Britain – the movie star

Britain is playing a starring role in several new movie releases coming up in the second half of 2018.  Bring your own lights, camera and action and head to the destinations that have either inspired the story or feature as a film location.

 

Robin Hood: Origins – release date: 1 September 2018

According to legend, heroic Robin Hood was a highly-skilled archer and swordsman who robbed from the rich to give to the poor. Robin Hood: Origins aims to give a new spin on the legend, starring Taron Egerton as Robin Hood, Jamie Foxx as Little John, Eve Hewson as Maid Marian and Jamie Dornan as Will Scarlett. Filming mainly took place in Dubrovnik, Croatia, but Robin Hood’s original stomping ground was Sherwood Forest and the city of Nottingham in Nottinghamshire, England, which are both places to have on your must-visit list if you’re a fan of the forest-dwelling outlaw!

Sherwood Forest is the setting for the annual Robin Hood Festival in early August – a medieval gala of entertainment, food and drink, activities, and live-action re-enactments. 2018 will be the festival’s 34th year and, this summer, the forest welcomes the opening of a visitor centre aimed at providing a contemporary perspective into this legendary landscape. It’s a brilliant place to explore either on foot or by bike and don’t forget to visit Robin's famous hideaway, the Major Oak. Elsewhere, between 7 July – 30 September, you can really up your Robin-inspired Insta-game with snaps of a cool sculpture trail coming to the city; Hoodwinked: a twist on the tale, will be a contemporary take on the traditional stories of the legendary outlaw.

Not yet had your fill of Robin Hood experiences? Then head to the city’s Robin Hood Experience for the full interactive journey to the time of the legendary outlaw. The attraction aims to bring to life the sounds, sights and smells of medieval Nottingham – you can even stand trial before the Sheriff of Nottingham! A perfect accompaniment to the experience is a visit to Nottingham Castle, currently undergoing an ambitious transformation due for completion in 2020. In less than two years, the site will welcome a new, interactive Robin Hood Gallery, visitor centre and a Rebellion Gallery – showcasing the city’s rebellious history – will open in the Ducal Palace, plus a year-round events programme will be introduced. Don’t leave without having a selfie with the Robin Hood statue outside the castle. Or, explore the city and its history with Robin Hood himself, on the Robin Hood Town Tour. Join expert of Nottinghamshire history Ezekial Bone to discover how simple ballads over 700 years old grew into one of the greatest stories ever told. There are also several Robin Hood-themed events throughout the year, including the Robin Hood Festival (27 August – 2 September), the Robin Hood Pageant (usually held in March), the Robin Hood Beer Festival (17-20 October) and even the Robin Hood Half Marathon (29 September)!

 

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald – release date: November 2018

The second instalment of the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them series follows the adventures of Newt Scamander, with London used as one of the key filming locations. Highgate Cemetery was reportedly used to depict the Catacombs of Paris and it’s easy to see why; this north London cemetery is a wonderful example of Victorian gothic design. Take a tour of the extravagant memorials that sit among a calm enclave of trees and local wildlife, its East Cemetery well-known as Karl Marx’s final resting place, as well as other prominent figures, while its West Cemetery boasts incredible architectural features and can only be visited by guided tour. Another must for Fantastic Beasts fans is to book onto the Fantastic Beasts - Where to Find Them in London tour, run by London Guided Walks, which takes you to “explore how these fantastic beasts are entwined in our Muggle world”.

Outside of London, Lacock Abbey, found in the pretty Cotswolds village of Lacock, was used to portray Hogwarts. Like Hogwarts, Lacock Abbey was built with a blend of quirky architectural styles. This former nunnery is a fascinating site, with its medieval rooms and cloister court, plus close by is the Fox Talbot Museum, that records the achievements of former Lacock resident William Henry Fox Talbot, a big name in the invention of photography.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was also filmed in the same studio as the Harry Potter series, where you can visit Warner Bros. Studios Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter. This unique behind-the-scenes experience immerses you into the world of filmmaking and features authentic sets, props and costumes from the most successful film series of all time. The first film in the Fantastic Beasts franchise was also filmed in the north-west England city of Liverpool using locations such as St George's Hall, with its spectacular tunnel-vaulted ceiling and gorgeous mosaic floor, and the magnificent Cunard Building (now home to the British Music Experience).

