Horseback riding in England

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Equestrian tours in England

England - United Kingdom
    Source: World Travel Guide

Despite its small size, England remains stubbornly impossible to encapsulate in a neat sound bite. It's a delectable mosaic of cultures, cities and landscapes, and any holiday in England will add up to an experience that's way more than the sum of its parts.

Okay, so if you're looking for reliable weather, this is not the place to come. But on every other stereotype, England will have you doing an about-face. Come expecting a nation of tea drinkers and pub goers, antiquated traditions and Sunday roasts - and leave knowing there's so much more to it than that.

For one thing, there are cities. London hardly requires an introduction - its reputation as a global cultural heavyweight is well-established - but England's regional cities warrant further attention. Though woven together by a shared history, these vibrant metropolises have fiercely individual characters and continue to make indelible marks on the fabric of this nation - and indeed the rest of the world. 

England's eccentricities can bewilder (as a visit to the annual cheese rolling competition is Gloucestershire will prove), but despite the odd clash between tradition and modernity, the two make comfortable bedfellows. Visit England and you'll see a place where liberal values have fostered a culture of tolerance and diversity, where self-deprecation is the modus operandi and where witty words beat correct answer almost every time.

It's a country that rewards the curious, whether that means ducking into a pub for a chat with the locals or heading our into the wilds. Speaking of the wilds, England's landscapes have it all: from the dramatic dales of Yorkshire and the rugged fells of the Lake District, to the bucolic hills of the Cotswolds and Cornwall's dramatic coast. No wonder it's one of the world's most popular destinations.


Thames Tower, Blacks Road, Hammersmith, London W6 9EL, UK
Tel: (020) 8846 9000.
Website: or (trade).

Britain and London Visitor Centre

1 Regent Street, London SW1Y 4XT, UK
Personal callers only.
For more information, see the regional sections.

UK Visas

Foreign and Commonwealth Office, King Charles Street, London SW1A 2AH, UK
Tel: (020) 7008 8438.
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri 0930-1330

British Embassy in the USA

3100 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20008, USA
Tel: (202) 588 7800.

British Consulate in the USA

845 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022, USA
Tel: (212) 745 0200.

Visit Britain in the USA

551 Fifth Avenue, Suite 701, New York, NY 10176, USA
Tel: (800) 462 2748 (general information line, toll-free in the USA) or (212) 986 2266 (executive offices).

General Information


Northwest Europe.


GMT (GMT + 1 from last Sunday in March to last Sunday in October).


242,514 sq km (93,788 sq miles).


59.8 million (official estimate 2004).

Population Density

244.2 per sq km.


London. Population: 7.43 million (official estimate 2004).


The British landscape can be divided roughly into two kinds of terrain – highland and lowland. The highland area comprises the mountainous regions of Scotland, Northern Ireland, northern England and North Wales. The English Lake District in the northwest contains lakes and fells. The lowland area is broken up by sandstone and limestone hills, long valleys and basins such as the Wash on the east coast. In the southeast, the North and South Downs culminate in the White Cliffs of Dover. The coastline includes fjord-like inlets in the northwest of Scotland, spectacular cliffs and wild sandy beaches on the east coast and, further south, beaches of rock, shale and sand sometimes backed by dunes, and large areas of fenland in East Anglia.


Constitutional Monarchy. The United Kingdom is a hereditary Monarchy, with real power being held by the Prime Minister, who is the leader of the largest Parliamentary party and the head of the Cabinet. The two main political parties are the Conservatives (Tories) and Labour, although a centre party (the Liberal-SDP Alliance, later merged as the Liberal Democrats) threatened to disturb this old balance in the mid-1980s. The absence of proportional representation in Parliamentary elections does not encourage the prosperity of smaller parties in Britain. Elections must be held every five years, though the timing is at the discretion of the Prime Minister. The legislature is bicameral; the House of Commons is elected, while the House of Lords is a peculiar mixture of appointed members, judges, bishops and hereditary peers. Britain is almost unique in the world in having no written constitution, and the political and administrative machine is powered by a mixture of common and statute law, judicial decisions and archaic convention; the royal assent to an Act of Parliament, for instance, is still proclaimed in Norman French.

