The United Kingdom is formed by England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
In this site the different islands in the Irish Sea and those North of Scotland are also taken into consideration.
Each of these regions has a very distinct identity and you should not call a Welshman English or vice versa. The United Kingdom has too many sites to mention. Though detached from the continent of Europe by only a few miles of water, Britain is permeated by a strong sense of its cultural separateness. Everything is different here: measures, traffic, customs and food. Life in Britain retains an extravagant continuity with a past that has little in common with its European sisters and brothers acpean unity, many citizens still have problems not only with accepting the European idea, but also with defining the concept of the United Kingdom itself.
Northern Ireland is the most intractable aspect of national identity, but also Wales and Scotland have a long tradition of independent nationhood and autonomous cultures. Some belated recognition of this has resulted in the establishment of political Assemblies for each country, albeit with limited and differing powers for each.
But there are also things that resemble: nationwide shops and businesses start to rule the appearance of many high streets, tourist infrastructure is very well developed all over Britain and the growth of a nostalgia-obsessed heritage industry has produced a lot of museums, theme parks and comme morative monuments. However, the country is rich in monuments, that attest to its intricate history, from ancient hill forts and Roman villas, through a host of medieval cathedrals to the ambitious civic projects of the Industrial revolution.
Great Britain offers a lot of diversion to all its tourist: For pulsing cultural and nightlife, London is a must. To feel the charm of English sea bathes and the importance of harbours for an island like Britain, travel along the southeastern coastline. In the central part of England you will find towns plenty of historical heritage like Salisbury, Oxford, Cambridge and Edinburgh.
Western and northern England fascinate with beautiful landscapes: rugged moorlands, picturesque flatlands and rocky coastlines. A visit to the South Western penninsular is a must with Dartmoor and Exmoor in Devon and Somerset, and Bodmin in Cornwall. Also in Newquay is world class surfing. For true wilderness, however, you better travel to the mountains of Wales or the Scottish Highlands. The finest of Scotland’s lochs, glens and peaks, and the magnificent scenery of the west coast islands, can be reached easily from the contrasting cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh.
London is the coolest city on earth, according to a big crowd of fans of the city, and there is quite some truth in that. The city on the Thames has an amazing lot of things to do. One can spend several weeks in the city alone, doing something different every day.
On the first day, one could enjoy his love for the fine arts in some of the world’s finest museums, such as the British Museum and the National Gallery. The second day is for fun and entertainment. There are streets filled with bars, pubs and theaters. And contrary to popular belief, not all pubs close at 11.00 PM (but most of them do). Then there is shopping for day four, and not just Harrods. London has the lot from trendy to traditional. Day five can be spent visiting historic buildings, such as the Houses of Parliament and the Tower of London. You might want to throw in a boat trip in between. Day six is for visiting the different Palaces of London, the most famous ones being Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace. The seventh day one can relax, there are many big parks, where you can linger around and sit on the grass, one of the most famous being Hyde Park, with the Speakers Corner.
During your stay in London you can also enjoy some culinary pleasures. Even though England does not have a good reputation, when it comes to food, multi-ethnic London has more to offer than just fish and chips.
Since the 18th century England has been the cultural center of Europe. What they thought was lacking in their cultural heritage, the British imported through study travels abroad, the grand tour, or just by importing important artefacts. The London museums thus gathered an enormous wealth of artefacts both from their own history as of the shared history of the entire western civilization, plus a load of oriental treasures form their colonies.
Next to its museums, London has quite a collection of buildings that played an important role in the history of architecture. Not just classical buildings like the St Pauls cathedral or the Bank of England, but also the Neogothic House of Parliament and the High-Tech Lloyds building, but numerous other public and private buildings, houses and palaces have influenced architects around the world. There’s no other country were architectural style is a matter of Royal concern.
Those interested can catch a glimpse of most of the main sights within two hours from the top of one of those famous double-decker buses.
