London, the White Cliffs of Dover, and monarchy – those three things tend to be the first things that come to mind when thinking about the UK. But of course, there is much more to this amazing island nation. It is full of castles with a rich history, lakes and lochs like Loch Ness, the Scottish Highlands with its fluffy cows, and bustling cities like Edinburgh, Cardiff and Nottingham.
The United Kingdom is the location where many great works of world literature are set and invites travelers from around the world to explore the halls and manors that inspired these grand tales. And of course, there are also a lot of incredible hidden gems in the UK.
If you are from the UK or have already extensively explored the island nation, you might already know of some of these hidden gems in the UK, but I am convinced that you will still find new amazing secret spots that you should explore. After all, I asked fellow travelers to share their favorite off-the-beaten-path destinations in the UK and added a lot of them to my list of places to see in the UK.
Hidden Gems in the UK Map
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Hidden Gems in Scotland
Isle of Islay
Those who are not avid whisky drinkers have probably not heard of the Isle of Islay (pronounced EYE-lah), located off the western coast of Scotland. Scotch enthusiasts will know it by its distinct whisky flavor – peaty, smoky, with a hint of salty sea air. Islay’s 9 whisky distilleries are the main tourism draw of the island.
Whisky fans can tackle the Three Distilleries Walk on the southern part of the island. From Port Ellen, the 3-mile coastal walk passes by Laphroaig, Lagavulin, and Ardbeg Distilleries while offering stunning views of both coast and countryside, maybe with some whisky tastings along the way. Enjoy a delectable lunch at Ardbeg (the last distillery on the path) in their new Ardstream food truck!
Non-whisky drinkers fall in love with Islay for its amazing seafood and phenomenal local produce, interesting medieval historical sites, beautiful walks, and above all, its friendly people.
It certainly ranks among the best hidden gems in the UK with its vast array of white sand beaches, with its aqua and dark blue waters sparkling in the sunshine.
Since it is an island, there are only two ways to get to Islay – by plane or ferry. There is a short, direct flight from Glasgow to Islay on Loganair. Or, the CalMac ferry from the mainland leaves from Kennacraig on Scotland’s west coast, and lands in either Port Askaig on the east, or Port Ellen in the south.
The best place to stay on the island is Glenegedale House, an award-winning luxury bed and breakfast located just opposite the Islay airport. They are known for their warm Islay hospitality and absolutely delicious and high-quality food! Don’t miss their incredible breakfasts or their immaculate seafood platters!
With whisky, fresh seafood, gorgeous coasts, and incredible hospitality, no wonder it ranks as one of the best hidden gems in the UK!
Recommended by Lannie from Lannie’s Food & Travel Adventures
The beautiful village of Plockton in Scotland is definitely one of the best hidden gems in the UK. Even though it’s just an hour’s drive from the famous Isle of Skye, it’s missed by most tourists, who choose to base themselves in the more popular town of Portree.
Plockton has so much to offer, though. Simply strolling the main Harbour Street will provide you with some truly breathtaking views of the lake it borders and the distant mountains. The panorama is especially beautiful at sunset, and the best place to watch it is from the restaurant at Plockton Hotel, which offers scenic outdoor meals.
This village is also home to the stunning Coral Beach, which is an excellent place to enjoy a relaxing picnic. If you like winding roads, be sure to drive to the nearby Applecross village too — the views along the way are jaw-dropping.
One of the best walks in Plockton is a gorgeous forest trail to Duncraig Castle. The great thing is that you can also spend the night there! In fact, the Duncraig Castle Bed and Breakfast has its own private beach. Guests can also enjoy a splendid view of the surrounding nature.
To get to Plockton, you can either drive or take a train to Plockton Station. Driving is more convenient as you won’t need to make train changes. This village is just under 2 hours by car from Inverness and 1 hour from Portree.
Hidden gem in the UK recommended by Jiayi of The Diary of a Nomad
Secret Places in Wales
If you are looking for hidden gems in the UK that are hard to find, then head to mid-Wales and the town of Rhayader. Just a short 10-to-15-minute drive from this sleepy little village is one of the most beautiful and picturesque places in Wales, Elan Valley.
