Unusual Places to Visit in the UK
While Citylife organises loads of amazing trips to help you make the most of your time in England and Europe, there are tonnes of amazing cities, towns and villages easily accessible all over the UK. Here are some under-the-radar towns and villages that will make your stay in Britain truly unique.
From Edinburgh: Aviemore
Set in Scotland’s beautiful Highlands, Aviemore is the place to go for skiing in the UK – who said you need to go all the way to France to enjoy Europe’s favourite winter sport?
But there’s more to the Cairngorms National Park town than just alpine slopes. The Aviemore Stone Circle, located in the village, is a monument to bygone times, and with amazing views of the Cairngorms mountains wherever you stand, Aviemore is perfect for hiking. In short, the ideal countryside getaway, only a few hours away from the hustle and bustle of Edinburgh.
From Leeds and Sheffield: Harrogate
Just over half an hour away from Leeds by train, Harrogate is Yorkshire’s premier spa town. Transport yourself to the Middle East by relaxing in the Turkish Baths, or soak in the gorgeous countryside views from a town that has consistently been voted Britain’s “happiest place to live”.
History lovers might want to hike to Nidderdale nature reserve just East of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, and check out the mysterious Brimham Rocks, or walk/Uber north to Ripon and explore the ruins of Fountains Abbey, one of the best preserved ancient monasteries in England.
And, while you’re there, remember to head to a traditional British tea room to experience a Yorkshire brew – famously, the best tea in England. A holiday in itself, Harrogate is an essential place to visit if you’re in the North of England.
From Liverpool: Formby
We’ve all heard about ‘the grim North’, but Formby proves that England’s Northern regions do beaches better than the South. Sunbathe in the summer, go for long walks along the seemingly endless sea, or experience the shifting sand dunes.
A Special Area of Conservation, this Merseyside town is home to a number of rare and endangered species, including Britain’s famous red squirrels (check out the Freshfield Squirrel Reserve to catch a glimpse of these rare animals) and the natterjack toad.
Unlike other places on this list, you don’t need to travel far to reach this beautiful town. With Merseyrail, Liverpool’s local partially-underground train service, you can hop on a regularly scheduled day return to and from Formby for just £5.80.
From Loughborough and Nottingham: Newark on Trent
Situated in the centre of England, there are many unmissable locations around Loughborough and Nottingham, including Newstead Abbey and the home of Robin Hood, Sherwood forest. (Click here for more!)
But for the purposes of this list we’re going with Newark-on-Trent. Its Market Square is reminiscent of those found in Belgium due to its expansive design and mismatched architectural styles, but the jewel in its crown is the ruined Newark Castle.
While Britain’s best castles are usually in Wales, Neward proves an exception, an imposing expanse of brick that seems to float over the River Trent. Topped off with impressive gardens and a free-to-visit museum, Newark is a must-visit location from anywhere in the East Midlands.
From London: St. Albans
If you’re looking for an escape from the hustle and bustle of Britain’s biggest city, look no further than St Albans, a cathedral city which grew from the ancient Roman settlement of Verulamium.
The town wears its heritage on its sleeve: you can visit the town’s ruined Roman theatre and wall, and check out the Verulamium museum to experience Roman life in Britain.
If St Albans’ cathedral reminds you just a bit of France’s famous Notre Dame, that is because much of its structure dates back to the Norman times, just after the formation of England as it is known today.
Once you’ve finished checking out the architecture, go for a walk in Verulamium Park and across the River Ver, stopping for a drink at the traditional Ye Olde Fighting Cocks inn (apparently the oldest in England, though Nottingham might have something to say about that), and hike to Redbournbury Mill to sample some delicious fresh bread in an idyllic setting.
From Manchester: Chester
A town full of traditional Tudor-style timber buildings, Chester hosts a buzzing shopping area as well as some gorgeous parks (Grosvenor, we’re looking at you).
Much like St Albans, Chester is famed for its Roman ruins (the name ‘Chester’ comes from the Old English ‘ceaster’, which literally means ‘Roman town or city’) – ancient Roman walls still surround the city, which mesh with other architectural styles in Eastgate, where they are elevated by a Victorian clock-face. Roman tours are frequent, and the best way to see the ancient sites like the Roman baths and Amphitheatre, but, like everywhere else on this list, Chester is a perfect place to explore on foot.
Make sure you don’t miss the Chester cathedral – a Grade I protected building, it rivals St Albans’ in terms of sheer beauty.
One More For Luck: Portmeirion
Situated on the coast of North Wales, Portmeirion is a strange place. Its architecture is so distinctive that hikers who stumble upon it will be forgiven for thinking they’d accidentally walked to Italy. A tourist village, it was built by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis in the 20th century, apparently based on the Italian village of Portofino. While there isn’t much to do in Portmeirion (many of its gorgeous buildings are facades for souvenir shops), it has been used a number of times as a filming location, and its central piazza is one of Britain’s most beautiful – even if it is, essentially, fake.
This post has been written by Matteo Everett