Map of The United Kingdom & Travel Guide
Once upon a time, there was a tiny island country on the forgotten edge of Europe that few people had heard of. By some miracle, that small nation survived being swallowed by its larger neighbors and built the largest empire in the history of the world.
Today, the United Kingdom is once again a small country. But now, everyone has heard of it, and its language is the most widely spoken second language in the world.
Map of the United Kingdom
When you visit the UK, you’re entering a living museum with countless exhibits detailing its long and rich history. This is the nation that defied the Spanish Armada, took the fight to Napoleon, and stood alone against Nazi Germany.
The Map of the United Kingdom & Travel Guide help you come and see where William Wallace fought for freedom, William Shakespeare performed his plays, and William Wilberforce campaigned to put an end to slavery around the world. It all began with William the Conqueror, and if you’re lucky you might pass Prince William in the street today.
Map of The United Kingdom & Travel Guide
Map of the United Kingdom & Travel Guide
United Kingdom Fact File
- Location: Off the northwestern coast of Europe.
- Capital city: London
- Population: Around 67,500,000.
- Ethnicity: 87.1% white, 7.0% “Asian” (ancestors from the Indian subcontinent), 3.0% black, 2.0% mixed-race, and 0.9% others.
- Area: 93,628 square miles.
- Seasonal weather: Temperate climate with lots of rain. The Atlantic Gulf Stream ensures mild winters.
- Official language: English.
- Other languages: Cornish, Irish, Scots, Scottish Gaelic, and Ulster Scots. In some areas, Welsh or Scottish Gaelic are the first language of the people and official government forms are available in those languages. In Wales, 16% of schoolchildren are taught in Welsh rather than English.
- Religion: 59.5% Christian, 25.7% atheist, 4.4% Muslim, 1.3% Hindu, 0.7% Sikh, 0.4% Jewish, 0.4% Buddhist, 0.4% other, 7.2% unknown. In some cities, the percentage of people following a minority religion is much higher. For example, you will find many beautiful mosques around Birmingham, Bradford, and Leicester.
- Current head of state & prime minister: Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is head of state. She’s the longest-serving head of state in the world. The Right Honourable Boris Johnson is Prime Minister for now, but a General Election will be held on 12th December 2019 which potentially could elect a new PM.
- Time zone: The UK uses Greenwich Mean Time and British Summer Time, which means Brits turn the clock forward on the last Sunday in March and back on the last Sunday in October.
- Currency: The pound sterling (£) is the official currency. Since 1971, the currency has been decimalized with the pound divided into 100 pence (p). Before decimalization, the currency was much more complex, with 20 shillings in every pound and 12 pennies in every shilling.
- Country dialing code prefix: +44
- Emergency numbers: In an emergency, just dial 999. This puts you through to an operator who will ask you which emergency service you require. You can ask for police, ambulance, fire brigade, cave rescue, mountain rescue, or coastguard on this number. For contacting the police over a matter that is not so urgent, dial 101. For a non-urgent medical matter, dial 111. I’ve heard that dialing 911 will also put you through to the 999 call center because of the influence of American TV shows and movies making British kids think that 911 is the emergency number. But don’t risk your life on that!
Airports & Entry
You can enter the UK by air, sea, or train. It’s often quickest and cheapest to come by air because London Heathrow Airport is the busiest airport in the world and you can pick up bargain flights from budget airlines.
However, it depends where you’re coming from. For example, if you’re traveling from Paris to London, you may find a Eurostar train cheaper and just as convenient as flying. If you’re traveling from the US or Canada, flying will work out best.
There are over 40 international airports in the UK scattered all over the country, so you’re spoiled for choice. Before deciding on your destination airport, plan where you want to go.
Air flights are relatively cheap in the UK, but ground travel can be expensive. If, for example, you aim to spend all your time in Scotland, you’ll usually find it cheapest to fly to Edinburgh Airport and begin your Scottish tour there. If you fly to Heathrow Airport and take the train up to Scotland, it will cost you more in both money and your valuable time.
However, for travelers who wish to tour around the country or just see London, it works out cheapest to arrive at one of the busiest airports on a budget airline flight. I’d advise Heathrow for London and the south, Manchester Airport for the north of England, and Edinburgh Airport for Scotland.
