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10 Quintessentially British experiences that won’t hurt your wallet!

May 15, 2015 Destination Europe No Comments Print Print Email Email

Admire London’s sights on a bus tour

West End Theatre © VisitBritain

… but when we say bus tour, we mean a regular bus taken by Londoners and tourists alike. The number 24 is hard to beat: get on at Westminster Abbey, wave to the British Prime Minister as you pass Downing Street, balk at Trafalgar Square, hop off at the theatre district for a half-price show (see below!), or Denmark Street (known as Tin Pan Alley) for a new musical instrument, then continue on to Camden, famous for its music scene, or to the end of the route at Hampstead. There you can loll about on the heath or take a dip in its pools. The number 9 is another great route, and good for seeing how London’s rich and royal live from aboard an old-style Routemaster bus. The trip begins at Somerset House, takes in Trafalgar Square (get off for the free – and excellent – National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery), continues through Knightsbridge where you can window shop at Harrods from your passenger seat, then passes the Royal Albert Hall and Kensington Palace, the London home of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Shortly before it ends at Hammersmith, the bus stops at Holland Park – have a picnic in the Japanese garden and admire the resident peacocks! Get a Visitor Oyster Card before you arrive in Britain and save money and time – start using as soon as you landwww.visitbritainshop.com/world/travel-transport/london-transport/product/london-visitor-oyster-card.html.

Catch a West End show

Going to see a show in London’s West End is memorable – relish in the whole ritual: a pre-theatre dinner (excellent for value, and a time-saver!), the bustle of everyone arriving at the theatre, the pleasure of being entertained, interval drinks, clapping until your hands hurt and then dissecting the performance with friends afterwards. Head to the TKTS booth in Leicester Square for excellent on-the-day deals and half price bargains. If you’re travelling early in January and February, make the most of the Get Into London Theatre scheme, which sees more than 65 top shows selling tickets for £10, £20, £30 or £40. Booking starts in December. www.tkts.co.uk, www.getintolondontheatre.co.uk

Spend the day drinking Pimms at Wimbledon

Grounds Admission tickets for south-west London’s Wimbledon Championships can be surprisingly cheap: as little as £15 buys you access to Courts 3-19 (and Henman Hill) for an entire day, dropping to £11 if you enter after 5pm (prices differ depending on the date – it’s cheaper to go during the second week of the tournament). Heather Watson, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and eventual champion Petra Kvitova all played on Court 3 in 2014. You do have to queue up for tickets, but the atmosphere is great and queuing is indeed a very British experience in itself!www.wimbledon.com

Shop ‘til you drop at Westfield and get 20% off

If you buy something on the VisitBritain shop (a good idea if you want to make savings on attractions like Madame Tussauds, London Dungeon and the London Aquarium) you get a VIP pass to Westfield London or Westfield Stratford City offering up to 20% off your purchases. Both Westfields have a mixture of high street and designer stores, as well as fun non-shopping activities like an All Star Lanes bowling alley at the Stratford City branch. Who doesn’t love a bargain and some bowling?! www.visitbritainshop.com/world/free-westfield-vip-pass.html

Take afternoon tea

Afternoon tea: a combination of Britishness and deliciousness. The best teas are towering with delights both sweet and savoury: sandwiches on the bottom, then scones, then cakes, and all washed down with a pot of Earl Grey (or whatever leaf floats your boat). Afternoon tea can be taken in many places throughout Britain – London’s Fan Museum consistently wins praise for its ‘best value’ afternoon tea – priced only £7, taken in The Orangery, a beautiful mural-covered garden room. www.thefanmuseum.org.uk/orangery. Outside London, Manchester’s fun and funky Northern Quarter is home to plenty of cute cafes to take tea at: Teacup is one of the best, and their afternoon tea comes priced at £16 for three tiers of homebaked goodies, or else if it’s just the scones you’re after, you can opt for the £6.80 cream tea. www.teacupandcakes.com. Over in Cardiff, the Waterloo Tea Rooms’ original outpost in the Edwardian parks serves a delightful, homemade, three-tiered wonder for £13.50 a head; try their new Wyndham Tea in one of Cardiff’s oldest arcades. http://waterlootea.com. The website AfternoonTea.co.uk lists offers and deals, as well as being a very comprehensive resource for where to find afternoon tea spots all over the UK.www.afternoontea.co.uk


