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7 incredible British itineraries — London and beyond

Photo: VisitBritain/Rod Edwards

Diverse natural landscapes. Buzzing urban centers. Unbelievably charming historic towns. There’s one thing we know for sure: Great Britain isn’t short of an incredible adventure. From eating your way through Michelin-star-studded villages to visiting your favorite film locations in the Scottish Highlands, at least one of these seven British itineraries will have you reaching for your passport. The only question is: Which one will it be?

 

This guide is proudly produced in partnership with VisitBritain.

The Big Smoke

Photo: VisitBritain/Jules Elliott
Thanks to its world-class art scene, top-notch nightlife, and global cuisine — not to mention the architecture, designer and boutique shopping, and beautiful green spaces — a few days is rarely enough in London. To make sure you don’t miss out on any of the action, we’ve highlighted the capital’s top neighborhoods, from the bright lights of the West End to the romantic riverbanks of the North West. Welcome to London, “The Big Smoke,” one of the world’s most vibrant cities.
 

THE STOPS


West End

The West End is a rite of passage for every visitor to the capital. By day, you can shop ‘til you drop…

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Photo: VisitBritain/Tristan Vince

West End

Home to London’s most iconic hotels, museums, restaurants, shops, and theatres, the West End is a rite of passage for every visitor to the capital. By day, you can shop ‘til you drop on Oxford Street, visit iconic landmarks like Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey, or explore the largest collection of Egyptian mummies in the world at the British Museum. By night, sip cocktails in Soho, watch award-winning theatre productions in Leicester Square, or catch a street performance in Covent Garden.

Photo: VisitBritain/Tristan Vince


South Bank

At the forefront of London’s cultural scene, the South Bank draws in art-lovers, theatre-goers…

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South Bank

At the forefront of London’s cultural scene, the South Bank draws in art-lovers, theatre-goers, and film aficionados from all over the world. But that’s not all — as well as being home to the acclaimed Tate Modern, Shakespeare’s Globe, and the National Theatre, the South Bank is a wonderful place to kick back and enjoy a pint in a riverside pub, fill up at farm-fresh food markets, or take a romantic stroll along the Thames. Be sure to grab your camera — from here you’ve got unbeatable views across the river to Big Ben and from beneath the iconic London Eye.

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East End

Oozing with cool, London’s East End is where you’ll find some of the city’s best pubs and late-night bars…

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East End

Oozing with cool, London’s East End is where you’ll find some of the city’s best pubs and late-night bars, vintage boutiques, and bustling food, craft, and textile markets. Shoreditch and Brick Lane, two of the hippest areas in the East End, are easily recognizable by their graffiti-covered buildings, many painted by up-and-coming London street artists.

Photo: VisitBritain/Benji Lanyado


North West

Home to the (extremely) popular Camden Market, North West London nevertheless remains relatively unexplored…

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North West

Home to the (extremely) popular Camden Market, North West London nevertheless remains a relatively unexplored zone of the capital. Along with some of the city’s best live music and a happening street food scene, you’ll also find a whole host of outdoor fun — catch the sunset at Primrose Hill or watch narrow boats make their journey through the Little Venice canal.

Photo: Shutterstock/ZGPhotography


South West

If you’re in search of London’s top green spaces and most beautifully landscaped gardens…

Photo: Shutterstock/I Wei Huang
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South West

If you’re in search of London’s top green spaces and most beautifully landscaped gardens, then the South West is your ticket. Spend the day spotting deer among the 1,000 acres of Richmond Park, browse the biggest and most diverse botanical collection in the world at Kew Gardens, or explore the historic Centre Court at the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Club and Museum.

Photo: Shutterstock/I Wei Huang

Great British City Hop

Photo: VisitBritain/George Johnson
Whether it’s a bustling metropolis or a quieter culture capital you’re after, Great Britain is home to some of the most historic-yet-exciting cities anywhere. With direct and affordable flights, trains, and buses from London to all major cities in the country, visiting them in one trip might just give you the best bang for your buck (pow for your pound?). From exploring 16th-century castles in Edinburgh to tracing the footsteps of the Stone Roses in Manchester, this Great British city hop will have you eating, drinking, and sightseeing till your head hits the pillow.
 

