cover

Traveling solo is a truly liberating experience. With excellent public transportation, friendly locals, low crime rates, and lots to see and do, the United Kingdom has plenty to offer solo travelers. Although it’s spread across a few small isles, you’re spoiled for choice — whether it’s a quaint town or a vibrant city to visit. The length of traversal between the UK’s two furthest extremes — Land’s End in the southwest, and John O’Groats in the northeast — is less than 900 miles, with a diverse range of destinations in between that are renowned for their rich history and culture.

With the lifting of global travel restrictions, and England recently ranking second among the best countries for solo travel, there is no better time to take the leap and start exploring this beautiful country.

1. Belfast

Three Belfast landmarks in one shot. From left to right: Titanic Belfast, a museum for all things Titanic related; the very large Harland and Wolffe ship building crane Goliath; and immediately below it, the red bricked building where the Titanic was designed by Harland and Wolff.

As the capital of Northern Ireland, Belfast is a diverse cosmopolitan metropolis. The city is filled with exciting attractions and experiences that are perfect for solo travelers. In 2018, it was voted the UK’s best destination to visit by Lonely Planet, and it’s easy to see why.

Things to Do in Belfast

  • The Giant’s Causeway. One of the UK’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Giant’s Causeway is one of the most iconic landmarks in Northern Ireland. The area was formed as a result of an ancient volcanic fissure eruption and dates back over 50 million years.
  • Cave Hill Country Park. Perfect for seeing panoramic views of the city, Cave Hill Country Park features various attractions including eco trails and orienteering routes. The area is also home to a range of walking trails that are suitable for people of all ages and abilities.
  • Titanic Belfast Museum. Located along the very dock where the Titanic was built, this museum illustrates the full history of the fateful ship — starting from conception to her untimely demise.

2. Edinburgh

Edinburgh Castle perched high above the city on a fortified mountain.

Home to some of the world’s most famous attractions, Edinburgh is an ideal destination for a solo trip. As the capital city of Scotland, Edinburgh has a rich mix of contemporary Scottish culture and traditional Celtic roots.

Things to Do in Edinburgh

  • Edinburgh Castle. The castle is located atop Castle Rock and offers spectacular views of the city. Visitors can explore the interior and exterior of the castle, including the Crown Room, which is a coveted highlight. This room is home to the oldest Crown jewels in the British Isles that were originally used for the crowning of Mary, Queen of Scots in 1543.
  • The Royal Mile. The city’s main street runs up Castlehill in Old Town, connecting the Palace of Holyroodhouse to Edinburgh Castle. Contrary to the name, the street isn’t exactly a mile long. Instead, it measures a “Scots mile,” which is approximately 200 yards longer than the English mile.
  • Princes Street Gardens. A beautiful park in the center of Edinburgh, this cluster of botanical gardens is home to many varieties of flowers and plants. You can spend time relaxing there alongside ​​an abundance of amazing wildlife.

3. Leicester

Cathedral in Leicester, England.

With a wide range of attractions, from beautiful Roman ruins to stunning medieval architecture, there’s no better place for solo travelers to discover the history and culture of the United Kingdom. Once an ancient Roman settlement, the city of Leicester has been perpetually inhabited since 48 A.D. and proudly exhibits its distinguished heritage through a broad spectrum of world-renowned attractions.

Things to Do in Leicester

  • National Space Centre. Visit the center to explore the wonders of the UK’s largest planetarium, and stand in awe at the iconic 42-meter-high Rocket Tower, which houses the center’s largest artifacts.
  • Leicester Cathedral. With a long and illustrious history, the cathedral features stunning Gothic architecture and houses the tomb of King Richard III, who was reburied in the cathedral after being discovered and exhumed from the nearby Greyfriars in 2015.
  • Jewry Wall. Once forming part of the city’s Roman baths, this ancient wall stands over nine meters tall and is one of the tallest surviving examples of Roman architecture still standing in the UK. Visitors can marvel at the wall’s masonry and visit the nearby museum to learn more about the architecture and history of the city.

4. Bristol

Clifton suspension bridge and Balloon Fiesta, Bristol, UK.