Elan Valley is an area of outstanding beauty with a series of interconnecting man-made lakes and reservoirs that is pretty to visit no matter what time of year you visit. There is no better place to be on a warm sunny summer day or a cold snowy winter day.
Elan Valley is best reached and explored by car from Rhayader. Just outside of town, past the Triangle Inn is a right turn that will take you up the side of a hill, past farms. This is, in my opinion, the best way to start your visit around the Elan Valley. Watch out for red kites that are often in the sky circling along this road.
After climbing the hill, you will start getting glimpses of the first lake. Turn left off this road and follow it around as you explore and enjoy the lakes before coming across the Craig Goch Dam. This is a popular stopping place for those visiting the area.
Further on from this is another of the lakes with Pen y Garren Dam. Along the road from this dam is the Elan Valley Waterfall Trail before you will pass the Garreg Ddu Dam. There are lots of places to stop along the way, and some walking and hiking trails to enjoy.
The Elan Valley has a visitor centre with information about the area, toilets, a café and exhibition centre. There are lots of accommodation options in B&B-type places in Rhayader including the Elan Hotel. If you are looking for a beautiful hidden gem to visit, head for the Elan Valley in mid-Wales.
Explored by Cath from Wales with Kids
Portmeirion, North Wales, is a private village that transports you to another world. Imagine yourself rambling through the Snowdonia National Park and then arriving in a vibrant Mediterranean paradise the next. Sir William Clough Ellis designed Portmeirion and was even knighted in recognition of his outstanding contributions to British architecture. If you visit, you will see why.
There are many things to do in Portmeirion, North Wales that range from enjoying the village itself, to several woodland or coastline walks. Take a stroll through the pet cemetery and to the ghost gardens, or to the viewpoint of the mountains and coastline of Wales.
You can even step foot on the beautiful sands of the estuary. This private beach is so secluded that it feels like it has been put there especially for you.
You can also stay in one of the many luxury cottages located in Portmeirion village if a day trip is not enough. You will find many beautiful rooms with stunning views, so make sure to book in advance if you are looking for a truly unique stay.
This picturesque tourist village, which has been accoladed as an ‘Award Winner’, is a must-see hidden gem in the UK.
By Kerry Hanson from VeggTravel
The UK is not especially famous for its wildlife. People who want to see birds and animals often head off on a safari in East Africa or to see penguins in Antarctica. But there’s no need to go that far because there is actually a real wildlife hidden gem right here in the UK: Skomer Island.
Every year between April and August, hundreds of thousands of Atlantic puffins return to British shores to nest and rear their chicks. And one of the best and most accessible places to see them is Skomer Island, just off the coast of Pembrokeshire in Wales.
Boat trips to Skomer Island leave from the tiny bay at Martin’s Haven, about a 30-minute drive from the town of Haverfordwest. They depart every half hour during the spring and summer months, cost £40 per person, and take about 15 minutes to arrive. From here, it is a short climb up some steep steps, and then you are free to wander the island.
It takes about 3 hours to walk the entire island circuit. Along the way, you will enjoy the magnificent coastal scenery and the sight, sound (and smell!) of hundreds of thousands of birds, including razorbills, guillemots, choughs, and short-eared owls. You may even spot seals and porpoises playing in the waves. But the main attraction is the puffins.
These comical and adorable little birds, with their smart black and white plumage and eye-catching red beaks, nest in burrows, in some places right next to the path. They’re pretty unafraid of humans and can be curious, so it’s easy to get relatively close to them. Spending hours watching them scurry about is one of the most enchanting wildlife experiences you can have, and it’s right here in the UK.
By Bella from Passport & Pixels
Hidden Gems in the UK: Northern Ireland
There was a time when Bangor was smack on the tourist map. In the past, it was famous for its seafront beaches and amusement parks, before cheap air travel came along and the town fell back into relative obscurity. These days, however, Bangor Northern Ireland has reinvented itself more as a commuter town for well-heeled folk working in Belfast and Northern Ireland.
