Category Archives: Day Trips from London
London twinkles over the winter time with an array of magical Christmas light displays to brighten up your Christmas shopping trips.
Every year the lights have a different theme. For the first time in five years the world famous Christmas lights in Oxford Street will undergo a glittering transformation inspired by snowflakes. While at Greenwich the switch on will be accompanied by a lantern parade.
Watch this space: http://www.visitlondon.com/tag/christmas-lights
See the city at its most dazzling when London switches on its Christmas lights
We’re a little way off from hearing which ‘celebrities’ and pop ‘artists’ will be flicking the switch to light up London’s high streets this Christmas and when they’ll do it, but when we do know, we’ll update this page. In the meantime, satisfy your festive decoration cravings with our gallery of lights from Christmases past.
If you are visiting London this Christmas make sure you join a special festive sightseeing tour.
Best Value Tours
The world’s best new year celebrations promise four days of events, concerts and spectacles, plus, of course, the famous Street Party with its breathtaking fireworks display over Edinburgh Castle.
What is Hogmanay?
Hogmanay is celebrated on New Year’s Eve, every year, usually in a most exuberant fashion in Scotland as hundreds of thousands of revellers take to the streets to see in the New Year. In the cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh it has become a huge ticketed festival. Celebrations start in the early evening and reach a crescendo by midnight. Minutes before the start of new year, a lone piper plays, then the bells of Big Ben chime at the turn of midnight, lots of kissing, and everyone sings Auld Lang Syne. And then there is more kissing. Elsewhere in Scotland, particularly in more remote parts, customary first footing and Scottish dances, or ceilidhs (pronounced “kayli”), take place. For centuries, fire ceremonies — torch light processions, fireball swinging and lighting of New Year fires — played an important part in the Hogmanay celebrations. And they still do.
Where did the word Hogmanay come from
Nobody knows for sure where the word “Hogmanay” came from. Opinions differ as to whether it originated from the Gaelic oge maidne(“New Morning”), Anglo-Saxon Haleg Monath (“Holy Month”), or Norman French word hoguinané, which was derived from the Old French anguillanneuf (“gift at New Year”). It’s also been suggested that it came from the French au gui mener (“lead to the mistletoe”) or a Flemish combo hoog (“high” or “great”), min (“love” or “affection”) and dag (“day”). Take your pick.
What are the origins of Hogmanay?
Hogmanay’s roots reach back to the anamistic practice of sun and fire worship in the deep mid-Winter. This evolved into the ancient Saturnalia, a great Roman Winter festival, where people celebrated completely free of restraint and inhibition. The Vikings celebrated Yule, which became the twelve days of christmas, or the “Daft Days” as they became known in Scotland. The Winter festival went underground with the Reformation and ensuing years, but re-emerged at the end of the 17th Century. Since then the customs have continued to evolve to the modern day. It is only in recent years that Hogmanay has been celebrated on such a large scale: the first event of its kind was at “Summit in the City” in 1992 when Edinburgh hosted the European Union Heads of State conference. Edinburgh’s Hogmanay festival was so successful that it spawned similar events throughout Scotland for the millennium Hogmanay festivities. This year the big three Scottish Ne’er celebrations are Edinburgh’s Hogmanay, Glasgow’s Hogmanay and Stirling’s Hogmanay.
What is the symbolism of fire at Hogmanay?
The flame and fire at Hogmanay symbolises many things. The bringing of the light of knowledge from one year to the next, lighting the way into the next uncharted century, putting behind you the darkness past, but carrying forward its sacred flame of hope and enlightenment to a better parish, and in this day, a new fresh year,burning away of the old to make space for the new.
What is First Footing?
Traditionally, it has been held that your new year will be a prosperous one if, at the strike of midnight, a “tall, dark stranger” appears at your door with a lump of coal for the fire, or a cake or coin. In exchange, you offered him food, wine or a wee dram of whisky, or the traditional Het Pint, which is a combination of ale, nutmeg and whisky. It’s been sugggested that the fear associated with blond strangers arose from the memory of blond-haired Viking’s raping and pillaging Scotland circa 4th to 12th centuries. What’s more likely to happen these days is that groups of friends or family get together and do a tour of each others’ houses. Each year, a household takes it in turn to provide a meal for the group. In many parts of Scotland gifts or “Hogmananys” are exchanged after the turn of midnight.
When did the millennium start
Although the big celebrations marking the “New Millennium” were at the beginning of the year 2000 in the Christian calendar, according to the Greenwich Observatory, which sets the standard for Greenwich Meantime, used throughout the developed world, the old millennium is not actually “out” and the new millennium “in” until the start of the year 2001. A new millennium can’t start on the year zero.
Where is the biggest Hogmanay street party?
Edinburgh and Glasgow both have street parties for 100,000 people. This is even though the capital is less populated than Glasgow, around 450,000 compared to 750,00 people. However, although last year 100,000 tickets were distributed for the Edinburgh Hogmanay street party, a lot more people found their way in. The biggest Hogmanay street party in Scotland to date was an estimated 300,000 at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay in 1996/97 (so they say). It was too many, people were crushed, and it consequently became a ticketed event.
Who pays for the Hogmanay celebrations?
Funding comes from a mixture of soures. Smaller public events, usually involving live music and fireworks at midnight, are organised by councils across Scotland. With bigger events funding comes from private sponsorship, grants, and local tax payers. In recent years, Edinburgh’s Hogmanay has started charging for tickets to the street party, which also generates more income for the annual festivities.
What are the words to Auld Lang’s Syne?
The words that many of us join hands and sing at the strike of midnight are written in old Scots, the language commonly spoken in Scotland until 1707 when Scotland’s Parliament dissolved itself and was merged with England. The words were adapted by Rabbie Burns, Scotland’s National poet, from a traditional poem.
