UK and Spain UK and Spain

UK and Spain

Providing information for the UK and Spain

Travel guide for Spain and travel guide for the UK

The first section below is a travel guide for the UK and further down is a travel guide for Spain.

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Travel guide for the UK
The United Kingdom has been called the biggest small country on Earth due to its sheer diversity. The UK is short for the "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland" and is formed by the province of Northern Ireland and the countries of Great Britain - England, Scotland and Wales.  Each of these countries has a very distinct identity.

Why Travel to the UK?
This cluster of tiny countries comprising Great Britain - which is England, Scotland and Wales - and Northern Ireland, has 5,000 years of history and a brilliant variety of things to see and do, culture to nature, old to new, silly to serious, whatever suits the tourist - apart from serious sunbathing or skiing.
London and Edinburgh both offer top class arts and culture scenes with superb museums (mostly free), galleries and theatres in settings of great age and historical reference, while the rest of the island spills over with historic buildings, traditional villages, lovely gardens, parks and even mountains.
The countryside is easily accessible by car and ranges from dramatic moors to bleak mountains to big soft beaches; a walker's delight and not bad for drivers too, if they stick to the smaller roads.

Downside:
- It's expensive, especially in the London hotels.
- The weather is often cold and wet, particularly in Wales and Scotland.
- Public transport, especially rail, is expensive, while some sections of the tube (London's underground rail system) are shabby and overheated - the tube was built a very long time ago when users were few.

UK climate guide:
Best - June to August.
Worst - January to March - wet, cold, grey, and short daylight hours.
London and Edinburgh have accommodation problems around New Year (December 29-January 2), and the Edinburgh Festival (mid July-August.)

The Scottish Highlands, famously bleak and beautiful.
Length of stay:
Minimum worthwhile stay, not incl. flights: London or Edinburgh only - a long weekend could be excellent.
Recommended: 2 weeks, London, Edinburgh, plus 2 to 3 historical towns and/or the country side (Scottish Highlands, Lake District, etc.)
Wales and Northern Ireland are not often included in package tours, and offer less important 'must sees' unless if you have unlimited time, or a special interest.

UK main attractions

England:
London and the South:
***London, close to being Europe's coolest city, with something for everyone.
**Bath, an elegant but touristy city, with a real Roman spa and fine examples of early Georgian Palladian architecture. In Somerset, which includes Glastonbury.
**Devon and Cornwall, ranging from bleak moorlands to thatched cottages on rolling grasslands, seaside resorts and good surfing.
The Eden Project, Cornwall. Extraordinary, educational and artistic biospheres housing a zillion exotic plants.
**Dorset. Castles (Corfe and Maiden), beautiful harbour (Poole), great beaches (Poole, Bournemouth and scattered along the south-west coast), Cerne Giant, grand old houses (e.g. Longleat) and superb walks such as:
***The Southwest Coast Path, a lovely 630 mile (1014 kms) clifftop stroll through rural, coastal England and the fossil stuffed Jurassic Coast.
***Stonehenge, an enormous, enigmatic, prehistoric stone circle in Wiltshire, along with Avebury, Cerne Giant and more.

Durdle Door, Dorset, England
Beaches are plentiful and often have goodly amounts of sunshine May to September. Excellent walks abound, though the water is always chilly.

North of London:
***Oxford, the world's best-known university city and lovely centre.
**Cotswolds, typical English countryside with rolling hills and charming thatched villages.
**Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare's home town.
**Cambridge, a pleasant riverside city with its notable university and gorgeous buildings.
**Chester, the finest Roman and medieval town in the UK.
**York, an historic, walled city with the largest cathedral in Europe.
***Lake District National Park, Cumbria, one of the most scenic landscapes in Britain.
*Durham, the most striking cathedral city in Britain.
And all topped off by the impressive**Hadrian's Wall.

Edinburgh, Calton Hill, Scotland
Edinburgh's favourite viewpoint, Calton Hill, Scotland.
Scotland:
***Edinburgh, a dramatic and lively city.
***The Highlands, splendid landscapes, wilder and more dramatic than the Lake District, with mountains, glens and lochs make for magnificent walks if you can handle the erratic weather and summer midges (little, swarming mosquitoes).
**The Borders, tranquil pastoral country with delightful towns as well as Hadrian's Wall on the English side.
**Stirling and the Trossachs, a compact and historic town with imposing castle.
*Glasgow, an industrial city with a bad reputation, but reinvented as a wacky cultural destination.
*St Andrews, a coastal town with the famous old golf course.

Cardiff Castle, South Wales
Wales:
The capital Cardiff is not a must-see place, except for the National Museum of Wales.
*Conwy, dominated by the marvellous Conwy Castle is one of the finest medieval fortified towns in Europe.
*Hay-on-Wye, has become the world's biggest second-hand booktowns.
**Llandudno, an attractive Victorian seaside resort, with fine sandy beach.
***Snowdonia National Park and mountain. A spectacular and popular area for superb climbing or hiking.

