"The afternoon tea is a British institution"

Between the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics, there's never been a better time to be in the UK. So, here's the Explorer guide to the best ways to spend this most memorable of British summers…

Life's a picnic

It doesn't take much convincing for us Brits to head to the park for a picnic and a spot of sunbathing. It's a quintessentially British - and fabulous - way to spend the day, lazing on a blanket, playing frisbee and watching the world go by. From Edinburgh's Princes Street Gardens to the Museum Gardens in York, there are plenty of picturesque options. Pack your Scotch eggs and Pimm's!

Hit the greens

It doesn't get more British than grown men wandering around a field after a small white ball. The Open, golf's oldest major championship, takes place from 15-22 July at the beautiful course of Royal Lytham & St Annes. Whether you're an avid fan, or just want to bask outdoors to the sound of muted applause, it'll be another summer sporting spectacular.
Info: theopen.com
Get there: Take the train to Preston and then connect for Ansdell

Back a Winner

Summer brings with it the racing season, and a trip to the gee-gees can be a thrilling day out. It's even affordable, if you play it right! The Back a Winner campaign means that, when you travel by train to one of 11 racecourses, you can save up to £4 on entry and £2 off a £5 Tote Placepot bet. The racecourses included in the offer are Beverley, Carlisle, Cartmel, Doncaster, Haydock Park, Hexham, Newcastle, Pontefract, Redcar, Thirsk and York, so there's lots of choice. Go online to check race dates and then prepare to place your bet. Win or lose, it's a day out to remember.

Time for tea

Clotted cream, strawberry jam, homemade scones and strong-brewed tea: the afternoon tea is a British institution, and one that people travel from all over the world to indulge in. These days, afternoon teas can be traditional or fancy, with champagne, macaroons and exquisite pastries also on the menu. Whether you're after high-end choux pastry or doorstep scones with buckets of jam, head online for our round-up of the best on the network. It's guaranteed you won't go home hungry!

Super suppers

Vinegar, ketchup or gravy? However you like your fish suppers, nothing compares to sitting in the breeze and eating hot chips out of paper packaging as the evening draws in - ideally, sitting by the sea. It's indulgent but doesn't break the bank and, done right, it's the supper of kings. As you'd imagine, there are plenty of fantastic chippies on the network. Head to the award-winning Golden Grid in Scarborough, Brett's in Leeds or Two Steps in Sheffield, established in 1895, for some of the finest fried bites. The rest - pie, sausage or fish - is all down to you.
Info: goldengrid.co.uk; Brett's - 0113 2323344; Two Steps - 0114 266 5694

Watch all of the Olympic action - live!

Tickets for the Olympics and Paralympics themselves may be like gold dust, but you can still watch the Games in style. Big screens have been installed in city squares around the UK and will show the Games live, as well as other events in the build-up including everything from the Diamond Jubilee celebration parade through to Wimbledon and the Olympic Torch Relay. You can head to Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester or Middlesbrough to watch all the action on the big screens, and enjoy the buzzing atmosphere for free. 
Info: bbc.co.uk/bigscreens

Seaside summer

It might not be Ibiza, but the British seaside takes some beating. After all, where else will you find Punch and Judy shows, donkey rides, brass bands, afternoon teas, gorgeous piers, Mr Whippy ice creams and arcades within a one-mile radius? Pack your sunscreen, brolly, windbreaker and shades and head to Cleethorpes, Scarborough or Blackpool for a bracing day beside the seaside.
Info: visitcleethorpes.co.uk; visitblackpool.com; visitscarborough.com

Live like royalty

With a long and illustrious history, we're not short of regal castles and palaces. And while not all of us get to live in one like Her Majesty, it doesn't mean we can't spend a day pretending! Head to Edinburgh, Scarborough or Carlisle Castles and imagine what life would be like to luxuriate in such regal surroundings.
Info: edinburghcastle.gov.uk; english-heritage.org.uk/scarborough; english-heritage.org.uk/carlisle

Don your wellies

The UK hosts some of Europe's best music festivals, many of which are right here on the network. And where else to face both torrential rain and glorious sunshine in your wellies? Kendal Calling from 27-29 July boasts Dizzee Rascal and indie veterans James on its line-up, while Leeds from 24-26 August sees the brilliant Black Keys and Foo Fighters take to the stage. Pack waterproofs and wet wipes!
Info: kendalcalling.com; leedsfestival.co.uk

Cricket culture

There's no sport more synonymous with British summers than cricket, and this season's line-up offers lots of chances to watch the pros at play:
England v Australia: Durham on 7 July, Manchester on 10 July
England v South Africa: Leeds from 2-6 August, Durham on 8 September, Manchester on 10 September
Scotland v England: Edinburgh on 12 August
Info: ecb.co.uk

Style nation

What better way to show your love of British style than by sporting it? Whether your look is bold and brash (think Vivienne Westwood) or classic (à la Burberry) there's incredible shopping potential in cities like Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle, Glasgow and Liverpool. And if designer fashion is out of your price range? Fear not - window-shopping is free, and there are top home-grown brands like Paul Smith and Jack Wills which are more approachably priced!



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