Take a deep breath now:
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne?
For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’kindness yet
For auld lang syne!
Link Source: http://www.hogmanay.net
Travel Editor – Best Value Tours – www.BestValueTours.co.uk
Warwick Britain’s Ultimate Castle, where you’ll be surrounded by jaw-dropping history, magic, myth and adventure!
- Epic adventures for all the family
- Stunning scenery, inside and out
- Shows, battles and live entertainment
- 21st Century food, drink and facilities
A warm winter welcome awaits you at Britain’s Ultimate Castle. Feast your eyes on festive decorations, our 25 foot Christmas tree and a roaring fire all in the magnificent surrounding of the Great Hall.
Be part of Britain’s Greatest Medieval Experience! Deep in the heart of Warwick Castle, the Great Hall becomes a hive of activity! Immerse yourself in battle preparations and feel the weight of a medieval sword. Become a soldier – try on a battle helmet for size! Visit the spectacular State Rooms and feast your eyes on Victorian party preparations.
Story time with Santa (22nd, 23rd and 24th December) – Santa and his mischievous elves prepare for Christmas in the State Rooms. A jolly Christmas storytelling show for all the family with magical tales and fun Dueling Gents (Daily) – Warwick Castle’s finest Swordsmen take to the arena in a dazzling show of authentic Georgian Swordsmanship. Carol Singing in the Chapel (22nd and 23rd December) – Get in the festive spirit with our resident choir as they sing classic Christmas carols in the beautiful surrounding of our Chapel Children’s Christmas hunt/trail (Daily) Daily shows and tours:
11am – The Ultimate Castle Tour 12pm – Flight of the Eagles 12.30pm – Ghosts of Warwick Castle1pm – Christmas Tour 1.30pm – Dueling Gents (dates available as detailed above) 2pm – Carol singing in the chapel (dates available as detailed above)
Return transportation to Warwick Castle Entrance ticket to Warwick Castle Exclusions
This tour runs daily between 22nd December 2012 to 6th Janauary 2013
Warwick Castle http://www.warwick-castle.com
Warwick Castle is not your average castle. It is full to the turrets with dramatic shows, interactive experiences, storytelling, demonstrations, activities and more. We learnt a long time ago that that our guests, the young and young at heart, want to do more than just look. They want to be part of the adventure.
Visit Warwick Castle and you will see great halls, beautiful landscapes; mournful dungeons and high towers – but you’ll also see people having fun, laughing and being amazed. We have eleven hundred years of history, but also great battles, ancient myths, spellbinding tales, pampered princesses, heroic knights, Merlin’s Dragon, and the dark Castle Dungeon.
Best Value Tours – www.BestValueTours.co.uk
There are plenty of opportunities to soak up the festive spirit for free around Britain, beginning with a stroll down almost any street from late afternoon, when the Christmas lights twinkle and shop windows are filled with fantastic displays. London’s most elaborate decorations attract big crowds to Regent Street, Oxford Street and Carnaby Street (mid-November to early January); while in Edinburgh, the city’s Norwegian Christmas Tree will light up on 26 November (see http://www.edinburghsparkles.com/christmas for the city’s full Christmas calendar). The world’s tallest Christmas tree to be made out of Lego was built out of 400,000 bricks at St Pancras International in London last year, and this year the station promises an equally stunning surprise showpiece.
Winter is a great time to bring the family to Britain, and many children have learnt to ice-skate against the picturesque background of Kew Gardens, the Natural History Museum or Edinburgh’s dramatic skyline at East Princes Street Gardens. This year Kew Gardens will also be home to a Santa’s Grotto, with Winter Tree Tours, a vintage carousel and roasted chestnuts to conjure the festive atmosphere (www.kew.org). Nature-lovers should go to Longleat, the popular safari park in Wiltshire, where they’ll find a huge outdoor ice-rink as well as Britain’s biggest singing Christmas tree! It stands at 50 feet tall and is decked with almost a million multi-coloured lights. The park’s usual attractions remain open, including a Safari Drive Adventure that takes you up close to the animals in Jungle Kingdom (www.longleat.co.uk, 16 Nov – 9 Dec, then 14 Dec – 7 Jan 2013).
Highlights of this year’s Southbank Winter Festival include dark comic cabaret, candlelit classical concerts and baby opera. These will run alongside a programme of free events, which include choirs singing by the river and gigs in the Royal Festival Hall foyer. Visitors can join in the fun, dancing in The Clore Ballroom, making Christmas cards and presents, and eating plenty at the the Real Food Christmas Market and Chocolate Festival (www.southbankcentre.co.uk, 16 Nov – 7 Jan).
Wales is known for its food festivals, and this year a festive market will be taking place at the iconic Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff (www.wmc.org.uk), along with markets in Caerphilly Castle and Abergavenny, the food-festival capital of Wales. Cardiff Castle will play host to Victorian Christmas Tours, which promise ‘a real flavour of Christmas past’ (www.cardiffcastle.com).
The ghosts of Christmas past, present and future are united in Dickens’s famous A Christmas Carol, and their story told in Scrooge The Musical, which will play in London’s West End from the end of October. The same man behind the special effects in Harry Potter is behind special illusions for the show, so it’s guaranteed to wow (www.londonpalladium.org/scrooge). The holiday season in Britain wouldn’t be complete without The Nutcracker, and the English National Ballet’s new version is part of Tamara Rojo’s first season as Artistic Director. It shows in Southampton at the end of November before moving to London’s Coliseum (www.ballet.org.uk). While The Nutcracker is an old favourite, new play The House Where Winter Lives looks set to enthral children at the Discover Children’s Story Centre in Stratford, East London, which will be transformed into a magical frozen forest: children and their families will explore the wonder of winter in an immersive storytelling adventure (www.discover.org.uk).