The Giant's Causeway, Antrim, North Ireland.
Northern Ireland:
**the Giant's Causeway, a spectacular volcanic rock formation of basalt columns along the Antrim Coast. A World Heritage Site.

UK Activities:
Walking and Hiking: Numerous short walks and long distance footpaths surround most towns and often cross picturesque scenery in this walks-loving cluster of countries.

Mt. Snowdon, Snowdonia, Wales.
Moorland around Mt. Snowdon, Snowdonia, Wales.

Climbing - There's many good climbing spots from the sea cliffs of the Dorset coast to Scotland's Mt. Ben Nevis (1344m), Britain's highest peak. See above link.
Biking - Hundreds of miles of dedicated bike/ walking tracks have been opened recently, as well as road routes. The Whitby to Scarborough Trailway, 20 miles along the edge of the North York Moors National Park, is one of the most spectacular routes.
Bird-watching - the Orkney Isles, Shetland Isles in Scotland, the Norfolk Broads and more.
Fishing - The Borders, Deeside in Scotland and shoals more.
Pony trekking - The Pembrokeshire Coast, Wales or the Pennines, England.
Skiing - Aviemore, Scotland, Britain's biggest skiing centre.

Golf in Harlech, North Wales.
Golfing - From the ancient, lunatic Edinburgh city centre Brunswick Links to St Andrews, there's more than 400 golf courses in Scotland.
Surfing - Yes, really, but you'll need a wetsuit! Especially Cornwall - Newquay and Fistral beach are the best known - and North Devon (Atlantic/north-west coasts) plus also Wales and Scotland.

Nightlife and Entertainment
Regional cities such as London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester and Newcastle have wild and varied clubbing scenes, though provincial places tend to be extremely youth oriented.

Tipping:
Waiters will hopefully deserve 10-15% of the bill unless service charge is included. Taxi drivers will be looking for 10%

Intercity Travel
Trains are sometimes on time, sometimes not; they are expensive unless you can book online well ahead.
Intercity buses are much better value and usually make good time.
Some destinations from London by train: Scotland about 6 hours; Wales about 2 hours; Brighton 1 hour; Oxford 1 hour; Cambridge 45 mins; Bristol 2 hours; York 2 hours+; Stratford-upon-Avon 2 hours+; Exeter 3 hours; Bath 1.5 hours; Manchester 2.5 hours; Penzance 5 hours.

Local Transport:
Apart from London's ancient undergound / metro/ subway, buses are the only option and reasonably efficient.

Visa advice:
EU citizens are free to travel and work in the UK for any amount of time. Nationals of USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa do not need a visa for up to 6 months holiday, but do need a work visa.

Electricity:
Electric sockets are 240v and take 3 rectangular pin plugs.

Safety:
Tourist places are no problem save for the occasional pickpocket. Take care where you walk after late night booze sessions, particularly in the big cities.

Language
The English language is obviously used everywhere, though a few Celtic diehards in Wales and Scotland may insist on using their ancient tongues.

Money
The local currency is the pound, also called the Great British Pound, or GBP for short..
For up to date currency information, check the Currency Converter by clicking once on the link below :
Currency converter.

Scotland's most visited city is the capital, Edinburgh. It is known as the "Athens of the North" due to the beautiful scenery, architecture and historical background. The city has a very cosmopolitan atmosphere due to the huge number of foreign tourists and students that flock there. 'Edinburgh,' said writer Robert Louis Stevenson, 'is what Paris ought to be'. There are so many attractions to visit: Edinburgh Castle, The Royal Mile, Holyrood Palace, The Scottish Parliament, Our Dynamic Earth, Museum of Scotland, National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh Zoo, Royal Yacht Britannia, St Giles Cathedral, The Scott Monument, Arthur's Seat, Calton Hill, Royal Botanic Gardens, Forth Bridge, Rosslyn Chapel of "Da Vinci Code" fame and many more. Also if you are in the city in August you've just become immersed in one of Europe's greatest festivals; The Edinburgh Festival! But Scotland isn't just Edinburgh, Scotland has so much to offer such as the magical mountains and lochs of the Highlands, the wonderful coastline, the castles of Aberdeenshire such as Fyvie the finest baronial castle in the land. The small fishing villages and towns such as Pennan and Banff have a character all of their own and of course we can't forget the people, the Scots, warm hearted and friendly, probably the most welcoming race in the world.

The UK offers a lot of diversion to all its tourists: For pulsing cultural and nightlife, London, Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds are a must. To feel the charm of the English seaside and the importance of harbours for an island like the British Isles, travel along the southeastern coastline and explore the heritage of Maritime England at Portsmouth. In the central part of England you will find towns plenty of historical heritage like Salisbury, Oxford, Cambridge and Norwich. Moving to Eastern England you will find the delightful Norfolk Broads, a huge area of connecting inland waterways popular for sailing, fishing and various watersports.

Western and northern England fascinate with beautiful landscapes: rugged moorlands, picturesque flatlands and rocky coastlines. A visit to the South Western peninsula is a must - Dartmoor and Exmoor in Devon and Somerset, and Bodmin in Cornwall. Also, in Newquay there's excellent beaches and world class surfing.