As a tourist destination, it is otherwise overlooked by visitors of the nearby Belfast. But the sleepy seaside town still has a lot to offer tourists. It is a hidden gem in the UK with a picturesque marina, a seafront lined with attractions, and it marks the beginning of the scenic North Down Coastal Path.
Short walks also bring you to many individual attractions including Crawfordsburn Country Park, Helen’s Bay, and many local beaches.
The town is otherwise centered around its Christian Heritage and the ancient Abbey where local monks (St Columbanus & St Gall) set out to spread Christianity across Europe. This history is the main feature within the North Down Museum located in Bangor Castle.
The town itself is simple to reach by a direct 30-minute coastal train and Bangor all the main attractions can easily be explored on foot. A good place to stay would either be the new Premier Inn opposite the main train station or the Marine Court overlooking Bangor Marina.
Explored by Allan Wilson from It’s Sometimes Sunny in Bangor
Hidden Gems in England
Berwick-upon-Tweed is a small town in Northumberland in the north of England, close to the border with Scotland. The town is perfect for a quick day trip from the nearby large cities of Edinburgh or Newcastle, as it can be easily reached by train.
Berwick-upon-Tweed is one of the UK’s hidden gems as it combines amazing views of the North Sea and a wealth of medieval fortifications. As such, many of the town’s highlights are various historical sites and viewpoints.
Start your day in Berwick-upon-Tweed with a walk along the shores of the River Tweed and admire the view of the Royal Border Bridge, frequently used by trains.
Then, continue with a walk along the Berwick town walls and the medieval towers. From there you can have great views of the North Sea and the Lighthouse. The Lighthouse is another highlight of the area, so take a detour along the pier to visit it.
You can spend the rest of your day in the area around King’s Mount and the beach or you can return to the town center to have a stroll around the Town Hall and visit some of the museums and galleries. The Berwick-upon-Tweed Barracks and Main Guard is the largest of them with a collection of exhibitions about the history of the area.
Discovered by Elina Michaelidou from Empnefsys & Travel
Castle Combe is located just over a hundred miles west of London. If you want to experience authentic British countryside, you’ll love this hidden gem in England. The village of Castle Combe is one of the prettiest villages in the Cotswolds. If you only have one day, this is the place to visit.
Stroll along the honey-colored cottages, that are perfectly preserved and are dating back to the medieval ages when the whole Cotswolds area was a bustling center of wool and textile production.
The highlight of the village is its picturesque stone bridge, a drawcard for many avid Instagrammers. Castle Combe was a film set for many moving, including the iconic children’s movie – Dr. Dolittle. Don’t forget to indulge in a traditional cream tea served at the Old Rectory Tearoom in Castle Combe.
You can get to Castle Combe by train from London Paddington Station that stops in Chippenham from where you can get a local bus or a taxi. For an authentic experience, stay at the Old Museum situated in the heart of the village. The Old Museum is a traditional cottage that comes with a kitchen and a fireplace for a cozy evening in.
Explored by Mal from Raw Mal Roams
Chrome Hill is a rugged peak, known locally as Dragon’s Back because of its distinctive shape contrasting with the rolling hills of the Derbyshire Peak District. From the vantage point of the top of Chrome Hill, you’ll be treated to views stretching miles. But, the real reason to visit Chrome Hill is for sunrise or sunset – the views are simply spectacular.
Yet, despite its unique shape and astounding views, Chrome Hill remains very much a hidden gem in England. Perhaps, due to it only being the 54th highest hill in the Peak District or just not being as popular as its nearby neighbours such as Kinder Scout, Mam Tor and Bamford Edge.
Chrome Hill is 4 miles south of Buxton, the nearest town, but is surrounded by many small villages. There is just one permissive path on the hill taking you over the peak, which starts from the hamlet of Glutton Bridge.
But, if you don’t fancy a straight there-and-back route, there are several circular walking routes you can take from nearby Earl Sterndale or Hollinsclough.
Without a doubt, the best time to visit is for sunrise or sunset. In the summer months, that’ll mean an early start or late-night walk, but you’re much more likely to have clear skies for a fantastic view.
