Category Archives: UK Sightseeing
Distinctively British fun…………….
Up Helly Aa, Shetland, Scotland
Up Helly Aa is the largest fire festival in Europe. As if the torchlight processions weren’t spectacular enough, local residents dress up in full Viking regalia — winged helmets, armour, you get the idea — and the evening culminates with the burning of a Viking longship. A traditional celebration of the end of winter and the coming of spring, it’s a truly memorable occasion.
Learn more about Up Helly Aa
Maldon Mud Race, Essex, England
Ink black mud, 250 competitors, and a mad dash for the finish line. It’s not going to be pretty, and we advise against hugging the winner afterwards. Race through the mire of the Blackwater Estuary in Essex if you feel up to the challenge, or stand back and watch if you prefer to keep dry. Either way it’s a lot of fun.
Learn more about the Maldon Mud Race
Man vs. Horse Race, Powys, Wales
In Britain, discussions over a pint can lead to many things. One such discussion in Powys led to the Man vs. Horse Race being dreamt up by the then landlord of the Neuadd Arms, Gordon Green. The 22 mile race over hills and rough terrain pits man against horse, and believe it or not, the horse doesn’t always win. In 2004, Huw Lobb crossed the finish line first, a full two minutes ahead of his four-legged adversary.
Learn more about the Man vs. Horse Race
World Pea Shooting Championships, Cambridgeshire, England
Pea-shooting involves propelling a pea through a tube with a quick burst of air from the lips. And in Witcham it’s evolved into an annual tournament that draws participants and crowds from across the globe. It’s pretty riveting stuff – watch the marksmen compete for the title of World Champion, and enjoy a bit of local cuisine at the village fete while you’re at it.
Learn more about the Pea Shooting Championships
International Worthing Birdman, West Sussex, England
As if jumping off a pier into the sea wasn’t enough fun, The Worthing Birdman combines the thrill of falling with spectacular fancy dress and even a bit of engineering. Part of the fun involves eager jumpers donning home-made flying machines and trying to ‘fly’ the furthest in the hopes of bagging a £30,000 prize. The other part of the fun is simply watching people in silly costumes jumping in the sea while you enjoy an ice-cream from a safe distance.
Learn more about the Worthing Birdman
World Hen Racing Championships, Derbyshire, England
Who has the fastest hen? It’s an important question that’s given rise to an annual event in Derbyshire. Head to the Barley Mow pub in Bonsall to discover the year’s speediest fowl as they’re put through their paces over a 30 feet track. You can enjoy gorgeous views of the Peak District and some good local ale while you do.
Learn more about hen racing
Race the Train, Tywyn, Wales
Man takes on machine in Tywyn’s annual Race the Train event. Competitors run alongside the Talyllyn Railway on its route to Abergynolwyn and back, fighting their way through all kinds of terrain, from quiet lanes to farmland and rough pasture. In a fun twist, the train is often carrying plenty of the runner’s supporters, so he or she can hear the cheers whenever he’s near his ‘opponent’.
Learn more about race the train
World Bog Snorkelling Championships, Powys, Wales
Every August, competitors from around the world flock to Waen Rhydd peat bog on the outskirts of the smallest town in Britain, Llanwrtyd Wells. This is where one of Wales’ most famous races takes place, the 115 metre World Bog Snorkelling Championship. It’s murky, it’s muddy, and you probably won’t see it anywhere else.
Learn more about bog snorkelling
The Porthcawl Elvis Festival, Porthcawl, Wales
When it comes to unusual spectacles, the Porthcawl Elvis Festival probably wins some kind of award. Thousands upon thousands of Elvis fans, many of them dressed as The King himself, descend upon the seaside town of Porthcawl to watch Elvis tribute acts and over 100 Elvis-related shows. Weird, wonderful, and definitely lots of fun.
Learn more about the Elvis festival
World Stone Skimming Championships, Argyll, Scotland
Skimming stones is probably one of the most fun things you can do with stones. In Argyll they couldn’t agree more, and hold the World Stone Skimming Championships each year. They do it properly too – with selected Easdale slate skimming stones, and with a minimum of three bounces required for a throw to count.
