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Header image by Giuseppe Milo via Flickr

The UK is one of the top rated destinations by travellers, and for good reason. It is a destination that transports you into a real life fairytale complete with castles, gardens, kings, and princesses.

While most visitors focus their time and attention around the big cities as they take in all the pubs, nightlife, and Royal sights, the UK’s off the beaten path areas are equally enticing. The UK is filled with abundant natural attractions that can easily be explored by renting a car and taking an unforgettable road trip.

A road trip through the UK is by far the best way to experience all the region has to offer especially as it isn’t all that large. You will find wonderful hotels throughout the country in both iconic cities and charming small towns, all of which make great overnight stopping points or bases from which to explore the UK’s greatest natural landscapes.

So get off the London tube and take full control of your next UK holiday by taking a self drive tour of some of the UK’s lesser known treasures. They’re even more impressive than Buckingham or Big Ben!

Stunning UK Natural Attractions To Experience By Road Trip

England

Cheddar Gorge, Somerset

One of the UK’s greatest natural wonders is the limestone gorge known as Cheddar Gorge. It is here where Britain’s oldest complete human skeleton was discovered, which is believed to date back over 9,000 years.

The 400ft deep, 3 mile long gorge is England’s largest and is home to some impressive caves from which adventure seekers can take part in adventure caving and free falls.

Enjoy a cliff top walk from Jacob’s Ladder or try your hand at rock climbing the 27 cliffs that make up Cheddar Gorge.

Cheddar Gorge England

Photo credit: Steve Slater

Lulworth Cove, Dorset

Granted World Heritage Site status by UNESCO, this gorgeous cove is best experienced during the summer months. With vibrant blue waters and a white pebbled beach, it looks more like a landscape you’d expect to see in the Mediterranean.

Look for sea life in the rock pools at low tide or take a hike from the cove to the natural limestone arch known as Durdle Door. The entire area is a beautiful relaxing area including the town of West Lulworth with its lovely thatched cottages.

The Cove offers a variety of places to eat and there is a large car park that costs £4.00 for 2 hours (it’s absolutely worth it). Make sure you visit the Heritage Centre next to the car park for all kinds of information about the area and the Jurassic Coast.

Lulworth cove, Dorset

Photo credit: Gary Campbell-Hall

The Needles, Isle of Wight

You’ll find this natural attraction off the Isle of Wight. It is made up of three 30m tall rock stacks the colour of white chalk, since they are actually made of chalk!

The Needles chairlift is a great way to take in this natural beauty as is taking a cruise on the water to get up close to the rocks and the lighthouse that sits on top of the last rock formation.

Seven Sisters Cliffs, Sussex

For more chalk viewing, a trip to the Seven Sisters Cliffs is a must. You may not have thought chalk could be so interesting until you see these towering bright white cliffs in East Sussex.

The Seven Sisters Country Park is made up of 280 hectares of chalk cliffs, river valleys, and grasslands that are perfect for hiking, cycling, canoeing, and wildlife viewing. It is truly one of Britain’s finest unspoilt coastlines.

Seven Sisters cliffs, view from Seaford town

Photo credit: 一元 马

Northern Ireland

Benone Beach, Northern Ireland

The UK isn’t exactly known for its beaches, but it’s hard to not be impressed by these seven miles of golden soft sand. The beach is easily accessible and is popular for a multitude of water sports including jet skiing, kite surfing, and traditional surfing.

Enjoy grass topped dunes and beaches free of rocks and seaweed. High above on the cliffs you can check out Mussenden Temple as well.

The Dark Hedges, Stranocum

It is the avenue of beech trees along Bregagh Road that forms a remarkable tree tunnel made famous by its appearance in Game of Thrones. The 150 trees were planted during the 18th century along the entrance road to the estate belonging to James Stuart.

The tree tunnel has become one of the most photographed locations in all of Northern Ireland and of course never closes, meaning you can get that perfect dreamlike sunrise or sunset shot.

It is very fairytale-like and you half expect the Big Bad Wolf to pop out at any moment.

The Dark Hedges

Photo credit: Travis Wise

Marble Arch Caves, Enniskillen

Marble Arch Caves, at nearly 12km in length, makes up the longest known cave system in Northern Ireland and the only one open to the public.

The standard tour lasts 75 minutes and includes a 10-minute boat tour when water levels are suitable. Be sure to look for the “Lost City” stalactite feature.

More than just caves, Marble Arch makes up part of the Global Geopark that straddles the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. The Geopark contains numerous viewpoints, waterfalls, wetlands, and forests.

Giant’s Causeway, Bushmills

No trip to Northern Ireland is complete without a visit to the tens of thousands of basalt columns that make up the Giant’s Causeway.

Some 60 million years in the making, these impressive columns create interesting formations that resemble other objects much like staring up at puffy clouds.

Let your imagination run wild to discover what you see with your own eyes but notable features include the Giant’s Boot, the Chimney Stacks, Giants Gate, the Honeycomb, and the Organ.

The area makes up part of the 2-3 day walk along the Causeway Coast Way which also takes in Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge and Dunluce Castle.

 Photo by Giuseppe Milo via Flickr

Scotland

Loch Lomond and the Trossachs

This National Park abounds with scenic landscapes and wildlife. The Trossachs are like a miniature version of the Scottish highlands and offer a landscape of forests, lochs, and rolling hills.