THE STOPS


London

Home to many of the country’s most exciting museums, galleries, restaurants, bars, and shops…

Photo: VisitBritain/Mollie Bylett
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London

Home to many of the country’s most exciting museums, galleries, restaurants, bars, and shops, Britain’s thriving capital is a must-stop on any British city tour. Spend a couple of days exploring iconic landmarks, world-famous museums, and some of the finest restaurants and bars in the world. (See “The Big Smoke” itinerary on this page for more specific recommendations.)

Photo: VisitBritain/Mollie Bylett


Birmingham

Birmingham has transformed itself from a scruffy trading hub to a buzzing tourist destination…

Photo: VisitBritain/Simon Winnall
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Birmingham

The second largest city in the country, Birmingham — or “Brum,” as it’s locally known — was once the industrial powerhouse of Britain. Since its impressive “Big City Plan” renovation, however, Birmingham has transformed itself from a scruffy trading hub to a buzzing tourist destination. Expect craft breweries, underground cocktail bars, pop-up art galleries, and hours’ worth of shopping in the city’s historic Jewellery Quarter and state-of-the-art malls.

Photo: VisitBritain/Simon Winnall


Manchester

These days, Manchester looks a bit different than it did back when it was at the vanguard of the Industrial Revolution…

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Manchester

Once at the vanguard of the Industrial Revolution, Manchester has been on the world map for over 150 years. Today’s music and football-loving city, however, looks a little different than it did back then: Old warehouses have since been turned into stylish cocktail bars and late-night rave spots, aging buildings have been renovated into glass-fronted skyscrapers, and disused factories have transformed into gourmet food markets and urban craft breweries.

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Bristol

Packed with hundreds of years of history, Bristol is a standalone destination, worth a trip all its own…

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Bristol

Packed with hundreds of years of history, Bristol brings Britain’s past to life with interactive museums, hot air balloon rides, and action-packed suspension-bridge tours. But that’s not everything: With plenty of waterside fun (including SUPing and kayaking alongside the city’s old docks), a Banksy street-art scene, and tons of cool cafes, restaurants, and bars, this city is a first-class destination, easily worth a trip all its own.

Photo: Shutterstock/Gellert Buzas


Edinburgh

With its gothic skyline, sweeping sea views, and rocky cliffs serving as backdrop…

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Edinburgh

With its gothic skyline, sweeping sea views, and rocky cliffs serving as backdrop, Edinburgh is considered one of the most beautiful cities anywhere. But Scotland’s capital is more than a pretty face — late-night pubs, live comedy, fantastic museums, improv theatre, and a world-class food scene are just some of the attractions drawing millions of visitors to the city each year.

Photo: Shutterstock/Shaiith

Royal Britain

Photo: VisitBritain/Tom Weightman
Great Britain has one of Europe’s longest and richest regal histories — and today this history and its traditions make up one of the most valued institutions in the country. From the bright lights of London to the idyllic green hills of Gloucestershire, below is where you’ll find Britain’s most iconic castles, palaces, and gardens (and get to live out your Duke or Duchess dreams).
 

THE STOPS


London

With the Queen’s official home, as well as several royal parks, gardens, and royally decreed shops and restaurants…

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London

With the Queen’s official home — as well as several royal parks, gardens, and royally decreed shops and restaurants — London is the obvious first stop for Royal fans. Start off by visiting world-famous Buckingham Palace, center of some of the most important celebrations and state events. Then, take your pick of one of London’s eight royal parks; learn about the city’s gruesome past at the Tower of London, an old royal fortress; or dine like a Queen at The Dining Room at the Goring Hotel, one of Her Majesty’s favorite restaurants.

Photo: Shutterstock/Paolo Costa


Windsor

Windsor, a picturesque village just 25 miles outside of London, lays claim to one of the Queen’s favorite royal residences…

Photo: VisitBritain/Craig Easton
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Windsor

Windsor, a picturesque village just 25 miles outside of London, lays claim to one of the country’s most beautiful royal residences. The largest and oldest occupied castle in the world, Windsor Castle is made up of 13 acres of medieval and gothic turrets, fortresses, and chapels. Daily tours guide visitors through the luxurious staterooms, gardens, chapels, and art-covered hallways free of charge. Arrive at 11am on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays for the Changing of the Guard.

Photo: VisitBritain/Craig Easton


Gloucestershire

Known for its rolling green hills and thatched-roof cottages, Gloucestershire makes for the perfect royal getaway…

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Gloucestershire

Known for its rolling green hills and thatched-roof cottages, Gloucestershire makes for the perfect regal getaway. Spend the day holidaying like a royal with a game of polo at Longdole Polo Club, where Royals have been known to get competitive. Then, head to Highgrove House for a spring garden walk at the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall’s private royal residence.

