WHATEVER your expectations of a holiday destination, however basic, eccentric or sophisticated your taste, no matter your age, or how little or large your budget, Britain covers the entire spectrum in the most unforgettable ways.
Almost anything is possible in Britain, and that’s why it is one of the world’s most visited countries.
It’s always been a popular choice among Thais who identify readily with Britain’s royal family and the two countries’ many historical links. But other expats based in Asia also recognize Britain’s unrivalled wealth of attractions.
Among them are overseas British who relish holidays “back home,” especially since the UK pound has weakened markedly recently against many currencies.
While spring, summer and early autumn are the most popular times to visit, the winter months have a special “coming in from the cold” charm that mean the pleasure of putting on warm clothing and enjoying the friendly ambiance of cosy pubs and homely restaurants.
London, the country’s exciting and kaleidoscopic capital, is the most popular gateway for overseas visitors. But many other British cities such as Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool and Edinburgh (in Scotland) also have international airports, allowing convenient access to a host of fascinating “upcountry” attractions.
In London, you can spend endless days exploring its sites without ever running out of unique things to see and do.
Set on the banks of the River Thames, this bustling metropolis has countless reminders of its glorious past in magnificent, historically important buildings, palaces, museums, parks, wonderful traditions and much celebrated thoroughfares. Yet it is also very much part of the modern world, a creative hub of fashion, music, movies and advertising. At its heart is the dynamic ‘City of London’ – the world’s leading financial centre.
Even though it has an efficient public transport system, with trains, underground and buses (all linked into some excellent travel deals for tourists) as well as those famous black taxis, London is very much a walking city at any time of the year.
There are plenty of organized walking tours, of course, but visitors can easily go it alone and enjoy the city at their own pace. A stroll along the Thames, for example, offers glimpses of some of London’s most famous sights – the imposing Houses of Parliament, the iconic Big Ben clock tower and Westminster Abbey.
A short walk away is Buckingham Palace, the London residence of the Royal Family, as well as Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery and Soho, famed nowadays for its vibrant Chinatown. From here, head down the famous thoroughfares of The Strand (London’s famous theatre land), Fleet Street (stopping en route to enjoy a pint in the area’s many excellent pubs) and Covent Garden, a trendy shopping district and home to the Royal Opera House.
After taking in majestic St Paul’s Cathedral, cross the river to the Tate Modern Gallery via the elegant Millennium pedestrian bridge for more breathtaking views of Britain’s capital, including Tower Bridge and the Shard, Europe’s tallest building, equipped with public viewing galleries.
On the other side of the Thames is the London Eye, Europe’s largest observation wheel. At its apex, you can see beyond the city to the surrounding countryside as well as the South Bank cultural complex, hundreds of feet below.
Some of the capital’s best shops and trendiest boutiques are located in Knightsbridge and Chelsea. Nearby South Kensington is home to the much-loved Victoria and Albert Museum and the Natural History Museum.
London’s many parks are ideal for walkers too. The largest, Hyde Park, covers a whopping 350 acres with the huge Serpentine boating lake at its centre. Other major open spaces include St James Park, Green Park, Kensington Gardens and Regent’s Park, the latter boasting a zoo and an open theatre.
Foodies are in their element in London. The city is full of world-class restaurants, helmed by famous chefs, serving meals from every corner of the globe. Alternatively, drop by one of those wonderful British pubs, some dating back hundreds of years, which nowadays are just as famed for their cooking as their ales.
Inexpensive food can be found in the city’s numerous open markets like Borough Market. Other markets specialise in antiques (Portobello Road, Alfie’s), art and clothing (Camden Lock), and junk and gems (Brick Lane).
The choice of day trips from London is inexhaustible. Among the most popular are to Hampton Court, one of Europe’s most famous palaces dating back to King Henry VIII’s time, Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, the elegant city of Bath, and Bicester, a quaint Oxfordshire retail park for all kinds of cut-price designer goods. Fans of Harry Potter can visit the Warner Brother’s Studio for a behind-the-scenes look at the movie set.
With so much to enjoy and experience, it’s little wonder London is the world’s most visited city.
Dorsett Shepherds Bush – great hotel choice close to London’s top attractions
THANKS to London’s excellent public transport system, it’s no longer necessary to stay in the centre of the city to enjoy its many attractions. Increasingly, visitors are opting to stay in the outer suburbs where the hotels are noticeably less expensive and yet provide quality accommodation and services, as well as fast and easy access to London’s heart.
Such a venue is Dorsett Shepherds Bush, an elegant 317-room hotel occupying a Grade v11-listed building that overlooks one of London’s best known open spaces, Shepherds Bush Green. Behind its original façade is a thoroughly modern and stylish four-star property offering accommodation that’s perfect for both leisure and business travellers.
In addition to a choice of rooms, the hotel has three meeting rooms; Pictures, an all-day dining restaurant; Shikumen, a Chinese specialty restaurant; Jin, a destination bar, and a spa located on the top floor overlooking the Green.
A short walk from the hotel is Westfield London, a vast shopping centre featuring the trendiest boutiques and outlets for all the major designer brands as well as a host of world class restaurants.
Nearby are Shepherds Bush underground and over-ground stations, putting Notting Hill and Portobello Road, Kensington, Knightsbridge, Hyde Park, the West End and all must-see attractions in central London within easy reach. The hotel is also:
• 30 minutes’ drive from Heathrow Airport via M4
• 10 minutes by tube to Oxford Circus
• 10 minutes by tube to Paddington Train Station
• 5 minutes’ drive to the M4 and M40 motorways
• 5 minutes’ walk from Shepherds Bush stations
The hotel is owned and managed by Dorsett Hospitality International, an Asia-based hotel group with operations in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Chengdu, Wuhan, Jiangxi, Kuala Lumpur, Johor, Labuan, Singapore and now in London.
Dorsett Shepherds Bush, 58 Shepherds Bush Green, W12 8QE London, United Kingdom. +44 0203 262 1026. dorsetthotels.com/london/shepherdsbush
EVERY year Britain hosts a long list of amazing events. Many are annual occasions and mark the country’s rich history and culture, such as internationally acclaimed music, arts and literary festivals; others celebrate the lives of patron saints and famous figures like Robert Burns, William Shakespeare and even Harry Potter.
Some highlight well known famous British products such as whisky while others focus on Britain’s great sporting heritage, including Wimbledon tennis, the Oxford Cambridge boat race, FA Cup and Premier League matches, international Test cricket, the Highland Games and the Grand National horse race.
Across the country, visitors can enjoy spectacular street parades, magic and mime festivals, comedy shows, circuses and outdoor cabarets. Britain also stages some of the most beautiful annual flower shows in wonderful settings like Chelsea and Hampton Court.
And then there are quirky events that Britain does so very well. Join the Maldon Mud Race, a mad scramble through a London estuary, or cheese rolling, with daredevils hurling down hills in pursuit of Gloucester cheeses, or take part in a pancake race wearing traditional outfits. Maybe you fancy your chances against a horse in the 22-mile Man versus Horse race held in Powys, Britain’s smallest town.