11 of the best Christmas markets in Britain

Manchester Christmas Market sign

Twinkling lights, mulled wine, a festive atmosphere and fabulous gifts – Britain’s Christmas markets are back this year and bigger and better than ever before. Set in some of Britain’s loveliest cities, a visit to a Christmas market is equal parts shopping experience, equal parts destination discovery.

 

Winter Wonderland, London

Transforming one of London’s spectacular parks, Hyde Park Winter Wonderland offers a festive paradise in the heart of the city. Home to the world’s tallest transportable observation wheel, a Magical Ice Kingdom and an array of comedic acts at its own Comedy Club, in addition to Britain’s largest open air ice rink and plenty of bars and food stalls, there’s something for all the family to enjoy. Enjoy jaw-dropping circus acts and don’t miss the arrival of Paddington on Ice, a stunning show combining cutting-edge choreography, toe-tapping music and impressive costumes that is being performed in the UK for the first time!

When? 21 November – 5 January

Also check out: The festive window displays at Hamleys, Selfridge’s and Harrods, plus the capital’s festive lights around the shopping hubs of Regent’s Street and Oxford Street

 

Bath Christmas Market, south-west England

For historic-ambience-meets-winter-style, head to Bath Christmas Market, as more than 150 pop-up chalets set up on the city’s pretty Georgian streets. Visitors can expect a real treasure trove of gifts to take home, whether that’s jewellery, homewares or decorations. Last year more than 80% of stallholders came from Bath and south-west England, while 99% of all products were handmade in Britain or abroad with Fairtrade certification, so this is very much an eco-savvy shopping experience. There’s always new stalls to explore as well as the perennial favourites, while visitors can fill empty bellies with a range of festive food from The Lodge in the heart of the market.

When? 28 November – 15 December

Also check out: Bath on Ice, the festive ice rink that runs from 15 November to 5 January 2020, and Glow in the Dark mini golf; the Christmas Trail at Prior Park Landscape Garden during December; and Shoppers’ Carols at Bath Abbey on various dates throughout the festive season.

 

Birmingham Frankfurt Christmas Market, central England

A firm favourite on the city’s yuletide calendar, Birmingham Frankfurt Christmas Market is the largest authentic German Christmas market outside of Germany or Austria. Expect a fine range of traditional, personalised gifts and products on its 80 stalls and get into the German spirit while feasting on schnitzels, bratwursts, glühwein and weissbeer. Another huge draw is its bandstand location in Victoria Square and the programme of live music and carol singers that’s set to bring the party atmosphere to festive shopping.

When? 7 November – 23 December 2019

Also check out: Outdoor skating at Ice Rink Birmingham plus the Big Wheel Experience from 7 November to 12 January 2020, or head to Enchanted Weston, an illuminated, after-dark experience in stunning parkland with live music and food, running from 13 to 21 December.

 

Edinburgh Christmas Market, Scotland

Even if paying a visit after Christmas, guests still get the chance to enjoy some festive treats as Edinburgh’s Christmas market continues until early January as part of Edinburgh’s Christmas, a six-week programme of entertainment in the city centre. While it’s not open on Christmas Day, it is open until 8pm on Christmas Eve so bring plenty of bags to fill up with goodies such as arts and crafts, foodie treats and traditional or bespoke Christmas products. The market itself takes place in East Princes Street Gardens, guaranteeing some gorgeous views of Edinburgh Castle in the background and easy access to some of the city’s major attractions.

When? 16 November 2019 – 4 January 2020

Also check out: The Big Wheel and funfair rides on East Princes Street Gardens; and an adaption of Charles Dickens classic An Edinburgh Christmas Carol at the Lyceum (28 November 2019 – 4 January 2020).

 

Belfast Christmas Market, Northern Ireland

Set against the backdrop of one of the Northern Irish capital’s most iconic buildings, Belfast City Hall, the Belfast Christmas Market returns in 2019 with its enviable mix of artisan products and stalls groaning with tasty treats from international cuisines in its outdoor food court. Indulge in crepes, a hog roast, glühwein and continental cheeses, then make it a truly Northern Irish experience and visit Lavery’s traditional Irish bar for fantastic live music to really get in the Christmas spirit. Kids will love riding the vintage carousel or zipping down the helter skelter, as well as taking a trip to visit Santa in his magical grotto.

When? 16 November – 22 December 2019

Also check out: A Christmas Carol at arts and culture hub The Mac (27 November 2019 – 5 January 2020), and Christmas Wonderland at outdoor adventure centre The Jungle.

 

South Bank Winter Festival, London

The popular Winter Market returns to London’s Southbank Centre, a seasonal pleasure that sits alongside a range of family shows and festive fun as the banks of the River Thames become a winter wonderland. All along the South Bank are strings of decorations and cute illuminated wooden cabins selling Christmas gifts, from the quirky to the traditional, as well as mince pies, spiced cider and steaming mugs of mulled wine and hot chocolate. Global cuisines are available too, in the form of festive treats to gift or to eat there and then. Make sure to grab a selfie by the huge Christmas tree!

When? 8 November 2019 – 5 January 2020

Also check out: The fantastic performances available at the Southbank Centre, from Christmas concerts and choir performances to a children’s retelling of Black Beauty (14 December 2019 – 5 January 2020) and circus entertainment with Circus 1903 (19 December 2019 – 5 January 2020).

 

Cardiff Christmas Market, south Wales

Set across five streets of Cardiff’s pedestrianised city centre, Cardiff’s Christmas Market will be in full swing from mid-November, leaving plenty of time to find the perfect gift among its stalls. Its ethos is hosting stallholders selling original, hand-made products and artists and crafts people selling their work. There are plenty of food and drink options available among the 200+ stallholders and there’ll be music, festive lights and entertainment transforming the streets.

When? 14 November – 23 December 2019

Also check out: Santa Tours at the Principality Stadium (4 – 24 December 2019) or choose from various Christmas shows at St David’s Hall throughout December.

 

Manchester Christmas Markets, north-west England

The 20th instalment of the Manchester Christmas Markets will take over locations across the city from mid-November, meaning visitors won’t be far from festive gifts and delicious food and drink stalls selling traditional bratwurst, hog roast, paella and much more. There will be more than 300 stalls and chalets across the city, with the heart of the markets found in Albert Square. Visitors can follow the trail and pick up jewellery, toys, plants, bags, homeware and fun, quirky gifts at a variety of markets, including a French market, a German market, a World Christmas market and a dedicated Arts & Crafts market.

When? 8 November – 21 December 2019 (Albert Square stalls open until 22 December)

Also check out: Winter Funland, which will be held at an indoor venue and include fairground attractions, an ice rink, a circus and other fun performances (6 December 2019 – 3 January 2020); Halle’s (Manchester’s Orchestra’s) Christmas Concerts at Bridgewater Hall and Ice Village Manchester, the UK's biggest-ever ice attraction which includes an Arctic Tiki Bar, Santa's Grotto and an ice rink (8 November 2019 - 5 January 2020).

 

Leeds Christkindelmarkt, north England

Millennium Square in Leeds is transformed for the city’s annual Christkindelmarkt German Christmas Market, with the addition of more than 40 traditionally decorated wooden chalets. Browse through hand-crafted jewellery and festive decorations, tuck into authentic German food and feel extra festive with a ride on the popular Christmas Carousel. For those still feeling hungry, visit the Alp Chalet restaurant in the centre of the market, a Bavarian style eatery offering a delectable selection of traditional food and drink, alongside evening entertainment.

When? 8 November – 21 December 2019

Also check out: Thor’s Tipi in Victoria Gardens, a pop-up tipi bar offering an array of winter warming drinks; the massed voices of Inspiration Choir as they join forces with the Orchestra of Opera North for Inspiration: A Christmas Extravaganza at Leeds Town Hall (21 December 2019); and the Leeds Playhouse festive production of The Night Before Christmas (30 November - 28 December 2019).

 

Winchester Christmas Market, south England

With its unique location in the shadow of Winchester’s great cathedral, Winchester Cathedral’s Christmas Market is widely regarded as one of Europe’s best. More than 100 chalets are home to hand-picked exhibitors offering exclusive gifts that visitors won’t find on the high street – from hand-crafted decorations and festive treats to craft beer and mulled wine.

When? 21 November – 22 December 2019

Also check out: Skate around the city’s covered Christmas Ice Rink (21 November 2019 – 2 January 2020) and marvel at the glittering Christmas tree in its centre; or visit the Ginchester Christmas Market (7 December 2019), a celebration of the region’s diverse spirits including local gin, whisky, vodka and rum.

