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TravelThe 35 best things to do in the UK

The 35 best things to do in the UK

The United Kingdom is a glorious destination, and the four countries that constitute our island nation all bring something to the table. EnglandNorthern IrelandScotland and Wales are all stunning places to visit in their own right, with fantastic museums and galleries, buzzing music scenes, incredible scenery and intriguing histories. 

Whatever kind of trip you’re planning next, our round-up should have you covered. We’ve got all the world-renowned stuff as well as some more under the radar things to get up to. Happy travels!

RECOMMENDED:
🧙 The most mystical places in the UK
🏰 The best castles in the UK
🏖️ The best seaside towns in the UK
👀 The best new things to do in the UK 2024

Best things to do in the UK

Check out Time Out’s top place to visit in the UK in 2024

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1. Check out Time Out’s top place to visit in the UK in 2024

Bristol’s cultural scene is just as exciting as London’s, but it’s still only a short coach journey away; it has picture-perfect streets and bustling, diverse nightlife. And in 2024, its arts offering is only getting better. There’s DIASPORA!Undershed, a new immersive gallery on track to launch in Spring, Boxhall – a street food, beer and events space by the same people who behind London’s Boxpark – and Bristol’s newest music festival, Forwards, which is being headlined by Loyle Carner and LCD Soundsystem. 

Discover the best places to visit in the UK in 2024

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Pitch up at a world-famous music festival

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2. Pitch up at a world-famous music festival

Festivals don’t get much more famous than Glastonbury. The UK’s biggest music festival takes over a chunk of Somerset countryside most summers with mud, music, mischief, hippies and healing. It’s difficult to convey quite how vast Glasto is, with whole worlds of activity taking place beyond the stages as well as an awe-inspiring musical line-up ranging from pop to reggae to rock to dubstep to metal to folk to techno. If you’re lucky enough to bag a ticket, bring an open mind, a sense of humour and a jumbo pack of baby wipes.

Discover our full guide to Glastonbury Festival 2024

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Climb the UK’s highest peak

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3. Climb the UK’s highest peak

Lace up your walking boots to take on Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in mainland Britain, at 1,345 metres above sea level. There are two main routes up – the Mountain Track, which is used by most walkers or Carn Mor Dearg Arête, a more challenging ascent for experienced scramblers and hill walkers which can take more than ten hours to complete. If you really love heights, consider taking on the National Three Peaks Challenge. Plan your own or join an organised event to climb Snowden, Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis, the highest mountains in Wales, England and Scotland, usually within 24 hours.

Discover the best hikes in the UK

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Party all weekend at Notting Hill Carnival

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4. Party all weekend at Notting Hill Carnival

Notting Hill Carnival – the annual celebration of London’s Caribbean community, its culture and traditions – is Europe’s biggest street party. It takes place every August bank holiday weekend on the roads around west London, transforming the area into one huge, packed, pulsating party. The carnival, which runs over two days (Sunday is family day), features a colourful parade, fantastic live music, thumping sound systems, soca floats, steel bands and a whole lot of delicious Caribbean food.

Discover our full guide to Notting Hill Carnival

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Follow in the footsteps of giants

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5. Follow in the footsteps of giants

The Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland is a geological marvel. The dramatic coastal feature, made up of 40,000 basalt stone columns, has attracted visitors for centuries, but it became Northern Ireland’s first and only Unesco World Heritage Site in the 1980s and now also boasts a great visitor centre thanks to the National Trust. There are no museum ropes holding you back here. Wander over the shiny stones, sit on the Wishing Chair – a natural throne polished by thousands of bottoms – look out for rock formations the Camel and the Giant’s Boot. The result of volcanic eruptions over 60 million years ago or the remains of a pathway built by a giant? You decide.

Discover the best things to do in Northern Ireland

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Get lost in a town of books

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6. Get lost in a town of books

When it comes to literary tourism, Hay-on-Wye is a real bucket list spot. It proudly proclaims to be the world’s first ever book town and is famed for its annual book festival that has attracted the likes of Hillary Clinton, Dua Lipa and Stormzy. With over 30 bookstores, this is a bibliophobes mecca. If you had to go to just one, make it Richard Booth’s – a three-storey emporium of new and used books spread over three glorious floors.  

