The United Kingdom, also known as the UK, Great Britain and Britain, is a sovereign state made up of four nations - England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.
UK travel is all about variety.
It’s about unearthing a mixture of iconic sights and hidden gems, ticking famous landmarks off your bucket-list one day and stumbling across a quirky local museum the next.
It’s about taking the plunge into a vast wealth of activities, whether you’re an adrenalin-junkie, a die-hard hobbyist or simply fancy trying your hand at something new – from abseiling and mountain-biking to hiking and pony trekking, seal spotting, bird watching and more.
And, of course, the UK’s diversity is mirrored in its landscape too. From its rugged coastline studded with gold sand beaches and secret coves, to rolling countryside dotted with patchwork fields and crops of ancient woodland, to vertiginous peaks set above glistening meres and heather-clad moors, via kitschy seaside resorts, pretty-as-a-postcard villages and handsome market towns, there’s no shortage of places to visit in the United Kingdom.
Meanwhile, UK city breaks offer something to satisfy all wallet sizes and tastes, be it fascinating history and heritage, cutting-edge culture and museums, indulgent retail therapy or decadent dining and nightlife.
Airport :London International Airport (IATA: YXU, ICAO: CYXU) is located northeast of the city of London.
Country Code: 44
Credit Cards: All major credit cards accepted: American Express, Visa, Master Card and Diners Club
Currency: Pound Sterling
Departure Tax: From £13 to £96 depending on the destination.
Drives on the: Left
Electricity: 230 V
Ethnic Groups: 87% White; 7% Asian; 3% Black
Location: North West Europe
Official Language(s): English, Cornish
Religion: Chrtistian (Various), Muslim
Time Zone: GMT (UTC)
Tipping: Tipping is not expected but casual "rounding up" to the nearest Pound for a meal or taxi ride is expected.
Considering the temperateness of the English climate, it’s amazing how much mileage the locals get out of the subject – a two-day cold snap is discussed as if it were the onset of a new Ice Age, and a week above 25°C (upper 70s °F) starts rumours of drought. However, on the whole, English summers rarely get very hot and the winters don’t get very cold, and there’s not a great deal of regional variation, though in general, it’s wetter in the west than the east, and the south gets more hours of sunshine than the north. Differences between the regions are slightly more marked in winter, when the south tends to be appreciably milder and wetter than the north. Despite the general temperateness of the climate, extreme weather patterns are becoming more frequent and recent years have seen summer temperatures well into the 30s (over 90°F) and catastrophic winter and spring flooding in many parts of the country.
The bottom line is that it’s impossible to say with any degree of certainty that the weather will be pleasant in any given month. May might be wet and grey one year and gloriously sunny the next, and the same goes for the autumnal months. November stands an equal chance of being crisp and clear or foggy and grim. Obviously, if you’re planning to camp or go to the beach, you’ll want to visit between June and September – a period when you shouldn’t go anywhere without booking your accommodation well in advance. Elsewhere, if you’re balancing the likely fairness of the weather against the density of the crowds, the best time to visit would be between April and early June or in September or October.
For many visitors to the UK, their first port of call is England – home of Shakespeare, Sherlock Holmes and ‘Pride and Prejudice’.
There’s energetic and ambitious London, steeped in iconic landmarks, world-class museums and royal parks, whilst Cornwall’s balmy climate and surf-ready beaches promise a more chilled-out stay.
Up north, Northumberland’s starry skies and vast, unspoiled landscape stretch endlessly before you. Manchester hums to the sound of its football chants and a stomping nightlife, whilst friendly Liverpool impresses with its Beatles heritage and jaw-dropping architecture.
There are enough things to do in the UK to keep each day fun-packed, whatever your holiday style.
Lovebirds in search of romantic breaks may look towards countryside and coast – strolling hand-in-hand along the beach, gazing up at star-studded skies or packing a picnic basket for a riverboat cruise. Prefer city breaks? You’ll find just as much romance amongst the bright lights, Michelin-star restaurants and dazzling entertainment venues of England’s vibrant cities.
School holidays are a breeze thanks to any number of family-friendly activities. Kids can learn outside of the classroom whilst fossil hunting on the beach or discovering how the Tudors and Victorians lived at one of the UK’s evocative castles and stately homes. There’s plenty for youngsters with boundless energy as well, be it swinging through the forest on a treetop adventure or learning to kayak.
As England’s weather gets warmer and a blanket of colour falls across the landscape, spring breaks are an ideal time for finding things to do in the great outdoors. Put the wind back in your sails with a sailing holiday, strap your walking boots on for a ramble along country paths or take your pick from amongst the UK’s spring festivals.