 

Mary Poppins Returns – release date: 21 December

It's been 53 years since the original Mary Poppins popped onto our screens with her magical bag and flying umbrella. And, this year, she's back – played by Emily Blunt – to visit the grown-up Banks children in this Disney musical sequel, which takes the action forward to London in 1935. Meryl Streep, Colin Firth, Angela Lansbury and Dick Van Dyke (who starred in the original film) also feature in the cast. All the original movie was filmed at California’s Burbank Studios, but this time around, iconic London sites were used as filming locations.

Perhaps the most recognisable is St Paul’s Cathedral, one of the most impressive examples of cathedral architecture in the country and not to be missed. Another filming location was by Buckingham Palace – its magnificent state rooms are open to visitors for ten weeks each summer –  and outside the Bank of England. While this isn’t open to tours, check out its fascinating Bank of England Museum, which is. And, once you’ve seen the film at the end of this year, you can visit all of these filming locations and get some behind-the-scenes stories on a new Brit Movies Mary Poppins tour, launching in 2019.

 

Bohemian Rhapsody – release date: 28 October 2018

Fans of rock band Queen will love this film coming out in autumn this year, which tells the tale of their meteoric rise and revolutionary sound, up until their appearance at Live Aid in 1985, as well as touching on the life of their extraordinary frontman Freddie Mercury.

Although the We Will Rock You musical based on Queen’s epic songs isn’t currently touring the UK, there are a few rock tours that Queen fans can embark on to get their fix of Freddie and the band. London Rock Tours runs a half-day tour in the capital that’s fully focused on Queen, taking you to the places where they were formed, recorded and lived. You’ll visit the sites and locations that played a significant part in the band’s history, as well as where some of their videos were shot and the site of the last-ever Queen performance.

Alternative walking tours that include Queen sites along with other historic sites of some of Britain’s most famous rock ‘n’ roll bands, include Rock Walk and Classic Rock Legends tour. You can also walk to Freddie Mercury’s final home, Garden Lodge Mansion in the upmarket neighbourhood of Kensington. Although it remains a private home you can read some of the letters that people have written in memory of Freddie and posted on the wall.

Six Lake District locations to visit this autumn

Since being awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 2017, the popularity of the Lake District National Park in north-west England has continued to soar. While the summer is, undoubtedly, a lovely time to visit, savvy travellers will find the Lakes and their towns and villages an equally beautiful destination in the autumn. The scenery is ablaze with colour, the summer crowds have thinned out and there’s plenty to see and do, no matter the weather.

Windermere and Bowness

Right at the heart of the Lake District, the towns of Windermere and Bowness boast picturesque scenery wherever you turn. Catch those bright autumn colours from the water itself and climb aboard Windermere Lake Cruises steamers. This cruise can also take you to the neo-gothic Wray Castle; looming over the shores of Windermere, it’s not your typical castle displaying family heirlooms and portraits… There’s something here for everyone, including the little ones – they’ll love the dressing up, castle building and adventure play area available. For a different class of architecture, head to Blackwell House, a brilliant example of the Arts & Crafts movement from the early 20th century, which retains many of its original features and holds fantastic permanent and visiting exhibitions. 

Children’s author and illustrator Beatrix Potter was one of the Lakes’ most famous residents and all ages can enjoy the World of Beatrix Potter Attraction – you’ll feel as if you’re stepping into one of her books.

 

Kendal

A smart, handsome market town, Kendal is the Lakes’ arts and culture centre and is packed with independent cafés and pubs. Catch a play, exhibition, comedy or music event at the town’s thriving cultural hub, the Brewery Arts Centre or get your fix of art at the hidden gem that is the Abbot Hall Art Gallery, set in the Grade I-listed 18th-century building of Abbot Hall. Alternatively, you can experience a dose of history at Kendal Castle, once the family home ofKatherine Parr, the sixth wife of Henry VIII. Book onto a walking tour to hear more of its dynamic history and admire the excellent views from its hilltop vantage point.

