United Kingdom

Photo © rasoafab

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Travel Guide Europe United Kingdom



Big Ben

Big Ben

© adamandmeg

The United Kingdom is officially known as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, although very few people refer to it as such. At one time, the United Kingdom was the world's major superpower, with its colonial fingers stretching across a quarter of the world's land. That was little more than a century ago. But in the 20th century the UK, along with most of the Western world, experienced two World Wars which substantially reduced its international power. Politically, the UK has become a middle-ranking power, retaining this status by virtue of its seat on the United Nations Security Council and its nuclear capability. Culturally, the UK is still a place of importance: the mother of the English-speaking world, the birthplace of many great artists, writers and thinkers, and a haven for the pub-thirsty. The four nations which comprise the UK are distinctive destinations but all share one similarity: a warm, hospitable manner which challenges the often chilly, damp weather.



Brief History

Treknow near Tintagel, Cornwall

Treknow near Tintagel, Cornwall

© bob flinn

The islands known as the British Isles lie off the coast of north western Europe. They have a long history, with human activity dating back hundres of thousands of years. There are thousands of monuments and structures on the islands which date from prehistoric times, including Stonehenge. In 43 AD, the Roman Empire began its conquest of the islands, ruling over England, much of Wales until the 5th century AD (400s). The Romans created an efficient road system, especially in England and the routes of quite a few Roman roads are still in use today e.g Watling Street (A5), the Fosse Way (which includes part of the A46) and Ermine Street (which includes parts of the A10 and A1). The Romans were the first to bridge the River Thames on the site of the modern London Bridge in London.

In the 500s Roman rule gradually ceased (most of so-called 'Romans' in Great Britain had their origins outside Italy and the majority remained in the country when Roman rule ended). England, though not Wales, Scotland or Ireland, was gradually settled by the Angles, Saxons, Jutes and Danes who arrived from mainland Northern Europe. At first England was divided into separate kingdoms but eventually these combined into one Anglo-Saxon kingdom under King Egbert (827 - 839AD). Later, Vikings from Scandanavia raided and then invaded and settled, eventually ruling the northern part of England under the 'Danelaw'. In 1066 the Normans (from Normandy and of Viking ancestry) invaded and took control of England and Wales under King William l ('William the Conqueror'). Scotland, Wales and Ireland all had their own tribes, kingdoms and rulers. Wales was eventually absorbed into English rule under the Normans but Scotland remained a separate kingdom until 1603 when, on the death of Queen Elizabeth l, the Scots King James Vl became King James l of England. However, the formal union of Scotland with England did not take place until 1706.

England, Wales and Scotland all eventually became Protestant kingdoms while the island of Ireland, other than in its northern counties, remained mostly Roman Catholic

Following the Treaty of Union agreed on 22 July 1706, the United Kingdom was created on May 1st, 1707 when the Kingdom of England (including Wales) and the Kingdom of Scotland formed a political alliance. The Kingdom of Ireland was brought into the United Kingdom in 1800, though in 1920 a number of counties formed the independent country of The Republic of Ireland, leaving only the 6 counties of Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom.

In the 18th and 19th century, the United Kingdom saw the further development of a parliamentary system first established during Anglo-Saxon times but, perhaps more importantly, it created the Industrial Revolution. The resulting advances in manufacture and technology (such as steam power, railways, the creation of factories and steamships) enabled the country to grow wealthy and to create a huge colonial empire with outposts across the globe. The British Empire was often said to be 'the empire on which the sun never set', as its global reach ensured that it was daytime in at least one of its numerous colonies.

The first 50 years of the 20th century saw two world wars (1914-1918 and 1939-1945) in which the United Kingdom was one of the main combatants. After World War II, most of the United Kingdom's overseas colonies gained their independence. Many still have very strong links with the UK through their participation in the Commonwealth of Nations.

The second part of the 20th century saw the return of conflict in Northern Ireland, with the 1969 riots and Bloody Sunday (1972) amongst the darkest days. The IRA brought terror to Northern Ireland, England and occasionally to mainland Europe. An end to most of these troubles came in 1998 with the Belfast Agreement. Other events that caused much tension within the UK were the closure of the coal mines and steelworks in the 1970s and 1980s, leading to huge strikes and affecting on many communities in ways which are still felt today.

The United Kingdom joined the European Union in 1973 (after being vetoed by the French in 1961), and has played an important role in the further development and growth of that body over the years. In June 2016, the people of the UK voted, by a small percentage. to leave the union.

After referendums in 1997, some legislative power was devolved to the constituent countries of the UK. Scotland was granted the right to a Scottish Parliament in 1997, with Scottish Independence Party currently in control and the potential for a legislative way to gain independence. In 1998 Wales created the Welsh National Assembly (to be known as the Welsh Parliament from 2020), which also has legislative powers. Northern Ireland has had a devolved legislature since 1921 but ongoing internal political issues have resulted in it not sitting since the 2017 election.




