Great pubs, epic hikes, coastlines for miles, megacities and quaint historical towns– from England to Scotland to Wales – the UK has got the lot. Being able to travel from London to Edinburgh in just over four hours makes Great Britain an island of diversity that is easy to explore. Luxury Escapes’ self- confessed Anglophile Emily Rayner has done some of the hard work for you with a rundown of the best places to eat, drink, stay and play on your UK adventure.
Historically, the UK has had a bad rap when it comes to edible delights – sausages and beans, pie and mash, cockles and whelks all paint an overwhelming ‘brown’ palette of a typically ‘British’ plate of food. But with the rise of the Gastro Pub and the ubiquitous great British celebrity chef taking over TV screens around the world (Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsay, Heston Blumenthal and Nigella Lawson, we’re looking at you kids!), these negative stereotypes have been quashed over the last decade.
The Best Gastro Pubs in Britain
Look no further than the Harwood Arms for London’s best Gastro Pub, as crowned in the TOP 50 Gastropub awards 2017. Situated in the green leafy belt of Fulham, this unassuming pub is the only pub in London to earn a prestigious Michelin Star, and has a foodie focus on British game and wild food. You can get a bargain three-course set menu lunch, Tuesday – Friday for only 29.50 pounds. The venison Scotch egg here is a thing of legend and you can follow it up with a main of sika deer with beetroot and bone marrow, with lemon curd doughnuts for dessert. Enjoy a few real ales in the beautiful beer garden before retiring to your five-star London hotel The Duke, located at St James Park which is only a few tube stops away on the District line.
The Hardwick in Abergavenny, Wales has received rave reviews around the country for using farm to fork local produce. Situated in the foothills of the Brecon Beacons, overlooking Wale’s famous misty mountains, the dining room features soft furnishings, velvet curtains and squishy settees where you could imagine Bilbo Baggins snuggling in for a pint and a plate of cheese before starting off on a middle earth adventure.
Offerings of rack of lamb with spiced lentils, juicy rib eye steaks with fat chips and oozy chocolate brownie mousse for dessert make a perfect pit stop before a hike up the hills. And with an eight-room hotel upstairs, if the lure of a cosy fire and a couple of pints proves more seductive than a sozzled saunter up the Brecon Beacons, you can always stay over and try the climb the next day.
Another remote find, perched on the shores of Loch Dunvegan on the Isle of Skye, is The Three Chimneys. Expect roaring fires, a friendly landlord and homely Scottish food at this world-renowned, high-end restaurant. Marvel at breathtaking views of mountain peaks, the wild sea and surrounding green fields as you dine on dishes such as Dunvegan crab with salt-baked turnip and roasted crustacean sauce, and baked apple doughnut with cider cream and java pepper crumble.
If Scran (as the Scots call good pub grub) is more your thing, look no further than the Scran & Scallie in Edinburgh for fine fare. Featuring regional specialities with a twist such as Sheep’s Heid Scotch Broth (say it out loud in your best Scottish brogue!) or enjoy a roe deer terrine and rhubarb starter. Ales are local and hearty, so you can treat yourself to artisan beers before stumbling back to your hotel. For a right royal stay why not book into The Principal Edinburgh George Street.
The Best Places To Enjoy A Tipple In The UK
From ye olde world ales, brewed in England’s mediaeval monasteries to drams of whisky tumbled in the foothills of the Scottish Highlands, you’re never short of an opportunity to enjoy a drink in the UK.
The Scots love whisky. Fact. You won’t go a day in Scotland without one of the friendly locals recommending a good whisky bar where you can sample this famous local tipple. From hidden waterholes tucked away down cobblestone laneways to castle bars and famous clubs where you’ll find every kind imaginable.
Why not go to a whisky bar in a castle? How much more Scottish can you get? Located in the historic town of Dornoch, Sutherland, the Dornoch Castle Whisky Bar & Bistro is tucked away inside Dornoch Castle Hotel and is a wonderful passion project created by single malt whisky fans, the Thompson Brothers.
One of the oldest pubs in the city of London, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese was rebuilt after the great fire of London in 1666. This Fleet St landmark has literary connections to Charles Dickens and PG Wodehouse, and does a sterling trade in Samuel Smith’s beer and good honest British pub grub. Lounge about in the dimly lit labyrinth of rooms and enjoy a pint while contemplating the great minds and fluid debates that have echoed around the hallowed walls of this ancient boozer.
