Guide to UK Attractions
The United Kingdom is alive with places of interest for the visitor; no matter whether your thing is clubbing, shopping, appreciating natural beauty, history or architecture, UK attractions have something to take your breath away.
London attractions will almost definitely be the first draw for visitors to the UK's shores, as these include some of the world's most instantly recognisable landmarks, such as Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Tower Bridge and St Paul's Cathedral.
London attractions aren't just buildings of historical interest however - many visitors are drawn by the vibrant nightlife and wealth of shopping opportunities offered by a host of world famous clubs, shops and markets.
London isn't the only place in the UK of interest for the visitor of course - UK attractions also exist in the lively and regenerated metropolises of Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool (2008 European City of Culture), Leeds and Sheffield, to name just a few of the cities offering cutting-edge living, working and studying opportunities - the United Kingdom wasn't dubbed ‘Cool Britannia' for nothing.
UK attractions also come in natural form - there are a surprising number of areas of outstanding beauty for such a small island. England's Lake District in Cumbria, the Cairngorms in Scotland and Snowdonia in Wales all provide inspiring environments that have sharpened the minds and pencils of poets and subsequently defined the psyche of the nations that make up the United Kingdom.
And last, but by no means least, a panoply of castles and palaces dotted all over the United Kingdom give a magical feel to a nation that is steeped in history but has its finger well and truly on the contemporary pulse.
London has always been one of the world’s leading cities and this trend shows no sign of changing in a city where visiting galleries, shopping going to the theatre and nightclubbing go hand in hand with visiting some of the world’s most famous attractions, such as Big Ben, Tower Bridge and Buckingham Palace.
London attractions have something for everyone with a wealth of museums including the world famous British Museum housing an unrivalled collection of art and artefacts gathered from around the globe to the more obscure - but no less interesting - London Transport Museum in Covent Garden.
Galleries are well represented in the UK’s capital – the Tate Modern near South Bank is a must for those interested in modern art, while the Tate Britain houses a selection of work for those with more traditional tastes. The National Gallery at Trafalgar Square has an impressive collection, and the National Portrait Gallery around the corner has plenty of famous faces to keep younger viewers interested.
Fashionistas will find London Shopping provides some of the best in the world to flash the cash. Harrods in Knightsbridge is one of the world’s most famous department stores, with Harvey Nichols and Liberty’s not far behind. London’s West End has an exhaustive list of well-known shops, from the exclusivity of Bond Street to the laid back atmosphere Covent Garden.
There’s no shortage of things to do in the evening in the UK’s capital. Shows in London’s West End are up there with New York’s Broadway when it comes to cutting edge entertainment, while the capitals restaurants and nightclubs are constantly at the vanguard of global fashion.
Natural Attractions in the UK
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze
William Wordsworth 1804
For many, UK attractions are all about the island's areas of outstanding natural beauty. Wordsworth's words immortalised the Lake District in Cumbria and led to many heading out of the cities to explore a country of patchwork fields, hedgerows and stunning scenery quenched by rain and dappled by the shadows of clouds. Today areas of outstanding beauty are leading UK attractions within an island blessed with an abundance of subtle verdant loveliness.
The Peak District in Derbyshire not only offers stunning vistas of greenery but also a dazzling selection of walks taking in villages, Bronze Age forts, caverns and ancient stone circles.
The Cairngorm mountains in Scotland are among the top UK natural attractions for the more adventurous, covering 3,800 square kilometres of moorlands, glens, forests, rivers and lochs. These are home to 16,000 people in diverse communities and 25 percent of the UK's endangered flora and fauna.
Wales is home to some of the most stunning natural UK attractions with the Snowdonia, Brecon Beacon National Parks and Gower Heritage Coast providing visitors with a surfeit of mountains, rivers, beaches, valleys, lakes and even steam railways.
UK museums cover a wide range of subject matter with fields as diverse as doll’s houses and warfare. London museums offer the greatest choice, with some of the leading UK attractions among their numbers - The British Museum near Covent Garden is home to an unrivalled collection of art and artefacts from around the globe during the days of the British Empire.
South Kensington is home to the architecturally stunning Natural History, Science, and Victoria and Albert Museums, more or less side by side, grandiose in their high Victorian design, and again unparalleled at home or abroad in their presentation and sheer scope.
South of the River Thames UK museums are represented by the Greenwich Maritime Museum, situated in and around the old Queen’s House in Greenwich Park, offers a complete history of British seafaring, from ancient times to the present day. The Imperial War Museum in Lambeth documents the history of man’s inhumanity to man.
Outside of London and the country is awash with UK museums from small private collections to large urban museums like the Manchester Museum with its collections of Egyptology, animal and plant life, and rocks and minerals
UK castles reflect the country’s tumultuous past - a story of internal conflict and external threats that has endowed this small island with castles and fortifications, ranging from the miniscule Martello Towers on the south coast, to the grandeur and majesty of Leeds Castle in Kent.
