Lonely Planet Great Britain by Lonely Planet, Oliver Berry, and Fionn Davenport - Read Online
Lonely Planet Great Britain
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Summary

Lonely Planet: The world's leading travel guide publisher

Lonely Planet Great Britain is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Ponder the mysteries of Stonehenge, explore the many sides of Edinburgh, or try new versions of British pub favourites at a gastropub; all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of Great Britain and begin your journey now!

Inside Lonely Planet's Great Britain Travel Guide:

Full-colour maps and images throughout Highlights and itineraries help you tailor your trip to your personal needs and interests Insider tips to save time and money and get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots Essential info at your fingertips - hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, prices Honest reviews for all budgets - eating, sleeping, sight-seeing, going out, shopping, hidden gems that most guidebooks miss Cultural insights give you a richer, more rewarding travel experience - history, architecture, landscape, wildlife, literature, cinema, television, music, painting, sculpture, theatre, sports, cuisine, politics. Free, convenient pull-out London map (included in print version), plus over 150 colour maps Covers London, Canterbury, Cambridge, Oxford, Birmingham, Yorkshire, Newcastle, The Lake District, Cardiff, Snowdonia, Glasgow, Argyll, Inverness, Stirling and more

eBook Features: (Best viewed on tablet devices and smartphones)

Downloadable PDF and offline maps prevent roaming and data charges Effortlessly navigate and jump between maps and reviews Add notes to personalise your guidebook experience Seamlessly flip between pages Bookmarks and speedy search capabilities get you to key pages in a flash Embedded links to recommendations' websites Zoom-in maps and images Inbuilt dictionary for quick referencing

The Perfect Choice: Lonely Planet Great Britain, our most comprehensive guide to Great Britain, is perfect for both exploring top sights and taking roads less travelled

Looking for just the highlights of Great Britain? Check out Lonely Planet's Discover Great Britain, a photo-rich guide to the country's most popular attractions. Looking for a guide focused on London? Check out Lonely Planet's London guide for a comprehensive look at all the city has to offer; Discover London, a photo-rich guide to the city's most popular attractions; or Pocket London, a handy-sized guide focused on the can't-miss sights for a quick trip.

About Lonely Planet: Since 1973, Lonely Planet has become the world's leading travel media company with guidebooks to every destination, an award-winning website, mobile and digital travel products, and a dedicated traveller community. Lonely Planet covers must-see spots but also enables curious travellers to get off beaten paths to understand more of the culture of the places in which they find themselves. The world awaits!

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ISBN: 9781787010406
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Great Britain

Contents

Plan Your Trip

Welcome to Great Britain

Great Britain's Top 26

Need to Know

First Time Great Britain

What's New

If You Like

Month by Month

Itineraries

The Great Outdoors

Eat & Drink Like a Local

Travel with Children

Regions at a Glance

On The Road

England

London

Sights

Tours

Activities

Festivals & Events

Sleeping

Eating

Drinking & Nightlife

Entertainment

Shopping

Canterbury & the Southeast

Canterbury & the Southeast Highlights

Kent

Canterbury

Whitstable

Margate

Broadstairs

Ramsgate

Sandwich

Dover

The White Cliffs of Dover

Driving Tour

East Sussex

Rye

Hastings

Eastbourne

South Downs National Park

Lewes

Brighton & Hove

West Sussex

Arundel

Chichester

Surrey

Farnham

Oxford & the Cotswolds

Oxford & the Cotswolds Highlights

Oxford

Around Oxford

Woodstock

Vale of the White Horse

The Cotswolds

Cirencester

Bibury

Driving Tour

Burford

Minster Lovell

Northleach

The Slaughters

Stow-on-the-Wold

Chipping Norton

Moreton-in-Marsh

Chipping Campden

Broadway

Winchcombe

Painswick

Uley

Western Gloucestershire

Cheltenham

Forest of Dean

Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire & Hertfordshire

Woburn

Waddesdon

St Albans

The Thames Valley

Windsor & Eton

Bray

Henley-on-Thames

Bath & Southwest England

Bath & the Southwest Highlights

Hampshire

Winchester

Portsmouth

New Forest

Isle of Wight

Cowes & Around

Ryde & Around

Ventnor & Around

Steephill Cove

West Wight

Dorset

Bournemouth

Poole

Corfe Castle

Lulworth Cove & Around

Dorchester & Around

Cerne Abbas & the Cerne Giant

Weymouth

Isle of Portland

Chesil Beach

Lyme Regis

Sherborne

Shaftesbury

Wiltshire

Salisbury

Stonehenge

Stourhead

Longleat

Lacock

Avebury & Around

Exmoor National Park

Dulverton

Exford

Dunster

Porlock & Around

Lynton & Lynmouth

Devon

Exeter

Torquay & Around

Brixham

Dartmouth & Around

Totnes & Around

Plymouth & Around

Dartmoor National Park

Driving Tour

Croyde & Braunton

Ilfracombe & Around

Clovelly

Bristol

Bath

Walking Tour

Somerset

Wells & Around

Glastonbury

Cornwall

Bude

Boscastle

Tintagel

Port Isaac

Padstow & Rock

Newquay

Perranporth to Porthtowan

St Ives

Zennor & St Just

Sennen & Land's End

Mousehole

Penzance

The Lizard

Falmouth & Around

Truro

Fowey

Looe

Bodmin Moor

Isles of Scilly

St Mary's

Tresco

Bryher

St Martin's

St Agnes

Cambridge & East Anglia

Cambridge & East Anglia Highlights

Cambridgeshire

Cambridge

City Walk

Grantchester

Ely

Essex

Colchester

Dedham Vale

Saffron Walden

Southend-on-Sea & Around

Suffolk

Long Melford

Lavenham

Bury St Edmunds

Orford

Aldeburgh

Southwold

Norfolk

Norwich

Cromer

Cley-next-the-Sea

Blakeney

Wells-next-the-Sea

Holkham

Burnham Deepdale

King's Lynn & Around

Birmingham, the Midlands & the Marches

Birmingham, the Midlands & the Marches Highlights

Birmingham

Warwickshire

Coventry

Warwick

Kenilworth

Stratford-upon-Avon

Rugby

Staffordshire

Lichfield

Worcestershire

Worcester

Great Malvern

Herefordshire

Hereford

Ross-on-Wye

Ledbury

Shropshire

Shrewsbury

Ironbridge Gorge

Much Wenlock & Around

Bridgnorth & Around

Church Stretton & Around

Bishop's Castle

Ludlow

Nottinghamshire

Nottingham & Around

Southwell

Newark-on-Trent

Lincolnshire

Lincoln

Stamford

Boston

Northamptonshire

Stoke Bruerne

Leicestershire

Leicester

Rutland

Rutland Water

Derbyshire

Derby

Ashbourne

Matlock Bath

Chesterfield & Around

Peak District

Buxton

Driving Tour

Castleton & Around

Derwent Reservoirs

Edale

Eyam

Bakewell & Around

Yorkshire

Yorkshire Highlights

North Yorkshire

York

Castle Howard

Harrogate

Scarborough

North York Moors National Park

Helmsley & Around

Pickering

Whitby

Robin Hood's Bay

Yorkshire Dales National Park

Skipton

Grassington

Malham

Ribblesdale & the Three Peaks

Hawes

Richmond

West Yorkshire

Leeds

Bradford

National Coal Mining Museum for England

Hebden Bridge

Haworth

South Yorkshire

Sheffield

East Riding of Yorkshire

Hull

Beverley

Manchester, Liverpool & Northwest England

Manchester, Liverpool & the Northwest Highlights

Manchester

Chester

Liverpool

Lancashire

Blackpool

Lancaster

Clitheroe

Forest of Bowland

Isle of Man

Douglas

Around Douglas

Castletown & Around

Peel

The Lake District & Cumbria

Cumbria & the Lake District Highlights

The Lake District

Windermere & Around

Troutbeck

Ambleside

Grasmere

Hawkshead

Coniston

Elterwater & Great Langdale

Eskdale

Wasdale

Cockermouth

Keswick

Borrowdale

Driving Tour

Buttermere

Ullswater & Around

Kendal

Cumbrian Coast

Cartmel

Northern & Eastern Cumbria

Carlisle

Penrith

Newcastle & Northeast England

Newcastle-upon-Tyne

Tynemouth

Durham

Barnard Castle

Hadrian's Wall

Northumberland National Park

Northumberland Coast

Wales

Cardiff, Pembrokeshire & South Wales

Cardiff, Pembrokeshire & South Wales Highlights

Cardiff

Monmouthshire (Sir Fynwy)

