If you’re a pre-sessional student coming to Southampton for the first time, make the most of it’s great location by seeing the UK’s best travel spots.
While Southampton does have an array of hidden cultural gems scattered across the city centre and surrounding suburbs, the UK is rich in historical landmarks, beautiful idyllic countryside and stunning coastlines. Whether you consider yourself as more of a beach lover or you prefer the quaint cobbled streets of derelict towns in the country – the UK has something for everyone to enjoy. Here’s just a small selection of our favourite travel hotspots, that we recommend exploring during your time in the UK.
Brighton is situated on the South coast and a mere two hour train journey from Southampton. It is a large seaside resort town that is known for its unrivalled, regency-era architecture and vast shingle beaches that are brimming with Instagram-worthy ornate kiosks and quintessentially-British colourful beach huts.
Regularly voted amongst Britain’s best beaches, Brighton’s shore is home to one of the town’s main attractions – Palace Pier. Located on the central waterfront, the pier is arguably a day-out in itself, with the promenade overflowing with traditional fairground favourites including a Carousel and a terrifying haunted house, as well as the Turbo Coaster for any thrill seekers. Palace Pier’s food and drink services will send you on a cultural trip around the world, offering you multiple different tastes from UK’s classic fish and chips and German bratwursts to Mexican churros and French crêpes.
As a vibrant, colourful town, Brighton is, also, popular for its laid-back, bohemian atmosphere and no where is this statement more true than in the town’s unique collection of independent boutiques and outlets that can be found in Brighton’s famous ‘Lanes’ – a spectacular maze of meandering alleyways that feature some of Brighton’s best galleries and bespoke shops. Make sure to check out Choccywoocydoodah during your visit, if you’re a chocolate lover. The shop’s talented team of artists will give you a chocolate indulgence of the kind Willy Wonka would definitely approve of.
The dynamic capital of Wales is rich with years of history, epitomised by the large castle that lies at the heart of the city. Located amongst the city’s stunning parkland, Cardiff Castle is one Wales’ most popular heritage sites whose foundations date as far back as 50AD. Join one of the Castle’s many tours to fully immerse yourself in its complex history or visit the site in August during its Grand Medieval Mêlée festival to experience the authentic sights and sounds of life centuries ago with fantastic demonstrations of falconry and jousting.
Cardiff is also home to some of the finest collections of art and archaeology in the world. National Museum Cardiff has an extensive range of art, including world-renowned Impressionist and post-Impressionist work and 1930’s Surrealism as well as various archaeological collections following the geographical evolution of Wales.
Before you leave, make sure to swing by the Wales Millennium Centre, with its impressive slate and steel structure radiating across Cardiff Bay – it’s not hard to miss. Nicknamed the Armadillo because of its copper-coloured spherical exterior, the centre hosts a huge selection of concerts and performances, with upcoming shows including the Welsh National Opera and the stage production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!
Escape the city life by visiting a unique corner of England’s countryside. The Lake District is the country’s largest National Park and famous for its gorgeous clear lakes, luscious green forests and rugged mountains. In fact, the National Park is home to England’s highest mountain – Scafell Pike. If you can brave the moderately steep walk, you can climb the mountain which stands at a modest 987m above sea level. From its summit, you can enjoy the spectacular panoramic views and on a clear, sunny day, you can see several other mountain peaks as far away as Wales, Ireland and Scotland.
Local market towns (such as Ambleside, Kendal and Keswick) are sites for delving into the Lake District’s customs as well as being home to tradition English pubs and multiple galleries filled with local art pieces. During the last weekend of August, you can join the residential communities in their efforts to promote this stunning region; as it bids for World Heritage status in 2017. Through the Lakes Alive festival, the regional districts organise various art demonstrations against the backdrop of the beautiful landscape. Keep an eye on the festival’s website, http://lakesalive.co.uk, for the festival’s art programme announcements.
Other popular attractions in the Lake District include various animal conservation centres; which protecting endangered species such as Lar Gibbons and giant zebras as well as the Keswick brewery and a museum dedicated to famous British film stars – Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.
As a bustling and energetic city steeped in history and culture, there is no shortage of things to do in Edinburgh. Scotland’s capital combines the past of the medieval Old Town and the stately Georgian New Town. Perched atop Arthur’s Seat, an extinct volcano, is the world-renowned Edinburgh Castle; which is home to Scotland’s crown jewels and the Stone of Destiny (an oblong block of red stone that was traditionally used in the coronation of Scottish rulers). The stone was last used in 1953 for the coronation of current Queen of the United Kingdom, Queen Elizabeth II.
But, arguably, Edinburgh is most well-known for its Fringe Festival – the largest arts festival in the world – which takes place every August for three weeks in the capital. Thousands of performers take to the multiple stages all over the city to present shows for every taste, from comedy and drama to dance and music. In 2015, the event spanned 25 days and featured 50,459 performances of 3,314 shows in 313 venues! Previous performers include Rowan Atkinson (Mr Bean), Eddie Izzard and Billy Connelly.
If you’re an animal lover, Edinburgh Zoo is not to be missed. Set in 82 acres of sloping parkland, the zoo is home to a variety of animals including the only giant pandas in the UK – Tian Tian and Yang Guang. Spaces to see the famous pair are limited, however; so book your ticket before you go to avoid disappointment!