Seven sisters on a sunny day
Photograph: Shutterstock

The 15 most beautiful places in the UK, according to travel writers who’ve seen them all

From the Forest of Dean’s moss-covered woodland to the cobbled streets of Oxford and the windswept coasts of the Inner Hebrides

Chiara Wilkinson

For all of the stick we give the UK – the grey skies, the pigeons, the Greggs sausage roll packets littering the pavements – it’s actually a pretty gorgeous country. In London alone, you can be goggling over the Barbican’s brutalist beauty one moment, the next, you might be basking in the tranquility of Hampstead Ponds. Add the turquoise coasts of Cornwall, the rugged mountains of Snowdonia and the fairytale wonder of Scotland’s highlands and islands to the mix, and you’ve got a country which is as good looking as they come. 

When we set about curating this list of the most beautiful places in the UK, we called on our network of expert travel writers. These guys have have personally experienced the pinch-me moment of seeing every place on this list IRL – so we can guarantee you there is no catfishing going on here. Of course, you’ll find the usual suspects – you can’t argue with the magic of the Isle of Skye, after all – but you’ll also find some more surprising beauty spots to add to your travel bucket list. 

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Chiara Wilkinson is Time Out’s UK features editor, based in London. At Time Out, all of our travel guides are written by local writers who know their cities inside out. For more about how we curate, see our editorial guidelinesThis guide includes affiliate links, which have no influence on our editorial content. For more information, see our affiliate guidelines

The most picture-perfect places in the UK

1. Puzzlewood, Forest of Dean

A forest so enchanting, it’s supposedly the blueprint for Tolkein’s Middle Earth, Puzzlewood is a dense green labyrinth within the Forest of Dean. The ancient woodland covers 14 acres, offering hidden caves, towering ravines, charming wooden bridges, moss-covered rocks and twisting roots. Its meandering path is the result of eroded underground cave systems which, over a few million years, became exposed to the surface. Now, it’s a regular on the silver screen, featuring in the likes of Harry Potter and Star Wars. Along the short, easy trail you’ll find nooks and crannies fit for fairies and elves around every corner. 

Time Out tip: After wandering Puzzlewood’s spellbinding track, enjoy some culinary magic at Tudor Farmhouse. The produce is locally sourced, dishes are fresh and if you’re feeling particularly bougie, go ahead and spend a night in one of its luxurious rooms.
Amy Houghton
Contributing writer

2. Minack Theatre, Cornwall

It’s hard to believe this astonishing cliff-edge theatre is in the UK. The Minack looks looks like something from an ancient Greek epic, with the greco-esque structure jutting out from the craggy cliffs over the shockingly blue sea. One of the most exciting things about watching a play at the open-air theatre is the unpredictability of the weather. Come rain or shine, the show must go on, even if the audience has to get soaked to their underpants. Built in 1930, this amphitheatre usually has a dependable summer programme of musicals, Shakespeare and other classics, Cornish tales, kids’ performances, and gigs. Catching a show here is certainly one for the books.

Time Out tip: Walk the five-minute (slightly hair-raising) cliff path from the Minack to get to Porthcurno, one of the most stunning beaches in the country. And if naturism is your thing, there’s a nudie beach just round the corner called Pedn Vounder. The perfect recipe for a free-spirited day out.

📍 Discover more of the best things to do in Cornwall
India Lawrence
Contributing writer

3. Barbican Estate, London

Look, I know it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. No matter how much I wax lyrical about its towering concrete curves, the Barbican is always going to have its detractors. There are plenty of people who don’t appreciate its peaceful vistas, towering greyness and general atmosphere of faded glamour. But to me, it’s stark, cool, imposing and utterly magnificent. Walking around its silent streets makes me feel like I’m in a Cold War era spy movie. And it doesn’t hurt that it’s also home to one of London’s most celebrated arts venues, complete with a stunning verdant conservatory, plush auditoriums, chic martini bar and loads of quiet little nooks for working or gossiping in.

Time Out tip: To whet your whistle, head round the corner to The Sekforde, a historic philanthropic pub which operates an educational charity – and does a mean Sunday roast. 

📍 Discover more of the best things to do in London
Rosie Hewitson
Newsletter and Events Editor, Time Out London

4. Singing Sands, Isle of Eigg

Home to only around 100 people, the tiny community-owned Isle of Eigg on Scotland’s rugged west coast is a fascinating experiment in off-grid sustainable living and one of the most unique places in Britain. Trek or cycle northwest across the island to Laig Bay (you can hire bikes by the ferry pier) and you’ll find a secluded white crescent beach of such unspoiled beauty it’ll steal your breath away. The Singing Sands is so-called because its quartzite grains make a rasping or ‘singing’ sound as you walk on them or when they’re brushed by the wind. Gaze out towards the distant craggy mountains of Rùm, take a bracing Atlantic dip if you’re feeling bold, or simply slip off your shoes and enjoy nature’s strange song as sand slips between your toes.

