The Queen, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Stonehenge, bright red double-decker buses, amazing cooked breakfasts, incessant tea-drinking, fish and chips, prestigious Oxford University, the Union Jack, William Shakespeare, David Beckham and The Beatles – a few classics that make the British proud of their birthplace
When venturing in London, the colourful, iconic tube map will become a faithful friend for navigating the vast, interconnected underground railway networks and Harry Potter fans can take advantage of a winning photo op standing next to the ‘Platform 9 ¾’ sign at King’s Cross station.
Head to the Islands of Britain and Ireland for a stately journey across rugged, fairy-tale lands. A storyteller’s paradise, you’ll uncover the essence of Britain and the natural elements of Ireland, meeting some colourful characters along the way.
Outside London’s hustle and bustle, quintessential England offers beautiful countryside, diverse landscapes, a wealth of history, and multiple points of interest. In some locations, stepping on English soil gives a feeling of being transported back in time, with cathedrals, churches, and other structures dating as far back as the Bronze Age.
When it comes to sport, Premier League football, the annual Wimbledon tennis tournament and the Grand National horse race attract considerable interest and hype. Tea anyone?
Starting with the capital city of London, here you will bear witness to spectacular buildings of great historical significance. At a height of over 96 metres, London’s famous clock tower Big Ben (formally called The Elizabeth Tower), stands at the north end of the Houses of Parliament in Westminster. If architectural wonders excite you, then you also need to head to the baroque masterpiece St. Paul’s Cathedral, and Buckingham Palace, where depending on the timing of your visit, it is possible to witness the customary Changing of the Guard ceremony.
The Tower of London is another famous site where a whole host of attractions await you, including viewing an impressive display of the Crown Jewels. Shoppers will have the joy of places like Oxford Street, Regent Street, Convent Garden and Knightsbridge’s legendary Harrods department store to explore. A trip to the British Museum will bring hours of entertainment, with multiple galleries and special exhibitions hosted throughout the year. Meanwhile, the London Eye gives a great bird’s eye view of this captivating city and enables you to see all the places you’ve been to on foot from a different perspective.
Further afield in the county of Dorset, literature fans can connect with Victorian novelist Thomas Hardy by taking a trip to the picturesque village of Evershot, an area of beauty that features in many of Hardy’s literary works. Likewise, Stratford-upon-Avon - William Shakespeare’s birthplace – also needs to be on the list as it has multiple places of interest including The Royal Shakespeare Theatre and the MAD Museum.
If journeying to the New Forest in Hampshire, the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu will keep car-enthusiasts occupied and makes a great day out for the whole family. As the most-famous prehistoric monument in Europe, Stonehenge will give insights into life in England 5,000 years ago, while the royal residence Windsor Castle, one of the world’s most famous castles, also has a fascinating history to uncover.
English cuisine has been influenced by dishes and flavours from many countries and therefore offers a wide range of flavours and cooking styles. A ‘full English’ breakfast includes sausages, bacon, baked beans, toast, tomatoes, mushrooms and eggs, and sometimes extras like hash browns and black pudding; a sure-fire way to remain full for the rest of the morning, if not the day!
Traditional English meals are typically filling, comforting and often quite stodgy. Staples like fish and chips (battered cod or haddock and thick-cut chips), roast dinner with all the trimmings (often roast beef with Yorkshire puddings, roast potatoes and large helpings of vegetables and gravy), pasties (folded pastry casing with savoury fillings of various combinations), bangers and mash (sausages with mashed potato), and pies (steak and kidney pie and pork pies being particularly popular) are what would be deemed ‘English’.
However, curries are also hugely popular in England, as are Italian, Thai, Chinese and Indian cuisine. Much like main courses, English desserts are hearty too. Hot puddings are usually served with custard, cream or ice-cream, such as crumble, apple pie, sticky toffee pudding, jam roly-poly pudding, and bread and butter pudding (consisting of layers of buttered bread covered with a mixture of eggs and milk, seasoned with nutmeg, cinnamon or vanilla, then baked).
England also knows how to do cakes exceptionally well; Battenberg (with pink and yellow squares of sponge held together with jam and wrapped in a marzipan blanket), Victoria sponge cake, Chelsea buns (a currant bun drizzled with icing), and Eccles cakes (a flaky butter pastry cake filled with currants) being a few examples.
Have we mentioned tea yet? Since the first import in 17th century, tea has been a big hit with the Brits and continues to be the go-to beverage. Tea can simply be just a cup of tea, or it can be an event in the form of: cream tea – often involving a mid-afternoon outing at a café where the tea comes with scones, covered with generous helpings of rich cream and jam; and afternoon tea, where said drink is accompanied with a delightful selection of finger sandwiches and exquisite cakes that are beautifully displayed. The latter is a great way of indulging with loved ones or celebrating special occasions and depending on where it is consumed, can be anything from a low-key outing catching up with a friend to a rich indulgence that you get dressed up for.
Just to confuse matters, many Brits will talk of cooking or eating their tea and in this context, they are referring to their evening meal. Aside from tea, another faithful soft drink is squash (or cordial); it has nothing to do with squash the vegetable and instead consists of a sweet, concentrated fruit-flavoured liquid that is diluted with water before tasting (available in multiple flavours). Ginger beer also has a misleading name as it is in fact a carbonated soft drink.
When it comes to alcohol, you will have a vast array of beers, ales and ciders to choose from. Gin is also popular and the base ingredient in Pimm’s, another well-loved British drink that in the summer, is often mixed with traditional lemonade or ginger beer and pieces of fruit, then served as punch.
Landscape and wildlife
Out in natural landscapes like England’s many forests and open countryside, rabbits, badgers, foxes, hedgehogs and deer are some of the animals that can be found. In places like the New Forest, wild ponies roam freely (they are owned by the New Forest Commoners but given the freedom to wander through the forest as they please).
Bird life is rich in both natural and urban areas, with examples including kestrels, gulls, sparrows, magpies, doves, starlings, blackbirds, swallows, herons, quails, pheasants, and a variety of species of owl. England’s coastline is similarly rich in wildlife, given that it offers vibrant habitats within its sand dunes, beaches, cliffs and rocky outcrops. Otters, seals, harbour porpoises, basking sharks and dolphins can be spotted in British waters at various times of year.