7 Beautiful and Underrated Cities in the UK

The UK is brimming with cities full of medieval architecture, breathtaking cathedrals, lively green spaces and fascinating history. Indeed most people flock to the cities of London, Edinburgh, Manchester and Liverpool where they fight crowds of tourists and visit overrated attractions. The secret of visiting the UK is to find the hidden gems, the underrated, the beautiful and the closely guarded. From England to Scotland to Ireland, we have discovered 7 of these cities, who offer a slew of incredible attractions and beautiful buildings.

7. Lincoln, England

Back in the day this city was actually a pretty big deal, in fact it housed the world’s tallest cathedral for over 250 years, along with a castle, two universities and plenty more attractions. Visitors will want to pay a visit to the incredible cathedrals as it boasts amazing stained glass windows, an interior full of intricate carvings in stone and wood, and the ruins of the Bishop’s Old Palace beside it. It is here where you will find 14th and 15th century medieval buildings as well as the oldest bridge in England to have houses built upon it. Don’t miss out of ‘Steep Hill’, a street full of small independent shops. Lincoln is also home to one of the only four surviving copes of Magna Carta, dating back to the 13th century and visitors here should plan a trup to Lincoln Castle and discover a piece of human history.

Lucian Milasan / Shutterstock.com
Lucian Milasan / Shutterstock.com

6. Cardiff, Wales

It is one of the most pleasant cities in the UK, boasting a magnificient castle, innovative architecture and great people. This Welsh capital once started as a Roman fort and since the 11th century the Cardiff Castle has held court where the fort once stood. It has not been considered a pretty city by any means in the past but times are changing and major regeneration projects have been occurring over the past decade. Think a brand new performing center, a revamped waterfront and a 74,000 seat stadium; just to name a few. The free National Museum Cardiff should absolutely be on your list of things to do in this city, as well as attend one of the infamous rugby matches. Markets, awesome dining options, impressive accommodations await visitors to this city which is becoming more beautiful as time goes on.

Cardiff, Wales

5. Sheffield, England

This city isn’t known for its castles, souped up riverside docks, cobbled streets or typical tourist attractions, but there is a lot to Sheffield that makes it both unique and fun to visit. Plan on arriving here by train where you are greeted by a stunning waterfall just outside the station. Visitors will want to head to the Winter Garden-the largest urban glass house in Europe-home to over 2,000 plants from around the world. There also happens to be more than 250 parks, woodlands and gardens throughout the city, giving this city the highest ratio of trees to people of any city in Europe. Did we mention that it is also home to the world’s oldest football club? Throw in the medieval Anglican cathedral, two theatres, a slew of restaurants and pubs and some of the friendliest people in the north and you have yourself one pretty epic city.

Sheffield, England

4. Belfast, Ireland

It has been avoided, forgotten and underrated for the better part of half a century. But this city is slowly making a new name for itself as it reinvents itself with award-winning architecture, a vibrant restaurant scene and lovely locals. This small and walkable city encourages visitors to stroll through its beautiful botanic gardens and the cobbled Cathedral Quarter that teams with restaurants, pubs and arts venues. Visitors will not want to miss a visit to the Metropolitan Arts Centre which is a shining star in terms of stunning architecture, an asymentrical tower of brick and volcanic stone that houses seven stories of high-ceilinged galleries and unique reading nooks. Massive regenerations projects have improved the old dockyards, Victoria Square and the waterfront, which boasts some of the most impressive nightlife in the UK.


3. Chester, England

This city is more than 2,000 years old which means plenty of history, culture and architecture await visitors here. Chester boasts the more complete city walls in the country, the largest undiscovered ampitheatre in the UK and a slew of breathtaking medieval buildings. It is easy to walk around this city as the Roman grid pattern of streets have survived the years, and trust us you will want to walk in order to take in the historic towers and gates that adourn the Roman walls. Chester Cathedral is located in the heart of the city and deserves a visit, as does the beautiful River Dee, Roodee Racecourse and the pretty Grosvenor Park. Hit up the independent galleries and boutiques, dine on local Cheshire produce and stay in anything from a luxury hotel to a quaint cabin in this beautiful, yet highly underrated English city.

Chester, England

2. Nottingham, England

It is best known as the home of Robin Hood, but that is about it and tourists tend to skip by this charming English town. The men in tights are long gone in this city and instead you will find a castle, which sits atop a labyrinth of ancient tunnels, England’s oldest inn- Ye Olde Trip to Jeruslaem- which is built into a cliff face and is said to have a chair that makes any woman pregnant, and much more. Visitors will want to head to the Galleries of Justice Museum where you can explore the gruesome history of crime and punishment. Or how about the City of Caves, where you will descend far below street level and discover just a few of the 500 man-made sandstone caves that date back to medieval times. Beautiful buildings include Wollaton Hall, Newstead Abbey and Nottingham Castle.

Nottingham caves

1. Stirling, Scotland

Stirling is Scotland’s heritage capital, a place where the Wars of Independence were fought and won and where for three centuries monarchs ruled in regal splendor. This cobbled old town in much quieter than Edinburgh and offers much in the way of history, architecture, culture and attractions. Visitors will find themselves winding their way up to the dominant castle which offers an incredible view for miles. Keep your eye out for the Wallace Monument, a Victoria Gothic creation that was made to honour the legendary freedom fighter of Braveheart fame, and looks so gothic it deserves at least a a few circling bats. Take a ghost walk, visit the museum and gallery, go whisky tasting or hang with the monkeys at the safari park. Whatever you do though, don’t miss exploring the Old Town and the picturesque path that encircles it.

