The UK might be small, but it’s packed full of history, culture and even wonderful nature!
While it’s a fairly popular country with international tourists, many only visit London.
Staycations are becoming increasingly popular across the country – with glamping experiences and boutique hotels popping up everywhere from Exeter to Edinburgh – and there are also a vast amount of UK hidden gems, ideal for both domestic and international visitors.
Here are some of the best places off the beaten track to explore in your backyard.
Best hidden gems in the UK
From Cornwall to Scotland, here are the best hidden gems in the UK!
1. Isles of Scilly
Just off the coast of Cornwall, this small cluster of islands is about as close as you can get to leaving the UK without actually leaving!
Although these islands rely on tourism, they aren’t that popular with Brits looking for a staycation destination.
Boasting a subtropical climate, these islands showcase some of the best beaches in the UK, the lush Tresco Abbey Gardens, Cromwell’s Castle and multiple vineyards.
You can reach the Scillies in different ways for day trips from Newquay, Land’s End, Penzance, or even a private plane from Exeter Airport.
If you’re visiting Cornwall, the Scilly Islands make for a fantastic day trip, but if you would like to stay a little longer, why not stay overnight?
There are accommodation options, but they aren’t plentiful, so book well in advance!
With stunning white sandy beaches and milder weather than further north, this is the place for you; If you’re looking for a slice of the Caribbean (although the weather’s not guaranteed!), head to the Scilly Islands.
2. Ventor, Isle of Wight
Sitting in the sea off the coast of the south of England, the Isle of Wight is an often-forgotten holiday destination in the UK.
But even more of a hidden gem is the seaside resort of Ventor.
It is one of the cutest hidden gems in the entire United Kingdom. It is known majorly for the Ventnor Fringe Festival, but there is no need to wait around for that time of year (plus, it’s the busiest time to visit Ventor too!).
Anyone who lives on the island will tell you that Ventnor is one of the most popular places to visit, but it is one of the quieter places in the UK.
Here, you can find wild beaches, botanical gardens, and some of the best excellent beach shack restaurants in the South of England!
3. Avebury, Wiltshire
Aside from London and the Cotswolds, Stonehenge is among the most visited places in the UK.
This Neolithic monument is one of the major landmarks of England.
People from around the world visit Stonehenge, and as a result, it can become overcrowded – so much so that visitors are now kept at a distance to protect the stones!
This is where Stonehenge’s lesser-known relative, Avebury, is a much better option.
While Stonehenge is undoubtedly more of a complex site, the collection of stone circles at Avebury is actually bigger and much older than Stonehenge.
Visitors can walk right up to the stones and the crowds are minimal.
They’re an excellent alternative to Stonehenge and one of England’s lesser-known highlights!
4. Tyneham, Dorset
Tyneham’s a completely unique destination.
This historical village – with references made in the Doomsday Book of 1086 and proof of inhabitance dating as far back as the Iron Age – Tyneham was actually all but deserted in 1943.
Why? It was occupied by the Ministry of Defence and used as a firing range for the training troops of the Second World War.
Since then, the town has never been reoccupied and has now been reopened to the public, with designated walking routes and winding footpaths around the abandoned buildings.
Important buildings such as the school and the church have been restored to their former glory, with exhibits inside unravelling the story of Tyneham’s rich history.
5. Gaping Hill Cave, North Yorkshire
If you’re seeking off-the-beaten-track places in England, how does a hidden cave in the Yorkshire Dales sound?
For off-the-beaten-track destinations, you’ll be hard-pressed to get any better than a hidden cave in the Yorkshire Dales.
Visits to the cave are only possible via a winchand it only opens for a limited time each year, usually between May, June, and August.
But it’s worth it when you get down there, escorted by professional guides – a waterfall and impressive rock formations await!
6. Lundy Island, Devon
Lundy Island’s a mere 12 miles off the Devon coast in the Bristol Channel – but it’s a land unto its own when it comes to geology and history.
The island’s unique blend of flora and fauna, from seals lounging on rocky shores to puffins nesting in cliffs, makes it a wildlife haven.
Historical buildings dot the landscape, from ancient burial chambers to Victorian lighthouses.
Maritime history also thrives here; the island once served as a base for Moroccan pirates!
Yet, Lundy’s real magic lies in its tranquility and isolation.
