Discover Britain’s musical legends on the trail of Rocketman

Telling the story of multi-Grammy award-winning superstar Sir Elton John, Rocketman dives head-first into the colourful world of rock and roll. The masterful biopic charts his rise to fame, from his origins as youngster Reginald Dwight to the fabulously flamboyant world of Elton John. Taron Egerton stars as the leading protagonist, as Rocketman explores Elton’s relationships with manager John Reid and lyricist Bernie Taupin, among others. In collaboration with Taupin, Elton has released more than 30 albums to date and has sold more than 300 million records, making him one of the best-selling musicians of all time. But Elton isn’t the only British artist to change the face of music history. From The Beatles to Queen and David Bowie, Take That to the Rolling Stones, Britain is a cultural mecca for music fans, and whether you’re visiting London or Liverpool, there’s a musical experience that perfect for you.

London

A hive of musical activity throughout the ages, London really came into its own in the swinging 60s, when up-and-coming bands from across the world flocked to soak up the creative vibes and jam together. It was from his parent’s home in Pinner, North London, that a young Reginald Dwight formed Bluesology – the first step on his path to stardom. Indeed, the names of two band members, Elton Dean and John Baldry, were used to create his solo stage name – Elton John! Fans of the charismatic star can walk in his footsteps on a Pinner Walk, which takes in Elton’s childhood home, spectacular views from Pinner Hill Golf Club and his first gigging venue. Having welcomed Elton as a weekend pianist in the 1960s, Northwood Hills Hotel may be gone, but the building lives on as Namaste Lounge, a modern Indian restaurant, bar and shisha lounge. If you’re a rock fan on a trip to the capital you can also discover the former haunts of Led Zeppelin, The Clash and Amy Winehouse on a Rock Legends minibus tour, or visit the London flat that all four Beatles shared on the Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll Tour of London, which also reveals the history of artists including U2 and Elton himself. Alternatively, why not go time travelling on the Swinging 60s bus tour, which transports you back to the music-defining decade.

Liverpool

Elton has close ties to Liverpool thanks to his auntie, while drummer Nigel Olsson, who has played drums alongside him for half a century, was born in the Wirral. The city is packed full of music-themed tours and experiences to enjoy. You can discover the history of Liverpool supergroup The Beatles and a whole host of other British artists at the British Music Experience.  With a section dedicated just to the Fab Four, you can see letters written by fans of the band, clothing worn by Ringo and John, and a whole range of memorabilia from the band’s travels in the 1960s. Other highlights include outfits worn by David Bowie, the Union Jack guitar played by Noel Gallagher at the pinnacle of Oasis’s fame, and even lyrics written by Adele.

Manchester

As the birthplace of Oasis, The 1975 and The Smiths, Manchester is no slouch when it comes to musical heritage. If you’re inspired by Rocketman to get back to your musical roots and Manchester is your destination of choice, why not jump on one of Manchester Music Tours sightseeing trips? Founded by Craig Gill, the drummer of Inspiral Carpets, the tours reveal the history of famous artists, bands and venues throughout the decades, from The Stone Roses to Joy Division. You can even travel in rock star style and take the tour from the comfort of a Manchester taxi. And from two-hour group tours to private itineraries, Manchester Music Story Tour has something for every fan – you can even do a combined tour of three British music cities, taking in the highlights of Manchester, London and Liverpool.

Edinburgh

From bagpipes to the Bay City Rollers, Scotland’s capital city has a rich musical history that’s well worth discovering. Elton’s first solo concert in 1972 was at the city’s Festival Theatre in Nicolson Street, then called the Empire, while the extravagant musician has also wowed crowds at Edinburgh Castle and Easter Road in the past. If you’re visiting the city, why not check out Edinburgh Music Tours, which offer 1.5-hour tours of the city’s musical highlights. For over 18s only, the tours finish in one of Edinburgh’s most famous folk bars, where you can discover more about the legendary acts that have played there over a wee dram or two.

Glasgow

A hot spot for up-and-coming musicians over the years, Elton wouldn’t have been out of place trying to forge his career in Glasgow! A favourite stomping ground of bands including Oasis and Manic Street Preachers, the city’s bars and pubs have played host to many a struggling artist both before and after they made it big. You can find out more about this epic musical heritage on a Glasgow Music City Tour, enjoy traditional folk music on the Scottish Trad Trail Tour or visit the historic music venues of yore on the Merchant City Tour.

Manchester International Festival 2019

Manchester will be filled with world premieres, exclusive art performances, theatre, music and film for the Manchester International Festival in July. Performance spaces across the city will welcome a diverse range of renowned artists including Yoko Ono, David Lynch, Ivo van Hoe, Abida Parveen, Janelle Monáe, Maxine Peake, Idris Elba and Skepta.

Events will be held in various venues around Manchester from 4 – 21 July, with Albert Square set to become ‘Festival Square’ for the duration. Acting as a hub for the festival, there will be free live music, DJs, food and drink. Festival Square is also inviting foodies to enjoy a Michelin-star quality four course ‘Lazy Lunch’ in their intimate Glass House. Tickets cost £50 for a two-and-a-half-hour sitting.

Bells for Peace

Both a world premiere and the artist’s first commissioned work for the city of Manchester, the festival’s opening night will see Yoko Ono’s Bells for Peace. Meeting in the Cathedral Gardens, audiences will experience a sea of singing and bell ringing to amplify a message of peace. Many bells will be handmade locally, but attendees of this free event are also encouraged to bring their own bells and become part of the performance.

David Lynch

For the duration of the festival, iconic director, David Lynch will be taking over HOME, a venue known for championing multi-cultural and independent arts. Featuring the UK’s first major exhibition of Lynch’s paintings, drawings and sculptures, My Head Is Disconnected will be complemented by evenings of curated music and film viewings. Other highlights include a showing of the The Elephant Man, and a discussion on transcendental meditation. While the art exhibition is free admission, other events are ticketed and prices vary.

Inspired music evenings

One of the David Lynch-inspired evenings of music includes a performance arranged especially for the festival. Two exceptional musicians will join long-term Lynch musical associate Chrysta Bell on-stage at HOME’s Theatre 1 on 14 July. Cellist Oliver Coates, who has worked with Radiohead and Karl Lagerfeld, will be joined by unique Japanese vocalist Hatis Noit for a one-off musical experience. Tickets cost £16, but are discounted for Manchester residents on lower wage.

The Fountainhead

Acclaimed theatre director of the recent sold-out West End show All About Eve, Ivo van Hove, premiers his adaptation of Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead to the UK at MIF19. Taking to the stage of The Lowry Theatre, this controversial story of unrelenting individualism and capitalism will be presented in Dutch, with English surtitles. With performances from 10 – 13 July, tickets start from just £18.

Abida Parveen with Nahid Saddiqui

Internationally renowned spiritual singer, Abida Parveen, dubbed as ‘the Queen of Sufi music’, will join with legendary classical South Asian dancer, Nahid Siddiqui, for an exclusive and one-off performance. Echoing the sentiment of Yoko Ono’s opening artwork, a message of peace, love and harmony will be projected from the performers. Coming to the stage on July 5, tickets start at £18.

The Nico Project

Celebrating the strength of a genre-defining female artist in a male-dominated industry, Maxine Peake channels the enigmatic yet troubled Nico, in The Nico Project. Known for her contribution to 1960s counterculture and debut with The Velvet Underground, Nico’s music helped shape generations to come. Catch this production from 10-21 July at The Stoller Hall, tickets costing £35.

Pop-up brewery tours

A pop-up brewery, unconventionally inspired by the cholera epidemic of the 1800s when thousands survived due to their consumption of beer over water, comes to Manchester from 5 - 21 July. Underneath Victoria Station, audiences can explore the temporary brewery, designed by the Tokyo the art collective Chim?Pom, for a one hour tour and are able try to specially brewed beer, with tickets costing £10.

