With the cost-of-living crisis eating into holiday budgets, there’s never been a better time to forgo the all-inclusive and explore the beauty of the United Kingdom.
Four of the best in…SCOTLAND
Outlander producers choose this Highland gem for the series’ opening credits, and Glencoe’s grim history and breath-taking scenery lures visitors from all over the world. The site of the infamous Massacre of 1692 where the MacDonald clan was ruthlessly slaughtered, Glencoe is a 16-mile drive from Fort William, but well worth the trek. Pay a visit to the famed Clachaig Inn and soak up the Highland welcome with one of 400 malt whiskeys and some hearty Highland fayre. Drop into the Glencoe Museum or search out the locations used in blockbuster movies such as Braveheart, Rob Roy, Harry Potter and Skyfall.
Isle of Skye
The tranquil Isle of Skye is part of the Hebridean islands off the northwest shore of Scotland. From here you can watch the Atlantic Sea crash against the rugged shores and long sweeping sandy beaches. Hike along or take a swim (weather permitting) in the beautiful Fairy Pools which boast water so clear and luminous that it’s said that fairies have bathed in it. The Old Inn on the shores of Loch Harport is perfect for a wee dram. Explore Kilt Rock where waterfalls plummet into the sea and check out the famous Old Man of Storr, a great place to climb or pose for a picture. For a shopping fix, explore the island’s largest town, Portree. Here you’ll find pretty, colourful buildings and fishing boats.
Scotland’s historic capital is a gorgeous mix of olde-worlde charm and architectural grandeur. The beautifully preserved Medieval cobbled streets make up the Old Town, Prince’s Street (Scotland’s most famous and upmarket shopping area) and the supposedly haunted series of underground chambers known as the ‘vaults’. A visit wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Edinburgh Castle, while a stroll down the Royal Mile which leads from the castle down to the Scottish Parliament is lined with quirky shops, buzzing pubs and restaurants.
A place of myth and mystery, the most famous loch in the world is also one of the most beautiful places to visit in Scotland. Extremely deep, Loch Ness is the largest body of freshwater in Britain – maybe that’s why ‘Nessie’ chose to make this home? Located 37 kilometres southwest of Inverness, whether you believe in the Loch Ness Monster or not, there’s no denying that this is a special place.
Four of the best in…IRELAND
Galway, Co. Galway
The second largest county in Ireland and one of the Emerald Isle’s most popular and vibrant destinations, Galway is on many people’s bucket lists thanks to the popularity of Ed Sheeran’s Galway Girl. This delightful university city is brimming with activity; theatre, Irish music, pubs, restaurants …but it’s the people of Galway who really make this this atmospheric city one to visit.
Dingle Peninsula, Co. Kerry
The Dingle Peninsula is an incredible stretch of natural beauty: seaside cliffs, sheep-strewn fields, and rich green hills. The North Atlantic ocean boasts superb seafood, and Dingle is the best place to try it. From quaint eateries to elegant venues overlooking the harbour, every restaurant serves meals inspired by the catch of the day. Learn about Dingle’s famous resident, Fungie, an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin who was first spotted off the coast of Dingle in 1983. Fungie is one of the main tourist magnets for the area and several cruise companies offer a boat ride to see him.
Rock of Cashel, Co. Tipperary
One of Ireland’s most popular tourist attractions is also one of the most beautiful – a group of Medieval buildings (some dating back to the 12th Century) situated on an outcrop of limestone. Don’t miss the Romanesque Cormac’s Chapel, or the Hall of the Vicars, which houses several Celtic relics like the original Cross of St. Patrick.
Packed with culture, creativity and craic (fun), Dublin boasts busy pubs, live music, shops and friendly faces. But Ireland’s capital is also a place of natural beauty if you head beyond the city. Dublin Bay opens up with coastal walks, little villages, wide sea views and rugged mountain backdrops. Take to the mountains for a hike, go rock- climbing in Dalkey Quarry, walk the cliff path at Howth or join the Dublin hardcore who sea-swim whatever the weather.
Four of the best in…WALES
Tenby is probably the most iconic seaside town in Wales. Full of charm, it is home to three great beaches: North, South and Castle, each with its own character. For culture, head to Tenby Museum or the National Trust owned Tudor Merchant’s House. For something a little different you could try evening ghost walks!
The Brecon Beacons National Park offers a spectacular landscape rich in natural beauty. Practically free from light and noise pollution, it is the perfect break from modern life, with wide open spaces and secluded waterfalls. To get the most stunning views of the area, trek to the highest point in South Britain –Pen-y-Fan.
Snowdonia National Park
Snowdonia in northwest Wales is concentrated around the mountains and glaciers of the expansive Snowdonia National Park. The park’s historic Snowdon Mountain Railway climbs to the summit of Wales’s highest mountain, Mount Snowdon, offering views across the sea to Ireland. The park is also home to an extensive network of trails, over 100 lakes and craggy peaks like Cedar Idris and Tryfan. Just a short drive away is Caernarfon with its glorious Castle and Segontium Roman Fort.
Langland Bay, Gower Penninsular
Langland Bay on the Gower Peninsular in Wales is a surfers’ paradise! However, if surfing is not your thing you could chill on the sandy shore and take in the amazing views, have a cuppa in a pretty café or stroll along the promenade. A magical place for children.