On a visit to Epcot’s United Kingdom Pavilion, you’re not just whisked away to England, Scotland, and Wales; you’re also given a brief visual overview of four hundred years of British history. This is because the architecture of the pavilion, built along charming cobblestone streets, was chosen to represent eras from Henry VIII to the Victorian era. The facades change every few feet, so you can cover a lot of history in a short walk! The entrance to the pavilion is dominated by a replica of the gatehouse of Henry VIII’s Hampton Court Palace. Henry VIII stole appropriated this palace from Cardinal Wolsey in 1529 to turn it into a luxury getaway for Anne Boleyn. Inside Epcot’s version, you’ll find the Sportsman’s Shoppe with shirts and gifts from popular British football (soccer) teams as well as Dr. Who and even Downton Abbey merchandise. Don’t miss the display case inside the first doorway – it features a Tudor feasting hall with painted dowel dolls – a king, queen, all their court including jester and trumpeters. Look out for a little button – press it to bring them to life.
At the corner of the building, the facade morphs somewhat abruptly from Henry VIII to Sir Walter Scott! The golden-stoned shop doorway and other architectural details were inspired by Abbotsford Manor, built by Sir Walter on the banks of the River Tweed in Scotland.
Beyond the Sportsman’s Shop, the Crown & Crest has handcrafted chess sets. You can get your family coat of arms or a UK crest on a mug or a plaque. They also offer Beatles items and Rose & Crown merchandise (for fans of the pavilion’s popular pub). Don’t forget to look up at the soaring ceiling and balconies, garnished with flags , swords, and suits of armor.
The border between Crown & Crest and the next shop, the Toy Soldier, is marked with a little town gate, easily missed. It’s modeled after St John’s Gate, Clerkenwell in London. The Toy Soldier has a beautiful Crystal-Palace-style glass dome overhead (it often pays to “look up” at Disney!) and merchandise featuring your favorite British characters from Winnie the Pooh to Thomas the Tank Engine, not forgetting Paddington Bear. This is also the place to come to find the Kidcot table and to visit Hundred Acre Wood friends, Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, and sometimes Eeyore.
Outside the Toy Soldier, you’ll find yourself in the London of Mary Poppins, facing a small fenced green – a postage-stamp-sized version of London’s Hyde Park. A small hedge maze will make a fun stop for the kids. (Disney keeps the hedges cut low so that children don’t disappear from sight.) The neighboring gazebo acts as a stage for British Revolution performances of hits from British bands like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and the Who. (Check the times guide.) Here you’ll see Upper and Lower Regency Streets (with authentically-British street signs on the buildings). One side is lined with row houses with red brick chimneys. Look for the soot marks that were painted on by Disney magic!
The other side has a cream-colored, pint-sized version of Buckingham Palace, complete with the railing around the roof, the shapes of the windows, and the four columns topped with triangular pediment. (Fans of Prince William and Kate might want to stroll to the opposite side of the green to view the Buckingham effect from the best vantage!) Inside the “palace” you’ll find Lords and Ladies “Fancy Goods” shop with fragrances from Asprey of London as well as British lotions and potions, scarves, and jewelry. Once again, look up – the ceiling is beautifully embossed.
Inside, the shops flow one into the next, and Lords and Ladies shortly gives way to The Queen’s Table, and finally the Tea Caddy. Here you’ll find teapots and teacups, an assortment of teas and also British candy bars. When you emerge back outside from the final room (with its large rustic fireplace), look back – you’ll see that you just came out of a thatched cottage (inspired by that of Anne Hathaway, Shakespeare’s wife).
It’s easy to miss the English Tea Gardens behind the little cottage. You enter through a vine-covered arbor across from the fish and chips counter. (Character greetings for Mary Poppins and Alice in Wonderland are held near the arbor.) Here is a traditional English herb garden, complete with spearmint, parsley, rosemary, thyme. You’ll also find a butterfly box and butterfly-attracting flowers. (An herb garden and butterfly trail can be found at the real Hathaway Cottage in Stratford-upon-Avon in the UK.) Ask in the Tea Caddy about free twenty-minute tours of the gardens.
After wandering through all of the UK, you are going to be hungry! Fortunately, fish and chips is served here – and it’s so good that many people come to Epcot just to get it. Choosing your meal is easy, because the Yorkshire County Fish Shop only serves one meal — fish and chips! It’s fresh and flaky with a crispy, crunchy batter – served in faux newspaper. (Take a look before you throw away the paper – it has ads for the Crystal Palace – the one that was in London, not the Magic Kingdom!) The area here along World Showcase Lagoon is called Britannia Square. Don’t miss the vertical sundial standing in the center.
Fish and chips is also served, among many other choices, at the Rose and Crown Dining Room and Pub. (The Imagineers who chose the pub’s name had discovered that “rose” and “crown” were (separately) the most common words appearing in British pub names.) You’ll generally need an advance dining reservation if you’d like to have dinner here, but it’s worth asking at the podium. And you can always stop in at the bar for a Guinness (heated with a custom ale warmer to exactly the recommended 55 degrees). They offer green beer on St. Patrick’s Day! In the evening, bubbly pianist Carol Stein delights guests in the pub with songs popular in pubs around the UK, performed hourly. The Rose and Crown is nestled beside World Showcase Lagoon, so guests often schedule dinner in order to enjoy the good fireworks viewing area. There are also some outside tables that offer great views of the fireworks.
The most authentically British experience here is just chatting with the cast members — most of whom have come from the UK for a year. You can also enjoy the musical stylings of Quickstep, a UK quartet which features songs from England, Scotland, and Ireland. DO NOT MISS the uproarious sketches are performed by the World Showcase Players.
The most popular photo stop at the UK Pavilion is at the bright red British phone boxes. There are two of them on the “Canadian border” side near the restrooms. Another is located adjacent to the fish and chips shop. Don’t miss the small topiary of Mary Poppins with her umbrella in the flowerbed!