Boats at sunset in Weymouth, Dorset, UK.

6 Most Underrated Towns in the UK

With an estimated 44,000 smaller communities to choose from, deciding where to go for an off-beat, under-the-radar, small-town experience in the United Kingdom is a relatively easy task. No matter where folks travel in England, Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland, there are great places to visit in almost every town. Medieval churches? They are everywhere with more than 40,000 across the country. Charming pubs? Yup, there are nearly as many “public houses” in the UK as there are churches.

And when adding historic heritage homes, quaint old shops, and pleasant parks to the mix of fun things to see and do – and a superb public transit system to get you there (even the smallest community will have a bus and train station) – tourists are simply spoiled for choice. Here are six of the most underrated towns in the UK to consider visiting for ideas and inspiration.

Royal Leamington Spa, England

Leamington Spa railway station serves the town of Royal Leamington Spa, in Warwickshire, England.
Leamington Spa railway serves the town of Royal Leamington Spa. Image credit Tea and Biscuit Photos via Shutterstock.

Usually referred to simply as “Leamington Spa,” Royal Leamington Spa in Warwickshire, England, is an easy 30-minute train ride south of Birmingham and makes for a fun day trip or overnight getaway. Given the “Royal” designation by Queen Victoria in 1838 for its popularity as a spa town, top attractions include the Royal Pump Rooms, a historic spa building that today houses the Leamington Spa Art Gallery and Museum. In addition to its displays relating to local history, art, and the significance of the town's spa heritage, it is also home to the Pump Room Gardens, a popular spot for a stroll or a picnic.

Other attractions in Leamington Spa include visiting Jephson Gardens, a beautifully maintained Victorian-era park featuring exotic trees and plants, a lake, and a glasshouse with tropical plants and birds, and taking a stroll along the Georgian-era Parade, a bustling thoroughfare lined with shops, cafés, and restaurants. Leamington Spa also offers easy access to historic Warwick Castle, a short drive away.  

Perth, Scotland

The meandering River Tay in Perth, Scotland, with a picturesque view of the city.
The meandering River Tay in Perth, Scotland, with a picturesque view of the city.

A scenic one-hour train ride north of Scotland’s capital city of Edinburgh, Perth’s setting on the River Tay makes it a superb day-trip destination. The star of the show here is Scone Palace, once the crowning place of Scottish kings, including Macbeth and Robert The Bruce. In addition to its gardens and maze, this attractive manor house boasts an impressive collection of antiques and rare artifacts. Other must-sees include St. John's Kirk, one of Scotland's most important religious sites, built in 1448 on the site of a 12th-century church, and the Perth Museum and Art Gallery, one of the UK’s oldest museums.

Branklyn Garden is another popular attraction and boasts superb views over the River Tay, in addition to its collection of rare plants. Those interested in the performing arts should check out the Perth Concert Hall, which regularly hosts classical music concerts and contemporary art exhibitions. Perth's location is also an excellent basecamp for exploring the Scottish Highlands.

Royal Tunbridge Wells, England

Cafes in the Pantiles of Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England
Cafes in the Pantiles of Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England. Image credit Jo Jones via Shutterstock.

Royal Tunbridge Wells is another attractive destination once favored by British Royalty. Located in Kent and just 45 minutes by train south of London, this spa town is known for its natural springs, which first caught the attention of the country’s aristocracy in the 17th century. Downtown highlights include the Pantiles, a Georgian-era colonnaded walkway lined with boutique shops, art galleries, cafés, and restaurants. The Chalybeate Spring, which first put Royal Tunbridge Wells on the map, still attracts visitors for its iron-rich spring and is also set in the Pantiles.

Other top attractions in Tunbridge Wells include Dunorlan Park, a beautifully landscaped garden spanning over 78 acres with a boating lake and pleasant pathways; the Tunbridge Wells Museum and Art Gallery with its archaeology, biology, and fine art collections; and the Spa Valley Railway, a heritage train ride through the picturesque High Weald countryside.

Merthyr Tydfil, Wales  

Cyfartha Castle, Cefn Coed Viaduct and Pen Y Fan mountain in the Brecon Beacons
Cyfartha Castle, Cefn Coed Viaduct and Pen Y Fan Mountain. Image credit Emma_Griffiths via Shutterstock.

Located in South Wales and just 25 miles north of the Welsh capital of Cardiff, Merthyr Tydfil makes for a fun alternative UK getaway. This former ironworking town is where you’ll find Cyfarthfa Castle, a grand 19th-century mansion built by a prominent industrialist now serving as a museum and art gallery. While there, explore Cyfarthfa Park, a sprawling green space perfect for leisurely walks and family outings.

The Brecon Mountain Railway is another major attraction and offers scenic steam train journeys through Brecon Beacons National Park. Other highlights include Joseph Parry's Ironworker's Cottage, a 19th-century worker’s cottage that vividly depicts life during the town’s industrial heyday, and the Taff Trail, a walking and cycling route that passes through Merthyr Tydfil.  

Weymouth, England

Weymouth Quey in Dorset England at sunset
Weymouth Quey in Dorset, England.

While well-known to the British, the English coastal town of Weymouth is often overlooked by visitors from overseas. Located on the stunning Jurassic Coast in Dorset, this lovely seaside town is trendy for its beach. Award-winning Weymouth Beach is perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and enjoying traditional coastal activities like donkey rides and Punch and Judy shows. The esplanade, lined with Georgian houses, provides a scenic backdrop and is ideal for a seaside stroll.

Weymouth Harbour is another focal point. Bustling with fishing boats, yachts, and the occasional tall ship, it’s lined with charming pubs, tea rooms, fish and chip shops, souvenir outlets and arcades. It’s also a great place to embark on a boat trip along the Dorset coastline. Traveling with Kids? A visit to the SEA LIFE Adventure Park, located just outside Weymouth, is fun for families with close-up views of sharks, rays, sea turtles, and penguins.  

Bury St. Edmunds, England

Bury St Edmunds Cathedral and Abbey Gardens, Cambridgeshire, England, UK
Bury St Edmunds Cathedral and Abbey Gardens, Cambridgeshire, England.

Bury St. Edmunds in Suffolk is undoubtedly one of England's more unusually named small towns. The town is named after English King Edmund, who was martyred here by Danish invaders in AD 869. His remains were enshrined in Bury St Edmunds Abbey, which soon became one of England’s most important places of pilgrimage, surpassed only by Canterbury Cathedral in Kent. While the abbey is now largely ruins, you can still visit its lovely gardens and St. Mary's Church, where Mary Tudor, Queen of France and sister of Henry VIII, was interred.

Another of the town’s essential landmarks is St. Edmundsbury Cathedral, built some years later in the 11th century and expanded over the centuries into a stunning example of Gothic and Romanesque architecture. The town also hosts a traditional market, held regularly in the historic market square, with vendors selling local produce and crafts. Fancy a good beer?  The Greene King Brewery has been around since 1799 and offers guided tours that delve into the history and process of beer making, complete with tastings.

These six underrated towns in the UK each offer a glimpse into the country's fascinating history, culture, and outstanding natural beauty. From the regal elegance of Royal Leamington Spa and Royal Tunbridge Wells in England to the historic cathedral and abbey in Bury St. Edmunds, these destinations offer plenty of good reasons to be included in a UK travel itinerary. To find out more about the enriching travel experiences to be found by taking paths less traveled, take a read of this list of six of the most underrated towns in the UK.   

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