If pints and whisky aren’t your thing and you fancy kicking up your heels with something shaken not stirred, why not try out the Dandelyan at the impossibly slick Mondrian Hotel in London’s Southbank? Recently named the Best International Cocktail Bar 2017 at the annual Spirited Awards (the Oscars of the bar scene) award-winning mixologist Ryan Chetiyawardana mixes with the very best of British, creating concoctions like the Arsenic Waltz, an eye-catching bright green sour with Tapatio Blanco tequila that’s sure to send you in a spin.
Three Recommended Stays in the UK
The Principal Edinburgh George Street
Following a complete refurbishment in 2016, The Principal Edinburgh George Street (pictured above) updated its classic 1800’s elegance for the 21st century and went on to win the 2017 Scottish Hotel of the Year award at the Scottish Hotel Awards. There’s nothing stuffy about this heritage-listed hotel, with its soft leather and velvet furnishings, smart TVs and mood lighting.
The Manor House, Moreton-in-Marsh, Cotswolds
There’s no better place to discover the beauty of the English countryside than in the charming Cotswolds, where tiny historic villages are nestled amongst rolling green hills. It’s also the perfect launchpad for exploring destinations including Shakespeare’s birthplace Stratford-Upon-Avon, historic Warwick with its medieval castle and timber-framed buildings, the dreaming spires of Oxford and the charming Bourton-on-the-Water. The Manor House in the quaint market town of Moreton-in-Marsh is an exquisitely renovated 16th-century country manor with history woven through its walls. Its luxurious guests rooms each offer unique heritage charm. Immerse yourself in countryside life and sit back with a book in a cosy armchair in the library, take a stroll around beautifully-manicured walled gardens and relax besides the roaring log fire.
The Morton Hotel, Bloomsbury London
The Morton Hotel offers quintessentially English style with a twist, located in the heart of Bloomsbury overlooking Russell Square. Wooden floorboards, traditional fireplaces, exposed brickwork, chintzy fabrics and soft, neutral colours make for a cosy and inviting atmosphere, which extends to the guest rooms and charming library, the perfect place for a spot of British afternoon tea.
Top Four Bucket List Things To Do
The UK is awash with things to do and places to see, but quite often the best secrets need a bit of work to uncover. We’ve compiled the best of British oddities and local secret haunts.
Turn a page of Turner at The Tate Britain, London
At the Tate Britain’s’ Prints and Drawings Room you can get up close and personal with the great masters of art. JMW Turner is debatably the ultimate Impressionist English painter with his watercolours and contemplative, often violent landscape and marine paintings causing many a jaw to drop in galleries around the world. At Tate Britain’s’ Prints and Drawings Room, you can make an appointment to flick through Mr Turner’s sketchbooks and preparatory watercolours, getting a very personal glimpse at what made the great artist tick.
Bag a Munro in Scotland
This may sound a bit strange, but Munro bagging is incredibly popular in Scotland with locals and visitors wanting to tell their friends at their next dinner party, ‘I bagged my first Munro in Scotland’. So what is it? A Munro is a mountain in Scotland over 3,000ft and there are 282 Munros across the country with many of them in the Scottish Highlands. The idea is that you hike up the summit, and once you’ve hit the summit you’ve bagged that Munro.
Leap with a Leprechaun in Ireland
Find a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow at the first leprechaun museum in the world, the National Leprechaun Museum on Dublin’s north side. The Irish are known for their ability to tell a tall tale, but at the Leprechaun Museum, stories celebrate the small, green sprites of folkloric legend.
There is a tunnel full of optical illusions and a room with giant furniture which is well worth a visit to put yourself back into perspective, plus find out all there is to know about these mischievous little underground dwellers – to be sure, to be sure!
Star Gaze on The Isle of Man
Thought you’d have to venture to Norway or Alaska to see the Northern Lights? Wrong! Located in the Irish Sea between Great Britain and Ireland, the self-governing island is home to 26 Dark Sky Discovery sites, including Cregneash and Peel Castle.
Plus, you can actually spot the starry spectacular of the Northern Lights from the North East coast of the Isle of Man which offers crystal clear views of the Aurora Borealis on many occasions.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock
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