 

The Victorian Christmas Festival at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, south England

Travel back in time for three days of festive fun at the Victorian Christmas Festival, held in the impressive surroundings of the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. This year marks 20 years of Christmas magic, with the festival home to 120 market stalls selling all sorts of festive treats, an array of Victorian street performers and the chance to meet Father Christmas.

When? 29 November – 1 December 2019

Also check out: Mix up a treat as the Explosion Museum of Naval Firepower hosts two Christmas Cocktail Parties (7 and 13 December 2019); Meet Father Christmas at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum (14 December 2019) and enjoy lashings of festive fun during the That’ll Be The Day Christmas Show at Kings Theatre (18 December 2019).

 

 

60 minutes from…Belfast

Northern Ireland’s lively capital is renowned for its mix of art, culture and history, and you’ll find a wealth of exciting attractions to keep you busy. But beyond the limits of Belfast’s rich cultural cityscape, only an hour or less away, lie even more remarkable destinations that can enthral and excite. What’s more, eagle-eyed visitors will spot filming locations from the HBO epic Game of Thrones at nearly every turn, many of which are set to open to the public in 2019 to coincide with the airing of the show’s final season.

Birdwatch at Castle Espie

Drive eastwards from Dublin towards Strangford Lough to discover Castle Espie, an extensive wetland reserve managed by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust. Found three miles to the south of Comber, County Down, it is home to an abundance of native and exotic water birds, stunning estuary views, as well as habitats for plenty of other incredible wildlife. Castle Espie is also an early wintering site for the vast majority of the world’s migrating pale-bellied Brent geese, while Kingfishers are a regular sight in the Saline Lagoon.

From Castle Espie, head south for 20 minutes to take in the picturesque Killyleagh Castle with its conical roofs and imposing battlements, which stands proudly over the village of the same name. Alternatively, head around Strangford Lough in a clockwise direction to reach the National Trust site of Mount Stewart, a splendid collection of award-winning gardens alongside a beautifully refurbished neo-classical property. The characteristic gardens have a strong exotic and Mediterranean feel, while wooded areas support plants from all over the world, ensuring there’s something to discover all year round.

Slightly further south are the ruins of Grey Abbey, a former grey stone Cistercian priory. You’ll also find the Grey Abbey House and Gardens, which hosts an annual steam rally by the County Down Traction Engine Club in addition to numerous classic car meetings.

Head north from Mount Stewart to the centre of Bangor and the North Down Museum. This insightful exhibition explores the pivotal role that Bangor Abbey had in early Christian Ireland and the impact of the Viking invasion. Full-sized versions of a Viking Longhouse and Monk’s Cell accompany a range of exhibitions on the Bronze Age, plantations and more.

Boat on Lough Neagh

Drive westwards from Belfast and bask in the tranquil atmosphere and unspoilt scenery of Lough Neagh, Northern Ireland’s largest freshwater lake. An Area of Specific Scientific Interest, its internationally recognised wetlands are a haven for wildlife and numerous viewing points can be found dotted along its 125km of pristine shoreline. Hire a boat to experience the calm waters or try out a number of more adventurous water sport activities.

Go full-steam ahead in Whitehead

Venture in a north-easterly direction for 25 minutes to uncover the Whitehead Railway Museum, on the east coast of County Antrim, which offers a fascinating insight into the world of steam travel and the history of railway in Northern Ireland. Children can dress up in Victorian costume, watch as restoration work takes place and climb on board several iconic locomotives and carriages from the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland’s collection.

Uncover the beauty of Lisburn

Immerse yourself in the historical importance of Castle Gardens, in Lisburn, by travelling just 20 minutes to the south west of Belfast. Once the home of a fortified 17th-century manor house and now a beautifully kept public park, the city is also home to the spectacular 300-year old Lisburn Cathedral. Delve further into the history of the region with a visit to the Irish Linen Centre and Lisburn Museum, which explores Ireland’s industrial heritage, tracing the history of linen through its award-winning Flax to Fabric exhibition.

Bask in the splendour of Hillsborough Castle a short distance further to the south west, an 18th- century Georgian country house that is also the Queen’s official residence in Northern Ireland. Take a guided tour of the castle and state rooms, before venturing outside to explore its ornamental grounds, woodlands and waterways.

Around an hour from Belfast to the south west is the city of Armagh. See St Patrick’s Cathedral, which stands on top of the hill from which the city derived its name. Gaze at the stars at the Armagh Astronomy Centre and Planetarium and listen to a show on the night sky, before exploring its beautiful landscaped grounds. Finish your visit to the city at Armagh County Museum. Designed like a Greek temple, the museum is home to numerous artefacts that detail the rich history of the region dating back to prehistoric times.

Discover the mesmerising Mourne Mountains

Some 50km and an hour to the south of Belfast by car, in County Down, is the immeasurable beauty of the Mourne Mountains, the country’s highest and most awe-inspiring set of peaks. Explore the summits, complete with their granite tors, via a network of criss-crossed tracks and trace the old smuggling routes from Newcastle to Hilltown, taking in views of the Mourne Wall along the way. Built to keep sheep and cattle away from the Silent Reservoir catchment, the 22-mile long wall has stood for close to 100 years.

If there is time to explore a little further from Belfast, then start with the stunning scenery and natural sights of Country Antrim to the north. The striking coastline is home to an abundance of wildlife, as well as the majestic Giant’s Causeway and the impressive Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, near Ballintoy. Other popular destinations include Bushmills Distillery – Ireland’s oldest working distillery – and nearby Dark Hedges, where Arya Stark made her escape from King’s Landing in Game of Thrones. Dunluce Castle, a cliff top ruin, also starred as The House of Greyjoy in the hit TV show.

Five luxurious ways to travel around Britain

Get from A to B with these seriously glamorous ways to travel, which turn exploring British destinations into an upper-class experience all the way.

Train

One of the greatest travel experiences has to be while relaxing with a glass of Champagne, savouring luxurious surroundings while gazing out of the window at ever-changing, beautiful scenery. Train travel on board the lavish Belmond Royal Scotsman (sister train of the Venice Simplon Orient Express) evokes the romance of travel from a bygone era and is all about delivering an exclusive experience; only a maximum of 36 guests are on board on any journey. There are a number of routes available; whisky lovers should check out its Malt Whisky Trail or fans of history can book onto a journey that takes you to visit castles and country estates. But it’s the experience on board that’s just as unforgettable as the stops. Visit its on-board spa for an indulgent treatment, enjoy fine dining across its two elegant dining cars and relax in the Edwardian Observation car.

Even if you only have one day to spare, you can experience the thrill of luxury train travel by dining on board the Northern Belle, which departs from regional stations throughout the UK and takes you through some of the most stunning countryside. Enjoy Champagne receptions, grand dinners or sumptuous afternoon teas in its gorgeous carriages, each of which is named after a British castle or stately home.

Hot-air balloon

Admire the exceptional beauty of the British countryside as you float above the landscapes on an exclusive trip in a hot-air balloon. Visitors have their pick of companies across the destination offering these trips; one example is Kent Ballooning, which offers ballooning over the ‘Garden of England’ – the county of Kent – in south-east England. Take it to a more exclusive, luxurious level with its VIP flights. Two passengers board their own private balloon – after watching its inflation – and enjoy Champagne during the flight.  

Alternatively, why not take part in Britain’s most famous hot-air balloon festival by booking a once-in-a-lifetime hot-air balloon trip with Virgin Balloon Flights at the Bristol Balloon Fiesta, which returns in August 2019? You’ll take to the skies over the gorgeous Somerset landscapes for three-to-four hours and witness all the other balloons taking part in the fiesta beside you, while sipping on Champagne!

Helicopter

See Britain from a different angle as you cruise above it by helicopter…all piloted of course! You just have to sit back and enjoy the scenery. If you’re in England’s capital, one of the most exclusive ways to see the city is on board The London Helicopter on a trip that takes in all the iconic landmarks from the Royal Albert Hall and Hyde Park to St Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London. For an extra special journey tie in a luxury chauffeur service to and from your helicopter flight and, on arrival back at the heliport in Battersea, complete the trip with a glass or two of Champagne at neighbouring ‘The Pad’ at the Crowne Plaza. Helicopter flights can, of course, be more than sightseeing. Aerial Charter Scotland, for example, offers Helicopter Distillery Tours, where whisky lovers can travel between distilleries across the five distinctive whisky producing regions of Scotland. Spot the magnificent lochs, dramatic mountains and vibrant cities as you soar overhead en route to the distilleries.

