The beauty of Great Britain is that it’s full of surprises – from otherworldly gardens to mysterious underground grottos, tidal walkways to whimsical islands and hidden cave playgrounds; sometimes getting off the beaten track reveals the best-kept secrets. Whether you’re visiting England, Scotland or Wales here are our top picks of must-visit hidden gems, so you can get out and experience the very best of this exciting destination – you’ll be amazed at what awaits!

God’s Own Junkyard

Walthamstow, London

You only need to travel 40 minutes on the tube from King’s Cross station to discover this secret neon fantasy. The entrance to God’s Own Junkyard is marked by a psychedelic cow sculpture that might seem somewhat out of place near this industrial estate. Inside, every inch of the warehouse is taken up by eccentric film props and bright neon signs – the life’s work of the late “Neon Man”, Chris Bracey. Now run by his wife Linda and his two sons, the epic collection traces his early neons for old Soho haunts through to his later work for Hollywood blockbusters like Batman and Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. After the obligatory photoshoot stay for an afternoon treat at the adjoining cafe.

While you’re there...

Grab a beer right next door at Wild Card micro-brewery and only a 15 minute walk away is where you’ll find Red Imp Comedy Club, the perfect spot for some late night laughs.

St Michael’s Mount

Marazion, South West England

The cobblestone causeway leading to St Michael’s Mount is revealed only at low tide. When the rocky seabed is exposed visitors can literally walk across the ocean to reach the medieval castle that has occupied the hill for centuries. Steeped in folklore and legend, the mount is said to have been built by the giant Cormoran who used to pillage livestock from the local fields around Marazion. Tricked by a young boy, Cormoran eventually fell to his death in a deep pit dug into the northern slope. Today, just over half an hour drive from Cornwall, the mount is home to 30 islanders and the highest point of its bedrock is said to grant a romantic wish to anyone who touches it.

While you’re there...

Stay overnight in Marazion, Cornwall’s oldest town and spend the day lazing on the sandy beach or cycling the coastal Mounts Bay Route that leads to Penzance, the literary home of the infamous Pirates of Penzance.

The Shell Grotto

Margate, South East England

Smuggler’s cave, ancient shine or hoax? The origins of the mysterious shell grotto that was discovered by James Newlove in 1835 when his shovel broke through the ground while he was digging a pond still remain unknown. A local tourist attraction since 1837, the entrance to the grotto lies behind a souvenir shop and down a narrow stairway that leads to a chalk passage. Inside the man-made cavern, reaching from the walls to the ceiling are intricate designs made up of approximately 4.6 million mussel, cockle and oyster shells. To this day the site still remains a breathtaking and intriguing mystery waiting to be explored.

While you’re there...

From the eclectic Bus Cafe housed in a 1980 Bristol VR to the recently revamped 1920’s amusement park Dreamland, it’s definitely worth extending your day trip to the seaside town of Margate into an overnighter.

Portmeirion

Gwynedd, North Wales

A favoured hang out of The Beatles and now home to the annual four-day music, art and food extravaganza, Festival N°6, Portmeirion is the perfect spot for a touch of Italy and culture on the coast of North Wales. Here nature and architecture blend seamlessly. Constructed from classical buildings and artefacts salvaged from across the globe over the course of 50 years, its creator British architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis thought of it as “a home for the fallen”. The pastel coloured architecture was inspired by the coastal Italian village Portofino and is a picture of terracotta roofed houses, domed churches, grand porticoes and manicured gardens.

While you’re there...

Near to the border of Snowdonia National Park, this is the perfect opportunity to venture into the mountainous great outdoors and tackle the hiking trails surrounding the enchanting Pistyll Rhaeadr, the highest waterfall in Wales.

Zip World Bounce Below

Blaenau Ffestiniog, North Wales

Deep in the 176-year old abandoned Llechwedd Slate Caverns of North Wales lies an underground trampolining adventure like no other. Three enclosed trampoline nets have been suspended across two levels in the heart of a 54-metre deep cavern. Wearing hard helmets trampoliners can bounce between the two levels that are connected by four giant slides with the mine shafts surrounding them illuminated in a glow of technicolour neon lights.

While you’re there...

Make a quick pit-stop in Bangor for a bite to eat at Kyffin, an eclectic vegan and vegetarian cafe filled with antique bric-a-brac, before checking out the Penryhn Castle and Garden, a spectacular 19th-century fantasy castle.

The Cairngorm Reindeer Centre

Glenmore Village, Scotland

It turns out you don’t have to brave the freezing Arctic tundra to catch a glimpse of the mythical reindeer. Britain’s only free-ranging herd roam the hills of the Cairngorm National Park in Glenmore, just over an hour drive south-east of Inverness. Believe it or not, over 800 years ago these beautiful antlered creatures were native to the UK and were only reintroduced to the Cairngorm as an experiment in 1952. Now the 150 strong herd can be sighted and hand-fed on daily guided walking trips through the mountain terrain. And for £39 (about A$68) a year you can adopt a reindeer with the fee put toward its health and veterinary care.

While you’re there...

Be sure to visit Cairngorm Brewery for a tour and tasting of their seasonal ales or head to the Aviemore Kart Raceway for a spin around the go kart track in the heart of the beautiful Scottish Highlands.

Garden of Cosmic Speculation

Holywood, Scotland

Open to the public only one day every year, this Alice In Wonderland-esque sculpture garden is well worth rearranging any Scotland itinerary for. The project of husband and wife duo Charles Jencks, an architecture theorist, and Chinese gardens expert Maggie Keswick, the landscape has been inspired by mathematical formulae and cosmic theories like black holes and the Big Bang. A synthesis of nature, art and science it’s spread over twelve hectares of trippy checkerboard illusions, cascading white stairs, sculpted grasslands and twisting metallic sculptures.

While you’re there...

Stopover in Dumfries and explore the Dumfries Museum, home to the world’s oldest working Camera Obscura, or enjoy a house brew and a hearty meal at the The Globe Inn, once famously frequented by Scottish poet and writer Robert Burns.