UK Travel Guide 2015
First lets define the UK, the UK or United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland includes England, Wales and Scotland on the larger of the two main British Isles and also Northern Ireland, also known as Ulster, on the smaller western island, Ireland, but the UK does not include the Republic of Ireland to the south of Northern Ireland, also known as Eire.
If that sounds confusing then when you come to the UK and travel the different regions you will find that it is even less simple with each county and city having its own identity and often its own distinctive accent and dialect: making it very tough if you aren’t a native English speaker and pretty difficult even if you are from another area of the UK. If you are visiting the United Kingdom in 2015 then you should read this important guide to the British Isles.
15 Cities to Visit in The UK
17 Places to Visit in The UK
12 Beaches to visit in The UK
10 Things to do in The UK
11 Adventure sports in The UK
4 Top Camping and Hiking spots
12 Hotels to Stay in The UK
15 Resorts to Stay in The UK
UK Travel Tips
11 Festivals in The UK
12 places to Shop in The UK
12 Restaurants in the UK
10 Fast food joints in the UK
Geography, Climate, History, Economy, Politics, Culture, Holidays
How to Get There
This diversity though is what makes the UK such a rewarding place to visit and the whole country oozes history from Iron Age Britain through Roman Britain, the Anglo Saxons, Normans, a lot of wars with the French and Spanish, a civil war, an empire, the industrial revolution and a new identity as a centre of education, research and technology: therefore don’t make the mistake of sticking to only London and the South East.
Introducing The United Kingdom in 2015
15 Cities to Visit in The UK
London – The UK’s capital: founded by the Roman’s and an important city ever since. London is one of the world’s great cities with a huge amount to see and culture to take in.
Manchester – Arguably the UK’s second city though Birmingham also claims that title; Manchester developed as an industrial city and the architecture and infrastructure of the industrial revolution still dominates though the wealth the era bought also makes it a grand city.
Newcastle Upon Tyne – Newcastle may have been a city famous for shipbuilding and heavy industry but now its known for culture including some great art museums and some of the best nightlife in Europe.
Brighton – This South Coast resort sees a huge number of Londoners arrive every weekend in summer to party and enjoy the beach and attractions such as the rides and arcades on the palace pier.
Plymouth – This famous port city was where Francis Drake played bowls while he awaited the Spanish Armada and where the Mayflower set off for America from; the historic Barbican area of the city is a must visit.
Glasgow – Once in serious decline this Scottish city has risen from the ashes to become a major centre of business and culture again with the Medieval Cathedral and Guildhall at the centre of the city.
Oxford – You can tell there’s a lot of money here, many of Oxford University’s students rather than move on after graduating have set up businesses here and some of Europe’s most innovative R & D and tech companies are based on the outskirts. The centre of the city is dominated by the university though and many related museums.
Edinburgh – Home of the Scottish parliament this dramatic and rugged city has remained seemingly untouched by development and the 16th and 17th century city centre is now a UNESCO heritage site.
Canterbury – The Archbishop of Canterbury is the leader of Church of England making Canterbury to Anglicans what Rome is to Catholics. Though Canterbury has been a centre of Pilgrimage since even before the murder of Thomas Beckett here in 1170 it was this that made it England’s premier pilgrimage destination.
Belfast – The Troubles in Northern Ireland had for a long time held back what had the potential to be a thriving city, now that differences are slowly being put aside Belfast is attracting a lot of investment and tourists keen to see a city that many saw as a no-go area for such a long time.
Liverpool – The 2008 capital of culture Liverpool celebrated its 800th birthday the year before; still though the Merseyside docks and warehouses, now a UNESCO world heritage site, and the Cavern Club and other sites associated with the Beatles are what the city is most famous for and what draws in the crowds.
York – York was already an established centre of commerce and religion when the industrial revolution came along and luckily for visitors today the industrial revolution mainly passed it by leaving the medieval feel that makes it so unique and truly beautiful.
Bournemouth – A great south coast resort with fantastic sandy beaches and a laid back atmosphere the tourists and students that come here mean the nightlife is great as well and it’s the place to head if the weatherman says there are a few days of hot weather coming.
Bath – The first record of Bath is of the Roman Baths in 43 AD and they remain, though most of the city is Georgian developed in the 18th century on a truly grand scale; today the city is a great place to shop, eat and to visit the theaters.
Cardiff – The Welsh capital and a clean crisp coastal city with a large student population and a mix of the old and new with Cardiff Castle and the modern city visitor’s centre demonstrating the stark contrasts that can be found here.