Great Britain is, of course, an island. It can be reached by ferry from nearby European countries, especially the Netherlands and France.
The main gateway to the UK by sea is the Port of Dover, which is the world’s 3rd busiest passenger port. It is only 21 miles from France, making the crossing here relatively fast and cheap—1½ hours and only £50 for a single adult on foot. However, you must also factor in the cost of getting to Calais from wherever you came from in France and the cost of getting from Dover to your destination in the UK.
You can ride on the Eurostar for as little as £58.50 (though it depends upon when you travel and can cost up to £102) and it takes 2 hours and 17 minutes from Paris to London. As you can probably work out for yourself, it’s usually quicker and cheaper to take the Eurostar from Paris to London than to take the ferry combined with road or rail from the ports to the cities.
You can fly from Paris to London Stanstead Airport for as little as £87 on EasyJet and the flight takes 1 hour 20 minutes. But Stanstead is almost as far from central London as Dover, so you have to factor in travel and time costs from the airport. Heathrow is closer but still not central. Overall, it’s less hassle and usually cheapest to take the Eurostar.
History Of The United Kingdom
The UK has a complex history due to the multiple waves of invaders who have each transformed the British Isles, introducing fresh blood, cultural influences, and new languages. The current political union of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland was only formed in 1801 (Eire seceded in 1922). However, the cultural history of the British people stretches back much further.
The earliest evidence of humans in the UK is stone tools and footprints dated to 900,000 BCE. At that time, Great Britain was joined to France and so was not an island. Around 425,000 BCE, the land link flooded, and Great Britain became an island.
By the time of the Roman invasion in 43 CE, the British Isles were inhabited by Celtic people closely related to those in Gaul (Belgium and France). Great Britain was part of the Roman Empire from 43 CE to 410 CE. During this period, there was some blending of Romans and Celts to create a Romano-Celtic culture in Britain.
Many important cities, such as London and York, were founded by the Romans. They also built important road networks that have survived into the modern age and introduced weights and measures that remained in use until the late 20th century. Oh, and they also told us to drive on the left side of the road, and we never stopped!
Between 410 CE and 1066 CE, there was a period of chaos often termed the Dark Ages. Multiple invasions and mass immigration of first Saxons from northern Germany and then Vikings from Norway and Denmark led to the creation of many tiny kingdoms throughout Britain. For example, the Viking Kingdom of Jorvic was formed around York, from which York gains its current name.
Most significantly, a cultural split appeared between England and the rest of the British Isles, where Celtic speaking people were marginalized into Ireland, Wales, and Scotland, while England became culturally and linguistically more Saxon and spoke a Germanic language we now call Anglo-Saxon or Old English. English people have more Saxon and Viking blood, while Welsh and Irish people are more Celtic.
In 1066, William the Conqueror conducted the last successful invasion of England. Many of the iconic castles across the nation were originally built by William and his Norman knights, such as the Tower of London and Windsor Castle, though they have been rebuilt many times since.
Under William and his descendants, Norman French became the official language of the court and law. The upper classes learned French. The lower classes continued to speak Anglo-Saxon. Over a period of some 400 years, many French words were added to the Anglo-Saxon language spoken by commoners. A new hybrid language developed that is now called Middle English.
Many of the most popular stories in British history come from the period of the English Renaissance in the 16th and 17th centuries. This is when modern English emerged and overtook French as the language of court and law in England. It is when Queen Elizabeth I defied Spain and England transformed into a major world power with colonies in America.
The English Renaissance also saw the crowns of England, Ireland and Scotland merged into one by James VI of Scotland when he became King of England in 1603. Although Scotland and England remained sovereign states, one monarch ruled both from 1603 setting the foundation for what eventually became the United Kingdom.
But economically the most important period of British history is the Industrial Revolution. Due to various timely technological inventions made by a few British individuals, the United Kingdom was able to grow into the world’s main commercial nation by the mid-18th century and expand its empire until it became the largest in the world (for an extremely brief period of history). This led to English (originally a backwater dialect of German) becoming one of the most widely spoken languages in the world.