Learn more about the World Stone Skimming Championships
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What’s New in Britain for 2013
From special anniversaries to cutting edge exhibitions, enticing attractions to mouth-watering musicals, the hottest hotel openings and brand new events for your travel calendar, VisitBritain presents its guide to What’s New in 2013 across London, England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
So – what’s new in Britain?
2013 is a year of GREAT anniversaries. The 200th birthday of the publication of Pride and Prejudice will celebrate Regency Bath and Austen’s Hampshire as much as the timeless tale of wit and romance between Darcy and Elizabeth; while the 60th anniversary of the Royal Yacht Britannia coincides with the 60th anniversary of The Queen’s Coronation. It’s the perfect time to visit the Britannia – the only place you can sneak a peek into Her Majesty’s bedroom.
2013 is a year of GREAT events. The Year of Natural Scotland will celebrate all that’s exciting about the great outdoors making it the best time to explore the country’s rugged landscapes and beautiful scenery. Meanwhile the first UK City of Culture will be Derry-Londonderry in Northern Ireland, tipped as one of the top 10 places to visit in 2013 by Lonely Planet. Join in a year-long programme of world-class music, art, dance and sports events, and discover a vibrant new visitor destination.
2013 is a year of GREAT culture. On stage Judi Dench and Ben Whishaw (aka M and Q in Skyfall) star in new play Peter and Alice; Helen Mirren reprises her role as The Queen in The Audience; and the award-winning play War Horse tours the UK, starting in Devon, where the original book is set. The Welsh National Opera takes on Madame Butterfly, Berg’s Lulu and Janáček’s Cunning Little Vixen while fans of musicals will be happy with Hairspray at the Wales Millennium Centre and Wicked, which tours the UK in Autumn.
For art lovers there’s Lichtenstein at Tate Modern in February, The Secrets of the Royal Bedchamber at Hampton Court Palace, Vikings! at the National Museum of Scotland, a retrospective on David Bowie at London’s V&A and lots more fantastic exhibitions throughout the year.
2013 is a GREAT year to bring the kids to Britain. With a new Children’s Literature Festival in Cardiff, the launch of the £3.6million Tiger Territory at London Zoo and the tastiest musical of the year, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – directed by the man behind Skyfall, Sam Mendes – there’s plenty to keep children entertained in 2013.
2013 is a year of GREAT attractions. From 1 February The View from Shard will be a new must-do for visitors to the capital, while iconic and ancient attraction Stonehenge will benefit from a dramatically improved visitor experience, opening in Autumn.
Plus, read about exciting hotel and accommodation news: the opening of the much-anticipated Shangri-La at The Shard, restored castles in Wales Ruthin and Glandyfi and a new Malmaison in Dundee opening next year ahead of the arrival of a new V&A in Dundee, due to open in 2015.
In addition to fantastic new openings, don’t forget Britain’s GREAT annual events. Download VisitBritain’s guide to 2013’s annual events calendar here.
Visiting the U.K in 2013 ?- Plan ahead and save money !
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10 most beautiful places in Britain
Britain is renowned for being a naturally beautiful country, with its rolling hills, dramatic coastlines and towering mountain ranges. Whether you want to explore a nature trail, gaze out at breath-taking views, or simply spend the day relaxing in the presence of natural beauty, here are 10 of the most picturesque spots Britain has to offer.
The Lake District
Situated in the North West of England, the picturesque Lake District is the physical manifestation of Britain’s famous nineteenth century Romantic Movement, having inspired some of the most renowned poems of Coleridge, Wordsworth and Blake. The landscapes that make up this area are full of enormous crystal clear lakes, including Windermere, which is the largest natural body of water in England. Bordering these vast bodies of water are dense green forests that take stillness and serenity to levels you never before thought possible.
The mystery of Stonehenge is one that may never be solved, despite the best efforts of historians all over the world. This enigmatic landmark is thousands of years old, and consists of a circle of around 30 standing stones. Although undeniably breath-taking during the day, the best time to visit Stonehenge is at sunrise or sunset. During this time the site takes on a whole new persona, with dramatic shadows forming as the low sunlight meets with the jutting monoliths.
