Missing your summer holiday abroad?
If you’ve been feeling the travel urge lately but can’t leave the country due to closed borders (or you just want a quick getaway within the UK on a budget), this list has got you covered. Whether you’ve wanted to muse on life’s big questions overlooking a majestic Scandinavian fjord, traverse through the cultural heartlands of Asia, or spend a romantic weekend strolling through a picturesque Swiss village, it’s just a short drive (and a lick of imagination) away.
25 places in the UK with a foreign doppelgänger
With red, amber and green countries subject to constant change, lockdown easing for the moment however with risks of different variants from different countries and threats of constantly changing goal posts, many Brits have accepted and embraced confinement to Britain this summer. But guess what, when the sun is shining from June to September and the temperature is soaring, we have found 25 places in the UK that could fool you into thinking you're abroad. From Cornish charm to devine Devon, from the forests of North Yorkshire to the tranqility of the Outer Hebrides and over 7,500 miles of ravishing coastline, you could be half-heartedly convinced you are in exotic Indonesia, the Maldives, bonzer Australia, flamboyant Italy or sassy France.
Here are our favourite places in the UK that look like they’re abroad…
1. St Michael’s Mount, Cornwall = Mont-St-Michel, France
This tidal island, which boasts a thousand-year-old castle, looks straight out of medieval Normandy – in fact, it’s essentially a smaller version of Mont-St-Michel in France. You can always get to the island by boat, but it’s a lot more thrilling to walk across the old pilgrim path at low tide! Other than the castle, which is filled with all sorts of memorabilia, the harbour village and monks’ quarters are a real blast from the past. Enjoy the sunset at the Victorian-era gardens.
2. Henrhyd Falls, Wales = Madakaripura, Indonesia
Not only is Henrhyd Falls the tallest waterfall in southern Wales, but it is also one of the few British waterfalls that feel truly tropical, with moss-covered rocks and verdant surroundings reminiscent of Indonesia. At one point, there were several fossilised trees in the area – but these have since been moved to the Swansea Museum. To get to the waterfall, walk along the Nant Llech River in the Brecon Beacons National Park. Fun fact: this is where the Batcave exteriors from Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises were filmed!
3. The Isles of Scilly, Cornwall = The Maldives
The Scilly archipelago could make you believe you are in the Maldives or the Caribbean Sea. The five inhabited islands are resplendent with wildlife, unspoiled beaches and sites from the Iron and Bronze Ages. What makes them feel most special, though, is their distinctly tropical vegetation and climate. The Isles of Scilly are some of the only places in the UK that experience warm winters!
4. Bude Sea Pool, Cornwall = Giles Baths, Australia
Australia and New England are both well-known for their natural swimming pools, but what about the UK? Well, Cornwall surprises us yet again! Take a dip at the Bude Sea Pool, a semi-natural water body near Summerleaze Beach. It’s a great place to swim without worrying about the dangerous Atlantic currents just offshore; moreover, it’s right next to some beautiful cliffs – making it very ‘gram-worthy indeed.
5. Hitchin Lavender Field, Hertfordshire = Provence, France
Wade through the rolling sea of purple at the Hitchin Lavender Field, a befitting nod to France’s Provençal countryside. In the afternoon, you may want to roll out a picnic blanket, put on some sunscreen and savour some local blueberry cake. And the best part about this splash of colour? You get to take home as much lavender as you can harvest yourself.
6. Durdle Door, Dorset = Lagos, Portugal
This 95-mile-long stretch of Jurassic coastline, officially designated as a World Heritage Site in 2001, is an astounding treasure trove of geological history. Most people take photos at its characteristic arch. However, few know that there’s another beach a few thousand miles south with the same distinctive coastline that plunges into the sea and with a naturally formed arch out of rocks to boot: Camilo Beach in Portugal.
7. The Dark Hedges, Northern Ireland = Rata Forest, New Zealand
The looming beech trees, with their twisting branches overhead, make The Dark Hedges the eeriest wood in the country. Cultivated by the Stuart family to frame the road to their country mansion, Gracehill House, it is now a popular – if spooky – tourist attraction that could easily be mistaken for Rata Forest in New Zealand. Also, if you visit and find yourself thinking of Game of Thrones, that’ll be because The Dark Hedges was a filming site in the show’s second season.