Chepstow (Cas-gwent)

Lower Wye Valley

Abergavenny

South Wales Valleys

Blaenavon (Blaenafon)

Caerphilly (Caerffili)

Swansea (Abertawe)

The Mumbles (Y Mwmbwls)

Gower Peninsula (Y Gwyr)

Port Eynon

Rhossili

Llangennith

Carmarthenshire (Sir Gaerfyrddin)

Llanarthne

Llandeilo

Pumsaint

Pembrokeshire

Saundersfoot

Tenby (Dinbych Y Pysgod)

Pembroke (Penfro)

Narberth (Arberth)

St Davids (Tyddewi)

Coastal Walk

Porthgain & Around

Fishguard (Abergwaun)

Newport (Trefdraeth)

Brecon Beacons & Mid-Wales

Hay-on-Wye & Mid-Wales Highlights

Brecon Beacons National Park

Hay-on-Wye (Y Gelli Gandryll)

Black Mountains (Y Mynyddoedd Duon)

Crickhowell (Crughywel)

Brecon (Aberhonddu)

Fforest Fawr & Black Mountain

Powys

Llanwrtyd Wells (Llanwrtyd)

Builth Wells (Llanfair-Ym-Muallt)

Rhayader (Rhaeadr Gwy)

Elan Valley

Montgomery

Welshpool (Y Trallwng)

Machynlleth

Ceredigion

Aberystwyth

Aberaeron

Cardigan (Aberteifi)

Snowdonia & North Wales

Snowdonia & North Wales Highlights

North Wales Borderlands

Ruthin

Llangollen

Snowdonia National Park (Parc Cenedlaethol Eryri)

Cader Idris (Cadair Idris)

Dolgellau

Barmouth (Abermaw)

Harlech

Blaenau Ffestiniog

Betws-y-Coed

Llanberis

Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa)

Mountain Walk

Beddgelert

Llyn Peninsula

Porthmadog

Criccieth

Abersoch

Aberdaron

The North Coast

Caernarfon

Bangor

Conwy

Llandudno

Isle of Anglesey (Ynys Mon)

Beaumaris (Biwmares)

Holyhead (Caergybi)

Scotland

Edinburgh

Sights

Activities

Tours

Festivals & Events

Sleeping

Eating

Drinking & Nightlife

Entertainment

Shopping

Glasgow & Southern Scotland

Glasgow & Southern Scotland Highlights

Glasgow

City Walk

Lanark & New Lanark

Borders Region

Peebles

Melrose

Around Melrose

Jedburgh

Kelso

Ayrshire

Ayr

Alloway

Culzean Castle

Dumfries & Galloway

Dumfries

South of Dumfries

Kirkcudbright

Galloway Forest Park

The Machars

Stranraer

Stirling & Central Scotland

Stirling & Central Scotland Highlights

Stirling Region

Stirling

Fife

St Andrews

East Neuk

Falkland

Dunfermline

Culross

Driving Tour

Dundee & Angus

Dundee

Arbroath

Aberdeenshire

Aberdeen

Around Aberdeen

Moray

Elgin

Dufftown & Aberlour

Loch Lomond & the Trossachs

Loch Lomond

Callander

Lochs Katrine & Achray

Killin

Argyllshire

Oban

Mull

Iona

Inveraray

Kilmartin Glen

Kintyre

Islay

Jura

Arran

Brodick & Around

Lochranza

West Coast

South Coast

Lamlash

Inverness & the Northern Highlands & Islands

Inverness & the Northern Highlands & Islands Highlights

Inverness & the Great Glen

Inverness

Driving Tour

Around Inverness

Loch Ness

The Cairngorms

Aviemore

Around Aviemore

Kingussie & Newtonmore

Royal Deeside

Highland Perthshire

Dunkeld & Birnam

Pitlochry

Blair Castle

Lochs Tummel & Rannoch

Loch Tay

West Highlands

Glen Coe

Glencoe Village

Fort William

Around Fort William

Road to the Isles

East Coast

Dornoch

Dunrobin Castle

Caithness

Lybster & Around

Wick

John O'Groats

Dunnet Head

Thurso & Scrabster

North & West Coast

Thurso to Durness

Durness

Durness to Ullapool

Ullapool

Ullapool to Kyle of Lochalsh

Kyle of Lochalsh

Eilean Donan Castle

Skye

Broadford (An T-Ath Leathann)

Armadale & Sleat

Cuillin Hills

Portree (Port Righ)

Dunvegan (Dun Bheagain) & Around

Trotternish

Outer Hebrides

Lewis (Leodhais)

Harris (Na Hearadh)

Berneray (Bearnaraigh)

North Uist ( Uibhist A Tuath)

South Uist ( Uibhist A Deas)

Barra (Barraigh)

Orkney

Kirkwall

East Mainland to South Ronaldsay

Maes Howe & Around

Skara Brae

Stromness

Hoy

Northern Islands

Shetland

Lerwick

Sumburgh

The North Isles

Understand

Understand Great Britain

Great Britain Today

History

The British Table

Architecture in Britain

The Arts

The British Landscape

Sporting Britain

Survive

Directory AZ

Accommodation

Climate

Customs Regulations

Discount Cards

Electricity

Food & Drink

Health

Insurance

Internet Access

Legal Matters

LGBTIQ Travellers

Money

Opening Hours

Public Holidays

Safe Travel

Telephone

Time

Toilets

Tourist Information

Travellers with Disabilities

Visas

Transport

Getting There & Away

Getting Around

Glossary

Behind the Scenes

Our Writers

Special Features

Royal London

Englands Great Outdoors

Breathtaking Britain

Flavours of Britain

Welcome to Great Britain

Buckingham Palace, Stonehenge, Manchester United, The Beatles – Britain does icons like nowhere else, and travel here is a fascinating mix of famous names and hidden gems.

Variety Packed

From the graceful architecture of Canterbury Cathedral to the soaring ramparts of Edinburgh Castle, via the mountains of Wales and the picture-postcard landscape of the Cotswolds, Britain's astounding variety is a major reason to visit. The cities tempt with top-class shops and restaurants, and some of the world's finest museums, while cutting-edge clubs and world-famous theatres provide endless nights to remember. Next day, you're deep in the countryside, high in the hills or enjoying a classic seaside resort. In Britain, there really is something for everyone, whether you're eight or 80, going solo, or travelling with your friends, your kids or your grandma.

