Getting out and about: the UK’s greatest natural places of discovery

If you’ve already trawled the Internet for places of interest to check out during an upcoming trip to London then you’re bound to have come across any number of attractions. No question, the city’s full to brimming with them. Everywhere, from St. Paul’s Cathedral to the Tate Modern, the British Museum to Buckingham Palace, are dripping with irresistible historical and cultural appeal; they’re all fascinating, for sure. There’s just one problem, though – they’re all inside and not exactly part of wide-open, naturally beautiful spaces to explore.

To find such places and sites, nooks and crannies then, you have to get out of London. Granted, the UK’s not a large country – geographically speaking – but notwithstanding, there’s a high number of sites of natural beauty that boast staggering, unforgettable views. Plus, there’s the advantage, of course, that (compared to some countries you might visit) they’re all relatively near one another. Here are just four you may consider…

Hill-walk in Snowdonia

An area of extraordinary beauty in North Wales (and, thus, little more than 200 miles from the UK capital), Snowdonia is full of rocky peaks, rolling green hillsides, lakes and ponds of pure blue and beautiful, brilliant scenery that’s incredibly reminiscent of Middle Earth from Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings cycle of books – and, of course, the movie adaptations that later followed. The third officially declared national park in Britain, it covers a total of 827 square miles and, in fact, its western edge covers 37 miles of coastline. To that end then, the opportunities for hillwalking and enjoying scenic views are unparalleled in Snowdonia – moreover, you must visit the gorgeous, picture-postcard-like town at its north-western corner that’s Betws-y-Coed; it’s like a fantasy hamlet in an Alpine story.

Windsor Castle

Discover Windsor Castle, the Long Walk and Eton

Fair dos, this particular attraction isn’t exactly very far from the capital itself (just a few miles outside if you head west; nowhere near as far Wales!), but so individual – and, yes, near – is it that it makes for an excellent and highly satisfying day trip, especially if you’re staying in the heart of the city, taking advantage of London hotels special offers. The preferred home of HM Majesty The Queen today and a long-standing Royal residence dating back, well, practically as far as anyone would care to think (it’s actually the oldest still-occupied castle in Europe), Windsor Castle is a treasure trove of regal history – you must take a tour inside – while its suitably named Long Walk is perfect for a good stroll on a fine day. Meanwhile, the nearby village of Eton is home, of course, to one of the world’s most prestigious of all schools. And quite the attractive sight in itself. All in all then, the ideal short hop out of the capital should you be staying at the also salubrious Marble Arch by Montcalm hotel.

Hike along Hadrian’s Wall

Heading north now, who could overlook that legendary barrier the invading Romans erected along the English-Scottish border to keep the proud, fierce Celts out of the ‘civilised’ south? We’re talking Hadrian’s Wall, the UK’s premier extant monument from ancient times (in addition to the staggering Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain down in Wiltshire). The great thing about the Wall, though, is that at roughly 75 miles in length, it’s great for keen hikers looking to combine fine country walking (in all weathers!) with superb natural views and historical resonance. Indeed, as you’re taking in the excellent views and looking out for the appealing pubs along the way, bear in mind that this site represents the northernmost point of the once awesome Roman Empire – quite the thought!

Dive the Scapa Flow

Head further north still and eventually you reach the Highlands of Scotland and the scattered islands beyond that are the outreaches of Great Britain. Here too you’ll discover one of the most historically important and celebrated stretches of water in the entire UK – namely the Orkney Isles-located Scapa Flow. At more than 125 square miles in area, it’s a significant section of seawater and nowadays is enjoyed by thousands of scuba-divers every year. Why? Well, owing to its location, it’s enjoyed true historical resonance (in terms of trade routes and naval warfare), so much so that it was where a fleet of 74 German naval craft were scuttled following Allied victory in the First World War – understandably the wrecks are a great attraction to explore for divers from all over the world. In short then, if you’re a keen scuba enthusiast and have yet to experience such a dive, then Scapa Flow has to be where to head during your time spent in the Britain.

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