Discover the best things to do in Wales

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Take a tour of the UK’s incredible National Parks

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7. Take a tour of the UK’s incredible National Parks

The UK might be small but its countryside is mighty and incredibly diverse, from rolling green hills and ancient woodland to impressive mountain peaks, idyllic lakes and rugged moors. To see all the different kinds of landscapes the UK calls its own, take a tour of the UK’s 15 national parks, from the flat Norfolk Broads and the wilds of Exmoor to the high drama of the Lake District and Snowdonia and the internationally recognised dark skies of Northumberland.

Discover the most beautiful national parks in the UK

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Come up with your own conspiracy theories at Stonehenge

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8. Come up with your own conspiracy theories at Stonehenge

The world-famous prehistoric stone circle on Salisbury Plain attracts millions of visitors a year, but its popularity doesn’t detract from its intrigue. Were these imposing standing stones – bluestone from more than 150 miles away in Wales – a celestial calendar, a burial ground or a site for sacrifice? Was it built by Merlin the wizard and a band of giants? Are its origins supernatural, or even extraterrestrial? Or just an incredible feat of human will? Visit to figure out what you think the true story of the monument is.

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Visit The Beatles’ childhood homes

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9. Visit The Beatles’ childhood homes

Get a ticket to ride around the city The Beatles called home. Liverpool is the place the Fab Four met and started performing. Learn about their incredible musical career at The Beatles Story before visiting Mendips and 20 Forthlin Road, the childhood homes of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, now managed by the National Trust. Finish off your visit with a night out at the rebuilt Cavern Club which sits near where The Beatles first started to play in the early ’60s.

Discover the best things to do in Liverpool

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Catch some Cornish waves

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10. Catch some Cornish waves

It may not have the white hot sands of Miami, but Cornwall is one of the best surfing destinations in the world (and we’re not just being biased). And Fistral Beach in Newquay is widely thought of as the jewel in Britain’s surfing crown. First timer or wave-riding veteran, this natural playground has opportunities for anyone to give surfing a go. The Cornish coast is also just really, really beautiful. 

Discover the best things to do in Cornwall

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Take a perch on Arthur’s Seat

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11. Take a perch on Arthur’s Seat

Not many cities can say they are home to an ancient volcano, but Edinburgh can. Arthur’s Seat, a grassy, rugged peak 351 metres above sea level, is visible from almost everywhere in the city and is just a short stroll from the Royal Mile in the centre. Head to Holyrood Park to begin your ascent. It’s a relatively easy hike, but it’ll still get your heart pounding. Rest at the top and admire views of Edinburgh Castle, the Scott Monument and beyond.

Discover the best things to do in Edinburgh

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Take a dip in Margate's tidal pool

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12. Take a dip in Margate’s tidal pool

Brave the the wilds of the Walpole Bay Tidal Pool, the largest saltwater pool in the UK (equivalent to seven football pitches). Seasoned wild bathers love it, and Margate’s swimming community is super friendly, so you’ll get plenty of gentle encouragement to help you embrace its chilly waters. Once you’re out and feeling refreshed, go and explore the town’s slew of cool cafes, shops and artsy hubs

Discover the best things to do in Margate

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Go for a curry in Birmingham’s Balti Triangle

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13. Go for a curry in Birmingham’s Balti Triangle

Melton Mowbray has pork pies. Wensleydale has cheese. And Birmingham has the balti. Invented by the city’s Pakistani community in the 1970s, this take on curry is up there with Peaky Blinders, Cadbury’s Dairy Milk and the Industrial Revolution as one of Brum’s most iconic exports. Spice lovers from far and wide make the pilgrimage to the UK curry capital to sample its baltis, thalis and dosas. Head to the famous ‘Balti Triangle’ – southeast of the city centre near Balsall Heath – to find a huge concentration of curry houses serving mouthwatering dishes from across India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Discover the best Indian restaurants in Birmingham

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Head on a legendary pub crawl in Leeds

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14. Head on a legendary pub crawl in Leeds

Every city’s got a legendary pub crawl, but Leeds’s magnificent Otley Run is tough to beat. While the OG run started out in the market town of Otley, these days it’s more common to kick-off in Headingley’s Woodies Craft Ale House before heading down through Hyde Park and eventually into Leeds city centre itself. The crawl covers more than two-and-a-half miles and includes no fewer than 15 pubs (and, indeed, can include many, many more if you so wish), typically ending at the Dry Dock – a bar housed in a beached boat. Embarking on the Otley Run (especially in costume) is a rite of passage for Leeds’s many uni students, but it’s great fun for anyone else too. Our tip? Start early. Really early.

