The World of Mr Banks

The world of ‘banks’ is at the very heart of the story of Mary Poppins; aside from the magical nanny herself, the main characters are the Banks family and Mr Banks is preoccupied with his work at a…you’ve guessed it, a bank! Britain itself has a long history of banking, with many branches once residing in the grandest buildings of a city that have now been transformed into elegant hotels and restaurants. As new feature film Mary Poppins Returns hits screens this winter it’s the perfect time to seek out your very own ‘Banks’ experience in Britain.

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The Ned, London

A City of London landmark since 1925, the building now occupied by luxury hotel The Ned was once the headquarters of Britain’s Midland Bank, a striking building designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens – one of Britain’s greatest architects – that was the largest clearing house bank in the world at the time it was built. Now a five-star hotel, part of the Soho House & Co Group and Sydell Group, its banking legacy means guests stay in a super-stylish building dominated with high-vaulted ceilings and grand doors. Its rooms range from the cosy ‘Crash Pad’ to Grand Heritage suites on the Grade I-listed fifth floor, while its pièce de résistance is its spectacular restaurant hall. Eight restaurants, ranging in cuisine from Italian to British, American to French, sit within the former banking hall, each with its own space separated by 92 verdite columns and walnut banking counters.

The Old Bank Hotel, Oxford, central England

Surrounded by the impressive architecture of ancient Oxford University colleges as well as the Bodleian Library, The Old Bank Hotel still manages to stand out in Oxford thanks to its stunning design. It fully became a bank in 1808, and had strong links with the University, counting author of Alice in Wonderland Lewis Carroll as one of its customers. Now a five-star property with 42 bedrooms, many with gorgeous views of Oxford landmarks, The Old Bank Hotel has recently undergone a refurbishment, resulting in the creation of a rooftop bedroom and terrace overlooking Oxford’s ‘dreaming spires’ skyline.

Harbour Hotel & Spa, Bristol, south-west England

Situated in the heart of Bristol, the Harbour Hotel & Spa is housed in not one, but two former Lloyds Bank buildings. Designed by famed Victorian architect William Bruce Gingell, who was inspired by the 16th-century Venetian Library, the hotel has a stunning façade and beautiful interiors. The former banking hall is particularly grand and often hosts events, while what were once the bank vaults are now the hotel’s luxury spa. Indulge in a treatment or two or a dip in the hydrotherapy pool knowing that you’re relaxing in the location where a lot of money was once guarded!

Inn on the Mile, Edinburgh, Scotland

It may not be on the same grandiose scale as some buildings that were formerly bank headquarters, but this gem of a boutique hotel on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile has lovingly conserved many of the building’s original features from when it was the British Linen Bank, built in 1923. The hotel’s nine bedrooms include large sash windows, high ceilings and original cornicing, while its pub also nods to its banking heritage in its décor and style.

Hotel Gotham, Manchester, north-west England

Sir Edwin Lutyens left his mark in Manchester when he designed the building of a former bank that is now home to Hotel Gotham. The architecture is quite breathtaking and the luxury hotel pays homage throughout to the building’s original purpose, maintaining elaborate period touches such as the polished wooden counters so synonymous with banks from the last century. The five-star hotel offers 60 rooms, including five Inner Sanctum Suites – two of which are named ‘Bank Manager’s Suites’ – all of which are decadent in style. Guests (and members) have access to its VIP Club Brass lounge, which is accessed through two vault-like doors.

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Old Bank of England, London

This pub and restaurant’s name sums up its past…it sits in the former Law Courts branch of the Bank of England, on the historic Fleet Street in the City of London. Stunningly renovated, the Old Bank of England has updated the ornate interior of the venue where the Bank of England traded from 1888 until 1975. When you’re enjoying your hearty British meals (think hand-made pies and fish and chips) you’ll be doing so surrounded by history; the basement still contains the original vaults used to store bullion and some of the Crown Jewels during the First World War. The two safes are now the venue’s cellars and kitchens.

The Corinthian Club, Glasgow, Scotland

Five floors of what was once a former bank and high court in the heart of Glasgow now house the restaurant, bar and event spaces of The Corinthian Club. One of the city’s most elaborate buildings, the Club has retained many of the original features of the Glasgow & Ship Bank (which was built in 1842) such as the impressive 26-foot glass dome and delicate, elegant plasterwork. Book into Teller’s Brasserie at the Club for a French-influenced dishes created using Scottish produce.

