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Isles of Scilly
Photograph: Shutterstock Isles of Scilly

9 UK destinations that look nothing like the UK

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

By Ellie Walker-Arnott
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We’ve had a tough few months but, unlike Glasto, Carnival, the Fringe and almost every other event we were looking forward to this year, summer itself definitely isn’t cancelled. Holidays? They’re back, and it’s no surprise that, after months locked down, the urge to swap Blighty for somewhere new is strong. There’s zero need to brave the airport, or risk falling foul of Boris’s rapidly changing travel restrictions, though. Head to these distinctive UK places to find international vibes without having to remember where you left your passport.

RECOMMENDED: The best places to visit in the UK this year

Henrhyd Falls
Henrhyd Falls
Photograph: Shutterstock

Henrhyd Falls, Powys

Tropical Bali is reopening to international tourists in September, but you don’t need to travel that far for some just-as-stunning 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. You’ll just want walking boots and waterproofs, rather than your most photogenic swimwear.

 

Portmeirion
Portmeirion
Photograph: Shutterstock

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
hitchin lavender
Photograph: Shutterstock

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 to explore 35 miles of lavender-lined rows and picnic among the blooms, which usually peak in mid to late August.

Chapel Down winery, boozy day trips near London
Chapel Down winery, boozy day trips near London
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, and several of the best are within daytripping distance of London. 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
Isles of Scilly
Photograph: Shutterstock

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
Dungeness
Photograph: Shutterstock

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
Kynance Cove
Photograph: Shutterstock

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.

 

Mealt Falls
Mealt Falls
Photograph: Shutterstock

Isle of Skye, Inverness-shire

You can find Iceland-esque landscapes, without paying out for an antibody test, 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 micheal's mount
st micheal's mount
Photograph: Shutterstock

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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