Time Travel

A journey through Britain is a journey through history. But not dull and dusty history – this is history you can immerse yourself in. You can lay hands on the megaliths of a 5000-year-old stone circle, or patrol the battlements of a medieval fortress – just as they were patrolled by chain-mail-clad soldiers many centuries ago. Fast-forward to the future and you're admiring 21st-century architecture in Glasgow or exploring the space-age domes of Cornwall's Eden Project.

English Spoken Here

While Britain has a complex culture and esoteric traditions, it feels familiar to many visitors – on the surface, at least – thanks to a vast catalogue of British film and TV exports. And for most visitors, Britain's national language – English – is equally familiar, and one more reason why travel here is a breeze. Of course Wales and Scotland have their own languages, but everyone speaks English too – and all visitors (even Brits) get a little confused by local accents in places such as Devon, Snowdonia and Aberdeen.

Easy Does It

A final thing to remember while you're planning a trip to Britain: getting from place to place is pretty straightforward. Although the locals may grumble (in fact, it's a national pastime), public transport is pretty good and a train ride through the British landscape can be a memorable experience in itself. Whichever way you get around in this compact country, you're never far from the next town, the next pub, the next national park or the next impressive castle on your hit-list of highlights. The choice is endless.

Roman Baths, Bath, England | Joe Daniel Price / Getty Images ©

Why I Love Great Britain

By Neil Wilson, Writer

In a word: variety. Few countries pack so much into a small space. Landscapes that range from the sand dunes of South Wales to the snowfields of the Cairngorms, from the lush, quilted farmland of Kent to the naked limestone scarps of the Yorkshire Dales. Three nationalities, two dozen different dialects, more than 60 proudly individual cities, 1000 breweries, 5000 castles – all in a country you could drive across in a day. Plus weather that can offer four seasons in a single afternoon (but remember the old Scandinavian proverb – there's no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes).

Great Britain's Top 26

Stonehenge

Mysterious and compelling, Stonehenge is Britain's most iconic ancient site. People have been drawn to this myth-laden ring of bluestones for the last 5000 years, and we still don't know quite why it was built. Most visitors get to gaze at the 50-tonne megaliths from behind the perimeter fence, but with enough planning you can book an early-morning or evening tour and walk around the inner ring. In the slanting sunlight, away from the crowds, it's an ethereal place – an experience that stays with you.

William Toti / 500px ©

Top Experiences

Edinburgh

Edinburgh is a city of many moods – famous for its festivals and especially lively in the summer. It's also worth visiting out of season for sights such as the castle silhouetted against a blue spring sky with a yellow haze of daffodils misting the slopes below the esplanade. Or on a chill December morning with the fog snagging the spires of the Old Town, the ancient streets and alleyways more mysterious than ever, rain on the cobblestones and a warm glow beckoning from the window of a pub.

Morag Fleming / Shutterstock ©

Top Experiences

Bath

Britain boasts many great cities, but Bath stands out as the belle of the ball. Thanks to the natural hot springs that bubble to the surface, the Romans built a health resort here. The waters were rediscovered in the 18th century, and Bath became the place to see and be seen by British high society. Today, the stunning Georgian architecture of grand town houses and sweeping crescents (not to mention Roman remains, a beautiful cathedral and a cutting-edge 21st-century spa) means Bath demands your undivided attention.

Irisphoto1 / Shutterstock ©

Top Experiences

Isle of Skye

Of all Scotland's many islands, Skye is one of the most famous and best loved by visitors, thanks to a mix of history (the island's link to Bonnie Prince Charlie is forever remembered by 'The Skye Boat Song'), accessibility (the ferry from the mainland has been replaced by a bridge) and sheer beauty. With jagged mountains, velvet moors and towering sea cliffs, Skye's scenery never fails to impress. And for those days when the mist comes in, there are plenty of castles and local museums to explore, and cosy pubs to enjoy.

EddieCloud / Shutterstock ©

Top Experiences

The Cotswolds

The most wonderful thing about the Cotswolds is that, no matter where you go or how lost you get, you'll always end up in an impossibly picturesque village complete with rose-clad cottages, an ancient church of honey-coloured stone, a pub with sloping floors and fine ales, and a view of the lush green hills. It's easy to leave the crowds behind and find your very own slice of medieval England – and some of the best boutique hotels in the country.

iLongLoveKing / Shutterstock ©

Top Experiences

Snowdonia

The rugged northwest corner of Wales has rocky mountain peaks, glacier-hewn valleys, sinuous ridges, sparkling lakes and rivers, and charm-infused villages. The busiest part is around Snowdon itself, where many people hike to the summit, and many more take the jolly rack-and-pinion railway, while to the south and west are rarely trod areas perfect for off-the-beaten-track exploration. And just nearby sit the lovely Llŷn Peninsula and Isle of Anglesey, where the sun often shines, even if it's raining on the mountains.

Sebastien Coell / Shutterstock ©

Top Experiences

Oxford

For centuries, the brilliant minds and august institutions of Oxford University have made Oxford famous across the globe. You'll get a glimpse of this revered world as you stroll hushed college quads and cobbled lanes roamed by cycling students and dusty academics. The beautiful college buildings, archaic traditions and stunning architecture have changed little over the centuries, coexisiting with a lively, modern, working city.

Caron Badkin / Shutterstock ©

Top Experiences

Football

In some parts of the world it's called 'soccer', but here in Britain it's definitely 'football'. Despite what the fans may say in Italy or Brazil, the English Premier League has some of the world's finest teams. Big names include the globally renowned Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea, plus the most famous club on the planet: Manchester United. North of the border, Scotland's best-known teams are the Glasgow duo of Rangers and Celtic – their 'old firm' rivalry is legendary – while in Wales the national sport is most definitely rugby.

Jeafish Ping / Shutterstock ©

Top Experiences

The Lake District

William Wordsworth and his Romantic friends were the first to champion the charms of the Lake District, and it's not hard to see what stirred them. The soaring mountains, whaleback fells, razor-edge valleys and – of course – glistening lakes (as well as England's highest peak), make this craggy corner of the country the spiritual home of English hiking. Strap on the boots, stock up on mint cake and drink in the views: inspiration is sure to follow.

Justin Foulkes / Getty Images ©

Top Experiences

Hadrian's Wall

Hadrian's Wall is one of the country's most revealing and dramatic Roman ruins, its 2000-year-old procession of abandoned forts, garrisons, towers and milecastles marching across the wild and lonely landscape of northern England. This wall was about defence and control, but this edge-of-empire barrier also symbolised the boundary of civilised order – to the north lay the unruly land of the marauding Celts, while to the south was the Roman world of orderly taxpaying, underfloor heating and bathrooms.

Travellight / Shutterstock ©

Top Experiences

Castles & Stately Homes

Britain's turbulent history is nowhere more apparent than in the mighty castles that dot the landscape, from romantic clifftop ruins such as Corfe or sturdy fortresses such as Caernarfon, to formidable Stirling and still-inhabited Windsor. And when the aristo­cracy no longer needed castles, they built vast mansions known as 'stately homes' at the heart of their country estates. Classics of the genre include Blenheim Palace and Chatsworth House in England, Powis Castle in Wales and Scone Palace in Scotland.

Targn Pleiades / Shutterstock ©

Top Experiences

Cornwall

At Britain's far southwestern extremity, the former kingdom of Cornwall boasts endless miles of coastline with rugged cliffs, sparkling bays, scenic fishing ports and white sandy beaches favoured by everyone from bucket-and-spade families to sun-bronzed surfers. Above the cliffs, the towers of former tin mines now stand like dramatic castles, while inland from the coast is a tranquil landscape of lush farmland and picturesque villages, crowned by the gigantic domes of the Eden Project – a stunning symbol of Cornwall's renaissance.

