HOTELS IN UNITED KINGDOM
THE UK – WHY GO?
If rolling hills, pretty seaside towns, cosy pubs and elegant cities appeal, then the UK has exactly what it takes for the quintessential romantic getaway. Wind down in a luxury hotel in Scotland, England or Wales and have your best ever time away.
You can tee off on a world-class golf course in Scotland, or spot stags, eagles and seals around the lochs and shores of the Highlands and Western Isles. You'll probably experience four seasons in a day, so remember to pack a brolly.
The home of cream teas and fish and chip suppers, England is both trad and cutting-edge. London never sleeps, Cornwall’s beaches rival the Mediterranean’s while the Lake District takes some beating as one of the world’s scenic spots. And there’s plenty in between.
From the snowy peaks of Snowdonia to vibrant Cardiff Bay, Wales has something here for everyone – from scenic North Wales to gentle Pembrokeshire. There’s Rugby Union, jagged mountains, male voice choirs and steep-sided valleys – not to mention the Welsh language.
HIGHLANDS AND ISLANDS
Take the high road to the the Scottish Highlands – Britain’s last wilderness. Heaven on earth on the right day, you can experience all four seasons in a day here and glimpse eagles, stags, seals and dolphins in between. The Isle of Skye is hauntingly beautiful.
Serious walkers will get an adrenaline kick from climbing Ben Nevis, the UK’s highest peak. And even armchair travellers will get a buzz from driving through the soaring beauty of Glencoe and the Cairngorms. After a day in the great outdoors, return to a crackling fire at your welcoming Highland hotel, sipping hot chocolate and a shot of malt whisky.
THE GRAMPIANS AND ROYAL DEESIDE
Head west from Aberdeen into Deeside and the Grampian mountains. These pine-forested slopes give way to the rivers and woods of Royal Deeside – with Balmoral castle, the summer home of the royals, at centre stage. You can tour parts of Balmoral castle itself when the royals are not in residence.
Snug in the Grampians, Speyside’s whisky country beckons with the world’s only malt whisky trail. Come back in winter for another of the region’s great adventures – bracing walks and hill climbing in crisp mountain air.
EDINBURGH AND FIFE
Dominated by its hilltop castle and jostling with elegant buildings, Edinburgh is a graceful mix of times and styles. Walk down the cobblestone Royal Mile to the palace of Holyroodhouse, then wander through the squares of Edinburgh’s quirkily named New Town, with its old Georgian townhouses.
Climb up to Arthur’s Seat for windswept views of the city, or tour the royal yacht Britannia in the docks at Leith. Edinburgh fills up with writers and some of the biggest names in comedy for its famous August Fringe festival. Be sure to book tickets – and your hotel – well ahead.
There’s no shortage of things to see and do in and around the Scottish Borders. Bookworms visiting southerly Dumfries and Galloway will love Wigtown, Scotland’s national book town, while creative spirits will love the artists’ town of Kirkcudbright.
You can visit the birthplace of Scottish bard Robert Burns at Alloway near the city of Ayr.
If city lights are your thing then you can’t go wrong with Glasgow. Splashes of Art Nouveau architecture mix with contemporary and Victorian buildings and the achievements of architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh are celebrated city-wide.
A vibrant arts scene, prolific nightlife, top-notch museums and shopping to compare with London and Milan ensure that Glasgow is never dull. From here you can head off to the scenic shores of Loch Lomond or set sail for the islands of Islay, Bute and Arran.
For history, shops and 24/7 action London takes the biscuit. Admire the royal palaces and period buildings, stroll through the parks and flex your plastic in the world’s top shopping streets.
London has it all – from its must-see markets at Portobello, Islington and Borough High Street – to miles of swanky stores and more world-class museums than you could see in a month. Book a West End theatre show and – if you're in the mood – party here till breakfast time and beyond.
From the jewel-like perfection of the Lake District to the rugged Yorkshire Dales, you won’t be short of scenic hillsides to climb in the North. Walk around the old city walls in Chester, pop into Durham’s cathedral, shiver on a ghost tour in York, join the clubbing set in Manchester and Newcastle and soak up the buzz in Liverpool, 2008’s European Capital of Culture.
England’s northern borders are marked by the 2,000-year-old Hadrian’s Wall while Blackpool, where seaside donkeys and funfairs still thrive, is great for rock and slot machines.
It stirred Wordsworth and Coleridge to write poetry, and you’ll soon see why the lustrous landscapes of the Lake District have inspired droves of artists, writers and nature lovers. This pocket-size corner of England comes with soaring fells, glittering lakes, stone-built villages and hillside pastures grazed by sheep.
Arrive out of season, away from the summer crowds, to see majestic Lakeland at its best. Take a walking map and hiking boots, and head for the fells, then hole up in a cosy pub or teashop. Visit the homes of Wordsworth or Beatrix Potter and nibble some Kendal mint cake.
Shakespeare’s homeland is steeped in history. Stratford-upon-Avon charms with its pretty cottages, a river dotted with boats. olde-worlde pubs and the famous Swan theatre where the Bard’s great works are staged year-round.
Tucked into the countryside are some of England’s grandest stately homes including Chatsworth, the set of Darcy’s home Pemberley in the film of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. England’s best-known National Park the Peak District makes a superlative setting for walks.
Cotswold villages are almost too-good-to-be-true clusters of thatched roofs and honey-coloured stone, set in rolling countryside. Towns are elegant and teashops are second to none.
