With the UK still being seriously hit by COVID-19, and its borders still being closed to travellers, we are happy to offer you a sneak preview of five beautiful nature escapes on the island…
When you think of the UK, nature may not be the first thing that comes to mind. Many visitors often associate the country with the vibrant cities of London, Manchester, and Edinburgh. But beyond these tourist hotspots, the UK is actually home to some of the world’s most stunning natural destinations. That being said, here are some natural attractions you should add to your bucket list.
Giant’s Causeway is an iconic area in Northern Island. It’s a huge rock formation made of 40,000 conjoined mostly hexagonal basalt columns on the Antrim Coast. According to Irish folklore, these were steps placed by the giant Finn McCool in the Irish Sea to build a bridge to Scotland where he fought the giant Benandonner. In reality, this location has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987. According to The Guardian, scientists trace the history of the structure to 50 to 60 million years ago, when the coastline experienced intense volcanic activity. Today, there are three different hiking trails with varying difficulties to choose from, with the Blue Trail being the easiest.
Fingal’s Cave is a sea cave on the Isle of Staffa in Scotland, across the Irish Sea from the Giant’s Causeway. It shares the same history as the Giant’s Causeway (and Fingal would refer to Finn MacCool), with the same lava resulting in identical hexagonal basalt columns. But instead of steps, the structure looks like a natural 227-foot temple with surreal symmetry. In Gaelic, the cave is called ‘Uamh-Binn’, meaning ‘Cave of Melody’. True enough, the cave is known for its natural acoustics, and more specifically how the sound of waves reverberates — so much so that German composer Felix Mendelssohn used it as inspiration for his ‘Hebrides Overture,’ also known as ‘Fingal’s Cave’.
Snowdonia National Park
Snowdonia National Park is the oldest and largest of the national parks in Wales, covering a massive region in northwest Wales that includes mountains and glacial landforms. The top natural attractions are Mount Snowdon and the Llechwedd Slate Caverns. Mount Snowdon rises in the middle of the park, and on a clear day, you can spot Ireland, Scotland, England, and the Welsh landscape scattered with castles and lakes. The Slate Caverns can be accessed 500 feet underground by taking Britain’s steepest cable railway. Below ground, you’ll be greeted by tunnel systems and cathedral-sized caverns.
The Peak District can be found in central England. As explained by Gala Bingo, this spot is actually renowned for being Britain’s first National Park, built in 1951. It is said that they host more than 10 million visitors annually (at least before the pandemic put a damper on everyone’s travel plans). Most notably, it has at least 555 square miles of breathtaking limestone, picturesque rolling hills, caverns, and so many more natural wonders — making it one of the most scenic parks in the country. If you’re up for adventure, you can explore Winnats Pass and see the underground river that runs through it. Alternatively, you can have a relaxing night at their ‘Dark Sky Places,’ where you can enjoy the night sky without light pollution.
Found in Somerset, England, Cheddar Gorge is a limestone gorge in the Mendip Hills. It reaches as deep as 137 metres and as wide as 3 miles. Floods from a million years ago helped carve out Britain’s biggest gorge. The end result is a ravine, an underground river, and numerous caves — the most famous of which is Gough’s Cave, where Cheddar Man, Britain’s oldest complete skeleton, was found. You can take a path built up the side of the gorge. This 275-step path is named ‘Jacob’s Ladder’, and it leads to a watchtower at the top where you have a 360-degree view of the entire area. Cheddar Gorge also has multiple routes for bicyclists and hikers, as well as areas for rock climbers.
Natural attractions make for beautiful hiking destinations as well. It may be tiring to tour around these areas if you’re not the outdoors type, but it’s definitely worth it.