Hastings Castle in Sussex is a UK attraction with a pivotal place in UK history, dating back to the Norman invasion of 1066, and lies only a short distance from the site of the famous battle of Hastings, and Battle Abbey at Battle.
UK castles date even further back to Roman times - the Tower of London is inextricably linked to the history of the UK, with many pivotal historical figures having lost their heads at the behest of monarchs and the hands of the executioner.
There is one UK attraction that stands head and shoulders above the rest: the monarchy. It is the Royal Family and the magic and intrigue it conjures up - Henry VIII and his six wives or the tragic life of Diana, Princess of Wales - that brings people flooding to the United Kingdom. Nothing captures the magic of royalty better than UK palaces, giving the public a chance to see royal residences first hand and allowing visitors to walk the same passages and corridors as kings and queens.
Buckingham Palace is the most famous UK palace and has been at the centre of regal affairs since 1837. With 775 rooms Buckingham Palace plays host to many official events and receptions for visiting heads of state. Lavishly bedecked with works of art by Rembrandt, Rubens and Canaletto and some of the finest furnishings in the world, the State Rooms of the Palace open their doors to visitors during the Annual Summer Opening in August and SeptemberHampton Court Palace in Surrey is most famously linked with serial husband Henry VIII best known the grim way in which he dispatched of his out-of-favour spouses.
Hampton Court Palace has more than 500 years of royal history and gives a great insight to life in royal household, both upstairs and downstairs, in the times of Henry VIII and William III. Some of the sites on offer to visitors in this spectacular UK palace are the splendid State Apartments, the huge Tudor Kitchens, the ‘real tennis' courts, the Great Vine in the greenhouses and the Hampton Court Maze - where once kings and queens frolicked, families now find themselves losing their way. Hampton Court Palace is open throughout the year but spring and summer provide the best access to all areas of this important UK attraction.
Elsewhere, Kew Palace in Kew Gardens, Southwest London, is the smallest UK palace. Built in the 17th century, the palace is once again open to visitors following restoration work completed in 2006.
Kensington Palace in London was formerly the home of Diana Princess of Wales, and although not open to the public it is now a popular destination for many who wish to pay their respects to the woman dubbed, rightly or wrongly, the ‘Queen of Hearts' following her untimely death in 1997.
Shopping in the UK
The UK offers a mouth-watering array of shopping opportunities for those whose idea of fun is to spend, spend, spend. For many shopping is the leading UK attraction with all well-known brands represented in every high street and shopping centre and some of the world’s leading fashion designers working and selling out of UK outlets, most notably in London.
As well as being home to most UK attractions London is also a shopping paradise with world famous department stores Harrods and Harvey Nicholls in Knightsbridge and Liberty’s in Regent Street leading the way.
London is also home to some of the world’s largest and most diverse markets – Camden Market is a great place to pick up a unique piece of clothing, while Portobello Road antique market is the largest of its kind in the world, providing an ideal opportunity to add that individual touch to your home.
Outside the sprawling metropolis of the UK’s capital shopping remains interesting and accessible with Birmingham, Manchester, Nottingham, Leeds, Liverpool and Cardiff just a few of major cities with their own styles and cultures reflected in a plethora of niche shops offering the chance to not only find that gift for someone special (or just a self-indulgence) but also offering better value for money than the capital.
Hotels in the UK
UK hotels have a relatively long and proud history with some of the most famous names in hospitality not just recognised as places to stay but also as major UK attractions in themselves.
The Ritz in London, famously situated at 150 Piccadilly, opened in 1906. A graceful French chateau-style masterpiece, the hotel soon became a byword for luxury and the well-to-do flocked here for afternoon tea and dances. Today the Ritz is still a standard-setter in opulence, with guests and visitors experiencing some of the best service and surroundings UK hotels have to offer.
Elsewhere in the UK's capital, the Savoy, Dorchester, Claridge's and Connaught all provide surroundings and service befitting their reputations in buildings that have for many become UK attractions in their own right.
Unfortunately such luxury doesn't come cheap and it is for this reason that the London hotels and UK hotels come in all shapes and sizes. with tariffs to suit every pocket.
Budget hotels such as the Etap chain are springing up all over the UK and provide, clean, safe and no-frills accommodation for as little as £35.00 a night for a room that can sleep up to three people.
Bed and Breakfast accommodation is something of a tradition in the UK with landlords and ladies opening their homes to short-term visitors. Guests can expect use of their room and breakfast in the morning, at a cost of £20 upwards. Bed and Breakfast accommodation is usually clearly marked but your best bet is to find somewhere online first.
Hostel accommodation is also available throughout the UK and if you are heading for areas of natural beauty you may want to check out the Youth Hostelling Association (YHA) website for locations and prices.
UK hotels can often seem expensive, but it is worth noting that if you pre-book online substantial discounts are often available.