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United Kingdom

It's easy to disregard what lies right on your doorstep but in between sunshine breaks to the Med and exotic tropical holidays, there's plenty of excitement to be hand in the length and breadth of the British Isles. Cities like London, Leeds, Manchester and Glasgow buzz with some of the best shopping facilities in Europe, first-class bars and clubs, and a plethora of sophisticated restaurants. Culture and history feature boldly, too, from the wonderfully preserved Roman remains of Bath to the colourful literary heritage of lively Dublin. Step outside the cities and you'll discover some splendid countryside and a pace of life a world away from the frenetic energy of London and the like.

Explore the craggy coastlines and sweeping bays of North Wales or the soaring peaks and glacial valleys of Snowdonia. Take a drive through the chain of idyllic villages that characterise Kent, 'the Garden of England', where quiet, flower-clad pubs stand beside pretty stone cottages. Then there is the very unique experience of a day at the British seaside, whether you choose to enjoy the Regency architecture, lively pier and dynamic nightlife of Brighton or the more subdued ambience of the quiet coves that pepper the Dorset coast. While the weather might not quite beat that of the Spanish costas, the UK coastline has something for everyone - watersports in Cornwall, long sandy expanses in Bournemnouth, continental influence on Jersey and bracing, windswept dunes on the Yorkshire Coast.

Of course, each region in the UK has its own distinct flavour, food and culture. Down south, you can partake in everything from real ale and freshly caught seafood in Devon and Cornwall, and traditional bangers 'n' mash or haute cuisine in London. Travel to Ireland and it would be inconceivable not to experience the inimitable atmosphere of a night on the tiles in Dublin, taking in a pint of two of Guinness in a traditional pub. Old, historic pubs feature strongly up North, too - take a break from exploring the scenery of the Yorkshire Dales or the Lake District with a swift pint of bitter or two. But if your idea of unwinding is to gaze at some of the most sublime scenery in Europe, the unblemished vistas of the Scottish Highlands and the lush rolling countryside of County Cork and the lakes and heather-covered moors of Country Kerry in Ireland.

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