Spotlight on… the Midlands

All eyes are on the Midlands region of England right now, as the city of Coventry starts its preparations to be the UK’s City of Culture in 2021. As well as improved transport links across the city, there are plans to ensure venues and attractions have the best possible setting for the year cultural celebrations and the Coventry Transport Museum has already reopened after a £9.5m redevelopment programme.

Yet Coventry is not alone when it comes to developing landscapes – the Midlands is on a roll. And, with these cities only within one to two hours train journey of each other, it’s easy to visit multiple destinations in this region on one awesome trip.

 

What’s happening in… Birmingham?

Britain’s second largest city, Birmingham, is to host the Commonwealth Games in 2022, which will shine a spotlight on the city as a premier sport and leisure destination. Between now and then several of Birmingham’s neighbourhoods are undergoing a revitalisation. In Digbeth, for example, the architecturally striking 1930s Typhoo building (where tea used to arrive in Birmingham from London) will be converted into artistic spaces, bars and restaurants, while a 13-acre site by Eastside Locks next to Digbeth Canal will be developed into a leisure area along with a hotel and apartments. Digbeth is fast becoming a cool and creative neighbourhood, with businesses utilising the area’s industrial heritage to open independent and unique bars and restaurants. New bar in the area The Ruin, has also unveiled a mural-style map featuring 12 independent and unique neighbours, together called ‘The Digbeth Dozen’. Created by Birmingham graffiti artist Title (Andy Mills) it features venues such as the street-food focused Digbeth Dining Club, brewery and taproom Dig Brew Co, quirky golf and cocktails venue Ghetto Golf, and The Mockingbird Cinema and Kitchen, situated in the iconic Custard Factory.

One of Birmingham’s most iconic Grade II-listed buildings, The Grand, set on the 19th-century streetscape of Colmore Row, is currently undergoing redevelopment and is scheduled to open in early 2019 with a 180-bedroom hotel, complete with restaurant and bar, a spa and the city’s first rooftop infinity pool. Several cool bars and cafés have already set up home in the development - The Alchemist, Gusto and 200 Degrees cafe. Other recent developments in the city include the Paradise district in central Birmingham, launching across phases and which will eventually consist of a vibrant mix of shops and restaurants, plus new metro tram extensions are already underway to maximise connectivity around the region.

There’s plenty to enjoy in the city this year too; for a start, it’s foodie festival heaven. This summer (28-29 July), visitors can explore a drinking hall, two live-music stages, a comedy tent, cinema, tasting sessions and talks at the Craft Drink Festival. September welcomes the Birmingham Chilli Festival, bringing live cooking demonstrations together with music and street performances, while October hosts the food and drink joy that is the Wine, Cheese & Chocolate Festival, celebrating the very best in British artisan suppliers.

Birmingham is also a hot location right now for the film and TV industry; Steven Spielberg filmed a large part of his recent movie Ready Player One in the city and the hit TV show Peaky Blinders is set here during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Discover Birmingham’s darker past on Peaky Blinders-inspired walking tour.

Getting there: By train, Birmingham is 20 minutes from Coventry, just over an hour from Nottingham, 45 minutes from Stoke-on-Trent and 1.5 hours from London.

 

What’s happening in… Nottingham

Nottingham is renowned for its legends and historic attractions and is currently in the throes of making those attractions even better. Standing proudly overlooking the city Nottingham Castle is undergoing an ambitious transformation due for completion in 2020. In less than two years, the site will welcome a new, interactive Robin Hood Gallery, visitor centre and a Rebellion Gallery – showcasing the city’s rebellious history – will open in the Ducal Palace, plus a year-round events programme will be introduced. Perhaps just as famous as the castle is Robin Hood’s hideout, Sherwood Forest, which this summer welcomes a new visitor centre, aimed at providing a contemporary perspective into this legendary landscape.

Talking of Robin Hood, between 7 July – 30 September, an exciting sculpture trail is coming to the city; called Hoodwinked: a twist on the tale, it will be a contemporary take on the traditional stories of the legendary outlaw. Artists such as graffiti artist Kid 30, Sarah Manton and Jessica Kemp of Curious? Nottingham are contributing to the trail so expect a real mix of styles.

Also gathering pace is a raft of stylish new bars and restaurants. In the heart of the city’s entertainment centre, The Cornerhouse, GinSecco (a gin and Prosecco bar) is due to open later this year, offering unique cocktails that are inspired by the city’s heroes, such as fashion designer Paul Smith. One of the latest restaurants to hit Nottingham’s foodie scene is Alchemilla, which has a strong focus on plant-based cuisine, and The Alchemist, located in a splendidly gothic-style building. And for a spot of retail therapy, opening in the near future is the Engine Yard at Belvoir, a castle estate half an hour’s drive from Nottingham, bringing a new shopping experience to the area.

Getting there: Nottingham is just over an hour by train from Birmingham, 1 ¾ hour from Coventry, 1.5 hours from Stoke-on-Trent and two hours from London.

 

What’s happening in…Stoke-on-Trent

Best-known until now for the gorgeous ceramics once manufactured here, the 19th-century buildings on the Old Spode Works in Stoke-on-Trent – a city also known as The Potteries, thanks to its abundance of ceramics companies – have been reinvigorated. Following five years of development it’s gradually opening up as an area to eat, drink and visit; the new Potbank Café has already opened and visitors can head to the Spode Museum Trust to find out more about the area’s heritage.

Museum development in town is also continuing apace as work has begun to move Stoke-on-Trent’s famous Spitfire to its stunning new multi-million-pound home, at The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery. When it returns to the museum in 2019 it will be housed in a new glassed-fronted gallery.

The area is home to leading ceramics brands, with many of the factories open to visitors, such as World of Wedgwood – its museum is now free to enter – Portmeirion and Emma Bridgewater. The latter’s factory has also turned a piece of derelict land into an urban garden, which is now stocked with flowers, herbs, vegetables and poultry. Called the Secret Walled Garden, it also hosts garden events. Elsewhere, last year saw an extension to Trentham Shopping Village – ten minutes’ drive from Stoke-on-Trent – with 18 new units opening alongside the existing 63 shops, cafés and restaurants within the Shopping Village.

Getting there? By train, Stoke-on-Trent is less than hour from Birmingham, 1 ¼ hours from Coventry, 1.5 hours from Nottingham, and 90 minutes from London.

Spotlight on: Earl’s Court and Shepherd’s Bush

Seriously good bars and cool street markets, cutting-edge theatre and smart hotels; Earl’s Court and Shepherd’s Bush may be well-known enclaves of west London – international backpackers and short- and long-term visitors have been coming to these neighbourhoods for decades – yet these areas of west London have undergone something of a renaissance in recent years. Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre is gone, streets have smartened up and there are hidden gems to discover.

 

Where to…Eat

Shepherd’s Bush

Mustard is a treasure on Shepherd’s Bush Road; a cool neighbourhood diner with sassy décor, offering up a brasserie-style menu. Its ‘Green Menu’ is packed with delicious vegetarian options and its daytime and evening menus have a considerable collection of innovative dishes all utilising British produce.

