Like this, love that: A guide to Britain’s amazing alternatives

Britain is home to many iconic landmarks, green open spaces and vibrant cities, from the Tower of London to honey-coloured Cotswolds villages, but why not dream of embarking on a tour of Britain’s lesser known, but equally charming, destinations? Whether it’s the winding canals of the Midlands, or the musical history that beats through the heart of Manchester that you’re after, dream of a British break that is a little more unexpected…

1. Quirky shops: Like Brighton, love Margate

Young woman walking in front of Peony Vintage clothing shop, Margate, Kent, England. Credit to VisitBritain/ Bethany Opler

Next to its pebbled beach and illuminated pier, the southern seaside resort of Brighton is known for the quirky, independent shops that line the bohemian streets of The Lanes, but those in the know hold the seaside town of Margate in Kent to a similar level of fashionable individuality. Margate has plenty of high-fashion clothes shops and places to pick up stylish independent homeware, but if you’re searching for a unique souvenir then you can scour the expansive junkyards too. Mixing the coolness of London’s fashion areas with a taste of Brighton’s quirky second-hand shopping, Margate is a place unlike any other – there’s also a traditional theme park and the inspirational Turner Contemporary art gallery, that shouldn’t be missed.

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Margate

2. Charming villages: Like the Cotswolds, love Bakewell

If you’re dreaming of walking through Britain’s quaint villages then you’ve probably already considered the Cotswolds’ postcard-perfect cottages and tea rooms, but the northern county of Derbyshire also offers a glimpse into this picturesque way of life. The traditional market town of Bakewell, found along the River Wye, has history, heritage and a honey-coloured high street perfect for a taste of British country life. Longing to de-stress? You can plan an itinerary of riverside walks, including exploring the charming traditional shops and tasting the local historic delicacy that is the Bakewell Pudding!

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Bakewell

3. Wonderful waterways: Like London, love Birmingham

Red bricks of Birmingham surrounding their famous canals. Credit to VisitBritain/Julian Elliott

An undeniable icon for the capital, the bustling city of London was built around the River Thames, making a walk or serene cycle along its banks a dream for many. But if you’re looking to experience some lesser-known British waterways, you should add Birmingham’s canals to your bucket list. Built in the 18th and 19th centuries to aid Birmingham’s thriving industry, the Midlands city boasts 35 miles of waterways which can be explored on foot, on two wheels or even via canal boat! Adventurers can plan to swing by the refurbished Roundhouse when it reopens, a canal-side Grade II-listed former stables building that is being reimagined into a hub from which to discover the city.

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Birmingham

4. Monumental music: Like Liverpool, love Manchester

Outside of famous Smith's photo shoot, Salford Lads Club. Credit to Salford Lads Club

Liverpool might be drenched in musical heritage and Beatlemania from the 1960s, but for a taste of music history ranging from heavyweights such as The Fall and The Smiths, to Oasis and Joy Division, lovers of sound should turn to the streets of Manchester. Much like Liverpool’s famous Cavern Club, Manchester is home to some pilgrimage-worthy spots for music fans, including the legendary Smiths location at the Salford Lads’ Club, the Gallagher brother’s childhood record shop, Sifters in Didsbury, and the Epping Bridge in Hulme, made famous by Joy Division. It is a city with the roots of British indie music at its core.     

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Manchester

5. Historic sites: Like Bath, love Canterbury

 Boats rowing along a canal between houses in Canterbury, Kent, EnglandCredit to VisitBritain/Katya Jackson

The south western city of Bath is known for its world-class history and heritage; from its romantic Regency architecture and awe-inspiring 10th century Abbey to the ancient Roman Baths, you can absorb the past with every step. If you’re yearning to step through centuries of British history, you should also add the cobbled streets of Canterbury, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to your list. Nestled in the southern county of Kent, Canterbury provided the inspiration for Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and is home to the cathedral that saw the infamous murder of Thomas Becket in 1170, as well as the impressive remains of St Augustine’s Abbey. Another way to enjoy the sights is by punting along the River Stour!

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Canterbury

6. Literary Legends: Like Stratford-upon-Avon, love Haworth

View down the cobbled hill in the village of Haworth, West Yorkshire, England Credit to VisitBritain/Tim Holt Photography

Literature lovers will no doubt relish the idea of exploring the English market town of Stratford-upon-Avon. Also known as Shakespeare country, this area of England’s West Midlands has sites such as the playwright’s birthplace, the cottage of Anne Hathaway and the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.  If you’re keen to immerse yourself in Britain’s classic plays and novels, you’ll also love a trip to Haworth in West Yorkshire, the home village of the Brontë sisters, Charlotte, Emily and Anne.  Here you can dream of roaming the wild moors, exploring the family home turned museum and visiting Haworth Church, the final resting place of the literary siblings.

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Haworth

7. Cultural Hubs: Like Edinburgh, love Glasgow

The Riverside Museum is a large modern building beside the water in Glasgow. Scotland's Museum of Travel and Transport, and the tall ship, the UK's only floating Clyde-built sailing ship, is owned and operated by the ClCredit to VisitBritain/ Craig Easton

The Scottish city of Edinburgh has a global reputation for being abuzz with culture, comedy, art and literature, especially during the annual Edinburgh Festival Fringe. But Scotland has yet more to offer curious culture vultures, reflected by the naming of Glasgow as the UK’s top cultural and creative city by the European Commission in 2019. Dream of exploring highlights including the reconstructed home of pioneering Glaswegian architect, Charles Mackintosh, the stunning architecture of the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and the hyper-modern Riverside Museum.

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Glasgow

8. Smashing sports: Like Cardiff, love Llanelli

Cardiff is a city with palpable electricity on match days, with some of the most thrilling world rugby being played in the capital’s Principality Stadium, but  for a wider experience of Wales’ rich sporting culture you should plan a visit to the home of rugby union team, the Scarlets. Playing in the Carmarthenshire town of Llanelli, the Parc y Scarlets stadium is hallowed ground for many sports fans, while the town provides a base from which to enjoy the serene surrounding countryside. Longing to stretch your legs while exploring Wales? Plan a cycle along the Millennium Coastal Path or take a putt at the nearby Machynys Golf Academy and Driving Range, home to the UK’s largest indoor putting green.

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Llanelli
20 Jul 2020(last updated)

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