Discover the best things to do in Leeds

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Admire London from above

Photograph: Jacob Riglin

15. Admire London from above

There’s so much to see and do in London it can feel a little overwhelming, so get some perspective. Climb Parliament Hill on Hampstead Heath or settle down to watch the sun set from the top of Primrose Hill, with impressive views of the city skyline. Spy landmarks like Buckingham Palace, the BT Tower, the Tower of London, Tower Bridge and more at the top of the Shard or from a pod on the London Eye. See the River Thames wiggle through the metropolis from the Sky Garden’s thirty-eighth-floor greenhouse. Or elevate your pre-dinner drinks at one of the best rooftop bars in London

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Laugh out loud at the Edinburgh Fringe

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16. Laugh out loud at the Edinburgh Fringe

Every August, the capital of Scotland is taken over by comedians and performers for a month of shows, plays and theatre. Expect a mix of first-timers and big-name stars, new material, old favourites, snappy one-liners and unusual experimental comedy. It’s the world’s largest arts festival and transforms Edinburgh into a pulsating, exciting hive of energy. Turn up with a cluster of tickets in your pocket or plan nothing and see where the Fringe takes you.

Discover the history of the Edinburgh festivals

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Wander around a dreamy Italian-style village in Wales

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17. Wander around a dreamy Italian-style village in Wales

If you were dropped into the middle of Portmeirion, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were in southern Europe rather than North Wales. Set on its own peaceful peninsula reaching into an estuary, the Italian-inspired village is a colourful collection of rainbow-hued buildings, entirely masterminded by the Welsh architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis. It’s not exactly the most accurate depiction of Welsh life, but it’s well worth a visit for those beautiful buildings, lush gardens and sandy beaches.

Discover the best things to do in Portmeirion

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Spot seals at Blakeney Point in Norfolk

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18. Spot seals at Blakeney Point in Norfolk

The north Norfolk coastline is a sweet place to spend away a day or two. Head to Blakeney in search of the area’s salt marshes, sand dunes, sea birds and seal population. The National Nature Reserve is home to a thriving grey seal colony. To see the delightful creatures, including thousands of pups, from a safe distance, take a boat from Morston Quay. Once you’re back on dry land, explore the pretty villages of Blakeney, Stiffkey, Cley-next-the-Sea and Wells-next-the-Sea, as well as the wide expanse of Holkham Beach.

Discover the best things to do in Norfolk

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Discover the story of the ‘unsinkable’ ocean liner

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19. Discover the story of the ‘unsinkable’ ocean liner

The sinking of the RMS Titanic in 1912 made headlines around the globe and continues to intrigue people to this day. The ‘unsinkable’ ocean liner was the largest ship afloat before it hit an iceberg and disappeared into the depths of the Atlantic, along with more than 1,500 of its passengers. Belfast is where the boat was built at the Harland and Wolff shipyard, and it’s where an impressive museum dedicated to the ship now stands. Explore interactive galleries that, thanks to reconstructions, rides and special effects, allow you to walk the decks of the Titanic, descend to the depths of the ocean, tour the shipyard and witness the boat’s launch.

Discover the best things to do in Belfast

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Bathe like a Roman in Bath

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20. Bathe like a Roman in Bath

Home to independent shops and theatres, Bath is a pretty, honey-hued city famous for its grand, sweeping crescents and former resident Jane Austen. It’s also home to a fascinating, and impressively intact, Roman bath right in the heart of the city. It still flows with natural hot water, thanks to the city’s thermal springs, but no one’s swimming in it these days. Once you’ve wandered around the historic site, head to Thermae Bath Spa for your own chance to wallow in Bath’s warming waters.

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Go fossil-hunting on the Jurassic Coast

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21. Go fossil-hunting on the Jurassic Coast

A 95-mile stretch of south England shoreline, the Jurrasic Coast is famous for its unique geology. Running from Exmouth in Devon to Studland Bay in Dorset, the rocks record 185 million years of the Earth’s history – and they look pretty good, too. Highlights include the beautiful cliffs at Beer, the historic seaside town of Lyme Regis, the sweeping shingle ridge of Chesil Beach, Old Harry Rocks and West Bay’s golden sands. Don’t miss Lulworth Cove, a breathtakingly blue secluded bay, or its neighbour, the grand, natural limestone arch of Durdle Door.