Attracting a young, hip crowd but still maintaining a traditional British pub feel is no mean feat – yet The Defector’s Weld does it with aplomb. It’s a great pub to visit anytime, but especially at the weekend; Sundays are all about its ‘Roasts and Records’, winding down after its busy Friday and Saturday nights hosting eclectic DJ performances.

Bring your appetite and head to Bush Hall Dining Rooms for a cool diner-style restaurant serving hearty comfort food and all-day weekend breakfasts. There’s also a generous cocktail list and, if you’re going to a gig at the neighbouring Bush Hall, you receive a 10% discount on your meal.

Looking for fine dining? Find it at Shikumen, located at the Dorsett Hotel, for first-class Chinese cuisine that uses British produce prepared with traditional Asian flavours and cooking styles.

Coming soon: A new restaurant Maple is set to open at Westfield London in summer 2018.

 

Earl’s Court

The Prince is something special – one street transformed until the end of the summer into an avenue of four restaurants, three bars and an English country garden (retractable roof comes as standard), all of which is less than ten minutes’ walk from Earl’s Court Underground. Food ranges from top-quality burgers and Thai canteen-style cuisine to top-notch fried chicken and bao and yakitori grill, while a deck connects it all together with the revitalised Prince of Wales pub at its heart – and possibly makes it London’s largest beer garden!

Serving up satisfyingly British, giant-scale Sunday lunches as well as everyone’s favourite, the bottomless Saturday brunch, mean The Lillie Langtry and its divine Victorian cocktail lounge means it’s always an attractive venue to visit to quench thirst and satiate hunger. The owners have also launched an innovative project called Brush and Bubbles where people can come together, whatever their artistic ability, to chat and paint while enjoying a glass of bubbly.

The Pembroke is as quintessential a British gastropub as it gets. Feast on delicious meals in the intimate dining room of this historic building, enjoy drinks in its lively downstairs bar or relax on comfy sofas and snug armchairs in its upstairs lounge bar. Head to its roof garden when the sun’s shining and come back on a Sunday when it hosts its ‘Hangover Club’ for Bloody Marys, feel-good brunches and Sunday roasts.

The Evan & Peel Detective Agency is one of the places to spend an evening in Earl’s Court; this speakeasy style bar promises a distinctly memorable evening. Book an ‘appointment’ online to get in. You’ll then be taken into a small basement office to discuss your eating and drinking needs. Huge amounts of fun and an evening to message home about.

 

Where to…Stay

Shepherd’s Bush

K West Hotel & Spa may be a four-star haven but it also prides itself on its cutting-edge style and ambience. And that’s down to its location within former recording studios where legends such as The Kinks and Bob Marley laid down tracks. Its Studio Bar is all chic furnishings and chandeliers, playing host to a cool urban crowd at the weekends. And its spa features London’s first ‘snow paradise’; chilled to -15C, a cabin has captured the feel of a snow drift designed to complement the spa’s hot-cold therapy, alternating between steam and ice environments.

Another four-star option in Shepherd’s Bush is the Dorsett Hotel, which is conveniently located for a trip to the nearby shopping paradise that is Westfield London shopping mall. Behind the historic building façade lies a distinctly modern design, destination bar and restaurants, and a chance to rejuvenate at its Spa Mika, which overlooks Shepherd’s Bush Green for some added tranquillity. And, if you’re looking for a boutique-style property that’s literally right next door to Westfield, check in to W12 Rooms, where bedroom décor is vintage-inspired.

 

Earl's Court

Look beyond backpacker hostels and you’ll find an assortment of hotels to suit all budgets. Mere minutes’ walk from Earl’s Court Underground is the colourful, contemporary style of the Hotel Indigo Kensington secreted within a luxury Victorian townhouse. It’s a bright and comfortable accommodation option with its own Italian restaurant on site – Theo’s Simple Italian – if you like what you eat you can book on to one of its regular Italian cuisine masterclasses. Steps away from here is the Henley House Hotel, another townhouse property that overlooks a picturesque residential square and combines its classical features with modern décor. Art is a key element the property and you’ll find specially commissioned photographic prints in the guestrooms as well as artwork in its garden conservatory. Boutique hotel Twenty Nevern Square is a real find three minutes’ walk from Earl’s Court station; this four-star accommodation has individually designed rooms influenced by a range of international styles; think Egyptian sleigh beds and hand-carved four-poster beds.

 

Where to…Play

Shepherd’s Bush

Quite simply, you’ve arrived in shopping heaven; Shepherd’s Bush is home to Westfield London shopping centre, a heady combination of high-street and luxury stores, beauty bars and entertainment. It’s a great place to spend even an entire day, particularly if you’re travelling with kids; you can book them into KidZania – an indoor city for kids between 4-14, with 60 real-life activities for them to participate in while you treat yourself to some retail therapy. Alternatively, head down to the newest All Star Lanes venue at Westfield London – aside from the ten bowling lanes, keep yourself amused for hours in its karaoke booths and three Art Deco-style bars.

For altogether different type of shopping experience, but one that’s equally memorable, head to Shepherd’s Bush Market. It specialises in fresh food and fabrics and is a proper west London treat; established more than 100 years ago, it’s a much-loved fixture in the neighbourhood. An extension to the market opened earlier this year, the Old Laundry Yard, an unmissable mix of food stalls, ranging from Venezuelan street food to Nigerian barbecue, and a creative community space.

There’s more to Shepherd’s Bush than shopping; catch up with culture here too. Book tickets to a gig at the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, which has hosted some of the world’s most inspirational artists, from David Bowie to Adele, Amy Winehouse to Muse, as well as being a hotspot for talented newcomers. And, just ten minutes’ walk from Shepherd’s Bush Underground station, is the Bush Theatre; thought-provoking performances take place across its two theatre spaces and it’s become renowned as a home to showcase original work – be the first to see plays penned by the world of theatre’s newest and most exciting writers. 

 

Earl’s Court

When you’re in Earl’s Court you’re only a 20-minute walk from some of the capital’s greatest museums, such as the Natural History Museum, the V&A and the Science Museum. Yet take an even shorter stroll to another two museums to have on your must-visit list. First is the Design Museum, which moved to the area less than 18 months ago from its east London location, and is 2018 European Museum of the Year. Come for inspirational exhibitions or to join a specialist workshop in design practice. Right next door is the picturesque Holland Park and its 55 acres of gardens and woodland and Japanese-style Kyoto Gardens to explore. Second on the list should be an institution that describes itself as ‘a private palace of art’…and that’s a pretty accurate description of the Leighton House Museum, the former home of Victorian artist Frederic, Lord Leighton. He curated a glorious collection of art that encompasses a mesmerising Arab Hall with a golden dome, beautifully detailed mosaics and paintings by Lord Leighton himself, all in various stages of completion.