Cruise ship

Britain is an island – so what better way to explore it than on board a luxury cruise ship? There are a wide range of cruise companies operating itineraries, from around the remote Scottish islands to cruises around the whole of Britain. You’ll find all-inclusive luxury – think butler service, gourmet dining, fine wines, Champagne, suites with private verandas and indulgent spas – with companies such as Regent Seven Seas, Six Star Cruises and Silversea. A two-week cruise by Silversea departs from London and stops at ports such as the spectacular Isles of Scilly off the coast of Cornwall at the south-western tip of England; the exciting city of Belfast in Northern Ireland, the stunning Scottish islands of Lewis, Shetland, Orkney and Mull as well as the vibrant Scottish capital Edinburgh. Six Star Cruises offers a ‘British Isles Legacy’ route, with stops in Fowey in Cornwall, Liverpool in north-west England and Scotland, while Regent Seven Seas’ offers a ‘Treasures of the British Isles’ cruise, departing from Bristol, heading up to the Scottish islands and across to Aberdeen, before taking in Guernsey in the Channel Islands and the Isles of Scilly.

Chauffeur-driven luxury car

Enjoy the VIP treatment by visiting some of Britain’s top attractions and most beautiful destinations via chauffeur-driven luxury vehicle. There is a wealth of companies across Britain offering this type of service but to enhance the experience further, ensure your driver is also a knowledgeable guide. British Chauffeur Tours offers tailor-made tours to suit individual interests but check out popular journeys such as its Harry Potter tours, football tours and tours of the Cotswolds. Ever wanted to channel your inner James Bond? Book onto its Espionage London tour to discover the secret world of the spy – all, of course, from the comfort of a luxury car. Visitors can also have multi-day bespoke tours created. British Heritage Chauffeur Tours, for example, offers entire trips around Wales, England or Scotland – which include five-star accommodation along the way – as well as tours across a range in themes, from Poldark to Queen Victoria.

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.

 

Accommodation Update July-October 2017

 

Britain’s best awarded at the AA Hospitality Awards 2017

The AA has announced the results of its Hospitality Awards 2017, naming its industry gold-standard hotels, pubs and restaurants across Britain. 

The Gainsborough Bath Spa in the south-west took England’s top spot for its 'sophisticated and luxurious experience', while The Douneside House in Aboyne was awarded Scotland’s Hotel of the Year. The Old Inn, Bangor, took first prize for Northern Ireland, praised for its 'untold elegance and grandeur'. Twr Y Felin Hotel, St Davids, won Hotel of the Year Wales, awarded for its 'excellent design and presentation, with noteworthy attention to detail'. Hotel of the Year London went to The Goring; described as 'an icon of British hospitality', it was where Kate Middleton famously got ready for her royal wedding to Prince William.

 

LONDON

 

New and upcoming openings

 

Opened September 2017: The Mandrake, Fitzrovia

Billed as one of central London’s hottest new hotels, this exotic boutique luxury setting (named after a mystical plant) has already hosted London Fashion Week parties. Five years in the making, The Mandrake’s 30 bedrooms and three suites frame a jungle-style inner courtyard of tropical plants. The interior design mixes opulent purples and reds with gold finishes, velvet, feathers, ornate chandeliers and striking artwork. The lavish Mandrake Suite and the Penthouse are sure to be Instagram favourites, the latter clad in white marble with a huge bed and a jacuzzi under a retractable roof. The hotel’s headline restaurant is Serge et le Phoque, by Michelin-starred chef Frédéric Peneau.

 

Opening October 2017: Trafalgar St. James

This classic hotel overlooking Trafalgar Square –which has hosted the likes of Tom Cruise and Nicole Scherzinger – is unveiling its modern new look since joining the Curio Collection by Hilton. A “peer panel” of young Londoners – including lifestyle blogger Lucy Freedman and DJ Doug Marshall – were appointed during the project to give their perspective on everything from furnishings to menus. Trafalgar St. James now has 131 bedrooms, the Trafalgar Dining Rooms, an underground lounge, Biblio, and a 14-cover private dining room. The rooftop bar has great views of Nelson’s Column and the National Gallery. PR contact: hshearer@thecommunicationgroup.co.uk

 

Opening October 2017: The Pilgrm, Paddington

New design hotel The Pilgrm focuses on pared-back urban chic with a vintage touch. There is no lobby or reception desk – instead, guests will be able to check in online. The ground floor café will provide a welcome area, plus a lounge bar and dining room. Interiors showcase the building’s 200-year-old parquet flooring, as well as cast-iron radiators and a “cloud carpet”. The hotel’s 73 rooms come in four sizes: ‘bunk’ (two single beds), small, medium and large. PR contact: Alexandra Berry a.berry@gemmabellandcompany.com

 

Opening October 2017: New Road Hotel, Whitechapel, east London

With its “Everything you need, nothing you don’t” promise, New Road Hotel focuses on stylish stripped-back luxury. Owned by three brothers, the 80-bedroom boutique hotel has been built on the site of an old textile factory where their father once worked. The interiors reflect this heritage, and quirky touches include a rooftop Eco Shed and the Loft + Hot Tub room, with views of London’s skyline. The hotel’s restaurant is by Marco Pierre White, and other features include a fitness studio and social areas where guests can enjoy live music, games and a library.

 

Opening early 2018: Vintry & Mercer, Cannon Street, City of London

Located in London’s historic trading centre near St Paul’s Cathedral and The Shard, forthcoming 92-bedroom hotel Vintry & Mercer is named after two of the City’s historic professions: vintners, who traded fine wines, and mercers, who sold fine silks. Both trades will be reflected in the hotel’s design. For food and drink, there will be Vintry Kitchen, serving Mediterranean food; rooftop Mercer Terrace; and DND, (Do Not Disturb), an underground cocktail bar.

 

Long-lead

 

Date TBC: Marylebone Lane hotel, Marylebone, central London

A brand new luxury 206-bedroom, nine-storey hotel operated by Shiva Hotels is planned for Marylebone. The proposed hotel will have a spa, swimming pool, café and club lounge.

 

2020: The Hoxton, Shepherd's Bush, west London

Subject to planning permission, the capital will be getting another stylish Hoxton hotel in west London. The new 214-bedroom property will join sister hotels already open in London (Shoreditch and Holborn), and Amsterdam.

 

2020: Raffles Hotels & Resort London, Westminster, central London

One of London’s most significant historic buildings, the Old War Office – once the office of Winston Churchill, and sections of the British secret service – is being transformed into a 125-room luxury hotel by Raffles Hotels & Resorts. It will be the company’s first property in Britain, and rooms will include 50 suites and 88 private residences.

 

Refurbs & expansions

 

Now open: The English Grill at The Rubens at the Palace, Westminster, central London

The Rubens at the Palace has opened its new restaurant as part of a five-year, multi-million pound refurbishment. The English Grill’s menu includes a daily roast, carved from a silver trolley at diners’ tables.

 

Opening November 2017: The Coral Room bar at Bloomsbury Hotel, central London

As part of a major refurbishment of the 153-room Bloomsbury Hotel, its new Coral Room bar will be unveiled in November alongside the hotel’s redesigned public spaces. PR contact: chloe.davison@ttc.com

 

SCOTLAND

 

New and upcoming openings

 

Opened September 2017: The Principal Edinburgh Charlotte Square

Following a top-to-toe refurbishment, The Principal Edinburgh Charlotte Square (formerly The Roxburghe Hotel) has re-opened its doors. One of Edinburgh’s oldest hotels, it’s hosted A-list Hollywood actors and is made up of seven inter-connecting Georgian townhouses in the city’s New Town. The concierge still wears a kilt and vintage red post boxes in the new lobby collect post daily. The 199 elegantly refurbished bedrooms (including 18 suites) are designed with Scottish accents and earthy colours. There is informal all-day-dining at The Garden, and eastern Mediterranean cuisine at BABA restaurant, opening in November. PR contact: georgie.griffiths@theprincipalhotel.com

 

Refurbs & expansions

 

Opened September 2017: Sleeperz Hotels, Edinburgh

Budget operator Sleeperz Hotels has launched a new wing at its Cityroomz Edinburgh hotel, accessible via Princes Street. The 43 new bedrooms include superior doubles, family and cabin rooms, as well as ten suites. Flooring in the suite bathrooms is printed with a city street map of Edinburgh. Sleeperz will also be opening a 120-bedroom hotel in Dundee in 2018 opposite the new V&A Museum. PR contact: matthew@honeypotmedia.co.uk

 

Now open: Cameron House, Loch Lomond

Cameron House, the five-AA-star, luxury 36-bedroom resort set on the banks of Loch Lomond, has completed the final phase of its multi–million pound refurbishment. Its new-look rooms and suites have Scotland-inspired features, such as contemporary tartan and handmade leather sleigh beds. The hotel has also announced the launch of its new Cameron Kids offering, treating little ones to their own slice of luxury during their stay.

