LuxeGetaways Magazine – Fall/Winter 2017 | Made up of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, over 35 million overseas visitors arrived to the United Kingdom in 2016. With more than half of that number being repeat visitors, there are several factors bringing new and old travelers. For one, it has become more affordable to visit the United Kingdom with the value of the pound sterling to dollar dropping to a 30-year low last year. Sharing the same language as the United States, not requiring a visa for entry (for the EU at least, while the world waits to see the ultimate Brexit effects), and being relatively close with a number of direct flights from the United States helps make the nation a popular destination for American travelers. Logistics aside, it is a great time to begin planning your next visit to the United Kingdom to enjoy a culturally rich and enjoyable getaway.
As the autumn begins to give way to the winter, it is often an idyllic time to enjoy exploring the destinations, or even savoring a lunch or dinner outside in that crisp, clean air. Outdoor dining and drinking in major cities such as London and Manchester is always a favorite activity, as is the opportunity to enjoy outdoor music and cultural festivals. Do you need more time in the great outdoors? Great Britain is home to 15 National Parks that contain some of its most beautiful landscapes; 15 National Trails; nearly 50 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (countryside areas designated for conservation); and nearly 200 estates and gardens offered for the public to visit through the National Trust. Visitors can even stay at some of the estates and indulge in the grandeur of the bygone ages they offer as a home away from home.
Among the estates is Cliveden, which is set in Berkshire, England high above the Thames. Home to 376 acres of impressive gardens and woodlands, which surrounds a country mansion that once entertained the likes of Winston Churchill and Charlie Chaplin. Now a five-star Relais & Châteaux property, Cliveden House recently celebrated its 350th year anniversary, and went through a multi million-dollar restoration and refurbishment. In the latest phase, it brought on the new restaurant, Astor Grill, from Michelin star Chef André Garret that offers a lovely and relaxed way to enjoy Cliveden. Along with 47 rooms in the exquisite main house (which is sure to bring on Downton Abbey feelings for those experiencing a stay at an English countryside mansion for the first time), Cliveden also has a stunning three-bedroom cottage set on the banks of the River Thames that is perfect for families, small groups, or couples seeking a romantic hideaway.
Beyond the natural and urban outdoors, there are countless year-round indoor offerings throughout the nation. More than 2,500 museums are available in the United Kingdom, and many of them are completely free to visit. Discover more, and begin planning your next visit to the United Kingdom with a few ideas that we wanted to share to get you started with planning your very own getaway.
As the most popular country to visit in the United Kingdom, England is home to iconic landmarks such as Big Ben and Stonehenge, and acres of gorgeous natural landscapes. Many visitors flock to London first, and return again and again after falling for its countless global cuisine offerings and bars, cutting-edge fashion and design, historical monuments and museums, or simply the modern city life. Have the perfect London stay at the Mondrian London, situated along the banks of the River Thames in the famed Sea Containers building.
Beyond London, England is also filled with other cities that travelers can enjoy – some for their rich music history, and many others for a host of other reasons. Manchester is home to major gigs by artists such as the Sex Pistols, Bob Dylan and Adele, and Liverpool is the birthplace of The Beatles; among other significant moments in music history. When looking for an even more localized experience, visit England’s smaller cities such as Bath and Oxford, where you will find fewer crowds and an endless number of intriguing cultural activities.
Wales is home to Britain’s most pristine natural beauty and scenery. The Welsh capital of Cardiff is only two hours from London by rail or car, and is in the southern region of Wales, which offers the most urbanized and accessible part of the country. The South Wales region covers the area around Cardiff, and stretches southwest to the rugged coastline of Pembrokeshire – giving way to pleasant seaside towns and small villages along the way. North Wales has several resorts along the coast, with the remainder of the resorts being located in more rural areas; and then Mid Wales is even more rural and filled with mountains, moorlands, forests, wide river valleys and a coastline facing the Irish Sea. 870 miles of coastal views await visitors on the Wales Coast Path that extends along the country’s entire coastline.
Filled with national parks and World Heritage Sites, Wales is also home to more than 600 castles, among them is Conwy Castle. The impressive castle is part of a medieval town, complete with quaint shops. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the town can be walked as it is just nearly a mile long. Also, while in the area, be sure to visit Britain’s smallest house – The Quay House.
Known for its world-class coastal links golf courses, Norman castles, mountains, and its world-famous Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland offers an endless amount of things to do and see for those seeking a uniquely local experience. Being described as one of the top road trips to drive, the spectacular Coastal Causeway is a 195-mile drive that allows you to explore the scenery from Belfast to Londonderry and the numerous picturesque villages, Giant’s Causeway (vast natural rock formation created millions of years ago by cooling lava) and other attractions in-between. Check out the beaches at one of the ten Blue Flag beaches, which are some of the most pristine beaches in the United Kingdom due to their beauty, pristine water, and conservation efforts. Want more outdoors? Castlewellan Forest Park in County Down offers activities from lake canoeing and mountain biking in the forest to strolling in hedge maze that covers nearly three acres and has 2.18 miles of pathway.
Rich in culture and history, Scotland offers a lot to do and see for such a tiny nation. From the natural beauty of the Highlands and islands, to the bustling cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, there is something for everyone. Starting with its castles, visit the Eilean Donan Castle in the Highlands, but you cannot forget Edinburgh Castle. While exploring the castle in Edinburgh, find more of old Scotland there in Old Town and its cobbled, craggy alleyways. For a picture-perfect view of the city, head to Calton Hill; and no visit to Edinburgh is complete without taking a Scotch Whisky tour. Visit Glasgow for the music and arts culture, as you will find the Scottish Opera, Scottish Ballet, and National Theatre of Scotland here along with a thriving music scene and renowned museums. It has also been a big year for summer festivals in Scotland as the Edinburgh Festival Fringe celebrated their 70th anniversary. For a unique adventure away from the mainland, head north of Scotland to see the Orkney islands, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that has some of the best-preserved Neolithic ruins in Europe.