Fancy something completely different? Here’s the scoop on some of Britain’s lesser known tourist attractions – from the breathtaking to the downright bizarre.
Go wreck diving with the seals
Best for: Intrepid explorers
Adrenaline-seeking families will love the chance to dive off the Orkney coast; it’s clean, clear waters offer the chance to spot seals, dolphins, and… warships. This is because the waters aren’t just rich with marine wildlife, but unsalvaged wrecks from the First and Second World Wars. Take a dive for the chance to swim through old destroyers and warships from the German High Seas Fleet for a truly historic day out.
Find out more: scapaflowwrecks.com and scapascuba.co.uk
Stone the crows!
Best for: Science and nature buffs
Dating back to 1630, Mother Shipton’s Cave in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire, contains the only petrifying spring in England. You’ll see petrified handbags, teddies and shoes hanging eerily in the drips; and it’s all thanks to the spring’s high mineral content which turns objects to stone. This curious, strangely beautiful sight has attracted quite a few famous visitors, as well as donations from celebrities. Admire the petrified hat belonging to John Wayne, Agatha Christie’s handbag, and ordinary, everyday objects changed for ever. Great for nature lovers and science enthusiasts alike.
Find out more: mothershipton.co.uk
Discover a ghostly street
Best for: Ghost hunters
If you love wandering through eerie underground cities, then take a tour down Edinburgh’s Real Mary King’s Close. A subterranean collection of lanes and alleyways, this atmospheric street used to be just like any other bustling thoroughfare of market traders – until the day it came to be sealed off and hidden from sight. Your tour guide will be in costume and in character as one of the street’s long-gone residents, and they’ll regale you with tales of plague, pestilence and intrigue. Thanks to the Close’s reputation for ghosts, this day out will be a sure-fire hit for any thrill-seeking families as well as history enthusiasts.
Find out more: realmarykingsclose.com
Best for: Families with children
Once an old Victorian slate quarry, Llechwedd Slate Caverns now boasts the world’s first subterranean playgrounds – from giant trampolines to underground zip wires. Nestled deep within the Welsh caves of Snowdonia, why not let the kids start with Zip World’s ‘Bounce Below’ – a subterranean trampolining playground, with giant trampoline nets in a cave the size of a cathedral.
Find out more: zipworld.co.uk
(Don’t) smell the roses
Best for: Nature lovers
The poison garden at Alnwick in Northumberland is beautiful, tranquil, and deadly. Home to over 100 plants that can kill, this eccentric garden is the brainchild of Jane Percy, Duchess of Northumberland. Nature lovers will love it, as long as you remember not to smell or touch the plants – seven people reportedly fainted there over the course of one summer. For those who like gardens to be a bit less dangerous, the rest of the fragrant 14-acre gardens won’t kill you, and you can grab a bite to eat in the splendid Treehouse restaurant (one of the largest in Britain).
Find out more: alnwickgarden.com
A house with a difference
Best for: History fans
The next time your children complain about the size of their bedroom, take them to Quay House, in the North Wales town of Conwy. This tiny bright red house has two rooms, measures 1.8 x 3 x 3.1 metres, and can only fit four people at a time; but attracts thousands of visitors every year. The Guinness Book of World Records has called it the smallest house in Great Britain, but this didn’t put off its last occupant, a six-foot-tall fisherman.
Find out more: thesmallesthouse.co.uk