Cheltenham boasts fine Georgian architecture, Burford and Chipping Campden are sleepy Cotswold towns packed with charm while Westonbirt Arboretum’s flame-coloured trees are a treat in autumn. On the fringe of the Cotswolds are the dreaming spires of Oxford – just the place to go punting on the river.
East Anglia is home to the Queen’s estate at Sandringham, beautiful Holkham beach, the waterways of the Norfolk Broads and the cities of Cambridge and Norwich.
The Suffolk borders are Constable Country and home to the artist’s former home at Flatford Mill, not far from the pretty village of Dedham.
Have a breezy stroll on a Suffolk beach or sip wine as you putter off on the Norfolk Broads. Hire a tandem to pedal around Cambridge, or head for the old seaport of Harwich.
As the gateway to Le Continent, England’s south-east corner has a distinctly cosmopolitan air. Kent, the proverbial Garden of England, has breezy Whitstable and the White Cliffs of Dover for starters. The old city of Canterbury has its beautiful cathedral, while other must-sees are the castles of Leeds and Hever and Sissinghurst.
Explore racy Brighton, with its beaches and charm-packed Lanes, set sail for the Isle of Wight for action-packed Cowes Week, spot wild ponies in the New Forest or cheer on the rowers at Henley’s famous July regatta on the upper reaches of the Thames.
For sweeping moorlands, harbour towns and dinky villages, head west. The city of Bath makes a terrific starting point, with a clutch of romantic hotels, immaculate Georgian terraces and Britain's only natural thermal spa pool.
Somerset is home to the pocket-sized cathedral city of Wells while Dorset boasts Thomas Hardy country. Devon’s a county of rolling hills and cream teas while Cornwall has its fishing villages and the surfing meccas of Rock and Newquay. For something extra special head off to the Scilly Isles by chopper and gaze out over Atlantic rollers – next stop, America.
North Wales is a stunner. The Snowdonia National Park is laced with over 100 lakes and almost as many peaks, not to mention spectacular mountain trails and more waterfalls than you could count. Just take the narrow-gauge Snowdon railway for the easy way up.
The impressive castles of Conwy, Caernarfon and Harlech guard a coastline dotted with Victorian resorts and sweeping beaches. There’s Italianate Portmeirion, the watersports mecca of Isle of Anglesey, and the cultural capital Llangollen, whose yearly Musical Eisteddfod celebrates everything Welsh.
Mid Wales has plenty of Wow factor. Admire the views from the Brecon Beacons’ highest point at Pen-y-fan, or head to the Beacons’ southern rim whose craggy hills are ribboned with waterfalls.
If books are your thing, you can spend hours leafing through labyrinthine bookshops in Hay-on-Wye, the UK’s book capital. Wax lyrical to your darling at the Hay Festival of Literature or reduce him or her to helpless giggles by wading into the World Bog Snorkelling Championship at Llanwrtyd Wells in July.
SOUTH AND EAST WALES
South Wales has long since thrown off its old coal-and-collieries image and now preens in bright new feathers.
Vibrant Cardiff Bay has seen a transformation of the city’s old docks into trendy waterfront shops and restaurants, set off by the iconic Wales Millennium Centre. Gawp at Cardiff castle, catch a rugby international at the Millennium Stadium or cosy up in a pretty pub in the Vale of Glamorgan.
Head west and you’re on course for the Gower Peninsula, with its much-photographed sunsets. Linger in Laugharne to visit Welsh bard Dylan Thomas’s boathouse, or mooch around the seaside ton of Mumbles. Find time to visit Abergavenny, or wind your way along the lovely Wye Valley.
The rugged coast of West Wales has the best of all worlds: wonderful clean beaches, endless coastal paths and technicolour sunsets. Get walking on the Pembrokeshire coast national park trails or go kayaking and kite surfing on over 50 pristine beaches. Tenby has its expanse of golden sand, while St David’s has its atmospheric cathedral.
If you’d rather climb a mountain on somebody else’s steam get a seat on the narrow-gauge Rheidol Valley railway, chugging through 11 scenic miles of mountain and coast between Aberystwyth and Devil’s Bridge. And do call into Cardigan, with its old-fashioned shopfronts and market.
THE CHANNEL ISLANDS
Welcome to a miniature helping of Britain in the heart of Normandy. Closer to France than England, the five Channel Islands are a mix of tax haven, surfing mecca and sleepy UK outpost. Place names are a fusion of French and English, quirky customs live alongside global commerce and each island has a tempo all of its own.
Jersey has stacks to see and do. Walk across the sandy causeway at low tide to Elizabeth Castle, built by Sir Walter Raleigh, see the antics of gorillas and orang-utans at Gerald Durrell’s famous conservation zoo, surf at St Ouen’s Bay or learn about the island’s wartime history at the German Underground Hospital, built by occupying German forces during WWII.
Guernsey boasts 27 beaches for bronzing. Other attractions include the Norman Castle Cornet, and the house in which the exiled Victor Hugo wrote Les Miserables. Alderney has its beaches and shoreline walks, while tiny Herm – just a mile and a half long – has a resident population of just 40.
Europe's only remaining feudal state, pint-size Sark has miles of spectacular shoreline perfect for walking and carpeted with flowers in spring. Be ready to hop on a bike or a horse and buggy here – no cars are allowed!