About 15 years ago I travelled over a period of weeks from N. Ireland to Scotland to England in that order, carrying along bank notes from the prior place and trying to spend them in the new place. In each situation, vendors were funny about it and in one case a Scottish vendor refused to accept N. Ireland notes actually accepting USD in its place. I've never understood this (is not a pound sterling a pound sterling?). But I may be making that same journey again soon and I am wondering if this is still the situation in the UK? Is there a "trick" to it that doesn't involve the money exchangers?
The trick which works is asking the shop people to exchange your (last) notes for the English ones before you cross the border or take a ferry or flight. Most of them will be happy enough to do that if you do not have too many.
And if you pay with cards for most of your payments you do not need too many banknotes.
And as I put in a comment, if you happen to have the 'wrong' notes, try to get them spend as near to the border as you can. Mostly the shop owners in places near the North Ireland ferry and the Scottish/English border are more familiar with the money of the other UK parts.
I have used Scottish banknotes on the ferry Amsterdam to Newcastle, which is often used by people traveling to and from Scotland.
And if everything else does not work, find someone going to that part of the UK and aak them for an informal exchange. This has the best chance on success if it is someone living there and familiar with the money.
In the past I was happy to accept Sterling (GBP) notes issued by any bank, because all bank notes were printed on special paper that could be tested with a cheap and readily available banknote pen. Very few forgers would use, or could obtain, the correct paper. So as long as the note appeared to say the right things, had embossed ink and passed the pen test, I would consider it to be genuine, and I could pay it into a bank (even if I could not spend it in a shop).
Now though, notes have been re-issued in the new plastic style. These are supposed to be harder to forge, but the catch is I am not well versed with the anti-forgery techniques used, and do not know what they are supposed to look like. The detector pen is no use. So I refuse all notes that are not issued by the Bank of England.
So speaking as a vendor in England, I will not now accept any notes issued by banks of Northern Ireland or Scotland. Moreover, I now prefer card payments to cash anyway.
If there is a 'trick' to it, pay by card. There are some vendors who still do not accept card payments, or who refuse small value card transactions, but the way things are going, they won't stay in business for long...
In theory, all these notes are mostly portable, although it is worth noting that only Bank of England notes are legal tender anywhere within the UK. However, settling a court-mandated debt is unlikely to figure in most visitors concerns, so that is largely irrelevant.
In practice, most staff taking the notes off you will only have experience with Bank of England notes and notes issued by local banks. They will often decline to take notes they are unfamiliar with simply because they do not know if what you are offering is a legitimate note, a fraudulent one, or simply an entirely fictional one from "The bank of dhinson919".
For a visitor travelling around the UK, this can be somewhat frustrating (although it is worth noting that in 2021, cashless payment is by far the norm, with more than 80% of transactions now being electronic). Some solutions you can attempt to employ:
- Request Bank of England notes before leaving the territory where other notes are issued
- Use automated devices - most "self checkouts" will accept all valid notes, but will give change in local notes (and coins that have no such problems)
- Attempt to exchange your national notes for Bank of England at any physical bank branch (note that some offer this service to customers only).