Helen Hotson / Shutterstock ©

Top Experiences

Cambridge

Abounding with exquisite architecture and steeped in tradition, Cambridge is a university town extraordinaire. The tightly packed core of ancient colleges, the picturesque riverside 'Backs' (college gardens) and the surrounding green meadows give Cambridge a more tranquil appeal than its historic rival, Oxford. Highlights include the intricate vaulting of King's College Chapel, while no visit is complete without an attempt to steer a punt (flat-bottomed boat) along the river and under the quirky Mathematical Bridge. You'll soon wonder how you could have studied anywhere else.

Premier Photo / Shutterstock ©

Top Experiences

Stratford-upon-Avon

The pretty English Midlands town of Stratford-upon-Avon is famed around the world as the birthplace of the nation's best-known dramatist, William Shakespeare. Today, the town's tight knot of Tudor streets form a living map of Shakespeare's life and times, while crowds of fans and would-be thespians come to enjoy a play at the theatre or visit the historic houses owned by Shakespeare and his relatives, with a respectful detour to the old stone church where the Bard was laid to rest.

PHB.cz / Shutterstock ©

Top Experiences

Canterbury Cathedral

Few other English cathedrals come close to Canterbury, the top temple of the Anglican Church and a place of worship for over 15 centuries. Its intricate tower dominates the local skyline, its grandeur unsurpassed by later structures. At its heart lies a 12th-century crime scene, the very spot where Archbishop Thomas Becket was put to the sword – an epoch-making event that launched a million pilgrimages and still pulls in the crowds today. A lone candle mourns the gruesome deed, the pink sandstone before it smoothed by 800 years of devout kneeling.

Claudio Divizia / Shutterstock ©

Top Experiences

Cardiff

The exuberant capital of Wales, compact Cardiff has emerged as one of Britain's leading urban centres. After a mid-20th-century decline, the city entered the new millennium with vigour and confidence, flexing architectural muscles and revelling in a newfound sense of style. From the historic castle to the ultramodern waterfront, from lively street cafes to infectious nightlife, from Victorian shopping arcades to the gigantic rugby stadium that is the pulsating heart of the city on match days, Cardiff undoubtedly has buzz.

Joe Daniel Price / Getty Images ©

Top Experiences

Britain's Pubs

Despite the growth of stylish clubs and designer bars, the traditional pub is still the centre of British social life. From the ornate Victorian boozers of London, Edinburgh and Leeds, to the food-focused gastropubs of Yorkshire, Mid-Wales and Devon, and countless rustic country pubs hunkering under thatched roofs and timber beams – Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem claims to be the country's oldest – a lunchtime or evening visit to the pub can be one of the best ways to get under the skin of the nation.

Claudio Divizia / Shutterstock ©

Top Experiences

York

With its Roman remains and Viking heritage, ancient city walls and maze of medieval streets, York is a living showcase for the highlights of English history. Join one of the city's many walking tours and plunge into the network of snickleways (narrow alleys), each the focus of a ghost story or historical character. Explore the intricacies of York Minster, the biggest medieval cathedral in all of northern Europe, or admire the exhibits from more recent times at the National Railway Museum, the world's largest collection of historic locomotives.

Jacek Wojnarowski / Shutterstock ©

Top Experiences

Scotland's Northwest Highlands

The Highlands abound in breathtaking views, but the far northwest is truly awe-inspiring. The coastal road between Durness and Kyle of Lochalsh offers jaw-dropping scenes at every turn: the rugged mountains of Assynt, the desolate beauty of Torridon and the remote cliffs of Cape Wrath. Add to this the chance to go to sea for Britain's finest whale-watching, and the nooks of warm Highland hospitality found in classic rural pubs and romantic hotels, make this an unforgettable corner of the country.

Helen Hotson / Shutterstock ©

Top Experiences

Pembrokeshire

Perched at the tip of wild and wonderful West Wales, the county of Pembrokeshire boasts one of Britain's most beautiful and dramatic stretches of coast, with sheer cliffs, natural arches, blowholes, sea stacks, and a wonderful hinterland of tranquil villages and secret waterways. It's a landscape of Norman castles, Iron Age hill forts, holy wells and Celtic saints – including the nation's patron, St David – and intriguing stone monuments left behind by prehistoric inhabitants.

Michael Thaler / Shutterstock ©

Top Experiences

Liverpool

For many visitors, Liverpool will forever be associated with The Beatles, but a visit here proves the city has much more to offer. After a decade of redevelopment, the waterfront is once again the heart of Liverpool, with Albert Dock declared a World Heritage Site of iconic and protected buildings, a batch of top museums ensuring all sides of the city's history are not forgotten, and the Tate Liverpool gallery and Beatles Story museum, celebrating popular culture and the city's most famous musical sons.

SilvanBachmann / Shutterstock ©

Top Experiences

British Food

Britain offers a groaning table full of traditional eating experiences. Tuck into national favourites such as fish and chips, Cornish pasties or toad in the hole, followed of course by rhubarb and custard or spotted dick, or indulge yourself in a quintessentially English afternoon tea. And don't miss the chance to sample regional specialities such as jellied eels (London), Scottish haggis, Cumberland sausage, Stilton cheese, Northumberland kippers, Lancashire hotpot, Melton Mowbray pork pies, Welsh lamb, Yorkshire pudding... the list goes on.

Harrison Eastwood / Getty Images ©

Top Experiences

Glen Coe

Scotland's most famous glen combines those two essential qualities of the Highland landscape: dramatic scenery and deep history. The peacefulness and beauty of this valley today belie the fact that it was the scene of a ruthless 17th-century massacre, when the local MacDonalds were murdered by soldiers of the Campbell clan. Some of the glen's finest walks – to the Lost Valley, for example – follow the routes used by the clanspeople trying to flee their attackers, and where many perished in the snow.

Targn Pleiades / Shutterstock ©

Top Experiences

London's Museums

Institutions bright and beautiful, great and small, wise and wonderful – London's got them all. The range of museums is vast: from generalist exhibitions (British Museum, V&A) to specific themes (Imperial War Museum, London Transport Museum, Natural History Museum); from intriguing private collections (Sir John Soane's Museum, Wallace Collection) to those celebrating people associated with the city (Handel, Dickens, Freud). Seriously, you could spend weeks without even scratching the surface. And most of them are free!

Ileana_bt / Shutterstock ©

Top Experiences

Whisky

After tea, Britain's best-known drink is whisky. And while this amber spirit is also made in England and Wales, it is always most associated with Scotland. With more than 2000 whisky brands available, there are distilleries dotted all over Scotland, many open to visitors, with Speyside one of the main concentrations and a favourite spot for connoisseurs. Before enjoying your tipple, heed these warnings: never spell whisky with an 'e' (that's the Irish variety); and when ordering at the bar, never ask for 'Scotch'. What else would you drink in Scotland?

Christoph Lischetzki / Shutterstock ©

Top Experiences

Golf

While some may consider it a good walk spoiled, golf is one of the most popular sports in Britain for participants at all levels and (especially when it comes to major tournaments) for thousands of spectators too. With courses across the country, including some in the most scenic locations, visitors to Britain with a penchant for the little white ball will surely want to try their skill. A highlight for aficionados is a round on the Old Course at St Andrews, the venerable home of golf.