The Wolseley, London

Situated on Piccadilly, The Wolseley is run in the style of the European Grand Café, serving everything from breakfast to lunch, afternoon teas to dinners – it’s also very much a place to see and be seen. As well as the food, people come for the prestigious surroundings of the building that started life as a car showroom – Wolseley Motors – in 1921 and became a branch of Barclays Bank in 1927. Architect William Curtis Green created an opulent building, with marble pillars and archways, later adding banking counter and managers offices, which now serve as the bar and tea salon. When it became The Wolseley many aspects of the original design, including the domed ceiling and marble flooring, were kept.

The Dome, Edinburgh, Scotland

Dine on traditional Scottish favourites at this Edinburgh restaurant, which was once one of the city’s most striking bank branches and its décor remains as opulent to this day. Located in Edinburgh’s New Town, an elegant Graeco-Roman façade and Corinthian Portico greet its guests. You can dine under the dome itself in the Grill Room, among wood-panelled walls and Art Deco-inspired mirrors in The Club or take afternoon tea under the crystal chandeliers of The Georgian Tea Room.

Potted Pig, Cardiff, south Wales

Modern British cuisine and French/American culinary influences are on the menu at Cardiff’s Potted Pig, situated in a former Lloyd’s Bank vault beneath the city. Regularly changing seasonal menus are served in this underground restaurant that has retained a raft of original features, such as cast-iron cage doors and shallow-arched ceilings. The exposed brickwork, wooden floors and comfy sofas of its Gin Lounge make it the perfect place to experience its huge range of bespoke gins.

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Bank of England Museum, London

The Bank of England itself may not be open to visitors but you can explore its fascinating museum in the City of London. Five different galleries will take you through economic history and that of the Bank of England, from the origins of paper money and examples of forged notes to explaining why modern banknotes are difficult to counterfeit.

Royal Mint Experience, Llantrisant, south Wales

The Royal Mint makes and distributes British coins and official medals for around 60 countries every year and its location in south Wales, 30 minutes’ drive from Cardiff, also offers a visitor experience. Take a guided tour of the manufacturing areas to discover how coins are created and the chance to strike your own coin. The experience concludes with an interactive exhibition divided into six zones, which include the history and origins of the Mint and the roles coins play in our lives.

Museum on the Mound, Edinburgh, Scotland

Close to Edinburgh’s Princes Street and Edinburgh Castle, the Museum on the Mound is located in the historic Bank of Scotland Head Office and takes visitors through the story of money. You’ll be able to see Scotland’s oldest banknote, come face-to-face with a million pounds, see how safes are cracked open and learn much more about the design, technology and security of money at this free museum.

Day trips from London – Oxford and Cambridge

Oxford and Cambridge – two of the most famous university cities in the world that should be on everyone’s bucket lists to visit. Fortunately, both are around 60 miles from London – an hour’s journey by train – which make them easy to visit in a day trip from the capital and summer is the perfect time to explore them when the students are on their summer break. How do you choose which one if you’ve got just the one day to spare? Here’s a handy guide to help you choose the first to visit…as you plan a return trip to Britain to visit the other!

 

History & Heritage

Oxford

Founded in 1096, this prestigious university is the oldest university in the English-speaking world. And, if you have a penchant for literature, it also boasts a strong connection with some of the world’s greatest authors; alumni include luminaries such as JRR Tolkien (Oxford was where he penned Lord of the Rings), CS Lewis and Lewis Carroll, Oscar Wilde, T.S. Eliot, Phillip Pullman, Graham Greene – the list goes on!

Cambridge

Cambridge is also centuries old…although this esteemed university can claim to be a little younger than Oxford, having been founded in 1209. The university is renowned for its science legends – Charles Darwin studied here (see his notebooks at the city’s Sedgwick Museum), plus it’s famously where scientists Francis Crick and James Watson discovered the structure of DNA, and where World War Two code breaker Alan Turing and theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking studied.

