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The UK has long been a magnet for travellers, consistently securing its place in the World Tourism Ranking’s Top 10. Nearly 40 million international tourists visit the UK every year, coming to see its grand palaces and castles, as well as world-class museums like those found in London and rugged natural beauty which can be found in places like the Scottish Highlands.

But despite its popularity, how much do travellers really know about the United Kingdom? We thought we’d dive beneath the surface of this well-trodden tourist destination to uncover a few lesser-known facts.

Let’s take an academic journey across the UK, uncovering 10 little-known facts that may surprise, intrigue, and possibly even inspire you to explore the UK with fresh eyes.

Whether you’re a history buff, a nature enthusiast, or simply a bit curious, these intriguing tidbits will only enhance your appreciation of this remarkable nation, or at the very least give you a better chance at being victorious at a local pub trivia night during your planned upcoming September holidays UK.

10 Interesting Facts about the UK

Oxford Dictionary Beginnings

The Oxford English Dictionary is one of the most recognised English language dictionaries, but how much of its history do you actually know? It took around 70 years for the dictionary’s first edition to be completed, work having begun in 1857 and its first volume being published in 1884.

Much of the work on the first edition was done by unpaid volunteers, but surprisingly one of its most prolific contributors was an American Civil War vet who performed work on the dictionary while he was a patient in a British insane asylum.

The dictionary is constantly being updated as new words come into use such as some of its newest entries like “wokery” and “safe word”. And in case you were wondering what the first word to be placed in the dictionary was, it was “A” which isn’t all that exciting but definitely “a” word we all use daily.

Longest Place Name in UK

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch by Steve Daniels, CC BY-SA 2.0  via Wikimedia Commons

Pronouncing foreign city or town names can often prove difficult for tourists, but Wales takes things to a whole other level. The longest place name in the UK is Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, a small village with a big name on the island of Anglesey in Wales. 

Trying to correctly say the village’s name is often used as a linguistic curiosity and a test of one’s Welsh language skills, but thankfully for travellers, locals often go by its abbreviated name Llanfairpwll. If you want to attempt to learn the full title, there’s a handy guide on how to pronounce it correctly.

The village is a popular stopover for tourists you can make their way to the local railway station sign that proudly displays its full name, and a spot which has become one of the most photographed landmarks in Wales.

The Cornish Pasty

When it comes to British cuisine, the Cornish pasty is definitely iconic. Made famous in Cornwall, the Cornish pasty was originally a quick and easy-to-eat meal for local tin miners. The baked pastry is filled with beef, potatoes, turnips, and onions.

Cornish Pasties actually have protected status now by the European Union, whereby it’s supposedly illegal to advertise true “Cornish Pasties” outside of Cornwall. There’s even a Cornish Pasty Museum and International Pasty Festival, but oddly both are found in Mexico, far from Cornwall.

Magic of Giant’s Causeway

The Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland combines natural wonder, mythology, and cultural significance to make it a popular tourist destination. According to Irish legend, the Giant’s Causeway and its 40,000 interlocking basalt columns was built by the giant Finn McCool as a pathway to Scotland to confront his Scottish giant rival named Benandonner.

The Causeway is now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with popular features to check out including the Wishing Chair, Giant’s Harp, and Old Granny’s Face. There’s even a visitor centre now which offers interactive exhibits and information about the site’s geology, legends, and rich marine and seabird life.

Little Known Stonehenge Facts

It goes without saying that Stonehenge is one of the world’s most famous prehistoric monuments. You simply need to head to Wiltshire in England to check out the mystery and intrigue of the standing stones for yourself.

Stonehenge was actually built over a period of 1,500 years, its earliest beginnings dating back to around 3000 BC. The smaller 4-tone stones are said to have been transported from the Preseli Hills in Wales, whiles the larger 25-tone stones were sourced from nearby Marlborough Downs.

It’s said that Stonehenge was thought to possess healing powers, with evidence of many buried skeletons near the site showing signs of disease or injury. While the stones have become synonymous with Druids, there’s no proof to them playing any role in the circle’s construction.

Nearby is a site you may not have heard of called Woodhenge, a circle which instead of being made up of stones was created using timber. Although far less famous, Woodhenge is believed to have been constructed around the same time as Stonehenge.

Get to Know Shakespeare

We all know William Shakespeare as one of history’s greatest English playwrights, but it seems neither any of us nor even himself could agree on how to spell his name. Over the years, his name has been spelled as Shakspere, Shakspeare, and Shakespear. Even the playwright himself spelled his name differently on different documents using various signatures over the years.

And did you know that we have Shakespeare to thank for coining or popularising words such as “gossip”, “fashionable”, and “swagger”? Some conspiracy theorists even believe that Shakespeare had a hand in translating the King James Bible.

The Full English Breakfast

Enjoying a delicious and filling Full English Breakfast was once a meal only reserved for the ultra-wealthy, an argument that could in fact extend to today given the current rapid inflation that has seen food costs soar.

The Full English Breakfast is said to date back to the 13th century and since that time it has evolved into a range of different variations throughout the UK. While the traditional Full English breakfast commonly consists of bacon, sausages, eggs, tomatoes, black pudding, mushrooms, and toast, you may find the Scottish version adding haggis and tattie scones, while the Northern Ireland counterpart may incorporate white pudding and soda bread.

The Full English Breakfast is often criticised for being unhealthy due to its high fat and calorie content, but we say eat-up and enjoy every last bite while you’re on holiday.

Mind the Gap

“Mind the Gap” was supposed to simply act as a cautionary phrase to warn passengers riding the London Underground about the gap between the train doors and the platform edge. It of course has since evolved into a cultural and global phenomenon.

The famous slogan can now be found in tourist shops on everything from T-shirts to mugs, and regularly makes appearances in literature, music, and popular movies. There’s now even a “Mind the Gap Day”, celebrated each April 2nd. And of course anyone on social media will notice the slogan has been adapted and shared widely in memes and hashtags.

The Truth about Big Ben

If you thought that the Palace of Westminster’s famous clock tower was named Big Ben, you’d be wrong. In fact, “Big Ben” does not refer to the tower or even the clock, rather the Great Bell that’s housed within the tower. The bell was named for Sir Benjamin Hall, the Chief Commissioner of Works at the time of its installation.

If you wish to know the actual name of the clock tower which houses the Big Ben bell, that would be Elizabeth Tower, a title which only came into being in 2012.  And as for Big Ben, he weighs over 13 tons and is now pushing 170 years old.

Lovers of Baked Beans

Think of popular UK dishes and bangers and mash, fish and chips, or shepherd’s pie likely come to mind. However, it’s baked beans that may reign supreme in the UK, as the British consume more baked beans than any other nation.

It’s said that over 1.5 million cans of baked beans are consumed daily in the UK., rather surprising when you consider baked beans were actually an American creation. So popular have baked beans become in the UK, that they have now become an added standard component to a Full English Breakfast.

Baked Beans on toast symbolises comfort food and is considered to be a quick, easy, and affordable meal that can be prepared at home. As a bonus, baked beans are a wonderful source of protein and fibre, while also being low in fat and cholesterol-free. This makes baked bean snacks a great way to counteract your overindulgence in eating a Full English Breakfast.

Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007.  Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; an online magazine dedicated to opening your eyes to the wonders of the wild & natural world.

Having visited 50+ countries across all seven continents, Megan’s travels focus on cultural immersion, authentic discovery and incredible journeys. She has a strong passion for ecotourism, and aims to promote responsible travel experiences.


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