The United Kingdom is a magnet for bloody, intense, fascinating ancient and historical tales that go further back than the words printed in history books. You’ll find stories sketched into crumbling ruins, medieval churches, and hung up in museums—expect to hear faint murmurs of the past wherever you go, whether you’re exploring Hadrian’s Wall in England’s countryside, admiring the Scottish Highlands, or walking through charming villages and bustling cities. Spend your time reminiscing on stories old and new over a pint, along scenic countryside walks, or while walking the cobblestone streets lined under dim lights.
This UK adventure travel guide will let you in on the highlight reel of adventures in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales, where epic outdoor wanderings, cultural sights, and city explorations await! Read on for a list of travel tips indicating where to go, what to do, and how to best experience this phenomenal part of the world.
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Table of Contents
About the UK
Let’s start with the basics: the United Kingdom isn’t another name for England. The island, which stretches across 242,495 km², amounting to slightly smaller than Oregon in the United States, boasts four countries—England, Northern Ireland, Wales, and Scotland. And here’s some terminology we should all know:
- Great Britain refers to England, Wales, and Scotland
- Britain refers to England and Wales
If you thought Britain was another name for England, you’re not alone!
So how did these four countries come to make up the United Kingdom? In 1707, the Act of Union brought together Wales, England, and Scotland, but it wasn’t until 1801 that these four countries became known as the United Kingdom when Ireland joined the union. In the 19th century, the UK experienced a power boom, thanks to their dominance at sea. During this time, there was peace among the Great Powers globally, but this “peace” came to a halt in 1914.
In World War I, Britain fought against Germany alongside France and Russia. By the end of the war, Britain was in a lot of debt. But that didn’t stop them from battling against Germany again in World War II.
But you won’t just see remnants of the world wars when you travel to the United Kingdom; you’ll witness ancient outlines of bloody battles and fascinating stories harking back to medieval and prehistoric times peppered across its 242,495 km².
The dominant language in the United Kingdom is English. Around 95% of people speak solely English, but there are also hints of Celtic languages: Welsh, Irish, Scottish Gaelic. Get ready for some thick English accents when you go here!
Popular cities for tourists are London (England), Edinburgh (Scotland), Glasgow (Scotland), and Belfast (Northern Ireland). While Wales isn’t as frequented as these countries and cities, it’s still definitely worthwhile to visit, especially when you consider Snowdonia National Park, a great adventure playground.
Best Places To Visit in the UK
With four countries replete with unbelievably scenic natural wonders, crumbling ancient architecture, rolling, charming countrysides, and bustling cities adorned with an explosion of history, museums, cobblestone streets, and lively pubs and nightlife, it makes it hard to choose where to go. When it comes down to it, there’s a ton of best places to visit in the UK, so hopefully, this list helps to narrow down your choice (or you can always see all of them!).
London in England
Let’s start with the most obvious choice on this list: London, England. This bustling city is a conglomeration of history, fun, beauty, and culture. The most popular tourist attractions: Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, the British Museum, Big Ben, London Eye, Tower Bridge, Hyde Park are all examples of the architectural wonders and the unique beauty sprawled across London. And Soho is where you want to be when the night sky takes over! Just outside of London, you’ll find the Chilterns—an excellent area for scenic countryside walks.
Speaking of walks, one great way to bask in London’s vibes is to meander around the city on foot! We have a list of the best walks around London, which give the choice of exploring culture, city parks, architecture, and more!
Snowdonia in Wales
It’s rare for people to think of visiting Wales before exploring Scotland, England, or Northern Ireland, but trust us: Wales is worth it. One area you need to explore is Snowdonia. Stepping foot in this sweeping park will make you feel like you’ve stepped inside a storybook, where you’re a side character on a journey brimming with dragons and knights. The setting adds to the mysterious fairytale wonder: towering mountains, stunning valleys, and charming Welsh villages.
Snowdonia is an adventure playground that offers hiking, mountain biking, climbing, and road biking.
