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Even if you’ve lived your whole life in the UK, there’s always somewhere new to discover.

From travelling to Britain’s farthest reaches at Land’s End, John O’Groats or the Scilly Isles, to delving deeper into the country’s distinctly individual cities – try Edinburgh, Liverpool, Manchester or old London town itself.

There is also mile upon mile of fantastic landscapes to revel in – from gazing upon Cumbria’s glorious Lake District, taking on the challenge of Snowdonia, to touring the paths of the New Forest or roaming the hills of Gloucestershire’s Cotswolds (with plenty of pit stops for cream teas and ale factored in).

Famously eccentric, the Brits will keep you entertained along the way, whether you’re sipping tea in the sedate cafes of Georgian Bath, taking in the spires and castles of Oxford, Cambridge and Windsor, or tucking into fish and chips on one of Cornwall’s charming beaches. This is a very green and pleasant land indeed.

 

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Culture and history

The United Kingdom is proud of its multi-cultural society, so you’ll find a diverse mix of influences. Each country represented here has its own set of customs and national pride.

Britain is, of course, a cultural superpower and has given the world Chaucer, Shakespeare, Mr Darcy, Oscar Wilde, Susan Boyle, The Beatles, Tom Jones, Aled Jones, nursery rhymes, Christmas carols, roast dinners, fish and chips, Led Zeppelin, Charlie Chaplin, the BBC, Wallace and Gromit, Rudyard Kipling, Mr Kipling, Andy Murray and Alan Partridge to name but a few!

With regards to the past, we should all be relatively familiar with British history by now, but here it is in rather broad brushstrokes…  As successive ice ages advanced and retreated over the centuries, hunter-gatherers roamed across the land bridge with Europe to forage in the British Isles. In fact there is evidence of ‘human’ activity in the UK dating back some 700,000 years. Then, in around 4000 BC, some of these wanderers decided to stay put and farm the fertile lands of southern England. Their legacy can be seen to this day at Stonehenge (built 3100 BC).

During the Iron Age new arrivals, known as the Celts, trickled in from Central Europe. Their use of more sophisticated tools changed the landscape of Britain forever as they cut down forests and replaced them with fields and villages. Then came the Romans, conquering most of present-day England and Wales by around AD 100. The Scottish proved rather more difficult to subdue, and instead of continuing to battle, the then Emperor Hadrian opted for fencing them off instead, and built Hadrian’s Wall in AD 122. Another of the Romans’ most enduring legacies was the introduction of Christianity.

As the Empire waned in the early 5th century it left a power gulf in the UK. This era, known as the Dark Ages, was characterised by unrest and power struggles amongst small-scale warlords. Cue the Anglo-Saxons who headed over from present-day Germany and brought their language and culture with them. Then it was the Scandinavian Vikings’ turn to invade, mostly arriving from Denmark around 850 AD and establishing a capital in present-day York. In 927 AD, after the Vikings were briefly pushed out of the North, the first King of England was crowned. And so began centuries of Royal rule, contested time and again, initially by the Normans of today’s Northern France who sailed over to claim the throne in 1066. The feudal system became entrenched at this time and there was much wrangling amongst the Church and the Monarchy, as well as the initiation of the parliamentary system, originating from the signing of the Magna Carta near Windsor in 1215.

Jumping forward several centuries of rather complicated subterfuge and scheming amongst the Royals and the Church, we come to 1707 and the unification of England, Scotland and Wales under one parliament. The 1700s also marked the beginning of the British Empire, which rolled on into the 1800s buoyed by the industrial era. Both brought great wealth to Britain, and the rest of the 19th century, under the reign of Queen Victoria, was somewhat of a golden age for the UK. Along with the demise of Queen Victoria and the British Empire, the 20th century brought with it two catastrophic wars. And the rest? Well, we’ll take it that most of us have been around long enough to experience it first hand.

Things to do

Saga’s holidays within the United Kingdom are as numerous and varied as the country’s myriad sights and experiences. History buffs are well catered for with tours of medieval Canterbury Cathedral, the archaeological mysteries of Stonehenge and castles galore in Scotland.

While the fleet footed can dance the afternoon away at the Tower Ballroom in Blackpool, and music aficionados can enjoy classical breaks in Bournemouth, Jazz in Dorset or even Gilbert and Sullivan in Yorkshire.

We also have some great options for Christmas breaks right across the country, from the beaches of Brighton to the hills of Harrogate. Our cruises of the British Isles set sail from both Dover and Southampton heading for Newcastle, Scotland, Northern Ireland and beyond.

Flight time

Flying is a great time-saving alternative to road or rail when travelling around Britain, and aeroplanes are particularly useful if you want to reach the more remote parts of Scotland and the Channel Islands.

For instance, it takes just one-and-a-half hours to fly from Gatwick to Inverness, a journey of 468 miles.

Currency

Pound -

Despite being part of the European Union, Britain has resisted adoption of the Euro and still retains Sterling as its currency.

Passports and visas

You can enter the UK with either a valid passport or national identity card issued by a EEA (European Economic Area) country.

Travellers from other countries must have a valid passport for the duration of their stay and will require a visa.

Phrases

Travellers to London may wish to brush up on their Cockney rhyming slang…

Baked bean – Queen

Ache and pain – rain

Near and far – bar

Bees and honey – money

Currant bun – sun

Dog and bone – phone

Bob Hope – soap

Hank Marvin – starving

Ruby Murray – curry

Scotch mist – drunk

Timezone

Clocks read the same in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Channel Islands.

Electricity

Mains voltage is 230 volts AC (50 cycles) and sockets take 13-amp plugs with three rectangular pins.

Language

English -

English is generally spoken in England, although being a cultural melting pot it is possible you will also hear Polish, Punjabi, Urdu, Bengali, Gujarati, Arabic, French, Chinese, Portuguese, Spanish, Tamil, Turkish, Italian, Somali, Lithuanian, German and Romanian.

There are also many regional dialects, including Cockney in London, Geordie in Newcastle, Scouse in Liverpool and West Country in the, er, West Country. Additionally, there’s Welsh English and Scottish English.

Plus, Welsh is spoken in many parts of Wales.

Tipping

Leaving around 10% of the bill is normal in British restaurants where a service charge has not been added to the bill. Taxi drivers also expect a small tip, especially in London.

Climate

We Brits are obsessed with the weather – but when it changes as often as it does it’s not surprising! The UK’s climate is influenced by the Atlantic, so regions closest to it, such as Northern Ireland, Wales and the western areas of England and Scotland will be milder, and experience wetter and windier weather.

To the east the climate is drier and cooler. There is also a north/south divide when it comes to weather, with the south enjoying generally warmer temperatures, thanks to the continental tropical air mass from the European mainland.

Health

There are no serious health threats to people holidaying in the UK.

Population and size

The population is 63 million, slightly less than France’s 65 million.

At 24,2900 square kilometres, the United Kingdom is half the size of Spain.

Smoking

Smoking is banned in all enclosed public places.


Places in the UK

Channel Islands

Famed for their quiet charm and old-fashioned courtesy, the Channel Islands offer the unique blend of Britishness with a taste of France

England

With so many beautiful and interesting places in England to visit, you are spoilt for choice all year around

Northern Ireland

Outstanding landmarks and beautiful coastal scenery - the best of both worlds

Scotland

A country filled with amazing grace...

Wales

Wales is blessed with more than its fair share of spectacular natural beauty...


Climate

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