The UK has a unique selection of cities, towns, and villages with architecture, atmosphere and landscape to make every trip different from the last. We’ve chosen 15 of the best UK holiday destinations for families, ranging from historical villages packed with hidden cultural gems to coastal towns with spectacular views and cities with plenty of entertainment on tap for the whole family.
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The best UK holiday destinations include a range of activities for the whole family, so whether you are looking for a budget-friendly holiday, want to explore a new area of the UK, or don’t have time for a longer getaway, these could be the perfect solution for a great family break.
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Our Pick of the Best UK Holiday Destinations
If you’re holidaying with small children, then Dorset is a great spot and the old-fashioned seaside resorts offer plenty of beach fun. Take the kids to paddle in Weymouth and Swanage, visit the beautiful Isle of Purbeck, run free on a wide open beach at Studland or go fossil-hunting on Chesil Beach. And don’t forget the aquariums, Monkey World and plenty of National Trust and English Heritage properties.
The picturesque Dorset countryside is like stepping behind the scenes of a Hollywood movie. Beaches sprinkled with fossils and smuggler’s caves offer plenty of adventure, or trace Thomas Hardy novels on open heaths and vales. You can relive the Enid Blyton books of your youth in Corfe (Blyton regularly visited the area, and the castle is said to be the inspiration for Kirrin Castle) and stop at the pop shop in town for lashings of ginger beer all round.
The southwest county’s dramatic coastline is an outdoor sculpture gallery with arches, stacks and coves, Bronze Age burial mounds and castle ruins. With so many incredible places to visit in Dorset you’ll leave knowing exactly why this county is so popular for family vacations and staycations alike.
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Isle of Wight
With chalky white towering stacks stretching out into the English Channel, secluded sandy beaches with clear water and timeless villages, the Isle of Wight is picture perfect. And with the added bonus of being reached via ferry, it very nearly counts as a trip ‘abroad’!
The Isle of Wight is the perfect family getaway and as soon as you hop off your Solent ferry crossing from the mainland, you will see why. Beach lovers get vast stretches of sandy coast, plus rocky beaches ideal for paddling, and the entire island has a lovely old-fashioned feel.
There are endless things to do – you can follow the royal footsteps of Charles I and Henry VIII to the island castles or travel back two millennia to Roman villa ruins. Visit the private beach of Queen Victoria, or take in one of the fun-loving island’s array of festivals covering pop, jazz and sailing. There are walking/cycling opportunities galore and a surprisingly good section of nice family-friendly restaurants.
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Norfolk is a firm family favourite, with gasp-worthy beaches and traditional seaside resorts offering tons of quayside seafood (ie fish and chips) opportunities. Popular spots along the coast include Cromer, Wells-next-the-Sea and Hunstanton. For traditional British seaside classics like pleasure piers and arcades, head to Great Yarmouth’s Golden Mile. On the whole, the beaches are very accessible – just be sure to arrive at the car parks before 10.30am in peak summer.
For other, less sandy things to do, you could try your hand at crewing a barge on the Norfolk Broads, walk through fenlands teeming with wildlife, visit the life-sized dinosaur trail at Dinosaur World, or the Bewilderwood adventure park with treehouses and marsh walks. There are plenty of English Heritage and National Trust properties to explore too, so you can enjoy some of the finest stately homes that England has to offer.
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Historical sites to take you back through time, vast landscapes to explore, and wildlife to make you go ‘aw’ – that’s Northumberland. Countless castles jostle for attention, and we mean ‘proper’ castles with battlements and portcullises, ghostly ruins guarding endless sandy beaches, and ones that echo with ancient footsteps. Bamburgh’s imposing castle, dramatically positioned next to the sea, is perfect for imagining ‘the olden days’ of knights and queens with your little ones. And don’t forget Alnwick Castle, where many scenes in the Harry Potter movies were filmed for your enthusiasts young and old.
There are numerous things to do in Northumberland for history fans, hikers, mountain bikers and romantics alike, but one of the best places to visit in Northumberland of all is the Farne Islands, where dozens of puffins await you.
The county gets rave reviews for its beautiful clean beaches, while you can also take a boat from Seahouses to the Farne Islands, or drive over the causeway to Holy Island. At night, turn your gaze upwards to see millions of stars pinpricking Northumberland’s famed dark skies.
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Yorkshire’s a brilliant bet for something every member of the family will enjoy – it’s got dales and moors, peaks, national parks and a breath-taking coastline to boot. For those water babies, there is a Sea Life centre at Scarborough, penny arcades and a wide array of family-friendly beaches. Pack your swimmers and head to one of Yorkshire’s latest attractions, the Alphamare water park –with plenty of slides, a water playground, heated outdoor pool and a spa area.