Manchester is city full of musical connections, interesting venues, culture and hidden gems, and this summer’s MIF19 makes the pull for audiences to plan a culture-focused trip to England all the stronger.

 

Where to drink in Manchester

Housed in a Grade II listed building, Cottonopolis Food & Liquor is a Japanese inspired bar and restaurant, nestled in Manchester’s trendy Northern Quarter. Serving innovative cocktails with Japanese inspired names such as ‘The frog in the well knows nothing of the sea’ and ‘Drunken life, dreamy death’, this stylish establishment will complement a day of international culture at MIF19.

With original 1920s glassware, dim lighting and entirely vintage décor, The Fitzgerald is a speak-easy style bar, offering delicious cocktails to an eclectic soundtrack. Just 15-minutes’ walk from Festival Square, it’s a spot known for playing disco, funk and soul and for holding weekly jazz nights every Thursday.

Salut Wines hails itself as a ‘no-nonsense’ approach to wine drinking. Offering a helping hand when it comes to picking precisely the right glass, each wine can be served in a 50ml ‘tasting’ size. Offering an impressive 42 wines to enjoy by the glass, many of which are hard to come by elsewhere, Salut go to every length to ensure every one tastes as good as it should.

 

Where to eat in Manchester

A modern and memorable take on Chinese cuisine, Tattu, in Manchester’s Spinningfields area is a great spot for an international meal. Presenting an exciting menu of steamed, fried and baked dishes, the main focal point of the restaurant is a four-metre high cherry blossom tree that sits in the middle of the restaurant floor.

Accommodating no more than 30-guests, Where The Light Gets In, in Stockport, offers an intimate and unique dining experience, set in an former coffee warehouse. Although a little out from the centre of Manchester, this creative, completely ‘sans-menu’ restaurant offers a brand-new way to dine. Customers are not given a choice, but rather receive the dishes deemed to be the best use of that day’s produce, with all root vegetables coming directly from their own farm.

Known for its signature six and nine-course tasting menus, The French at the Midland Hotel is less than a five-minute walk from the festival hub. Recently refurbished and now with Adam Reid, winner of the BBC’s Great British Menu competition, as Head Chef, The French serves high-quality British cuisine in the heart of Manchester.

 

Where to stay in Manchester

In the heart of the city’s Gay Village lies the four-star Velvet Hotel, an independent, extravagantly decorated place to stay in Manchester. Offering king rooms and luxe penthouse suites, its central location makes it a great base for enjoying MIF19.

Housed in a converted 19th century textile factory, ABode Manchester is a boutique hotel offering rooms and suites, each graded in their trademark categories. Starting with ‘comfortable’, their rooms go to ‘enviable’, and culminate at ‘fabulous’. Handily located in the centre of the city, this hotel also boasts its own restaurant and swanky bar.

Just a few minutes’ walk from the MIF hub, King Street Townhouse is a ‘baby grand hotel’, offering a range of stylish rooms. From snug and cosy, to spacious suites with roll-top baths and views of Manchester cathedral, this Italian renaissance building has a lot to offer. An infinity spa pool, cellar cinema room, mezzanine lounge and alfresco terrace all combine to create a great experience for a stay in Manchester.

TASTE – April 2019

London – recently opened

Mirroring the spring season, Britain’s food offering is bursting with fresh, new experiences.

Nobu has welcomed the beauty of spring into their London Shoreditch hotel with the newly launched ‘Hanami’ terrace, inspired by Japan’s famous cherry-blossom season. As well as decking out the terrace with blossoming Sakura, Nobu are offering an exclusive cocktail menu, bespoke dishes and Hana Afternoon Tea, from April until June.  Also inspired by the tastes of Japan, Dinings SW3 is now offering monthly off-menu Omasake dinners, paired with exclusive sakes. An intimate group of only 12 can sit around Executive Chef Masaki Sugisaki’s sushi table and taste the authentic and completely bespoke menu, which differs each month.

London – opening soon

Opening in May on London’s culture-rich Portobello Road is Gold Notting Hill, a neighbourhood restaurant and late-night bar full of artistic creativity, set to encompass the bohemian atmosphere of west London. Spanning four floors, Gold will have a contemporary modern European menu offering high quality food cooked over open flame or in wood oven, and a bar with a select menu of carefully curated cocktails.

Also coming to Notting Hill this May is Suzi Tros, a relaxed, modern Greek restaurant from the couple who created Mazi. With a strong ethos of sustainability, and inspired by the cosy eateries of the owner’s hometown of Thessaloniki, Suzi Tros will serve small plates designed for sharing and offer cocktails made with Greek spirits in an intimate downstairs bar.

The queue-inducing Soho favourite Bao is set to open another of their Taiwanese steamed bun restaurants in Borough Market early in May, but this one comes with a new experience – a karaoke room, available to book from 27 May. Another addition to the Soho food and drink scene this spring is Martha’s, a retro-luxe eatery and bar serving all-American classics accompanied by live jazz and drag acts, which opens 15 April.

The Little Blue Door launches in May and promises the same mix of welcoming and cool, homely yet hipster as its predecessor, The Little Yellow Door. Expect everything from unforgettable late nights, bottomless brunches and ‘London’s Yummiest Roast’ in this ‘anything goes’ establishment, bookable via WhatsApp.

Manchester – recently opened

Located in Stockport’s Grade II listed Market Place building, The Produce Hall is a new addition to Manchester’s growing alternative eating scene. The original Market Place, dating back to the 1860s, which once housed traditional butchers and cheesemongers, now offers a range of comfort food dishes from almost a dozen diverse stalls.

Having progressed from pop-up to a permanent residence in Ancoats, The Hip Hop Chip Shop serves up a perfect portion of traditional chippy dinner but with a cooler-than-cool soundtrack. Bringing together their love of fried food and hip-hop, they offer dishes such as battered halloumi, Louisiana spiced crab cakes and ‘Feastie Boys’ battered fish fritters.

Adding to the restaurants and bars that have been popping up in the Ancoats area of Manchester, The Counter House is an informal, stylish eatery based in Cutting Room Square.  Taking inspiration from the laid-back cafés of Australia, The Counter House combines high quality fresh food from a Michelin star trained chef, in a stripped-back and highly ‘Instagrammable’ setting in Cutting Room Square . Offering both indulgent comfort food and healthy dishes, this all-day food spot is sure to be a great addition to a thriving part of Manchester.

Sheffield – recently opened

Kommune is the newest addition to Sheffield’s ever-growing independent food and drink scene. This vibrant new food hall brings together some of the Steel City’s best-loved hipster eats under one roof. Most notably, the New Zealand inspired Tamper Coffee, the vegan all-rainbow-everything Pom Kitchen and delicious baked goods from Kelham Island’s Depot Bakery.

The opening of ultra-modern all-day café Ambulo adds to the exciting changes in Sheffield city centre. From the people who turned a public toilet into the most stylish cocktail bar in Sheffield and Arctic Monkey’s drummer Matt Helders, expect all-day dining with a difference.

Upcoming events

Fantastic Food Festivals will be back at Blenheim Palace over the May Bank Holiday weekend this year, with an exciting line-up of food demonstrations from both local and celebrity chefs, fun food-based activities, 160 exhibitors and enticing tastings. The year’s theme is based around education and how food can impact our environment.

The Best Fringe Festivals in 2019

Whether it’s a celebration of live theatre, dance, arts or comedy, fringe festivals can be found in nearly every corner of Britain. Laugh along with the nation’s finest comedians as they prepare for their major tours, take in the sounds of up-and-coming musicians and discover new takes on some of the finest theatrical works. Packed with live entertainment and clever improvisation, these are the best Fringe Festivals to enjoy in 2019.

Maidstone Fringe

Marking the diversity of new and original music in Kent and the South East of England, Maidstone Fringe returns for a 9th year in 2019. Spread across numerous venues in the town centre, including pubs, clubs and music venues, as well as in cafes and coffee shops, the majority of the musical performances are free to attend. Expect a wide array of music too, with everything from rock, indie and pop-punk to blues, acoustic, folk, dance and hip-hop on the bill for 2019.