Within half an hour’s stroll from Earl’s Court you can explore some of the capital’s greatest and most fascinating sights. Kensington Palace, home to both the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex, is where royal history comes to life – visit its unmissable exhibitions, which currently comprise Diana: Her Fashion Story and Victoria Revealed. And for a fascinating afternoon out, take a stroll around Brompton Cemetery. One of London’s seven historic cemeteries, it’s here you’ll discover the stories of the thousands of people buried here among historical monuments, woodland, stoned arcades and catacombs.

6 stately homes in Yorkshire to visit before the end of summer

Every region of Britain is peppered with stately homes, living testament to the destination’s rich heritage. Their doors and gardens are open to visitors for a large portion of the year and, with the summer season in full swing, there’s even more to see and do during these months. The north England county of Yorkshire has a fabulous assortment of these grand estates; here are just six you should explore this year.

 

Harewood House

Harewood House stands majestically in the heart of the county, just 20 minutes’ drive from the city of Leeds. This year it’s celebrating the 300th anniversary of Thomas Chippendale, arguably the most famous English furniture maker of the 18th century, who was commissioned back in 1767 to furnish Harewood House. It’s here that you will see one of the greatest collections of Chippendale in the country and 2018 is packed with exhibitions and displays of Chippendale’s work, as well as a programme of contemporary artistic responses to his work. And that’s in addition to Harewood’s vast art collection by masters of the Italian Renaissance, JMW Turner watercolours, family portraits by Reynolds and modern art collected by the Earl and Countess of Harewood. Find a different kind of beauty in its Bird Garden; colourful parrots, Humboldt penguins and the endangered Bali starling are among the 40 species of birds from around the world you can see here.

 

Castle Howard

You’ll recognise this grand family home, half an hour’s drive from York, from its starring role on the big screen; it appeared in both versions of Brideshead Revisited (1981 and 2008) as well as in numerous other TV and movie productions. More than 300 years old, it boasts 1,000 acres of grounds – with woodland walks, fountains, lakes and temples – meaning Castle Howard has plenty of space to offer a diverse programme of events through the summer months. August will host the Castle Howard Proms, a magical classical concert with guest soloists include soprano superstar Lesley Garrett, and a programme of favourites from the world-famous Proms, further enhanced with a fantastic firework finale.

This year also sees Castle Howard host an exhibition by one of the UK's leading contemporary artists, Mat Collishaw, as well as its award-winning exhibitions such as Duty Calls, exploring the stories from the castle in times of war, and Brideshead Restored, about how it was transformed into film sets for both the 1981 and 2008 versions of Brideshead Revisited.

 

Ripley Castle

Come to Ripley Castle to for enthralling tales of plague and persecution, renaissance and enlightenment and the castle’s role in the industrial revolution. It’s been in the Ingilby family for more than 700 years and its huge parkland means it’s also perfect for outdoor activities. The Castle has teamed up with Live For Today Adventures, who have brought bushcraft skills, archery, body zorbing, kayaking and orienteering to the castle’s grounds.
Ripley Castle and Gardens is situated just three miles from Harrogate in North Yorkshire, on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, but it also has its very own deer park to explore; wander among 1,000-year old oak trees and be captivated by wildlife from deer to geese, herons to kingfishers.

 

Brodsworth Hall & Gardens

For an in-depth insight into how country houses operated during the Victorian era, Brodsworth Hall & Gardens is the place to visit. Its ‘conserved as found’ when it was built in the 1860s and has witnessed few changes, aside from the garden restoration and general conservation. Now looked after by English Heritage, this stately home – located 45 minutes’ drive from Leeds – still has many of its original furnishings, a huge Victorian kitchen and scullery. Don’t expect the rooms to be all on a grand scale; the library's original wallpaper and carpets are faded, and the woodworking room is full of clutter, but that just adds to its charm. This August you can relive what life was like at Brodsworth during wartime; climb inside a biplane replica, try your hand at soldier school and hear about the work of medics during World War One.

 

Newby Hall and Gardens
Home to a contemporary sculpture park, 25 acres of land and glorious interiors, Newby Hall in Ripon (a 50-minute drive from both Leeds and York) is bringing a special exhibition to its home this summer. As part of its own dolls house exhibition, which is now the permanent home to one of the finest collections of dollhouses and miniatures in the world thanks to collectors Caroline Hamilton and Jane Fiddick, this July will welcome an evening with Charlie & Lola creator Lauren Child, as she introduces her dolls houses to the collection, on loan for the summer.

Visitors will also love exploring garden views from its Miniature Railway, which runs along the River Ure, as well as its charming Teddy Bear Collection, housed in a newly built home within the gardens of Newby Hall, collected by British TV personality Gyles Brandreth; look out for some very famous bears among the collection. And, this summer, the stately home also welcomes its annual Historic Vehicle Rally to its grounds as well as alfresco Shakespeare performances.

 

Sewerby Hall and Gardens
For a stately home with stunning coastal views, head to Sewerby Hall and Gardens; this impressive country house and estate is perched on a cliff-top with views over Bridlington Bay on East Yorkshire’s coast, just over an hour’s drive from Leeds. Set in early 19th-century parkland, a restoration programme a few years ago recreated how the house would have been in the early 1900s, with furniture loaned from London’s Victoria & Albert Museum, as well as a collection of memorabilia that was once owned by the famous local aviator, Amy Johnson. Visitors can get fully immersed in the experience, with the chance to dress up as Edwardian servants or as members of the residing Graeme family, play with Edwardian toys in the nursery and view an interactive display portraying life as a servant during that era.

Summer is also a perfect time to enjoy its landscaped gardens and woodland walks as well as its on-site zoo, which is home to penguins, lemurs, pygmy goats, llamas and macaws. You can also stay on the estate in one of the holiday cottages.

 

Getting to Yorkshire: York is just under two hours by train from London, 1.5 hours from Manchester and 2.5 hours from Edinburgh. Reach Leeds from London by train in under 2.5 hours, in one hour from Manchester and in 3 hours from Edinburgh.

Bristol: England’s urban art capital

This summer, Upfest – Europe’s largest street art and graffiti festival – returns to its home in Bristol, south-west England, between 28-30 July, for its special tenth anniversary. Watch artists from 70 countries as they paint live on the city’s surfaces and join in art workshops, buy from affordable art sales and dance to the live acts on the music stages across the weekend. Inspired by Upfest? Stay on in Bristol and discover why the city is a world-leader in urban and graffiti art.

 

What to…See

The mysterious street-art phenomenon we all know and love as Banksy hails from Bristol and his dynamic and acclaimed work is dotted all over the city. Download the Banksy trail app and discover his thought-provoking murals at your own pace. The app highlights his works that are easy to spot, such as those situated around the Floating Harbour, Park Street and Montpelier. The largest collection of his works, including Mild, Mild West, can be found at Stoke Croft, Bristol’s cultural quarter; browse the numerous art exhibitions and unique independent shops also found here, plus immerse yourself in the neighbourhood’s buzzing music scene. The app also highlights where you can see other Banksy pieces that are now either faded or part obscured, as well as the location of his (now-closed) Dismaland. Visit Bristol also has its own street art map to guide you through some of the city’s iconic urban art locations.

