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North to South: A Guide to Alternative City Breaks in the UK

Destinations, Europe - Ross French - January 9, 2013

UK breaks are perfect for those who want to discover the island’s heritage and landscape, and it’s in the smaller cities where you’ll find the most focus on history, culture and arts.  Here’s our guide to the best UK destinations for those looking to see the hidden gems of the island’s top cities.

A Guide to Alternative City Breaks in the UK


Brighton promises the same cosmopolitan feel as London, but with a distinct lack of city smog thanks to the coastal breeze, and far fewer crowds to contend with, making it the ideal alternative to the capital city. Accommodation is also much cheaper – the YHA Brighton hostels are ideal for backpackers. Experience a traditional English seaside holiday close to the beautiful and historic South Downs.

Don’t miss: The Royal Pavilion, a stunning royal residence in the city centre with excellent gardens.


The cathedral city of Gloucester boasts a wealth of English heritage attractions, as well plenty of parks and gardens to enjoy. A number of medieval and Tudor buildings can be found around the city, including several churches and chapels, while the 7th century cathedral itself is a spectacular sight on the skyline.

Don’t miss: Painswick, a neighbouring village also known as “the Queen of the Cotswolds” thanks to its beautifully preserved buildings and charming atmosphere.


Situated far from Cardiff and the England/Wales border, Bangor is a completely different way to discover Welsh culture. Its picturesque streets and proximity to the Snowdonia National Park have made it a popular option in recent years, as have its own unique attractions – visit Penrhyn Castle, a neo-Norman Victorian structure showcasing fantastic historical exhibitions.
Don’t miss: Snowdonia National Park’s rolling hills and deep lakes are peppered with castles, moats and landmarks.


Newcastle-Upon-Tyne is best known for its arts and music scene, which is expanding at a rapid rate. The area was also at the centre of the Industrial Revolution 300 years ago, and this juxtaposition of cultures is often thrown together to create some fascinating developments across the city. Take a walk through Grainger Town to see some of the oldest remaining streets and monuments, or head down Ouseburn in the evening for live music and an excellent alternative pub scene.

Don’t miss: The Great North Museum, a free museum showcasing fossils, mummies and comprehensive information about the North.


Inverness is the UK’s most northerly city, close to the iconic Scottish Highlands. It has a bustling music and theatre scene, as well as a number of historical attractions – head to the eerie St. Andrews Cathedral, which features ruins and excellent views from the top of the building. Just outside the city you’ll find Craig Phadrig, once a stronghold for Pictish Kings and now a fantastic area of natural beauty.

Don’t miss: Inverness is an important centre for bagpipe players – visit in September for the Northern Meeting, one of the most prestigious bagpiping competitions in the world, for a quintessential Scottish holiday!

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