Bass Rock

Bass Rock

© coldwarspy

The total area of the United Kingdom is approximately 244,820 square kilometres. The country occupies the major part of the British Isles archipelago and includes the largest island (Great Britain), the north-eastern one-sixth of the island of Ireland and some smaller surrounding islands. It lies between the North Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea with the south-eastern coast just 21.5 miles (35km) away from the coast of northern France, from which it is separated by the English Channel. In 2020 13% of the UK was forested and almost 70% is used for agriculture (including pasture). In 1884 the site of the Royal Greenwich Observatory in London was chosen as the defining point of the Prime Meridian in 1884.

The United Kingdom lies between latitudes 49° and 61° N, and longitudes 9° W and 2° E. Northern Ireland shares a 224-mile (360 km) land boundary with the Republic of Ireland. The coastline of Great Britain is 17,820 km long. It is connected to continental Europe by the Channel Tunnel, which at 50 km (38 km underwater) is the longest underwater tunnel in the world.

England accounts for just over half (53 per cent) of the total area of the UK, covering 130,395 square kilometres. Most of the country consists of lowland terrain, with some areas of higher terrain such as the Lake District, the Pennines, Exmoor and Dartmoor. The main English rivers and estuaries are the Thames, Severn and the Humber. England's highest mountain is Scafell Pike (978 metres) in the Lake District.

Scotland accounts for just under a third (32 per cent) of the total area of the UK, covering 78,772 square kilometres and including nearly eight hundred islands, predominantly to the west and north of the mainland. These include the Hebrides, the Western Isle, Orkney and Shetland. Scotland is the most mountainous country in the UK and its topography is distinguished by the Highland Boundary Fault (a geological rock fracture) which traverses Scotland from Arran in the west to Stonehaven in the east. The fault separates two distinctively different regions: the Highlands to the north and west and the lowlands to the south and east. The more rugged Highland region contains the majority of Scotland's mountainous land, including Ben Nevis which at 1,345 metres is the highest point in the British Isles. Lowland areas – especially the narrow area of land between the Firth of Clyde and the Firth of Forth which is known as the Central Belt – are largely flatter and home to most of the population including Glasgow, Scotland's largest city, and Edinburgh, its capital and political centre, although upland and mountainous terrain also lies within the Southern Uplands.

Wales accounts for less than a tenth (9 per cent) of the total area of the UK, covering 20,779 square kilometres. Much of Wales mountainous, although South Wales is less mountainous than North and mid-Wales. The most populated and industrialised areas are in South Wales: the coastal cities of Cardiff, Swansea and Newport and the South Wales Valleys to their north. The highest mountains in Wales are in Snowdonia and include Snowdon (Welsh: Yr Wyddfa) which, at 1,085 metres, is the highest peak in Wales. Wales has over 2,704 kilometres of coastline. Several islands lie off the Welsh mainland, the largest of which is Anglesey (Ynys Môn) in the northwest.

Northern Ireland, separated from Great Britain by the Irish Sea and North Channel, has an area of 14,160 square kilometres and is mostly hilly. It includes Lough Neagh which, at 388 square kilometres, is the largest lake in the British Isles by area. The highest peak in Northern Ireland is Slieve Donard in the Mourne Mountains at 852 metres.




Ogwen Valley

Ogwen Valley

© PeteB

The United Kingdom consists of four home nations located on the British Isles that have unique cultures and histories that are intertwined.

Great Britain

  • England - The largest component both in terms of size and by population. "Green and pleasant land" it may be, England nonetheless has some of the most exciting and inspiring cities in the world, which exist alongside rolling countryside, village greens and traditional pageantry
  • Scotland - The second largest home nation occupies the northern third of Great Britain. Bagpipes, kilts and haggis may spring to mind, but the contrast between the remote beauty of the Scottish islands, the cosmopolitan grittiness of the Lowlands and the desolate panoramas of the truly wild Highlands reveals a Scotland beyond the stereotype
  • Wales - The mountainous western area of Great Britain is home to an ancient Celtic language and culture, spectacular mountain, valley and coastal scenery, a wealth of industrial heritage and some of the most impressive defensive castles in Europe
  • Northern Ireland - In the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland, consisting of six of the nine counties of the Irish province of Ulster. Despite being largely off the tourist trail, Northern Ireland offers a colourful history, exceptional natural beauty, rapidly-developing cities and welcoming inhabitants

Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories

British Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories are non-sovereign territories under UK jurisdiction. However, they are not part of the UK or (with the exception of Gibraltar) the EU, and are mostly self-governing.

  • Channel Islands Guernsey (including Alderney, Herm and Sark) and Jersey - Small islands just off the coast of France with a unique Anglo-French culture, their own currency and tax haven status. The archipelago has a comparatively warm climate. There are many prehistoric sites, some castles and the remains of buildings and structures built during the German Occupation of the islands during the Second World War.
  • Isle of Man - A small island between Great Britain and Ireland in the Irish Sea, with its own Celtic language (Manx), currency and customs. Man is known for having the annual TT motorcycle races, the oldest parliament in the world, a breed of tail-less cats and three-legged flags.

The UK's overseas territories comprise Anguilla, Bermuda, British Antarcticic Territory, British Indian Ocean Territory, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, the Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, the Pitcairn Islands, Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, and the Turks and Caicos Islands.