 

What to…Do

Alternatively, there are several street-art walking tours to join. Interested in learning a little more about the rich and diverse history of Bristol along with its art heritage? The Ultimate Bristol Walking Tour explores everything the city is about, from the pirate Blackbeard to Banksy. Where the Wall runs two tours, the Banksy and Historic Harbour walking tour – which, as well as taking in Banksy, also includes the history of this port city – and the Bristol Street Art Tour. Fancy having a go at graffiti art yourself? After the latter tour, every Saturday and Sunday, participate in a graffiti workshop at its #SPRAYSTREETART Introducing Stencil Art spray sessions – plus you get to take home your own artwork. Graft is another company offering bespoke mural and graffiti workshops for both adults and children, as well as art tours around the city, giving a unique insight into Bristol’s graffiti and street art heritage.

Make sure you include a visit to M Shed; this Bristol history museum, set on the city’s wharf, highlights more than 2,000 years of the city’s stories from its trading past and industrial heritage through to its music, art, industry and technology. You’ll also be able to see an impressive mural by renowned street artist Andy Council in his signature dinosaur style. Also check out Bristol Museum & Art Gallery – home to Banksy’s 2009 exhibition, some works can still be discovered around the museum.

And what can you expect from this year’s Upfest? An exciting development to celebrate its tenth anniversary, Upfest will feature works inspired by the world-famous animated family The Simpsons. Three Upfest artists, including Bristol wildstyle writer Soker, have been selected by The Simpsons creator Matt Groening to bring Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie to life using their own styles.

As well as the chance to explore the works from more than 400 artists taking part in this multi-venue festival, you can brush up on your own artistic skills. Workshops from life-drawing to graffiti art are on offer and the festival is a real family affair – kids can get creative at the Creation Station where they can have fun with different materials, while the Nacoa kids’ area, which takes over an area of South Street Park for the festival, offers everything  from badge making and face painting to making giant paintings.

For a slightly different urban art trail this summer (2 July-2 September), Bristol will be home to Gromit Unleashed 2, where more than 60 giant individually designed sculptures of Nick Park’s Wallace, Gromit and Feathers McGraw will be dotted around the city. Gromit Unleashed began as a public arts trail in Bristol in 2013, as a collaboration between Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Appeal, the Bristol Children’s Hospital Charity and Aardman Animation.

 

Where to…Stay

The four-star Mercure Bristol Grand worked with Upfest on the 2017 upgrade of the hotel and now features more than 500 pieces by local artists, including bespoke commissioned installations by Gemma Compton and Cai Burton. Sister property the Mercure Holland House hotel also has a street-art themed bedroom.

48 Hours in… Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate

Looking for a super-cool retro vibe from beach destinations that are just 1.5 hours by train from London? Dotted along the coast of south-east England are three captivating beachside towns that have reinvented themselves into stylish destinations over the last few years – Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate. In this coastal corner of Kent, known as the Isle of Thanet, you’ll find a buzzing contemporary arts and culture scene married with quirky attractions, elegant Regency squares combined with maritime history, all packaged together with that quintessential British seaside charm.

 

Time to check in:

This is an area of Kent that boasts a raft of gorgeous guesthouses and B&Bs, each with their own unique character, many influenced in style by the area’s rich history, and all within various price ranges. For a touch of luxury, check out Bleak House Broadstairs; not only can you visit eminent author Charles Dickens' study and the smuggling museum, you can stay in rooms such as ‘Fagin’s Superior Double’ (no pickpockets here though!) or the David Copperfield suite. Elsewhere, Broadstairs’ Yarrow Hotel is housed in a 16th-century building now designed with all the comforts of a luxury boutique hotel, while in Margate, the Reading Rooms boutique B&B is housed in a building dating back to the 1760s; its décor is contemporary yet boasts original floor-to-ceiling windows and polished antique floorboards. Margate’s pretty Sands Hotel captures those stunning sea views perfectly, easily enjoyed as you sip cocktails on its own roof terrace. Sea views are also guaranteed at charming boutique hotel Albion House Ramsgate – and it also overlooks the only Royal Harbour in England.

 

Day One

09:00 EMBRACE CONTEMPORARY ART

Not only are the exhibits at Turner Contemporary exceptional, this gallery is well worth visiting for the building alone. It’s an architectural highlight of the Kent coast, flooded with natural light and is a fitting tribute to Victorian artist JMW Turner, who loved Margate. Until the end of September 2018 you’ll have the chance to catch a major exhibition, Animals & Us, examining how artists’ view the relationship between humans and other animals.

 

11:00 EXPLORE A MYSTERIOUS UNDERGROUND ATTRACTION

Just a ten-minute stroll from the gallery is another of Margate’s works of art, but one that couldn’t be more different. The Shell Grotto is a subterranean passageway 21 metres long adorned with 4.6 million shells laid out in a myriad decorative patterns. One of the most intriguing things about it, since its discovery in 1835, is nobody knows who put it there and why. Let your imagination wonder about its mysterious history!

 

13:00 FEAST ON THE FINEST SEAFOOD

Seafood is as fresh as it gets in Margate – and café Hantverk & Found is all about serving the local produce. Find local delicacies such as rock oysters and Rye Bay scallops on its menu, as well as tagliatelle with sea urchin, all washed down with a glass of wine from its range of natural and organic wines.

 

15:00 FIND ALL THE FUN OF THE RETRO-STYLE FAIR

One of the most significant reinventions in Margate over the last few years is Dreamland amusement park, based on the idea of a traditional British seaside fair. When you’ve whooped and laughed your way through rides such as rollercoasters and swing boats, and immersed yourself in the interactive art installations, strap on some roller boots and hit the retro roller disco. Dreamland is a fun way to spend the afternoon whatever your age, while the evenings here are packed with live music and DJ sets for over 18s.

 

19:00 SIP STYLISH COCKTAILS

After an afternoon of fairground fun, take the short six-minute walk from Dreamland to the Clockwork Cocktail Company, for a well-deserved Perk-Up Martini or Satan’s Whiskers in this cool cocktail bar that describes itself as ‘Steampunk/neo-Victorian style’.

 

20:00 BUY THE INGREDIENTS FROM YOUR DINNER

Stylishly contemporary interiors greet diners at The Old Post Office restaurant, a couple of minutes’ walk from your cocktail spot, which is passionate about featuring locally grown and sourced produce on its menus. And, if you like what you ate, you can buy the produce at its delicatessen, stocked to the brim with treats from around Kent.

 

Day Two

09:00 HEAD OUT TO SEA

A great way to brush off the cobwebs from a late night in Margate is to embark on a brisk hour’s walk to the nearby town of Broadstairs and straight to the Joss Bay Surf School. The beautiful bay – fringed by the Georgian facades of the town – is a popular Kent surf spot and the surf school also offers Stand-Up Paddleboarding.

