From Big Ben to Ben Nevis, the Giant’s Causeway to the Jurassic Coast and Stonehenge to Snowdon, there is such an enormous wealth of UK landmarks to explore as the country gradually opens up again. Read on to discover 25 of the very best places to see in Britain.
For such a small country, there is an incredible number of famous places in the UK. Some landmarks in the UK are renowned throughout the world, especially the most famous London landmarks . We explore all four countries that make up the UK, covering all corners of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland along the way.
- UK Landmarks
- 1. Big Ben, London
- 2. Edinburgh Castle
- 3. Rhossili Beach, Wales
- 4. Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland
- 5. Buckingham Palace
- 6. Tower Bridge London
- 7. St David’s Cathedral, Wales
- 8.Stonehenge, England
- 9.Conwy Castle
- 10. Roman Baths, Bath, England
- 11. Snowdon
- 12. Lake District
- 13. Jurassic Coast, Dorset and Devon, England
- 14. Ben Nevis
- 15. Portmeirion Village, Wales
- 16. The Kelpies, Falkirk, Scotland
- 17. Blackpool Tower
- 18. Titanic Belfast
- 19. Brecon Beacons, Wales
- 20. White Cliffs of Dover
- 21. Cardiff Castle, Wales
- 22. Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, Wales
- 23.Glenfinnan Viaduct, Scotland
- 24.V & A Dundee, Scotland
- 25. Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge
- Caernarfon Castle
- Tintern Abbey
- Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol
- Tower of London
- St Paul’s Cathedral, London
- Caerphilly Castle
- London Eye
- Kew Gardens
- Westminster Abbey
1. Big Ben, London
Big Ben is officially the name of the bell within the Elizabeth Tower of the Houses of Parliament, but many use the name to refer to the entire tower.
It’s possibly the most famous of all landmarks in the UK, and one of the most graceful, dominating the views of the Thames between the waterloo and Lambeth bridges in London. This popular London icon has been hidden away behind a forest of scaffolding since 2016, but is due to re-emerge fully restored later in 2021.
See Also: Famous London Landmarks
2. Edinburgh Castle
The greatest of all Scottish castles sits high on a volcanic outcrop above the capital, besieged and bombarded many times over yet surviving 900 years since its founding by David I in the 12th century.
It has been a royal residence and military stronghold, and houses the oldest building in Edinburgh, the simple 12th century St Margaret’s Chapel. The 16th century Great Hall is another survivor from medieval times – much of the Castle has been rebuilt since the 19th century.
Edinburgh Castle is also home to the Scottish National War Memorial and National War Museum of Scotland, and is the backdrop to the Edinburgh Military Tattoo every August.
3. Rhossili Beach, Wales
It’s the westernmost of the Gower beaches, a three-mile (5 km) curve of glorious golden sand that’s far too large to get even remotely crowded.
One of the easiest Gower walks takes you along the fairly flat clifftop path to the end of the headland looking out to the tidal island of Worm’s Head, one of the most striking coastal landmarks in Britain.
See Also: 20 Things To Do In The Spectacular Gower
4. Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland
The Giant’s Causeway is probably the best-known of the main Northern Ireland landmarks, a geological wonder formed by a volcanic eruption. The Causeway is a series of around 40,000 basalt columns of varying height, shape and size formed as lava cooled, cracking in a similar way to mud.
According to Irish legend, giant Finn MacCool built the causeway over to Scotland where he confronted the Scottish giant Benandonner. It’s located on the Antrim coast, a few miles from two other Northern Irish landmarks in this article.
5. Buckingham Palace
‘Buck House’ is the official London residence of the Queen, and one of the most familiar London landmarks throughout the world. It’s the first place in royal London most visitors head for, to see the centuries-old ceremonial Changing of the Guard, and to visit the State Rooms for ten weeks a year between July and September.
The Palace is at the end of The Mall, a tree-lined processional avenue along which the Queen and rides on her official birthday, marked by the Trooping the Colour ceremony held on the second Saturday of June.
6. Tower Bridge London
One of the foremost landmarks in England and icons of London, Tower Bridge is magnificent, a combined suspension and bascule bridge over the river Thames. It’s a wonder of late 19th century Gothic Revival architecture, its twin towers like gateways to a fairytale world. It also does the more prosaic job of raising its central section to allow shipping above a certain height to pass through safely.
