From the wilds of the Scottish Highlands to the old-style pubs of Ireland, the breathtaking scenery will leave you reeling and a slice of history awaits in every ancient alley. Read on for the top five places to visit beyond the buzzing metropolis of London – and an added bonus? Not one is more than a few hours away from the capital.
Best for outdoor adventure: Wales
Miles of craggy coastline and sheer cliff faces that plunge into pounding waves make Wales a popular destination for thrill-seekers the country over. A recent tourism drive dubbed Heart of Adventure has made activities such as kayaking, white water rafting, extreme ziplining, abseiling and off-roading all the more accessible in the often overlooked wilds of this area. Wales is also famed for its gorges and caves and it’s the caving centre of the UK, with eerie and challenging trails through bat-infested caverns. There’s no end to outdoor activities here that you wouldn’t always associate with the UK but, in fact, are right on London’s doorstep. visitwales.com
Best for drinking: Dublin
The Irish pretty much invented drinking – well, that’s not strictly true, but they arguably do it with more commitment than any other nation in the world. The streets of the capital city are bursting with traditional pubs with low-beamed ceilings and beer brewed on site. Victorian boozer Stag’s Head, near Trinity College, is one not to miss if you want to learn the true meaning of a pint. Then of course there’s the Guinness Storehouse with seven floors dedicated to the stout. And when you’ve had quite enough of day drinking and the luck of the Irish is still on your side, head to Temple Bar where you can dance red-faced and limbs flailing into the morning. guinness-storehouse.com
Best for culture: Liverpool
This smog-stained industrial city in the North was labelled the Capital of Culture in Europe a few years ago, which is surely a claim worth checking out. As the hometown othe Beatles, the city holds a special place in every Brit’s heart but, beyond the Fab Four tours, there’s a lot more to explore. Tate Liverpool and the Walker Gallery have long displayed work by cutting-edge British artists and hosted the acclaimed Turner Price in 2007. The life-size cast iron Another Place sculptures on the beach are striking and the city is awash with art placed out on the streets for the public to enjoy. itsliverpool.com/culture
Best for music: Brighton
Otherwise known as ‘London-by-the-sea’, this spirited beach town is full of vibrant bars and whimsical cafes along the boardwalk. Because it’s jammed full of young people, there’s a huge appetite for good music as giggers build a name for themselves en-route to London. Brash Brighton pier is a sight to behold, with its blaring lights, dizzying fairground rides and somewhat tacky but terribly addictive arcade. Concorde2 and Digital host some big names in the DJ and live music world and there are a ton of smaller venues for indie-lovers. brightonnoise.co.uk
Best for hiking: The Scottish Highlands
The Scottish Highlands are an outdoors fanatic’s must-visit destination. With the highest mountain in the UK, Ben Nevis, standing 1344m above sea level, there is plenty of scope for mountaineering, and the Nevis Range is home to hiking, trekking and mountain biking in the summer months. The nearby Kinlochleven boasts the highest indoor ice wall in the country at the Ice Factor for all-year round ice axe action. You can do all sorts of kayaking in the plentiful lochs, carved glacially out of the land, and there’s even a variety of winter ski destinations. Aviemore, in the Cairngorms National Park, is one of the most famous and frequented ski spots worth a look.
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