Best Hidden Gems in England and Where to Find Them

Forget Big Ben and venture outside London to find these lesser-known attractions.

Two people walking along Arlington Row in Bibury, England

6min read

Published 10 May 2024

Flight Centre Author

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Kaitlyn Funk

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Forget Big Ben and venture outside London to find these lesser-known attractions.


Don’t get us wrong! We love Buckingham Palace, the London Eye and the British Museum as much as the next person — but there’s so much more to England than these iconic attractions. Whether you’ve already crossed the UK capital off your bucket list or are simply interested in more off-the-beaten-path attractions, we’ve rounded up some of the best hidden gems in England. 

Keep reading to discover some of the lesser-known things to see, do and experience in destinations like Cornwall, West Sussex, Derbyshire and more.



Enjoy dinner and a show on the canals

Location: West London, London

London is home to some renowned performing arts venues, including Shakespeare’s Globe, the Royal Albert Hall, and the Soho Theatre — but these big-name stages certainly aren’t the only places to take in a show. Little Venice, a residential district in West London, boasts some scene-stealing independent theatres:

  • The award-winning Canal Café Theatre hosts the world’s longest-running live musical comedy show, NewsRevue, and a wide range of other productions.
  • As you can probably tell from its name, Puppet Theatre Barge has a program filled with unique and magical puppet shows that will captivate audiences of all ages.
  • Grand Junction is an emerging multi-arts venue inside the St Mary Magdalene Church.

But really, the whole neighbourhood is a hidden gem. Situated where the Regent’s Canal converges with the Grand Union Canal, Little Venice is a tranquil place that exudes charm. On a sunny day, you can enjoy boat trips and a delicious pre-show meal on the patio of a waterside restaurant. Only need a light bite? Hop aboard The Cheese Barge. In the mood for fresh seafood? We recommend visiting The Summerhouse. There are also some great traditional pubs in the area, including The Bridge House



Take in views of the Lake District from a natural infinity pool

Location: Cumbria, North West England

No matter which way you look at it, the Lake District (also known as the Lakes or Lakeland) is gorgeous. Depending on which part of the area you’re exploring, you can take in the stunning scenery from the seat of a gyroplane, the bow of a canoe or the top of a mountain peak. Or, even better, from a private plunge pool.

The Buttermere Infinity Pool near Buttermere Lake is one of the best hidden gems and natural wonders that England has to offer. And getting there is half the fun! The short walk from the Gatesgarth Farm parking lot is relatively flat and well-manicured (save for the last few hundred metres), meaning it’s accessible for travellers of all ages and fitness levels. Plus, you get a unique view of the Haystacks hill along the way.

Once you’ve reached the pool, you can reward yourself with a dip. It’ll be equivalent to a cold plunge throughout most of the year, but super refreshing during the summer months. While this can be as far as you go, there are additional pools and waterfalls further into the valley.  

Go underground to solve a 200-year-old mystery

Location: Kent, South East England

You probably expect all of the amazing hidden gems in England to have a rich and fascinating history, but that’s simply not the case at the Shell Grotto. The purpose of these underground tunnels is a complete mystery — all we know is that they have been decorated with 4.6 million (!!!) mussel, oyster, whelk and limpet shells.

Walking through, you’ll be met with one awe-inspiring sight after the next: suns, stars, gods and goddesses, hearts, trees of life and even skeletons can all be found amongst the mosaics. While some people believe the grotto was once used for occult rituals, others think of it simply as a Regency- or Victorian-era folly. Why not go below the surface and form your own theory?

The grotto has been privately owned since its discovery in 1835 and is incredibly well-preserved thanks to organizations like Historic England and Friends of the Shell Grotto. Open year-round (including on public holidays) and easily accessible from London via car and high-speed train, it makes for a great day trip activity.

Wander around “the most beautiful village in England”

Location: Gloucestershire, South West England

When you think of a quaint English town, Bibury is probably what comes to mind. It has all the character and charm you expect to read about in a storybook. Think stone cottages, a babbling brook and traditional pubs serving British classics out of centuries-old buildings. No wonder English poet, artist and textile designer William Morris dubbed it the most beautiful village in the country!

The best way to appreciate it all is by going for a lovely walk around the town. First, stop by Arlington Row, the oldest street in the Cotswolds. Lined with 17th-century houses, it’s the main reason why Bibury is one of the top hidden gems in England — it’s even attracted Henry Ford and former Japanese Emperor Hirohito. From there, you can go on to cross a footbridge over the River Coln, spot wildlife in the Rack Isle water meadow and visit the Bibury Trout Farm.

If your ideal UK vacation involves taking it slow, this is the perfect destination for you. 

Pro tip: One of the Arlington Row cottages is available to rent! Try staying here to really immerse yourself in this beautiful city.