The Lake District in England
Let the theme of mystery and fairytales continue with a splash of romance! For years, the stunning scenery has been inspiring writers, most notably the poets from the Romantic era (Beatrix Potter, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge). The glistening lakes, sprawling mountains, and small bodies of water nestled in glacially carved amphitheatres will not only provide creative inspiration but will present natural entertainment while inducing a relaxing escape from your everyday life.
Go kayaking, canoeing, hiking, swimming, biking in the Lake District!
Peak District in England
Introducing the first national park in the UK: Peak District! While you won’t find a ton of peaks here—deceiving, we know—you’ll win the scenery lottery in terms of valleys, gorges, plateaus, and hills. Who needs peaks, anyways? Most people participate in activities like cycling or walking to immerse themselves in the incredible natural surroundings.
South Downs in England
South Downs: where the countryside bleeds into the seascape. The best part (or one of) about South Downs is that it’s only two hours from London, making it an accessible outdoor destination for everyone. There’s nothing like planning a weekend away in South Downs National Park, where outdoor explorations, canopies of yew trees, seaside vistas backed by dramatic cliffs, and remnants of history will be a nice change of scenery from bustling city streets.
Loch Lomond and The Trossachs in Scotland
Bordering the Scottish Highlands, Loch Lomond and The Trossachs boasts of small mountains nestled with lochs and narrow valleys. The region is rich with walking trails and glistening lakes. However, most people flock to this area for Loch Lomond, the biggest freshwater lake in all of Britain. Meanwhile, The Trossachs add a mythical layer to the already-dramatic scenery, where Gaelic culture continues to thrive.
Edinburgh in Scotland
Want fun? Go to Edinburgh! Fall in love with the pub-centric atmosphere, where drinking fuels laughter. There’s no sign of pretension here—Edinburgh is a bubble of laid-back, amusing times. You’ll fall in love with the medieval architecture and turrets outside of the pints and pubs, which add a mysterious, gothic look to the city.
Belfast in Northern Ireland
Expect to learn a lot about the iconic Titanic when visiting Belfast! We’ll preface with one fact before this city unloads more on you: The Titanic was built here. But that’s not all Belfast brings! Like Edinburgh, you can always expect to have intoxicating, crazy fun nights here. The live music helps to add to the entertaining atmosphere. To top it off, the restaurants here are tailor-made for foodies seeking creative, memorable dishes.
Cardiff in Wales
Lonely Planet says it best: “Spread between an ancient fort and an ultramodern waterfront, compact Cardiff seems to have surprised even itself with how interesting it has become.” Cardiff gives visitors a chance to bask in Britain’s culture in a more chilled-out way.
Inverness in Scotland
Inverness is the biggest city in the Scottish Highlands and is the closest city to Loch Ness, where you can escape the real world to a land where mythical scenery sweeps! The captivating imagery painted across Loch Ness will remain at the forefront of your memory for a long time. When you’re in Inverness, take some time to walk around the Old Town!
County Down in Northern Ireland
County Down, situated not-too-far south from Belfast, stretches across varied scenery and architecture, ranging from castles, forests, beaches, a Royal Palace, and into the intimidating Mourne Mountains. There’s also the massive Strangford Lough, an eerie sea inlet. This is an excellent place for family adventures!
Best Things to do in the UK
The things to do in the UK are endless! Outside of basking in the pub atmosphere and exploring bustling city streets, there’s a backyard of mountains, rolling hills, natural bodies of water, and seaside bliss brimming with outdoorsy activities. Hopefully, the following UK travel tips benefit your trip planning experience!
Day walks, and long distance walks in the UK
When it comes to walks carved into the undulating countryside and mystical mountains, the UK is wealthy. You’ll find a vast collection of half-day, full-day, short and easy walks sprawled all across the UK.
