For most people, the list of unique places to visit in the UK is a simple few. London, of course—and of course, the “pretty places” in Scotland. Maybe Manchester; probably Belfast.
However, as someone who has been back to the UK several times, I can tell you: The country is so much bigger than its top tourist destinations.
Which is not to say these typical spots aren’t worth visiting—they absolutely are! However, the UK bucket list I’m about to share with you (at least I think) presents a more nuanced take on the infinitely interesting United Kingdom.
How I’ve Come to Know the UK
Before I delve into places to visit in the UK in the future, I thought I would talk you through my past. You see, in 2005, London was actually my very first international destination. It’s almost surreal thinking back on it, because I had no idea what was coming down the travel pike the next 18 years! On that trip I visited many British cities, including Manchester, Newcastle and even little Nottingham.
With this being said, while I first visited the UK as a very young man, I didn’t partake in many “young” activities at that time. For example, I didn’t attend the Glastonbury Festival to bring a slice of rock and roll to my life, which is a pity: The White Stripes (whom I loved at the time) headlined that year. I didn’t play the slots at any casinos, and online gambling wasn’t even a thing then, although I definitely liked the Solitaire game on my Nokia bar phone. I didn’t even really go out that much, apart from drinking too much “Newkie Brown” in Newcastle!
Places in the UK I Still Need to Visit
Back in late 2013, I was supposed to pair a visit to London’s famous World Travel Market with what would’ve been my first trip to the UK. Portia, a blogger I’d met on the road earlier that year, was even going to accompany me! Unfortunately, I ended up canceling at the last minute, so Cardiff Castle and Snowdonia National Park will just have to wait.
Cornwall has been atop my list of places to visit in the UK since before I even traveled internationally; my former favorite singer has long made her home there. Of course, having discovered more about the beautiful beaches of Cornwall (and its faerie culture) since then, I don’t imagine it will be long before you see me sunning myself on the shores of St. Ives!
The Lake District
I can’t remember when I first learned that a place called “The Lake District” exists in the UK. However, it seems to have been all the rage in the UK both before and during the pandemic, when its dramatic hikes and vast, empty scenery offered the ultimate social distancing. Then again, I think I’d feel just as at home in a cute café in the cozy Cotswolds.
I’m honestly not sure how I came to know about Kent, which (correct me if I’m wrong, British people) is not the best publicized destination in the country. Still, I love everything I’ve learned about it and definitely want to go there as soon as I’m able to do so. My top bucket list destination in Kent—the “Garden of England”—is the White Cliffs of Dover.
It might seem anti-climactic to end my UK bucket list with the city that begins most people’s. I’m talking about London, the British capital and the beginning of the world. It makes perfect sense to me, however, and in a most practical way. You see, I haven’t visited this expensive city since I was in my 20s, i.e. when I had no money. I simply want to see how much more amazing the city is when I can actually do things!
When is the Best Time to Visit the UK?
The UK has a reputation—it has infamy, let’s be honest—for having bad weather most of the year. While this has proven less true in the climate change era, with hot British summers more common than ever, I’d probably advise against having great weather expectations in advance of your next trip. This is unfortunate if you’re coming in July or August, but is a net positive for the year as a whole.
Reason being is that while the UK can be rainy and miserable in the summer, it doesn’t get extremely cold in winter, certainly not by the standards of many places in North America. This means that as long as you can let go of having perfect conditions (which, again, are never guaranteed here), you can really have a great time in the UK 365 days per year.
Other FAQ About UK Travel
Where is the prettiest place in the UK?
This is highly subjective, but most people consider Cornwall, the Lake District of England and Scotland’s Isle of Skye to be the prettiest places in the UK. Honorable mentions could include Kent (the “Garden of England”) or any number of natural areas in Wales or Northern Ireland as well.
Where should I go on holiday in the UK?
This issue will differ depending on how often you’ve been to the UK in the past—and whether you are foreign or British—but most people mix cities like London and Edinburgh with natural areas like the White Cliffs of Dover and the Scottish Highlands.
What is the coolest place in the UK?
Many UK travelers in search of “cool” head to cities and towns with large universities (and, thus, young and cool people), such as Leeds and Brighton. However, if you’re in search of a cosmopolitan sort of cool, there is really no other place in the UK to head than London!
The Bottom Line
I hope you’ve added some of these unique places to visit in the UK to your bucket list—or, absent this, that reading my list has inspired you to create your own. As lovely as London is, the UK is so much more than its capital, or indeed any of its other most high-profile destinations. Like I’ve done for countries such as Japan and Thailand, I hope to return to the UK often in the future, and dig deep into its many layers and nuances. If anything, the challenge is choosing just a few places to start this new part of my journey, and sticking to them. See you on the (British) road! By the way, you can feel free to leave your own UK bucket list in the comments, if you’d like.