 

11:00 DISCOVER DICKENSIAN CULTURE

Easily venture from sport activity to cultural activity in this town, as you head to the Dickens House Museum. Charles Dickens was a regular visitor to Broadstairs over 22 years of his life and the museum is housed in the cottage said to be the inspiration for the home of Betsey Trotwood in David Copperfield. View fascinating Dickensian artefacts such as his writing box, letters he penned and early editions of his novels.

 

13:00 INDULGE IN ICE CREAM FOR LUNCH!

Since 1932 Morellis Gelato on Broadstairs seafront has been serving customers a huge range of delicious flavours of its famous ice-cream, where fresh gelato is made in store daily. Enjoy these creamy treats among the parlour’s funky 1950s décor, which includes its original soda fountain, pink leatherette seating and juke box.

 

15:00 WALK ANCIENT TRAILS AND TUNNELS

Join Kent’s Viking Coastal Trail between Broadstairs and neighbouring town Ramsgate and walk along the beautiful coastline between the two towns – it’s a pleasant 40-minute walk on this part of the trail. When you arrive in Ramsgate – which made its name as a favoured seaside retreat in the 18th and 19th centuries and where much of the elegant Georgian architecture still stands – head to the Ramsgate Tunnels. Take a tour of this fascinating civilian wartime tunnel network, the largest in Britain, for a feel of what life was like for the citizens of Ramsgate during World War Two.

 

17:00 DRINKS IN THE MARINA

Soak up the atmosphere in Ramsgate’s picturesque marina, that borders a busy Royal Harbour, with pre-dinner drinks at one of the marina’s bars – a great spot for yacht-watching – such as Enoteca or 26 Harbour Street. Keep an eye on the time…Ramsgate boasts its own Meridian Line and is five minutes and 41 seconds ahead of GMT!

 

19:00 DINE WHILE OVERLOOKING HARBOUR VIEWS

Even if you’re not staying at Albion House, you can dine at its restaurant Townley’s; admire the fine views from its windows over the harbour and enjoy formal dining in its elegant Georgian dining room as you order from menus that reflect the seasons and use local produce.

7 British festivals foodies should visit in 2018

Let the British food festival season begin! Come for the amazing food and world-renowned chefs and stay for those extra twists that deliver true British style. We pick seven to have on your radar this summer.

 

Pub in the Park, various locations

When and Where: Bath, south-west England (8-10 June), Tunbridge Wells, south-east England (6-8 July), Knutsford, Cheshire, north-west England (7-9 September)

Why: There’s nothing quite as quintessentially British as the pub and world-renowned chef Tom Kerridge – owner of the first pub, the Hand and Flowers, to be awarded two Michelin stars – is bringing the pub, first-class food and music to the great outdoors this summer. Sample dishes from top British pubs, including the Hand and Flowers and Tom’s other Michelin-starred pub The Coach, while dancing the night away to Razorlight, Jamie Cullum and KT Tunstall.

Getting there: Bath can be reached in 1.5 hours by train from London, Tunbridge Wells in one hour and Knutsford in three hours.

 

Port Eliot Festival, Cornwall

When: 26-29 July

Where: Port Eliot estate, St Germans, Cornwall, south-west England

Why: There’s plenty of chefs, stalls, locally-sourced and sustainable produce, international food and cookery demonstrations here that celebrate the rich and diverse food culture of Cornwall and south-west England. Yet as the festival is located in stunning 6,000 acres of countryside it’s a perfect opportunity to indulge in unforgettable outdoor activities, from wild swimming to foraging walks. This year’s food-demo focus concentrates on up-close-and-personal experiences in the estate’s centuries-old Big Kitchen and the Open Fire Stage. Oh, and there’s a baking masterclass with Desperate Housewives and Superman star Teri Hatcher.

Getting there: take a direct train from London to St Germans, which takes just under four hours.

 

Foodies Festival Edinburgh

When: 3-5 August

Where: Inverleith Park, Edinburgh, Scotland

Why: Because you’ve always wanted to take part in cream-pie throwing, chilli eating and cheese-stretching competitions! Quirky activities aside, this touring festival (which travels to six other British destinations) brings everything a foodie could ask for to a festival, from Kombucha workshops to Prosecco and Parmesan masterclasses, artisan and street food stalls, a Gin Station and a Tequila Shack. Plus, you’ll see top bands such as The Hoosiers and Toploader perform.

Getting there: The park is a ten-minute taxi or bus ride from Edinburgh city centre.

 

Isle of Wight Garlic Festival

When: 18-19 August

Where: Sandown, Isle of Wight, south England

Why: Ever fancied trying garlic fudge? Or how about sampling garlic popcorn or ice cream? The Isle of Wight, off the coast of south England, is famous for its garlic so it makes perfect sense for the island to host an entire festival to the ‘stinking rose’. Find out just how good garlic is for health, learn various ways to cook with it and how best to grow it. A new theatre kitchen has launched for this year where cooking demonstrations will take place and the whole charm of the festival is further boosted with live music, art, craft and food stalls, a huge funfair and children’s entertainers.

Getting there: Take the 45-minute ferry crossing to Fishbourne from Portsmouth Harbour (2 hours from London by train).

 

The Big Feastival, Cotswolds

When: 24-26 August

Where: Alex James Farm, Kingham, Cotswolds, central England

Why: Launched by Alex James of Britpop legends Blur, and taking place on his Cotswolds farm, The Big Feastival has earned its place as one of the food festivals to visit, thanks to both its impressive line-up of top chefs – which this year includes Marco Pierre White, Raymond Blanc, Mark Hix and Pierre Koffman – and stellar musical talent. Cheese is a big draw for this festival (Alex James makes his own); cheese lovers should head to the double-decker cheese hub with its award-winning artisan cheeses and all-day cocktail bar, and – new for 2018 – The Cheese Bar and The Cheese Truck where you can feast on huge stacks of British cheeseboards and grilled cheese sandwiches. When you’ve eaten your fill, dance off the calories to music from Basement Jaxx, Craig David, and Paloma Faith.

Getting there: The nearest train station is Kingham, 1.5 hours from London

 

Great British Food Festival, Wiltshire

When: 25-27 August

Where: Bowood House, Wiltshire, south-west England

Why: It’s a foodie paradise set in the grounds of a beautiful English stately home in the heart of the Cotswolds. Another touring festival, the Great British Food Festival comes to the breathtaking Bowood House, which gives visitors the opportunity to team a love for food with a love for history. Along with talks, stalls and cooking demonstrations, there’s also the chance to take part in some quirky British challenges – why not see if you can beat the record of eating a 74.5 inch sausage followed by a pint of cider in less than six minutes six seconds!

Getting there: the train takes just over an hour from London to Chippenham; Bowood House is then a 15-minute taxi ride from there.

 

Abergavenny Food Festival, Wales

When: 15-16 September

Where: Abergavenny, south Wales

Why: Set in a pretty medieval market town, this is one of Britain’s most well-established food festivals – 2018 marks the 20th year since the first took place –– and it’s a great festival to visit for combining a passion for food with a sense of adventure. There’s a diverse selection of forages and tours operating as part of the festival, taking advantage of the bountiful Welsh countryside. Forage for seafood or for gin botanicals or book onto tours of nearby vineyards and distilleries. The popular ‘Cooking Over Fire’ area will return to the town’s historic castle featuring Hang Fire BB, while the demo stage will host Welsh chef legends such as the Michelin-starred chef Gareth Ward from Ynyshir Hall, and James Sommerin from his eponymous restaurant in Penarth, Cardiff.

