UK tours

Best tours in the UK

England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland: it’s four for the price of one in the mighty UK. So, whether you’re looking for urban adventures, pagan festivals, cutting-edge galleries, world-class museums, wilderness hikes or majestic buildings – you’ll find it here. In this article, we unearth the crème de la crème of UK tours.

  1. Shakespeare’s Globe, London
  2. Kew Gardens, London
  3. Edinburgh Castle, Scotland
  4. Big Pit National Coal Museum, Wales
  5. The Eden Project, England
  6. Islay whisky tours, Scotland
  7. Durham Cathedral, England
  8. Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland

In collaboration with
Rough Guides

1. Shakespeare’s Globe, London

We challenge you to find someone who can’t name a Shakespeare play. From Othello to Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet to A Winter’s Tale, his works are ceaselessly studied at school and performed by theatre companies around the UK. There’s no feeling like standing in the reconstructed playhouse that is Shakespeare’s Globe, where most of the Bard’s later works were performed. Included in your ticket is an informative half-hour guided tour of the theatre; during the summer season, if you visit in the afternoon, you’ll be taken on a tour of the Bankside area instead. There are plenty of affordable places to stay in the UK capital - search for UK holidays to select your pick of the bunch.

Come for: The spiritual home of prose and poetry

Explore nearby: Bankside is dominated by the Tate Modern - pop in for an art attack brought on by its superlative collection.

2. Kew Gardens, London

Kew Gardens is pretty in pink, blue, green… and an assortment of other colours too - home to floral beauties from around the globe. The Royal Botanic Gardens manages to be both a world leader in botanic research and an achingly beautiful public park. Themed tours of the gardens run daily, focusing on Kew’s history as well as its seasonal highlights.

Come for: A green-fingered journey around the world

Explore nearby: Wander the streets of Richmond, upriver from Kew, which basked for centuries in the glow of royal patronage.

3. Edinburgh Castle, Scotland

Perched imposingly atop an extinct volcanic crag, Edinburgh Castle dominates not only the city, but the history of Scotland itself. Tours are run by experienced guides and set off at regular intervals throughout the day from the meeting point through the Portcullis Gate. For a trip back in time, this is the one to beat.

Come for: A history lesson with flair

Explore nearby: The Royal Mile: its tight closes, dwarfed by rubble-stone merchant houses and grand neo-Grecian sandstone buildings, make it a veritable feast for the eyes.

4. Big Pit National Coal Museum, Wales

Head down a mine - if you dare - in the fascinating town of Blaenavon in Wales. Tours at the Big Pit National Coal Museum involve you being kitted out with a lamp, helmet and heavy battering pack, then lowered 300ft into the labyrinth of shafts and coalfaces. The guides - mostly ex-miners - lead you through explanations of the different types of coal mining.

Come for: A trip down the mines

Explore nearby: Take a wander around the town itself, a spirited and evocative place.

5. The Eden Project, England

The science-fiction domes of the Eden Project are a draw enough in themselves, even without the glorious profusion of plant life within. It’s a visionary celebration of environmental diversity, with plants from the Med, southern Africa and the southwestern USA. You’ll also find bamboo, tea, hemp and tobacco, interspersed with dazzling flowers. Private guided tours can be booked for the Rainforest Biome and the Mediterranean Biome, while there’s a ‘chocolate-flavoured’ rainforest tour for the chocoholics, too.

Come for: Flowers of every persuasion

Explore nearby: Make for the coast: Cornwall has some of the most sublime beaches in the UK.

6. Islay whisky tours, Scotland

The fertile island of Islay is famous for one thing - single malt whisky. The smoky, peaty, pungent quality of Islay whisky is unique (we’ll let you in on a secret: that means it’s a strong and acquired taste - don’t be ashamed if you don’t like it!). Sample a wee dram and get behind the scenes at Islay’s fascinating whisky distilleries, which all offer guided tours that end with a generous tasting. Ardbeg, Bowmoreand Laphroaig are three of the best.

Come for: Drinking your whisky away

Explore nearby: Islay’s prettiest village, Port Charlotte, with its immaculate whitewashed cottages overlooking Loch Indaal.

7. Durham Cathedral, England

The handsome city of Durham is best known for its beautiful Norman cathedral - there’s a tremendous view of it as you approach the city by train from down south. The cathedral was founded in 1093 to house the shrine of St Cuthbert. Architecture buffs won’t be able to contain their excitement - the cathedral is considered a supreme example of the Norman-Romanesque style. Want to heckle a historian? Book onto one of the cathedral’s regular guided tours.

Come for: Revolutionary religious architecture

Explore nearby: Palace Green has treasures including medieval manuscripts and incunabula (that’s early printed books!)

8. Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland

The Giant’s Causeway is one of the most popular sites in Northern Ireland - and for good reason, too. Its 40,000 basalt columns make for an eerie and magical scene. Though its strange formations – the Giant’s Boot and the Organ, for example – feature in local folklore, there’s geology behind it, too: learn more on a guided tour.

Come for: Nature at its weirdest and wackiest

Explore nearby: Old Bushmills Distillery was granted its license way back in 1608, making it the oldest licensed distillery in the world.

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