Back with a bang! Where to celebrate Bonfire Night in Britain

If you’re travelling in Britain on or around 5 November, you’ll have the chance to experience something uniquely British – Guy Fawkes Night, also known as Bonfire Night, where fireworks light up the skies and huge bonfires are lit. It’s a tradition stretching back centuries, celebrating the foiling of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 when Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators plotted to blow up the Houses of Parliament. Many British towns and cities host their own events; here’s where you can expect to find some of the most spectacular fireworks displays in 2018.

Alexandra Palace Fireworks Festival, London

There’ll be guaranteed ‘oohs’ and ‘aaahs’ at one of the biggest and most impressive fireworks displays in the UK, held at north London’s Alexandra Palace (affectionately known as Ally Pally) between 2 – 3 November. There’ll also be plenty more to enjoy than the fireworks and the bonfire; ice-skating sessions at its rink – plus a special Ice Disco for after the main fireworks’ display – a laser show prior to the fireworks, a huge German Bier Keller taking over Ally Pally’s Great Hall, live music, circus performances of high-wire walking, plus tasty treats at the Street Food and Craft Beer village. All of this with the added bonus of incredible panoramic views over the London skyline.

Battle Bonfire and Fireworks Display, East Sussex, south England

Said to be the town where Guy Fawkes sourced his gunpowder, Battle in East Sussex (around two hours from London) understandably puts on a fabulous free, non-ticketed event. Hosted by the Battle Bonfire Boyes, the day (3 November in 2018) begins with the ringing of the church bells and a children’s procession, that leads to a competition for the best fancy dress and the best Guy (the effigy created to put on the bonfire). By 6pm the Guy is taken up the High Street to kickstart another procession that ends at the bonfire and a fabulous fireworks display commences.

Fireworks at the Fort, Segedunum Roman Fort, Wallsend, north-east England

The night sky over north-east England’s River Tyne will be lit up with multi-coloured fireworks on 2 November when the event kicks off at Segedunum, a major site on Hadrian’s Wall. The beauty of celebrating Bonfire Night at this location is the chance to explore the museum exhibits at the Fort first, the most excavated fort along World Heritage Site Hadrian’s Wall. It has a fantastic interactive museum (free entry after 4pm on the day), plus a full-scale reconstruction of a bath house and a section of the Wall. Catch fabulous views of Hadrian’s Wall from its 35-metre high viewing tower, which, for the first time this year, will be the offering exclusive, limited number, VIP seats for the fireworks display.

Sparks in the Park, Cardiff, south Wales

This annual event is attended by around 20,000 people making it one of Wales’ biggest and best firework displays. At Cardiff’s Bute Park on 3 November, a huge bonfire will be lit, with an earlier fireworks’ show taking place for young children before the main event later in the evening. There’s plenty to occupy visitors before then, with food stalls, fairground attractions and live entertainment.

Chatsworth House, Derbyshire, central England

This fireworks’ extravaganza takes place in its gardens of one of England’s most beautiful stately homes over the course of two nights, on 2 and 3 November. The lighting of the bonfire kicks off proceedings, followed by a children’s fireworks display and culminates with the grand finale fireworks display. Wrap up warm and explore the grounds for live music, circus performances, dancing and feasts of hog roasts and mulled cider. This year guests can also buy tickets to a two-course dinner in Chatsworth’s Cavendish restaurant before entry to the bonfire and fireworks event.

Lewes Bonfire Night, East Sussex, south-east England

Probably one of the quirkiest celebrations of Bonfire Night, the 5 November will see the return of this remarkable festival in the tranquil town of Lewes on England’s south coast. Six separate Lewes Bonfire Societies, including visiting bonfire societies from all over Sussex, celebrate Guy Fawkes Night across various parts of the town, each with their own fireworks, traditions and up to 30 processions, which then all come together through the streets of Lewes. It’s quite the spectacle.

The Tar Barrels of Ottery St Mary, Devon, south England

You can’t get a better example of the charm of English eccentricity than this…the Tar Barrel tradition, which is centuries older and began after the Gunpowder Plot. The event started with the townspeople of Devon town Ottery St Mary rolling burning barrels down the streets on 5 November, which then progressed to the current tradition of people carrying full-sized, lit tar barrels through the streets instead! This year the event takes place on 4 November (as 5 November falls on a Sunday) and this pyrotechnic wonder is accompanied by a fireworks’ display and bonfire.

