Castles, cafés and culture; live music, fine food, festivals, architectures and the arts – there’s something for everyone in Great Britain.
And each season brings with it a certain appeal. Snowy winters mean rugging up and rambling through inspirational city scenes; the brilliant reds, oranges and yellows of autumn are enough to brighten the day of any traveller; spring’s promise of warmer weather sees the locals cheery and ready for the British summer – time to visit the rugged, beautiful coast to soak up the rays.
There’s never been a better time to pack your bags for Britain, so dust off your suitcases. Need some inspiration?
Immerse yourself in the history of the aristocracy, harking back to a time of ancient kings, queens, dukes and jousting knights. You can visit countless castles and palaces, you can even stay in a few for a night or two. Think four-poster beds and Tudor luxury and dining in dungeons at Thornbury Castle near Bristol or, further north, stop in for a night at the spectacular Culzean Castle in Scotland or do a day at Dover Castle, a medieval fortress perched over the white cliffs of Dover.
No trip to Britain would be complete without a pint and a pie at one of the many historic pubs. From grand old pubs that have existed in the same spot for hundreds of years, to village inns that have occupied a special place in the hearts of locals, there’s something so much more to British pubs than beer. They tell stories linked to local lore, their thatched roofs and timbered walls display the character of a community and are a must-stop for a thirsty traveller.
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One thing is for sure: Britain is home to some of the finest, if not the finest, museums and galleries in the world. Fashion buffs should visit V&A, while historians may prefer to view Parthenon sculptures and the Rosetta Stone at the British Museum or be awe-struck by animatronic dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum. Tate Modern shows works from such modern masters as Dali, Warhol and Hockney, and The National Gallery is home to more than 2000 works from such masters as da Vinci, van Gogh, Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Turner, Picasso, Matisse and Cézanne. Transport buffs will love the National Maritime Museum and the London Transport Museum, both of which are dedicated to all things that move on (or under) water and land.
From food and live music to comedy, sports and the performing arts, Great Britain’s festivals draw throngs of keen theatregoers, music lovers, sports fans and people who just want a good laugh. Try timing your trip around The Edinburgh Festival for a dose of comedy and performing arts or hinge your holiday on The Glastonbury Festival and hark back to hippy days of free love and mung beans. For all things floral, there’s the world-famous Chelsea Flower Show – a perennial favourite among our members – and for sports lovers, there’s Wimbledon, Royal Ascot and the Grand National, that’s when the soccer and cricket isn’t on!
Fairy-tale architecture, gothic and classic cathedrals, thousand-year-old bridges, viaducts and spans; ruins such as Rievaulx Abbey in North Yorkshire and red-brick mills in Manchester are dotted along Britain’s waterways; as well as modern marvels such as the Eden Project, Selfridges Birmingham, Zaha Hadid’s Aquatic Centre and Norman Foster’s ‘Gherkin’ make Britain a hotbed of contemporary and ancient architecture.
Universities such as Oxford and Cambridge are well worth a visit, if only to view the classic structures. Then there’s the famous, albeit mysterious, Stonehenge. For whatever reason it was built, Stonehenge and the Neolithic henge at Avebury are two of the world’s largest and most well-known megalithic monuments.
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6. The perfect European base camp
Hop on a plane for lunch in Paris. Catch a ferry to Amsterdam. A visit to Venice, Verona, Prague, Dublin, Brussels or Barcelona is just a train-ride away. A trip to Britain provides the perfect base to see Europe. A long weekend here and an overnighter there, and you can soak up plenty of the continent. But make sure you see all there is to see in Great Britain first!
7. No language barrier
Sure, you may have to take a moment to translate the northern accent, as well as dialects from tiny country villages, but one of the most compelling reasons to travel to Britain is that you’ll not have the language barrier to overcome. There are remnants of minority languages scattered about, but, by and large, most Brits speak English. Fancy that?
8. British coastline
Britain may not be known for its beach-friendly climate, but it does have some truly beautiful beaches. Head south to Brighton, a favourite seaside resort town for Brits dating back centuries. Or motor on to the south-west to Cornwall’s rugged rocky coast, and wander through small fishing villages and amble along its sandy beaches.
Wales became the first country in the world to have a walking path right around its coastline. The Pembrokeshire section was voted by National Geographic the world’s second best long-distance paths, along which you can visit historic St Davids – Britain’s smallest city – and beaches such Freshwater West, which has been featured in films depicting Robin Hood’s tale and the Harry Potter series.
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9. Tea culture
As far as tea culture goes, the Brits set the standard, arranging the perfect table for tea, sandwiches and sweet treats. First emerging some time during the 17th century, it’s somewhat of a culinary ritual and there’s no shortage of places to take high tea in opulent surroundings. Try Wedgwood Estate for a crash-course in tea culture and craftsmanship or take tea at Jumeirah Carlton Tower in the Chinoiserie lounge where you’ll be served sweets by renowned pastry chef Lyece Major. Or sit and sip at Davenports, which was awarded the UK’s top tea place in 2013. Don’t forget Devonshire tea in Devon and Cornwall, where warm scones with jam and clotted cream perfectly accompany black tea with milk.
From quaint flower gardens and parks free to the public, to private, perfectly manicured estates, British gardens and their gardeners are world class. One of the most famous examples of heavenly horticulture is at Stourhead estate in Wiltshire county, which was opened in 1740 and is an exquisite place to wander around meadows, lakes and woodlands, taking in vistas of fabulous British countryside.
Other gardens well worth a visit are the RHS Wisley Garden, Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden, Blenheim Park and Gardens, Bodnant Garden and the Glorious Gardens of Argyll and Bute.
Need more inspiration? Head to www.visitbritain.com
Have you been to Britain? What, in particular, inspired you to go?