Information for Visitors to Britain
As someone who has travelled throughout the world, I know that preparation to travel to a foreign country can be stressful. It is like walking into the unknown without a map. Today there are many excellent guide-books that offer advice for all styles of travel and varying budgets. There are always many un-answered questions and hopefully the encouragement and brief advice below will help you expand your travel horizons. Where possible, information is subdivided into topics, which be expanded in number as and when time permits. There is also greater detail on items appearing in the remainder of this site. For instance telephone numbers, local words, geography and other topics that are common knowledge to the British but which may be a mystery to any visitor to these islands. Lou Johnson - Editor
Travelling around Britain
Although only a small island it can take considerable time to travel from place to place. Americans in particular under-estimate journey times. Many mountain areas are in sparsely populated areas and public transport can be almost non-existent. Although I am not a keen advocate of car travel it certainly is an advantage if you want to explore the wilder parts of Britain and allows you total flexibility.
Have a major effect on the numbers of people visiting the countryside if the weather forecast is good. In addition to extra traffic on roads and footpaths, accommodation can be hard to find. The main public holidays are New Year's Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, the first and last Mondays in May, the last Monday in August, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
To phone from abroad you need to add your own country's international access code (011 in the USA or 00 in most other countries), add the country code for the United Kingdom (44) and then add the phone number less the first zero. For example a number given as 01345 23456 would be dialled 00 44 1345 23456 from most countries or 011 44 1345 23456 from the USA.
A variety of accommodation is available with something for every budget. Hotels of all standards can be found in the areas covered in this site. Guest houses and bed and breakfast establishments offer good value for money and are less formal. Youth Hostels, which despite their title, offer beds to people of all ages. Often in good locations they provide excellent value for money. There are also many campsites. They vary from fields where tents can be pitched to well-equipped sites. A growing list of links, split by geographical region, are now to be found in the Walking Britain accommodation guide.
Food & eating out
There have been vast improvements in British food in recent years. The growth of catering in pubs has been especially noteworthy, with value-for-money meals served in comfortable surroundings. Breakfasts can be a problem however as there are not the wide variety of places to eat as there are in the USA for example. In major centres there are take-away sandwich bars where you can get provisions for the day. They will often fill flasks with hot drinks if required. Most of the more popular walking centres have cafes where food is served for most of the day. These are especially useful at the end of a walk.
In England and Wales access to land is subject to "rights of way" being in place. Normally you should avoid crossing land where a "right of way" is not in place unless prior permission is gained from the landowner. In most mountain areas the National Park authorities have negotiated "rights of way" and you should experience little or no trouble walking. However some other areas do have "freedom to roam" and these are marked on current editions of Ordnance Survey Maps. In Scotland the laws are different with much freer access to land. However you are advised to check locally about specific rights of access to avoid any potential problems.
English is obviously the main language. However in Wales and Scotland there are areas where Welsh and Gaelic are spoken although you will always find someone who can speak English. You may also notice in Wales and Scotland that many hill and mountain names are of Welsh and Gaelic origin. For an Englishman their pronunciation is often difficult although mastery of Welsh mountain names will improve after impromptu lessons by Welshmen whilst walking their mountains.
For a small country Britain has an enormous diversity of local dialects and accents. These can change with amazing speed as one travels the length and breadth of the country. Localisation of language does mean that each area has its own words and at times these can be confusing to the visitor.
Long Distance Paths
There are a growing number of these paths. The "Pennine Way" from Edale in the Peak District to Kirk Yetholm on the Scottish Border was one of the first. Another is the "Coast to Coast" which crosses east/west through the Lake District. Elsewhere in Britain there are other routes all well documented in books and on the Web - see Links Library in this site.
When to visit
The British climate is notorious varied due to strong maritime influences. The upland areas are even more unreliable and be prepared for inclement weather. As a general rule the period from April through to October is the safest although I take no responsibility if you pick a bad week! In the winter months short days are a restriction and low cloud can be a nuisance. If you are looking for snow then this is also unreliable and cannot be guaranteed even in Scotland.
Safety and personal security
Britain is a safe place to visit. Apart from inner-city areas the countryside is almost trouble free. The only problem is theft from cars parked for the day. Once out walking there is likely to be no trouble - with very little risk of being shot (as mentioned in many American walking books!) apart from during the limited hunting season each year.
The Ordnance Survey are the major publishers of maps in Britain. The two series most relevant to the walker are the 1:25000 and 1:50000 sheets. The former are perfect for walkers showing good detail. Besides full contouring, there are fence and wall lines, ruins, mines, footbridges and most importantly paths and rights of way. The 1:50000 series are not as well detailed but do offer a good basis from which to plan your walking. These maps are widely available in Britain and overseas. In addition to the OS maps a good series is published by Harveys. These contain all the detail a walker needs. Again these are widely available in Britain.
If you have any questions that are not covered in this section then please send an e-mail and I will try to add further detail to this section of the site for the benefit of future visitors.