Tartantastic Fireworks Extravaganza Show, Edinburgh, Scotland

Charity Scottish Love in Action is hosting three Tartantastic Fireworks Extravaganza Shows, huge family-friendly fundraising events, the first on 2 November, the next two on 4 November. Not only are visitors treated to a large-scale fireworks display, there will also be traditional Scottish music from pipe bands as well as a performance by the Fire Circus theatre and enough food stalls to satisfy all hungry stomachs. This year there are a limited number of VIP tickets available, which includes access to the VIP lounge and refreshments.

 

TASTE October 2018

9 reasons to visit Scotland’s islands in autumn and winter

With more than 790 offshore islands (around 95 are inhabited), Scotland offers ample opportunity for island hopping. From spectacular rugged landscapes and a wealth of exceptional wildlife to truly unique experiences, here's why the islands should be on your must-visit list this autumn and winter.

  1. Incredible scenery

Scotland’s islands are home to dramatic coastlines, scenic white beaches, rugged mountain-scapes, heather-clad moorland and tranquil inland lochs; now picture these enhanced by the russet reds and golden yellows of autumn or mountains dusted with snow in winter. Did you know that the far north islands of Orkney and the Shetlands are also the best places to see Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, in the UK? Outstanding displays of light dance across the sky and, thanks to long periods of darkness and clear nights, the best times of year to experience these phenomena are autumn and winter.

  1. One word – whisky

The region of Argyll & The Isles off the west coast of Scotland is home to 23 inhabited islands, and on the Isle of Islay alone there are nine whisky distilleries to visit, including the most recent, the Ardnahoe Distillery, which opened in 2018. The oldest of the pack, Bowmore, can trace its roots back to 1779! Book onto a tour of one of these distilleries (be sure to check late season opening times), to experience the peaty, smoky flavour of the whisky that the island is famed for. The Laphroaig distillery, for example, offers a ‘Water to Whisky Experience’ until September, an extensive five hour tour that includes everything from a distillery tour, a peat experience, a visit to the distilleries water source and a taste from a selection of casks before bottling your favourite.

  1. Cultural highlights

Autumn and winter are fantastic times to catch quirky festivals and top cultural events. Scottish Opera, for example, takes four singers and a pianist on the road to the Isle of Lewis in the autumn, bringing operatic highlights to all corners of Scotland. And probably one of the most unusual festivals is Shetland’s Up Helly Aa, which reflects the island’s Viking influence. On the last Tuesday of every January , this large-scale fire festival celebrates Shetland’s history. A dragon ship, which takes months to build, is set on fire, followed by processions and much merrymaking.

  1. Captivating castles

Scotland has castles galore – and the cooler months are a great time to explore. On the Isle of Skye, visit the magnificent Highland estate and home of the Clan Donald at the Armadale Castle, Gardens and Museum, which is open until the end of November, a perfect opportunity to enjoy its beautiful gardens during the changing seasons. And, on the Isle of Lewis, if castle accommodation is your style, after exploring the Victorian-era Lews Castle, which remains open in the autumn and winter in the afternoons, you can check in to one of its luxury self-catering apartments. The castle, in the island’s main town of Stornoway, also has its very own whisky bar.

  1. Witness winter solstice

Orkney’s coastline is one of beautiful sandy beaches and is strewn with majestic cliffs and sea stacks, including the famous imposing natural structure of the Old Man of Hoy. But you’ll also find a very spiritual island, holding celebrations for the Winter Solstice. Join in these celebrations at the island’s Neolithic monument, the Standing Stones of Stenness, on 22 December in 2019.

  1. Encounter even more Neolithic wonders

Explore the ancient wonder of the Callanish Standing Stones on the Isle of Lewis, which date back five millennia. And one of the must-sees on a trip to Orkney is Skara Brae, the 5,000-year-old village that is regarded as the best-preserved Neolithic site in western Europe. It forms part of the Heart of Orkney Neolithic sites, along with Maeshowe, a chambered tomb, the Stones of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar. Visit the ancient capital of Orkney, Kirkwall, where you can explore the magnificent Viking Cathedral and the town’s many mysterious passageways.

  1. Wildlife wonders

Jura is one of the most gloriously wild places to visit in Scotland. Don’t forget your camera or phone as this is the place to spot wild deer; there are more than 5,000 of them on this narrow island, which is inhabited by only 200 people. Fondly known as ‘Eagle Island’, the Isle of Mull is one of the best places in Scotland to spot both golden eagles and white-tailed sea eagles, while Islay is famous for winter-migrating birds.

  1. Awesome adventures

Whatever the season, a fantastic way to experience an island is by safari. On the Isle of Arran, Mogabout Arran Safari offers a coastal and forest adventure, exploring the mountainous and woodland areas of the island in a 4x4, taking you to some spectacular natural points and learning about the history and folklore of the island.