It was designed by Horace Jones and completed in 1894, and is one of the most beautiful bridges in Europe, if not the world.
See Also: 18 Famous Bridges In London
7. St David’s Cathedral, Wales
This remote cathedral in the far west of Wales is by far the most impressive church in the country. It was built on the site of a monastery founded by St David, the patron saint of Wales, in the 6th century AD.
It was built down in a valley to remain out of sight of potential invaders, and its simple stone exterior contrasts with the interior, with its ornate wooden nave roof and stunning central tower vault.
There are enough things to do in St Davids, the smallest city in the UK, to keep you busy for several days with some outstanding beaches and coastal walks.
This stone circle is one of the oldest man-made landmarks in the United Kingdom, believed to be around 5,000 years old. The site and visitor experience have changed greatly in recent years with the removal of a road that ran close by. Now you can enjoy a grand approach across the Wiltshire fields, much more fitting for one of the great prehistoric monuments of Europe.
It’s a UNESCO World Heritage SIte along with the stone circles surrounding the Wiltshire village of Avebury. Recent research suggests that the stone circle may have originally been sited in the Preseli Hills in West Wales, and moved or rebuilt at the present site sometime later.
Conwy Castle is one of the most impressive landmarks in UK, a formidable 13th century fortress with eight towers guarding the last crossing point of the River Conwy before the sea.
The town’s defences were augmented by the adjacent town walls, stretching over ¾ mile (1.2 km) around the medieval town. It’s one of four of the Castles of Gwynedd built by Edward I to become a World Heritage Site in 1984.
10. Roman Baths, Bath, England
The Roman Baths that give the fine city of Bath its name date from the 1st century AD. The original Roman settlement grew around these natural springs and the small town became known as Aquae Sulis. The Museum incorporating the Baths is fascinating, and one of the best times to visit is late on a winter afternoon, with the main Bath lit by fire torches, steam rising off the water and magnificent Bath Abbey lit up.
The adjoining Pump Room Restaurant – the place to be seen in high society 18th century Bath – is another essential part of the Roman Baths experience. One of the most evocative of all U.K. landmarks.
Snowdon – Yr Wyddfa – is the highest mountain in Wales at 1,085 metres (3,560 feet) above sea level. It’s the focal point of the Snowdonia National Park, which takes up much of mountainous north-west Wales, and surrounded by several other peaks.
You can reach the top by the rack-and-pinion Snowdon Mountain Railway or on foot up six different paths, but don’t underestimate this mighty Welsh landmark, which provided the training ground for the first climbers to conquer Mount Everest in the early 1950s.
See Also: Facts About Snowdonia
12. Lake District
The Lake District of north-west England was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2017. However, it’s about much more than the alluring Lakes, however – the area (a National Park since 1951) is also home to the highest mountains in England.
The landscape – from the pastoral lower slopes to the heights of Scafell Pike- was a great inspiration to the Picturesque movement of the 18th century and the later Romantic movement, and the area has been uniquely conserved, with most trappings of the industrial world kept well away. It’s one of the great landscapes of England and, indeed, Europe.
13. Jurassic Coast, Dorset and Devon, England
The Jurassic Coast is a 95-mile (153 km) stretch of Dorset and East Devon coastline that comprises England’s sole natural UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s a unique and varied stretch of coast formed over the Mesozoic Era (250 to 65 million years ago, and is particularly fossil-rich. Its name is a little misleading as the area also contains many miles of Triassic and Cretaceous (the eras before and after the Jurassic) coastline as well.
It contains several great coastal English landmarks, from the white chalk cliff stacks of Old Harry Rocks to the iconic Durdle Door sea arch, nearby Lulworth Cove, and Golden Cap, at 191 metres the highest hill and cliff on the south coast of England.
14. Ben Nevis
Ben Nevis has a special place among famous landmarks of UK, as it’s the highest mountain in Great Britain. It looms 4,413 feet (1,345 metres) above the town of Fort William and the west coast of Scotland.
The most popular route up the mountain is the Pony Track, and it’s by no means an easy option, criss-crossing scree slopes on its way up. The climb takes 4-5 hours in summer, and you need to allow at least 3 hours to descend.