Head of State

HM Queen Elizabeth II since 1953.

Head of Government

Prime Minister Tony Blair since 1997.


English. Some Welsh is spoken in parts of Wales, Gaelic in parts of Scotland and Northern Ireland, and French and Norman French in the Channel Islands. The many ethnic minorities within the UK also speak their own languages (eg Cantonese, Greek, Hindi, Mandarin, Turkish, Urdu, etc).


Predominantly Protestant (Church of England), but many other Christian denominations also: Roman Catholic, Church of Scotland, Baptist, Methodist and other free churches. There are sizeable Hindu, Jewish and Muslim minorities.


240 volts AC, 50Hz. Square three-pin plugs are standard and the visitor is unlikely to come across the older round three-pin type.


Passport Required?









Other EU


Visa Required?









Other EU


Return Ticket Required?









Other EU



To enter the United Kingdom, a passport valid for the duration of stay is required by all nationals referred to in the chart above, except (1) EU nationals holding a valid national ID card.

EU nationals are only required to produce evidence of their EU nationality and identity in order to be admitted to any EU member state. This evidence can take the form of a valid national passport or national identity card. Either is acceptable. Possession of a return ticket, any length of validity on their document, or sufficient funds for the length of their proposed visit should not be imposed.

A passport is not required for travel between Great Britain and Ireland (an official form of identification, such as a driver's license, is required), Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man.

Passengers transiting the UK destine for the Republic of Ireland are advised to hold return tickets to avoid delay and interrogation.


Not required by nationals of countries referred to in the chart above for stays of up to six months.

Visa Note

Nationals not requiring visas are advised to be in possession of either a return ticket or, if arriving on a one-way ticket, proof of sufficient funds to accommodate and support themselves for the duration of stay.

Nationals of countries not referred to in the chart above are advised to contact the embassy to check visa requirements (see Contact Addresses).

Types and Cost

Standard Visitor visa: £89; long-term visit visa: £337 (two years); £612 (five years); £767 (10 years).


Standard Visitor visa: six months; long-term visit visa: two, five, or ten years, with a maximum stay of six months per visit.



Pound (GBP; symbol £)= 100 pence. Notes are in denominations of £50, 20, 10 and 5. Additional bank notes issued by Scottish banks (including £1 notes) are legal tender in all parts of the UK, although some smaller shops outside Scotland may prefer English banknotes. Coins are in denominations of £2 and 1, and 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1 pence.

Currency Exchange

Money can be exchanged in banks, exchange bureaux and many hotels. The exchange bureaux are often open outside banking hours but charge higher commission rates. All major currencies can be exchanged.

Credit/Debit Cards and ATMs

American Express, MasterCard and Visa are all widely accepted. Cash can be obtained from a multitude of ATMs available across the country.

Traveller's Cheques

Widely accepted. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travellers are advised to take traveller's cheques in Pounds Sterling.

Banking Hours

Mon-Fri 0930-1630 (there may be some variations in closing times). Some branches of certain banks are open Saturday morning; some all-day Saturday.

Exchange Rate Indicators


April 2018







Title Special precautions


Hepatitis A










Yellow Fever



Health Care

If suddenly taken ill or involved in an accident during a visit to an EEA country or Switzerland, free or reduced-cost necessary treatment is available for European travelers - in most cases on production of a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). Travelers form other countries should find out if they are covered by other reciprocal arrangements. Australia, for example, has an agreement as long as long citizens carry their Medicare card.  Comprehensive insurance is advised for all other nationals.

The National Health Service (NHS) provides free medical treatment (at hospitals and general surgeries) to all who are ordinarily resident in the UK, but requires payment for dental treatment, prescriptions and spectacles. Immediate first aid/emergency treatment is free for all visitors, after which charges are made unless the visitor's country has a reciprocal health agreement with the UK. Full details of individual agreements are available from the Department of Health (

Food and Drink

Food within the UK is generally safe to eat, with health and safety standards monitored by various government agencies. Tap water is considered safe to drink but bottled water is widely available. If you’re camping, always boil, filter or purify water from streams.

