In our eagerness to see the world, it’s all too easy for travel addicts like me to ignore what’s on our own doorstep. However, I’ve found that I don’t have to journey far to discover some fabulous places. From magnificent waterfalls to majestic seascapes, exotic locations in the UK are plentiful if you know where to look. While this list is anything but complete (and I’ll be adding more as I discover them) here’s my round-up of some of the most beautiful places in the UK waiting for you to discover them this summer.
The most stunning waterfalls in the UK
High Force, Durham, England
Surrounded by lush greenery, it’s easy to imagine this waterfall is hidden away in the jungle’s of Borneo but no it’s in High Force, County Durham. The 21-metre waterfall is one of the most impressive in England.
Image by Becky The Traveller
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Sgwd Yr Eira Waterfall, Brecon Beacons National Park, Wales
Sgwd Yr Eira is one of the loveliest waterfalls in the heart of Waterfall Country in the Brecon Beacons National Park. It’s about a 2.5 miles walk from the village of Ponteneddfechan. Find the path that leads behind the falls to see the curtain of water falling in front of you.
Image by Rich, The Surf Atlas
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Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye, Scotland
With waterfalls tumbling into beautiful crystal clear water the Fairy Pools on the River Brittle are fabulous wild swimming spots. Even if you are not brave enough to enter the chilly water they are fabulously photogenic.
Find accommodation on the Isle of Skye
The most beautiful beaches in the UK
We may not often have the weather to compete with more tropical destinations, but we do have plenty of visually stunning sandy beaches, perfect for leisurely walks or a dip in the sea when weather permits.
Kynance Cove, Cornwall, England
As featured in BBC One’s Poldark, Kynance Cove in Cornwall is one of the most photographed and painted beaches in England. Swim in the crystal clear eater, build sandcastles in the white sand and, at low tide, explore the sea caves looking for smugglers hoards.
Image by Heather, Conversant Traveller
Three Cliffs Bay, Gower Peninsula, Wales
Sweeping sand dunes, salt marsh and dramatic limestone cliffs add to the appeal of this wild and dramatic shoreline.
Image by David, Delve into Europe
Barafundle Bay, Pembrokeshire, Wales
Bordered by dramatic cliffs, the clear aquamarine water lap golden sands at Barafundle Bay near the village of Stackpole in Pembrokeshire.
Image by Bella, Passport and Pixels
Flamborough Head, Yorkshire, England
This rugged stretch of coastline in Yorkshire is a conservation area, popular with bird-watchers and hikers alike.
Image by Amy The Travel Fairies Blog
Other world-class beaches in Britain include Hunmanby Gap, North Yorkshire, Pelistry Bay, Isles of Scilly and Crosby Beach, Liverpool with the eerie sight of Antony Gormly’s cast-iron human figures scattered over a 2-mile stretch of sandy beach, looking out to sea. They disappear beneath the waves each high tide. Another lovely beach, on Scotland’s wild, north-western coast, Sandwood Bay is stunning, with a vast expanse of pink-hued sand dunes leading down to the sea.
The most beautiful trees and forests in the UK
A magical tree tunnel, West Sussex, England
Known as a holloway, where centuries of footfall have worn away the soil so that the path is sunken down from the surrounding ground level, this public footpath in Halnaker near Chichester, is just a 20-minute drive from my home and each summer I lead guided walks here sharing the history, folktales and more from this very special corner of Sussex.
Running along the course of the old Roman road that used to link Chichester with London, the trees growing on either side of the lane curve over to meet each other, forming this magical tree tunnel. At the end of the tunnel, if you turn north and head uphill, you’ll find the recently restored Halnaker Windmill and 360-degree views of the surrounding Sussex countryside. You can even see the Isle of Wight on a clear day.
Join a guided walk in the South Downs National Park.
Puzzlewood, Forest of Dean, Wales
Said to have inspired J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth in the Lord of the Rings novels, Puzzlewood has been used as a filming location for the likes of Doctor Who, Star Wars and Merlin. I’ve yet to visit but from what I’ve seen, it looks like an enchanted wood straight out of a fairy-tale, so for those two reasons, it’s on my ever-growing list of must-see UK destinations.