The best views of Ben Nevis are from nearby lakes, including Loch Eil, just to the west of Fort William.
15. Portmeirion Village, Wales
This whimsical fantasy village is surely one of the prettiest landmarks of the UK. Built on a wooded hillside overlooking the sublime Dwyryd estuary in North Wales, it’s a village of ‘rescued buildings’ rebuilt along with an Italian-style belltower and cottages which was the setting for much of the 1960s TV series The Prisoner.
It’s open to visitors during the daytime, but one of the best things to do in Portmeirion is to stay overnight, either in one of the two hotels or holiday cottages around the main Piazza.
See Also: 15 Delightful Villages In North Wales
16. The Kelpies, Falkirk, Scotland
The Kelpies are a compelling pair of horse-head sculptures at the entrance to a new extended section of the Forth and Clyde canal which links east and west Scotland. One of the newer Scotland landmarks, completed in 2014 by sculptor Andy Scott, they represent mythical shape-shifting creatures from Scottish folklore – some of which took on the form of horses – and also the actual horses used in the development of Scottish industry.
17. Blackpool Tower
Blackpool Tower is one of the most celebrated British landmarks, dominating the seafront of one of the most popular British seaside resorts. The Tower soars high above the beach, piers and funfair below, and you can climb most of the way up this 158-metre (518 feet) landmark to take in superb views of the Lancashire coast.
The Blackpool Tower complex also includes the ornate Tower Ballroom, which hosts daily tea dances, a Circus and Dungeon.
18. Titanic Belfast
Titanic Belfast is an impressive museum on the site of the old Harland & Wolff shipyards where the ill-fated ocean liner Titanic was built and launched from in 1912. The striking building symbolises a series of ship prows, though some locals have nicknamed this newest of Belfast landmarks ‘The Iceberg’. The interior of the building is a series of rooms, taking you through the shipyards, to a re-creation of cabins on board the Titanic, a gallery depicting the launch and another the fatal collision with an iceberg.
19. Brecon Beacons, Wales
They are among the most scenic Welsh landmarks, yet the Brecon Beacons are made up of three distinct mountain ranges. The central Brecon Beacons, including the tallest summit in southern Britain, Pen y Fan (886 metres or 2.907 feet), pull in the most visitors, while you can enjoy many of the gentler contours of the Black Mountains to the east in near-solitude. The moorland Black Mountain to the west offers one of the most scenic drives in the UK and one of the most romantic castles in Europe, Carreg Cennen Castle, in the steep valleys below.
See Also: Wales Bucket List
20. White Cliffs of Dover
The gleaming White Cliffs of Dover are among the most recognisable UK landmarks, a potent symbol of the country and homecoming, especially during the Second World War.
They are visible from the north coast of France 22 miles (35 km )away, and stretch 8 miles (13 km) either side of the busy port of Dover. They were especially resonant during the 1940s Dunkirk evacuations, when troops could see the Cliffs across the English Channel. They were also immortalised by Dame Vera Lynn in her wartime song ‘(There’ll Be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs of Dover’.
21. Cardiff Castle, Wales
Cardiff Castle has become one of the most recognisable landmarks of Britain because it dominates the centre of the Welsh capital. You can’t possibly miss it, its extensive walls and Clock Tower close to some of the main Cardiff shopping streets. One of the best castles in South Wales to visit, Cardiff has been a Roman fort and boasts an 11th century keep, a 15th century gatehouse and – the main draw – some of the most extravagant Victorian Gothic Revival architecture and decoration you’ll find anywhere.
22. Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, Wales
The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is one of the great landmarks of the UK from the Industrial Revolution period. It was built by the ‘Colossus of Roads’, the great civil engineer Thomas Telford, to carry the Shropshire Union Canal high above the scenic Dee Valley and on to the nearby town of Llangollen.
Narrowboats carrying visitors make up most of the traffic nowadays, and you can hire one yourself from Trevor Wharf on the north side of the Aqueduct. It was the third site in Wales to be accorded UNESCO World Heritage status in 2009.