Discover the best things to do in Devon, the best things to do in Dorset and the best things to do in Lulworth Cove

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Search for the mysterious monster at Loch Ness

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22. Search for the mysterious monster at Loch Ness

Nessie, the famous monster who is said to dwell in the depths of Loch Ness, was first spotted in the sixth century, but – hoaxes aside – we’re yet to get a clear shot of her. Lend your eyes to the search by taking a boat trip – high speed or sedate and leisurely – across the glassy stretch of water near Inverness. If your monster hunt proves less than fruitful, you’ll still have plenty to look at: Loch Ness is something of a Scottish stunner.

Discover the best things to do in Inverness

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Play the ‘Game of Thrones’ in Northern Ireland

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23. Play the ‘Game of Thrones’ in Northern Ireland

Seeking out the filming locations from HBO’s Game of Thrones is an essential pilgrimage for fans of the show. There are more than 20 dotted around Northern Ireland, including Ballintoy harbour (aka the Iron Islands), Castle Ward, which starred as House Stark’s Winterfell, and the enigmatic ‘dark hedges’ near Armoy, where ancient beech trees have formed a foreboding tunnel made famous after its stint as the King’s Road. Book on to a guided tour or fashion your own – just, y’know, consult a Three-Eyed Raven before you set off.

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Seek out myth and legend in the Scottish Highlands

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24. Seek out myth and legend in the Scottish Highlands

There’s nothing quite like the Scottish Highlands. If you like being active and adventurous – think boating, biking and hiking – this countryside is your playground. The scenery is totally breathtaking, but it’s steeped in history, mystery, folklore and legend too. Tour ancient castles, both standing and in ruins, explore the Highland Folk Museum, see the Glenfinnan Monument, which commemorates those who died during the Battle of Culloden, stop off at standing-stone burial mounds Clava Cairns and have a dram of whisky at one of the many distilleries in the area.

Discover the best things to do in the north-east Highlands

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Go raving in Madchester

Photograph: Warehouse Project

25. Go raving in Madchester

Sure, Factory Records and the Hacienda might be long gone. Yeah, Happy Mondays might be a more common sight on daytime telly than on stage. But from the gay clubs of Canal Street to the ever-popular Parklife weekender in summer, this northern powerhouse still has a varied and vibrant clubbing scene that attracts partygoers from all over the country.  To experience the best of it, head to the Warehouse Project, a clubbing series held each autumn and winter in the mammoth Mayfield Depot, just around the corner from Piccadilly station. 

Discover the best club nights in the UK

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Watch a giant Green Man burn in the Welsh hills

Photograph: Parri Thomas

26. Watch a giant Green Man burn in the Welsh hills

Wales is known for its verdant, lush countryside and it’s never more in evidence than in the Brecon Beacons National Park. A protected range of grassy mountains and heather-clad hills, the National Park is a gem, boasting walking trails, stunning waterfalls, pretty towns, prehistoric monuments and all the fresh air and wide, open space you could ever wish for. Visit during August for the annual Green Man music festival. Expect great bands, food, comedy, yoga and meditation, as well as the ritualistic burning of a pagan effigy at the end of the weekend.

Discover the best music festivals in the UK

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See a Shakespeare play in his hometown

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27. See a Shakespeare play in his hometown

Being a groundling (that’s getting yourself a £5 standing ticket and watching Elizabethan-style) at Shakespeare’s Globe in London is unmissable, but it doesn’t get more special than sitting in the audience of one of the Bard’s beloved plays in his actual hometown. Head to pretty Stratford-upon-Avon to see a Royal Shakespeare Company production in the riverside theatre, before visiting Shakespeare’s birthplace and the church where his body was laid to rest in 1616.

Discover the best things to do in Stratford-upon-Avon

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Get house-envy in the Cotswolds

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28. Get house-envy in the Cotswolds

Everywhere you look in the Cotswolds could be a postcard. The fields are abundant, the hills are rolling, the towns are all picture-perfect and the homes, grand or twee, are built with creamy, honey-coloured Cotswold stone. Go antiquing in Stow-on-the-Wold, feast on farm-fresh food at Daylesford, wander along Arlington Row in Bibury (possibly the most beautiful village in England) and dream about calling one of those pretty Cotswolds cottages home. Visiting in spring? Distract yourself by watching a bunch of grown adults throw themselves down a really steep hill in pursuit of wheels of double Gloucester cheese at the annual Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling.