Visit a small island with a big history

Location: Cornwall, South West England

St. Michael’s Mount may be tiny, but it has a lot to offer — especially for travellers who want to learn more about the rich history of the island. The castle is filled with an impressive collection of artifacts and artworks, including a mummified cat, a piece of the coat Napoleon wore at the Battle of Waterloo, a statue of St. Michael, a clock that tells you the time and the tide, and a sofa that Queen Victoria once sat upon. And as if that wasn’t enough, there are landscaped terraces that rival the beauty of London’s Kew Gardens.

Once you’re done marvelling at the castle, spend some time exploring the small village, port and harbour. The island is only home to the St. Aubyn family (who owns the castle) and approximately 30 others, so you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped into a novel’s quintessential beach town. 

Just keep in mind that your visit will be weather dependent! St. Michael’s Mount may close if there is heavy rainfall, high winds and rough seas. Not to mention, the cobbled causeway is only accessible during low tide. If checking out this hidden gem during high tide, you’ll need to travel by boat.

Watch a pretty purple sunset at Over Owler Tor

Location: Derbyshire, East Midlands

The Peak District itself isn’t off the beaten path. In fact, 35 million travellers visit each year to explore its expansive and mesmerizing landscape — primarily in search of a wooded gorge or waterfall. That’s right! There are many hidden gems and natural wonders to discover here. And one of our favourites is Over Owler Tor, an area that boasts sweeping views, gritstone outcrops and an abundance of heather.

Try to plan your trip to this hidden gem in August. This is when the heather will be in full bloom, adding large patches of purple flowers to the otherwise green and rocky area. Think of it like a wilder, more rugged version of the lavender fields in the south of France. It’s truly a sight to behold — particularly if you manage to catch it at sunset.

Want to do more than just appreciate the views? The gritstone outcrops are great for bouldering. Climbing enthusiasts, take note!

Snap an artsy picture at the Ouse Valley Viaduct

Location: West Sussex, South East England

It may not be the train track the Hogwarts Express runs on, but the Ouse Valley Viaduct (also known as the Balcombe Viaduct) still deserves a spot on this list of UK hidden gems. Everyone from Harry Potter fans and architects to trainspotters and photographers can appreciate this off-the-beaten-track spot.

That’s because it offers the same magical scenery as the Glenfinnan Viaduct, plus an optical illusion that you have to see to believe. From underneath, the viaduct’s 37 arches (built with more than 11 million bricks) seem to stretch on forever. Make sure to bring a tripod or a travel companion with a great eye along for the journey!

Located just a short distance from London, you can easily head back into the heart of the city after snapping your pic or video. Or you can choose to stay a while and do one of the beautiful walks in the area surrounding the viaduct. You might as well build up your Instagram likes and your daily step count in a single day trip.

Discover Cornwall's best sea pools

Location: Cornwall, South West England

With almost 700km of coastline, Cornwall is home to some beautiful villages, fishing towns and seaside resorts — and of course, a ton of amazing beaches. Whether you’re on the North Cornwall coast or South Cornwall coast, your chances of stumbling upon a sandy cove or secluded bay are high. 

But why swim at just any beach when you can go for a dip in an outdoor sea pool? This part of England is dotted with some amazing ones, including:

  • Bude Sea Pool: This beautiful hidden gem is tucked under the cliffs at Summerleaze Beach, and is protected and maintained by the Friends of Bude Sea Pool organization.
  • Trevone Natural Sea Pool: You’ll have to exercise some patience to swim here — the pool is only accessible when the tide recedes.
  • Chapel Rock Pool: Nestled between two Cornish Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, it offers stunning views and a safe swimming spot for families.
  • Treyarnon Rock Pool: This is one of the best places to unwind and relax in North Cornwall.

Be one of the few to descend into the UK’s largest cavern

Location: North Yorkshire, Yorkshire and the Humber

We didn’t include any UK cascades on our list of the world’s most breathtaking waterfalls, but maybe we should have! Yorkshire Dales National Park is full of them. Janet’s Floss, Cautley Sprout and Cotter Force are all beautiful in their own right, but you should set you sights on catching a glimpse of the park’s underground waterfall.

This can only be achieved twice per year, thanks to two local pothole clubs. In May and August, the Bradford Pothole Club and Craven Pothole Club host a “winch meet” event that invites people to descend at the point where the Fell Beck stream disappears into Gaping Gill cave shaft. This is a rare chance for you to explore a natural wonder that people don’t usually have access to — so plan your trip accordingly! 

Pro tip: Space is limited, and tickets cannot be purchased in advance. If this is one of the hidden gems in England that you absolutely want to experience, keep your eyes on the pothole clubs’ websites and social media accounts for details.

 

Ready to experience these England hidden gems for yourself? Check out our current UK travel deals or chat with a travel consultant today.

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