So you think you know Great Britain? You’ve been to London, popped over to Edinburgh, maybe you’ve even checked out Oxford or Cambridge. But there is so much more to Great Britain than iconic monuments and red buses.
There are beaches, coves, and rocky coastlines surrounding vibrant blue water. You could be exploring the colourful coastline of Wales, the sandy surf beaches of Cornwall or the wild waves of Scotland’s Isle of Skye. There are Michelin-starred restaurants in tiny towns, grand hotels set on sweeping acres, and mystical towns to explore. There's food, fun, adventure, relaxation. Hell, there’s a fairy pool. We’re in love.
Which is why we’ve teamed up with VisitBritain to bring you 11 of the best hidden spots in Great Britain that are off the beaten track to help you fire up your travel plans.
The Lake District, Cumbria
If it’s good enough to be the subject of a Taylor Swift song, it’s good enough for us. England’s Lake District sits between Manchester and Glasgow and offers some of the most stunning landscapes you may ever see; mountains and moors and moss-covered stones leading to ancient waterfalls. Nothing short of pure magic. Adventurers should get stuck into the Ambleside to Troutbeck walk for some serious natural eye candy. Or why not check out the Gilpin Hotel and Lake House for the perfect place to rest your head and soak in one of their dreamy outdoor hot tubs. There’s an onsite spa if your limbs are feeling achy after mountain-scaling, as well as a few resident llamas to greet. Its Michelin-starred restaurant, Gilpin, is world-renowned and a must-visit even if you’re not staying the night.
(Image source: The Gilpin Hotel and Lake House)
New Forest, Hampshire
Spanning three counties, the New Forest is home to a stunning national park, yes, but also to a buffet of unique experiences. The Pig in Brockenhurst is a top-tier place to stay or visit, with its hunting-chic-meets-quirky-vintage decor and locally grown, seasonal menu. The cosy open fire in the winter doesn’t hurt after a long day out, either. If you’re there in the warmer months, make your way to the whimsically purple haze that is the area’s Lavender Gardens, and don’t skip the tearooms for some lovely local hospitality.
(Image source: VisitBritain/Raul Alex Caramizaru)
Yes, it’s home to one of the most iconic music festivals of all time, but there’s so much more to this quirky little town than most know! Said to be the final burial site of King Arthur himself, there are plenty of legend-filled places to explore. Be sure to climb the Glastonbury Tor and take in the 360-degree view or make your way up to Wilkins Cider Farm, a cobweb-covered cave that brews some proper-strong cider and sports a casual (but one hundred percent authentic) Banksy mural on one of its back walls. BYO vessel and fill up from as little as £1.80 for a litre, then grab some local cheese on your way out. It’s not too far from Soho House’s Babington House, the perfect stop for a spa treatment or a hotel stay.
You’d be forgiven for looking at a picture of Newquay in the summer and thinking it was a little beach in Perth. But the teal-blue waters of this North Cornish surfing town aren’t the only surprise. Experiencing something of a glow-up in the past few years, Newquay is brimming with culture. We love Watergate Bay Hotel (book a beach loft for panoramic ocean views), a coastal-chic boutique hotel offering surf lessons, yoga classes, and renowned chef Emily Scott’s eponymous seafood restaurant. There are plenty of hidden gems, too. An absolute must is The Hangout, a shipping container-turned-cafe overlooking Watergate Beach that serves up Antipodean-quality coffee and avo toast with a side of fresh ocean air.
(Image source: Watergate Hotel Instagram)
Edinburgh is, of course, a familiar spot with its internationally renowned Fringe Festival and its eminence as the birthplace of Harry Potter. But just 20 minutes down the road is Leith, Edinburgh’s ultra-cool cousin. Hit up Alby’s for a big, fat, hot sandwich. The menu changes often but expect to be wowed with the likes of a crispy tofu katsu curry or melty chicken parm sarnie. Phwoar. For something a little finer, The Little Chartroom combines cosy minimalism with modern Scottish bistro fare.