Kingley Vale, West Sussex, England
In this lovely nature reserve, you can see what are believed to be the oldest living things in England; groves of ancient twisted and knurled yew trees that are possibly as much as a thousand years old. Although it’s quite an eerie experience to wander around them, there’s no doubt that is has a magical atmosphere. With rare orchids and ancient burial mounds amongst its attractions, I’m lucky that it is just a short drive from my home.
The Dark Hedges, Northern Ireland
For many years I’d seen striking images of this lovely avenue of trees not far from Belfast, and I longed to visit it for myself so that I too could photograph them. In recent years, I’ve been lucky enough to visit twice and have captured them in both the snow and sunshine. Made famous as one of the filming locations for Game of Thrones, it can get a little busy. But with enough patience, sooner or later, you should be able to photograph it with barely another soul in sight.
Stay at the Dark Hedges Cottage
The most spectacular flower fields in the UK
Fields of lavender, sunflowers, or poppies all make me think of Provence in France but there are some breathtaking flower fields to be found in the UK each summer. Read my round-up of the best flower fields in England to find out when and where to see them.
Sam’s Sunflowers, Hayling Island, England
Find accommodation on Hayling Island
Poppies in the South Downs National Park, England
Bright red poppies in swaths across the rolling hillsides is an amazing sight but they are not always easy to find. Poppies rarely seem to grow in abundance in the same place every year. Keep an eye out on social media in June and throughout the summer to find a field near you.
The prettiest towns and villages in the UK
Pittenweem, Fife, Scotland
The small fishing town of Pittenweem on the east coast of Scotland traded with merchants from Holland and Belgium for centuries and this is seen reflected i the crow-stepped gables that are common in the town. The name Pittenweem is from the ancient Pictish language meaning “The Place of the Caves”.
Find accommodation in Fife
Bibury, Cotswold, England
Pretty villages abound in the Cotswold but Bibury has to be one of the finest and most popular. William Morris rated it as “the most beautiful village in England”. It’s best visited first thing in the morning to avoid the crowds that flock here. Don’t miss Arlington Row thought to be amongst the most photographed cottages in the country. See more
Tenby, Pembrokeshire, Wales
With its blue waters, golden sands, and colourful buildings, historic Tenby, really is rather wonderful. It has three main beaches each offering something a little different. North Beach is known for its watersports, Castle Beach has the most spectacular views while South Beach has a two-mile stretch of golden sands. Take your pick!
Image by Bella, Passport and Pixels
Find a hotel in Tenby
Rye, East Sussex, England
With its timber-framed buildings and cobbled streets Rye in East Sussex, not far from the coast, is one of England’s prettiest towns. Be sure to stop by the historic Mermaid Inn re-built in 1420 with cellars dating to 1156. Pop in for a drink, a bite to eat or you could even spend the night there. Be warned, it’s reputedly haunted.
Stay at the Mermaid Inn in Rye.
Stonehaven in Scotland
On the northeast of Scotland, Stonehaven is a picturesque harbour town 16 miles south of Aberdeen. It’s famous for its Hogmanay fireballs ceremony. and the dramatic ruins of Dunnottar Castle, perched high on the cliff tops a couple of miles south of the harbour.
Image by Rachels Ruminations
Where to stay In Stonehaven
Portmeirion in Wales
Portmeirion in Wales, with its colourful, quirky buildings is a photographer’s dream. It’s well-known for being the filming location for the 1967 television series The Prisoner.
Image by David, Delve into Europe
Image by Heather, Raulerson Girls Travel
Other particularly picturesque villages worth visiting include Castle Combe in Wiltshire, England, Glenarm, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland and in Scotland, Portree, Isle of Skye and Tobermory, Isle of Mull to name but a few.
I’m sure there are a great many more places in the UK that would sit well on this list. For a relatively small country, the UK has many unexpected treasures. If you live in the UK (or even if you don’t) and such a place springs to mind, please do tell me about it in the comments below. While my travels often take me far away from our shores, what exotic wonders, man-made or natural, am I missing here in the UK?
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