The Trocadero, in Piccadilly Circus, is the biggest and brightest entertainment centre in Europe. Attractions include: Sega World The world largest indoor theme park. Funland & Lazer Bowl, The Emaginator The virtual rollercoaster ride, Virtual Glider & Virtual World and 2 restaurants Planet Hollywood and more..
Piccadilly Circus, W1
The home of the 165 feet tall Nelsons Column built in the 1830’s–as well as the famed pigeons that mob tourists every day. “Feed the birds.” Often the site of large gatherings and celebrations.
Tube: Charing Cross
The heart of the West End district with many Cimemas, Bars and Clubs.
Tube: Leicester Square
The capital of Scotland, Edinburgh, is one of the world’s greatest cities. The extraordinary architectural heritage and historical magnificence of Edinburgh soon charm the visitor. Edinburgh is a center of culture and one of Europe’s most handsome cities. The beauty of its setting and its predominantly stone buildings, allied with its intellectual traditions have earned it the title of ‘Athens of the North’.
The city lies on rising ground, from the sea on the north side to hills on the south. The Old Town was developed from the 11th century, originally within defensive walls, around the rock on whose peak is situated the famed Edinburgh Castle. From the late 18th century, the City expanded to the north through a planned series of fine neo-classical streets and squares, which make up the New Town. Further expansion followed in the 19th & 20th centuries, and Edinburgh retains a rich architectural heritage within what is still a compact city of some 500,000 people.
It is also a city of fine gardens, and open spaces including Holyrood Park – with the twin peaks of Arthur’s Seat and Salisbury Crags – one of the largest city centre natural parks in Europe, and Princes Street Gardens, between the Old and New Towns.
For the world of business, Edinburgh is a leading European financial and commercial centre, with a particularly important place in banking and insurance. The strength of its educational and scientific provision has also helped central Scotland to develop the new ‘knowledge-based industries’ of Silicon Glen.
Manchester is mainly known as an industrial city and as home of one of the biggest and most successful football clubs in the world. Over the last few years, Manchester has really changed for the better; there has been much investment not only to repair the damage caused by the 1996 IRA bomb, but also to spruce the city up for the 2002 Commonwealth Games. The city still boasts some of the most interesting galleries and museums, such as the Museum of Science and Industry, the City Art Gallery, the Lowry and the Imperial War Museum North.
The city centre, concentrated around Piccadilly square, got a new impulse with the establishment of several famous brands shops. Besides that, there are still lots of second-hand stores where you can trace that novel or record you were already searching for all your life. And of course, Manchester is also known for the bands it produces. New talent always finds a stage and a ready ear, whether in one of the many pubs or clubs the nightlife scene has to offer.
Chinatown, near Piccadilly Gardens, offers, besides several shops, charming eating houses where excellent food is served. A few miles south of the city centre, in Rusholme, fans of Indian food will find plenty of restaurants along the famous “curry mile”.
Furthermore, the Barton Arcade (on Deansgate) and Heaton Park (to the north of the city) are very nice too. So if you are on your way up north, a stop in Manchester is absolutely worth your while.
You’ll love York. On the one hand, it’s a thriving modern city with modern shopping areas and two universities. On the other hand, you’ll find constant reminders of its Roman, Viking and Medieval past. The city is surrounded by walls that have a Roman base. They were rebuilt by the Saxons, destroyed by William the Conqueror and rebuilt, first by the Normans and then in the 14th century in much the same form as today. One of the four impressive gateways, Monk Bar, has a small museum where you can trace the impact of one of York’s famous citizens, Richard III.
Besides the Roman city walls, the Museum Gardens with its ruins, the Clifford’s Tower and the museums, York is especially known for its cathedral: the York Minster. It will take you at least half a day to see the inside and to climb your way up to the top to have some astonishing views of the surroundings. Nearby the Minster, you can lose your way in the winding cobbled alleys of the Shambles with the little shops and beetling timber-framed houses.
When you’ve walked upon the longest intact city walls in the UK, take a rest at one of the many pubs or sit at one of the many terraces along the Ouse (that is, when the adjoining building aren’t flooded by the river, which does normally happen at least once a year) or enjoy a boat trip on the river.