When? 1-6 May

Brighton Fringe

England’s largest arts festival, featuring more than 4,500 performances and events, takes place across Brighton, embracing all forms of art and artistic impression. Running alongside the Brighton Festival, the Brighton Fringe includes cabaret, classical concerts, club nights, comedy, theatre shows and a host of exhibitions, as well as street performances and exciting pop-up venues. In 2019, the International Seasons programme is also set to welcome some of the best contemporary performances by artists from France, the Netherlands, Finland, Australia, Iceland, Korea and Sweden, among others, showcasing the event’s global appeal.

When? 3 May – 2 June

Bath Fringe

Incorporating 3 weekends and the weeks in between, the Bath Fringe is a celebration of all the arts, meaning there are few rules regarding what is on. Both the people of Bath and venues in the city have a big say over what is included, with a detailed events list usually published in April.

When? 24 May - 9 June

Plymouth Fringe

An annual celebration of theatre and live performance, Plymouth Fringe welcomes some of the best talent in the South West, as well as others from across Britain. With venues in the city centre and on the waterfront, expect a host of inspiring performances as the Fringe marks its 5th consecutive year.

When? 27 May – 1 June

Ludlow Fringe

Ludlow Fringe is an independent arts, community and culture festival with a focus on inclusivity. Many of its events are free to attend, while prices are capped at £15 on those that are not, to ensure that events are affordable and accessible. Be sure to check out the Annual Ludlow Fringe Art Trail too, a diverse collection of affordable art by local and national artists that is showcased in 25 different pop-up venues and galleries. Featuring paintings, sculpture, photography, textiles, print and jewellery, and much more besides, the quirky venues are all located a short distance from the town centre.

When? 15-30 June

Guildford Fringe

Now in its 7th year, the Guildford Fringe is a multi-arts festival that features comedy, poetry, theatre, music, visual arts, workshops, burlesque and an abundance of family-friendly shows. Gag House Comedy Superstars kicks-off proceedings on 28 June, featuring comedian and actor Hal Cruttenden, Paul Sinha from TV’s The Chase and Susan Murray. Around 125 events made up the 2018 Guildford Fringe, and its organisers are expecting even more for 2019.

When? 28 June – 28 July

Greater Manchester Fringe

A multi-venue arts festival packed with comedy stand up, dance, magic shows, orchestras, new writing and a wealth of other art forms, the Greater Manchester Fringe provides a stage for performers to showcase their skills. It often acts as a platform for productions too - many past shows have moved onto the region’s established theatres including the Lowry Theatre, the Royal Exchange and the Bolton Octagon, or have embarked on nationwide tours. Now in its 8th year, a full programme of events for 2019 will be released at the start of May.

When 1-31 July

The Great Yorkshire Fringe

As part of its 5th anniversary celebrations, the Great Yorkshire Fringe is set to expand across York in 2019 to feature even more cultural venues. The historic city’s well-known thoroughfare, Parliament Street, will be transformed into an exciting festival hub offering everything from comedy and cabaret to music, theatre and fun for all the family. Performances from comedian Henning Wehn and writer, broadcaster and actor Gyles Brandreth already feature on the bill for 2019, as well as Austentatious: The Improvised Jane Austen Novel, an entirely improvised performance showcasing Jane Austen’s work in a new light.

When? 18-28 July (20 July, Austentatious: The Improvised Jane Austen Novel; 21 July, Gyles Brandreth; 27 July, Henning Wehn)

Llangollen Fringe

Final details for the 2019 Llangollen Fringe are yet to be announced, but the celebration of music, dance, film and art will return to the small town of Llangollen, in North Wales, this year. With an eclectic mix of musical and artistic talents on its bill each year, the festival is town centre based, providing easy access to pubs, restaurants and car parks. Taking centre stage is the Victorian Llangollen Town Hall, which boasts its own 300-seat capacity theatre.

When? 19-28 July

Reading Fringe

Designed to support emerging artists and to provide a platform for them ahead of the world famous Edinburgh Fringe, the Reading Fringe welcomes acts to the town from all over the globe. With venues spread across the town, the theme for 2019 is ‘Into the woods – and beyond’, an exploration of what it means to be part of an ecosystem and a consideration of what the future holds for Earth.

When? 20-28 July

Ventnor Fringe

A multi-award winning arts festival on the Isle of Wight, the Ventnor Fringe includes an array of exciting venues in the eclectic hillside town. Alongside cabaret, music, theatre and art, visitors can also expect to see pop-up cinemas, basement bars and mystery tours.

When? 23-28 July

Camden Fringe

From its origins in 2006 as an alternative to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the Camden Fringe provides performers with a chance to try out new and untested material. Encompassing all forms of performing arts, the Fringe welcomes both ambitious newcomers and experienced performers as they deliver new writing, sketch comedy, poetry, improvisation and everything in between. A full programme of events is expected in spring 2019.

When? 29 July – 25 August

Edinburgh Fringe

Renowned around the globe as being a platform for creative freedom, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is the single biggest celebration of arts and culture in the world. Welcoming the finest performers to the Scottish capital, from the biggest names in show business to emerging stars, and covering all sorts of art forms, the festival features more than 50,000 performances each year. More than 300 venues provide the stages, alongside street events and market stalls, showcasing theatre, dance, comedy, cabaret, children’s shows, musicals, opera, exhibitions and speech – if it’s a form of art, it’s probably on the bill somewhere.

When? 2-26 August

Top ways to celebrate St Patrick’s Day

Britain will be awash with green in mid-March as St Patrick’s Day celebrations sweep across the major cities. Marking the death of the patron saint of Ireland, St Patrick, communities in Ireland and across the Irish diaspora come together to celebrate on 17 March – a Sunday in 2019 – with a host of colourful parades, exciting musical performances and a wealth of other events.

London

London marks St Patrick’s Day with an annual parade through the capital’s streets, featuring striking decorative floats, incredible marching bands and performances from Irish dancing schools and sports clubs. The 1.5-mile procession meanders its way from Piccadilly past some of London’s most iconic landmarks on its ways to Whitehall. As a celebration of London’s diversity and welcome, the theme for 2019’s parade is #LondonIsOpen.

The St Patrick’s Day Festival packs Trafalgar Square from midday and features performances from renowned Irish artists and special guests, alongside an abundance of craft stalls, delicious food and a family friendly area in Pall Mall offering themed workshops and activities.

When? 17 March (St Patrick’s Day Festival, 12pm – 6pm)

Manchester

A stunning parade from the Irish World Heritage Centre to Albert Square is the focal point for the Manchester Irish Festival, which runs from the start of March and culminates on St Patrick’s Day. Featuring an array of floats and representation from each of the Irish counties, the Manchester Irish Festival Parade is one of many events held in the city. The Manchester Irish Festival Market takes pride of place in front of Manchester Town Hall, offering Irish foods, crafts and souvenirs in abundance, as well as children’s rides and entertainment.

The Castlefield Hotel is also hosting a St Patrick’s night whisky tasting and 3-course supper, featuring a delectable range of Irish themed food and a selection of fine Irish whisky.

When? 1-17 March (Manchester Irish Festival), 7-10 March (Manchester Irish Festival Market), 10 March (Manchester Irish Festival Parade), 15 March (Whisky Tasting)

Birmingham

A week-long festival in the build up to St Patrick’s Day celebrates diversity and multiculturalism in Birmingham. The launch night event, featuring traditional Irish music and dance, a delightful 4-course dinner and a performance from Birmingham Irish band Salt Creek gets proceedings underway, before the festival is completed with a spectacular parade around the Digbeth area of the city – taking place on St Patrick’s Day itself in 2019.

When? 9-17 March (9 March, launch night; 17 March, Parade at 12pm)

Edinburgh

Join the Scots Music Group for Café Ceilidh to celebrate St Patrick’s Day, an afternoon session of songs, poems, music and stories that recognise the patron saint. The Cowgate St Patrick’s Festival is another cause for celebration, taking place over 3 days at 5 venues and performance spaces.