 

The Universities

Oxford

The university made up of 38 independent colleges, which are dotted across Oxford, many of which you can visit and explore the college quads, gardens and chapels. They’re all worth a visit but Christ Church is probably one you already recognise – its grand hall was used as the setting for Hogwarts’ Great Hall in the Harry Potter films – and its home to Christ Church Cathedral, which contributes to the reason why Oxford is called the city of ‘dreaming spires’. Elsewhere, New College, which was also used in the Harry Potter films, has a gorgeous garden with the original city wall running around its boundaries and its Chapel is home to art such as a two-metre high sculpture of Lazarus. More stunning architecture can be found at Balliol College.

Cambridge

Cambridge University has 31 colleges, so a little smaller than Oxford but no less spectacular in its architecture and grounds. One of the best examples of gothic architecture can be found at the chapel at King’s College – you’ll discover incredible medieval stained-glass windows here as well as the largest fan-vaulted ceiling in the world. If you go along for Choral Evensong you’ll be captivated by some of the most beautiful sounds – the choir sings here most days and its free to visit. King’s College was founded by Henry VI, his queen Margaret of Anjou went on to found the equally beautiful Queen’s College, one of the oldest and largest at Cambridge. Trinity College, designed by Sir Christopher Wren (of St Paul’s Cathedral fame), boasts the incredible Wren Library and make sure you stop by the Corpus Clock at Corpus Christi College; this incredible monument doesn’t have hands or digital numbers and was designed to be beautiful yet disconcerting.

 

Activities

Oxford

Whether you’re in Oxford or Cambridge, a punt on the river is essential! A punt is a flat-bottomed boat, propelled by pushing off the river bed with a long pole. One of the biggest punt stations in Oxford is the Cherwell Boathouse (you can eat at its restaurant too), where you’ll punt down the River Cherwell, underneath low-slung bridges, past the city’s Botanic Gardens and the pretty Magdalen College.

A night at the theatre is also a must; the world-famous Sheldonian Theatre, the university’s official ceremonial venue, is a regular host of classical music performances. Head to the New Theatre Oxford for comedy and West End shows while the Oxford Playhouse is home to everything from family shows, drama, student and amateur shows to comedy, poetry and contemporary dance. And, with Oxford University blessed with so many famous authors among its alumni, it’s only fitting that every year the renowned Oxford Literary Festival takes place (March 30-7 April 2019).

In a city with such a profound history, you’ll also find a museum or two along the way! Everything from contemporary art to Egyptian mummies can be found at The Ashmolean, the university’s museum of art and archaeology, while Oxford Castle and Prison both relates 1,000 years of the murky side of the city’s history and hosts a packed events programme; for eight weeks this summer it’s home to Oxford’s Shakespeare Festival.

Looking for a gift to take home? There are plenty of university themed souvenirs at The University of Oxford Shop or head down to the Oxford Covered Market to browse the cute independent shops, while high-street treats can be found at the large-scale shopping mall Westgate Oxford.

Cambridge

Punting on the River Cam is an excellent way to enjoy the beautiful university colleges – either hire a punt to take out yourself or take a guided tour so you can absorb the city’s history in full along the way. You’ll pass by landmarks such as The Backs (of the colleges), the Bridge of Sighs, Trinity College’s Wren Library and the magnificent King’s College Chapel.

Discover more of the city’s past in its fantastic array of museums. Art and antiquities are on display at the Fitzwilliam Museum, modern and contemporary art can be found at the university’s Kettle’s Yard, or take a journey through 4.5 billion years of earth’s existence at the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences.

Cambridge also boasts significant theatrical and comedic connections – the famous Cambridge Footlights comedy troupe, which spawned great names including John Cleese and Emma Thompson, can be seen performing at the ADC Theatre. Great student theatre, as well as musical events such as free lunchtime concerts, can be found at the Mumford Theatre, the Cambridge Corn Exchange hosts comedy, musicals and concerts, while the Cambridge Arts Theatre offers audiences plays, comedy and musical theatre. And, every summer, al fresco music performances are the order of the day across the city’s green spaces during its Summer in the City event. Come in the autumn and treat yourself to the Cambridge Film Festival (25 October-1 November), which shows everything in the world of film, from shorts to documentaries to a children’s film festival, while its Movies on the Meadows, one of the UK’s largest outdoor cinema experiences, takes place at the end of August.

