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Most English learners who I speak to have visited the UK at some point in their life, but few have ventured outside of London. London, as the capital city of the United Kingdom, has every right to the number of visitors it welcomes every year with its beautiful architecture, parks and landscapes, but believe it or not, our country has so much to offer outside of London.
In today’s blog, I want to point you in the direction of 10 of my favourite cities in the UK that are off the beaten track and away from the bright lights of London.
York is in the county of North-Yorkshire in the north east of England. It’s a Roman city with beautiful architecture that dates back to the 13th century. The main attraction of the city is York Minster, home to the Archbishop of York. This city also houses Clifford’s Tower, York Castle Museum, and the Jorvik Viking Centre, where you can learn all about life in the time of the Vikings.
One of the most beautiful streets in York is called The Shambles, which you should definitely stop by if you visit. This street has overhanging buildings, dated between 1350 and 1475. York is also known for its ghost tours. You can find plenty of walking tours around the city at night that tell historic ghostly tales or you can visit York Dungeons for an immersive horror experience with live actors and sound effects. If you visit this city, you can purchase the York Pass, to access as many York attractions as you can.
Bath is a Roman and Georgian city located in the county of Somerset. Luckily, many day tours to Bath are available from London, so it’s easy to visit if you do decide to stay in London.
The River Avon goes right through the city centre with a beautiful little bridge, Pulteney Bridge, that crosses it. This bridge is only one of four in the world that has shops on it and has often been used as a set in international films, such as Les Miserables.
The city gets its name from the Roman Baths, which is probably the most famous tourist attraction. As well as learning about the history of Bath and the Roman Empire, you can see real-life Roman artefacts, take virtual tours of the baths to see how they looked in Roman times and even take a dip in the thermae.
Bath also has a beautiful abbey, numerous parks to walk through and the Jane Austen Centre (Jane Austen was a famous British author). Bath has amazing architecture, so it’s lovely to wander through the city in good weather. You should definitely stop by the Royal Crescent and The Circle to see the astoundingly symmetrical Georgian architecture.
Stonehenge isn’t too far away, nor is the city of Bristol, so it’s well worth a trip to see the sights of Somerset.
I’m slightly biased towards Winchester as it’s the city I’m currently living in, but it’s a beautiful place to visit and there are so many attractions in the surrounding county Hampshire.
Formerly the capital of England before London, Winchester has many historical buildings. The star of the show is Winchester Cathedral, gothic in style and one of the largest cathedrals in Europe. But you should also visit The Great Hall, which houses King Arthur’s Round Table, Wolvesey Castle remains and the Science Museum and Planetarium.
Winchester is easily accessible on the main railway and is only an hour’s journey west from London. There are many cities close-by if you’re interested in a long stay, such as Southampton, Portsmouth and Salisbury.
Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland and it’s one of the most beautiful cities in the UK. One of my favourite things in Edinburgh is to simply walk around and observe the architecture from the different eras, but there are plenty of tourist attractions too. Most people visit Edinburgh Castle first, with some crown jewels on display. There is also Holyrood Palace, the official royal residence of the monarch of Scotland, Edinburgh old town, the National Museum of Scotland and St Giles’ Cathedral.
If you prefer nature, there is still plenty to do. You can trek up Arthur’s seat, head to the Royal Botanic Gardens or walk up Calton Hill to see views of the entire city and the sea.
You can buy the Edinburgh city pass that provides access to most of the tourist attractions, but if you wander around the Royal Mile, you’ll find plenty of tour guides giving free tours. Last time I visited Edinburgh, we did a free Harry Potter tour and a ghost tour at night.
Chester is in the north west of England and is a Roman fortress. When walking through the city centre, you’ll notice how different it is to metropolitan cities like London. The buildings are tall and made of wooden structures, called black-and-white revival architecture. You should also visit Chester Cathedral, walk along the city walls or the River Dee and explore the Chester Roman Amphitheatre.
