In this post, we’re going to look at some of the best destinations for summer in the UK. To make it a bit more interesting, we’ll exclude the ten most visited towns and cities (detailed at the bottom). Therefore there’s no mention of London or Edinburgh here, or an obvious summer destination like Brighton but there should still be a few ideas you might have forgotten all about, if you’re in the midst of plotting a UK staycation or a visit from further afield.
Staycations & Short Trips this Summer in the UK – 10 Ideas
One of the UK’s oldest and most attractive small cities, Bath is a great option for a summer day trip or overnight stay. Home to the famous Roman-era baths from which it takes its name, it’s a charming riverside city with some stunning architecture from Georgian-era masterpieces such as the Royal Crescent and the Circus to Bath Abbey.
It can easily be combined with a visit to Bristol, only 11 miles down the road. With fast and regular services taking just 12 minutes to get between the two cities, Bath is one of the best places to visit in England by train with direct connections to London only taking around one hour and twenty minutes.
For those sick of urban life and in need of a great escape, the Lake District is surely the best option in England for nature lovers. Home to famous lakes such as Windermere and Coniston, plus popular walking and cycling routes, you’ll soon forget you are in one of Europe’s most densely populated countries.
The Lake District is well served by Britain’s West Coast mainline while there are local bus services to help get you around the region. It does cover quite a large area though so having your own transport or at least a bicycle will open up much more options in terms of where you can get to.
The Isle of Skye
The Isle of Skye was recently voted the most beautiful place in Scotland by Rough Guides and it’s a great option for anyone looking for a bit more of an adventure this summer. It takes more effort to get there, with Skye located over 200 miles north of Glasgow and Edinburgh, off the northwest coast of Scotland. However anyone who makes the long trip will certainly be rewarded.
It offers dramatic landscapes, medieval castles and charming fishing villages. The only downside is the weather. Even in summer, the Isle of Skye’s climate is notoriously unpredictable and you should come prepared for anything.
As only the 12th most popular city destination in the UK, Cardiff is perhaps a little underrated by visitors but it’s got plenty to offer anyone coming for a short period. It’s the best starting point for anyone looking to learn about Welsh culture and history with a number of historic castles and informative museums.
It also provides a nice blend of the old and the new and is a good spot for anyone looking to see and do things during the day and then enjoy a bit of evening entertainment or nightlife. Cardiff Bay is home to a vast choice of restaurants and bars and the area is often buzzing on warm summer nights.
For anyone with a passion for theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon is a must visit. A medieval market town, dating back to the 12th or 13th Centuries, Stratford really thrust itself into British folklore with the 16th Century birth of a certain William Shakespeare in the town.
Most of the main sights in the town are related to Shakespeare from the house of his birthplace to the cottage of his wife Anne Hathaway. Even if you’re not big into the famous playwright, you should still enjoy Stratford’s pleasant setting on the banks of the River Avon in Warwickshire.
Another of England’s historic market towns, Windsor is one of the most popular day-trips from London but there’s no reason why you can’t plan a longer stay there. Its most famous attraction is Windsor Castle, a principal residence for Queen Elizabeth II but it’s not the only Windsor sight with strong connections to the British Royal Family with St George’s Chapel having also played a significant role in the history of the British monarchy.
Immediately across the banks of the River, you can walk across and visit Eton College, possibly the most famous school in the world and the place where many British prime-ministers and royals have been educated, including both Prince William and Harry, as well current PM Boris Johnson.
Another of the best summer holiday destinations in the UK, Anglesey is a nice option for anyone trying to get as far from city life as possible. It’s a beautiful island located just off the coast of northwestern Wales. It has some lovely beaches and hiking trails, as well as some quirky historic sights such as Beaumaris Gaol, a 19th Century prison.
Anglesey is also located close to the Snowdonia National Park, home to Mount Snowdon, the highest peak in the UK outside of Scotland.
For beach lovers, Cornwall is perhaps the best option for anyone in the UK. As the southernmost county in the British Isles, it does have a slightly warmer climate than most. Its relative isolation also ensures it has some quieter and more unspoiled beaches than many other regions, but if you’re looking for somewhere a bit livelier then Newquay is your best bet.
This popular surf-town comes alive when the UK summer holidays start and surfers from around the country and indeed around the world flock in. It’s also one of England’s most vibrant summer party destinations with a youthful atmosphere in July and August.
If peace and tranquility is more your thing, then Scotland’s Loch Lomond is worth considering. One of the country’s great lakes, Lomond is only around 30 miles northwest of Glasgow which is well served by flights and trains from around the UK, so it’s quite easy to get to.
The loch forms part of the larger Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park which is home to an array of cycle paths and trails. A number of waterfalls and other smaller lakes are nice points to aim for.
Newcastle upon Tyne
Finally, for those looking for a city break and to let off some steam at night, party loving Newcastle is about as good a bet as any. Tyneside’s famous bars and clubs are well known with its popular Quayside district serving up great views of the iconic Tyne Bridge.
This football mad city may not have a huge range of other obvious “attractions” but you’re located near the coast and can make the trip out to the seaside town of Whitley Bay if the weather is good.
The Most Visited Cities in Britain
According to visitbritain.org, these were the most popular cities for “staying” visitors in 2019. Figures are rounded up or down to the nearest 100,000:
|City||Visitors in 2019|
Note this doesn’t just relate to the summer and covers domestic and international visitors. Unsurprisingly London is way out ahead with almost 10 times as many visitors as the next most popular city destination – Edinburgh.
Glasgow, Brighton, Bristol, Oxford and Cambridge round off the ten. The most visited city in Wales was Cardiff (382,000 & 12th overall). Northern Ireland is not covered in this data as it’s part of the UK but not Britain.
This article was published in May 2021.