The modern United Kingdom and its people reflect this complex history. Walking the streets of every major city, you see evidence of its faded empire. In the parks, you see faces and clothes obviously originating from the Indian subcontinent, though their accents betray the fact these people were born in Glasgow or Birmingham. In city centers stand grand, neo-classical buildings nobody in the United Kingdom could afford to build today. Many museums hold treasures stolen from other nations that someday may have to be returned.
The UK today is multicultural on every level. 36.7% of the people in London were born in another country, and in many cities, you will find the elected leaders of local government come from immigrant communities. The UK is the most fascinating countries you will ever visit.
Getting Around The United Kingdom
The UK has a very developed transport system. Generally, I’d say it’s easiest to get around by train because they are faster than road transport and you can often buy discount tickets if you plan in advance.
Trains are great for traveling from one city to another. They’re relatively fast and you can read and research your next destination while you’re on the move. However, they do tend to be expensive. In particular, if you’re traveling as a family or in a group of four or five, it will almost always work out cheaper to hire a car rather than buy individual rail tickets.
Never purchase your tickets from the railway station just before you travel. There are lots of online train ticket companies, like Northern Rail, that show you the range of prices available for the journey you intend to make so that you can choose the cheapest option.
Often the rail fare is dramatically different at different times during the day. For example, the fare from London Kings Cross to York at 8.00 am is £70.00 but at 8.06 am it’s £54.00. But you can only secure this cheaper ticket by booking in advance online.
There are coach companies that run efficient and affordable intercity services, such as National Express. That journey from London to York will only cost £37.20 on a National Express coach. However, the train journey takes less than 2 hours. The coach journey from London Victoria Coach Station to York takes 8 hours 22 minutes and involves a change.
If you’re a student and have all the time in the world, you can take a coach. But if you work all year and you’ve taken two weeks off for your dream vacation in England, don’t waste those 6 extra hours on a coach to save £17. Plus, although National Express coaches do have restrooms and comfy seats, they’re not as spacious and comfy as a train.
Note that in the UK, we still drive on the left like the Romans did. If you’re uncomfortable with that and going clockwise around our many, many roundabouts, then hiring a car really isn’t for you.
For journeys around London, I would NEVER recommend a car. You’ll be stuck in traffic for hours and have more chance of winning the National Lottery than finding a parking place.
Also, watch out for the London Congestion Charge. If you’re driving around the center of London, you will need to pay a special £11.50 per day tax. Failing to pay this results in a £130 fine, and there are cameras to catch you everywhere.
London is Best by Tube
The easiest way to get around London is on the Tube, and the best way to do this is to buy a Travelcard that allows you to use the tube and bus within specified zones for a specified period of time. For example, you can buy a 1-day Travelcard to travel just in Zone 1-4 (central London) for £13.10 and visit any of the major attractions by tube or bus.
But if you’re traveling around the country in a family group, hiring a car can work out cheaper than taking a train. You can hire a standard 5-person car for around £70 a day. So, if you were taking that journey from London to York with three other people, the cost would be £70 for car hire plus £30 for fuel consumption (according to the RAC Mileage Calculator) making a total of £100 for 4 people, or £25 each.
However, cars are always slower than trains. That journey would take you 4 hours by car rather than 2 hours by train, assuming you don’t take any wrong turns along the way. So, if your time is a premium, I would suggest you only hire a car if you intend to visit lots of scenic and remote places, like the Yorkshire Dales or the Peak District, where you’ll find it easier to get around by car. If you’re only going to cities and towns, take the train.
Bicycles are a contentious issue. Many cities in the UK have spent millions developing cycle lanes. However, in some cities, like Manchester or Nottingham, I would never recommend you cycle. In others, like Cambridge and Oxford, you’ll actually find it quicker to cycle than drive around the city because there are many areas where cars are forbidden but cycles allowed and lots of residents choose to cycle.
In the center of London, you can easily hire a Boris Bike for as little as £2.00. You can find these cycles, officially called Santander Cycles, at docking stations all around London. You just touch the bicycle’s screen and use your bank card to hire one and drop it off at another docking station when you’ve finished. The hire cost is £2 for every 30 minutes.
