The United Kingdom is a pretty diverse country that’s a perfect place to explore at any time of the year. The plus side of our summers being erratic is that our winters aren’t particularly extreme so there’s no ‘wrong’ time to visit the UK.
With literally hundreds of cities and towns, shed loads of castles and multitudes of delicious cheeses (not sure why my mind went to cheeses), there’s a whole heap of reasons to why you must visit the UK.
Wherever you’re planning to call upon, it’s always good to familiarise yourself with some of the local ways, traditions and quirky things that is pretty much ingrained in us Brits.
We’re a unique bunch of folk that love our roast dinners, a healthy dose of sarcasm and lashings of vinegar on our chips.
Before your next visit, I wanted to share some of the most important things you need to know before you arrive and as you can imagine, one of them had to involve cheese (at this point, I’ve committed to my cheese-distraction).
1.) We’re not all English
One thing that seems to get lost in translation, particularly in other countries is the assumption that all us Brits are English. Admittedly, England is the biggest country in the UK but there’s a good few… 10 million or so between; Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales that are proud of their country and very distinct heritage. The Queen is not just the Queen of England. She’s the Queen of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland!
2.) Trains get delayed
The train network is pretty vast (you can pretty much get a train to almost everywhere in the UK) but we all love a moan about a delay or two. If you’ve ever experienced Monday morning rush-hour with squeezed into a carriage like a sardine in a can, then you’ll know the pain of delayed and cancelled trains. Expect the worst and you can only ever get surprised by your journey. (Its worth noting that the tube in London is much better than most – in part due to the frequency of trains).
Some of the easiest ways to avoid crowded trains and cancelled services is by travelling at off-peak times and avoiding certain weekends when most engineering works take place. (Sundays are particular notorious for delays due to train improvements).
3.) We moan about the weather
Talking of moaning, let’s open a Pandora’s box that is the weather in the UK! Completely unpredictable and willing to sabotage EVERY Sunday picnic in the park, the UK weather has a mind and will of its own which makes it pretty much a conversation starter wherever you are in the UK. (We’re surprised when its sunny, we’re surprised when its rainy, we’re surprised when its snowing…)
4.) There’s a big difference between The UK, Great Britain and the British Isles
For the longest time, I had no idea what the actual difference was between the UK and Great Britain… and I’m British! 🙂
To make it easier, the United Kingdom (of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) is the actually country we live in. This is made up of four, smaller countries; England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Three of those countries; England, Scotland and Wales are within the Geographic island that is Great Britain, (remember republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland are both on another island). The two islands as a whole, along with over 6,000 much smaller islands, make up what is referred to as the British Isles.
5.) We’ve got some epic traditions to try!
I did warn you about the cheese right? 😉 Us Brits love a reason to get together, whether it’s fireworks on Bonfire Night, Cheese Rolling, or bog snorkelling. Try one out on your next visit!
6.) We speak many languages
English is a pretty big and somewhat consuming language – but there are so many native languages that us Brits can speak too, including; Welsh, Scottish Gaelic, Scots, Ulster Scots, Irish Gaelic and Cornish.
7.) We’ve got shed loads of UNESCO World heritage sites
We’re lucky enough to have quite a few world-renowned UNESCO World Heritage Sites like; Stonehenge, Kew Gardens and the City of Bath right on our doorstep. All the sites are accessible and pretty much spread across the whole of the UK. Take a look at our map of them here.
Forget the Olympics… there’s a masterful art in correctly queuing in the UK… even if there’s no lines. It’s observed by everyone and always seems to work with an orderly charm… until you get one person that tries to push in! Essentially, when you’re in the UK, queuing where there is a line (a line being at least 2 people) is not a suggestion, it mandatory. 🙂
9.) There are many types of cake!
My favourite thing about being British and my tummy’s too is probably all about CAKE! Who doesn’t like cake? (Think long and hard before answering ;-), remember if there’s anything at all you like eating, it can be made into a cake in one way or the other 🙂 ).
