The United Kingdom made up of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland is an island nation in northwestern Europe. England – the birthplace of Shakespeare and The Beatles – is home to London, a globally influential finance and culture centre. England is also the site of Neolithic Stonehenge, Bath’s Roman spa and centuries-old universities at Oxford and Cambridge.
National holidays have been called bank holidays in Britain since the late 19th century. The name originates because these were the days when the banks were closed for trading. Bank employees didn’t get time off back then – they were too busy using the bank holiday to work on the accounts and tidy up the bookkeeping. The name and the tradition of closing banks persisted into the 20th century, even though all that tidy bookkeeping was now done during regular business hours. But things have changed. These days bank holidays are just excuses for long weekends, shopping and sales.
The only thing that hasn’t changed is that most banks are closed on bank holidays – but even that may not last much longer. Metro, a company that opened in 2010 as the first new high street bank in 100 years, has an “open all hours” ethos as its main selling point. Branches of this bank, located mainly in London and the southeast of England, are open seven days a week, including bank holidays, and stay open later than most other banks on regular weekdays. For almost everything else, it’s business as usual. But a few closures or schedule changes could impact your vacation. So if you are planning a trip to England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland that includes a national holiday, here’s what you can expect:
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As in the other countries, the popularity of long holiday weekends in the UK has meant that few Bank Holidays fall on precisely the exact dates from one year to the next.
If both December 25 and 26 fall on the weekend, Monday and Tuesday are Bank Holidays.
Northern Ireland celebrates two additional Bank Holidays:
Although many people take that day off, Scotland does not celebrate Easter Monday as a bank holiday. In addition, since 2007, St. Andrew’s Day (November 30 or the following Monday) has been an optional bank holiday. Banks have the right to close, but employers don’t have to give their employees the day off. So far, it is too early to tell how that day will be observed. Additionally, some of the seasonal bank holidays – in the spring and the end of summer – may be celebrated on different days than they are in England or Northern Ireland.
If you want to avoid bank holiday crowds and plan your vacation with no national holidays, travel months are September, October and November; January and February, June and July. But you will probably be competing with school vacations and what the British call half-term breaks. Generally, there is an autumn break of about five days at the end of October and November. The summer half-term runs for five days, from the end of May through the first few days of June. And the Easter School Vacation is a full two weeks.
Businesses and banks do not close for these extended breaks, but attractions – particularly those aimed at families – are likely to be crowded, and prices for family accommodations will be higher.
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