Shopping is a real pleasure in Cambridge; pick up treats among the stalls on the cobbled streets of Market Square, explore boutique stores and find artisan products and arts and crafts at Saturdays All Saints Garden Art and Craft Market opposite Trinity College. British high-street brands have their home in Grand Arcade and the Lion Yard Shopping Centre, and you can find bohemian-style restaurants and shops along Mill Road.

 

Film & TV locations

Oxford

Oxford was one of the film locations for the biggest film franchise in history; Harry Potter. As well as Christ Church College doubling up as the glorious Hogwarts dining hall, the Bodleian Library was also used and the Divinity School became the school’s infirmary in the fourth Potter film.

Detective drama Inspector Morse was set in the city and you can visit its locations on walking tours. Order a pint at the Morse Bar at the Macdonald Randolph Hotel, the place where Morse himself used to enjoy a drink.

Oxford University played an integral role in the story of Brideshead Revisited – it was where Charles Ryder met Lord Sebastian Flyte while they were students – and some of its colleges were used as film locations during the 2008 movie (author of the book, Evelyn Waugh, studied at Oxford). Wander around the cloisters of Magdalen College and the 750-year old Merton College, both used as locations in the film.

Twenty minutes from Oxford lies the magnificent Blenheim Palace, which has featured in so many films (The BFG, Cinderella, James Bond’s SPECTRE and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation to name a few,) it has its own film trail.

Cambridge

Eddie Redmayne won an Oscar and a BAFTA for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, and much of the film was shot on location in Cambridge, where Hawking studied. You can explore the city’s cobbled streets shown in the film, as well many of the university’s colleges, notably St John’s, which also played a starring role.

Outside the city, the Cambridgeshire countryside is regularly seen on the big and small screen. The Crown used Ely Cathedral (50 minutes from Cambridge) to depict Westminster Abbey, and movies such as The King's Speech, The Other Boleyn Girl and Elizabeth: The Golden Age were filmed on location in the Cambridgeshire countryside.

 

Accommodation

Oxford

A brilliant way to experience life as a university student – and a very cost-effective one – is to stay in one of the colleges outside of term time…you can also enjoy breakfast in their grand dining halls.

However, the city does have some fabulous hotels, each with their own unique history. Luxury five-star hotel The Macdonald Randolph boasts glorious gothic architecture and is also a lovely place to enjoy afternoon tea or a drink in its Cartoon Bar. The city is packed with heritage-style hotels; intimate and comfortable, the Bath Place Hotel is set across five 17th-century cottages near the historic Turf Tavern, while the chic 18th-century townhouse The Vanbrugh House Hotel neighbours the buildings of the university’s famous debating society, the Oxford Union. And for something a little quirky, why not summon up the courage to sleep in a converted prison cell at Oxford Castle?

Cambridge

You can stay in a historic Cambridge college outside of term time too – so you can really be in the heart of university life; eat in the college halls and stroll through the college gardens for a student experience without the studying!

There are also plenty of B&Bs and guesthouses dotted around, one of which is boutique B&B The Duke House; this cosy property is only a few minutes’ stroll from all the colleges. Boutique Hotel du Vin blends history with contemporary style. And visit the luxurious Varsity Hotel & Spa for panoramic views of the city from its rooftop restaurant and bar.

TASTE June 2018

TREND: Pop up food

For its fifth and biggest year this summer, Carnaby Street Eat is returning this year with over 30 food stalls and trucks in the heart of London’s West End on 11 July. The free-entry street food festival will showcase some of London’s most diverse restaurants with a focus on the variety of global cuisines available and exclusive dishes. Another temporary delight, HipChips has launched a pop-up in One New Change and will be serving hand crafted heritage potato crisps alongside a menu of premium sweet and savoury dips. They will be open every Wednesday and Friday from 10am to 3pm throughout the summer months.