8. St. Ives, Cornwall = Dubrovnik, Croatia
Picture yourself sitting in a Mediterranean cafe with a cup of double shot espresso in hand. You take a sip of your coffee and glance at the coastline nearby and admire the pristine white sandy beach, bright blue ocean shimmering in the sunlight, and colourful boats gently bobbing on the sea. You then remark to yourself that Dubrovnik is truly stunning. Your phone chimes. You’re brought back to reality. You’re in St. Ives, Cornwall.
9. Royal Pavilion, Brighton = India
If Mughal India’s crowning jewel was the Taj Mahal, imperial Britain’s could well have been the Royal Pavilion at Brighton. The prince regent who commissioned it, George IV, was apparently fond of the Indo-Saracenic style because the Pavilion looks strikingly similar to something you’d find in the Middle East or northern India. Inside the building, you can explore a number of opulent rooms that feel straight out of an oriental fantasy. Start with the Banqueting Room or Saloon.
10. Minack Theatre, Cornwall = Cyprus
Ever since the Renaissance, Britain has prided itself on its passion for theatre. However, the Minack Theatre pays tribute to a much older artistic tradition: that of ancient Greece and Cyprus. Designed to look like the perfect stage for a Hellenic drama, this open-air theatre was constructed just a hundred years ago, at the bequest of drama enthusiast Rowena Cade. Do book a ticket for one of the theatre’s upcoming plays – it’s a magical experience!
11. Wat Buddhapadipa, London = Thailand
This Buddhist place of worship is situated in the outskirts of the capital city, but its temple and gardens might fool you into thinking you were in Thailand! Inside the Wat Buddhapadipa, surreal paintings and murals depict not only the life of the Buddha but also the likenesses of contemporary figures such as Margaret Thatcher. You don’t need to be Buddhist to be allowed inside, but do keep your voice low, and take off your footwear.
12. Castell Coch, Wales = Transylvania
If you associate vampire castles with Transylvania, you’ll be surprised to know that Dracula would feel at home in this Welsh fortress! Most of it was built in the Gothic Revivalist style in the 1800s, though there was once an 11th-century structure here as well. Sadly (or not), Castell Coch never gained notoriety for housing bloodsucking shapeshifters – but the history buff in you will still appreciate a visit here, if only to admire the stupendous architecture.
13. Valley of the Rocks, Devon = Trollfjord Lofoten, Norway
You’d be forgiven for assuming that the magnificent formations at the Valley of the Rocks had been plucked right out of Scandinavia! In the past, many British poets – including Coleridge and Wordsworth – were inspired to write here, and it’s not hard to see why. The plunging cliffs and broad views of the sea would have you believe you’re atop a fjord in Norway. Keep an eye out for the feral goats on the slopes which will amuse you with their rock-climbing skills.
14. Isle of Skye, Inner Hebrides = Iceland
The gorgeous cliffs, waterfalls and rock formations here might make you think you are in Iceland, but you’d really be just off the west coast of Scotland. The most popular geological feature on the Isle of Skye is the Old Man of Storr, a pinnacle of rock said to mark the grave of a fallen giant. You can learn about the human history of the island at its various castles, churches, and ancient Pictish towers.
15. Bidean Nam Bian, Argyll = Foothills of the Himalayas
Bidean Nam Bian, one of Scotland’s best-known peaks, could easily be in the foothills of the Himalayas. Some call it a complex mountain, while others call it a mountain range, but pretty much everyone agrees its northern ridges – known as the Three Sisters – offers some breathtaking views. The snows can be treacherous during the winters, though. The area was once ruled by the MacDonald clan, whose 1692 betrayal and murder later inspired the Red Wedding in Game of Thrones.
16. Portmeirion, Gwynedd = Italian countryside
Built by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, this charming village in North Wales wouldn’t look out of place in the Italian countryside. The resemblance is uncanny, down to details like cobbled streets, a vibrantly colourful piazza, conical turrets and impressive facades. The interesting thing is that, even though it’s located in the UK, the residents of Portmeirion appear to adopt a laid-back Italian lifestyle comprising siestas and good wine.