Map of the United Kingdom & Travel Guide
Accommodation In The United Kingdom
The most common chain hotels found around the UK are Premier Inn, Travelodge, Holiday Inn, Hilton, Marriott, Butlins, Best Western, Ritz, Savoy, and Haven. Most are famous international brands, so you may well have stayed in similar hotels in your own country. You will find them in all the major cities.
There are, of course, a selection of very prestigious hotels that are not owned by international companies or, at least, have a long and illustrious history. However, this can be expensive. For example, the London Ritz 5-star hotel will cost around £500 a night.
Bed & Breakfasts
Bed & breakfasts are an English tradition, and you can easily find out about local B&Bs from any tourist information office. These days, most B&Bs advertise on booking.com, AirBnB or similar online organizations. B&B prices vary wildly depending upon location and the standard of accommodation. For example, you can stay at the Acorn Guest House in Cambridge for £60 per night and the Rosebud Cottage in Haworth for £50, but Flynn’s Guesthouse in Hackney, London, will cost you £103 if you don’t mind the noise of the busy pub below.
If you’re young and traveling on a budget, there are hundreds of long-established hostels around the UK. Some are run by the YMCA, but others are independent. For example, the https://www.thefortyork.co.uk/Fort Boutique Hostel in York boasts beds from as little as £10 per night if you don’t mind an 8-person shared dorm.
For visitors staying in one place for a week, you can always book an apartment on AirBnB and self-cater to keep your food costs low.
Top 5 Cities To Visit In The United Kingdom
This is a subjective list. Other people may choose other cities, but these are my 5 favorites if you want to see an eclectic mixture of attractions around the country.
You could visit either Oxford or Cambridge for similar sights, but my favorite university town is Cambridge because it offers better river views. Either hire your own punt or take a guided punt tour along the River Cam for a unique experience. Then wander around the colleges and university buildings to see where the atom was first split and DNA was first unraveled. And perhaps wander around the amazing exhibition of impressionist paintings in the Fitzwilliam Museum.
The capital city of Scotland is home to the Scottish crown jewels (on display in Edinburgh Castle) and the Royal Mile—a historic street that links the old castle to Holyrood Palace, the Queen’s official Scottish home. Near the palace, you’ll find the Scottish Parliament Building, where the devolved Scottish Parliament sits to govern Scotland. Edinburgh is home to several popular annual festivals, including the Edinburgh Festival, the Edinburgh Fringe, and the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, which are held between July and September.
Much of Great Britain’s wealth before the Industrial Revolution came from its nefarious role in the international slave trade. Liverpool’s elite grew wealthy on the back of this trade making it the most important port in the United Kingdom. Visit the historic Royal Albert Docks, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. However, today Liverpool is better known as an important center for the arts. The city has more art galleries and museums than any other city in the nation except London. It’s where you’ll find the Tate Liverpool museum of modern art and The Beatles Story museum about arguably the world’s most famous rock bank.
Without naval supremacy, Britain would never have built an empire. Portsmouth lies at the heart of Britain’s naval history and modern navy. It’s home to two-thirds of the Royal Navy’s current fleet and a collection of important historic ships including the Tudor warship Mary Rose and the Napoleonic Wars flagship HMS Victory. Portsmouth is an incredible island fortress that any military or history enthusiast will love to explore.
York was founded by the Romans as Eboracum in 71 CE and is the place where Constantine the Great was declared Emperor of Rome there in 306 CE. The Vikings later settled here and called it Jorvik, which was shortened to York over the passage of years. Today, it’s a great place to explore 2,000 years of British history. You can view Roman foundations beneath the Minster, the Viking settlement at the Jorvik Viking Center, medieval York Minster, and one of England’s best-preserved medieval streets—the Shambles.
Top 5 Unique Activities In The United Kingdom
Because the United Kingdom has exported much of its culture to other nations (sandwiches, golf, the English language etc.), you’ll find most British traditional activities echoed in other nations around the world. However, here are a few that may not have crossed the Atlantic.
These traditional musical comedies are performed in theatres throughout the United Kingdom around Christmas every year. In larger cities, the actors involved are often major celebrities from TV shows. In these shows, cross-dressing is the norm and comedy is the aim. Watch out for cringe-worthy rhymes, puns, and political swipes in shows like Puss In Boots or Cinderella.