Plus, if you stay in accommodation nearby, you’ll reduce the time driving to the walk start point. While there’s no accommodation in Glutton Bridge, holiday homes in Earl Sterndale such as Poppies Court and Hilldale Cottage are an excellent option. Additionally, staying in this area provides you with a great base to explore more of England’s hidden gems in the Peak District.
This hidden gem in the UK was recommended by Zoe Schafer from Zoe Goes Places
The pretty town of Grassington is nestled in the valleys of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. The small village has all the aspects of a usual British town, leaving visitors astonished by the simple life around the brick houses, narrow streets, and old-fashioned pubs. To experience it to the fullest, eating a bite and getting a pint at the Devonshire is a must-do in Grassington. This unique pub is right in the main square of the town and has an outside area for sunny days.
Originally founded as a mining village, Grassington has become one of the fairytale towns in the Yorkshire Dales, attracting tourists from all over, especially in Spring.
It is often used as a base for day trips around the valleys, enjoying the stunning scenery and the great natural attractions such as Malham Cove and Aysgarth Falls. Many walking trails and hiking paths around the Yorkshire Dales start in Grassington.
Despite being very small, the town is picturesque with two main roads going uphill. There are many small cobblestone alleys with some enchanting corners to take photos of. Enjoy a drink at the Cobblestones coffee, or just roam around Main Street. After leaving the car at the parking space at Grassington National Park Centre, visitors can either explore the town or go toward the riverside.
On this side of the town, there are two of the most enchanting places to stay in town: the Riverside Grassington and the Bridge End Farm, which is an old building dated back to the mid-1600s, today a welcoming B&B.
Explored by Toti & Ale from Italian Trip Abroad
Hackfall in North Yorkshire is arguably one of the best hidden gems in England. On the surface, Hackfall simply appears to be a woodland that is maintained by the Woodland Trust. When you visit, however, you’ll quickly discover it is much more than that.
The woodland was significantly landscaped during the 17th century by William Aislabie. It was described as “one of the most beautiful woods in the country.” For a time, the site was reclaimed by nature until a huge investment and volunteer effort in the early 2000s transformed the woods back to its former glory.
A visit to Hackfall isn’t a regular walk in the woods! Walking the Hackfall trails is like stepping into a fairytale. Get ready to discover enchanting waterfalls and stumble across magical forgotten follies.
Some of the highlights to keep an eye out for include the dramatic forty-foot waterfall and the restored fountain pond which propels water into the air using a hand pump. You will also want to take in the dramatic views from Lovers Leap and seek out the remains of Fisher’s Hall.
Getting to Hackfall by car is your easiest option. There is a free car park at the entrance (HG4 3BS) where you can pick up a map of the woodland sights. Alternatively, you can catch the 825 bus which includes the following stops: Selby, Tadcaster, Wetherby, Harrogate, Ripley Castle, Brimham Rocks, Fountains Abbey, Kirkby Malzeard, Hackfall, and Masham.
There are several popular tourist sights around Hackfall including Ripon, Fountains Abbey, Brimham Rocks, and more. So, if you’d like to get the most out of your visit, why not enjoy a short break. You can even stay at a Four in the Bed winning B&B, The Crown Inn in Grewelthorpe.
Recommended by Hannah Ackroyd from Get Lost Travel Blog
Holkham in North Norfolk is a bit off the beaten path, the closest train station is 19 miles away in Sheringham. You might have to drive there (an hour north of Norwich), but it will be worth it.
You can see Holkham Hall, an elegant 18th-century Palladian-style stately home built by Thomas Coke, 1st Earl of Leicester. It’s now home to the 8th Earl of Leicester, but the family takes pride in sharing the house with visitors.
At Holkham Park, you can do a nature walk around the lake and explore the grounds. There is a walled garden, ropes course, and woodland play area. They also have bikes and boats you can hire.
Nearby, Holkham Beach is one of the best beaches in Norfolk. At low tide, the sand seems to stretch for miles. There is plenty of room to build sandcastles, picnic, or just relax. When you want to cool off, the sea will be refreshing.