Stirling, Scotland monument

The 8 Most Beautiful and Underrated Cities In England

Ask any North American to name the first city of England they can think of and we’ll bet they say London more times than not. The city capital has more than it’s fair share of iconic landmarks and places of historical importance but it seems to steal the thunder from other English cities and towns that are equally worthy of your travel time. England is rich with many other wonderful destinations that tend to fly under the radar of the average tourist. Traveling to a slightly more obscure city can be as great of an experience as hitting the bustling metropolis of the capital. Here are eight of our favorite underrated English towns:

8. Pluckley

This quaint village in Kent has a few notable reasons why one should spend some time here. First, anyone who’s into the supernatural would be intrigued to know that Pluckley once held the title of ‘Most haunted village in the UK’ even having this fact recognized by the Guinness Book of Records. The reason? Reportedly 12 different ghost have been said to haunt various places throughout town, with the tales ranging from a headless horseman to a ghost who would ambush people on the highway. Another claim to fame is that the popular British TV series ‘The Darling Buds of May’ featuring Catherine Zeta Jones was filmed in the village in the late 1990’s. Many places around town still have photos up of when the filming took place.

haunted pub Pluckley England

7. Penrith

Just outside the boundaries of Lake District National Park is the town of Penrith. The busting market town provides a great place to set up a base to explore the Lakes District without paying the often expensive prices that come along with staying in a more central location. There are still plenty of sights to see in town as well, including the ruins of Penrith Castle, the historic Beacon Hill and two ancient henge sites located south of town called Mayburgh Henge and King Arthur’s Round Table. For a truly authentic experience, visit the town market (open on Tuesdays and Saturdays) to pick up fresh, local produce.

Penrith Castle

6. Lincoln

Head about two and a half hours east of Manchester and you’ll find the city of Lincoln in Lincolnshire county. The small city of approximately 100,000 is highly underrated as a destination for tourists but offers plenty to see and do. The most notable landmark and classic example of English Gothic architecture is the Lincoln Cathedral; which was the tallest building in the world for a reported 238 years (keep in mind this period was from 1311–1549 so there wasn’t a ton of competition.) Other landmarks worth checking out are the Lincoln Castle and the the Medieval Bishop’s Palace. If you’re feeling particularly fit, the aptly named ‘Steep Hill’ offers an entire street of independent shops, tea rooms and pubs but fair warning: it’s no cake-walk to get up to.

Lincoln Cathedral England

5. Nottingham

You may be thinking that the city of Nottingham sounds somewhat familiar and if you know the legend of Robin Hood, you’d recall a villain by the name of Sheriff of Nottingham. The city has ties to the fable and the whole county of Nottinghamshire is ripe with locales from the story including the Sherwood Forest. Popular tourist stops in the city include the historic Lace Market area where old redbrick warehouses habe been converted into apartments, bars and restaurants. Speaking of pubs, when visiting Nottingham a trip to ‘Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem’ is essential, unless you want to miss out on saying you visited the oldest pub in England.

Nottingham, England Robin Hood

4. Sheffield

Those who think small English cities are just stodgy places of historic ruins and old pubs need to make tracks for Sheffield asap. This vibrant city has a population of around half a million people and there’s more than enough trendy things to see and do thanks to a large student population in the city. In 2010 Sheffield made the shortlist for ‘UK City of Culture’ but was ultimately beat out by Derry. In the city center, you’ll find the Sheffield Walk of Fame which honors famous city residents both past and present as well as several theaters, museums and greenspaces. The city has also made a name for itself on the UK music scene as being home to more than a few notable groups including the Arctic Monkeys, Joe Cocker and Def Leopard.

Sheffield England

3. Chester

This walled city close to the Wales border sits on the River Dee and is sure to win over visitors with its historic charm. It’s know as being one of the best preserved walled cities in Britain and features several medieval sites and many restored Victorian buildings. The most famous city sight are the Chester Rows, which consist of covered walkways on a first floor with shop entrances behind them. At the street level are more shops and establishments which are usually entered by going down several steps. The Rows, although unique, are not the only sights worth seeing in Chester; the town hall, Chester Cathedral and Chester Castle are all popular city landmarks that deserve your attention.

villorejo / Shutterstock.com
villorejo / Shutterstock.com

2. Whitby

Whitby enters this list as the first true seaside town as it sits on the east coast of Yorkshire at the mouth of the River Esk. Yorkshire county is the most-visited in all of England thanks to an abundance of tourist sites to visit within the county. Still, Whitby remains somewhat of a hidden gem which is a shame since the beautiful town has such a rich maritime history. In the late 1700’s, the town was the third largest shipbuilder after London and Newcastle but the invention of iron ships led to a decline in the need for smaller Yorkshire harbors and the last wooden ship built in Whitby sailed out in 1871. The famously picturesque ruins of Whitby Abby are the perfect place to snap a photo worthy of hanging on your wall.

Whitby Abby England

1. Newcastle

Newcastle, or as it’s known in its long form: Newcastle upon Tyne is a city in northeast England. It’s located about 270 miles north of London and as the name implies, it sits on the banks of the River Tyne. While you may have heard of this well-connected city before, chances are you still haven’t been. The most populous city in the north east is loaded with things to see and do and just enough of that city flare to make you feel like you’re not missing out. Newcastle’s nightlife has been rated among the best in the U.K. by authorities like ‘The Rough Guide to Britain’ and Tripadvisor while a rich history of theater, many festivals and events and reputation as being a poetic center round out the cultural offerings here. And we’d be neglectful if we didn’t mention the biggest sporting team in the city; Newcastle United football club plays out of St. James Park, the fourth largest football stadium in the country.

Gordon Bell / Shutterstock.com
Gordon Bell / Shutterstock.com