Visit Britain’s undiscovered treasures for a more authentic experience
Great Britain has so much more to offer than just its capital city, London. If you’re looking for authentic culinary or cultural experiences, you’ll find them both in Britain’s northern cities. If you’re thirsting for adventure or a walk on the wild side, you can do so in one of England’s 15 National Parks where you’ll often find an abundance of British history and heritage as well. And if you’re hankering after stunning coastal views or want to experience a quintessential English seaside town for more British culture, you can easily do that too. Visit Britain’s undiscovered treasures for a more authentic experience.
Britain’s Undiscovered Treasures
As mentioned here, if you love history, architecture and heritage, or culture, arts and entertainment, as well as diverse culinary experiences, you’ll find them all in abundance in England’s capital city, London, which is often where you’ll land when arriving in Great Britain from Canada. Travel beyond London, though, and you’ll find some of Britain’s undiscovered treasures, including amazing landscapes and iconic sites you’re familiar with but have only ever seen in photos.
For a more authentic experience when you visit Britain, explore the land of hope and glory to discover its captivating cities and beautiful national parks, its magnificent prehistoric coastlines and vibrant seaside towns, its bustling rural towns and quaint villages, not forgetting familiar movie locations that you didn’t realize were in Britain and some that you did.
You’ll not only find fewer tourists outside central London, but you’ll also have a ton of stories to share with your friends and family that will differ from the run of the mill “I visited London” stories of most tourists.
Here are just a few of Britain’s undiscovered treasures you can find if you venture further afield and go off-the-beaten-tourist-track.
Britain’s Undiscovered Northern Cities
Once you’ve visited all London’s must see and do sites on your bucket list (which of course, I encourage you to do if you’ve never visited England before), hop on a train and head north to discover some of Britain’s northern cities, such as York, Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle and/or Edinburgh.
Along the route, as you journey north by train, you’ll be awe-struck when you see the breathtaking English countryside, its quaint rural villages surrounded by emerald green pastures, the meandering rivers and sparkling lakes, rolling hills and vast valleys carved by glaciers thousands of years ago, and even a few mountains.
Stop at one or more of these captivating cities for a day or two of exploration and you’ll find a wealth of history, heritage and culture including such iconic sites as York Minster, Edinburgh Castle and the Manchester canals. Or go on a Beatles tour in Liverpool, or for a completely different experience, an industrial heritage walk in Newcastle.
In each of these northern cities, you’ll find an abundance of historical sites to explore, local traditions to experience and unique culinary delights to tantalize your taste buds.
York Minster, York, England and the city wall which you can walk to explore the city. Photo via Pixabay
Take a Hidden Minster Tour to discover the city’s heritage and historical architecture; stroll around the city walls and reflect on the city’s lengthy history; relax for a while at The Grand Hotel to enjoy quintessential England with afternoon tea; and in the evening enjoy live entertainment at the theatre (advance booking of tickets may be required).
On a stop in Manchester, spend the afternoon at one of its many lively markets and listen to vendors promote their wares; enjoy a fish and chips supper in a local pub washed down with a local craft beer; in the evening stroll by the Manchester Ship Canal or hop on board a boat for a river boat show.
In Newcastle, enjoy a walk along the path by Hadrian’s Wall all while learning about the city’s industrial heritage. Follow the experience with an evening at a pub with a plate of Pan Haggerty washed down with a glass of Newcastle Brown Ale, finishing off the evening with a game of darts or billiards with the locals.
Edinburgh Castle and city viewed from Arthur’s Seat, Holyrood Park. Photo via Pixabay
Across the border, visit Edinburgh’s medieval old town and, if you’re feeling energetic, walk the Royal Mile up to its iconic castle. For an amazing view of the city and the castle, if you don’t mind the extra exercise, take a 50-minute walk to Holyrood Park and Arthur’s Seat (an ancient volcano), where you’ll get the best view of the city. Finish the day with some fine Scottish fare washed down with a Scotch whiskey, and even try your hand (or legs) at some Scottish highland dancing.
Lake Windermere, Lake District, Cumbria, England. Photo via Pixabay
Britain’s Undiscovered Natural Treasures
If you’re a nature and wildlife lover, you’re in for a treat. Despite the popular belief that Great Britain is so crowded with people that the island might sink (yes, I’ve heard that said), explore beyond London and you’ll actually discover an abundance of natural areas and interesting wildlife. National Parks, National Trust sites, countryside parks, public rights of way and Britain’s waterways are just a few of Britain’s undiscovered natural treasures for you to discover.
National Parks & National Trust
Head in any direction from England’s capital, and you’ll discover one of 15 National Parks, such as the South Downs (pictured in this post), The Broads, New Forest, Snowdonia, Lake District or Cairngorms to name a few. Or discover one of the many National Trust wild and natural areas, including ancient woodlands, wild parklands, dramatic clifftops and natural trails, as well as smaller countryside parks and reservoirs dotted around the country.