Hadrian’s Wall, Cumbria & Northumberland – The Northwest boundary of the Roman Empire built on the instructions of Hadrian the wall remains in remarkably good condition and walking along it from coast to coast is popular taking in some fantastic scenery.
St Paul’s Cathedral, London – In the heart of the City of London the dome of St Paul’s can be seen for many miles around and is a true symbol of London.
Stirling Castle, Stirlingshire – Holding the pass to the Highlands this has always been an important point with the current castle dating from the 15th, and in parts 16th, centuries with the last major defence having taken place in 1746.
Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire – A gift to the 1st Duke of Marlborough from Queen Anne following the Battle of Blenheim this fabulous house and gardens are grand in every degree and if the décor and architecture aren’t impressive enough this was also Winston Churchhill’s birthplace.
Windsor Castle, Berkshire – The Queen and her family’s main residence, she spends more time here than at Buckingham palace: you may think that she would get fed up with visitors but this castle, originally built in 1070, is large enough for her not to be troubled by them.
Battle Abbey, East Sussex – Only the gatehouse remains of the abbey that William the Conqueror had placed on the battle field where the battle of Hastings took place in 1066, one of the most important events in English history.
Cheddar Gorge, Somerset – A 3 mile long limestone ravine, impressive in its own right but the caves with their stalactites and stalagmites, once used to make and store cheddar cheese, are what many come to explore.
Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Stratford Upon Avon, Warwickshire – In the pretty old town of Stratford Upon Avon Shakespeare’s birthplace has been converted back to how it would have looked in Tudor times having been used for a long time as an inn.
Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire – Home of Robin Hood and his Merry Men, close to Nottingham with its famous Castle also associated with the folk hero.
Lincoln Cathedral, Lincolnshire – One of the country’s most beautiful cathedrals, begun in Norman times and from 1300 to 1549 the world’s tallest building, in 1549 the main spire collapsed.
Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry – Much of the museum with a great number of fascinating exhibits focuses on the Industrial Revolution in Manchester and the world’s first passenger railways station is now a part of the museum.
Alton Towers, Staffordshire – The UK’s most popular theme park with many of the biggest and best rides yet with plenty for younger children as well.
The Cavern Club, Liverpool – Famous for the site of many of The Beatles’ early gigs, the current Cavern Club is actually not on the same site exactly as the original but has been rebuilt using the same bricks nearby. Other Beatles sites to visit in Liverpool include their childhood homes and the Beatles Story museum.
Historic Dockyards Portsmouth, Hampshire – Home to the Flagship of the Royal Navy: HMS Victory which was Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 and the ship on which he died. The Dockyards also have HMS Warrior the Navy’s first Ironclad Ocean going vessel and the remains of the Mary Rose, Henry VIII’s ill-fated warship; the accompanying museums give further insight into the history of Britain’s Royal Navy.
Beaulieu National Motor Museum, Dorset – Among other artefacts, displays and interactive features Beaulieu has 250 iconic vehicles including many early cars, race cars, former land speed record holding vehicles, movie cars and motorbikes too.
Blackpool Pleasure Beach, Lancashire – It’s the archetypal northern beach resort but Blackpool’s pleasure beach and nightlcubs means that though the town can feel dated the young and trendy still flock here and enjoy a wide variety of rollercoaster’s, dodgems and other rides.
Portmeiron, Gwyneed, Wales – The village, in an Italian style, was created by the architect Clough Williams Ellis, the entire village is now a tourist attraction.
12 Beaches to visit in The UK
Bude, Cornwall – Bude is a great beach for any surfers and if you have a family in tow they should enjoy the great beach as well; the children could take a lesson at the beach’s surf school.
Scarborough, Yorkshire – Great sandy beaches in this sheltered bay with calm waters and great conditions for bathing.
Lytham St Anne’s, Lancashire – A quieter and unspoilt beach that is close to the mayhem of Blackpool.
Camber Sands, Sussex – A wide sandy beach backed by natural sand dunes with the historic town of Rye nearby.
Holkham Bay, Norfolk – A bird watcher’s paradise but also a great beach for relaxing on a sunny day, when the tide is out there is plenty of room for games on the sandy beach too.
Brighton, Sussex – Brighton may have a shingle beach but that doesn’t stop it becoming packed in summer, as are the promenades and large grass expanses just set back from the beach.
Canford Cliffs, Dorset – Close to Poole but with access down the cliffs that shelter the sandy beach it is a lot quieter than the beaches in Poole and Bournemouth themselves.
Newquay, Cornwall – The ultimate UK surfing beach and the number one place where people come to learn with plenty of surf schools and surf shops: though some come simply to relax and take in the laid back atmosphere.
