Top 10 alternative UK city breaks

Think you know the UK? You're wrong. Edinburgh, London, Cardiff and Dublin are so been-there, done-that. The Mix picks out 10 alternatives to the mainstream for your holiday-planning pleasure.


It's not always grim up north


Eight million visitors head to Bradford each year, they can’t all be wrong. Maybe it’s because the city boasts over 360 curry houses and was crowned Curry Capital in 2004, yum! Those not so bothered about eating Vindaloo for breakfast, lunch and tea – heathens – can get a culture fix by checking out the award-winning National Media Museum and the Alhambra Theatre. They can also go walking and exploring the surrounding area – the Victorian Industrial village of Saltaire and Bronte Country are both on the doorstep – books, bodices and heaving bosoms a-plenty then.

Port Talbot

The famous industrial town in South Wales may not strike you as holiday material, but look again. The blast furnaces and steel works offer a post-apocalyptic backdrop for you to imagine War of the Worlds taking place and look quite magical from the chemical sunsets to the night-time illuminations while Aberafan Seafront has one of Wales’ longest sandy beaches.

The county of Neath Port Talbot actually offers many places of beauty to visit from the stunning Waterfall Country to the 64 square kilometres of Afan Forest Park and the entertainment available at Margam County Park.

Milton Keynes

While the book Crap Towns: the 50 Worst Places to Live in the UK described Milton Keynes’s demographic composition as, ‘London rejects, yokels dazzled by the bright strip lights’ it is also the fastest growing town in England, with the highest proportion of young people and situated just 40 minutes from London. OK, so the gridded city centre still resembles an industrial estate more than American downtown but Milton Keynes is a green city with over 4,500 acres of parkland, rivers, lakes and woodland. You can also visit Britain’s largest drive-through safari park, allowing you to get up close and personal with animals large and small. Or catch an outdoor music gig at the 65,000 capacity venue The National Bowl.


“Just 17 miles from City of Culture finalists Birmingham, Wolverhampton is the gateway between the historic Black Country and the beautiful countryside of Shropshire and Staffordshire.” Apparently the nightlife has also improved in recent years with some 25,000 revellers partying on down in the clubs, pubs, theatres and venues.


Everyone goes to Edinburgh and music capital Glasgow, be a bit different go to the granite city of Aberdeen, the Flower of Scotland and the capital of the Grampian Highlands. A magical place whether you visit the eight distilleries and cooperage on the world’s only Malt Whisky Trail, or not, though I’m sure if you do, it’ll help. There are 13 castles in the vicinity – plain greedy if you ask me – and the city boasts two million roses, 11 million daffodils, three million crocuses… again, greedy. You get the picture; it’s a pretty city, one that sparkles with abundance.


Many people seem to think that it is no coincidence that Hull is only one letter away from Hell. The concrete city may have made No 1 in The Idler’s list of Crap Towns in 2003, but nestled into the banks of the Humber Estuary, the former Naval base has been undergoing a major transformation in the last five years to become one of Yorkshire’s key cities. Check out the World’s only submarium – The Deep , home to 40 sharks and over 3,500 fish. Then there’s the 30-pub-strong Ale Trail, the 40-piece public art sculpture trail that is The Seven Seas Fish Trail and the grandstand views of Bempton Cliffs RSPB Reserve. Get thee away Devil, Hull is no longer Hell.


The birthplace of the industrial revolution, Derby is a city at the heart of Britain. A compact yet vibrant traditional city centre includes all the usual high street shops alongside regular Antiques Fairs, the second biggest church tower in England (Derby Cathedral), three free museums and Pride Park Football Stadium, which offers behind the scene tours of the grounds. The Real Ale city also hosts the winter and summer CAMRA Real Ale Festivals; which is reason enough for this beer fairy to visit. Also, as there are even more spooky sightings here than in York, there are a fair few ghostly walks on offer: Wooooooooooooh! If you need to escape the hectic, scary city a short drive takes you to the rolling landscapes of Derbyshire and the rugged moors of the Peak District.


Forget Brighton, Newcastle-Gateshead offers the alternative Gay Britain city break. Yes, not only known for the friendliest people in Britain, Geordies, this stylish city also boasts a lively gay scene with the gay village – or pink triangle to locals – full of cafes, bars and clubs. Whatever your sexuality, Newcastle- Gateshead also boasts The Gateshead Angel of the North, the award-winning Gateshead Millennium Bridge and the fabulous Baltic centre for contemporary art.

Waterford City

Away from Dublin, Cork and Galway is Ireland’s oldest tourist destination, the walled city of Waterford, first visited by the Vikings in 852AD. Its crime figures may be on a par with the more popular urban destinations in Ireland yet, still famous for Waterford Crystal, the medieval city is small and friendly in the main with cobbled back streets. On top of all this, the scenic county mixes beaches, lakes and mountains beautifully.


OK, so people used to get sent to Coventry as a punishment – it has never really sold itself as being somewhere people would want to visit voluntarily. But you forget that this is a historic city of myth and legend, famous for Lady Godiva and St George the dragon-slayer; all pretty cool. The surrounding countryside of Warwickshire is full of market towns that stretch from mediaeval to Georgian times, two famous castles, the river Avon, and Shakespeare’s Stratford. Coventry also has the ‘finest and largest motorcycle museum in the world’ – The National Motorcycle Museum, which is also pretty damn cool. Coventry? Who’d’ve thunk it?

Photo of Bradford Town Hall by Shutterstock

Next Steps

By Susie Wild

Updated on 29-Sep-2015