Time Out tip: Drop by the Isle of Eigg Brewery en route for a superb pilsner or IPA (also available at Galmisdale Bay Cafe and Bar and the Isle of Eigg Shop).

📍 Discover more of the most beautiful places in Scotland
Malcolm Jack
Contributor, Scotland

5. Avebury Stone Circle, Wiltshire

Ribbons flutter from the branches of ancient trees. Monumental hunks of stone appear to have pushed their way up through the grass. Sheep graze alongside them nonchalantly. I find the tiny village of Avebury captivating, in an otherworldly, magic kind of way. It’s the site of the biggest Neolithic stone circle in the world (as well as burial mounds, pathways and earthworks where you can feel the history beneath your feet). But, unlike Stonehenge, you can wander freely around the stones, and even give them a hug if, like me, you feel drawn to. At some point, somebody decided to build a village right through the middle of the henge, which adds to the area’s surreal feel. There’s beauty in all of it: the rolling Wiltshire hills, the manmade secrets cut into them, and the fact that you can have a pint in the middle of a massive great big stone circle. 

Time Out tip: Stay the night at The Farm at Avebury to have time to explore all the secrets of the surrounding UNESCO World Heritage landscape. The stylish former stables are all set around a pretty courtyard on a muddy working farm, a short walk from the mysterious mound of Silbury Hill.

6. Medieval Shambles, York

Peering down York’s Shambles in 2024, with the road’s overhanging buildings, rustic wooden crossbeams and characterful row of twee shops, you’d have no idea of the road’s grim past. The name ‘Shambles’ literally refers to an open-air slaughterhouse, which is what this York street was back in the 1300s. These days all that blood and gore (and the street’s famed butchers, which stuck around until the 1800s) is long gone; leaving one of the UK’s best preserved medieval streets. There are few easier, more atmospheric ways to transport yourself back hundreds of years (without the iffy smells and sights) than a stroll down Shambles.

Time Out tip: You try walking past Shambles Kitchen without buying one of the shop’s delicious smoked sandwiches. The wafts coming out of that place are irresistible.

📍 Discover more of the best things to do in York
Ed Cunningham
News Editor, Time Out UK and Time Out London

7. Seven Sisters, Sussex

Yorkshire has the dales and Cumbria has the lakes, but Sussex is home to some of the UK’s most dramatic, most beautiful cliffs. Enter the Seven Sisters, a succession of (you guessed it, seven) glistening peaks which sit between Seaford and Birling Gap. It’s one of the longest stretches of undeveloped shore on the south coast and is part of the South Downs National Park. But the chalky geology of the area (which is why the cliffs are so brilliantly white) doesn’t just make it beautiful, it’s also responsible for a remarkably diverse ecosystem – head here in the summer and keep an eye out for some of the 20 species of butterfly that flutter around.

Time Out tip: After the hilly walk from Seaford to Cuckmere Haven, a reward lies in the form of a brilliant beer garden at the Cuckmere Inn.

📍 Discover more of the best things to do in Sussex
Liv Kelly
Contributing Writer

8. Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye

There’s something innately surreal about Skye: it’s the sort of place that makes you feel like fairytales could actually come true. The Fairy Pools – glistening turquoise basins threaded together with a series of waterfalls, all set in the backdrop of the imposing Cuillin mountains – might well be a tourist trap, but they’re one of these rare places that actually live up to the hype. Legend has it that the pools attract selkies, mythological creatures which turn from seals into humans at nightfall. Get to the pools early enough and you might be lucky enough to spot one – or at least beat the crowds. A quick dip in those icy waters will help you melt away all sins. 

Time Out tip: Make the most of the idyllic island by booking treat yourself a stay at the 4 AA Rosette-awarded Edinbane Lodge, where you can fill up on an exquisite menu before resting your head in a renovated 16th century hunting lodge. And for a real Hebridean breakfast, head to the ever-trendy Café Cùil. Where else are you going to get roast tattie hash with Scottish chorizo and caramelised cabbage?

📍 Discover more things to do in the Isle of Skye
Chiara Wilkinson
Features Editor, UK

9. Whitstable Seafront, Kent

I’ve been going to Whitstable since I was little to visit my auntie, before my mum eventually moved there too. That means I’ve sat on Whitstable Beach probably a million times, and it has never felt any less magical. Its mile of pebbles is separated by wooden groynes, fading into a string of multi-coloured beach huts before eventually leading to Seasalter. But the crowning glory has to be the view of Whitstable’s sunset, which feels as though someone has peeled away the sky to expose it: all deep pinks and oranges reflected on little pools of sea water when the tide is far out. It feels as though the whole world goes still when it sets.

Time Out tip: The best spot to watch this marvel is from the comfort of the Old Neptune’s beer garden right on the beach, with a pint of Whitstable Lager in hand (and possibly a dozen oysters).

