Most of us will be confined to the limits of the UK’s 31,368km coastline this summer.
Things might feel a little claustrophobic for seasoned travellers, but - though we may be slightly lacking in ‘official’ natural and manmade wonders - the country isn’t short of alternatives to spectacular world sites.
Here are our UK alternatives to iconic world sites, from the Great Wall of China to the Golden Gate Bridge.
Instead of Neuschwanstein Castle try Dunrobin Castle
Neuschwanstein Castle was built as a private retreat for the shy King Ludwig II, who died seven weeks before its completion. Since March 2020, the castle has stood as he intended - quiet and near-empty, rather than overflowing with awestruck visitors.
The ‘castle of the fairytale’ king will continue to be off-limits for most of us in 2021, but Scotland has its very own royal residency worthy of a European fairytale. Overlooking the Dornoch Firth, Dunrobin Castle was inspired by French architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, who was renowned for the restoration of Notre Dame and Château de Pierrefonds.
Once the seat of Clan Sutherland, Dunrobin is now the home of immaculately manicured gardens and a museum. This makes for an unmissable stop for anyone driving the NC500.
Instead of the Great Wall of China try Hadrian’s Wall
One was built over centuries to keep Mongol tribes (and other northern invaders) out, the other to “separate the Romans from the barbarians” - don’t take it personally, Scotland.
Though Emperor Hadrian’s 117km wall is no match for the wonder of the world in terms of scale (China’s Great Wall covers a distance of 21,196km) it should be more than capable of providing history buffs with a fix this summer.
Stretching from the Irish Sea to the North Sea, the wall is punctuated with forts and remarkably well preserved ruins, often overrun by the British countryside.
Today, the most impressive surviving section of the wall can be found at Housesteads Roman Fort, with stretches of the ancient wall reaching 10 feet. The fort is also home to a museum, detailing the original structure of the now ruined fort.
Instead of Mont-Saint-Michel try Lindisfarne
“Are you serious?”
Those were likely the words of Bishop Aubert of Avranches, when the archangel Michael appeared to him requesting he build a church on a rocky islet at the mouth of Couesnon River in Normandy. The bishop persisted, however, and erected the first structures which make up the simply magnificent UNESCO recognised Mont-Saint-Michel commune.
Off the coast of Northumberland is another tidal island home to a religious community - the Holy Isle of Lindisfarne. Today, a community of 150 lives on the island, which is also home to the ruins of Lindisfarne Priory. This was once an epicentre of Anglo Saxon christianity, as well as a remarkable 16th century castle. The village itself, renowned for its hospitality, is peppered with pubs, cafes and guesthouses.
Just be sure to read crossing times before visiting.
Instead of The Parthenon try Penshaw Monument
What do the Greek Goddess Athena and John Lambton, First Earl of Durham have in common? They both had magnificent Greek temples built in their honour.
The Parthenon - a symbol of democracy - is perched on the Acropolis and looks over history-steeped Athens, while the more modest Penshaw Monument sits at the top of Penshaw Hill in the city of Sunderland.
With travel to Greece limited, we suggest heading to the north east and marvelling at the ambitious tribute to the former statesman. Though it bears a likeness to the Parthenon, the monument was, in fact, built to resemble the Temple of Hephaestus in Athens.
Instead of Uluru try Suilven
Situated slap bang in the centre of Australia, the impossibly steep and otherworldly Uluru is sacred to the Pitjantjatjara people and is a symbol of pride to all Australians.
Travel to Australia, which has fared relatively well during the coronavirus pandemic, remains effectively off-limits to UK travellers, but there’s a peak in the northern reaches of mainland Scotland which rivals Uluru in its sheerness and ethereal beauty.
Suilven towers over the rolling moorland of Assynt - its prominence and impossible shape a glitch of nature. Remarkably, the 731 metre peak can be tackled by hikers via a long walk-in and a well-marked - but exposed - mountain path.
Instead of Golden Gate Bridge try The Humber Bridge
In 1994, the American Society of Civil Engineers declared the Golden Gate Bridge - linking San Francisco and Marin County - a Wonder of the Modern World, due to it being the longest suspension bridge in the world from 1937 to 1964.
The society was clearly biased, neglecting to acknowledge the Humber Bridge linking East Ridings of Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire, which stood as the lengthiest span from its opening in 1981 until 1998.
Queen Elizabeth II described the bridge as her hat-trick goal, referencing the other two major British suspension bridges built in her lifetime - the Forth Road Bridge and the Severn Bridge. The Queen hailed the Humber Bridge’s “beauty”, and labelled it “a splendid advertisement for British engineering”.
Though it is possible to walk across the bridge, we recommend following the Yorkshire Wolds Trail on the Humber Estuary to truly appreciate the structure’s scale and brutal beauty described by the Queen.
Instead of Leaning tower of Pisa try Church of St Mary and All Saints
Pisa doesn’t hold a monopoly on iconic wonky towers.
The Church of St Mary and All Saints in Chesterfield is famed for its “crooked spire” supposedly caused by the lead that covers the tower. Experts believe that the lead on the south side of the spire heats up at a greater rate than the north side, resulting in the askew roof.
Typically tours of the Derbyshire tower are held on Fridays and Saturdays - you can read about availability of tours here.
Those who are really missing Tuscany might consider making a trip to Lombardi’s on Sheffield Road, renowned for its authentic Italian food.