London, Edinburgh, Bath, Oxford. Sure these cities are beautiful and great places to visit, but they’re pricey and at times can seem overrun with tourists. If you’re looking to explore more of the country, but away from the typical sightseeing hotspots, why not try somewhere a little cheaper and off the beaten track – you’d be surprised at how much the UK has to offer. We’ve helped you plan your study breaks with our top 5 alternative places to visit.
1) Isle of White
Situated just 4 miles off the south coast of England, the Isle of White is home to some of the most spectacular beaches in the UK. From the dramatic setting of Needles rocks and lighthouse to the blue waters of Sandown beach, you won’t get bored of the scenery. Check out Osborne House, Queen Victoria’s holiday home, before you catch a live music gig in Newport. If you’re still looking for more, take advantage of two of the UK’s biggest musical festivals that happen on the island. The Isle of White Festival and Bestival see some of the world’s biggest names year after year.
Best time to visit: Unless you’re heading to the festivals, try visiting the Isle of White in October. It’s a lot cheaper than in summer, and when Halloween creeps up, the island transforms into the ‘Isle of Fright’ as it lives up to its title of World’s Most Haunted Island.
How to get there: Take the hovercraft from Portsmouth for less than £15 return for students. Or take the ferry from Southampton for around £16.
The capital of Northern Ireland is a city that has everything; from nightlife to rival that of London, to world-famous museums and architecture. For Game of Thrones fans, Belfast is home to Titanic Studios – where filming of the hit TV show takes place. You can even take a tour around the dramatic surrounding countryside which is used as major filming locations. Belfast was also the birthplace of the RMS Titanic, which is the subject of the recently named Europe’s Best Visitor Attraction.
Best time to visit: Spring is the best time to visit the city; the weather is good and transport/accommodation is still relatively cheap before the school holidays hit in the summer months. You’ll also get a chance to indulge in one of the many beer gardens that pop up around the city.
How to get there: Make use of cheap airlines such as Ryan Air and take a short flight from London for as little as £7 each way.
Home of Cambridge University, walk in the steps of inspiring famous figures such as Richard Hawking, Ian McKellen and Sylvia Plath along quaint English streets and small cobbled passageways. With art and history museums to awe-inspire, this small city is brimming with creativity and intellect, not to mention the great shopping experience with various independent shops. Show off your romantic side and take out a punting boat along the picturesque River Cam. When the sun goes down, unwind with a beer in one of the many beautiful pubs around the city and catch a university theatre show at the Mumford Theatre.
Best time to visit: Cambridge’s year-round festival scene makes it ideal to visit at all times. In the months of June and July, however, the city really comes alive with Cambridge Comedy Festival, Midsummer Fair and the Strawberry Fair.
How to get there: The city is easy to get to by rail, taking around 45minuites from London. Coaches also run regularly between Cambridge and the rest of the country – check out Megabus for cheap tickets.
4) Newquay – Cornwall
Newquay is undoubtedly one of the UK’s favourite holiday destinations: award-winning beaches with white sand and blue waters rival those of the Mediterranean. Regarded as the surf-capital of the country, it’s THE place to go and get into the water. Popular for student holidays, the surrounding area houses many hostels, campsites and B&Bs for small or larger groups. In August, the beaches are taken over by Boardmasters Festival, an unmissable music and surfing event. The nightlife in Newquay is unlike anywhere else in the UK, with bars and clubs right on the beachfront.
Best time to visit: June or September. In these months you get the good weather, without the price and busyness of the school holidays.
How to get there: Cornwall Airport is just 5 miles from Newquay, with flights from many UK airports such as London, Manchester and Edinburgh, however flying could prove to be a little expensive. Instead go by rail, with direct trains from London, Bristol, Birmingham and Yorkshire, but remember to book your tickets early to avoid high prices. Another cheap alternative is either by coach or even renting your own car.
The Victorian and art-nouveau architecture of Scotland’s largest city makes it rival its capital, Edinburgh. With the best shopping experience in Scotland, internationally-acclaimed museums and the home of many artists and musicians, it’s no wonder that it was once crowned the European City of Culture. While not as quaint and picturesque as Edinburgh, Glasgow attracts more young visitors with its lively nightlife and creative background.
Best time to visit: New Year’s Eve in Scotland should be on everyone’s bucket list, and Glasgow knows how to do Hogmanay well. Streets come alive with traditional music, parades and parties – it’s an event not to be missed.
How to get there: Glasgow has great rail links with the rest of the UK, and it also has its own airport. Flights from London can be found from as little as £10 in advance with budget airlines.