Why bother with travelling abroad when beautiful Britain can offer you an exceptional holiday experience? Packed with historic sites, cultural gems, stunning landscapes and unbeatable architecture, here are just some of our British favourites to get you inspired:
Built in the early 1700s for the Duke of Buckingham, the stunning Palace became the administrative centre of the British monarchy in 1837 when it replaced St James’ Palace.
From July to September, when the Queen takes her holidays, 19 exceptional State Rooms are opened to the public and admission includes a view of the Throne Room, access to part of the gardens. Visitors can also wonder through the Queen’s Gallery, designed by famous architect John Nash as a conservatory, which exhibits the palace’s treasures.
To top off a visit, watch the Changing of the Guard. Every day at 11.30am from April to July, the Foot Guards of the Household Regiment come off duty to be replaced by a new guard on the forecourt of the Palace. The 40-minute spectacle is a quintessentially British experience and not-to-be missed.
A stroll through this spectacular Oxfordshire city transports you back in time as you pass by some of the most famous university colleges and historic buildings in Britain. Learn about this fascinating place where ‘town and gown’ co-exist within medieval streets. Most of the colleges are open to visitors at varying hours and charges. The recently refurbished Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, Britain’s oldest public museum is a major attraction, as is the University Museum with its Pitt Rivers Museum showcasing a collection of fantastic finds from across the world.
Then there’s punting – perhaps Oxford’s second claim to fame. Floating serenely past the various college gardens and alongside the university meadows is a must especially if the weather is fine. If you’re not sure of your punting abilities, don’t worry; there are plenty of pros on hand to punt for you and they will at least avoid you bumping into others or going round in circles. You can hire your punt from Magdalen Bridge Boathouse. Alternatively, try Salter’s Steamers at Folly Bridge, also in the city centre, or the Cherwell Boathouse in North Oxford.
York’s undisputed icon is the biggest medieval cathedral in all of Northern Europe and amongst the world’s most beautiful Gothic buildings.
Treat your eyes to some of the oldest and finest stained glass windows in the country with their deep burgundy reds and piercing cobalt blues. You will also take in the cathedral’s classic Gothic architecture including some awe-inspiring pillars and lofty vaulted ceilings. At the heart of it all stands a massive tower so if you have the energy, climb its 275 steps and enjoy unparalleled views of York.
Another great way to experience the cathedral, perhaps at its most atmospheric is to attend one of the evensong services for an organ and choir serenade. If you don’t usually visit cathedrals on your travels, make an exception at York Minster – you’ll be hard pushed to be unimpressed.
For lovers of the great outdoors, the Lake District and its national park – the largest in the UK – provides abundant fresh air and a true sense of getting away from it all.
Marvel at the steep fells, picturesque lakes and forests, the likes of which have inspired poets like William Wordsworth to describe nature’s wonders. The most popular sights are Lakes Windermere and Grassmere, Coniston Water, the towns of Ambleside, Penrith and Keswick, and the villages of Hawkshead and Kendal.
Serious hikers like to tackle a climb up Scafell Pike, the highest mountain in the country as well as witness the largest lakes: Wastwater and the Windermere. You’ll be spoilt for lake cruises and mountain walks, but while taking in all of nature’s wonders, don’t forget the region’s literary connections which are also a major draw. Among several writers who found literary inspiration here are: Beatrix Potter, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Arthur Ransome and William Wordsworth.
Hikers also enjoy the Cumbrian Way which can be completed in around eight days. The path covers a stunning stretch of English lake and mountain scenery from Ulverston to Keswick.
Bath and Stonehenge
UNESCO-listed Bath breathes history and opulence with its honey-coloured Georgian terraces, sweeping crescents and classy boutiques. It’s easy to explore on foot and you’ll stumble across architectural masterpieces like the Royal Crescent, The Circus and Queens’ Square without even trying. Don’t miss a wander across Pulteney Bridge, one of only a handful of historic bridges in the world that hosts shops on both its sides. Admire the bridge and the crescent weir below, the best view being from the Parade Gardens which offers a riot of colour in the summer when Bath competes for the Britain in Bloom award.
The famous Roman Baths which gave the city its name are a huge tourist draw but it’s the smaller Cross Bath and Hot Bath, situated down the adjoining side streets that always feel like a discovery. For a glimpse of Bath’s more bohemian side, a wander down Walcot Street with its artisan shops and quirky boutiques is a must. When you’re ready to rest your feet, stop off at Sally Lunn’s teahouse for a traditional afternoon tea, one of the oldest establishments in the city, dating back to 1480.
A short drive outside of Bath takes you to Salisbury Plain where you can marvel at the vast prehistoric circle of monoliths at Stonehenge. There’s plenty of information on site to give you a good idea of the primitive, yet painstaking building methods used to create this hauntingly enduring monument.