Other Risks

The UK is not a risky destination but travellers should still take appropriate precautions. Summer temperatures in England rarely reach above 30°C (86°F), but on hot days there is still risk of sunstroke and it’s advisable to wear sunscreen, as well as appropriate clothing. The same goes for winters, during which weather can be very changeable. Waterproofs (or at least a strong umbrella) are mandatory at any time of year. Those hiking in the mountains should come prepared, with appropriate gear and maps if needed but the biggest danger comes from those who disregard warning signs or poor weather.

If you’re planning to walk in wooded or heath areas such as in the Scottish Highlands, it’s worth taking precautions against tick bites: ensure you wear long-sleeved tops, tuck your socks into your trousers and wear insect repellent. Ticks are known to spread Lyme disease which, although fairly rare in the UK, can affect your skin, joints, heart and nervous system. Symptoms include: a pink or red circular rash which develops around the bite up to 30 days after a person is bitten; flu-like symptoms; headaches; and muscle or joint pain. If left untreated, symptoms can become more serious.

Midges are a hiker’s and camper’s nemesis, especially in the northwest Highlands during the summer. While they’ll do no worse than cause a multitude of unbearably itchy bites, it’s definitely worth covering up and dousing yourself in insect repellent to ward off these persistent beasties.

The weather in Scotland can change in an instant. If you’re walking, skiing or climbing in the hills, it’s vital to be prepared for all weathers. It’s not at all uncommon to go for a walk on a beautifully sunny day, only to find yourself surrounded by mist and drizzle with little warning. Make sure you’re equipped with a map, compass, extra food, layers and waterproofs, and always tell someone where you’re heading before you set out. Scots and visitors alike also find themselves unexpectedly caught out by the sun – you might not need it often, but pack some sunscreen.

Top Things To See & Do

Tourist Information

Thames Tower, Blacks Road, Hammersmith, London W6 9EL, UK
Tel: (020) 8846 9000.
Website: or (trade).

VisitBritain in the USA
551 Fifth Avenue, Suite 701, New York, NY 10176, USA
Tel: (800) 462 2748 (general information line, toll-free in the USA) or (212) 986 2266 (executive offices).

Getting There

Getting There by Air

British Airways (BA) (tel: 0870 850 9850; website: flies direct to the UK from destinations around the world including new York, Zurich, Johannesburg, and Hong Kong. Other airlines flying to the UK include Virgin Atlantic (, whose direct routes include flights from New York and Dubai. Low-cost carriers flying to British airports include easyJet (, Flybe (, and Ryanair (

Flight Times

From New York to London is 7 hours; Sydney- 23 hours (including stopover).  

Departure Tax


Getting There by Water

Main ports: Dover (, Harwich (, Holyhead ( and Portsmouth (

There are many ports offering ferry connections between the UK and mainland Europe, Ireland, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Wight, the Scilly Isles and the Isle of Man.

UK ferry operators include: Brittany Ferries (tel: +44 330 159 700; website:; DFDS Seaways (tel: +44 208 127 8303; website:; P&O Ferries (tel: +44 800 130 0030; website:; and Stena Line (tel: +44 844 770 7070; website:

Getting There by Rail

Trains meet connecting ferries at Dover, Newhaven, Portsmouth and Weymouth, sailing for Belgium, France, and Spain; and at Harwich, sailing for the Netherlands.

Eurotunnel (tel: 0870 535 3535; website: runs shuttle trains for vehicles between Folkestone in the UK, and Calais in France. The journey takes about 35 minutes from platform to platform.

Eurostar (tel: +44 3432 186 186 (customer service) or +44 1233 617 575 (reservations); website: operates direct high-speed trains from London to Paris and to Brussels. It takes 2 hours 15 minutes from London to Paris and 2 hours to Brussels. Eurostar trains depart from London St Pancras station.

