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7 weird British customs and traditions

We Brits are a bit of an odd bunch – we like to roll cheese down hills and dance around with bells, sticks and handkerchiefs. In fact, a lot of our modern culture is awash with a myriad of myths, legends and bizarre traditions that date back hundreds of years. But where did they all originate and why do we still celebrate them?

Cheese-rolling in Gloucester

Cheese rolling festival, Gloucestershire, England

With records of cheese-rolling in Gloucestershire, South West England, dating back hundreds of years, the annual tradition is still a world-famous event. Why the locals first decided to roll a cheese down an extremely steep hill all those years ago is highly debated. Some believe it was a requirement to maintain grazing rights on the common, whereas others suggest it stems from a pagan ritual of rolling objects down hills to encourage a successful harvest.

Jack in the Green, Hastings

The Jack in Green festival, Hastings, England

If you visit any May Day procession in Britain, don’t be alarmed if you see someone covered head to toe in foliage – that’s Jack in the Green. The custom began in the 16th century, when procession-goers became more and more competitive with making garlands for the parade – so much so that they started to cover an entire man in greenery. Hastings, on England’s south coast, has an entire annual festival dedicated to Jack in the Green.

Pancake races, Buckinghamshire

Pancake races, England
On Shrove Tuesday, people across the UK tuck into pancakes, and the residents of Olney in Buckinghamshire gear up for their annual pancake race. The race-goers run through the town whilst also flipping a cooked pancake in a frying pan as they go. The story goes that this started in 1445 after a wife who was cooking pancakes heard the church bells shriving (indicating parishioners were expected in church) and rushed out with the frying pan still in her hand.

Ottery Tar Barrels, Devon

Ottery Tar Barrels festival, Devon, England
Every 5 November the people of Ottery in Devon set barrels of tar alight and carry them on their shoulders through the packed streets of the town. The reasons behind this daring tradition, which has been taking place for hundreds of years, are disputed. It’s most likely to be connected to the gunpowder plot of 1605 but may have been a way to warn against the Spanish Armada.

Lady Godiva, Midlands

Lady Godiva legend, Coventry, England
According to legend, Lady Godiva rode naked through the city of Coventry on horseback, with only her long hair to cover her modesty, as a way to convince her husband to lower the taxes for the people of the town. Although, as with most legends, her story has had its historical accuracy questioned, the love for the tale of Lady Godiva’s generosity has remained.

King Arthur and Excalibur

King Arthur's Excalibur legend, England
The legend of King Arthur is one of the most famous in Britain, with many stories of bravery and romance featuring in his character. Although his existence is debated, his tales live on in British folklore. Probably the most famous is the tale of the sword and the stone, which sees Arthur pull the sword of Excalibur from a stone and, in doing so, reveals himself as the rightful King of England. Some believe the London Stone is in fact, the stone that Arthur drew his sword from, and you can see it for yourself at the Museum of London(link is external).

Morris dancing

Morris dancing, England
With their bells, sticks, swords and all-important handkerchiefs, there’s something distinctly English about Morris dancing. The traditional folk dance is thought to have originated in the early 15th century and derived from a Druidic fertility dance. The dance remains popular, with many believing that it has magical powers to ward off evil and bring good luck. Throughout the years, different regions of the UK have developed their own styles and nuances of Morris dancing – whether that’s the wearing of clogs in the North West or the use of short sticks and feathers in the Borders.

This article was contributed by Premier Inn(link is external), with 700 hotels all over the UK.
All images courtesy of alamy.com

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Small groups leave fewer footprints. Explore England with our Best Value U.K Mini Coach Tour

Our classic Stonehenge and Bath tour just got better. We now include Salisbury Cathedral and a champagne reception at the new fabulous visitor centre and an expert talk about the ancient landscape and most recent theories. (11 hours)’

On this tour you will be travelling with no more than 16 other people – guaranteed! Our purpose-built minibuses have large windows, good air circulation and clear PA systems so that your professional guide can escort you comfortably through our wonderful country. Our itineraries are carefully planned (with many years of experience) so that you discover as much as possible, without spending too much time on the road.

As we travel in smaller vehicles, we normally use the most scenic routes, where large coach are prohibited from travelling. Additionally, as our group sizes are smaller we are able to more time out of the vehicle. We also employ a the very best driver/guides

Explore the Heritage City of Bath
Our morning begins in picturesque city of Bath that boast beautiful Georgian neo classical architecture and is also the home to the Royal Crescent, unique Pulteney Bridge and the fabulous Abbey. Join us for a walking tour of this World Heritage city once home to Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Gainsborough, Lord Nelson and Beau Nash or alternatively why not visit the
Roman Baths?

Afterwards, we enjoy a scenic drive through the leafy lanes of the Cotwold’s to visit the national trust village of Lacock where we stop fo rlunch. (*Roman Baths and lunch not included in the price.)

Visit Lacock Village in the Cotswolds
Lacock
is a little known, picturesque village dating back to the Saxon era. Many of the beautiful buildings originally formed part of an extensive monastic complex and are now owned by The National Trust. So pretty is the village that it has provided the setting for many movies and television dramas including Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and more recently Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone. We will take a delightful walk before we enjoy lunch in The George Inn, a vintage English pub built in 1361.
(Please note on rare occasions we may need to eat at another pub if the chosen pub is closed for a special function.)

World Heritage Bath City
Visit Stonehenge
Salisbury Cathedral

Salisbury Cathedral and Magna Carta
In the early afternoon we head to Salisbury to visit the vibrant Cathedral. Dating back to the thirteenth century, this magnificent building is also home to the tallest spire in Britain and the best preserved Magna Carta that is nearly 800 years old. This is the best preserved of the four remaining copies. The Cathedral also houses the world’s oldest working clock! 

Champagne reception and private talk at Stonehenge with local expert
Finally we head to Stonehenge where we enjoy a private talk away from the crowds.Taking advantage of the fabulous new visitor centre, one of the local expert guides will give us an entertaining overview of life at the site. Hear stories of marriage proposals, druid re-enactments, famous visitors and more, while being served Champagne and homemade shortbread. A full visit to Stonehenge is also included.

We also visit the medieval village of Lacock which has hardly changed in the past 500 years. With its magnificent abbey, half timbered cottages and greystone houses it recently provided the perfect setting for the filming of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice”. Maybe enjoy lunch in the George Inn

Probably the best value small group day tour of England!

Book it here: http://www.welcome2britain.com/bath_lacock-salisbury-stonehenge_tour.htm

Welcome2Britain U.K Sightseeing Tours
The Small Group Touring Experts