The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly shorted to United Kingdom or simply UK, is a sovereign island country in western Europe. It includes the island of Great Britain, which is made up of England, Wales, and Scotland, as well as Northern Ireland, which is the northeastern part of the island of Ireland. Many small islands are also included as part of the UK, which covers a total area of 93,628 square miles (242,495 square km). The estimated population of the UK is 66 million and the country is located in the UTC time zone. CDC information for travelers. Hours/availability may have changed.
5 of the Largest Cities in the United Kingdom
- Overview, Photo: chrisdorney/stock.adobe.com
- London, Photo: Jag_cz/stock.adobe.com
- Birmingham, Photo: suttonbaggies/stock.adobe.com
- Leeds, Photo: calumsmith0308/stock.adobe.com
- Glasgow, Photo: EyesTravelling/stock.adobe.com
- Sheffield, Photo: Ahmet/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of tomek_emigrant - Fotolia.com
Attraction Spotlight: Powerscourt Estate
Stretching out over 47 acres and regularly winning awards and accolades for being some of the most beautiful gardens not only in Ireland but in the world, Powerscourt Estate never fails to stun and surprise guests with its immense beauty and historical significance. The estate is regularly rated as one of the top tourist destinations in Ireland.
The gardens were designed in 1731, meant to add to the local landscape in a seamless and natural fashion. The house was completed a few years later, in 1741, featuring nearly 70 rooms and designed in the Palladian architectural style (altering the original building, a 13th century castle). The estate’s namesake, the Viscounts Powercourts (who helped introduce the Japanese sika deer to Ireland through establishing a deer park near the waterfall area of the estate), lived on and maintained the grounds until 1961, when the Slazenger family took over and made it the tourist destination it is today. Multiple movies and television shows have been filmed on site, including Ella Enchanted, The Tudors, and Excalibur.
The gardens are the biggest draw of all the attractions located at the Powerscourt Estate. The website offers a frequently updated blog to inform guests about what they might find in bloom during a visit, as the gardens were designed with seasonal change in mind. There are a few specific areas to keep an eye out for during a visit.
? Italian Gardens - Well known for offering the best views of all of the gardens, the Italian Gardens sit directly under Sugar Loaf Mountain and was designed in the 1840s by Daniel Robertson. Make sure to check out the Italianate Terraces, which link the house to Triton Lake.
? Japanese Gardens - Often said to be the favorite of Lord Londonberry, the Japanese Gardens were designed in 1908 on the southern side of Triton Lake (on reclaimed bogland). Make sure to see the Grotto, which is one of the oldest features in any of the gardens and do not leave without tossing a coin into the fountain for luck.
? Tower Valley - Tower Valley is well known for the Pepperpot Tower, said to have been designed after Lord Powerscourt childhood pepperpot tree. The wooded area surrounding the valley was a favorite of many of the scouts who were welcomed onto the grounds to camp.
The house is another main draw and is where the reception area for the estate is located as well as dining and shopping options. Stop by the learn about the audio tour (discussed below), as well as to tour the historic house (which now acts mostly as a shopping center). It has regularly been voted as one of the top ten houses worldwide by Lonely Planet.
Guests should also make sure to visit the Powerscourt Waterfall, the highest waterfall in the country of Ireland at 121 meters tall. Guests should be prepared to walk over occasionally dangerous terrain, as bus service is only available intermittently. However, the view at the end is definitely worth it. Guests can also occasionally see some of the rare Japanese sika deer, which the Powerscourts introduced to Ireland.
Audio guides are available at the estate and come complete with a short film that can be viewed in the Powerscourt home. The guides can be collected in the reception area as well. The guide is narrated by multiple members of the families that have called the Powerscourt Estate home for over 400 years and are available in English, Chinese, German, French, and Spanish. Samples can be found on the website and the guides are offered free of charge. However, guests should be aware that they are only offered in limited numbers and are available on a first come, first serve basis and sell out quickly. There are 22 stops on the adult version of the audio tour, and 8 stops on the family tour. The entire tour takes between an hour to an hour and a half to complete.