In addition to the massive Loch Lomond, the area is home to many other lochs and rivers that are all perfect for kayaking, sailing, and fishing. Take a long distance hike along the West Highland Way as you search the skies for golden eagles and peregrine falcons or cycle the West Loch Lomond Cycle Path.

Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye

One of Scotland’s most magical places, the Fairy pools are reached by an hour’s return walk. It offers incredible photo opportunities that are reminiscent of an Icelandic landscape.

Brave souls can take an ultra refreshing dip in the frigid waters or simply marvel in the beauty of the pools being fed by numerous waterfalls.

Fairy Pools Scotland

Photo credit: Daniel Stockman

Fingal’s Cave, Isle of Iona

Nowhere else will you find a sea cave formed completely in hexagonally jointed basalt columns. Located on the uninhabited island of Staffa, a sightseeing cruise can be taken to experience the cave’s entrance as well as wildlife along the coast.

The cave’s natural acoustics play melodies of the sea as waves enter. If weather permits, cruises often allow you to set foot on the island and enter the cave.

Wales

Snowdonia, Wales

The first and largest national park in Wales, Snowdonia is dotted with castles and home to the largest mountain in Wales, Mount Snowdon. It may be just a 4-5 hour drive from London, but you’ll truly feel a world away.

You will find 9 mountain ranges with around 1,500 miles of public footpaths. Mountain climbers will fall in love with the fact the park contains 15 mountains that reach over 3,000ft.

Brecon Beacons National Park, Wales

It is a park where forests and caves meet Michelin-starred restaurants. It is the perfect place to stargaze as it is one of only 12 International Dark Sky Reserves in the world. Its skies are also home to an incredible array of bird life making the area popular with birdwatchers.

Take a steam train on the Brecon Mountain Railway, take a hike in search of waterfalls, or attend one of several festivals held in the park such as the Greenman Festival and the Abergavenny Food Festival.

And don’t forget to check out Dan yr Ogof, a massive show cave complex which is the largest to be found in the UK.

OUR FAVORITE UK TRAVEL GUIDES: CLICK PHOTO TO LOOK INSIDE ↓

UK Great Britain Guide Amazon

Lonely Planet Great Britain Travel Guide

UK Great Britain Guide Amazon

Fodor’s Travel Essential Great Britain

UK Great Britain Guide AmazonFrommer’s England & Scotland

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Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; an online magazine dedicated to opening your eyes to the wonders of the wild & natural world.

Having visited 50+ countries across all seven continents, Megan’s travels focus on cultural immersion, authentic discovery and incredible journeys. She has a strong passion for ecotourism, and aims to promote responsible travel experiences.

    

    24 Comments

  1. The Isle of Wight looks beautiful Meg. My developer is from Birmingham and goads me to visit his home nation. I will take him up on that one day. Too gorgeous to miss for sure, and so much more to offer than the hustle and bustle of London. Plus I must visit the town of Biddulph, my name sake 😉

    • The Isle of Wight truly is stunning 🙂 That’s so cool that there’s a town with your same last name! There are a couple of pubs in Ireland called by my maiden name “Donoghue”, and I thought that was cool, but a whole town, you definitely have to visit at some point 😀

  2. The pictures are really beautiful. It makes me wanna visit these places. Great job on the article.

    • Thanks Smith, so glad you enjoyed the post. Hope you have the opportunity to plan a road trip through the UK sometime soon 🙂

  3. Uk Road trip you say?!
    Fantastic Idea ❤️

    • Always a good idea.

    • The best destination for it! So glad you enjoyed the post 🙂

    • Hi Megan, im a channel islandander Jersey- do you do trip’s to the ONLY occupied British colonial outpost in WW2!!!??? If you need someone to show you a round!! I could help!?? Regards Richard 👣👀⚓

    • Thanks Richard! Will let you know if we have the opportunity to visit again 🙂

  4. Oh some exciting looking places I haven’t been to yet. I like articles like this about the UK. Use it as a little internal checklist on how naturalized I have become. You can take the girl out of Africa but you can’t take Africa out of the girl.

    • So glad you enjoyed the post and we could give you some new ideas – so you’re living in the UK now? 🙂

  5. So many great places!

    • Absolutely! Glad you enjoyed the post 🙂

  6. I would perhaps look further north too as there are lots of beautiful places north of London too – I am originally from Northumberland and it does drive us northerners a bit nuts that people often only consider visiting the south. Peak District, ingleton waterfalls, view the northern lights in Northumberland, the beautiful Lake District, holy island (Lindisfarne) just a few suggestions 😊

    • Thanks for sharing your local insight Tracy! I had no idea that I was subconsciously snubbing the north – you’re right though, for some reason when I think North my mind automatically jumps north to Scotland. I’ll add your comments into the post 🙂

    • Meg Jerrard no problem 😊 Glad it was helpful

  7. My first time in London will be soon. So excited!

    • London is amazing! History around every corner!

    • Have a fabulous trip! It’s easily my favorite city 😀

    • Meg Jerrard Mine, too! 😁

  8. Some of these places are now becoming overwhelmed by tourists.

    • Crowds always detract from the experience sadly. We do our best to get up as early as possible to get to popular sites before 10am. Have come to realize that’s generally the timing of tour buses at major sites 🙂

  9. Megan, do you have any article talking about driving in England (with right-hand drive car steering wheel) ….. for foreigners !?

    • Hi Rogerio, I haven’t written about driving tips for tackling the roads as a foreigner, but that’s a great idea, I will add it to my list of articles to write 🙂

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