Getting there: Trains take 2.5 hours from London to Abergavenny or 45 minutes from Cardiff.

Victoria 200

Prince Harry is days away from his wedding and a new little prince was born just last month to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge – 2018 has, so far, shone a spotlight on all things royal. And, as we look ahead into the next 12 months it looks set to continue, with 2019 the year we commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth of William and Harry’s great-great-great-great grandmother – Queen Victoria. The second-longest reigning monarch in British history, Queen Victoria’s legacy continues to thrive and there are some extraordinary sites to visit to mark this special anniversary.

 

If you’re in London…

A trip to Kensington Palace is a must. Princess Victoria was born here on 24 May 1819 and the palace was her childhood home (it’s also now the London residence of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle). Explore the dazzling exhibition Victoria Revealed that opened earlier this year and will run until January 2020. Packed with intimate accounts of her intriguing reign, visitors will gain insights into her and Prince Albert’s characters, and can admire personal objects such as letters and journals. Stars of the show include tiaras from the collection of the Dukes of Fife, descendants of Queen Victoria’s granddaughter Princess Louise, such as her Emerald and Diamond Parure (tiara, necklace, earrings and brooch), a gift commissioned by Prince Albert.

Just a short stroll from the palace is the Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens – located directly opposite the Royal Albert Hall, an exquisitely ornate monument that commemorates the death of Prince Albert. Follow a visit with an afternoon at the nearby V&A Museum – named after Victoria & Albert – the world’s largest museum of decorative art and where you’ll discover photographs of Victoria in its collections.

If you’re visiting Buckingham Palace – Victoria was the first monarch to rule from here – you’ll spot the resplendent Queen Victoria Memorial right in front. Comprising the magnificent white marble monument of Victoria that was built to commemorate her death in 1901, it’s also home to the Memorial Gardens and the Dominion Gates (Canada Gate, Australia Gate and South and West Africa Gates).

Famous London landmarks such as Westminster Abbey and St James Palace also have strong links to Queen Victoria; the former, as she was crowned there in 1830 and the latter, because it was where she married Prince Albert (although the public cannot visit inside the palace).

 

If you’re in Windsor, Berkshire…
Just an hour from London is Windsor Castle, where Queen Victoria resided for part of each year. Marvel at the splendid State Apartments within the walls of this largest and oldest occupied castle in the world, where you’ll discover thousands of objects and art collected during Queen Victoria’s reign. And both Victoria and Albert’s tombs are at rest in the private grounds of Windsor, at Frogmore House, in the Royal Mausoleum. There are rumours afoot that Queen Victoria’s tomb will be reopened to the public, although this has yet to be confirmed.

 

If you’re on the Isle of Wight, off the south coast of England…

A favourite holiday destination for Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their large family of nine children, Osborne House on the Isle of Wight – a 20-minute ferry ride from Portsmouth, which itself is two hours by train from London – is a must-visit for any fan of Victoriana. It’s quite the palatial holiday home and visitors can walk among the opulent state rooms to admire the remarkable collections from the British Empire, which, by Victoria’s death in 1901, stretched across nearly a quarter of the globe. You may also recognise Osborne House from the recent film Victoria and Abdul, starring Dame Judi Dench – it was used as a film location.

But it’s not just the lives of Victoria and Albert you’ll gain an insight into at Osborne House, but also the childhoods of the royal couple’s children, particularly in the impressive Swiss Cottage in the grounds of the house. And, next year, to mark the 200-year anniversary of Victoria’s birth, Osborne House will be hosting a special exhibition about both Victoria and Albert.

 

If you’re in Scotland…

Balmoral Castle remains the Scottish holiday home of the Royal Family today – and was very much a favourite of Victoria and Albert’s. It was Albert who first brought his vision to the beautiful gardens here and visitors are welcome to tour Balmoral, usually between the end of March and end of July. Be sure to visit the spectacular Castle Ballroom and its fine works of art and artefacts. And imagining you are a royal yourself is well within your grasp as you can book to stay at the estate’s cottages, available when the Royal Family are not in residence.

The Highlands of Scotland also played an integral role in Victoria’s life; scenes in Victoria & Abdul were therefore filmed here, including the breathtaking landscapes of Glen Affric and Glenfeshie in the Cairngorms National Park. Queen Victoria was also known to have visited Ardverikie Estate as well as the magical Blair Castle. The area even has a Victorian Heritage Trail you can follow, taking in steam railways, country estates and distilleries.

London’s V&A is also opening a new outpost of the museum on 15 September in the city of Dundee, 1.5 hours from Edinburgh. Ultra-modern and sleek in design, the museum launches with the spectacular Ocean Liners: Speed & Style exhibition, and will also showcase world-class touring exhibitions from the V&A, as well as the best of Scottish design.

60 minutes from… Manchester

A city of culture, sport, music, history, creativity and diversity, Manchester in north-west England  should be on the must-visit list of any traveller to Britain; plus it’s one of the key gateways into the destination. It’s also in an enviable location, which means that journeying just an hour by train or car outside the city will lead you to a realm of ancient cities and spa towns, beautiful beach resorts, stately homes, unique countryside and bohemian heartlands – all perfect to visit on a day trip from Manchester.

 

Buxton, Derbyshire
Renowned as a historic spa town and peppered with architecture from the 18th and 19th centuries, the stately Crescent, which is being transformed into an 80-bedroom, five-star spa hotel, due to open in 2019, is a must-see. Buxton also boasts an impressive repertoire of festivals. This summer stop by for the open-access arts festival, the Buxton Fringe Festival, plus the Buxton Military Tattoo, and the Buxton International Festival of Opera, Music and Literature.

 

Liverpool, Merseyside
2018 is a huge year for Liverpool as it celebrates ten years since it was named European City of Culture 2008 and welcomes Britain’s largest celebration of contemporary art during the Liverpool Biennial, when artworks by 40 artists from 22 countries will be showcased for free across the city…all just 30 minutes by train direct from Manchester. There are a myriad of attractions to enjoy, from The Beatles Story and The Cavern (why not visit during the International Beatle Week Festival in August?) to contemporary art gallery Tate Liverpool and maybe cheer your football heroes on at a Premiere League football match at either Liverpool FC or Everton FC.

 

Southport, Merseyside
Miles of magnificent beaches greet you at Southport, a pretty coastal resort where you can kite surf, climb sand dunes, stroll along its historic pier or follow one of the town’s historic trails. Take a trip to Crosby Beach, which is home to Anthony Gormley’s art installation Another Place, 100 iron men standing looking out to sea. The area is also part of the UK’s ‘golfing capital’ – tee off at the prestigious Royal Birkdale Golf Club in Southport or travel 15 minutes’ from town to several more championship courses.

