands of years, to the time of the Anglo-Saxons.
It became a thriving settlement in 1196 when King Richard I announced it would hold a weekly market, making it a market town. From there, it grew in size and wealth. Remnants of this medieval history can still be seen in its architecture.
The town has charming parks and squares, and there are places to sit on the banks of the River Avon and have a picnic.
If you’re looking for an exciting UK holiday destination with a rich historical backdrop, check out Stratford Upon Avon.
Another holiday destination in the UK known for its 2,000 years of history is Bath. As one of the only cities in Europe to be classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Bath fits the bill for a unique and memorable holiday destination.
You can visit the city’s iconic Roman Baths, delve into its deep and fascinating past at the Museum of Bath Architecture or relax in one of its luxurious thermal spa pools.
When you are not exploring the storied cobblestone streets and lush gardens, you can enjoy some delightful shopping experiences from designer boutiques to exclusive antique stores.
Be sure to also sample some delicious local foods such as the famous Bath bun and traditional cheddar cheese from the nearby Cheddar Gorge.
Bath is also the gateway to Stone Henge.
15. The Scottish Highlands
The Scottish Highlands is one of the most stunning places on Earth. With rolling hills, majestic lochs, and quaint villages, these breathtakingly beautiful highlands are an idyllic vacation spot in the UK.
In terms of history, the Highland region has roots going as far back as prehistoric times. It was also once home to warring clans and fiercely independent people who would often rebel in defiance of British rule.
Today, visitors can see the ruins of once-powerful castles dotting the landscape or choose to just kick back and relax in the countryside. If you’re travelling with kids, be sure to take them to see the 21-arch Glenfinnan Viaduct which featured in the Harry Potter films.
For adventure-seekers, there’s everything from hiking to kayaking to explore – or you might catch a glimpse of wild salmon leaping out of rivers at certain times of the year!
Scotland’s Highlands are a must-visit UK holiday destination; its pristine beauty alone is worth the trip but combined with its rich history and amazing activities – well it’s just a slice of paradise.
Getting Around the UK
Getting around England is really easy since it has a great public transportation network. The train service connects most major cities, and each city has a bus network that allows you to get around easily.
However, public transport can be expensive, especially if you are planning on visiting a few places in the UK. You’ll also find countryside locations such as Devon and the Cotswolds an absolute nightmare to get around on public transport.
The most cost-effective, and convenient, way to explore the UK is by renting a car.
We recommend browsing RentalCars.com, which is the world’s biggest car rental booking service that compares all the major brands like Hertz, Avis, Alamo, and Europcar.
If you’re on a tight budget, you can use National Bus Express to get long-distance buses between cities if you don’t plan on visiting any rural parts of the UK.
Before You Go To The UK
So there you have it, those are the most beautiful places in the UK for a holiday destination. As you can see, there are plenty of places to choose from.
We hope this list inspired you to take a rural holiday in the UK. The British Isles offers some stunning places to visit that are currently most frequented by Brits, so what are you waiting for?
Head over to one of these places for a different type of holiday!
More UK Travel Guides
If you’re putting together your UK itinerary and need some more inspiration, the below guides may be helpful to you…
- Tarr Steps walk in the Exmoor National Park
- Where to stay in London – budget to luxury
- 7 Amazing Stops on the way to Isle of Skye
- Things to do in Edinburgh – tips from a local
- Fun things to do in Northern Ireland
- 33+ Essential things to know before traveling to London
- Top things to see and do in Oxford
- 35 Best things to do in London
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What’s your favorite destination in the UK? Have you visited any of these hot destinations in the UK and can offer some tips? Let us know in the comments!