Whether you’re after seaside escapes, wildlife retreats or enchanting history, the UK is packed full of hidden treasures – not least the Peak District, with its picturesque Headstone Viaduct, which spans Monsal Dale (Photo: Getty Images)

Whether you’re after seaside escapes, wildlife retreats or enchanting history, the UK is packed full of hidden treasures. From spectacular natural heritage sites like the Forest of Bowland in the Peak District and the fossil beach at Dunraven Bay in South Wales, to unsung landmarks such as Goodrich Castle in the Wye Valley and Mount Stewart in Northern Ireland, it’s time to see the UK by taking the road less travelled.

Sample the delights of Strangford Lough

United Kingdom, Northern Ireland, County Down, Strangford Lough, fjord sea coast

Northern Ireland's Strangford Lough enjoys a fabulous setting, with the Ards Peninsula on one side and western County Down on the other (Photo: Getty Images)

Around 25 kilometres (15 miles) southeast of Belfast, the shores of Strangford Lough – a large, elongated body of water flanked by the Ards Peninsula on one side and western County Down on the other – have a little something for everyone: a grand house and glorious gardens at Mount Stewart, an epic Gothic mansion courtesy of Castle Ward – an essential stop for Game of Thrones fans – and abundant roosting wildfowl at Castle Espie Wetlands. The lough’s fertile shores ensure a limitless supply of delicious produce – sample Portavogie scampi at Saltwater Brig in Kircubbin village before returning to Belfast and a welcome night’s rest at AC Hotel Belfast overlooking the quay.

Savour the history – and the famous puddings – of Bakewell

A flock of llamas gazing in a field during autumn season with the village in the background

Bakewell is an elegant confection of mossy, stone mill houses and Victorian and Edwardian villas (Photo: Getty Images)

There’s much more to Bakewell than its famous tart – delicious though that is – including a brilliant farmer’s market on the last Saturday of each month. Foodie treats aside, the town is an elegant confection of mossy, stone mill houses and Victorian and Edwardian villas. With time and energy, walk the Monsal Trail, a 13 kilometre (8.5 mile) traffic-free route through gently rolling limestone dales that runs along part of the old Midland Railway line. A few miles east of Bakewell, Chatsworth House is one of the UK's great stately homes, and now looking better than ever following a multi-million pound makeover. The grand Delta Hotels Breadsall Priory Country Club makes a comfortable base for visiting all these places.

Soak up the seaside magic of Penarth and Vale of Glamorgan

Ceredigion coastal footpath during early spring season, Borth, Wales, UK

Base yourself at the Cardiff Marriott Hotel for easy access to the wonderful Wales Coast Path (Photo: Getty Images)

A short but enjoyable walk along the Cardiff Bay barrage brings you to well-heeled Penarth, harbouring a cheerful promenade and shallow pebble beach with a graceful Victorian pier. Penarth heralds the start of the Vale of Glamorgan, where attractions galore lie in wait, most handily sited along the wonderful Wales Coast Path: Lavernock Point, location for the world’s first wireless transmission over sea; Barry Island, a breezy bucket-and-spade resort; Dunraven Bay, a popular fossil-hunting spot; and Merthyr Mawr, whose towering sand dunes are among the highest in Europe; the mighty Big Dipper is testament to that. The smart Cardiff Marriott Hotel gives easy access to all these attractions.

Take your time in Cirencester and Bourton-on-the-Water

View over Windrush river with summer trees, footbridge and reflections in Bourton-on-the-Water in the Cotswolds, Gloucestershire, England

Five elegant arched bridges span the river in picturesque Bourton-on-the-Water (Photo: Getty Images)

Cheltenham’s Delta Hotels Cheltenham Chase is a great jumping-off point for forays into the Cotswolds, the ‘capital’ of which is the erstwhile Roman town of Cirencester. Absorb some of its rich history at the compelling Corinium Museum, then amble slowly around the town’s creamy Cotswold stone streets and crumbling abbey ruins. Sights ticked off, hit the town’s lido, a splendid nineteenth-century structure fed by natural springs. From Cirencester, head deeper into the Cotswolds and the picturesque village of Bourton-on-the-Water, whose beautiful river is spanned by five elegant arched bridges. Bourton’s most enduring site is the popular Model Village, which delights in every square inch of its 1/9 scale, while the Birdland Park and Gardens is also terrific fun.