York has excellent connections with other big cities in the UK and serves as an ideal base for visiting the nearby National Parks, such as the Lake District, and the heritage coastline towns, such as Scarborough and Whitby. The city of York, steeped in history, is an absolute must when you’re visiting Yorkshire.
Now enough of the tourist guide ramblings lets get a real view of York. As a local I can maybe point out some of the things not though of.
Lets start with Castle Museum, a gem amongst museums of the older school. Here you can find an amazing reconstruction of a complete street from Victorian times called Kirkgate. It also has artifacts found from battlesites nearby such as Stamford Bridge. You will find the museum next to Clifford’s Tower.
York is the home to the National Railway Museum.Here you can find a real train enthusiasts dream with trains of all eras on display including a royal carriage.
The Yorvic Museum has become something of a cult recently apparently acurately recreating the smells of Viking times.
Enough of Museums. What about Pubs. York had at last count over 200 pubs. These can be split fairly accurately into two categories modern and traditional. The modern cater for the young lager drinkers and the traditional for everyone including the real ale enthusiast. Nearly all of these serve food and most of it is very good. Possibly the best can be found at the Spread Eagle in Walmgate. For real ale try the Maltings at one end of Lendle Bridge.
What about Dick Turpin and Guy Fawkes both ex of York. Dick Turpin was hung at the Tyburn which is now York Racecourse and his burial stone can be found at St. Georges Church in York with memorial plaques on houses near the minster.
Guy Fawkes was born in York and educated at St Peter’s School in York. After leaving England for Spain and converting to Catholic he was convicted of Treason and hanged, drawn and quartered a particularly unpleasant way of killing someone. Memorial Plaques to Guy Fawkes and a pub in his name can be found in York.
Walking around York on a Saturday is a challenge for anyone not local to York. To those in the know York is criss-crossed with many small alleyways. These were described in a book called Snickleways of York. They allow the local to avoid the masses and cross York in relative peace.
Tea shops are a very popular haunt in York with many very fine examples including Betty’s and Taylors Tea Rooms (now called little Betty’s) and talking of haunts York is reputedly very haunted. In fact the Castle Museum lays claim to be the most haunted museum in the UK.
Why not go shopping in the Shambles or just go to look at the shops. Look up and you will see that people living there could actually pass things across out of the windows to their neighbours on the opposite sides of the street. The Shambles was the place to buy meat in days gone by and you can still see the hooks in the shops there from which the meat was hung. It was also the home of Margaret Clitherow who was crushed to death for practising catholocism in the Ouse Bridge Prison. Her right hand is on display at the Bar Convent museum… And at the end of the Shambles Whip-Ma-Whop-Whap-Ma Gate can be found. Despite the long name the street is the shortest in York and once was the shortest in the country.
The bars – York has four bars, Micklegate Bar, Walmgate Bar, Bootham Bar, Monkgate Bar. These were the entrances into the city built in the 12th and 13th century and a place where the traitors of the city had their heads placed on public display -on spikes outside the walls of course… Today these heads can be found in Micklegate Bar.
Sheffield is one of those industrial cities of England where one can still see the impact of the steel making industry that made Sheffield into what it is these days. Although some people consider it an uncharming and depressing city, others love this city at the heart of Britain because of the combination of a thriving steel making industry with a modern pulse, set in hilly surroundings with the moors and the famous Peak district only a few miles away.
These days, Sheffield has about half of a million inhabitants and attracts visitors from all over the world, not in the least because of its rapid and fairly short (approximately 2,5 hours) connection with London. There are several good museums, most of them dedicated to the city’s industrial past, subsequent growth and prosperity, and the present.
Besides that, Sheffield has two universities and offers excellent sport facilities and an active nightlife scene. The Yorkshire countryside lends itself perfectly for a walking trip.
