When Britain is basking in sunshine it is one of the most delightfully beautiful places on the planet (the problem, of course, is that this doesn’t happen too often).
But with scientists saying they’re “75 per cent certain” that 2014 will be the hottest summer on record, we look at the best ways to while away those long summer days in the great outdoors.
A word of advice – bring your umbrella just in case.
Spend a day at the seaside
Ah the Great British seaside: Fish and chips, donkey rides, amusement arcades, 99 Flake ice creams, day-trippers strolling along the promenade, Punch and Judy puppet shows, buckets and spades, crazy golf, sticks of rock candy, quaint bed and breakfast accommodation, bowling greens, disgusting public toilets, giant squawking seagulls, cold murky sea water… It all makes you wonder why Brits would ever holiday abroad.
Visit a quaint village fête
The village fête is a British summertime tradition best described to the uninformed as a scaled-down funfair. Fêtes are organized by a group of volunteers and usually take place outdoors on village greens with the aim of raising funds for local schools, churches or charities. Attractions often include things like bouncy castles, coconut shies and raffles. A really outstanding fête might have a local celebrity in attendance: a local newscaster perhaps, maybe a daytime soap star, or quite possibly a bronze medalled Olympian.
Bargain hunt at a car boot sale
Are you in the market for the Village People’s Greatest Hits on vinyl? Perhaps you want to make a bit of cash offloading your now-teenage son’s old Teletubby toys? If so then a car boot sale is the place for you. Car boots, as they are commonly known, are magical places where one man’s tatty old football programmes become another man’s treasure. They most commonly take place in car parks or fields and are usually held bright and early on a Sunday morning. It’s like a real life eBay where people sell on items they no longer use from the trunk of their cars. Only it’s better than eBay because you don’t have to waste time trying to work out how the heck you upload photos.
Rock out at a music festival
Music festivals are a staple of the British summertime and whatever your tastes you’ll find something to delight your palate. As everybody knows, the most famous U.K. festival is Glastonbury. Since its inaugural year in 1970 Glastonbury has grown into a British institution and today is the largest greenfield music and arts festival in the world. Tickets are highly sought after and sell out very quickly, but if you’re lucky enough to nab one then you’re in for an unforgettable experience. Glastonbury is known as much for its incredible line-ups as it is for notoriously rotten weather, so if you’re ever fortunate enough to go be sure to pack your wellingtons and raincoat.
Attend a garden party
Garden parties are traditionally hosted and attended by members of the British upper classes (presumably because they’re the only people who have big enough gardens to hold such an event). Quaint and delightful finger food is served around teatime and includes British favorites such as scones with jam and clotted cream, cucumber sandwiches, egg and cress sandwiches, mini scotch eggs, trifle, fairy cakes and biscuits. It’s all washed down with a refreshing glass of Pimms and lemonade, a cup of tea, or some orange squash. A host may decorate their garden with bunting and provide guests with lawn games such as croquet or bowls. I say.
Go to a theme park
If the weather cooperates then a day at a British theme park can be fun for all the family. Some parks, such as Flamingo Land in North Yorkshire and Chessington World of Adventures in Surrey also double-up as zoos so once you’ve had your fill of adrenaline on the roller coasters you can go and pet a goat. If you’re not taking the kids then try and go during term-time otherwise you’ll face long lines for rides and obnoxious seven year-olds throwing sugar-induced tantrums. My personal favorite is Lightwater Valley in North Yorkshire. Here thrill seekers can ride Europe’s longest roller coaster (The Ultimate) over a mile and a half of rickety wood and steel through forest scrub while praying a deer doesn’t wander onto the tracks.
Watch live sport
Yes it’s a World Cup year and England’s green and pleasant land will be dotted with St. George Crosses until Gerrard and co. get knocked out on penalties, but there are many other sporting spectacles to be enjoyed in Britain’s own back yard this summer. The Tour de France will be having its Grand Départ in Yorkshire on Saturday 5 July. Competitors will weave their way through the Yorkshire Dales before heading south to London where the grand finale will take place on Monday 7 July at The Mall.
And then there’s Wimbledon where all eyes will be on Andy Murray to see if he can successfully defend his singles title. The 2014 Commonwealth Games will be taking place in Glasgow from 23 July – 3 August for which tickets are in huge demand following the raging success of the London Olympics. England’s cricket team will be playing host to both Sri Lanka and India in a series of test matches beginning 12 June. And don’t forget the British Grand Prix taking place at Silverstone on 6 July. You’re spoilt for choice!
Visit a National Park
There are 15 National Parks to choose from in England, Scotland and Wales. The National Parks’ website describes the landscapes as “beautiful areas of mountains, meadows, moorlands, woods and wetlands.” And what better way to spend a warm afternoon than a ramble through the New Forest, a hike across Snowdonia, or backpacking over the Cairngorms?
See some history
Britain is teeming with historical buildings and artifacts. You can barely set foot outdoors without coming across something at least a few hundred years old. Stonehenge is well worth a look although you don’t really need to spend more than an hour there to get the gist. The Hadrian’s Wall Path is a scenic trek across some of the most dramatic countryside in Northern England where one can appreciate just how hard working and paranoid the Romans were. And then there are literally hundreds of medieval castles, fortresses, abbeys and cathedrals to visit, each with its own fascinating history.
Have a drink in a beer garden
However you’ve spent the day there is no better way to unwind before retiring for the evening than enjoying a real ale in a beer garden. In midsummer, the days stay light until around 10 p.m. so sit back, relax, and enjoy the sunset with a cold one. You’ve earned it.
Jon Langford is a British expat living in NYC where he is often asked if he’s Australian on account of his Yorkshire accent. He is a freelance copywriter and writer, regularly contributing to BBC America. He has written for many publications including: MLSsoccer.com, First Touch Magazine, Inked Magazine, Contactmusic and more. Follow him on Twitter at @Jon_LangfordNYC