The Ultimate UK Instagram Road Trip: Hidden Gems

Snow-capped mountains akin to the Alps, gardens and beaches that look more at home in South East Asia, waterfalls, valleys and deserts that wouldn’t look out of place in North American surroundings – sometimes you don’t need to leave the UK to find some of the most spectacular natural wonders.

We’ve looked beyond the usual sightseeing spots around the country, and have scoped out some of the UK’s most spectacular hidden gems. And, of course, when it comes to traveling, it wouldn’t be right without taking a few photographic mementos of your journey, would it?

That’s why we’ve created The Ultimate UK Instagram Road Trip, showcasing some of the country’s hidden gems and unseen treasures.

Check out the interactive map, and then read on to find out more about each fantastic location:

 

1. Cornwall: Lost Gardens of Heligan

The Lost Gardens of Heligan near Mevagissey cover more than 200 beautiful acres, but were unknown, unseen and unheard of until around 25 years ago! Today, they have been renovated and restored with photography highlights including the Giant's Head, Mud Maid and Grey Lady. The 100ft rope bridge in the “Jungle” is probably one of the most alluring aspects in the botanical garden, with its towering ferns and giant gunnera leaves creating something well-suited to a tropical rainforest. Each season there is something different to see in the gardens, making it perfect for explorers, wildlife and plant lovers, and green-fingered gardeners.

2. Devon: Broadsands Beach

Another location that wouldn’t be out of place in sub-tropical countries, Broadsands beach near Combe Martin. It’s on the wild and rugged north coast of North Devon, near the likes of the Valley of Rocks, and is one of Exmoor National Park's best secret swimming beaches. If you’re intent on reaching the double cove below, you’ll need to clamber down 220 uneven steps moulded out of a steeply wooded cliff face. Once there, though, you’ll be able to enjoy two shingled beaches, arches, caves and an island lookout. If you’re not so keen on the descent – and ascent! – then there’s good news; some of the best viewpoints are from above the beach, much like the one shown here.

3. Somerset: Cheddar Gorge

Maybe not a “secret location” per se, but Cheddar Gorge has something rather unique about it, when it comes to taking a few photos. The spectacular natural landmark, set in the Mendip Hills, offers picturesque opportunities from all over: above the gorge, looking down at the entire natural phenomenon and spiralling roads; from the surface, gazing up at dramatic limestone cliff faces and wild goats; and from the caves below, where Britain's oldest complete human skeleton, aka the +9,000-year-old Cheddar Man, was found in 1903. Fill your boots – and your camera roll.

4. Wales: Pistyll Rhaeadr Waterfalls

The enchanting natural temple of Pistyll Rhaeadr Waterfalls can be found nestling in the Berwyn Mountains in North Wales. The waterfall, of which the name means "spring of the waterfall", is Wales’ tallest waterfall, standing at 80m high. It’s often referred to as Britain's tallest single-drop waterfall – however, this is incorrect due to it not being a single drop. But that doesn’t take anything away from the sheer beauty, tranquillity and peace found at the site. There are walking routes nearby, too, meaning you can enjoy a foray around the lovely area before returning to the tea room starting point to refuel and refresh.

5. Lake District: Wasdale Valley

All things great and small can be found at Wasdale Valley, the wildest of the Lake District valleys.  The remote and beautiful area showcases towering mountains, including Scafell Pike, England’s highest mountain, while also taking in Wastwater, England’s deepest lake. On the flipside of the size chart, you’ll also find St Olaf’s Church, one of – if not the – smallest churches in England. It’s said to be roofed with huge slate tiles that were conserved from wrecked Viking ships. In the nearby village of Gosforth, you’ll also find St Mary’s Church – which dates from Norman times, and has England’s tallest ancient cross in its churchyard.

6. Scotland: Finnich Glen

Finnich Glen, otherwise known as the Devil’s Pulpit, is just a short drive from both Edinburgh and Glasgow. Legend has it that the gorge was a secret meeting place for the ancient Druids – a group of priests, magicians, or soothsayers in ancient Celtic religions. It’s quite a trek getting down to the bottom of the gorge, with slippery paths underfoot, but the journey is well worth it for magical shots like the one shown. The beauty of the area hasn’t gone totally unnoticed, with it being a filming location for both the hit TV show Outlander, and Hollywood blockbuster The Eagle, starring Channing Tatum. However, we still feel it deserves to be noticed much more than it is.

7. Yorkshire: Rievaulx Abbey, Helmsley

When it comes to ancient ruins, the UK may not be as famous as the likes of Greece or Italy – but that’s not to say that there aren’t any beautiful archaic buildings around the country! Although the likes of Corfe Castle in Dorset, Battersea Power Station and, of course, Stonehenge immediately spring to mind, it’s Rievaulx Abbey, near the chocolate-box village of Helmsley in Yorkshire, which stands out to us. The Gothic architecture was once one of England's most powerful Cistercian monasteries. You can walk the ruins, breathing in the history it exudes, while a museum is also there to offer more insight.

8. Derbyshire: Blue Lagoon of Buxton

We’ll start by saying this: Do not swim here. The disused Harpur Hill Quarry in Derbyshire is known locally as the Blue Lagoon, due to caustic chemicals in the stone turning the water an enticing turquoise colour. However, although it may look just like the Mediterranean Sea, there are warnings discouraging swimming – because the lagoon’s pH is a high 11.3, compared to ammonia (11.5) and bleach (12.6). Signs read: “Warning! Polluted water. Lagoon known to contain: Car Wrecks, Dead Animals, Excrement, Rubbish”. It was dyed black in 2016, but, having been dyed previously, is expected to again revert to its electric blue colour – making for a fantastically unique photograph.

9. Norfolk: Blakeney Point

Here in the UK, we’re lucky to have a huge range of wonderful wildlife right on our doorstep. Nature photographers will therefore be pleased to learn that there is a fantastic nature reserve in Norfolk, where hundreds of gorgeous seals are just waiting to be the star of your next Instagram story! Blakeney Point is a beautiful long spit of shingle and sand dunes, where up to 500 seals often gather, while there are also salt marshes, tidal mudflats and farmland all waiting to become the backdrop to your latest photo. If your heart is set on viewing the seals, boat trips are also available, taking you out to see them if they’re not already on the shoreline.

10. Kent: Dungeness

The last stop on our road trip takes us all the way down the south coast to Kent – where a wilderness that wouldn’t be out of place in old-time American Westerns awaits! The headland of Dungeness is one of the largest shingle landscapes in the world, and gives off an almost post-apocalyptic feel with abandoned boats, huts and gravel pits. In recent years, the UNESCO world heritage site had such low rainfall it qualified as the only desert in the UK. It’s also one of the most valuable nature conservation sites in the UK; home to a third of Britain’s entire plant species, while many uncommon insects and spiders can be found here.

 

On your road trip, you'll need somewhere to stop to refuel, grab a bite to eat, or even just to stretch the legs. We've compiled a list of the UK's best service stations, helping you find the best pitstops on your journey.

You'll also need somewhere to stay for the night. Follow the links above for properties in the specific regions, or take a look at our full list of accommodation here.

Posted by Simon Lockyer on 5th February 2018