Restored castles steeped in legend, the Royal Horticultural Society unveiling the largest gardening project in Europe, and an art-peppered treasure hunt along England’s south coast – 2021 is a year bursting at the seams with brand new and unmissable experiences. From discovering Britain’s rich heritage and delving into its thriving art scene to exploring its stunning landscapes and picturesque coastline, there is plenty for travel-hungry visitors to add to their must-see list when we’re all able to travel again.
With ancient battlegrounds, mythical castles and a never-seen-before Roman sauna, history buffs will feel as if they are travelling through time as Britain’s rich heritage comes to life in 2021.
Remembering the Battle of Culloden
April will see the 275th anniversary of the Battle of Culloden in Scotland, a historic event that saw Bonnie Prince Charlie lead the final Jacobean rising in one of Britain’s most famous battles. Along with Inverness Museum and Art Gallery, the battlefield visitor centre includes an astounding immersive panoramic theatre, throwing visitors into the midst of the action.
Nottingham Castle reopens its doors
Nottingham Castle, along with the Ducal Palace and sprawling cave system below, is due to reopen in spring 2021 after a £29.4 million investment. Symbolising almost 1,000 years of British history, the castle has links to Robin Hood, Richard the Lionheart and the English Civil War.
Transforming Bath’s heritage sites
Those wanting to delve further into British history can plan a trip to the south-west’s historic spa town of Bath, where the Archway Project will convert the former Victorian spa buildings close to the Roman Baths. Set to open in 2021, the new renovations will create new learning spaces for groups and schools, a World Heritage Centre exploring the internationally recognised historic city, and open previously unseen areas of the Roman Baths themselves – including a Roman sauna!
Commemorating the voyage of the Mayflower
Also primed to ignite the south-west’s rich heritage are the Mayflower 400 commemorations, marking 400 years since the Mayflower set sail from Plymouth, taking the first pilgrims to America. Many exciting events have been pushed forward to July 2021 from the 2020 Mayflower International Festival, including the main Four Nations Ceremony (11 July), Military Muster (10 July) and Rehabilitation Triathlon hosted by the Royal Marines (8 July). The newly opened museum, the Box, in Plymouth, also explores the impactful cultural significance of the Mayflower’s voyage and its connection with colonialism.
Dreaming of hiking through stunning countryside or injecting some adrenaline into a British adventure? From fossil hunting in Yorkshire to a stroll along the England Coast Path – the longest coastal path in the world – here are some of the unmissable ways to explore the great British outdoors in 2021…
Celebrating the Welsh outdoors
The 870-mile Wales coastal path, striking countryside, coast and castles are staying in the limelight for 2021, as the country continues to celebrate its Year of Outdoors 2020-2021. With three National Parks, 600 castles, Dark Sky Reserves, and chances for foraging, surfing and glamping, 2021 is set to be bursting with mindful and revitalising experiences where visitors can discover how the outdoors has shaped Welsh culture and identity.
Exploring Scotland’s coasts and waters
Also shining a light on the refreshing outdoors is Scotland, who have extended their Year of Coasts and Waters into 2021 – perfect for those dreaming of a Scottish escape exploring the country’s stunning shorelines, lochs, and coastal traditions.
Big birthdays for four of Britain’s National Parks
Moving inland from Britain’s rugged coastlines, 2021 is also a stellar year for some of the nation’s vast landscapes, as it marks 70 years since the official formation of four National Parks, with the Peak District, Lake District, Snowdonia and Dartmoor National Parks all created in 1951.
Europe’s largest gardening project springs into life
Seeking a meditative stroll in a picturesque garden? Horticulture lovers can plan to explore the brand new garden, RHS Bridgewater, set to join the prestigious RHS portfolio on 11 May 2021. The 154-acre garden will be the first to be added in 17 years, offering a tranquil escape in the grounds of the historic Worsley New Hall, near the bustling centre of Manchester. This will be the largest gardening project in Europe and includes a kitchen garden, heritage orchard, therapeutic garden and a historic 11-acre walled garden – one of the largest in the UK!
Fossil hunting on the Yorkshire Coast
From historic grounds to finding evidence of the prehistoric world, 2021 is a great time to jump back to the Jurassic period on a fascinating fossil-hunting beach safari! Keen fossil hunters can discover wonderful examples of ammonites and more along the Yorkshire Coast, home to prehistoric hotbeds such as Staithes, Robin Hood’s Bay, Boggle Hole and Saltburn. From discovering the little worlds of rock pools to walking beside dinosaur footprints, visitors can book a session with a fossil-finding expert such as Hidden Horizons in North Yorkshire to see what marvels they can uncover.
With news ways to experience art in Britain, as well as a host of exciting anniversaries for theatre and music, 2021 promises some big dates for the diary for culture vultures.
A world first for England’s Creative Coast
Art buffs can embark on a brand new type of cultural treasure hunt along England’s south coast come spring 2021, with England’s Creative Coast. Developed in collaboration with galleries and arts organisations, the world’s first art GeoTour trail will connect the area’s exceptional galleries via geocaching on a global positioning system, creating a map of seven coastal artworks for visitors to discover – all by leading contemporary artists. Highlights include Margate’s Turner Contemporary, Bexhill’s De La Warr Pavilion and Hastings Contemporary.
