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Been to Big Ben and done Durdle Door? These hidden gems in the UK should provide you with travel inspo!
The UK is packed with spectacular natural attractions as well as cool cities and cultural heritage in abundance. The only problem? The UK is a VERY popular place to travel, especially in the summer.
To feel less like cattle, you may want to forgo the big names in favour of more hidden places in the UK, made up of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
UK TRAVEL ESSENTIALS
Lonely Planet guidebook – Great Britain, Scotland, Wales, Ireland
Accommodation: Hotels & apartments – Booking.com / Hostels: Hostelworld.com
Activities: GetYourGuide / Viator
Getting around: Trainline / Busbud
Another benefit of visiting the lesser-visited places in the UK? They’re usually cheaper than the tourist hotspots. For UK travel on a budget, I’d highly recommend ditching the crowds and getting off-grid.
Hidden gems in England
After growing up near Oxford, there are corners of England that I know like the back of my hand. But there are plenty of secret places in England I’ve yet to discover; a lifetime would be too short!
Even popular regions like Cornwall and the Cotswolds have their lesser-visited spots if you know where to look.
Here are a few hidden places to visit in England…
Cadgwith Cove, Cornwall
Hidden away in a quiet corner of the Lizard Peninsula, the pretty fishing village of Cadgwith Cove is one of the unusual places to visit in Cornwall. Surrounded by craggy coastline with a turquoise bay gently lapping at the shore, this picturesque hamlet is picture-postcard perfect.
Whitewashed cottages with thatched rooves and flower-filled gardens add to the charm, and it’s a great place to watch the fishing boats while enjoying some crab soup and a pint at the inn. The cove is car-free, so you’ll have to park at the top and walk down, which makes the experience even more charming.
Entry submitted by Heather from the Conversant Traveller.
Minack Theatre, Cornwall
Minack Theatre is situated in Cornwall, almost as far southwest as you can go in England. It’s a working theatre where you can see productions like Shakespeare, local plays and musical concerts… But that’s not what’s special about it.
What makes it a UK hidden gem is the open-air venue clinging to the side of a rocky cliff with the most spectacular view. When performances aren’t on, you can visit and learn about this quirky theatre and enjoy a cream tea overlooking the turquoise sea.
Entry submitted by Kirstie from Lost in Cornwall.
Rottingdean is a wonderful small village located four miles away from Brighton. Centuries ago, Rottingdean used to be one of the main smuggling points off the south coast of England because of the natural break in the limestone cliffs.
Today, there’s still a network of tunnels underneath the village, connecting different buildings. One of the best things to do in Rottingdean is visit one inside Ye Olde Black Horse pub.
The village was home to many artists over the years including Rudyard Kipling who wrote his famous poem A Smuggler’s Song here.
Entry submitted by Joanna from World In My Pocket.
The small island of Guernsey, found off the coast of England, is another hidden UK gem. There are rural areas on the island, but the most popular areas to visit are the beaches, as well as St. Peter Port, a quaint marine town with a harbour full of history and cobblestone streets filled with shops and homes.
In St. Peter Port, visitors can explore the historical Castle Cornet dating back to the 13th century, or browse the town’s many seafront restaurants.
Guernsey can be reached by a short flight, and is the perfect destination for a weekend getaway.
Written by Olivia from the Girl With Blue Sails.
If you rely on Instagram to tell you what you can expect in the Cotswolds, chances are you will have only seen photos of popular Cotswold villages like Bibury, Bourton-on-the-Water and Castle Combe. But there’s more to this gorgeous Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty than just those three towns.
An English hidden gem plucked straight out of a fairytale is Stanton, close to Broadway, in Worcestershire.
Not many people know Stanton, which means you’re more likely to share its streets with people on horseback than people with selfie sticks! In fact, one of the best ways to explore this charming village and the surrounding countryside is on horseback.
The local riding school offers brilliant rides up the hill to a viewpoint where you can see 16 counties on a clear day. And to top it off, you can quench your thirst upon your return at the local village pub.