When? 19 March (Scots Music Group), 15-17 March (Cowgate St Patrick’s Festival)

Belfast

Eye-catching floats and performers in magnificent costumes form just part of Belfast’s spectacular carnival parade as it weaves its way from Belfast City Hall to Writers Square. An open air concert in Custom House Square will follow, headlined by the Vengaboys and including an array of Irish artists showcasing traditional music, dance and song. St George’s Market will offer traditional Irish food and music, as well as plenty of handmade crafts.

When? 17 March (Carnival Parade, 12.30pm; Custom House Square, 1.15pm; St George’s Market, 10am – 4pm)

Newcastle

Paddy Fest will return to the heart of Newcastle city centre for St Patrick’s Day 2019, featuring 4 days of events and entertainment. Beginning with Let’s Play Darts, cheese festival Cheesetoon will follow on Friday with 25 stalls offering an array of cheesy concoctions. Saturday of Paddy Fest will feature authentic Irish bands and a handful of DJs, as well as screens showing the final matches of the Six Nations Rugby Tournament, before the event is rounded off with the biggest Bongo’s Bingo! to be held in the north-west of England, taking place in Times Square.

When? 14-17 March

Liverpool

Liverpool will march to the sound of drums, flutes and pipe bands on St Patrick’s Day, as the annual parade makes its way from the Old Irish Centre in Mount Pleasant into the centre of the city.

When? 17 March (12pm-3pm)

Armagh

The Home of Saint Patrick Festival showcases Irish culture, song and dance, and recognises the leading role that St Patrick had in converting Ireland to Christianity many centuries ago. Both the Armagh Robinson Library and Armagh County Museum host an array of artefacts, manuscripts, collections and rare books that relate to the role of the city in early Christian Ireland. An abundance of cultural events take place throughout the festival period, including parades, lectures, concerts and church services.

When? 8-18 March

Things to do in the UK this Easter

With Easter quickly approaching, there is plenty going on in every corner of Britain to mark the occasion. From giant Easter egg hunts to spring fairs, quizzes and spectacular outdoor performances, the Easter weekend from 19-22 April is sure to be packed full of fun for all the family…

Put a medieval twist on Easter

Explore the pageantry, conflict and sport of the late Middle Ages as the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds puts a unique twist on the Easter celebrations. Dive back in time to discover what life was like with how-to-be a knight workshops and other family activities, before taking in spectacular falconry displays.

When? 30 March - 14 April

Go celebrity duck spotting

Join a very different flock of ducks at WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre over Easter, as 14 giant Dusty Ducks will brighten the wonderful wetland area. Lovingly designed by a host of different celebrities, including Joanna Lumley and Steve Backshall, each brightly coloured 6-foot-tall duck will form the Celebrity Dusty Duck Trail before they head off to auction after Easter.

When? 30 March - 6 May

Meet Bobtail Bunny and friends at Paultons Park

Come face to face with Bobtail Bunny and his forest friends at Paultons Park over Easter, the home of Peppa Pig World on the edge of the New Forest National Park. Alongside a chance to meet the cute characters, exciting spring activity workshops will include opportunities to create Easter cards, rabbit magnets, pop up bunnies or a daffodil windmill.

When? 5 - 23 April

Discover glow in the dark eggs at Cheddar Gorge and Caves

Venture into Cheddar Gorge and Caves this Easter and be on the lookout for hidden glow in the dark eggs in the many mysterious chambers of Gough’s Cave. After discovering all of the glowing eggs, adults and children over 8 can embark on an exhilarating Black Cat Free Fall experience, leaping into the darkness from 30 feet up. Alternatively, those aged over 12 can test their brain power in a race against the clock to get out of Cheddar’s Escape Rooms: The Vault or Caved In.

When? 6 - 22 April (The Free Fall experience is available all year, dependant on weather conditions)

Let curiosity run wild on the Mount

Follow the curious Easter hunt trail around the harbour and village on St Michael’s Mount to learn more about the people that call the island home. Hunt for answers on the way to be in with a chance of winning a delicious chocolate surprise.

When? 7 - 22 April (except Saturdays)

Don hand-crafted headgear at the Palace of Holyroodhouse

Create an extravagant Easter Bonnet at the Palace of Holyroodhouse before donning the headgear to take part in a fantastic Easter parade. Go in search of other weird and wacky headgear that has been worn throughout the ages as part of the Easter trail – wigs, crowns and other wonderful hats will be hidden around the Edinburgh palace.

When? 8 - 21 April (Easter Bonnet making and parade on 21 April)

View the south coast from the top of the tower

Enjoy stunning views of Portsmouth and the south coast from the top of the Emirates Spinnaker Tower before meeting the stars of hit CBeebies show Bing – Bing and Flop. Be brave enough to wander across the glass floor while staring down at a 100-metre drop, or relax in the beautiful sky garden as the first plants of the season start to bloom, all while taking in the breath-taking sights.

When? 13 and 20 April (Meet Bing and Flop at selected times)

Experience all the fun of the fair

Enjoy the thrills of the fair this Easter at the iconic Manchester Central in the heart of the city. Visitors can enjoy a host of rides, try their luck at classic funfair games and tuck into delightful cuisine from an array of food stalls. Open for two sessions each day, tickets for the funfair provide unlimited goes on all of the rides – and best of all, everything is inside!

When? 13 - 22 April (2 daily sessions, 10am and 2pm)

Take part in an Easter Eggstravaganza at Royal Windsor Racecourse

Entertain the kids at Royal Windsor Racecourse’s first Easter Eggstravaganza Raceday, featuring an exhilarating Easter Egg hunt, face painting and a host of other entertainment on top of the racing. Everything is free for children under 18 when accompanied by a paying adult.

When? 15 April

Try your hand at the Lancashire tradition of Pace Egging

Children can bring a boiled egg to decorate and take part in the fine Lancashire tradition of Pace Egging at Gawthorpe Hall, where the many spectacular creations are rolled down the banking to see which goes fastest. Explore the Elizabethan houses and its fantastic grounds, or go hunting round the daffodils for the Pendelfin bunnies on the Easter Bunny Trail.

When? Pace Egging, 17 April. Easter Bunny Trail, 21 - 22 April

Learn about the final days of Jesus in Trafalgar Square, London

Be immersed in a moving portrayal of the final days of Jesus in the heart of Trafalgar Square as 100 Wintershall players put on a free public performance of The Passion of Jesus. The open air 90-minute production uses huge screens to maximise its visual impact and features a striking interpretation of the crucifixion.

When? 19 April (2 performances, 12pm and 3.15pm)

Join the Junk Orchestra at Leeds Castle

Daily musical jamming sessions with the Junk Orchestra, where visitors can create a merry beat using instruments made from bits of old rubbish, will take place on the Pavilion Lawn at Leeds Castle in Kent. Each instrument creation will help to form an incredible litter sculpture, developed by award-winning eco-artist Sarah Turner.

When? 19 - 22 April

Take in the scenery from the Isle of Wight steam railway

Enjoy the Isle of Wight’s spectacular scenery from aboard the island’s steam railway before embarking on the Desmond Duck Treasure Hunt in search of Easter treats. An Easter Bonnet Parade will take place on each day, alongside regular flying displays from Haven Falconry.

When? 19-22 April

Hunt for chocolate at Coughton Court

Embark on an expedition around the picturesque grounds of Coughton Court on a Cadbury Easter Egg Hunt, before enjoying an array of traditional games and family events at the National Trust site. Packwood House, also in Warwickshire, Newark Park in Gloucestershire and A La Ronde in Devon are among many other National Trust sites to host Cadbury Easter Egg Hunts too.

