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United Kingdom

United Kingdom travel guide

Four countries in one, the UK is a land of stately palaces and soaring cathedrals, mellow cities and rural landscapes of vivid green. Add a vibrant modern culture and you have it all

England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all have claims to be different and distinct. Taken as a whole the United Kingdom contains more heritage, per square mile, than any other nation, tracts of stunningly beautiful countryside, a coastline to die for and some of the most vibrant, multicultural cities on the planet.

London is the usual gateway, and there's enough here to keep you busy for weeks. The Tower of London and St Paul's Cathedral are obvious highlights, and there are always huge queues outside Madame Tussauds' though it's not immediately obvious why.

The city of Bath is the second most visited city in the UK, a mellow city built from quarried stone. This is a refreshing relief from the buzz of the capital and far more compact: it's eminently walkable.

It's hard to choose amongst the country's attractions. Within easy reach of London the city of Oxford is more than just its famous University: it's a beautiful city of golden stone. Cambridge also has its granite charms, but is best explored by bicycle - it sits on a plain.

Head west to Dorset, Devon and Cornwall for spectacular coastal views, and edge up into Wales if you want them to yourself. Visitors don't often target the cities in Wales: it's best known for its wild and beautiful interior and wild an undeveloped coast.

The White Cliffs of Dover are seen at their best from the sea, but Kent is known as 'the garden of England' for good reason: pretty villages and rolling countryside is manicured to perfection.

Head north and the countryside opens into meadows dotted with villages, castles and stately homes. The Lake District, immortalised in poetry over the centuries, lives up to its image, and you can escape from the rambling hordes by setting off for a challenging hike. Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland, dominated by the castle at it heart. It comes to life every summer for its world-famous comedy festival.

Northern Ireland is centred around buzzing Belfast: it also has castles galore and the huge hexagonal stone columns of the Giant’s Causeway.

That is just scratching the surface of this great destination. The only way to discover which parts to see is to visit yourself. Get packing!.


Wanderlust recommends

  1. Cut Costs. Not much in London is free; state-run museums and galleries are a notable exception. The Victoria & Albert Museum, the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum are all close together, free to enter and housed in notable buildings in their own right
  2. Bath or Bristol. Ten miles up the road from snooty Bath, the City of Bristol was badly damaged in World War II and has been further spoiled by planners ever since. However it retains sections of Victorian architecture to match any in Bath, adds a link to the UK's maritime heritage and takes itself far less seriously
  3. Forget Winter. There's not much to recommend the UK in winter. Daylight hours are too short to enjoy outdoor sights and the weather can be foul. Don't expect to share in the country's most celebrated festival, Christmas: it's very much a family affair and everything shuts
  4. Visit the 'Celtic Triangle'. Stonehenge is one of the UK's iconic sights, but usually busy, and the stones are fenced off. Nearby Avebury dates back to the same era and the stones, spread out by a post-card pretty village, can be explored on foot, for free. Nearby Silbury Hill completes the area's neolithic icons
  5. Get Digging. The National Trust is a leading conservation charity that manages many of the UK's most important buildings and landscapes. They often run programmes involving volunteer archaeologists to research further into the UK's history
  6. Better with a Pint. Pubs - and beer - are a key part of the British identity. Most Brits will have a favourite pub that is at the heart of its local community. The UK's most remote is on Scotland’s Knoydart Peninsula
  7. Follow the Coast. There's a footpath running around the entire coast of Dorset, Devon and Cornwall, with towering fossil-filled cliffs, spreading surf beaches and tiny coves to explore 

Wanderlust tips

If in London for more than a day or two, invest in an Oyster travel card for substantial savings on underground (subway), bus, and train fares in the capital.

Remember to stand on the right on escalators – or risk an angry tutting from commuters in a hurry. To find unusual or historic holiday accommodation, try the Landmark Trust.

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