From the Northern Lights to quaint Italian-esque towns, beautiful beaches and iconic towers; we’ve looked far and wide in the UK to find some of the most exotic-looking locations that are right at your fingertips.
By the time you’ve finished reading this, you’ll be ready to embark on your own scenic road trip… taking in the sights and surroundings of our beautiful country.
Gediminas Tower, Lithuania vs Old John’s Tower, Leicester
One of the most iconic buildings in all of Lithuania, Gediminas Tower is the only remaining part of the upper castle. Its positioning on top of the hill gives it an imposing feel, making its mark as the centre of the capital, Vilnius.
Yet, don’t you think it looks pretty similar to somewhere much closer to home…? The place in question would be Old John’s Tower, which can be found near Charnwood Forest, on the highest hill in Bradgate Park, Leicester.
Built in 1784, the tower is open for guided walks where you can learn more about its history; but just a climb to the top of the hill is worth it, for beautiful views of Leicestershire.
Lavender fields, France vs Lavender fields, Norfolk
The words lavender and Provence go hand-in-hand, with tourists flocking to the beautiful French fields every summer to breathe in the delicate fragrances, and revel in the dramatic purple backdrop.
What you may not be aware of, however, is the fact that lavender fields aren’t exclusive to Provence, or even France. In fact, the UK has its own fair share of lavender farms you can visit.
Perhaps the most renowned lavender farm in England is Norfolk Lavender, which spans 100 acres. Join the 45-minute guided tour, to learn all about the history of the fields, and discover the many uses of lavender oil, which is distilled on-site.
Zaanse Schans, Netherlands vs Herringfleet Windmill, Norfolk
When you think of the Netherlands, what springs to mind? Imposing windmills surrounded by a sea of tulips, perhaps? As the country of over 1,000 windmills, you’re not too far off the mark – but you can see virtually the same thing in Norfolk instead.
Norfolk’s landscape is home to a considerable number of windmills. Originally built for the purpose of drainage, and grinding corn and flour, many of them are now open to the public.
Herringfleet windmill (pictured above), is one of the last remaining mills of its kind. Dating back to the 1830s, you can find it situated on the Norfolk Broads. Spend the day exploring the surrounding riverbank and farmland, and you may well feel like you’re in the Netherlands!
Royal Palace of Brussels, Belgium vs Buckingham Palace, London
The official palace of the Belgian King and Queen, the Royal Palace of Brussels is open to the public from 21st July until September.
But take a look at its grand facade, imposing golden gilded gates and manicured gardens, and you may get a sense of deja vu… after all, it looks very much like our own royal residence, Buckingham Palace.
Located in Westminster, Buckingham Palace is one of the most popular tourist attractions in London, welcoming 15 million tourists every single year.
Much like Brussels’ Royal Palace, Buckingham Palace is open to the public for ten weeks during the summer, where you’ll get to discover several of the palace’s State Rooms, including the Grand Staircase, Ballroom, Throne Room, and much more.
Phoenix Park, Dublin vs Richmond Park, London
The largest enclosed public park in a European capital, Dublin’s Phoenix Park originates back to the 1660s, when it was used as a place where royals could go hunting.
Nowadays, visitors flock to visit the deer that still roam the park – but its likeness to Richmond Park in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames is uncanny.
Spanning a vast 2,500 acres, Richmond Park has a protected status, as it’s an important habitat for wildlife. Home to 630 red and fallow deer (which have been roaming around since 1637, so even longer than those in Phoenix Park); visit in autumn to see the rutting season, or between May to July to see the baby deer – just make sure you stay at least 50 metres away from them at all times.
Once you’ve finished admiring the deer, why not pay a visit to the Isabella Plantation, which is an ornamental woodland garden; or enjoy panoramic views of the Thames Valley and St. Paul’s Cathedral from King Henry’s Mound?
Vineyard, Germany vs vineyard, Sussex
Think of vineyards, and Germany and the UK may not be the first two countries that immediately spring to mind.
