Chocolate box villages, patchwork fields, historic market towns and a wild and fascinating history – there is so much to see outside the main tourist spots in the UK. Here are some of our favourites.
Known as the prettiest village in the south of England, Rye is a beautifully preserved medieval village perched on the Sussex coast. Walk down the steep high street past little cottages and shops to the harbour, with yachts, a working fishing fleet and a historic lifeboat house. There are also lovely pubs with views of the water, and many walking paths along the beachhead where you can enjoy the sea air and views.
Camber Castle built by Henry VIII lies to the west. Somewhat crumbling now but still recognisable, set on a rolling green plain, the castle was built to protect the approach to Rye from the sea and is a fascinating example of Tudor defence works.
Dedham Vale is famous for its outstanding natural beauty and was the setting for many beautiful Constable paintings, including The Hay Wain, Flatford Mill and Lock, and Valley Farm. You can enjoy picturesque rambles down quiet country lanes and through flowering woods and fields, or explore Dedham itself, which has many historic buildings and places of interest. Try the Sun Inn on Dedham's High Street, a medieval coaching inn that still has its arch, and where you can enjoy ale and locally-sourced goodies.
Aldeburgh is a charming village on the Suffolk coast, with pebble beaches and colourful fishing craft drawn up high away from the tide. The world-famous Aldeburgh Music Festival is held each June and features the works of Benjamin Britten who was resident in Aldeburgh for many years. Aldeburgh Fish and Chips is regarded as one of the best fish and chip shops in the UK – best eaten with a view of the beach and a pint of the local brew.
Youghal is a walled seaport town on the coast of Cork, currently reinventing itself after its industrial era past, and stirring interest in travellers for its rich history and many buildings and monuments.
Attractions include Myrtle Grove, where Sir Walter Raleigh lived from 1580 to 1602, and where he planted the first potatoes after bringing them from America in 1585. Youghal Lighthouse is also worth a visit; nuns who were paid to keep the light burning maintained the original building and light from 1202 to 1530 when the lighthouse and nunnery were confiscated. In 1777, the town's Clock Gate Tower was built on the site of Trinity Castle and was used as a prison during the rebellion of 1798.
On the beautiful North Cornish coast, Padstow is a fishing port and historic town dating back to AD 500. Visit the picturesque harbour quay, wander through Prideaux Place, a restored Elizabethan manor on the hills overlooking Padstow, or sponsor a lobster at the National Lobster Hatchery. There are also excellent cafes and fish restaurants set up by the famous TV chef Rick Stein. From Padstow you can explore the wild Cornish coast with its rich heritage of Arthurian legends and pirates, smugglers and shipwrecks.
Walking and hiking through the Lake District in the summer is a quintessential English experience, and where better than to tramp through the area around beautiful Lake Windemere. You can set off on your own (there are numerous guide books and websites to help you plan) or take a guided walk, with choices for all fitness levels and ages ranging from heritage trails to overnight walks. Observe hidden wildlife, explore secret valleys or abseil your way down rocky crags.
For something different, try a hot air balloon flight over the lake, horse riding or sailing. There is also a steam railway that runs from Haverthwaite Station up to the southern tip of Lake Windermere with views of the water and mountains all the way.
The southernmost island of the Hebrides, Islay is famous as the home of the best Scotch in Scotland, distilled from the island’s pure water and peaty soil. Islay is home to 7 world-class distilleries including the Laphroaig. If you’d prefer something a little less heady, enjoy quiet walks along windswept beaches and across green fields misty with rain. Go in autumn or winter for warm log fires and a wee dram or two.
Edinburgh has a large number of well-regarded art galleries, with works ranging from Titian to local artists, and when the weather turns, a visit to one of them is a wonderful way to spend the day.
The National Gallery of Scotland’s permanent exhibition features works by Gauguin, El Greco, Raphael and Monet, and it also has a series of temporary exhibitions changing throughout the year. The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art features cutting-edge art and must-see exhibitions that display many different genres of modern art. There is also a fascinating outdoor sculpture trail. The National Portrait Gallery is the most ‘Scottish’ of the galleries and has many historic portraits and other paintings from Scotland’s past. The oldest work in the gallery is a portrait of James IV of Scotland from 1507, and the collection also includes two portraits of Mary, Queen of Scots.
Woodstock is probably best known for its proximity to beautiful Blenheim Palace, a magnificent country house dating back to the 16th century. Blenheim Palace is now the residence of the dukes of Marlborough and is a walker’s paradise, through 800 hectares of gardens landscaped by Capability Brown, including a great lake and beautiful formal gardens.
Woodstock itself is a picturesque historic town in Oxfordshire, set in green fields alive with summer flowers and quiet country lanes bordered by hedges. Try a luxury cottage stay for a real taste of England.
The perfect base for exploring the North Wales coast and historic Snowdonia, Ruthin is an enchanting little medieval market town near the Clwydian Range Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. As well as the picturesque market square, Ruthin has several buildings of historic significance such as the old Ruthin Gaol, a purpose-built Victorian prison, and a thriving craft centre featuring the work of local artisans. There are also many little independent shops and outstanding cafes.
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