  1. You’ll avoid the crowds

There’s no doubt that avoiding peak high season on the islands means better availability and lower costs; and it’s a great opportunity to mix with the locals! And remember, as the Scots say, there’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes!

Getting there:

There are daily flights to Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness and Aberdeen, and three ferry points of entry too travelling from the mainland.

There are several daily flights from Edinburgh and Glasgow to Shetland, as well as ferries between Aberdeen and the main town of Lerwick every day, year-round.

Fly to Orkney from Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and Shetland.

Ferries travel from the western mainland (around a three hour drive from Edinburgh or Glasgow) out to the Argyll & The Isles on a frequent basis.

There are two ferry services serving the Isle of Arran, from Ardrossan on the mainland to Brodick on the island. Ardrossan is a 45-minute drive from Glasgow.

 

The Magic Is Back – Mary Poppins Returns!

It's been 53 years since the original Mary Poppins popped onto our screens with her magical bag and flying umbrella. And, at the end of this year, she's back – played by Emily Blunt – to visit the grown-up Banks children, now in 1935, in the Disney musical sequel Mary Poppins Returns, where London is once again a star of the story. Here’s how to have your very own magical Mary Poppins experience in the capital that’s, as our favourite nanny would say, practically perfect in every way.

                                         

Lights, camera, action

Discover behind-the-scenes stories from the new film and details from the original Mary Poppins books and film on the new Brit Movies Mary Poppins tour, launching in 2019, which will take you through the streets of London and the locations used in Mary Poppins Returns. The two-hour walking tour, which is family friendly, will take in famous landmarks that you’ll recognise from the original movie and that have appeared in the sequel’s trailer, such as St Paul’s Cathedral, one of the most impressive examples of cathedral architecture in the country. Another filming location was by Buckingham Palace – its magnificent state rooms are open to visitors for ten weeks each summer –  as was outside the Bank of England. While this isn’t open to tours, check out its fascinating Bank of England Museum.

Stop by the house where it all began

We wouldn’t have the films if it wasn’t for the original books created by Australian-born author P.L. Travers who spent most of her life in England, which was where she created her unforgettable character. She wrote a series of eight books on the magical nanny at 50 Smith Street in Chelsea, which earlier this year was commemorated with an English Heritage Blue Plaque. P.L. Travers lived here for 17 years and the house is said to have inspired the look of the Banks’ family home in the original movie.

 

Enjoy a spoonful of sugar

You’ll get much more than just one spoonful of sugary treats at this creative and delicious afternoon tea at Aqua Shard. Launched to coincide with the relaunch of the five original Mary Poppins classic books, this afternoon tea of nostalgic sweets and savouries is available until April 2019…and it’s all so enchanting. The menu is a gilt gold framed mirror menu – the mirror is a recurring symbol throughout the books – and tea is delivered on a custom-made tea stand with an umbrella on top and silver booted feet below – with crockery designed with Mary Shepard’s original illustrations of Mary Poppins. Feast on homemade scones with jam and clotted cream (which you’ll find in Mary’s carpet bag); miniature crumpets; two bespoke teas ‘Mary’s Tea’ and ‘Bert’s Tea’; unique sweet treats such as Mary Poppins’ very own hat with a black ‘Cherry Tree Lane’ mousse covered in dark chocolate, and Fairground Candy Floss. Order champagne with the tea and be charmed by the kite that flies from the champagne flute before adding ‘medicine’ to the glass, with the choice of three homemade liqueurs. It’s supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!

 

Go fly a kite!

The trailer from Mary Poppins Returns includes a spot of kite-flying – which will have you humming Let’s Go Fly A Kite! from the original movie in no time. Of course, you can fly a kite across many of London’s green spaces, but if you want to fly your kite against the backdrop of the celebrated London skyline, head up to the top of Parliament Hill in Hampstead Heath, north London. Primrose Hill near Regent’s Park also affords spectacular views over the capital; the top of this hill is one of six protected viewpoints in London.

Step onto London’s rooftops
Bert took Mary Poppins up to the rooftops of London to show her the view of the capital through the eyes of a chimney sweep but you can gaze over the capital’s magnificent skyline in a far more sophisticated manner. London has many rooftop bars with panoramic vistas over the capital’s rooftops. Try out the Rumpus Room on floor 12 of South Bank’s Mondrian Hotel for its awesome view of St Paul’s Cathedral; the Radio Rooftop Bar at ME London for 360 degree views of the capital; or The Rooftop St James’ overlooking Trafalgar Square and ideal for all weathers thanks to  its retractable roof.