Yet, the Rhineland is the top wine-growing region in Germany, producing ice wine. But if you want to sample the wine, you could just travel to Sussex instead.
Sussex is actually home to many of the UK’s leading wine estates, due to its warm and dry climate (well, warm and dry compared to the rest of England!).
Many of these vineyards offer tours, where you’ll get to see where the grapes are grown, visit the cellar doors, and taste the wine that’s been produced.
The Algarve, Portugal vs Durdle Door, Dorset
The Algarve in Portugal is known for its beautiful beaches – and Praia de Albandeira is regularly voted as number one, despite being one of the lesser-known beaches.
With its gold-coloured sand, dramatic rock formations, and snorkelling opportunities, it’s easy to see why. You wouldn’t exactly think you’d be able to find a similar-looking beach in the UK, would you?
Enter Durdle Door. Located on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast, the natural limestone arch looks very much like the one you’d find on the popular Portuguese beach.
The arch’s origins date back millions of years, with the rocks initially formed 150 million years ago, before being contorted into the arch we know today, 40 million years ago.
Drive down to Durdle Door and enjoy hiking, mountain biking or coasteering – it’s much quicker and cheaper to access than the Algarve anyway!
Mont-Saint-Michel, France vs St. Michael’s Mount, Cornwall
This island and mainland commune set between the bay of Normandy and Brittany is one of the most well-known sights in all of France. When you visit, you can peruse the souvenir shops, dine in one of the restaurants or visit the Abbaye du Mont-Saint-Michel… or you could stay in England instead!
That’s right: while Mont-Saint-Michel sees tourists arriving in their thousands, the English replica, located in Cornwall, is a hidden gem in comparison – meaning you won’t have to battle the crowds.
St. Michael’s Mount is set back in Mount Bay, and is home to the castle that the St. Aubyn family has called home, since the 17th century.
Only 30 people live in the village below now, but if you book onto a guided tour, you can hear all about the families who lived there previously; and explore the buildings as you learn about the important part they’ve played in the castle’s history.
Thassos Ancient Theatre, Greece vs Minack Theatre, Cornwall
The island of Thassos is home to an ancient theatre, constructed in the Limenas Hill. Following excavation work, an orchestra, parados and part of a scene were discovered – and it’s thought that the theatre dates back to the 1st century A.D., where it was used for duels.
Interestingly, you can see a very similar scene in the UK, at the Minack Theatre in Porthcurno.
Admittedly, this open-air theatre is much more modern than its Greek equivalent (it was created in 1931 specifically to host Shakespeare’s The Tempest).
Perched on the cliffs, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, if you visit in the summer you can watch one of the many musicals, operas or dramas that take place. While the shows may not be on in the winter, you can still visit to see this impressive outdoor theatre for yourself.
Waterfall in Southern Sweden vs Sychryd Cascade, Wales
Sweden is renowned worldwide for its breathtaking nature, where you’ll get to discover an abundance of forests, lakes and waterfalls.
But it’s not the only place you can visit for dramatic nature trails. So, before you book your flights to Sweden, why not drive over to the Sychryd Cascade in Wales instead?
Hike the 6.5km Sgwd Yr Eira trail, where you’ll get to see waterfalls that rival any you’d find in Sweden, before stopping for a drink and bite to eat at one of the several pubs located along the trail.
Varenna, Italy vs Portmeirion, Wales
Arguably the most beautiful town on Lake Como, Varenna is situated on the eastern bank of the lake; and is instantly recognisable by its brightly coloured buildings which are framed with flowers; and a dramatic backdrop of the Alps.
Yet put these images side-by-side, and you could easily mistake the Welsh town of Portmeirion for a town on Lake Como.
Over 200,000 people flock to this north Wales town every year, specifically because of its Italian feel. When you’re there, make sure to immerse yourself in the architectural heritage, and visit the sub-tropical gardens, and authentic Italian style gelateria.