Major Cities


Piccadilly Square, London

Piccadilly Square, London

© Mavr8k

  • London is the capital of UK and of England and is the largest city in the country.
  • Manchester is a large city in the Northwest of England. Its development began during the Industrial Revolution.
  • Liverpool is a famous port city in the Northwest.
  • Oxford is known for one of the oldest universities in the UK (and in the world) and
  • Cambridge is known for the other oldest university in the UK.
  • Bristol is a Southwestern port city.
  • Birmingham , in the Midlands, is England's second-largest city, first developing during the Industrial Revolution.
  • Leeds in West Yorkshire is another city which owes its development to the Industrial Revolution.
  • Sheffield too developed as a result of the Industrial Revolution and was known, in particular, for the use of 'Sheffield steel' in knives and cutlery.
  • Newcastle, in the Northeast, was once the world's largest centre of ship building and repairs.
  • York in North Yorkshire is an especially historic city with remains dating back to Roman times.


  • Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland
  • Aberdeen is along the coast to north of Edinburgh
  • Dundee
  • Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland
  • Inverness is often regarded as the capital of the Highlands, although the city itself is barely above sea level.


Northern Ireland

  • Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland
  • Londonderry, also called Derry. Both names have equal validity. Derry is not just the 'short form' of Londonderry.



Sights and Activities


  • London - Many people visiting the UK only stick to London and its immediate surroundings. Although the UK has far more to see and do than just London, and London most certainly does not represent 'typical' UK life, you could spend weeks, or even months, in the city without getting bored. It is huge, one of the biggest in Europe, and has much charm. London is certainly a must-see if you are only visiting Europe for several weeks. Its absolute centre is the area known as the City of London, a square mile which does have some interest for the traveller though the majority of places of interest are located outside the City in other districts such as Westminster. London can easily reached by public transport, by Eurostar train or by plane but it's best not to visit by car: driving in London is extremely frustrating, there is a daily congestion charge and parking is both difficult and expensive. Inner London has the majority of visitor-popular sights and sites such as Big Ben (which is actually the bell, not the tower..that's called the Elizabeth Tower!), Tower Bridge, the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament plus many excellent museums, the majority of which are free to enter.
  • Liverpool - The city of Liverpool owes its status as a major city to its development during the Industrial Revolution when it served as a major port and gateway to Africa and the Americas. This means that it owed a lot of its wealth and development to the slave trade and the cities new International Slavery Museum is a recognition of past injustices. In more recent history much of Liverpool's attraction to tourists comes from its title as 'the birthplace of The Beatles'. The Cavern club and John Lennon's childhood home of 'Mendips' are notable attractions. Liverpool is also home to two of the world's most famous football teams: Liverpool and Everton.
  • Manchester - Another city which owes its expansion to the Industrial Revolution. Canal and train links with Liverpool allowed it to become the world's largest marketplace for cotton products. Many cottonmills and old warehouses still exist in the region, now used for other purposes. The Manchester Ship Canal allowed direct access to the city for ships and is an example of the magnificent feats of construction of the 1800s. Manchester is now a modern urban centre of culture with a very popular music scene.


  • Titanic Belfast - The Titanic Belfast is a new museum that opened in early April 2012, exactly 100 years after the famous Titanic made hit an iceberg on her maiden voyage and sank, killing hundreds of people. The Titanic Belfast museum is a monument to Belfast’s maritime heritage on the site of the former Harland and Wolff shipyard in the city's Titanic Quarter. It also tells the stories of the Titanic's sister ships RMS Olympic and HMHS Britannic. The building contains more than 12,000 square metres of floor space, most of which is occupied by a series of galleries, plus private function rooms and community facilities. Guided tours are available. The museum is open all year round, except 24-26 December, from 9:00am to 7:00pm April to September, and 10:00am to 5:00pm October to March.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites

The UK has 32 UNESCO World Heritage cultural sites, including Blenheim Palace, Durham Cathedral, the city of Bath, the Lake District, the Blaenavon Industrial Landscape, the old and new towns of Edinburgh and, of course, Stonehenge.

Natural UNESCO Sites

Northern Ireland

Giants Causeway

Giants Causeway

© Michy_Kiwi

The Giant's Causeway and Causeway coast is the only site in Northern Ireland placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List and is one of the main highlights of the country. The scenery around the Giant's Causeway and on the North Antrim coast is some of the most majestic that you are likely to find anywhere in the world. There are not just awe-inspiring cliffs sweeping down to coves and bays but also ruins such as that of Dunluce Castle (another site to be visited in its own right). Tiny harbour and fishing villages show that the area was once reliant on the coast as a form of income and food - Port Ballintray and Ballintoy being two fine examples.

St Kilda, one of the Outer Hebrides, is the most isolated part of the United Kingdom, now having no permanent population. It had a population until 1930. Until the 20th century life was very hard but the population was able to sustain itself at a near subsistence level. Then it became dependent on tourism and imports. During the First World War supplies were maintained by the Royal Navy and when this stopped the feeling of isolation was heightened. After some major epidemics they applied to be repatriated to the mainland. The island now belongs to the National Trust for Scotland and is a major wildlife reserve. It can be reached by helicopter from Benbecula in 20 minutes or by boat from Harris in a few hours - a difficult crossing over the open Atlantic.

