It is, of course, a matter of much debate as to what are Britain’s finest views, even what constitutes a great view in itself. But if you’re looking for quintessentially British vistas that take in our varied landscape from sweeping city skylines to truly iconic natural panoramas, the 10 views below are a good place to start.
Seven Sisters, Sussex, England
The South of England’s white chalk cliffs are an iconic sight and a symbol of Britain’s proud island history. And for our money, the most dramatic of these are the Seven Sisters along the Sussex Heritage Coast. To experience the ‘classic’ view, head for Seaford Head from where you get a sweeping panorama to the cliffs. For as long as anyone can remember their austere beauty has repelled invaders and welcomed home weary sea-goers.
Ardnamurchan, West Coast of Scotland
Gloriously unspoilt and undisturbed, the remoteness of Ardnamurchan is accentuated by the main access route being a single-track road. Take the coast road from Arisaig to Morar to see otherworldly white-sand beaches with perfect views across the turquoise water to the ‘Small Isles’ of the Inner Hebrides in the distance. This most westerly tip of the British Mainland is remote but the views are well worth the trip.
Glencoe, in the heart of the Highlands, is without doubt one of Scotland’s most famous and scenic glens. Travel from Glasgow on the A82 and you’ll pass right through. Stop at the numerous viewpoints to see a landscape of majestic, sombre beauty, the scene of one of the most infamous episodes in Scotland’s history. In 1692, 38 members of the MacDonald clan were murdered here by government troops, a terrible event in Highland history that charges this ghostly glen with extra power.
Stonehenge, Wiltshire, England
We’ve all seen the pictures; Stonehenge is an icon of prehistoric Britain that’s recognised the world over. The stones are shrouded in druidic lore and speculation as to their exact purpose continues. But Stonehenge’s power to inspire and mystify is beyond doubt. The massive structure, so obviously not of this age, is a magnificent sight, even from the road. For the full effect, apply with English Heritage to gain access to the stone circle itself at dawn or dusk.
Calton Hill, Edinburgh, Scotland
Edinburgh has one of Europe’s most instantly recognisable cityscapes. Its blend of graceful Georgian and austere gothic architecture and rugged volcanic geography inspired the poet Hugh MacDiarmid to label it a ‘mad god’s dream’. And there’s no better place to see it than from Calton Hill. From here you get an almost 360 degree view of the city that takes in the castle, the Old and New Towns, Arthur’s Seat and the sea beyond. You can also admire the array of neoclassical monuments on Calton Hill that first inspired Edinburgh’s moniker as the ‘Athens of the North’.
Wastwater, Lake District, England
This Lake District muse for poets, painters and writers is the deepest of all the Lake District waters. It is also the most sublime visually – a 3-mile long ribbon of shining glass caressed on all sides by scree-strewn mountains and some of England’s highest peaks. The only road there is off the main coastal A595; its remoteness adds to the appeal.
Three Cliffs Bay, Gower, Wales
The view over Three Cliffs Bay in South Wales takes in a perfect semi-circle of marsh, cliffs and creamy white beach hugged by unique rock formations. If you stay at the popular Three Cliffs Bay Campsite, right on the cliffs, you can wake up to this romantic view each morning. If not, the best approach is from Southgate from where you can hike along the cliff top a mile or so to the bay.
Newcastle-upon-Tyne riverside, England
Newcastle’s river, the Tyne, has been the life blood of the city since the area was first settled nearly 2,000 years ago and it remains a focus for Newcastle’s cultural life today. From the top of the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art on the Gateshead side of the river, you get a fantastic view of the city. It takes in the billowing Sage Centre, designed by Norman Foster, the famous arched Tyne Bridge and the striking Millennium Bridge. The Millennium Bridge, known as the ‘winking eye’ on account of its unique tilting mechanism, is the latest addition to one of the most dynamic city skylines in Britain today.
Cambridge Colleges, England
Hire a punt and drift down the languid River Cam to see this ancient University City at its very best. The view of the college ‘backs’, as they’re known, is exquisite. See the 15th-century King’s College with its superb gothic chapel, Christopher Wren’s fine classical library at Trinity College and more. Drinking in the view of these sublime monuments at sunset on a summer’s day is a quintessentially English experience, one only improved by a glass or two of wine.
The London Eye, London, England
The London Eye offers some of the most dramatic views over London: you can see up to 40km (25 miles) in all directions, as far as Windsor Castle on a clear day. On your 30 minute ‘flight’ you’ll see The Houses of Parliament, St Paul’s Cathedral, ‘the Gherkin’ and more. Make your flight extra special with a champagne flight or private capsule.
For more information check out VisitBritain.com