Due to its popularity as a tourist destination, the estate hosts a regular variety of different themed special events and activities on the grounds. In fact, the year-round offerings at Powerscourt include things like treasure hunts, gardening workshops, guided walks, live theater, bug hunts, and lectures. The website is a treasure trove of information that details each of these special events and is easily searchable by guests either during or prior to a planned visit to the estate. The events often cater to special groups of guests - children, history buffs, foodies, etc. Be aware that many of the events do require an addition costs above what is being paid for admission. However, catching one of the many events is a great way to truly enjoy all the Powerscourt has to offer, especially when visiting as a family.
One of the most popular types of event at the Powerscourt estate are weddings. Known as one of the top wedding venues in the country of Ireland, the estate even offers a Spring Wedding Fair to connect potential grooms and brides with vendors and to discuss the process of planning and holding a wedding on the estate. Catering for all weddings is provided on site by Feast Catering. Receptions and ceremonies can be held in a variety of different estate rooms, like the formal, enormous Gregorian ballroom or one of the small and more personal Garden View rooms. Be aware that, as weddings are extremely popular at the estate, dates fill up very quickly and it is recommended to book as far in advance as possible. Contact the staff for additional information.
There are also many seasonal events offered at the estate - like garden sales and guided garden walks during the spring, Easter and Christmas festivities, and even New Year’s Eve parties.
Also, although not part of the main estate, the nearby Powerscourt Golf Club is also home to many tournaments and competitions, including recently hosting the Irish PGA Championship.
Dining and Shopping
The Avoca Terrace Cafe is open to visitors to the estate and offers a variety of seasonally appropriate food and drink options to guests. There is also a shopping area, located in the house, called Avoca Stores, which has a selection of jewelry, giftware, kids’ merchandise, and clothing. Also located in the house is Tara’s Palace which offers a selection of dollhouse themed gifts. All purchases at Tara’s Palace will be donated to children’s charities. Finally, guests inspired by that gardens can stop at the pavilion on their way out and purchase a variety of plants and other outdoor gift options.
Powerscourt Estate, Enniskerry Co. Wicklow, Ireland, A98 WOD0, Phone: +353-0-12-04-60-00
Attraction Spotlight: Hyde Park, London
Visiting Hyde Park allows for a moment of calm in the middle of London, England. Full of beauty, food and drink, and occasionally music and public speeches, visitors to the park can be guaranteed to have a unique experience every time they stop into the park. Hyde Park’s roots stretch all the way back to the 1500s, when Henry VIII received the grounds from the monks of Westminster Abbey for use for his hunting grounds.
It has continued its prevalent place in history since then, seeing the birth of film (in 1889) as well as many major historical figures stopping to give speeches at Speakers’ Corner.
Rose Garden - Located in the southeastern corner of the park, the beautiful rose garden opened to the public in 1994. Visitors should make sure to check out the garden, which is designed in the shape of a giant horn to represent the sound of the horns that would sound to announce someone’s arrival into Hyde Park. Roses are interspersed with various herbaceous plantings which result in seasonal beds, strong scents, and beautiful scenery. Early summer is said to be one of the better times to see the roses, and the beds are planted seasonally (in the spring and again in the summer). Make sure to check out the Murdo fountain from 1862, as well as the Diana fountain statue and the metal grand pergola.
The LookOut - In the heart of the park is The LookOut. This eco friendly building is intended as an escape from the hustle and bustle of normal city life for people of all walks of life. The building is fully accessible to all ability levels and is compliant with the Disability Discrimination Act so everyone can come and enjoy the facility. Come, learn, visit, take a workshop, or just enjoy time with family in a welcoming, safe environment meant to be able to be comfortably used 365 days a year.
Speakers’ Corner - This site for public debates and speeches has been around since the 1800s and has previously hosted Vladimir Lenin, Karl Marx, George Orwell, and others who used the open forum to demonstrate what free speech involves. Parliament established Speakers’ Corner as an actual public speaking site in 1872. Any and everyone is welcome to come, listen, or even speak themselves. Stand on the place where suffragettes, anti war activists, and other people concerned with social issues have spoken out.