In England, you can escape the bustle of London and head to the nearby Chiltern Hills or South Downs for some easy-going countryside strolls. Some walks will get your heart rate up, but most don’t require too much exertion, making these places great for families. A more challenging longer walk in South Downs is the 9.3mi East Dean, Beachy Head and Birling Gap Hike!
You can also find great walks in the Lake District and Peak District! The Lake District walks are definitely more complex than Chiltern Hills or South Downs, but the views are phenomenal. A great hike to consider doing is the 8.5mi Helvellyn Walk. In Peak District, you’ll find an ideal combination of easy and challenging, with one of the toughest being the 6.1mi Stanage Edge Walk.
Let’s move onto Wales!
Judging from the previous section of this article, you can probably guess which area we’re going to talk about: Snowdonia. The land of mystical scenery provides a perfect distraction from whatever is going on in the “real” world. We also believe that Snowdonia is home to one of the most stunning walks in the UK! The Snowdon Via Watkin Path is a 8.8mi hike that sees a gain of 3323ft, but the views on this walk are unbeatable. The bundle of lakes nestled into mountains cloaked in greenery make for jaw-dropping photos.
And onto Scotland! Loch Lomond and The Trossachs will keep you entertained with their mini-mountains, glens, and mysterious-looking lochs. One of the best ways to experience this area’s wonder is to attempt the Ben Lomond Walk. Seeking more intimidating Scottish Highlands? Stay in Inverness and seek out hikes surrounding the area!
Next stop? Northern Ireland. Experience a fusion of history and remarkable scenery here. And the perfect example of this is Hare’s Gap carved into the Mourne Mountains in County Downs. You’ll see the crumbling Mourne Wall while also admiring the scenery from a dramatic mountain pass. If you aren’t in the mood to travel super far from Belfast but want some outdoorsy views, take on the Cave Hill Walk, which leads you to a vista of Belfast nestled into the lush, jagged landscape below.
You also can’t miss visiting Kilbroney Forest Park in County Downs. Some say that this magical place may have been the inspiration for C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia!
Since we’ve spent a lot of time on this section, we’ll shoot out a list of some of the best long-distance walks in the UK (and we will get more into some in the following section):
The Cotswold Way
How long? 6-11 days
The West Highland Way
How long? 5-8 days
The Causeway Coast Way
Country: Northern Ireland
How long? 2-3 days
The Cambrian Way
How long? 11-18 days
Canoeing and kayaking
Take your paddles to the sea, canals, lakes, roaring rivers for a journey replete with thrills and bliss. The beauty about taking up canoeing or kayaking in the UK is that you can cater your adventure to meet whatever you’re feeling that day. Want a lazy, chilled-out paddle? You’ve got lakes and canals to help you out here. Want to scream at the top of your lungs? There are whitewater rapids for you. Want to breathe in sea-scented air? Done.
Do note that before you go paddling on canals, you’ll need a license! Where you get your license depends on where you want to go:
- Go to British Waterways to get a license for paddling on canals and rivers such as Severn, Yorkshire Ouse, and Trent.
- Get your license at The Environment Agency if you have hopes and dreams of paddling along the River Medway, the River Thames, and all the rivers spanning East Anglia.
- For canoeing or kayaking, all broads laced throughout Norfolk or Suffolk, go to The Broad Authority to get your license.
Let’s take a look at some of the best places to go kayaking and canoeing in each country in the UK.
- Whitewater kayaking: Cornwall
- Calm, flat fresh water: Lake District
- Sea kayaking or canoeing: Studland Bay
- Human-made canoe and kayak waterway: River Wey Navigations in Surrey
- Freshwater experience: Loch Morlich
- Open water kayaking and canoeing: Loch Lomond and The Trossachs
- Roaring rapids (more for advanced paddlers): River Orchy
- Best river for canoeing in Scotland: River Etive
- Great for sea kayaking: Strangford Lough
- One of the longest trails in Northern Ireland: River Foyle
- White water fun: River Mourne
- Boasts of a mixture of lazy and thrilling options: Brecon Beacons National Park
- Awesome kid-friendly option: Llangollen and Montgomery Canals
- Offers surreal scenery: Snowdonia
The UK will introduce you to several incredible cycling paths! Some of the most epic trails spanning Scotland, England, Northern Ireland, and Wales are the incredibly scenic, can’t-be-missed Lakeland Loop in the Lake District. It’s a challenging 40.4mi circuit but so worth it.
