Travelling solo in England is one of the best experiences. It’s quite safe, transport is excellent and the people are friendly. These are some of the best spots to visit, from dynamic cities, to seaside towns and rolling countryside.
England’s rail network has good links around the country. There are coaches connecting cities and towns, and local buses within smaller areas. There’s also the option of hiring a car if you want more flexibility in getting around. Whichever way you decide to travel, there are so many beautiful destinations to explore.
Keep reading to discover the best places to go as a solo traveller in England.
Although England is so much more than London, the capital is definitely a great place to start if you’re travelling by yourself. You can get pretty much anywhere you like with Transport for London’s tube, buses and overground trains.
The city is packed with world-class attractions, and whatever your interests are, you’re bound to find something to do. If you’re a history buff then London is the perfect destination. Some of the world’s most well known historical buildings are located in London.
From royal residences like Buckingham Palace and Hampton Court Palace to religious monuments like Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s Cathedral, there is plenty of history to get lost in. London also has a large number of fascinating museums, from the Natural History Museum to the National Portrait Gallery.
There are plenty of options for sightseeing as well. Whether you like to whizz through the city on an open deck tour bus, walk around neighbourhoods or sail down the Thames, you can choose how you want to explore. If you prefer to take it easy and want to avoid the tourist crowds, London has plenty of green spaces including Hyde Park, Primrose Hill and Hampstead Heath.
If it’s raining, head to Kew Gardens for some incredible indoor jungles. You won’t be stuck finding a bargain either, as London is home to a huge variety of markets selling everything from fashion and jewellery, to vintage goods and antiques.
2# Oxford, Oxfordshire
Oxford is a city that’s filled with beautiful old buildings, cobbled streets and picturesque views. Oxford Bus Company has great connections around the city, so you won’t be stuck for transport. Oxford is also a very bike-friendly city and is often the fastest way to get around, so it’s worth renting one out.
Although the city centre isn’t too large, there are still plenty of things that you can see and do. It would be pretty hard to visit the city without heading to its famous university. You can take a behind the scenes tour of the University of Oxford, admire its amazing architecture and learn about its history.
Another fun historical site is Oxford Castle and Prison. Visit the exhibitions and listen to the intriguing stories of the people who lived in the castle. Afterwards, climb St George’s Tower to enjoy panoramic views over Oxford.
Those of you who have a green thumb will love a visit to Oxford Botanic Gardens & Arboretum. It’s the UK’s oldest botanic garden and a great place to unwind amongst the greenery. Another relaxing activity also happens to be a unique, quintessentially Oxford way of seeing the city – punting. Take in the charming old buildings as you float down the River Cherwell. If you’re looking to do a little shopping, the Covered Market has been selling everything from fresh produce to bric a brac since 1774.
3# The Cotswolds
The Cotswolds is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which lies across six different counties. Covering almost 800 square miles, the best way to explore the area would be by car, as it offers you much more flexibility in the places you can visit. There are picturesque English villages, lively market towns, splendid country houses and rolling countryside.
Bourton on Water is a beautiful village nicknamed ‘Venice of the Cotswolds’ because the River Windrush flows right through it. Attractions in the village include the Cotswolds Motor Museum and the Model Village. Another charming village is Painswick, known as the Queen of the Cotswolds. It’s home to some of the best-preserved settlements in the area and has some great walking trails.
Cirencester is a lovely market town which was popular during the Roman era, and you can explore the Roman history at the Corinium Museum. For even more history, visit the impressive Berkeley Castle, originally built in the 12th century. If quirky old houses are more of your thing, then head to Snowshill Manor. This traditional Cotswolds manor house is filled with an assemblage of peculiar objects collected by the eccentric architect and artist Charles Paget Wade.
4# St Ives, Cornwall
St Ives is a picturesque seaside town in Cornwall, famous for its fantastic surf beaches and art scene. The views here are second to none, with sparkling blue waters, cobbled streets and whitewashed cottages. It’s pretty easy to get around St Ives on foot or bicycle.
If you’re wanting to explore further out, it’s easiest to rent a car, although there are buses and trains that link St Ives with other coastal towns. If you’re interested in art, St Ives is a great place to be.
Its scenery has attracted artists including Barbara Hepworth, Turner, Henry Moore and Whistler. There are over 30 local art shops and galleries to visit, and some of the best ones are the Tate St Ives, the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden and the New Craftsman Gallery.
Whether you enjoy watersports, paddling or relaxing on the sand, there are many beaches to choose from. From larger beaches like Porthminster and Harbour Beach, to quieter ones like Porthgwidden, you’re bound to find the perfect sandy spot for a picnic.
Another great way to appreciate the sea views is to go on a coastal walk. There are many that you can take, including the St Ives to Carbis Bay walk, St Ives to Zennor walk and the St Ives to Lelant walk. If you’re keen to get out on the ocean, why not take a boat trip to Seal Island. Trips run from the harbour and take you seal spotting – you might also spot sharks, dolphins, porpoises and sea birds.
