The Very Best Places to Visit in the United KingdomWhere to go and the Best Places to visit in the United Kingdom, includes London, the Cotswolds, Edinburgh and the Lake District. Not forgetting the Royal Forest of Dean and Cornwall
Places to Visit in the United Kingdom
The United Kingdom with over 28 million visitors a year is the fourth most visited country in Europe. Most visitors to the UK will be heading for London, the capital of England. No surprise there really, London has so much to offer from an arts, cultural and historic perspective. With a population approaching 8 million you can imagine that it is a lively and vibrant city. There was a period when it was the most populated city in the world from around 1831 to 1925 and today it is still considered to be one of, if not the most important financial centre in the world rating right up alongside New York.
England is the largest of the countries that make up the United Kingdom and besides Greater London (and the Isles of Scilly) there are 83 individual counties. For tourists the counties of England may be more easily recognised in their ceremonial form of which there are only 48. Each one of which has something to offer visitors in its own right. Some of the better known ones are Warwickshire, birthplace of Shakespeare, Cumbria where the Lake District is, Gloucestershire for the Cotswolds, Cornwall, Yorkshire and of course Greater London and the City of London.
Scotland, Wales & Northern Ireland
The other countries of the United Kingdom are Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Their capital cities are Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast respectively.
Ceremonial Counties of England
The geographic counties of England and where they are located.
How Bad is the Weather?
From the perspective of holiday makers, the United Kingdom is quite well known for its rather inclement weather during the summer months. That said however, if you do arrive in the UK during a period of sunny, warm weather then there is probably nowhere better in the world to be. The cuisine has moved on leaps and bounds and is no longer constrained to fish and chips or pub grub, although nothing wrong with that if it’s what you fancy. You will find food and restaurants of all types in the UK representing every country in the world. Indian, Thai, Chinese, French, Italian, Greek and the list goes on, a truly international flavour. You can of course also eat traditional English fayre prepared to a very high standard if you select the right restaurants..
Ancient & Modern Architecture
It also goes without saying that wherever you are in the United Kingdom you will find both ancient and modern architecture, more history than you can shake a stick at and museums, galleries and shopping centres everywhere. The United Kingdom has recently become one of the more affordable places to shop. Since the recession, exchange rates between the UK and the rest of the world have definitely gone in the favour of the rest of the world. Plus with every shop in the country fighting for custom, prices have become very competitive. So perhaps not quite as expensive a trip as it used to be.
Best Places to Visit in the United Kingdom
With so many special places you can visit in the UK everyone will have a different perspective on which are the best. Much of that perspective will also depend on what you find to be of interest. Hopefully the list below will give you a flavour of some of the best of British holiday locations.
Number 1 on the list is London the capital city of England which for any visitor to the UK is a must see location. Fabulous food, history, architecture and a place that exudes culture and the arts.
In fact a great little tour of London, which you can do under your own steam, is to start at Greenwich noting the Royal Observatory (which marks 0° longitude and GMT), and is where you will find the clipper the Cutty Sark. The Cutty Sark caught fire in 2007 and is now fully restored with modern enhancements to allow disabled access where possible. So if you go you should once again be able to explore this fine example of naval history.
Close by the Cutty Sark on the bank of the Thames you can get a boat from Greenwich up the Thames to the Embankment. When you get off there it is only a short walk past the underground station to Trafalgar Square.
If you want to you will be able to jump on an open top bus at Trafalgar Square for the obligatory tour of the London sights, which isn’t such a bad idea because you do get a running commentary all the way around. You will also see the places of interest around London, such as the houses of parliament, Big Ben, St Paul’s cathedral and many more.
Once back at Trafalgar you can walk down The Mall to Buckingham Palace and then return through St James Park back to the Embankment. Get on the Underground at the Embankment and catch a train to Tower Bridge. Obviously you can spend as much time as you like exploring all the places of interest in the area, there are quite a few.
From Tower Bridge you can get the Light Docklands railway overland to the Isle of Dogs and the ‘coupe de grace’ there is a small foot tunnel back under the Thames to the other side which is where you started your journey.
A couple of the newest attractions in London are the London Eye and what used to be called the Millennium Dome but now goes by its new name the O2 arena and is a very popular place for concerts to take place.
If you are staying in London for a while the best way to get around is to use the London Underground, the oldest underground system in the world. There are 4 world heritage sites in London, The Tower of London, Kew Gardens, Greenwich and the area that includes the Palace of Westminster, Westminster Abbey and St Margaret’s Church. You can actually talk forever about what’s on offer in London and just when you think you have finished, even more places come to mind for example Piccadilly Circus, Covent Garden, Wembley Stadium and Wimbledon, especially in June. But you have to stop somewhere so that is it for now, if you see half of what has been mentioned here you will have done amazingly well.