Isle of Skye
The inner and outer Hebrides are a series of islands off Scotland’s east coast, the largest of which is the Isle of Skye. Walkers will be in their element on this picturesque island, with a huge array of routes and paths to pick from. Whether you choose the island’s sweeping coastline, the dramatic Cuillin mountain range further inland, or the rolling highlands dotted with ancient castles, Skye is sure to impress.
White Cliffs of Dover
For thousands of years the imposing sight of the White Cliffs of Dover looming out of the Atlantic has greeted invaders and visitors alike as they arrive at Britain’s south coast. These striking white chalk cliffs are flecked with jet-black veins of flint, creating one of Britain’s most distinctive natural landmarks. Take a walk along the cliffs and you’ll be met with stunning views all the way to France on clear days, as whispering winds caress the coast around you.
The Brecon Beacons
Taking their name from the burning red sandstone peaks that surround the area, The Brecon Beacons are arguably the pinnacle of Wales’ abundance of beautiful scenery. The surrounding national park is full of fascinating natural landscapes, as well as a variety of wildlife including wild mountain ponies and sheep. The Brecon Beacons Railway is the ultimate way to see the park, passing through the mountains and past the reservoir on an authentic steam locomotive.
Starting along the banks of the River Twiss on the boundary between North Yorkshire and Lancashire, the Ingleton Waterfall trail follows a series of cascading waterfalls set against intertwined woodland, before joining the River Doe. Along the way you’ll also see the famous money tree of Swilla Glen. This huge fallen tree is embedded from top to bottom with decades-old coins, which were hammered into the tree over time by people making wishes.
Often referred to as the ‘Glen of weeping’, Glen Coe is not quite as depressing as its grim moniker would suggest. Quite the opposite in fact. This U-shaped valley in the Scottish Highlands offers picture-perfect scenery that almost seems too good to be true. Divided by the winding form of the River Coe, the glen is filled with towering mountain ranges, glorious expanses of greenery, and imposing waterfalls. Rolling fog frequently seeps its way into the valley, making for impressively dramatic vistas as you climb the glen’s lofty peaks.
The Peak District
Picture an image of a stereotypically idyllic British countryside and it’s likely you won’t be far off the Peak District. Equal parts rugged and resplendent, this national park designated area in central England draws visitors from all over the world, and for good reason. Split into the limestone-filled White Peak and the imposing Dark Peak areas, the Peak District offers variety and distinction like no other region of Britain, and makes for the perfect relaxing day out.
The Royal Botanic Gardens in south-east London are a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of life in the capital. Explore these enormous (121 hectares in fact) gardens, and you’ll be awash in a wave of floral beauty, with dazzlingly colourful displays on offer wherever you turn. The gardens have been gradually expanded since they opened in 1759, and now contain a Japanese garden, a huge greenhouse, and even a palace.
A large section of Wales’ south-west coast is made up of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, which is a lengthy expanse of coastal paths, coves, cliffs, and white sandy beaches. Considering its popularity, the area is impressively clean and undisturbed, so there will be nothing to ruin the calming atmosphere as you wander the trails. Dotted along the coast are quaint seaside villages, where you’ll be able to stop for a well-earned lunch break as your explore Pembrokeshire.
Needless to say we offer tours to all the above detinations
Travel Editor: www.BestValueTours.co.uk
What better way to get acquainted with England than by reading someone else’s adventures? Here are some of our favourite books about English travel, along with a few tomes exploring the quirkier side of this sceptred isle.
Notes from a Small Island is a bestselling memoir by the American-born author Bill Bryson, based on trips around Britain in the 1970s and ’80s. Employing Bryson’s trademark fussy style and self-deprecating wit, it’s incisive, observant and very funny.
In Search of England by HV Morton is one of the classic prewar English travelogues, written by a veteran Daily Express columnist in the 1920s. The language is old-fashioned, but it makes a fascinating companion to more modern texts.
Nigel Cawthorne’s The Strange Laws of Old England explores lots of weird and wonderful laws on the English statute book. Required reading if you’re planning on entering Parliament in a suit of armour or transporting corpses in a London cab.