5# Mersea Island, Essex
Mersea Island is an island in the Blackwater and Colne Estuaries in Essex. The island is connected to the mainland by the Strood, a causeway which often floods at high tide. Before driving over, make sure you check the tide times.
There are also buses which connect Colchester to West Mersea. Although the island is only eight miles square, there is so much to see and do. The waters around Mersea Island are calm and shallow, making it perfect for watersports. Paddleboarding, windsurfing, kitesurfing and sailing are particularly popular.
There are breathtaking views all around and if you have time, you can walk the entire island which takes about five hours. You’ll pass tidal flats, colourful beach huts, the Blackwater Estuary and farm land. If you want a shorter route, take the Cudmore Grove Country Park circular route.
There is evidence of human settlement on the island that dates back to pre-Roman times. It was very popular as a holiday destination for the Romans, as the Roman settlement of Colchester was nearby. Mersea Island was also a significant place for troops during both World Wars.
To explore more of the history, head to Mersea Island Museum which has exhibitions on the local, natural and marine history of the island. After exploring, make sure you sample the freshly caught local seafood. It’s especially known for its oysters which are cultivated from the creeks surrounding the island.
6# Norwich, Norfolk
The historic city of Norwich lies on the River Wensum in Norfolk. It’s a great place to visit solo as it’s safe, friendly and easy to get around. Steeped in history, Norwich is the most complete medieval city in the country, full of cobbled streets, ancient buildings, half-timbered houses and medieval lanes.
The first stop for any traveller should be Norwich Cathedral. This iconic building has over 1,000 colourful roof bosses, sweeping vaulted walkways and the famous cloisters. Norwich Castle is another must-see. Built between 1066 and 1075, the castle served as a jail for most of its life. Take a guided tour and make your way up to the battlements for panoramic views over the city.
Norwich is surrounded by beautiful countryside, and is the perfect place to spend time outdoors. Norwich is located within the Broads National Park, an area of navigable lakes and rivers. The park is filled with footpaths, nature reserves and wildlife parks – the perfect place to get away from it all. The best way to get around is by boat, canoe or kayak.
It’s also easy to explore on foot or by bike, as there many quiet country lanes along the edges of the water. Back in the city, the Plantation Garden is a restored Victorian garden which is packed with colourful flower beds and unique plants. You’ll also find a gothic fountain, Italianate terrace and a rustic bridge.
7# Liverpool, Merseyside
This maritime city is a fantastic destination to visit alone. The city centre is compact and easy to walk around, and the Merseyrail and local buses connect you to surrounding areas. Liverpool is rich in history and culture with world-class attractions.
It’s widely known as the birthplace of The Beatles, who were formed in the city in 1960. Check out The Beatles Story, an immersive walk-through experience with tons of memorabilia and merchandise. There are some amazing tribute acts who perform at The Cavern Club, an iconic live music venue that played a role in the birth of The Beatles.
Liverpool has a rich maritime history and was once one of the busiest docks in the world. The waterfront is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and there are many attractions along it to explore. The Royal Albert Dock is a complex of dock buildings and warehouses, which is now a major tourist attraction.
It’s home to the Tate Liverpool, as well as an array of independent shops, boutiques and cafes. The Merseyside Maritime Museum and the Museum of Liverpool are also along the waterfront. The best way to admire the city’s skyline is from the Mersey Ferry, via a hop-on-hop-off ride along the River Mersey.
Liverpool Cathedral is the largest religious building in Britain and is definitely worth a visit. It’s a stunning building, home to the world’s highest and widest Gothic arches, the largest organ in the country and beautiful stained glass windows. Climb to the viewing platform for views across to Wales.
8# Canterbury, Kent
Canterbury is a cathedral city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Situated on the River Stour, the city is easy to get around. It’s set up for pedestrians, although there are also local buses within the city centre. Canterbury is famous for its cathedral, and no visit to the city would be complete without stepping foot inside one of the oldest Christian structures in England.
The cathedral is the seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury, although perhaps it’s best known as the place of murder of Thomas Becket who was killed by King Henry II’s army in 1170. Take a guided tour and trace the steps that pilgrims would’ve made in the Middle Ages.
If you’re more interested in the Romans, the Canterbury Roman Museum is a fascinating place. It’s built on the remains of a former Roman town house, and you can even see the original mosaics as well as other artefacts that were used in everyday life.
If you prefer a more relaxed approach to sightseeing, a boat tour down the River Stour is a unique way to see the city. Spot landmarks like the Dominican Priory and Greyfriars Chapel. There are many green spaces to chill out in too.
Make your way to the Westgate Parks, a formation of four different landscape areas made up of woodland, meadows, gardens and riverside. Culture vultures will love a trip to the Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury’s leading performing arts venue. With a wide programme of concerts, dramas, musicals, contemporary dance shows, ballets, operas, comedy shows, you’ll definitely find something you enjoy.
9# Exeter, Devon
Located on the River Exe, Exeter is a cathedral city in Devon. It was heavily influenced by the Romans, Tudors and Victorians, and boasts a rich history which is reflected in its sites and attractions.
