23 British bucket list destinations for 2023
Home to magnificent landscapes, soaring hills, shimmering coastlines, fascinating wildlife, charming villages and a whole heap of history, Britain packs a big punch for a small island. With so much to explore on our doorstep, it’s easy to see why the Great British staycation reigns ever popular.
As we start to plan our holidays for the year ahead, here at C&C we’ve been busy rounding up the very best sights and experiences to be had around the North of England and the South of Scotland. From magical castles and awe-inspiring stargazing spots to unmissable events and unique wildlife experiences there’s plenty to add to your bucket list. Here’s our top 23 for 2023:
1. Hike along Hadrian’s Wall
Snaking through some of Northumberland’s most wild and beautiful countryside, with many impressive landmarks and viewpoints discover along its length, Hadrian’s Wall is a 73-mile-long defensive barrier and is the largest Roman artefact in the world. Built to defend the Empire’s furthest reaches in 122AD, the wall is peppered with castles, barracks, ramparts and forts. While it is possible to ramble the entire length of the wall, it may be a little ambitious, so we’d advise that you step into your walking boots and explore one of the Northumberland National Park routes. Home to the longest surviving stretch, plus several fascinating museums and excavation sites such as Vindolanda, you won’t need to go further afield to discover the best of Hadrian’s Wall.
2. Take a boat trip to see the Bass Rock gannets
The iconic Bass Rock is home to over one hundred and fifty thousand gannets, the largest gannet colony of northern gannets in the world and described by Sir David Attenborough as “one of the twelve wildlife wonders of the world”. Once the site of an important castle and then used as a prison in the seventeenth century, Bass Rock, or simply “The Bass”, is a small volcanic island just five kilometres northeast of North Berwick in East Lothian and is accessible by boat. Take to the waters to admire the birds up close and to watch them swoop and swirl overhead as they dive for fish; with a wingspan of up to two meters, the northern gannets are quite a sight to behold!
For an extra special Bass Rock experience, stay at our beautiful Leuchie Walled Garden. Part of the Hamilton-Dalrymple estate – which also owns Bass Rock – you can enjoy private landings to see wildlife at close quarters.
3. Play East Lothian’s Championship Golf Courses
Known as Scotland’s Golf Coast, East Lothian has the greatest concentration of Championship golf courses in the world. With 21 golf courses and 369 holes strung along 30 miles of stunning coastline, there are countless places to play. Tee off at the top spots: North Berwick, Muirfield and Gullane 1 for the ultimate bucket list experience. Blending quality golf with incredible views over Bass Rock and out towards Edinburgh, playing East Lothian’s championship golf courses is an experience not to be missed.
4. Spot Puffins in Northumberland and Yorkshire
Characterful, charming and clownish Puffins are one of Britain’s most-loved birds. Affectionately known as “sea parrots” thanks to their bright, striped bills, puffins spend most of their lives at sea, returning to settle on islands and clifftops around the UK in the spring and summer months to breed. Situated a mile off the Northumberland coast, tiny Coquet Island is one of the best places to see Puffins in England. Crammed to bursting with around forty thousand breeding seabirds during the spring months you’re unable to set foot on its rocky terrain but boat trips allow you to get to get tantalisingly close to the action, seeing thousands of puffins nest, as well as other bird species such as eider ducks and oystercatchers. Similarly, Flamborough Head in the East Riding of Yorkshire is a great spot to catch a glimpse of the charismatic little birds. Teeming with migrant birds, the protected headland sees Puffins flock to its cliffs from late March until July every year.
5. Admire the stars in Northumberland and Yorkshire
There are few things more wonderous than looking up into a star-filled sky. If spotting constellations, comets, planets and the Milky Way is on your bucket list then you’re in luck. With designated International Dark Sky Reserves in Yorkshire and Northumberland there’s a plethora of stellar stargazing spots in the northeast. Far removed from light pollution, the inky skies of the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors are the best places to stargaze in Yorkshire. While Northumberland, which has over 570 square miles of Gold Tier Dark Skies – the largest protected dark sky area in Europe - is the top place in the country to witness the dazzling celestial show.
6. Visit the rare wild Chillingham Cattle
Chillingham Castle is home to one of the world's last remaining herds of wild cattle. Their gene pool is so isolated that every animal is essentially a genetic clone. One of the rarest animals on Earth – thought to be rarer than the giant panda and mountain gorilla – the magnificent white beasts are completely untamed and remain untouched since the medieval ages. Isolated from all other cattle, they are completely inbred yet remain fit and healthy – a unique situation without parallel in any wild animal anywhere else in the world. You can see the cattle up close in their natural habitat - the 330 acres of enclosed parkland at Chillingham Castle. As the herd is completely wild, you can only see them when accompanied by the warden.
7. Swim with seals at The Farne Islands
Situated a couple of miles off the Northumberland coast, the magical Farne Islands are home to one of largest seal colonies in the UK. With over 5,000 grey seals dotted along the rocky shores, there’s nowhere better to observe these playful creatures in their natural environment. Watch the seals swirl, dip, dive and speed through the water around the islands on a snorkelling experience. Graceful, inquisitive and friendly, swimming with the seals is one of the most memorable and unique experiences you can have on a UK island.