Watch Glyndebourne’s world class opera for less than you think

Going to Glyndebourne is, for some, a summer tradition – and for others a unique, one-off chance to dip into British high society, picnic in sumptuous grounds and guzzle champagne in black tie before settling down to world class opera. Yes, some people pay £250 for the privilege – but there are standing tickets available from £10, and if you’re under 30, you can get excellent seats for just £30. The Glyndebourne tour takes in several UK venues, but always starts at Glyndebourne itself, so you can enjoy the grounds in the autumn and get a flavour of the festival for a fraction of the price. Glyndebourne is in Lewes, South East England, approx. an hour by train from London. www.glyndebourne.com

Enjoy the footy

If, like millions of people around the world, you follow the Barclays Premier League, there is nothing like actually experiencing a match for yourself in Britain, and grabbing the opportunity to indulge your passion for the Beautiful Game on stadium tours and more. Going to a match can be cheaper than you think: Thomas Cook Sport Match Break packages start from £89 (which includes a match ticket and a hotel stay). Meanwhile stadium tours are a fantastic way for footy fans to go ‘backstage’ and even run through the players’ tunnel out onto the pitch – Manchester City’s tour is £14 on the VisitBritain shop. Manchester is also home to the free National Football Museum, where you can try out a penalty shoot-out and even smell the players’ socks (!) should you wish. It is home to the world’s greatest collection of football collection.www.thomascooksport.com/Football/Premier-League/Everton,www.visitbritainshop.com/world/attractions/sports.html,www.nationalfootballmuseum.com

Lord it up in a stately home or a castle

Britain is spoiled with hundreds of gorgeous castles and stately homes, which tell the story of lords and ladies, knights and battles, pomp, pageantry and upstairs-downstairs scandals and histories. And so many of them are intact and ready to be explored just as though their former inhabitants had popped out for tea with a neighbour – or indeed, in many cases, the owners still live there (but don’t mind you coming to visit). The VisitBritain shop sells passes that let you visit multiple properties and save money in the process. The National Trust touring pass, which costs £25, pays for itself after a couple of visits to properties, so go to a third and you’re saving. And there are plenty to choose between – Winston Churchill’s home Chartwell, in Kent (South East England),Game of Thrones filming location Castle Ward in Northern Ireland’s County Down, and magical Welsh castle and world famous gardens at Powis Castle and Garden. Scotland has its own National Trust Discover Ticket, priced £22.50 – it lasts 14 days, and if you visit one attraction each day you save over £100. Choose fromCulzean Castle, the Glencoe Visitor Centre (Glencoe was a Skyfall filming location) and the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum. www.visitbritainshop.com

Blend your own whisky at a distillery

Many Scottish distilleries offer the chance to do a tour and a taste, but Glengoyne – just an hour from Edinburgh by car – lets you go a step further and bottle your very own blend. Once you arrive, you’re led outside to a beautiful pool of water, fed by a sparkling waterfall – the whisky’s source. Then take an informative tour of the whole distillery, learning exactly how it’s made, seeing the process and meeting those who make it; the tour even includes a peek into some very pricey, very old whiskies brewing in their barrels, waiting for just the right moment to be bottled and sold. Then it’s down to you: sit down at a table confronted by several cask strength whiskies (from different barrels and of different ages) and get to work nosing, tasting, and blending, before leaving with a 200ml bottle of your very own blend. At £55, the Malt Master’s Tour is excellent value; if you just want the tour and a taste, it’ll set you back £8.50, with a £5 voucher towards products in the shop.

 Walk into a postcard in Wales

Wales is the only country in the world with a continuous path around its entire coastline – aptly named The Wales Coast Path – and to walk around it will cost you nothing. Head to the Isle of Anglesey to walk the beautiful north Wales stint and fall in love with the landscape, just like the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge did when they lived there. There are more than 600 castles in Wales, and Beaumarisin Anglesey is said to be ‘the most technically perfect castle in Britain’, and only costs £5.25 to visit. Accommodation need not mean a huge expense, and it can mean a totally unique experience. Canopy and Stars is a collection of quirky and unique properties, with four wonderfully wild safari lodges located minutes from the beach that start at £87 per night. www.canopyandstars.co.uk

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