England Travel Guide

Jun 1st, 2014 Destinations, Europe

Steeped in royalty, tradition and culture, England is the crown jewel in the U.K. traveler’s itinerary. From castles to cottages and pubs to high tea, it has something for everyone, starting with the massive capital of London—a melting pot of the world. We’ve chosen 12 destinations throughout the country, but they’re only the beginning of an unforgettable British adventure.

London Sights

An entire world pulses through London’s Underground every day. The Tube, as Londoners call it, carries more than one billion passengers a year on a network of 249 miles, 11 lines and 270 stations. Inaugurated in 1863, it is the oldest underground in the world and the largest in Europe. Take the fascinating Insider London Underground and Tube Tour and journey across 150 years in two hours, from the city’s first station to its most modern.

Travel from underground to lofty heights with a visit to London’s Globe Theater, the pinnacle of artistic craft. Hailed as the greatest dramatic poet of the English language, Shakespeare lived and worked in London for much of his life. The original 16th-century theater in the red-light district that staged the bard’s plays attracted everyone from vagrants to the well-heeled. Today, the recreated thatched-roof, open-air theater stages classic Shakespeare productions. If you can’t catch a performance, visit the theater’s Shakespeare’s Globe Exhibition for an absorbing look at Elizabethan England’s stage world.

A 17th-century street in central London began its transformation into a 1960s phenomena when it welcomed its first boutique in 1958. Quickly inhabited by a slew of fashion independents, Carnaby Street became a happening scene of mod and Hippie styles. Music bars and psychedelic clubs helped fuel the untamed energy of radical innovation. Celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2010, Carnaby has matured and expanded, but it pays tribute to its heritage with special events throughout the year.

Carnaby Street in London
Photo Credit: Simon Hadleigh-Sparks

English Traditions

Country inns have been on the English road map for centuries. Coaching inns once stabled horses for mail and stagecoaches, and offered weary travelers much-needed rest and nourishment. Today, Michelin-starred food and rooms in the vicarage or over the pub can be found at the stellar Stagg Inn and Restaurant in the small village of Titley. After a leisurely day exploring nearby antique shops, bookshops and traditional black-and-white villages, the Stagg is a welcome place to call home.

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From there, travel on to Chester, a remarkable walled city established as a Roman fort in approximately 74 A.D. Teeming with fabulous historic English architecture, Chester also showcases the unique medieval Rows—two-tiered, covered storefront walkways. From there, take a day trip to Wedgwood. Founded in 1759, the factory offers tours demonstrating the process of fine bone-china manufacturing. Acquire “bests” and “seconds” of such famous patterns as Spode’s Blue Italian and Royal Albert Old Country Roses at one of the area’s factory shops.

Fine china comes to life in the refined and graceful ritual of afternoon tea. Once the mark of wealth, tea and sugar became popular in the mid-1800s when afternoon teas turned into formal, high-society events. Freshly baked scones, cream and jam, delicate sandwiches and assorted pastries make up this delightful English tradition, still served at many establishments today. For a sip of the best, head to the foot of the North Yorkshire Moors to the Black Swan Hotel. Awarded the Top Tea Place of 2013, it’s a modern-day affair with age-old English class. Afternoon tea’s most famous address is London’s Ritz Hotel. If you go, book well in advance and pack formal attire—a jacket and tie are required for men.

English Inn
Photo Credit: Mike Cattell

Royalty, History & Culture

About an hour outside of London, you’ll find Hever Castle and be transported to the Tudor world of Anne Boleyn, second wife to King Henry VIII. Her family home is replete with moat and drawbridge, portraits, wax figures of Henry’s six wives, Anne’s prayer books and the last letter she wrote to King Henry before he had her beheaded. Stunning gardens encompass 125 acres and include water mazes, a boating lake and a special moonlit supper and ghost tour on Oct. 30.

To take in more modern-day pop royalty, a visit to Liverpool is key. As the birthplace of a music phenomenon, Liverpool casts a nostalgic allure. Plenty of tours flood this otherwise industrial city, but a ticket to ride on the Beatles Fab Four Taxi Tour will take you on a personalized journey of the band’s world. Knowledgeable and accommodating Liverpudlian guides chauffeur you to all four of the superstars’ childhood homes and more.

A visit to Oxford offers visitors a sense of the deep, rich tradition of England’s most esteemed educational institution. As the oldest university in the English-speaking world, with roots in the 11th century, the city and university are filled with history, culture and architecture—not to mention otherworldly activity. An evening on Bill Spectre’s Ghost Trails is historically informative and chillingly entertaining, as an eccentric Victorian undertaker takes you on an unforgettable theatrical walking tour of Oxford’s cobbled alleys and hidden back streets.

English Inn
Photo Credit: Steve Slater

England’s Scenic Landscape

England boasts thousands of miles of managed walking trails that showcase the diverse landscape of the countryside. Hadrian’s Wall Path follows the 73-mile wall constructed by the famous Roman Emperor in 122 A.D. to ward off attacks by the Picts. Stay in castles, cottages and farmhouses along the route while visiting forts and other Roman sites, or take the Hadrian’s Wall Country Bus to get around the area. For more walking routes around England, visit the National Trails website.

