Commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower’s voyage to America

This September marks 400 years since the Mayflower’s pioneering voyage from Plymouth to the ‘New World’, and events are being held across England to commemorate the journey. Visitors to Britain can experience an incredible range of festivals, exhibitions, self-guided tours and art installations, organised by Mayflower 400. These events will reveal the fascinating history and cultural impact of the journey, while celebrating the values of freedom, democracy, integration and tolerance in the modern world. So, why wait? Read on to discover more about the Mayflower celebrations or find out how to explore Britain’s rich maritime heritage, for a truly epic voyage into history.

The opening event

Commencing in November 2019, there will be a rich 12-month programme of cultural events focusing on the Native American people and the connection between the UK, Netherlands and America. Organised in conjunction with the Wampanoag Advisory Committee, this collection of events and exhibitions aims to highlight Britain’s link to the founding of the United States in a culturally sensitive way.

The commemorative programme of events will open with a set of illuminations at multiple locations including Plymouth, Rotherhithe and Dartmouth. Local and international artists will create spectacular light installations to mark the first Thanksgiving that happened between the pilgrims and the Native Americans in 1621.

When? 28 November – 1 December 2019, entry is free.

Self-guided tours

‘Mayflower Self-Guided Tours’, a free app aiming to tell the stories of the original pilgrims via trail guides, has been released as part of Mayflower 400. Allowing visitors to follow Mayflower trails, the app uses GPS to guide users along routes in British cities, towns and villages associated with the Mayflower. Free guided walks and driving tours encourage visitors to retrace the steps of the pilgrims in connected locations such as Rotherhithe in London, Southampton, Dartmouth and Plymouth. With exciting new additions such as artworks, way-markers and new installations along the trails, key spots such as Gainsborough Old Hall and the Mayflower Steps in Plymouth can be explored in an immersive and insightful way.

Mayflower 400: Legends and Legacy

The commemorative festival will also include ‘Mayflower 400: Legends and Legacy’, a major artistic programme due to show at The Box, Plymouth. This will include a series of community projects, events and art focusing on the pilgrims and Native Americans touched by the Mayflower voyage. It will bring objects from the National Museum of the American Indian, the Harvard Peabody Museum and Pilgrim Hall to Plymouth for the first time, showcasing Native American culture to a new audience in Britain.

When? Running from spring 2020 – autumn 2021

The Elizabethan House

An Elizabethan House in Plymouth is being restored as part of the Mayflower 400 commemorations, taking visitors back to the late 16th century. Experience the feel of a traditional British house from the time of the pilgrims, set out in the style of a sea captain’s home and complete with restored wooden panelling. Set to reopen in 2020, the house will feature expertly restored rooms over two floors, including a kitchen, dining room, bedrooms and a parlour.

See a complete overview of the Mayflower 400 programme in this guide.

Mayflower Heritage Tours

From 102 passengers, there are currently an estimated 30 million Americans alone whose linage can be traced back to the pilgrims and crew from this voyage, making the Mayflower 400 a new and interactive way to trace ancestry. Curious travellers can now book a range of ‘Mayflower Tours’, guiding them around historic cobbled streets and traditional pubs, as well as stopping for educational Mayflower 400 events or talks. Prices vary.

South-east England’s historical ships

For visitors wishing to experience more of Britain’s nautical history and continue on their own journey of discovery, south-east England has a number of fascinating ships to explore.

HMS Warrior, Portsmouth

Once the highlight of Queen Victoria’s fleet, the HMS Warrior was the world’s first armour-plated warship. A fantastic example of a Victorian combat vessel, the ship is now a museum where visitors can explore the decks and learn about life on the ocean. This is one of the most interactive historic ships to visit, with characters from its heyday walking the decks, alongside opportunities for visitors to learn sword fighting skills, master signal flag waving and to peek inside the captain’s cabin.

Tickets to a single attraction at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard cost £18 for adults and £13 for children and students, but there are a range of ticket types available depending on the number of attractions included.