Rail Passes

InterRail: offers unlimited first- or second-class travel in up to 29 European countries for European residents of over six months with two pass options. The Global Pass allows travel for 22 days, 15 days, one month, five days in 10 days, or 10 days in 22 days across all countries. The One-Country Pass offers travel for three, four, six or eight days in one month in any of the countries except Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro. Travel is not allowed in the passenger's country of residence. Reductions are available for travelers under 26. Children under 12 are free when traveling with an adult using an Adult Pass. Supplements are required fro some high-speed services, seat reservations, and couchettes. Discounts are offered on Eurostar and some ferry routes. Available from (tel: +44 844 848 5848, in the UK;


Getting Around

Getting Around by Rail

The UK is served by an excellent network of railways. Intercity lines provide fast services between London and major cities, and there are services to the southeast and to major cities in the Midlands, the north and south Wales and between Edinburgh and Glasgow. Some rural areas are less well served (eg the north coast of the west country, parts of East Anglia, Northern Ireland, Northumberland and North Yorkshire, parts of inland Wales, and southern and northern Scotland), although local rail services are generally fairly comprehensive.

Rail Passes

There are many discretionary fares, and visitors using trains may like to consider one of the all-line BritRail range of passes giving unlimited travel. This is available to visitors from overseas and is not available in the UK; tickets must be purchased in the visitor's home country, although tickets can be collected in the UK. Further details can be obtained from BritRail (website:

InterRail's One-Country Pass offers travel for three, four, six or eight days in one month within the UK. Travel is not allowed in the passenger's country of residence. Travellers under 26 years receive a reduction. Children's tickets are reduced by about 50%. Supplements are required for some high-speed services, seat reservations and couchettes. Discounts are offered on Eurostar and some ferry routes. Available from Rail Europe (website:

For information about UK train services and fares, contact National Rail Enquiries (tel: (08457) 484 950; website: It can be much cheaper to purchase rail tickets in advance. Disabled travellers are also entitled to discounted train fares; see the Disabled Traveller appendix.

Getting Around by Road

There are trunk roads (‘A’ roads) linking all major towns and cities in the UK. Roads in rural areas (‘B’ roads) can be slow and winding, and in upland areas may become impassable in winter. Motorways radiate from London and there is also a good east–west and north–south network in the north and the Midlands. The M25 motorway circles London and connects at various junctions with the M1, M3, M4, M10, M11 and M40. The only motorway that leaves England is the M4 from London to South Wales. Access to Scotland is by the A1/A1(M) or the A68 to Edinburgh, or the M6 to Carlisle followed by the A74 to Glasgow. Within Scotland, motorways link Edinburgh, Glasgow and Perth. In Northern Ireland, motorways run from Belfast to Dungannon and from Belfast to Antrim. For further information on roads within each country, see the respective Travel sections. Coach: Every major city has a coach terminus: in London, it is Victoria Coach station, about 1km (0.7 miles) from the train station. There are coach services to all parts of the country. Many coaches have onboard toilets and refreshments. Private coaches may be hired by groups wishing to tour the UK; these can be booked in advance and will visit most major tourist attractions. Many of these destinations now have coach parks nearby. The main carrier is National Express (website: Traffic regulations: Traffic drives on the left. Speed limits are 30mph (48kph) in urban areas, 70mph (113kph) on motorways and dual carriageways, elsewhere 50mph (80kph) or 60mph (97kph) as marked. Unleaded petrol and diesel are sold at all petrol stations. LPG (liquified petroleum gas) is increasingly available. Seatbelts must be worn by the driver and front seat passenger. Where rear seat belts have been fitted, they must also be worn. It is illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone while driving. The minimum driving age is 17. Documentation: National driving licences are valid for one year. Drivers must have Third Party insurance and vehicle registration documents. Automobile associations: The AA (website: and RAC (website: are able to provide a full range of services to UK members touring the UK. These organisations can also assist people who are travelling from abroad with maps, tourist information and specially marked routes to major events or places of interest.