It’s also a great area for wildlife spotting. On select days, you can even do a safari on foot through the Holkham Nature Nature Reserve with an expert guide.
With all there is to see in Holkham, you will want to spend more than just one day. Stay at the Victoria Inn and it will all be at your doorstep.
Explored by Anisa from Two Traveling Texans
Isle of Scilly
The Isles of Scilly are one of the most hard-to-reach hidden gems in England – flights only depart from Devon or Cornwall and it is a rather long drive to the ferry port at Penzance.
For those who do make the effort to travel to the Scillies the reward is empty beaches – even in August – and a holiday of yesteryear. There are very few cars, pleasures are simple and there is practically no crime.
There are five islands to choose from including St Mary’s, the largest island, St Martin’s with arguably the best beaches, and Tresco which offers luxury stays.
The islands are perfect for family holidays – there are plenty of safe beaches for swimming, gentle water sports, and lots of sandcastle building. Those looking for a romantic break will find remote boltholes which are perfect for a peaceful break outside the peak summer months of July and August.
Popular activities include island hopping, swimming with seals, and the various water sports on offer, including SUP, diving, and coasteering. There’s history galore from castles to ancient ruins and also a fascinating museum charting the story of the islands.
Explored by Annabel Kirk from Smudged Postcard
Lynton is a quaint seaside village perched along the hillside in North Devon. With stunning views over the ocean, dozens of independent coffee shops down secret side alleys, and a network of hiking trails sprawling from the center, it’s undoubtedly one of the best hidden gems in the UK.
Aside from testing out all of the incredible ice cream, there is a wealth of things to do and see Lynton. You’ll find a funicular railway dating back to 1887 that slides up and down the cliff edge between Lynton and Lynmouth, as well as two of the best walks in North Devon – Watersmeet and Valley and of the Rocks.
Alternatively, you can head back in time to the early 1900s by visiting Lynton Cinema – it’s a truly unique experience that is paired perfectly with a meal at The Oak Room – one of the best restaurants in Lynton.
Although a small village, there are a variety of places to stay in Lynton. Yet, St Vincent Guest House – a Grade II listed building – trumps them all. It’s a traditional English stay, set in a beautiful home with fantastic hosts who come armed with a plethora of knowledge about the area – you’ll almost certainly love it!
Recommended by Millie from Travelling Through The Trees
St. Agnes is an under-the-radar town in the Cornwall region of the UK. Most visitors choose to go to the more popular destinations like St. Ives or Devon, but St. Agnes is not to be missed. It’s an adorable town with only 7,500 inhabitants that will not let you down.
Explore the cobblestone streets with pretty English homes and do not miss the wonderful street of Churchtown. Here, you can stop by a flower shop and deli called Trunk Deli to start your day with breakfast. Another great option is St. Agnes Bakery, where you can try a Cornish pasty, a typical snack from the area.
Then you can head to the beautiful beach, much quieter than any of the others in Cornwall. Climb to the top of the footpath just before the beach to see a panoramic view from above. This is one of the key highlights of visiting!
After spending time around the beach, go to Stippy Stappy street, which is a unique row of cottages you can visit up a very narrow pathway. The Seven Bed and Breakfast is a great accommodation if you want to spend more than a day in St. Agnes.
Hidden gem in England recommended by Jackie Rezk of Jou Jou Travels
The Suffolk Coast is certainly a popular coastal destination in the UK. But while most people head to Aldeburgh or Southwold, the quaint village of Thorpeness has so much to do but is often overlooked.
The history of the village is fascinating and makes it one of the more unique hidden gems in the UK. When the village was bought in 1910, the owner transformed it into a fairytale holiday village which is why you’ll see mock Tudor houses throughout the village. Thorpeness is also home to the Meare, an artificial lake covering 60 acres and J M Barrie, creator of Peter Pan, named the islands on the lake so children could enjoy exploring the likes of Wendy’s Island and the Dragon’s Lair! You can rent a boat and go rowing on the lake; being only 3ft deep, it’s great for families to enjoy.