From Trifles (which I’ve been informed American’s call ‘Wet-cake’) to Victoria sponge, Welsh Cakes, Custard Slices and Cheshire Buns.. there’s enough cakey-goodness for us to eat for daaaaaays! They may not seem as ‘sophisticated as, say French macarons but I’d much rather a hearty British cake any day. 😉
10.) Wales is much more than sheep and Tom Jones
Wales might be home to a furry cutey or two… I meant the sheep by the way, not Tom Jones 😉 but there’s so much to see in our incredible country than the obvious post card images floating around the internet. From coastal national parks, mighty mountain ranges and stunning Italian villages (yes, you read that right) – Wales has a lot to offer visitors. Take a look at some of the very best things to see and do on your next trip to Wales, right here.
Oh, don’t forget to throw in a Welsh fairytale castle or two! See some of the best Welsh castles, right here.
11.) There’s quite a few capitals to visit!
As I mentioned, The UK has more than just one country, meaning that we have more than one capital city! Yay! London is incredible (as are the other amazing cities near it) and although we love it so much, there really is so much more to explore in other cities like; Edinburgh, Cardiff or Belfast.
Edinburgh is one of my favourite European cities and well worth a visit when in Scotland. Make sure to check out these incredible bars in the city, while also planning some free experiences and attractions during your stay.
If you’re planning a longer trip, make sure to include these top places whilst you’re visiting the city.
12.) Northern Ireland is part of the UK
Northern Ireland is part of the UK, although it is on a different island, which consists of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Around a 1 hour flight from London, Belfast can be reached quite easily, which lots of really cool places and foodie haunts to dive right into! Not forgetting Giant’s Causeway of course!
13.) You’ve gotta try a Sunday roast
Look, no matter how much I describe a Sunday roast, it’ll probably sound a little… “Meh!” but trust me, it’s delicious. Head down to a local pub and grab yourself one of the UK’s most famous dishes, a Sunday Roast.
Consisting of lamb, beef or pork (yes, you can have chicken as well if you insist), lots of seasonal and roasted vegetables, a gigantic Yorkshire pudding and oodles of gravy – this meal is one of my favourite homely meals to eat. You’ve gotta try one.
14.) We have lots of castles
We’ve got a whole lot of castles in the UK that date back many thousands of years! With so many to see, it can be hard to pick some of the best ones to visit on your trip to the UK but pick you must!
Take a look at our full list of the best castles to see, below:
I know, we wish we had too, but most of us Brits have never met the queen (although, some of us might have had a nosey around her house during summer visiting times). If you’re not lucky enough to meet the queen, at least know that you can still tour her home, Buckingham Palace during the summer months. Tickets can be booked online, right here.
16.) Accents are hugely different
Geordie, Cockney, Mancunian, Liverpudlian and Glaswegian, to name a mere few! Our diverse country has a broad, far-reaching range of accents that seem to change with just a few miles apart.
Travel 2 hours by train from Bristol to Liverpool and you’ll hear a totally different accent – even Edinburgh to Glasgow (a mere 45-minute train ride) will show off two totally different Scottish accents.
The whole of the UK has a range of accents that’s much less “Alright guvner” and much more unique to the local area. I love it!
17.) Take an umbrella
Yep, that weather is an unpredictable nightmare like a mentioned! Always pack an umbrella. After all, there’s a reason why Mary Poppins always carried one with her.
(Fine, she wasn’t real but the sentiments still hold very true!)
18.) Our countryside scenery is stunning
The UK is fortunate to have so many natural sights that are well worth a visit in the UK.
From the White Cliffs of Dover to the rolling hills of the Cotswolds, there’s a whole array of beautiful natural landscapes that’ll have you itching to leave the cities.
Take a look at some of the very best natural sights to see in the UK
19.) We have great artists
Don’t be fooled into thinking that all the art in the UK is just within the remits of the National Gallery or the Tate Modern – there’s a whole array of beautiful museums, galleries and exhibitions in almost every town and city across the land.
If formally organised art exhibitions isn’t your thing, visit a city like Bristol, where you can spot so many of Banksy’s famous work, still scattered around the city walls!
Take a look at some of Banksy’s work when we discovered Bristol
20.) Nando’s is everywhere
Okay this is my personal favourite here so I apologise if you don’t like delicious peri-peri chicken! 🙂
Just like Starbucks seems to be on every street corner in the US, Nando’s has taken the crown in the UK… just with less caffeine but still a pretty hefty kick with its spicy chicken!
Anyone that’s anyone will have eaten at Nando’s at some point! No one’s too good for a cheeky Nando’s. 🙂