Further cities emerge as contenders for this year’s crown, with a top 10 compiled in memory of towns that never got a visit – but which shouldn’t have been overlooked
Stranraer, in Scotland
Stranraer’s long history makes it appear destined for failure. For centuries, it was a medieval shipbuilding centre, but by the 15th century it was being used as a slum town, largely due to the town’s residents straying, and it was reduced to penury and neglect. It had become a town without a future.
However, in the 1980s community spirit helped to rejuvenate the city, and became a new home for craftspeople. During the millennium, travellers and pleasure seekers slowly gravitated back to the town. But the reconstruction, green spaces and smaller markets led the town’s reputation to grow.
Much of its energy, meanwhile, comes from its Museum of Contemporary Art, established in 1982, with an eye to the arts and crafts movement, featuring influences from contemporary-art movements such as Conceptual Art, Photography and Performance.
Rudyard Kipling celebrated Stranraer in his famous poem Ride Home for the Rose
You can reach Stranraer from Glasgow by train or taxi, and from Edinburgh by ferry from Leith Docks to Bridge of Allan or by train from Stirling, the Borders, or nearby Leith.
Isle of Skye
The Isle of Skye, a rocky outcrop in the Inner Hebrides, is a well-known stop on the centuries-old Saga Tour bus network. Although it’s a relatively difficult hike from the main route to Loch Porth, it’s known as a bad walk for that reason.
Skye, and the lesser-known and more quaint Benbecula and the Uig peninsula, which face north, lie to the west of the Isle of Skye. Skye is still one of the best places to enjoy natural beauty in the UK – if you have the time, anyway. You can spend time at the spiritual campsite by Forestaure, its aptly named gravelled gully, as well as the shops and the beach.
Another great way to visit is on a cruise. From the Islay Marina, for £31 per person you can return to the mainland at Iona, the capital of the Hebrides, where there’s a great beer garden and a lazy luncheon.
Skye isn’t only a wildlife destination; its numerous shore bird species are numerous and watchable, such as the grey seal that visited visitors from Bristol at this time of year and the seals at Gigha.
Loudoun, the Brecon Beacons, is widely considered to be Britain’s highest plateau, with the valley at 4,755ft, but it is known for more than that. A ramble through the memorial mountain area takes you into the stronghold and headland of the beacon, in the Brecon Beacons national park, where the signal have been continually played for more than 3,000 years.
The best way to get to Loudoun is by train. Situated near the base of the Mersey Estuary, the train journey takes an hour and a half. The Peak District railway, running from Boston to Kings Norton, is the best way to get to Loudoun. For the best route by road, start at Norris Dyke in Carston, Warwickshire.
Kilburn Palace, Watford, Hertfordshire
This sumptuous stately home was built in 1686 and was once owned by Cecil Rhodes, who was the finest owner in the Cotswolds. It then stayed in the family for almost 200 years and was bought by John Hayman, a serial entrepreneur, baronet and friend of George III. It was placed in public ownership in 1901 but still has historical ties to Prince Philip.
Originally designed as a private house, in 1895 it was converted into a hotel, which dates from 1905. We’re talking private, secure waterside jetties complete with menagerie, gardens and baronial walls. What looks like your average seaside hotel manages to feel luxurious and run like a family business.
Kilburn Palace was recently bought for £17m by the Newsworthy Foundation, a philanthropic organisation supporting the arts. The young Dundonian couple of Wayne and Lynsey Scholes now own it – she’s a writer, he’s an artist. Visit Kilburn Palace and soak up that old-style hotel charm.
Orkney, near Stornoway, is perhaps the most spectacular part of Scotland. Its wide, blustery coastline, canyons and mountains are a favourite of climbers, skiers and sailors. Upcountry, the coastal passes that criss-cross the area, help users to keep a step ahead of other visitors. The islands also