 

London

The all-embracing vegan trend continues to rise as three vegan newcomers are in London’s spotlight this summer. Following the hugely successful launch of the Covent Garden site in February, the plant-based phenomenon by Chloe will open its second London restaurant this summer in Tower Bridge. The chef-driven vegan menu features locally sourced ingredients in their most natural form to create hearty, nourishing meals made from whole ingredients that can have a positive impact on the overall mind, body and health. As part of W London Hotel's Dining Series, a new fully vegan menu that masterfully showcases just how flavourful and versatile vegan food can be, has been unveiled at W London in Leicester Square by Ravinder Bhogal. This residency is available to book until the end of June 2018, so grab a spot while you still can. Purezza (purity) was the first vegan pizzeria in the UK when it launched in Brighton in 2015, and plant-lovers will be pleased to know that last month they launched a new restaurant in Camden. Their aim is simple: to make their plant based menu superior to the traditional alternatives.

Top chef Mark Sargeant has bought modern British dining to his new venture at the iconic Tower of London with the launch last month of Sargeant's Mess, in collaboration with independent hospitality group, CH&Co and Historic Royal Palaces. Using ingredients from local producers, the restaurant has an extensive outdoor terrace with impressive views across the river and a dedicated bar serving prosecco on tap, frozen cocktails and beer slushies makes it the perfect alfresco spot for this summer. 

 

South West England

Roth Bar & Grill, Somerset, will be joining over 1,000 farms across the UK in Open Farm Sunday on 10 June: an annual initiative celebrating the diversity of British farming and the many ways in which the countryside can be farmed, foraged and maintained. Expect tractor and trailer rides across the farm, butchery demonstrations and farm produce samples such as Durslade Farm cider. With its own working farm and kitchen garden supplying the restaurant, the farmhouse offers a slice of culture in the countryside with its on-site art gallery and landscape gardens.

Gin lovers rejoice as the UK's biggest Gin Festival Tour arrives in Salisbury on 23 June. Based in Malthouse Lane, The Great British Gin Festival features over 100 different gins from around the world alongside cocktail demonstrations, talks and presentations, trade stands and even a virtual reality gin distillery.

 

South East England

The new official pub tour of Oxford offers a great way to discover a fine range of medieval and more recent inns and hostelries, providing a glimpse of history, and finishing with a lovely, cold pint. Led by a qualified guide with an intimate knowledge of the city (and the interior of many of its pubs), the tours are 1.5 hours long and start at 7pm.

 

East Midlands

Fischer’s Baslow Hall has launched a brand new foraging dining experience in Derbyshire, led by one of the UK’s top foraging and wild food experts, James Wood. Guests will have the chance to experience the abundance of wild ingredients on offer in the area: from flowers tasting of pineapple, to leaves tasting of aniseed. There will be a whole morning of foraging will be followed by a three-course lunch inspired by the morning’s bountiful harvest, showcasing truly local, seasonal and fresh wild ingredients at their best. The next available date will be 10 October.

 

Edinburgh, Scotland

The latest addition to the Chop House family has opened in Edinburgh’s Bruntsfield. Serving the best British beef, dry-aged and butchered in-house, Chop House offers a unique casual dining experience focused on steak and cocktails. Renowned for a sociable style of dining, Chop House presents large cuts of beef, sharing starters and enticing side dishes designed to be enjoyed by the whole table. The custom-made marble bar on the ground floor is the perfect spot to soak up the bustling atmosphere and views of Bruntsfield Links. A fantastic selection of drinks includes a carefully-curated wine list, inventive cocktails and locally-sourced beers including Chop House’s own beer brewed in partnership with Drygate Brewery.

 

The Fishmarket is a new seafood venture from Ondine’s Chef Patron, Roy Brett and Gary Welch, owner of Welch Fishmongers. Situated on Newhaven Harbour where boats have landed fish since the 16th century, the refurbishment of the original fish market building has taken over a year and extensive investment. There is both a traditional fish and chip counter and a 50-cover restaurant with a champagne bar where dishes on offer include Crispy Crab Claws from Scrabster and Grilled Tobermory Langoustines, Oysters and the Grand ‘Fruits of the Sea’.

 

Hawksmoor, one of UK’s best-known and most respected restaurants is coming to Scotland this summer with a new restaurant opening in Edinburgh in mid-July. Situated in the banking hall of the former Royal Bank of Scotland headquarters, the 170-cover restaurant and bar will celebrate the original features of the A listed ‘building of national importance’ and a rare example of late Art Deco Scottish architecture. The restaurant will also draw on the amazing produce the country has to offer and feature seafood from around the Scottish coast alongside its famous beef from grass-fed native breed cattle from both sides of the border.

