Oversold UK: Ten of the most overrated sights for travellers to Britain

Britain, with its combination of heritage, top class cities and interesting quirks, is justifiably one of the world's favourite tourist destinations. But there are some attractions that are prone to being overhyped…


As somewhere to stop on the way to somewhere else – London to Bath or Bristol, for instance – Stonehenge is mildly diverting. The mystery of how the stone circle got there is undeniably an interesting puzzler. But it has somehow achieved the status of being one of the world's grand iconic sights, and it absolutely does not deserve that. The crowds make a visit somewhat unsatisfying, too. See english-heritage.org.uk

Madame Tussauds, London

There are two types of waxwork museums – bad waxwork museums, which are great, and good waxwork museums, which are terrible. Madame Tussauds is really good in that the waxworks generally look like who they're supposed to look like, but this doesn't get around the problem that walking through rooms of accurate waxworks is really dull. It's only fun if they're laughably bad. Alas, Madame Tussauds has the secondary problem of being really, really expensive. See madametussauds.com

Leicester Square, London

It may be where all the big movie premieres are held and in the heart of London's Theatreland, but Leicester Square is basically Times Square in New York without quite as much neon. It's crowded, architecturally underwhelming and ringed by some of London's most depressing restaurants. It's either generic chain fare, or outrageously overpriced mediocrity sold to customers who aren't expected to come back.

Holy Island, Northumberland

The birthplace of Christianity in Britain feels like it should be a lot more mystical than it is. The location is impressive – accessible only via a causeway that gets covered at high tide – and the ruins of Lindisfarne Priory are evocative. But instead of feeling like somewhere monks could live out a life of hermitude at the end of the world, Holy Island feels like a village with Priory ruins and a castle tacked on. It's expectation that's the problem here – no one goes expecting bustling cafes and gift shops. See english-heritage.org.uk

Harrod's, London

For some, Harrod's is a pinnacle of shopping. These people, you can pretty much guarantee, have more money than sense. It is, to all intents and purposes, a vastly overpriced department store, aimed at people wanting to buy status. A dishonourable mention on the shopping front can be extended to London's Oxford Street, which is usually way too busy for it to be in any way pleasant to walk down. See harrods.com

Brighton Beach, Brighton

Brighton is a fun place to hang out it. There's a big gay scene, lots of live music venues and a wealth of independent-spirited pubs and bars. It's also home to arguably the most well known beach in Britain, and to Australians it is going to be monumentally disappointing. It's a brown, pebbly affair, and on the two days of the British summer when it's warm enough to strip down to swimmers, it's grossly overcrowded.

Ben Nevis

As mountains go, Ben Nevis is a bit of a stumpy one that doesn't stand out all that dramatically from its surroundings. That's not to say that the Highlands aren't beautiful and worth hiking through – just that in its own right, Britain's highest mountain is really not all that exciting. Frankly, if you want a holiday in the mountains, or a big mountaineering conquest, Britain is going to be way down your list of destinations to fly to from Australia.

Land's End, Cornwall

The supposed tip of Britain isn't even the most southerly point on the mainland (that's nearby Lizard Point). But the place has been turned into a pretty grim circus of bad food, dreadful tat souvenirs, photo ops with a sign and an overwhelming sense of this not being the best way to waste a few precious hours in otherwise delightful Cornwall.


The Cotswolds

The Cotswolds are a model of undramatic, quaint Englishness – all honey-coloured cottages, and neatly kept gardens. There are several cute villages selling fudge, set among gently rolling hills. If you want to buy into Hobbity stereotypes, then the whole region is quite pleasant. But if you're after outstanding natural beauty, then it's really not worth flying to the other side of the world for.

Ghost tours

Pretty much any city that has more than two visitors a year has someone who'll lead a tour group every evening, visiting some moderately old buildings, and vastly over-egging tales of why said buildings are supposedly haunted. Some are better than others, but on almost all of them, you'll leave thinking: "I'd have preferred to hear the real history rather than the tale about the girl who's occasionally seen at the top of the stairs."

See also: Grumpy critics pan Britain's best attractions

See also: Oversold Australia: Ten major attractions that don't live up to the hype