A journey through England is a journey through history - from the ancient megaliths of Stonehenge to the space-age domes of the Eden Project in Cornwall. It's also a trip to the 21st-century: London is gearing up for the 2012 Olympics while cities like Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle revel in their heritage and confidently face the future, with industrial buildings revitalised as waterfront galleries or trendy apartments, flanked by tempting bars, shops, restaurants and some of the finest music venues in the world.
Full country name: United Kingdom
Area: 130,281 sq Km (50,085 sq mil)
Population: 51 million
People: Anglo-Saxons, Scots, Welsh, Irish, West Indians, Pakistanis, Indians
Religion: Church of England, Methodist, Baptist, Catholic, Muslim, Hindu and Sikh
Government: Parliamentary Democracy
GDP: US$1254 billion
GDP per head: US$22,800
Annual growth: 1.7%
Major industries: Banking and finance, steel, transport equipment, oil and gas, coal, tourism
Major trading partners: EU (Germany, France, Netherlands, and Ireland & USA
Visas: EU citizens may live and work free of any immigration controls. Citizens of the USA, Canada, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand are generally allowed to stay six months without a visa
Health risks: None
Time: GMT/UTC or BST (British Summer Time), which is GMT/UTC +1
Electricity: 240V, 50Hz
Weights & measures: Metric (except beer, which is measured in pints)
When to go
When you travel will depend on the type of holiday you’re looking for, but regardless of when you arrive, the good old British weather is bound to play a part in your travel plans.
The English have long been preoccupied with the nation’s weather, and things look set to become even more unpredictable thanks to climate change (just look at the devastating summer floods of 2007 for a sign of things to come). But despite the unpredictability, there are a few rules that underpin the seasons. Winters tend to be cold and wet, with the hottest and driest weather generally reserved for July and August.
The shoulder seasons often produce the best weather: sunny spells jostle for space with sudden showers between March and May, while balmy ‘Indian summers’ often pitch up between September and October. Snow in England generally arrives either end of winter, especially in November and February.
All things considered, late April to September is the best period to travel. Summer sees England at its liveliest: holiday traffic increases substantially during the peak period between late July and August (when the schools are on holiday), especially in seaside areas, national parks and popular cities like Oxford, Bath and York. Opening hours tend to be reduced between October and Easter, and some places shut down altogether for the winter. But in the big cities – especially London – you’ll find plenty to do no matter when you travel.
England may be densely populated but it is also crisscrossed by footpaths and rights of way, which provide access to just about every nook and cranny of the country if you want to take a short stroll. The more energetic should tackle at least one long-distance walk.
The best of the hikes include the South-West Coast Path around the dramatic shores of Somerset, Devon, Cornwall and Dorset (up to 14 days); the picturesque Cotswold Way (five days); and the dramatic moorland and coastal scenery of the Cleveland Way (up to a week).
Cycling is another great way to get off the beaten track and down some unexplored country lanes; the main roads are best avoided. The best beaches for swimming are in Devon and Cornwall; the best surf is on Cornwall s west coast, notably at Newquay
Attractions - London
Tower of London
The Tower of London is perhaps as famous for its traditions as its imposing structure. It is guarded by a special band of Yeoman Warders, known as Beefeaters, and dotted with several large, black birds - the Ravens. Legend has it that if the Ravens ever leave the Tower, a great tragedy will befall England, and to this day the birds are protected by Royal decree. The Tower's history dates back to the 11th century, and each new Monarch has played a role in its growth and development.
Madame Tussauds is the most famous wax museum gallery in the world, with more than 400 life-sized models
of stars, famous politicians, royals and sportsmen, as well as the most infamous criminals the world has known.