When you visit Yorkshire, you can’t help but embrace the great outdoors. Bring your walking shoes for uphill climbs across Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors to castles and abbey ruins that frame the landscape. Afterwards, recharge in spa town tearooms and family-friendly pubs.
One of the best things to do in Yorkshire of all is amble round historic York, with its gothic York Minster cathedral decked out in stained glass. Get lost in cobbled passages, or take in ancient forts and bridges on a River Ouse cruise.
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How could the entire family not be charmed by the yellow-stone Cotswold hamlets, chocolate box cottages, and stately manors perched on rolling emerald hills?
If you like the great outdoors, these west-central hills are a real treat for walking. If you haven’t spotted buzzards sweeping across the hilltops, get a bird’s eye view of species like barn owls and Harris hawks at the bird parks. Leave time to raid the farmers’ markets for local culinary delights like crumbly single Gloucester cheese, local trout and heady ales.
Cheltenham is a refined Regency-era town crammed with elegant boutiques and tea shops. But it’s not all grown-up glamour: this “cultural centre for the Cotswolds” also makes for a great UK family break. Nestled in the Gloucestershire countryside, Cheltenham is also not too far from the Cotswold Farm Park.
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Tyne & Wear
The North East county of Tyne and Wear is brimming with cultural quayside cities and sandy North Sea beaches like Tynemouth Longsands where the surf is almost always up.
There are several cosmopolitan cities to visit, including Newcastle (named Rough Guides’ top place to visit for 2018) and Gateshead, where heritage, culture and art are a heady mix of Roman heritage and trendy Geordie life. Head to Sunderland for shopping and landscaped Victorian parks, or Washington to visit the unique wetlands.
If action is on the agenda, you can learn to surf, go on a kayak safari, and play on Blue Flag beaches before indulging in some award-winning ice cream and fish and chips. Culture vultures can explore the lighthouse, aquarium, World Heritage Roman site, waterpark and castles. Not to mention all of the bustling weekend markets and fantastic events like Mouth of the Tyne Festival.
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“There’s nothing to do,” said no one on holiday in the Scottish Highlands, ever! With wildlife parks, a mountain railway, outdoor adventure parks (think zip wires, quad biking, climbing wall, archery, clay pigeon shooting, gorge walking, kayaking and more) plus fishing, grass sledging, an indoor ‘fun house’, and miles and miles of beautiful trails… this stunning part of the country is perfect for an active family break.
Be inspired by the majestic mountains or ski down the slopes at Aviemore. Take in the mysterious lochs and search for Nessie, pass through Britain’s largest National Park in the Cairngorns, witness dolphins frolicking off the Moray Coast, walk in the shadow of Britain’s highest peak, Ben Nevis, or explore the stunning views and vast stretches of coastline.
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Pembrokeshire, tucked away in South West Wales, is a remote but beautiful corner of the UK, with spectacular coastlines on three sides and gorgeous countryside alongside highly picturesque towns such as Tenby, Fishguard and Haverfordwest.
Home to the UK’s only coastal national park, it’s a great spot for an active family break – especially if you’re taking kids and teenagers with bags of energy. With awards and accolades for the quality of its coastline, Pembrokeshire is heaven for swimmers, beachcombers, wildlife-watchers, walkers and outdoor adventurers. You can explore the coastline over the traditional paths, or indulge in a little coasteering (the seaside equivalent of free running, only with more swimming) around St David’s.
Towns and villages are ripe for exploring, while numerous campsites and family-friendly accommodation will make planning easy. Tenby is a top place to stay, with its fantastic beach, National Trust properties, boat trips and a dinosaur park – plus plenty of wet weather options. Elsewhere there are sights such as the Preseli Hills (where the stones used to build Stonehenge were quarried) and more universally appealing attractions like Oakwood Theme Park, which has rollercoasters and rides galore.
Budding historians will love the huge number of castles that litter the county in various states of repair, particularly the imposing Pembroke Castle, whose walls sit on top of a site which has been occupied since Roman times.
And as if that wasn’t enough for a family holiday, Pembrokeshire was also a filming location for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows! Chances are your children will recognise some of the familiar sights.
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A UK holiday round-up which doesn’t mention Cornwall? Impossible. A perennial favourite for families, Cornwall has breathtaking coastline, family-friendly beaches and attractions like Land’s End, The Minack open-air theatre, St Michael’s Mount, and the Eden Project.
Hayle is a popular destination, with its miles of sandy beaches. There’s surfing lessons for older children, while younger kids can explore in shallower water and do some rock pooling. Be prepared for plenty of sky and lots of attractions, days out and family trips that will let you take advantage of the often stunning weather.
Work up an appetite surfing off Atlantic coves, ambling across granite moors or striding out on the South West Coast Path across sandy beaches and wild flower-strewn clifftops. If your family has green rather than sandy fingers, why not potter round Cornwall’s lush gardens that can be found at rambling stately homes?