For more grown-up fun, the Winter Cinema at The Berkeley Hotel in London is one of the season’s most exclusive and cosy events. Classic winter films will be shown on the hotel’s rooftop high above Knightsbridge, while guests snuggle up under Moncler blankets and sip home-made hot chocolate and mince pies (www.the-berkeley.co.uk, 26 Nov – 31 Jan). The cinema is open to anyone during the week, but reserved to guests over the weekend. Another sumptuous place to stay – and visit – is Waddesdon Manor, in Buckinghamshire. The National Trust property is stunning at any time of year, with turrets worthy of Harry Potter and sumptuous interiors, but in winter is particularly beautiful. Each year the Christmas decorations have a different theme and for 2012, as in previous years, they will reflect the five European countries where the founding sons of the Rothschild dynasty (who bought the Estate) made their fortunes, with England as the focus this year. London’s great sights – Big Ben, Trafalgar Square and Nelson’s column are outlined in the Oval Hall, great English writers Dickens and Shakespeare are celebrated and a Christmas feast fit for Victoria and Albert will be laid out in the White Drawing Room (www.waddesdon.org.uk).
London and UK Chrsitmas Tours: http://www.bestvaluetours.co.uk/tour-of-england/london-uk-christmas-tours
Travel Editor – Best Value Tours
The Cotswolds Hills
The Cotswolds Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty are formed from a belt of oolitic limestone that divides the heart of England from the North Sea to the south coast passing through Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire and nudging into Wiltshire, Worcestershire and Warwickshire
The Cotswolds is an area of about the shape of a rough diamond in the heart of England stretching through the counties of Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire, Worcestershire and Warwickshire.
The western edge forms the escarpment that overlooks the Severn Valley and the Vale of Evesham. This ridge gives the picture of hills seen from the valley floor as you travel along the M5 motorway. Yet, once on the top the land opens out into the rolling wolds and deep, wooded river valleys that make this one of the most beautiful areas in the UK.
The Cotswolds is popular with both the English and visitors from all over the world, renowned for the gentle, picture puzzle; sleepy villages that are so typically English has are the world famous cities of Bath and Oxford or the cathedral city of Gloucester.
Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
The Cotswolds is one of 41 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England and Wales and is the largest, covering 790 sq miles – 2,038 sq kms from Bradford-upon-Avon to Banbury a distance of 78 miles – 126 kms from north to south.
The Cotswolds was designated An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1966 and this means that the countryside protected forever and that the past, present and future assured for generations to come. The Cotswolds Conservation Board is the organisation that looks after the AONB in its entirety. For more information about the Cotswolds Conservation Board visit their website. The majority of this beautiful countryside is farmland, a diverse mix of arable, livestock and woodland.
About a tenth of the Cotswolds is woodland with many of the woods being ancient. Some of the best examples are on the western edge with the beech woods around Cranham and Birdlip. Other woodland consists of oak, ash and sycamore.
Cotswold Towns and Villages
Idyllic towns and villages like Bibury and Bourton-on-the Water hide in the steep wooded valleys or sit proud on high rolling wolds. The fine buildings created by great artisans, the magnificent churches built by the wealthy wool merchants from medieval times and their grand houses with wonderful gardens are waiting to be discovered by travellers.
Use the links to discover more about the history, the villages and towns, about the conservation projects undertaken throughout the area and top attractions to visit.
Follow one of our suggested tours by car or follow one of our family walks to discover some of the hidden parts of the Cotswolds. The Cotswold Gateway is your guide to this wonderful Cotswolds area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Take a look at our Cotswolds town guide and the Cotswolds villages guide.
Needles to say we opearate daily tours of the Cotswolds area. I would recommend a small group tour so you can get off the beaten track and explore some of the smaller villages – www.Sightseeingtours.co.uk
Link Source: http://www.thecotswoldgateway.co.uk
Design your own day tour, go where you want, stay as long as you want
If you are travelling as a small group, you can design your own day trip or simply select one of our regular itineraries but have exclusive use of the vehicle for the day. We will collect you from any location in Central London, Salisbury, Bath or Oxford. The duration of our tours vary from 10.5 to 12 hours, depending on the places that you are visiting..
Design your our own sightseeing day tour
- Exclusive use of our high quality air conditioned Mercedes mini-coaches and some of the most experienced driver/guides in Britain
- Door to door service (from Central London)
- Create your own itinerary or take any of our regular tour routes – the choice is yours!
- Ideal travel solution for Special Access tours to Stonehenge
Day tours from London visit crudely one of 3 regions of England. Most tours will visit a permutation of two or three attractions within each region. The regions are: West of London: Windsor, Stonehenge, Winchester, Salisbury, Avebury, Lacock, Bath, Glastonbury, Oxford. North West of London: Oxford, Cotswolds, Blenheim Palace, Stratford Upon Avon, Warwick Castle. South East of London: Canterbury, Dover, Leeds Castle.
Vehicles, Driver/Guides + Scope Of Private Tours
We have a range of touring vehicles with capacities ranging from 8 to 16 seats. We charge a flat fee per vehicle, (not person) for the day, this includes the bus and services of the driver.
We offer a range of options for the driver depending on your groups requirements..
The day is yours, the only rules are imposed by UK law – no smoking on buses and driving hours and breaks governed by UK law. Otherwise you’re free to go where you want to go, when you want to go. We will spend time with you during the planning phase in making sure the itinerary is realistic and suited to your individual group.
