Who said you can’t have your cake and eat it? Not us. If you’re a sucker for a city break but want the option to escape to the wilderness at a moment’s notice, there are few places better than the UK for a quick getaway. Our humble island might be small but when it comes to a versatile vacay, it’s ideal for those who want the best of both worlds. So, listen up, as we give you the lowdown on our favourite UK cities that pack an urban punch and give you a gateway to outdoor adventure. 




Home to some of the UK’s most famous national parks and mountains, it seems fitting to start in the north of England. And whilst much of this party of the country is made up of epic, wild landscapes, it’s not short of cosmopolitan appeal. Think Manchester and Sheffield, full of energy, culture and history, on the doorstep of the Peak district. Check out the galleries, theatres, museums; explore the cities’ industrial heritages; or spend a day trekking, climbing or trail running. By night, there’s a world-famous music scene and thriving nightlife to discover or epic wild camping to enjoy out in the hills.


A little further toward the northern border, you’ve got Leeds and York, neither short of urban charm and both perfectly placed for the Yorkshire Dales and the Moors too. Further north still are Carlisle and Durham, both providing a gateway to the Lake District and some of the UK’s best trekking, climbing and wild landscapes. 



It might not be home to soaring peaks or epic mountains ranges, but there’s still plenty of wilderness to escape to in the South of England. Base yourself in Oxford if you fancy a hefty dose of stunning architecture, history and vibrant culture, with a side of the Cotswolds, North Wessex Downs and Chiltern Hills. If you’re heading further south, check out Winchester and Chichester for easy access to the New Forest and South Downs National Park, as well as the South Coast. Expect medieval streets, picturesque waterways and endless culture, food and drink hotspots.



East Anglia might not be the first place you think of when planning a staycation, but if you’re based in that part of the country or are looking to explore somewhere new, it’s got plenty to get excited about. Norwich is ideal as a base and though often overlooked, offers the perfect blend of history and modernity, with a river running through its centre and a buzzing arts music and culture scene, with plenty of shops, restaurants and cultural hotspots to keep you busy. When you want to escape the city streets, the coast is right on your doorstep and as the only UK city in a national park – the Norfolk Broads – an escape to the wild is never far away. 



Nestled between the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Mendip Hills, and just across the water from the Welsh Mountains, it’s no surprise that Bristol and Bath are a favourite among the urban outdoor crowd. Both cities combine beautiful architecture and history with vibrant culture scenes, with Bristol in particular offering a myriad of different vibes across the city, from the pretty streets of Clifton Village and independent shops on Gloucester Road, to the famous harbourside and buzzing city centre. Easy to get to, with plenty to keep you busy in the city and out of it, these cities both provide an ideal stop-off on your way to the South Coast too. Further south, there’s not much in the way of cities, but check our Exeter and Truro before you hit the beach.



Wild Scotland is the jewel in the UK’s crown when it comes to the outdoors, with some of the best climbing and mountaineering in the country, alongside our beloved Munros and even a bit of on-piste action too. But there’s another side to the crags and remote landscapes, and that’s the abundance of intriguing cities that Scotland has to offer. 


If beautiful Loch Lomond or the surrounding national park is calling you, stay in Glasgow for your culture fix or head to historic Stirling – although you just might not want to leave. If you’re craving an adventure in the Cairngorms, stay in Inverness, Aberdeen or Perth depending on the area of the vast national park you’re hoping to visit, and get your art and architecture fix alongside a taste of the mountains. The Highlands’ cultural capital, Inverness, is also the closest city to Skye, if you’re planning to cross the bridge to some true wilderness.



Wales has probably got more wilderness than it has cities, but there’s still plenty of concrete jungle that’s perfect for an urban adventure with the outdoors at your fingertips. Stay in Cardiff and you’re a stone’s throw from the Brecon Beacons. When it comes to walking, climbing, and mountain sports, it doesn’t get much better than this. With a thriving cultural scene, fascinating history, great nightlife and a buzzing shopping quarter, Cardiff is small enough to feel like a town but has enough going to live up to its name as Wales’ capital city. Don’t forget to check out the Bay too and, if you fancy a bit of beach, head to Barry Island on the train. 


As for the rest of Wales, Swansea is the perfect hub for the South West and West coast including the Gower for stunning camping and the Mumbles for any budding surfers out there. Further north, stay in Wrexham and – though not strictly Wales – Chester, for easy access to Snowdonia National Park. Both offer a blend of modern culture and history that’ll keep you going back again and again.

Northern Ireland


Fancy taking on a highest mountain and a capital city in one trip? Of course you do. In Northern Ireland, two icons go hand-in-hand, in the form of the imposing Mourne Mountains and the capital Belfast. Further north, stay in historic Derry/Londonderry for prime access to the vastly underappreciated peaks and woodlands of the Sperrins – plan plenty of time for this one.

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