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Brighton

For a peek inside one of Britain’s most unusual and opulent palaces, head to the British seaside…

Photo: VisitBritain/Simon Anderson
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Brighton

For a peek inside one of the Britain’s most unusual and opulent palaces, head to the British seaside for the day. About an hour’s train ride from central London, Brighton is home to the Royal Pavilion, an Indian- and Chinese-inspired royal retreat. Built to suit the lavish tastes of King George IV, the Pavilion features 30-foot-high crystal chandeliers, intricate marble domes, and a dragon-themed interior — the ceiling of the music room is covered in 26,000 gold scales.

Photo: VisitBritain/Simon Anderson

Scottish Highlands By Rail

Photo: VisitBritain/Adam Burton
With its jagged, snow-capped peaks, moss-green moors, and shimmering blue lochs, the Scottish Highlands have long captured the imagination of poets, artists, and Hollywood film producers. The best way to take it all in? From the window of your 1900s steam-train carriage. Get ready to ride the rails, Scotland style.
 

THE STOPS


Glasgow

After a couple of pints in a good ol’ Glaswegian pub and a stint at an open-mic night…

Photo: VisitBritain/Craig Easton
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Glasgow

Start your rail adventure in the excellent after-dark city of Glasgow. After a couple of pints in a good ol’ Glaswegian pub and a stint at an open-mic night, jump aboard one of the greatest rail routes in the world, the West Highland Line. Most famously known for transporting 11-year-olds to wizarding school, the West Highland Line will wind you through the craggy hills, crystal-clear lakes, and snowy peaks of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park until you reach your first picture-perfect pit stop: Fort William.

Note: You can also pick up the Highland Line from Edinburgh.

Photo: VisitBritain/Craig Easton


Fort William

Known as Great Britain’s outdoors capital, Fort William is the springboard for some of Scotland’s best hiking and climbing…

Photo: VisitBritain/Simon Winnall
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Fort William

Known as Great Britain’s outdoors capital, Fort William is the springboard for some of Scotland’s best hiking and climbing. Spend a day or two here exploring the spectacular mountains and glens, many of which you might recognize from some of your favorite films and TV shows. Once you’ve got your hiking fix, jump aboard The Jacobite, a steam train that’ll move you past the shadow of Britain’s highest mountain and some of Scotland’s most iconic scenery…including the 21-arched Glenfinnan viaduct made famous as the route to travel to wizarding school.

Photo: VisitBritain/Simon Winnall


Isle of Rum

After just under two hours, The Jacobite steam train will deposit you in the fishing and ferry port of Mallaig…

Photo: Shutterstock/Jan Holm
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Isle of Rum

After just under two hours, the Jacobite Steam Train will deposit you in the fishing and ferry port of Mallaig, where you’ll be able to catch a boat to the idyllic Isle of Rum. Quieter than its neighboring Isle of Skye, Isle of Rum has the same stunning scenery (think deserted beaches, spectacular rock formations, and 19th-century Scottish castles) without the crowds. Bring a tent, hiking boots, and some marshmallows to roast over the fire, and you might just find yourself staying a little longer than you planned.

Photo: Shutterstock/Jan Holm


Inverness

Your final destination is Inverness, Scotland’s Highland capital…

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Inverness

Your final destination is Inverness, Scotland’s Highland capital. To get here, catch the Kyle Line from Kyle of Lochalsh, another beautiful rail route that takes in the spectacular Torridon peaks, miles of bright green moors, and glassy lochs. Spend a few days monster-hunting at Loch Ness, taking romantic strolls and bike rides along the river, or fine dining in some of Scotland’s best farm-to-table restaurants. From here, you’re just a three- to four-hour train journey back to Glasgow or Edinburgh.

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Gourmet Britain

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If there’s a country where it’s okay to be guided by your stomach rumblings, it’s Great Britain. With a focus on farm-to-table cooking and creative fusion techniques, the gourmet culinary scene across the island has exploded in recent years, and today it holds around 180 Michelin-starred restaurants countrywide. From London’s thriving multicultural food scene to Yorkshire’s award-winning British classics, look no further for your ultimate British foodie tour.
 