Eastbourne, Sussex – A lovely place for a swim and a traditional holiday in this Victorian beach resort, the front is unspoilt by shops and arcades with only hotels allowed: meaning the seafront looks much as it did a hundred years ago with one of the best looking piers in England as well.
Portrush Whiterocks, Co. Antrim – The limestone cliffs that back the beach have caves and archways to explore while the beach itself is sandy with beautiful azure waters.
Broad Haven, Pembrokeshire – Close to the Pembrokeshire National Park this is an isolated area of Wales yet well worth the trip to this sandy blue flag beach.
Achmelvich Bay, Scottish Highlands – White sandy beaches and clear as crystal waters this is a hidden paradise on Scotland’s West Coast.
10 Things to do in The UK
Visit a Country House – Britain has many grand country houses and castles right across the country and nowadays more seem to be open to the public than not. Many of the best are owned and maintained by the National Trust or English Heritage.
Visit a Museum – The UK is not only well stocked with museums but many are free, generally public sector run museums, these include the fantastic Natural History Museum, Science Museum and Imperial War Museums.
Visit a Country Pub – Britain’s traditional country pubs are often the centres of ruual communities and many date from the 16th century or earlier. A large number also have their own breweries with unique ales.
Visit a Lido – Lidos are outdoor pools, many of them at seaside resorts and filled with seawater, popular in Victorian times through to the 1920s and 30s many still remain in existence and are great fun in summer.
Watch a Cricket Match – It could be a test match or county match at one of England’s great grounds such as Lords, the Oval or Trent Bridge but it could equally be a village match, just as exciting and keenly contested.
Visit a National Park – Britain is in parts densely populated with many large sprawling cities but in most areas of the country you aren’t far from a National Park, where protected landscapes allow people to get away from it all.
Visit a Farmer’s Market – As well as fresh produce Farmer’s markets often have traditional British delicacies homemade on local farms.
Visit a City Park – Many of London’s parks were originally Royal Parks later opened to the public, while in Northern cities their grand parks were mainly opened in Victorian times to give those working in the factories, mines and mills the chance to enjoy clean, green spaces.
Watch a Play – Britain has a thriving theatre culture including many musicals that as well as being shown in the West End also tour the country. Plays also though include dramas, mysteries and often quite dark comedies, many performed by local but highly professional local groups.
Go to a gig – The UK has a thriving music scene as well as many artists that have conquered not just the UK but the world most towns have local bands playing gigs in town and city centre pub’s back rooms.
Go-Karting – The British love motorsport and there are some great race tracks to visit but why not get racing yourself at a Go-Kart track either indoor or outdoor.
Open Water Swimming – Either in the sea or in freshwater the UK has many beaches that are ideal for swimming, with lifeguards in attendance. Freshwater lakes and lochs around the country provide beautiful spots for a dip too.
Rock Climbing – Many of the best spots for Rock Climbing n the UK are along its many areas of rocky coastline, the Lake District is also a popular Rock Climbing centre with other National Parks often having Rock Climbing centres too.
Mountaineering – The Welsh mountains in and around Snowdonia are popular for mountaineering and in winter especially can be quite challenging. The Cairngorms in Scotland though are among the most challenging mountains, especially in winter when conditions can change fast and mean you should always have a qualified lead.
Windsurfing – Along the coasts of Britain, especially the South Coast, there are some great windsurfing spots with reliable long shore breezes. There are windsurfing centres around the country including on inland lakes that are ideal for learning in safety.
Kayaking – Depending on how energetic you feel you could choose a gentle trip down a wide, slowly flowing river or choose a river such as the Dart that is fast flowing and a real challenge.
Gliding – See the UK from the air with a gliding experience, go with an instructor but once in the air take the controls as you glide above Britain’s green and pleasant landscape.
Skiing – Skiing is possible almost every winter in the Cairngorms and elsewhere in the Scottish highlands, the Cairngorms have one of the best developed ski resorts.
Bog Snorkelling – Originally a Welsh sport it now has a World Championship, bog snorkelling usually takes place in a peat bog using a snorkel, mask and flippers to navigate through water filled trenches found in the bogs.
Mountain Biking – Mountain biking is a great way to see the countryside across the UK and there are many long distance mountain bike trials with plenty of convenient places to stay along the way on a multi-day trip.
Geocaching – Geocaching is popular in many countries but seems to have really taken off in the UK, get the geocaching app on your phone and hunt down geocache boxes either in the towns and cities or out in the countryside.
