Top 10 for 2013: UK

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You don't have to head abroad for a great holiday break. With picturesque hiking trails, indulgent city spas and intimate art pubs, the UK boasts natural beauty and cultural diversity. From the whisky distilleries of Aberdeenshire to Margate's Turner Contemporary gallery and surfing lessons on the Gower Peninsula, here are ten unmissable UK experiences for 2013...

Words: David Whitley

  • York

    York has always been Britain’s chocolate capital – the likes of Rowntree’s and Terry’s started out there – but it has gone overboard on the sweet stuff over the last few years. York’s Chocolate Story goes into the history, but also offers choc-making demonstrations and generous samplings. Real obsessives should head to the York Cocoa House though – it runs workshops where you can create your own chocolate bar and indulge in afternoon chocolate. Confused? Well that’s afternoon tea, but with every item having chocolate in it.

    Picture credit: VisitBritain/ Britain On View

  • The Scottish Highlands

    The closing scenes of Skyfall added a bit of Bond movie glamour to the already gorgeous Highlands. Daniel Craig and co were filming around Glencoe – prime hiking territory. For those who prefer less strenuous transportation, the mountain roads offer some of Britain’s best drives, while you can go beyond the Loch Ness tat by taking a cruise on the (possibly) monster-filled waters. Then there’s the castles with Urquhart and Cawdor (remember Macbeth? That one was his) being the most impressive.

    Picture credit: VisitBritain/ Britain On View

  • Bath

    Darcy-chasing bonnet-donners have an excuse to indulge in their Pride and Prejudice peccadillos in the city that Jane Austen called home. It’s 200 years since Austen’s best known book was released, and the Jane Austen Centre in Bath offers themed walking tours, a small museum and the Jane Austen Festival in September. Fans shouldn’t need much persuasion to take in the Thermae Bath Spa while they’re there.

    Picture credit: VisitBritain/ Britain On View

  • Hampshire

    For more Austen, head to Hampshire where the author was born and grew up. A new trail linking sites that played a key part in her life has been launched. These include the city walls of Southampton that she liked to walk whilst coming up with ideas, the house in which she did a lot of her writing and Winchester Cathedral where her grave can be found. The downside? No Colin Firths ripping shirts off.

    Picture credit: VisitBritain/ Britain On View

  • Liverpool

    Liverpool is getting in on the anniversary act too, celebrating 50 years since the Beatles put out their first album. It’s as good an excuse as any to live it up in an English city that has arguably more to see and do than any other outside London. The Albert Dock is the place to head to for both people-watching restaurants and culture – a number of museums covering everything from the Fab Four to the slave trade are clustered around there. Meanwhile the already excellent Museum of Liverpool is opening new expansions in 2013, while the tours taking in the places where John, Paul, George and Ringo grew up are still as popular as ever.

    Picture credit: VisitBritain/ Britain On View

  • Sheffield

    The new production of the Full Monty – specially written by Simon Beaufoy – gets a world premiere at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre in February. That’s a convenient excuse to check out a city that has got its groove on with intimate arts pubs such as the Greystones and Riverside, plus a series of good value food haunts serving excellent local produce. Throw in July’s three day free music festival, Tramlines and the city is arguably Britain’s best low pretence night out.

    Picture credit: David Whitley

  • Eastern Scotland

    Virgin Atlantic is launching new domestic flights from Heathrow to Aberdeen – the perfect launchpad for jaunts into Scotland’s variety-packed east. In Aberdeenshire itself, there’s a castle hopping trail to partake in, while more outdoorsy types can head to the Grampians and Cairngorms, perhaps taking a peek at the Queen’s Balmoral home on the way. For an alcoholic education, however, head north-west from Aberdeen to the whisky distilleries of Speyside.

    Picture credit: VisitBritain/ Britain On View

  • Derry

    After fighting off fierce competition, the Northern Irish city of Derry has become the UK’s first City of Culture. That means a packed calendar of arts events throughout 2013, culminating in the Turner Prize ceremony in December. Before that, there’s Radio One’s Big Weekend in May, plus hundreds of one off gigs that span the cultural spectrum – one day it’s comedy, the next traditional storytelling, the next a Primal Scream concert.

    Picture credit: Gardiner Mitchell

  • Margate

    When guidebook publisher Rough Guides named Margate amongst its picks for the top destinations in the world in 2013, people scoffed. But the guide book gurus have a point – the Kent seaside resort town has scrubbed up nicely in recent years. The Turner Contemporary gallery is the spearhead of the revival, but a clutch of smaller indie artspaces and quality conscious cafés have turned Margate from bucket and spade to bordering on boutique.

    Picture credit: VisitBritain/ Britain On View

  • The Gower Peninsula

    Now that Newquay is more about Sambuca-downing than surf, its original spirit can be found on the Gower Peninsula near Swansea. Home to some of Britain’s best breaks, numerous caves and surprisingly gorgeous beaches, it’s a great spot for holing up in a hired cottage for the weekend. Surf novices can get themselves standing with lessons from the Gower Surf School.

    Picture credit: VisitBritain/ Britain On View


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