Order a bespoke umbrella

What is Mary Poppins’ favourite mode of transport? Flying in by umbrella of course! While owning a flying umbrella is just a dream, you can have your own bespoke brolly created at one of London’s historic establishments of fine craftsmanship. James Smith and Sons, just off Regent Street, has been designing and making high-end umbrellas (think handles of exquisitely carved wood) since 1830, while Fox Umbrellas has been creating beautiful bespoke umbrellas since 1868.

 

Book tickets to see Mary Poppins in the West End

Once you’ve watched the sequel, you’ll be inspired by all things Mary Poppins…and it’s recently been confirmed that Mary Poppins will return to the West End at Prince Edward Theatre in Autumn 2019! Booking for the show – a joint production between Cameron Mackintosh and Disney Theatrical Productions – opens in January 2019 and will star Zizi Strallen, who will step back into Mary’s shoes having played the role in the international tour.

 

 

 

7 ways to add another dimension to stargazing in Britain

7 ways to add another dimension to stargazing in Britain

A two-day microgap in Bristol

A two-day microgap in Bristol

Ten of the best ghostly tours and haunted houses in Britain

Get ready to be spooked this Halloween with these spine-chilling experiences and haunted houses.

 

5 chilling experiences

 

For The Love Of Horror – Manchester, north-west England

Your nerves will be stretched to their very limit as you explore a new creepy experience from Monopoly Events, who will transfer the Bowlers Exhibition Centre in Manchester into a chilling immersive attraction that will make you quake in your boots! Dare you enter the Nightmare Zone, where you’ll be greeted by horror movies’ most frightening characters, before you attempt to battle your way through a zombie outbreak? Meet those real-life creatures that always crop up in horror films, the tarantulas and cockroaches to snakes, before you heroically move on to a ‘mad monster after party’ and experiencing all the other horror attractions. Prove to friends and family you survived it all with a snap in the interactive ‘exorcist’ photo booth.

 

Wicked Nights at Blackgang Chine – Isle of Wight, south England

Walk through a ‘land of twisted imagination’ at amusement park Blackgang Chine’s new horror event, Wicked Nights at the Cursed Mill. Pluck up all your courage as you approach hair-raising live action experiences and scream like you’ve never screamed before on the Cliffhanger roller-caster. Still feeling brave? Hop on board the sinister ghost train before keeping your wits about you as you compete in games and activities at the Freaky Fair.

 

Muncaster Castle – Cumbria, north-west England

Muncaster Castle celebrates the spookiest time of the year in a truly ghostly fashion, as befits a castle known to be one of the most haunted in Britain. Don your finest Halloween fancy dress before making your way bravely through the dark and eerie Meadowvole Maze, be prepared to jump out of your skin as you listen to scary tales of fear and terror, and who knows what you might find lurking in the Ghostly Grotto! In between being spooked you’ll be entertained by the Muncaster Monster Cabaret – a mix of conjurors, fire-eating and aerial acts. 

 

Journey to the Underworld – London, England

Are you brave enough to embark on a Journey to the Underworld? This is a journey where you’ll discover the ‘Greatest Love Story Never Told’ at Pedley Street Station in Shoreditch, east London, as Funicular Productions brings a new enigmatic theatre experience to life. Get ready to encounter a thrilling combination that takes you through a story of fantasy, danger, fear, hope and love, as well as feast on a ‘last meal in paradise’ before your journey to the underworld. It’s here you’ll try to outsmart ‘the seductive Gatekeeper, the hunched Harbinger, and the damnable Dark One’.

 

Ghoulies Haunted House – Liverpool, north-west England

After bringing a live-action scare attraction and horror-themed bar to the residents of, and visitors to, Liverpool on a year-round basis it’s unsurprising that Ghoulies Haunted House is upping the scare factor come Halloween. This year, a character that may be innocuously called Kavity the Clown will be roaming the Haunted House, but you can guarantee it will be as scary as clowns get…and with a lot of laughs thrown in. If you enjoy this, come back any time of year to experience the venue’s horror-themed cocktails and events such as Scaryoke Karaoke, the Brain Dead Quiz and Boogeyman Bingo.

 

5 of Britain’s most haunted houses

 

Chillingham Castle, Chillingham, Northumberland, north-east England

Chilling by name and chilling by nature, this 13th-century castle in Northumberland was the scene of bloody battles and eerie intrigue for centuries. Its rooms and gardens are lovely places to explore but to properly experience one of the most haunted castles in Britain, head into its Torture Chamber and join an evening Ghost Tour for a more unnerving encounter.