The best way to reach Stanton is by car, however if you’re travelling the Cotswolds by train, it’s best to arrive in Moreton-in-Marsh and arrange a 20-minute taxi journey to Stanton.
Entry submitted by Bea from Bea Adventurous.
Wittenham Clumps, Oxfordshire
The history, architecture and Oxford Harry Potter attractions bring tourists to Oxford by the busload. Indeed, it’s a wonderful city but there’s much more to do in Oxfordshire from walks to picturesque villages.
One such gem is Wittenham Clumps in South Oxfordshire near the village of Dorchester-on-Thames. These twin hills make for a lovely walk with beautiful views from the top. The smaller Castle Hill displays the remainder of an ancient Iron Age fort.
Park beside the Clumps or take a leisurely circular walk from charming Dorchester-on-Thames passing Days Lock, home to the World Poohsticks Championships until 2015!
Oakham Castle, Rutland
Oakham Castle in Rutland is a captivating place to visit for history lovers in the UK.
Over 300 horseshoes from Royalty and Peers of the Realm hang on the walls. Ancient tradition demands that peers present a horseshoe to the Lord of the Manor on their first visit to the town.
Many of the first horseshoes were nailed to the Castle Gate. Later, the horseshoes became more ornate and were gilded and inscribed with the donor’s name.
In the 1700s, it became the fashion to add a coronet (a small crown) denoting the rank of the donor. The horseshoes are hung with their ends facing downwards as they have been for centuries as depicted on the County Coat of Arms.
The earliest mention of the custom was found in Henry VIII’s State Papers from 1581.
Entrance to the Castle and Great Hall is free.
Entry submitted by By Dave from Silver Backpacker.
Heights of Abraham, Derbyshire
Often overshadowed by nearby attractions like Chatsworth House, the Heights of Abraham is a beautiful hilltop park in Derbyshire. Built in 1780, it’s the location of England’s first-ever mountain cable car facility, travelling from Derwent Valley to the top of Masson Hill or the Heights of Abraham (£22 per passenger).
It takes 30 minutes by car to reach the hillside from Derby. Its total area extends to 60 acres, and 30 acres of this is dedicated to the Savage Garden, a hub of exotic shrubs among winding paths.
Apart from these, the Cavern tours of the former lead mines and the viewpoint, Tinker’s Shaft, play a part in beautifying this place. Step into Vista Restaurant & Bar for a tasty meal.
Entry submitted by Ruma from the Holiday Story.
Henley-in-Arden is a quaint town in the West Midlands that often gets missed due to bigger neighbouring locations like Stratford-upon-Avon and Warwick. However, Henley-in-Arden is a real hidden gem in England filled with Tudor-style buildings and dozens of boutique shops.
Also worthy of mention are the independent cafes and restaurants. Cheal’s of Henley and Henley Ice Cream are two that particularly stand out. The former offers an excellent fine dining experience, and the latter is a family-run café serving incredible ice cream and an even better cream tea (with tantalising homemade cakes) since 1930.
Entry submitted by Millie from Travelling Through the Trees.
Knaresborough, North Yorkshire
Knaresborough is a hidden gem in England’s North Yorkshire that lies 17 miles west of York. Rowing on the River Nidd with a magnificent view of layered houses and an imposing viaduct is one of the best things to do in Knaresborough.
Steeped in history, Knaresborough is famous for the spectacular Railway Viaduct on the River Nidd, as well as Mother Shipton’s Cave and the Petrifying Well, one of the oldest visitor attractions in England. The cute independent shops in this picturesque market town are also worth a visit.
Don’t miss the breathtaking view of the viaduct from the historic castle perched on a clifftop.
Entry submitted by Moumita & Sankha from Chasing the Long Road.
Dovestones Reservoir, Greater Manchester
If you don’t have the time or money for a trip to the Lake District or Peak District, take an easy day trip from Manchester to Dovestones Reservoir near Saddleworth.