8. Experience the magic of Alnwick Castle
If you’re a lover of history, architecture and exploring magnificent film locations, then a trip to Alnwick Castle is for you! Built as a medieval fortress over 700 years ago, Alnwick Castle is home to the Percy family and is one of the largest inhabited castles in England. Set in stunning Northumberland countryside just outside the cobbled market town of Alnwick, the castle is also famous for its role as ‘Hogwarts’ in the first two Harry Potter films. Soak up the magic of the castle on a Harry Potter themed tour, which highlights the filming locations and even allows budding wizards to take part in a broomstick lesson where you can learn to mount and manoeuvre on the very spot where Harry had his first flying lesson!
9. Climb the Yorkshire three peaks
Pen-y-ghent, Ingleborough and Whernside are among the best-known hills in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Collectively known as the Three Peaks, they form part of the Pennine ridge and are linked by a stunning 24-mile circular walking route which ascends and descends over 5,000ft! Often cited as one of the greatest and most rewarding challenges in the UK, climbing Yorkshire’s Three Peaks is worthy of any bucket list. Typically taking 8-12 hours to complete, the route winds through incredible scenery, offers sweeping vistas of the Yorkshire Dales National Park and starts and ends at the impressive Ribblehead Viaduct. If you want to be considered among those who have successfully ‘conquered’ the peaks you’ll have to complete the challenge in under 12 hours – good luck!
10. Chase waterfalls in Northumberland
Northumberland is home to some of England's finest hidden waterfalls. Wander off-the-beaten-track and you might find some enchanting spots, cascading waters and picturesque plunge pools. From the tumbling waters and rocky amphitheatre of Roughting Linn, which you can find at the end of an un-signposted route in the Ingram Valley, and Hindhope Linn on the edge of Kielder Forest where you can enjoy a tranquil picnic next to the slender waterfall spills, to the large plunge pool of Linhope Spout in the Northumberland National Park, where you can partake in a spot of wild swimming, Northumberland’s waterfalls are well worth finding…
11. Witness the Common Ridings
The Common Ridings is the Borders' answer to the Siena’s Palio and Pamplona’s Fiesta de San Fermin. Full of tradition, pageantry and drama, this historic spectacle – one of the oldest in the world – sees riders saddle up to parade the streets on horseback and commemorate the ancient rivalries of the Border towns...at some pace! Today’s colourful events take place throughout the summer in 11 of the region’s towns. As one of the oldest equestrian festivals in the world it is a spectacle not to be missed.
12. Walk the length of Cheswick Sands
When the draw of the sea, sand and big skies comes calling you can’t beat Cheswick Sands. One of the biggest beaches on the Northumberland Coast, the vast golden beaches of Cheswick Sands go on for miles - all the way from Cocklawburn Beach down to Goswick and Holy Island - and stretch as far as the eye can see. On a clear day, enjoy breath-taking panoramic views out towards the Scottish border near at Berwick-Upon-Tweed out towards Lindisfarne Castle. Rarely busy and dog-friendly all year round, Cheswick Sands is the ultimate spot for long off-the-lead-strolls with your four-legged friend.
13. Dine at Yorkshire’s Michelin starred restaurants
If fine dining is your cup of tea – or amuse bouche! – you needn’t look further than God’s Own Country for some of the best restaurants in England. Boasting seven Michelin starred establishments including Tommy Bank’s infamous Black Swan at Olstead, The Angel at Hetton, which is nestled deep in the Yorkshire Dales and The Pipe and Glass in the picturesque East Riding of Yorkshire, there’s plenty to tickle your taste buds. Harnessing superb local ingredients and transforming them into edible works of art or delicious gastro-pub fare, each restaurant promises to be an unforgettable dining experience.
14. Stay at Bamburgh Castle
Standing guard 150 feet above the white sands of Bamburgh Beach on a craggy volcanic plinth, Bamburgh Castle is an unmissable landmark and one of the most treasured sights along the Northumberland Coast. Once the Royal Seat of the Kings of Northumbria, the castle is packed with historic treasures and is a fascinating place to visit. For a truly extraordinary Bamburgh Castle experience, follow in the footsteps of royalty by making the fabled castle your home in one of our two sought-after apartments within the castle walls. Whether you stay in Neville Tower or The Clock Tower you’ll be treated to grand interiors, exclusive castle access and sweeping views over the coast, Bamburgh Village, Holy Island and out towards the Farne Islands. In the evening, watch the crowds filter away, leaving you to enjoy the castle and the magnificent Bamburgh sunsets in peace and quiet.
