Britain is the place to be this summer according to figures from Visit London, which says Americans are taking advantage of getting more bang for their bucks. Bookings by Americans to Great Britain are up 21 per cent over last summer.
So where should be on your British bucket list of places to go?
As you would expect London is the most popular individual destination in Britain but there is plenty to see outside the capital. The list of the country’s most popular visitor attractions includes Chester Zoo, Edinburgh Castle, Stonehenge and Glasgow’s Kelvingrove and Riverside Museums in its top 25.
Bath is a popular stop-off on a best of British itinerary, thanks to its Roman baths and creamy gold buildings. One of Bath’s most famous residents was author Jane Austen and it is the 200th anniversary of her death this year. September, with its Austen festival, is the perfect time to visit. Stay in a cottage just outside the city to enjoy the Somerset scenery or in Bath’s famous Royal Crescent.
The Lake District in north-west England and immortalised by the poet William Wordsworth (“I wandered lonely as a cloud”) was recently named a Unesco World Heritage Site. Visit Windermere, where Sir Donald Campbell broke the world speed record on water in Bluebird or Tarn Hows, left to the National Trust by children’s author Beatrix Potter. Live like a lord by staying at Holbeck Ghyll, a traditional English country manor or in an ecolodge overlooking one of the region’s many lakes.
Blenheim Palace, where Winston Churchill was born, is one of Britain’s finest stately homes, set in 2,000 acres of parkland landscaped by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. The nearby Crown Inn is the perfect base for visiting Blenheim but also the picturesque Cotswolds. St Martin’s Church in Bladon, nearby, is Churchill’s final resting place.
If you love stargazing, there are some truly dark places in the country in which to view the heavens, such as north Norfolk, the Brecon Beacons, the Galloway Forest Park and the Exmoor Dark Sky Reserve. Exmoor has some wonderful cottages to use as a base for looking at the skies as well as hiking and fishing, such as Westcott Cross Cottage and Creenagh’s Cottage.
Cornwall in Britain’s south-west corner is also popular with both visitors and locals. Few places in Britain can be as picturesque as St Michael’s Mount, a Medieval church and castle sitting atop an island off the Cornish coast which you reach across a causeway at low tide or by boat. Sea Garden House, close to Marazion, sleeps eight and is ideal for a large family group.
If you are in Cornwall, you mustn’t miss the Eden Project, a former quarry transformed into the world’s largest indoor rainforest and home to England's longest and fastest zip wire. The Sea Loft is a nearby place to stay. Cornwall is also home to Britain’s finest surf beaches, such as Polzeath, Newquay and Sennen Cove. Porthemor Beach has a great surf school for beginners and you can stay in a cottage close by. Close by is the town of St Ives, famous for its food and art, including an outpost of the Tate modern art gallery.
Go a bit further but before reaching home, you come to the Isles of Scilly, a short flight from Newquay or Exeter airport or a ferry trip on the Scillonian. The islands are largely car-free and wonderfully isolated, with views over the Atlantic. The Flying Boat Cottages on the island of Tresco have an indoor pool and spa as well as a bar and restaurant.
No bucket list would be complete with a nod to some of Britain’s best beaches, where generations of British children have ventured with their buckets and spades. Wells-next-the-Sea and Holkham, where I spent much of my childhood, are perfect for long walks under big skies. The wild coast line under the shadow of Bamburgh Castle in the north-east is stunning too and close to the holy island of Lindisfarne and Alnwick Castle, featured in the first two Harry Potter movies. The Gower Peninsula, and the beaches of Rhossili Bay and Three Cliffs Bay, in Wales are a must-visit too.
Mark Frary is family travel editor for 101 Holidays.