Sculptures - There are many sculptures located around the park. A few to keep an eye out for specifically are Serenity (a bronze sculpture of the nature goddess) and Pan (a dog and its family rush into the park).
Memorials - There are also many memorials located in and around the park, focusing on a variety of important subjects. There is a Holocaust memorial, a memorial to the victims of the London Bombing of 2005, an Animals in War memorial, and a Norwegian War memorial. Make sure to see them all.
Hyde Park is often a popular social gathering place and they offer a large selection of different types of special events, from concerts to local events organized by the community.
Annually since 2008, the park hosts a half marathon called Royal Parks. Also, a major fundraiser (one that has raised over 30 million pounds for charity), it runs through the park every October.
In the summer, the park holds a ten-day festival celebrating music, food, and fun! With previous major musical acts like Green Day, Tom Petty, and Phil Collins, as well as many different food stalls operated by independent vendors, bistros, and cafes, this fest is one of the most exciting events held at Hyde Park. Make sure to check out the themed cocktail bars and pubs!
Also, seasonally, the park offers a variety of holiday themed events like the Winter Wonderland event as well as the preview night that raises funds for charity and allows guests the ability to access the park to see the lights earlier than the general public… all for a good cause!
While visiting Hyde Park, there are a variety of adorable cafes, sit-down restaurants, and food kiosks to check out. The kiosks offer a variety of food and drink that are easy to eat while continuing to enjoy the park - like coffee, sandwiches, and ice cream. The Lido Cafe and Bar offers a full sit-down atmosphere, one where guests can even choose to dine outside. They are open all day and serve alcohol. Finally, the Serpentine Bar and Kitchen offers a more casual environment with options like fish and chips, pizzas, and other warm and tasty foods.
Hyde Park, Rangers Lodge, Hyde Park, London, W2 2UH, Phone: +44-0-30-00-61-20-00
Attraction Spotlight: Fota Wildlife Park
The primary objective of the Fota Wildlife Park, located on Fota Island (which is near Carrigtwohill in County Cork, Ireland) is to provide to the general public a fun and educational experience while giving the highest level of house, quality of life, and care to the thousands of animals who call the park home. It remains one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country of Ireland and regularly wins “best of” awards given to zoos and wildlife parks all over the world.
The 100-acre park opened in 1983 as an independent, not for profit charitable organization. It welcomes more than 44,000 visitors every year and is home to around 30 different mammal species as well as 50 varied species of birds. It has over 100 unique species of animals in total and focuses strongly on conservation efforts, participating in the EEP (European Endangered Species Program) for their Sudan cheetahs as well as the ESB (European Studbook) for both of their types of Lechwe antelope (Kafue and Red). The park is always seeking to expand, adding many different exhibits in the past few years. Some of the newer exhibits are Cheetah Run, a Tropical House, and the Asian Sanctuary.
Guests will enter the wildlife park through the main entrance, which is where admission tickets can be purchased, wheelchair and strollers can be rented, and staff will answer any additional questions that guests may have before exploring the park. This is also where the Savannah Cafe is located.
From there, it is recommended that guests head to the right and follow the path, starting with Cheetah Run. This will lead guests through the Asian Sanctuary, the Lion Enclosure, the Asian Plains area, and the Tiger Forest.
Eventually, guests will make their way through the Tropical House and see where they will be able to feed the ducks (a family favorite).
Before leaving, it is strongly encouraged that visitors check out the education center (where the educational classes and camps are held), the Incubation House, and the Giraffe House.
There are many different animals that are housed at the wildlife park. Below are just a sample of the thousands found on the grounds (all of which are available to be sponsored by guests). Be aware that not all of these animals are found in cages and some are free to roam with guests.
- Birds - Chilean flamingos, Humboldt Penguins, Great White Penguins, Ostriches, Macaws, and Indian Peafowl all call the park home.
- Carnivores - Many carnivores are housed at the park, including Asiatic Lions, Cheetah, Meerkats, Red Pandas, and Sumatran Tigers.
