An insider's guide to Britain - Part 1

Always wanted to sleep in a castle like the Queen, indulge in a luxury rail journey, or explore the untamed wilds of the Scottish Islands? 2021 is the year to fulfil your wildest travel dreams. 

To help provide the inspiration for planning your 2021 escape, we've asked some of Australia’s top media personalities to share their favourite memories, stories and anecdotes about Britain in an exclusive new series.

Below is the first article of insider tips featuring iconic British cities as well as lesser-known places, from London‘s colourful Portobello markets and bohemian Brighton to the Outer Hebrides in Scotland, the Lake District in Northern England and fairy tale castles in Wales.

1. ‘My Love Affair with London’

Richard Wilkins, Entertainment Editor Nine Network

As a young lad growing up in New Zealand, I was raised with stories of my parents’ trips to the UK, the sights, the sounds, the history…. I even had a framed map of London on my bedroom wall, which is now pride of place in my bar!

I became so familiar with the city that when I first visited London, I instinctively knew where to go as I explored the city, for example; ’If I turn left here I’ll find Covent Garden’ and there it was in all its glory!

Dozens of visits later I am still in love with London. On my last trip I arrived in the morning and checked into the Savoy Hotel, had a shower and some breakfast, then walked across the lane to the adjoining Theatre to interview the cast of ‘ 9 to 5’ the musical that was planning to open in Australia this year. Then it was off for a stroll up Shaftesbury Avenue past all the theatres, restaurants, bars and cafes, then back to the hotel…and then the airport to fly home! That’s right, a day trip to London!

The previous visit was to celebrate and report on the 50th Anniversary of ‘Abbey Road’, the penultimate Beatles’ album and the last they recorded together. The famous studios are of course a mecca for music fans with the obligatory photo on the world’s most famous pedestrian crossing. We spent time in the soaking up the rarefied atmosphere, I even got to play ‘Fool on the Hill’ on the same piano that Paul created magic with and interviewed Ringo who was there for the celebrations.

The work was terrific, the sightseeing just as great …visiting Notting Hill, the bookshop, the blue door, Portobello Markets, the green parks - they’re all there in living colour!

2. ‘The wild, wind-pummelled remoteness of Scotland’

Penny Hunter, Editor, The Australian, Travel & Indulgence

Scotland is a sentimental favourite and I’ve seen a fair swathe of it, but I’m longing to visit its further reaches. There’s something about the wild, wind-pummelled remoteness of the Shetland Islands that appeals plus they have a wealth of Iron Age and Viking history. 

I’d love to be in Orkney in December for the annual Ba, when the “Uppies” and “Doonies” of the town of Kirkwall compete to get a ball to their goal. It can go for hours and sounds crazy but I guess those dark, cold winters might otherwise be long and dull. 

Staying far-flung, I’d also like to sail (in comfort, naturally) down the west coast of the Outer Hebrides and maybe out to the uninhabited archipelago of St Kilda, which is a World Heritage site owned by the National Trust. 

And finally, I’d head to Britain’s other extreme, the Roseland Peninsula in South Cornwall, which has stunning coastal scenery and all the romance of pirates, castles and lighthouses. Oh, and London, of course - too much London is never enough.

3. ‘Live like royalty, enjoy the fairy-tale castles and soak in the history’

Kerry Parnell, senior writer, Escape

Marcel Le Corgi, Hampton Court Palace

History is everywhere. Whether you walk with kings and queens at Hampton Court, Buckingham Palace or the Tower of London, or follow in the footsteps of your favourite novelist with a Jane Austen jaunt around Bath or Charles Dickens pilgrimage in Kent, there are stories around every corner.

My favourite trips have been a tour of the fairy-tale castles of Wales and a Famous Five adventure along England’s Jurassic Coast.

The region I return to most is the Cotswolds – with its chocolate-box cottages so bucolic you can barely believe they are real. But my most memorable stay was at Cliveden House, the 17th century mansion built by the Duke of Buckingham for his mistress and the hotel where Meghan Markle stayed the night before she married Prince Harry. The chateau-like house with its parterre gardens and spa is as close as you’ll get to being Lord or Lady of the Manor.

4. ‘Bohemian Brighton and the South Coast’

Rob McFarland, award-winning travel writer, speaker and trainer.

Brighton Pier and Fairground, Brighton

I grew up in the UK so visiting family is always the biggest highlight of a trip ‘home’. I normally visit during the summer and love those long summer nights when you can sit in a beer garden until 10pm.

I base myself on the south coast near Brighton, which gives me access both to the beach and the South Downs, a dramatic set of chalk hills that run parallel to the coast and offer fantastic hiking and cycling (the 100-mile South Downs Way is a great trip for keen hikers/cyclists).

Brighton has blossomed into a cosmopolitan seaside city with fantastic restaurants, bars and an anything-goes, bohemian vibe. My absolute must-dos include wandering through the Lanes, a chaotic set of narrow alleyways lined with shops and bars, visiting the flamboyant Royal Pavilion (the former seaside retreat of the Prince Regent) and having an ice cream in a deckchair on the city's most famous landmark - the Palace Pier.

5. ‘The enchanting Scottish Highlands and stunning Lake District’

Emilie Ristevski is an Australian photographer and the creative mind behind @helloemilie.

Scottish Highlands in winter


My favourite memories when looking back on my past travels to the UK are wandering through the mystical landscapes of the Scottish Highlands. It felt like the midst of winter when we arrived to a fresh layer of snow covering the mountain peaks, the atmosphere was filled with a beautiful sense of mystery. 

I fell in-love with the quaint little towns we passed by with stone cottages lining the streets and learning about the rich history of the area. From Inverness to the Isle of Skye, the enchanting landscapes transformed as we explored the beautiful mountain passes and hidden waterfalls. The natural beauty found here is something that stayed with me, it felt like we entered a fairy tale, a place like no other.

The autumn colours throughout The Lake District are some of the most beautiful I have experienced and definitely a must do! This part of the world comes alive with its warm and brightly coloured leaves speckled throughout the landscape.

Discover more top tips and handy hints for your 2021 escape. 

14 Sep 2020(last updated)