See also : Things to do in Llangollen
23.Glenfinnan Viaduct, Scotland
It has become one of the more famous Scottish landmarks over the last fifteen years or so, having appeared in four Harry Potter films, but the Glenfinnan Viaduct would have made our list no matter what. It’s the highlight of one of the most spectacular rail journeys in Europe, the West Highland Line branch line to the remote fishing port of Mallaig. The line curves as it passes over the 21 arches, surrounded by an amphitheatre of rugged mountains and the waters of Loch Shiel below.
At the time of writing (April 2021), three trains pass in each direction between Glasgow Queen Street and Mallaig daily.
24.V & A Dundee, Scotland
The V&A Dundee is one of the newest Scottish landmarks, completed in 2018. It’s Scotland’s first Design Museum, and the first ‘branch’ of the V&A outside London. The building was designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, and is said to have been inspired by the cliffs of the east Scottish coast. It’s a striking presence on the Dundee waterfront, especially combined with the RRS Discovery, the tall-masted ship which took Scott and Shackleton on their first voyage to the Antarctic.
25. Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge
You’ll find another of the most famous landmarks in Northern Ireland a few miles east along the scenic Antrim coast from Giant’s Causeway. The current version of this rope bridge – linking the mainland with tiny Carrick-a-Rede Island – was completed in 2008, but the original is believed to have been raised in 1755 by local salmon fishermen. Only eight people can use the bridge at any one time, and with clear views to the sea and rocks 30 metres (98 feet) below some can’t stomach the return journey and have to be helped off the island by boat. One to test your head for heights!
The sturdy, angular walls of Caernarfon Castle, possibly the most famous landmark in Wales, would have intimidated and most likely deterred any would-be attacker. Inspired by the walls of Constantinople, this mighty fortress is one of the most impressive castles in North Wales, and guarded the southern entrance to the Menai Strait, the body of water between mainland Wales and the isle of Anglesey.
Caernarfon Castle was built at enormous expense by English King Edward I to subjugate local Welsh rebels, and left him severely out of pocket. Caernarfon was then captured by the Welsh before it was completed, and restored to English control a year later. The Castle’s defences had already been augmented by an imposing circuit of town walls.
The Castle came to worldwide attention in 1969 when it hosted the Investiture of Prince Charles as Prince of Wales. It is also home to one of the best military museums in Wales, the Museum of the Royal Welch Fusiliers Regiment, in one of its towers.
Tintern Abbey – Abaty Tyndyrn in Welsh – is one of the great British landmarks. And not just because it is one of the most beautiful, one of the finest English Decorated Gothic churches ever built.
Tintern Abbey also played a major part in inspiring the birth of British tourism. In the late 18th century, the Wye Tour – a two-day boat trip down the river from Ross-on-Wye to Tintern and Chepstow, a few miles downstream – was the ideal opportunity for visitors to appreciate the Picturesque. They would stop at several places each day to paint riverside scenes, and word of mouth soon made the Wye Valley one of the most famous places in Britain.
The Abbey was the highlight of the Tour, and to this day it’s one of the most beautiful places to see in Britain. The steep forested gorge of the Wye is a magnificent sight at any time of year, and is perhaps at its best on a still autumn morning, the mists rising from the river and swirling around the arches and empty windows of the great ruined church, just as the sun peeks over the forested hillside behind. One of the most evocative places to visit in the UK.
See Also: Best Places to Visit in Wales in Autumn
Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol
The best-known of Bristol landmarks, the Clifton Suspension Bridge is the defining symbol of this great city in the south-west of England. Designed by master engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, it spans the Avon Gorge, connecting Clifton Village with Leigh woods and nearby Ashton Court.
Back when I lived in Bristol, I regularly walked the short distance from my flat to the Bridge to gaze at the twinkling lights of the city below. The bridge is an awesome sight at any time of day or night, and you can walk across it for free (when I lived there, pedestrians had to pay a modest 2p – less than 3 US cents – to do so).
Clifton Village is very close by and is well worth exploring for its Georgian architecture, some of which is on a par with that of nearby (and more widely renowned) Bath. Much of Caledonia Terrace, for example, is let as student accommodation. Stop off for a drink at the Avon Gorge by Hotel du Vin as the lights are turned on a t dusk to get the full effect of this magical spot. Then head around the corner for a drink at the Coronation Tap, a legendary Bristol pub.
