Top 11 Incredible Natural Wonders of the UK 2023/2024
Perhaps surprisingly to some, the United Kingdom has some of the most interesting and beautiful natural sites in the world. From peaceful waters and wild and rugged landscapes to romantic parks replete with a myriad of wildlife, the UK has it all. Whether this is your homeland or you are planning a holiday from overseas, there are plenty of natural wonders sure to inspire; here are eleven of the best.
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1. Giant’s Causeway
|Photo: Vương quốc Anh|
The Giant’s Causeway is an area of around 40,000 interlocking basalt columns. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986 and is one of the most famous natural wonders in the UK.
The columns form stepping stones that lead from the cliff foot and disappear under the sea. The flat surfaces atop the columns are hexagonal, although some have four, five, seven or eight sides.
The tallest columns are around 12 metres and the solidified lava in the cliffs is 28 metres thick in places.
2. Gaping Gill, Yorkshire Dales, England
Coming in at 300,000 million years old and buried 100m below the Yorkshire Dales, Gaping Gill forms part of Britain’s longest cave system (over 40 miles in length). Big enough to fit St Paul’s Cathedral inside, Gaping Gill’s stalagmites and stalactites can be accessed twice a year, when experienced cavers lower a cage down to the wonders - including a 350ft waterfall - below. Sitting on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, there are plenty of walks that can incorporate this subterranean marvel. Begin at nearby Ingleton or Clapham and take in the beauty of what many still call God’s Own Country.
3. Llechwedd Slate Caverns, Snowdonia, Wales
|Photo: Visit Wales|
It might be no more than a tourist attraction these days, but social and cultural history combine with natural history at Llechwedd Slate Caverns in the heart of Snowdonia. Home to some of the finest slate in the world - formed when mud with high levels of clay was compacted and squeezed at high temperatures during continental shifts 300-400 million years ago - in the 19th Century the cavern at Llechwedd was an industrial powerhouse. Today, you can travel 660ft underground via Britain’s steepest cable railway to take in the magnificence of this natural phenomenon. Combine a visit with some hiking around Snowdonia’s rugged scenery - including Glyder Fach and Glyder Fawr, and, of course, Snowdon.
4. Cader Idris, Snowdonia
|Photo: - Wikipedia|
Wales is awash with wonderful scenery, but it's hard to beat Snowdonia: a landscape of rocky mountain peaks, glacier-hewn valleys, sinuous ridges, sparkling lakes and rivers. Cader Idris mountain (893m) is named in honour of a giant called Idris, who allegedly created the rugged landscape during boulder-throwing duels with rivals.
It's also said to be the stomping ground of Gwyn ap Nudd, lord of the Celtic underworld, the howling of whose hounds is a portend of doom. It offers some of Wales' most spectacular hiking, the various trails to the summit easily tackled in a day.
5. Scafell Pike and The Screes
In July 2017, England's Lake District became a UNESCO World Heritage site. The somewhat controversial designation was in recognition of its traditional sheep farming, but that's not why we've chosen it for this list.
Instead, we're attracted to it's wild, lonely beauty and for the range and variety of its lakes and lakeland fells (a word the Vikings brought to Britain for mountains). From the genteel loveliness of Lake Windermere (the largest natural lake in England and a resort since the railroad arrived in 1847) to the stark drama of Scafell Pike, England's highest peak, and the Screes, seen here from Wastwater.
Wastwater, at 260 feet deep, is the deepest of the Lake District lakes. The Screes, running along the southeast shore, are made up of millions of broken stones left after the last Ice Age that rise from the bottom of the lake to a height of 2,000 feet.
6. Kynance Cove
|Photo: UK Beach Guide|
If you are hooked on the latest BBC version of Poldark, then you have already visited Kynance Cove, at least in spirit. The cove, with its enormous rock towers, sea caves and low tide islands, is Nampara, Poldark's white sand beach.
As it appears in the TV drama, the beach looks extensive and permanent. But in fact, most of it is only visible and accessible at low tide. It's part of The Lizard, the most southerly spit of land on mainland Britain. It is worth planning your trip around the tides to see and swim in the stunning turquoise waters, wrapped in Cornish headlands that make up this beach — often listed as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
The name, "Kynance" is derived from an old Cornish word, kewnans. It means ravine which should give you an idea of why this is considered an adventure beach. A stream, with steep sides cuts through the open heathland or downs opening out onto the beach and revealing more coves and caves that flood at high tide.
The area around the cove, including the cliffs at The Lizard, are noted for wildlife watching, wildflowers and even wild asparagus. If you're lucky and watching from the cliff tops, you could spot enormous basking sharks in the clear turquoise waters. The second biggest fish in the ocean, they frequent the area in late spring and early summer.
Devon’s wild heart covers 368 sq miles, a vast national park that feels like straight out of a Tolkien tome, with its honey-coloured heaths, moss-smothered boulders, tinkling streams and eerie granite hills (known locally as tors).
On sunny days, Dartmoor is idyllic: ponies wander at will and sheep graze beside the road. But when sleeting rain and swirling mists arrive, you'll understand why Dartmoor is the setting for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles: the moor morphs into a bleak wilderness where tales of a phantom hound can seem very real indeed.
8. Cheddar Gorge, Somerset, England
|Photo: Greatdays Travel Group|
If you’re looking for proof of the awesome power of Mother Nature then look no further than Somerset’s Cheddar Gorge. Formed over a million years ago when meltwater floods helped carve out Britain’s biggest gorge - at its deepest it reaches 137m down - the resultant ravine is both dramatic and oddly beautiful. Situated in the equally beatific Mendip Hills, the area boasts a number of exhilarating walks, rock climbing and underground caves, in which the most famous of these, Gough’s Cave, was found Britain’s oldest complete skeleton - also known as Cheddar Man (thought to be over 9,000 years old) - in 1903. Have that, fact fans.
9. Swallow Falls in Snowdonia National Park
|Photo: Visit Conwy|
Swallow Falls, beside the A5 about two miles west of the Snowdonia National Park center in Betwys-y-Coed, is the tallest continuous waterfall in Wales. To get a sense of what that means, you have to walk along beside it.
The falls, on the River (or Afon in Welsh) Llugwy, are not one, tall cascade but a winding and ever widening series of cascades that thunder down, layer upon layer, into the river valley.
The easiest way to see Swallow Falls is from the sturdy staircase that runs alongside it. From the entrance, across from the Swallow Falls Hotel on the A5, it's a short, downhill walk to the riverside steps. Using them, visitors can climb to the top of the falls or descend to the bottom, enjoying changing views as they go. There is also a more challenging approach, on foot along the north bank of the river. And for real daredevils, there are companies that (unbelievably) run whitewater kayaking adventures down these falls.
10. The Isles of Scilly
|Photo: Academy Travel|
The Isles of Scilly off the coast of Cornwall are a world unto their own. More congruous with the vivid, calm waters of the Pacific than the weather-blown isles of Britain, this archipelago of around 140 islands remains unspoilt.
There are no multinational hotels here or glut of chain restaurants. Instead, it offers a quiet haven away from the rush of life on the mainland.
One of the islands, St Agnes, lies four miles south of Lizard Point on the mainland, making it the most southerly point in the UK.
11. Seven Sister Chalk Cliffs, East Sussex
Dover's iconic white cliffs grab the most attention, but the colossal chalky walls of the Seven Sisters are a much more spectacular affair. This 4-mile roller coaster of sheer white rock rollicks along the Sussex shore overlooking the waters of the English Channel, an impressive southern border to the South Downs National Park and most dramatic at the towering headland of Beachy Head.
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