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BOO-tiful Britain!

London Sky on Halloween

Every day is a holiday with multiple national days and cultural holidays, but traveling during one can create wonderful new experiences for the whole family!

Looking for an autumn trip without the nightmare prices? Traveling abroad can be expensive, but with precision planning, it can be fun and even frugal!

Halloween or “All Hallow’s Eve” often stirs up images of ghouls, goblins, and ghosts. In fact, Great Britain is the go-to place for all things spooky. Essentially, it is Europe’s largest island. It consists of Scotland, England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

This time of the year has been recognized in many countries around the world. Halloween is often marked according to specific areas and their own unique traditions. It can be called different names and on take place on slightly different dates.

Typically on October 31st American children visit neighbors or attend sponsored events donned in their best costumes. They walk in groups saying “trick-or-treat.” Treats are handed out usually in the form of candy/sweets. Also, tricks are sometimes played on unlucky and unsuspecting recipients. This especially happens when the treats run out!

The Irish wear masks in the hope that it would help settle any visiting evil spirits. Villages believe that after dark, the living would be visited by the dead. On Oíche Shamhna (pronounced “ee-hah how-Nah”), festivals would also be held in thanks for seasons harvest.

Samhain (meaning summer’s end) is the preferred name given to the Scottish tradition. It is symbolic of two worlds: the living and the dead. Like many other cultures, it is believed that the dead walk around among the people. Fires were deliberately extinguished in family homes all but to be re-lit again. The new fires were lit from one enormous bonfire that often stood central to the village. It is still believed to this day that fire itself helps keep evil at bay. Another adaptation is the use of a “neep lantern.” They are placed either outside or on a windowsill. Much like the American “Jack O’ Lantern” the neep lantern is carved out of a turnip instead of pumpkin.

The same thread follows the traditions of Wales. Autumn is the closure of a season and start of another, longer, colder one. Farms pay-off the seasonal workers. Prior to the long goodbyes, festivals are enjoyed by all. Shared food consists of buns and thick, hearty soup. Root vegetables are mashed with a touch of butter, milk salt, and pepper for seasoning. It is both warm and quite delicious!

Today, these same countries within Great Britain continue to celebrate Halloween, mixing both old traditions and new.

Fun fact – Queen Elizabeth’s favorite sugary treat was marzipan. This royal indulgence came with a price. Sugar was expensive then, and the little fruit-shaped snacks eventually decayed her teeth to the point that they became rotten. Many of her teeth were either black or missing. Having access to sugar was considered a sign of wealth. The less wealthy would follow the trend by purposely using coal to blacken their teeth.

The shenanigans of trick-or-treating for candy have not always been popular. It is; however, becoming more common. Shop owners now stock their shelves with bags of mini chocolate bars. Costumes of every character hang on the clothes racks. Communities are starting to host parties for children, and young adults tend to be drawn to a more masquerade affair.

Alternatively, if your goal is to aim for an unusual getaway incorporating more sightseeing than sweets, consider jetting off to Britain!

With some planning, an autumn trip can be affordable and rewarding. International flights usually go on sale roughly a year in advance. Let’s take a closer look.

So how does one get deals on an international ticket, you ask? It is the million-dollar question. After all, if everyone knew the magic formula for cheap travel, everyone would be flocking the airports by the droves.

Here is a list of factors to take into consideration:

  • the day of the week of your flight

  • your chosen destination

  • which airport you will be flying from

  • what airline are you flying with

  • is it during a specific holiday

  • what is the travel season (Low, shoulder or high)

Traveling during the low or shoulder season is the safest.

The weather in Britain from October to April tends to be wet, so be prepared! After all, what else could make a land full of emerald green hues? Buy a good brolly (umbrella) and a pair of wellies (waterproof rain boots) Coastal towns do tend to get quite windy as well. The weather is not surprisingly, what keeps the prices low.

Three of London’s major airports include London Heathrow, London Gatwick, and London Stansted. Each airport has access via train directly into the City of London. Staying in London is convenient with accessible bus, train, and tube (subway) transportation. Much like other big cities such as New York City or Paris, the underground tube in London runs across the city with directions posted on color-coded maps everywhere.

Maps are also available online if you want a hard copy. One travels in the path towards the tube’s last point of destination. Cross connections are underground. Tickets can be purchased at machines located throughout the stations.

