United Kingdom Travel Guide

United Kingdom Adventure Travel Guide: Ideas and Inspiration

PureTravel Says: “The United Kingdom, or UK for short, comprises England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Channel Islands and Isle of Man and is also referred to as Britain. The UK is a member of the European Union, EU, and has a population of 60 million. The UK is home to an amazing array of history and culture within its bustling cities, regional towns and sleepy villages. Many famous landmarks also call the UK home such as Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey and York Cathedral. There is also a very active sports scene, plenty of nightlife and some wonderful restaurants. Add to this an abundance of shops, museums and galleries and you will release that you need weeks, if not months, to explore this great country.”

Holiday Highlights

Overview – Four countries make up the UK with their own capital cities; England (London), Wales (Cardiff), Scotland (Edinburgh) and Northern Ireland (Belfast). The UK as a nation is very diverse and has a strong culture of racial integration and a strong sense of unity.

History & Culture - The UK is a diverse and progressive country and was a super power in the 19th century with its industrial and maritime power. At its peak, the British Empire equated a quarter of the world’s surface. This UK has a constitutional monarchy and Parliament is made up of The Queen, House of Lords and House of Commons, which is elected. Christianity is the most practiced religion in the UK although it is also multi-faith with Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam and Sikhism are freely practised.


England has the largest city in Europe and more than 600 miles of stunning coastline. England is divided into six areas: East Midlands, East of England, North Country, Heart or England, London, South East and South West. An image of Englishness is double-decker buses, cream teas, roast dinners and local pubs. Home to Big Ben, Althorp House, birthplace of Princess Diana and Royal Ascot horse racing.

East Midlands - Dramatic landscapes and the rolling Leicestershire Wolds as well as the smallest county in the UK, Rutland. There is the county of Lincolnshire with The Fun Coast and The Rural Coast. Also in this area is The Peak District, the most popular National Park with moorland, valleys and villages. There is culture and history in its cities of Nottingham, Lincoln, Leicester and derby.

East of England - Historic cities and towns, country gardens, seaside resorts and miles of pretty landscapes and coasts. Norwich, the heart of East Anglia, has two cathedrals, a castle, art galleries including the modern Sainsbury Centre and the oldest covered daily market. The North Norfolk Coast is very picturesque and has been used as a setting for many films and music videos. Peterborough has 3,000 years of history and Luton is nestled in the Chiltern Hills. Ipswich is the country’s oldest settled Anglo-Saxon town with mediaeval streets and architecture from Sir Norman Foster. Great Yarmouth is a popular beach resort with beaches, attractions and historical monuments. Colchester is a diverse mix of 2,000 years of history and 21st century culture. Also visit Cambridge with its historic college buildings, museums and shopping.

North Country – Explore beautiful lakes and mountains, stunning coastlines and National Parks. York has 2,000 years of history and Sheffield is home to a wide array of activities and the natural wonder of the Peak District. Newcastle is a blend of historical and modern with its architecture, arts and famed nightlife. Manchester has been called the coolest city in the country and is contemporary with art and culture. Liverpool was the European Capital of Culture 2008 and deservedly so, with more theatres, galleries and museums than any other city in the UK, apart from London. Leeds has an amazing shopping scene and pretty countryside. The North is also home to Cumbria and the Lake District with the opportunity to walk, trek and hike in England’s highest mountains and 16 lakes. Finally Blackpool is the country’s favourite seaside resort and had donkey rides and punch and Judy shows in days gone by.

Heart of England – Worcester and the River Severn are in this areas as is the home of Shakespeare; Stratford-upon-Avon. Stoke-on-Trent is home to pottery, ceramics and leisure facilities. Half-timbered houses can be found in Shrewsbury and Ludlow was called the ‘loveliest town in England’ by the poet John Betjeman. See Hereford with its Norman cathedral and the famous Mappa Mundi exhibition. Coventry is vibrant and Birmingham is dynamic with its culture, shopping and attractions.

South East – This area is diverse with something to offer all visitors including the beautiful and lively south coast. Windsor is home to Windsor Castle and Eton College. The ancient university city of Oxford has churches, arts and a great social scene. Explore the wilderness of the New Forest, created by William the Conqueror in 1079, leading to the Solent River. The Isle of Wight, just off the coast is also here as is Dover. Canterbury is a historic cathedral city mentioned in Chaucer’s’ Tales and is a UNESCO world heritage site. Brighton is the country’s favourite seaside city with a lively and cosmopolitan atmosphere.

South West – This region has the Isles of Scilly and the Forest of Dean and some lovely beaches. Wiltshire is a rural paradise and The Cotswolds has stunning scenery and walks. Exmoor National Park is in Somerset as is Glastonbury and is home to Cheddar Cheese, cider and King Arthur. Poole is home to the luxury development of Sandbanks and is Europe’s largest natural harbour. Plymouth is modern and The Isles of Scilly are actually 100 islands, 20 minutes off the Cornwall coast. Gloucestershire is a typical English scene with market towns, castles, churches and antique shops. Visit Dorset’s natural countryside, Devon’s hills, moors and cities and Cornwall’s 320 miles of stunning coastline. The city of Bath is a Georgian spa city with the Royal Crescent, Roman Baths and Thermae Bath Spa and is a world heritage site founded by the Romans. Bournemouth has lovely parks and gardens and Bristol has a nautical heritage.