📍 Discover more of the best things to do in Whitstable
Ella Doyle
Guides Editor

10. Rydal Caves, Lake District

While there are plenty of beauty spots throughout the Lake District, none feel as mystical as Rydal Caves. Located between Grasmere and Ambleside, they’re the perfect place to visit if you don’t feel like a lengthy hike, with a car park just a 15-minute walk away. The caves themselves are dramatic, with an almost mirroring effect from the water. Carefully wander across the stepping stones to the dry areas near the back of the cave to truly appreciate the beauty of the caves. It's little wonder that Netflix's The Witcher chose to film here for their second season.

Time Out tip: Once you arrive back in Ambleside, head to the Ambleside Tap Yard for a wide range of locally brewed pints and delicious pizza.

📍 Discover more of the best things to do in the Lake District
Rebecca Crowe Contributor, Time Out Travel

11. Loch Lomond, Highland Boundary Fault

Loch Lomond has captured the hearts of even the most stoic Celts for centuries – it’s easy to see why. Set barely an hour away from the bustling metropolis of Glasgow, Scotland's southernmost national park is a complete haven from all evidence of the modern world. With the sort of peaks, waterfalls, and endless lakeland you usually only see in films or Keats’ poetry, a trip to Loch Lomond is restorative for the body and soul. Whoever you arrive as, you’ll leave feeling like a kilt-wearing bagpipe-wielding Scotsman, wind flowing through your locks, freed from any inhibition or worry. There are plenty of campsites spread across the loch, or if that’s a little too close to nature for you, opt for one of the more comfortable lakeview hotels or lodges. 

Time Out tip: Head to nearby village Luss and find the Coach House Coffee Shop for a homemade sandwich and signature hot chocolate in front of a roaring fire with a view to boot.
Annie McNamee
Contributor, Time Out London and UK

12. Central Oxford

It may be an antiquated, elitist academic institution, but you’ve got to hand it to the University of Oxford: it’s responsible for one of the most beautiful bits of urban landscape in Europe. Even for jaded students, the stretch of central Oxford between Broad Street and the High Street is just jawdropping, its medieval lanes and olde-worlde cottages, pubs and bookshops contrasting with the grandiose, honey-coloured stone buildings of high academia. You don’t even have to pay for a single college tour to appreciate the dreaming spires (or should that be ivory towers?) from the outside.

Time Out tip: Grab a coffee from The Missing Bean and sip it in the sun on the recently-pedestrianised sweep of Broad Street or stop for a pint at the Grade II-listed Turf Tavern, tucked away between the ancient stone walls.

📍 Discover more of the best things to do in Oxford
James Manning
Content Director, EMEA

13. Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol

Got a head for heights? Head to the pretty area of Clifton in Bristol to take in the Georgian architecture before heading to see the icon of the city: Clifton Suspension Bridge. Designed by legendary engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel and opened in 1864, the bridge spans the breathtaking Avon Gorge and towers a whopping 75 metres above the River Avon, so you can take in views of the city, surrounding countryside – and maybe even a hot air balloon or two if you time it right. The visitor centre is free to visit should you want to learn more.

Time Out tipWhile The White Lion is the best-known places to get a great view of the bridge and gorge, for an equally good view and fewer crowds, head to the terrace at Clifton Observatory for 360-views to enjoy with a cocktail.

📍 Discover more of the best things to do in Bristol
Shonette Laffy
Contributing writer, Bristol

14. Portmeirion, North Wales

Portmeirion is like something out of a dream. That is intentional, as the brainchild of Sir Clough Williams-Ellis set out to bring the peace and pace of the Mediterranean to the northwest of Wales. Don’t scoff: the two are more alike than you might first assume. Since its completion in 1975, this unique tourist village has established itself as the most romantic spot in north Wales. Of course, it certainly helps if it comes with Italianate architecture, colourful facades and an unforgettable sense of romance. How could you not fall for Portmeirion? 

Time Out tip: For the full ‘Mediterranean in Wales’ experience, pick up a gelato from Caffi’r Angel and set up shop on the piazza for a spot of people-watching.
John Bills
Writer, Time Out Travel

15. Benone Strand, Causeway Coast

The first time I visited world-class Benone Strand, this vast seven-mile stretch of beach was deserted apart from a single horserider galloping through the clear shallows. Yep, just like in the movies. You can walk along the sandy shore towards Downhill Strand, where ‘Game Of Thrones’ was filmed, passing the rush of the Dunne waterfall, one of the tallest in Northern Ireland. And just past this, perched high up on the cliff-edge, is the area's crowning glory: much-photographed Mussenden Temple, once the library of the 18th century Bishop of Derry, who also built nearby Downhill House, now a wonderfully atmospheric ruin.

Time Out tip: Warm up at Finnish-style Hotbox sauna on Benone Strand before coffee at the wood-panelled artisan café on the dunes, complete with surf hire.
Stephen Emms
Contributor, Time Out Travel
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