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Photograph: Tourism Northern Island
Photograph: Tourism Northern IslandToome Canal, Toomebridge

How to explore the best of the UK from home

Discover sweeping coastal views, fascinating museums, edgy street art works and more – all without leaving your home

Written by Time Out. Paid for by Priority
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Summer is finally here! And if you’re dreaming of seaside jaunts and weekend city breaks, then we’ve got good news: you can access all of this from the safety and comfort of your own home. In these unusual and challenging times, we’ve teamed up with Priority to help you make the most of your time indoors. All across the UK, museums, city councils and clever individuals have formulated ingenious virtual experiences to transport you to all manner of places. Here, we’ve compiled some of our favourites. 

Want more recommendations? Head back to our hub page to find guides to the best ways to get active, have fun, be creative, stream theatre and comedy, and entertain the kids.

If you’ve never watched the epic HBO series, then lockdown’s the perfect time. Once you’ve done that, head to Visit Belfast’s suite of online experiences for ‘Thrones’ addicts; we’re talking 360-degree Google Street View tours of iconic locations, plus a showcase of the six stained-glass windows dotted through Belfast, which tell the ‘Game of Thrones’ story. 

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Missing your annual summer trip to the gorgeous seaside city of Brighton? The Royal Pavilion is a marvel of design and architecture, and you can access 360-degree views of the Music Room, Great Kitchen and Banqueting Room. You’ll also get a sample of the audio guide – winner!

Edinburgh is an ancient city with so many secrets. A walking tour of this buzzing city is a real treat, but in lieu of that, why not embark on a virtual tour? Tickets are £7 and you’ll receive a link to a trail around Edinburgh, which includes videos, photos and audio content from your guide, Paul. You can even book a Zoom meeting with him.

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Okay, this one might sound a little niche, but bear with us: Exeter’s tour of its underground passages, which were built to house the pipes that brought water into medieval Exeter, is atmospheric and enlightening. And while you can’t do that right now, you can feast your eyes on a timelapse video that takes you deep, deep under the historic city in mere minutes. 

Chester Zoo does vital conservation work to protect endangered species all over the globe, and without funding gained from visitors, they may struggle to continue. Look out for the next ‘Virtual Day’; gates open at 10am on Facebook and YouTube, and you’ll get to meet creatures great and small. They’re asking for donations to help keep themselves afloat; a small price for spending a morning with a baby elephant or a cheeky orangutan. 

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There’s something incredibly relaxing about winding your way through a museum, taking in bite-sized nuggets of knowledge as you go – and thankfully, you can do exactly that from home with Manchester Museum in Quarantine. They’ve put their latest shows online for you to enjoy: we recommend ‘Beauty and the Beasts’: an exploration of the world of insects.

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There are so many historical sights in Norwich that there’s no way you’d get to them all in a day… that is, unless you did it virtually instead. Norwich 360 is a project dedicated to showcasing panoramic photos of the city’s loveliest sights. Now we get it, Alan.

Every day, the enthusiastic curators at the Museum of Cardiff post a selection of pieces from their fulsome collection on Twitter. Part of the enjoyment is in having no idea what could be next: will it be stickers used by the Older Lesbian Network for Cardiff Mardi Gras in the ’90s? Or banners from Extinction Rebellion Cardiff’s protests? Many of these objects are presented alongside heartwarming stories of how they came to be in the museum’s collection.

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If you prefer encountering modern art with an expert guiding you through what you’re actually looking at, then this whistle-stop tour of Tate Modern’s Blavatnik Building, hosted by presenter Nick Grimshaw and Tate director Frances Morris, is the way to go. 

There are virtual exhibitions, and then there are virtual exhibitions like this one. Bristol’s immersive harbourside science education centre has fashioned a beautiful online version of their family friendly museum, in which you can spend hours. There are even embedded Soundcloud files to make things even more realistic. 

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Lockdown doesn’t mean you can’t get up-close-and-personal with the UK’s political HQ. You can follow in the footsteps of Churchill, Thatcher, Blair and Corbyn and mosey around the House of Commons, the House of Lords and all the spaces in between. As well as plenty of OTT Victoriana, the tour includes the interiors of the Commons and the Lords, Westminster Hall, the central lobby and St Stephen’s Hall, with its statues of parliamentarians. There are also information symbols along the way that tell you interesting facts and info about the buildings and the important objects inside them. 

Sheffield’s National Videogame Museum doesn’t just trace the history of videogames from their inception to today – it also gives visitors the chance to make their own. During lockdown, the NVM is taking this one step further by putting some of the materials online that you’ll need to make your own videogame. You can learn how to get started with a free weekly live stream on their YouTube channel. 

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Glasgow is known for its street art culture. If you’ve been there, no doubt you’ve turned a corner to be met with a huge splash of colour and creativity – usually where you’d least expect. Pretend you’re an urban explorer by embarking on this online tour through Glasgow’s most striking street art works. Each is accompanied by an explanation of how that mural relates to the city’s identity and history.

“Few places are as beautiful as Dorset”, opines the ‘My Dorset Mind’ website – and we’re inclined to wholeheartedly agree. The premise here is simple: you select which heart-stoppingly beautiful piece of scenery to look at, then choose a sound (ambient synths is our fave) and then follow the meditative instructions on the page. Magic.

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We don’t know much about the mysterious and controversial Banksy – but we do know that Bristol is his hometown. Download this app and pretend you’re traipsing around the city in search of some of his most famous works. The app is packed with extra tidbits of information. 

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