London – Vibrant and multi-cultural, London is packed with opportunities to discover its culture, history and heritage. It’s also cosmopolitan with an abundance of top-class restaurants, buzzing nightlife and of course pubs and bars. London is home to Wimbledon Tennis Tournament, The West End with its theatres and South Bank where the London Eye and Tate Modern are situated. The Royalty reside at Richmond and Notting Hill is chic and smart. Kew Gardens are 300 acres and Greenwich has markets and historical buildings.


The home of whisky, kilts, tartan and golf and of course castles and the Highlands. There is also a wealth of history and culture in the cities and clans. There is skiing at Aviemore, the fable of the Loch Ness Monster and home to deep-fried everything (including chocolate bars). If that doesn’t take your fancy there is always haggis, neeps and tatties. Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh, has neo-classical inspired architecture and also hosts the world’s largest arts festival each year, the Edinburgh Festival. Visit Aberdeen and the Winter Gardens and Dundee with its culture, arts and university. Glasgow has art deco buildings and more than 30 museums and galleries. Capital of the Highlands is Inverness. In the Outer Hebrides is Lewis with amazing beaches, and lochs. The Orkney Islands have prehistory and wildlife to explore.


Home to 400 castles, daffodils, sheep and yet only one motorway! Vibrant Cardiff is the capital and has shopping, nightlife, culture and arts. History dates back to roman times. Visit Victorian seaside resort Aberystwyth at Cardigan Bay and the Cambrian mountains. See lively Carmarthen and Celtic Caernarfon with its castle and magnificent heritage. The Holy Grail is said to be buried at Llangollen, in the ruins of castle Castell Dinas Bran. Pembrokeshire has beaches and Swansea Bay has lovely landscapes. The capital city of Cardiff hosts the European Capital of Sport throughout 2014.

Northern Ireland

Explore the nightlife, shopping and festivals as well as the history and heritage. The capital of Northern Ireland, Belfast, has all this and more, as does the other points of interest; Causeway Coast and Glens with the Giant’s Causeway, Downpatrick home of St Patrick and Enniskillen town. Explore also Fermanagh Lakelands with caves, forests and stately homes and Londonderry and Omagh the market town.

Holidays In Focus

As well as history, culture and it heritage as detailed above, the UK also boasts an abundance of outdoor activities, sports and leisure pursuits.

Walking, Trekking & Hiking – The UK has an incredible 49 designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and 40 National Scenic Areas. There are also 14 National Parks and 27 World Heritage Sites.

Extreme Sports – Including hand gliding, paragliding, hot air ballooning and sky diving. Try rock climbing, mountaineering, caving and potholing. Water activities include white water rafting, surfing, canyoning and coasteering. Adrenaline fuelled activities include quad biking, mountain boarding, paintball and zorbing.

Boating & Water Activities – try white water rafting, sailing, canal tours, canoeing, kayaking and fishing. Sail the River Thames which is 215 miles long.

Natural Beauty – Explore the 14 National Parks in the UK and walk, cycle and horse ride through the stunning countryside. National Parks in England; Dartmoor, Exmoor, New Forest, The Broads in the East, Peak District, Lake District, North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales. Scotland; Cairngorms, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs. Wales; Brecon Beacons, Pembrokeshire Coast and Snowdonia.

Nature & Countryside – Discover beautiful beaches at Holkham Bay Norfolk, Bournemouth, Nairn in Scotland and Benllech Beach in Wales. There are also heritage sites, natural beauty areas and World Heritage Sites.

Sports – the UK is the home of Wimbledon, London Marathon and the Grand National. Football is a popular pastime with world famous teams and leagues including the English Premier League, Scottish Premier League and the FA Cup. People also play football here with football academies actively promoting the sport.

When To Go

The UK has an undeserved reputation for its rain! The climate does vary day to day but as a guide there are four defined seasons.

Summer is generally from June-August and is typically 14-30C with long evenings. Autumn is September- November and around 7-18C. Winter is December-February and can be from 1-5C. Generally the south of the country experiences warmer weather than the north. Spring then occurs March-May and is usually 6-12C.

Top Tips

- Overall the UK is a safe country but do exercise the usual caution especially at night and in crowded areas.
- Layer clothes up and allow for changes in the seasons.
- When walking the fells and national parks, ensure you carry a map and basic supplies.
- Be a responsible traveller.
- Obey the countryside rules and take all rubbish away with you.
- Check the latest travel advice.