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Edinburgh the Capital City of Scotland
Edinburgh the Capital City of Scotland, the centre of Edinburgh with the medieval old town and the Georgian new town are combined to form a UNESCO world heritage site. Like London Edinburgh offers an open top bus tour that takes you around all the main places of interest and if you are new to the city this would be a great way to help you get orientated and figure out where to go and what to do. Included on the route are places like the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Scottish Parliament and the National Galleries. But that aside, Edinburgh castle is probably one of Scotland’s main tourist attractions and a must see feature of the city. The Tatoo that takes place there each year is world famous and is truly spectacular entertainment. From the Scottish pipers to the cannon races provided by the military it is a night to remember. The Castle is also where you will find the Scottish Crown Jewels and the Stone of Destiny, plus being at the highest vantage point of the city, it is where you will get the best views.
The Royal Botanic Garden is a lovely place to visit, full of shrubs and colourful plants you can also enjoy the exhibitions put on in the Glass Houses and take time for a relaxing cup of tea at the tea shop located in this little piece of nature in the city. The Royal Yacht Britannia is permanently docked at the Ocean terminal in Leith, a short bus ride from the city centre and of course a reminder of how close you are to the sea in Edinburgh.
For cafes and restaurants you should head into the world heritage site of the old and new towns where you can find plenty of places to choose for an evening dinner or relaxing lunch. Once you have eaten or as a precurser to sitting down for a meal you can wander through the streets and admire the mix of medieval, Georgian and award winning contemporary architecture. Plenty there to inspire a photograph or two.
Having made it this far North you could and should be tempted to get out into the Scottish countryside, not so far to travel before you can be privie to some of the best countryside and views you will find anywhere in the world, remote and completely stunning. Scotland offers everything the Lake District has without the crowds.
The Cotswolds, where cot means a sheep enclosure and wolds are rolling hills. But for the enquiring mind of the tourist the Cotswolds is a region of outstanding natural beauty that represents what is sometimes known as the ‘Heart of England’. The Cotswolds reside primarily in the English counties of Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire but also reaches out into the neigbouring counties of Wiltshire, Somerset (the South Cotswold regions) , Worcestershire and Warwickshire (the North Cotswold regions). The famous country walk called the Cotswold Way follows a path right through the Cotswolds along its near 90 mile length and is a favourite route for hikers and ramblers alike.
The Cotswold Way lies between Chipping Campden in the North Cotswolds to the world heritage city of Bath in the South Cotswolds and with a little meandering about is actually just over a 100 miles long. But don’t despair there are plenty of country pubs and hostels to stop at on route, some of which are in absolutely gorgeous Costwold stone villages and towns, Broadway for example. Broadway is one of the most famous Cotswold settlements with its principal hotel being the famous Lygon Arms. Other towns and settlements of note are Bourton-on-the-Water, Stow on the Wold, Malmesbury, Chipping Campden and Tetbury. There are more including the historic cities of Gloucester and Bath plus the famous gateway to the Cotswolds: Cheltenham.
The Cotswolds have much to offer but are best suited to those that love nature, rolling hills and architecture that could be considered to be quintessentially English. The main attractions are old English pubs with open fires in the winter and eating outside in the summer with a pint of cider or a glass of wine to accompany your meal. The cities offer a little more, so yes go to Gloucester, Cheltenham Spa and Bath and you will find medieval, Regency (Georgian) and Roman architecture. Bath in particular adopting the instantly recognizable Cotswold stone (limestone) structures synonymous with the whole region. The cities do offer a broader scope of interest for tourists, with museums, ancient Roman structures in some cases and an array of different cuisines and nightlife for the youngsters.
It is also in the Cotswold’s where you will find many of the royal family living, Prince Charles and Princess Ann both have their main residences there. Plus the region has attracted many high profile celebrities such as Madonna, Liz Hurley, Jeremy Clarkson and many more. It is a place that has inspired poets and is in truly stunning location only a couple of hours west of London.
The Royal Forest of Dean
The Royal Forest of Dean, Another region that falls under the Gloucestershire umbrella is the lesser known Royal Forest of Dean, a place of outstanding natural beauty that lies bewteen the River Wye and the River Severn. Once the hunting ground of kings the forest still retains many of the magnificent Oak trees that were its crowning glory and has a host of beauty spots that can be visited.
Try Symonds Yat for a spot of bird watching and magnificent views over the River Wye, or head off to the Biblins just around the corner for woodland walks and mountain cycling. Blackpool Bridge is another lovely place to stop, especially in the spring when the woods are completely carpeted in glorious Blue Bell flowers. You have to get the timing right so not to miss them in their full splendor, as they are only really at their best for a week or two, usually towards the end of May. But if you do catch them right, it is a sight you will never forget.
