Updated March 2022
When you think of British destinations, it’s not that often that idyllic beach scenes spring to mind; however, there are plenty of beautiful places in the UK that will make you feel like you have been transported abroad.
While travelling around Great Britain, I have often looked at the clear, turquoise waters in Cornwall and thought of holidays spent lazing in the Caribbean. I have driven through the Scottish Highlands and felt I was back on New Zealand’s South Island. Or visited the wineries in Kent and Sussex and dreamed of balmy days in Cape Town’s Wineries. Do you get my drift?
So with the help of this post, you will discover 20 great destinations in the UK to satisfy your wanderlust for travel. Find out where some of the prettiest beaches and countryside are in the UK that will give their doppelgängers overseas a run for their money!
British Destinations v Foreign Shores
Porthcurno Beach, Cornwall / Algarve, Portugal
Both beaches are in secluded coves with sandy, family-friendly beaches and turquoise waters. But which is which? Can you tell the difference?
Head to Porthcurno beach and explore Cornwall’s stunning landmarks, especially the incredible Minack Theatre, carved into the granite rock face with a view straight out to sea.
Land’s End is only 3 miles away from Porthcurno.
Cambridge / Bruges, Belgium
While Bruges in Belgium is known for its canals and historic buildings, one of the most popular British destinations attracting 8 million visitors each year is Cambridge.
One of the best things to do in Cambridge is to explore the university buildings and grounds and then cruise the River Ely in one of the world-famous Cambridge punts. Discover what university life is like at Cambridge from one of the students that will be rowing your punt and absorb the history as you pass some of the most well-known buildings in the world.
Fistral Beach, Cornwall / Bondi Beach, Australia
One of the finest surfing destinations in the world is Fistral Beach in Cornwall. Its curved bay is perfect for riding the big waves. All the big UK surf competitions are held here, including the Famous Night Surf, Boardmasters Surf Championships and National Surf Championships.
High cliffs and dunes back the beach with restaurants, hotels and surfing schools, securing a spot for Fistral Beach as one of the top British destinations for an activity holiday.
St Michaels Mount, Cornwall / Mont St Michel, France
On the tidal island in Mount’s Bay, St Michaels has been used as a priory, fort, castle and family home. Check out the tides and either walk across the cobbled pathway or hop aboard one of the tourist boats.
Explore St Michael’s and learn all about its history before wandering through its lovely gardens.
Isles of Scilly, Cornwall / Antigua, Indian Ocean
The Isles of Scilly are an archipelago of islands sitting off the coast of Cornwall. Only five of the islands are inhabited, and only 2000 people live there. Due to the positioning of the islands, the warm Gulf Stream ensures that sub-tropical gardens and hot sunny days on the beach will have you imagining you are in the Caribbean.
Hadrian’s Wall, Northumberland / Great Wall of China
Stretching across 73 miles of mesmerising Northumberland countryside stretching from Wallsend on the River Tyne in the east to Bowness-on-Solway in the west, Hadrian’s Wall, built by the Romans over 2000 years ago, is a formidable feat of engineering.
You can walk the route over several days discovering Roman ruins on the way. The village of Wall is a fun spot to visit, with houses constructed from bricks taken from Hadrian’s Wall. Head to Restaurant Hjem, pronounced “yem”, located inside the pub named The Hadrian at Wall and enjoy the best produce of Northumberland fused with Scandinavian cooking techniques.
Brighton Pavilion, East Sussex / Taj Mahal, India
Brighton is one of those great British destinations that you have to visit. The Royal Pavilion (Brighton Pavilion) is an exotic former royal palace in the town centre. Built as a seaside retreat for King George IV, it mixes Indian and Chinese visual aesthetics with Regency grandeur.
The Royal Pavilion’s interior rooms are incredible and all inspired by the Far East. Intricate designs in the Banqueting Hall and Music Rooms will have you entranced. After your visit, enjoy afternoon tea on the terrace overlooking the gardens.
Mudeford, Dorset / Muinzeburg, South Africa
Colourful beach huts are a familiar sight in seaside spots throughout the UK. Used by families to store beach equipment and spend a family day out on the coast, some beach huts even have small mezzanine levels for sleeping!
The beach huts at Mudeford in Dorset are some of the most expensive in Britain and hardly ever come up for sale. The beach is lovely, and you can still enjoy it, with or without a beach hut. Discover Hengistbury Head or take a boat ride to Christchurch, a charming town to explore.
Mayfield Lavender, Surrey / Provence, France
Lavender fields can be found everywhere in the world, but here in the UK, we have lots of them. Mornings or afternoons spent wandering through the flowers, inhaling the beautiful scent, is one of my favourite things to do in summer.
The most famous photographed lavender farm in the UK is Mayfield Lavender in Surrey. It has many props, such as a red phone box and a tractor in the middle of the field, as a vivid contrast to the lavender. It also has a small cafe where you can order lots of delights made with lavender – delicious.
Read more about Mayfield Lavender Farm.
South Bank, London / Brisbane, Australia
Brisbane looks and feels like the UK. Both locations are called the Southbank, sit alongside a river and have big wheels. They are vibrant areas with restaurants and green areas, and buildings housing museums and concert halls. These two are real doppelgängers in every sense of the word!
London’s Southbank is another one of our British destinations that is a magnet for tourists as it constantly evolves each season. The best walk in London is along the Southbank, starting at Tower Bridge and finishing at the Houses of Parliament.
