What You Should Put Your UK Travel Bucket List

I love a good bucket list to help guide travel planning. A bucket list not only helps you prioritize what you should to do, see, and eat, but also gives you a sense of accomplishment when you complete it. I’ve put together a UK travel bucket list for you to enjoy!

First let me give you a quick vocabulary lesson so you can try to sound local, or at the least recognize what different words mean across the pond. I’m a full time speech language pathologist, so differences in vocab within the same language always fascinate me. The first word in the list below is the British version, and the second is what we call it in America:

Loo- toilet

Chips- fries

Tariff- tax

Fell- mountain 

Biscuit- cookie

Crisps- chips

Scone- biscuit 

Petrol- gas

Tube/ underground – the subway

Hire a car- rent a car

Crag- rugged cliff

Loch- Scottish for lake

Now that we have your vocabulary lesson out of the way, let’s talk about food, sites and animals you should put on your UK bucket list. We recently took a 2 week backpacking trip to the UK, and traveled to London, Oxford, Bath, Liverpool, Wales, the Lake District, Inverness and Edinburgh. My must see bucket list items will be mainly located in these locations!

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UK Travel Bucket List: Must try Food

After a couple trips across the pond, I have gathered a British food guide with local favorites you must try while you are there.

Fish ‘n chips: I would recommend enjoying this dish somewhere coastal to ensure optimal freshness. Our favorite was in Conwy, Wales. If you want to be extra proper, order it with mushy peas. Mushy peas are essentially pureed peas. Not my personal favorite, but locals often dip their fish in the peas.

Sunday roast– we enjoyed this tradition during our time in London. A roast is one of my favorite American meals and the British Sunday roast is similar, but not identical. You may notice English mustard in your mashed potatoes, or boiled cabbage served on the side.

Scones: British scones are more similar to American biscuits, and absolutely better than any version I’ve had of a “scone” in America. We had our fist scones during afternoon tea at the Signet Library in Edinburgh, and they were worth the hype.

*Bonus points if you have yours with clotted cream!

Breaded scampi– these are essentially American “popcorn shrimp”. Although I did not personally order this dish, a friend of mine did in the Lake District. If you are craving some small fried shrimp, breaded scampi it is.

Pies: Believe it or not, the only menu items at the Crystal Palace football (soccer) game we attended at Selhurst Stadium were three varieties of handmade pies and chips (fries). Steak & Ale was my personal favorite. The pies are savory, and similar to an American chicken pot pie, but in a small personal size. Other varieties you may come across include chicken & mushroom or lamb. Another great variety we tried was a fish pie in Inverness. Highly recommend!

Indian food: Similar to how Mexican food can be fantastic and authentic in America due to the extensive number of immigrants, Indian food is wonderful in Great Britain. One of our fondest dinners during our entire 2 week trip was our Indian feast at Mowgli in Liverpool.

Sticky Toffee Pudding: Thought to have originated in the Lake District, sticky toffee pudding is a favorite local desert.  Typically, it consists of a moist sponge cake made with dates, covered in a warm toffee sauce and often served with a vanilla custard or ice-cream. 

Black Pudding: Black pudding is a type of sausage. It is black in color because it is made using pork or beef blood. But don’t let that deter you! All the black pudding we had abroad was excellent. It is usually grilled, but can also be fried, baked, or boiled. We saw and ordered round slices of fried or grilled black pudding as part of a traditional full English breakfast as pictured below.

Guinness and black: A friend from Liverpool recommended we try a “Guinness and black” at the bar. This local treat is a pint of Guinness, topped with blackcurrent cordial (or syrup). The juicy berry flavor helps to balance the bitterness of the stout, making it a great combination. You can see a bit of the reddish purple syrup swirled around the top of my pint below.

Haggis, neaps and tatties: This one sounds like a mouthful, but the various contents are easily dissectable. Haggis is a savory pudding containing a sheep’s heart, liver and lungs mixed with onion, oatmeal, and spices before being cooked in the animal’s stomach. Don’t overthink the ingredients or cooking methods, because this unofficial national meal of Scotland is excellent (despite the “unique” parts of the animal that are used!). Neaps are turnips, and tatties are potatoes often mashed or boiled and served on the side.