Kendal is also a festival hotspot; in November it welcomes the Kendal Mountain Festival, an award-winning adventure film and speaker festival and a must-visit gathering for outdoor enthusiasts. This September will also see the return of Lakes Alive, which will bring contemporary art, activities and performances to Kendal and the wider Lake District National Park. Also in September is the Kendal Torchlight Carnival, followed by the only comic art festival in the UK, The Lakes International Comic Art Festival, which takes over the whole of the town in October. Another way to experience the rich heritage and culture in the Lakes are the Lakes Culture Signature Experiences; four different routes that celebrate the region's art, music and literature in a variety of ways.

 

Keswick and Ullswater

Keswick is close to the lakes of Ullswater, Derwentwater and Bassenthwaite, as well as the mountains of Grizedale Pike, Skiddaw and Catbells, yet it’s not just a walkers’ paradise. Head out onto Ullswater Lake on board Ullswater Steamers for a relaxed view of the beautiful scenery or, if you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, check out Honister, an innovative adventure attraction (and also England’s last working slate mine). Climb the original miners’ route (the Via Ferrata Classic), an exposed adventure climbing course created from cargo nets and wire bridges strung 366 metres above the valley floor. If you’re feeling particularly brave, take the bigger challenge by climbing the Via Ferrata Extreme!

Keswick is also one of the Lakes’ cultural highlights. Professional producing theatre, Theatre on the Lake, close to Derwentwater on the edge of Keswick, is in one of the prettiest theatre settings imaginable and you can catch a play here throughout the year. Travel a little further out to The Lakes Distillery and join an interactive tour to see how its whisky, gin, and vodka are made, which also make an excellent gift to take home. And we mustn’t forget the most niche of museums; the Pencil Museum! It’s more than just pencils (although the collection does include gems such as secret Second World War pencils complete with hidden maps); it also runs art workshops.

 

Coniston

Coniston, nestled between Coniston Water and the Coniston Fells, has a copper mining and slate quarrying history and the village’s proximity to dramatic landscapes – lakes, mountains, waterfalls, tarns and woods – means walking, sightseeing, water sports, mountaineering and horse riding are all prevalent here.

The most notable feature of Coniston Village is The Old Man of Coniston, an 803-metre-high fell. For a slightly easier walk with incredible views, head to Tarn Hows, set more than 183 metres up in the hills above Coniston. A lovely, easy, 1.5-mile pathway shows off the best of the gorgeous Langdale Pikes.

Another lovely way to see Coniston Water and the Fells is by the steam yacht gondola; the trip takes you past Coniston Hall and then on to Brantwood, the home of celebrated Victorian art critic and artist John Ruskin. You can alight here to explore the house, which is filled with many fine paintings, beautiful furniture and Ruskin’s personal treasures. 

 

Ambleside

Ambleside is surrounded by magnificent Lakeland fells and is a town with an energetic vibe. Yet it’s also home to one of the oldest standing buildings in the Lakes, the quirky, picturesque Bridge House, which dates back to the 17th century.

A visit to Ambleside also means you’re very close to Hill Top House, the 17th-century farmhouse where Beatrix Potter lived, wrote and based many of her much-loved stories. When she left the house to the National Trust she left instructions about how it should be shown, so it stands exactly as she knew it and lived in it.

Some of Potter’s works can also be viewed at the Armitt Museum, Gallery and Library – she was one of its earliest supporters – which features the history of life, photography and the fine art of the Lake District. Or for a slice of contemporary art, head to the Old Courthouse Gallery, showcasing glassworks, jewellery, wall art and ceramics, which you can also buy. A great way to spend an evening in Ambleside is at the Jazz Bar of Zeffirellis, which hosts modern jazz and world music performances throughout the week. Want to sample local ale? Try the wares created by Ambleside’s Barngates Brewery, served in the Drunken Duck Inn and Restaurant – although the brewery isn’t open for tours, visitors to the Drunken Duck can request to see inside the adjacent brewery buildings.

 

Ravenglass

Ravenglass is the Lake District’s only coastal village and history emanates from every corner, from its Bronze Age settlements, Roman forts and Anglian crosses to its Viking remains, Norman churches and medieval mills. You can even go back to the Victorian era of steam and experience the Ravenglass & Eskdale steam railway, which takes you on a stunning seven-mile journey through the National Park.