The Ancient Ram Inn, Gloucestershire, west England

For nearly 900 years the Ancient Ram Inn has stood in the Gloucestershire village of Wotton-under-Edge and brings with it stories of a gruesome and bloodthirsty history. Not only that, there have been numerous reports of supernatural events taking place here, making it a frontrunner for spookiest house in Britain. If that doesn’t petrify you, stay overnight here – although whether you’ll get a good night’s sleep is another matter…

Newton House, Dinefwr, Pembrokeshire, west Wales

The gorgeous Dinefwr Estate is a beautiful 18th-century park landscaped by Capability Brown, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t tales of ghosts and ghouls roaming the grounds. Newton House, in the centre of the park, has a ghostly visitor each night in the form of Lady Elinor Cavendish. The tale goes that she was betrothed to a man she didn’t love and, when she ran away from him and escaped back to Dinefwr to her family, her suitor strangled her. Visitors should listen out for muffled voices and watch out paranormal activity from the servants’ basement…

St Briavel’s Castle, Gloucestershire, west England

Looked after by English Heritage, this castle is now a youth hostel and if you enjoy the thought of hearing all the creepy tales about this 800-year-old castle, this is the place for you. Maybe you’ll sense the spine-chilling atmosphere as you explore the castle and feel the hairs stand up on the back of your neck as you read pleading notes carved into the walls by prisoners held here centuries ago.

Glamis Castle, Scotland

Known as one of the most haunted castles in Scotland, Glamis Castle – 20 minutes’ drive from Dundee and, incidentally, the childhood home of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother – is said to be home to many spirits…which makes sense when you learn it’s been standing since 1372 and was said to have inspired Shakespeare’s Macbeth. There’s many a spooky tale of historic dark deeds to be heard, especially around Halloween on one of its ghostly tours…

 

Road trip – England’s North West

As the autumn months roll round, thoughts turn to brisk walks in a countryside ablaze with colour, cosy dinners by log fires and exploring cities as they gear up for the festive season. And what’s a great way to experience all of this on one trip? Take to the road! It’s easy to travel by car around regions of Britain, as short journey times between urban and rural landscapes mean packing in a huge amount within a few days. Here we look at travelling through England’s north-west region, driving from the vibrant city of Manchester, through the spectacular landscapes of the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales National Parks and culminating at the historic city of Carlisle.

Journey length: 120 miles

DAY ONE

Take time to explore Manchester before you head out on the road. Love football? This is the home of two of the world’s most famous football teams; Manchester United and Manchester City. Book a tour at their stadiums and then head to the National Football Museum to learn more about the history of the beautiful game. Manchester is also a renowned cultural hotspot; head to its Northern Quarter, the city’s creative hub, to spot awesome murals and visit independent boutiques, bars and restaurants. Into museums and art galleries? Check out the city’s Whitworth Art Gallery and The Lowry as well as the Imperial War Museum North and HOME, a purpose-built centre for international contemporary art, film and theatre.

Visit before the end of 2018 for: the Manchester Literature Festival in October and the Manchester Animation Festival in November.

Drive 45 minutes from Manchester to…Samlesbury Hall

You’re now in the gorgeous Lancashire countryside, home to one of the county’s most beautiful stately homes; Samlesbury Hall, a half-timbered black and white medieval house. Discover centuries of history as you explore the Victorian kitchen and schoolroom and take time to enjoy the autumnal colours in its stunning grounds.

Visit before the end of 2018 for: Spooky tours led by characters such as Witch Janey and ghost-storytellers, throughout October and November.

Drive 30 minutes from Samlesbury Hall to the conservation village of Downham

Downham is one of the north-west’s most picturesque villages and sits in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Its main charm is the gorgeous views from the village, unencumbered by apparent signs of modern life (satellite dishes, overhead wires, road signs). Downham has regularly featured as a filming location for period pieces.

Stay: At the Grade II-listed Assheton Arms gastro pub with rooms. Tuck into hearty meals created from local ingredients in its restaurant, complete with log fire.

DAY TWO

Drive 45 minutes from Downham to Haworth

You’ve crossed over from Lancashire into England’s largest county, Yorkshire, where you’ll be captivated by views that inspired literary classics Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. Head to the attractive village of Haworth, home to the world-famous Bronte Parsonage Museum, which gives a fascinating insight into the lives of Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte.

Visit before the end of 2018 for: a true taste of English eccentricity. In November, to mark the start of the festive season, Haworth hosts the quirky Pipes, Bows and Bells Weekend and Scroggling the Holly Weekend.