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Travel guide for Spain

The diversity of experience and life in Spain is immeasurable. It is probably Europe's most geographical diverse country, ranging from the near-deserts of eastern Andalucia to the green countryside and deep coastal inlets of Galicia, from the vibrant places like Madrid, Barcelona or Granada to the fantastic beaches on the Costa Blanca, there's something for everyone in Spain.

Spain covers 313,657 square miles (including 3,255 square miles of water and 3,085 miles of coastline) making it the second biggest country in Western Europe. Its highest point is the Pico de Teide in Tenerife on the Canary Islands at 3718m, and on the mainland is the Mulhacen (3478m) in the Sierra Nevada in Andalucia. Spain is the highest European country after Switzerland. It is extremely diverse, ranging from the near-deserts of Almeria to the green countryside of the north and the white sandy beaches of the Mediterranean. Travel is easy, accommodation plentiful, the climate generally very good, the people relaxed and fun loving, the beaches long and sandy, and food and drink easy to come by and full of regional variation.

Spain is divided into 19 autonomous communities (see map), 15 on the mainland, the Balearic and Canary Islands, and two little-known ones bordering Morocco (Ceuta and Melilla).

In addition to the national capital of Madrid, each autonomous community has a capital (e.g. Barcelona for Catalunya), and within each autonomous community there may be more than one province (e.g. Comunidad Valenciana consists of 3 provinces - Valencia, Alicante and Castellon) that also has a capital and which may be different to the community capital. Confused? Have a look at the map below:

Spain is also well known for its plethora of colourful fiestas and unbelievably vibrant nightlife. It's not surprising that more than 40 million foreigners a year take holidays in Spain.

It's a phenomenal land to discover the unique people and characteristics of each contrasting region and also a wealth of vibrant history from great 20th century artists (Dali, Picasso, Miro), to the prehistoric. Architecture is glorious - influences from the Romans, Moors and Catholicism have created an amazing blend of styles in Spain. From stunning coastal cities like Barcelona that have captured the imagination of the world to vibrant and unique regional cultures and the cool clublife of the Balearic islands - the party never stops in Spain.

Money
The local currency is the Euro.
For up to date currency information, check the Currency Converter by clicking once on the link below :
Currency converter.
Spain is one of Europe's more affordable countries. Places like Madrid, Barcelona, Sevilla and San Sebastian will however place a greater strain on your money. You will receive better value, by visiting off season and avoiding the cities of Spain, where possible.

People
Spain has a population of just over 39 million - although a staggering 60 million or so visitors flood into the country each year.

Travel
Transport in Spain is a fairly good standard, offering internal and international flights, trains, car hire and buses. Domestic flights are run by Iberia (IB), Aviaco (AO), and Air Europa (AEA). Scheduled flights connect all main towns. The Spanish rail system is one of the cheapest in Europe. Travellers can purchase a Spanish Railways Tourist Card allows unlimited travel from three to ten days within two months and is valid for on all RENFE long-distance trains, with the exception of high-speed ones (the Ave and Talgo 200).
Motorways are well-maintained and connect Spain north-south. Trunk roads between major cities are generally fast and well-maintained. Rural roads are of differing quality. There are bus lines, which are efficient and cheap, operating between cities and towns.

Food
Eating out in Spain is often cheap and meals are substantial rather than gourmet. One of the best ways to sample Spanish food is to try tapas (bar snacks) which are served at any time of day in local bars. These range from cheese and olives to squid or meat delicacies, and are priced accordingly. Many of the specialities of Spanish cuisine are based on seafood, although regional specialities are easier to find inland than along the coast.

Language
Spanish or Castilian is spoken throughout Spain, but there are also three widely spoken regional languages: Catalan, Galician and Basque. English isn't as widely spoken as many travellers seem to expect. It's much easier to find people who speak at least some English in the main cities and tourist areas, but generally you'll be better received if you at least try to communicate in Spanish.

Climate
Spain's climate varies from temperate in the north to dry and hot in the south. The best months to visit are from April to October, although mid-summer (July to August) can be excessively hot throughout the country except the coastal regions. Madrid is best visited in late spring or autumn, avoiding the opressive heat and hoards of tourists, although the central plateau can be bitterly cold in winter.

Dress
Spain is a funky, modern western country with no religious or clothing restrictions, but make sure you wear suncream on bare flesh as in the summer the temperatures soar. If you're visiting a Catholic religious building, you should make sure you are dressed modestly with arms and legs covered.

Health
Spain is a pretty healthy country with no major history of contracting life threatening diseases. Your main risks are likely to be sunburn, dehydration, foot blisters, insect bites, or mild gut problems, if you're not used to a lot of olive oil.

Travel Visas
Those who need no visa for Spain are citizens from the EU, America, New Zealand, Japan, Israel, Switzerland and Norway. Those who require a visa for Spain are Australians and South Africans. Other Nationals should consult their local consulate.

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