Cambridge is most well-known for its world-class university. The university itself has beautiful old architecture and you can take tours around some of the university buildings. The main attractions to visit are The Fitzwilliam Museum, the Cambridge University Botanic Gardens, Great St Mary’s Church and the Round Church.
If you visit Cambridge, you might feel as if you’re in Venice, minus the warm weather. Cambridge has its own Bridge of Sighs and it’s common to go punting on the River Cam.
A typical student city, Cambridge has plenty of bars, pubs and clubs for those who prefer the party life.
Canterbury is in the county of Kent, in the south east of England. It’s another historic city with a cathedral at the heart of its history. The Archbishop of Canterbury is the leader of the Church of England, so holds a very important position in the religious world.
Durham is another city in the north of England and is very famous for its huge cathedral.
Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Durham Cathedral holds the relics of Saint Cuthbert, the head of Saint Oswald and the remains of the Venerable Bede.
Durham is another top university in the UK and you can often find tours around the university buildings and grounds. You should visit Durham Castle, Crook Hall and Gardens and Durham Museum and Heritage Centre.
Whitby is a very small coastal city in North Yorkshire. It has beautiful sandy beaches which are lovely to sunbathe on if you’re lucky with the weather! The main attraction in Whitby is Whitby Abbey, which was the inspiration for Dracula. You can climb the 199 steps up the cliff to reach Whitby Abbey and look down on all the city and far out into the North Sea. You can also visit the Captain Cook Memorial Museum and the whalebone arch. As a city on the sea, there are plenty of seafood restaurants and it’s an ideal place to try the traditional ”fish n’ chips” from the UK.
Whitby isn’t far from other Yorkshire cities, such as Scarborough, there are beautiful fishing villages all along the Yorkshire coast, such as Robin Hood’s Bay and you’re surrounded by North York Moors National Park, so there’s plenty on offer if you decide to stay in Yorkshire.
Bournemouth is a coastal city in the county of Dorset, in the south west of England. It’s mostly known for its beaches and outdoor activities, so I definitely recommend visiting in summer for the good weather.
In the city itself there’s not so much to see or do, but if you have a car and can travel around there are some beautiful coastal walks and views.
If you manage to get to Bournemouth, you should definitely take a drive (or if you’re feeling daring, a hike) along the Jurassic Coast. This actually stretches from Orcombe Point in Devon all the way to Old Harry Rocks in Dorset. The history of the coast’s geology is astounding with beautiful views to match. The Jurassic Coast Trust has a great website that maps out all the best views of the coast and quintessential English villages to visit along with accommodation recommendations and extensive information about the history of this coastline.
I’m sad to only have the time to choose 10 of my favourite cities in the UK because there are so many more incredible places in every county of the United Kingdom. So next time you plan a trip to the UK, don’t stay in London, get out and see the amazing things our country has to offer!
In this post, you’ll notice that we used the word “should” (bold and purple) quite a few times. This is a very important verb in English, it’s called a modal verb. There are lots of modal verbs in English and all of them have different meanings and different uses. The important functions of a modal verb are; the verb uses the same conjugation for all subjects, these verbs only exist in one tense (the present) and they must be used with an infinitive verb after them to complete the structure.
*Note that the negative form of should is should not, but this can be contracted to shouldn’t.
The verb “should” has many different uses, but there are five main situations when we use this verb.
- To offer advice or a recommendation to somebody (or ask for advice in question form). For example, you should visit the UK because it’s beautiful/ should I visit the UK?
- To oblige somebody politely. For example, you should stay away from this room!
- To talk about an ideal situation. For example, we should invest more money in education for young learners.
- To express a prediction. For example, our flight to the UK should take about 4 hours.
- To express an expectation that has not happened. For example, according to the weather forecast, it should be raining when we land in the UK.
Be sure to look out on our Facebook and Instagram pages this week. We’ll be posting common mistakes that learners make with this verb, common expressions that native speakers use with should and some more advanced uses of this verb too.