It may be lesser known compared to the Lakes and Peaks but this charming area of countryside shouldn’t be overlooked. Walking, hiking, bird watching, dog walking and picnicking are all possible in this hilly region set around a huge manmade reservoir.
There’s plenty of parking and the nearest train station is Greenfields (20 minutes by train from Picadilly).
Lud’s Church, Peak District
Lud’s Church is a stunning 18-metre deep and 100-metre-long chasm in the western Peak District near Gradbach. The narrow, moss-covered passageways create a microclimate that’s cool and humid no matter the weather above. You’ll feel like you’ve been transported to an alien world!
Located in the middle of woodland, Lud’s Church is only reachable by foot – such as this 2-mile round trip walking route from near the Roaches. The distance from the road and car park makes for fewer visitors, keeping Lud’s Church lesser-known.
Entry submitted by Zoe of Zoe Goes Places.
Heptonstall, West Yorkshire
The village of Heptonstall in West Yorkshire is one of the most beautiful hidden gems in the UK. Nestled in the Pennines, it’s a sleepy village full of character.
A popular spot is the shared graveyard of churches St Thomas the Apostle and the ruins of St Thomas a’ Becket. It also happens to be the final resting place of poet, Sylvia Plath.
The octagonal Methodist church is another top sight. It’s believed to be the oldest Methodist chapel in the world in continuous use.
Heptonstall and the Calder Valley are a great alternative to the busy villages of the Yorkshire Dales.
Entry submitted by Hannah of Get Lost Travel Blog.
Rievaulx Terraces, North Yorkshire
The Rievaulx Terraces are wonderful landscaped gardens with two iconic 18th-century temples, located three miles from the picturesque market town of Helmsley in North Yorkshire.
The follies give an insight into how Georgian high society spent their leisure time enjoying banquets and taking ‘turns’ on the lovely long stretch of manicured terrace. However, the stunning views down to the dramatic Cistercian ruins of Rievaulx Abbey, truly top off the experience.
Helmsley is one of the best places to visit in Yorkshire, but the somewhat hidden Terraces have the feel of a secret place in Britain. They’re often overlooked by visitors as the imposing Rievaulx Abbey steals the limelight.
Entry submitted by Tammy from Travelling Tam.
Staithes, North Yorkshire
Yorkshire is the location of many of the hidden gems in England. Often overlooked for bigger cities or more popular coastal areas, it’s the perfect place to escape the crowds.
Boasting miles of impressive coastline and delightful seaside towns such as Staithes on the North Yorkshire Coast, you can visit to explore the rows of colourful holiday cottages and wide stretch of sandy beach.
Staithes is still a working fishing village so you can watch the boats come and go with their daily catch or try fossil hunting on the beach. it’s one of the best places in the UK to find them!
Entry submitted by Karen from Are We There Yet.
Horsey Beach, Norfolk
Horsey is an unspoilt hidden gem on England’s east coast. This beach in Norfolk has some of the largest sand dunes in East Anglia.
While the beach is lovely, it’s advisable to visit in the winter months to see the seals that come to Horsey Beach to birth their pups. Throughout the rest of the year, you may see seals swimming in the water and resting on the sand.
There’s no admission charge to see the seals or visit Horsey Beach, but you’ll need to pay for parking. Note that this beach doesn’t have any facilities.
Entry submitted by Anisa from Norfolk Local Guide.
UK hidden gems – places in Scotland
Scotland is world-famous yet many tourists make it only to Edinburgh (often pronouncing it ‘Edin-guh-bor-ahh’) and Loch Ness. If you’re feeling more adventurous, you could spend YEARS getting to know this spectacular country.
For now, here are a few UK hidden places found in Scotland…
Duncansby Stacks, John o’ Groats
Hoards of people visit John o’ Groats each year. What most of them don’t know is that nearby is a stunning clifftop walk with dramatic views and far fewer visitors.
Duncansby Head is 220 feet or 67 metres above the sea, boasting inlets full of seabirds. The stars of the show are Duncansby Stacks: huge sea stacks, as high as the cliffs, swarming with birdlife.
