These beautiful parts of the UK have some most fantastic landscapes in Europe. Sweeping valleys, winding hill trails and craggy coastlines abound. But it’s not all austere and rainy. When visiting the UK you’ll find fantastic sunny beaches and relaxing green fields too!
So grey weather or no – here’s our guide to the charmingly picturesque and historic villages and towns, the eccentric attractions and the awe-inspiring vistas of these top UK regions. They are certainly a sight to behold. Enjoy!
Table of Contents
- The Norfolk Broads
- The Wild Coast and Sandy Beaches The Cornish Riviera
- Scotland’s Hebrides Islands (Skye and Mull)
- Tour the Garden of England, in Kent
- Hike the Mountains of Snowdonia in Wales
- Explore Classic English Tourist Towns on the East Sussex Coast
- The Peak District
- Northern Ireland’s County Antrim
- Yorkshire Dales
- Dorset and Devon’s Jurassic Coast
- The Lake District
The Norfolk Broads
If you’re looking for the most relaxing UK region to visit, you won’t get much better than The Broads in the eastern County of Norfolk.
This system of lakes, rivers, and canals stretches over 300 square miles of land and water. That makes it one of the biggest waterway networks in Europe. There are over 200 miles of water to travel along, rolling through picturesque countryside and past idyllic rural villages. That’s more canals than you’ll see in 72 hours in Amsterdam!
It’s also man-made, although no one knew until the 1960s. The entire Broads system was the unintended creation of the area’s Medieval inhabitants. They dug out several million tonnes of peat from the land over half a decade, and eventually, it all flooded due to sea level rise.
Today we suggest hopping on a boat tour from the quaint village of Wroxham to spend a lazy afternoon heading northwest up the River Bure to Coltishall. This beautiful little village has a highly rated gastropub, a 13th-century church, and an old RAF air base to wander around. There’s even the odd ice cream and beer seller set up on the side of the riverbanks during the Summer months!
The nearest big city to the broads is the historic city of Norwich. It has a wide range of accommodation options and some lovely Medieval architecture. There are regular trains to Norwich from London and other UK hub cities.
The Wild Coast and Sandy Beaches The Cornish Riviera
The south coast of Cornwall, specifically from St Austell to St Mawes, has long been a popular holiday destination for the English. On the southwestern tip of the British Isles, it’s one of the warmest and sunniest parts of the country. Plus the sandy beaches, craggy cliffs, and cute coastal towns.
Cornwall is a very rural county. The biggest town is Falmouth – with a population of around 20,000. It lies just past the Riviera area but its picture-perfect harbor is well worth a visit. Falmouth also has the region’s widest range of accessible accommodation and restaurant options, as well as transport links to London.
Another highlight when visiting Cornwall’s Riviera includes the gorgeous Porthcurno beach, with sandy shores and chiseled coastline. In the Summer we recommend an open-air show at The Minack Theatre. Catch a traditional Shakespeare play with an incredible beach sunset backdrop, for a truly immersive experience!
You could also take a day trip slightly northwest to Land’s End – the most southwestern point in the UK. Bonus points if you’ve also been to John o Groats, 600 miles away on the northeastern tip of Scotland!
Scotland’s Hebrides Islands (Skye and Mull)
This is a special place. Just look at the featured picture at the top of this article for a small taste of the windswept landscapes you’ll find on the Hebrides. These remote islands in Scotland’s northwest offer some of the most unbelievably scenic hikes in the UK.
However, there’s a bit of a catch. The Hebrides aren’t an easy UK region to get to and there’s basically no public transport on the islands. So bring a car, or take the ferry on foot and book a bus tour. But if you can deal with that? The two biggest islands of the Hebrides, Skye, and Mull, are also two of the best places to visit in the UK for sure.
Highlights on Skye include Dunvegan Castle, built and continuously lived in since the 13th century, and the serene Fairy Pools overlooked by the majestic Cuillin mountains. On Mull, there’s equally epic scenery. Plus, you can go eagle and whale watching with local wildlife tours. Or, sample some fine Scotch at the legendary Tobermory Distillery in the colorful town of the same name.
To get to the Hebrides, you need to go through Scotland’s biggest city, Glasgow. You can fly directly or take a scenic six-hour train from London. From there catch a train or drive to Oban on Scotland’s west coast, where you can get a ferry. This will take you about six hours too, but the journey includes spectacular views!
Tour the Garden of England, in Kent
Kent is England’s most eastern county. It has a long history of ancient conflict, with some of the country’s finest castles found here. For example, the historic town of Sandwich, where, you guessed it, sandwiches were invented by the local Earl!