The main reason why most people visit Oxford (less than two hours from London) is to fancy themselves a student at the famous Oxford University. Although the university is not as exclusive anymore as it used to be in the old days, the rowing contests between Oxford and Cambridge still take place and many of the colleges are not open to the public when the stressful time of important exams shows its face again to the students with a good scholarship or a copiously filled wallet. However, when they are accessible to the public, the thirty university ‘castles’ are a must-see.
The colleges are scattered all throughout town and altered with historical buildings showing the impressive architectural character of several periods. Take for example the Bodleain Libray, which is the second-largest library in the country. Magdalen College, with its cloisters and deer park, was the learning school of Oscar Wilde. Hertford College is the place to go to when you want to see one of Oxford’s other famous sights, the Bridge of Sighs, which design was based on the Ponte dei Sospori in Venice.
Besides that, Oxford is prepared for its students and visitors and offers besides historical sights and several good museums, a vibrant shopping and commercial area with plenty of shops, restaurants and cafes. So it’s up to you to decide whether you indulge in a rowing trip on the River Cherwell, walk the cobbled streets or see a Shakesperian play performed in one of the many theatres…
Although Belfast is mostly associated with a bloody civil war between Catholics and Protestants, With the ongoing peace negotiations between the two camps Belfast is more a city of hope than of despair. It’s also a beautiful city with a rich history. It dates back to the Middle Ages and though it was bombed severely in the Great War, there’s still a great heritage. Belfast’s prime is in the 19th century and there are still a lot of impressive buildings from that era, but on the whole it’s really a modern city, a true metropolis.
Leeds is the principal city of the north of England. It is a centre of commerce, finance and industry situated at the crossroads where the main north-south and east-west motorways and railways cross. It is Britain’s greenest city with more parkland in ratio to its population than any other lying second in Europe only to Vienna. Its two major parks are at Temple Newsam which at 1000 acres is Europe’s largest urban park and Roundhay with its two lakes that covers 750 acres.
The city has two universities, schools of medicine and dentistry, of art and music and amongst its many museums are two of international status – the Royal Armouries and the Thackray Museum of Medicine. There are important historic houses: Bramham Park, Harewood House, Lotherton Hall and Temple Newsam House – the last two being owned by the city council. There are four theatres and many other entertainment venues of all types. It is a great sporting city and is frequently the venue for international events.
Bristol is the largest city in the south west of England, with a population of approximately half a million. Historically a county in its own right, it lies between Somerset and Gloucestershire and is properly entitled the City and County of Bristol. It also has a great history as a major trading port in the 19th century, – wine/spirits, shipping,(Isambard Kingdom Brunel) and John Cabot who went to the ‘new continent’ (U.S.A.) in the Matthew. There are plenty of historical areas to visit including the suspension bridge you can see in the picture, designed and built by Brunel as was also the SS Great Britain which is displayed now in the docks after being reclaimed from the Falklands in the 70’s.and is still being repaired but looks great, well worth a visit.
Nottingham, set in the heart of rural Britain, is famous the region where the stories of ‘Robin Hood’ took place, although he was from Yorkshire, and spent most of his time in Derbyshire. Modern day Nottingham has quite a few things to see and do and it is an ideal base for exploring the countryside, especially the Derbyshire Peak District.
Nottingham also has a very lively restaurant and pub scene, not forgetting its high rate of gun-related crime
Bath is a beautiful Roman city which nestles in the heart of the county of Avon and Sommerset. Its characterisitic rolling hills and limestone facades have been attracting visitors for many years.
The city of Bath takes its peculiar name from the Roman Baths that were built here between the 1st and 4th centuries AD, the remains of which can still be seen today. Since its earliest days as a Celtic settlement, the history of Bath is inextricably linked to the natural waters that rise up here.
The heyday of Bath came in the 18th century when it became a fashionable spa town, and was a focus for English high society. Much of the architecture of Bath dates from this time, and the city is famous for its elegant Georgian townhouses and sweeping crescents. Today Bath is one of the most beautiful cities in the UK, and has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. With plenty to see and do, it is an absolute must for any visitor to the UK.
Photo by Wikimedia Commons.