A discount of 20% is available when buying a Full Navy Ticket online – this includes access to HMS Warrior, HMS Victory, the National Museum of the Royal Navy Portsmouth, harbour tours and more.

The Mary Rose Museum, Portsmouth

Once serving the Tudor Navy under King Henry VIII, the Mary Rose made her first voyage in 1510, and was a successful war ship for almost all of the monarch’s reign. This vessel was raised from the seabed in 1982, after underwater research uncovered the shipwreck. Visitors can see what was saved of the ship at the Mary Rose Museum, along with thousands of Tudor artefacts that were also recovered from the wreckage.

A Portsmouth Pass allows visitors 12 months to visit the Mary Rose, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, Emirates Spinnaker Tower and The D-Day story. A VIP experience can be booked online, which includes a private tour with behind-the-scenes access, a boat ride to the Mary Rose wreck site, a private audience and retelling of the Mary Rose story by a King Henry VIII impersonator, and a goody bag. This costs £75 per person. General admission to this attraction is £18 on the day for adults and £8.50 for a child. A discount of 20% is available when bought online.

HMS Victory, Portsmouth

Famous for being Lord Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, HMS Victory embarked on numerous voyages after first setting sail in 1765. Docked at Portsmouth since 1922, it is now a museum, where visitors can discover what life would have been like on board such a vessel. Walk through the Great Cabin where the Admiral would have planned his battle strategy, the lower gun deck where 460 members of the crew slept and ate, and the Poop Deck, only recently open to the public. This is the highest point of the ship, giving an additional historical perspective as well as great views of the surrounding dockyard.

This is also part of the Full Navy Ticket scheme, otherwise a ticket to two attractions costs £18, and for a single attraction, £13.

The Cutty Sark, London

Visitors can get a taste of Victorian life on the sea as they explore the decks of the Cutty Sark. There are both above and below decks, a chance to manoeuvre the ship’s wheel and to listen to the stories of people who lived and breathed the Cutty Sark in daily dramatic retellings.

Built in 1869 and restored in 2007, this impressive example of a British sailing ship is an award-winning London attraction.

Visitors can save when buying a Day Explorer ticket, which includes multiple London sites, or by purchasing online. Walk-up prices are £15 for adults and £7.50 for children.

Celebrate the moon landings with these stellar British events

Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took the historic first steps on the moon on 20 July 1969, an iconic moment in modern history. To celebrate 50 years since this monumental event for space exploration, 2019 will see numerous space, moon and star events taking place across Britain.

From exhibitions showing space-related wonders to top stargazing spots, Britain is ready to celebrate half a century of celestial exploration.

 

Celebrating the Moon – Events:

 

Natural History Museum, London

The Natural History Museum invites visitors to relax and stretch at a unique yoga class underneath a seven-metre artistic representation of the moon, recreated using detailed imagery from NASA. Participants can experience different types of yoga classes in this atmospheric environment, including vinyasa, a crystal ball sound bath, a gong bath, slow flow yoga and reiki drumming. There is also a family-friendly yoga class available in the same setting. Tickets start from £19, rising to £26 per person for gong meditation or reiki drumming.

When? Multiple dates running throughout July and August 2019

In collaboration with South Kensington cheese shop, La Cave à Fromage, the Natural History Museum presents an evening of cheese and wine tasting, underneath Luke Jerram’s moon installation, The Museum of the Moon. Four different cheeses will be paired with wine, while a museum scientist will educate groups about the moon and talk through a few pieces in the related collection. Originally a trio of events, the third in the series is the only one that still has availability. Tickets cost £48.75, with a discounted price available for members.

When? The last remaining event is 20 August 2019

Exploring the relationship between the earth and moon, the Natural History Museum presents ‘Companion: Moon’, a performance of multiple art forms, under the same moon installation ‘The Museum of the Moon’. Inspired by conversations with museum scientists, audience members can either observe or participate. This free performance lasts 15 minutes and will be shown multiple times over the course of the day.

