When visiting the United Kingdom, there is a certain temptation to hit the well-known tourist spots to claim, ‘I was there’.
London is packed full of such attractions, from the Tower of London to Big Ben, making it a great place to fully immerse yourself in the history and culture of the country. However, there are other towns and cities which are just as exciting and deliver just as much of a punch as those you know well.
You do not have to stray far to obtain an insightful and authentic tourist experience that many do not take the time to see. So with that in mind, these five cities are all steeped in history, packed with great architecture and stories that will enrich your trip to the UK.
Bath was awarded UNESCO World Heritage in 1987 for several reasons, including its hot springs, Roman remains, wonderful architecture and innovative town planning. The award covers the whole city, something particularly unusual for a UNESCO site. It is a spa town too, a town based on a mineral spring which used to attract visitors from afar to ‘take to the waters’ for the purported health benefits.
For literary buffs, Bath is also inextricably linked with novelist Jane Austen, best known for Pride and Prejudice. As explained by Smithsonian Magazine, two of her other novels are also set in Bath, namely Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.
The City of Cambridge is only a short drive from London and is famous for its university. Founded in 1209, it was granted a Royal Charter by Henry VIII in 1231. King’s College and King’s Parade pay homage to the royal links and remain a huge draw for tourists today.
Some of the greatest minds in the world have studied in Cambridge, from Stephen Hawking to the poet, Lord Byron. A history quiz on Gala Bingo details how Lord Byron once kept a pet bear at Trinity College, merely to make a point. The world-famous university banned pet dogs, so Byron purchased the bear, possibly at Stourbridge Fair.
In 1807, Byron wrote to his friend Elizabeth Pigot and said: “I have got a new friend, the finest in the world, a tame bear. When I brought him here, they asked me what to do with him, and my reply was, ‘he should sit for a fellowship’.” Quirky stories like this fill every nook and cranny of Cambridge, waiting to be discovered, just like the stylish bistros and restaurants of the modern-day city.
The Roman city of Lincoln is a little off the beaten track, but it can be seen for miles around courtesy of its wonderful gothic cathedral, which was once the tallest building in the world. It stands on the top of a hill and can be seen from 30 miles away in some directions. Opposite the cathedral stands a fine Norman castle, intact and still functioning as a crown court.
The uphill area of the city attracts tourists from across the globe, as does the aptly named ‘Steep Hill’ which leads down into the modern city. It was named as the best street in Britain in 2012 and is lined with quaint shops and places to eat, waiting to tempt in a weary visitor. With an average incline of 16.12°, the fourth steepest in England, weariness soon comes when traveling the 420m up or down.
York is the most northern city on our list and like Lincoln, it is packed with Roman ruins and history. It also has an impressive Viking history. They invaded York on November 1st 866AD, and led by Ivar The Boneless and King Halfden, renamed the city Jorvik. You can visit the Jorvik Viking Centre today for a glimpse into life at the time.
There is a majesty and aura around York that is so quintessentially British it must be experienced to be believed. Fans of the Harry Potter series might find it familiar; Diagon Alley was modeled on a York street known as The Shambles, one of the best medieval shopping streets in the country. Coupled with the wonderful Minster, York has something to discover at every turn and may even require more than a simple whistle-stop visit.