4 Top Camping and Hiking spots
Lake District, – Explore the hills and waters in Cumbria on foot before staying in one of the basic and isolated private campsites deep in the National Park
Dartmoor – You could stay at somewhere like the River Dart Country Park right by the river Dart and with everything you could want, including plenty for the kids to do but you could also stay at one of the much more basic and rural sites and can plan to walk between them over a few days.
The Yorkshire Dales – Offers walks that take you up and down generally gently sloped hills and many of the campsites in the park are located on high ground with beautiful views.
Scottish Highlands – The Highlands cover a wide area and this means even in summer you can find an area to hike where you will see few others for those who want to feel they really are cut off from it all. You will need to find a campsite to stay in though and should plan ahead rather than assuming you will find one along the way.
12 Hotels to Stay in The UK
The Ritz, 150 Piccadilly, London W1J 9BR
Stunning outside, stunning inside this hotel is a slice of Victorian upper class London with some of the best service in the world.
Big Blue Hotel, Ocean Boulevard, Pleasure Beach, Blackpool, FY4 1ND
Right by the pleasure beach this four star hotel is very family friendly and with great service, though things can be noisy in the early evening so don’t expect to get an early night.
The Balmoral Hotel, 1 Princes Street, Edinburgh EH2 2EQ
Facilities in this five star hotel, just opposite the train station, include a beautiful indoor pool, room service and a great restaurant.
Ardeonaig Hotel, South Loch Tay Side, Ardeonaig, Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park FK21 8SU
With views of Loch Tay a great base for touring the area by foot or by car from this cosy old coaching house.
Langtry Manor Hotel, 26 Derby Road, East Cliff, Bournemouth, BH1 3QB
A popular Romantic getaway the Langtry Manor is close to the centre of Bournemouth but in its own grounds giving peace and quiet.
The Oriental, 9 Oriental Place, Brighton BN1 2LJ
A little set back from the Seafront this could be described as a Boutique Hotel but not where uniqueness is forced in place of comfort. Rooms are a good size and some have a seating area making your room a good place to get back to and relax after a day taking in everything Brighton has to offer.
Signature Living, 38 / 40 Victoria Street, Liverpool L1 6BX
These serviced apartments in the city centre are great value and ideal for couples or groups of friends spending a few days in the city, apartments are modern and trendy.
Bloc Hotel, Caroline Street, Birmingham, B3 1UG
From the outside this hotel looks a bit more like a police station but inside the rooms are a generous size and nicely appointed making it a good step up from a budget chain hotel.
The Duke of Cornwall Hotel, Millbay Road, Plymouth PL1 3LG
Only a short distance from the city centre and from the Hoe this grand old hotel is great value and offers suites as well as standard sized rooms and features a grand ballroom and a tower: the turrets of which give a great view down to the sea.
The Varsity Hotel & Spa, Thompson’s Lane, Cambridge CB5 8AQ
In the centre of the city by Jesus Green this hotel is convenient for those wanting to see the University buildings and rooms are modern and airy with full length full width windows; with the spa facilities as well this is also a popular romantic weekend getaway.
Old Swan Hotel, Swan Road, Harrogate, HG1 2SR
Close to the International centre that often has festivals and events on as well as the Turkish Spa, this is also the hotel where Agatha Christie hid out when she famously disappeared in 1926.
Hydro Hotel, Mount Road, Eastbourne, BN20 7HZ
To the west of the town centre as the seafront starts to slope up towards Beachy Head the Hydro Hotel is a grand Victorian hotel with views of the sea and downs.
15 Resorts to Stay in The UK
Bournemouth & Poole, Dorset – One of the UK’s fastest growing conurbations there are a series of resorts all joined together here from Christchurch and Boscombe in the east through Bournemouth and then on to Poole in the East: all with sandy beaches and traditional seaside attractions including a particularly good aquarium in Bournemouth
St Ives, Cornwall – A seaside fishing town with its origin in the 5th century but now popular too for the quaint and laid back feeling you get staying here.
Morecambe, Lancashire – A resort town built up to serve nearby mill towns’ workers in the 19th and 20th centuries and in decay until a recent resurgence where people have started to rediscover the beautiful Morecambe Bay and famous Morecambe Sands.
Brighton, Sussex – A big party town Brighton has great clubs from small niche clubs to mega clubs and great live music venues. The Royal Pavilion, the Palace Pier and the Lanes with its unique shops are just a few more of the city’s attractions though.
Ryde, Isle Of Wight – On the Isle Of Wight this little town remains a simple seaside resort known for its sea food and the UK’s oldest pier.
Skegness, Lincolnshire, – The first Butlins Holiday Park is in Skegness and is a good option for a cheap package holiday today.