This “haggis tower” was from Whiski Bar in Edinburgh, and combined haggis, neeps, and tatties all into one tower with “whisky sauce” on top. It was wonderful, and definitely a UK travel bucket list item.

Sausage roll: Our friends from Liverpool spoke highly of Gregg’s, equating it to how Americans view McDonald’s fast food. We stopped at one in Inverness for a quick and cheap bite. The sausage roll is comparable to a savory, minced sausage toaster strudel. Or maybe it’s more similar to a hot pocket. But it’s a road trip must and classic UK bucket list item.

UK Travel Bucket List: UNESCO World Heritage Sites

While traveling I like to make sure I see some neat off-the-beaten path sites, but definitely don’t want to miss any important “tourist” attractions either. Especially the first time I visit a city! I’ve found that browsing the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in cities I will be traveling to is a good way to make sure I see anything and everything noteworthy.

Some famous World Heritage sites you will have heard of include the Great Wall of China, the Taj Mahal, and Yellowstone National Park. To become a World Heritage site, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) must deem a landmark culturally, historically or scientifically significant.

During our two week backpacking trip, we found ourselves at a handful of UNESCO World Heritage sites including: 

the Tower of London

The Palace of Westminster & Westminster Abbey in London

-The City of Bath in Bath

The Lake District National Park

Conwy Castle in Wales

The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct in Wales

The Slate landscape of Northwest Wales

Old and New Towns in Edinburgh

Accessible Outlander Sites

If you are like me and you enjoy the TV show and/or book series Outlander, you will be familiar with most of these locations. Some of them are must see sites even if you are unfamiliar with the series. But others hold a special meaning if you’ve seen them before on the big screen (or read about them).

Starting with Inverness, Culloden battlefield is a must see UK bucket list destination. It’s a somber historical site, marking the end of the Highland clan culture and the last of the uprising of Scotland against the English crown.

Clava Cairns is a stone circle located nearby. On their own, they are excellent remains of Bronze Age burial grounds, nearly 4,000 years old. The stones are similar to Stonehenge, but more convenient to get to and the site is much less crowded. If you are an Outlander fan, they resemble the standing stones at Crai na dun.

The last site near Inverness is Loch Ness, the famous lake. Whether you want to visit to try and spot Nessie, or remember when Frank and Claire visited the Urqurt castle ruins in Season 1 of Outlander on the lake, it is a must see destination.

Moving on to Edinburgh, Midhope castle is just on the outskirts of town and home to Jamie Fraser’s family estate- Lallyrboch. Although the inside is in ruins, the outside will immediately spark nostalgia from the series.

Off the Royal Mile in Edinburgh is Bakehouse Close, the location where Jamie’s printshop is housed in Season 3. Despite the meaning in Outlander, they say this close is one of the best preserved alleyways off the Royal Mile.

Last, The Signet Library offers an unforgettable Afternoon Tea at the Colonnades Salon. Built in 1822, this grand library right off the Royal Mile was actually used to film scenes for Outlander at the Governor’s Jamaican mansion in season 3! Despite the significance for Outlander fans, even non-fans should ensure Afternoon Tea is on their UK Bucket List. I highly recommend this experience. The menu changes seasonally, so I would not hesitate to plan another visit if I ever find myself in Edinburgh again.

UK Travel Bucket List: Animals

My husband is an animal lover, and thought it was neat to spot varieties of wildlife unique to the United Kingdom while abroad. Some varieties to keep an eye out for are the:

Red Squirrel

Scottish Pheasant

Roe Deer

Scottish Highland Cow

We have covered just about everything you can wish to do, see and eat in the UK. Use this bucket list to help guide your travels, while making sure to throw in some fun spontaneous detours along the way. I have travel guides specific to each city we visited that break down where to stay, eat, and what to see if you are in need of more specific day or weekend itineraries:

London, England

Oxford, England

Bath, England

Liverpool, England

Northern Wales

The Lake District, England

Inverness, Scotland

Edinburgh, Scotland

Bon Voyage!

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