National Parks






Events and Festivals

Music Festivals



© janolaf

The Glastonbury Festival is the largest greenfield music and performing arts festival in the United Kingdom. It started in 1971 with 1,500 attendees, but has grown into a massive festival with over 130,000 people attending. Glastonbury takes place every other year on Worthy Farm, Pilton, Somerset, over three days on the last weekend of June.

If there's one music festival to challenge Glastonbury, it would be the Reading Festival. In some ways similar to Glastonbury, Reading has stayed true to its indie rock roots and attracts about 75,000 guests annually.

Edinburgh Fringe

The Edinburgh Fringe takes place in August every year, and is the largest arts festival in the world. There are a large number of performances ranging through classic works, alternative arts, comedy and more mainstream fare. The festival takes place in a number of venues (over 250 in 2006) throughout Edinburgh, including a number of street performers on the "Royal Mile" in Edinburgh's old town.

Notting Hill Carnival

Notting Hill Carnival happens every August Bank Holiday (last Monday of August) in the Notting Hill district of London. The main day, Monday, is preceded by build-up days taking place in Alexandra Palace and Marble Arch. Sunday is kids' day, whilst the actual festival day has a spectacular parade. There are stalls selling foods from all over the world, but primarily remaining true to its Caribbean roots. There are live bands and DJs with many sound systems set up in surrounding streets so you can continue to party long after the midday parade.

Much of West London grinds to a halt as the party reaches all the way down to Westbourne Park and Royal Oak, with most Tube stations in the area closed, and buses suspended or extremely crowded. Be prepared to walk for miles. Local residents often sell sodas, water and beer on the streets, and some even let their toilets be used- all for a fee, of course.


The most famous of all the tennis tournaments is the two-week-long tournament played on the grass courts of Wimbledon, in June and July. The venue for the matches is the All England Lawn Tennis Club. Getting Wimbledon tickets isn't easy as the tournament is the most popular in the calendar. More information can be found on the Wimbledon website. Besides the courts there is a museum, which can be visited throughout the year, daily: 10:00am - 5:00pm. Visitors to the museum can also book a tour of the courts on most days of the year.


The UK's Hallowe'en has, in recent decades, become very similar to the US 'celebration'. Nowadays Halloween is an excuse to dress up as anything and everything and act out childhood fantasies. Many pubs, clubs and bars throw costume parties and, in some places, you may see drunken 'zombies' crawling through the streets until the early hours of the night.

Guy Fawkes Night

In England, November 5th celebrates the failed 1605 attempt of Guy Fawkes (amongst others) to blow up the Houses of Parliament. Each year, impressive bonfires are constructed in public arenas and, traditionally, effigies of Fawkes are placed on top and burned. Huge firework displays can be seen throughout the country in city centres and park areas and, although less fequently nowadays, in backyards.

New Year’s Eve

One of the calendar’s most fun-loving evenings sees English and Welsh people spilling out of pubs, clubs, and house parties as they celebrate the past 12 months and welcome in a new year. London, in particular, is a great place to spend the evening, counting down the remaining seconds of the year outside the capital's tower which houses the famous 'Big Ben'.

May Day

For centuries, May Day has been celebrated in England on the first of the month. While not quite as popular as they once were, festivities today are locally-orientated and often still centre around the symbolic Maypole. Activities may include maypole dancing, Morris dancing and the crowning of a May Queen.




Predicting the weather of the United Kingdom with any true accuracy is an impossibility. Generally speaking, the UK has cool, wet winters and warm, variable summers with temperatures usually lower in the north and rainfall usually lower in the east. Temperatures in summer are mostly between 15 °C and 20 °C, although the north of Scotland is slightly cooler and the London area is slightly warmer. Winters are generally above zero during the day and around or slightly below zero at night.

The southern coast of Devon and Cornwall (and particularly the Isles of Scilly) generally have warmer, drier summers than the rest of the country. The West coast of Scotland can also experience very pleasant weather during summer months due to the influence of the North Atlantic Drift.

For more information regarding the weather in the UK, you can also check the articles about England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey.

The BBC Climate Guide page for the UK has further detailed information.



Getting There

By Plane

There are many international airports in the United Kingdom, with the busiest ones being those in its capital London. Here is a list of some of the main airports in the UK.




Northern Ireland

British Airways is the national carrier of the United Kingdom and flies to many cities around the world. Apart from the national carrier, virtually all major airlines in the world have the UK as one of their destinations. For those on a budget, there are also many low-cost carriers in Europe with destinations in the UK. Easyjet, one of the biggest low-cost carriers in the UK, flies into different parts of the country from around Europe, as does Ryanair. Many package-holiday airlines serve destinations in warmer places like southern Europe, the Caribbean and the Middle East.

By Train

From Continental Europe:
Trains from continental Europe enter England via the the Channel Tunnel, a 50.5-kilometre-long undersea rail tunnel.

