The United Kingdom has a wealth of places among the top destinations of 2020 lists, and because of a favorable dollar-to-pound ratio for Americans (and dollar-to-euro ratio in Ireland), now is the perfect time to see the historic castles, some serious cliff-side views and bustling cities of the British Isles.
Here’s a peek at the cultural, architectural and imbibing adventures in store:
Did you know that St. Patrick wasn’t actually from Ireland, but is said to have been born in Roman Britain? Wherever he hails from, Dublin is known for one of the biggest St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the world. You can raise a pint yourself anytime of the year by touring the famous St. James’ Gate brewery where Arthur Guinness founded the iconic stout in 1759.
Delve into Irish history at Dublin Castle, which dates back to the 13th century and is filled with illuminated medieval manuscripts. Then get a breath of fresh air on a short trip to the Powerscourt Estate, originally a 13th-century castle, famous for its extensive, top-rated gardens.
You can head to Cork, located in the south, to visit the legendary Blarney Castle to kiss the Blarney Stone said to bestow “the gift of gab,” or see the towering Gothic spires of St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral and warm up with an Irish coffee.
Ever since the partitioning of Ireland in 1921, this region north of the Republic of Ireland has been a separate entity and a part of the United Kingdom. In the capital city of Belfast, learn all about this country’s past, present and future, which includes building the Titanic.
Outside of the city, witness the other-worldly beauty of Giant’s Causeway, an impressive site of some 40,000 interlocking ballast columns, created by a volcanic fissure eruption long ago. Legend has it, an Irish giant built this structure to cross the North Channel and fight a Scottish giant. Who won? Depends who you ask!
With ancient castles and royal palaces, the Scottish capital of Edinburgh will transport you back in time. Your first stop should be to visit Edinburgh Castle, which sits atop the towering Castle Rock near the city’s Old Town, to see the Scottish crown jewels. At Stirling Castle—perched high on an extinct volcano—you can trace historic battles from the Scottish Wars of Independence, made famous in “Braveheart.”
Beyond castles, get a taste of Scottish culture with a bagpipes and whiskey tour or sip a scotch at the famous Glenmorangie Distillery opened in 1843. Then head for the legendary Loch Ness at Inverness, the body of water said to house the mythical monster, besides the Urquhart Castle ruin.
The port of Holyhead, Wales offers its own breathtaking landscapes, like the jaw-dropping Snowdonia. This region was designated the first national park in Wales, and houses the country’s highest mountain, Snowdon, towering over numerous waterfalls, and lakes or “llyns.”
Northeast of the park, visitors can traverse stone bridges to catch a glimpse of charming cottages and the renowned Swallow Falls at the village of Betws-y-Coed. Speaking of stone bridges, you can also catch the much larger Menai Suspension Bridge, an architectural marvel from 1826, and the first to connect the island of Anglesey with mainland Wales.
The famous white cliffs in Dover, England greet approaching ships, appearing almost as icebergs reaching 350 feet above the water, with Dover Castle (home to one of the best preserved Roman lighthouses in Europe) sitting atop them. You can tour this extensive fortress that dates back to medieval times and was built atop Roman ruins, including the eerie defense tunnels.
Another world-renowned structure, Canterbury Cathedral in nearby Kent was the center of Christianity in early medieval England and boasts ornate pillars, gorgeous stained-glass windows and UNESCO World Heritage status. If you have a full day in Dover, visit the lavish Leeds Castle situated on islands in the middle of a lake.
Last but not least, the Channel Island of Guernsey to the south of England is a Crown Dependency (meaning, it’s not a part of the United Kingdom, but the Queen is still the head of state), offering travelers up-close experiences with nature. Guernsey is most famous for its cows, which produce some of the creamiest, golden-colored milk. Get a taste for yourself at Meadow Court Farm, where you’ll tour hundreds of green acres on which herds graze and get a sample of their famous cheeses.
You can also head to the smallest of the four main Channel Islands, the nearby and car-free Sark. To get around, you can bike along the narrow cliffs with water on either side of you.
Royal Caribbean makes it easy to experience the United Kingdom in its entirety for once-in-a-lifetime memories, so head here to plan your next vacation to this incredible part of the world.