For a metropolitan break this autumn, look no further than the exciting cities around the coast of the British Isles, packed with new buildings, cultural happenings and smart places to stay. Words: Alex Reece
1. FOR HIPSTER HANGOUTS: Liverpool, Merseyside
One of the most exciting developments in Liverpool of late is the Baltic Triangle – a former industrial zone now resurgent as a hub for tech and creative ventures. At the epicentre of this is Camp and Furnace (campandfurnace.com), serving up street food against a rough-luxe backdrop of log fires and reclaimed furnishings. Liverpool One is, of course, a shopper’s paradise leading down to the waterfront and Albert Dock. Head in the opposite direction for the soul-soaring neoclassical architecture of William Brown Street. The Liverpool Biennial, a free festival of contemporary art, continues until 16 October (biennial.com).
HANG OUT AT... Camp and Furnace or Unit 51 coffee shop (unit51.co.uk) in the Baltic Triangle.
STAY AT... The Titanic Hotel, part of the redeveloped Stanley Dock (from £80 per double room, titanichotelliverpool.com); visitliverpool.com.
Photo: Marketing Liverpool
2. FOR TITANIC ATTRACTIONS: Belfast, Northern Ireland
Belfast has grown into an award-winning tourist destination, with Michelin-starred restaurants and great places to stay. The Titanic Quarter is home to Titanic Belfast – the world’s largest visitor attraction dedicated to the ship. Also nearby is Titanic Studios, where Game of Thrones is filmed, and coach tours cater for fans. Book a trip to coincide with the International Arts Festival (belfastinternationalartsfestival.com).
HANG OUT AT... The Crown Bar (nationaltrust.org.uk) and OX restaurant (oxbelfast.com).
STAY AT... Ten Square Hotel (from £105 for double B&B, tensquare.co.uk); ireland.com.
Photo: Chris Hill/Tourism Ireland
3. FOR MOUNTAINS & SEA: Bangor, Gwynedd
The university city of Bangor began life in the 6th century as a monastic settlement and makes a scenic base for an outdoorsy break, with easy access to rugged Snowdonia – plus the world’s fastest zipwire at Bethesda. Among its new attractions are museum/gallery Storiel (gwynedd.llyw.cymru), and the theatre and arts centre Pontio (pontio.co.uk).
HANG OUT AT... Seibiant@Storiel – for well-priced afternoon teas and homemade cake.
STAY AT... Swyn y Gwynt cottage, which sleeps four (from £325 per week, greatescapeswales.co.uk); visitsnowdonia.info.
4. FOR A CITY OF CULTURE: Hull, East Yorkshire
With Hull about to be UK City of Culture in 2017, a new £700,000 amphitheatre – Stage@The Dock – has just opened. It is part of a larger £80m development of Hull’s Fruit Market into the city’s first urban village, billed to be a cultural destination akin to Liverpool’s Albert Dock. The outdoor venue is a visual counterpoint to Hull’s iconic aquarium, The Deep, already a world-class attraction (thedeep.co.uk).
HANG OUT AT... 1884 Dock Street Kitchen (1884dockstreetkitchen.co.uk) for high-end British fare.
STAY AT... The Kingston Theatre Hotel in the Old Town (from £90 for double B&B, kingstontheatrehotel.com); hull2017.co.uk.
5. FOR MUSIC & OYSTERS: Galway, Ireland
This cosmopolitan city on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way boasts numerous festivals during the year, such as the International Oyster Festival in autumn (galwayoysterfestival.com). Regardless of when you visit, if you head to the medieval laneways of the Latin Quarter, you’ll find trad music sessions in the pubs and bars. For ancient sites and otherworldly beauty, sail across to the Gaelic-speaking Aran Islands (40 minutes by ferry from the harbour), or stroll along the unspoilt beaches on Galway Bay.
HANG OUT AT... Tigh Neachtain’s pub – Guinness, whiskey and live bands (tighneachtain.com).
