The UK is the sixth most popular tourist destination in the world. Its capital city, London, has the most international visitors of any city in the world, and it’s easy to see why!
1. History and heritage
The UK has an extraordinarily rich heritage – it’s so entrenched in world history that it’s difficult not to stumble over some history in your travels.
Before the 11th century, the Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Norse, Celts and Normans settled in the UK. As a result, the country is filled with ancient Roman ruins and roads, Celtic stone circles like Stonehenge and crumbling Norman castles.
The Book of Kells, a beautifully illuminated Latin manuscript of the four Gospels of the New Testament, full of intricate detail and colour, is on display at Trinity College in Dublin, Northern Ireland. The book was created around AD 800 by monks and is considered a national treasure. The library of Trinity College was also used for some scenes in the Harry Potter films.
In the north of England there is Hadrian’s Wall, a defensive structure built in AD 122. It spanned from Newcastle to Carlisle and is around one kilometre south of the Scottish border. Hadrian’s Wall is a marvel of the limited building technologies of the day and a testament to human endeavour.
Wales is a country steeped in mythology and is the home of the legend of King Arthur. Whether the legend is real or mixed with romantic folklore, historians believe that a King Arthur character defended England from Saxon invaders in the 6th century.
2. English pubs
The local pub is at the heart of many villages and is a place to find great meals, taste real ale and meet locals. Pubs are also historical relics. Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem in Nottingham is England’s earliest surviving inn, dating from 1189. Parts of the Porch House in Gloucestershire are believed to date back to AD 947. The Sheep Heid Inn in Edinburgh dates to 1360. The Eagle, near Cambridge University, opened in 1667.
Don’t forget the wide variety of English accents. Even though villages and towns may be only miles apart, the accents, colloquialisms and dialects can vary dramatically. It’s all part of the joy of exploring the UK and meeting the locals.
3. Historical homes
The UK is home to many historic castles and houses from as early as the Middle Ages. Windsor Castle in Berkshire, Herstmonceux Castle in East Sussex, Peckforton Castle in Cheshire and Buckingham Palace in London are some of the most spectacular. Manor houses from bygone eras can be found throughout the countryside, and many are open for tours and stays.
4. Stunning scenery
The countryside is also dotted with quaint English villages. The picturesque town of Stratford-upon-Avon, also the birthplace of Shakespeare, is filled with quaint Elizabethan era dwellings, little shops and cobbled lanes. For something a little wilder, visit the rolling dales of Yorkshire, the chalk cliffs of Dover, the windy and ragged coast of Cornwall or the craggy outer Hebrides, full of sea gales and misty rain.
5. Arts and culture
The West End in London is famous for plays, musicals, operas, ballet, galleries and exhibitions. Across the UK, music plays an important role in cultural history. Liverpool is the home of The Beatles. The Rolling Stones are from London. From small town choral groups to the Kings College Choir, there are musical experiences everywhere across the UK.
1. Traffic delays
England is a small country and driving is how most people get around. Roads are often congested and traffic jams are common. Fuel is also extremely expensive. Make sure your travel insurance covers hire car excess, and that you have insurance cover in case you miss your flight after being caught in traffic.
In 2005, terrorists bombed the London underground train system. Terrorism is still an ongoing risk for travellers to the UK.
If travelling to the UK over winter, be prepared for snowstorms and severe winter weather. Each year winter weather events delay flights, close airports and disrupt the rail network. In recent years there has also been major flooding in parts of the country in spring.
4. Personal safety
There are no specific risks with visiting the UK but be prepared for the types of accidents that can happen anywhere. Food poisoning, lost or stolen luggage, hire car accidents, muggings and pick-pocketing are all possible risks.
5. Cost of living
The cost of living fluctuates across the country. The UK pound is often a stronger currency than that of visitors, so you will get less for your money. That means it’s possible for the expenses for your plans to end up being much more than you anticipated.
Always check with Smart Traveller for the latest travel advice for the UK.
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