Harrogate, Yorkshire – One of the UK’s few resort towns not to be on the coast: Harrogate became a resort with the spa here drawing people to take the waters in the Turkish Baths that are still open to all. The rest of the town is a charming place which regularly holds major events and festivals at the International Centre.
Eastbourne, Sussex – The Duke of Devonshire one of Eastbourne’s major landowners passed a by-law that no-one could open any shop or amusements on Eastbourne seafront: as such almost the entire seafront is lined with hotels, most of them grand Victorian and Edwardian buildings, the pier and bandstand makes the front picture perfect.
Great Yarmouth, Norfolk – Known as gateway to the Norfolk broads it isn’t just the beaches that people come here for but the flat marshlands behind that are great for birdwatching and walking.
Weymouth, Dorset – Recently the site for Olympic sailing, Weymouth Bay is popular for sailing and windsurfing, close by is the popular Jurassic Coast, a world heritage site.
Lyme Regis, Dorset – Almost on the Devon-Dorset border the town feels like little more than a little fishing village with narrow cobbled streets and little crooked houses containing great seafood restaurants and quaint stores.
Torbay, Devon – Torbay is made up of both Paignton and Torquay, as seen in the comedy series Fawlty Towers. The resort is great for children who will especially enjoy the outdoor waterpark.
Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire – While neighbouring Grimsby remains a major port and industrialized town Cleethorpes is a resort with lots to do including the Pleasure Island theme park and the narrow gauge steam railway.
Blackpool, Lancashire – Blackpool is the North’s biggest seaside resort and attracts couples, families and larger groups, especially hen and stag nights, from across the whole of the UK to enjoy its Casinos, rides, clubs and other amusements, and the beach too of course.
Aberystwyth, Ceredigion – A lot more Welsh than the cities in the south of Wales and as well as having great beaches Aberystwyth is close to Snowdonia, if you want to discover Wales then this could be the resort for you.
UK Travel Tips
Expensive and cheaper areas – London can be a lot more expensive than other parts of the country though the South East is fairly expensive as well: generally the further west and north you get the cheaper things get. Drinks, food and hotel rooms probably have the widest regional variations in price
Surprisingly Expensive – There are a few things that might catch you out so check prices first for: trains at peak times, late night taxis, wine in restaurants, cinema tickets, parking(especially in London and the South East), fuel (compared to the US though only a little more than in Europe).
Going Out – If you are going out in the evenings on your own firstly know how you are getting home and don’t lose track of time if you are relying on a bus or train that stops running at a certain time.
Meeting People – Generally don’t accept drinks from anyone, it’s usually safer to start chatting to big groups of people rather than one or two people on their own; keep an eye on your drinks and don’t leave them unattended.
Pubs are often good places to meet people, the more low key and traditional the better, start by chatting to the barman or barmaid and they may introduce you to some of the regulars or those nearby may introduce themselves, though this varies in frequency from pub to pub and region to region.
At the seaside – Most big seaside resorts are at least in part setup to serve families and there are often a lot of amusements as well as rides aimed at children, also look out for a traditional Punch and Judy show.
Where to stay – Chains of hotels and motels tend to be more family friendly and often have rooms with an extra sofa bed to accommodate families of up to four.
Campsites in the UK are often well developed with a lot to do for children as well including adventure playgrounds and kids’ clubs.
Avoid standing out – Try not to stand out as a tourist as this will make you an obvious target for thieves and pickpockets, try not to put expensive items such as electronics on show either and in crowded areas be aware of your bags and your pockets.
Use only licensed taxis and private hire cars – Check a taxi is licensed before getting in and that the driver’s ID matches the driver. If at a pub or club staff may be able to recommend a firm to call.
Where to stay – The UK has plenty of hostels and budget hotels with dorm rooms and rooms for larger groups but in towns where there are none a Bed and Breakfast (B&B) is often a good value option.
Romantic Cities – Britain has many cities that are great for a romantic getaway such as Cambridge where you can go for a romantic punt along the river Cam (punting is taking out a boat and propelling it using a long pole on the riverbed). Harrogate, Warwick, Canterbury, York and Bath are all great for romantic city breaks too.
Rural solitude – As well as romantic breaks in towns and cities you could head for the countryside, many old country manor houses are now luxury hotels and many small picturesque villages have traditional inns with accommodation.
Regional Differences – Differences between England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales
The people of each of these constituent countries have a strong identity and the way you refer to them is vital, don’t for example refer to a Scot as English. The UK is made up of these four home nations but Great Britain only really includes England Scotland and Wales so don’t refer to those from Northern Ireland as British, some won’t mind some will take offense. Once you get to recognize the main accents you should be able to work out where someone is from though regional accents may throw you off at times.
