The UK is a famously vibrant and modern country, with bustling cities and a national pride in their contributions to science and technology. But it’s also a place where the past is never far away. Indeed, a good part of the reason it’s ranked third on the Anholt Nation Brands Index is this cultural history. Some of the best spots to experience how the land shaped the national character for thousands of years are found away from the urban sprawl.
1. Eden Project
A uniquely artificial natural attraction, the Eden Project took a crater in Cornwall and made it into one of the most futuristic nature parks in the world. Huge domes host complete ecosystems, allowing visitors to experience both rainforest and Mediterranean environments, alongside botanical gardens showcasing native species. The park has been so successful that there are also plans to open an Eden Project North in Morecambe, which will focus on marine life.
2. Jurassic Coast
Still in the south, the UK’s first natural World Heritage Site is a marvel of deep time – cliffs which display in startling clarity geological shifts across 150 million years. Naturally, this means it’s also one of the most fossil-rich areas of the country. Tourists often choose to follow the coastal path which offers wonderful views of towering rock forms carved by the tide, as well as coves and beaches to explore. A string of small seaside towns provide perfect places to stop along the way.
3. Bear Forest
An experiment in rewilding, this enclosed habitat will see European bears return to the UK to live alongside grey wolves – just as they would have in the UK’s ancient woodland. It will provide a unique way to look back in time, and visitors will be able to observe the wildlife from a raised wooden walkway.
4. Loch Ness
It’s sadly unlikely you’ll see the Loch’s most famous resident, but there are many more reasons to visit Scotland’s huge lakes. Loch Ness in particular, holds more freshwater than every lake in England and Wales combined. This brings an abundance of fish species, but also noteworthy is the landscape it graces – the rugged grandeur of the Scottish Highlands.
As well as boasting the UK’s tallest mountain, Ben Nevis, it’s the only part of the islands which is designated as a taiga environment (coniferous forests such as those found in Russia and Canada).
5. Giant’s Causeway
Northern Ireland’s most magical attraction, these columns of rock rising out of the sea are so perfectly formed it’s hard to believe that they weren’t carved by human hand. And taking a walking tour of the area reveals other natural sculptures including the fabled Wishing Chair – an outcrop so closely resembling a throne that generations have perched here to make a wish, polishing the stone to a fine finish in the process.
6. Showcaves of Wales
Wales is home to some of the UK’s most impressive caves, and this underground centre brings together three particularly otherworldly examples. Ornate rock formations are the least of its charms, as venturing deeper reveals underground waterfalls and even lakes. Cathedral Cave’s high ceilings are dramatically lit to demonstrate its epic scale, while Bone Cave is famed for the ancient skeletons discovered there. Over time, research has provided an insight into how early humans used this kind of environment as shelter. Seeing relevant exhibits here in their historical setting will make you feel nearer to them than ever before.