Exeter is quite compact and has excellent transport links, so getting around is simple. Exeter Cathedral is one of the prettiest cathedrals from the Medieval era. Take a guided or audio tour to hear the stories of the people who influenced it. Spot the highlights of the cathedral, including the 15th century Astronomical Clock and the Minstrels’ Gallery.
Another historical sight in the city which can’t be missed are the Underground Passages. Unique to Exeter, this web of underground tunnels spreads for 425 metres across the city and were originally used to transport water in medieval times. Make your way through the tunnels on a guided tour.
Take a stroll through the city before stopping at the quayside. This is one of the most picturesque parts of Exeter and has a historically important past. Here you’ll see old warehouses and historic buildings, left behind from when the city was a thriving centre for the wool trade.
There are lots of shops and cafes at the quayside, which is a lovely spot to have a drink by the water. For a little adventure, head out to Haldon Forest Park, a 15 minute drive from the city centre. There is so much to do here, including Nordic walking, cycling, mountain biking and the Go Ape Treetop Adventure.
10# West Yorkshire
West Yorkshire is a county that has everything – cultural cities, quaint market towns and scenic countryside. There are excellent train, coach and bus connections which link villages, towns and cities throughout the county.
For a spot of culture, head to the city of Leeds. It’s home to some wonderful art galleries, museums, theatres and live music venues which offer something to suit all tastes. Leeds Grand Theatre, City Varieties Music Hall and the Leeds Playhouse have a wide programme of events all year round.
Make sure to visit the Royal Armouries and see over 75,000 pieces of arms and armour from around the world. If you’re more interested in sculptures, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park near Wakefield won’t disappoint. The open-air gallery displays modern and contemporary pieces, and is set over 500 acres of parkland.
Experience the charm of a classic Yorkshire village in Haworth, once home to the Brontë sisters. Learn more about the famous bookwrights at the Brontë Parsonage Museum. Haworth is a great place to shop, and its pretty, cobbled High Street is packed with independent shops, boutiques, cafes and artisan bakeries.
The village is a great starting point for different walks on the surrounding moors. If you’re looking for a woodland walk, Hardcastle Crags offers some lovely views. Just north of Hebden Bridge, this woodland valley has over 15 miles of footpath. Make your way past rocky ravines, tranquil streams and alluring waterfalls.
11# The Lake District, Cumbria
A trip to the Lake District is a must when visiting England. Located in Cumbria, its name comes from the collection of glacial lakes that lie amongst the fells, moors and valleys. Its beautiful countryside has inspired writers and artists for centuries, and it’s not hard to see why.
It’s particularly popular with outdoor lovers and has plenty of hikes, walks and cycling trails. The Lakes is a great place to visit alone, as it’s very safe, the people are friendly and there is a wide choice of accommodation all around. The best way of getting around the area is by car, as a lot of the best places to see are quite remote and don’t have public transport links.
A good base for exploring the Lakes is Ambleside, a small town with interesting shops, pretty houses and tons of great restaurants. From here, you can walk to Stockghyll Force, a waterfall walk that boasts sweeping views over the town.
Grasmere is a pretty village filled with stone cottages and cafes. It’s home to Dove Cottage, where the writer William Wordsworth grew up. The Wordsworth Museum and Art Gallery is also located in the village.
Head to Tarn Hows in Coniston Waters for one of the most picturesque views in the area. There is a circular walk around the water which is suitable for all abilities. Another picture-postcard view is Wasdale Head from Wastwater. Wastwater is the deepest lake in the Lake District, and is surrounded by mountains including Scafell Pike, the highest mountain in England.
12# Chester, Cheshire
Chester was founded as a Roman fortress in the 1st century AD. It’s famous for its city walls which were built by the Romans as a defensive system. Stroll round the three kilometre walls and admire the many picturesque old buildings dotted round the city.
Look out for the Eastgate Clock which marks the original entrance to the Roman fortress of Deva. Another fun way to admire the views is by visiting the Chester Cathedral and climbing to the top of the central tower. It serves some of the best views across one city, two countries and five counties. You can also take a boat tour along the River Dee, where you’ll get to see some of the city’s landmarks as well as an abundance of wildlife.
You can’t visit Chester without going to Chester Zoo. One of the best zoos in the world and notable for its conservation efforts, Chester Zoo is enormous and is home to over 21,000 different animals. There are buses from Chester that travel straight to the zoo.
If you love to shop, Chester is an excellent place to be. Chester Rows is a series of half-timbered buildings dating back to Medieval times, and is now used as shopping arcades. You’ll find big-name brands as well as independent retailers.
To learn more about Chester and the surrounding area, visit the Grosvenor Museum. Housed in a magnificent Renaissance Revival building, you’ll come face to face with Roman artefacts, reconstructions of period houses, silverware, paintings and tombstones.
When travelling solo in England, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to places to see. You’ll find that England is safe to travel around, and the locals are friendly and accommodating. There is so much fascinating history and culture to explore, and whether you prefer cities, towns or the outdoors, you won’t be short of places to visit.