One Stop Solution / Transfer Tours
We can offer small groups a one stop travel solution including transfers as well as tours. We also specialise in tour transfers between the cruise ports, Southampton and Dover and London hotels and airports.
Email us for a rapid quote – email@example.com
Travel Editor – www.SightseeingTours.co.uk
Bes Value tours
Visiting the Christmas markets of Europe is a great way to pick up some Christmas shopping bargains whilst grabbing some Christmas cheer and spirit along the way too in some of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Alternatively if you are more Prada than Pretzel, we’ve also included our favourite Christmas shopping destinations around the world
Munich Christmas Markets (25 Nov 11 – 24 Dec 11)
Visit Munich for some of the oldest and best Christmas markets in Europe. The Christmas markets are held daily between 25 November and 24 December where you’ll find festive gifts, decorations and typical Bavarian food and drink. You’ll be amazed by the bright lights and smells of delicious fare on sale on the market stalls located in the shadow of the wonderful Rathaus building.
Bruges Christmas Markets (26 Nov 11 – 02 Jan 12)
Come to Bruges for a Christmas market that offers all the traditional gifts you would expect, all set in a festive atmosphere of bright lights and tempting aromas. Visit this beautiful old city where the festival stalls are set amongst a backdrop of cobbled streets and historic buildings. Browse for Belgian chocolates, wooden toys and other jolly gifts before relaxing in a bar as you sample a local beer.
Copenhagen Christmas Markets (11 Nov 11 – 29 Dec 11)
Copenhagen’s main Christmas markets are hosted in Tivoli Gardens, the city’s amusement park. In the land of Hans Christian Andersen you will find a Christmas market that is just as magical, with hundreds of Christmas trees and half a million lights illuminating the festive stalls and surrounding park. Browse for traditional gifts like Copenhagen porcelain or wooden dolls as well as local arts, crafts and decorations.
Helsinki Christmas Markets (07 Dec 11 – 22 Dec 11)
The largest Christmas market in Helsinki is held at the Vanha Ylioppilastalo (old student house) where you’ll find local delights including fried herring, mulled wine and tempting pastries. There’s also the Ladies’ Christmas Market with gifts that are all made and sold by women, and St Thomas Christmas Market held at Esplanade Park where you can buy baked goods and other specialities.
Cologne Christmas Markets (21 Nov 11 – 22 Dec 11)
Offering six Christmas markets, the German city of Cologne attracts almost two million visitors every year. The most impressive is at the Cologne Cathedral due to its imposing backdrop, whilst the oldest is at the Neumarkt, the city’s shopping area. Stalls offer a vast selection of festive goods including arts and crafts, Christmas tree decorations and handmade candles.
Krakow Christmas Markets (01 Dec 11 – 24 Dec 11)
Krakow Christmas market is centred on the city’s huge market square, the Rynek Glowny. Poland’s most beautiful city offers fantastic value and you can pick up some real festive bargains. Take your pick from the handmade Christmas decorations, jewellery and woollen slippers on offer. For New Year’s Eve, Krakow’s entire Old Town historical district turns into one giant ballroom. Thousands of revellers swarm its huge Grand Square and pack into the area’s countless clubs, cafes and restaurants.
Prague Christmas Markets (03 Dec 11 – 01 Jan 11)
The largest and most popular Christmas market in Prague is located in the central square of the Old Town. Between this Christmas market and the one on Wenceslas Square there are about 100 festive market stalls for you to visit. As well as the sparkling rows of decorated stalls you’ll find Christmas concerts and short plays on an open-air stage. A live nativity scene with donkeys, sheep and goats completes the festive setting.
Vienna Christmas Markets (19 Nov 11 – 26 Dec 11)
The Christkindlmarkt on the Town Hall square is Vienna’s famous Christmas market. It is one of the best-known and most visited in all of Europe and when you come you’ll soon see why. It is an unforgettable experience where you’ll be delighted by the smells of spiced fruits, sweets, mulled wine and roasted chestnuts that float around the traditional market stalls.
New York Shopping Break
There’s nothing quite like a Christmas shopping trip in New York City and New Yorkers really like to push the boat out at this time of winter with all of their ‘flagship’ stores such as Macy’s, Bloomingdales, Tiffany and Co’s & Barneys New York going to great lengths to come up with the most beautiful window displays. Take a walk down the famous 5th Avenue to see the best.
Paris Shopping Breaks
Paris boasts some of the world’s most breathtaking department stores, where visitors can browse the latest trends in designer fashion such as Dior and Chanel, browse gourmet food shops, or attend free fashion shows. The Paris department stores are not only shopping shrines, but also architectural treasures, as all are beautifully sculpted and eye catching.
Christmas Market Tours: http://www.sightseeingtours.co.uk/uk-day-tours/christmas-tours-britain-london
Christmas Markets Link: http://www.christmasmarkets.com/UK.html
Next week we focus on UK Christmas Markets
Best Value Tours
Planning your trip to London
There’s one hell of a lot to do in London some basic planning will avoid unnecessary trapsing around on foot or irritating waiting for public transport. It’s best to plan a day out so as to maximise the number of things you can see – and to go for variety. Below are a few mornings, afternoons and whole days out we’ve arranged for visitors – time permitting, we can offer advice by Email (firstname.lastname@example.org) if there’s anything you particularly want to see. Our Walks and itineraries link points of interest – see the separate page.
Weather – likely to make or break your visit. Although there are plenty of things to do in London in the rain, a week of low slate-grey skies and constant rain is not condusive to having a good time. The best season to come weatherwise is Late Summer or Autumn – latterly we’ve been having Indian Summers from mid-September to the end of October with clear blue skies and 20 degree temperatures. Eventually the weather breaks as the storm fronts move in off the Atlantic, then clears up for Christmas. February – April can be dire, and the heights of summer are very unpredictable. Consult the Meterological office here for facts and figures but beware predictions – they are so often wrong.
