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Isles of Scilly
Photograph: ShutterstockIsles of Scilly

9 UK destinations that look nothing like the UK

Seriously, these unexpected places in the UK will make you feel like you’re abroad

Ellie Walker-Arnott
Written by
Ellie Walker-Arnott
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The last few years have forced us to look a little closer to home when planning our escapes, and, pals, our eyes have been opened. Overseas travel is back on the agenda and the world is opening back up, but it turns out you don’t actually need to venture away from the UK to find international vibes.

Lush waterfalls, sun-soaked rivieras and white-sand beaches? We’ve got ’em. After a subtropical trip or more of a Scandi mood? Look no further than these UK places that will make you feel like you’re abroad. No passport required.

Visiting the UK? Don’t go thinking it’s all Downton Abbey-esque stately homes and neat stone cottages. The UK can be surprising, too.

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Henrhyd Falls, Powys
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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
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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!

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Hitchin Lavender, Hertfordshire
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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.

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

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.

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Isles of Scilly, Cornwall
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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.

Dungeness, Kent
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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.

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Kynance Cove, Cornwall
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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.

 

Isle of Skye, Inverness-shire
Photograph: Shutterstock

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. 

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St Michael’s Mount, Cornwall 
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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.

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