 

Summer 2018: Ten Hill Place, Edinburgh

Work has started on a 52-bedroom expansion of Ten Hill Place hotel. Owned by the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, hotel profits go back into the college.

 

WALES

 

Long-lead

 

2021: Afan Valley Adventure Resort, Port Talbot, south Wales

Plans have been submitted for a new 480-acre adventure resort in south Wales, which will have a 100-bedroom hotel and spa, plus 400 luxury lodges, and adventures zones, bars, restaurants and retail outlets. The proposed Afan Valley Adventure Resort site is just south of Afan Forest Park. There are plans for five main ‘zones’: Forest, Xtreme, Trails, Zen and Alpine, the last of which will include three different ski slopes. The resort will also be home to the Bear Grylls Survival Academy – a series of challenges and endurance courses designed by the TV survival expert. Other activities will include ice skating, Segway tours, indoor skydiving and surfing, ‘ninja warrior’ training, go-karting, forest zip wires, paintballing and mountain biking. Watch the action-packed teaser film here.

 

SOUTH AND SOUTH-EAST ENGLAND

 

New and upcoming openings

 

Opened August 2017: Beaverbrook, Surrey

The former country home of press baron and politician Lord Beaverbrook has opened as the luxurious Beaverbrook hotel, following a multi-million pound transformation. Just 19 miles from London, the hotel is surrounded by 400 acres of privately owned countryside. Designed by Soho House interiors guru Susie Atkinson, the interiors exude classic opulence, featuring four-poster beds and rich fabrics. Each of the hotel’s 18 rooms and suites have been named after one of the estate’s famous former guests, which include Winston Churchill, James Bond author Ian Fleming, Elizabeth Taylor, and Charlie Chaplin. The hotel also has an Art Deco-style cinema, the glamorous Parrot Bar, a cookery school, and a Japanese restaurant, The Dining Room, headed up by top ex-Nobu chef Taiji Maruyama. By the end of the year the hotel will also have a spa with swimming pools, a hammam and a sauna. PR contact: gemma@gp-associates.com

 

Opened August 2017: Hog Deer Creek, Kent

This summer, Kent safari park Port Lympne Reserve opened its latest accommodation, Hog Deer Creek. The five luxury shepherd huts are designed for couples or families, and located within the park’s Asian Experience, so guests’ neighbours will include roaming Asian animals such as Sambar deer.

 

Opened September 2017: Piggledy Tree House, South Downs National Park

This new four-bed treehouse looks like a forest dwelling straight from the pages of a fairy tale. Designed for adults and kids alike, The Piggledy Tree House is located in Blackberry Wood at the foot of the South Downs National Park near Brighton, and comes with a kitchen and a balcony. Owner Tim fulfilled a childhood dream by building the treehouse, which took three years to complete.

 

Opening March 2018: Room 2, Southampton

Room 2 has confirmed details of its second design-led aparthotel in Southampton, due to open next year. Its 71 studio rooms will feature nautical-inspired designs and come in three sizes: little, regular and large.

 

Long-lead

 

2020: Malmaison, Bournemouth

Next year work will begin on a 100-bedroom Malmaison hotel in the coastal town of Bournemouth. Expected to take around two years to build, the new hotel will include a Chez Mal bar and brasserie, a rooftop bar and terrace overlooking the seafront, a gym, a swimming pool, and beauty rooms.

 

WEST MIDLANDS

 

Long-lead

Autumn 2018: Hawkstone Hall, Shrewsbury, Shropshire

Hawkstone Hall, a Georgian country mansion in Shropshire, is being transformed into a 40-bedroom hotel and wedding venue. Refurbishment of the main hall and 12 suites will be complete in summer 2018. By autumn, all works are due to be complete, resulting in a total of 40 suites and bedrooms.

 

SOUTH-WEST ENGLAND

 

Refurbs & expansions

 

Re-opened July 2017: De Vere Tortworth Court, Gloucestershire

Victorian countryside mansion De Vere Tortworth Court is now open following its £5-million pound restoration, which has resulted in 11 spacious new suites, bringing the total number of guestrooms and suites in the main house to 55. All of the bedrooms have been refurbished to reflect modern British heritage, incorporating leather, tweed and linen. The largest suite, The Kipling, includes a dining table for six guests and a lounge that can be connected to The Paxton, to form a family suite that spans 129 square metres, overlooking the formal gardens.

 

Opened August 2017: Luxury sea-view suites at Lewinnick Lodge, Cornwall

Lewinnick Lodge has added six new suites to its cliff-top B&B hotel on Pentire Headland, close to Newquay’s Fistral Beach – widely regarded as England’s surfing capital. Each of the rooms has 180-degree coastal views, super-king beds, DAB radios, Bluetooth speakers, smart TVs, homemade biscuits and organic toiletries.

 

YORKSHIRE

 

New and upcoming openings

 

Opened July 2017: Swinton Country Club & Spa, North Yorkshire

The Good Spa Guide has awarded Swinton Estate’s new Country Club & Spa a five-bubble rating just two months after opening. The new club has a 10-metre outdoor natural water swimming pool and a hot tub, and the fitness team incorporate outdoor activities from the wider estate, such as running, cycling and outdoor yoga. The old Estate Gardener’s cottage has been transformed into a suite of beauty rooms, with signature treatments including the Elemis Garden of England Rose Restore Wrap.

 

Long-lead

 

2019: Bretton Hall, Wakefield, west Yorkshire  

Historic Georgian mansion house Bretton Hall is being transformed into a luxury 120-bedroom hotel and ‘creative campus’, set within 500 acres of landscaped gardens and parkland adjacent to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP). The property’s redevelopment will include two theatres, a seminar space, exhibition area and conferencing facilities, with further accommodation, work and educational spaces planned for future phases.

 

Date TBC: Malmaison, York

Malmaison hotel chain will be opening a new site in York after being granted planning permission earlier this year. The new hotel will have 160 bedrooms and suites, as well as its Chez Mal Bar and Brasserie for cocktails and dining. Malmaison currently has hotels in 15 cities across Britain, including Leeds and Manchester.

 

NORTH-WEST ENGLAND

 

New and upcoming openings

 

2018: Dixie Dean Hotel, Liverpool

A 100-bedroom hotel in honour of Everton footballer Dixie Dean is due to open in Liverpool city centre next year, opposite The Shankly hotel, which similarly celebrates Scottish footballer and manager Bill Shankly (the two men were great friends). The Dixie Dean Hotel will have restaurants, bars and an events space, and showcase memorabilia from the footballer’s career.

 

Long lead

 

Date TBC: Manchester Moxy

Planning permission has been granted for a 145-bedroom Moxy hotel in Manchester’s Spinningfields district. Moxy is Marriot International’s millennial-focused boutique hotel concept, and the new hotel will join one other in London. There are plans for seven more in pipeline, located in London, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Southampton, Bristol and York.

 

Date TBC: Re-opening of Trafford Park hotel, Manchester

The Trafford Park hotel, built in 1902, is being refurbished and relaunched under an international boutique brand after being derelict for eight years. Plans include an additional wing, which will expand the total bedroom count to 120.

 

Summer 2019: Zetter Hotel, London Road Fire Station, Manchester

Manchester's historic London Road Fire Station is being developed by London-based boutique hotel brand The Zetter Group. The new hotel will be the group’s first in Manchester, and will have on-site restaurants and bars.

 

NORTH-EAST ENGLAND

 

New and upcoming openings

 

Opened September 2017: The Cookie Jar, Alnwick, Northumberland

Deborah Cook, wife of the former chief executive of Malmaison, Hotel du Vin and De Vere Hotels, has opened her first solo venture, a luxury boutique hotel overlooking Alnwick Castle. The Cookie Jar has 11 bedrooms and offers quirky treats such as freshly baked cookies and milk. It has initially opened as a bed and breakfast operation, serving coffees, teas and sharing plates from the bar – but there are plans for a restaurant in the near future.