In England: 1000 Things You Need To Know, Nicolas Hobbes examines lots of quintessentially English things, from the people, legends and events that have shaped the nation’s history through to the origins of stilton, roast beef and the Royal Mail.
Another investigation into ‘Englishness’ is In Search of the English Eccentric by Henry Hemming – a poised, perceptive and frequently hilarious exploration of some of the nation’s eccentrics, including crop-circle makers, a man who thinks he’s the reincarnation of King Arthur, and Captain Beany, who likes to spend his days bathing in baked beans.
Pies and Prejudice: In Search of the North is a whimsical journey through England’s northerly counties by British radio DJ Stuart Maconie, a ‘Northerner in exile’, who returns to his roots to discover the truth about life Up North.
Paul Gogarty’s The Water Road travels along England’s canals between London and the Humber, Severn and Mersey, colloquially known as the ‘Cut’ or the ‘Grand Cross’. It’s a mix of historical account and modernday travelogue; Gogarty relates a similar trip around English shores in The Coast Road.
More travel literature reading lists for other destinations can be found here
Travel Editor – www.BestvalueTours.co.uk
The days are getting shorter, the mornings are getting colder and the trees are getting barer. Fall has arrived, bringing the onset of Halloween with it, and there are plenty of attractions around the UK where you can indulge your fondness of a fright, your taste for terror and your soft spot for some spookiness.
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
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.’’
Best Value Tours – www.SightseeingTours.co.uk
If time isn’t the most important factor then travelling by bus or coach is the best and most affordable way to travel around Britain
Coach travel and Tours
Britain’s coach services are privatised and run by several different companies. Many of these companies offer special tours to popular historical destinations around the UK. For the widest selection of discount sightseeing tours – click here
Britain’s coaches are privatised and lots of operators run thousands of routes across the country. Coach travel is usually a lot cheaper than train travel, but takes longer.
The main coach companies are:
- National Express – Nationwide coach travel
- Megabus – Budget coach company famously offering £1 fares around Britain
- easyBus – Low-cost airport transfers
- Scottish citylink – Scotland’s main coach travel company
Many coach companies offer special tours to and from popular tourist destinations all over Britain. Coach tours are a great way to see the sights of Britain. They normally last for a few days and the price includes a hotel stay and sometimes discounted rates to popular attractions. Some companies offer discounts for group bookings.
Here’s a list of some UK coach tour operators:
- Andrews of Tideswell – Nationwide tours
- City Sightseeing – Open-top bus tours around Britain
- Cooks Coaches – Nationwide tours
- Original London Sightseeing – London sightseeing tours
- D-Way Travel – Nationwide tours
- Dans Luxury Travel – London sightseeing tours
- David Palmer Travel – Nationwide tours
- Karen Platt Garden Tours – Nationwide tours
- Paul James Coaches – Nationwide tours
- Scottish Tours – Scotland tours
- Scot It Scotland – Scotland tours
- Telford’s Coaches – Nationwide tours
- Trafalgar Tours – Nationwide tours
You can buy coach tickets from our online shop (National Express only), on operator websites or at coach stations. You usually can’t buy tickets on board a coach, so it’s best to buy them in advance. Tickets are often cheaper the further in advance you book them.
Public buses outside London are run by a number of private companies. They’re a great way to get around cities and towns, and run regularly.
Every city and town in Britain has a local bus service. These services are privatised and run by separate companies. For local timetables and route information, check Traveline.
The cost of a bus ticket normally depends on how far you’re travelling. Single and return fares are available on some buses, but you normally need to buy a ticket for each individual journey (single tickets only).
You can buy your ticket when you get on board a bus, by telling the driver where you’re going. 1-day and weekly travel cards are available in some towns, and these can be bought from the driver or from an information centre at the bus station. Tickets are valid for each separate journey rather than for a period of time, so if you get off the bus you’ll need to buy a new ticket when getting on another bus.
Best Value Tours – www.SightseeingTours.co.uk
Here are five top escapes to add a different flavour to your London visit.
“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”
It might seem a crazy idea but now that you can reach the French capital by Eurostar train in just over two hours, travelling at 300 kilometres per hour, a day-trip is eminently possible. You can have a full English breakfast on the train and pause for mid-morning croissants when you arrive before dropping into the Louvre or Musée d’Orsay to see some priceless art.
