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Aerial shot of the winding road below Cheddar Gorge in the Mendip Hills, Somerset
Photograph: Marc Haugh / Shutterstock

7 seriously underrated wonders of the UK

You know Arthur’s Seat, Durdle Door and Lake Windermere. But have you heard of these equally stunning and otherworldly UK attractions?

Rosie Hewitson
Written by
Rosie Hewitson
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The British countryside is about as topographically diverse as it gets. You’ve got miles of stunning coastline. You’ve got sprawling national parks. You’ve got awe-inspiring mountain ranges and vast networks of underground caves. Much of it is unspoiled and most of it is really, really beautiful – and so it’s no surprise this country boasts all manner of specific wonders that are now known throughout the world.

You know Snowdon and Stonehenge. Nobody could forget the Giant’s Causeway and Arthur’s Seat. Perhaps you’ve paid a visit to Lake Windermere, Durdle Door or Lindisfarne. If you love the outdoors, it really is quite hard to get bored in this country. But there are so many iconic sights dotted across the UK – both natural and manmade – that many of the very best (and most worthy of a day trip or even weekend break) actually get overlooked. 

So we’ve done some digging. Are you ready to discover some truly otherworldly attractions that make the UK feel like a fairytale wonderland? From ancient burial sites to a beautifully blue lagoon, here’s our round-up of seven incredibly underrated wonders across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales

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Underrated wonders of the UK

The Dark Hedges, County Antrim
Photograph: Logan Brown / Shutterstock

The Dark Hedges, County Antrim

Planted in around 1775 by a certain James Stuart to frame the road leading up to his house, this atmospheric corridor of 150 ancient, twisting beech trees is like something out of a fairy tale. You half-expect to happen upon Sleeping Beauty’s castle as you emerge out the other side at Georgian mansion Gracehill House.

In fact, the otherworldly avenue is one of many ‘Game of Thrones’ filming locations in Northern Ireland, standing in for the Kingsway in season two of the series. Fans of the show flock here in their droves, so be sure to visit especially early or late when the crowds are thinner. But don’t go alone: legend has it the hedges are visited by a ghost called the Grey Lady who traverses the avenue, disappearing as she passes the last tree.

Cheddar Gorge, Somerset
Photograph: Marc Haugh / Shutterstock

Cheddar Gorge, Somerset

Slicing through the Mendip Hills near the Somerset village of Cheddar, this limestone gorge is the biggest in Britain and features a series of stalactite-filled caves and dramatic cliffs rising more than 130 metres in the air. As well as being a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the gorge was also the site where Britain’s oldest complete skeleton, Cheddar Man, was excavated in 1903.

The wildlife here is pretty incredible, too. If you’re really lucky, you might spot a few wild goats or rare Soay sheep munching on the grassy scrub, or maybe even some of the horseshoe bats that live in the gorge caves.

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Hadrian’s Wall, Cumbria, Northumberland and Tyne & Wear
Photograph: Dave Head / Shutterstock

Hadrian’s Wall, Cumbria, Northumberland and Tyne & Wear

Stretching from Bowness-on-Solway on the Cumbrian coast to Wallsend in Tyne and Wear, this epic 73-mile wall was built between 122 and 130 AD by order of Emperor Hadrian to protect the northern border of the Roman Empire. Winding across the entire width of northern England, the wall remains an impressive feat of engineering and stands as a testament to the might and power of the Romans.

Walking some (or all!) of the 84-mile Hadrian’s Wall Path is a great way to experience this World Heritage Site. Be sure to pay a visit to Vindolanda, Segedunum or Housesteads, three of the impressive forts that housed the legions of centurions tasked with protecting the magnificent border.

Maes Howe, Orkney
Photograph: Shutterstock

Maes Howe, Orkney

This grassy mound on the Scottish archipelago of Orkney might not look all that special from afar, but it in fact houses a neolithic burial chamber. Built some 5,000 years ago from massive slabs of stone, the cairn is a remarkable feat of prehistoric engineering and is considered one of the most magnificent Stone Age structures in Europe.

Little is known about the original function of the cairn. It doesn’t seem to have been used as a burial site, though it may have associations with the winter solstice (it appears to have been designed so the setting sun illuminates the inside chamber on that day). Looted by Vikings in the twelfth century, the chamber has been engraved with a bunch of Norse graffiti: the largest collection of runic inscriptions in the world.

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The Needles, Isle of Wight
Photograph: Michael Eves / Shutterstock

The Needles, Isle of Wight

A row of three chalk stacks that rise 30 metres out of the water on the western coast of the Isle of Wight, the Needles are a pretty unearthly sight. They’re named after a fourth needle-shaped stack that was once found in the same spot but collapsed in a storm in the eighteenth century, which explains why the name has stuck around despite them not being very needle-like at all. 

A lighthouse was built on the outermost stack in the nineteenth century and is still active today. Visitors can get a closer look at the rocks on one of the short boat cruises that leave from nearby Alum Bay, or via a trip on the Needles Chairlift.

The Gaping Gill, Yorkshire
Photograph: Shutterstock

The Gaping Gill, Yorkshire

The Gaping Gill in the Yorkshire Dales is the largest known underground cavern in the UK: it’s said to be so big you could even fit York Minster cathedral inside it. Just as impressively, it’s home to the highest unbroken waterfall in England – that spray you can see and most definitely hear is the Fell Beck stream dropping a whopping 98 metres down into the earth.

The Gill usually only accessible to experienced explorers, but caving clubs set up a winch for two weeks of the year around the May and August Bank Holidays, allowing tourists to descend into the cavern and roam its sprawling network of tunnels (totalling around 21 kilometres in length).

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The Blue Lagoon, Pembrokeshire
Photograph: Helen Hotson / Shutterstock

The Blue Lagoon, Pembrokeshire

One of many former slate quarries in Wales that have since become adventure sport hotspots, Pembrokeshire’s Blue Lagoon is a 25-metre deep coastal pool that was formed when a channel connecting the quarry to the sea was blasted, allowing water to flood in. Surrounded by beautiful beaches and craggy rocks, the pool has turned a bright turquoise blue because of the mineral content of the quarry. 

A picturesque spot for watersports including kayaking and coasteering, in recent years it has hosted several editions of the Cliff Diving World Series. Visitors can take the plunge as part of organised group swims, or admire the lush waters during a cliff-top hike.

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