The world is full of breathtaking beauty spots just waiting to be explored, from lofty mountain ranges to crystal clear coastlines, and rolling green countryside to dramatic waterfalls. 

Our recent booking data highlights that staycations and domestic travel will remain a priority for leisure travellers over the next year, which didn’t surprise us considering everything that the UK has to offer. 

Yet, it turns out that the beauty of Britain is still surprising to many though, as more than half of the Brits can’t distinguish the UK’s most striking landscapes from those overseas. How do we know? Well, at Oliver’s Travels, we conducted a survey where we took a list of ten of our favourite UK beauty spots, matched these with similar international counterparts and then asked 100 people to tell us which are in Great Britain.

Take a look at these side-by-side images and see if you can work out which are the UK beauty spots and which belong overseas.

Portmeirion, Wales vs Tuscany, Italy

Portmeirion v Tuscany

With its charming Mediterranean feel, when wandering around the quaint streets of Portmeirion, which are lined with colourful buildings, it is rather hard to believe that you’re in Britain. In fact, as little as 29% of respondents believed that the Welsh village was actually in the UK!

Located on the southern shoreline of Snowdonia, Portmeirion is a picturesque coastal village where you can experience ‘la dolce vita’ on the Welsh coast. The village was designed by architect Clough Williams-Ellis who had the vision to create an Italianate-style tourist destination. How about a stay in Porthmadog View Cottage, which is just a short drive from the unique village?

The destination that respondents thought was more likely to be in the UK was actually the gardens of Villa Santa Gemma in Tuscany, Italy. The 17th-century property is an example of the inspiration behind Portmeirion, with its typical Italian historic and architectural charm. Much of the ground floor opens up to 19th-century formal gardens that offer views of olive groves, vineyards and distant mountains.

For anyone wanting to explore this part of Italy, you can stay at Santa Gemma Villa

St Michael’s Mount, England vs Mont-Saint-Michel, France

St Michael v St Michel

St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall is the English counterpart of Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy, with which it shares a similar conical shape and the same tidal island characteristics. However, 94% of Brits were clever enough to distinguish the Cornish attraction from its French twin, with only 6% of respondents thinking that Mont-Saint-Michel looked more British.

St Michael’s Mount is a tidal island in Mount’s bay, Cornwall. Crowned by a medieval church and castle dating back to the 12th century, the island has become a popular tourist attraction and a place of spiritual pilgrimage since ancient times.

For anyone wanting to visit this charming island, we recommend staying at Newlyn Cottage as its terrace offers a beautiful view over the bay in which the island sits.

On the other side of the English channel is Mont-Saint-Michel, an impressive abbey sitting on a rocky island off the coast of Normandy. Now a world heritage site, the religious building has been among France’s most beautiful sights and one of Europe’s major pilgrimage destinations since the 11th century.

For anyone wanting to visit the impressive abbey, we recommend staying at the Manoir De La Baie for an authentic French experience.

Cairngorms, Scotland vs Alpine slopes, Switzerland

Cairngorms v Swiss Alps

Admittedly, the United Kingdom isn’t somewhere that immediately springs to mind when we think of a skiing holiday but it is actually a great option for anyone looking for some winter action closer to home. In fact, more than two in five (42%) respondents mistook the ski slopes in Cairngorms National Park for those in Switzerland. 

The Cairngorm Mountain ski area is a great winter playground for adrenaline junkies, eager first-timers, families, and everyone in between. It boasts over 30km of pistes, 10 lifts and freestyle terrain as well as equipment rental. Swishing down its powdery slopes, it is sometimes quite hard to believe that you’re in the UK. Pack up your salopettes and stay at Greystone Lodge, just outside of Cairngorms National Park.

The destination that pretty much divided respondents was an image of a Swiss ski slope. Switzerland is renowned for its low-altitude mountains, powder-covered glaciers and sky-high peaks, and it’s one of the countries that instantly springs to mind when you think of a skiing holiday.

For anyone wanting to take a ski trip outside of the UK, we recommend one of the properties in our bespoke Ski Collection

Glencoe Lochan, Scotland vs Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

Glencoe v Plitvice

The North of Britain is also renowned for its breathtaking landscapes. Landscapes that are so breathtaking in fact, that almost three-quarters of Brits mistook the beauty of the Scottish Highlands as somewhere abroad.

Glencoe Lochan is a forest located in one of Scotland’s most picturesque settings, and the serene lochan is nestled in the centre of the woodland, surrounded by lofty conifers and rugged mountains. Created in the 19th century by Lord Strathcona to remind his Canadian wife of her previous home, Glencoe Lochan is often said to look like a smaller Lake Louise in British Columbia… so it’s hardly surprising that most people couldn’t believe the landscape is in Britain!

For anyone wanting to visit this beautiful part of Scotland, we recommend staying in Skye Lodge, which is just a short drive from the beautiful lochan.