In Wales, the best mountain biking routes—in our opinion—are in Elan Valley. Expect to find a range of paths that range from easy to hard and short to long.
One of the most epic road biking journeys can be found in Scotland! The Applecross via Bealach na Bà wheels to incredible highland views. This route isn’t for the faint of heart, but the rewards will force you to forget all about how tired your legs and lungs are.
Meanwhile, in Northern Ireland, County Down is where some of the best cycling routes are at, such as White Rock and Mahee Island Cycle Route, Country Down Tour, and Knockcree Cycle Route – Kilkeel.
Great Adventure Trips in the UK
Let’s get to the highlight of planning a vacation: choosing your adventure trip in the UK. The following pre-planned tours can act as a guide for your personal trip planning, or one may stick out to you, prompting you to book your future holiday without any planning necessary! Take a look at the following adventures in the UK and choose your favourite.
Complete Cotswold Way in 9 Days in England: Have you always wanted to explore England’s storied countryside on foot? Now’s your chance! The self-guided Complete Cotswold Way in 9 Days tour will have you traversing 100.0mi, passing through and by quaint villages and a collection of notable parks and landmarks. Rest your body in cosy farmhouses that hark back to centuries ago in the evenings!
The Causeway Coastal Route & Donegal Tour in Northern Ireland: Misty, mysterious, and magical—these three words sum up the haunting (okay, four words) scenery cloaking The Causeway Coastal Route & Donegal Tour. Discover Glenveagh National Park, the Giant’s Causeway, and the Slieve League Cliffs on this unreal guided adventure tour in Northern Ireland.
Glencoe and the Highlands Walking Tour in Scotland: This guided tour weaves rugged adventure with luxury! Spend the day exploring the fascinating, mythical scenery blanketing the Highlands by day and revel in luxury in your hotels by night. Expect to visit the ever-so stunning Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park and to enjoy time in two historic Scottish villages.
Mountain Biking Across Scotland Tour: Dive deep into adventure on this epic guided mountain biking tour! You’ll spend 5-6 hours biking each day, winding to and through incredible scenery, including a stop at the Loch Ness area, where you spot Nessie, the lake monster. You’ll also spend time exploring some storied villages, such as Drumnadrochit, Spean Bridge, and Fort Augustus.
Hadrian’s Wall & the Lake District Tour in England: Spend some days walking along the ancient Hadrian’s Wall, encountering Roman ruins en route, before spending a couple of days exploring and basking in the dramatic, inspiring beauty sweeping the Lake District on the self-guided Hadrian’s Wall & the Lake District Tour.
The UK’s Outdoors
Behind Big Ben and other notable city landmarks sprawled across the UK, you’ll find a charming, eerie blend of an adventure-scape. Just look at the mythical Sottish Highlands or England’s undulating countryside, or the dramatic coastline sweeping all four countries spanning the UK. The UK’s outdoors are a diverse wonder worth exploring!
If you’re planning on going to the UK for wildlife viewing, you’re in the wrong place! You won’t find many big mammals here. The red deer is the largest mammal you’ll discover! Another deer to look out for is the roe deer.
One source from 2015 says that cows are the most dangerous animal in the UK! (The article discussing cows in the UK writes: “Australia has the box jellyfish, the US has bears, and we have Daisy.”) However, when it comes to smaller critters and fish, you’ll have to look out for the lesser weever along the shoreline and the false widow spider.
That got dark fast.
Let’s end on a better note: the rarest animal in the UK are Scottish wildcats!
