Tourist information, sites and landmarks
34 Why is Big Ben so called?
34 Why is Big Ben so
The Giant’s Causeway lies on the north coast of Northern Ireland, near
Portrush, County Antrim. It is an impressive formation of some 40,000
basalt columns (basalt is a type of hard, igneous rock) descending like a
giant staircase into the sea.
Stonehenge, the most famous
prehistoric monument in Britain, is situated on Salisbury Plain in the
county of Wiltshire. At various times regarded as a site built by the
Druids, the Romans, the Danes and even the French, the first stage - a
circular ditch and bank with an entrance flanked by a pair of small
standing stones - is believed to have been built around 3,000 BC.
Hadrian’s Wall is a Roman wall that
runs for about 75 miles (120 kilometres) across northern England between
Wallsend-on-Tyne in the East and Bowness in the Solway Firth in the West.
Begun in 122 AD on the orders of the Emperor Hadrian, it was the
northernmost frontier defence of Roman Britain. It was hoped that the wall
would help to control the fearsome Scottish tribes, but it was attacked
and overrun in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, and abandoned in the 4th
century. Originally about 3m wide and 4.5m high, substantial sections of
the wall were plundered for building materials over the centuries.
However, the wall and remains of Roman forts along the way still stand
today, with the finest surviving stretch being in the Northumberland
National Park around the village of Gilsland. One of the best preserved
Roman forts can be seen at Housesteads (Roman Vercovicium), six miles (9.7
kms) north east of Haltwhistle.
38 Why is the
investiture of the Prince of Wales held at Caernarfon Castle?
Although the castle is now only a
shell, it is no less impressive for that. The Eagle Tower, over 40m high,
can be reached by climbing 158 steps, passing by a small chamber known as
the Queen’s Oratory, where Edward II, Prince of Wales, was said to have
been born. Legend also tells us that the entrance to the castle on the
east side, known as the Gate of Queen Eleanor, was where the infant Edward
was presented to the people of Wales as their new Prince. Since those days
the ceremony of the investiture of the Prince of Wales has always been
held in Caernarfon Castle.
The Tower of London is one of the most popular and imposing of London’s historical sites. It comprises not one, but 20 towers, the oldest of which, the White Tower, dates back to the 11th century and the time of William the Conqueror. It is the Tower’s evil reputation as a prison that ensures it remains a much visited tourist spot today, together with the rich and varied history that surrounds it. Many stories associated with British history come from the Tower. In 1483 King Edward IV’s two sons were murdered in the so-called Bloody Tower, and over two centuries later the skeletons of two little boys were found buried beneath steps in the White Tower, assumed to be the bodies of the princes.
Traitor’s Gate, set in the southern
wall of the Tower, has steps leading down to the River Thames. Countless
prisoners, including the future Queen Elizabeth I of England, were brought
to the Tower by barge, and ascended the steps before being imprisoned -
for many it was their last moment of freedom before their death.
Fortunately, Elizabeth was released from the Tower and became
The Tower is famous as home of the
Crown Jewels. Today they
Everyone has heard of the Yeoman Warders of the Tower or ‘Beefeaters’, whose striking Tudor uniform has changed little since 1485. The uniform consists of a knee-length scarlet tunic, scarlet knee-breeches and stockings, and a round brimmed hat called a Tudor bonnet. Their distinctive white neck ruff was introduced by Queen Elizabeth I.
No visit to the Tower would be
complete without seeing the ravens; huge black birds who are an official
part of the Tower community. Legend states that if the ravens were to
leave the Tower the Crown will fall, and Britain with it. Under the
special care of the Raven Master, the ravens are fed a daily diet of raw
meat paid for out of a special fund set aside by Parliament. There is no
danger of them flying away, as their wings are clipped!
The London Underground, or ‘tube’ as it is often known, was
Although Londoners were originally
sceptical about the project, calling it ‘the sewer railway’, the service
was an immediate success. Trains were steam operated, and travel must have
been murky, sulphurous and extremely grimy compared with today’s
electrically operated trains.
Speakers’ Corner in the north-east corner of Hyde Park in London is by
tradition an area where public speeches can be made by anyone who has
anything they want to say - no matter how eccentric or implausible. The
area was set aside for such use in 1872, after Hyde Park itself became a
popular centre for public speaking.
Tourist information about Britain can be obtained from the Tokyo BTA
No, you cannot drive through the Channel Tunnel. You can travel
on the Eurostar train or Le Shuttle. Those wishing to take their car
through the tunnel arrive at the terminal in Folkestone, England, or
Calais in France and pay a toll before driving onto Le Shuttle - 800m long
rail freight vehicles - the largest purpose designed rail wagons in the
All mainline stations have information desks where you can enquire
about train services and obtain train timetables. Alternatively, if you
are in Britain you can call train information services on 0345
Despite its reputation for grey skies
and rain, the climate in Britain is generally mild and temperate. The
weather from day to day is mainly influenced by depressions moving
eastwards across the Atlantic. Although the weather changes frequently,
the temperature is subject to few extremes - it is rarely above 32°C or
The biggest sales take place in January, when bargain-hungry
shoppers have been known to queue all night outside London’s biggest
department stores in the hope of snapping up drastically reduced goods.
Wiser shoppers wait until the end of January, when there may be a smaller
choice of bargains, but often the prices have been reduced even further
for clearance. Other sales take place at the end of spring and summer,
when there are reduced prices on out of season goods, although it is
always best to check with individual stores first.
Contact the arena or theatre where the event is taking
place for advice on ticket sales. Many venues list a ticket sales hotline
in the telephone directory. By dialling this number you can order tickets
and pay for them by credit card. Alternatively, major cities like London
have numerous ticket agencies which sell tickets for all major events and
shows, and also operate ticket sales hotlines - check the Central London
telephone directory for details.