 

Chester, Cheshire
Wherever you walk in Chester, you can feel its rich history pulsating through its buildings, its city walls – the most complete city walls remaining in the UK – and its attractions. Here you can visit Britain’s largest Roman amphitheatre, walk through 700 years of history while shopping in the Rows galleries, enjoy race days at Britain’s oldest racecourse and visit one of Britain’s largest zoos, Chester Zoo, where you can meet 21,000 animals and experience its passion for conservation.

 

Peak District, Derbyshire

The nearest part of the picturesque Peak District National Park to Manchester is packed with dramatic landscapes of high moorland plateaus – travel further south in the park to discover a diverse landscape of hills and dales – which makes for great walking territory. The Peak District is also home to charming villages and attractive market towns and, if you travel just 90 minutes from Manchester, you can visit some of the loveliest stately homes in the country, such as the grand Tudor Haddon Hall and Chatsworth House; when the house reopened in March the wraps came off a major long-term, £32.7 million restoration programme.

 

You might also like:

Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, for its creative vibe generated from the influence of writers and artists, cute galleries and independent shops, all set near valleys and heather moorland. Come for the summer’s Hebden Bridge Arts Festival.

Tatton Park, Cheshire, for its neo-classical mansion, 1,000 acres of deer park, collection of fine art, as well as walks through the huge gardens, plus the many events held here every year. Come in July for its Food Festival and RHS Flower Show. 

Blackpool, Lancashire, for its traditional English seaside resort attractions, the stunning Blackpool Illuminations and the iconic Blackpool Tower. Come this summer as the town celebrates the 250th anniversary of the circus with a series of special events.

Lake District National Park, Cumbria, for the sheer beauty of its landscapes. Parts are reachable from Manchester within 60-90 minutes so is still manageable for a day trip. Explore the lovely town of Kendal in the south of the Lake District National Park, before heading for a walk on the shores of Lake Windermere, the largest natural lake in England and just nine miles from Kendal.

48 Hours in… Liverpool

2018 is an exciting year culturally for Liverpool, as this north-west England city embraces a year-long celebration marking ten years since it was European Capital of Culture 2008. Boasting more museums and galleries than any other UK city outside of the capital, it’s a city that has long enjoyed a world-class reputation for culture, and never more so than musically, as the birthplace of The Beatles. Just two hours by train from London and half an hour from Manchester, Liverpool’s cultural legacy is ever-evolving and, with thrilling events planned for the year ahead, 2018 is a special time to visit.

 

Time to check in

Liverpool city centre teems with hotels that either embrace a cultural slant or nod to the city’s heritage. Arthouse Hotel encompasses the world of classic cinema, with quirky takes on memorable movie scenes in its rooms; stay in rooms designed as a tribute to films ranging from Grease to The Sound of Music, as well as rooms showcasing how Andy Warhol blended fine art with popular culture. Tributes to the city’s most famous cultural icons can also be found at the Hard Day’s Night Hotel, the world’s only Beatles-inspired hotel, whose story is told through specially commissioned art work and memorabilia.

Liverpool’s legacy as a thriving port and industrial giant has also left its mark on its cultural offering and accommodation; stay at the Titanic Hotel, part of the redevelopment of the historic Stanley Dock complex, where each bedroom offers spectacular views over the Port of Liverpool. Back in the city centre, Hope Street Hotel is built within an original warehouse in mid-19th-century style – the Venetian Palazzo – while luxury boutique hotel Nadler Liverpool is set in a restored 1850s industrial building.

There’s also a range of well-known budget hotels in the city, from Ibis to Travelodge, as well as an Easyhotel, located just ten minutes’ walk away from the cultural haven of Albert Dock.

 

DAY ONE

09:00 DISCOVER WORLDLY WONDERS

Head down to William Brown Street, in the heart of the city, to the World Museum, a treasure trove of life and earth sciences and human culture worth exploring at any time, but a visit from now until October 2018 means you’ll see the spectacular Terracotta Warriors from the tomb of China’s First Emperor, the first time in more than ten years that they have been brought to Britain. Spanning almost 1,000 years of China’s history, the exhibition will include artefacts dating from 8th century BC to the 2nd century AD.

 

11:00 STROLL AMONG AWE-INSPIRING ART

One of the attractions of Liverpool is how easy it is to travel from one cultural venue to another. You’ll find yourself at the Walker Art Gallery just a couple of minutes’ walk from the World Museum; immerse yourself in sculpture, paintings and decorative art dating from the 13th century to the present day.

 

13:00 TASTE THE CITY’S FOOD CULTURE

Set out on a pleasant 20-minute walk from the gallery, and stop for lunch at one of the many independent eateries in the bohemian RopeWalks district, an area brimming with art, music and culture and home to cultural institutions such as FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology). Or stroll on a little further to another of the city’s cultural hotspots, the Georgian Quarter, where The Art School Restaurant is located. Situated in the lantern room of a Victorian building, chef patron Paul Askew has produced tasting and prix fixe menus using seasonal ingredients for omnivores, pescatarians, vegetarians and vegans alike.

 

15:00 EXPLORE A GOTHIC TREASURE

One of the world’s greatest buildings is arguably Liverpool Cathedral, a breathtaking architectural creation that’s home to the world’s highest and widest Gothic arches, one of the tallest Gothic towers – climb it for sensational panoramic city views – and a sculpture by celebrated contemporary artist Tracey Emin.

 

17:00 SAMPLE LOCALLY MADE DRINKS

Whether your favourite tipple is beer or gin, head to H1780 in the city’s creative and digital quarter – the Baltic Triangle – to sample both; this is a working brewery and distillery producing the prettily named Love Lane beers and The Ginsmiths of Liverpool gins. The bar is soon launching The Ginsmiths Experience, beer tours and gin afternoon teas – be the first to try them!

 

19.30 DINE AT A CREATIVE HUB

Head to the heart of cultural Liverpool to Upstairs at the Bluecoat, Liverpool's creative hub that showcases talent across visual art, music, dance, live art and literature. Its restaurant offers fabulous city views, walls adorned with contemporary local art and a menu created with locally sourced produce.

 

22:00 DANCE THE NIGHT AWAY

You can’t come to Liverpool and not take in one of its most iconic cultural landmarks for a memorable night out – The Cavern Club. The place where The Beatles started out, it not only showcases their legacy, but also is a hotspot for today’s ace up-and-coming bands.

 

DAY TWO

09:00: MARVEL AT CONTEMPORARY ART

Head to UNESCO World Heritage site the Albert Dock, home to the outstanding Tate Liverpool, a haven of British and international contemporary and modern art celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. Visit before the end of the September to enjoy the works of Gustav Klimt’s radical protégé, Egon Schiele, alongside photography by Francesca Woodman. 

In 2018, the Liverpool Biennial, an internationally renowned festival of contemporary art, returns to the city between 14 July-28 October 2018, this year entitled Beautiful World, Where Are You?. Every two years, the city’s public places, unused buildings and galleries showcase thought-provoking contemporary art. Founded in 1998, the Biennial has commissioned 305 new artworks and presented work by more than 450 artists from around the world, making it a must-see on a visit to Liverpool.