Historically an important port and ship-building center, Bristol is now home to many universities and colleges and is considered an important cultural destination in the UK. From visiting the historic docks to taking a casual stroll through the Georgian streets, Bristol’s heritage can be explored in many ways. Be sure to keep an eye out for some fabulous street art by world-renowned artist Banksy, who reportedly hails from the city.

Things to Do in Bristol

  • Bristol Cathedral. One of the most famous and iconic attractions in the city, this cathedral, featuring stunning stained-glass windows, was built all the way back in the 12th century.
  • Clifton Suspension Bridge. Probably the most recognizable feature of the city, this bridge — designed by iconic British engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel in the 17th century — is a great spot to capture unforgettable snapshots.
  • Bristol Zoo. Known as “the birthplace of conservation,” the Bristol Zoo features a wide variety of animals. It is home to over 20 species that are considered threatened, including lowland gorillas and red pandas.

5. Leeds

A row of fancy shops covered by a glass overhang.

The unofficial cultural center of the North of England, Leeds is a vibrant and fascinating city that can be easily explored on foot. Featuring a wide range of exciting attractions, Leeds has a lot to offer solo travelers through its varied selection of cultural and historical sites. During the 16th and 17th centuries, the city was at the helm of the British wool industry, which catalyzed its growth and still imbues the city’s cultural heritage today.

Rent a car to take advantage of the city’s central location, with three of the UK’s most beautiful national parks — including the Yorkshire Dales, the North York Moors, and the Lake District — only a short drive away.

Things to Do in Leeds

  • The Royal Armouries. Housing artifacts from all over the world including Japanese swords and medieval chainmail, this museum provides a unique insight into the history of arms and armor.
  • The Corn Exchange. A Grade I listed building — the UK’s National Register of Historic Places equivalent — the Corn Exchange was once home to an important marketplace. Today it features a range of independent shops, exquisite restaurants, and lively bars.
  • Roundhay Park. Perfect for a serene walk amongst wildlife, this park is a beautiful place to enjoy some peace and be at one with nature for a few hours.

6. St. Ives

Picturesque St Ives, a popular seaside town and port in Cornwall, England.

A picturesque town on the Cornish coast, St. Ives is one of the most popular holiday destinations in the United Kingdom, thanks to its pristine sandy beaches and serene atmosphere. An ideal place for solo travelers looking for a relaxing getaway, the town features a variety of attractions that are sure to satisfy all tastes. It’s easy to see why St. Ives is one of the UK’s most popular seaside towns.

Things to Do in St. Ives

  • Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden. Managed by the Tate Gallery group since 1980, the museum is housed in a converted studio, once owned by Barbara Hepworth. The museum features a large garden with a small cafe, where visitors can enjoy a cup of famous British tea amongst beautiful sculptures.
  • Porthminster Beach. Located only a short walk away from the town center, Porthminster Beach is an award-winning, Blue Flag-certified beach. Solo travelers can safely swim in the deep blue waters or relax along the sandy shores. If you’d rather not walk, Porthminster is accessible via train, with a perfectly located station overlooking the beach.
  • Seal Island. A small island approximately three and a half miles to the west of St. Ives, Seal Island is home to a colony of Atlantic gray seals. Visitors can take day trips to the island to see its cute inhabitants. After decades upon decades of tourist trips, they’re not afraid of humans and will often approach the boats to say hello.

7. Norwich

The Norwich cathedral on a sunny day in Norwich, Norfolk, England.

A beautiful city with a rich history and plenty of attractions, Norwich is an ideal location for solo travelers seeking a new adventure. Known as the “City of Stories,” Norwich was England’s first UNESCO City of Literature. It carries on its artistic heritage with a wide range of museums and galleries that are open to the public.

Things to Do in Norwich

  • Norwich Cathedral. Founded in the 12th century, Norwich Cathedral is an outstanding example of Gothic architecture located in the middle of the city. From its spire, visitors can view the beautiful skyline of the entire city.
  • Castle Museum. Housing a wide range of artifacts from prehistoric to contemporary times, the Norwich Castle Museum illustrates the history of the city in innovative and interesting ways.
  • The Forum. An interactive and immersive space in the center of the city, there’s always something going on at the Forum. Make the most of free exhibitions, events, activities, and learning opportunities there.