The hip town of Margate is the busiest of the scenic coastal towns in north Kent. It’s a town rapidly being gentrified, with many arty people recently moving here from London looking for a change of pace. The Turner Gallery’s distinctive look is a symbol of change, but local institutions like Dalby Café (opened 1948) keep the traditional feel going.
Along the coast from Margate are much quieter coastal towns like Broadstairs, Westgate on Sea, and Birchington. They all offer lovely promenades and harbor walks.
For a historic day out in Kent, try Leeds Castle. The hugely impressive castle sits on a site that has been fortified since at least 857. It was also once home to Catherine of Aragon – one of King Henry IV’s famous wives. Plus a Dog Collar Museum, which is an interesting one.
Kent is also the closest UK region on this list to the sprawling capital city London. So if you fancy extending your British travel experience a bit, check out our Ultimate Itinerary for 5 Days in London for some unique things to do in the Big Smoke.
Hike the Mountains of Snowdonia in Wales
Wow. What more can we say than that picture? Truly stunning. Snowdonia in Wales gets its name from Mount Snowdon, the highest peak in Wales. It’s also the second highest in the UK after Ben Nevis in the Scottish Highlands.
Climbing Snowdon itself it’s an obvious attraction. It’s a relatively modest four-mile hike on the easiest route, although the weather can get a bit wild during Autumn and Winter. Alternatively, go straight to the top on the scenic Snowdon Railway from Llanberis Station.
Other attractions include Portmeirion Village, an incredible fantasy Italian-inspired estate built in the 1920s. There’s Zip World Llechwedd. A ridiculous trampoline and zip wire theme park in an old slate quarry, it’s high-adrenaline fun like nowhere else!
In general, the Snowdonia region is massive without many big towns (or a single city). You’ll find most places to stay in the area are either very isolated or quite expensive.
If you don’t mind that – great! But if you’re looking for a more accessible place to stay in Snowdonia, we recommend Aberystwyth or Bangor. These seaside towns are at the south and north end of the Snowdonia National Park respectively. They have the best transport links and local amenities but keep a relatively small-town feel.
Explore Classic English Tourist Towns on the East Sussex Coast
The Sussexes, East and West, make up England’s central south coastal area. East Sussex in particular is where you’ll find many of the most iconic seaside towns in the country.
Brighton, with its iconic pebble beach and Victorian pier combo, is the premier example. This exciting town is a known party hub, and there are loads of pubs and bars lining the beach promenade in the historic town centre. You can also explore The Lanes, a beautiful grid of narrow streets home to all sorts of eccentric, weird, wonderful, and trendy shops!
Having said all that Brighton can get legendarily busy over summer weekends, so be aware of that. For a calmer place to visit in East Sussex, try Eastbourne. There’s also a pebble beach and a classic Victorian pier here too, but it’s a lot more sedate than Brighton. You can also head up to the beautiful and iconic chalk cliffs of Beachy Head, which are just outside of town.
Getting to the East Sussex coast is simple, as London, with its four airports, is not far away by train. There are direct links to Brighton and Eastbourne every half an hour from London hub stations. Other famous tourist towns along the coast include Hastings and Worthing.
PS: Watch out for the Wilmington Long Man and the Litlington White Horse on your travels. These giant petroglyphs, aka ancient art, etched into hillsides, are visible from some of the major train routes in the Sussex area.
The Peak District
The Peak District is full of, would you know it, peaks. This huge national park, right in the middle of England, is home to loads of big old hills with funny names. Mam Tor, because, well, have a look. Back Tor, because, why not? Then there’s Nan Tor and the unusual rock formation known as The Roaches.
When visiting the Peak District, there’s no better place to stay than Buxton. This spa town is literally right in the centre of the peaks, surrounded by National Park land on all sides. It’s also a lovely, scenic town with Victorian architecture and good pubs and restaurants.
If you’re up for a different kind of walk, we fully recommend Lud’s Church. This incredible moss-covered chasm carved into the top of a hill has a mysterious history that makes it so awe-inspiring to walk through. Medieval bandits and persecuted religious groups have all used the narrow corridors here as a secret base over the years. You’ll find it just a few miles drive away from the town of Buxton.
For a bonus day trip from the North end of the Peak District, why not give our guide to spending 1 Day in Liverpool a go? The city is a legendary one for many reasons and is just an hour and half drive or train away. Alternatively try the fast-growing city of Manchester, which is even closer.
