United Kingdom Travel Guide
The United Kingdom has lots to offer visitors, with interesting cities, fantastic shopping, a rich history and beautiful countryside, alongside endless cups of tea, pints of lager and newspaper-wrapped fish ‘n’ chips. Having a good time here can be expensive, but the Brits witty sarcasm, love for the arts and ability to get drunk and make an idiot of themselves regardless of status or rank makes a trip here value-for-money. Its well-founded reputation for grey weather simply means more time getting to grips with the culture, which is best done in the pub.
Why You Should Go
What’s Cool: The rugged coastline of the southwest, free museums, rich history, the stunning beauty of the Lake District, men in kilts, cozy country pubs on every corner, vibrant cities, cutting-edge nightlife, fish ‘n’ chips and endless cups of tea.
What’s Not: Everything’s expensive, grey and wet days, crowded attractions, dodgy characters, dirty and slow trains, unfriendly locals, Saturday night drunks and traffic jams.
When to Go
Brits love to moan about the weather; you will often hear locals complaining it’s too hot in summer, there’s too much rain, it’s too cold or it’s too windy. The truth is, there are many benefits to the UK’s diverse climate.
June to September is the hottest time of year, with temperatures regularly in the low 70s (ºF), and occasionally topping 86ºF. Note that air conditioning is virtually non-existent here so 86ºF in a UK city might feel more like 110ºF!
Spring (April to June) is a pleasant time to visit, with flowers in bloom and some cool weather, although the odd April cold snap isn’t unheard of. Winter can be very cold, and depending on your view, you’ll find the early darkness depressing or romantic and cosy. As for rain, come well-prepared; it can happen at any time.
Getting There & Away
As far as international passenger numbers go, the UK features in the top 20 airport league table more than any other country, with London Heathrow reliably claiming to be number one, so getting here is really no problem. You can also arrive by Eurostar or by ferry from plenty of European destinations. Getting around is also pretty straightforward. Brits may like to moan about public transport, but in reality it’s not all that bad (unless you have to use it every day of the year). The London Underground might be a bit smelly, dirty and crowded, but it’s also very useful for getting around the capital. Outside of cities things get a bit more irregular and you should consider hiring a car for exploring these areas unless you want to be hanging around a bus stop for half a day.
Health & Safety
As far as health goes the UK is a boring old place, distinctly lacking in any mysterious diseases. The water is safe to drink and food hygiene standards are high, although you can use your own judgement when dealing with late-night kebab shops. Generally, it’s also a pretty safe place to visit, and few tourists experience any problems. Common sense applies of course, and you shouldn’t wander around late at night or trust strangers who approach you on the street.
Food & Hospitality
The UK has some of the finest hotels and restaurants in the world, with London’s Ritz Hotel being one of the most famous hotels on the planet. That’s the good news; the bad news is that London and elsewhere also has some of the most extraordinary prices in the world, with a top meal here costing the equivalent of a couple of weeks on holiday elsewhere. It isn’t all bad though; some of the finest places will be worth taking out that bank loan, and there is still good value not to be sniffed out especially if you explore outside the capital. Traditional British pubs serve up some good food with old favourites like fish and chips a must-sample, and don’t miss having an English cream tea.
For a relatively small country by size, there is a lot to see here, and if you’ve got enough cash, you could easily spend two to three weeks and still miss out on some highlights.
One week exploring London and its surrounds with daytrips to and .
Three to five days in the South West exploring the rugged beauty of Devon and Cornwall’s golden beaches.
Four to five days heading north to the Peak District and Lake District.
Three to five days in Scotland, the beautiful Highlands and fashionable Edinburgh.
Three to four days discovering Wales‘ scenic national parks.
Three to four days finding out what Manchester and Liverpool have to offer.
A few days off the mainland in Northern Ireland, or farther afield to the Channel Islands.
London: free museums, stunning buildings and good food, pubs, theaters, and clubs make up for the creaking transport system and crowds of people.
: the largest national park in the UK with pretty villages, outstanding natural beauty and some great walking opportunities.
The South West: Devon and Cornwall are two of England’s gems, with rugged coastline, excellent beaches and plenty of interesting characters.
Peak District: the rugged landscape and attractive villages of the Peak District provide good walking country as well as a place to put you feet up and drink tea.
Museum-hopping: London has a huge range of museums covering history, art, science and transport, and the good news is that most of them are free.
Walking: the UK has some great walking and hiking spots whether you want hills, coastal walks or mountains (well, small mountains).
Pubbing: all over the country you’ll find plenty of cozy local pubs (and some not so cozy ones). They’re not all perfect, but you won’t find it hard to find one to suit.
Tea drinking: a big thing for many people here. Splash out on ‘tea at the Ritz’, with scones with jam and clotted cream costing a small fortune, or simply ‘milk and two sugars’ at a local café.
Festivals & Events
The UK has a huge number of festivals throughout the year, but especially in the summer months, when the weather can nearly be relied on.
January: there are New Year’s events and festivals all around the UK, but the most famous is Hogmanay in Edinburgh – four days of partying and plenty of whisky.
June/July: London hosts the largest Pride festival in Europe with a huge variety of events held over two weeks and ending with a colorful parade.
August: Edinburgh gets in on the act with what is considered the greatest arts festival in the world.
October: the Canterbury Festival isn’t the most famous, but there’s a good range of music, comedy and theater in a pleasant setting.
November: London’s Lord Mayor’s Show keeps up an 800-year tradition as the newly elected mayor pledges allegiance to the crown.