Nestled between the North Sea, Irish Sea, and the Atlantic Ocean, the UK is flanked by roaring seaside scenery. The English Channel also acts as a connector between the UK and mainland Europe. When it comes to the general landscape, the UK comprises primarily rolling hills, but you can change up the views by heading to Scotland and Wales, which boasts more mountainous areas than the rest of the UK. However, you’ll find the Pennine Hills in England, which take on the role as the country’s backbone.
Looking to take a dip? Outside of seafront spots, you’ll find a couple of lakes sprinkled across the UK, with the largest situated in Northern Ireland: Lough Neagh. Other notable bodies of water include Windermere in England’s Lake District and Loch Lomond and Loch Ness in Scotland.
UK Travel Costs
The following information on UK travel costs are based on averages calculated by number, experiences from our 10Adventures’ team, and various online sources. Just a heads up that adventures in the UK can be expensive, so you’ll definitely want to save up before going. You don’t want to eat at Wetherspoons the entire time, do you? (Okay, the pub environment is fun, and the food is good, and the drinks are great, and it’s cheaper than most spots, so why not spend a lot of time here? One of our team members did!)
Food and drink
In general, it costs 12.00 £ for an average meal and a three-course meal for two people costs around 50.00 £. But at the supermarket, you can buy super cheap (and amazing) cheddar cheese for 2.00 £, and cheap beer and ciders! It’s beneficial to mix eating out with eating in or at a park when it’s not raining.
Try to avoid paying for a taxi in the UK. It can get expensive. One of our team members couldn’t get on the train during rush hour to make her bus to Belgium, so she had to pay for a taxi to travel about 10km in London, and it was double the price of her bus ride. Try to stick to public transport!
A one-way ticket for local transport costs around 2.50 £, a standard tariff for the start of a taxi ride is 3.00 £, and gas averages around 1.26 £ per litre.
The average cost of a hotel room per night across the UK’s biggest cities ranges from 79.00 £ to 172 £. However, websites like Airbnb, booking.com, vrbo.com, and hostelworld may offer prices that cater more to your budget.
It’s common to tip around 10% of the total bill price during table service. It’s not common to tip the bartenders just for pouring drinks. Many bartenders in classic pubs might not accept a tip after serving you a drink. If the bar service was good, it’s more custom to buy a drink for the bartender, who would usually pick a drink for himself and have it after his shift.
UK Travel Safety
When it comes to UK travel safety, most people tend to leave the area unscathed. However, travel advisories warn you to exercise a high degree of caution due to the potential of terrorism. Stay tuned to the local news and media for updates on this. But we do want to reiterate that the UK is generally a super safe place to travel!
Best Time to Visit the UK
The best time to visit the UK depends on whether you prefer hot weather and busy streets or a warm climate and not-as-busy streets. For the latter, head to the UK between April and June or September to November. In spring, an array of wildflowers blanket the land, including the fairy-tale-like bluebelles. It’s stunning!
However, the sweet spot to visit the UK is in September when the weather is still warm and the crowds have filtered out!
Best Ways To Get Around the UK
Taxi, Uber, the tube and double-decker buses (best for getting around London), the train, and cycling are some of the best ways to get around the UK. Riding in a taxi or an Uber will have you dishing out more pounds than the buses, tube, or train.
If your main go-to ride is Uber, you’ll find this taxi service in the UK’s biggest cities, such as Cardiff in Wales, Belfast in Northern Ireland, Edinburgh and Glasgow in Scotland, and London and Manchester in England, to name a few.
For longer distances, bus services like Blabla Bus or Flixbus offer comfy seats, WiFi (usually) and are super inexpensive. Like we mentioned above, it was cheaper for one of our team members to travel from London to Brussels via Flixbus than it was to take a taxi 6.2mi across London (not recommended unless you’re loaded with cash and find the tube repulsive).