Then enjoy a lingering French lunch, complete with a glass or two of wine, before spending the afternoon at the exciting Pompidou Centre or meandering around Montmartre. You’ll still be back in London in time for a warm pint! Fast 1 Eurostar trains leave from the new St Pancras terminal in the heart of London.
Heading west from London, you can reach this genteel, historic city in just 90 minutes by train from Paddington. As a World Heritage site, with over 5000 of its buildings protected, Bath has more than enough attractions for a full day-trip. Its main drawcard is the astonishingly well-preserved Roman baths, fed by Britain’s only natural hot springs and giving an intriguing insight into life 2000 years ago.
The city is also noted for its splendid Georgian architecture, with the Royal Crescent, a curving street of Regency mansions, the finest example and famous for its connection with writer Jane Austen, who lived in Bath during its early nineteenth-century heyday. With many specialist and antique shops squirreled away among its narrow lanes, Bath is also great for shopping. Finally, if you’re worn out by sightseeing, book into the brand new Thermae Bath spa, taking advantage of the same springs that drew the Romans.
Windsor’s proximity to London and magnificent eleventh-century castle, which crowns the hill above the elegant riverside town, make it an excellent day-trip. In fact, there is so much to see within the grounds of the fortress, from the grand state rooms where the Queen hosts state banquets through to its priceless art collection and the changing of the guard in summer, that you could spend a day visiting just that.
But Windsor has at least 10 other historic sights, including the Christopher-Wren-designed Guildhall and Eton College, founded in 1440, where Princes William and Harry were educated.
Windsor’s other great attraction is its location on the River Thames. From Windsor Bridge you can take a short boat trip or stroll along the towpath and soon reach open countryside. Back in town, Windsor’s riverside restaurants and pubs are very inviting, especially on summer evenings. Trains run regularly to Windsor Central from London Paddington, journey time 35 minutes.
Okay, Brighton’s pebbly beaches and grey seas can’t compare with our own beautiful coastline. But if you are feeling boxed in by landlocked London, Brighton is the best option for a seaside antidote. These days it is an increasingly refined city in its own right, with a flourishing arts scene, including an Artists Quarter where you can buy locally-produced paintings and crafts and European-style pavement cafes galore. Clear the cobwebs by heading first to the revamped seafront for a stroll along the promenade (check out the elaborate Victorian lampposts) and visiting the famous pleasure pier.
Brighton was recently named best city to eat in outside London in the Remy Martin restaurant awards, so make sure you have time for lunch or an early dinner somewhere like the Gourmet Fish and Chip Company at the marina.
The one attraction you simply cannot miss is the Royal Pavilion, an outlandish fusion of Indian, Chinese, Russian and Gothic architecture and interior design and possibly Britain’s most beautiful building. Built for the young George IV in the late eighteenth century, this is an intensely opulent, atmospheric place where the royal would host 36-course dinners for visiting dignitaries. With trains travelling back to Victoria (journey time one hour) until late, you’ll still have time before heading back to London to visit the collection of little shops in the Lanes, behind the seafront, and to enjoy a taste of Brighton’s thriving nightlife.
Aptly nicknamed “city of dreaming spires” because of the ancient university that dominates it, Oxford simply drips with tradition and history, with many of its colleges dating back 700 years. The city is also compact and ideal for walking around.
Many colleges are free to enter, so it is easy to get a feel of how idyllic it must be to study here. The grounds of the central New College, off Hollywell Street, are among the most captivating, especially in summer, with their neatly trimmed lawns, flowers and internal cloisters. But other colleges like Trinity and Magdalene, which has its own deer park, are also lovely and surprisingly expansive.
Oxford also has some outstanding museums, including the Ashmolean, which has a large collection of art and archaeological artefacts.
No visit to Oxford would be complete without a go at punting — pushing a long narrow boat down one of the city’s rivers, the Cherwell or the Isis, using a long pole. Finally, quench your thirst in an atmospheric pub like The Bear, dating to 1242 and one of the oldest inns in England. Oxford is 50 minutes by train from London Paddington.
Best value Tours – www.SightseeingTours.co.uk