Dive into history as you explore the castles, cities and villages that dot the green landscape. And leave time to see some of the most exciting cities in the world. Welcome to the United Kingdom!
The UK is made up of 4 individual nations: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. But what are the best places to visit in the UK?
Read on, and you’ll discover 20 of the UK’s top destinations in this round-up of travel wish list-worthy attractions.
- Experience the highlights of England, Scotland and Wales on a UK self-drive tour
A stay in London may be the highlight of your trip to England. Admittedly, you could spend weeks in England’s vast capital, exploring its lush parks, elegant terraces, and world-class museums and art galleries. So, if you have just a few days here, you’ll find plenty to fill your time.
For example, you could visit the Tower of London, the medieval complex that Edward I and other monarchs called their home. Then, head to the Houses of Parliament, where you’ll find the historic “Big Ben” clock tower. And don’t miss Tower Bridge, one of the most photographed bridges in the world.
In the evening, why not see a show? Wander through the West End to find prestigious theatres and opera houses. Or you can search for a gig in the many venues and pubs across the city.
- See London’s iconic sights on a guided small group tour of the UK
London may be almost 20 times bigger, but Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh, is just as appealing. Visit the UNESCO-listed Old and New Towns to fall in love with its cobbled streets, impressive Gothic architecture, and welcoming atmosphere.
Stroll along the Royal Mile, the street that connects Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace, the King’s official residence in Scotland. Then, walk up Arthur’s Seat or Calton Hill for stunning views over the city.
- Stay in the city and enjoy day trips into the countryside on a multi-day tour from Edinburgh
- Related: 15 Amazing things to do in Edinburgh
3. Lake District
Venture out of the bustling cities to the Lake District, one of the most beautiful places in the UK. Known for its craggy hills, quaint villages, and glistening lakes, it’s an unmissable stop on any tour of England.
Windermere is the best-known of the lakes, but Coniston Water and Ullswater have as much allure. Whichever you choose, you’ll find idyllic mountain views, peaceful walks, and plenty of boating opportunities.
While you're here, you'll glimpse the rocky summit of Scafell Pike. At 3,209 feet (978 metres) above sea level, it's the highest mountain in England.
4. Isle of Skye
Witness towering peaks that plunge into the sea and discover fishing villages tucked away in tranquil bays. Take cliff-top walks with views over distant archipelagos. Come to the Isle of Skye, and you can expect all this and more.
Skye is an island off Scotland’s west coast where you’ll find some of the most enchanting landscapes the UK has to offer. This includes the iconic pinnacle known as the Old Man of Storr, as well as the Cuillin, one of the UK’s most dramatic mountain ranges.
Check out Armadale or Dunvegan Castle while you’re here to learn about the island’s fascinating and sometimes bloody history. And, of course, stop for a local whisky in one of Skye’s distilleries.
- Explore pristine nature in the Highlands and islands on a Scottish self-drive tour
York has been an important place in England for thousands of years. Its gripping history makes it one of the top attractions to visit in the UK.
The Romans founded York in 71 CE, although people likely lived here long before. Afterwards, the Saxons and the Vikings occupied the city. But most of what you’ll see today was built in the medieval period.
Stroll down the Shambles, the best-preserved medieval street in Europe. Then, explore the Roman walls that surround the city. Undoubtedly, it’s one of the most striking cities in the UK.
When the Romans ruled England about 2,000 years ago, they changed the face of the country. Today, there’s nowhere better for you to see their legacy than in the city of Bath, Somerset.
As you might have guessed, Bath gets its name from the Roman baths in the city centre. The thermal spas are exceptionally well-preserved, and the magnificent architecture shows off the Romans’ skill. Taking a tour of the city is like stepping back in time.
Not to mention, Bath was granted UNESCO protection twice. First, for its Roman archaeology and Georgian architecture, and secondly, for being one of “The Great Spa Towns of Europe”.
Just next door is the beautiful and austere Bath Abbey. It’s been a place of Christian worship for over a thousand years.
- Related: 10 Cool facts about England
7. Loch Ness
By some measurements, Loch Ness is Scotland’s largest lake. It’s an enormous body of water, stretching 23 miles (36 kilometres) from the city of Inverness through the heart of the Scottish Highlands. For this reason alone, it’s one of the most alluring places to see in the UK.