When? Multiple performances throughout July and August 2019

Science Museum, London

Celebrate space exploration with a three-month ‘Summer of Space’ festival of celestial events at the Science Museum. Highlights include an IMAX screening of Apollo 11: First Steps Edition, documenting the lift-off, journey and return home of the first moon landing expedition. Tickets are £11 for adults and £23 for a family.

When? July to September 2019

For an insightful evening of talks focusing on moon conspiracy theorists, the Science Museum will speak to a range of experts, including lecturers in psychology and space science, to discuss and debunk some of the major conspiracy theories surrounding the 1969 moon landing. Experts will also discuss the rise of fake news and the impact of social media. Tickets cost £10.

When? 31 July 2019

Visitors can join British astronaut Tim Peake for an immersive 360° virtual reality space experience, in Space Descent VR with Tim Peake. Going on a mission from the seat of the Soyuz capsule, this experience gives a near first-hand glimpse into an astronaut’s space journey. Tickets cost £7.

When? Open daily from May - September 2019

Allowing visitors to get closer to experiencing a journey to the moon, the Legend of Apollo 3D computer animation uses moving seats, wind, water and lighting alongside an in-depth 3D film to create an entirely immersive lunar event. Shown across two rooms, the pre-show documentary sets the scene, before viewers use 3D glasses to enjoy the main animation. Tickets cost £4.

When? Open daily until November 2019

 

The Museum of the Moon, UK Tour

Touring the UK throughout 2019, the Museum of the Moon is an awe-inspiring art installation by artist Luke Jerram. Made using imagery of the surface from NASA and measuring seven metres in diameter, this glowing representation of the moon will be showing at atmospheric locations including Derby Cathedral, Leicester Cathedral and Rievaulx Abbey.

When? Throughout the year, see full listings here.

Royal Museum Greenwich, London

The UK’s largest exhibition dedicated to Apollo 11’s moon exploration will land at the National Maritime Museum this July. The Moon Exhibition will map the social and scientific journey of space exploration and discuss the cultural importance of the moon in society. Boasting over 180 objects, including artefacts and equipment from the original Apollo 11 mission, there will also be lunar samples on display. Adult tickets cost £9, children £5.85 and students £6.

When? July 19 2019 – January 5 2020

 

Year-round stargazing in the UK

Royal Observatory, London

Offering four different stellar shows, the Royal Observatory in Greenwich gives an in-depth glance into our universe through projections and visualisations. Currently showing is Moons Beyond Counting, The Sky Tonight Live, Meet the Neighbours and a special show just for children, Ted’s Space Adventure. Found in the Peter Harrison Planetarium within the Royal Observatory, adult tickets cost £9, children £5.85 and students £6 for each event.

Battlestead Hotel & Observatory, Northumberland

An official ‘Dark Skies Discovery Site’, Battlestead Observatory offers talks, events and astronomy classes, as well as hideaways for star spotting. Stargazing and Moonwatching is an event that happens throughout the year, offering a chance to learn how to identify wrinkle ridges, lunar rilles, craters and volcanoes on the moon. Visitors can also embark on ‘Astronomy for Absolute Beginners’ classes and partake in Aurora Hunting, detailing how to spot the Northern Lights and where to go to see them. Ticketed events cost £22.50 for adults, and £19.50 for concessions.

Dark Sky Sites, UK

Boasting four of the thirteen official Dark Skies Reserves in the world, Britain has a strong pull for serious stargazers. Thanks to their very limited light pollution, National Parks such as Brecon Beacons, Exmoor, Snowdonia and South Downs have been recognised as some of the best spots for enjoying the night sky in the UK, while many others are designated Dark Sky Discovery Sites.