You can reach Duncansby Stacks by walking across the grassy headland area. There are seabirds year-round and puffins in summer. Free parking makes this the ideal spot for a walk with fantastic views.
Entry submitted by the Professional Traveller.
Luskentyre Beach, Outer Hebrides
Nearly as far north as you can get in Scotland is Luskentyre Beach, located on the Isle of Harris in the Outer Hebrides.
It’s a beautiful stretch of white sand and turquoise waters. On a sunny day when the tide’s out, it’s quite spectacular. And best of all, it never gets crowded!
Given the unpredictable weather in the Outer Hebrides, the beach is best suited for walking rather than swimming, and there are several scenic hikes in the area.
Entry submitted by Kristin from Adventures With Ensuite.
Callanish Standing Stones, Outer Hebrides
There are hundreds of prehistoric stone circles across Britain, but one of the most spectacular (not to mention remote) is the Callanish Stone Circle on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides. Around 5,000 years old, the complex consists of a large circle, an avenue of stones and a central burial chamber.
What’s even more impressive is that the Callanish Standing Stones includes twelve different neolithic sites across the island. You can find more information about the ancient circles, standing stones and burial places (and a map of the various sites) at the visitor centre.
Entry submitted by Karen from World Wide Writer.
Dunbar, East Lothian
There are many things to do in Dunbar, or Sunny Dunny as locals like to call it. Often overlooked for the busier East Lothian beaches at North Berwick, this UK hidden gem deserves year-round attention, especially if you’re a fan of the great outdoors.
Belhaven Beach is an excellent spot for SUP and surfing. You can hire boards from the local watersport company or take your own.
Close to Belhaven is Foxlake, an adventure playground for adults, which also has an off-road segway tour route.
Dine on artisan pizzas at Hector’s, cakes at the Strawberry Barn and scones at Graze Cafe. Drink at the micropub, Station Yard or have cocktails at The Bear & Bull. Finally, stay in the new hostel, The Dolphin Inn, for a large courtyard to store your sports gear, hot showers and cosy rooms.
Entry submitted by Gemma from Eveything Edinburgh.
Craigievar Castle, Aberdeenshire
If you’re looking for a dreamy pink castle straight out of a fairytale, look no further than Craigievar Castle in Scotland, thought to have inspired Walt Disney’s Cinderella Castle.
Castles in the UK can start to look a bit ‘samey’ and often they’re packed with tourists. Craigievar Castle has no tourists – and it’s pink.
Since there’s no public transport, the only way to get there is by car. It’s 45 minutes from Aberdeen, 2.5 hours from Edinburgh, and 3 hours from Glasgow.
Entry tickets cost £14.50 per adult, £11 per concession and £33 for a family. It’s free to walk around the grounds, but it’s worth going inside to see the beautiful interior.
Plockton, Scottish Highlands
If you’re looking to escape the tourist crowds and discover a unique hidden gem in the UK, then look no further than Plockton, Scotland. This tranquil fishing village is situated a 1-hour drive from the Isle of Skye, and while most tourists don’t know it exists, it has tons of unique experiences to offer.
The top thing to do in Plockton is a boat tour to see some adorable seals. Simply strolling Harbour Street, the main street in town, is an incredibly scenic experience as well. On a good day, you can even see the village houses reflecting in the lake. There are also great seafood restaurants in the village, and tons of beautiful nature to explore in peace and quiet.
Entry submitted by Jiayi of The Diary of a Nomad.
Glasgow – East End & street art
As the biggest city in Scotland, Glasgow is hardly is a hardly hidden place in the UK but stay with me, okay?
Glasgow is overlooked by tourists in favour of Edinburgh and perhaps rightfully so: Edinburgh is the capital of culture, architecture and Harry Potter. Where Glasgow takes the lead is affordable prices, quirky street art and hidden gems.
During a weekend in Glasgow, visit modern art galleries like the Lighthouse and spot the Glasgow street art before going for an affordable brunch in Southside. Nearby, you can spy Highland cows in spacious Pollock Country Park.