John Lawson, Belhaven / Getty Images ©

Need to Know

Currency

Pound sterling (£)

Language

English; also Scottish Gaelic and Welsh

Visas

Generally not needed for stays of up to six months. Not a member of the Schengen Zone.

Money

Change bureaux and ATMs widely available, especially in cities and major towns.

Mobile Phones

The UK uses the GSM 900/1800 network, which covers the rest of Europe, Australia and New Zealand, but isn't compatible with the North American GSM 1900. Most modern mobiles can function on both networks, but check before you leave home just in case.

Driving

Travelling by car or motorbike around Britain means you can be independent and flexible, and reach remote places. Downsides for drivers include traffic jams, the high price of fuel and high parking costs in cities.

Traffic drives on the left; steering wheels are on the right side of the car. Most rental cars have manual gears (stick shift).

When to Go

High Season (Jun–Aug)

A Weather at its best. Accommodation rates peak – especially for August school holidays.

A Roads are busy, especially in seaside areas, national parks, and popular cities such as Oxford, Bath, Edinburgh and York.

Shoulder (Mar–May, Sep & Oct)

A Crowds reduce. Prices drop.

A Weather often good. March to May is a mix of sunny spells and sudden showers; September to October can feature balmy Indian summers. For outdoor activities in much of Scotland, May and September are the best months.

Low Season (Nov–Feb)

A Wet and cold. Snow falls in mountain areas, especially up north.

A Opening hours reduced October to Easter; some places shut for winter. Big-city sights (particularly London's) operate all year.

Useful Websites

BBC (www.bbc.co.uk) News and entertainment from the national broadcaster.

Visit Britain (www.visitbritain.com) Comprehensive official tourism website.

Lonely Planet (www.lonelyplanet.com/great-britain) Desti­nation info, hotel bookings, traveller forum and more.

Traveline (www.traveline.info) Great portal site for public transport in all parts of Britain.

British Arts Festivals (www.artsfestivals.co.uk) Listing hundreds of festivals – art, literature, dance, folk and more.

Important Numbers

Area codes vary in length (eg 020 for London, 01225 for Bath). Omit the code if you're inside that area. Drop the initial 0 if you're calling from abroad.

Exchange Rates

For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.

Daily Costs

Budget: Less than £55

A Dorm beds: £15–30

A Cheap meals in cafes and pubs: £7–11

A Long-distance coach: £15–40 (200 miles)

Midrange: £55–120

A Double room in midrange hotel or B&B: £65–130 (London £100–200)

A Main course in midrange restaurant: £10–20

A Long-distance train: £20–80 (200 miles)

Top End: More than £120

A Four-star hotel room: from £130 (London from £200)

A Three-course meal in a good restaurant: around £40

A Car rental per day: from £35

Great Britain on a Shoestring

If you're on a tight budget, there's no getting away from it – Britain isn't cheap. Public transport, admission fees, restaurants and hotel rooms all tend to be expensive compared with their equivalents in many other European countries. But with some careful planning, a trip here doesn't have to break the bank. You can save money by staying in B&Bs instead of hotels, or hostels instead of B&Bs. Motels along motorways and outside large towns are soulless, but who cares? Most of the time you’ll be asleep. You can also save by prebooking long-distance coach or train travel – and by avoiding times when everyone else is on the move (like Friday afternoon). Many attractions are free (or offer discounts on quiet days, such as Monday). And don't forget that you won't have to stump up a penny to enjoy Britain's best asset: the wonderful countryside and coastline.

Arriving in Britain

Heathrow Airport (London) Trains, London Underground (tube) and buses to central London run from just after 5am to before midnight (night buses run later); fares from £5.70 to £21.50. Taxis to central London from Heathrow cost from £45 to £85 (more at peak hours).

Gatwick Airport (London) Trains to central London run from 4.30am to 1.35am (£10 to £20); hourly buses to central London around the clock from £5. Taxis to central London from Gatwick £100 (more at peak hours).

St Pancras International station (central London) Eurostar trains from Paris or Brussels arrive at this station in central London, connected by many underground lines to other parts of the city.

Victoria Coach Station (central London) Buses from Europe arrive at this central station; frequent underground links to other parts of the city.

Edinburgh Airport Frequent trams (£5.50) and buses (£4.50) to Edinburgh city centre. Night buses every 30 minutes from 12.30am to 4am (£4). Taxis cost £18 to £28; about 20 to 30 minutes to the city centre.

First Time Great Britain

Checklist

A Check the validity of your passport

A Check any visa or entry requirements

A Make any necessary bookings (sights, accommodation, travel)

A Check airline baggage restrictions

A Put all restricted items (eg hair gel, pocketknife) in hold baggage

A Inform your credit-/debit-card company of your trip

A Organise travel insurance

A Check mobile (cell) phone compatibility

A Check rental car requirements

What to Pack

A Electrical plug adaptor (UK-specific)

A Umbrella – because the rumours about the weather are true

A Lightweight waterproof jacket – because sometimes the umbrella is not enough

A Comfortable walking shoes – Britain’s towns and countryside are best explored on foot

A A taste for warm beer

Top Tips for Your Trip

A At major London airports, tickets for express trains into central London are usually available in the baggage arrivals hall; this saves queuing or dealing with machines on the station platform.

A The best way to get local currency is usually from an ATM, but this term is rarely used in England; the colloquial term ‘cash machine’ is more common.

A If staying more than a few days in London, get an OysterCard, the travel card the locals use.

A Pickpockets and hustlers lurk in the more crowded tourist areas, especially in London. No need to be paranoid, but do be on your guard.

A Britain’s electrical plugs are unlike those in the rest of Europe, so bring (or buy) a UK-specific plug adaptor.

What to Wear

A rain jacket is essential, as is a small backpack to carry it in when the sun comes out. In summer you'll need sunscreen and an umbrella; you’re bound to use both – possibly on the same day.

For sightseeing, comfortable shoes can make or break a trip. If you plan to enjoy Britain's great outdoors, suitable hiking gear is required in higher/wilder areas, but not for casual strolls in the countryside.

Some bars and restaurants have dress codes banning jeans, T-shirts and trainers (sneakers or runners).

Sleeping

Booking your accommodation in advance is recommended, especially in summer, at weekends, and on islands (where options are often limited). Book at least two months ahead for July and August.

A B&Bs These small, family-run houses generally provide good value. More luxurious versions are more like a boutique hotel.

A Hotels British hotels range from half-a-dozen rooms above the pub to restored country houses and castles, with a commensurate range in rates.

A Hostels There's a good choice of both institutional and independent hostels, many housed in rustic and/or historic buildings.

Money

ATMs (usually called 'cash machines') are common in cities and towns, but watch out for tampering; a common ruse is to attach a cardreader to the slot. Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted in Britain, except at some smaller B&Bs which take cash or cheque only. Other credit cards, including Amex, are not so widely accepted. Cities and larger towns have banks and exchange bureaux for changing money into pounds, but some bureaux offer poor rates. You can change money at some post offices, which is very handy in country areas; exchange rates are fair.

Bargaining

A bit of mild haggling is acceptable at flea markets and antique shops, but everywhere else you're expected to pay the advertised price.

Antiques stall, Apple Market, Covent Garden | Marco Prati / Shutterstock ©

Tipping

A Restaurants Around 10% in restaurants and teashops with table service. Nearer 15% at smarter restaurants. Tips may be added to your bill as a 'service charge'. Paying a tip or a service charge is not obligatory.