The two services are the Eurostar, a high-speed passenger-only train, and the Eurotunnel Shuttle, for vehicle + passenger transport (see By Car section, below). Eurostar runs to London primarily from Paris and Brussels. . You can find all the details on the official site http://www.eurostar.com/UK/.

The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express is a luxury train service with the original and main journey being London-Venice. There are also several other journeys to choose from, with stops in Budapest, Istanbul, Krakow, Paris, Prague, Rome and Vienna. Carriages dated back to the 1920s and 1930s are used to give a vintage feel for this luxury train service.

From Ireland:
The cross-border intercity train service between Belfast and Dublin is called the Enterprise. The journey takes just over two hours and is jointly operated by the Irish Rail and Translink.

Ferries run to the UK from both Northern Ireland (Belfast to Stranraer in Scotland) and from the Republic (Dublin to Holyhead in Wales or to Liverpool.

By Car

From Continental Europe:
The Eurotunnel service is the fastest way to cross the English Channel in the comfort of your vehicle. The shuttle train transports both you and your vehicle from Calais, France to Folkestone, England via the Channel Tunnel in about 35 minutes. From Folkestone, the M20 motorway connects to London.

From Ireland:
The drive from Ireland to Northern Ireland usually starts from Dublin city centre at Ireland's M1 motorway toward Belfast. There is neither border control nor signpost in between the journey to tell you that you have crossed the border. However, road signs in Northern Ireland are only in English whereas Ireland's signs are bilingual (English and Irish).

Imperial units v Metric system

In the UK, road signs displaying distances and speed limits are given in miles whereas height and weight restrictions and gradients are displayed in metric measures.

By Bus

From Ireland:
Translink operates an hourly service direct from Dublin Airport (IATA: DUB, ICAO: EIDW) and Dublin city centre to Belfast city centre. Translink also operates buses to other destinations within Northern Ireland e.g. Belfast to Derry.

National Express provides long-distance bus services within the Great Britain (England, Scotland, Wales). UK Megabus also operates long-distance bus routes.

By Boat

The United Kingdom is well connected to quite a few countries in the western and northern parts of Europe.

From Ireland

From Sweden:

From the Netherlands

From Belgium

  • Superfast Ferries has overnight ferries service 3 times a week from Rosyth (Scotland) to Zeebrugge (arrive 11:30 next day).
  • P&O Ferries offers daily overnight ships between Hull (England) and Zeebrugge as well.

From Germany


  • Colorline between Newcastle and both Bergen and Stavanger.
  • Fjordline between Newcastle and both Bergen and Stavanger.
  • DFDS Seaways between Newcastle and Kristansand.

From Denmark


From France

From Jersey and Guernsey

  • Condor Ferries from Guernsey and Jersey. Boats travel to Weymouth and Poole from Jersey and to these places and Portsmouth from Guernsey.



Getting Around

By Plane

British Airways has flights between London, Edinburgh, Glasgow and some other cities in England. Other airlines such as Easyjet and Ryanair offer some connections between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as well as the non-UK islands Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney and the Isle of Man.

By Train

National Rail has all the information you need about train timetables and fares. There are daily connections between all major cities, including London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool (England), Cardiff (Wales), Glasgow and Edinburgh (Scotland) as well as services to hundreds of other smaller locations. See the Northern Ireland, Wales, England and Scotland articles for travelling within those countries.

By Car

The United Kingdom has a good system of motorways which connect all major cities in England, Wales and Scotland and within Northern Ireland. International and local firms have offices to rent cars at many airports and in city and town centres. Major companies include Hertz, Avis, Sixt, Budget, Europcar, Thrifty and Enterprise.

The UK norm is manual gearshift. Automatic vehicles are muc, much less common. Consequently, some rental companies do not have any automatics to offer so, if it is essential that you rent an automatic vehicle, make sure you book it well in advance of your trip.

Driving is on the left throughout the UK and the Republic of Ireland. Non-EU residents should check if they need an International Driving Permit as well as their own licence. Car insurance is an absolute legal requirement; hire companies include the legal minimum in their rates.

By Bus

National Express is the main operator with buses connecting the bigger cities as well as some regional towns. Megabus also runs some long-distance bus routes within England, Scotland and Wales. Booking online in advance usually gets cheaper fares.

By Boat

There are several ferry companies offering services in the United Kingdom to the outlying islands and also between Scotland and Northern Ireland. Companies include Stenaline, P&O Ferries and Irish Ferries.

Caledonian MacBrayne is one of the largest ferry operators in Scotland with services on the west coast and Clyde estuary. They serve many islands, including the Inner and Outer Hebrides,. In Northern Ireland, they also have ferries between Ballycastle and the island of Rathlin.

Northlink Ferries operates boats between the Orkney Islands and the Shetland Islands. Ferries leave from Aberdeen for Lerwick, or from Scrabster to Stromness.

Others include Wightlink Ferries to the Isle of Wight and Scilly Line boats to the Isles of Scilly.



Entry Requirements

Passport holders of members countries of the European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA), or Switzerland have the right of free movement and residence in the UK.[2]
European Economic Area: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Irish Republic, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom. Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway are not members of the European Union (EU) but citizens of these countries have the same rights to enter, live in and work in the United Kingdom as EU citizens.