 

NORTHERN IRELAND

 

New and upcoming openings

 

September 2017: Titanic Hotel Belfast

Northern Ireland’s much-anticipated luxury Titanic-themed hotel is now open on the site of the former headquarters of Harland & Wolff, shipbuilders of the Titanic over 100 years ago. The 119-bedroom Titanic Hotel Belfast is sister hotel to the Titanic Hotel in Liverpool. The interior design includes nautical touches, models of the iconic ship, and old photographs. The hotel’s dining room has views of the slipway where the Titanic was built, and art deco-inspired suites give impressive views of the Belfast Titanic building and the entire Titanic Quarter. There are also corporate and entertainment spaces available for events and conferences. PR contact: jane.williams@jcomms.co.uk

 

Long-lead

 

June 2018: Grand Central Hotel, Belfast  

Work is starting on what will be Belfast’s largest hotel development, the 304-bedroom Grand Central Hotel, Belfast.

 

June 2018:  George Best Hotel, Belfast

The developer of The Shankly Hotel in Liverpool (themed around Liverpool Football Club's legendary Scottish player and manager) is building a new 80-bedroom hotel in Belfast, named after and inspired by Manchester United and Northern Ireland football legend, George Best.

Accommodation Update - May 2018

Read on for the latest Accommodation Update, brought to you by VisitBritain's Destination PR team.

 

Recently opened

AC Hotel by Marriott Belfast, Northern Ireland
April 2018

Connect to the city in a new way at AC Hotel Belfast, an urban retreat in an exceptional riverside location. Explore Belfast on foot with Titanic Belfast, City Hall, Belfast Waterfront, SSE Arena and the shops of Victoria Square a short walk away. Guests can enjoy an AC Fitness Room, 24hr room service and can opt for a delicious continental or cooked breakfast. With two meeting rooms, an AC Lounge, riverside terrace and all-day dining, the hotel provides the perfect co-working space. When day turns to night, the restaurant “Novelli at City Quays” will excite as multi-Michelin-starred chef Jean-Christophe Novelli brings his flare to the dining experience and expert bartenders serve up local knowledge with craft beer and cocktails.

 

Crowne Plaza and Staybridge Suites, Manchester, England
August 2018
The first dual-branded (‘double decker’) hotel in the north of England will boast a 212-room Crowne Plaza and a 116-room Staybridge Suites. Crowne Plaza will feature an upscale restaurant, seven meeting rooms, catering for over 200 delegates and a gym. Staybridge Suites will be located on the upper eight floors and will offer a warm, social and home-like environment through a mix of studio and one bedroom suites.

 

Cow Hollow Hotel, Manchester, England
May 2018
A restored turn-of-the-century textile warehouse has now opened as the Cow Hollow Hotel following a long-running labour of love from married owners Mujtaba and Amelia. High-tech but with a touch of colonial Victorian majesty, the hotel has 17 rooms and is situated on Newton Street within Manchester’s vibrant Northern Quarter. A stay at Cow Hollow includes a range of complimentary features including an evening champagne and antipasti cart.

 

The Saint George Hotel, Harrogate, Yorkshire, England

April 2018
The Saint George hotel has opened as the only coast & country hotel in the North. This Edwardian Hotel is an iconic building in the centre of Harrogate and comprises of 81 modern bedrooms including a swimming pool, spa, sauna, steam room and fitness room with weights – perfect for those who like to keep active during those leisurely evenings away from home.

 

West Stow Pods: New Pod Hollow, Suffolk, England

5 May
West Stow Pods is a family-run glamping site in the heart of Suffolk’s scenic countryside, situated roughly four miles from East Anglia’s historic town of Bury St Edmunds. West Stow Pods offers a range of lodging styles including four cosy MegaPods and their newest development, the Pod Hollow, a Halfling-inspired subterranean dwelling nestled in the side of a grassy knoll. Guests will have a unique and tranquil glamping experience in Suffolk’s picturesque woodlands.

 

New holiday homes in the woodland retreat of Sandy Balls Holiday Village in the New Forest, England
April 2018
£1 million has been invested in creating the Zen, an innovative new type of caravan that has been designed so people can escape their busy lives and tune out from digital noise and the stresses. Hidden among the trees within the beautiful and relaxing setting of Sandy Balls, the Zen offers a calming and peaceful escape away in the woodlands.

 

Relaunches and Refurbishments

Hotel du Vin at the Avon Gorge Hotel, Bristol, England

June 2018
Perched on the edge of rocky Avon Gorge, this classic Victorian hotel enjoys a fabulous location overlooking the Clifton Suspension Bridge. It was recently acquired by the Hotel du Vin group and is currently being upgraded in line with a rebranding. The stylish, new-look rooms are complete and the restaurant, reception and terrace are still a work in progress.

 

Opening Soon

Crowne Plaza London
18 June 2018
Crowne Plaza London - Albert Embankment will be the first luxury hotel to open in the Albert Embankment area, offering breath-taking views over the Thames, including the Houses of Parliament and the London Eye. The hotel will have 142 bedrooms, a state of the art gym, an American lobby bar and a rooftop terrace.

 

Native Glasgow
August 2018
The first Native foray in Scotland sees the opening of Native Glasgow, located in a fabulous Art Deco office building built in 1906 as the former headquarters for the Anchor Line Shipping Company. The building has been restored with many of the original features retained; the ornate wood panelling, feature fireplaces and crystal glazed windows give the statement rooms a touch of the elegance found on the grand ocean liners of the time.

Native Glasgow are working with the appointed interior architects, ICA, on this multi-million-pound refurbishment programme to create 64 studio, one bedroom and penthouse apartments.

 

Hampton by Hilton Belfast City Centre, Belfast
August 2018
Located in central Belfast, Hampton by Hilton Belfast City Centre offers modern rooms with free WiFi and secure discounted parking beside the hotel. Travellers of all types will appreciate our proximity to the main road networks and public transport hub making, Belfast City Airport (BHD) and SSE Arena within easy reach.

The hotel is within walking distance of the fashionable Victoria Square shopping centre and many of the city’s attractions. The Grand Opera House and the Lyric Theatre are less than two miles away. Walk to Great Victoria Street railway station for easy access around the city and the surrounding areas. After a busy day, unwind in your spacious room with a clean and fresh Hampton bed™.

15 incredible ways to celebrate World Gin Day in Britain

Shaken or stirred, with tonic or in a cocktail, the popularity of gin continues to boom and, with more than 160 gin brands across the UK according to the Gin Guild, plus a host of boutique distillers opening, Britain continues to lead the gin revolution. As World Gin Day celebrates its ten-year anniversary on 9 June with a four-day festival in London, make sure these British gin experiences are on your to-do list.

 

England

Stay at Britain's first gin hotel, Portobello Road Gin’s Distillery hotel, London

Book into The Distillery on Portobello Road; this gin lovers' paradise is home to two gin bars, stocking a huge range of gins (including the famous Portobello Road Gin) and the Ginstitute, the hotel's gin museum and blending room, which runs masterclasses showing you how to make your own gin blend.

 

Embark on a Gin Journey tour, London, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Newcastle

The Gin Journey takes its guests in a chauffeur-driven carriage to five bars in your city of choice, including a local gin distillery, with samples of specially selected premium gin in each. Other tours on offer in London include ‘The Gin Masters Masterclass’ for a chance to learn all about the various styles of gin and its manufacturing from a master distiller.

 

Head for London’s largest collection of gin, London

Featuring more than 500 gins and 30 tonics the Gin Bar at Holborn Dining Room is seriously impressive, offering the discerning gin lover more than 14,000 possible gin and tonic pairings, plus new gin cocktails.

 

Order gin from a ‘Bath’, Bath

The Canary Gin Bar in the south-west England city of Bath, is a haven for gin-lovers due to its vast collection of the spirit on offer. A micro-distillery has also been launched at the bar and has created its very own type of gin, ‘Bath gin’.

 

Enrol in gin school, Leicester
Join the Gin Experience at the 45 Gin School in Leicester and tour the home of Burleighs London Dry Gin, before selecting and distilling your choice of botanicals and bottling your own 70cl bottle of gin, under the guidance of a master distiller.

 

Feast on cake and gin, London

Hayman’s English gin makers and Brigit’s Bakery have joined forces to offer a Gin Lovers Afternoon Tea Bus Tour of London. Tours on the charming, vintage Routemaster bus take in some of London’s most iconic landmarks as a bespoke B Bakery Afternoon Tea is served with Hayman’s Gin infused treats and three seasonal Hayman’s Gin cocktails.

 

Scotland

Indulge in gin pamperingm, Glasgow

Created by the people behind Glasgow’s first dedicated gin bar – Gin71 – the Gin Spa is the world’s first botanically inspired day spa. Find bespoke treatments using the bar’s passion for gin mixed with natural botanical ingredients and sip on a complimentary gin cocktail that comes with every treatment.

