The United Kingdom was the patriarch, the Empire that reigned when America was born and that from which America was spawned. Having existed in earnest since 1707, the pact that originally started with England and Scotland's combined kingdoms today includes Northern Ireland and Wales. In many ways the fountainhead of the U.K., England, showed America what being a world power is really all about. TheUnited Kingdom's history is deep, spanning back thousands of years and including stories of great treasures, untouchable kingdoms and intrepid heros. It's a magical land that will always hold a dear place in our hearts as the place in which we found our wanderlust. We hope you find yours in the U.K. as well.
The United Kingdom is a bit enigmatic, as it's technically a country, yet four countries, that really don't want to be a part of one another.
Formally called "The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland", the UK is made up of the four countries of Scotland, Wales, England, and Northern Ireland. Each of these countries have their own history, own capitals, and own historic landmarks that tell the story of each land and its people.
London - The capital of England, and the United Kingdom, London remains one of the most heavily visited cities in the world. It's big, yet small. Fast, yet slow. Old, yet young. London is all things, and remains one of our favorite cities in the world.
Edinburgh - The formal capital and largest city in Scotland, Edinburgh is a UNESCO World Heritage site that traces her roots back more than 10,000 years. Culture in the British Isles seemingly sprang from Scotland, and Edinburgh seems evidentiary of this with her myriad castles, ancient towns, stories, and legends that reach back into the fabric of pre-history.
Manchester - The second-largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, Manchester is often forgotten about in comparison to its more famous neighbors to the north and south. Yet, with three million residents, some of the best parks and pubs in England, and a rich history all its own, Manchester is a must-visit destination.
Belfast - The capital of Northern Ireland, Belfast has long been a cultural cornerstone of art and music in the United Kingdom. It's the city of story-tellers, both through the written word and through the symbolism of creative arts, and there's a certain romanticism about the city that makes it a place any true lover of European culture should visit.
Glasgow - Glasgow is Edinburgh's rougher older brother, a stalwart of Scottish culture and a city that feels somehow older than Europe and the rest of Scotland. Glasgow is real, and it's fun, but don't come here expecting Edinburgh. They're as different as day and night.
Cardiff - One of the most overlooked destinations in the United Kingdom, Cardiff is the beautiful Welsh capital located just west of the border with England. Full of castles, pubs, parks, and green, open spaces, Cardiff feels like something in a storybook.
Birmingham - While Manchester is the second-largest metropolitan area in the U.K., Birmingham is the second-largest city, trailing only London. Birmingham is an important player in arts and culture throughout the U.K., and has one of the best symphony orchestras in the U.K.
Bath - Bath is the small, quaint, village-city in western England that everyone thinks of when they're reading Shakespeare. It has much of that original charm of Shakespearean England, and Bath has both the architecture and history to attract visitors on its own accord.
Aberdeen - Scotland's third most-populous city, Aberdeen is perhaps the lone gateway city to the Scottish highlands. The history here is deep and rich, and Aberdeen is another great location to find beautiful old cathedrals, towers, castles, and homes from a time gone by.
Swansea - Swansea is a beautiful, coastal town in western Wales that's famous as the home of the great Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas. It's an incredibly scenic location, especially along the Mumbles Pier and coastal areas that inspired Thomas much of his young adult life.
Cliffs of Dover
Tower of London
It's impossible to see all there is to see in the United Kingdom without months to do so, but the highlights are worth the effort. Begin by starting south, in London, and explore England and Wales going northward. Finish with Scotland and the Highlands with an optional jaunt to Northern Ireland. Cities are England, unless otherwise marked.
Depending on the length of your trip, and taking geographic proximity into account, the following are our recommended priorities:
4 days: London
7 days, add: Bath and Stonehenge
9 days, add: Cardiff (Wales) and Swansea (Wales) or Gloucester (at this point, skip to *** if staying under two weeks)
10 - 12 days, add: Stratford-Upon-Avon (especially Shakespeare fans), Cambridge, and/or Sheffield
12 - 14 days, add: Liverpool
*** 14 - 17 days, add: Edinburgh, with day trip to Glasgow (via rail, or regional flight from Wales or England)
19 days, add: Dumfries and Galloway
22 - 23 days, add: Inverness, Loch Ness, and Highlands. Consider St. Andrews.
More: Consider adding return trip to Edinburgh or Glasgow for easy flight to Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Language: English, but several languages are recognized including Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Cornish and Welsh.
Currency: Pound Sterling (GBP). GBP is currently 0.8 for 1 USD, but this has been in massive fluctuation since Brexit was announced in the summer of 2016. The Pound has been as low as ~0.6 for 1 USD in recent years, and continues to move up and down depending upon the most recent news. Make sure to check this prior to your trip to the UK, as it's a number that could move quickly and severely in either direction, depending on what news is available.
Power Adapter: In the United Kingdom the power sockets are of type G. The standard voltage is 230 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz.
Crime & Safety: Let's separate London from the rest of the U.K., as it's sheer size and population makes it a different animal in terms of crime statistics. The U.K., in general, is incredibly safe. While there is a fair share of drunken hooliganism that goes on around pubs and bars, most of this ends in sloppy fistfights that never goes beyond the walls of the pub. Don't want to get into a row? Don't bag on Manchester United. But, I digress...
London can be dangerous in some areas, but no more-so than New York, and in very much the same way. Don't be stupid, don't be flashy and generally you have nothing to worry about. We've been to London countless times and participated in our fair share of bad behavior and drinking and never, not once, have we ever felt in danger. Ever. Other major cities in the U.K. such as Edinburgh and Cardiff are incredibly safe, while Glasgow has a bit more of a rough-and-tumble imagine. Still, cities like New Orleans or Atlanta makes Glasgow look like Club Med.
Emergency Number: 101
Read more about the United Kingdom!
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