Drive an hour from Haworth to the village of Malham in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

A pretty village that’s worth exploring, Malham is also a short walk from the incredible Malham Cove, once a glacier and now a gigantic rock amphitheatre with 80-metre high cliffs. Hike up the steps at this natural beauty spot and be rewarded with phenomenal views.

Stay: 30 minutes from Malham is the village of Austwick, home to The Traddock country house hotel, which dates to the 18th century and offers amazing views of the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

DAY THREE

Drive 45 minutes from Austwick to the city of Lancaster.

You’re driving back into the county of Lancashire and heading to the heritage city of Lancaster. Explore the 1,000-year-old Lancaster Castle, the city’s secret alleyways, historic pubs and Georgian architecture before a spot of shopping in its quirky boutiques and independent art galleries. While you’re in town, journey across the Trail of the Pendle Witches, a driving trail of 45 miles that the  infamous Pendle Witches travelled from as they headed to Lancaster Castle to stand trial in the early 17th century.

Visit Lancaster before the end of 2018 for: Lancaster Live, a three-day music festival in October when the city comes alive with hundreds of musical performances.

Drive 45 minutes from Lancaster to Cartmel

In less than an hour’s drive from Lancaster you’re in the picturesque Lake District, where one of your first stops should be the ancient village of Cartmel. Not only is it famous for the 12th-century Cartmel Priory, but also for the delectable English sweet treat, sticky toffee pudding; pick up your own to take home at the Cartmel Village Shop.

Stay: Cartmel is also home to Michelin-star restaurant-with-rooms L’Enclume, where you’ll have an unforgettable meal created by chef Simon Rogan. Stay in one of its 16 bedrooms located in the village.

DAY FOUR

Drive 30 minutes from Cartmel to Bowness on Windermere

You’re now in the heart of the Lake District National Park at the towns of Windermere and Bowness and gorgeous lakes scenery. Catch those bright autumn colours from the water itself aboard Windermere Lake Cruises’ steamers. 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.

Visit Bowness before the end of 2018 for: an exhibition by Turner Prize-winner Grayson Perry at f Or drive 20 minutes into Kendal for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival in October and Kendal Mountain Festival in November.

Drive 45 minutes from Bowness-on-Windermere to Keswick

A lovely market town, Keswick is close to the lakes of Ullswater, Derwentwater and Bassenthwaite; catch the beautiful autumn colours from the lake on board Ullswater Steamers. Or, if you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, check out Honister, an innovative adventure attraction (also England’s last working slate mine). Climb the original miners’ route (the Via Ferrata Classic) an exposed adventure climbing course 1,200 feet/366 metres above the valley floor or take the bigger challenge by climbing the Via Ferrata Extreme!

Stay: Ten minutes from the centre of Keswick is Whinlatter, England’s only mountain forest and home to the Cottage in the Wood, a beautifully restored 17th-century restaurant-with-rooms.

DAY FIVE

Travel 45 minutes from Keswick to Carlisle

Known as the ‘Border City’, for its location just 15 minutes from England’s border with Scotland, Carlisle is a bustling city with a legendary history. Dating back to the Romans, who settled here to serve the forts of Hadrian’s Wall (just a 30-minute drive away), the city is home to artefacts of their occupation and influence, which can be seen at the Tullie House Museum & Art Gallery. And, for nine centuries, the medieval fortress Carlisle Castle has stood majestically overlooking the city; visit for a glimpse into medieval life and the castle’s turbulent past.

Visit before the end of 2018 for: the Carlisle Fireshow in November, one the largest of its kind in the north of England.

The Highs & Lows of London

From skyline spectaculars to subterranean secrets, London presents a raft of thrilling experiences to showcase its sights.

Up High

Sky Garden

The view across the capital from the stunning glass dome of 20 Fenchurch Church – which Londoners affectionately refer to as the ‘Walkie-Talkie’ building – is jaw-droppingly awesome, delivering iconic views of the city and far beyond...and it’s all for free! Space is limited at its beautifully landscaped Sky Garden, so tickets must be booked online, but you can also soak up the views while enjoying fine dining at its Fenchurch Restaurant, Darwin Brasserie or Sky Pod Bar.  

ArcelorMittal Orbit

Soaring 114.5 metres high above the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford, east London, the ArcelorMittal Orbit is the UK’s tallest sculpture. Head up to its observation deck for a spectacular 60-degree view of London and the legendary sporting arenas of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (home of the London 2012 Olympics), including the impressive London Stadium, now home to West Ham United FC. That’s not all – with views of up to 20 miles across all angles of London, you’ll catch sight of famous London landmarks as well as five of London’s football grounds. And the best way to descend the Orbit? Via the world’s longest and tallest tunnel slide where you’ll whizz down 178 metres.