 

AWARDS

Welsh and proud, Aber Falls Distillery, the first whisky distillery in North Wales in more than 100 years, has achieved five prestigious medals at the this year’s San Francisco World Spirits Competition – one of the spirits industry’s most respected competitions. The brand’s multiple successes include a Gold for its new Welsh Dry Gin, a Silver for its Orange Marmalade Gin, Violet and Salted Toffee Liqueurs, and a Bronze for its Dark Chocolate & Coffee Liqueur.

In 2018, Olive Magazine honoured Radnor Preserves, who are based in Caersws, Powys, as one of the top 10 finest artisan food producers in Britain. They have been judged as one of the best artisan marmalade producers in the world, and 2015 they won the Champion of Champion's Double Gold Prize at the World Marmalade Awards. Ingredients are locally sourced as far as possible, and all products are gluten free and are suitable for vegetarians and vegans. 

The Bull, Beaumaris on the Isle of Anglesey has won the Wales Pub of the Year at the National Pub and Bar Awards.

Britain’s canals: sailing along Britain’s waterways

Britain’s canals are not just mere waterways. Hand-carved 200 years ago, they’re now considered an astonishing feat of Victorian engineering.

 

Often referred to as The Cut due to the way they cut a path through the countryside and connect the country’s river systems, they quickly became a vital mode of transport during the industrial revolution for many trades. And it was the success of these commercial waterways during the 18th and early 19th centuries that helped Britain become a global superpower.

 

But after World War II, these traditional businesses began to decline and the waterways fell into disrepair. Until the 1960s that is, when community groups began to rescue and restore them.

 

Today, this winding network of waterways is open to the public, who can enjoy a whole range of quintessentially British activities from narrow-boating and canoeing, to fishing, biking or walking the towpaths.

 

Birmingham - the Venice of the Midlands

 

The Grand Union Canal links London to the heart of Peaky Blinders territory in Birmingham. Start in Paddington Basin in west London and travel through villages and industrial towns right up through the lush green countryside of Colne Valley Regional Park.

 

Cuts through the countryside

 

Visit Britain’s famous university city of Oxford and join in with another local tradition – the pub crawl. College Cruisers will take you via narrowboat along the Oxford Canal, past Cotswold villages and rolling farmland, before pulling up outside your pick of charming canalside pubs for a G&T and a hearty pub lunch.

 

Stop to admire the engineering marvel that is Denham Deep Lock in Buckinghamshire – with an 11-foot drop, it’s by far the deepest in the Grand Union Canal and the clever design allows boats to breach the different water levels by simply raising or lowering the craft.

 

Canals connect in London

 

Browse the stalls and shops of London’s legendary Camden Market before taking a trip down Regent’s Canal with The London Waterbus. This scenic cruise passes though leafy north London up to Little Venice, Paddington, and stops at London Zoo.

 

Where the Grand Union Canal meets Regents Canal, you’ll find the delightful oasis of Little Venice - it’s believed that poet and former resident Robert Browning named it. This tranquil stretch of water is lined with impressive Georgian and Victorian houses and is home to Browning’s Island, an islet that’s home to waterbirds, Egyptian Geese and a handful of ‘floating’ businesses including an art gallery and hotel.

 

If all that exploring makes you hungry, there are countless places to eat on and along the canals, including the floating Waterside Café and The Waterway restaurant with its large outdoor terrace. Step aboard the Feng Shang Princess, the floating Chinese restaurant near Primrose Hill, known for its celebrity clientele and canal views, or check out the Narrowboat Pub on Regent's Canal in Islington.

 

While London's waterways are full of surprises, one of the most delightful is the Puppet Theatre Barge. This floating marionette theatre first came to life 40 years ago, and is still captivating children from its 72-foot-long, flat-bottomed boot moored in Little Venice.

 

For a one-off experience, enjoy a cruise with HotTugUK. You'll need a swimsuit and a sense of fun for this one - these electric-powered, self-drive, floating hot tubs chug around the City Road Basin (five minutes from Angel and Old Street tube stations) and you’ll have 75 minutes of sailing time, basking in London views and water that’s heated to a rather pleasant 38 degrees. 

