On a recent trip to the UK (and my first time in England), I only had 24 hours in London—which is definitely not enough time to get to know the city well (and a great excuse to go back). Outside of a short walking-tour of London, I stuck to the southwest of the UK, and loved it. Here’s what I’d recommend.
This western city offers so much more than what it’s known for: its aircraft manufacturing and maritime history. Plan your trip in early August, and you’ll see the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, where over 100 hot air balloons take flight over the city. If you can, try to catch the Saturday night Mass Assent and Night Glow. It was truly a spectacle watching over 80 hot air balloons take off over Bristol, followed by a semi-choreographed light show to music.
Bristol’s harbourside is a great attraction even if you’re not in town for the festival. Take a break and enjoy the views of the colorful houses on the hillside, with a cider in hand.
Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Bath is the only place in England where you can bathe in natural hot springs and Roman-style baths—but I didn’t do that. Instead, I walked around the city, taking in views of the honey-colored limestone buildings. With tourists crowding the bath entrance, I did my best to stay clear of the crowds, but was drawn to the Pump Room (next door to the bath house) for a delightful afternoon tea. I spent the evening at the Bath race course, where I placed minimal bets on horses (and won minimal returns).
Although I wish I could have explored more of Wales while I was there, my day in Cardiff did not disappoint. After just an hour train ride from Bristol, I arrived in Cardiff and wandered through the arcades, somehow managing to always make my way back to the main promenade. I definitely recommend sampling Welsh Cakes at the Cardiff Central Market.
If you’re looking for a bit of a mystical experience, Glastonbury is the place to be—it’s said to be the root of many notable myths and legends (like the Holy Grail and King Arthur). I’m sure the town is busy during the Glastonbury Festival in late June, but it was very quiet while I was there, making it a perfect day for a quick walk through town and a hike up to the Glastonbury Tor.
For a quick stop, check out the Clevedon Pier, named Pier of the Year in 2013 (yes, that’s a thing). So what is it that makes this pier so special? The water below has the second-largest tidal change in the world, fluctuating 48 feet between high and low tide (that’s the height of a 4-story building!).