This summer, many of us will be looking to explore our own back yard – and why not. You may not think it, but the United Kingdom is a holiday destination to be reckoned with. As a country, we have stunning national parks that have inspired some of the world’s best literary geniuses. We have wild, murky lochs that continue to spark international intrigue into the whereabouts of Nessie, and we also have an enchanting Area of Natural Beauty that was born above a bedrock of Jurassic limestone. Intrigued? We are too. That’s why we’ve collected some of our most-loved trips in the United Kingdom you can experience on foot, by bike and on the water.
The best places to explore on foot
Discover a plethora of glittering lakes, craggy hilltops and lush pine forest trails in England’s largest National Park while on our Literary Self-Guided Walking in the Lake District trip. Covering about 1% of all the land area in Great Britain, this storybook realm of rolling hills and crystal-clear waters have inspired some of England’s most famous writers, from William Wordsworth and Arthur Ransome to Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and of course Beatrix Potter, who wrote the magical tales of Peter Rabbit.
Home to some of England’s tallest peaks, like Scafell Pike (that stands at 978m tall), this beautiful, hilly region just begs to be explored on foot. The locals affectionately coined their mountains, “fells” and there are over 200 of them to explore in the Lake District alone. But spectacular hiking trails are not the only reason why thousands of travellers visit this national park every year. The Lake District also boasts a rich cultural heritage that traces all the way back to prehistoric times. It’s estimated that the Park holds more than 6,000 archaeological sites, monuments and historical places of interest, including classic country estates, old Roman roads and 5,000-year-old stone circles.
On our 6-night self-guided trip in the Lake District, visit the Hammerscar Plantation – overlooked by the spectacular Loughrigg Fell. Next, head south along the Cumbria Way to complete the Coniston Circular Walk. Here, you’ll discover the pristine Coniston Water, which served as the inspiration for Arthur Ransome’s much-loved classic, Swallows and Amazons.
While you’re in the area, we’d recommend stopping at the Black Bull Brewery to whet your whistle by trying their award-winning Bluebird Bitter, one of their home-brewed cask real ales. With visits to the peaceful Grizedale Forest, the National Trust’s Beatrix Potter Gallery and Wray Castle, you don’t have to be a literary genius to find this Lake District trip truly enchanting.
Another area that’s great to explore on foot is the iconic, heather-clad moors of North East Wales. Our North East Wales Heritage Trail trip takes you on a fascinating journey through the Iron, Bronze and Industrial Ages in Welsh history, from the Iron Age hillforts and Roman castle remains in the Clwydian Range to the impressive UNESCO World Heritage Site of Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal across the River Dee.
On this walking trip, you can also take a well-earned breather and catch the Welsh Highland Heritage steam train to Glyndyfrdwy, to explore the mysterious rolling hills of the Berwyns, that are ablaze with vibrant purple flowers come the late summer months. Aside from the spectacular landscape and fascinating history, you can expect hearty breakfasts every day a warm Welsh welcome.
The best places to explore by bike
One of the best areas in the United Kingdom to explore on two wheels is the stunning honey-coloured villages and smooth, contoured hillside of the Cotswolds. Covering over 2,000km that stretches across 5 different counties, this quintessential slice of rural southern England offers a myriad of beautiful cycling trails that lead to ancient castles, picture-postcard English manor houses and inviting tearooms.
If you can tear yourself away from the raspberry jam and clotted cream homemade scones on our Classic Cotswolds Cycle, you’ll find that this self-guided 5-night trip is an easy, enjoyable circular ride that encompasses some of the Cotswold’s most famous villages from the quaint Bourton-on-the-Water and Chipping Campden to the ancient Saxon capital of Winchcombe.
On your journey, make a pit stop to admire the beautiful Sudeley Castle – that’s known as the famous resting place of Katherine Parr (Henry VIII’s 6th wife). This charming route also gives you the opportunity to see the Cotswold’s tallest castle – Broadway Tower Country Park, where if you’re lucky, you may see a herd of red deer crossing your path along the Cotswolds way. Snowshill Manor is also a notable stop on your cycle, as this National Trust property is brimming with extraordinary treasures collected over a lifetime by Charles Wade.
Another location that is great to explore by bike is the untamed, mysterious landscapes around Loch Ness in Scotland. It may be known for its legend surrounding sightings of the elusive Loch Ness Monster, but you’ll soon find that the area is just as famed for its striking cycling trails and fascinating Scottish history.
On our Loch Ness & the Highlands Cycling trip your self-guided route winds along one of the most famous waterways in Europe, the Caledonian Canal. Pedalling towards Fort Augustus along old military roads laid down by General Wade, you can stop to admire the brooding lochs, dramatic gorges and cascading waterfalls like the Falls of Foyer, that inspired the famous Scottish Poet, Rabbie Burns.
Next, ride to Fort George, an 18th century military barrack. Stand on the fort’s ramparts and you may be able to see some local wildlife, including Minky Whales, playful dolphins and seals. Before ending your adventure in Inverness, pedal past the towering Nairn viaduct and Cairns to arrive at Culloden – the site of the last full-scale battle that took take place on British soil in 1746.
The best places to explore by boat
Another fascinating way to explore the best sites and hidden gems the United Kingdom has to offer is on the water. Our sister company and leading specialists in canal boat hire, Le Boat, offer travellers the opportunity to hire a self-drive boat to explore the beautiful British waterways – a perfect holiday for those wanting to discover interesting places closer to home this summer.
See a different side to Great Britain’s second longest river and take a River Cruise & Boat Holiday on the Thames with Le Boat. Easy to navigate and suitable for complete beginners, why not grab your family or a couple of friends to explore iconic castles, world-class museums and quaint riverside pubs that are a stone’s throw away from the Thames.
Some top highlights that are worth mooring up for include, Windsor Castle, Hampton Court Palace and the Stonor Park. A hidden gem to most, Stonor Park is an historic country house that’s been in the same family for over 850 years. Explore their impressive art and treasure collection, or wander around their surrounding Italianate gardens and deer park. If you’re looking to follow this historic waterway up to Oxford, why not toast your efforts with a freshly poured pint on The Folly’s floating pontoon – a quaint restaurant perched beside the River Thames that dishes out traditional English pub classics with a view.
If exploring the mysterious Scottish Highlands is more your scene, why not look into a Boating Holiday on Loch Ness and the Caledonian Canal. Connecting the east coast of Inverness with the west coast at Corpach, near Fort William, the Caledonian Canal offers the perfect gateway to explore the wild Scottish Highlands. On this self-guided boat trip, much of your time will be spent discovering the beautifully quaint waterside towns, historic hilltop castles and cosy traditional pubs, like Loch Ness Inn, whose venison is caught wild in the hills above Loch Laggen.
Whether you came to observe the Scottish crossbill bird in the ancient pine forests of Glen Affric, hike across the rugged valleys along the Great Glen or looking to ride horseback in Drumnadrochit, Le Boat’s holiday along the Caledonian Canal is a great way to see the best hidden gems Scotland has beyond the famous murky depths of Loch Ness.