THE STOPS


London

A true melting pot of cultures, London offers one of the most diverse dining scenes in the world…

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London

A true melting pot of cultures, London offers one of the most diverse dining scenes in the world. You’ll find Hoisin duck, chicken chow mein, and dumplings in Soho’s Chinatown; fiery chicken madras and onion bhajis in Brick Lane; and everything from French beef bourguignon to Italian bruschetta in the chic courtyards of Covent Garden.

The street food in London is not to be underestimated, either — Shoreditch’s and Borough’s food markets have mastered Jamaican hot wings, Korean BBQ, Spanish paella, and Mexican tacos. The best way to get started? Arrive with an empty stomach, a couple of quid, and get “stuck in.”

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Ludlow

Described by poet John Betjeman as “probably the loveliest town in England”…

Photo: Ashleigh Cadet/Ludlow Food Festival
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Ludlow

Described by poet John Betjeman as “probably the loveliest town in England,” Ludlow tends to win over anyone who visits. But perhaps its best quality is its approach to food — with a focus on hearty, farm-fresh British cuisine, this small, laid-back town has caught the attention of top chefs, food critics, and international food suppliers. You could easily spend a few days here doing nothing but exploring the town’s organic markets, delis, and restaurants, along with its fall food festival.

Photo: Ashleigh Cadet/Ludlow Food Festival


York

For many years, York was best known for its medieval architecture, old-school pubs, and thatched-roof cottages…

Photo: VisitBritain/Andrew Picket
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York

For many years, York was best known for its medieval architecture, old-school pubs, and thatched-roof cottages. However, thanks to its growing number of gourmet restaurants, buzzing street food scene, and annual food festival, today the city is busy earning itself a top spot on the list of Britain’s best foodie destinations. For creative, modern British dishes — like ox tongue with fennel and saffron gnocchi or Yorkshire lamb with potato gratin — head to Melton’s Restaurant or Café No.8 Bistro. If you want to explore the city’s street food, check out Shambles Market and Food Court.

Photo: VisitBritain/Andrew Picket


Bray

Home to two out of the five three-starred Michelin restaurants in the UK…

Photo: Jose Luis Lopez de Zubiria/The Fat Duck
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Bray

Home to two out of the five three-starred Michelin restaurants in Britain, the low-key Berkshire town of Bray is a must-visit for foodies. It’s here that Heston Blumenthal’s (in)famous Fat Duck restaurant serves awestruck guests creative — some would say bonkers — concoctions, like lickable wallpaper, bacon-and-egg ice cream, and snail porridge. If you can’t get a reservation, try your luck at the other Michelin-star-studded restaurants, Waterside Inn and Hind’s Head.

Photo: Jose Luis Lopez de Zubiria/The Fat Duck


Abergavenny

Known as Wales’ foodie capital, Abergavenny is considered the pioneer of Welsh farm-to-table cooking…

Photo: Neil White/Abergavenny Food Festival
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Abergavenny

Known as Wales’ foodie capital, Abergavenny is considered the pioneer of Welsh farm-to-table cooking. Each September, this small town attracts over 30,000 visitors with its food festival that’s all about promoting local produce and artisanal cooking. But if you’re not traveling in fall, don’t worry — the area’s rich soil and renowned producers gives rise to top-quality beef, lamb, venison, and fruit and veggies (as well as cheese and cider) year-round, so it’s always a good time to visit.

Photo: Neil White/Abergavenny Food Festival

Welsh Escape

Photo: VisitBritain/Ben Selway
Taking in some of the most stunning landscapes and coolest cities in Wales, this itinerary will have you climbing snowy peaks, jumping off rocky cliffs, and jamming to live indie music. Hikers and campers, take note — this is where you should start paying attention.
 

THE STOPS


Cardiff

A thriving hub of pubs, live-music venues, museums, and vintage shops…

Photo: Shutterstock/Matthew Dixon
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Cardiff

A thriving hub of pubs, live-music venues, museums, and vintage shops, Wales’ capital is one of Britain’s most up-and-coming cities. By day, browse the fascinating collections at St Fagans National Museum of History, stroll through the castle-flanked Bute Park, or catch a rugby game at the Principality Stadium. By night, dine at a hip bistro restaurant, embark on a night-long pub crawl, or seek out an underground indie concert.