For other citizenships a UK visitor visa may or may not be required. Check requirements on the official UK government website: https://www.gov.uk/check-uk-visa




See also: Money Matters

The currency of United Kingdom is the pound sterling with the international currency code GBP (Great Britain Pound). The currency sign for pound is £ (the symbol is derived from the letter L). The commonly-used slang term is quid (both singular and plural): you might hear people say "two quid" instead of 'two pounds'. One pound is divided into 100 pence (singular: penny).

Although the Bank of England (BoE), the central bank of the UK, issues the vast majority of banknotes, sterling banknotes are also issued by seven other private banks. This can create confusion amongst travellers when they travel from one country to another. Banknotes can be issued by:

  • England and Wales: Bank of England (does not issue £100 notes)
  • Scotland: Bank of Scotland, The Royal Bank of Scotland, Clydesdale Bank
  • Northern Ireland: Bank of Ireland, First Trust Bank, Northern Bank, Ulster Bank
  • Banknotes: £5, £10, £20, £50, £100
  • Coins: 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p, £1, £2

Banknotes issued by the Bank of England are accepted everywhere in the UK and are legal tender in England. However, this is not true for banknotes issued by the seven other banks. Some merchants may refuse to accept banknotes issued by banks other than the Bank of England and banks in that country. For example, Bank of Scotland banknotes might not be accepted by merchants in England and Northern Ireland. Ulster Bank banknotes might be rejected in Scotland. Do not worry if this happens. You could try to use them again at bigger merchants or simply exchange them (pound for pound) at a local bank. When you make a purchase in cash and there is change, you can ask the merchant to give you the change in BoE notes and they will usually do so if they have the notes available.

Note that banknotes and coins issued by the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey are *not* legal tender in the UK even though GBP notes and coins are legal tender and happily accepted on all three islands. If you visit any of those islands (which are not part of the UK) do make sure you get rid of your local coins and exchange local notes for GBP before you leave.

Fifty pounds (£50) banknotes are best avoided as they are rarely accepted by merchants due to their rarity and the high risk of counterfeit notes. If you are given £50 banknotes when you exchange money, return them and ask for smaller denominations.

Automated Teller Machines (ATMs), also known as cash machines, cashpoints, or "holes in the wall," are widely available in urban and suburban areas. Most ATMs dispense only £10 and £20 notes. All ATMs are connected to the Cirrus and PLUS networks. Some non-bank ATMs may charge a withdrawal fee but you will be informed of this before completing the transaction so you can cancel if you wish.

Credit cards are widely accepted throughout the UK, with Visa and Mastercard by far the most common. American Express is usually only accepted by the largest stores (except in central London, where it is more commonly accepted) so if you only have an Amex card you'll need to check it's accepted before making a purchase.




All citizens of the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland have permanent working rights in the UK.

The British government also operates a Youth Mobility Scheme for nationals of selected countries aged 18 to 30 years old. Successful applicants are allowed to live and work in the United Kingdom for a maximum time of 24 months.

Other than the above, obtaining a visa to work in the UK can be a complex matter. Start by using the official visa check to see what your citizenship requires.




The United Kingdom is home to many highly-ranked universities as well as many 'language schools' with varying degrees of validity and trustworthiness. The ancient universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and the newer University of London, are regularly highly-placed in rankings of the world's best universities.




English is of course the main language in the UK. English originated in the UK and has evolved over almost two millennia, mixing Germanic roots with Old Norse, Old French and Latin vocabulary and also including a huge number of words adopted from a vast number of other languages, from Inuktitut (e.g. kayak) to Malay ('amok'). There are numerous local variations in both accent and vocabulary and sometimes obvious differences within the space of just a few miles. There is, however, a standard form of British English which is used in newspapers and, often, on the main television channels.

English was not the first language to be spoken in the British Isles. Pre-Roman Britons spoke a Celtic language and it is thought that Welsh, Scots Gaelic, Irish Gaelic, Manx and Cornish are probably descendants of those first languages. Modern English retains only a few words which may possibly have come from pre-Roman Celtic language e.g. crag, tor and nook. Manx and Cornish are no longer living languages.

  • Welsh - Wales is officially bilingual. Welsh schools teach either through the medium of Welsh or through the medium of English. Welsh is taught in all English-medium schools and a Welsh-language qualification is required for many jobs. Welsh is most often the first language in North and mid-Wales. though there are Welsh first-language speakers throughout the country.
  • Scots Gaelic - Not spoken in lowland Scotland, Orkney or Shetland within recent history but still widely spoken in the Western Isles.
  • Irish Gaelic - A compulsory subject in schools in the Republic of Ireland, and an official language of the European Union. It is an official minority language in Northern Ireland and is taught in many schools.




