The United Kingdom, or the UK, is made up of the countries of Scotland, England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Thanks to its rich cultural history and diverse scenery, this island of four nations has long been one of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations. One of the best things about visiting the UK is how easy it is to explore. Thanks to its compact and manageable size, you can base yourself in one city and make multiple day trips during your stay to tour vastly different areas!
While you could give England’s capital city a miss on your visit to the UK, you would be missing a lot! There’s a reason London is one of the top tourist destinations in the world--it’s impossible to run out of things to do here. The 2,000-year-old city is bursting at the seams with global culture, world-class dining, fashion, nightlife, and historic landmarks. London literally has it all.
Don’t miss: Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, the Tower of London, and gazing at the River Thames from the London Eye.
The ancient Celtic kingdom of Cornwall, on the coast of southwest England, is blessed with 300 blissful miles of wind-whipped coastlines and cliffs. The churning seas make surfing a popular pastime here, but you could just as easily park yourself on a secluded beach and enjoy a quiet picnic.
Don’t miss: St. Michael's Mount, Tate St. Ives, and Tintagel Castle.
Scotland’s largest city is the perfect blend of grit and glamor. Though it’s undergone major transformations over the years to become a sophisticated city of culture, it still stays true to its working-class, industrial roots. Glasgow boasts an unusually high concentration of medieval, Gothic, Victorian and Edwardian architecture, with a gawking gargoyle at every turn. And, if you’re in the mood for a little retail therapy, Glasgow’s famous “Style Mile” has the best shopping outside of London. Foodies will rejoice in the plethora of restaurants. But for the most authentic experience, sample some deep-fried haggis at a chippie.
Don’t miss: Kelvingrove Art Gallery, Glasgow City Chambers, and seeing the traffic cone hat on the Duke of Wellington statue.
The historic English city of Bath gets its name from the thousand-year-old Roman Baths that are scattered throughout the city. The thermal spring waters that flow into the baths were once believed to have healing properties, making the city a favorite vacation spot for the British upper classes. These days, the beautifully preserved Roman baths are for show only. Visitors to the city can still experience taking a bath in Bath, albeit in more modern spas.
Don’t miss: The Roman Baths and museums, No. 1 Royal Crescent, and Bath bun pastries.
This mysterious homage to human ingenuity has been a destination of worshippers and pilgrims since its construction over 4,500 years ago. The ancient stone monument, which spans an area of over 12 square miles, attracts hordes of enchanted tourists. For this reason, buy your tickets well ahead of time if you plan on stopping by Stonehenge.
Don’t miss: the medieval town of Salisbury nearby, and Salisbury Cathedral with its original Magna Carta.
Nobody would fault you for thinking you had stepped into a fairytale when you’re looking out over Lake Vyrnwy, a hidden gem located in the quaint Welsh town of Llanwddyn. The tranquil lake is actually a flooded valley, surrounded by vast expanses of rolling green hills. If you truly want to get away from it all and need an escape from the crowds, you’ll love Wales’ well-kept secret.
Don’t miss: Cream tea at the luxurious 19th century Lake Vyrnwy hotel, which overlooks the lake.
If you want a quintessentially British seaside holiday experience, look no further than Blackpool in Lancashire. The iconic resort town has been a favorite vacation destination for generations of families all over the UK. Blackpool Pleasure Beach, a nostalgic amusement park and arcade surrounded by boardwalks, is at the epicenter. If living like the locals is your goal when you visit the UK, it truly doesn’t get more authentic than Blackpool.
Don’t miss: Blackpool Tower Dungeon, the “Three Piers,” and eating fish and chips by the seaside.
Scotland’s capital is the top tourist destination in the UK, after London. Edinburgh is full of history, with winding cobblestone-lined streets and a medieval castle sitting on top of an extinct volcano. It’s also home to world-class arts festivals and cuisine. The city offers a perfect sampling of historic Scottish culture in a cosmopolitan package. Catch the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, marching in full Highland regalia with bagpipes blaring, if you can. If you happen to be in Edinburgh on New Years, you can witness the city’s celebration of Hogmanay. Nobody does New Years like the Scots, and you’ll be joining the biggest street party in Scotland.
Don’t miss: Edinburgh Castle, Camera Obscura, shopping on Princes Street and The Royal Mile.
If you want to sample a little bit of everything Wales has to offer, head to the small country’s proud capital. One of the city’s many highlights is Cardiff Castle, which was built on top of the ruins of an ancient Roman fortress. Cardiff’s ultramodern waterfront, featuring a plethora of restaurants, shops, and nightlife, provides a striking contrast to its rich historical backdrop.
Don’t miss: Cardiff Bay, Bute Park, and World of Boats.
Hop on a ferry in Ardrossan on the southwestern coast of Scotland, and an hour later you’ll find yourself in a different world; an ethereally beautiful Scottish island. Nicknamed “Scotland in miniature,” Arran is like a tapas plate for sampling everything Scotland is famous for in one pretty package. You’ll find ancient standing stones, whiskey distilleries, castles and castle ruins, golf courses, sheep, sweeping coastlines, cottages on misty moors, and even a mountain to climb.
Don’t miss: Brodick Castle and Country Park, King’s Cave, Holy Island, Machrie Moor stone circle, and the Island Cheese Company.
While you’re not likely to encounter any mythical monsters while you’re visiting Loch Ness, you will encounter some of Scotland’s most spectacular scenery. The ruins of Urquhart Castle overlook the 22 square mile loch, which contains more freshwater than all the lakes in Wales and England combined. Just north of Loch Ness is the romantic city of Inverness, which is regarded as the capital of the Scottish Highlands.
Don’t miss: the Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition, Inverness Castle, and Culloden Battlefield, where Scotland’s fate to become part of Britain was determined in 1746.
This industrial, maritime city in northwestern England is the birthplace of the Beatles, making it a magnet to music fans the world over. Stop in at the Cavern Club, the legendary bar where the Fab Four were discovered in the early 1960s. You can also check out attractions like The Beatles Story in the Albert Docks area, and take a bus or walking tour to see the actual childhood homes of Paul McCartney and John Lennon.
Don’t miss: Sefton Park and the Tate Liverpool