The United Kingdom of Great Britain is made up of four countries; England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Great Britain is the island that is home to England, Scotland and Wales and Ireland is a separate island, the northern portion which is part of the United Kingdom, and the southern portion which is independent and known as the Republic of Ireland. There are also three “Crown Dependencies” and fourteen overseas territories, but here we’ll focus on the four countries and include the Republic of Ireland.

England is the largest country in the UK and makes up 84% of the population. The capital is London, which has been a cultural and political powerhouse throughout history. London is metropolitan and cosmopolitan, with rich historical sites mixed throughout its present day architecture. Getting around London to see all of the important sites is quite easy using the very convenient “tube” (subway system). Visit London Tower to see the Crown Jewels, Buckingham Palace to see how royalty lives, Westminster Abbey where many of the royal couples are wed and Big Ben, the clock tower of Parliament. London has museums, theaters and opera houses to enjoy as well.

Other places to visit in England include; the walled city of York founded in 71AD; Stratford Upon Avon, Shakespeare’s birthplace; Bath where you can see an ancient Roman bath house; the Cotswald area with its beautiful rolling countryside; Stonehenge, the prehistoric stone circle of mystery; and the White Cliffs of Dover, the symbolic guard of England against attack from Continental Europe.

Scotland is the second largest country in the UK and has a defined culture of its own. Edinburgh is the capital city and a large financial center, but Glasgow is the largest and most prominent industrial city. A visit to Scotland should include both cities, with their cultural history and unique architecture, and a visit to the Scottish Highlands showing off the rugged beauty of the country and the many lakes, castles and manor homes dotting the countryside. A visit to Edinburgh during August should include a viewing of the Military Tattoo, a show of military Pipe and Drum bands with a tradition spanning six decades and growing larger each year.

Wales is a much smaller country with its own distinct culture and history. Cardiff is the capital city where you can visit the Cardiff Castle or the National Museum Cardiff which houses the largest collection of impressionist art outside of Paris. This city is unique, offering multiple architectural and cultural sites to visit all within walking distance of the city center. It’s also one of the largest coal exporting ports in the world and the source of its wealth. The countryside of Wales is best seen in the Vale of Glamorgan, which blends sandy beaches, rugged cliffs and charming towns. Wales boasts over 400 castles to be seen throughout the countryside.

Ireland is an island to the west of Great Britain, separated into two political sections; Northern Island which is part of the UK and the larger section of the Republic of Ireland, which covers roughly 5/6’s of the island. In the North, the capital city of Belfast is a cosmopolitan, bustling center of industry, art and education. A major tourist attraction in the area is the Giant’s Causeway. These natural stone columns, many hexagonal in shape, form steps going into the sea towards Scotland.  They have different legends associated with them making them fun to see and imagine their creation.

The Republic of Ireland is an independent country and what most people think of as Ireland itself. The capital is Dublin, another industrial cosmopolitan city with multiple attractions to see. You can visit Trinity College, where the Book of Kells is on display, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, St. Stephen’s Green or Dublin Castle.  You can enjoy a taste of Irish at the Jameson’s Distillery or the Guinness Brewery. Known as the Emerald Isle for its lush, green rolling hills, Ireland has a reputation for genuine hospitality, storytelling and music. A tour of the country will illuminate hillsides dotted with sheep and cows, rivers surrounded by castles and towns and a coastline whose beauty is unsurpassed. The Cliffs of Moher on the western side of the island are rich with history and legend. The Ring of Kerry and the Dingle Peninsula boast some of the most beautiful coast line, and towns like Waterford and Cork are known throughout the world. A visit to the Waterford Crystal Factory is impressive and informative and evenings spent in the local pubs show the culture and warmth of this country.

Touring the UK can be broken into separate country and city visits or put together in a longer tour to visit multiple countries. The most popular tours include visits to the larger cities of each country, with stops in the smaller towns along the route. London and Paris are also often paired as a vacation, with a high speed train now running between the two cities making it very convenient. We can find a packaged tour to suit your desires or customize a tour that fits your needs.

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