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The Lake District’s scenic mountains, valleys, lakes and villages inspired late 18th- and 19th-century Romantic poets, who championed imagination and emotion. White cottages, ancient Norse settlements, stone circles and grey sheep—along with local traditions such as fell running and hound trailing, Cumberland sausage and a fair share of unearthly mystique—combine to create the rich culture of the area. Walking, cycling or just driving here is food for the creative soul.

The charming countryside of Dorset County, with miles of footpaths, ivy-dressed cottages and quiet country lanes captures romantic England at its finest. Nestled in the heart of the Dorset heathland stands the childhood cottage of Thomas Hardy, English novelist and poet. Stay at the 16th-century Acorn Inn of Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles, take a stroll through the Melbury Estate to enchanting Melbury Osmund and don’t forget to try the cream tea with homemade scones and clotted Dorset cream.

English Inn
Photo Credit: Monika

England Travel Tips

No trip is complete without a spontaneous adventure or two. Nevertheless, it’s nice to be prepared with some tips and tools to make your overseas’ stay more fun. We’ve come up with 12 pieces of British intel to help you cross the pond with ease.

The Tube

Known as “the Tube,” the London Underground is the best way to get around the city in a jiffy. One-day, 7-day, monthly or annual travelcards, or the handy pay-as-you-go Oyster Card, will save you time and money. Find maps, timetables and ticket options for the Tube, buses, trams, rail lines and ferries at Transport for London.

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Half-Price Show Tickets

London’s weekly entertainment guide, Time Out Magazine, and the London Theatreland both list current shows for London’s busy theater and musical schedule. Discounted or half-price tickets are available at the tkts booths in the center of Leicester Square and Brent Cross Shopping Centre, on the day of the show or up to a week in advance.

Capital Sleep Savings

To save on accommodations in London, venture away from the city center and stay in a suburban B&B within walking distance of a Tube station. If you must stay in the city center, do so over the weekends when rates are lower (rooms are more expensive mid-week because of the number of business travelers).

Rainy Days

Precipitation is always on the horizon in the U.K., no matter the season. Dress in layers, take a sturdy umbrella, and pack the appropriate raingear: a long raincoat for traversing city streets, or a waterproof windbreaker for jaunts in the country.

English Terms

  • The first floor in England is what we know as the second story in North America
  • An orderly line is known as “a queue,” and the British take them seriously
  • A “fortnight” means two weeks
  • Terms of endearment are common. Expect any of the following in different parts of England: dear, dearie, flower, love, son, mate, duckie, guv, chick or chuck
  • Credit Cards or Cash

    While high-end and chain hotels, retailers and restaurants accept credit cards in England, many other businesses do not. Carry enough cash to cover payments at smaller B&Bs, restaurants, shops, pubs, and markets, as well as for cab fare. ATMs offer the best conversion rates, but you’ll likely incur bank fees each time you withdraw.

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    Pub Grub

    English pubs offer cheap fare and a good brew for all walks of society. Thousands of these welcoming establishments dot the country with all manner of flavor and ambience. The Good Pub Guide sorts pubs by location and name as well as by beer, wine, stay, food and price award.

    Traditional Bed & Breakfasts

    Generous breakfasts, affordable rates and local flavor make B&Bs a great choice for lodging in England. Some things to know:

  • Quoted rates are usually per person, not per room
  • “Double rooms” have one double bed, while “twin rooms” have two beds
  • Proprietors prefer renting double rooms to two people. Single travelers pay more to occupy a double room if no single rooms are available
  • Expect bathtubs in most B&Bs, not showers
  • “En suite” rooms have a private bathroom; traditional rooms share a bathroom in the hall
  • B&Bs may only take cash for payment
  • Football

    Known as soccer to Americans, football in England is rowdy and rich in tradition. It’s worth attending a match for a sense of England’s spirit and pride, as well as a glimpse of world-class sport. To see the top-tier clubs, visit the Premier League’s website for schedules and ticket information—and be sure to book in advance. The season runs from August to May.

    Things to Know about Pubs

  • Most pubs in England open at 11 a.m. and serve alcohol until 11 p.m. (Sundays: noon to 10:30 p.m.)
  • Always order drinks at the bar and pay in cash after each round
  • Indicate the type of beer you want (stout, bitter, lager) and the quantity: a pint (approx. 19 oz., known as an “Imperial pint”) or a half-pint (approx. 9 1/2 oz.)
  • It’s not customary to tip bar staff—if you’d like, ask if you can buy the bartender a drink. If accepted, the drink will be added to your total
  • Table service for food exists at some pubs, but not always—and almost never for drinks
  • A “bar snack” is not really a snack, it’s a one-item meal
  • Walk

    Drive outside of the major tourist destinations for a sense of the real England. Almost every town in England has a Tourist Information Center with maps and suggestions for local B&Bs, pubs and sights to see. Take a walk on one of the many networks of public footpaths in the countryside and around villages for local flavor.

    Ready to Go?

    No matter what time of year you visit, it’s always a good idea to be prepared with the right clothing & gear. Visit our Men’s, Women’s, Luggage & Travel Accessories collections to make sure you’re outfitted for an English getaway.