United Kingdom

10 places in the UK that feel like abroad

Photo of Cathy ToogoodPhoto of Cathy Toogood
By Cathy Toogood

18 June 2021 | Updated 19 August 20226 min read

Low angle view of the pastel pink and yellow Italian-style buildings of purpose-built tourist village, Portmeirion

Light on annual leave or just want to avoid the airport? You don’t have to go far for your next adventure – there are some fantastic destinations in the UK that will make you feel like you’ve travelled abroad.

From diving with seals in Northumberland and sipping wine in rolling vineyards in Gloucestershire, to waking up with lions or tigers in Kent, here we reveal ten places in the UK that could be overseas… almost.

1. The Farne Islands, Northumberland

Feels like: The Galapagos Islands

David Attenborough called the Farne Islands his favourite place in the UK to see magnificent nature. And, if your dream holidays overseas involve diving and nature spotting, these rocky islands near Seahouses in Northumberland will give you your fix.

Go on a boat trip equipped with binoculars and a camera to see the islands’ 23 different species of sea birds, including around 43,000 pairs of puffins, plus thousands of grey seals who lazily lounge on the rocks. Or, book a diving trip to get up close to the seals, and swim among coral, sea urchins and wrecks.

2. Port Lympne Hotel & Reserve, Kent

Feels like: Kenya

Credit: Port Lympne Hotel & Reserve

Fancy waking up with a lion peeking through your window? Or perhaps you’d like to watch spectacled bears with your morning cup of tea? You can in Port Lympne Hotel & Reserve in Kent, where on-site accommodation ranges from luxurious lodges and a treehouse hotel to bubble pods and glamping.

You could go on a truck safari during your stay at Port Lympne too, to spot spectacled bears, giraffe, wildebeest and zebra. And you can feel good knowing that profits from short breaks go to its animal conservation charity work.

3. Northern Quarter, Manchester

Feels like: New York City

Credit: Al Lambe | Pixabay

Manchester’s hip Northern Quarter is home to some of the city’s best street art as well as many of the city centre’s trendiest places to eat and drink. It also regularly stands in as New York City for blockbuster films and TV series due to its red brick and terracotta warehouses, metal fire escapes and back alleys.

New York scenes for The Crown, Captain America and Morbius have all been shot here, so imagine its streets filled with yellow taxis and you could be in the Big Apple, or thereabouts.

If you'd like to go big on the theme, treat yourself to a cocktail in NoHo, which calls itself “The Northern Quarter’s answer to NYC” then check in to the nearby Hotel Brooklyn, which says it’s like “an Old Brooklyn joint”.

4. Three Choirs Vineyards, Gloucestershire

Feels like: Bordeaux

Wine enthusiasts don’t need to travel to France for tastings and a vineyard stay – there are plenty scattered across the UK. A good bet is Three Choirs in Gloucestershire, which is one of England’s oldest vineyards, spread over 75 acres.

Book a tour and tasting followed by a vineyard walk and dinner in its brasserie. For a real treat, stay afterwards in one of its vineyard-view rooms or luxury vineyard lodges, which have floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the vines and roll-top baths. You can add a residents-only winery tour and tasting to your booking too.

5. The Cairngorms and beyond, Scotland

Feels like: Norway

Always wanted to see the Northern Lights? You have a chance of seeing them in Scotland, as the northern part of the country is at the same latitude as parts of Norway and Alaska. As the most northerly Dark Skies Park in the world and the darkest in the UK, the Cairngorms is a great place to head.

A good spot to look for the magical light show is the Glenlivet and Tomintoul area where regular events are held. You may even spot them further out, along the coast near Inverness. As for the best time to see them, the Cairngorms Dark Sky website recommends visiting around the autumn and spring equinoxes, when the Northern Lights are most active. Sign up for alerts here.

6. Portmeirion Village, Wales

Feels like: The Italian Riviera

Built by architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis in two stages between 1925-1939 and 1954-1976, Portmeirion Village is one of Wales’ most popular tourist spots. On a private peninsula in North Wales, the Italianate-inspired houses are painted in pretty pastel colours and are built around a central piazza. On a visit, you can also explore the Gwyllt, a 70-acre sub-tropical forest, stroll on the white sands of the Dwyryd Estuary, and check out the Amis Reunis stone boat.

There are plenty of options if you’d like to stay, including four-star hotels (one of which is in a Victorian castellated mansion) and self-catering cottages.

7. Royal Pavilion, Brighton

Feels like: The Taj Mahal

The magnificent Royal Pavilion, one of Brighton’s most recognisable sights, was transformed from a modest villa to a domed Oriental palace in 1815 at the request of the hedonistic King George IV. It was used as a hospital for Indian soldiers during World War I but is now a unique tourist attraction.

Visit to ogle at George’s showy banqueting room, the extravagant saloon, plus the music room with nine lotus-shaped chandeliers. Then calm your senses with a stroll in its regency gardens or on its tearoom’s balcony.

8. Lynton and Lynmouth, North Devon

Feels like: Switzerland

Called “Little Switzerland” by English Romantic poets, Robert Southey and Percy Shelley, the twin seaside towns of Lynton and Lynmouth became popular tourist spots after the Napoleonic Wars stopped English tourists from going to Europe.

A water-powered cliff railway connects the towns and there are dramatic coastal footpaths to explore as well as nearby beaches. And while there may not be snow-capped mountains, the Valley of Rocks, which is a short walk from Lynton, has a herd of wild goats and superb views over the Bristol Channel.

9. Yorkshire Lavender, near Terrington, York

Feels like: Provence

Waft through lavender fields, inhaling the plant’s calming scent and you’ll be transported to the south of France. Well, if you want to be, as there’s plenty to do in “God’s Own County”, Yorkshire, too.

Yorkshire Lavender is a family-run lavender farm in the Howardian Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, with spectacular views over the Vale of York. In summer, you can stroll through its lavender in a range of colours from white and blue through to deep purple, plus there’s a lavender maze and a huge Snakes and Ladders.

If you’re staying in the area, Yorkshire Lavender is near the historic house, Castle Howard, and the charming city of York.

10. The Isles of Scilly

Feels like: The Caribbean

With turquoise waters, white-sand beaches and the option to arrive by helicopter, the Isles of Scilly feel a world away from England – despite being a ferry ride from Penzance in Cornwall. When there, you can island hop by boat, spotting wildlife such as basking sharks and dolphins as you travel, or take to the water in a kayak or atop a paddleboard.

Once you’ve had your fill of lounging on its exotic beaches, other activities include wandering around the sub-tropical Tresco Abbey Garden on Tresco, touring vineyards on St Mary’s and St Martin, and trying locally-caught seafood.

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