Discover Queen Victoria’s Britain

2019 marks 200 years since the birth of Queen Victoria, a monarch whose reign defined an era and who oversaw a period of unparalleled industrial, cultural, scientific, political and military change in Britain. On the throne for more than 63 years at a time of great invention and innovation, the anniversary is being marked with events across Britain, and especially at locations with close ties to the monarch. This year is therefore a great chance to discover Queen Victoria’s Britain…

Balmoral

To mark the 200th anniversary, the Ballroom Exhibition at Balmoral Castle includes objects and portraits that detail Queen Victoria’s time at Balmoral. As the only room in the Castle available for viewing – the others are the reigning Queen’s private quarters – visitors can see a number of Victorian items that provide a glimpse into what life was like during the period. The City of Leeds Pipe Band will also perform on the Saturday closest to the anniversary, with the lead piper being a descendant of Queen Victoria’s first piper Angus Mackay.

When? 1 April – 31 July (The grounds, gardens, exhibitions, gift shop and café are open daily from 10am to 5pm). 25 May (Pipe Band between 12pm and 2pm)

Glasgow Museums Resource Centre 

Find out about life as a contemporary of Queen Victoria as part of a tour showcasing the parallel lives of a generation who were born in 1819 at the Glasgow Museums Resource Centre. The Queen Victoria and her contemporaries at 200 tour will focus on objects connected to both Victoria and Price Albert, alongside novelist George Eliot, art and social critic John Ruskin, pioneer war photographer Roger Fenton and painters Gustave Courbet and William Powell Frith, among others. It will raise questions over generational identity and will explore the many ways of living in Victorian Britain.

When? 30 April (from 2.30pm)

Cliveden House

Once enjoyed by Queen Victoria as a relaxing destination for afternoon tea, the Spring Cottage at Cliveden House is one of two experiences on offer to mark the 200th anniversary of her birth. Guests can tuck into an afternoon tea, including the famous Victoria sponge cake that was named after the Queen herself, and an array of finger sandwiches and savoury treats, all accompanied by an aromatic Cliveden blend tea. Or retrace the footsteps of royalty with a stay at the Spring Cottage on the Banks of the River Thames, accompanied by a 45-minute Champagne river cruise.

When? 24-26 May (Afternoon tea, must be booked in advance) 20 May – 30 September 2019 (Spring Cottage Escape, must be booked in advance)

Kensington Palace

Queen Victoria’s birthplace will celebrate her bicentenary by altering the state rooms at Kensington Palace to reflect what life was like for the young princess growing up, alongside an incredible exhibition of her life. Historic Royal Palaces are creating an evocative and family-friendly display using an array of remarkable objects that relate to Victoria’s early years, including a scrapbook of mementos created by her German Governess Baroness Lehzen, which goes on public display for the first time. The palace’s Pigott Gallery will house an exhibition that delves into her later life and the legacy left behind, providing a unique insight into the private woman behind the public monarch. Featuring rare clothing from Victoria’s private wardrobe and other items that have previously remained out of the public eye, both the exhibition and the new walking route around the state rooms will open on the anniversary of Queen Victoria’s birthday.

When? From 24 May (Entry to the exhibitions is included with standard entry to the palace)

Osborne, Isle of Wight

Renowned as Queen Victoria’s seaside retreat, Osborne House on the Isle of Wight will mark the bicentenary with a new trail around the unique collection found within the house and its gardens. The gifts received and exchanged by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert form the focal point of a new display too, highlighting their eclectic tastes and interests. Browse the opulent state rooms, as well as the pair’s bedroom and the royal nursery, before heading into the walled garden or wandering along Queen Victoria’s private beach. English Heritage is hosting The Great Victorian Show at Osborne House, celebrating the many inventions from the era and featuring a display of horsemanship and other entertainment including a traditional Punch and Judy show. Victoria’s Island Trail also includes 14 locations across the Isle of Wight that were popular with Queen Victoria and the royal family.

When? 28-30 May (The Great Victorian Show), Daily opening (Osborne House is open from 10am, and stays open for longer from 1 April)

Buckingham Palace

Discover how a young Queen Victoria transformed Buckingham Palace into a stunning working residence as part of a special exhibition to mark the 200th anniversary of her birth. Queen Victoria’s Palace focuses on how the Queen, with the support of Prince Albert, reformed the palace into a symbol of the British monarchy and a family home for 9 children.

When? 20 July – 29 September