Frank’s Café

A hidden gem in the buzzing south-east London neighbourhood of Peckham is Peckham Levels, a multi-purpose, artistic space created in a multi-storey car park that has also evolved into a foodie and nightlife destination. Head to the top-floor Frank’s Café for gorgeous panoramic views of the capital’s skyline while you enjoy a drink or two.

Greenwich Park

Head to the UNESCO World Heritage Site Royal Maritime Greenwich for magnificent, sweeping views over the capital. Climb to the top of the hill in Greenwich Park and outside the Royal Observatory you’ll find a fantastic viewpoint in front of the statue of General Wolfe that offers incredible vistas, taking in the beautiful architecture of the Royal Museums Greenwich buildings and the Old Royal Naval College, the River Thames and out across to the City of London. It’s also a perfect spot when the sun sets and the city lights illuminate the view.

Up at the O2

Yes, you’ll be climbing onto the actual roof of the iconic entertainment venue, but climb guides will be with you throughout the 90-minute climb and, as you reach the summit, 360° views over historic Greenwich, the Olympic Park and Canary Wharf await you; on a clear day you’ll be able to see 15 miles away. As well as daytime climbs, you can set off on this high-scale adventure as the sun sets or at night for extraordinary night-time views.

The Tower Viewing Gallery – Westminster Abbey

One of the newest ‘high points’ to launch in the capital, Westminster Cathedral has opened its recently refurbished Tower Viewing Gallery, standing 210 feet/64 metres above street level. Add to that an exhibition of stunning drawings illustrating the design and heritage of the Cathedral in its Viewing Gallery and ground floor lobby and you’ll gain a full sense of the tower’s perspective.

Also worth heading up for outstanding views: The View from the Shard, the London Eye, the Tower Bridge Exhibition, restaurants SushiSamba and Duck & Waffle, as well as the OXO Tower.

 

Down Below

The Mail Rail

Descend into the former engineering depot of Mail Rail – the one-hundred-year-old Post Office railway – and set off on a 15-minute underground exploration via miniature train into the original tunnel below Royal Mail’s Mount Pleasant sorting office. The experience is fully immersive; you’ll discover original station platforms and secret parts of the underground railway that once transported mail through the capital.

Hidden London – London Transport Museum

Hidden London is the London Transport Museum’s exclusive programme of tours and events at disused stations and secret sites across the capital. It’s a fantastic chance to discover locations rarely seen by the public and experienced guides will divulge unique stories about the stations’ different histories along the way. Hidden London is offering tours between October and December 2018 at locations such as ‘Down Street: Churchill’s Secret Station’; ‘Euston: The Lost Tunnels’; and ‘Clapham South: Subterranean Shelter’.

The Vaults at Waterloo

Located in a maze of disused railway arches under Waterloo station, with some incredible street art right in front of you, The Vaults is a haven for immersive theatre and alternative arts. Check out its weird and wonderful programme of unique events that take place throughout the year; future events on the bill in 2018 include an immersive dining experience called Divine Proportions and a Hidden Jazz Club.

Churchill War Rooms

This underground bunker beneath the streets of Westminster was the secret location where Winston Churchill and his war cabinet planned the allied route to victory during the Second World War. Explore its intriguing maze of corridors and rooms, discovering where history was made, as well as visit its Churchill Museum to learn more about the wartime leader’s life.

Cahoots

Channelling a retro theme, Cahoots is a Soho-based bar where you’ll find delicious cocktails, sing-alongs and swing dancing, all housed in a disused Underground tube station and decorated to transport you back to post-war 1940s London. Drinks are all served in vintage milk bottles and tins, hip flasks and crockery that wouldn’t look out of place in your gran’s kitchen. Kitsch and fun, there’s also live music and entertaining experiences such as the ‘Squiffy Picnic’.

Silver Vaults Chancery Lane

Did you know that hidden on Chancery Lane between the City and the West End are London’s Silver Vaults, a subterranean labyrinth of antique silver dealers? It’s one of London’s most unusual shopping destinations; the underground location is home to 30 specialist silver retailers, selling British, international, and antique silver from every period, in every style. Whether you’re window shopping or looking to buy, it’s a lovely place to explore.

Also worth heading down to: St Paul’s Cathedral Crypt, the Greenwich & Woolwich Foot Tunnels and bars such as WC Clapham and Basement Sate.