But what really makes Loch Ness special is that it’s the alleged home of Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster.
Take a boat tour to try to spot Nessie for yourself, or explore the coast for insights into Scotland’s enthralling history. For instance, visit Urquhart Castle, and you’ll learn about the ancient struggles for power between Highland clans.
- Take a Scottish Highland tour to experience the magic of the mountains
- Related: Top things to see and do in the UK
Set among gentle green hills, Oxford is an inviting and compact city. Most of its beauty comes from the spectacular university buildings that make up much of the city centre.
Founded in the 11th century, the University of Oxford is the oldest in the UK. But it’s the mix of old and new that adds to the city’s appeal. Visit the Bodleian Library, where you’ll see a captivating combination of medieval architecture and state-of-the-art exhibitions on culture and books.
If you’re a movie fan, Oxford is also a great place to see some blockbuster filming locations. For example, scenes from Harry Potter, X-Men, and Transformers were shot here.
9. Peak District
At the very heart of England lies the Peak District, an area of rolling hills, picturesque valleys, and traditional villages. It's one of the best places to come for a taste of rural England at its prettiest.
Stop off at Bakewell, on the banks of the River Wye. It’s a charming town packed with friendly pubs, delightful cottages, and tea rooms serving delicious Bakewell tart, a raspberry jam and almond dessert.
Nearby, you’ll find Chatsworth House, a grand palace owned by the Devonshire family. Its dreamy gardens and impressive art collection make for a fascinating visit.
Stonehenge is among the best-preserved prehistoric monuments in the world.
The towering circle of standing stones dates back to around 3,000 BCE. There’s evidence it was used as a burial ground, as well as a shrine to celebrate the sun’s movements. While its origins remain a mystery, it’s one of the must-see places in the UK.
For an extra-special experience, visit in June during the summer solstice to celebrate the longest day of the year.
The Brits have a long-standing love for seaside towns. Located on the north coast of Wales, Llandudno is known as known as the “Queen of Welsh Resorts”.
Here, you can enjoy what British holidaymakers have adored for hundreds of years. Ride a donkey along the sand, paddle in the sea or head to the end of the pier. And don’t forget to try the fresh fish and chips.
However you decide to experience the seaside, Llandudno is the perfect place to spend the afternoon.
12. Yorkshire Dales
When you imagine the English countryside, you might think of local pubs and thatched cottages. Head to the Yorkshire Dales National Park, and you’ll find all this and much more.
In English, “dale” is another word for valley, and you’ll discover many towns where the term appears. For instance, Wensleydale is a picturesque valley where you can see Aysgarth waterfall. Or go to Kirkby Lonsdale, a handsome market town packed with independent shops and cafés.
Wander towards Malham Cove, a spectacular cliff in the centre of the national park. With its tall waterfall and enormous blocks of limestone, Malham Cove deserves its reputation.
13. Loch Lomond & the Trossachs
If England is known for its gently rolling hills, Scotland is remembered for its dramatic landscapes. If you’re looking for stunning mountains, lakes and forests, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park is among the best places to go in the UK.
Only a short distance from Glasgow, the Trossachs are home to some of the UK’s highest peaks. If you’re a hiker, reaching the top of one of these Munros – mountains above 3,000 feet (914 metres) – is a memorable Scottish experience.
- Walk in the footsteps of the show’s main characters – Jamie and Claire – on an Outlander tour of Scotland
14. Giant’s Causeway
The Giant’s Causeway, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is one of the top destinations on the island of Ireland. It’s an area of interlocking hexagonal columns created by an ancient volcanic eruption. You don’t want to miss these intriguing geometric forms overlooking the sea.
It’s said to be the remains of an ancient pathway between Scotland and Northern Ireland once used by giants. In good weather, you can make out the Scottish coast across the sea.
- Tour the Celtic nations together on a Scotland and Ireland package
15. Glen Coe
Look at any guidebook of Scotland, and you’ll likely find a picture of Glen Coe. If you haven’t seen it, imagine a narrow valley between rugged mountains and imposing cliffs.
Like much of Scotland, the glen is a hiker’s paradise, but it’s much more than this. Head to the Glen Coe Visitor Centre to discover the area’s history. You’ll learn about the Massacre of Glencoe in 1692 and see a traditional turf and creel house.
