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World Tourism Day: Beautiful places in the UK and Ireland

Escaping your normal routine and exploring somewhere new is so refreshing. And the good news is, you don’t have to travel far to do it. These stunning tourist destinations in the UK and Ireland could be just around the corner from you. 

So pack a bag, hop in the car, and enjoy being a tourist for a day or two.

Clifden, Ireland

A beautiful coastal view near Clifden with a sign that says, ‘Sky Road’

Photo: Shutterstock

Explore the incredible Sky Road near Clifden and enjoy these breath-taking views

Nestled between the Twelve Bens mountain range and the Atlantic Ocean is the coastal town of Clifden. Surrounded by sandy beaches, rugged headlands and caves, it’s no surprise that Clifden is a hotspot for coastal tourism. But if you’re after peace and quiet, don’t worry – there are islands to explore, with beaches so remote that you won’t see another person for days.

Clifden is a popular destination for walkers, whether up in the mountains or around Omey Island. You can walk or drive across the strand to Omey Island from Claddaghduff and embark on a beautiful 4-mile circuit. But always remember to check the tide times before you head out to avoid getting cut off by the sea.

You’ll find many pristine beaches with crystal clear water. Places like Dog’s Bay or Inishbofin Island are perfect for swimming and snorkelling. Or, you could take things up a notch and head out surfing, stand-up paddleboarding or coasteering with local company Real Adventures Connemara.   

At the end of a busy day exploring, there’s nothing better than sitting down for a delicious meal. Treat your tastebuds to fresh local seafood at Mitchell’s Restaurant. Or head to Griffin’s Bar – a favourite haunt of the Clifden lifeboat volunteers. You might see them there with a plate of homemade seafood chowder after they’ve been out on a rescue.

The Lizard, England

The Lizard Lifeboat Station on a sunny day, their Tamar class lifeboat in the water after launching down the slipway

Photo: RNLI/Nathan Williams

The Lizard Lifeboat Station is set at the foot of an impressive 45-metre cliff

One of the most famous tourist attractions in the south of England is Land’s End. But did you know that Land’s End isn’t really the most southerly point of the British mainland? That title is actually held by the Lizard Peninsula. 

Home to beautiful beaches, miles of bridle paths and amazing marine wildlife, the Lizard is an incredible place to visit. As you walk around the dramatic coastline, keep an eye out for dolphins and seals. And if you’re there in the spring, you might be lucky enough to spot a basking shark – recognisable by their two fins, spaced apart. Look to the sky and you could see a rare Cornish chough, a glossy black bird with a distinctive red beak and feet.

The beaches on the Lizard are gorgeous. There are several lifeguarded beaches to choose from. If you’re chasing the waves on a surfboard, check out Poldhu Cove Beach or Kennack Sands. Or, if you’d rather sit back and soak in stunning views, head to Polurrian Cove Beach.

Be sure to choose a lifeguarded beach – you’ll be protected by highly trained RNLI lifeguards. They mark the areas that are safe for swimming, helping to prevent accidents before they happen. And if you get into difficulty, they can respond instantly. 

At the end of your day, check in to the clifftop hotel, Polurrian on the Lizard. Allow yourself to fully relax in the spa, with a range of soothing treatments and facilities. Then snuggle down into bed and drift off to sleep with a stunning sea view. 

Pembrokeshire, Wales

A coastal view with a sandy beach and cliffs and a wooden bench in the foreground

Photo: Shutterstock

Visit the beautiful Broad Haven South Beach

Go to Pembrokeshire once and you’re sure to return! It’s a tourist destination that attracts many repeat visitors, with people who visited as children going on to bring their own children and grandchildren. And with good reason.

There’s so much to discover in Pembrokeshire. One great way to see the sights is on a stand-up paddleboard. RNLI Lifeboat Crew Member Andrew Thomas runs West Coast Paddle Company, which offers stand-up paddleboarding lessons, tours and hire. Embark on one of his stand-up paddleboarding ocean adventures and explore the stunning sea caves and coves along the coastline.

While you’re in Pembrokeshire, pop in to the spectacularly-situated St David’s Lifeboat Station. Meet the RNLI volunteers and see their lifeboats, always ready to launch down the slipway and save lives at sea. You can also find special souvenirs and gifts in the St David’s RNLI shop.

If you’re looking for things to do on a rainy day, head to Cardigan Castle. At 900 years old, the castle holds a lot of history within its walls. Learn more as you are shown around by a knowledgeable tour guide and enjoy fascinating digital exhibitions as you go. 

The River Thames, England

A peaceful river on a sunny day, with a beautiful villa in the background and purple flowers in the foreground

Photo: Shutterstock

Sit beside the River Thames and enjoy the tranquillity of Chiswick House and Gardens

What comes to mind when you think of the River Thames? Maybe it’s Big Ben and the bustling inner city of London. But there’s so much more to discover. For example, travel along the Thames to Chiswick and you’ll enjoy green, open spaces, home to all sorts of wildlife. There, the river acts as a corridor for nature. 

Explore the London Wetland Centre, home to creatures including otters, and wading birds such as green sandpipers. Or enjoy a tranquil walk around Chiswick House and Gardens, an 18th-century villa set in 65 acres of beautiful historical gardens. 

The River Thames is also a great place to view iconic London landmarks from. For a different perspective, hop onboard a boat trip and be taken on a tour along the river, under the bridges and past famous tourist attractions.

You might be surprised to learn that the River Thames is home to the RNLI’s busiest lifeboat station – Tower. The Thames is a very busy, tidal river, and people often get into difficulty in the water. But at a moment’s notice, the lifeboat crew can launch to their rescue. There are four RNLI lifeboat stations along the Thames – Tower, Chiswick, Gravesend and Teddington. Earlier this year, Tower got a brand-new lifeboat station – you can book a visit there from June, so why not take a trip? 

If you fancy a museum trip, go to the Historic Dockyard next to the River Thames. There, you’ll find the RNLI Historic Lifeboat Collection, so you can discover more about the RNLI’s lifesaving history. This museum is home to the UK’s largest collection of historic lifeboats. You’ll see with your own eyes how they have evolved over the years, from an 1897 pulling and sailing lifeboat, to the first inflatable inshore lifeboats. 

Orkney Islands, Scotland

Two people at Skara Brae, a stone-built Neolithic settlement

Photo: Shutterstock

Explore the stunning Skara Brae, a stone-built Neolithic settlement on the Bay of Skaill

If you reach the northernmost part of mainland Scotland, get onboard a ferry and continue travelling north, you’ll find yourself at the amazing Orkney Islands. You’ll be welcomed by their breath-taking coastlines and friendly local community. 

While the weather on the Orkney Islands varies, the scenery is incredible. It’s a great place to take photos, especially if you’re interested in wildlife or landscape photography. 

Surrounded by the sea, you’ll be able to make the most of the ocean. You could go sailing, rowing or kayaking – book fully guided sea kayaking adventures with Sea Kayak 59 Degrees North. Orkney is also a great place to go fishing. With miles of coastline perfect for sea angling, as well as large lochs stocked with trout, it’s a popular destination for anglers.

There are three lifeboat stations in the Orkney Islands: Longhope, Stromness and Kirkwall. You can check the visitor opening hours on the website – they’d love to see you. 

On your doorstep

This World Tourism Day, get out and about – whether you’re cherishing the places you love in your local area, or travelling a little further to uncover hidden gems. 

Wherever you call home, there’s likely to be a lovely lifeguarded beach or a friendly RNLI shop close by.