Monday, February 23, 2009


Monday, February 23, 2009 0
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There are marvellous experiences you never knew you could do, such as helping the Yeoman Warders lock the Tower of London up at night in the Ceremony of the Keys (free) or actually being inside Stonehenge (just £12.70). Britain also hosts unusual events that take place only once a year and there are some world-famous occasions that only happen here, as well as our popular Premier League football matches.

• Burns Night, 25 Jan
• Chinese New Year celebrations, 26 Jan
• Six Nations Rugby, from 7 Feb
• Olney Pancake Race, Buckinghamshire – 24 Feb
• Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race, 29 Mar
• World Pooh Sticks Championships – 29 Mar
• Grand National, 2 Apr

If you’ve never been, or have been putting off a trip because of the expense, now is the time to think again about Britain.

Note: Editors are welcome to print, broadcast or download this material in any reasonable way. Images available to download from the Britain on View photolibrary,


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Need a souvenir? No problem. Britons love to shop almost as much as they love talking about the weather. Clothes stores such as Primark and Topshop are a favourite with Britain’s fashion forward teens – even more so since Kate Moss designed a range for the latter – but for something more memorable, scour markets such as Portobello Road ( in London or shopping districts like the Jewellery Quarter ( in Birmingham. Antiques, arts and crafts, vintage clothes – just as every cloud has a silver lining, every high street has a bargain. And remember, foreign visitors can claim back the VAT (value added tax – currently 15%) charged on most goods; just ask for a VAT refund form in the store.


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International restaurants have long been the source of good cheap eats in the UK – choose from Indian and Chinese to Thai, Turkish and everything in between. But in the last few years British cuisine has undergone a revolution, led by good quality pubs – ‘gastropubs’ – with a focus on simple, traditional dishes done well. It’s great news for visitors: sensibly priced food in the classic setting of the British pub. Look out especially for lunch set menus, which offer a fixed price of around £10-11 for two courses.
Fish and chips, of course, should not be missed; every town will have at least one ‘chippy’ – check out ( for local recommendations – but the best are usually on the coast.

Pre-Theatre dining offers tasty, affordable, early evening set-menus. Examples include St Alban ( (two courses for £15.50) and Michelin-starred Arbutus ( (three courses for £17.50). Visit Top Table ( for hundreds of restaurant offers.

Top restaurants also offer fantastic deals at lunchtime, for example three courses at Angela Hartnett’s acclaimed new Murano, in London, for £25; or Edinburgh’s Restaurant Martin Wishart for £22.50


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A number of major exhibitions and installations are closing or going back into the vaults soon and may not been seen again for a while.

• Turner Watercolours in Edinburgh, to 31 January (only displayed every January)
• Byzantium at the Royal Academy to 22 March 2009
• Anish Kapoor at the Brighton Festival May 2009
• Le Corbusier at The Barbican Feb – May 2009
• Gerhard Richter’s Portraits at the National Portrait Gallery Feb-May 2009
• Constable Portraits at Compton Verney June – September 09
• 2009 emphasis on Indian art and culture with Indian Highway at the Serpentine Gallery, Indian Summer at the British Museum and Maharaja: the Splendour of India's Royal Courts at the V&A


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Entry to most of Britain’s top museums and galleries is entirely free. From the best modern art at the Tate Modern, design and fashion through the ages at the V&A, Old Masters at the National Gallery, historic trains at the National Railway Museum in York - and all of the City of Glasgow’s 13 museums.


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If history is your thing, the Great British Heritage Pass ( is a sound investment. A four-day Great British Heritage Pass is £32 and allows you to take your pick of 580 heritage attractions absolutely free. Base yourself in London and in a long weekend you could pack in an itinerary that includes Blenheim Palace near Oxford; Hampton Court Palace; Eltham Palace, the boyhood home of Henry VIII; Leeds Castle, the ‘loveliest castle in the world; Dover Castle and the Secret Wartime Tunnels; Sissinghurst Castle in Kent; Bodiam Castle in East Sussex; Hever Castle and Gardens, the childhood home of Anne Boleyn and Arundel Castle, a stunning ancient castle and stately home containing priceless treasures, a medieval keep, grounds and organic gardens.

Guided city walks are also excellent value: learn about Secret London (, the ghosts of York ( or
Inspector Morse’s Oxford.( haunts, for around £7.


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Pick up a BritRail pass for unlimited and flexible rail travel and enjoy discounts for families, groups travelling together, seniors, younger people and off-peak seasonal travel. Travel with British friends or relatives and they get 50 per cent off too.
Eurostar ( is currently offering more than 25,000 return tickets for 77€ per person in standard class to encourage visitors to come to London during the January Sales.
Enjoy Britain’s heritage on your journey – take a Harry Potter route over the Glenfinnan Railway viaduct in the West Highlands of Scotland, stop off at Carnforth station in Lancashire made famous in the film Brief Encounter, enjoy the scenery of one of our most beautiful landscapes on the Settle to Carlisle railway, travel through the high peaks of Snowdonia on the Llandudno to Blaenau Ffestiniog line. All are covered by your discounted BritRail pass.

Buses are a good way to cover long distances and usually cheaper than the train. National Express ( and Megabus ( offer fares from £1 if booked in advance, and serve heritage destinations such as Bath, Stratford-upon-Avon, Oxford and Cambridge, as well as the great outdoors – National Parks such as Brecon Beacons and Snowdonia in Wales, the Lake District in England and the Cairngorms in the Scottish Highlands.

But if you prefer to have your own wheels, consider hiring a car. Easycar ( and 1Car1 ( have competitive rates and this can be a great way to get off the beaten track.


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Budget hotel options have improved in the last few years and chains including Premier Inn, Travelodge and Express by Holiday Inn have properties all over England, Scotland and Wales with rooms from around £30 a night. For a similar price, check into a very British B&B and get some great local tips along with your breakfast. Once the preserve of business travellers, serviced apartments have had a makeover with the introduction of boutique apartments such as Staying Cool (, in Manchester, Birmingham and Devon, with apartments from £50 per person per night.


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Oil prices have fallen, so many airlines are reducing their fuel surcharges and airfares are dropping. National flag carriers and low-cost airlines are all offering discounts, for example British Airways are offering return flights from Australia to Britain from just $1999 (Australian).

3.5 million people discovered Liverpool – European Capital of Culture – for the first time last year, cementing the reputation of city destinations around Britain. Newcastle, Birmingham, Cardiff, Glasgow, Manchester, Bristol, Oxford and Cambridge all welcome thousands of international visitors every year thanks to low-cost routes into regional airports – over 4500 routes from Europe alone.


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Every cloud has a silver lining – or so the Brits are fond of saying. But as the pound takes a tumble against the dollar and the Euro, the benefits are clear for inbound visitors: Britain is now 25% cheaper for American travellers than it was a few years ago and 15% cheaper for anyone in the Eurozone. So what are you waiting for? Britain is back on the menu for bargain hunters.
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