Beyond London: Travelling the UK
Travelling the UK is a tough one for me and for loads of other expats living in the UK. Like many of my expat friends, I’ve always found it more tempting, and fun, to travel abroad at every chance I get, which brought me to the realisation last year that after 3 years of calling this country home, I barely knew any of it beyond London.
Last year I set out on a mission to rectify my rubbish effort to-date and travel across more of the UK, so I started booking weekend trains to places like Bath and the Lake District, and hiring cars to explore areas like Cornwall, Somerset, New Forest and Wales. All easy to see and do, all within reasonable travel distance. All stunning!
Here are some of my favourite parts of the UK where I’ve had the pleasure of seeing some of the most beautiful and breathtaking scenes in Europe. Hopefully it’ll inspire some of you to go exploring on the odd weekend or two when you have a few days to spare.
So it turns out that the UK actually does have some decent beaches! Who knew?! I drove over from London in the summer for a long weekend and spent only 2 days exploring the beaches and cute seaside towns. Luckily the weather put on a show so I was able to make the most of it…
This amphitheatre is built into the cliffside looking over the gorgeous beach above. What an amazing view!
When the tide is low, a granite causeway is exposed under the water and you can walk from the beach all the way to St Michael’s Mount. It was pretty amazing but be warned – that water is FREEZING!
While I went for just the weekend, because it’s quite a drive to Cornwall I’d recommend you take a couple of days extra to explore this beautiful area because two nights just wasn’t enough in my opinion.
After seeing Cornwall I thought that it was surely my favourite place in the UK, until I went on a trip up to the Lakes.
With so many amazing spots for scenic hiking…
… it’s the perfect weekend getaway.
The Lakes have the cutest little villages scattered everywhere. I managed to have an incredibly sunny day there in Autumn and it felt like summer – people were even swimming in the lakes! This area was just a total breath of fresh air and exactly what I needed to get out of London for a few days. The Lake District has quickly risen to the top of my favourites list and I absolutely can’t wait to go back for another visit.
The quickest way to get there is by train (about 2.5 hours vs. 5 or 6 hours by car), then I’d recommend hiring a car once you’re in the area so you can explore properly.
Cheddar Gorge, Somerset
Before my trip to Cornwall or the Lakes, I went on a whirlwind weekend to Somerset, a region south-west of London and about a 3 hour drive. I went on a hike along Cheddar Gorge and was completely blown away by the scenery, not to mention pretty chuffed to be in the place where Cheddar cheese comes from!
I’ve managed to go to Bath a few times now, the longest trip was just after Christmas last year when I was so sick with a stomach bug that I couldn’t leave the Airbnb house for 3 days, but it was all OK because I had a cosy fireplace and this view….
In my opinion, Bath is perfect for a weekend getaway because it’s so easy to get to by train or coach, and you can see a lot of it in two days so you won’t feel like you’ve missed out.
Don’t forget to pack your swimsuit and visit the natural springs Thermae Spa with a rooftop pool overlooking the city. It was raining and the middle of winter when I went and the outdoor spa was still amazing.
Tip: Be prepared to queue anywhere up to an hour because they don’t take bookings and as the UK’s only natural mineral spa, they’re pretty popular!
In north-central Wales, somewhere along the way to Snowdonia, is a quaint little Welsh village called Llangollen. I visited over a long weekend and for such a small town, there was a surprising amount of interesting things to do. For the braver souls there’s white water rafting down the river and for the more cold weather-averse folk like me, there’s a steam train ride through the countryside or a walk along the aqueduct (a canal running along a man-made bridge) to keep you busy.
Chester is a charming city in north-west England, right on the border of Wales. I only had one day to explore this area but it was just enough time to go on a long walk along the old city wall, which goes all the way around Chester like the perfect grand tour. There’s a lot of historical, medieval and archeological sites to be seen, it’s one of those places that reminds me just how young my Australian home really is!
I’ll finish the same way I started, on a beach location, because there’s no such thing as too much beach. Hastings was one of the first places I visited outside of London and luckily it was during a warm, sunny, summer’s weekend, so a seaside town was just what the doctor ordered. Hastings is a pretty unique place, it’s as though someone hit pause in the 1980’s and it hasn’t changed since. In saying that, I had a great time and it was nice to just let go and enjoy time with friends doing silly activities by the water (think mini golf, go-karting, arcades and sweet shops).
Worth a day-trip if you’re craving a swim in the sea. Warning: The water is ice cold! I wasn’t brave enough to go in, but happily watched the others give it a good try.
Any places in the UK that you’d love to visit, or would recommend that others see?
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