Food and drink – Culture varies around the UK and this includes food and drink, some areas eat a lot of seafood whereas London has a lot of international cuisine. Curries are popular pretty much everywhere but some of the best curry houses are in Birmingham, Manchester and Bradford as well as the Brick Lane area of London.
As for drinks Bitter is more popular in the north of England and lager more popular in the south, the Scots of course like their scotch and some bars have a choice of dozens of different whiskeys.
11 Festivals in The UK
Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts, Somerset – Glasto is a massive festival based on hippie culture originally when it was founded in the 1970s. Lasting three or four days the festival attracts a mixture of new music acts and established acts as well as an assortment of other arts.
Hay On Wye Literary Festival, Powys, Wales – The town of books is a great for bibliophiles at any time of year with dozens of second hand book shops but the literary festival is a celebration of all things books including many readings by authors of their own or favourite works.
Edinburgh Festival, Scotland, – Not one festival but dozens happening throughout late July and August they include music, arts literature but maybe most famously comedy.
Notting Hill Carnival, London – Each August Bank holiday for two days, the world’s second largest street festival, second only to Rio, takes place. The Trinidad and Toboggan community in London lead the celebrations but many different Afro-Caribbean groups take part.
RHS Chelsea Flower Show, London – A major early summer event where gardeners come together to set up the most fantastic gardens all in one place to compete for prizes in a number of categories.
England’s Medieval Festival, Herstmonceux Castle, East Sussex – Includes re-enactments of 13th and 14th century battles, jousting and archery competitions, falconry and stalls selling medieval style handicrafts.
Vintage Festival, Cornbury Park, Oxfordshire – Celebrating British Fashion from the 1930s through to the 1990s: plenty of live music as well as vintage clothing stalls and fashion shows.
Reading and Leeds Rock Festivals, Berskshire and Yorkshire respectively – Twin festivals with generally the same artists both events take place over three days every August Bank Holiday, weekend tickets include camping and the vibrant atmosphere continues all night.
Grassington Festival – An electic mix of arts and music in this Market Town in the Yorkshire Dales, look out for poetry and book readings, performing arts, jazz, film screenings and big name comedians.
Green Man Festival, Powys, Wales – Located in the Brecon Beacons the Green Man Festival is a long running weekend long folk festival with new and classic folk musicians.
Great British Beer Festival, Olympia, London, – British Ales are something you should at least try while in the UK, if you find you like them then come along to the Great British Beer Festival that attracts beer enthusiasts from around the world with around 800 casks ales to try but also ciders and international beers.
12 places to Shop in The UK
Camden Market, Camden Lock, London – With barely a single chain store in sight you are bound to find something new here in this warren of stores, many sell original fashion, often run by the designers themselves, there are also stores selling homewares, music antiques and oddities.
Westfield Sheppard’s Bush, London – One of London’s biggest shopping centres and known for its flagship stores and luxury brands, with stores here it is easy to spend a lot without even realising it.
Lakeside, Essex – Close to London in Thurrock, Essex around half a million people come to shop here every week in the 250 stores.
Brighton’s Lanes, Sussex – Brighton’s lanes are a series of narrow streets close to the city centre, with a great number of unique stores selling some of the latest and most outrageous fashions plus plenty of record stores and more.
Manchester Arndale Centre, Lancashire – The UK’s largest city centre shopping centre the Arndale centre dominates the commercial heart of Manchester though there are arguably more interesting stores on the streets around.
Bicester Outlet Village, Oxfordshire – A designer outlet centre where you can get bargains on a range of high end brands including Ralph Lauren and Gucci, typically there is a wider choice than in the brands’ other stores with savings of around 60%.
Metro Centre, Tyneside – Europe’s biggest shopping centre with 340 shops in the main centre and larger stores in the adjoining retail park: If you can’t find what you want here you probably won’t find it anywhere.
Bath, Somerset – Bath has a large number of independent boutiques selling high fashion including designer dresses and suits, beauty products and plenty of handbags.
Glasgow’s West End, – As well as plenty of fashion stores and the other usual chain stores Glasgow has a large number of art shops and craft stores.
The Pantiles, Tunbridge Wells, Kent – Tunbridge Wells serves those with some money and some style and there are a number of boutique stores as well as a few great homeware and kitchenware stores.
Harrogate, Yorkshire – Taylors of Harrogate the tea merchants is one of Harrogate’s most famous stores and being a town surrounded by farms and rural communities there are also a choice of country outfitters and traditional stores including Hooper’s Department Store.