When it’s raining there are plenty of museums and galleries to visit – and the tube system is generally very good outside of rush hour. What you’ll miss out on is strolling through London and seeing the many unique pleasures by the wayside. Click here to see when to visit London.
Hotel Location Best to be near a tube station, buses can be slow and unreliable, and taxis expensive. The yellow circle line on the tube map marks the division between central and not-so-central London. Outside of that Zone your transport bill will rise – and once you’re in LT zone three, considerably. The best restaurants are in Islington, Soho/Chinatown and the south west of London which is where the life is. The City is a dead zone evenings and weekends. Hotel accommodation click here.
Baker St tube, Madame Tussauds, walk north to Regent’s Park, the Zoo, then up Primrose Hill, Primrose Hill ‘village’ to Chalk Farm (or cut through Primrose gate by the zoo and along the canal towpath to Camden Lock) and Camden Market (weekends only), Camden Town tube, on a weekend. 4-5 hours.
Train Waterloo – St Margarets, walk 10 mins to Marble Hill House, 5 mins to the foot ferry to, Ham House, walk 25 mins along river to Richmond, tube to Kew Gardens,& back to Waterloo – (can be heavy on the admission charges) Afternoon.
Freemason’s Temple on Great Queen Street, 10 mins from the tube, Covent Garden market, Transport Museum in the Piazza, Backstage tour of Theatre Royal Drury Lane at the back of the transport museum, walk 10 mins to the Strand, the Law Courts and the Inns of Court. Three hours. Circuit round Covent Garden tube.
Tottenham Court Road tube, 10 mins walk to the British Museum, 10 mins walk south to Sir John Soane Museum in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, Inns of Court – starting at Lincoln’s Inn, walk 10 mins to the strand and the Courtauld Gallery, Somerset House & Galleries, Charing Cross/Strand. (3-4 hours, depending on how long you stay in the British Museum, Inns of court best weekdays)
Charing Cross tube, 5 mins walk to the National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, 5 mins walk down Whitehall to Horseguards, 10 Downing St and the Cabinet War rooms. 10 Mins across St James Park to St James’ Palace, Green Park tube. 3-4 hours.
Westminster tube, Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey. 10 mins walk along the river to Tate Britain, Pimlico Tube 2 hours
High St Kensington tube, 10 mins walk to Kensington Palace, Kensington Gardens, 15 minute walk to Notting Hill, 10 minute walk to Portobello Road market (Saturday – 3 hours) Notting Hill Gate tube.
Old St or Liverpool St tube, 15 min walk/or by bus to Geffrye Museum 10 minute walk to Colombia Road Flower Market, 10 minute walk to Brick Lane, then to Spitalfields Market, Liverpool St tube (on Sundays, 11:00-1500, including lunch)
South Kensington tube, 5 minute walk down tunnel to Natural History Museum, Science Museum, Victoria And Albert Museum, 10 minute walk to Harrods. Knightsbridge tube (for a rainy day)
Queensway or Bayswater tube, hire Skates on Queensway, skate down to Albert Memorial, and thence to Kensington Palace and back to Queensway, exploring the park. Circuit.
Oxford Circus tube, Oxford Street (west half of), St. Christopher’s Place, Wallace collection, Bond Street, Burlington Arcade, Royal Academy. Green park tube.
Waterloo station/tube, London Eye, River walk, Oxo tower, Tate Modern, Shakespeare’s Globe, London Bridge station/tube. 3 hours. See also our walks section.
Tower Hill DLR station/Bank tube, Island gardens DLR station, 10 minutes walk under the foot tunnel, Cutty Sark, Greenwich market, Naval Academy, 10 mins walk to the Queen’s House, Royal Observatory, 15 mins back to Greenwich Pier – boat back to Tower Hill – 4 hours.
Monument tube, Monument, 5 mins to Leadenhall Market & Lloyd’s Building, 10 mins walk to Tower of London, St katherine’s dock, Tower Bridge, Shad Thames. Tower Hill tube. (3 -4 hours)
Mansion House tube, Mansion House, 10 mins walk to Guildhall Art gallery, walk round back of Guildhall up the walkways through the Barbican, Museum of London, 10 mins walk to St Paul’s Cathedral, St Paul’s tube. 4 hours.
Leicester Square tube, Leicester Square, Wardour St, walk through Chinatown to Charing Cross Rd, north to Cambridge Circus, along Old Compton St and Brewer Street through Soho, tp Piccadilly Circus, up Regent Street to Liberties, turn right to Carnaby Street, Piccadilly Circus/Oxford Circus tube. (1-2 hours)
London Attractions – click here
Rest of Britain
Virtually everyone flies into London, even if their reason to visit lies elsewhere. Booking a train trip from London to see the rest of the UK is best done AT LEAST TWO DAYS IN ADVANCE – very cheap fares are available, especially on Virgin Trains – as little as £9 return to Chester 2 weeks or more in advance.
Outside of London the major places of interest (apart from those listed on our trips page) would be the Cotswolds (for which you need a car), North Wales: Snowdonia and the Castles (ditto), Oxford, Cambridge, Chester, York and Bath (easily accessible by train), and we’d recommend the North of Norfolk and the Yorkshire Dales (car needed). In Scotland, Edinburgh is the only city attraction – flights are very cheap on Easyjet (much cheaper than rail travel) if you book in advance. For scenery visit the Fort William area, but beware the midges in summer, and the weather in winter. Cornwall and the Devon coast are beautiful, but a long way from anywhere and quite tourist – you can fly there using the cheap internet airlines – cheap if you book enough in advance. No city except London merits more than one day.
