You’ve seen Buckingham Palace, hung out at Hyde Park, explored Oxford and maybe even visited Edinburgh Castle. It’s time to expand your UK (and Ireland) horizons and do something a little off the beaten track.
Here are our top 10 hidden gems in the UK & Ireland – from the wild swim in Wales to secret cocktails in Manchester…
1. Deer and a picnic in Richmond Park, London
Grab a camera, a picnic and a friend for a surreal day surrounded by over 600 red and fallow deer only a tube ride away from central London. This gorgeous 2500 acre royal park has everything you could need for a perfect day away from the buzz of the city.
2. Secret Cocktails at The Washhouse in Manchester
Manchester is not short on places to go for a drink but if you fancy getting dressed up and finding a bar even most locals don’t know about then head down to The Washhouse. From the outside it looks like any other laundrette in any other city in England, but there is a secret behind the big drying machine… A 1920s chic cocktail bar that serves some of the best cocktails in town.
3. Scuba diving at Keem Bay on Achill Island, Ireland
No stay in Ireland is complete without experiencing the awesome wild beauty it has to offer. Off the west coast of Ireland is the island of Achill, and on that island is Keem Bay. With its crystal clear waters it is the place for anyone who loves scuba diving or snorkelling.
4. Codebreakers at Bletchley Park, between Oxford & Cambridge
Soak up a piece of modern British history at this World War II top secret code-breaking mansion. Made famous by the 2014 movie The Imitation Game this is your chance to visit and learn about the mainly female staff that changed the course of WWII.
5. Fireworks at Lewes Bonfire Night, between Brighton & Eastbourne
The medieval town of Lewes, with its castles and cobbled streets, is a special place to visit at any time of the year. But when the 5th of November rolls around this quaint little town becomes something else entirely. 5th November is Guy Fawkes Day, also known as Bonfire Night (it commemorates a plot to blow up Parliament in 1605), and Lewes’ streets become full with people from all over the country – even the world – marching in costume with flaming torches and beating drums. The atmosphere is wild and the fireworks spectacular.
6. County Pub Garden at The George Inn, Vernham Dean, between Bournemouth & Bristol
You cannot get more English than a lazy Sunday afternoon with friends in a country pub garden, and you cannot find a more traditional country pub than this. Located in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the North Wessex Downs, The George Inn‘s traditional building serves classic pub food and even has some rooms if you want to stay the night. Most. English. Weekend. Ever.
7. A wild swim, wherever you want
There is no better way to get back to nature than to find a wild place to swim (so basically anything that’s not a pool). Throughout the UK and Ireland there are beautiful lakes and rivers just waiting for you to jump in – and you won’t find these on any normal tourist trail. For a full list of wild swimming areas near you visit the Wild Swimming site.
8. The Meantime Brewery in Greenwich, London
You can drink a craft beer in every pub in the UK and Ireland, but real explorers go beyond the pint and go see how great beer is actually made. There are comprehensive daily tours at the Meantime Brewery in Greenwich, followed by a tutored tasting of the entire Meantime Brewery selection of craft beers. You’ll have a jolly good time and become a beer connoisseur in the process – winning!
9. Arts at The Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland
Every summer Edinburgh plays host to the largest annual arts festival in the world. Made famous by international comedians using the festival to try out new material, the festival also showcases the best of the best in theatre, circus, cabaret, opera and music.
10. Climb the heights, wherever you want
Get adventurous and find one of the highest peaks in the UK: Scotland has Ben Nevis, Wales has Snowdon and England has Scafell Pike. Each one has trails to the top of varying difficulties depending on your experience and fitness level. There’s really no better way – except the wild swimming mentioned before – to experience the glory of nature on the British Isles. Don’t forget you camera for the amazing views from the top!