Photo: Shutterstock/Matthew Dixon


Gower Peninsula

Declared Great Britain’s first official “Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty,” the Gower Peninsula should feature on the itinerary…

Photo: Shutterstock/Drew Davies Photography
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Gower Peninsula

Declared Great Britain’s first official “Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty,” the Gower Peninsula should feature on the itinerary of any visitor to Wales. Spend your days here hiking the 15 miles of craggy cliffs, surfing huge swells alongside the pros at Rhossili Bay, or birdwatching across the northern salt marshes.

Photo: Shutterstock/Drew Davies Photography


Snowdonia

Located in northwestern Wales, Snowdonia’s largely protected landscape offers dozens of well-marked trails…

Photo: Shutterstock/Sebastien Coell
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Snowdonia

Located in northwestern Wales, the largely protected landscape of Snowdonia offers dozens of well-marked trails, 100+ lakes to gaze at, and a heritage train line that takes you to the summit of England and Wales’ highest peak. If it’s surfside fun you’re after, look no further than nearby Porth Neigwl, where big swells and tight barrels attract seasoned pros from up and down the island.

Photo: Shutterstock/Sebastien Coell


Conwy

Home to the World Heritage-listed Conwy Castle, Conwy should be high on the history-geek bucket list…

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Conwy

Home to the World Heritage-listed Conwy Castle, Conwy should be high on the history-geek bucket list. Straight out of a fantasy TV show, the 13th-century castle dominates the city with its eight dark stone towers, two fortified gateways (barbicans), and hundreds of mysterious nooks and crannies. But the fairy-tale castle isn’t the only attraction here — 19th-century suspension bridges, wrought-iron railway bridges, 700-year-old merchant houses, and Britain’s smallest house are just some of Conwy’s sightseeing highlights.

Photo: Shutterstock/Samot

Outdoor Adventure

Photo: VisitBritain/Andrew Picket
It may be less than 900 miles from top to bottom, but with its colorful patchwork of green fields, blue lakes, snow-capped mountains, misty woodlands, and moss-covered moors, Great Britain packs in far more natural diversity than you might expect. This action-packed road trip itinerary takes you to England’s most stunning national parks and countryside spots, where boundless outdoor adventures — like hiking, climbing, kayaking, and mountain biking — await.

 

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THE STOPS


The Cotswolds

In 1966, the Cotswolds was named an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and it’s easy to see why…

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Cotswolds

In 1966, the Cotswolds was named an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It’s easy to see why: Miles of rolling green hills, cobbled-street villages, and thatched-roof cottages bursting with colorful hanging baskets make this one of the most picturesque countryside spots in England. How to explore it? By foot, bike, or horseback. Take to the countryside by day, return to your quaint-English-village base camp by night.

Photo: VisitBritain


Peak District

Established in 1951, Peak District was England’s first national park…

Photo: VisitBritain/Adam Burton
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Peak District

Established in 1951, Peak District is England’s first national park. With around 550 square miles of stunning valleys, pristine lakes, deep gorges, and both gentle and challenging hills, this is one of the country’s most popular hiking destinations. Ancient stone villages, thermal spas, great food, and boutique accommodation often convince people to hang around a little longer than planned.

Photo: VisitBritain/Adam Burton


Yorkshire Dales

The Yorkshire Dales is home to England’s most dramatic karst terrain, surreal rock formations created over thousands of years…

Photo: VisitBritain/Nadir Kahn
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Yorkshire Dales

The Yorkshire Dales is home to England’s most dramatic karst terrain, surreal rock formations created by thousands of years of limestone erosion. This spectacular scenery, along with pristine glacial valleys, crashing waterfalls, and heather moorland, make it the perfect hiking getaway. Like the Cotswolds and the Peak District, though, this region is more than just rolling hills, grazing sheep, and cool rocks — don’t skip the beautiful stone villages, country pubs, and artisan shops to break up your adventuring.

Photo: VisitBritain/Nadir Kahn


Lake District

Throughout the 19th century, the beauty of the Lake District inspired the likes of William Wordsworth…

Photo: VisitBritain/Nadir Kahn
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Lake District

Throughout the 19th century, the beauty of the Lake District inspired the likes of William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Beatrix Potter. Today, the Lakes’ iconic fells and hills attract more than 15 million visitors each year. Although the main draws are the outdoor activities (choose from hiking, biking, or cruising along the crystal-clear waters), you’ll also find a rich cultural history, like the region’s UNESCO World Heritage-listed hill-farming tradition.

Photo: VisitBritain/Nadir Kahn


This guide is proudly produced in partnership with VisitBritain.
 
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