Northern Ireland’s County Antrim
County Antrim has some of the best sites to see in Ireland, let alone Northern Ireland. This scenic part of the UK will require some traveling too, as it’s not on the mainland. Country Antrim is the most populous county of Northern Ireland, as it covers most of the capital Belfast. It also has incredible scenery, ancient castles, and world-famous landmarks.
At the top of that list is definitely the Giant’s Causeway. An incredible rock formation of hexagonal stone pillars that form a natural pathway out into the sea, before disappearing under the waves. Ancient Celtic legend has that a giant created it by throwing rocks into the sea, hence the name.
County Antrim’s second most well-known attraction globally is The Dark Hedges. These twisting, bendy grove of beach trees over a country road by Hedges Hotel, are an eerie and imposing sight for sure. But it’s TV that made them famous, as they were used as part of Game of Thrones location-filming in Northern Ireland!
You could stay in the lovely village of Bushmills on the Antrim coast, or one of the many quaint villages along it. Or, for a more built-up vibe try staying in Belfast and branching out from there. International flights from Europe do come into Belfast International airport every day, but you might have to connect flights if coming from further afield.
Rolling green hills with grazing sheep. Clear freshwater streams across deep valleys. Picturesque rural villages, with one pub and one village shop. Beautiful waterfalls and cave systems. The Yorkshire Dales are right in the heart of the country, and they offer some of the UK’s best scenery.
A dale is a local Yorkshire word for a valley. So this region is basically all glacial valleys and hills. With names like Swaledale, Wharfedale and Nidderdale. Or the internationally famous Wensleydale, known for its local cheese.
Try walking one (or all) of the Dales’ “three peaks”: Ingleborough, Whernside, and Pen-y-ghent. Ingleborough is the easiest and has the best views, but Whernside has the famous Ribblehead Viaduct nearby. With the occasional steam train!
The lovely small towns of Settle, Skipton and Harrogate make great bases for touring Yorkshire Dales. You’ll find a good range of places to stay and dining options in any of them.
Lastly, The Dales are also home to the highest pub in England. The Tan Hill Inn in Swaledale is 1700ft (528 meters) above sea-level. It’s the only building for miles of scenic countryside around and has become a famous spot for tourists to have a pint.
Dorset and Devon’s Jurassic Coast
The southwest of England has some of the sunniest and warmest weather in the UK. As well as the fantastic coastline to match!
The dramatic seascapes of the Jurassic Coast stretch from Exmouth in East Devon to Swanage in East Dorset. The Jurassic name comes from the geological period of the dinosaurs because millions of years of erosion have turned this UK region into a hotbed of fossils.
That unique geology has also created plenty of jaw-dropping rock formations. Such as the iconic Durdle Door arch, which is one of the most visited spots in the country. Or the nearby sheltered waters of Lulworth Cove, for a less well-known example.
Both Swanage and Exmouth, on either end of the coastal path, are quiet, scenic places to stay. For a little more life and extra amenities, try the traditional seaside resort Torquay on the eastern Devon end of the Jurassic Coast. Or arty student-town and surfer-hub Bournemouth, on the Dorset side to the west.
The Lake District
Although there are absolutely lots of breathtaking lakes in this UK region, you might be surprised to find that it’s here you’ll find the highest peak in England – Scafell Pike. And not in the Peak District. Weird eh?
Still, with views like the above who’s complaining? Two of the most impressive sights are the famous Lake Windemere, and the more-scenic Ullswater. Windemere is the biggest lake in the UK. Long and narrow, it’s great for boating. However, it can get quite busy in Summer. For us, Ullswater is the more scenic choice.
Full of historic ruins and charming villages, one unique Lake District stop is the Fairy Steps. You can find them a mile off the south end of Lake Windemere.
Legend has it that anyone who make it through the narrow stone step tunnel without touching the sides, will have their wish granted by a fairy. It’s actually a gravedigger’s shortcut used from early Medieval times until the 18th century, but don’t let that put you off the magic!
The two biggest towns near the lake district are Carlisle in Cumbria to the north and the seaside town of Morecambe in Lancashire to the south. However, we recommend staying in the tiny, picturesque market town of Keswick. Which is bang in the middle of the Lake District itself.
So there you go, we’re done. From rolling green hills to craggy Jurassic coastlines, hip sandy beach towns to sweeping island vistas, from Yorkshire dale to Irish castle, that’s our pick for the 11 best regions to visit in the UK. We hope you enjoyed it, and maybe inspired your next holiday too!