Discover the England-Wales border country of Chepstow and the Wye Valley

The view looking north down the River Wye towards Goodrich from the viewpoint on Symonds Yat Rock, Herefordshire UK

Make for Symonds Yat Rock to enjoy a superb view of the Wye Valley and its surrounding countryside (Photo: Getty Images)

With only the River Wye separating it from England, Chepstow – a personable market town dominated by its magnificent Norman castle – is the starting point for the Wye Valley Walk. Highlights of the walk include the majestic ruins of Tintern Abbey and the giant sandstone mass of Goodrich Castle, as well as peerless views of the river and surrounding countryside from Symonds Yat Rock; you are quite likely to see some Peregrine falcons too. The Delta Hotels St Pierre Country Club, just outside Chepstow, is a sumptuous fourteenth-century manor with elegant rooms, plus a spa and golf course. 

Walk in Roman footsteps in Chester

Aerial view of Chester, a city in northwest England, known for its extensive Roman walls made of local red sandstone

Chester’s distinctive half-timbered Tudor and Victorian buildings, fine museums, upscale eateries and chic shops make it an irresistible destination (Photo: Getty Images)

Once a major Roman town, Chester’s distinctive half-timbered Tudor and Victorian buildings, fine museums, upscale eateries and chic shops make it an irresistible destination. Roman remnants aside – walk the city walls and survey the amphitheatre – Chester’s star attraction is the medieval cathedral; join a Heights of the Cathedral Tour for superlative citywide views. Then pay a visit to the smart city market and the beautifully restored Art Deco Storyhouse Cultural Centre, which offers a slice of contemporary – often cutting-edge – culture. Bed down for the night at the Moxy Chester, a sleek hotel with playfully designed rooms.

Feel Leith’s cultural buzz

Reflection Of Buildings In River Against Sky In The Shore, Leith, Edinburgh

The fashionable Edinburgh suburb of Leith is packed with attractions – both waterside and otherwise (Photo: Getty Images)

Essentially a northern outpost of the Scottish capital, the fashionable waterside suburb of Leith retains its own unique vibe, including a mix of fantastic indie stores such as Elvis Shakespeare, purveyors of rare vinyl and quality literature. Leith’s premier attraction is the Royal Yacht Britannia, now permanently berthed at Ocean Terminal and offering visitors a unique insight into life aboard this opulent floating palace, while the magnificent, Georgian-built Customs House is soon to become a landmark cultural hub. Book a table at the Michelin-starred Kitchin restaurant before returning to the city for a restful night’s sleep at the smart Glasshouse, The Autograph Collection or the Residence Inn Edinburgh.

Treat yourself to stunning views and crab sandwiches in Oban

View over the harbour from McCaig's Tower, distillery chimney prominent, Oban, Argyll and Bute, Scotland, United Kingdom

Take a coastal road trip from Moxy Glasgow Merchant City to Oban, a bustling port town and the gateway to the Highlands (Photo: Getty Images)

From the designer Moxy Glasgow Merchant City hotel in Glasgow, it’s a memorable journey – by road or rail – up the west coast to Oban, a bustling port town and the gateway to the Highlands. Oban is also Scotland’s seafood capital, with restaurants like Ee-Usk serving up the freshest of local morsels. Work up and appetite with a walk up to McCaig’s Tower for far-reaching views over the bay to the Isle of Kerrera, pop into the Ocean Explorer Centre to learn more about marine science and watch a film in the polar-themed cinema, and take a tour of Oban Distillery, one of Scotland’s oldest, followed by the obligatory dram or two. Grab a crab sandwich at the Green Shack on the pier before boarding a ferry to Mull or one of the Outer Hebridean islands. 

Roam far and wide in the Forest of Bowland

Bluebells In The Forest

The enchanting Forest of Bowland is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty full of wooded valleys, gritstone fells and peat-rich moorland (Photo: Getty Images)

Thirty-seven kilometres (23 miles) north of Preston lies the enchanting Forest of Bowland, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty embracing wooded valleys, gritstone fells and peat-rich moorland. The 13 kilometre (8 mile) Trough of Bowland circular trail is a superb walk, though cyclists too can enjoy any number of well-marked trails. Bowland’s rolling hills are sprinkled with neat stone villages like Slaidburn, as well as pretty market towns like Clitheroe, which offers several welcome opportunities to refuel, like the excellent Buck Country Pub. Stay the night at the Victorian-era Delta Hotels Preston, where the indoor pool will soothe any hike-weary muscles.

Published: February 01, 2023

Article Tags:  Bakewell , Cheltenham , Oban , Preston , United Kingdom

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