Whatever you do, make sure to work up an appetite, because let’s not forget the cream teas, pasties and ice cream that Cornwall is famous for – it really is a foodie’s paradise.
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In the heart of England’s North West, Lancashire is a county of contrasting landscapes, diverse heritage, plentiful food and drink and a stunning coastline.
The county’s contrast is seen particularly when you compare the unique wildlife of Morecambe Bay in the North with the flat and fertile coastal plains around Ormskirk and the Ribble Estuary to the South. Alternatively, travel from the world-famous seaside town of Blackpool in the West to the undulating fells and moorland of the Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the famous Pendle Hill in the East.
Just a stone’s throw away from Blackpool and Preston, the Fylde area has everything you need for the ultimate family holiday. There are pretty villages packed with tea shops, cafes and boutique hotels, whilst the more outdoorsy types will have a host of activities to choose from thanks to the cycling routes, walking trails and bird-watching hotspots.
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Devon is a stunning county with two beautiful coastlines, two National Parks and five official Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Up north, you’ve got the stunning beaches of Woolacombe and Ilfracombe, plus the cobbled streets of Clovelly and the vast expanse of Exmoor to explore, while down south you’ve the considerable (and varied) attractions of Dartmoor, Plymouth, Exeter, Salcombe and Blackpool Sands. Thankfully, cream teas are served north, south, and indeed everywhere in between!
Such natural beauty attracts walkers, artists, camping enthusiasts and those who just like to sit and gaze. Families love the amusements – from large adventure parks and farm attractions to traditional seaside fun.
Whether you and your family like to surf, kayak, walk, cycle, paddleboard, sail, fish…you will have a great time doing it in Devon.
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The Lake District is always popular and undoubtedly one of the best UK holiday destinations. Home to the largest lakes in England, it offers up not only some incredible scenery but also some fantastic family days out.
Whether you decide to base yourself in the Lake District itself or the surrounding Cumbria area, there’s a wealth of things to do and places to see with something to suit all ages. Popular attractions include the Grizedale sculpture trail, a steamer cruise along Ullswater, and a visit to Beatrix Potter’s home in Ambleside. If you’re up for something a little more strenuous, there’s mountain biking, climbing, walking, kayaking and canoeing readily available. Or if you’re after a spot of downtime, take a cruise on the Derentwater – and don’t forget the Kendal Mint Cake!
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Eastbourne and South Downs
Nature never falls short of providing things to do with kids, from hunting for creepy crawlies to spotting wildlife. So if your family are nature-lovers or in search of some fresh air activities, one of the best UK holiday destinations for your family could be the South Downs.
There’s something about the South Downs National Park that puts you in a holiday mood, even if you’re just dipping in for a weekend. It’s a great place for old-fashioned fun, from pond-dipping, blackberry-picking or leaf-collecting to just galumphing along a peaceful river bank with the family dog.
Sussex Wildlife Trust offers some great experiences at Friston Forest throughout the whole year with wildlife courses, events and talks on topics ranging from bumble bees to birds, fitting in perfectly with family holidays.
There are more than enough museums and attractions in the area to keep everyone smiling on rainy days, and there’s plenty of entertainment on throughout the summer that cater to a wide range of tastes. In particular, music lovers should head to the Eastbourne, historians will want to check out the Redoubt Fortress, and art lovers should spend a few hours in the Towner Art Gallery.
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There’s a huge variety of family-friendly things to do in the Peak District and Derbyshire. Hop on board a cable car ride on The Heights of Abraham in Matlock Bath, with sweeping views that you’ll never forget all the way up to the top. Once on the summit there’s heaps of fun for the whole family to explore from amazing caverns, the prospect tower and a great kids’ playground and a café with views to die for.
For more fun which leaves you dangling on a wire, your family might enjoy a visit to Go Ape and have a go on a high wire adventure, then take a spectacular subterranean journey into the famous Pooles Cavern. Animal-lovers can find some elusive otters and owls at the Chestnut Centre, or take a walk on the wild side with lemurs, wallabies, penguins and more at Peak Wildlife Park. For a taste of life down on the farm, check out Matlock Farm Park or Chatsworth Farmyard, packed with extras to keep the kids happy.
Thrill-seekers will love the theme parks on offer. Gulliver’s, on the hillside of Matlock Bath, is perfect for toddlers to big kids, with over 60 rides and attractions to choose from. While more adventurous families will love the exciting, white-knuckle rides at Alton Towers. Younger kids can also meet their favourite characters in CBeebies land – and there’s even several acres of beautiful landscape gardens, a rare treat in a theme park.
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Do you have any other additions to our list of best UK holiday destinations? Leave a comment below and let us know – we’d love to hear from you!