 

Venture to the far north for gin, Shetland

Take a tasting tour at the UK’s most northerly gin distillery; the Saxa Vord Distillery on the Shetland Isles. Its recipes infuse gin with either locally harvest apple mint or bladderwrack seaweed to give it a unique Shetland twist.

 

Sail on a gin cruise, Edinburgh

The people behind Edinburgh’s Juniper Festival, Scotland’s first-ever gin festival, now offer special gin tasting events on board its Juniper Cruise. Heading out from Edinburgh on the Lochrin Belle canal boat, its two-hour tasting session teaches guests about gin’s fascinating history while sampling five Scottish gins. Cruises run until November and the Juniper Festival itself takes place at Summerhall, Edinburgh, between 1-3 June.

 

Gin along the North Coast 500, Caithness

Ask someone else to drive this stunning road trip along 500 miles of the far north of Scotland as you’ll want to stop by these two gin distilleries en route and sample the goods. Head to the new visitor centre of the Dunnet Bay Distillery, in Caithness, to discover tales of illicit distilling and the history of prohibition in the local town of Wick, before sampling its flagship gin Rock Rose. Further along near Inverness is the intriguing Glen Wyvis, 100% owned by the local community with a new distillery that aims to be 100% powered by green, renewable energy.

 

Mix gin with chocolate, Perth

The Perth Chocolate and Gin Street Festival, an hour north of Edinburgh, is a haven for those with a passion for chocolate and a love for gin. Coming to the city this November (17-18), there’ll be gins to try from all over the UK and a chance to see how well the two products go together in the chocolate and gin pairing event.  

 

Wales

Buy biosphere-inspired gin

Taste and take home the unique Pollination Gin, distilled by the family run Dyfi Distillery, located in the UNESCO World Biosphere of Dyfi in north-west Wales, on the edge of Snowdonia National Park. It’s produced in very limited small batches, made from foraged botanicals from within the biosphere, pure grain spirit and locally drawn spring water, making it a special gift to take home.

 

Sample sea-inspired gin

Fans of seafood should put this on their must-try list; a small batch gin made with a variety of botanicals infused with seaweed from the Welsh coast, Dà Mhìle Seaweed gin is pretty special. Find out more of how this unusual gin is made with a tour of the distillery near Ceredigion in west Wales, two hours from Cardiff.

 

Northern Ireland

Take Northern Ireland’s very first gin tour

The Belfast Gin Jaunt launched last year and takes guest to five bars to try seven different gins – including three distilled locally – starting at a Victorian Gin Palace and finishing three hours later at the city’s famous Cathedral Quarter.

 

Explore Northern Ireland’s first craft gin

Find out the fascinating story of how Northern Ireland’s first craft gin – Shortcross Gin – came about in a tour of its distillery on the Rademon Estate in County Down, one of Ireland’s oldest historic estates located just half an hour from Belfast. And, of course, the essential tutored tasting of the end product.

Eccentric Britain

Summer in Britain is more than picnics in the park, strawberries at Wimbledon, and drinking Pimms at a barbecue. One thing it does better than anyone else is good old-fashioned eccentricity! Adults dancing on hobby horses, faces stretched into hilarious contortions, and a festival of fools make Great Britain THE place to be this summer for tourists seeking adventure off the beaten path. From the sublime to the ridiculous, there’s an unusual activity to satiate every traveller’s metaphorical palate.

 

The Padstow ‘Obby ‘Oss Festival

Padstow, Cornwall, 1st May

Head down to the Cornish port town of Padstow on May Day and you’ll find one of the most unusual British traditions where each year, thousands flock to watch two ‘Obby Osses’ (hobby horses) dancing to the beat of drums and accordions. 

 

Belfast Festival of Fools

Belfast, Northern Ireland, 4th – 8th May

Held over the May Day Bank Holiday weekend, Belfast gets together to laugh itself silly as a whole host of offbeat and alternative comedy acts, circus performers and street theatre combines to make the silliest summer entertainment. A free festival, those coming to Belfast for the event can expect to get their walking shoes on and pound the historic streets, enjoying events like cabaret and comedy as they go.

 

Blackawton International Festival of Worm Charming

Blackawton, Devon, 27th May

Starting back in 1983, ‘Worm Master’ Nat Lowson and his team of worm-charming officials preside over the annual event each May, where people compete for the dubious accolade of who can charm the worms out of the ground the fastest.

 

Cheese Rolling at Cooper’s Hill

Brockworth, Gloucestershire, 28th May

An event harking back to the 1800s, cheese-rolling is as bonkers as it sounds. Contestants chase after a speeding wheel of Double Gloucester cheese as big as a newborn baby, and the first to reach the cheese (which can go as fast as 70 miles an hour) is the victor.

 

The Highland Games

Various venues, Scotland, May – September

Quintessentially Scottish, the Highland Games have been an important annual event for centuries. Taking place across several cities, towns and islands across the country, they attract thousands of excited spectators from around the world. 

‘Expect the unexpected’ is an unofficial mantra, as sports such as Caber Toss and Tug ‘O’ War stand alongside best-dressed pet competitions and, of course, Highland dancing.

 

World Bog Snorkelling Championships

Llanwrtyd Wells, Wales, 26th August

Over a weekend at the end of August, plucky snorkelers race against each other in the murky Waen Rhydd peat bog – they can wear wetsuits, snorkels and flippers but can’t use any recognisable swimming stroke.

Hundreds of participants compete each year in the event which Lonely Planet described as one of the Top 50 “Must Do” activities in 2014.

 

Egremont Crab Fair and World Gurning Championships

Egremont, West Cumbria, 14th – 15th September

Held every September in beautiful Cumbria, the historic Crab Fair has been running since 1267 to celebrate the season of crab apples of September.

Alongside street-racing and ‘The Cuddy’, aka horse racing, the fair plays host to the famous World Gurning Championships where folk compete for the title by contorting their faces through a horse collar. A truly strange tradition, it’s thought to have started as a way to “mock the village idiot”, but is now simply a fun competition to see who can pull the most grotesque or silliest face.

Britain’s best coffee houses – the new British brew

Brits may be stereotyped as avid tea drinkers, but it hasn’t stopped a growing coffee culture brewing across the nation.

With award-winning roasters and World Barista Champions, an emphasis on ethically sourced, independently roasted and perfectly brewed flavours, plus “third wave” coffee tastes from Aeropress to cold-drip methods, it’s clear there’s more to Britain’s caffeine fix beyond regular chain-café coffee.

 

Brighton: Small Batch Coffee Roasters

This family-run coffee house roasts its own Arabica coffee, sustainably sourced from local farmers in over 20 countries. Now a powerhouse in local coffee culture, Small Batch has eight locations, serving everything from the classics to their own unique blends and cold brews.

 

Bath: Colonna & Small’s

Co-owned by Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood, a three-time winner at the UK Barista Championships, this speciality coffee hub is all about flavour. The menu changes weekly for that reason, rotating seasonal coffees from across the world, sourced by expert roasters all over the UK.

 

Bristol: Full Court Press

This minimalist interior matches the slick menu which features two filter blends and two espresso blends that change weekly. The coffee comes from individual farms and co-ops all over the world, as well as some 30 roasters in Europe, enticing people to keep coming back.

 

London: Prufrock

Owned by World Barista Champion, Gwilym Davies and UK Barista Championship Head Judge, Jeremy Challender, this café scooped Time Out’s ‘Best Coffee In London’ accolade. Hand-brewed filter coffee is the star of the show in this two-floor wonderland where each week, three coffees are showcased on the brew-bar while you ask the baristas their secrets.

 

Birmingham: Quarter Horse Coffee

What makes this independent roaster so special is you can see the roasting process in action at its on-site roastery. Premium beans, sourced from all over the globe from entrepreneurial female producers in places such as Colombia and Guatemala, are roasted weekly for maximum freshness.

 

Leeds: Laynes Espresso

This espresso bar is not only is a sleek hangout where you can try dedicated brews (and some of the best sweet treats in the city from Porterhouse Cake Co) it’s also an educational space offering classes for hobby baristas through to professional qualifications.

 

Manchester: Pot Kettle Black

This inviting space in the Victorian-era Grade II-listed Barton Arcade was set up by two local Rugby League stars who wanted to serve artisan coffee in atmospheric surroundings, alongside a menu of healthier food choices including gluten-free and vegan options.

