Having decided, for whatever reason, to head to Britain, you now find yourself in the position where you’ve got to pack as much of that storied isle into the few days or weeks you have. Britain isn’t a large country in terms of land mass but there are nearly 70 million people living here and thousands of years of history all around you.
Britain isn’t the kind of place you could understand in one trip, there is a richness and variety to the landscapes and peoples of Britain that make it impossible to take in all at once. So, you’ve got to decide on your priorities. What appeals to you about Britain? What do you actually know about the country?
Here are a few categories it’s worth considering. You could tour Britain taking in bits of each or go for a full-on one topic experience. It’s all possible.
Britain has an unparalleled music scene and has punched well above its weight in terms of influence in music. The cities of London, Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, Glasgow and Edinburgh have produced some of the world’s biggest bands and singers and there’s a reason why. They’re hotbeds for new music and any tour of Britain should take in at least one of the famous music venues or sites.
There are more free galleries and museums in Britain per capita than just about anywhere else on Earth. What is more, they’re some of the best collections on Earth. In London there’s the V&A, the National Portrait Gallery, the Tate Modern and Tate Britain, the Saatchi Gallery, the Royal Academy, the majority free to enter.
Elsewhere there is the Hepworths in Wakefield and St. Ives (which also has a Tate), the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, the Martin Tinney Gallery in Wales. Again, most of them are free!
The reputation of the British, and specifically the English, is that they cannot cook. This is not true! London is one of the best places in the world for food, largely due to the hundreds of different nationalities who live there and add their own unique culture to the mix. There’s cheap (for London) vegetarian and vegan food, 5* dining, Michelin starred restaurants, burger vans and fish and chips.
Outside of London the other cities are catching up! The Curry Mile in Manchester does some of the best curry outside the Indian subcontinent, Liverpool has fabulous Chinese food, Glasgow invented the tikka masala and the deep-fried Mars Bar (got to be tasted to be believed).
Fish and chips, haggis, Welsh rarebit and bangers and mash. All got to be tried if you’re here.
Oh, and Marmite.
For a nation that once had one of the biggest empires in the world, the British are a fairly cultured lot. Aside from the art galleries, there are free museums dotted around the country with astounding collections. The Royal Armouries in Leeds is a little boy’s dream museum, the Wallace Collection in London is eclectic and unique, the Wellcome Collection has just about everything and nothing is quite like Sir John Sloane’s Museum.
The city of Bath has Roman baths and spas you can wander around, Leeds has one of the world’s last gas-lit cinemas in the independent Hyde Park Picture House, the People’s Palace in Glasgow is a gem of Victorian architecture, and the Big Pit National Coal Museum is far more interesting than it sounds.
Perhaps the funniest place in the world, Scotland deserves special mention for its comedy clubs and general hilarity. If you’re in Edinburgh, Glasgow or any large town, look for the local comedy club and prepare to laugh until it hurts.
As a great deal of history happened in Britain – the industrial revolution, the Roman Empire, nuclear power, Stone Henge to name but a few, you can’t go very far without stumbling on a bit of pivotal human history. One way to do Britain is just to go and see where it takes you. It will be fascinating, that’s for sure.
Things to Do
In Britain, you’re never far from a party, or a good meal. There are loads of things for families – museums, galleries, adventure parks, beaches, woodland, extreme sports – so everybody should be able to get something good from their trip.
If you want to see Britain like it appears in the movies or in books, start in London and head north. The bustle and energy of London will be immediately familiar, then as the city fades away you’ll come to the rolling hills and plains of the midlands, before finding yourself in the moors of Yorkshire. The landscape changes quickly and surprisingly, and nothing is like the journey into the valleys of mid-Wales or up to the islands of northern Scotland. The coast can range from vast beaches to towering cliffs covered in seabirds.
We drive on the wrong side of the road. It will take some getting used to and cause a few scares, but British roads are amongst the safest in the world, so you’ll be OK.
…are a sarcastic, humorous bunch who will miss no opportunity to make fun or have a laugh. They won’t be laughing at you (most of the time), they’ll be laughing with you. Just go along with it, smile, offer to buy us a drink and you’ll be fine!