Get us in your inbox

Isles of Scilly
Photograph: ShutterstockIsles of Scilly

10 places in the UK that look like they’re abroad

No passport required: these unexpected British destinations will make you feel like you’re in a different country

Ellie Walker-Arnott
Written by
Ellie Walker-Arnott
Chiara Wilkinson

We know, we know: a lot of the UK is just grey concrete, Greggs and overpriced coffee shops. But there are some surprising spots across the British Isles that will make you feel like you’re being transported to an overseas paradise. We’re not kidding. Lush waterfalls, sun-soaked rivieras and white-sand beaches? We’ve got ’em. Colourful streets, crystal-clear waters and dramatic architecture? We have all of that, too. 

Don’t go thinking it’s all ‘Downton Abbey’-esque stately homes and neat stone cottages – the UK can be surprising, too. So whether you’re after a subtropical trip or are in more of a Scandi mood, look no further than these UK places that will make you feel like you’re abroad. And the best part? You can leave your passport at home. 

🐚 The most beautiful hidden beaches in the UK
🌊 The UK’s top seaside towns
🪂 The best extreme outdoor activity breaks in the UK
🚴 The most beautiful bike trails in the UK
🏊 The UK’s best Airbnbs with pools

Places in the UK that look like abroad

Henrhyd Falls, Powys
Photograph: Shutterstock

1. Henrhyd Falls, Powys

You don’t need to travel far for tropical scenes. Henrhyd Falls is the highest waterfall in South Wales, and plunges dramatically into a lush, wooded gorge, just like insta-famous Nungnung and Tegenungan waterfalls on the Indonesian island of Bali. You’ll just want walking boots and waterproofs, rather than your most photogenic swimwear.


Portmeirion, Gwynedd
Photograph: Shutterstock

2. Portmeirion, Gwynedd

It’s a town clinging to the North Wales coast, but, if you didn’t know better, Portmeirion could be the Italian Riviera or the hilltops of Sintra, just outside Lisbon, with their rainbow-hued palaces. Built throughout the twentieth century by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, the collection of technicolour buildings on the edge of Snowdonia National Park were designed to make up a playful, mock-Italian village. Bellissimo!

Hitchin Lavender, Hertfordshire
Photograph: Shutterstock

3. Hitchin Lavender, Hertfordshire

You don’t have to brave the Channel Tunnel for a heady whiff of the purple stuff this summer. Sure, Provence is delightful but so are the fragrant fields of Hertfordshire. Pre-book a slot in flowering season to explore 35 miles of lavender-lined rows and picnic among the blooms, which usually peak in mid to late August.

Achmelvich, Scotland
Photograph: Shutterstock

4. Achmelvich, Scotland

Ready to feel your jaw drop? Achmelvich beach is a breathtaking bay on the west coast of Scotland, up near the village of Lochinver. Sure, you’ll be counting on some good weather to see it in its true glory, but with its crystal-clear turquoise waters and golden sand, it looks more like something you’d see in Fiji than on this strange island we call Britain. What’s more, it’s also a popular spot for kayaking, fishing and swimming, plus offers some of the best conditions for surfing in Scotland.

Kynance Cove, Cornwall
Photograph: Shutterstock

5. Kynance Cove, Cornwall

Little imagination is required to believe you’ve swapped the UK for somewhere further afield at Kynance Cove, thanks to its clear, turquoise waters, dramatic rock stacks and soft sands. The stunning and super-popular Cornish beach could easily be mistaken for the rocky coast of Sardinia or the kind of gems you’d discover while island-hopping through Croatia.


Chapel Down winery, Kent
Photograph: Chapel Down/Chris Gale

6. Chapel Down winery, Kent

Daydreaming about sun-soaked afternoons spent sipping local wines among the vines? No need to go to Bordeaux for that, pals. England has some world-class vineyards. Head to Chapel Down in Kent and wander the estate before sampling glasses of British wine made from grapes grown in the south east of England.

Dungeness, Kent
Photograph: Shutterstock

7. Dungeness, Kent

Few places in the UK make you feel as though you’ve stumbled through a portal more than Dungeness. The bleak and atmospheric beach, made up of scrubland, wild flowers and shingle, is dotted with lighthouses, neat wooden huts, tumbledown shacks, fishing boats, a bloom of new, design-led cabins and even a nuclear power station for added otherworldly atmosphere. It could be the northern coast of Norway or, like, the moon.

Isles of Scilly, Cornwall
Photograph: Shutterstock

8. Isles of Scilly, Cornwall

If you don’t feel like you’re on holiday until you’ve crossed a body of water, try out the subtropical Scillies. They’re an unspoilt archipelago just off the English coast, but thanks to the islands’ white sandy beaches and bobbing palms (Tresco Abbey Garden is like the inside of a Kew glasshouse gone wild), you might be able to convince yourself you’re in the Caribbean rather than Cornwall.

Isle of Skye, Inverness-shire
Photograph: Shutterstock

9. Isle of Skye, Inverness-shire

You can find Iceland-esque landscapes on Scotland’s Skye. The island’s Mealt Falls is a dead ringer for Háifoss waterfall in Iceland, and the rest of the spot’s mind-boggling scenery makes a stellar stand-in too. Check out the Scandi-style houses that dot the northern reaches around the Quiraing landslip. Bonus points if the Northern Lights make an appearance. 

St Michael’s Mount, Cornwall 
Photograph: Shutterstock

10. St Michael’s Mount, Cornwall 

Pretty sure this is Normandy? St Michael’s Mount is actually in Cornwall, but it’s almost identical to, if smaller than, Mont-Saint-Michel, its counterpart across the Channel. Just like at its French doppelganger, you’ll get cut off from the mainland when the tide comes in. Luckily, there are hot pasties and piles of fudge in the island café to keep you busy until the causeway re-emerges from beneath the waves.

    You may also like
    You may also like