Portobello Road, Chelsea, London – Portabello road is known for selling second hand items including antiques, homewares and vintage fashion; on Saturdays the Potabello market expands your choice even further.
12 Restaurants in the UK
Apsleys, 1 Lanesborough Place, London
Within the Lanesborough Hotel this is a highly classy restaurant but with the difference that families are made welcome and children entertained rather than frowned upon.
Prashad, 86 Horton Grange Road, Bradford BD7 2DW
Bradford is known for its Curry houses and this is often considered the best with great service as well as great food.
Petrus, 1 Kinnerton Street, Knightsbridge, London SW1X 8EA
Fine dining with the best French cuisine has to offer, which Petrus do it as well as any restaurant in France itself.
Dubh Prais, 123B High Street, Edinburgh EH1 1SG
Plenty of Scottish dishes done very well and a choice of more than just kippers or Haggis, though Haggis certainly is an option.
Salvatore’s Kitchen, 237-239 Cheltenham Road, Bishopston, Bristol BS6 5QP
There are a lot of Italian restaurants in Britain but this one sells genuinely great genuine Italian dishes.
Mourne Seafood Bar, 34-36 Bank Street, Belfast, Northern Ireland
A charming little venue selling locally caught fish and shellfish, with particularly good oysters and scallops.
Pomegranate, 10 Manchester Street, Brighton BN2 1TF
Offers a range of international cuisine; great for a romantic meal and popular for pre-theatre meals or a bite to eat before a gig.
Everest Dine, 61 Belgrave gate, Leicester LE1 3HR
Probably the best place outside of Nepal itself to try some Nepalese cuisine.
The Belgian Café, 11-23 Grand Parade, Eastbourne BN21 3YN
Eastbourne’s Belgian Café offers great Belgian food and drink with generous portions but Mussels and Belgian Beer are the highlights with the largest range of Belgian Beers in the UK (over 50) and mussels done in dozens of different ways
Chaophraya, 20A Blayds Court, Leeds LS1 4AG
Not only do Chaopharaya serve beautiful tasting and beautifully presented Thai dishes you can also take Thai cooking classes here on certain nights.
Granite Park, 8 Golden Square, Aberdeen
A restaurant that mixes the best of Scottish food, including beautiful Aberdeen Angus steaks, with little continental flairs and twists.
The Wheel House, Upton Slip, Falmouth, TR11 3DQ
It’s almost worth coming all the way to Cornwall to eat here, though Falmouth is a very pretty fishing town, and all the fish sold in the Wheel House is freshly and locally caught.
10 Fast food joints in the UK
8 Local fast food joints
The Sugar Junction, 60 Tibb Street, Manchester M4 1LG,
A great little teashop for a traditional English Afternoon tea, although breakfasts and lunches are sold too.
Farrow’s Fish and Chips, 146 Wells Road, Totterdown, Bristol, BS8 5NS
An award winning traditional chippy with a good choice of different fish and other traditional British chip shop favourites like mushy peas, saveloys and of course don’t forget the curry sauce.
The Piemaker 38 South Bridge, Edinburgh EH1 1LL
Close to the Royal Mile come here for great home-made pies during the day or late into the night.
Edo Sushi Takeaway, 24 – 26 High Court Chambers, Sheffield S1 2EP
Eat in or take out at this centrally located Sushi restaurant where every dish is made to order using the freshest fish.
Beljing Palace, Parkstone Road, Poole BH15 2PB
Not all the dishes may be genuine traditional Chinese dishes but if you want to eat Chinese as most British people enjoy it the food here is good and quick.
Soho Joe, 22 – 25 Dean Street, London W1D 3RY
Soho Joe serves mainly Mediterranean style dishes including salads, sandwiches and pizzas and is popular for lunches with tourists and office workers alike.
Bosphorus, 59 Old Brompton Road, London SW7 3JS
Very good and very filling kebabs, not the standard kebabs you’d get from a late night store, making it a good choice for a great value lunch too.
Flip!, 54 Clerk Street, Edinburgh EH8 9JB
Flip! Aims to offer a good choice of fast food taking the best from around the world but keeping dishes healthy too, and they do this brilliantly.
And a couple of chains to look out for
In case you were wondering yes they are named after the burger munching character from Popeye and they do of course sell Burgers but in a location more like a restaurant than a traditional burger joint with plated meals.
West Cornwall Pasty Company
Without going to Cornwall these are the best and most authentic pasties you can get in most of the country, as well as original Cornish pasties with beef, potato, onion and swede they offer a range of original recipes including sweet pasties too.