Another option for travelling long distances is to rent a car. For this, we recommend using rentalcars.com or europcar.co.uk. Or, if you’re bent on taking the train, head to Omio for decent train travel deals. Surprisingly, one of the cheapest options for travelling hundreds of kilometres may be via RyanAir. However, it almost costs more to store baggage under the plane than it does to fly, and the carry-on size rules are strict. You may have to wear layers of clothes to keep your carry-on light. Think of that scene with Joey on Friends, where he donned all of Chandler’s clothes.
Best Places to Stay in the UK
Let’s kickstart some of the best places to stay in the UK with cheaper, budget-friendly accommodations before moving onto the swanky places steeped in culture, luxury, and history.
One of the best websites to find unreal deals for cheaper places to stay in the UK is hostelworld.com. Plus, hostels usually bring the party, making them ideal for people seeking non-stop fun while meeting new people. Dorms in London may range from 18 CAD to 40 CAD. Not bad, right?
Now onto the fun stuff! The majority of us probably won’t stay in the following places, but it never hurts to dream, right? Coombe Abbey Hotel in Coventry, England, twists upscale modern day amenities with 12th-century royalty. It’s an unbeatable combination! More into darker vibes? The Witchery by the Castle in Scotland is ancient gothic adorned with luxury all in one.
Useful Travel Tools
While we’ve shared some fantastic useful travel tools already, we figure it’s good to put them all in one place, making it easy to come back to this article to find the list of incredible travel tools for your adventures in the UK.
To Book Accommodation
To find a bed and breakfast that caters to your travel style, check out vrbo.com.
To Book Flights
To Rent a Car
To Get Gear
Other Useful Travel Services
Americans and Canadians travelling to the UK may find Airportparkingreservations.com useful! This service gives you a chance to snag deals for leaving your car in an ideal spot while you’re away. Other helpful travel services already mentioned in this article are Flixbus, BlaBla Bus, Omio.
Visa Requirements When Travelling to the UK
Despite Brexit, the UK is still relatively easy to get into, even for EU citizens. People from the EU and EEA countries can get into the UK using their passport or national identity card. Despite not being an EU country, Switzerland also has the same travel rights as EU and EEA citizens. People travelling outside of the EU, EEA, and Switzerland will have to provide a passport upon arrival at the airport. However, some nationalities, such as Americans, Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, can get into the UK upon arrival and stay up to six months with a tourist visa. You can always check if you need a visa to enter the UK by following this link.
Interesting Facts About the UK
The UK is a fascinating place! Here are some interesting facts about the UK:
- The very first King of England declared that everyone had to follow an 8 pm bedtime. Talk about strict!
- Everywhere in Britain is within 75.0mi from the coast.
- The United Kingdom created several sports we love today: soccer, golf, rugby, and cricket.
- Windsor Palace is the oldest occupied palace worldwide.
- Brits have declared Chicken Tikka Masala as their national dish.
- The UK administered the world’s first speeding ticket! In 1896, someone was driving eight mph in a two mph zone. Living on the edge!
- Brits consume around 165 million cups of tea a day.
- One town in Wales is called Llanfairpwllgwyngyll-gogerychwyrndrobwlllllandysiliogogogoch.
Frequently Asked Questions About the UK
Discover some UK travel tips in the answers to the following frequently asked questions:
1. Is the UK one country?
The United Kingdom is a political union shared between Wales, England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. However, these four nations are also classified as countries.
2. Is the UK a part of Europe?
In January 2020, the UK left the European Union. This involves a lot of complex discussions on trading, goods, and taxes, but in terms of travelling, this means that people from the UK now need a visa to stay longer than 90 days (during a 180-day period) in the EU.
3. How is England connected to Europe?
You can get to mainland Europe from England via the Channel Tunnel (or the Chunnel).
4. How long has Queen Elizabeth II reigned?
She has reigned since 1952, making Her Majesty the longest-reigning living monarch.
We hope this UK adventure travel guide improves your trip planning process!