When? 19 - 22 April (A La Ronde, 6-22 April)

Revel in Manchester’s music scene

Experience 3 days of musical mayhem as more than 130 bands play their finest tunes at the Manchester Punk Festival. Spread across eight venues in the city, all within walking distance of each other, the festival also includes a comedy and poetry stage, and a pop-up record store. The When in Manchester Festival also returns for its 5th edition this Easter, featuring 19 of the region’s best up-and-coming artists at 3 venues in the city’s Northern Quarter.

When? 19-21 April (When in Manchester, 20 April)

Roll up for circus and superhero fun

Mark Easter in style at Yorkshire’s Thornton Hall Country Park, with a range of egg-citing activities for all the family. Enjoy circus performances and workshops as part of the Great Show Spectacular on Good Friday, before joining the Easter Rabbit for an enthralling Egg Hunt or capping the weekend off with fancy dress at the Superhero and Princess Party.

When? 19, 21 and 22 April (Great Show Spectacular, 19 April; Easter Egg Hunt, 21 April; Superhero and Princess Party, 22 April)

Accommodation Update - November 2018

Whether you’re looking for a boutique luxury hotel in leafy Kent or affordable accommodation in the heart of Glasgow, our round-up of the UK’s newest hotels offers something for every traveller. Discover our top picks below.

Recently refurbished

London

The Marylebone, Marylebone

Situated in the heart of central London a short walk from Bond Street, The Marylebone is a recently renovated boutique hotel boasting new facilities. These include The Cocktail Bar, which combines 4 adjoining spaces themed around the seasons, from the cosy winter lounge complete with a roaring fire to the outdoor terrace that’s perfect for summer socialising. Other additions include The Marylebone Rooms and Number Six – a series of stylish private event rooms designed in the hotel’s signature art deco style by the award-winning Michaelis Boyd studio. There is also a range of newly refurbished luxury rooms and suites to choose from.

Recently opened

Scotland

The Grandtully Hotel, Perthshire

Dedicated to delivering exceptional Scottish food and drink to its guests, the newly renovated The Grandtully Hotel by Ballintaggart offers luxurious culinary experiences in equally luxurious settings. With just eight bedrooms, this boutique property has been lovingly restored and features a careful blend of traditional features and contemporary design. Facilities include a 30-cover restaurant serving fine local produce, a bar, a private dining area and an outdoor terrace. 

Citi Hotel, Aberdeen

City Hotel in Aberdeen prides itself on offering affordable stays in the heart of the city. Based on the former site of The Royal Hotel, the property underwent a £500,000 refurbishment over 12 months and reopened at the start of November.  The self-dubbed ‘poshtel’ boasts a new reception area, newly fitted bathroom suites, refined décor and 42 bedrooms starting from just £35 per night.  

Opening soon

London

The Bedford, Balham

Opening December 2018

Beloved by musicians including Ed Sheeran, London’s famous The Bedford pub is undergoing a multi-million-pound refurbishment. Scheduled to reopen this December, the Grade II-listed building will boast five bars, a ballroom, four private rooms and a 250-capacity live music venue hosting a range of events, from comedy to burlesque. There are also 15 ensuite bedrooms to choose from, each designed around the pub’s distinctive medley of art deco and 1970s style.

The Standard, St Pancras

Opening in spring 2019

The boutique Standard Hotel chain will soon be celebrating the opening of its first international hotel in London. Scheduled to open in early 2019, the hotel will be the newest addition to the chain’s properties in New York, Miami and L.A. Located within the Camden Town Hall Annex, one of the city’s best-known examples of 1970s brutalist architecture, the hotel promises to embody the quirky culture and history of the local area while serving as a luxury base from which to explore King’s Cross and the surrounding area.

 

South-east England

Lion Lodge, Port Lympne, Kent  

Opening in spring 2019

The luxurious Lion Lodge will give guests the chance to stay in close proximity to Port Lympne’s lion pride. Set within the lions’ enclosure, the loft-style lodge features floor-to-ceiling windows in the open plan living space and master bedroom, an open fire, underfloor heating and a monsoon shower and wet room. Designed to sleep four, the master bedroom offers incredible views of the lions at rest and play, with the mezzanine level offering two additional beds accessed by spiral staircase. Guests can also enjoy the Scandinavian outdoor bath, built on a platform overlooking the sea and the 600-acre wildlife reserve.

The Albion Rooms, Margate

Opening date to be confirmed

Owned and developed by The Libertines rock band, The Albion Rooms is located on the seafront of Margate, a classic British seaside town with a strong artistic heritage. The development will comprise both a studio – scheduled to be finished in February 2019 - and bar within the five-storey Victorian building, in addition to 10 guest bedrooms individually designed by the band. The official opening date is still to be confirmed, but future guests can track the development’s progress here.

The Pig at Bridge Place, Canterbury

Opening in spring 2019

The Pig at Bridge Place is the latest hotel to be developed by the popular Pig Hotel chain. Opening its doors in spring 2019, the hotel is located in the former Bridge Place Country Club, a delightful 16th-century manor just outside Canterbury in historic Bridge village. In addition to the main building, guests can choose to stay in one of 12 bedrooms in the Coach House or 2 in the newly renovated gate lodge. Alternatively, there’s the option to choose from 7 ‘hop picker’ huts, for those looking for a more romantic getaway.

 

North-west England

Whitworth Locke, Manchester

Opening in December 2018

Due to open next month, Whitworth Locke is an 160-unit aparthotel offering a choice of one-bedroom suites or 24-sq metre studios overlooking Rochdale Canal. Designed by architects Grzywinski + Pons, this stylish residence and former cotton mill will offer the services and facilities of hotel living with the autonomy of a private apartment.

 

Hotel Indigo, Manchester

Opening in December 2018

Located in the city’s Northern Quarter opposite Victoria Station, Hotel Indigo embodies the style and originality that typifies the former industrial heart of the city - now a mecca for hipsters, musicians and the achingly cool. The hotel offers 187 bedrooms, all of which have been carefully renovated to reflect the cultural history of the area, and combines original Victorian features with modern facilities including an on-site gym, bar and restaurant.

 

London Warehouse, Manchester

Opening in spring 2019

The newly renovated London Warehouse hotel will open in spring 2019. Located in the Victorian railway warehouse formerly occupied by The Place Aparthotel, this luxurious 166-bed four-star aparthotel will offer facilities including a gym created by fitness brand BLOK. Other highlights include an all-day hangout space and a mini cinema, restaurant, bar and lounge managed by Bistrotheque restaurant.

 

Dakota Hotel, Manchester

Opening in spring 2019

Work has now begun on the £25 million pound development of Dakota Deluxe design hotel in Manchester. Scheduled to open in spring 2019, the hotel is located close to Piccadilly Station and promises to deliver the same elegant style, tasteful décor and luxurious facilities as its sister properties in Leeds and Glasgow.

 

Stock Exchange Hotel

Opening in spring 2019

Manchester’s historic Stock Exchange building is being redeveloped into a luxurious five-star boutique hotel courtesy of former Manchester United football stars Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs (GG Hospitality). Due to open in spring 2019, the Edwardian Baroque building – with its impressive central dome – is located in Norfolk Street. In addition to 40 bedrooms and suites, two luxurious presidential suites and two fine dining restaurants, the hotel will offer private dining in the wine cellars.

New Year extravaganzas – where to welcome in 2019

2019 is almost upon us and Britain is preparing to celebrate the new year in style. Which destination will you choose to say farewell 2018, hello 2019?

LONDON

The capital is world-famous for its New Year’s Eve fireworks display over the London Eye, the largest such annual display to take place in the UK. Crowds gather all along the South Bank to hear Big Ben chime midnight as they enjoy the rainbow of colours lighting up the sky as they welcome in another year. This has been a ticketed event since 2014 and you can get yours here. Of course, even if you don’t get tickets to this coveted event, there are plenty of other ways to see the famous fireworks; head out onto the water on board one of City Cruises New Year’s Eve cruises on the River Thames for example, or book a table at one of the capital’s top restaurants that boast views overlooking the Thames, such as Galvin at Windows or the Aqua Shard.