There are also several hotels and self-catering cottages available if you’d prefer to spend the night. Visit during the summer months, and you’ll feel like you’re holidaying in a tranquil Italian town, without having to fork out the cost of flights!
Cologne Christmas markets, Germany vs Christmas markets, Manchester
Cologne’s Christmas markets scatter throughout the city, yet the biggest of all the markets lies in the shadow of the city’s imposing landmark: the gothic Cologne Cathedral.
However, did you know there’s a city in the UK that offers Christmas markets just as big, in front of a landmark that’s just as dramatic? We’re talking about Manchester, of course!
Regularly topping the list of the best UK Christmas markets, Manchester’s markets open in November and run up until Christmas. Featuring food from all around Europe – from Germany to France, the Netherlands to Spain, you can sample some of the best dishes the continent has to taste; whilst stocking up on festive trinkets.
The markets run throughout the city, but the largest section is in Albert Square, in front of the Victorian gothic Manchester Town Hall. So, if you can’t make it to Cologne to do your Christmas shopping, then don’t worry… Manchester is just as good (if not better!).
Mont Blanc, Switzerland vs Ben Nevis, Scotland
The Alps are both the largest and highest mountain system in all of Europe, spanning France, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Liechtenstein, Germany, Slovenia and Monaco. The tallest peak is Mont Blanc, with an altitude of 15,776 feet.
However, if you want to go hiking, skiing or snowboarding in snow-capped mountains, you don’t have to travel all the way over to central Europe. Instead, spend some time in Scotland’s Ben Nevis.
The highest mountain in the British Isles, Ben Nevis stands at 1,132 feet, and is home to a variety of snowsports. There are several passes you can purchase, which are valid during the winter season of December to April – meaning you can save a significant amount of money as you don’t have to leave the country.
Northern Lights, Finnish Lapland vs Northern Lights, Scottish Highlands
You may well think that the only place you’ll have a chance at catching a glimpse of the Northern Lights is in Scandinavia, but there’s actually somewhere much closer to home where you can admire this wonder of the world… the Scottish Highlands.
Northern Scotland is on the same latitude as both Nunivak Island in Alaska, and Stavanger in Norway, which is why it’s the perfect place to view the Aurora Borealis.
In fact, there are multiple Scottish destinations where you can catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights – including Aberdeenshire and the Moray Coast, Inverness, Shetland, Orkney, and even the coast of Fife.
So, if the Northern Lights have been on your bucket list for ages, don’t book yourself a flight to the likes of Finland, Sweden, Norway or Iceland. Drive to northern Scotland instead! Just make sure you do it between September to April when the nights are longer, to give yourself the best possible chance of seeing one of the greatest shows on earth.
Øresund Bridge, Sweden vs Humber Bridge, Hull
The Øresund Bridge (or Öresund Bridge, as it’s known in Swedish), is a combined motorway and railway bridge that spans almost 8km, connecting the Scandinavian cities of Copenhagen and Malmö.
Rising to stardom after Nordic noir drama ‘The Bridge’, crossing this iconic landmark may well feature on your bucket list… but you could stay in the UK and visit an equally impressive construction instead.
Sure, it may be smaller (2.22km), but size isn’t everything. And if you must know, the Humber Bridge is actually the longest bridge in the world that can be crossed either on foot or by bike.
Connecting Northern Lincolnshire with the East Riding of Yorkshire, as you drive – or walk, or cycle – make sure you admire the views over the Humber Estuary, which rival the views of the Scandinavian coastline that the Øresund bridge offers.
Road trip across the UK
To explore the very best the UK has to offer, why not head out on our road trip, and discover sights that will make you feel like you’re in continental Europe?
Totalling an impressive 2,134.6 miles – or 44 hours 29 minutes – you could turn it into a two week holiday, or make trips to individual sights on your days off.
Depending on what car you drive, you could be in for a very economical trip, with total petrol costs a mere £140 (for a Ford Focus).