15. Visit the Holy Island of Lindisfarne
Completely cut off from the mainland by twice daily tides, the mysterious Holy Island of Lindisfarne is romantic, wild and secluded in equal measure. Rich in legend and history, the pint-sized tidal island was once inhabited by monks and was home to St Cuthbert, who allegedly held the power of spiritual healing. Discover the ruins of the 12th century Lindisfarne priory – once the epicentre of Christianity in Anglo Saxon times – before winding your way up to Lindisfarne Castle which sits loftily on a rocky plateau overlooking the island. From this vantage point, enjoy magnificent views across the island and surrounding sea. Make sure to look out for wading birds, grey seals, which can be spotted in throughout the island’s protected mudflats and dunes.
16. Go birdwatching at St Abb’s Head
A striking clifftop nature reserve, St Abb’s Head in the Scottish Borders is a wildlife haven famed for its seabird colonies. Home to over 50,000 birds, including the bright-beaked puffin, it’s a wonderful place for a spot of birth watching whether you’re a seasoned ornithologist or simply a lover of feathered friends. Characterised by dramatic coastlines, crashing waves and jagged rocks, it’s also a place of great natural beauty. Wind your way along the spectacular cliffside walks to the picturesque Stevenson-designed lighthouse. Built in 1862 on the edge of the rocky headline, it’s one of the most iconic sights on the Berwickshire Coast.
17. Browse for books in Barter Books
With roaring coal fires, velvet ottomans, cosy reading nooks, a café and row upon row of second-hand books, Barter Books is a bibliophile’s heaven. Housed in Alnwick’s vast former Victorian station and complete with its own working toy train which rumbles along an elevated track above the shelves, Barter Books is one of the largest second-hand book emporiums in Europe and is wonderfully atmospheric. Inspire your next read by pulling titles from the shelves, or if you’re after something a bit more special, hunt down valuable tomes and first editions in the antiquarian section. Just be careful not to plan to do much else that day – it’s far too easy to spend an hour, or even a day engrossed in the pages of its books!
18. Walk the John Muir Way
One of Scotland’s great trails, the 134-mile-long John Muir Way, is a coast to coast walk that runs from Helensburgh near the west of Glasgow to Dunbar in East Lothian. Meandering through historic towns, cities and villages, woodland, nature reserves and across beaches, this trail offers a fascinating glimpse of Scotland’s landscape, heritage and wildlife. Culminating in the pretty fishing town of Dunbar – John Muir’s birthplace, it takes 9-11 days to walk the full length of the trail. There are shorter routes in and around East Lothian that can embarked on if you’re short on holiday days!
19. Fish the River Tweed
For many the Tweed is the ultimate salmon fishing river. Flowing through almost 100 miles of bucolic Borders landscape from its source at Tweed’s Well to the estuary at Berwick-upon-Tweed, there are plenty of picturesque spots to cast your line along its pretty banks. Meandering through verdant banks with deep pools dotted along its course, the Tweed is predominantly a fly-fishing river and is known for recording the highest number of rod-caught salmon in Europe. From Kelso’s famous Junction beat - considered the fishing holy grail by keen anglers - to the prolific low water beats at Ladykirk you’re truly spoilt for choice when it comes to fantastic fishing spots along the Tweed.
20. Drive the Border’s Historic Route
Buckle up and explore the Borders Historic Route - 89 miles of spectacular Scottish countryside. Punctuated with ancient abbeys, charming villages and magnificent views, this road trip is one to remember. Along the way see tartan being scratched from wool, tour Abbotsford House, the former home of the famous Scottish author Sir Walter Scott and experience the sights and sounds of a working Victorian coal mine.
21. Meet Northumberlandia, the Lady of the North
Made of 1.5 tonnes of rock, clay and soil, Northumberlandia, or ‘Lady of the North’ is a stunning human landform sculpture of a reclining woman. At 100ft and quarter of a mile long, she was made to be explored. Hike over the scrolling pathways that cover her and stand on the viewing platforms to take in the pretty surrounding landscape. Bounded by a couple of lakes, the park is a haven for local wildlife. Created to be a living part of the countryside that will mature over time and change with the seasons, so every time you visit her you’ll see her in a slightly different light.
22. Hunt for Fossils along the Yorkshire Coast
Fancy following in the footsteps of dinosaurs? With exposed cliffs and ancient bays formed out of rock from the Jurassic period, the North Yorkshire Coast is one of the best spots to go fossil hunting in the UK. From plant and reptile remains to imprints of ammonites and shells there are plenty of treasures to uncover along the shores. While it’s possible to find fossils along most of the coastline, Robin Hood’s Bay, Saltwick Bay and Staithes are known to be the most fossil-rich destinations.
23. Catch a show at Fringe by the Sea
A 10-day arts festival in August, set in the beautiful town of North Berwick, Fringe by the Sea has grown from a small community festival to a thriving, vibrant event that welcomes plenty of visitors, artists, musicians and authors. If you're in the mood for some culture and entertainment during your holiday, but don't fancy venturing into nearby Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival, this is the place to be. And with more than 200 shows on offer, there's something for everyone at Fringe by the Sea.
If you’re looking to escape to one of the most understated corners of the UK, get out in the fresh air and reconnect with nature, give us a buzz on 01573 226711 or drop a line to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to chat to you about all there is to see and do in our region.