So many tourist boards will bombard you with information trying to sell themselves – caveat emptor is the rule. Britain earns millions of pounds from tourists, make sure you get good independent advice on places outside of London before you even think of visiting them . Many tourist boards have been caught lying and taken to court, and one Chief Tourist Officer of a large northern city resigned because he could no longer go on lying – his city really wasn’t worth visiting despite the tourist propaganda his department put out One seaside resort has been prosecuted for doctoring photos and the 2007/8 season ads for Scotland featured snow footage that was decades old and unlikely to match the reality, due to global warming.
We wouldn’t recommend Manchester (except the Lowry), Liverpool (except for the art galleries – see our art page) despite it being city of Culture, Birmingham or anywhere in the Midlands (except for Chatworth House near Chesterfield), The Lake District ( very beautiful but too crowded unless you’re going hill walking which is excellent – if you are stay at the Gilpin Lodge and do some of the set walks, but allow two/three days minimum.), Leeds, Bradford, Hull, Newcastle (unless you like drunkenness) South Wales except the Black country or the Gower Penninsula, Blackpool – or any seaside resort except Brighton, Portsmouth, The Isle of Wight (expensive ferry) Aberdeen, Inverness (the Lochs excepted), Lancaster or Sunderland (except Hadrian’s Wall). Some of these places are grim by any standards.
If you’re a party animal only, then Manchester has a good club scene and Newcastle is good for overindulgence in alcohol and loose women, as well as streetfights – it’s where the Rolling Stones’ ‘Streetfighting Man’ comes from… A male friend was beaten up by some Geordie lasses outside a nightclub, so maybe streetfighting women as well.
The Knowhere site is good for info on smaller tourist locations, but is aimed at skateboarders – its judgement on the overall character of a place is often spot-on – though generally they’re not a very helpful bunch .
Tours of Britain departing from London – Click here
Best Value Tours – www.SightseeingTours.co.uk
Images of the Lake District have gone up around London in a bid to get more tourists to visit Cumbria.
Cumbria Tourism and Vist England have secured 750 thousand pounds worth of funding for a two and a half year promotional campaign. The posters are the first stage in the project to encourage people to head North. They are being shown in stations all over London until the middle of September.
Ian Stephens, Managing Director of Cumbria Tourism, said: “The Lake District is one of the UK’s strongest and most recognised destination brands, yet with increased competition from places like Scotland, Wales and the South West, it is now more important than ever for us to keep our offering fresh.
“There is the real potential to build on this campaign for the future and we at Cumbria Tourism will be constantly talking to potential partners to extend the campaign both terms of content and coverage to show to as wide an audience as possible the full range of things that Cumbria has to offer.’’
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Old-fashioned fun: 10 traditional UK seaside breaks
Not all British seaside resorts have to go the way of Brighton and Whitstable … here are 10 of the most gloriously traditional, with all the fun of the fair
Punch and Judy on the beach at Weymouth, Dorset. Photograph: Alamy
Weymouth, west Dorset
As the sailing venue for the Olympics, Weymouth has made a sterling effort to move upmarket: boat-shaped cafes on the beach, uplighters on the seafront, upgraded deckchairs. But underneath the gloss, it’s the same old Weymouth, thank goodness. For a panoramic view, take an airlift up the shiny new Sea Life Tower – which opened in June (The Quay, 0871 423 2110, weymouth-tower.com, from £6.50) – and look across a curve of Regency terraces to the Purbeck Hills, across the harbour to the gardens of Nothe Fort (01305 766626, nothefort.org.uk) to the Isle of Portland. On the beach, there are donkey rides, Professor Mark Poulton’s classic Punch and Judy show (weymouthpunch.co.uk) and, according to the town’s Sand World (Preston Beach Road, 07411 387529, sandworld.co.uk, adult £6.50, child £4.50) the perfect sand for castles and sculptures. At Rossi’s retro parlour on the seafront, the ice-cream has been made on the premises since 1937 (01305 785557). The Stables Pizza and Cider House (Custom House Quay, thestabledorset.co.uk) is one of the new breed of restaurants that have popped up in the light of the Olympics. Cafe Oasis (01305 833054, cafeoasis.co.uk), on the beach at Bowleaze Cove, is a old favourite.
Stay at the funky Roundhouse (1 The Esplanade, 01305 761010, roundhouse-hotel-weymouth.com, doubles from £105) between the harbour and the beach; or B+B Weymouth (68 The Esplanade, 01305 761190, bb-weymouth.com, doubles from £75).
Eastbourne, East Sussex
Beachy Head, East Sussex. Photograph: Patrick Ingrand/Getty Images
In the sunniest place in Britain – allegedly – a four-mile stretch of dazzling white shingle curves around Pevensey Bay. There are palm trees, tea dances in the Winter Gardens ballroom (every other Tuesday), rows of grand Victorian terraces planned by the Duke of Devonshire in the 1850s; a lovely bit of floral carpet bedding on a cheery promenade. Eastbourne is nowhere near as fast as neighbouring Brighton (think coach tours and pensioners in cardigans), but its Grade II*-listed pier is one of Britain’s finest – all rotundas and delicate wrought iron, strings of low-tech light bulbs and a curious little camera obscura that opens to the public in summer (eastbournepier.com). On the prom, the 1,600-seater Bandstand (01323 410611, eastbournebandstand.co.uk) serves up brass, tribute and big bands and musical firework displays beneath a 1930s dome clad in aquamarine terracotta. The chalk cliffs of Beachy Head (the highest point on the south coast) are within hiking distance.