Scotland’s main airports are Glasgow and Edinburgh. Both airports are international. When flying into Northern Ireland, you would use Belfast International.

Britain, as you can imagine, will have a very different feel depending on where it is that you choose to visit. Each region or country within the United Kingdom poses their own unique qualities.

In England, centuries-old castles stand to this day, holding within them secrets of the paranormal kind. Quaint Cornish fishing villages tell of sunken ships filled with pirates treasure. You can find some fantastic books written on the subject by Daphne du Maurier. Jamaica Inn is the most famous.

Some of the world’s best beaches are intimately tucked away in this Southwest region. They are clean, open for public use, and strangely empty. You may walk miles without passing a single person. As a bonus, dogs are permitted to walk on the beach, and parking is often cheap during the colder months.

Ocean storm watching on any coastline is additionally a common pastime among the locals. Many hotels even offer packages, whereas you can sit with a creamy cup of cocoa and watch the angry clouds unfold.

The City of Central London always offers a plethora of tours ranging from ghost walks to the ever eluding mystery about Jack The Ripper. Dating back to 1888, he was a serial murderer who used surgical precision on his victims of London’s darkest, albeit seedy streets.

To this day, his identity has not yet been found. Speculation ranges from him being the Queen’s surgeon to a visiting dentist. Take a tour down the narrow cobbled stone lanes and decide for yourself.

Scotland has a beauty all to its own. The rugged West coast stretches all the way from Glasgow to the mountain of Ben Nevis. The East coast runs down along past Edinburgh. Tour companies offer a circular coach/bus trips mostly year-round via Llanberis Pass.

What about Loch Ness Monster? Affectionately nicknamed “Nessie,” this marine reptile has apparently been spotted swimming around one of Scotland’s largest lochs. It is thought that this large marine reptile (called a Plesiosaurus) lived during the early part of the Jurassic Period in these cold waters. Some photos have been taken, although it has not been scientifically proven either way.

If you do take on the Scottish Highlands, let it be known that weather can sometimes affect transportation, so always be sure to check with your travel operator first. The entire area is certainly a treat to look at brimming with history. It is home to rolling hills that often whisper of bloody battlements, trials, and tribulations. Stirling Castle boasts the story of King Wallace and Hadrian’s Wall still exists; albeit only being a few feet tall.

A more lively crowd might be found in Edinburgh at the Beltane Fire Festival. Music, food, and lots of dancers donning vibrant colored costumes. The festival is well organized and open to all.

There are also abundant opportunities that hint towards more of the extraterrestrial kind. The public is welcome to book tours at one of Britain's largest telescopes called the Dark Sky Observatory in Ayr. If you like to wander off the beaten track, both crop circle adventurers and UFO enthusiasts alike can descend upon Britain’s hot spots year-round.

The highest peak in Wales is Mt. Snowdon. It is a massive park that demonstrates diversity from high mountain peaks to low-level woodland hikes. At every turn, there are leaves that display their rich fall colors. The air is crisp, and the scenery breathtaking. Whether you’re an avid backpacker or a thrill-seeking mountain biker, there is always good food at the end of your journey. October in Wales hosts a vast array of food festivals and country craft stalls. Each one is stocked full of home-made fruit and savory pies, jams, and even local brews.

To top off Britain’s most fabulous Halloween party, head to Londonderry, “Derry” Northern Island. It is hailed as Europe’s largest Halloween celebration of all. The entire town turns into an amazing carnival, sure to appease the senses. Fireworks are held almost nightly, and there is something for every age. This is definitely a festival surely not to be missed.

So, whether you are hoping to see King Henry VIII’s ghost roam London’s royal castle walls, searching the Scottish dark sky in search of extraterrestrial activities, or kick up autumnal scents during a romantic stroll through Belfast’s Cave Hill Country Park. This relatively small island is jam-packed with exciting choices lurking around every corner.

The key to cheap travel is able to plan early. Train, flight, and even hotel accommodation are available either directly or through a travel agency/operator as a package. Lastly, always make sure companies are ATOL and/or ABTA protected. These protections help protect the traveler in the rare event of bankruptcy and or political unrest.

Great Britain is a small place with a huge heart. Curious? Why wait? Let the memories begin!

Helpful Quick Links: – Travel & Tourism – London Underground - Weather – Trains

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