A Pubs & Bars Not expected unless table service for your meal and drinks is provided, then 10% is usual.

A Taxis Around 10%, or rounded up to the nearest pound, especially in London.

Etiquette

A Manners The British have a reputation for being polite, and good manners are considered important in most situations. When asking directions, 'Excuse me, can you tell me the way to…' is a better tactic than 'Hey, where’s…'

A Queues In Britain, queueing (‘standing in line’ to Americans), whether to board a bus, buy tickets or enter the gates of an attraction, is sacrosanct. Any attempt to 'jump the queue' will result in an outburst of tutting and hard stares.

A Escalators If you take an escalator or a moving walkway (especially at tube stations in London), be sure to stand on the right, so folks in a hurry can pass on the left.

Eating

It’s wise to book ahead for midrange restaurants, especially at weekends. Top-end restaurants should be booked at least a couple of weeks in advance.

A Restaurants Britain’s restaurants range from cheap-and-cheerful to Michelin-starred, and cover every cuisine you can imagine.

A Cafes Open during daytime (rarely after 6pm), cafes are good for a casual breakfast or lunch, or simply a cup of coffee.

A Pubs Most of Britain's pubs serve reasonably priced meals, and many can compete with restaurants on quality.

What's New

The Night Tube

It's only taken 153 years since its opening day, but London's Underground railway finally began operating around the clock (on Friday and Saturday nights) in August 2016.

Shakespeare's School Room

The Stratford school room where the world's most famous playwright was taught the three Rs from 1571 to 1578 was opened to the public in 2016.

Lakes Distillery

Watch out, Scotland! The first English whisky distillery for more than a century has opened in Keswick; its first single malt will be available from 2018.

i360 Tower

Sprouting from the ashes of Brighton's historic West Pier (destroyed by fire in 2003), this futuristic 162m-tall tower with circular glass viewing pod is Brighton's answer to the London Eye.

Magna Carta

The 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta in 2015 saw a £22m restoration of Lincoln Castle create a subterranean vault to house one of only four original copies of this iconic document.

YHA Cotswolds

The opening of this hostel in a converted brewery warehouse in 2016 provided some much-needed budget accommodation in one of the prettiest – and most expensive – corners of the country.

York City Art Gallery

Yorkshire's reputation as the epicentre of UK sculpture was further enhanced with the opening in 2015 of the revamped York Art Gallery's Centre of Ceramic Arts.

Sky Garden

One of London's recent landmark skyscrapers, 20 Fenchurch St (nicknamed the Walkie Talkie), now has free access to its spectacular 155m-high rooftop garden and viewing gallery.

V&A Museum of Design

Dundee's waterfront is graced by a stunning new building that is home to an outpost of London's Victoria & Albert Museum, a showcase for the best of Scottish art and design.

North Coast 500

This 500-mile circuit (www.northcoast500.com) of northern Scotland's stunning coastline has proved an overnight hit, with thousands of people completing the route by car, campervan, motorbike or bicycle.

Borders Railway

The longest stretch of new railway line to be built in the UK for more than 100 years opened in September 2015, linking Edinburgh with Tweedbank, near Melrose (www.bordersrailway.co.uk).

Zip World Blaenau Ffestiniog

Blaenau Ffestiniog's vast Llechwedd Slate Caverns now have the added thrill of zip lines, trampolines, walkways and nets suspended over cathedral-sized voids.

If You Like…

Castles & Stately Homes

Tower of London Landmark of the capital, patrolled by famous Beefeaters and protected by legendary ravens.

Blenheim Palace A monumental baroque fantasy and one of Britain’s greatest stately homes.

Castle Howard A stunning baroque edifice, best known as the setting for TV series Brideshead Revisited.

Warwick Castle Restored enough to be impressive, ruined enough to be romantic.

Stirling Castle Classic fortress atop volcanic crag, with stunning views from the battlements.

Beaumaris Castle Wales is the land of castles; imposing Beaumaris, along with nearby Conwy, Caernarfon and Harlech, is a jointly listed World Heritage Site.

Chatsworth House The quintessential stately home, a treasure trove of heirlooms and works of art.

Carreg Cennen The most dramatically positioned fortress in Wales, standing guard over a lonely stretch of Brecon Beacons National Park.

Royal Britain

Buckingham Palace The Queen's official London residence, best known for its royal-waving balcony and the Changing of the Guard.

Windsor Castle The largest and oldest occupied fortress in the world, a majestic vision of battlements and towers, and the Queen’s weekend retreat.

Westminster Abbey Where English royalty is crowned and married – most recently William and Kate.

Royal Yacht Britannia The royal family’s onetime floating home during foreign travels, now retired and moored near Edinburgh.

Balmoral Castle Built for Queen Victoria in 1855 and still a royal Highland hideaway.

Royal Pavilion Opulent palace built for playboy prince, later King George IV.

Althorp House Ancestral home and burial place of Diana, Princess of Wales.

Cathedrals & Ruined Abbeys

St Paul's Cathedral A symbol of the city for centuries, and still an essential part of the London skyline.

York Minster One of the largest medieval cathedrals in all of Europe, especially renowned for its windows.

Fountains Abbey Extensive ruins set in more recently landscaped water gardens – one of the most beautiful sites in Britain.

Canterbury Cathedral The mother ship of the Anglican Church, still attracting pilgrims and visitors in their thousands.

Melrose Abbey The finest of all the great Border abbeys; Robert the Bruce's heart is buried here.

Whitby Abbey Stunning clifftop ruin with an eerie atmosphere that inspired the author of Dracula.

St Davids Cathedral An ancient place of worship in Britain’s smallest city.

Glastonbury Abbey The legendary burial place of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere.

Glasgow Cathedral A shining example of Gothic architecture, and the only mainland Scottish cathedral to have survived the Reformation.

Tintern Abbey Riverside ruins that inspired generations of poets and artists.

Village Idylls

Lavenham A wonderful collection of exquisitely preserved medieval buildings virtually untouched since the 15th century.

Lacock Well-preserved medieval village, essentially free of modern development and – unsurprisingly – a frequent set for movies and TV period dramas.

Culross Scotland's best-preserved 17th-century village, familiar to fans of TV's Outlander as Cranesmuir.

Goathland One of Yorkshire’s most attractive villages, complete with village green and traditional steam railway station.

Mousehole Southwest England overflows with picturesque pint-sized ports, but this is one of the best.

Beddgelert A conservation village of rough grey stone buildings in the heart of Snowdonia National Park.

Cromarty At the northeastern tip of the Black Isle, with a fine collection of 18th-century red-sandstone houses.

Culross | Pitsch22 / Shutterstock ©

Great Outdoors

Lake District The landscape that inspired William Wordsworth is a feast of mountains, valleys, views and – of course – lakes.

Northumberland National Park The dramatically empty landscape of England’s far north is remote and off the beaten track.

Snowdonia The best-known slice of nature in Wales, with the grand but surprisingly accessible peak of Snowdon at its heart.

Yorkshire Dales A compact collection of moors, hills, valleys, rivers, cliffs and waterfalls, perfect for easy strolls or hardy treks.

Ben Nevis Every year thousands of people aim for the summit of Scotland's most famous (and Britain's highest) mountain.

Industrial Heritage

Ironbridge The crucible of the Industrial Revolution, where 10 museums for the price of one give fascinating insights.

Blaenavon A World Heritage Site of well-preserved ironworks and the fascinating Big Pit coal mine.

Kelham Island Museum A testament to Sheffield's steeltown heritage, anchored by the massive River Don steam engine.