Whether you prefer to stroll, walk or hike, you’re bound to come across Britain’s prolific wild flowers (you’d be surprised how many there are in winter even) and native trees, as well as land mammals (if you’re lucky), birds and insects (especially butterflies and dragonflies).
In many of Britain’s National Parks, National Trust sites and countryside parks, you’ll also find historic buildings, industrial artefacts and other signs of Britain’s heritage, such as castle ruins, abandoned mines, defunct water mills or old quirky buildings and structures (follies), which you can explore all while enjoying the stunning scenery and local wildlife.
Public Rights of Way
In addition to the National Parks, National Trust sites and Countryside Parks (which sometimes require an entrance fee for parking or guided tours), there are over 140,000 miles of sign-posted public rights of way throughout the country (something I miss here in Canada), many of which cross farmland, woodlands, rural villages and much of the coast.
No matter where you go in Britain, you can get your fitness fix (or walk off some calories) without spending a penny doing so (unless of course you need to spend a penny, then I recommend you find an appropriate place to do so!).
Since Britain is an island, there are also over 11,000 miles of stunning coastline to discover – which, by the way, is never more than about 70 miles away from you, no matter where in the the country you are! (More about that below.) But did you know there are 2,200 miles of navigable rivers and canals you can explore too? Whether you prefer to hike, bike, kayak, or take a leisurely boat ride, there is an abundance of marine life and freshwater wildlife to see.
Take a boat trip along one of Britain’s many rivers to discover rural landscapes, farmland and woodlands only accessible/visible from the waterway. A relaxing way to see some of Britain’s undiscovered natural beauty is to rent a canal boat and navigate one or more of canals built during Britain’s industrial revolution for a few days. Navigating the rural canals, you’ll not only discover some of Britain’s hidden treasures, you’ll have the opportunity to experience a bygone era in Britain.
Botallack Mine, St Just, Cornwall, England. Photo via Pixabay
Britain’s Undiscovered Coastal Treasures
As mentioned above, there are 11,000 miles of coastline to discover on a visit to Britain, which you can explore even on a short visit, since you’re never more than 70 miles away from the coast. No matter what your fitness level, it’s so easy to explore the coast on foot at a seaside town or village or in the wilds along a coastal footpath.
Bournemouth, Sussex, England—an English Seaside Town. Photo via Pixabay
If you’re short on time or prefer a more relaxed vacation, take a leisurely stroll along a seaside promenade, boardwalk or pier in one of Britain’s many seaside towns, such as Brighton on the south coast, which is just a short train ride or car journey south of London’s Gatwick airport, or spend the day exploring a fishing village, such as Mevagissey in Cornwall on Britain’s southwest coast (longer stay required).
Some promenades and boardwalks will take you to sand dunes with hidden bird and/or wildlife sanctuaries, where you can bird watch for hours. Others will take you to amusement arcades, which have played a big part in the British seaside culture for decades, while others will take you to beach huts for rent (also part of the British culture), where you can sit and relax for the day, and, if you can brave the cold, swim or bathe in the ocean waters.
Coastal view from the southwest coastal path, near Newquay, Cornwall, when I visited during the spring in 2017.
If you’re a more active traveller and want to explore the coast further, that’s easy too since Britain has hundreds of miles of coastal footpaths. Many start at or cross seaside towns or villages and stretch for several miles, so you can choose to walk a small section close to town or a longer stretch.
On a coastal footpath walk, you’ll see amazing coastal views, explore beaches and bays that aren’t accessible by road, discover historic sites and industrial artefacts (some you may recognize from your favourite TV show) and spot coastal wildlife and marine life.
Aside: The southwest coastal path is one of my favourites that I get to explore every year when I visit my mum where you can experience all of the above. If you ever get the chance, you should visit Cornwall and Devon and hike a few miles of the coastal footpath… you’ll be amazed at the stunning coastline.
For an active and exhilarating experience, walk between two or more coastal towns or villages, grab an English pub lunch, and walk or catch a bus back (my mum and her friends do this all the time). Be sure to check the bus time table and/or tidal table first and/or leave enough time for the return trip so you’re back before dark.
If you’re feeling really adventurous, hike the coastal path for several days stopping along the route for the night at a camp site, bed and breakfast or hotel, depending on your comfort level. Wales is ideal for adventurous travellers and those who would like to hike a country’s entire coastline. The coastal footpath follows the entire Welsh coast and then continues inland along the Welsh border with England (the only public footpath to navigate an entire country!)
If you prefer, you can take a boat trip, ferry or cruise to discover some of Britain’s hundreds of smaller islands, explore the stunning coastline from the ocean and discover more of Britain’s hidden treasures that you didn’t know existed.
These are just a few of Britain’s undiscovered treasures waiting for you to explore when you visit Britain. If you’ve never visited Britain before, you’re looking for hidden treasures to explore on your next visit, or you’d like help creating a custom trip, feel free to get in touch for ideas and to plan your trip.