Greenwich welcomes a new cultural hub
Spring 2021 will welcome a new riverside cultural hub, in the central location of London’s Royal Borough of Greenwich, Woolwich Works. Bringing life to a restored collection of industrial buildings, it will become home to large-scale performance and events areas, while sharing space with both local and internationally-known creative companies, including a residency of the National Youth Jazz Orchestra, Woolwich Contemporary Print Fair and Chineke!
Illuminating the River Thames
Also lighting up Britain in spring 2021 will be the Illuminated River project, which is transforming some of London’s iconic bridges. The ambitious art commission aims to add gloriously colourful lighting to five more of the city's bridges, with displays along Blackfriars Bridge, Waterloo Bridge, Golden Jubilee, Westminster Bridge and Lambeth Bridge all due to completed in the spring – adding a brand new dimension to an already iconic riverside walk in the capital.
Art on the Estuary
The famous waterway of England will see another cultural injection across May and June, as the second edition of the Estuary arts festival is primed to inspire. Aiming to shine a light on the landscape and rich history of the Thames Estuary and spanning 133km of South Essex and North Kent coastlines, it will highlight stories from its port towns, seafronts, marshlands and significant heritage sites through art, music and literature.
New perspectives on global conflict
History buffs can have their curiosity piqued at the Imperial War Museum this year, with new Second World War and Holocaust galleries due to open later in 2021. Spanning two floors, the £30.5 million investment will display an in-depth exhibition, thoughtfully analysing the conflict and its horrors through personal stories, stark objects and engaging display techniques fit for a 21st century audience.
Coventry City of Culture
Fancy discovering Britain’s thriving cultural events outside of the capital in 2021? Coventry is set for a bumper year of art, theatre, dance and literature as it becomes Britain’s next official UK City of Culture. Kicking off the year-long programme on 15 May with Coventry Moves, stand-out events include the Turner Prize, which will be held in the Midlands for the first time in its history, The Walk, revealing the crisis facing refugees across Europe, and musical highlights including CVX Festival and Terry Hall Presents Home Sessions.
Hosting the Euro 2020/1 showpiece
Emotions will be running high come summer 2021, with European giants of football locking horns in London and Glasgow for the UEFA European Championships, from 11 June – 11 July. Rescheduled from 2020, London’s Wembley Stadium will host both the semi-finals (6-7 July) and final (11 July) of the tournament, while Glasgow’s Hampden Park will host matches throughout.
Theatre takes centre stage
Cue the dazzling lights, marvellous costume and pitch-perfect voices – theatre fans will be on the edge of their seats as 2021 celebrates much-loved classics and welcomes must-see new shows to the capital. In a year that will mark the 150th anniversary of the world-famous Royal Albert Hall, and 15 years of the spell-binding Wicked the Musical, 2021 will also welcome Monopoly, an immersive production based on the classic board game, as well as the Broadway hit, Moulin Rouge! The Musical, an opulent jukebox production set to arrive in the West End in autumn 2021.
Hambledon Vineyard’s new visitor centre and tasting room
Visitors looking to get a sparkling taste of Britain can enjoy some of the South Downs’ finest tipples in 2021, at the Hambledon Vineyard. Located in 200 acres of lush countryside, the vineyard will welcome a brand new tasting room and visitor centre, giving guests the chance to savour a range of delicious wines and discover behind-the-scenes stories and techniques from one of Britain’s newest – and most delicious – traditions.
Those planning to be Britain-bound in 2022 shouldn’t miss these outstanding openings, events or cultural anniversaries.
Birmingham hosts the Commonwealth Games
The Commonwealth Games will bring a show-stopping array of sporting competitions to Birmingham in 2022. Spanning 28 July – 8 August, there will be everything to fight for in events including diving, wrestling, hockey and table tennis.
Exploring England’s dramatic coastline
Holiday-makers wanting to push themselves to new heights can plan their dream walking holiday along the brand new England Coast Path, due to fully open in 2022, with celebrations scheduled into 2023. Stretching for almost 4,500 invigorating kilometres, it will be the longest coastal path in the world, taking explorers along the entire coastline of Britain – getting as close to the rugged beauty and sea views as possible. Those not wanting to wait can see which areas of National Trail are open on their official website.
Bringing literature to life
Want to pair Britain’s breathtaking landscape with tales of myths, legend and oral tradition? Head north for 2022, as this will be Year of Scotland’s Stories, while fans of the original Gothic novel, Dracula, can visit the blood-thirsty Count’s haunt of Whitby in the 125th anniversary year of its publication.
Manchester’s new cultural hub
Manchester is gearing up to welcome a brand-new hub of creativity in The Factory, the year-round home of Manchester International Festival. This striking piece of modern architecture will host creative programmes and present work by internationally recognised artists in the heart of a city rooted in innovation. Those wanting a sneak peek on this exciting project can take a look around the Virtual Factory.
Completing the ‘Shakespeare triangle’
Over to the west of Northern England and the town of Prescot, near Liverpool, is also readying for a new cultural addition in 2022 - the Shakespeare North Playhouse. Modelled around an Elizabethan style theatre, this 350-seat venue is ideal for those dreaming of stepping back into the heart of Shakespeare’s Britain, as it completes the ‘Shakespeare triangle’, London, Stratford-upon-Avon and now, Prescot.
Visitors are advised to always check individual websites for the latest information, as events and openings are subject to change.
For more information contact:
VisitBritain Media Teampressandpr@visitbritain.org