Although the UK is a hugely multicultural country, with ethnic restaurants and take-aways to be found throughout the islands and home-cooking regularly embracing cuisines and ingredients from all over the world, many UK-origin dishes remain popular:

  • The 'Sunday roast' is found throughout the the UK. It is no longer reserved just for Sundays and can be found on pub and restaurant menus throughout the week. A traditional 'Sunday roast' consists of a roasted joint of meat (beef, pork or lamb), plus roast potatoes, vegetables and gravy.
  • Yorkshire puddings are made from a simple batter which rises and becomes golden when cooked in the oven. Originally they were served with roast beef but they are now so popular they not only turn up with other roast meats but also as a meal in themselves: large versions filled with sausage and onion gravy, a casserole or a chilli or whatever. In the past it was common for people to eat Yorkshire pudding with gravy before the main course, to 'fill them up' so they ate less meat. It can also be served with sugar and/or jam as a delicious dessert.
  • Cawl is a traditional Welsh stew of meat (usually lamb) and vegetables.
  • Pork pies are traditionally English, made from seasoned finely-chopped cooked pork (either cured or uncured) in a baked hot-water pastrycrust. They are widely available, made by a some independent butchers as well as commercially, and range in size from small 'snack' versions to large rectangular pies which are sold in slices. Pork pies are always served cold and are excellent for picnics or snack lunches. 'Gala' pies are large, rectangular pork pies which have a hard-boiled egg in their centre, always sold pre-sliced.
  • Lancashire Hotpot is an oven-cooked stew of lamb chunks, onions and sliced potatoes.
  • Scouse or Lobscouse is a stew made with beef or lamb which, in the past, was very popular with sailors. This is why people from Liverpool, a major port for centuries, are called 'Scousers'.
  • Sausage and mash There are several types of UK sausage, generally made from pork or beef. Many independent butchers produce their own sausages. All UK sausages are purchased raw and must be cooked before eating hot or cold. 'Sausage and mash' is fried or grilled sausages (usually pork) served with a mound of creamy mashed potato and an onion gravy, often accompanied by cooked peas.
  • Toad-in-the-hole A delicious combination of sausages baked into a Yorkshire pudding. Slices are served hot with mashed potato, vegetables and gravy.
  • Sausage roll A cylinder of cooked sausagement in a roll of savoury puff pastry. Can be eaten hot or cold and makes an excellent snack or picnic food.
  • Cornish pasty Originally made for Cornish tin-miners, the traditional pasty is a mixture of seasoned,finely-chopped beef, onion , potato and swede (rutabaga) baked in a half-moon-shaped shortcrust pastry case with one thick edge so it can easily be held in the hand. It can be eaten hot or cold, usually by itself as lunch or a snack. Nowadays commercially-made pasties can be purchased in almost any food shop but the best are to be found either at independent bakers or in the chain pasty shops found in most larger towns and cities. There are a huge variety of fillings available, from the traditional to e.g. 'feta & garden vegetables'.
  • Fish and chips is a favourite dish across the U.K. It is often, though not always, served with mushy peas. Fish and chip shops can be found in every city, town and larger village.
  • Haggis. A famous Scottish dish, haggis is made from minced animal parts (usually lamb), onions, oatmeal and seasonings. Originally, haggis was prepared in a sheep's stomach although commercially-sold haggis is no longer prepared in this way. Traditionally, haggis is served with 'tatties and neeps' (mashed potato and mashed swede [rutabaga]), with gravy. Vegetarian haggis is now available.

U.K regions have their own variations of the 'full English' (or 'Welsh' or 'Scottish') breakfast, also called a fry up. All will include the basic fried or grilled bacon, sausages and fried (or poached or scrambled) eggs plus other options such as baked beans, fried bread, fried potatoes, laverbread (a seaweed sometimes served in Wales), fried or grilled mushrooms and/or grilled tomatoes, black and/or white pudding (types of sausage cooked in slices), toast and sometimes even chips (fries).

In addition, the UK has a wide range of traditional desserts, biscuits (cookies) and cakes , many of were originally regional recipes. Examples include:

  • Desserts (puddings) - Spotted Dick, treacle pudding and treacle tart, Sticky Toffee Pudding, Sussex Pond Pudding, trifle, Eton Mess, Bakewell tart, bread-and-butter pudding, flummery, syllabub, cranachan, Banoffee pie, crumble etc.
  • Biscuits (cookies) - Digestives (with or without chocolate), Rich Tea, malted milk, Nice, bourbon, custard creams, fig rolls, Hobnobs, garibaldi, pink wafers, shortbread, ginger nuts, chocolate fingers, Jaffa cakes, Abernethy biscuits etc.
  • Cakes - Christmas cake, Simnel cake, Battenburg cake, Victoria sponge, lardy cake, Eccles cake, bread pudding, mince pies, Manchester tarts, custard tarts, Maids of Honour tart, Chelsea bun, Yorkshire parkin, Bath bun, Dundee cake, rock cake, scones, Scots pancakes, Yorkshire Fat Rascals, seed cake etc.




You will find a wide ranch of accommodations within the United Kingdom, from reasonably-priced hostels and B&B's to 5 star hotels. For a list of accommocations, please check the city or town pages in this guide or go to the accommodation section.





The drinks for which the UK is best-known are not necessarily the drinks drunk by the majority. In common with other northern European countries, alcohol consumption is relatively high. Much of this consumption takes place on Friday and Saturday nights, when the atmosphere of many city and town centres is markedly affected. The most commonly drunk beer is continental lager.