A must-visit in the area is Muncaster Castle. Still lived in by the same family after nine centuries, Muncaster is said to be haunted and, this November, will hold a Scientific Ghost Vigil. If that doesn’t sound quite your thing, the castle itself is fascinating to explore and you can enjoy bird of prey displays at its Hawk and Owl Centre throughout the year.

60 minutes from… Edinburgh

If you’re coming to Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh, to enjoy one of its many festivals, you’ll soon see why it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as one of Britain’s greatest foodie and nightlife hotspots! And with gorgeous beaches, romantic castles and the vibrant buzz of Glasgow all only an hour away, you’ll be able to experience the country’s diverse landscapes, history and culture too, all within easy reach of a day trip.

 

The Borders

Picturesque coastlines in the east and rugged hills and moorlands in the west greet you at the Scottish Borders (bordering northern England), all of which is easily reached thanks to the Borders Railway, which connects Edinburgh and the Borders town of Tweedbank in less than an hour. Have your camera at the ready on this lovely rail journey as you pass by iconic architectural gems such as the Lothianbridge and Redbridge viaducts. Alight at Tweedbank to visit Abbotsford House, the home of famed writer Sir Walter Scott. This romantic mansion was built during the early decades of the 19th century and very much reflects the tastes of one of this era’s most prominent authors. Close by is the attractive town of Melrose, which is not only the home of the magnificent 12th-century Melrose Abbey, but also to two National Trust for Scotland gardens. Priorwood houses Scotland’s only dedicated dried flower garden and Harmony Gardens features a beautiful walled garden with breath-taking views over the abbey and the nearby Eildon Hills.

 

Glasgow

Did you know that Edinburgh, the capital, and Scotland’s largest city, Glasgow, are only an hour apart? A lively, creative city, Glasgow is renowned for its mighty industrial heritage and world-class shopping as well as its vibrant arts, culture and music scene; it’s even a designated UNESCO City of Music! Discover why it won this status on a Glasgow Music City Tour, while fans of street art should check out Glasgow’s first dedicated tour to the genre, the City Centre Mural Trail. Football lovers can take tours of the world-famous Rangers and Celtic Football Clubs, while you can discover the city’s artistic and industrial legacy at a host of inspirational museums such as the Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum, the Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery at the University of Glasgow and the Riverside Museum of Transport and the Tall Ship on the banks of the River Clyde.

 

North Berwick

In just half an hour by train you can swap Edinburgh’s cityscapes for coastal relaxation. North Berwick and its stretches of golden sands are spectacular – and if it’s glorious views you’ve come for, you won’t be disappointed. Sweeping vistas look out to Bass Rock, home to the world’s largest northern gannet colony, and to the Forth Islands. Take a boat trip out to the islands for an even closer inspection, while bird lovers should also pay a visit to the town’s Scottish Seabird Centre. Alternatively, if you fancy a game of golf overlooking these wonderful coastal scenes, tee off at either of the town’s excellent links courses, the Glen Golf Club and the North Berwick Golf Club.

The town itself is home to a fine collection of cafés, bars and shops, from vintage-style tearooms to stylish coffee shops…also make sure you hit the fish and chip shops and ice-cream parlours, it’s tradition at a British seaside resort! For heritage seekers, don’t miss the 14th-century fortress Tantallon Castle and Dirleton Castle, which houses some of the oldest castle architecture in Scotland.

 

Stirling

If you’ve ever watched the film Braveheart, you’ll want to visit Stirling. The iconic National Wallace Monument, which overlooks the scene of Scotland’s victory at the Battle of Stirling Bridge, gives a fascinating insight into the world of Scottish hero William Wallace. History pulsates through every inch of Stirling; explore the streets of the medieval old town, encounter intriguing royal history at Stirling Castle, and even see the world’s oldest football at the Smith Art Gallery and Museum. Perhaps one of the most absorbing attractions that tells the stories of the area’s past is the Battle of Bannockburn Experience. This 3D, immersive exhibition takes you into the heart of one of Scotland’s most historic battles, ending with a visit to the Battle Room where visitors can take part in the interactive battle game. And, if you’re a fan of the hit TV show Outlander, take the time to visit Doune Castle. Located around 15 minutes out of town, multiple scenes from the popular series were filmed at this splendid castle, as they were for Game of Thrones and Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