- Herbivores - There are also many different herbivores in the park, like Brazilian Tapirs, European Bison, Grant’s Zebras, Indian Rhinos, Kafue Lechwe (a type of antelope), Rothschild Giraffes, and Scimitar-horned Oryx.
- Lemurs - Three different species of lemurs are housed at the wildlife park - the Black and White Ruffed Lemur, the Red Ruffed Lemur, and the famous Ring-tailed Lemur.
- Marsupials - Both Bennett’s Wallabies and Eastern Grey Kangaroos are housed at the park.
- Native Species - The wildlife park is also very fond of native Irish species and has three of them at the park - Harbour Seals, Red Squirrels, and White-tailed Sea Eagles.
Guided tours and wildlife experiences of the wildlife park are offered.
- Behind the Scenes - This experience takes guests on a less formal tour to see the “fun” side of the park. Led by a warden tour guide and meant for three guests at a time (who must be at least eighteen years of age or above), this tour lasts two hours and included a certification of the experience. Each behind the scenes tour is different and will include different experiences, like visiting the giraffe house or feeding the penguins.
- Warden Experience - Led by some of the wardens who work at the park, guests will learn all about the human and animal connection. This experience is meant for only two people at a time (guests must be 16 years old) and lasts just over three hours. Guests can feed the penguins, learn how the cheetah run works, and get hands-on experience. The experience will start with a complimentary tea or coffee and end with a complimentary lunch and gift pack (with a t-shirt and certification of the experience).
- VIP Family Experience - One of the most popular tours is the VIP Family Experience. This experience is for families and children of all ages (as long as the children are older than three years old). It will last about two hours and wardens will take families of two adults and up to four children behind the scenes to meet some of the animals who live in the park.
There is also a large play area for children that is located near the Savannah Cafe, as well as several others located throughout the park. Children may also enjoy the Cheetah Run activity, which teaches children all about just how fast this incredible and powerful predator can move while also enriching the lives of the cheetahs that live at the park (food is suspended on a wire for cheetahs to chase).
The education center at the wildlife park was designed for up to 200 students at a time, and the educational staff regularly designs new courses, camps, and field trips. Each specific visit by students to the park is catered to the subjects, grade level, and time commitment that classes are able to make. The staff also requires a large educator to student ratio to make sure the students can ask questions and get as much personalized education and attention as desired. Over 13,000 students visit the education center every year.
The wildlife park is a DPS approved center (Discover Primary Science) which provides registered schools with a day-long educational option that has been specially created to touch on math, technology, and science. These classes also include information on ecology, woodland activities, and a warden guided tour of the wildlife park. The class will count toward the Primary Science award for schools and runs from September through March.
Secondary level students also have options at the wildlife park. Covering aspects of biology as well as practical field ecology, the courses are designed for students that have completed their required woodland surveys. There is also a class focusing on conservation and ecology that was created specifically for “transition” year students, which focuses on team building (which helps develop important communication skills and cooperation).
All classes must be reserved in advance by contacting the educational center staff either by phone or by email. One teacher is allowed free admission per every ten students.
Another fun option for students are the camps, which are held during school holidays. Designed for children between five and twelve years of age, the camps generally last around a week with each day being devoted to a different topic (like arts and crafts, movement, and ecology). There are also different camps held around the holidays, which allow children to get out of the house while also having fun learning. Check the website at Fota for additional information about the dates and availability of these camps, including cost.
Dining and Shopping
There are two different dining options for guests at the wildlife park - the Savannah Cafe and the Oasis Cafe. The Savannah Cafe is located nearest to the main entrance and serves hot meals, sandwiches, snacks, and drinks. On the other end of the wildlife park is the Oasis Cafe, which offers burgers, chips, pizza, and other hot food options. For visitors wanting a souvenir, there is the Serengeti Gift Store which offers traditional gift merchandise like apparel, keychains, postcards, and children’s gifts like stuffed animals and toys.
Fota Wildlife Park, Carrigtwohill, Co. Cork, Ireland, Phone: +35-32-14-81-26-78