At the height of its colonisation efforts, it was said that the sun never set on the British Empire because the reach thereof was so great. This expansive need to build, acquire and develop can also be seen back home in Great Britain, where these stalwart trailblazers dug in their heels to develop a country that would become one of the most popular tourist destinations throughout Europe.
From ancient monuments, Roman ruins and medieval cathedrals, to delicious international cuisine, beautiful scenery and bustling cities bursting with charm, Great Britain is crammed to the rafters with exceptional things, people and places to see, meet and explore. Here’s a little taster of what awaits your discovery beyond the pond.
London is a global city, a cosmopolitan melting pot playing a huge part in helping to shape modern Western culture. And although it’s always got its finger on the pulse of all that’s cool and current, like the rest of Great Britain it’s also got a deeply fascinating history. Striking modern architecture blends with buildings that – in some cases – date back to medieval times. Go to the theatre, see a concert, go on a pub crawl, go shopping or sightseeing, eat incredible food in one of the city’s many amazing restaurants or food markets…. or simply relax in one of the city’s many parks. As Samuel Johnson famously said, “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life…”
One of the world’s most famous university towns, Cambridge is a relatively short drive from London, and the first stop on your tour of Great Britain. Punt along the river and take in the views of this beautiful city, check out the museums and art galleries and admire the beautiful architecture of Cambridge – especially Cambridge University, which was founded in 1209. With over 800 years of history in the University alone, Cambridge is a fascinating place to explore!
York Minster, York
Another city with a rich history behind it, the cobbled streets and beautiful buildings of York will leave you charmed. A unique blend of traditional and modern culture makes it a great place to visit, and for those with a sweet tooth, the city’s confectionary traditions will definitely not disappoint. The Romans, Saxons and Vikings all left their mark on the city, and it’s also home to the largest Gothic Cathedral north of the Alps: York Minster.
Home of The Beatles and Liverpool FC, this is a city with more listed buildings, theatres, museums and galleries than any UK city outside London. See the Tate gallery, then pop next door to The Beatles museum. Vibrant and laid back, Liverpool has an extensive history, modern tourist attractions and a youthful ambiance.
The birthplace of Shakespeare, Stratford-upon-Avon
The birthplace of Shakespeare, going to Stratford-upon-Avon is something of a pilgrimage for literature fans. See The Bard’s birthplace for an insight into what life was like back then, and visit Holy Trinity to see his grave. You could also see his works performed at The Courtyard Theatre. The perfect mix of traditional and modern culture, Stratford-upon-Avon is filled with character everywhere you look.
If you’re looking for history and charm, Bath has it in spades. Explore superbly preserved Roman remains, check out the Georgian architecture, or visit museums, galleries, gardens and other tourist attractions. The Roman Baths remain to this day, giving extraordinary insight into what life might have been like all those years ago. Unfortunately, you can no longer bathe here, but you can at the Thermae Bath Spa, which uses the same mineral-rich waters the ancient Celts and Romans bathed in.
Known as the ‘City of Dreaming Spires’ due to the stunning architecture of its many collegiate buildings, the hustle and bustle in the central southern English city of Oxford revolves around its eponymous university. The region is steeped in history and the natural beauty of the surrounding Cotswold hills provides a magical backdrop against which to explore famous landmarks, discover ancient civilisations and traverse the city on foot on various official walking tours (highly recommended!).
Probably one of the most mysterious ancient landmarks on the planet, Stonehenge has stood for some 5000 years, confounding archaeologists and historians for centuries. Prepare to be amazed – the sheer size of the stones will surprise you, no matter how many times you’ve seen them in pictures.
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Beautiful architecture and dramatic surrounds make Scotland’s capital a very special place to visit. Centuries of history have left their mark on Edinburgh, a city loved by royalty and party animals. Home to more Michelin-star restaurants than any other region of the UK outside London, Edinburgh is a great place to try some tremendous tucker – have you tried haggis yet? Stroll the Royal Mile, visit Edinburgh Castle, see Holyroodhouse, try some whisky and much more! If you have a few more hours to kill and are feeling energetic, take a stroll up Arthur’s Seat, a nearby hill with great views of the city.
Wild and beautiful, the Scottish Highlands are a definite highlight of any tour to Great Britain. Visit the famous Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle, and taste whisky in Fort William. Scotland’s tumultuous history has left it with a wealth of famous and important sites – among them the National Wallace Monument and Glencoe. There’s also Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest peak.
The port city of Glasgow on the River Clyde in Scotland’s western Lowlands is renowned for its exceptionally well-preserved Victorian and art nouveau architecture – the result of the city’s legacy as a shipbuilding and trade epicentre throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. These days visitors can look forward to a vibrant cultural scene that is bolstered by the Scottish Opera, National Theatre of Scotland, Scottish Ballet, as well as a wide variety of museums and music venues.
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The capital of Wales, Cardiff is Europe’s youngest capital and one of the fastest-growing cities in Britain. Cardiff was made a city in 1905, and proclaimed the capital of Wales in 1955. Cardiff has many landmark buildings such as the Millennium Stadium, the Welsh National Museum and the Senedd, the home of the National Assembly for Wales. Cardiff is also famous for Cardiff Castle (Castell Caerdydd in Welsh) a medieval castle in the city centre whose original motte and bailey castle was built in the late 11th Century by Norman invaders on top of a 3rd Century Roman fort.
Visit all these incredible spots on your tour of Great Britain, and experience all the history, charm, cuisine and modern attractions that this incredible region has to offer.