Officially known as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the UK ranks high as a top destination for leisure, educational and increasingly business travel. Some of the most highly rated and touristic cities in the UK are those which are considered ideal for any of the above types of trips and they are London, Edinburgh, Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Glasgow, Oxford, Cambridge, Bristol and Brighton. Each one, different to the next, proposes numerous attractions and plenty of things to keep you busy during your trip. They also have some of the UK’s top rated shopping centres, restaurants, venues and hotels (book your hotel now!).
For centuries, this grand nation has intrigued people; it has marked its presence throughout history and has most certainly entertained in all aspects of the word. Overtime, the UK has brought us literary genius’ such as William Shakespeare, legendary monarchs like Henry VIII, the English gentleman in the form of James Bond, musical sensations such as The Beatles, forward thinkers like Charles Darwin, great scientists like Sir Isaac Newton, world explorers such as Captain James Cook, revolutionary politicians like the ‘Iron Lady’ herself - Margaret Thatcher, the people’s princess - Princess Diana, sporting legends like David Beckham and world renowned chefs like Gordon Ramsey. All of this, plus the various aspects of British culture, including its distinctive traditions, fun events and widespread history are what attract millions to the UK annually.
The UK which occupies most of the British Isles lies off the north-western coast of continental Europe and is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the west and north, the North Sea in the east, the English Channel in the south and the Irish Sea in the west. In fact the UK’s only direct connection to Europe is by France through a 50km underwater rail tunnel called the Channel Tunnel. The UK today is made up of four main regions all governed under one constitutional monarchy; England in the southeast, Scotland in the north, Wales in the west and Northern Ireland located on the island of Ireland. Although English is the UK’s official language, you will find a variety of distinct accents spoken throughout the different regions as well as the Gaelic dialects belonging to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
There is so much to spoil yourself with in the UK. It may not provide the best climate conditions for a ‘relaxing on the beach’ getaway like, Italy, Portugal, France and Spain but the UK makes up for this by offering visitors some of the most scenic and tranquil landscapes in all of Europe. Places like the Lake District in Cumbria, England, or the Highlands in northern and central Scotland are impeccable and unspoiled settings which provide excellent environments for adventure or hiking holidays with friends and family. In fact a large percentage of the UK is green and hilly with lands used for pasture or agricultural purposes. You will find that many Britons love to hire a caravan and head out towards the countryside as a way of escaping the daily routine or busy city centres. If you are an experienced driver and are good with a map, hiring a caravan and camping in various sites like the British themselves is a fantastic way to explore this beautiful country and see the best views on offer. Just don’t forget to drive on the left hand side of the road!
If trekking the countryside is not your style, then head south towards England’s busy and eminent capital, London; the ultimate must-visit when travelling to the UK. See with your own eyes the striking and quite astounding pieces of architecture and famous landmarks known as icons of Britain as a whole throughout the globe and which have appeared in international movies and are used when promoting the country abroad. These include Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, the London Eye, Westminster Palace, Piccadilly Circus and the Tower Bridge of London - all impressive constructions that symbolise strength and power which are words used to characterize the country itself. Whilst you are in London, take a picture standing alongside a unique red telephone booth, catch a lift in a black cab (taxi) or take a tour on a red double-decker bus and get a better view of the town from above.
Another thing Britain is good for is shopping! You’ll find numerous shopping centres that are a great way to spend some hours or maybe a couple of days during your holiday depending on how much retail therapy you are in need of. Shop till you drop in must-visit shopping centres like the world famous and prestigious Harrods in London, Trafford Centre in Manchester, MetroCentre in Gateshead, Liverpool ONE in Liverpool, Westfield in Shepard’s Bush with a whopping 345 stores, Bluewater in Kent, St. David’s Centre in Cardiff in Wales, Cabot Circus in Bristol and Birmingham’s Bullring plus many, many more!
For a full-on family holiday, make sure to make the most of the UK’s best amusement parks. There are literally dozens to choose from across the country. All contain spine-chilling rides and some of the biggest and longest rollercoasters in all of Europe. The best theme-park in the UK is without a doubt Blackpool Pleasure Beach. But if you are not heading to Blackpool you can of course try out other successful parks such as Alton Towers or Chessington’s World of Adventures. The kids will thank you for it!
For a more cultural holiday, don’t miss the numerous art and history museums found up and down the country; the most famous museums of all being Madame Toussauds’ wax museum and the Natural History Museum both in the English capital. Make sure to visit some of the UK’s best known World Heritage Sites; for example the stunning City of Bath, the weird but wonderful Giant’s Causeway and the Causeway Coast in Northern Ireland, the Royal Botanic Gardens in London and the prehistoric Stonehenge and Avebury.
During your travels around the UK, you will notice the old versus the new in many cities as Britain takes great pride in preserving the history of its nation. Practically all of Britain oozes history and some of the most interesting visits are to places which contain much historical significance like Stonehenge in England, the hundreds of castles found all over Wales, the colourful yet dramatic murals of Belfast and other magnificent constructions which have been so well conserved over time. History aside, the UK also strongly believes in the importance of modernization and moving with the times. This has resulted in the creation of an industrialised country with advanced communication and transport systems turning the UK into a forerunner in fulfilling the needs of its people and all that visit it. Britain has managed to produce a beautiful equilibrium between history and modernity and one can only respect this country even more for doing so.
Depending on where you travel to in the UK, you will find different atmospheres from calm to eccentric and especially diverse ways of life. Some cities like London and Manchester which are trendy and vibrant places will offer an energetic ambiance with plenty to see and do, non-stop, day and night. On the contrary, cities such as Yorkshire, Bath, Kent and Bristol promote a laidback lifestyle and are very pleasant destinations for a quiet getaway. It is important to define exactly what type of holiday you are looking for in the UK and then select a region/city that is most suitable because they really do vary.
One thing that many foreigners do not know about the UK is the fact that it is one of the most multicultural countries in Europe. Having opened its doors to migration over several decades, you can expect to find many black, Indian and Pakistani communities, among others, all over the country. With each different ethnic group has come a new language, religion, a new set of beliefs, different foods, customs and traditions. This has indisputably added to the diversity of the country which is highly visible wherever you may be in the UK.
It is important to mention also the several islands that comprise the UK and which are interesting tourist destinations in themselves – these include the Isle of Wight, Anglesey and the Scilly, Orkney, Shetland and Hebridean archipelagos. The Isle of Man in addition to the Channel Islands which is made up of Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney and Sark, are two British territories which do not comprise the UK itself. If you are in the UK, a quiet weekend in any of these islands is also worthwhile. A journey by boat or plane will see you in either of the islands in no time at all.