Try the Printers Bar Brasserie for good-value British tucker (12 Station Street, 01323 430880, printersbarbrasserie.co.uk), or the Flamenco Tapas Bar (8 Cornfield Terrace, 01323 641444, flamenco-tapas.co.uk).
The Big Sleep (King Edwards Parade, 01323 722676, thebigsleephotel.com, doubles from £45 per night) has retro rooms on the seafront, but best bet for families are the self-catering suites at Guesthouse East (13 Hartington Place, 01323 722774, theguesthouseeast.co.uk, from £70 per night).
The up-from-Londoners who swarm into nearby Holkham or Wells-next-the-Sea tend to bypass Cromer but what are they missing? Lovely sandy beach, for a start; flinty sea walls, rock pools, the zig-zag paths that wander between cliff-top gardens and the North Sea shoreline, the slender spire of St Peter and St Paul (at 160ft, it’s the tallest church tower in Norfolk).
You can watch the local fishermen haul crab boats out of the water with mini tractors, or take the coast path to Overstrand or Mundesley-on-Sea, but Cromer’s speciality is the gloriously tacky Seaside Special – the last of its kind to survive. Showing daily at the pier’s Pavilion Theatre (01263 512495, cromer-pier.com), it’s a repertoire of song and dance, variety acts and saucy jokes performed by artists nobody’s heard of. Perfect for a rainy day.
On the beach, the contemporary Rocket House Café (East Promenade, 01263 519126, rockethousecafe.co.uk) offers good, fresh food and great views. Boutique hotels? One day someone may do a Hotel du Vin on Cromer’s beautiful but decrepit Hotel de Paris, but try the Red Lion (Brook Street, 01263 514964, redlion-cromer.co.uk, doubles from £100 a night), or a sea view apartment at Tudor Villas (Cliff Avenue, 01263 823676, tudorvillascromer.com, from £400 a week).
Rossi’s, Southend-on-Sea. Photograph: VisitBritain/Daniel Bosworth/Getty Images
Let’s be honest, it’s Southend-on-Thames or EastEnder-on-Sea: Shane Richie in panto at the Cliffs Pavilion, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Starlight Express and seven miles of Essex beach that runs along the north shore of the estuary.
All this, and only an hour from the centre of London. Aside from the usual seaside bling (the twinkly lights of the pier head funfair, for example), there’s a Victorian cliff lift that trundles up from the promenade to pretty Prittlewell Square; you can cycle to neighbouring Leigh-on-Sea (for boatyards and clapboard cockle sheds) or up to the wilds of Shoeburyness. But Southend’s big draw is its pleasure pier. The world’s longest, it features a mile of railway line and, since 18 July, an end-of-the-pier Cultural Centre – a £3m, prefabricated arts venue complete with asymmetric roof and a geometry of glass and steel. The town’s first Comedy Festival took place on the pier last month (visitsouthend.co.uk).
Among places to eat, try Ocean Beach (Eastern Esplanade, 01702 611363, ocean-beach.co.uk), the subterranean Pipe of Port (84 High Street, pipeofport.co.uk), or Rossi’s ice-cream parlour on Marine Parade. For rooms with a view, head for 18th-century Royal Terrace, which has two decent hotels: Pier View (01702 437900, pierviewguesthouse.co.uk, doubles from £80 per night); and Hamiltons (01702 332350, hamiltonsboutiquehotel.co.uk, doubles from £60).
Sandown, Isle of Wight
The north coast yachting set can be a bit snooty about the Isle of Wight’s southern resorts but Sandown and Shanklin (they are more or less joined at the hip) have the best of the island’s long sandy beaches, the crazy golf, the sun on their seafronts, and you can get there via the Island Line which runs from Ryde to Shanklin in a restored 1930s Northern Line tube train (southwesttrains.co.uk, £5.20 return). Must-dos include Shanklin Old Village (for tea rooms and chocolate-box thatch) and Shanklin Chine (shanklinchine.co.uk, adult £3.90, child £2) – a woodland gorge of rare plants, red squirrels and the seaside Fisherman’s Cottage inn. The quaint Small Hope beach offers deckchair hire and a cafe. In wet weather, dive into Sandown’s Dinosaur Isle (01983 404344, dinosaurisle.com, adult £5, child £3.70), everything you need to know about the fossil-rich geology.
Best guesthouse is Bedford Lodge in Shanklin (4 Chine Avenue, 01983 862416, bedfordlodge.co.uk, doubles from £60); or near Ryde (20 minutes away), Vintage Vacations’ famous airstream caravan site now does B&B for two at £75 per night (vintagevacations.co.uk).
The largest of the post-war holiday camps, Butlins put the town on the map back in 1961. These days Butlins has a Skyline Pavilion – it looks quite cool from a distance. But Minehead has other things going for it: a mile of sand and pebble beach, views of the Bristol Channel, a farmers’ market, narrow backstreets and the odd bit of Somerset thatch, plus lots of worthwhile day trip potential. North Hill, the big hump of wooded cliff which overlooks the town, is the beginning of Exmoor national park. Below, by the harbour, a giant sculpture of a hand clutching a fold-out map marks the start of the 630-mile South West Coast Path. In the summer, steam trains run from Minehead to Bishop’s Lydeard on the charming West Somerset Railway (01643 704996, west-somerset-railway.co.uk, day pass adult £17, child £8.50), its vintage trains chuffing through 23 miles of stunning countryside. For castles, cobbled streets and a bit of posh, pop over to nearby Dunster. On the beach at Blue Anchor, just along the coast, the Driftwood Cafe (01643 821697) is worth a lunch visit. And if you are sticking around, check out the Castle Hotel in Dunster (5 High Street, 01643 823030, thedunstercastlehotel.co.uk, doubles from £90).