The West End of Glasgow is pretty gentrified these days but the East End remains rugged. Visit Victorian cemetery, the Necropolis, as well as the People’s Palace and Winter Gardens.
UK hidden gems – places in Wales
Wonderful Wales has rugged scenery, secluded islands and a vibrant capital city, Cardiff. Many holidaymakers don’t make it out of Pembrokeshire and you can see why: it’s a beautiful part of the country.
But of course, I’m not going to tell you about the hottest holiday hotspots of Pembrokeshire. Instead, I’m going to share the more hidden gems in Britain that can be found the length and breadth of Wales.
Read next: the ultimate Wales road trip
Rhiwargor Waterfall, Powys
Rhiwargor Waterfall is located just a stone’s throw from Snowdonia National Park. However, it’s often overlooked due to the plethora of other waterfalls in North Wales. This lovely waterfall is not far from Lake Vyrnwy and offers an amazing hike along the Afon Eiddew river.
Walking to Rhiwargor Waterfall takes approximately 30 minutes from Rhiwargor Waterfall Car Park and it’s relatively easy. The waterfall is a stunning collection of cascades surrounded by lush forest and untouched natural scenery. Visit to unwind and avoid the crowds.
Entry submitted by Paulina from UK Every Day.
Haford Estate, Aberystwyth
The Hafod Estate near the university town of Aberystwyth, is a wooded and landscaped estate spread over 495 acres. It features varying landscapes ranging from woodlands to grazed parklands and riverside meadows with beautiful bridges to stunning waterfalls.
Designed in the late 18th century by famed architect, Thomas Johnes, the estate has five waymarked trails out of which the Lady’s Walk and the Gentleman’s Walk are two of the most beautiful circular routes. You’ll be rewarded with stunning views at almost every turn on these trails. One can easily spend the entire day at the estate exploring its historic landscape. Better yet, the Hafod Estate is never inundated with visitors.
Entry submitted by Deeptha from the Globe Trotter.
Church Door Cove, Pembrokeshire
A true UK hidden gem is Church Doors Cove in Pembrokeshire, West Wales. The area used to be inaccessible because it was in a Royal Artillery Range, meaning its natural beauty has been preserved.
The arched caves in the sandstone cliffs look as grand as a church doorway – hence the name. You can also access the golden Skrinkle Beach at low tide through the arch, known as a beautiful spot to watch the sunset.
The cove is also popular with paddle boarders, swimmers, photographers and hikers as it forms part of the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path.
Entry submitted by By Rachel from Average Lives.
Picton Castle, Haverfordwest
A UK hidden gem to visit is the beautiful Picton Castle in Pembrokeshire, South Wales. This medieval castle, originally built in the 13th century, is a Grade I listed building.
Picton is often overlooked in favour of the much larger Pembroke Castle, but this gem is worth visiting to see inside the castle apartments and rooms and to enjoy the beautiful gardens. These include a walled garden and a Mediterranean garden.
During a tour, you can view the ‘Picton Renoir’ which featured on the TV show Fake or Fortune, and hear stories behind the appearance.
Entry submitted by Cath from Wales With Kids.
Ogmore Stepping Stones, Glamorgan
If you’re looking for hidden gems in the UK, step into history at Ogmore Castle stepping stones in South Wales.
As you admire the view from the ruins of Ogmore Castle, you’ll notice 41 medieval stones creating a path across the Ewenny River. This is a great hidden location to enjoy the Welsh Landscape with a picnic… And see how good your balance is!
The steps can’t be accessed when it’s rained heavily, so time your visit accordingly.
Entry submitted by Lowri from Many Other Roads.
Holy Island, Anglesey
Most people have heard of Anglesey Island but how many have heard of Holy Island in Wales?
You can reach this petite island by bridge from Anglesey and spoiler, you absolutely should. With empty beaches and dramatic scenery, it’s ideal for watersports and hikes.
Visit South Stack Lighthouse, watch birds at Elin’s Tower, marvel at Penrhos Feilw Standing Stones (an Iron Age monument) or try hiking the Holyhead section of the Wales Coastal Path. Whatever you do, you’ll leave the crowds behind at the main Anglesey attractions.
