A TINY Scottish island which is just 1.5 miles wide has been voted the UK's top tourist 'hidden gem'.
Iona Island in the Inner Hebrides topped a list of 20 lesser-known beauty spots that also included the Fairy Polls on the Isle of Skye and Lundy Island in the Bristol Channel.
Research polling 2,000 adults revealed Stone Age sites on Orkney’s Rousay Island, the Cotswold Canals and Malham in the Yorkshire Dales are also among the top 20 best-kept secrets.
While Talisker Bay on the Isle of Skye, Flamborough Head in Yorkshire and Ilfracombe in Devon also featured.
Other underrated attractions included Somerset’s Cheddar Gorge, York Minister and Kew Gardens in London.
Graham Donoghue, chief executive of Sykes Holiday Cottages, which commissioned the survey, said: "Getting to experience places that aren't so well known and have a sense of secrecy about them is really exciting.
“In the UK, there are so many of these hidden gem locations within easy reach that many people have perhaps not even heard of, never mind visited.”
The study found 40 per cent ‘go out of their way’ to visit the less popular locations and nearly nine in 10 (89 per cent) ‘take pride’ in doing so.
Half of those polled enjoy telling people about their newly discovered places but a third would rather keep it to themselves to ensure the locations remain less popular.
For 62 per cent, being able to relax more due to the lack of crowds was the top reason for choosing these secret spots.
And more than half (53 per cent) of Brits say visiting the lesser-known places makes them feel like they are getting the most out of the UK.
Furthermore, people trust the recommendations of others as six in 10 would visit somewhere they’ve never heard of before if they were recommended it by a friend.
It also emerged that almost half are planning a staycation this year – with the average person planning to book at least three trips.
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A group of avid staycationers (15 per cent of those polled) intend to take six or more UK breaks throughout 2022.
Many are perhaps looking to make up for lost time, as 42 per cent say they have visited less UK attractions since the start of the pandemic.
People cite exploring the local area (52 per cent) and spending quality time with friends and family (47 per cent) as the most memorable things about taking a UK break.
While according to the OnePoll study, 46 per cent think it’s the ability to go at your own pace.
The same percentage of people admit it’s easier to relax during a staycation than a holiday abroad, due to less travel time (43 per cent) and not having to deal with the stress of current Covid restrictions (40 per cent).
While nearly half (47 per cent) like the fact you don’t need to worry about navigating the airport.
Cost is also an important consideration, with a third opting for UK holidays over trips abroad because they are cheaper.
And nearly four in 10 believe they could holiday in the UK for the rest of their lives, but still not see everything it has to offer.
Sykes’ Graham Donoghue added: “The UK has so much to offer, a lot of which just isn’t widely known about.
“But hopefully this research has enlightened people of these places and will provide some inspiration for their next break away.
“International travel might be up in the air right now, but we’re very lucky to have such beautiful locations right on our doorstep, meaning we don’t need to travel abroad to enjoy a truly memorable holiday.”
A guide to the UK’s top hidden gem locations can be found here.
TOP 20 ‘HIDDEN GEMS’ IN THE UK
1. Iona island, Inner Hebrides
2. The Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye, Scotland
3. Lundy Island, Devon
4. Stone Age sites, Rousay island, Orkney Islands
5. Cotswold Canals, the Cotswolds
6. Malham, Yorkshire Dales
7. Ilfracombe, Devon
8. Talisker Bay, Isle of Skye, Scotland
9. Flamborough Head, Yorkshire
10. Hawes, Yorkshire Dales
11. Mullion, Cornwall
12. Blackgang Beach, Isle of Wight
13. Skipton Castle, North Yorkshire
14. The Devil’s Pulpit, Stirlingshire, Scotland
15. Bodnant Gardens, near Colwyn Bay, Conwy, North Wales
16. Ladybower Reservoir, Peak District
17. The Bays, Harris, Outer Hebrides
18. Heights of Abraham, Derbyshire
19. South West Coastal 300, Dumfries & Galloway and South Ayrshire
20. Castle Combe, Wiltshire
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