New Lanark Once the largest cotton-spinning complex in Britain and a testament to enlightened capitalism.

National Railway Museum A cathedral to Britain’s great days of steam; for railway fans of all ages it’s the perfect place to go loco.

Roman Remains

Roman Baths The city of Bath takes its name from these famous Roman remains – a complex of bathhouses around natural thermal waters.

Hadrian's Wall Snaking coast-to-coast across lonely hills, this 2000-year-old fortified line once marked the northern limit of imperial Roman jurisdiction.

Yorkshire Museum York's past as the Roman city of Eboracum is chronicled in fascinating detail.

Caerleon One of three legionary forts in Britain, with impressive remains of barracks, baths and an amphitheatre.

Corinium Museum Recounts the days when the sleepy Cotswold town of Cirencester was once Corinium, the second-largest Roman city in Britain.

Shopping

Portobello Rd, London One of London's best-known street markets, surrounded by quirky boutiques and gift stores.

Victoria Quarter, Leeds Lovely arcades of wrought ironwork and stained glass, home to several top fashion boutiques.

North Laine, Brighton Narrow streets lined with shops selling books, antiques, collectables, vintage clothing and more.

Cardiff Arcades Half-a-dozen ornate arcades branch off the city centre main streets, all with speciality shops and cafes.

Isle of Skye Home to a plethora of workshops and artist’s studios, the isle is a great place to find quality handmade arts and crafts.

Hay-on-Wye The self-proclaimed secondhand-book capital of the world boasts over 30 bookshops and millions of volumes, attracting browsers, collectors and academics from afar.

Art Galleries

Tate Britain One of the best-known galleries in London, full to the brim with the finest local works.

Tate Modern London’s other Tate focuses on modern art in all its wonderful permutations.

BALTIC Newcastle’s very own ‘Tate of the North’ with work by some of contemporary art’s biggest show-stoppers.

National Museum Cardiff An excellent collection of Welsh artists, plus works by Monet, Renoir, Matisse, Van Gogh, Francis Bacon and David Hockney.

Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum A national landmark in Glasgow – great collection, and a cracking spot to learn about Scottish art.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park England’s biggest outdoor sculpture collection, dominated by the works of Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth.

Barber Institute of Fine Art With works by Rubens, Turner and Picasso, this Birmingham gallery is no lightweight.

V&A Museum of Design Dundee Brand new gallery dedicated to the best of Scottish and international art and design

Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum, Glasgow | VisitBritain / Britain on View / FLOATING HEADS BY SOPHY CAVE, KELVINGROVE ART GALLERY, GLASGOW, SCOTLAND / Getty Images ©

Arts & Music Festivals

Edinburgh International Festival The world’s biggest festival of art and culture. ’Nuff said.

Glastonbury Britain’s biggest and best-loved music festival.

Hay Festival A world-class celebration of all things literary at Britain’s bookshop capital.

Notting Hill Carnival London’s Caribbean community shows the city how to party.

Pride Gay and lesbian street parade through London culminating in a concert in Trafalgar Sq.

Grassington Festival A village in the scenic Yorkshire Dales hosts this amazing two-week cultural extravaganza.

Latitude Festival An eclectic mix of music, literature, dance, drama and comedy, in a stunning location and of manageable size.

T in the Park Scotland's biggest music festival takes over the verdant grounds of Strathallan Castle.

Notting Hill Carnival | Ms Jane Campbell / Shutterstock ©

Coastal Attractions

Scarborough The original British beach resort, where 'sea-bathing' first began, way back in the 17th century.

Pembrokeshire Towering cliffs, rock arches, clean waters and perfect sandy beaches at the tip of West Wales.

Southwold Genteel old-style seaside town with lovely beach, charming pier and famous rows of colourful beach huts.

Tongue Sea lochs penetrate the rocky coast in this wild stretch of Scotland’s north.

Holkham Bay A pristine expanse of sand with giant skies stretching overhead.

Llandudno Beachside Punch-and-Judy shows, a step-back-in-time pier and a classic esplanade.

Gower Peninsula Family-friendly beaches and surfer hang-outs, backed by sand dunes and tranquil farmland.

Beachy Head & Seven Sisters Where the South Downs plunge into the sea, these mammoth chalk cliffs provide a dramatic finale.

Month by Month

Top Events

Edinburgh International Festival and Fringe, August

Glyndebourne, late-May–August

Trooping the Colour, mid-June

Glastonbury Festival, late-June

Abergavenny Food Festival, September

January

January is mid-winter in Britain. Festivals and events to brighten the mood are thin on the ground, but luckily some include fire – lots of it.

z London Parade

A ray of light in the gloom, the New Year's Day Parade in London (to use its official title; www.londonparade.co.uk) is one of the biggest events of its kind in the world, featuring marching bands, street performers, classic cars, floats and displays winding their way through the streets, watched by over half a million people.

3 Up Helly Aa

Half of Shetland dresses up with horned helmets and battleaxes in this spectacular re-enactment of a Viking fire festival, with a torchlit procession leading the burning of a full-size Viking longship.

z Celtic Connections

Glasgow plays host to a celebration of Celtic music, dance and culture (www.celticconnections.com), with participants from all over the globe.

February

Britain can be scenic under snow and sunshine, or more likely grey and gloomy under dark skies. Hang in there…

z Jorvik Viking Festival

The ancient Viking capital of York becomes home once again to invaders and horned helmets galore, with the intriguing addition of longship races.

z Fort William Mountain Festival

Britain's capital of the outdoors celebrates the peak of the winter season with ski workshops, mountaineering films and talks by famous climbers (www.mountainfestival.co.uk).

March

Spring finally arrives. There's a hint of better weather, and some classic sporting fixtures grace the calendar. Many locals stay hunkered down at home, though, so hotels offer special rates.

3 Six Nations Rugby Championship

Highlight of the rugby calendar (www.rbs6nations.com) runs from late January to March, with the home nations playing at London's Twickenham, Edinburgh's Murrayfield and Cardiff's Principality stadiums.

3 University Boat Race

Annual race down the River Thames in London between the rowing teams from Cambridge and Oxford universities; an institution since 1856 that still enthrals the country.

April

The weather slowly improves, with warmer and drier days bringing out spring blossoms. Attractions that close for the low season open around the middle of the month or at Easter.

3 Grand National

Half the country has a flutter on the highlight of the three-day horse race meeting at Aintree on the first Saturday of the month (www.aintree.thejockeyclub.co.uk) – a steeplechase with a testing course and notoriously high jumps.

2 London Marathon

More than 35,000 runners take to the streets; super-fit athletes cover the 26.22 miles in just over two hours, while others dress up in daft costumes and take considerably longer.

London Marathon participants | Ms Jane Campbell / Shutterstock ©

z Beltane

Thousands of revellers climb Edinburgh's Calton Hill for this modern revival of a pagan fire festival (www.beltane.org) marking the end of winter.

6 Spirit of Speyside

Based in Dufftown, a Scottish festival of whisky, food and music, with five days of art, cooking, distillery tours and outdoor activities.

May

The weather is usually good, with more events to enjoy. There are two public holidays this month (first and last Mondays) so traffic is very busy over the corresponding long weekends.

3 FA Cup Final

Grand finale of the football (soccer) season for over a century. Teams from across England battle it out over the winter months, culminating in this heady spectacle at Wembley Stadium – the home of English football.

1 Chelsea Flower Show

The Royal Horticultural Society flower show at Chelsea is the highlight of the gardener's year.

z Hay Festival

The ever-expanding 'Woodstock of the mind' brings an intellectual influx to book-town Hay-on-Wye.

