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!

01London

Unrecognizable woman using mobile phone near Thames River. Taking selfie Tower Bridge at the background TARIK KIZILKAYA / Getty Images

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.

02Cornwall

St Michael's Mount near Marazion in Cornwall AGEphotography / Getty Images

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.

03Glasgow

Stock photograph of people walking on Buchanan Street in downtown Glasgow, Scotland, UK at twilight. Buchanan Street forms the central stretch of Glasgow's famous shopping district. benedek / Getty Images

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.

04Bath

Old Roman Bath in Bath Spa England PocholoCalapre / Getty Images

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.

05Stonehenge

Stonhenge winter sunrise antonyspencer / Getty Images

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.

06Lake Vyrnwy

Lake vyrnwy mrseassider / Getty Images

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.

07Blackpool

Landscape of Blackpool beach and tower Jeff Tebbutt / Getty Images

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.

08Edinburgh

Amusement rides on Princes Street in Edinburgh's city centre, blurred by motion at dusk. georgeclerk / Getty Images

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.

09Cardiff

Incidental People on Cardiff City Street. CasarsaGuru / Getty Images

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.

10Isle of Arran

Red bench looking out to the water on Brodick beach. Brodick, Isle of Arran, Scotland. Catriona Crawford / Getty Images

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.

11Inverness and Loch Ness

A view of the bridge over the River Ness in Inverness, Scotland looking towards the churches in the town. David Bartholomew / Getty Images

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.

12Liverpool

A street sign of Penny Lane in Liverpool. RobinsonBecquart / Getty Images

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