Journey down the glen to where Loch Leven meets Loch Linnhe, a serene sea loch. Follow these waters inland towards the mountains, like Buachaille Etive Mòr, for one of the most naturally beautiful views in the country.
16. Eryri (“Snowdonia”) National Park
Wales is packed with natural wonders, but Eryri (“Snowdonia”) National Park is definitely one of the country’s most spectacular places. You can get from medieval ruins to rugged mountains in just a few miles.
Alongside breathtaking nature, Eryri is a historic place. You can visit old woollen mills, slate quarries, and grain stores, which tell the complex history of this nation.
Fancy something a little unusual? Visit Portmeirion, a village built in the 20th century in the architectural style of the Italian Riviera. You’re unlikely to find anything like it anywhere else.
Good to know: Snowdonia’s official name changed to Eryri in 2022 to better reflect its Welsh identity.
17. Hadrian’s Wall
York, Bath and London were important Roman settlements 2,000 years ago. But do you know where they didn’t manage to conquer in the UK?
The answer is Scotland. As the story goes, the Romans were concerned about warriors invading from north of the border. They were so worried that they built a barrier to keep them from coming into England.
That barricade is known as Hadrian’s Wall. You can find its ruins snaking their way for 73 miles (117 kilometres) across the country, between Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Carlisle.
One of the best places to see it at its most intact is Corbridge, where you can explore the ruins of a Roman garrison.
The Glenfinnan Viaduct is among the most scenic railway bridges in the world. Crossing a valley between high hills and overlooking the jaw-dropping Loch Shiel, it’s an impressive feat of engineering.
You can choose how you see this special place. Take a train ride, watch from the valley floor or perch on the nearby hills for a view over the glen.
These days, the Glenfinnan Viaduct is famous for featuring in Harry Potter as the route taken by the Hogwarts Express. You’ll get a great photo as the train rounds the corner.
Near the base of the viaduct, on the shore of Loch Shiel, you’ll find the Glenfinnan Monument. It’s a poignant memorial to those who died fighting in the 1745 Jacobite rebellion. Climb to the top of the 18-metre (60-foot) tall tower for even more stunning views down the glen.
In southwest England, you’ll find Cornwall, a striking peninsula. Because of its location, the region was isolated from much of the rest of England. And even now, you’ll find it has a distinct character. Some people here still speak Cornish, the region’s language.
When it comes to history and natural beauty, Cornwall has lots to offer. For example, there’s St Michael’s Mount, a tidal island topped with a castle and medieval church. Or Tintagel, a small village whose ruined castle has ties with King Arthur.
Southwest England, in general, is a great place to tour by car. While on the south coast, stop off at Durdle Door, Dorset. Located in a neighbouring county to Cornwall, this famous natural arch is one of the most photogenic coastal spots in the UK.
Finally, don’t overlook Belfast, the Northern Irish capital. Set on the deep Belfast Lough – an inlet of the Irish Sea – Northern Ireland’s capital has been an important port for centuries. These days, you’ll find it’s a diverse, modern and exciting place.
Check out the newly developed Titanic Quarter, in what was once the largest shipyard in the world. It was here that the famous Titanic ship was built before it set sail for America in 1912. There’s also a visitor centre sharing the history of the tragedy when the ship sank on its first voyage after hitting an iceberg.
During the 20th century, the Troubles meant that Belfast was separated into two sides. Protestants lived on one side, and Catholic communities on the other. Citizens would paint the walls to demonstrate their religious and political beliefs.
Today, you’ll see different depictions across the walls and get a feel for the city’s past.
- Explore beyond the cities and beyond on an Ireland self-drive tour
- Related: Best Ireland road trips – A local expert's view
See the iconic sights of the UK with Nordic Visitor
Visit the UK to explore enchanting cities, delve into the idyllic countryside, and discover intriguing histories spread across 4 nations.
Book your UK getaway with Nordic Visitor, and you’ll see the best of England, Scotland and Wales. Our Edinburgh-based experts will arrange everything for you, including your accommodation, local transport and any optional activities.
However you decide to travel, we’ll make sure it’s the journey of a lifetime. Contact us to start planning your trip to the UK.