See Also: 20 Most Beautiful Bridges In Europe
Tower of London
The Tower of London Is one of the oldest castles in England and Britain, indeed one of the first stone castles to be constructed in the British Isles. It was commissioned by William the Conqueror to defend London, capital of his newly-acquired kingdom of England, after his victory in the Battle of Hastings in 1066.
William’s Castle is now known as the White Tower, and is one of the most famous landmarks in England. Although it’s dwarfed by the skyscrapers of the City of London, it’s still a formidable edifice, impressive from the Thames and its namesake Tower Bridge and up close.
The Tower is surrounded by impressive outer walls, and within these are fascinating precincts the size of a small village, with the Museum housing the Crown Jewels, the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula, not to mention the famous Yeomen Warders, better known as Beefeaters and the resident ravens. It rivals Parliament Square and Trafalgar Square as one of the most iconic places in London.
St Paul’s Cathedral, London
The famous domed St Paul’s Cathedral isn’t just one of the great UK landmarks, it’s also a building of immense symbolism to Londoners and the British alike.
It was built in the late 17th and early 18th centuries to replace the gigantic Gothic Old St Paul’s, which like most of London was consumed by the Great Fire of 1666. It came to represent renewal and revival as a new, very different city emerged from the lost medieval one.
During World War Two, its splendid Baroque dome stood firm and unscathed in famous photographs of the London Blitz, with buildings burning all around. It came to symbolize the resistance and courage of Londoners and British as they were subjected to weeks of intense bombing by the Luftwaffe.
St Paul’s is the most famous legacy of its architect, Sir Christopher Wren, who built 50 churches in London in all. Around 20 of these survive – many of these were destroyed during the Blitz, including St Augustine’s Watling Street, whose lone tower at the east end of St Paul’s survives, showing how close St Paul’s itself came to destruction.
the second largest castle in the UK – and the largest in Wales – was state-of-the-art when it was built in the 1260s. It was built on the low-lying land of the Caerphilly basin, surrounded by 1,000 feet high hills a few miles north of what is now the Welsh capital, Cardiff.
Norman lord Gilbert de Clare built Caerphilly Castle to dispel the threat from local Welsh warlords, who promptly sacked and destroyed the original in 1267. Its replacement, however, was a far tougher nut to crack.
Caerphilly Castle occupies 30 acres of land, and is surrounded by a series of lakes, giving it a picturesque feel. It is also famous for its leaning tower, which tilts further from the perpendicular than its more famous counterpart in Pisa. Explanations for its partial destruction range from it being blown up by gunpowder to being used by locals as a quarry (the nearby 16th century manor house on the hill was a highly likely culprit).
The most important moment in Caerphilly Castle’s history came in the 14th century when fugitive English king Edward II briefly sought refuge there. It also saw action in the early 15th century when it was besieged by Welsh rebel prince Owain Glyndwr, and again during the English Civil War.
See Also: Castles in South Wales
The most enduring of the millennium London landmarks, the London Eye – originally also known as the Millennium Ferris Wheel – quickly became established as one of the most famous UK landmarks.
The flight takes you over 500 feet above the River Thames, offering an amazing view of the Houses of Parliament on the opposite bank, and the western part of central London.
One of the best things to do in West London is to spend a few hours – or indeed a full day – exploring the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. They cover a vast area – around 300 acres – of land close to the River thames, and were founded in 1759.
Kew Gardens are one of the most famous places in England, with a collection of over 50,000 species of plants, flowers and trees from around the world. These include some of the most famous buildings in London, such as the stunning Palm Court, Kew Palace and the Great Pagoda.
The coronation church of kings and queens of England is one of the most famous buildings in England and greatest churches in Europe.
Visiting Westminster Abbey takes you on a journey through the last 1000 years of English and British history. One of the oldest sights you’ll see is the Shrine of St Edward the Confessor, whose disputed succession led to the Norman Conquest in 1066, and one of the most recent is the memorial to one of Britain’s greatest scientists, Stephen Hawking.
Architecturally Westminster Abbey is superb, from the soaring Gothic arches and vault of the narrow nave to the exquisite fan-vaulting from the late English Gothic Perpendicular period in the Lady Chapel in the east end of the church.
Westminster Abbey, St Margaret’s Church next door and the Houses of Parliament – one of the great squares in London – comprise one of four UNESCO World Heritage Sites in London.