Classic Itineraries

- Edinburgh – Edinburgh Castle, Ghost Tours, Royal Mile, Palace of Holyroodhouse, Ceilidh (traditional Scottish dance), Golf at Musselburgh Links (world’s oldest golf playing course), Edinburgh Literary Pub Tour, Sample Scotch Whisky & Royal Lyceum Theatre.
- Glasgow – Glasgow School of Art (designer was Charles Rennie Mackintosh), Glasgow Film Theatre, Burrell Collection, Glasgow Cathedral & Botanic Gardens.
- Aberdeen – Maritime Museum, Duthie Park Winter Gardens, Provost Skene’s House, Aberdeen Art Gallery, Satrosphere, St Machar’s Cathedral, Gordon Highlanders Museum.
- Dundee – RRS Discovery, Dundee Contemporary Arts, Botanic Gardens, Angus Folk Museum, Glamis Castle, Camperdown Wildlife Centre, HM Frigate Unicorn & Dundee Flower and Food Festival (September).
- Inverness – Inverness Museum & Art Gallery, Caledonian Canal Heritage Centre, Loch Ness (and Loch Ness Monster), Culloden, Landmark Forest Heritage Park & Black Isle Wildlife & Country Park.
- Orkney – Neolithic Orkney, Italian Chapel, Highland Park Distillery, Orkney Museum & Tankerness House.
- Lewis – Calanais Standing Stones, Blackhouse Complex, Lewis Loom Centre & Gearrannan Blackhouse Village at Carloway.

UK Quick Facts

Area - Land and water area is 152,000 square miles.
Languages – Two languages; English and welsh, with Gaelic spoken in some parts of Scotland.
People – Majority are English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish.
Religion – Mostly Christian and Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam and Sikhism are also practiced.
Government – Constitutional monarchy with Queen as the head of state and an elected Prime Minister as head of government.
Currency – Pound sterling £, also shown as GBP.
Electricity – 240 volts AC, standard 3 pin.
Weights & Measures – Metric system is compulsory although the Imperial system was used until recently.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Natural sites
- Giant's Causeway and Causeway Coast
- Henderson Island
- Gough and Inaccessible Islands
- Dorset and East Devon Coast

World Heritage in Danger
- Liverpool – Maritime Mercantile City

Mixed Sites
- St Kilda

Cultural sites
- Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd
- Durham Castle and Cathedral
- Ironbridge Gorge
- Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites
- Studley Royal Park including the Ruins of Fountains Abbey
- Blenheim Palace
- City of Bath
- Frontiers of the Roman Empire
- Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey including Saint Margaret’s Church
- Canterbury Cathedral, St Augustine's Abbey and St Martin's Church
- Tower of London
- Old and New Towns of Edinburgh
- Maritime Greenwich
- Heart of Neolithic Orkney
- Blaenavon Industrial Landscape
- Historic Town of St George and Related Fortifications, Bermuda
- Derwent Valley Mills
- New Lanark
- Saltaire
- Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
- Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape
- Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal

Festivals, Events and Anniversaries in 2014

This year the Welsh city of Cardiff hosts the European Capital of Sport 2014 - The sporting capital of Wales, Cardiff is set to shine throughout the year with a packed annual calendar of thrilling sporting events. The city, which is most famous as the set of Doctor Who, boasts several state of the art stadiums including the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff International Sports Stadium and the Swalec Stadium. The national rugby, football, cricket and athletic teams are based here. Cardiff will also vie for a chance to host a future Commonwealth Games.

Glasgow in Scotland goes rugby crazy from 3 to 4 May 2014 as it holds the Scottish leg of the Sevens World Series at the Scotstoun Stadium, with 16 of the best sevens teams in the world competing in front of 30,000.

Scotland hosts the XX Commonwealth Games at Hampden Park and Celtic Park from 23 July to 3 August 2014. The Commonwealth Games bring global attention to Glasgow with 17 sports being played over the event. In total 4,000 competitors will attend from 70 nations. There are a few tickets still available for sports such as the Rugby Sevens and weightlifting. Otherwise you’ll have to join the millions of others who will be watching from their armchairs and pubs across Scotland.

A referendum on whether Scotland should be an independent country will take place on ^Thursday 18 September 2014.

Renowned English composer Edward Elgar died on 23 February in 1934. Elgar is possibly one of the best known of the UK’s classical composers, thanks to his Pomp and Circumstance Marches and Enigma Variations pieces. His main influences however were distinctly European and he spearheaded the popularity of the gramophone. Explore the Elgar Birthplace Museum in Lower Broadheath in Worcester which is partly housed within the cottage that Elgar was born in.

Thirty years ago the British figure skaters extraordinaire Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean won the gold medal at the Sarajevo Winter Olympics. They became the first competition pair to ever score a perfect 6.0 and made Olympic skating history in 1984!

On 26 February in 1839 the very first Grand National Steeplechase was held at Aintree Racecourse in Merseyside. The course itself dates back much further, with flat racing events run there for centuries. Aintree is also one of the most difficult courses on the annual calendar with 16 steeplechase fences. This year’s Grand National events takes place on 5 April 2014 at 4.15pm.

National Holidays in 2014

The UK observes several specific national holidays which are known locally as 'bank' holidays - please note that England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales all mark different days in addition to this list:

January 1 - New Year's Day
April 20 - Easter Sunday
May 5 - Early May Bank Holiday
May 26 - Spring Bank Holiday
December 26 - Boxing Day

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