 

For more information on the history of UK's canals, pop along to one of the Open Day events run by the Canal River Trust.

Post-Christmas sales: grab a bargain in Britain

Britain may be a nation of shopkeepers, but it's also a nation of bargain hunters – especially during seasonal sale periods when shops offer huge discounts and incentives. It's not just the high street shops and major department stores that drop their prices though; many independent boutiques offer hefty savings and you can grab even bigger bargains at outlet centres such as Bicester Village near Oxford and the McArthurGlen Designer Outlet in York.

 

Post-Christmas and January sales are famous for being one of the best times of the year in Britain to make big savings, so it’s a great time to visit. Here we round-up how to make the most of Britain’s biggest sales, as well as other key saving periods throughout the year.

 

Boxing Day and January sales

The biggest sale of the year kicks off on Boxing Day (26 December). It may be a public holiday in Britain, but many shops open early to sell their discounted Christmas stock.

John Lewis famously launches its sale on 27 December to allow its staff to enjoy a Boxing Day break. The Harrods Boxing Day sale is now legendary, and crowds flock to the iconic department store in London's Knightsbridge to queue around the block overnight (serious bargain hunters start queuing as early as Christmas Eve) in order to hunt for the best bargains. Customers are even given Harrods blankets to keep warm. In previous years, the Boxing Day sale event has featured live reindeers and a performance by Florence + The Machine.

Popular high street store Next has more than 500 branches across the country and is known for the generous discounts it offers in the Boxing Day sales, with some of its stores opening as early as 6am. Selfridges department store (in addition to the London flagship store, there are also outlets in Birmingham and Manchester) is also popular at this time of year, particularly for the designer handbags and clothes on offer.

 

Easter sales

Good Friday and Easter Monday are both public holidays in Britain and the long weekend is always a regular fixture on the sales calendar. Many shops use this opportunity to sell off some of their unsold winter stock. Department store Debenhams has more than 240 stores across the country and at Easter (and at many other times of the year) you can take advantage of its popular 'Blue Cross Sale' that sees items discounted by as much as 70 per cent. After the Easter holidays you can also pick up heavily discounted chocolate eggs at Britain's main supermarkets including Tesco, Sainsbury's, Asda and Waitrose.

 

Summer sales (June and July)

The date that shops launch their summer sales very much depends on a number of factors, including the weather and general trading conditions. Unlike the Boxing Day or Easter sales, the summer sales do not launch on a specific date and individual shops can start their own sales at a time that suits them. The summer sales usually kick off in July or late June and, depending on performance, can stretch into August. If it's a particularly hot summer, shops can offer considerable discounts to lure people in from the sunny streets.

 

Black Friday (the fourth Friday of November)

The American tradition of shopping for bargains the day after the Thanksgiving holiday has caught on in Britain, and Black Friday is now a major event in the yearly sales calendar. Many people buy up all of their Christmas presents, as the sales launch on the fourth Friday of November. The date is now considered to mark the start of the Christmas shopping season. Whereas Cyber Monday focuses on online sales, Black Friday is all about in-store discounts. You can expect to see crowds of eager shoppers up and down major British high streets as well as shopping malls and department stores, with many extending their opening hours. Marks & Spencer often promotes discounts of up to 50 per cent, and offers a number of promotions at this time.

 

Grab bigger bargains at Britain's outlet stores

Britain's outlet centres offer deals all year round but you can grab even bigger discounts during the main sale periods as items are marked down even further. While some stores might not observe the Easter or summer sale traditions, most outlet centres offer heavily discounted stock in the Boxing Day and Black Friday sales.

 

Britain's most famous outlet centre is Bicester Village near Oxford, a 45-minute train ride from London or an hour's drive from Birmingham. It's home to more than 130 boutiques including brands such as Gucci, Marc Jacobs and Paul Smith. McArthurGlen has designer outlets in six locations across Britain, including York (a two-hour train ride from London) and Cheshire, a 45-minute train ride from Liverpool. Clarks Village in Somerset, an hour's drive from Bristol, features around 90 stores including top British brands including Clarks, Hamleys and Hobbs.