17 Isle of Mull, Inner Hebrides = The Arctic
As anyone who lives in the Northern Hemisphere can tell you, the Northern Lights are some of the most mystical things that exist on the planet. Luckily, you don’t need to be in Norway, the Arctic or Denmark to glimpse them – just head over to the Isle of Mull! The island is also famous for its white-tailed eagles, which were reintroduced in the wild in 2005, and the nineteenth-century Glengorm Castle.
18. Little Switzerland, Devon = Switzerland
The land around the villages of Lynton and Lynmouth is like a smaller version of the Helvetic countryside. Enjoy a meandering drive through Little Switzerland, with its steep roads and dainty little streets. Unlike the landlocked European country, Little Switzerland has some stunning beaches, so bring a towel and some sunscreen! If you’re travelling by car, make sure you have an experienced driver to manage rough patches of the road.
19. Kyoto and Fukushima Gardens, London = Tokyo, Japan
The Kyoto and Fukushima Gardens are a part of Holland Park, which was once part of the now-defunct mansion known as Holland House. The Kyoto Garden was gifted by the Japanese government to celebrate good relations with Britain, while the Fukushima section was built to thank Britain for its aid following the 2011 tsunami in Japan. While you admire their stone lanterns, small artificial waterfalls, and placid ponds, keep an eye out for peacocks!
20. Bodiam Castle, Robertsbridge = Chateau de Montbrun, France
Bodiam Castle closely resembles the Chateau de Montbrun in France. Built to withstand French attacks during the Hundred Years War, the castle is defended by high battlements and a sizable moat. You can visit its grounds for free on weekdays. Be sure to check out its chapel, gatehouse, and postern tower! Today, the castle is guarded by hundreds of bats, rather than knights. The last human to privately own it was Lord Curzon, erstwhile Viceroy of British India.
21. Italian Chapel, Orkney = Italy
During the Second World War, a number of Italian soldiers were captured in North Africa and then transported to POW camps in the UK. In a camp in Orkney, an Italian priest, Fr. Giacobazi, requested that he be allowed to build a Roman Catholic place of worship. Following British approval, he gathered some of the other prisoners and combined two Nissen huts to create the Italian Chapel. As you walk into this place of worship, you will feel transported more than seventy years into the past!
22. Wasdale Valley, Cumbria = Yosemite National Park, USA
If the Yosemite National Park is the most beautiful expanse of wilderness in the USA, Wasdale Valley is the UK’s primary contestant for the title. This region boasts not only the tallest mountain but also the deepest lake in England. While you’re here, hike to Scafell Peak, lounge by the shores of Wastwater Lake and visit the tiny St Olaf’s Church. The local Herdwick sheep are said to be the descendants of herds brought in by Viking settlers in the 10th century CE.
23. Dalby Forest, North Yorkshire = Black Forest, Germany
This splitting image of Germany’s Black Forest consists of 8000 acres of woodland, much of which is accessible via scenic cycling trails. Runners will have a great time making their way through the greenery, too. The naturalist in you will love to come across a number of species here! In addition, being a Dark Sky Discovery Site, this forest offers some of the best views of the Milky Way you’ll find in the country.
24. North Bay Beach, Scarborough = Brighton Beach, Australia
When placed side by side, the colourful beach huts at North Bay Beach and at Australia’s Brighton Beach look extremely similar. While you’re in the vicinity, why not hire one and spend a few days kicking back? The beach is very pet-friendly, and the waves make for excellent surfing. If you have kids, take them to the Scarborough Sea Life Sanctuary nearby – they’ll love the penguins!
25. Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland = Ganh Da Dia, Vietnam
The basalt pillars at the Giant’s Causeway were surprisingly not shaped by human hands, but by the flow of lava millions of years ago. Their name comes from the fact that seen from any angle, they look like massive paving stones. There are similar structures around the world, including Russia’s Cape Stolbchaty and Vietnam’s Ganh Da Dia. You’ll love the myths that have sprung up around each of them!