The Union Jack, the Queen and lively pubs are among some of the quintessential images that portray the UK. But beyond these clichés is a country with great history and some of the most wonderfully diverse landscapes on the planet. Made up of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland travellers thinking of a trip to the UK could find it hard to choose just one place to visit. The obvious choice might be England and its thriving capital London or the seaside town of Brighton and the picturesque villages of Cornwall. Those in search of a little more adventure or an active holiday should head to Wales where its mountainous terrain and hiking trails will keep even the most jaded adventurer agape.
The cities of Scotland, particularly Edinburgh and Glasgow, are always popular with travellers to the UK. But venture further north to Perthshire and the Grampian hills of Angus to get a taste of the rich Scottish countryside. The counties of Northern Ireland offer visitors travelling to the UK a range of activities including fishing, and rock climbing in County Down or strolling through acres of apple orchards in Armagh.
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The United Kingdom has a generally mild climate. Wales gets most of the rain and Scotland and northern England has the most snow in the winter. The south experiences most of the mild, dry weather and the vast majority of sunny days.
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The UK is a year-round destination and travellers are eager to explore the country's main attractions. Peak summer months are busiest, especially in London, and the major tourist centres. Summer (June to August) temperatures range between 14 and 30 degrees Celsius and the rainfall varies dramatically every year.
Winter months (December to early March) can be cold (average temperatures about one-two degrees Celsius), but in general, the further north you go, the colder the weather. This is the time to visit for winter sports. Scotland has five main areas for winter sports: Nevis Range, Glencoe, Glenshee, Cairngorm and the Lecht.
Spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November) can be great times to visit. The tourist season is just gearing up (or gearing down) and the weather can be sunny and warm. May and September, in particular, can enjoy very good weather.
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There are domestic flight options for connection between cities around the UK.
Train service network is very extensive, if expensive.
In London, the underground rail is very comprehensive and covers most of the city. Buy an Oyster card at any Tube station to get around more cheaply. Buying a ticket at the station is much more expensive than using the card. There are trams in several cities including Manchester and Sheffield. Croydon has a Tramlink and Blackpool, the resort town in Lancashire, has the UK’s only remaining “traditional” tramway.
There are several bus companies providing a more economical way to get around the UK and offer a very good service. London buses are fast and regular, linking up the capital day and night. There are good bus services in other cities around England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Postbus is a nationwide service of more than 200 routes, mostly in remote areas.
Car hire is easy. All the major companies are represented at airports and in cities around the UK.
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- The UK has a proud theatre tradition. London's West End is the largest theatre district in the world. The reconstructed Shakespeare's Globe on London's Bankside has exhibits, educational programmes, and, of course, an annual season that runs from May to October. In Shakespeare’s Day, the cheap areas of the theatre were filled by "groundlings", theatre-goers who had paid one penny to watch the performance. These tickets now can be purchased for a cheap price and are a great alternative if you don’t mind standing. Outside London, the Minack Theatre, an open-air theatre in Cornwall is celebrating its 75th anniversary season with a performance of The Tempest, the play for which the theatre was created.
- Follow the Ridgeway National Trail from Avebury, a stone circle about 5,000 years older than Stonehenge. Unlike Stonehenge, you can wander among the stones. Close to Avebury are the white horses – five large white horses - cut into the chalk downs. The Cerne Giant, in Dorset, is another giant chalk figure. Beside the sea in Cornwall is Tintagel Castle, said to be King Arthur’s birthplace.
- Get a glimpse of the Royal Family (maybe) by visiting Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle, two of the Queen’s official residences. You may spy them at Balmoral in Scotland during the summer months, going to service at Crathie Parish Church on Sunday morning or at the Highland Games in Braemar every September.
- London is an expensive city, but culture vultures can enjoy museums and galleries free of charge. These include the National Gallery, Royal Academy, Tate Britain and Tate Modern, the Imperial War Museum, and the Victoria and Albert Museum. Outside London there are The National Football Museum in Preston; The Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead and the national museums of Scotland and Wales to name just a few.
- Among the top seaside resorts are Whitby, Yorkshire; Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk; Frinton-on-Sea, Essex; Swanage, Dorset; and Sidmouth, Devon.
- Trivago is a useful website for user reviews and recommendations on accommodation in the UK.
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