Of course, London has numerous different venues that host their own special New Year’s Eve extravaganzas; how about partying the night way underneath the skeleton of Hope the blue whale, the largest creature to have ever lived, at the Natural History Museum’s New Year’s Eve Party Animals event? On the night you can also try your luck at Musical Bingo, sample edible insects, explore two blockbuster exhibitions, and dance the night away in the Silent Disco.

There’s also Silent Disco fun to be had at the City of London’s Grade II-listed Banking Hall, a stunning Art Deco building. Or be transported back in time to some 1940s-style fun, courtesy of live big bands and a swing dance class at the Blitz Party New Year’s Eve at Shoreditch’s Village Underground, which will be transformed into an air-raid shelter for the occasion.

EDINBURGH

Edinburgh’s Hogmanay is one of the world’s biggest New Year’s Eve celebrations. This year, on 31 December, Scottish indie sensations Franz Ferdinand will top the bill at the Concert in the Gardens main stage in the Scottish capital’s iconic West Princes Street Gardens, supported by Metronomy and Free Love. The gig will be followed by a jaw-dropping firework display over Edinburgh Castle and, a ticket for Concert in the Gardens also includes access to the famous Street Party! Every reveller to the Street Party will receive a free dram of host Johnnie Walker’s whisky to see in the new year and guests can throw some shapes at the silent disco. Alternatively, you can toast 2019 with a whirl or a jig at the Ceilidh under the Castle event before enjoying the fireworks display.

Like London, Edinburgh has a multitude of venue choices to see in the New Year; arts and music institution located in the Old Town, Cabaret Voltaire, is hosting its ‘Psychedelic Wizard of Oz’ event, where the year turns back to 1990 and guests are whisked down the Yellow Brick Road on a journey to Oz. If classical music is more your thing, head to the stunning 19th-century building McEwan Hall, which will host Symphonic Ibiza, classic Ibiza anthems played by a 20-strong orchestra.

NEWCASTLE

Considering that little ones also like to enjoy the fun of welcoming in a new year but may not be able to stay up until midnight on 31 December, Newcastle in north-east England is putting on brilliant family friendly fireworks display at the Newcastle Civic Centre. The afternoon will be packed with entertainment such as music and street theatre before the fireworks display at 6pm.

For a more mature evening, check out the New Year’s Eve celebrations at the iconic Sage Gateshead, where orchestral pop band The Divine Comedy will be performing alongside after guests have enjoyed a four-course meal. Or you could head to music venue the O2 Academy for a party led by Monta Musica, one of Newcastle’s most well-known music producers. Beer lovers should head to the Wylam Brewery, which will host The Whole Hogmany III at Exhibition Park Palace of Arts – expect a hog roast, 36 taps of craft keg beers and pop-up bars, a street food village, a gin palace and fireworks at midnight.

MANCHESTER

Marking the end of the north-west England city’s Christmas season will be a spectacular fireworks display outside the iconic Manchester Hall in Albert Square. Poignantly, big screens will display poetry and messages during the event, including This is the Place by Tony Walsh, which was embraced by the city following the attack on the Arena earlier in the year.

Manchester’s venues also put on great parties come 31 December. Want to time travel back to the 1990s? Head to All Star Lanes for a New Year’s Eve with a ‘90s twist – come dressed in your finest neon and dance to the party tunes of the decade at this popular bowling alley. Journey further back in time to the 1920s for a Gatsby-style celebration at The Fitzgerald in the bohemian Northern Quarter, where live entertainment, burlesque dancers, DJs and a jazz band will evoke the Roaring Twenties. And, if you’ve got the stamina, you can party for 24 hours at The Liquor Store’s famous New Year’s Eve party. Start at midday on New Year’s Eve and keep on celebrating until midday on New Year’s Day. Keeping you energised will be live music, pizza, games and prizes plus a Jager Fountain.

CARDIFF

Wales’ capital city will be heralding the new year with a spectacular firework display at the beautiful City Hall. And a great spot to watch those is from Cardiff’s Winter Wonderland (which runs until 6 January), particularly if you’re skating on its ice rink during the special New Year’s Eve 11.30pm-midnight slot. Other attractions to enjoy on the night include a fun fair with some hair-raising rides including The 90ft Tower!

Elsewhere in the city centre, Cardiff’s pubs, bars, clubs and restaurants will be packed with revellers enjoying a whole range of parties. Fond of a craft beer or two? Check out the New Year’s Eve party at BrewDog Cardiff, which will host a ‘BREW Year party’. Tickets include limited edition beers, tapas and a table for your party. Another ‘Brew Year’s Eve’ can be found at the Brewhouse & Kitchen, where a dinner party ticket gets you a three-course meal before the music and dancing starts.  

AND FOR SOMETHING A LITTLE DIFFERENT…

Britain is well-known for its quirky traditions, and New Year’s Eve is no exception. Here are a just a few that might tempt you to spend a New Year’s Eve quite unlike any other you’ve experienced…

Fireball Ceremony at Stonehaven – in a pretty harbour town just south of Aberdeen in north Scotland is an astonishing ceremony where a group of people parade through the High Street swinging flaming balls above their heads, accompanied by bagpipers, as the clocks strike midnight on 31 December. The fireballs are then thrown into the harbour waters. Its free for visitors to watch and the event culminates in a fireworks display.

Comrie Flambeaux Procession – Scotland is well known for its love of Hogmanay celebrations and the small village of Comrie in Perthshire, around 90 minutes from both Edinburgh and Glasgow, is no exception when it comes to celebrating. This ancient fire festival – originally believed to cleanse the village at the start of each year – sees people bearing torches through the village before poles are lit and bagpipes played at midnight. Before this all happens there’s a children’s fancy dress parade and fireworks display earlier in the evening.

The Allendale Tar Bar’l – this fire festival takes place in the Northumberland town of Allendale in north-east England, around 45 minutes’ drive from Newcastle. More than 40 local men, bedecked in fancy dress, form a procession through the town carrying whisky barrels containing burning hot tar. The music-led procession ends at a ceremonial bonfire at midnight and the party begins!

Ten cool hotels to have on your radar in 2019

Suitcases at the ready – some fabulously cool hotels are set to open in Britain next year, each bringing their own unique vibe as they set to join the ‘hottest properties to stay at’ lists.

The Hard Rock Hotel, London

Get ready to rock – located on the corner of Oxford Street and Park Lane in the conversion of the existing Cumberland Hotel, the legendary Hard Rock Hotel is scheduled to open its new London property in Spring next year. With 900 rooms and suites, together with two bars and a Hard Rock Cafe®, Hard Rock Hotel London will pay tribute in its memorabilia collection to former residents such as Jimi Hendrix, Diana Ross, Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder and Madonna. The lobby will house its world-famous Rock Shop® featuring Hard Rock merchandise, and guests seeking the ultimate experience will have the opportunity to elevate their status and become Rock Royalty®. These luxurious Rock Royalty rooms and suites will offer extra perks including a personal concierge and access to a lavish lounge.

The DogHouse, Aberdeenshire, north Scotland

Beer lovers rejoice; independent craft brewer BrewDog has announced plans to build the world’s first craft beer hotel – wittily called The DogHouse – and will launch this immersive craft beer hotel and brewery expansion at its headquarters in Aberdeenshire, north Scotland. Set to welcome guests in the first half of 2019, the 26-room hotel will feature beer taps in the rooms, a built-in shower beer fridge, while the rooms will overlook the brewery itself. Guests will also be able to watch brewers at work from rooms overlooking the new facility.