Discover the best things to do in the Cotswolds

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Goth up in the shadows of a famously spooky abbey

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29. Goth up in the shadows of a famously spooky abbey

Twice a year, the wind-battered abbey in the pretty Yorkshire fishing town of Whitby is overrun by goths from all over the world. Why’s that, you ask? Well, Whitby Abbey starred in Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’, thereby endearing itself for ever to the vampire, bat and eyeliner-inclined. The biggest event of its kind in the world, Whitby Goth Weekend has been running since 1994, and is a celebration of goth culture, music and fashion. Shop at the Bizarre Bazaar, rock out on the main stages or just soak up the gothic vibes: whether you’re a goth or not, it’s one hell of an experience.

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Explore London’s free museums

Photograph: V&A

30. Explore London’s free museums

London is home to some incredible world-class museums and art galleries. Best of all? Most of them have permanent exhibitions that are totally free to visit. Kick things off on Exhibition Road in South Kensington with a visit to decorative arts giant the V&A, as well as the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum. Next, head to the National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery (when it reopens in June 2023), Tate Britain and Tate Modern for some incredible modern and classical art. Don’t forget to pop into the British Museum, to see historical artefacts from all over the world, and the Museum of London Docklands Docklands, for an insight into London’s past. 

Discover the best free art galleries and museums in London

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Eat fish and chips on the pebbles in Brighton

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31. Eat fish and chips on the pebbles in Brighton

The town of Brighton, just a short journey south of London, is the perfect seaside spot. Wander around cool, independent shops, cafés and galleries on The Lanes, gawp at the majestic Pavilion and play arcade games on the pier, before pitching up on the pebbly beach for a feast of freshly battered fish and chips. Stay put for the evening too, when the brilliant bars, clubs and restaurants in Brighton come alive. Got a taste for the Great British Seaside? Head east along the coast to the Kent towns of DealMargate and Whitstable for more piers, vintage fairground rides and incredibly fresh seafood.

Discover the best things to do in Brighton

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See Scotland by train

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32. See Scotland by train

Hop on board a train in Glasgow to travel along the West Highland Line to the end of the tracks. It’s one of the most beautiful railway routes in the world, taking in the wild landscapes of west Scotland. The train quickly leaves the city behind, passing craggy mountains, steep gorges, lochs and moors. Keep your eye out for the Glenfinnan Viaduct, which was used in the filming of ‘Harry Potter’, Ben Nevis and some of the tiniest, most remote stations on the line, including Corrour, the highest-altitude station in the UK. Your journey ends as land turns to sea and the train pulls into port town Mallaig. Feeling fancy? Spend the Fort William to Mallaig leg of your journey living it up on steam train The Jacobite.

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Soak up the vibes on Tyneside

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33. Soak up the vibes on Tyneside

It may well have an abundance of places to find a cheap jagerbomb, but Newcastle is more than just a great stag-do destination. With its world-class culture, iconic architecture and a slew of amazing restaurants, the Newcastle and Gateshead quayside sure has a lot going for it. And that’s not even to mention those views. Head to the Norman Foster-designed Sage Gateshead for music and comedy in a gorgeous wood-panelled concert hall with incredible acoustics, or catch an exhibition at the Baltic, a mammoth contemporary art gallery with panoramic city-wide views. And if you’re looking for great food at decent prices? The seasonal menu at quayside restaurant 21 comes highly recommended.

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Drink butterbeer at Hogwarts

Photograph: Dave Catchpole

34. Drink butterbeer at Hogwarts

Film fans the world over will know the UK as the home of Harry Potter. There are filming locations and spots that supposedly inspired JK Rowling dotted all over and you can even visit places where she wrote the books, like The Elephant House in Edinburgh. Potterheads will want to visit Leavesden Studios on the outskirts of London, where the majority of the movies were filmed, too. Wander around the Great Hall, peek into shop fronts on Diagon Alley, order a butterbeer and even ‘fly’ your very own broomstick on the Warner Bros Studio Tour London: The Making of Harry Potter

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Pick a side in a centuries-old rivalry

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35. Pick a side in a centuries-old rivalry

The Universities of Oxford and Cambridge – the oldest (and, for a long time, the only) universities in England and Wales – have a rivalry going back a long way. These days it’s a friendly one, acknowledging the academic prowess and similarities between the two university cities: both have beautiful buildings, world-famous university alumni, iconic publishing houses, respected libraries, brilliant museums and rivers running through their hearts where students, locals and visitors can be found floating around on punts. Visit both and then decide who you want to cheer on during the annual Boat Race between the two universities on the Thames in London.

Discover the best things to do in Oxford and the best things to do in Cambridge

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