The UK is the home of ale. The huge variety of ales around the country is one of its cultural glories. Unlike the lager sold in pubs, the yeast in ale is usually alive: ithe drink matures in barrels in the pub cellar. Ale is best drunk at a warmer temperature than lager (although not, despite the cliché, 'warm'). An ale is likely to be 'real' (that is, still alive) if the barperson has to pull the pump by hand. If he or she just flips a tap, it isn't real ale and may be very ordinary indeed. 'Bitter' is the most commonly found real ale but other forms of ale are occasionally seen: mild in the north of England, and porter (from which stout was derived) in London.

A very small amount of white wine, both still and sparkling, is made in southern [[England. At this latitude, the vine is at its northern extreme. Styles are more German than French.

Port and madeira were both invented for the British market, and the Bordeaux wine trade has had strong British links since the days of Eleanor of Aquitaine.

As for spirits, the UK is probably best known for gin and for Scottish malt whisky. Gin - which the British originally took from the Dutch 'jenever'- probably needs no introduction. It has become extremely popular over the past few years and there is now a wide variety of flavours and types available.

Whisky (derived from the Gaelic for 'water of life', and hence etymologically identical to aqua vitae [brandy]) shares with beer its origin in the fermentation of barley. It also shares with beer a staggering and wonderful variety, ranging from the light and aromatic whisky of the lowlands to the pungent malts of Islay. It comes in two main types: single malt and blended. A single malt is distilled in a particular batch at a single distillery. There are no bad single malts on the market; presumably the ordinary ones just died out. Blended whisky can be very good - Johnny Walker Black Label is superb, but it can be utter rubbish, fit only for a heavily diluted whisky and ginger. The difference between a good and bad whisky is like that between different species, so cheap whisky is best avoided. Whiskey, with an 'e', is made elsewhere, notably in Ireland, the USA and Japan.

But Scotland is whisky's home: nowhere else matches the number and quality of its whiskies.




See also: Travel Health

No vaccinations are legally required to visit the United Kingdom.

The healthcare system is the UK very good, with some of the best doctors and hospitals in the world.. The National Health Service is the public health service paid for through taxes. There is also a system of private hospitals but, for those, private health insurance is essential unless a patient has the means to pay the full price.

Rabies is not endemic in the UK and everyone would like it to stay that way. All imported animals which are susceptible to rabies are required by law to spend six months in quarantine unless they qualify for the Pet Travel Scheme (a pet passport).




Alcohol Free Area

Alcohol Free Area

© Hien

See also: Travel Safety

In case of emergency, dial 999 or 112 for Police, Ambulance, Fire Brigade, Mountain/Cave Rescue and Coastguard. There is no charge. Mobile (cell) phones will connect to these numbers even when the phone is out of credit.

Although all areas of the UK are pretty safe, travellers should still take the normal common sense precautions they would take anywhere in the world., especially against pick-pockets in crowded situations.

In some towns and cities, drinking alcohol in public places is an offence. This will be clearly signed and there are fines for offenders.



Keep Connected


With the growth in mobile (cell) phones there are now far fewer 'internet cafes' than there once were, although a (very) few still remain in the largest cities. The vast majority of UK hotels, b&bs and hostels now provide wifi, usually (though not always) free. An increasing number of city and town centres also offer free wifi. UK public libraries generally provide internet access, usually at no or little charge, though there is always a time limit and you'll almost certainly have to book a time-slot.


See also: International Telephone Calls

The country calling code to the United Kingdom is: 44. To make an international call from the United Kingdom, the code is: 00

In case of emergency, call 999 or 112 from any phone. These calls are free and can be made even if a phone has no credit. Calls are answered by an emergency services operator who will ask you for your location, and the service(s) you need (police, fire, ambulance, coastguard or mountain & cave rescue).

Payphones are uncommon nowdays, although they can still sometimes be found in city centres and at railway stations. You usually pay with cash but, occasionally, credit or debit cards are accepted.

Mobile (cell) phones are widely used. The main networks are EE, Vodafone and O2. 4G data services are widespread, 5G is on its way. Coverage is usually very good in the UK, though can be poor or non-existent in very rural areas.


The Royal Mail provides postal services in the United Kingdom. You can access Royal Mail services from any Post Office. The Post Office offers a wide range of services, ranging from sending letters and packages to obtaining foreign currency. There is at least one post office in any town or city and there are often post offices in larger villages as well. It's increasingly common for the post office to be incorporated into a grocery or other store. All post offices are marked outside with signs that say 'Post Office' in white or yellow lettering on a red background.

Post boxes can be found at all post offices and there are also thousands of large, red, pillar-shaped postboxes on the streets. There are also many red postboxes set into the sides of public buildings.

For sending large and/or heavy packages overseas check prices and services with international companies like TNT, UPS and DHL.



  1. 1 Mid-2010 estimate, Office for National Statistics. Retrieved on 2011–08–01.
  2. 2 European Citizens. UK Border Agency. Retrieved on 2008–08–17

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