 

Peebles

South of Edinburgh, on the banks of the River Tweed, lies Peebles, a small, attractive town with a distinctly artistic vibe, that’s framed by gorgeous countryside scenery. Scottish novelist John Buchan, author of The Thirty Nine Steps, made his home here and a picturesque 13-mile walking route is named after him, the John Buchan Way. Alternatively, head out hiking in Glentress Forest, which is also brilliant for mountain biking, as its trails are one of Scotland 7stanes (seven mountain biking centres in southern Scotland). Despite its size, Peebles boasts a number of art galleries and studios and its historic past is prevalent on every corner; ancient relics are dotted across town, from the ruined Cross Kirk to an old Mercat Cross (which depicts a town’s right, granted by a monarch or baron, to hold a regular market).

 

You might also like…

  • Rosslyn Chapel - Discover intricate carvings and unique stonework at one of the most intriguing places of worship in Scotland, in the village of Roslin, 30-minutes’ drive from Edinburgh. Discover its story from its founding in the 15th century to its depiction in the novel and subsequent film The Da Vinci Code.
  • Musselburgh - Step into the past at this historic market town that derives its name from the mussel beds found on nearby shores. It’s also home to the oldest racecourse in Scotland – which hosts many race meets throughout the year – as well as to the historic nine-hole Musselburgh Links golf course, which has royal connections going back to the early 16th century.
  • Linlithgow Palace - Explore royal history at the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots, a palace that was once a stopping point for royalty en-route between Edinburgh Castle and Stirling Castle. Visit in the summer to enjoy its annual jousting spectacle.

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.

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

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

 

Where to…Eat

Shepherd’s Bush

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

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

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

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

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

 

Earl’s Court

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

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

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

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

 

Where to…Stay

Shepherd’s Bush

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

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

 

Earl's Court

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

 

Where to…Play

Shepherd’s Bush

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

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

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

 

Earl’s Court

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

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

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

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

 

Harewood House

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

 

Castle Howard

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

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

 

Ripley Castle

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

 

Brodsworth Hall & Gardens

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

Bristol: England’s urban art capital

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

 

What to…See

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

 

What to…Do

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

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

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

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

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

 

Where to…Stay

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

48 Hours in… Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate

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

 

Time to check in:

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

 

Day One

09:00 EMBRACE CONTEMPORARY ART

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

 

11:00 EXPLORE A MYSTERIOUS UNDERGROUND ATTRACTION

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

 

13:00 FEAST ON THE FINEST SEAFOOD

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

 

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

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

 

19:00 SIP STYLISH COCKTAILS

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

 

20:00 BUY THE INGREDIENTS FROM YOUR DINNER

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

 

Day Two

09:00 HEAD OUT TO SEA

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

 

11:00 DISCOVER DICKENSIAN CULTURE

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

 

13:00 INDULGE IN ICE CREAM FOR LUNCH!

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

 

15:00 WALK ANCIENT TRAILS AND TUNNELS

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

 

17:00 DRINKS IN THE MARINA

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

 

19:00 DINE WHILE OVERLOOKING HARBOUR VIEWS

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

7 British festivals foodies should visit in 2018

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

 

Pub in the Park, various locations

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

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

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

 

Port Eliot Festival, Cornwall

When: 26-29 July

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

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

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

 

Foodies Festival Edinburgh

When: 3-5 August

Where: Inverleith Park, Edinburgh, Scotland

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

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

 

Isle of Wight Garlic Festival

When: 18-19 August

Where: Sandown, Isle of Wight, south England

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

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

 

The Big Feastival, Cotswolds

When: 24-26 August

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

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

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

 

Great British Food Festival, Wiltshire

When: 25-27 August

Where: Bowood House, Wiltshire, south-west England

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

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

 

Abergavenny Food Festival, Wales

When: 15-16 September

Where: Abergavenny, south Wales

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

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

Victoria 200

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

 

If you’re in London…

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

If you’re in Scotland…

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

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

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