Off the beaten path: A New Way to Explore the United Kingdom

Asako Maruoka's picture

Do you like to get off the beaten path, while traveling? I do, too. It’s always fun to get a new perspective on a place. Most travelers think off the beaten path means driving rural roads and visiting small villages. But there’s another way to explore off the beaten path – via ship! Cruise ships offer a different perspective on travel – and while most people imagine cruising Alaska, the Caribbean, and other places, they also travel around the United Kingdom!

Many cruise ships in the United Kingdom depart from Southampton, which is one of the largest commercial ports in Europe, and the biggest city in the county of Hampshire. Because it is such a famous working port, there’s plenty to see and do there. Head there a day or two before your cruise, and explore. Visit the Tudor House Museum (and learn about 15th century life), or the Maritime Museum (did you know that the Titanic was launched from Southampton?). You can also see one of the longest surviving stretches of medieval walls in the UK (and an archaeology museum), the SeaCity Museum (more Titanic), see a show at the Mayflower Theatre, take in numerous art galleries and music shows, catch a football or cricket game, and of course eat well.

Heading out from Southampton – where might you go? 

Head first to the Isle of Guernsey. Perhaps you’ve read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society (love that book!), and want to retrace Juliet’s steps and imagine yourself living there, then. Take a look at this map) about the various sites around the island (with quotes!). What a lovely place to explore.


View Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society in a larger map



Next stop, Falmouth! If you’re not sick of the sea yet, visit the National Maritime Museum – be sure to climb the lookout tower and imagine yourself back in the day. Explore Cornwall in all its glory – beaches, trails, parks and gardens, and not one, but TWO castles – St. Mawes Castle and Pendennis Castle.

St Mawes Harbour, morning

St Mawes Harbour, morning

More literary treasures await you in Dublin. Explore the city of Oscar Wilde, Joyce, Seamus Heaney, and Yeats. Dublin was declared UNESCO’s 2010 City of Literature, for good reason. You can visit the Dublin Writer’s Museum, or a wonderful bookstore called the Winding Stair. Don’t forget all the pubs with literary history (there’s even a literary pub crawl tour!).

Dublin Writer's Museum

Dublin Writer’s Museum
Photo courtesy of flickr creative commons:

Then onward to Glasgow you’ll sail. It’s a good idea, while you’re transportation minded, to visit the Riverside Museum – Scotland’s museum of transport and travel. You can see over 3,000 objects, all related to transportation! You can find great places to eat, shop, and meander. Glasgow is a cultured and dynamic city. The Mitchell Library is one of the largest public reference libraries in Europe, with over 1.3 million books. You can also see the Scottish Opera, Scottish Ballet, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Scottish Youth Theatre, National Theatre of Scotland, and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.

Kelvingrove Museum, Glasgow

Glasgow, Kelvingrove Museum
Photo courtesy of flickr creative commons:

Ah, the Orkney Islands! Visit Kirkwall, which dates from 1035. Visit Skara Brae, a stone village; the standing stones of Stenness, and the Ring of Brodgar. Be sure to save time and work up a thirst for the Highland Park Distillery. Visit the Orkney Wireless Museum (which traces the history of early radio and wartime communications), the Orkney Museum, or the Orkney Library, which is the oldest library in Scotland (founded in 1683!). Love architecture? Head to The Bishop’s Palace, The Earl’s Palace, or St. Magnus Cathedral.


 Photo: Ruins of the Bishop's Palace in Kirkwall, Orkney Islands, Scotland

Ruins of the Bishop's Palace in Kirkwall, Orkney Islands, Scotland.
Photo courtesy of flickr creative commons:


Other crises around the UK stop at equally fascinating cities – it’s a unique way to get to know a country, while keeping your suitcase stored in one place.