UK breaks are the ideal way to spend an exciting holiday, especially in times of economic austerity. We’ve been jetting madly around the world since the swinging sixties and many people are just now starting to appreciate the wealth of interest practically on their own doorsteps. From the great historic cities such as London, York and Edinburgh to the majestic rolling landscape of the Yorkshire Dales, the glorious Lake District of Cumbria and the breathtaking mountains of Scotland, the UK has it all.
In the past it was economic necessity that made people take their holidays locally when only the well-heeled could afford to head out for sunnier climes, but now the pendulum has finally begun to swing the other way and not only residents of the UK themselves but visitors from around the world are delving into the UK’s unique heritage like never before.
The fabulous city of York is a case in point. This is a major city in the north of England but despite its rapid growth it has managed to preserve its medieval heritage intact, and in fact it’s one of the few cities in the world where you can walk the walls for almost their entire length. These are a prime attraction for visitors to York and were originally built by the Romans when they penetrated to this part of the mist-shrouded edge of the world. Later rebuilt by the Anglo Saxons, and then by those castle fanatics the Normans, the walls have hardly changed much at all since the fourteenth century.
This is what visitors to the UK are very often after – a slice of authentic, continuous and living history of the kind you get in few other parts of the world, where past wars and totalitarian regimes have often played havoc with the heritage or else the country is simply too young to have accumulated much of it. In the UK history is well and truly alive and frequently kicking and screaming as well, as anyone who has visited Traitor’s Gate in the grim Tower of London can testify. All you need is a little imagination to appreciate why it sometimes seems that there are as many restless spirits stalking this land as there are living citizens.
But getting away from Tower Hill and swinging gibbets in London, you can always head further out for some bracing fresh air and spectacular scenery in bonnie Scotland: land of remote lochs, romantic glens and a fiercely proud people. Not all that long ago there were warring clans here and frequent rebellions against the hated English, but nowadays the turbulent history of Scotland is confined to the novels of Scott and Stevenson and we all seem to get along well together at last. If you do visit Scotland don’t miss out on taking your camera along to Loch Ness (might get lucky!) or seeing the great cities of Aberdeen, Glasgow and of course Edinburgh, perched like a bleak, unforgiving chunk of history on its imposing rock.
Ireland is also just a short journey away and has a history equally as impressive – the Irish would say more so – than that of Scotland and England. The Emerald Isle is packed with cultural interest and you should pay it a visit too if you possibly can.
David Elliott is a freelance writer who loves to travel, especially in Europe and Turkey. He’s spent most of his adult life in a state of restless excitement but recently decided to settle in North London. He gets away whenever he can to immerse himself in foreign cultures and lap up the history of great cities.