STAY AT... g Hotel & Spa, with interiors designed by Galway-born milliner Philip Treacy (from €170 for a double room, theghotel.ie); ireland.com.
6. FOR ARTS & INNOVATION: Dundee, Tayside
The V&A Museum of Design Dundee, due to open in 2018 in an £80m building on the waterfront, should cement this city’s reputation as a burgeoning centre for arts and innovation. It also has the McManus Galleries and Dundee Contemporary Arts, a centre for cutting-edge exhibitions and film, while on the docks there are historic vessels to explore. Climb up Dundee Law, an extinct volcano, for views of the Tay, or stroll on the sand at Broughty Ferry.
HANG OUT AT... The Parlour Café is a popular local haunt (theparlourcafe.co.uk).
STAY AT... Boutique hotel Taypark House (from £80 for double B&B, tayparkhouse.co.uk); visitscotland.com.
Photo: Visit Scotland/Kenny Lam
7. FOR A HIGHLANDS TASTER: Inverness, Inverness-shire
Inverness – a short drive from Loch Ness – has much to offer besides the famous lake monster. The city is encircled by mountains, and seals can be spotted in the River Ness, which flows into the Beauly Firth. The Eden Court Theatre (eden-court.co.uk) is the biggest arts centre in Scotland, while close at hand for great day trips are Brodie Castle, the Glen Ord Whisky Distillery and the Culloden Battlefield.
HANG OUT AT... Hootananny Ceilidh Bar, for live traditional music (hootanannyinverness.co.uk).
STAY AT... The Rocpool Reserve Hotel & Chez Roux Restaurant (from £214 for double B&B, rocpool.com); visitscotland.com.
Photo: Visit Scotland/Paul Tomkins
8. FOR A 360-DEGREE VIEW: Brighton & Hove, East Sussex
If you needed another reason to visit this vibrant city with its old-school pier, Royal Pavilion and eclectic shops, the British Airways i360 viewing tower is now offering panoramic views of the coast (britishairwaysi360.com). Also check out free sculpture trail Snowdogs by the Sea (based on Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman and the Snowdog) running from 24 September (snowdogsbythesea.co.uk).
HANG OUT AT... Have coffee at Pelicano in the North Laine area (pelicanohouse.com).
STAY AT... Boutique Hotel Una (from £115 for a small double, hotel-una.co.uk); visitbrighton.com.
9. FOR ANGELS & INSECTS: St Davids, Pembrokeshire
The UK’s smallest city (of around 1,600 people) was home to the patron saint of Wales in the 4th century, and the cathedral was a major pilgrim destination in the Middle Ages. Today visitors are also drawn by the surf scene and good places to eat, including Britain’s first restaurant to serve insects: Grub Kitchen. The free Oriel y Parc gallery is in an award-winning eco-building – try the Harvest Food Fayre on 23 October (pembrokeshirecoast.org.uk).
HANG OUT AT... Cwtch Restaurant specialises in local, seasonal food (cwtchrestaurant.co.uk).
STAY AT... Brand-new luxury hotel Twr y Felin (from £180 for double B&B, twryfelinhotel.com); visitpembrokeshire.com.
10. FOR CELEBRITY CHEFS: Plymouth, Devon
Big-name chefs such as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (rivercottage.net/canteens/plymouth), the Tanner Brothers (barbicankitchen.com) and Mitch Tonks (rockfishdevon.co.uk) have turned Plymouth into a foodie hotspot. Between meals, soak up the maritime heritage by visiting the Mayflower Steps, the departure point for the Pilgrim Fathers in 1620. Or tour Plymouth Gin’s Black Friars Distillery (plymouthdistillery.com).
HANG OUT AT... The Refectory Bar for cocktails (plymouthdistillery.com/refectory-bar).
STAY AT... Sea Breezes guesthouse has a coastal vibe (from £85pn, plymouth-bedandbreakfast.co.uk); visitplymouth.co.uk.