If you’re in Scotland around the 25th of January, see if you can attend a Burn’s Night Supper. This is when Scottish people gather to eat haggis, drink whiskey, and recited Rabbie Burn’s famous poetry. You may remember him as the author of Auld Lang Syne, the traditional New Year’s poem. Burn’s Night is celebrated on Robert Burn’s birthday to celebrate his life and memorable poetry.
On Shrove Tuesday, the last day before Lent, British people traditionally celebrate their last day of rich food by eating pancakes. There are many side-traditions associated with this day, including Pancake Races. Compete against other cooks to fry your pancake then run down the street in fancy dress to deliver your pancake, still in the frying pan, to your hungry guests before the other cooks get there.
Guy Fawkes Night
This is a rather morbid tradition of burning the effigy of a traitor upon a bonfire on the night of 5th November. Guy Fawkes was one of a group of terrorists (or heroes, depending upon your view) who plotted to blow up the King and Parliament in 1605. In the run-up to Bonfire Night, British children make and dress effigies of Guy Fawkes and display them on street corners asking passersby to give “A penny for the Guy”. These “pennies” are used to buy fireworks, which are traditionally fired on the same night.
In small villages around the country on festival days, you’ll see small groups of men wearing strange, dated clothing covered in bells, flowers, and ribbons performing traditional folk dances. Nobody can remember where or when this tradition began, but somehow it still thrives today. Morris Dancers usually perform in single-gender groups following age-old dance steps.
Top 5 Outdoor Recreational Activities In The United Kingdom
British people love to explore the outdoors and get involved in activities in the wilderness. There are many private or government organizations dedicated to helping you enjoy the British countryside. Here’s a selection of enjoyable activities you could try.
People in the UK love to go out on long walks along established trails. It’s hiking and backpacking, but we call it rambling. There are countless long trails you can explore around the nation. My favorite is the Hadrian’s Wall Path, a coast-to-coast trail that follows the famous Roman wall dividing England from Scotland.
Although there are many places you can enjoy scuba diving around the UK, the best location is Scapa Flow. At the end of WWI, the German naval fleet was scuttled here. Now, exploring the wrecks is reputed to be one of the top scuba diving experiences in the world.
Because Great Britain is an island nation, swimming is considered very important in schools. Also, there are many traditional, organized swimming events. Two of the most challenging endurance events are the Menai Straits Race and swimming the English Channel. The Menai straights separate the island of Anglesey from Wales, and the annual race crosses a mile of seawater. It is 21 miles from Dover to Calais, but hundreds make this epic swim every year with help from the Channel Swimming Association.
Most major cities in the UK hold an annual marathon and running a marathon has become the aspiration for many middle-aged joggers around the country. If you want to combine running a marathon with exploring a historic area, consider entering the Rotary Shakespeare Marathon. The route crosses through miles of beautiful countryside, through Warwickshire villages, and the town of Stratford-upon-Avon.
Cycling is a great way to explore the countryside around the UK. In recent years, the government has invested large amounts of money into transforming disused railway lines into paths for bicycles so that cyclists can journey from town to town without fighting vehicular traffic or breathing in toxic fumes. Now the UK has an established National Cycle Network composed of specific National Cycle Routes. So, for example, you can explore the beautiful countryside of the West Country by cycling along National Cycle Route 3 from Bristol to Land’s End.
Top 5 Day Trips In The United Kingdom
In the land of Byron, Shelley, and Wordsworth, it’s difficult to identify just 5 day trips to capture the wealth of culture and natural beauty on view around the UK. However, here are 5 I think you’ll love.
The Giant’s Causeway
This is a natural structure of basalt columns found in County Antrim in Northern Ireland. According to local legend, the Giant’s Causeway is part of a paved road a giant built between Ireland and Scotland. But geologists claim it was formed by an ancient lava flow 50 million years ago. Whichever story you believe, the scenery here is spectacular.
