The United Kingdom is four countries in one, which share many similarities yet are vastly different from each other. It’s the home of literature greats such as Dylan Thomas and William Shakespeare. It’s where castles have stood for centuries and been fought over by feuding kings. The U.K. also introduced us to cricket, golf, rugby and soccer. Need some more reasons to visit England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland? Read on to find out.
A Multi-Layered and Fascinating History
British and Irish history is like an onion, you have to peel off layer upon layer to get to its core. The Picts were the first people to inhabit these lands, and arrived some 10,000 years ago. Then came the Celts, and later the Romans, who ruled for 400 years. Germanic tribes started to come from around 500 A.D., followed by the Vikings. A royal family has been present for 1,500 years and 66 monarchs have been crowned head of state.
Today, magnificent landmarks stand as testaments to those that shaped the nations. Ramble along Hadrian’s Wall, which guarded the northwest border of the Roman Empire. Walk in the footsteps of kings and queens at Conwy Castle, Edinburgh Castle and Warwick Castle. Explore curious neolithic structures such as Stonehenge and Skara Brae Prehistoric Village. The Titanic Belfast, The British Museum and Churchill War Rooms are just some of hundreds of world-class museums, too.
Ancient and Quirky Traditions
Despite a perceived reserved manner, the English, Welsh, Scots, and Irish are never shy of expressing themselves. These are the people that instigated the Punk, Mod and Goth subcultures. The penchant for the weird and the wacky goes way back before records were invented. Visit a countryside village during the spring and summer months and there’s a high probability of stumbling across eccentric annual games and festivals.
Head to the Cotswolds village of Brockworth in May and you can watch crazed locals chasing a wheel of cheese down a steep hill at the Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling. Not too far away, competitors race uphill with bags of wool on their backs during the Tetbury Woolsack Races. Perhaps you want to see bog snorkeling in Wales, pancake racing in Olney and haggis hurling in Scotland. Then of course there’s the Morris dancers that brighten up street fairs with their medieval folk dances.
Eclectic Festivals and Events
Hosting celebrations of cinema, literature, music, fashion, horticulture and sports, there’s something for everyone on the United Kingdom’s event calendar. Music festivals went big in 1970 with the Isle of Wight Festival, which was the inspiration for the iconic Glastonbury Festival. Now you can choose between hundreds of one-day, weekend and family-friendly music events that cater to ever genre and taste. This handy Festival Calendar can help you find the right one for you.
Up in Scotland, August’s month-long Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the biggest performing arts festival on the planet. Henley Royal Regatta, Royal Ascot, and Wimbledon Fortnight showcase long-standing rowing, horse racing, and tennis traditions. The Chelsea Flower Show and UK Film Festival also attract visitors from far and wide.