“Britain; Overpriced & overrated“
The Lonely Planet’s new guide to Great Britain has just been published and although the author David Else has some good things to say, he is has also been less than complimentary the United Kingdom.
Restaurants, accommodation and some tourist attractions of the United Kingdom apparently just do not deliver, “over priced or lacking in quality.” Although London it seems does have some excellent restaurants, really? That does surprise me.
Edinburgh is described as “one of the World’s most fascinating cities,” and Manchester as “truly special”, I wonder if he visited Salford too while he was there?
If David Else view is to be accepted Surrey is “made up of uninspiring towns and dull, sprawling suburbs,” so not likely to top anybody’s list of must see counties of England. Visitors to this country may be excused for deciding to give the ‘commuter belt’ county a miss.
The Defence for Surrey
Those that do in my humble opinion would be missing out on a great deal. This county is much more than a ‘suburb’ of Greater London, and has its fair share of lovely towns and villages. Somebody mentioned Guildford to me just yesterday, the very pleasant county town is well worth a visit; situated on the picturesque River Wey it has a great art gallery, a museum, two theatres, exceptional restaurants and hosts the annual Guilfest music festival.
There are plenty of other worthwhile places worth stopping off at; Frensham Ponds, Puttenham and Box Hill to name a few. Lonely Planet readers may not realise that Surrey is England’s most wooded county, comprising mature woodland, criss-crossed with public footpaths including the long distance North Downs Way.
Do not take Mr Else’s word as gospel, or mine for that matter, go and explore for yourself, make up your own mind, that after all is one of the great pleasures of travelling, discovering your own ‘Little Britain’ will be fun.
Is that the best you’ve got?
So what about the rest of the country, does this have so little to offer the visitor, is it really such poor value or over rated?
The Lake District is one of England’s most visited areas with beautiful rolling fells, spectacular crags, stunning natural lakes and picture postcard towns and villages. Whilst it may also be fair to say it can become extremely busy especially in towns like Bowness, Ambleside and Keswick, there are also plenty of scope for getting far away from the madding crowd.
Majestic views towards Haystacks over Buttermere, the remoteness of Harrop or Blea Tarns, Langdale Valley can all provide a little solitude. Rydal Water is a roadside lake, Blencathra a roadside mountain but few would argue they are worthy a stop for a ‘kodak’ moment.
Lakeland is just one of the National Parks in the United Kingdom, this island is overflowing with them; the Peak District, Pembrokeshire, Yorkshire Dales, Northumberland, Snowdonia, Dartmoor, Exmoor and the newest South Downs National Park. These are just a few, in fact Yorkshire alone has two, all have their own points of interest and areas of outstanding beauty, just visiting some of these would take a week or two.
Ah and then there is Scotland, especially the Highlands, an amazing landscape of remote and rugged hills and mountains, small towns, lonely lochs and ancient forest. All within easy reach of some of the main cities, Edinburgh, Glasgow or even Inverness, it is possible to stay in anything from grand hotels to a wild ‘bothy’ (remote hut), simple bed and breakfasts to even a castle.
Scotland also has an abundance of evocative sounding places, Glencoe, the Cairngorms, Glen Nevis, the Isle of Skye and of course Loch Ness. Mountain ranges and ridges that are all capable of challenging the most experienced mountaineers; the Torridons, Black Cuillins of Skye, Aonach Eagach which provides the Northern skyline of Glencoe and An Teallach far to the North near Dundonnell all are stunning, all impress.
Applecross in West Ross requires a drive along the highest road in Britain until eventually arriving at the Applecross peninsula. Apart from the views across to the Isle of Skye which are worth the drive alone, there is the amazing inn which does not win bucket loads of awards for its cuisine for nothing.
Include castles in the equation and there is little wonder that Scotland is high on anybody’s list of places to visit, not just in Britain but as a World destination.
Visiting Wales will not provide any cause for complaint either, from the fantastic countryside of Snowdonia and the Brecon Beacons to the endless beaches and rocky promontories of Pembrokeshire and The Gower.
Talking of castles, yes I was, weren’t you listening? Wales has plenty for those that like to visit ancient fortifications, in fact it has 427 of them including; Caernarvon, Conway, Harlech and Beaumaris which is a great reason to visit the island of Anglesey incidentally.