Far from city bustle, the island lets you reconnect with nature and delve into history without the usual tourist trappings.
7. Mendip Hills, Somerset
The Mendip Hills arch across North Somerset and is a wonderful hidden gem for hikers.
Cheddar Gorge may attract crowds, but other areas within the AONB Mendip Hills retain a blissful solitude.
Blagdon Lake, in the north of the AONB, serves as a sanctuary for birdwatchers and anglers alike.
Blackdown, the highest point in the Mendips, is ideal for an to uninterrupted view of Somerset; the panorama stretches across rolling hills.
In the midst of the hills, you’ll find a set of ancient cart tracks known as the Three Priddy Droves, which is an idyllic (and relatively easy) hike.
No visit to the Mendips is complete without savouring the local flavours!
Try traditional cheddar from Cheddar or head to any pub in the vicinity for a local cider or Butcombe beer – the brewery is actually located in the hills.
8. Nottingham, Nottinghamshire
Nottingham’s by no means one of the most famous UK cities to visit – London, Bath and Oxford steal those crowns – but there’s plenty to enjoy here!
It’s most famous for its legendary connection to Robin Hood. While the folklore of Sherwood Forest may attract many, Nottingham’s depth goes beyond this!
Nottingham Castle is the main landmark of the city.
Situated on Castle Rock, this fortress-turned-museum has evolved over the years.
In fact, the castle complex doubles as a vibrant cultural hub, with medieval weaponry, fine arts and an excellent exhibition on Nottingham Lace!
Visit the castle grounds to amble through meticulously designed terraced gardens and enjoy a vista of Nottingham unfurling before you.
Adjacent to the castle, you’ll find Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, which claims to be one of England’s oldest pubs and bridging history with the present moment!
9. Shetland Islands, Scotland
The Shetland Islands, in the northernmost reaches of the UK, are closer to Norway than to Edinburgh, the Scottish capital.
Due to their proximity to Scandinavia, the islands are a blend of Norse and Scottish influences.
A striking feature of Shetland is its dramatic coastline.
Jagged cliffs meet the thrashing North Sea, creating nesting spaces for seabirds like puffins and guillemots.
It’s a rugged terrain, where you can practically hear the echo of Viking longships that once sailed these waters.
Shetland boasts an undulating landscape replete with peat bogs, heather-covered hills, and clear freshwater lochs.
Inland, you’ll find sites like Jarlshof, a prehistoric and Norse settlement which glimpses into 4,000 years of human history.
Don’t miss the Shetland Museum and Archives in Lerwick, the archipelago’s capital, where you can learn about fishing and boat building.
Local restaurants serve up fresh seafood, notably succulent Shetland mussels and locally caught cod.
Pair these dishes with some Shetland Reel Gin or a craft beer from the Lerwick Brewery to round off your culinary adventure.
Fancy a real local experience? Visit during the annual Up Helly Aa festival!
This fire festival in Lerwick celebrates Shetland’s Viking heritage with a grand procession, culminating in the burning of a Viking galley.
10. Chepstow, Wales
Just a short drive from Bristol and Cardiff, Chepstow’s a border town perched on the River Wye in Monmouthshire.
Dominating the town’s skyline is Chepstow Castle, one of the oldest surviving stone castles in Britain. Built shortly after the Norman Conquest, its imposing towers and walls encapsulate almost 1,000 years of history.
Here, walking through its chambers and battlements, you experience a tactile connection to a past filled with feudal conflicts and royal intrigues.
The River Wye adds another layer to Chepstow’s charm.
The riverbank’s picturesque, with kayaking or angling available.
Don’t miss out on the 365 Steps, a woodland walk that leads you up to the Eagle’s Nest viewpoint.
The trek rewards with panoramic views of the Wye Valley and is a perfect spot to appreciate the surrounding area’s lush greenery and rolling hills!
Local gastronomy also beckons.
Chepstow’s pubs and eateries offer a variety of options, from Welsh lamb to freshly caught seafood.
If you’re a fan of craft beverages, drop by Tintern’s Parva Farm Vineyard, just a few miles north, for a taste of locally produced Welsh wines.
Now you know about some of the very best UK hidden gems!
If you’re heading to the UK, don’t miss these hidden gems!
Looking beyond popular destinations like London and the Cotswolds will lead you to many more wonderful places in Great Britain.
Use this list as a starting point to exploring the UK!