The Land Train, Bridlington. Photograph: Richard Watson/Getty Images
Bridlington went up in the world when David Hockney moved in. The artist has a house on Brid’s South Shore, overlooking the town’s vast blue flag beach and the Nautical Mile (an architectural promenade of sculptures, modernist beach huts and artworks by Bruce McLean). The North Shore is a noisy jangle of dodgems, bingo and candy floss, but Bridlington is full of surprises. The Old Town (a mile inland) boasts galleries, vintage shops and one of the most complete Georgian streets in England. There’s a ruined medieval priory. The 1930s Royal Hall theatre is now the Spa Bridlington, a multi-use venue with a jazzed-up facade – an uneasy shade of orange – and a restored art deco interior (sign up for a free tour: South Marine Drive, 01262 678258, thespabridlington.com). There’s a busy old-salt fishing harbour (mostly landing crab, lobster and scallops) and some decent seafood restaurants. Try Naked Fish (22 Bridge Street, 01262 400266, naked-fish.co.uk) or the award-winning chippy on Marton Road (01262 678378 fishandchipsat149.co.uk).
Local beauty spots include Flambrough Head, or the nature reserve at Bempton Cliffs – for breathtaking views and 200,000 seabirds (rspb.org.uk).
Accommodation is not Bridlington’s strong point, but Kilham Hall (01262 420466, kilhamhall.co.uk, from £120 a night) has luxury rooms in a country house in nearby Kilham village.
On a damp day, with the wind blowing in off the Irish Sea, Morecambe verges on the melancholy. But the erstwhile “Naples of the North” has its moments – mainly the iconic Midland Hotel, the big smile of cruise-ship art deco which helped revive this tired Lancashire resort when it reopened in 2008. What else? World-class sunsets, cockles and potted shrimps. And Eric Morecambe (a statue of the town’s famous son does a “Bring Me Sunshine” number on the seafront). Photographers snap away at beached wrecks on gleaming mudflats, the largest expanse in the UK. Nearby, there’s the lovely Lune Valley, or Lancaster’s Williamson Park with its must-see Ashton memorial: a Taj Mahal-style folly, built in 1906, it offers breathtaking views across Morecambe Bay to the Lakeland Hills. Back on the seafront, pop into the Formica heaven of Brucciani’s tea room – another mid-century classic. And gaze at the wonderful Winter Gardens (closed since 1977) and weep. A restoration wannabe, as deserving as the Midland, the ornate Victorian theatre is occasionally open to the public (01524 422180, thewintergardensmorecambe.co.uk). Accommodation-wise, nothing rivals the Midland (Marine Road West, 0845 850 1240, englishlakes.co.uk, doubles from £112), unless you count the Ashton (Wyresdale Road, 01524 68460, theashtonlancaster.com, doubles from £125 a night), which offers theatrical townhouse rooms in the centre of Lancaster.
Jabba the Hut artwork, Mablethorpe. Photograph: Tony C French/Getty Images
The name says it all. Mablethorpe. Old-fashioned. First impressions are wall-to-wall amusement arcades, Motability scooters, buckets and spades, buns and burgers, and Mr Whippy. But Mablethorpe pulled a blinder when it reinvented itself as Beach Hut Central. Not just any old beach huts but designer huts, novelty showpiece huts; there’s one shaped like a gin and tonic – with a slice of lemon and a cocktail straw. Jabba the Hut is an onion of striped laminate sitting alone in a sand dune. Along the long strip of blue flag beach that connects Mablethorpe to Sutton-on-Sea, there are roughly 300 huts; they include some jolly 1950s huts on Queen’s Park between the sea and the Thomas the Tank Engine miniature railway. These, and others, are available to rent (01507 473641/443765, e-lindsey.gov.uk/beachhuts, from £10 for a half-day). Sadly they are all booked out for the resort’s fifth Bathing Beauties Beach Hut Festival (14-16 September, bathingbeautiesfestival.org) but you can go along for poetry, art and fireworks. Mablethorpe is a bit of culinary wasteland, but Poplar Farm’s Wild Coast Pantry at Sandilands, near Sutton-on-Sea (01507 443112, poplar-farm.org.uk) will do you a nice picnic for your beach hut (plum bread, for example, and local cheeses). It has a good farmhouse B&B, too (doubles from £75).
The Great Orme Tramway, Llandudno. Photograph: Alamy
Set on a narrow isthmus between the Great Orme and the Little Orme – the two rocky headlands that sit either end of the town’s sweeping North Shore promenade – this is one of the prettiest of seaside resorts. And I’d say that, even on a rainy day. Its handsome Indian-Gothic pier is the longest in Wales; the seafront is trimmed with grand Victoriana laced with wrought iron; and from the West Shore you can look across the Conwy estuary to Snowdonia. Nice beach, too, But it’s the magnificent Great Orme Country Park (greatorme.org.uk) that provides all the action. You can walk up to its summit (or take an Edwardian cable tramway), whizz down its slopes on a PermaSnow ski slope (01492 874707, jnlllandudno.co.uk, practice session adult £13.50, child £10.50), zip over its Happy Valley gardens on a high-wire aerial cabin lift (look out for Kashmiri goats down below), or do the scenic Marine Drive circuit in a vintage bus (01492 879133, alpine-travel.co.uk, £5 adult, £2.50 child). A good stopover en route is the Rest and Be Thankful Café (01492 870004, restandbethankful.net). At the foot of the Orme, Escape B&B (48 Church Walks, 01492 877776, escapebandb.co.uk, doubles from £89) is the cool place to stay.
• All accommodation in this article B&B unless specified otherwise
Aricle by: Lesley Gillilan guardian.co.uk,
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