Cardiff also has its own castle, but this is only one attraction that the Welsh capital city has to offer. Watching the national rugby team play at the Millennium Stadium followed by some drinks in one of the surrounding pubs is another. In fact it has a lively nightlife scene as well as the National Museum and its own bay, no wonder it is one of my favourite cities.
Look out for…..
Other cities worthy of a mention for their own reasons include Newcastle in the North East; the Quayside with its market and bars on the Tyne, Liverpool was a European City of Culture, Bristol which has a small town feel about it and Plymouth on the Devonshire coast. These are just a few; Britain has a wealth of history and culture that dates back hundreds of years. Rural villages, small market towns and bustling city centres take a bus, train or drive they are all there just waiting to be stumbled upon by the curious.
Northern Ireland may sometimes seem a little overshadowed by its southern neighbour, but a ferry or plane trip from mainland Britain will not disappoint. There is the Giant’s Causeway, on the Northern tip of County Antrim, a World Heritage Site and a natural wonder of the World.
After its troubled past Belfast has rapidly become one of the country’s better cities, split into quarters (Titanic, Cathedral, Queen’s and The Gaeltacht Quarter), it is easy to navigate and there is much to see. If planning a trip to Ireland neglecting the North would probably be a huge mistake.
We can do beaches!
Britain is of course an island and has over eleven thousand miles of coastline, dotted with picturesque little bays, high sea cliffs and beautiful Blue Flag beaches; yes the description used was beautiful! Any visitor to Cornwall will agree and Lulworth Cove in Dorset which is one of the most stunning places that I have ever visited.
The whole of the Northumberland coastline is a complete surprise; here just North of the old industrial areas are pristine stretches of sandy beaches and clear blue seas. They are perfect for a swim if a little chlly but there are plenty of other activities such as kite-surfing or even sand yachting is possible in the more remote places.
Beaches often means resorts and there is a variety of these to suit every kind of visitor, quaint fishing villages such as Looe in Cornwall, the Victorian resorts of Brighton and Scarborough, Welsh harbours, Scottish seaside towns and brash and lively resorts such as Blackpool.
Portsmouth on the south coast of Hampshire is the traditional home of the Royal Navy and therefore has a particularly rich naval heritage. HMS Victory, HMS Warrior and the Mary Rose are on display in the Historic Dockyard and there is the ample opportunity to see many of the more recent additions to the Royal Navy which often visit the port.
The New Forest is only a short drive away and provides guided walks along its network of paths and bridleways. It is a paradise for walkers and riders in fact, wandering among the freely grazing ponies and cattle with the chance of an encounter with one of the resident deer before visiting a quaint English pub for a pint in one of the pretty villages is a definition of paradise to me.
A rich and varied history
Britain has a very long and eventful history from the invasions of the Romans and Normans to the height of the British Empire and Industrial Revolution. This provides countless historical and cultural places of interest, wonderful old buildings mix with modern wonders of architecture in many of the cities.
Hadrian’s Wall was built by the Romans and represents a demarcation line between Scotland and England, the ancient forests of Sherwood, home to the legendary Robin Hood and the Caledonian woodlands of Scotland. The Holy Island of Lindisfarne in Northumbria, Stonehenge in Wiltshire or Glastonbury Tor in Somerset places that when visited seem to be dripping with legend and myth, locations so mystical any story told about them appears believable.
It is not even possible to scratch the surface of the many great places the United Kingdom has to offer in an article such as this. There are so many potential attractions and certainly something of interest to all, city lover, culture vulture, history buff, mountain man/woman, food connoisseur, ocean freak or just plain visitor there is plenty to explore and excite even the most discerning tourist.
Guides are just that!
Whilst it is probable that the media fixated on the negative aspects of the Lonely Planet guide as a bit of sensationalism sells newsprint it is still fair to say some statements were fairly sweeping and general. Planning a visit to the Britain, of course the guide will be full of great advice, but do not be put off by any negativity; it is indeed Great Britain after all!
Do you have a favourite place in the United Kingdom that is great and deserves a mention, feel free to add to the list, lets get a petition of support going.