Burns Night, Scotland
On 25 January, Scots celebrate the life and works of Scotland’s national poet Robert (Rabbie) Burns by holding a special Burns Supper. This can be a casual gathering of friends or a huge formal dinner, but either way the menu will likely include haggis (a sheep’s stomach stuffed with seasoned offal), neeps (turnips) and tatties (mashed potatoes). Someone will recite a poem called Address to a haggis before everyone toasts the haggis and tucks in. Guests then take it in turn to recite Burns’ poems or sing one of his songs. At some Burns Suppers, there are pipers to welcome in the guests — and the haggis. The evening continues with toasts to Burns, more poems and ends with the song Auld Lang Syne.
Jorvik Viking Festival, York
Viking lovers from all over the world — some 40,000 at the last count — gather for the annual Jorvik Viking Festival in the city of York, a city with a rich Viking heritage. You can expect battle re-enactments, combat performances, crafts, guided walks, talks, music, archaeological sessions and family-friendly events around the city.
Aldeburgh Festival, Suffolk
Every June, many of the world’s leading classical musicians come to Aldeburgh on the Suffolk coast for the 17-day Aldeburgh Festival. It was founded in 1948 by composer Benjamin Britten, his partner Peter Pears, and Eric Crozier as a space for musicians and audiences to create and enjoy music in a stunning natural environment. Much of the programme takes place in the iconic Snape Maltings concert hall and includes orchestral, chamber music, opera and contemporary art on top of a fringe programme.
When you’re not taking in the culture, take in the sea breeze as Aldeburgh is a picturesque seaside town. It also has a great fish and chips shop to boot. The 2018 festival takes place from 8–24 June.
Isle of Wight Festival
The Isle of Wight Festival is a music festival is held every year at Seaclose Park on the Isle of Wight. It originated in 1969 out of the counter-culture movement but was reborn into the mainstream in 2002 and still pulls in top names from the alternative scene from around the world. This is the first major music festival of the summer season, and it’s held on an island so you have to jump on a ferry or boat to get there. You can camp or stay in a bed and breakfast. It’s a pretty small island where Queen Victoria had a holiday home that you can still visit.
As one of the world’s largest, most famous, biggest — and muddiest — music and arts festivals, tickets sell out for the five-day Glastonbury Festival within minutes of going on sale. Held in the fields of Worthy Farm, just outside the mystical town of Glastonbury in Somerset, it’s a vast event covering some 900 acres featuring more than 100 stages.
But the festival is not just about music, there’s comedy, theatre, circus and other arts, too. For the complete ‘Glasto’ experience, take a tent and 'wellies' (knee-high rubber wellington boots) because the festival’s fields can quickly turn into a mud bath after a little light rain. The festival is taking a so-called “fallow year” in 2018, giving the chance for the community and the grounds to take a break. The festival will return the following year, taking place from 26 to 30 June 2019.
Sidmouth Folk Festival
This week-long festival of folk music, dance and song takes place in the charming East Devon regency resort of Sidmouth. There are more than 700 different events at the town’s venues and on the streets, including concerts, ceilidh dancing, roots parties, master classes and dance displays.
Edinburgh Fringe Festival
With more than 50,000 performances of 3,314 shows at 313 different venues across Edinburgh, the Fringe Festival is the largest arts festival in the world. For the last three weeks of August, performers take to the stage and the streets to present shows of all genres that suits every taste, from the erudite to the downright bizarre. You’ll find top names and might just spot rising artists starting out their careers.
It’s pretty much non-stop; you can spend your time seeing back-to-back shows and there are masses of good places to eat and drink to keep you going while you do. Do book ahead for popular shows.
Notting Hill Carnival, London
For two days each August bank holiday, the streets of Notting Hill are jam packed with crowds of revellers, giant speakers and huge sound systems, live music — think African drums and steel bands, calypso — and stalls selling Caribbean street food. The carnival takes place on Sunday and Monday, with bands starting from 9:00. There’s a spectacular bespangled and feathered carnival parade that starts and finishes on Ladbroke Grove and features around 60 floats, flags, dancers, music vans and bands.
Outside of India, the biggest celebration of Diwali (the Festival of Lights) takes place in the city of Leicester, although there are other celebrations in the UK (sometimes in London’s Trafalgar Square for example). Everyone, including Hindus, Jains and Sikhs, gather at the heart of the UK's Indian community in Belgrave Road to celebrate Diwali in Leicester. First, there are lots of dancing, music and speeches, then the crowd counts down to the moment when thousands of multi-coloured lights are switched on. People walk down to the Cossington Street recreation grounds for a big fireworks display.
