The United Kingdom is an island nation made up of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The United Kingdom may be small in size but there is no other place that has as much to explore in such a relatively small country.
Almost all visitors to the United Kingdom will understandably spend a significant portion of the trip in London. Actually, it would be easy to spend an entire vacation in the United Kingdom without leaving the city. London features some of the most famous attractions in the world including Big Ben, the Tower of London, the British Museum and Buckingham Palace. Shopping in London ranges from flea markets to vintage shops and luxury stores. London is paradise for theater lovers with over 230 professional theaters to choose. Then when you are tired from activities make sure to spend a little relax time at one of the local pubs or in one of the 8 Royal Parks.
Of course, there is much more to the United Kingdom than visiting its capital city. The country is loaded with so much history, culture and natural beauty that it is unlikely that a visitor could ever do more that scratch the surface of the things to see.
United Kingdom History
Historic sites are at every turn, from prehistoric stone circles and ancient Roman sites to centuries-old castles and town centers dating back to the Middle Ages. Some of the most famous historic sites are Stonehenge, Roman Baths, Hadrian’s Wall, Titanic Belfast, Fountains Abbey, Tower of London, Warwick Castle, Edinburgh Castle, Kidwelly Castle and Windsor Castle.
Much of the history of the United Kingdom has a romantic attraction to it with spectacular castles surrounded by breathtaking scenery and stories of knight’s adventures.
Tower of London
United Kingdom Culture
The United Kingdom has a unique culture that begins with the British Royal family. They have been part of the culture for hundreds of years but there is still an air of mystery and they have a celebrity status. They are as popular outside of the country as they are within the United Kingdom partially because people like to follow their life story somewhat like they do a TV soap opera with the addition of the royal pomp and circumstance.
Aside from the Royal Family, the United Kingdom is full of culture and traditions which have been around for hundreds of years. Some British customs and traditions are famous all over the world.
Afternoon tea is the event where people meet for tea and snacks from 2 until 4 o’clock in the afternoon.
The pub is the place in the neighborhood where people gather for drinks at the end of the work day.
In addition to the local traditions the culture of the United Kingdom has impacted the world in many ways. Some of these are:
Music – Many British musicians have influenced modern music on a global scale, and the United Kingdom has one of the world’s largest music industries. The UK has produced many great musical artists including The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Elton John, Eric Clapton, Phil Collins plus many more than it is possible to name.
Centuries old universities – The UK is home to many prestigious universities but two of the most famous are The University of Oxford and University of Cambridge. The University of Oxford is the oldest university in the English speaking world and the world’s second oldest surviving university dating back to 1096. The University of Cambridge traces its history back to 1209.
Windsor Castle – current weekend residence of the Queen
Literature and Sports are among the United Kingdom’s cultural claims to fame. The U.K. has produced many great writers, including William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, and Robert Burns. J.K. Rowling, the writer of the Harry Potter books. Soccer, rugby, cricket, boxing, and golf were all invented in Britain. One of the most popular events in Scotland are the Highland Games that includes hammer throwing, caber (log) tossing, shot put and tug o’war (all while dressed in kilts).
Natural beauty of the United Kingdom
Probably one of the most overlooked highlights by tourist visiting the United Kingdom is the country’s natural beauty. The United Kingdom is filled with beautiful natural landscapes. The country is home to 15 national parks, vast lakes, towering mountains, ancient woodlands, rugged coastlines, unusual rock formations and lush green country sides.
While few tourists will travel to the United Kingdom specifically to see the scenery there are many places that most people would enjoy visiting if they would incorporate them into their visit. Some of the places that I think are among the top natural wonders in the United Kingdom are:
Cheddar Gorge – Summerset, England
Dark Hedges – Northern Ireland
Durdle Door – Dorset, England
Fairy Pools – Isle of Skye, Scotland
Giants Causeway – Northern Ireland
Glencoe – Lochaber, Scotland
High Force Waterfall – Durham, England
Loch Ness – Inverness-shire, Scotland
Lulworth Cove – Dorset, England
Old Harry Rocks, Dorset, England
Old Man of Storr – Isle of Skye, Scotland
Seven Sister Chalk Cliffs – Sussex, England
Sherwood Forest – Nottingham, England
Suilven – Sutherland, Scottland
White Cliffs of Dover – Dover England
White Cliffs of Dover
Myths and Legends of the United Kingdom
The United Kingdom is known for some of the most famous myths and legends. Some of these stories have no verifiable elements and other come from places and times that are real but the people of the stories and the events have been overstated. Other places are very real historical places but there is only speculation when they were built and the purpose that these places were used.
There are too many myths and legends for me to list but some of the most famous are:
The Loch Ness Monster
King Arthur’s legend of the sword
The adventures of Robin Hood and his band of Merry Men
It may be strange to include myths and legends in a travel website but these stories are a part of the country’s culture and many people visiting the United Kingdom will visit places like Loch Ness to look for the monster, go to Sherwood Forest to see the site of Robin Hood or Stonehenge to contemplate on the mystery of the site.
While there may not be a lot of mystery behind crop circles they are fun to visit.
There are literally limitless things to do in the United Kingdom so trying to decide the most important activities can be challenging. As mentioned earlier, most visitors to the United Kingdom will only just scratch the surface of the things to see so my approach to creating my list of “must see attractions” in the United Kingdom is to include places that represent the country’s history, culture and natural beauty.
Two of the items on my list are London Museums and Castles, castle, castles…..
The museums in London are ranked among the World’s finest so visiting museums could include the British Museum, the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum and the Imperial War Museum.
As for castles, I have listed two specifically but there are many more that I could have included. I have visited both of these along with several others and I have enjoyed all of them. It is hard to choose which is the best because it is said that the United Kingdom has over 4,000 castles scattered throughout the countryside and coastline.
Visiting London is the obvious place for most travels to start a trip to the United Kingdom. The city has everything that most visitors are looking to see. It has four (4) UNESCO World Heritage Sites, free museums, shopping, many quality theaters, wonderful restaurants and its culture is on display everywhere you look.
The hard part about visiting London is to decide the most important places and activities to see and which activities to postpone for another trip.
Outside of London there are several places that are easy to make day trips from London which include Oxford, Cambridge, Stonehenge and Bath.
Visiting Windsor Castle is a special experience as it is the longest occupied palace in Europe where it has been home to the royal family for nearly 1,000 years. Currently, the Queen normally spends the week at Buckingham Palace and usually retreats to Windsor Castle for the weekends.
The castle is open to the public and visitors can tour a small portion of the castle and some of the castle grounds but if the union flag is flying indicating that the Queen is present then no visitors are allowed.
Getting to take a peek into the a functioning royal residence is nice but my most enjoyable part of seeing Windsor Castle was to walk around the pleasant castle grounds and to see the impressive architecture.
An added treat is to watch the changing of the guard ceremony if you plan your trip to be at the castle when the event takes place (check the schedule for days and times as it does not happen every day).
I will be making more posts on things to do in the United Kingdom, so check back later to see my future posts on the United Kingdom.