The United Kingdom is a great place to visit. In fact, England, Scotland, Wales and the Offshore Islands all offer great vacation and holiday destinations with something for everyone — singles, couples and families. And this year, with the dollar riding so high against the pound sterling, it's a bargain vacation as well.
Whether you plan to cross an ocean, take a cross country train trip or simply drive down the motorway for your next trip holiday, here are some good reasons to visit England and the rest of the UK.
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Great Views and Terrific Scenery
The forces of nature - of wind, seas and ice - have combined to give this relatively small, island kingdom an amazing variety of landscapes - all within reasonably short distances of each other. No one in the UK is ever more than two hours from the sea. There are mountains and ranges of majestic hills, rolling farmlands, wild heaths and moors, exquisite lakes and lochs and gentle, lovely valleys and streams. Start with some of these:
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Urban Adventures in Great Cities and Towns
Everybody knows that London is one of the world's great cities, but it's just the tip of the iceberg. The UK's cities and towns have a lot to offer visitors - from the hip, indie scene of Manchester to the amazing Balti food of Birmingham, from the dreaming spires of Oxford and medieval passageways of York to the lively art scenes of Glasgow. Edinburgh Castle looks down on the vibrant capital of Scotland and Liverpool rides a tide of history beside the Mersey. Check out these cities and towns:
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The Multi-Layered Great British History
From the prehistoric Britons, Gaels, Celts and Picts through Vikings, Romans and Normans, wave after wave of conquerors and migrants have shaped the United Kingdom - and most have left fascinating traces for visitors to explore. Consider these for starters:
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The Great British Pub
The best British pubs are more than places to eat and drink; they are landmarks of continuity that have existed in the same spot for hundreds of years. Their names tell stories, often linked to local history, outlaws, wars and customs. Their architecture - whether half-timbered, thatch-roofed or built of brick - adds to the character of their villages. But not all pubs are equal and some are, frankly, dreadful if you aren't a local.
Find out how to pick a great one with our guide to How to Order a Beer in a Pub. Then check out a few that we've liked:Continue to 5 of 10 below.
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Great World Class Festivals and Events
Some of the world's greatest set piece events draw visitors to the UK year after year. In England, just about everything stops for a fortnight for Wimbledon, tennis's biggest grand slam tournament. While up in Scotland, everything seems on the go, 24/7, for the whole month of August, as thousands reel from one event to another during the Edinburgh Festivals, the world's biggest performing arts party. And there are more:
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Great Traditions and Eccentricities
The British are masters of the weird and wacky. From cheese rolling in Gloucestershire and fireball whirling in Scotland, to Morris Men dancing and banging sticks, or hobby horses terrorizing villages on May Day, there are wonderfully eccentric traditions all over the British Isles. Most have origins lost in antiquity. No one cares how they got going - the point is to have a good time:
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Great Storybook Architecture
Thatched cottages, fairytale castles, soaring cathedrals, stately mansions - the UK has them all. The half-timbered streets of Chester look like something out of Disney - but they are real and they are really old. So much of what gives the UK its unique appeal for visitors is the look of its heritage buildings - the stuff of dream and story:
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The Rise of the Great British Chefs
In the space of a few decades Britain has shaken off its dire food reputation and become a center of fine dining. London actually rivals Paris and outclasses New York for Michelin stars. And the rest of the UK is not far behind. Television "cheffing" has turned the best chefs around the country into mega celebrities. They've created a demand for superb dining and inspired even more talented chefs to open cafes, bistros and restaurants around the country.
These are just a few:Continue to 9 of 10 below.
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The World's Greatest Gardens and Gardeners
From as early as the 17th century, the gentlemen - and lady - horticulturalists of the British Empire explored exotic locales to bring back unusual plant specimens. A traditional interest in plants, the UK's relatively mild climate, an early taste for landscapes as works of art and the fortuitous genius of 18th century landscape gardener Lancelot "Capability" Brown have produced an abundant bouquet of beautiful and fascinating gardens all over Britain. Gardens like these:
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The Great British Royals
The power of the Royal Family is mostly symbolic these days but it is certainly impossible to forget that the United Kingdom is a monarchy - it's part of the name for heaven's sake. Love them or loathe them - and in Britain you get both opinions, sometimes uttered in the same sentence - they are woven into the fabric of life. Their comings and goings, their homes and the events they traditionally attend are a fine spectacle for visitors and natives alike. When you visit the UK, Royal watching is a must: