20 things you can - and can't - do in Britain

Fireworks in the sky

While most laws are the same from country to country, there are some that can be surprisingly different. For example, setting off fireworks in the UK is fine at any time of the year, provided it’s not the early hours of the morning (although you can only buy them around 2 annual festivals: ‘Fireworks Night’ – November 5 – and New Year’s Eve). On the other hand, start taking pebbles from a beach and you might find yourself in trouble. And don’t even think of chopping a branch off your tree without the correct permission if you have a house in a Conservation Area.

To prevent yourself getting caught out by unusual laws, here are 10 things you might not know you can do, and 10 things you might not know that you can’t (of course laws are subject to change, so check the official guidelines for the most recent updates!).

10 things that are legal

  • Walk across a road on a red light
  • Set off fireworks all year round (though not late at night)
  • Marry at age 16 (in Scotland)
  • Marry your cousin
  • Marry a same-sex partner
  • Drive in bare feet
  • Educate your child at home
  • Get buried in your garden
  • Have an exotic pet
  • Drink alcohol in public (as long as you’re over 18 and there is not a Public Space Protection Order)


10 things that are not legal

  • Smoke in a car with children aged under 18
  • Use a mobile phone while driving a car
  • Take pebbles from a beach
  • Watch live television without a TV licence
  • Spit in the street
  • Have a fire or BBQ in most public spaces or countryside without permission from the landowner
  • Chop branches off a tree in a Conservation Area without permission from the local council
  • Change the colour of your front door without permission from the council (this applies to listed houses)
  • Fly a drone within the restricted zone of an airport, which could be several km away
  • Be drunk in public – though if you’ve ever been in a city centre on a Saturday night, you’ll know this law is often ignored!

Image: Ninotti/Dreamstime

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