Five places to visit in Britain for a unique cultural experience

29 April 2022

When I was at university, an international student once insisted to me that “Britain has no culture”, much to my astonishment and intense disappointment. Perhaps it is hard to get a sense of the diverse heritage of this land from the hectic, city-life perspective of a London student.

Whatever their reasons, this is my passionate statement and response to prove that yes, Britain is steeped in a rich and historic culture!

Academia aesthetic in Cambridge

Cambridge is the original “academia aesthetic” backdrop, with its 31 architecturally stunning colleges, the most famous being the wonderfully gothic King’s College, as well as 30 museums across the city.

During term time, the city is alive with activity as students race to lectures by day and fill traditional British pubs by night. Walking by the River Cam, you will discover Britain's answer to the Venetian gondola: punting with friends being the student’s spring/summer pastime of choice. If you are brave enough to forego a guide, punting is easy enough to get the hang of and a lot of fun to learn. Every now and then you will hear excited groups come close to losing balance, very occasionally accompanied by a big splash! As you glide along the water you will get a great view of the city and have an unmissable opportunity to picnic on the water.

Carnival in Notting Hill

One weekend a year, the streets of West London’s Notting Hill are awash with bright colours, tropical outfits and live music in London’s biggest street party.

Notting Hill Carnival displays the Caribbean roots of the local people, with a nod to Latino influences of the Rio Carnival. Visitors can watch elaborate floats and costumed performers parade through the streets, dance to calypso music and steel drum bands. All while they can feast on some mouthwatering Caribbean Jerk chicken, washing it down with a can of Red Stripe or Guinness punch.

While we can’t all make it to the Caribbean islands or carnival in Rio de Janeiro, we can all have a spectacular and unforgettable day out at Notting Hill.

The home of horse racing

As you step into Newmarket you can immediately sense the history of horse-racing as you spot horses trotting down the road alongside traffic.

Since the first recorded horse race in 1622, Newmarket has become the home of the thoroughbred horse breed often used in racing. As a visitor, it is both wonderfully charming and surreal to walk down Newmarket’s small High Street and to the edge of town to discover large expanses of green fields with horses being trained. Visitors can learn more about this historic town at the National Horse Racing Museum, housed in the palace and stables that once belonged to King Charles I.

For those who love these majestic creatures, the historic headquarters of horse racing is well worthy of a visit.

Gloucestershire Cheese Rolling

Out of all the weird and wonderful British traditions, the Gloucestershire cheese-rolling competition is probably the most famous… and infamous! Participants from across the globe flock to the slope of Cooper’s Hill in Gloucester to take part in the event. As an eight-pound wheel of Double Gloucester cheese is released after a count of three, runners start down the hill after it, on the count of four. The 300-yard slope averages a 45-degree incline and is impossible to run down safely. Nonetheless, whoever makes it to the bottom first walks (or should I say limps?) home with the wheel of cheese. Now classed as an extreme sport, the injury toll is high, the highest being 33 of the 100 competitors  receiving treatment for injuries including broken bones and sprains in 1997. The event is believed be at least 600 years old and first evidence of the competition was penned in 1826 by the Gloucester town crier. The purpose of the game is not entirely clear, some think it is part of a fertility ritual, but more likely it is about claiming the grazing rights to the common land around Cooper’s Hill.

The Perfect Fairytale Castle in Conwy

The little town of Conwy in North Wales is the home of possibly the dreamiest castle in the UK, and there is certainly fierce competition for that title!

This magnificent medieval castle has been standing for 700 years, built in just four years between 1283-1287 for King Edward I. Today you can still get a sense of the history and importance of the place when you visit the castle. It has the most complete set of residential rooms inhabited by medieval royals anywhere in England and Wales. Climb the restored staircases to walk the complete parameter of the castle and battlements, giving you a unique perspective of the narrow streets of Conwy, nearby harbour and the distant mountains of Snowdonia.