Another famous spot is the Sculpture Trail at Speechouse, but there are many more and something to suit anyone that simply loves nature and all it has to offer.
The Lake District
The Lake District, not as far North as Scotland, the Lake District is another area of oustanding natural beauty, a national park and a very popular destination for most of the UK. Many a honeymoon has taken place in the Lake District, romatic in nature, beautiful scenery and a fabulous place to take an activity holiday. Lakes Windemere, the longest and biggest of the lakes in the Lake District (10 1/2 miles) and Coniston are both very popular for windsurfers, water skiing, sailing and canooing type holidays. Hikers and ramblers also target this region of Cumbria for long walks and country pubs. Not to mention the mountain climbers and outdoor skills seekers.
Other lakes of note are Ullswater, Derwentwater and Bassenthwaite, officially the only one classified as a lake, the others are officially classified as waters or meres. The highest of the Lake District mountains is called Scafell Pike and is 978m high. In decending order from there is Scafell, Helvellyn, Skiddaw (931m, which I mention especially as having climbed that one), Great End and Bowfell at 902m.
Take yourself to the top of Coniston Old Man and you will find lots of people leaping off the top of the mountain to paraglide back down into the valley below. Actually by the time you have climbed to the top you will probably recognise this as a very attractive option, unless you have the characteristics of a mountain goat that is.
Another fun activity is known as gorge walking, this is where you throw yourself into the river at the bottom of a mountain stream and then proceed to climb the mountain through the river up the gorge. Occasionally you will find what appears to be a bottomless rock pool that you can jump into from a great height. It sounds a bit daft, but if you join a well organised trip it really is a great way to spend a fun day.
The towns in the Lake District Include Kendal, Keswick, Ambleside and Coniston. All very attracive places to visit and some play host to some memorabilia of the Lake Districts famous people such as Ruskin, Beatrix Potter and Wordsworth. The ‘Armitt Museum’ in Ambleside hosts some of Beatrix Potters water colours and some examples of Wordworths prose about the region. Coniston is home to the Ruskin museum, the District’s famous artist.
Kendal and Keswick are larger in size than Ambleside and Coniston, plus they are a little easier to get into and park, the Lake District has to an extent become a victim of its own success with places such as Ambleside being almost inaccessible in the summer. But worth a visit if you can get there. Keswick is on the shores of Derwentwater, it has loads of a outdoors type shops, plenty of pubs and restaurants and plays home to the Cumberland Pencil Museum. Actually the history of the pencil is quite interesting.
The Beatrix Potter Gallery is in Hawkshead and is also where you will find ‘Hill Top Farm’ her home made famous in the film about Beatrix Potter. It is a truly pretty Lake District village and is where Wordsworth went to school. To see the daffodil fields that were planted by Wordsworth and his wife in memory of their daughter Dora, you have to head to Rydal and find the field next to St Mary’s Church.
So it’s not all for outdoor sporty types, there is some real nostalgia to be found here and a glimpse back into the days of old. But if you do want to make the most of the scenery it does help if you are reasonably fit and enjoy a good walk.
Cornwall – its England’s most southern county and biggest peninsula with mile upon mile of fabulous coastline. Some of its sandy beaches would compete with the best in Spain but it also offers rocky coves and some of the prettiest fishing villages in the world. From Tintagel and its association with King Arthur to the Eden Project at St Austell where you can find a complex series of domed greenhouses hosting flora from all around the world.
Cornwall has something for everyone, mysterious intrigue, a history of smuggling and folklore, flora, museums, arts and crafts at st Ives, fishing ports and fabulous beaches. You can go surfing at Newquay or sightseeing at Land’s End; Cornwall offers so many places of interest for such a relatively small area.
Probably why it is such a firm favourite with the residents of the UK, where many a city dweller dreams of a cottage near the coast in Cornwall. Being surrounded on three sides by the sea makes being near the coast a realistic objective. But there is a lot of competition for those quintessential Cornish cottages, which means for many the dream is exactly that, but you can at least experience a little bit of life in Cornwall by taking a holiday there and renting a cottage for a week or two is a great way to do that.
Some of the favourite places to visit in Cornwall are Tintagel and the Castle where you can watch the sun setting across the sea. St Michael’s Mount, where you can get a boat across to the island or wait until the tide is right and give the illusion of walking on water. Boscastle, once nearly washed away but now back to business as usual. The Eden Project or the Lost Gardens of Heligan for flora, Mousel fishing village just because you can, Padstow for Rick Stein’s sea food restaurant and the list goes on. You are never very far away from somewhere gorgeous to visit in Cornwall the hidden jewel of the South West of England. Take the M5 south and keep going until you reach the end of it, well worth the trip and while you are there you may as well explore Devon as well.