Stonehenge & Avebury
Around the world, there are many examples of prehistoric stone circles and monuments. However, the small county of Wiltshire in the south of England contains more than its fair share. Arguably, the most famous standing circle in the world is Stonehenge. With a history dating back to around 3100 BCE, this iconic stone circle is one of the oldest monuments in the UK and shows evidence of continuous use lasting thousands of years. But nearby Avebury stone circle is the largest megalithic stone circle in the world, completely surrounding the village of Avebury.
Haworth Village & the Brontë Parsonage
England boasts many historic and scenic locations with literary connections, but no other is as unique as the Brontë Parsonage Museum and surrounding Yorkshire moors. Five members of this nuclear family successfully published poetry, pamphlets, and books: Reverend Patrick Brontë, his daughters Charlotte, Emily, and Anne, and his infamous son Branwell Patrick Brontë. Their home near Bradford, West Yorkshire is now a museum packed full of their childhood notes and drawings, and the surrounding moors are dotted with trails to scenic locations featured in their famous novels.
The National Railway Museum
I consider this the best Industrial Revolution museum in the UK. Inside the York city branch of the National Railway Museum, you can find a collection of replicas of the very first steam trains alongside genuine steam engines and carriages from the Golden Age of Steam. The exhibits include a collection of royal carriages from Queen Victoria’s to Queen Elizabeth the Second’s and the Mallard—the world’s fastest steam train. From exhibits aimed at the intellectual to interactive attractions for kids, this museum has got something for everyone in your family.
Found in Staffordshire, Alton Towers is one of the largest and most popular theme parks in the UK. If you’re visiting with kids, this is a great place to take them for a day-off all the culture and history they’ve been absorbing elsewhere. There are over 40 major rides to enjoy, from those aimed at thrill-seekers to those you’ll be happy to let your little ones ride. It’s open from March through November, and you can easily spend all day exploring the park.
Map of the United Kingdom & Travel Guide
Visiting The United Kingdom Safely
The UK is generally considered a safe country. Violent crime, especially involving guns, is relatively rare. However, during your visit, you can always be proactive to ensure your own safety.
- When you travel or go out on trips, let a friend know where you are going and arrange to report in on arrival and departure.
- Remember that vehicles drive on the left when you’re crossing the road.
- Where possible, used marked public crossings.
- Avoid wearing headphones that reduce your situational awareness.
- Don’t walk alone at night and avoid dark alleyways.
- Only use licensed taxis.
- In bars, never accept drinks from strangers.
- Keep your bag and other property in sight or in a secure locker.
- Don’t carry too much cash (you can pay by card in most businesses).
- When paying or using an ATM, stay aware of your surroundings and cover your hand while inputting your PIN number.
- Keep your phone and other valuables out of sight.
- Keep a record of your card numbers and bank emergency numbers and store that record separately from your cards.
- If you see unattended bags in a public place, report them immediately.
What I Love About The United Kingdom
I love the multiculturalism, rich history, and culture found in my country. I love the fact I can walk into a mall and buy a Qur’an or a Bible, American ice-cream or Cornish cream, Californian wine or Scottish whiskey. I love the juxtaposition of Tudor timber-framed mansions and 1960s high-rises. I love the many museums where I can learn about anything from Paleolithic stone tools to American space capsules. I hope that you love my country, too!
Map of the United Kingdom & Travel Guide – Like This Guide? There is More to See
If this Map of The United Kingdom & Travel Guide has helped your planning to visit the United Kingdom and you would like to extend your vacation here are some suggestions for countries or cities that are only a train trip away. Find out all about Ireland, the UK’s capital London and one of the world’s most exciting cities, or a high-speed trip under the English Channel to Paris and France.
If you need accommodation that provides real value for money at over 800 locations throughout the UK read the article on Premier Inn.
Map of The United Kingdom & Travel Guide
Robert loves nature and history. As a child, he drove his parents crazy on vacation begging to visit museums and castles instead of beaches and theme parks. Now his children send him insane by demanding to visit beaches and theme parks.
He became interested in travel while studying archaeology and anthropology at Cambridge University. He volunteered on archaeological excavations all around the British Isles then enjoyed a year exploring and learning about China.
Today, he loves writing about the places he’s visited and still spends time exploring museums and castles.