Vineyard hotel at Denbies Wine Estate, Surrey, south-east England

If wine is more your favourite tipple, look no further than England’s largest single estate vineyard, which, come Spring 2019, will have converted its existing farmhouse accommodation into what is being billed as the UK’s first vineyard hotel. Set on the Denbies estate in the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and offering panoramic views across the vineyard and North Downs Way, the new hotel will have 17 en-suite bedrooms, an Orangery-style garden restaurant, outdoor dining cabanas and its own ‘Enomatic™ wine dispensing machine’ – meaning guests can taste and purchase Denbies wine by the glass. Plus, there’ll be complimentary wine tasting tutorials. Cheers to that!

art'otel Hoxton, London

What could be cooler than staying in a hotel with its own art gallery? art’otel plans to open its first property in London in the neighbourhood of Hoxton, which will be an 18-storey, 350-bedroom contemporary hotel. As well as an art gallery located in the publicly accessible arts centre, plans are said to include a top-floor restaurant and bar and luxury spa. Another art’otel property to have on your radar is the one the hotel group is said to be opening near the historic Battersea Power Station in the new Nine Elms district, south London.

Grantley Hall, Yorkshire Dales, north England

When Spring rolls round, the doors are set to open on a new five-star luxury country resort hotel and spa, set in a grand 17th-century house on its own island! Situated between the elegant Yorkshire towns of Ripon and Harrogate, Grantley Hall is being restored to its former early 20th-century glory and guests will be able to choose from 47 rooms and suites, four restaurants, three bars, a private members club, a spa pool, state-of-the-art gym and elite performance centre. The elegance continues outside; explore gorgeous landscaped gardens, which including a 1910 Japanese Garden that features on Historic England’s National Heritage List.

Stock Exchange Hotel, Manchester, north-west England

If you’re a football fan, the newest hotel owned by Manchester United legends Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville should be on your hotel hot list. The former footballers-turned-hoteliers are transforming Manchester’s beautiful old Stock Exchange building into a five-star boutique hotel, with 40 bedrooms, two presidential suites, two restaurants and private dining in the wine cellars for up to 100 people. The hotel is due to open in Spring 2019.

The Pig at Bridge Place, Kent, south-east England

Joining the litter of Pig Hotels, The Pig at Bridge Place in Kent is due to open in Spring. Its home is within a 17th-century manor house that may once have been the refined Bridge Place Country Club but was also host to some legendary parties and gigs in its time – Led Zeppelin even played here in the 1970s. Its 28 bedrooms will be enhanced by period features such as large fireplaces, secret stairways and panelled rooms, and there’ll be a further 12 bedrooms in its new Coach House. As with all Pigs, the kitchen garden and restaurant will be at the heart of this new property, and anything that can’t be supplied by the gardens will be sourced from the best producers within a 25-mile (40-km) radius. Also keep an eye out for another Pig opening towards the end of 2019; The Pig at Harlyn Bay, Cornwall, south-west England.

Market Street Hotel, Edinburgh, Scotland

Early 2019 will see Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh, welcome a property from the Carlton House Collection, called Market Street Hotel. Situated on the edge of Edinburgh’s gorgeous Old Town, the historic nature of the building means lovely high ceilings and plenty of historic references, although the 98 bedrooms will be contemporary, urban-styled rooms with ante-room bathrooms. Its top floor is intriguingly being described as a ‘Champagne city residence’ and will offer wonderful vistas across the city.

The Crescent, Buxton, Derbyshire, north-west England

Get ready for some serious indulgence as the historic spa town of Buxton, Derbyshire, welcomes an 80-bedroom, five-star spa hotel to the Grade I-listed architectural masterpiece The Crescent. The hotel will be part of the overall transformation of The Crescent – which originally opened in 1789 and is one of the most architecturally significant buildings in Britain – and guests will also have access to the splendid Assembly Rooms, a thermal natural mineral water spa in the Natural Baths plus to the six prestigious retail premises along the front ground façade.

The Grand, Birmingham, central England

The chance to stay in hotels housed in some of Britain’s most iconic architectural sights continues in Birmingham, where one of the city’s best-known, Grade II-listed buildings is to be redeveloped into a luxury, 180-room hotel with a restaurant and bar, a spa and a rooftop infinity pool. While the hotel is scheduled to open in early 2019, several lovely bars and cafés have already set up home in the development - The Alchemist, Gusto and 200 Degrees cafe – that hotel guests will have easy access to.

Foodie Focus on…Manchester

As one of Britain’s largest, most vibrant cities, Manchester in north-west England boasts an ever-evolving foodie scene, from its wealth of cafés, bars and restaurants to well-established food markets packed with stalls selling the best of local produce. The growth in its vegan and vegetarian cuisine offer shows no sign of slowing down, its drinks scene is booming, and its history of global trading has resulted in a wide range of international cuisine choices across the city.

Regional specialities and where to taste them

Eccles Cake – Buttery, flaky pastry encasing succulent, juicy currants – what’s not to like about these sweet treats! Said to originate in the town of Eccles, a Manchester suburb, you can pick up one of these tasty cakes throughout the city but, for a special treat, head to the source itself and order an Eccles cake with a coffee at the Malaga Drift Coffee Company in Eccles.

Manchester Tart – The Manchester Tart it reportedly a variation on the original Manchester pudding, which was first recorded by famed Victorian cookery writer Mrs Beeton. This creamy combination of raspberry jam, custard and coconut flakes encased in shortcrust pastry can be found in many bakeries across the city and its suburbs, although if you’re shopping in Arndale market stop by deli/bakery stall Hansford’s to try its version.

Lancashire Hot Pot – The history of this deliciously warming, one-pot stew of lamb and onion topped with sliced potatoes dates back to the Industrial Revolution, when long work hours meant women would take a stew or pudding to a baker’s oven and leave it there to cook while they were at work. For an authentic taste of this hearty dish, order one at Annie’s Restaurant and Tea Shop, (owned by Coronation Street actress Jennie McAlpine) which specialises in a menu of traditional local and British dishes.

Vimto – Originally sold as a health tonic when it was created in Manchester by John Noel Nichols in 1908, this fruity soft drink of raspberries, grapes and blackcurrants mixed with a blend of herbs and spices became a cordial in 1913. Now you can find it on supermarket shelves but innovative Manchester-based restaurant Grafene has created a Vimto-inspired cocktail called Vimto Gardens, a blend of Manchester’s Bramble’ Sipsmith Gin, Grafene’s Vimto purée and lemon.

 

5 must-do food and drink experiences

One for all the gin lovers; Three River’s Gin School has been designated number one of the best things to do in Manchester, according to TripAdvisor. This interactive gin experience is based in the City of Manchester Distillery, the city centre’s first distillery and home to Manchester Three Rivers Gin. The experience begins with a gin and tonic while guests learn about the distillery’s short history and the history of gin, before embarking on a distillery tour, sampling four complimentary gin-based drinks along the way and creating your own personalised bottle of gin in its mini copper pot stills to take home.

The word ‘scran’ is a popular term used in the north of England to describe food – one embraced by Scranchester Tours, a gastronomic, multi-stop tour that reveals the untold food and drink stories of the city through a series of tastings during a four-hour tour. You’ll learn how the city’s food and drink offer links to its history, discovering interesting gems such as what the diet of a Victorian mill worker would have been, and the back story to the neighbourhood of Ancoat’s Little Italy and its myriad ice-cream vendors. You’ll also taste some of the best ‘scran’ the city has to offer…come hungry!

Manchester is home to a raft of craft breweries, and one great way to experience several is by booking onto one of Manchester Brewery Tours’ experiences. Check out its Microbrewery Experience, where, for four hours, you’ll explore and learn about four of the city’s taprooms and craft beer venues, as well as the brewing process, and enjoy several tastings. Alternatively, book onto its Manchester Beer Tasting Tour or its Manchester Beer Pairings Masterclass, where local beers are matched with cheese and meats.

Explore the brilliant mix of street food, craft ales and live music that takes place at the GRUB weekly food fair, held at Fairfield Social Club in the regenerated Mayfield area of the city centre every Friday and Saturday, with every Sunday given over to all things vegan –  #PlantPoweredSundays. It’s a great place to meet the locals as there’s a real community feel at this food event. GRUB’s whole ethos is to support new traders and independent businesses from Manchester, so you’ll certainly find an authentic Mancunian foodie experience here.