8. Cardiff

Cardiff Bay during the day time with a Ferris wheel and the Millennium Centre.

As the capital and largest city in Wales, Cardiff is a must-see for any traveler looking to explore the United Kingdom. The city was first established as a settlement in the early Neolithic period, predating both Stonehenge and the Great Pyramid of Giza.

Cardiff is built on a natural rocky outcrop and offers spectacular views over the Bristol Channel. You can mix in with the natural surroundings by visiting the nearby Brecon Beacons National Park for a relaxing day trip to the beautiful Welsh countryside.

Things to Do in Cardiff

  • Cardiff Castle. Perched on a hilltop overlooking the River Taff, Cardiff’s iconic castle was built in 1067, during the reign of William the Conqueror. The castle has a long and illustrious history stretching back nearly 2,000 years and represents a site of national importance for the Welsh.
  • National Museum of Wales. With free entry, and located in a prime spot in the center of the city, the National Museum of Wales is a must-see attraction. Peruse exhibits featuring an extensive collection of objects from across Wales and beyond, including prehistoric archaeological finds, contemporary paintings, and awe-inspiring sculptures.
  • Bute Park. The largest park in the city offers an extensive range of attractions including a spectacular tree collection, a visitor center, and three beautiful cafes to enjoy a drink amid the breathtaking backdrop.

9. York

The Shambles alley during sunset, which was the inspiration for Diagonal Alley in the Harry Potter series.

An ancient walled city with a varied collection of historical sites, York is the second-most visited city in the United Kingdom after London. The city boasts a rich heritage and is home to an eclectic selection of world-class attractions, including the Jorvik Viking Centre and the Shambles. With its compact size and quaint, cobbled streets, York is a marvelous place to visit as a solo traveler.

Things to Do in York

  • York Minster. One of the city’s most famous and iconic buildings, York Minster towers over the city skyline. It is located in the heart of the city center, making it an ideal spot to begin your adventures in York.
  • Jorvik Viking Centre. A fully immersive experience, the Jorvik Viking Centre effortlessly combines history with performance, and gives visitors unique insight into what life was like when Vikings lived in Britain.
  • The Shambles. This historic street in the center of York has been inhabited since Medieval times. The Shambles offer a unique shopping experience and are believed to be the inspiration behind the iconic Diagon Alley in the world-famous Harry Potter series.

10. Isle of Skye

The magnificent landscape found along the Isle of Skye.

The Isle of Skye is a beautiful island located in the Inner Hebrides, an archipelago off the west coast of Scotland, that’s famous for its dramatic landscapes featuring mountains, lochs, and beaches. Attracting droves of visitors every year, the island is easily accessible via the Skye Bridge, which connects the island to the mainland. With a variety of fun attractions and spectacular scenery, the Isle of Skye is an ideal holiday destination for any solo traveler. The town of Portree, a home base for exploring the island, features colorful harbourside pubs and boutiques.

Things to Do in Isle of Skye

  • The Old Man of Storr. Despite its misleading name, the Old Man of Storr is a beautiful geological formation located on the north coast of the island. Visitors can scale the rocky hill and soak in the breathtaking views visible from the top.
  • Talisker Distillery. As the oldest working distillery on the island, Talisker Distillery is a popular tourist attraction that offers whisky-tasting sessions and tours of the building. The distillery is situated at the edge of Loch Harport, providing unfiltered views of the Cuillins.
  • Dunvegan Castle & Gardens. As the oldest continually-inhabited castle in Scotland, Dunvegan Castle is full of history. The estate is even home to a seal colony that lives on the nearby loch, with boat trips available to ferry curious travelers.

Explore the Best Places in the UK for Solo Travel

The United Kingdom is home to many exciting cities that are perfect for solo travelers to explore. From quaint seaside towns with beautiful sandy beaches to vibrant cities with an abundance of history and culture, there’s something to satisfy everyone’s tastes. Start planning your next solo adventure in the UK with VacationRenter today.