Best UK Stay and Play Destinations You Shouldn’t Miss

UK Hidden Gem Destinations

Best UK alternatives to a foreign holiday: UK Gems Close to Home

When we think about holidays, we think about getting away from it all, going somewhere different and exciting. It might surprise you to know that getting away, might not need you to travel as far as you might think.

There are plenty of places within the U.K. which mirror holidays elsewhere without the need for additional flights, or the associated cost. Lets take a look at some of the best alternatives to a foreign holiday that you can find right on your doorstep.


Portmeirion Wales

Wikimedia Commons by: Mike McBey

North Wales might not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of the Riviera, but it’s holding onto a secret which can provide you with the experience, minus the distance. The village of Portmeirion was built by Welsh architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis to show ‘that a naturally beautiful site could be developed without spoiling it’.

His designs were inspired by Mediterranean architecture and although he denies that Portafino was a direct influence, it hasn’t stopped the comparison from sticking. The influence is so obvious in-fact that Portmeirion has been used as a filming stand in for Mediterranean villages in a number of films and series throughout the years.

There is accommodation available in the local area, but if you choose to stay elsewhere you’ll only be able to access the village within its opening times. If you stay within the village itself you’ll be able to explore Portmeirion at your leisure, as well as walking in the local woodland. At the end of the day, when you need to unwind, you can take a dip in the heated pool located on the villages quayside.

The Inner Hebrides

Inner Hebrides UK

Wikimedia Commons by: Gordon Brown

For those of you looking for something a little bit more ‘sun sea and sand’, Scotland might sound like a strange choice. Although it’s known more for heavy rain and snowy mountain peaks, Scotland’s Inner Hebrides can offer a climate that provides a lot more sun on your skin.

Although each of the islands offer something a little bit different, they’re located on the gulf stream which means that while on average, temperatures aren’t always warm, during the summer months they can soar. Mull and Iona in particular are great for taking advantage of this, as they have a surprising number of white sand beaches which are perfect for spending the day lazing in the sun.

A particular favourite, although not exactly widely known, is the beach of Port Ban on Iona. Located on the western side of the island, Port Ban is sheltered by granite cliffs making it an excellent sun trap. Combined with soft white sand and a gentle tide which allows easy swimming in contrast with Iona’s southern beaches, you could be forgiven for thinking you’d found a little piece of the Seychelles tucked away on this small Scottish island.


A city break can be a great idea if you want a change of scenery, but don’t want to be too far away from an opportunity to spend some time shopping. Although London might seem like the obvious choice for a trip like this, Brighton offers a little more in the way of flexibility and allows you to control the pace of your holiday in way the capital is unable to do.

Brighton Pier England

Brighton’s reputation as a laid back sea side town holds true today, and although you can find all your favourite high street brands there, but where shopping is concerned the real joys are to be found in the lanes. Antiques, curios and fashion you wont find elsewhere are available in the more eccentric shops you’ll find there. Once you’re done there, you can head to Brighton pier and the amusements it has to offer.

If the capitals bright lights are just that bit too tempting for you, then the good news is that Brighton is only a short train ride away. You can take a day trip, see the sights and be back in time to eat in one of the great restaurants that Brighton has to offer.


If you’d rather head south then Cornwall has a lot to offer. Like Mull and Iona, it has an excellent coastline and a quick trip out to the Isles of Scilly where you can complete the tropical vibe by taking a stroll along a beach under their famous palm trees. If you want to do more than just watch the waves however Cornwall can accommodate you.

Cornwall UK

For those of your who want a little more action, there are plenty of spots for you to learn to surf, go rock climbing or even spend the day exploring the Geevor tin mine which dates back to at least 1791. If a calm day in beautiful surroundings is more your speed however, Cornwall also hosts both the Eden Project and the Lost Gardens of Heligan, so there’s plenty of natural beauty to be found within the county.


York England Travel Tips

Wikimedia Commons by: Peter K Burian

We’ll finish up with another city break destination, but unlike the more bohemian atmosphere you’ll find in Brighton, York gives you a taste of the more traditional historic European cities where it’s as much about the past as it is the present.

Although like the lanes in Brighton, you can make some eclectic finds in York’s Shambles area, you’ll find more to do if you want to know more about the city itself. From the city walls that surround it to the towering minster, York wears its history with pride showing the way in which a modern city can grow around some truly classical architecture.

Jorvik Viking centre offers some insight into the period in which York was occupied by the Great Heathen Army of Ivar the Boneless, whereas evidence can still be seen of its Roman origins in the Roman Bath Museum. Perhaps the most historic fun to be had however is on one of York’s famous ghost tours. Groups will meet in the evening and be lead around some of the most haunted locations in the city, with colourful commentary provided.

So, whether you’re looking for sun, sand, culture or that perfect holiday shopping trip, there’s plenty to be found without having to step foot on a plane. However, if you’re reading this guide outside of the U.K. and want to experience some of these destinations for yourself, don’t forget that you may need to obtain a U.K. visitor visa in order to travel.

Imogen Loveday is a writer for the Immigration Advice Service


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