74% of respondents mistook this Scottish beauty spot for an image of Plitvice Lakes in Croatia. The National Park is the Mediterranean country’s most popular tourist attraction, being granted a UNESCO World Heritage status over 40 years ago. It is famous for its numerous turquoise-coloured lakes and waterfalls spread over almost 30,000 hectares. Villa Lana, right on the coast, is within easy reach of Plitvice Lakes.

The Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland vs Ganh Da Dia, Vietnam

Giant's Causeway v Ganh da Dia

When one thinks of Great Britain and its beauty spots, there are always some images that come to mind. The Cotswolds, Stonehenge and The Giant’s Causeway, to name but a few. Despite being one of the UK’s most famous sites, only two in five Brits can tell the Northern Irish rock formation from its Vietnamese counterpart.

Unsurprising perhaps, to anyone who has ever experienced the ethereal magnificence of what could be considered the UK’s most celebrated coastline. Made up of around 40,000 mostly hexagonal columns, the stones at The Giant’s Causeway were either formed by an underwater volcano or by a giant named Finn McCool who lived and fought along the North Antrim Coast – depending on which you believe of course!

For anyone wanting to experience the magic of this spectacular coastline, we recommend a stay at Tuath na Mara, which was designed to appear free-floating amongst its rugged coastal surroundings. 

That means that the majority (63%) opted for the image of Ganh Da Dia as more believable as being in Britain. However, this rock formation is actually located along the coast in An Ninh Dong Commune, Vietnam. The interlocking basalt rock columns were thought to have been created by lava frozen around 200 million years ago.

Durdle Door, England vs Praia de Camilo, Portugal

Durdle Door v Praia do Camilo

Durdle Door is another of Britain’s renowned beauty spots, which is likely why 89% of respondents guessed correctly that the iconic landscape is, in fact, in the UK.

One of Dorset’s most photographed and iconic landmarks, Durdle Door is located along the Jurassic Coast and forms part of England’s first natural UNESCO World Heritage Site. The iconic limestone arch was created when waves eroded the rock and forged a hole in the middle, with its name deriving from the old English word, ‘thirl’: to pierce, bore or drill. 

For anyone looking to experience the magic of this natural wonder, stay at Bridport Mill, an ideal location for exploring the Jurassic Coast.

11% of respondents thought that the image of Praia de Camilo looked more British though, but it isn’t and is instead located on the southern Portugal coast. Said to be one of the most beautiful beaches in the country, Praia de Camilo is a small and secluded beach that is accessible only by descending 200 wooden steps. It is divided by a huge rock formation that you can cross through a narrow, damp tunnel that was actually dug by hand. 

For anyone wanting to take in the relaxing sight of this beautiful Portuguese coastline, Villa Torralta is just a short walk from the beach.

Isles of Scilly, England vs Samos Island, Greece

Scilly Isles v Samos

When it comes to beach holidays, many Brits flock to the Mediterranean but it turns out that a lot of us can’t actually distinguish beaches there from those in the UK. In fact, only a third of Brits could distinguish the English shoreline from one of Greece’s most beautiful coasts.

34% of respondents tripped up on recognising the Isles of Scilly, with its clear waters, sandy beaches and quaint fishing boats. The photo used for this study was actually of a beach on St Agnes, one of the five inhabited islands of the archipelago and the southernmost point in Britain. It lies 25 miles off the coast of Cornwall, making it both uncrowded and unspoilt.

Yet two-thirds of Brits recognised Greece’s coastline as being abroad, with the image used being of a fishing port on the island of Samos. Like St Agnes, Samos offers unspoilt beaches and quaint fishing villages. Aside from this, the island was actually the birthplace of the mathematician, Pythagoras, and is known for producing the world-renowned sweet wine, Muscat.

Surrey, England vs Provence, France

Surrey v Provence

The final landscapes in the study were perhaps the most colourful of all and showcased two striking lavender farms, one in the UK and one abroad. Yet, one in five (21%) mistook the image of Mayfield lavender farm in Surrey as being abroad. 

Britain is not often recognised for the beauty of its lavender fields, but it should be. Mayfield lavender farm in Surrey spans 25 acres and offers the opportunity to wander through a sea of lavender, capturing colourful photographs and taking in the distinct smell. Erupting into bloom between June and August each year, we really can’t blame anyone for mistaking this display of colour for that of the south of France.

For anyone wanting to experience the lavender farm in bloom, we recommend a stay at Comforts Place, which is set within 20 acres of beautiful Surrey countryside.

Perhaps the most renowned for its purple landscapes is Provence in the South of France. Fragrant fields can be found throughout the region, meaning that the landscape resembles a purple patchwork tapestry during the summer months.  

To witness Provence lavender in all its glory, book a stay at Villa L’Aube due to its proximity to Valensole town, which holds an annual festival dedicated to the plant.

Take a look at the results and see how you did!

Home or away Infographic


How was that for inspiration for your next getaway? Head to Oliver’s Travels and take your pick of our awesome holiday homes in some UK beauty spots or elsewhere in Europe. And, if you want to make your trip extra special, then get in touch with our dedicated concierge team who can organise all manner of services, tours and experiences.

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