17 Secret Spots to Put on Your UK Bucket List
The dramatic fluorescent lights of Piccadilly Circus, lively towns that buzz with playful energy and a legendary loch-dwelling monster that may or may not exist. We’ve rounded up the UK’s most beautiful hidden gems to add to your bucket list.
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Isle of Skye Fairy Pools, Scotland1/18
The remote archipelago of Inner Hebrides hides many of the area’s wonders — especially the Isle of Skye. The best example? The delicate tumble of the island’s Fairy Pools, found down a path of peat and heather-strewn moor. You’ll start believing in folklore after a skip down this beautiful route.
Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon), Wales2/18
The lofty peaks of Wales’ Snowdonia/Eryri National Park are epic. Though there are several that reach over 900 metres, the tallest is Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon), conquerable via six equally stunning walking trails that lead serious hikers through routes of slate scree and knife-edge ridges. Incredible views are guaranteed, no matter the passage.
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Kynance Cove, England3/18
The Cornish coast is a British seaside fantasy, dug into the peninsula by millions of years of erosion. In this land of scones, pasties and exceptional baked goods lies Kynance Cove, a craggy catch of rock stacks and aquamarine-tinged water that would be tempting during even the most dreary English weather.
Mourne Mountains, Northern Ireland4/18
Just an hour from Belfast airport and you’ll be in the clutches of the moody Mourne Mountains, a certified ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’. There are 12 peaks that comprise this mountain range, with the landscapes shifting from woodland to moorland, before plunging down into the coastline. If you’re cycling, the circular Mourne Mountain Loop is your route; if hiking, the Silent Valley trail is for you, which summits at Slievenaglogh and delivers panoramic views.
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Brecon Beacons National Park, Wales5/18
Outdoor enthusiasts will adore Brecon Beacons National Park, a place of deep glacial valleys and semi-ancient woodlands in the country’s south. Walking and bike trails stripe the park, with clusters of canals, waterways and reservoirs to cruise around in a kayak, too. The park is also an International Dark Sky Reserve, where a clear night promises glimpses of the Milky Way and even meteor showers.
The beaches of Harris, Scotland6/18
Scotland isn’t known for its beaches – or at least not the kind that look inviting enough to swim in. And yet, on the outer Hebridean island of Harris, the coastline more closely resembles Tropical North Queensland than Scotland. The quintessentially Scottish mountain backdrop – often dotted with shaggy Highland cattle grazing on grass – gives away the beaches’ true location, however.
Rathlin Island, Northern Ireland7/18
A ferry over the Sea of Moyle delivers you to diminutive Rathlin Island, a small and unspoilt haven of classically Irish green countryside, dramatic basalt cliffs and curious wildlife, from lazy, sun-seeking seals to adorable puffins. Birdwatchers will love the Rathlin West Light Seabird Centre, where you can observe all manner of birdlife in their natural habitat from a viewing platform.
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Wistman’s Wood, England8/18
Do you believe in fairies? You might if you met the magical knots of moss and lichen-covered forest that is Wistman’s Wood, in the heart of Dartmoor National Park. This enchanted corner of Devon is an entanglement of granite boulders, verdant oak branches and a web of rare horsehair lichen; the kind of which is found in only two sites of Britain.
Ogwen Valley, Wales9/18
Tucked into the reaches of Snowdonia/Eryri is the picturesque Ogwen Valley, with its little shimmering jewel, Llyn Ogwen. The result of tectonic, volcanic and glacial activity some 625 million years ago, the valley is striking with its craggy peaks and deep crevasses. The Cwm Idwal walk is the best way to explore the area – if you’re an experienced hiker, you can trudge onto Twll Du (Devil’s Kitchen), which often sees a plume of fog resembling smoke rising from a dark crack in a surrounding cliff face.
Kilchurn Castle, Scotland10/18
Standing sentry on the banks of mirror-like Loch Awe, Kilchurn Castle is an idyllic fairytale-esque castle in Scotland’s midlands. Crumbling at its stone edges, the former fortress has been stationed in the windswept inlet near towering Ben Cruachan since the mid-1400s and is, unsurprisingly, one of the country’s most photographed castles.
The Dark Hedges, Northern Ireland11/18
This tangle of road-lining beech trees has roots as far back as the 18th century, when the local Stuart family planted them astride a road in County Antrim in Northern Ireland’s north. More recently, the now pedestrian-only road has stood in as the setting for the Kingsroad in Games of Thrones and has seen plenty of visits from devoted fans, as a result.
It seems like Tolkien country in the gorge of Glencoe in Scotland’s Highlands, where a glen of babbling brooks with glass-clear waters trickles through a deep valley that is walled by moss-covered mountains, staggering in their proportion. The colours of the glen seem ever-changing, with a blanket of bilberry, bracken and heather covering the peaks and troughs, shifting shades with the seasons.
Scafell Pike, England13/18
England’s highest peak, Scafell Pike, looms over the Lake District, where ribbon lakes, rocky summits and green patchwork farmlands collide in postcard-level perfection. The trail that traces the mountain stream to its apex is taken by around 250,000 visitors a year, all vying for that vista over the valley below.
Old Man of Storr, Scotland14/18
Among the Isle of Skye’s myriad stunners is the Old Man of Storr, where the landscape seems to be plucked from the moon. Scooping up to the sky over the desolate Sound of Raasay, the jagged pinnacle looms large and intimidating as part of the Trotternish Ridge. Legend has it the ‘Old Man’ – the tallest formation in the bunch at a peak of 2300 feet – is actually the thumb of a giant laid to rest in the valley.
Seven Sisters, England15/18
The coastline of East Sussex is characterised by the vertical, vertiginous chalk cliffs known as Seven Sisters. These striking white rock faces are spread with grasslands and sprinkled with native birds and wildlife, all waiting for visitors just over two hours south of London by car.
Glenfinnan Viaduct, Scotland16/18
If this pretty railway route in Inverness Shire seems familiar, there’s a reason. This scenic track is the film embodiment of Harry Potter’s fictional journey to his beloved school, Hogwarts, which sees him cross Scotland’s countryside from this concrete bridge, set 30 metres above the ground. Talk about magical.
Old Harry Rocks, England17/18
From a drone’s view, the scatter of chalk stones, stacks and stumps that comprise Old Harry Rocks hardly looks real as it stretches out from the Jurassic Coast on England’s southern tip. Kayakers often paddle a route around the imposing structures, which until 1896, had another stack to its group. Known as Old Harry’s Wife, it has since been swept away, leaving just a stump.