Based in the well-heeled neighbourhood of Didsbury, Food Sorcery & Barista School offers cookery experiences led by expert chefs and local suppliers. Classes offer everything from world foods to steak masterclasses and cheese-making, as well as ‘fit food’ classes creating delicious meals to stay healthy. Coffee lovers should check out its coffee courses, suitable for upskilling your barista skills or learning how to make the perfect brew at home.

 

Hot restaurants you have to visit

The French – A fantastic example of British fine dining at its best, The French is located in a Grade II-listed dining room at the luxury Midland Hotel. Led by Manchester-born chef-patron Adam Reid, who has worked across many Michelin-starred restaurants, the four-, six- and nine-course menus combine seasonal produce with modern British flavours, such as Cumbrian red deer with pickled quince, girolles and bilberries, and Tunworth cheese and broccoli custard.

Where the Light Gets In – A British restaurant using foraged ingredients across its menus, Where The Light Gets In – based in Stockport half an hour outside Manchester city centre – brings storytelling to its dishes. There is no set menu available; instead, chef Sam Buckley creates a dining experience from the day's catch, harvest and slaughter, all served within the eclectic décor of a Victorian coffee warehouse.

  • The award-winning and trailblazing Allotment restaurant has moved from Stockport to a bigger site in Manchester city centre. Led by chef-owner Matthew Nutter, the Allotment’s innovative and unpretentious menu has won it plaudits such as The Times’ ‘Best Vegetarian Restaurant in the UK’. Choose from its signature menu or from either a seven- or ten-course tasting menu, which includes mouth-watering dishes such as braised celeriac with golden beetroot, rosemary, sun-blushed tomato and bechamel or Thai Squash Pie with gingerbread, tamarind toffee and salt-baked pineapple.

El Gato Negro – discover a taste of Spain in the city centre at this tapas restaurant located in a converted historic town house. The dishes are influenced by the seasons and, while they use traditional Spanish flavours, you’ll find local ingredients are used across its menu. See the creations come to life at the Chef’s Table or gaze at the stars while you dine on the top floor, which sits under a retractable roof.

Bundobust – showcasing Manchester’s strong international cuisine offer, Bundobust serves delicious Indian street food and craft beers, making this one of Manchester’s go-to places for easy, tasty cuisine. This ‘beer & Indian’ joint sits close to the Northern Quarter delivering Gujurat-inspired street food and craft beer from both local and international breweries.

Rudy’s – This little slice of Naples is found in the heart of Manchester. Rudy’s walk-in pizza restaurant makes its dough on site every day, just as they would in Naples. As well as its regular toppings, you could find a delicious innovative creation on the menu available for just that week, such as Ancoats Speciale, which served up pizza with pumpkin cream, scamoza, coppa, rocket and black pepper.  With two locations, one on Peter Street in the city centre and one in Ancoats, the pizzas are both tasty and Instagrammable.

The Refuge by Volta – nestled in the Grade II-listed Principal Hotel, this restaurant and bar serves up beautiful small plate dishes such as salt cod croquettes, Merguez sausage with spiced puy lentils and crispy egg yolk, and beetroot pakora with tamarind ketchup. Run by DJs-turned-restaurateurs Luke Cowdrey and Justin Crawford, AKA the Unabombers, there’s also the People’s Lunch on the menu, which is a changing selection of hearty specials. The food is inspired by world cuisine yet uses ingredients sourced in the north west of England. And with two DJs at the helm it’s not surprising that, come the weekend, its bar plays awesome sounds.

Mackie Mayor – A major refurbishment saw this Grade II-listed market building on the edge of the Northern Quarter become two floors of eateries housed under one huge glass roof. Up to 500 diners can be seated along the rows of long bench tables and seating, with customers choosing from Taiwanese steamed buns at Bao House to sustainable, British-caught fish cooked whole over chargrill at Fin Fish Bar. There’s also pizza, rotisserie, Italian cuisine, coffee, wines and beer.

 

A 48-hour foodie itinerary

 

Day One

 

07:30 Start with an early breakfast at Ezra & Gil, an urban coffee hangout in the Northern Quarter, housed in a former clothing showroom. Choose from a comprehensive menu that includes smashed pumpkin on toast, house-baked granola and Greek-style green omelette.

 

10:00 Time to work up an appetite again on the Northern Quarter Taster Walk led by Manchester Food Walks, where you’ll discover Manchester's history and culture with food from some of the city's best providers. One of the walks available (which could be taken over lunchtime) is a roving feast of five small plates in Northern Quarter eateries. The guide talks you through the historic district’s markets, curry cafés and cult destinations such as Afflecks Palace.

 

13:00 Still hungry? Grab a table at the Northern Quarter’s Trof to munch on burgers, sandwiches and salads and sample its extensive beer menu. Make plans to return in the evening to enjoy its dedicated bourbon bar or come back on a Sunday for its ‘Roasts & Records’ event, dining on a succulent traditional Sunday roast dinner accompanied by music played on vinyl.

14:00 The Runaway Brewery brews its ‘modern-tasting, recognisably British’ beers by hand in small batches at its microbrewery. Head there for its core range of Pale Ales, IPA, Smoked Porter and American Brown Ales – there’s always seasonal ales to try out – and book onto one of its brewery tours that take place every Saturday.

17:00 Witness a different type of Manchester creativity with cocktails at Apotheca. Opt for brilliantly named (and tasting) drinks such as Bacon and Brown Sauce Bloody Mary, Hazy Memoirs of a Geisha, or Selfie Inflicted, where ingredients such as lychee liqueur or wasabi peas might make an appearance. The décor is just as innovative as the cocktails – think antique apothecary cabinets and comfy leather sofas.

19:00 Taking residence inside an impressive, four-storey, wooden-framed building in the centre of commercial district Spinningfields, The Ivy is bringing the infamous London celebrity hotspot to Manchester when it opens in November. The café-style brasserie features an all-day dining menu, will be open seven days a week, and promises a mix of modern British and international dishes.

 

Day Two

09:00 The district of New Islington is home to Pollen Bakery, a bakery of Scandi-influenced design and counters groaning with freshly baked loaves and cakes. Start the day with one of its famous sourdough loaves (which come in forms such as five-seed, oat porridge and Pollen rye) or one of its Viennoiserie baked goods, ranging from cinnamon buns to Manchester tart cruffins and seasonal treats such as British strawberry pistachio bakewells.

10:00 Here’s your chance to experience urban foraging. Manchester-based cookery school and not-for-profit social enterprise Cracking Good Food, which promotes sustainable, seasonal cooking, offers a rolling programme of wild food forages that take place in the neighbourhoods of Didsbury, Chorlton and Sale. The foraging walks reflect the seasons with special mushroom hunts in the autumn or elderflower picking in the summer.

13:00 Opened in September 2018, Canto is a modern Portuguese restaurant imagined up by the chef patron of city hotspot El Gato Negro, Simon Shaw. Like its award-winning sibling, Canto serves up simple, modern and distinctive dishes, taking inspiration from Portugal’s culinary traditions – perfect for a lunchtime stop.

15:00 Manchester has a fascinating gin history, one which you can discover on the Gin Journey Manchester. The tour includes a distillery visit, a ‘Gin Guardian’ to relate all the stories and history, five samples of gin specially selected for the tour, five gin cocktails and a chauffeur to transport you from venue to venue.

19:30 Dine at the newly opened Peter Street Kitchen, part of a multi-million-pound renovation of the historic Radisson Blu Edwardian Hotel. This destination restaurant is all about ‘shared dining’, with a menu consisting of small plates from two different cuisines; contemporary Japanese and Mexican.

 

Food festivals in 2019

Manchester Food and Drink Festival – 2019 dates TBC but usually runs end of September to early October.

Bolton Food and Drink Festival – half an hour from Manchester, this large-scale festival runs in August.

Indy Man Beer Con – Taking place in October in the gorgeous surroundings of the Grade II-listed Victoria Baths, a short journey from the city centre, this is the place to visit for independent breweries showcasing their wares.