 

Sheffield: Steam Yard

Steam Yard’s owners wanted to keep the alternative, independent spirit of Sheffield’s Division Street alive and this café, with its cool concrete-wood-leather interior, still retains touches of its industrial past. Set in a Grade II-listed building, it serves coffee from London’s award-winning Square Mile Coffee Roasters, and is also known for its speciality coffee-doughnut combo, known as the “Steve McQueen”.

 

Newcastle: Flat Caps Coffee

For coffee brewed in three ways – Filter, Aeropress and the old-fashioned Syphon – head to this bohemian basement café. Owned by a UK Barista Champion finalist and former banker, Joe Meagher, the café sources its beans from roasting companies around the UK and Europe.

 

Edinburgh: Brew Lab
Brewed with meticulous detail and precise brewing techniques, you can try single-original filter and cold brew coffees alongside traditional espresso roasts at Brewlab where a weekly changing coffee menu and locally produced food add to the charm.

 

Cardiff: Quantum Coffee Roasters

Resembling a funky science lab, Quantum loves experimenting with its brewing methods, using V-60 and Chemex pour-overs, I-brick and cold brew towers to get the perfect brew from their in-house roasted blends.

 

Belfast: Established

One of the pioneers of Belfast’s growing coffee scene, the fine coffee blends and tempting brunch menu are a big draw at this cool, minimalist café in the Cathedral Quarter. There’s also a dedicated training room where visitors can learn how to brew better coffee at home.

Accommodation Update July-October 2017

Read on for the latest Accommodation Update, brought to you by VisitBritain's Destination PR team. Highlights in this issue include the results of the AA Hospitality Awards 2017, and the much-anticipated opening of Belfast’s new luxury Titanic-themed hotel, located on the site where the famous ship was built. London has a new exotic boutique luxury hotel, The Mandrake, and The Principal Edinburgh Charlotte Square has unveiled its elegant refurbishment.

 

Britain’s best awarded at the AA Hospitality Awards 2017

The AA has announced the results of its Hospitality Awards 2017, naming its industry gold-standard hotels, pubs and restaurants across Britain.

The Gainsborough Bath Spa in the south-west took England’s top spot for its 'sophisticated and luxurious experience', while The Douneside House in Aboyne was awarded Scotland’s Hotel of the Year. The Old Inn, Bangor, took first prize for Northern Ireland, praised for its 'untold elegance and grandeur'. Twr Y Felin Hotel, St Davids, won Hotel of the Year Wales, awarded for its 'excellent design and presentation, with noteworthy attention to detail'. Hotel of the Year London went to The Goring; described as 'an icon of British hospitality', it was where Kate Middleton famously got ready for her royal wedding to Prince William.

 

LONDON

 

New and upcoming openings

 

Opened September 2017: The Mandrake, Fitzrovia

Billed as one of central London’s hottest new hotels, this exotic boutique luxury setting (named after a mystical plant) has already hosted London Fashion Week parties. Five years in the making, The Mandrake’s 30 bedrooms and three suites frame a jungle-style inner courtyard of tropical plants. The interior design mixes opulent purples and reds with gold finishes, velvet, feathers, ornate chandeliers and striking artwork. The lavish Mandrake Suite and the Penthouse are sure to be Instagram favourites, the latter clad in white marble with a huge bed and a jacuzzi under a retractable roof. The hotel’s headline restaurant is Serge et le Phoque, by Michelin-starred chef Frédéric Peneau.

This classic hotel overlooking Trafalgar Square –which has hosted the likes of Tom Cruise and Nicole Scherzinger – is unveiling its modern new look since joining the Curio Collection by Hilton. A “peer panel” of young Londoners – including lifestyle blogger Lucy Freedman and DJ Doug Marshall – were appointed during the project to give their perspective on everything from furnishings to menus. Trafalgar St. James now has 131 bedrooms, the Trafalgar Dining Rooms, an underground lounge, Biblio, and a 14-cover private dining room. The rooftop bar has great views of Nelson’s Column and the National Gallery. PR contact: hshearer@thecommunicationgroup.co.uk

 

Opening October 2017: The Pilgrm, Paddington

New design hotel The Pilgrm focuses on pared-back urban chic with a vintage touch. There is no lobby or reception desk – instead, guests will be able to check in online. The ground floor café will provide a welcome area, plus a lounge bar and dining room. Interiors showcase the building’s 200-year-old parquet flooring, as well as cast-iron radiators and a “cloud carpet”. The hotel’s 73 rooms come in four sizes: ‘bunk’ (two single beds), small, medium and large. PR contact: Alexandra Berry a.berry@gemmabellandcompany.com

 

Opening October 2017: New Road Hotel, Whitechapel, east London

With its “Everything you need, nothing you don’t” promise, New Road Hotel focuses on stylish stripped-back luxury. Owned by three brothers, the 80-bedroom boutique hotel has been built on the site of an old textile factory where their father once worked. The interiors reflect this heritage, and quirky touches include a rooftop Eco Shed and the Loft + Hot Tub room, with views of London’s skyline. The hotel’s restaurant is by Marco Pierre White, and other features include a fitness studio and social areas where guests can enjoy live music, games and a library.

 

Opening early 2018: Vintry & Mercer, Cannon Street, City of London

Located in London’s historic trading centre near St Paul’s Cathedral and The Shard, forthcoming 92-bedroom hotel Vintry & Mercer is named after two of the City’s historic professions: vintners, who traded fine wines, and mercers, who sold fine silks. Both trades will be reflected in the hotel’s design. For food and drink, there will be Vintry Kitchen, serving Mediterranean food; rooftop Mercer Terrace; and DND, (Do Not Disturb), an underground cocktail bar.

 

Long-lead

 

Date TBC: Marylebone Lane hotel, Marylebone, central London

A brand new luxury 206-bedroom, nine-storey hotel operated by Shiva Hotels is planned for Marylebone. The proposed hotel will have a spa, swimming pool, café and club lounge.

 

2020: The Hoxton, Shepherd's Bush, west London

Subject to planning permission, the capital will be getting another stylish Hoxton hotel in west London. The new 214-bedroom property will join sister hotels already open in London (Shoreditch and Holborn), and Amsterdam.

 

2020: Raffles Hotels & Resort London, Westminster, central London

One of London’s most significant historic buildings, the Old War Office – once the office of Winston Churchill, and sections of the British secret service – is being transformed into a 125-room luxury hotel by Raffles Hotels & Resorts. It will be the company’s first property in Britain, and rooms will include 50 suites and 88 private residences.

 

Refurbs & expansions

 

Now open: The English Grill at The Rubens at the Palace, Westminster, central London

The Rubens at the Palace has opened its new restaurant as part of a five-year, multi-million pound refurbishment. The English Grill’s menu includes a daily roast, carved from a silver trolley at diners’ tables.

 

Opening November 2017: The Coral Room bar at Bloomsbury Hotel, central London

As part of a major refurbishment of the 153-room Bloomsbury Hotel, its new Coral Room bar will be unveiled in November alongside the hotel’s redesigned public spaces. PR contact: chloe.davison@ttc.com

 

SCOTLAND

 

New and upcoming openings

 

Opened September 2017: The Principal Edinburgh Charlotte Square

Following a top-to-toe refurbishment, The Principal Edinburgh Charlotte Square (formerly The Roxburghe Hotel) has re-opened its doors. One of Edinburgh’s oldest hotels, it’s hosted A-list Hollywood actors and is made up of seven inter-connecting Georgian townhouses in the city’s New Town. The concierge still wears a kilt and vintage red post boxes in the new lobby collect post daily. The 199 elegantly refurbished bedrooms (including 18 suites) are designed with Scottish accents and earthy colours. There is informal all-day-dining at The Garden, and eastern Mediterranean cuisine at BABA restaurant, opening in November. PR contact: georgie.griffiths@theprincipalhotel.com

 

Refurbs & expansions

 

Opened September 2017: Sleeperz Hotels, Edinburgh

Budget operator Sleeperz Hotels has launched a new wing at its Cityroomz Edinburgh hotel, accessible via Princes Street. The 43 new bedrooms include superior doubles, family and cabin rooms, as well as ten suites. Flooring in the suite bathrooms is printed with a city street map of Edinburgh. Sleeperz will also be opening a 120-bedroom hotel in Dundee in 2018 opposite the new V&A Museum. PR contact: matthew@honeypotmedia.co.uk

 

Now open: Cameron House, Loch Lomond

Cameron House, the five-AA-star, luxury 36-bedroom resort set on the banks of Loch Lomond, has completed the final phase of its multi–million pound refurbishment. Its new-look rooms and suites have Scotland-inspired features, such as contemporary tartan and handmade leather sleigh beds. The hotel has also announced the launch of its new Cameron Kids offering, treating little ones to their own slice of luxury during their stay.

