Also known as Britain, the United Kingdom includes England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and many smaller islands.
One of the world’s largest economies with great cultural diversity, and military and political significance globally, the United Kingdom is a destination that offers visitors much to see and do.
The United Kingdom was home to the first modern humans during the Ice Age and these civilizations created monuments such as Stonehenge.
The lands have been conquered and ruled by Romans (who founded many cities including London, Bath, Gloucester and Manchester), Celtics, Germanic tribes, Vikings and the Normans (who built castles such as Dover and Windsor under their rule).
From the Hundred Years War in the 14th and 15th century, to the Black Death plague that killed much of England’s population, the United Kingdom has been influenced by politics, arts and religion.
The 16th century when Queen Elizabeth I reigned was a strong period of artistic flourish by notable people such as William Shakespeare, and the British Empire marked their stamp centuries later in many wars including Crimea and both World Wars.
Today, the UK as it is commonly known, retains strong royal links and is an active participant in a changing political landscape being a member of the European Union, Commonwealth of Nations, Council of Europe, NATO and World Trade Organization.
One of the main things visitors to the UK take into consideration is the weather. The UK is not blessed with consistently sunny and dry summers, so you are not guaranteed fine weather even in summer months. It’s recommended to take an umbrella year round as the weather is changeable.
Generally, accommodation and sightseeing prices don’t fluctuate as much as other countries and you will find many attractions are open year round. London is nice to visit in spring when the many parks are beginning to bloom with flowers.
August is typically one of the busiest months for tourists; September is quieter as schools return.
Between November and March, expect cooler temperatures with some occasional snow through December and January. Winter months experience short days and the sun sets before 5pm so factor that into any travel plans, especially if driving a lot.
The transport network in the UK is extensive with buses, trains, ferries and internal flights offering various options for tourists. Bear in mind the best deals should be booked far in advance, and that if travelling via train you may need to change train networks.
Cycling is viewed more of a pastime compared to European countries where cycling is a valid method of transport.
Hiring a rental car is an excellent option as the UK has good roads with major highways well serviced by restaurants, fuel stations and rest stops. Cheap fuel can often be found at fuel stations attached to supermarkets. The main factor to consider if hiring a car in the UK is driving on the left hand side of the road and to be aware that many cars are stick shift (manual transmission).
As with most countries, different regions in the UK have different accents, food and traditions. There is no one specific ‘British’ accent or tradition that links all areas of this large region.
If you want to meet locals, head to a football match, tennis game, rugby match or don your finery for horse racing carnivals. Stop into a pub for a pint of lager and meal of steak and ale pie. Down a dram of whiskey at Hogmanay in Scotland, or trade stories over a pint of Guinness as you listen to Irish folk music.
British people are seen to be unswervingly polite and are self-effacing with a good sense of humor. One of the main aspects of the culture is the British class system which is hotly debated by all areas of society.
Any visit to the UK will highlight castles and ruins that are often bought to life by medieval festivals, and you can join in the thrill of any royal visit which the British celebrate with true pageantry, or one of the many National Days of the Patron Saints like St George’s Day or St Patricks Day.
Stop into a country inn for tea and scones; tea drinking is an institution in the UK.
Being an island destination, the UK has a strong affiliation with the sea. Wander the promenades at seaside resorts such as Blackpool or Brighton, or let strong gales blow you along the cliff walkways on the Pembrokeshire coast in Wales.