The New Year is celebrated all over the UK with parties and free-flowing alcohol but it has a special importance in Scotland where it is called Hogmanay. Traditionally, ashes were cleaned from the fire and debts were cleared on 31 December to make a fresh start to the New Year. These days, there are processions, open-air concerts, street parties and fireworks in cities — of which Edinburgh is known to have the most spectacular celebrations — and dances (ceilidhs) and house parties everywhere else.
After the clock bells have chimed midnight, neighbours visit each other’s houses as ‘first footers’, traditionally carrying a piece of coal or, more commonly, shortcake or whisky to be the first over the threshold to wish everyone a happy New Year.
From the best British designers to one-of-a-kind markets, outlet shopping and more, find out where to shop while you're visiting the UK. We've come up with a handy guide to the best shopping in Britain, whether you're looking to splurge or grab a great deal.
You can shop, shop, shop in the UK with so many talented designers based here. Find some of the biggest names in fashion and lifestyle, from Vivienne Westwood to Paul Smith and Burberry, and strut along some of the world’s finest shopping streets.
Savile Row is a long established street of quality tailors in the heart of Mayfair, and just the place to come if you’re looking for top-notch bespoke tailoring. It was on this street that the dinner jacket, or Tuxedo, was said to have been created by Henry Poole in 1846.
Paul Smith is a British household name, and his mix of traditional styles with playful prints has gained him international popularity. You'll find his shops in London, Nottingham and Leeds.
Best known for its high-quality leather bags,Mulberry is a British luxury lifestyle brand offering everything from womenswear to accessories. You’ll find its shops all across the UK, so if you’re looking for a nice gift, you’ll never have to go far.
Whether it’s the world-famous department stores of Selfridges, Harrods and Liberty, or characterful shopping districts like London’s Carnaby Street and Glasgow’s Style Mile. Or maybe you fancy browsing specialist boutiques in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter or the quirky stalls that line Brighton’s Lanes. You will find gorgeous goodies everywhere across the UK.
Enjoy a luxury shopping experience at Bicester Village, a designer outlet centre offering the biggest designer brands with big discounts. You'll find end-of-line ranges from brands like Hugo Boss, Ralph Lauren, Prada and Gucci at up to 60% off.
The Lanes in Brighton are awash with vintage gear, antiques and jewellery, all brought together around a historic network of narrow city streets. Whether you’re shopping or just exploring, the area is full of character and plenty of independent cafes to unwind in.
One of London’s finest shopping streets,Regent Street is flanked with flagships stores and famous shops of every kind. Of particular note are the famous toyshop, Hamleys, and the grand timber-framed department store Liberty.
Westfield is one of London’s biggest shopping centres. With a vast array of shops and brands under one roof, along with some fantastic cafes and restaurants, it’s a great place to shop for high-street brands and the latest fashions. You'll find a second branch in Stratford, East London.
When thinking about England,, traditional comfort food comes to mind, rather than world-class cuisine. The world views the British as a meat and potatoes culture, which they were for a long time, however, the food culture in England is changing and it is a very exciting time. Michelin star restaurants are popping up throughout the nation and TV chefs are entertaining international audiences. There is a new emphasis on local and fresh foods, and in Britain’s larger cities, every type of ethnic food is available. As one kingdom made up of four distinct countries, it is not surprising that each country has their own specialities that should not be missed.
Popular dishes in England include:
Ploughman’s Lunch: This is a dish found in many pubs across England. It is made up of cheese, gherkins, and pickled onions served with delicious fresh bread.
Sunday Roast: This is a staple in many English (and British) homes. It is usually roast beef served with roast potatoes, various vegetables and Yorkshire pudding.
Toad-in-the-hole: This meal consists of sausage that has been cooked in Yorkshire pudding batter. It is then served with gravy.
Drinks: Bitters and lagers are the most popular beers in England, and cider is a favourite amongst many people. Gin is often the choice of spirit, and Pimms, a gin-based drink made with lemonade, fruit, cucumber and mint is often prepared in the summer. Tea is considered the nation’s drink, However, it is popular throughout the UK.
Things to know:
A service charge of between 10-15% may be added to bills in restaurants. If this is the case, a further tip is not necessary. However, if no service charge has been added, then a tip for good service is appreciated.
Drinking age:People aged 16 and 17 can drink beer, wine or cider with a meal if an adult accompanies them. They cannot buy alcohol until they are 18.
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