You will see the unique House in the Clouds, a converted water tower that is now a holiday rental. Beside it is the picturesque white windmill which was used when the water tower was in use.
Do not miss the long stretch of beach at Thorpeness, this pebble beach is great for swimming and is often quiet even in hot weather. After an afternoon at the beach, head to the idyllic Dolphin Inn. Here you can enjoy a country pub meal and a pint of Adnams Cider which is brewed just up the road in Southwold.
The easiest way to get to Thorpeness is by car. But if you are using public transport, Thorpeness is only 5 minutes from Aldeburgh by bus. Aldeburgh is supplied by Greater Anglia and has direct trains from Ipswich. If you are planning to stay in Thorpeness, don not miss the opportunity to stay in one of the Tudor holiday houses.
Discovered by Helena Bradbury of Discover More UK
Truro is one of the hidden gems in the UK that doesn’t get as many visitors as other popular places in Cornwall. But it has its own charm and there is a lot of history in the place.
The Truro Cathedral towers over the city and is done in a Neo-gothic style from the late 19th-century and is one of the most impressive cathedrals in the UK.
Have a tea and slice of cake at Charlotte’s Tea House, a unique place set up like a Victorian cafe in an old historic building that used to be a coinage hall. The Britannia Inn dates to 1762 and is one of the best places for a bite to eat.
There are plenty of things to see nearby as well such as the National Trust Trelissick Garden and St Mawes Castle, a fortress that guarded the entrance to the River Fal.
If you love cider then Cornwall is famous for it and the best brewery is only a short drive from Truro called Healeys Cornish Cyder Farm, where you can sample some excellent cider.
The best way to get to Truro is by train as it’s connected to the rest of Cornwall and fast trains from London pass through the city.
One of the best places to stay is at the Barley Sheaf pub right next to the cathedral where you can enjoy a drink at the end of the day in a welcoming atmosphere.
Explored by Jonny – Guide to Castles
Wycoller is a tiny hamlet, hidden away in a wooded valley in the east Lancashire countryside close to the border with Yorkshire. It’s not the kind of place you can happen upon, but it’s well worth seeking out.
The Wycoller Beck runs through the valley; on one side of the beck are the handful of covetable old stone houses that make up Wycoller village, while on the other side of the water is the ruined Wycoller Hall.
Wycoller Hall was built in the 16th century and was expanded and remodelled over the next 250 years, most notably by its last occupant Henry Owen Cunliffe. Cunliffe borrowed so heavily against the hall that when he died in 1818 the estate was split up and the hall was raided for building materials.
The hall was already in a dilapidated state when Charlotte Brontë, who lived just over the hill in Haworth and knew Wycoller well, used it as the inspiration for Ferndean Manor in her novel Jane Eyre.
Up on the hill above the village, you’ll find Wycoller’s other big attraction, the Atom. The Atom is a piece of modern sculpture and one of the four Lancashire Panopticons which were placed around East Lancashire in the 2000s. It looks a lot like an alien spaceship that’s landed on a Lancashire hilltop; the views over the countryside and Pendle Hill are spectacular.
The nearest towns to Wycoller are Colne and Haworth, while Skipton is around 13 miles away. Since Wycoller is so small and remote, it’s best to visit by car. A wonderful place to stay nearby is the Craven Heifer gastropub at Kelbrook, just north of Colne. The food is out of this world and the comfortable rooms make it a great place to spend the night.
Recommended by Helen – Helen on her Holidays
Planning a trip soon? Check out these useful websites and resources that I use to plan my own adventures
Which location is your favorite hidden gem in the UK?
Visiting secret spots while traveling is always amazing, as exploring them allows you to see a different side of the country. You get to see places that have been rather untouched by international) tourism and that, therefore, have maintained a certain charm that popular places tend to have lost. And while the common bucket list destinations in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland are great as well, you should definitely combine them with off-the-beaten-track places in the UK.
If you want to see several of these hidden gems in the UK, you should start planning a road trip.
More about the UK
If you are making plans for your next trip to the UK, you might also want to check out these great weekend trips in the UK.
Which Secret Place in the UK is your favorite one?
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