3 Glyndebourne

Famous festival of world-class opera in the pastoral surroundings of East Sussex, running until the end of summer.

June

Now it's almost summer. You can tell because this month sees the music-festival season kick off properly, while sporting events, from rowing to racing, fill the calendar.

3 Derby Week

Horse-racing, people-watching and clothes-spotting are on the agenda at this week-long meeting in Epsom, Surrey (www.epsomderby.co.uk).

3 Cotswolds Olimpicks

Welly-wanging, pole-climbing and shin-kicking are the key disciplines at this traditional Gloucestershire sports day (hlate May/early Jun), held every year since 1612.

1 Trooping the Colour

Military bands and bear-skinned grenadiers march down London's Whitehall in this martial pageant to mark the monarch's birthday.

Trooping the Colour marching band | Oscar Garriga Estrada / Shutterstock ©

3 Royal Ascot

It's hard to tell which matters more, the fashion or the fillies, at this highlight of the horse-racing year in Berkshire.

3 Wimbledon Tennis

The world's best-known tennis tournament, attracting all the big names, while crowds cheer and eat tons of strawberries and cream.

z Glastonbury

One of Britain's favourite pop and rock gatherings is invariably muddy, and still a rite of passage for every self-respecting British music fan.

1 Royal Regatta

Boats of every description take to the water for Henley's upper-crust river jamboree.

z Pride

Highlight of the gay and lesbian calendar, this technicolour street parade heads through London's West End.

z Glasgow's West End Festival

Scotland's second city hosts a major celebration of music and arts.

July

Proper summer. Festivals every week. School summer breaks begin, so there's a holiday tingle in the air, dulled only by busy roads on Fridays, because everyone's going somewhere for the weekend.

1 Great Yorkshire Show

Harrogate plays host to one of Britain's largest county shows. This is the place for Yorkshire grit, Yorkshire tykes, Yorkshire puddings, Yorkshire beef…

z T in the Park

World-class acts since 1994 ensure this major music festival (www.tinthepark.com) is Scotland's answer to Glastonbury.

z Latitude

Relaxed festival in the seaside town of Southwold, with theatre, cabaret, art and literature, plus top names from the alternative music scene.

3 International Musical Eisteddfod

Festival of international folk music at Llangollen, with eclectic fringe and big-name evening concerts.

1 Royal Welsh Show

Prize bullocks and local produce at this national farm and livestock event in Builth Wells.

3 Cowes Week

Britain's biggest yachting spectacular on the choppy seas around the Isle of Wight.

z Womad

Roots and world music take centre stage at this festival (www.womad.org) in a country park in the south Cotswolds.

z Port Eliot Festival

Beginning life as a literary festival, now branched out into live music, theatre and outdoor art (www.porteliotfestival.com).

August

Schools and colleges are closed, parliament is in recess, the sun is shining (hopefully), most people go away for a week or two, and the nation is in holiday mood.

z Edinburgh Festivals

Edinburgh's most famous August happenings are the International Festival and Fringe, but this month the city also has an event for anything you care to name – books, art, theatre, music, comedy, marching bands… (www.edinburghfestivals.co.uk).

z Notting Hill Carnival

London's famous multicultural Caribbean-style street carnival in the district of Notting Hill. Steel drums, dancers, outrageous costumes.

3 National Eisteddfod of Wales

The largest celebration of native Welsh culture, steeped in history, pageantry and pomp %08454-090900; hAug); held at various venues around the country.

z Brecon Fringe Festival

All musical tastes are catered for at this arts festival in the charming mid-Wales town of Brecon.

2 World Bog Snorkelling Championships

Only in Britain – competitors, many in fancy dress, don snorkel and flippers for a swimming race along a muddy ditch in the middle of a peat bog (www.green-events.co.uk).

z Green Man Festival

A firm favourite on the UK's summer music festival circuit, Green Man offers four days of alternative folk and rock music in a verdant Brecon Beacons setting.

Green Man festival-goers | Deatonphotos / Shutterstock ©

September

The first week of September is still holiday time, but then schools reopen, traffic returns to normal, and the summer party's over for another year. Ironically, the weather's often better than in August, now everyone's back at work.

z Bestival

Quirky music festival on the Isle of Wight with a different fancy-dress theme every year.

2 Great North Run

Tyneside plays host to the one of the biggest half marathons in the world (www.greatrun.org/great-north-run), with the greatest number of runners in any race at this distance.

5 Abergavenny Food Festival

The mother of all epicurean festivals and the champion of Wales' burgeoning food scene.

5 Ludlow Food & Drink Festival

Great foodie town and a great foodie festival.

3 Braemar Gathering

The biggest and most famous Highland Games in the Scottish calendar, traditionally attended by members of the royal family. Highland dancing, caber-tossing and bagpipe-playing.

Putting the Stone event at the Braemar Gathering | Hans-Peter Merten / Getty Images ©

October

October means autumn. The leaves on the trees are changing colour, attractions start to shut down for the low season, and accommodation rates drop as hoteliers try to entice a final few guests before winter.

z Dylan Thomas Festival

A celebration of the Welsh laureate's work with readings, events and talks in Swansea.

5 Falmouth Oyster Festival

The West Country port of Falmouth marks the start of the traditional oyster catching season (www.falmouthoysterfestival.co.uk) with a celebration of local food from the sea and fields of Cornwall.

November

Winter's here, and November is a dull month. The weather is often cold and damp, summer is a distant memory and Christmas is still too far away.

z Guy Fawkes Night

Also called Bonfire Night (www.bonfirenight.net); on 5 November fireworks fill Britain's skies in commemoration of a failed attempt to blow up parliament, way back in 1605.

1 Remembrance Day

Red poppies are worn and wreaths are laid in towns and cities around the country on 11 November in commemoration of fallen military personnel (www.poppy.org.uk).

December

Schools break up earlier, but shops and businesses keep going until Christmas Eve; the last weekend before Christmas Day is busy on the roads as people visit friends and family, or head for the airport.

z Stonehaven Fireball Festival

The Scottish fishing town of Stonehaven celebrates Hogmanay with a spectacular procession of fireball-swinging locals (www.stonehavenfireballs.co.uk).

z New Year Celebrations

The last night of December sees fireworks and street parties in town squares across the country. London's Trafalgar Sq is where the city's largest crowds gather to welcome the New Year.

Itineraries

Best of Britain

2 Weeks

This circular whistle-stop tour ticks off Britain's greatest hits in an action-packed fortnight.

Start with a full day in Britain's greatest city, London, simply walking the streets to admire the world-famous sights: Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge, Trafalgar Sq and more. Then head southwest to the grand cathedral cities of Winchester and Salisbury, across to the iconic menhirs of Stonehenge and its less well-known counterpart Avebury Stone Circle, then onwards to the beautiful historic city of Bath.

Loop over to Chepstow for its impressive castle, and then continue to Cardiff, the Welsh capital. Retrace slightly, then cruise across the classic English countryside of the Cotswolds to reach the renowned university city of Oxford. Not far away is Stratford-upon-Avon, for everything Shakespeare.

Strike out on the long drive north to Scotland's capital, Edinburgh, for another great castle, before recrossing the border to York for its glorious cathedral and historic city walls. Keep going south to reach Cambridge, another landmark university city. Then enjoy the last few days back in London, immersed in galleries, museums, luxury shops, street markets, West End shows, East End cafes – or whatever takes your fancy.

Itineraries

The