UK hidden gems – places in Northern Ireland
From historic Belfast to miles of rugged coastline, castles and natural attractions, there’s magic in Northern Ireland.
Escape the crowds with this last set of secret UK locations…
Cuilcagh Boardwalk trail, Co. Fermanagh
Straddling the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland sits one of the country’s best-kept secrets: the Cuilcagh Boardwalk Trail AKA the Stairway to Heaven.
The Cuilcagh Boardwalk Trail crosses Cuilcagh Mountain Park, a blanket bog area in Northern Ireland that’s significant to the local ecology.
The trail is 4.5km long and begins at the Cuilcagh Boardwalk car park. While most of the walk on the wooden path is fairly easy, the last 1.5km section consists of 450 steep steps that take you to the top of Cuilcagh Mountain.
This steep climb gave the trail its nickname ‘Stairway to Heaven’, named after other, similar, dramatic stairway hikes like Hawaii’s Haiku Stairs.
The climb is well worth the effort; you’re rewarded with spectacular views from the top of Cuilcagh mountain.
Entry submitted by Helena from Discover More UK.
If you’re road tripping in Northern Ireland, the mighty Binevenagh is a fitting tribute at the end of the Causeway Coastal Route. Sandwiched between the walled city of Derry/Londonderry and the delightful Castlerock, Binevenagh guards the spectacular coastline.
Formed by molten lava 60 million years ago, Binevenagh’s sheer cliffs extend over six miles, dominating the landscape over endless Benone Beach and Magilligan Point.
Hike to the summit through evergreen forest for incredible views of Lough Foyle, and on a clear day, the west coast of Scotland. If you’re not a hiker, drive the Bishop’s Road and stop at the Gortmore View Point, for the same views and the sculpture of Manannan Mac Lir, a local sea god.
Entry submitted by Izzy and Phil of the Gap Decaders.
White Rocks Beach, Portrush
While most visitors to Northern Ireland make a beeline for Giant’s Causeway, make sure you take time to explore more of the coastline. White Rocks Beach is a beautiful stretch of sand near Portrush, culminating in limestone cliffs where you can explore caverns and archways formed by the relentless waves.
It’s a great spot for surfing, lounging on the beach on a sunny day, and walking along the coastal path to Dunluce Castle and beyond. You can access the beach from Portrush and walk the whole way along the sand to the cliffs, or descend the path at Whiterocks Car Park close to the cliffs.
Entry submitted by Claire of Tales of a Backpacker.
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UK quick links
Guide books – LP always get my seal of approval. Use the latest copy of Lonely Planet England.
Getting there & around by air – I use Skyscanner to find the best-value flights, using the ‘search by month’ tool to find the cheapest dates. You can also use the ‘to anywhere’ feature if you’re flexible on where you’re going.
Car hire – use Rentalcars.com to compare car rentals and campers in the UK (and all around the world).
For UK trains, I use Trainline. The search feature allows you to compare prices, and they show live departure times on the website.
For buses, I use busbud. It’s the only site that compares UK coaches and buses. Find London to Manchester journeys for £1!
I use Booking.com for accommodation. They have the best range of hotels and self-catering apartments, plus you can filter by review score and price to find the best-rated budget places. For hostels, I use Hostelworld.com.
To save money on accommodation, I use Trusted Housesitters, a website that connects homeowners going away and travellers who can sit their homes & pets.
Browse UK tours and activities on GetYourGuide. I also check Viator as they often have fun & unique offerings.
Need travel insurance? I use True Traveller (for Europe residents) since it’s affordable but covers everything you’d need including various activities, valuables and pre-existing conditions. Unlike some companies, they insure you if you’re already travelling / don’t yet have your flight home booked. Get a quote.
For travel insurance for other nationalities, I recommend Hey Mundo and for long-term digital nomad travellers, I suggest Safety Wing.
Check out my resources page for more travel discounts and tips!