Harris, Outer Hebrides
Another “am I dreaming?” type of place, Harris sits on the quieter side of Islands Lewis and Harris, where white-sand beaches and turquoise waves mingle along the rugged coastline. If you’re heading there in the warmer months, get stuck into a locally run surf lesson. Year-round, you can make your way to Isle of Harris Distillery for some Scottish gin. Or pop over to Lewis for some authentic Harris Tweed made by local masters of their weaving craft.
Gleneagles Hotel, Perthshire
Luxury hotel Gleneagles sits on 850 acres of lush green land, which qualifies it as a small city in our eyes. It’s a place to let your inner royal out for a few days, whatever that means to you. Activity types will feel like a kid on Christmas: there’s archery, golf, fishing, falconry, horse-riding, and cycling, just to whet your appetite. Then there’s the onsite Resident Spa, offering heavenly treatments with Dr Barbara Sturm at the helm. Of course, there’s a slew of restaurants and bars on offer, from the two-Michelin-starred Andrew Fairlie to the plush Century Bar.
Isle of Skye, Scottish Highlands
Oh, the Isle of Skye, with its impossibly cinematic landscapes, finger-like rocks atop golden-green hills, and mystical bodies of water. There really is just something bewitching about this Scottish gem. Swim in the icy waters of the Fairy Pools, scale The Old man of Storr, then kick your feet up at the stunning Kinloch Lodge or just visit for an unforgettable meal. If whisky is your jam, Talisker distillery is on your doorstep.
(Image source: VisitBritain/Chris Orange)
Pembrokeshire Coast, South-west Wales
There’s a lot to explore on Wales’ Pembrokeshire coast, and the endless surf beaches are just the first chapter. You can kayak along the coastline, getting up close with secret coves and jutting rocks along the way. Pay a quick visit to the Green Bridge of Wales, then it’s not too far to Saint Govan’s Chapel, a teeny little cave-cottage built right into the side of a cliff with ocean views for days. Harry Potter fanatics can pay their respects to dearly departed house-elf Dobby, whose shrine sits on Freshwater West beach. Stay (and eat) at Penally Abbey. Trust us on that one.
Cardigan, West Wales
Sitting on the River Teifi, Cardigan is just as endearing as its name suggests, but don’t be fooled, it’s a strong contender for your UK must-visit list. There are plenty of lovely Airbnbs in the area, and Albion Aberteifi is our pick if you’re more of a hotel type. Start your day with a coffee and a stack of pancakes from Crwst (don’t forget to grab a custard doughnut for the road) before getting lost in Guildhall Market, where you’re guaranteed a good yarn from the locals, if not a few quirky bits and bobs to take home. For day trips, there are plenty of local beaches to explore; Traeth Bach is just a 20-minute drive and known for its killer sunset views. End your day with a waterside pizza at Pizzatipi. Heaven, right?
(Image source: Pizzatipi)
It may seem unusual to send you to a tiny Welsh town just for a single restaurant, but the experience is so unique, so unforgettable, we know you’ll thank us. Ynyshir is the two-Michelin-starred restaurant from Gareth Ward and it’s anything but your average white-tablecloth-foam-topped experience. It’s Welsh-Japanese fusion–but there’s no menu, so no sneak peeks–they don’t cater to dietaries, they recommend four to five hours for around 21 courses, and there will be a DJ, flashing lights and smoke from the kitchen’s open fire. You can stay a night as part of a dinner package, too.
(Image source: Ynyshir)
Whether you’re a frequent visitor or have been dreaming of heading over to Great Britain to discover the wonder and magic of it all, now’s your chance to explore Great Britain like you’ve never seen it before. Head to VisitBritain to find out more.
Editor’s note: this article was produced in partnership with VisitBritain. Thank you for supporting the partners who make The Urban List possible. To read our editorial policy, click here.