Puzzlewood, Forest of Dean / Amazon Rainforest, Brasil
Get lost in Puzzlewood, a charming forest location in the Forest of Dean. As you wander around, you expect fairies and goblins to pass you by, it is that magical.
Puzzlewood has been used in many fantasy films due to its aesthetics, including Harry Potter and Star Wars. If you can’t get to Brasil, Puzzlewood in Gloucestershire is the next best thing – if you have a vivid imagination!
The Needles, Isle of Wight / Twelve Apostles, Australia
The Twelve Apostles are stacks of rocks in Australia and one of the country’s main tourist attractions.
The Needles are three chalk formations that rise about 30m out of the sea. The fourth rock, now eroded, was shaped like a needle, giving them their name. They sit off the western extremity of the Isle of Wight next to the lighthouse. A chair lift will take you down to the beach, and boat tours sail around the rocks.
Loch Leven, Scotland / Canada
Loch Leven Nature Reserve is the largest natural shallow body of water in Britain and is brimming with wildlife and history. Thousands of wildfowl migrate here each year, meaning Loch Leven is one of the great British destinations to visit for birdwatchers. In spring and summer, flocks of swallows and osprey arrive, and in early autumn to early spring, geese, ducks, swans and eagles can be seen.
The 13-mile Loch Leven Heritage Trail follows the banks of the loch, where you can walk, run or cycle around this stunning lakeside location.
Read all about my road trip from England to Scotland.
Shetland Isles, Scotland / Lofoten Islands, Norway
The Lofoten Islands in Norway are an amazing place to see the Northern Lights, but I bet you didn’t know you could see the Aurora Borealis in Scotland! Spot them from remote island locations in Scotland, including The Hebrides, Shetland and Orkney islands. The Lofoten Islands are
Tobermory, Scotland / Burano, Italy
While the small town of Burano in Italy has an amazing range of pastel houses, Tobermory on the Isle of Mull in the Inner Hebrides is a fishing village with brightly coloured harbour-front buildings and a lively main street. Enjoy a distillery tour, boat trips or even a round of golf while visiting this charming island. A 45-minute ferry ride from Oban on the mainland will take you to Mull.
Glencoe, Scotland / Mont Blanc, France
While a holiday to Chamonix to see the impressive Mont Blanc and ski its slopes, a destination nearer home is a great alternative.
The Glencoe Mountain resort has the longest and steepest ski run in Scotland and offers plenty of outdoor activities all year round. In winter, enjoy snowboarding and skiing and in summer, take the chair lift up the mountain and enjoy walking and hill-climbing, all with the panoramic views of the Glencoe valley.
Tenby, Wales / Simi, Greece
Both locations have golden sands, colourful buildings, delicious fish restaurants and offer a warm welcome to tourists. Tenby also has 13th-century town walls, castle ruins and a tidal island with a Napoleonic fort! Admittedly the sun won’t shine as much as in Greece, but you will still have a great holiday.
Read about the NT Tudor Merchant’s House in Tenby recreating domestic life in 1500.
The Brecon Beacons, Wales / Iceland
The Brecon Beacons National Park is an area of outstanding beauty and offers nature lovers a wealth of outdoor activities to experience. One of its outstanding natural features is Pen-Y-Fan, the second-highest mountain in Wales and a popular tourist attraction.
The Brecon Beacons are one of the great British destinations on this list and are a perfect place for all the family. Walking, hiking, cycling, kayaking and bird-watching are just a few outdoor pursuits you can try in the area.
Fancy a weekend break in Wales? Read here for a full itinerary of what you can do during your 3-nights in the Brecon Beacons.
Snowdonia, Wales / Norway
Snowdonia National Park is the location of some of Great Britain’s most stunning scenery. It also happens to be the location of Mount Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales. To enjoy views across the sea to Ireland from Snowdon’s peak, either hike to the top or take the Snowdonia mountain railway to Hafod Eryri, the UK’s highest visitor centre.
Snowdonia National Park is also home to over 100 lakes, mountain and woodland trails, and craggy peaks like Cader Idris and Tryfan.
Dingle Peninsula, Ireland / Azores, Portugal
The Dingle Peninsula is a fantastic destination on Ireland’s southwest Atlantic coast. The peninsula is ringed by sandy beaches and green craggy cliffs with stunning views in every direction. Away from the beach are rolling hills and mountains, including 952m Mount Brandon, the 8th highest peak in Ireland.
If you loved finding out about these great British destinations, then why not check out my post: 9 Great Coastal Walks in the UK.
Have you been somewhere in the British Isles that reminded you of overseas destinations? If so, let me know in the comments box below.
Saturday 27th of February 2021
HI Angie. I love this article. I have visited a lot of these locations, but still had to do a double take on some of the photos to see which was the overseas destination. We really do have some beautiful places to visit in the UK, especially when the sun is shining!
Saturday 27th of February 2021
Hi Jan, I'm so glad you enjoyed it. It's good to remember what is on our own shores before jetting off abroad. I'm hoping to visit a few of the locations when restrictions finally get lifted ( here's hoping!)
Monday 8th of February 2021
What a beautiful and creative article. Thanks for sharing. I look forward to visiting the Brecon Beacons - looks amazing!
Sunday 7th of February 2021
What a brilliant idea, and a fabulous way to promote your country. It’s a shame I don’t live in the UK as I would love to visit many of the places you have identified in this post. I have been to some of the world places you use as comparisons. When Australia (my home country) opens its international border and it’s safe to travel again, I will have to revisit the UK.
Monday 8th of February 2021
I hope you manage to get here in the future Joanna. There are so many amazing places to visit in the UK.