 

 

Ten cool and unique ways to see Britain’s cities

Searching for an alternative to a walking tour of Britain’s cities? Here’s how you can turn city sightseeing into an immersive experience, whether it’s via watersports, from the sky…or even in a hot tub!

In a hot tub – London

Yes, you read that correctly – you can now step into a freshwater hot tub that sails down London’s River Thames, passing by some of the capital’s most iconic sights. The 90-minute HotTug experience sets sail from two different locations; its original site in Angel, north London, takes you through the cute and calm waterways of Regent’s Canal and, just last month, a new experience launched in the Docklands area around Canary Wharf/West India Quay. Book the VIP Experience and receive sailors’ hats, robe and towel rental and an essential ice bucket to keep drinks cool.

Kayaking by night – London

London’s landmarks are emblazoned with light come nightfall, delivering an atmospheric glow as you view them from double kayaks on the River Thames. On board the Night Kayak Tour you’ll paddle past the Houses of Parliament, St Paul’s Cathedral and Tower Bridge, a journey that takes you from pretty Battersea and ends in the historic maritime neighbourhood of Greenwich. Waterproof clothing, paddles, buoyancy aids – and instructors – are included.

By group cycle – Belfast, Northern Ireland

Chat face-to-face with your friends at the same time as cycling around Northern Ireland’s capital, on a specially adapted cycle with Wee Toast Tours – and enjoy a drink or two en route! An hour or two allows you to cruise around the city centre at gentle speeds, taking in such sights as City Hall and the Opera House. Wee Toast Tours also offers a Cathedral Quarter tour, through Belfast’s cultural heart, and will soon be launching a tour of the Titanic Quarter, home to the world-famous Titanic Museum, SS Nomadic and HMS Caroline.

Stand-up paddleboarding – Bristol, south-west England

Bristol is renowned for its historic harbours and waterways but why not explore its iconic waterside  via the contemporary watersport of stand-up paddleboarding with SUP Bristol? The professional team there will show you the ropes and take you out to float past Brunel’s SS Great Britain, the historic dockside and the multi-coloured houses of the leafy and elegant neighbourhood of Clifton – as the sun rises is a particularly lovely time to head out.

Singing in the back of a taxi – London

Black cab taxi driver – and professional singer – Aiden Kent had been driving customers around London for 20 years when he decided to combine his love for singing with his love for performing. The ‘Singing Cabbie’ fitted out his cab with a red carpet, Italian red leather seats and a bottle of champagne for guests, and a specially-adapted PA system to experience an extraordinary performance as you zip past London’s sights.

From a bird’s eye perspective – Cardiff, south Wales

Wales’ capital is packed with legendary landmarks – and one thrilling way to experience them is from the air! Hover Helicopters fly you to more than 1,000 ft/300 metres above Cardiff and over the Cardiff Bay, Cardiff Castle and the majestic Principality Stadium. Flights take place between March and October and the company can also take you over south Wales and its striking coastline. City skyline flights are also available over Manchester and Liverpool in north-west England.

On a ghostly tour – Edinburgh, Scotland

Enjoy the thrill of a fright? Ghost Bus Tours in Scotland’s capital takes you on a spooky theatrical experience around one of the UK’s most haunted cities, on board a classic 1960s Routemaster bus. Both entertaining and educational – it’s billed as a comedy horror show – you’ll learn all about the city’s former grisly sites where historic executions took place and hear eerie tales of supernatural occurrences.

Out on the river – Liverpool, north-west England

The legendary landmarks of Liverpool – the Liver Building, Albert Dock and the two stunning cathedrals that tower above the city skyline – can be seen from a different perspective from the River Mersey, on board the Dazzle Ferry, itself an attractive sight. The ferry was created by Sir Peter Blake, as part of the First World War centenary commemorations, with the design commissioned by Liverpool Biennial, 14–18 NOW the First World War Centenary Art Commissions, and Tate Liverpool in partnership with Merseytravel and National Museums Liverpool. Learn about the city as well as the history behind the ‘dazzle’ ship.

On the run – London

Don’t just walk around London – run through it! City Jogging Tours offers both specially designed tours or customised versions; all you need to do is bring your running shoes and be ready to explore. An experienced guide leads you to the city’s attractions and the tours cater for all running abilities, from newcomers to endurance runners. A great way to keep fit and fit in essential sightseeing.

Meandering through canals – Birmingham, central England

Did you know that Birmingham has more miles of canal than Venice and that they are lined with beautifully restored industrial heritage landmarks and intriguing contemporary buildings? See all of this on board a canal boat tour; there are several to choose from, ranging from tours of the more modern developments of Birmingham to the city’s pretty suburbs and out further into the countryside.