 

11:00 FIND OUT EVERYTHING YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT THE BEATLES

The Albert Dock is also home to The Beatles Story, the world's largest permanent exhibition devoted to the Fab Four. This year you’ll also be able to enjoy a special exhibition marking 50 years since The Beatles travelled to Rishikesh, India.

 

13:00 ENJOY A TRUE TASTE OF BRITISH CULTURE

Feast on delicious fish and chips at the Docklands Fish and Chip Restaurant, while overlooking the city’s waterfront and fabulous skyline. Don’t forget to try that side order of mushy peas!

 

15:00 TAKE A STEP BACK IN TIME

Just a short train or ferry ride away in Wirral is the charming village of Port Sunlight, once home of Sunlight Soap and the Lever Brothers and a unique cultural feature of Liverpool and its surrounding area. A fun way to get around is by bike – hire them as you arrive and set off to discover differently styled cottages, originally built 130 years ago for the company’s workers,  explore the village via trails and pop into the Village Museum. Leave time to see the Lady Lever Art Gallery, housing the personal collection of fine and decorative art of industrialist and philanthropist Lord Leverhulme.

 

18:30 DINE AT ENGLAND’S ‘MOST ORNATE PUB’

Described as ‘the most ornate pub in England’ the architecturally stunning Philharmonic Dining Rooms is one of the closest restaurants to Liverpool’s Philharmonic Hall and is a great place to grab some traditional British fare – think tasty pies and succulent sausages – before a performance by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. It’s famed for its elaborately designed, Grade I-listed men’s toilets – women can ask to have a look!

 

20:00 BOOK AN EVENING AT THE THEATRE

Enjoy the latest plays and musicals? You can catch shows transferred directly from London’s West End at England’s second-largest theatre, the Liverpool Empire, or enjoy comedies and musicals at the city’s Royal Court Theatre. Alternatively, catch thought-provoking works performed at the Everyman and Playhouse Theatres, hosting plays such as Othello and A Clockwork Orange.

8 reasons why Newcastle and the North East are hot right now

The spotlight is shining brightly on Newcastle Gateshead this summer; Rough Guides declared it the top place to visit in 2018 and an epic 80-day exhibition – Great Exhibition of the North – showcasing art, culture, design and innovation from the north of England is coming to town. A visit to the city - just three hours from London and 1.5 hours from Edinburgh by train - also means you’re in easy distance of some of north-east England’s coolest and most intriguing spots to visit.

 

Great Exhibition of the North

A major highlight in the cultural calendar, Great Exhibition of the North opens with a ceremony on 22 June at the Gateshead Quayside, featuring a bridge of illuminated drones over the River Tyne. During the exhibition run, which takes place between 22 June – 9 September, three themed walking routes will guide visitors to venues and attractions: The Get North Art Trail, Get North Design Trail and Get North Innovation Trail. Discover all that is ground-breaking about this part of England and visit iconic venues around Newcastle Gateshead, from the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art to Sage Gateshead.

 

A foodie paradise

With a spate of new restaurant openings, Michelin-star restaurants, comforting street food and everything in between, the city and the surrounding areas are a must-visit for any foodie. For a romantic date or a special celebratory treat, the two-Michelin-star House of Tides fits the bill, while the Quayside has welcomed Dobson & Parnell, with its focus on fine-dining British cuisine and Gateshead has seen the opening of Lola Jeans, which features a menu ‘from barn to board’ and an inspired cocktail list. Check out the neighbourhood of Jesmond for new eateries such as Cal’s Own for Brooklyn-style pizza pie.

 

The hottest nightlife

There’s no party quite like a party in Newcastle Gateshead, a city packed with friendly pubs, stylish cocktail bars, clubs playing the hottest DJ sets and music venues catering to every taste, resulting in its well-deserved reputation as one of England’s best party cities… and one that keeps evolving. Hit the newest hotspots such as Wylam Brewery’s Palace of Arts, where you can catch live music and street food events while enjoying its unique craft beers. For quirky surroundings with your cocktails, head to Alvinos with its array of pinball machines and vintage vinyl records or, for an awesome selection of gin, spend the evening at Pleased To Meet You where you’ll find more than 100 behind the bar.

 

Cool neighbourhoods

Yes, Newcastle’s city centre is bursting with hot bars and stylish restaurants but its hip neighbourhoods of Ouseburn and Jesmond are well worth a visit. Ouseburn is regarded as the birthplace of the industrial revolution in Newcastle and has grown into a creative hotspot over the last few years. Check out England’s largest independent art, craft and The Biscuit Factory for independent art, craft and design gallery, stop by Hoults Yard for live theatre, music festivals and art exhibitions and spend the evening at cool music venue The Cluny. Jesmond has a more elegant vibe, its streets studded with Victorian terraced houses and home to a fantastic range of bars, restaurants and boutique shops. Pack a picnic and head to Jesmond Dene in the summer months, a stunning local beauty spot.

 

Instagrammable landmarks

Sir Antony Gormley’s iconic Angel of the North stands at 20 metres high and 54 metres wide and is an outstanding piece of public art. Dominating the Gateshead landscape, stand at the feet of this impressive statue – itself a symbol of pride in north-east England – for an unmissable photo. Marking its 20th anniversary this year will be a range of special events; look out for pop-up #Angel 20 activities and workshops at Gateshead venues.

 

Nearby natural beauty

Sometimes you need a breather from the bright lights – easily found by heading 45 minutes out of town to Northumberland National Park. Come here for its Dark Sky Reserve, for Hadrian’s Wall UNESCO World Heritage Site, for a bracing walk or gentle cycle through more than 400 square miles of gorgeous countryside scenery. Newcastle is also close to the Northumberland coast – and what a coast it is! Some of the best beaches in Britain are found here, fringed by impressive backdrops. Check out Bamburgh Castle Beach or Cresswell Beach for unmissable sights of sweeping stretches of sandy beaches that go on for miles.

 

A city of contrast

Just a 12-minute train journey from Newcastle but with a completely different vibe, Durham is one of the most picturesque cities in Britain. A magnificent cathedral and castle dominate the skyline of this city that has its own coastline and countless historical sites and events, including the spectacular Kynren. This ‘Epic Tale of England’ (30 June – 15 September 2018) is an all-action blockbuster show travelling through 2,000 years of history and legend, with 1,000 cast and crew.

 

Living history

North-east England is an area bursting with heritage and history but one of the region’s great skills is bringing that history to life for contemporary audiences. Less than a half-hour drive south of Newcastle, Beamish Outdoor Museum, which tells the story of the region in the 1820s, 1900s and 1940s, offers compelling workshops such as driving a steam engine or cooking 1940s-style. And, this summer at Alnwick Castle – 45 minutes-drive north of Newcastle and seen on screen in both Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Downton Abbey – is hosting a range of experiences, from Wizarding Week and Medieval Week to a Knight’s Week and a Napoleonic Skirmish.