Geography, Climate, History, Economy, Politics, Culture, Holidays
If you want to tour the country a loop may make sense following the coast closely for most of the time with few places being more than two hours from the sea.
Don’t assume that because the UK is relatively small it doesn’t have a very varied landscape there are many distinctive areas and you should aim to enjoy as many National Park areas as possible.
The UK can be wet at any time of year and in the summer there may be longer heatwaves but often rainy days will be followed by brighter days before going back to being overcast. When it does get hot it can be very pleasant and the British definitely do their best to make the most of it.
The history of the UK couldn’t be summed up in a few short paragraphs without missing out several major events but the following should serve as an introduction.
The Romans changed Iron Age Britain immeasurably and connected it up with the rest of the world as well as establishing cities such as London, Manchester and Chester. After the Romans left various small tribes and kingdoms, including newcomers from Germany and Scandinavia, competed for land but by the time of the Norman Conquest an English nation had been established.
A monarchy has remained, not always in good health, ever since with the exception of the short period where England and Scotland were republics following the English Civil war. This didn’t last for long though and Charles the second, son of Charles the first, came to the throne 11 years after his father had been beheaded. It was only in 1707 though under Queen Anne that England and Scotland merged to form Great Britain and not until 1901 that the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was created.
The 19th century saw the industrial revolution and the British Empire make Britain rich and powerful but in the late 20th and early 21st century Britain’s place in the world has changed and now the UK is a modern European nation moving from an industrial to a technology and services focused economy.
Britain was of course the first country to be transformed by the Industrial revolution but now the UK is known more for R&D, technology and high tech industry than mining and mills.
The British economy is closely linked to the rest of Europe despite a psyche among many Brits that they aren’t or shouldn’t be a part of Europe.
There are three main political parties in the UK, either Labour or the Conservatives though have won a majority in the country’s general elections, usually held every five years, since 1922 until the most recent election. The Liberal Democrats hold a significant number of seats too however making them an important part of the current coalition with the Conservatives, the first coalition government since the Second World War. Though David Cameron is the Prime Minister and head of Government Queen Elizabeth the Second remains the head of state.
As mentioned earlier each home nation has its own culture and within that different counties have their own identity while still being generally proud of their English and British culture as well. Yorkshire and Lancashire have two of the strongest regional cultures.
London also has a culture that is perhaps less traditionally British than a lot of the country, being one of the world’s most diverse cities that people from around the world have made their home and added to the culture of.
Although a lot of the British go on holiday outside of Britain, especially in southern Europe, more and more people are holidaying in the UK especially outside of their main summer holidays though and resorts are therefore well developed.
Public holidays include Christmas, Boxing Day, New Year’s Day and Good Friday and Easter Monday as well as two bank holidays in May and one in August. There are also occasional extra bank holidays which recently included for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and The wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton.
How to Get There
The UK’s main airports are Heathrow and Gatwick that serve London as do Stansted and Luton with good links by train into the centre of the capital. There are also major international airports at Southampton, Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow and Edinburgh plus a number of others with limited flights mainly to major European destinations.
Car ferries can get you across to the British mainland from France, Belgium, Holland, Ireland, Spain and Sweden, the quickest route though is from Calais in France to Dover and you can come across as a foot passenger for next to nothing by looking out for deals.
Using a plane to get around isn’t a bad idea, especially to get up to Scotland from the South or across to Northern Ireland, or the Isle of Man.
A ferry is another way to get to Northern Ireland or the Isle Of Man and ferries service a number of small islands as well including the Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland up in Scotland and the Isle Of Wight down on England’s south Coast.
If you either hire a car or bring one over with you you will find that Britain has a generally good network of motorways and a number of other dual carriageways that would be counted as Motorways in many countries. There are some areas though where major roads are single carriageway and run through a series of town, this includes a number of coastal routes meaning your trip may take longer but you will see a lot more and may discover towns and villages to stop of in to take a closer look.
For long distances Trains are a much quicker and more comfortable option than buses or coaches. National Express however have a good network of long distance coaches that can be a lot cheaper than taking the train.
In most smaller cities and towns buses are a good way to get around but some larger cities have urban train and tram services. This includes the Underground, Overground, Trams and Docklands Light Railway in London that form the world’s second largest urban rail service which is quick and efficient, if sometimes a little cramped.
There are also metro rail services in Glasgow and Newcastle; Nottingham, Birmingham and Manchester have tram services and a number of cities have comprehensive commuter rail networks too such as Merseyrail in Liverpool.