Five countries, two islands…join us as we head back to the British Isles in search of the standout destination in England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland!
The heart of the United Kingdom and by far the largest country on the British Isles, England is the most obvious place to start your journey. From the cities to the countryside, England is full of the traditionally ‘British’ as well as the modern and cosmopolitan. During our journey here we visited some great Northern cities like Newcastle and Manchester, explored beautiful countryside in the South Downs, Lake District, and the Pennines, visited historical hotspots like Bath and York, and…well you get the idea, it was a lot. But in the end there is one place in England you really can’t afford to miss.
And that is London. Yes, we know this may seem obvious (and it is) but if we only had time to visit one part of England it’s hard to justify skipping London. We really recommend venturing outside London to explore the smaller cities, towns, and villages but there’s just so much to see and do in the capital that you can’t miss it. From the Tower of London to St. Paul’s Cathedral or the Houses of Parliament to the soccer stadiums, the city’s boroughs are home to more famous landmarks than almost anywhere else on Earth. As an introduction to the best of the British Isles, London really can’t be beat.
Sitting to the west of England is the country of Wales. While it has been bound to its large neighbour for centuries, Wales retains a unique culture that sets it apart from the rest of Britain. Luckily that’s not all the country has. With fewer major cities (but still a few gems), the Welsh countryside represents a sort of escape from the sometimes-crowded England. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that you’ll stumble across a staggering amount of imposing castles – all of which tell an intriguing history of the land. But there’s one region that stands above all the rest.
Dominating a large part of North Wales is the mountainous region of Snowdonia, home to the country’s highest point…the aptly named ‘Snowdon’. This is Britain at its most wild, on par (though not quite as high) as the Scottish Highlands far to the north. Snowdonia is a perfect mix of charming Welsh atmosphere and rugged, off the beaten path aesthetic. Whether you’re planning a long hike or just want to pop in for the day, Snowdonia offers something for you.
Home of a proud people, Scotland is majestic and a bit rough around the edges. But it’s that down-to-earth atmosphere that makes it many peoples favourite part of a trip to the island of Britain. Out of all the countries on the British Isles, this was the hardest for us to pick the one can’t miss destination. While we’re still not sure we made the right choice, we are sure that a trip here will only be complete with a visit to…
The capital and second largest city in Scotland may just be our favourite urban destination in all of Great Britain and Ireland. We’re huge fans of the Scottish Highlands, so it was hard to push the rugged north aside for a more southerly city – but Edinburgh is something else. It’s large enough to spend weeks in without getting bored, but compact enough to walk the cobblestone streets from place to place. Home to enough historical sites, a world famous comedy festival, and landmarks to appeal to all ages and families, while also fun enough to pack the pubs and clubs any night of the week. Simply put, Edinburgh has it all – complete with bagpipes, tartans, and haggis aplenty.
Covering a little less than a third of the island of Ireland, Northern Ireland’s ‘Troubles’ in past decades have been well documented. With peace long since returned to the country however, it provides a unique look into all things British and Irish, Protestant and Catholic. Amongst the streets of Belfast (arguably a better value than Dublin), murals paint a picture of the fractious history. While small, Northern Ireland packs an obscene amount to see and do within its borders. With a newfound prominence thanks in part to popular television series Game of Thrones, Northern Ireland finds itself near the forefront of the British tourism market. But where should you go?
The Antrim Coast
Belfast ran it close, but ultimately it was the wild coast of County Antrim that stands out as the must-see attraction in Northern Ireland. Whether you’re driving the whole thing or just popping down to see some of the sites, you’ll come across natural wonders (like the famous Giant’s Causeway) as well as impressive man-made contributions like Carrickfergus Castle. Don’t forget to swing by Bushmills to sample the eponymous local product (if you’re old enough). Plus, while it’s not technically what we’re highlighting, the majority of Belfast resides in Antrim on the edge of an inlet – so you can include that in your coastal voyage as well.
Travel a bit to the south and suddenly we’re in a whole nother country! The Republic of Ireland has developed an almost mythical and fairy tale reputation over the centuries (thanks in part to the millions of Irish immigrants around the world waxing lyrical). While you might think the Emerald Isle is oversold before you go, visiting yourself immediately dispels this notion. But once again, we only have time to visit one place…so what’s it going to be?
While the bustle of Dublin and the beauty of County Clare (including the famed Cliffs of Moher) tempted us, we decided to end our journey with a good old-fashioned pint…and there’s no better place to do this than Galway! Commonly lauded as having one of the best nightlifes in all of Europe, Galway offers more pubs, clubs, and live music venues (or all of the above) than you can count. Hey…we just travelled across two islands and five different countries. I think we deserve this.
A Journey’s End?
Our voyage may be over for now, but there’s still more to see! While the five countries we just covered can each justify a long trip, you can also find the Isle of Man as well as Jersey and Guernsey nearby. Stay tuned to theCurrent and you might see us make a trip to one of these places eventually!
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