Getting Around Towns and Cities

All cities and towns have bus services of varying efficiency and cost. Glasgow, Liverpool, London and Newcastle have underground railways. London and Glasgow's date back to the 19th century. The urban areas of Birmingham, Cardiff, Glasgow, Liverpool and Manchester are also well served by local railway trains. Manchester has an efficient modern tram service. Taxis: Licensed taxi operators are generally metered; small supplements may be charged for weekends, bank holidays, excess baggage and late-night travel. In the larger cities, unlicensed operators offer a cheaper (but less efficient and knowledgeable) unmetered service with fares based loosely on elapsed clock mileage; these taxis are called mini-cabs and can be summoned by telephone.



Country code: 44. There are numerous public call boxes. Some boxes take coins, others phonecards or credit cards.

Mobile Telephone

Roaming agreements exist with most international mobile phone operators. Coverage is mostly good, but can be patchy in rural areas.


There are Internet cafes and centers in most urban areas. Some multimedia phone booths, often located at main railway stations and airports, offer touch-screen access.


Stamps are available from post offices and many shops and stores. There are stamp machines outside some post offices. Post boxes are red. First-class internal mail normally reaches its destination the day after posting (except in remote areas of Scotland), and most second-class mail the day after that. International postal connections are good. Post office hours: Mon-Fri 0900-1730 and Sat 0900-1230, although some post offices are open much longer hours.


The UK has a strong tradition of public-service broadcasting and an international reputation for creative programme-making. The BBC began daily radio broadcasts in 1922 and quickly came to play a pivotal role in national life. The Empire Service, which became the BBC World Service, established a reputation worldwide. The BBC is funded by a licence fee, which all households with a TV set must pay. There is no advertising on BBC1 and BBC2. Commercial TV began in 1955 with the launch of ITV.


Dominated by about 10 major newspapers, UK circulation figures are amongst the highest in the world. The most influential newspapers are The Daily Telegraph, The Financial Times, The Guardian, The Independent, The Observer (on Sunday) and The Times. The more popular ‘tabloid’ newspapers are The Daily Express, The Daily Mail, The Daily Mirror and The Sun. Most papers have an associated Sunday newspaper, though there are some independents. There are also daily regional newspapers, particularly in Scotland and the north. The London Evening Standard is produced in several editions daily, the first being at midday.


BBC TV operates BBC1, BBC2 and digital services including BBC News 24 and BBC World, a commercially-funded international news channel. ITV is a major commercial network, organised around regional franchises. Channel 4 is a commercially funded but publicly owned national station. Five is a national commercial channel. Independent Television News (ITN) supplies news to ITV and Channel 4. British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB) operates digital satellite TV platform, Sky, and provides film, entertainment channels and news channel Sky News. There are many other privately-owned TV channels.


BBC Radio's national services include music station Radio 1, adult music station Radio 2, cultural network Radio 3, flagship speech station Radio 4 and news and sport station Five Live. BBC Radio also has regional broadcasts (see individual Country sections). BBC Asian Network targets Asian communities in the UK. BBC World Service can be heard worldwide via shortwave and increasingly on FM relays; it has programmes in more than 40 languages. Commercial stations include music station Virgin Radio, sports station Talk Sport and classical music station Classic FM. There are hundreds of privately-owned radio stations.


There is never a bad time to visit the United Kingdom, but for the most reliable weather come during the summer months (June- August) when the days are long and warm. Temperatures have been known on occasion to nudge 30C (86F), sometimes higher, but the threat of rain is ever present- pack waterproofs as well as sunscreen. The southeast of England is generally sunnier and warmer than the rest of the United Kingdom, but resorts along the coast get crowded during the summer.

The United Kingdom is arguably at its most beautiful during the autumn months (September- November), when rural landscapes take on brown, red, and pink hues as the leaves lose their pigment. Scotland and the north of England bear the brunt of winter (November- March), but snow occasionally blankets much of the United Kingdom brining with it travel chaos.

Required Clothing

Waterproofing throughout the year. Warm clothing is advisable at all times, and is essential for any visits to upland areas.

Embassies and tourist offices

UK Visas
Address: King Charles Street, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, London, SW1A 2AH
(020) 7008 8438.

Opening times: Mon-Fri 0930-1330.

British Embassy in the USA
Address: NW, 3100 Massachusetts Avenue, Washington, 20008
(202) 588 7800.
Opening times:
By appointment only. 

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