 

Summer 2018: Ten Hill Place, Edinburgh

Work has started on a 52-bedroom expansion of Ten Hill Place hotel. Owned by the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, hotel profits go back into the college.

 

WALES

 

Long-lead

 

2021: Afan Valley Adventure Resort, Port Talbot, south Wales

Plans have been submitted for a new 480-acre adventure resort in south Wales, which will have a 100-bedroom hotel and spa, plus 400 luxury lodges, and adventures zones, bars, restaurants and retail outlets. The proposed Afan Valley Adventure Resort site is just south of Afan Forest Park. There are plans for five main ‘zones’: Forest, Xtreme, Trails, Zen and Alpine, the last of which will include three different ski slopes. The resort will also be home to the Bear Grylls Survival Academy – a series of challenges and endurance courses designed by the TV survival expert. Other activities will include ice skating, Segway tours, indoor skydiving and surfing, ‘ninja warrior’ training, go-karting, forest zip wires, paintballing and mountain biking. Watch the action-packed teaser film here.

 

SOUTH AND SOUTH-EAST ENGLAND

 

New and upcoming openings

 

Opened August 2017: Beaverbrook, Surrey

The former country home of press baron and politician Lord Beaverbrook has opened as the luxurious Beaverbrook hotel, following a multi-million pound transformation. Just 19 miles from London, the hotel is surrounded by 400 acres of privately owned countryside. Designed by Soho House interiors guru Susie Atkinson, the interiors exude classic opulence, featuring four-poster beds and rich fabrics. Each of the hotel’s 18 rooms and suites have been named after one of the estate’s famous former guests, which include Winston Churchill, James Bond author Ian Fleming, Elizabeth Taylor, and Charlie Chaplin. The hotel also has an Art Deco-style cinema, the glamorous Parrot Bar, a cookery school, and a Japanese restaurant, The Dining Room, headed up by top ex-Nobu chef Taiji Maruyama. By the end of the year the hotel will also have a spa with swimming pools, a hammam and a sauna. PR contact: gemma@gp-associates.com

 

Opened August 2017: Hog Deer Creek, Kent

This summer, Kent safari park Port Lympne Reserve opened its latest accommodation, Hog Deer Creek. The five luxury shepherd huts are designed for couples or families, and located within the park’s Asian Experience, so guests’ neighbors will include roaming Asian animals such as Sambar deer.

 

Opened September 2017: Piggledy Tree House, South Downs National Park

This new four-bed treehouse looks like a forest dwelling straight from the pages of a fairy tale. Designed for adults and kids alike, The Piggledy Tree House is located in Blackberry Wood at the foot of the South Downs National Park near Brighton, and comes with a kitchen and a balcony. Owner Tim fulfilled a childhood dream by building the treehouse, which took three years to complete.

 

Opening March 2018: Room 2, Southampton

Room 2 has confirmed details of its second design-led aparthotel in Southampton, due to open next year. Its 71 studio rooms will feature nautical-inspired designs and come in three sizes: little, regular and large.

 

Long-lead

 

2020: Malmaison, Bournemouth

Next year work will begin on a 100-bedroom Malmaison hotel in the coastal town of Bournemouth. Expected to take around two years to build, the new hotel will include a Chez Mal bar and brasserie, a rooftop bar and terrace overlooking the seafront, a gym, a swimming pool, and beauty rooms.

 

WEST MIDLANDS

 

Long-lead

Autumn 2018: Hawkstone Hall, Shrewsbury, Shropshire

Hawkstone Hall, a Georgian country mansion in Shropshire, is being transformed into a 40-bedroom hotel and wedding venue. Refurbishment of the main hall and 12 suites will be complete in summer 2018. By autumn, all works are due to be complete, resulting in a total of 40 suites and bedrooms.

 

SOUTH-WEST ENGLAND

 

Refurbs & expansions

 

Re-opened July 2017: De Vere Tortworth Court, Gloucestershire

Victorian countryside mansion De Vere Tortworth Court is now open following its £5-million pound restoration, which has resulted in 11 spacious new suites, bringing the total number of guestrooms and suites in the main house to 55. All of the bedrooms have been refurbished to reflect modern British heritage, incorporating leather, tweed and linen. The largest suite, The Kipling, includes a dining table for six guests and a lounge that can be connected to The Paxton, to form a family suite that spans 129 square metres, overlooking the formal gardens.

 

Opened August 2017: Luxury sea-view suites at Lewinnick Lodge, Cornwall

Lewinnick Lodge has added six new suites to its cliff-top B&B hotel on Pentire Headland, close to Newquay’s Fistral Beach – widely regarded as England’s surfing capital. Each of the rooms has 180-degree coastal views, super-king beds, DAB radios, Bluetooth speakers, smart TVs, homemade biscuits and organic toiletries.

 

YORKSHIRE

 

New and upcoming openings

 

Opened July 2017: Swinton Country Club & Spa, North Yorkshire

The Good Spa Guide has awarded Swinton Estate’s new Country Club & Spa a five-bubble rating just two months after opening. The new club has a 10-meter outdoor natural water swimming pool and a hot tub, and the fitness team incorporate outdoor activities from the wider estate, such as running, cycling and outdoor yoga. The old Estate Gardener’s cottage has been transformed into a suite of beauty rooms, with signature treatments including the Elemis Garden of England Rose Restore Wrap.

 

Long-lead

 

2019: Bretton Hall, Wakefield, west Yorkshire  

Historic Georgian mansion house Bretton Hall is being transformed into a luxury 120-bedroom hotel and ‘creative campus’, set within 500 acres of landscaped gardens and parkland adjacent to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP). The property’s redevelopment will include two theatres, a seminar space, exhibition area and conferencing facilities, with further accommodation, work and educational spaces planned for future phases.

 

Date TBC: Malmaison, York

Malmaison hotel chain will be opening a new site in York after being granted planning permission earlier this year. The new hotel will have 160 bedrooms and suites, as well as its Chez Mal Bar and Brasserie for cocktails and dining. Malmaison currently has hotels in 15 cities across Britain, including Leeds and Manchester.

 

NORTH-WEST ENGLAND

 

New and upcoming openings

 

2018: Dixie Dean Hotel, Liverpool

A 100-bedroom hotel in honour of Everton footballer Dixie Dean is due to open in Liverpool city centre next year, opposite The Shankly hotel, which similarly celebrates Scottish footballer and manager Bill Shankly (the two men were great friends). The Dixie Dean Hotel will have restaurants, bars and an events space, and showcase memorabilia from the footballer’s career.

 

Long lead

 

Date TBC: Manchester Moxy

Planning permission has been granted for a 145-bedroom Moxy hotel in Manchester’s Spinningfields district. Moxy is Marriot International’s millennial-focused boutique hotel concept, and the new hotel will join one other in London. There are plans for seven more in pipeline, located in London, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Southampton, Bristol and York.

 

Date TBC: Re-opening of Trafford Park hotel, Manchester

The Trafford Park hotel, built in 1902, is being refurbished and relaunched under an international boutique brand after being derelict for eight years. Plans include an additional wing, which will expand the total bedroom count to 120.

 

Summer 2019: Zetter Hotel, London Road Fire Station, Manchester

Manchester's historic London Road Fire Station is being developed by London-based boutique hotel brand The Zetter Group. The new hotel will be the group’s first in Manchester, and will have on-site restaurants and bars.

 

NORTH-EAST ENGLAND

 

New and upcoming openings

 

Opened September 2017: The Cookie Jar, Alnwick, Northumberland

Deborah Cook, wife of the former chief executive of Malmaison, Hotel du Vin and De Vere Hotels, has opened her first solo venture, a luxury boutique hotel overlooking Alnwick Castle. The Cookie Jar has 11 bedrooms and offers quirky treats such as freshly baked cookies and milk. It has initially opened as a bed and breakfast operation, serving coffees, teas and sharing plates from the bar – but there are plans for a restaurant in the near future.

 

NORTHERN IRELAND

 

New and upcoming openings

 

September 2017: Titanic Hotel Belfast

Northern Ireland’s much-anticipated luxury Titanic-themed hotel is now open on the site of the former headquarters of Harland & Wolff, shipbuilders of the Titanic over 100 years ago. The 119-bedroom Titanic Hotel Belfast is sister hotel to the Titanic Hotel in Liverpool. The interior design includes nautical touches, models of the iconic ship, and old photographs. The hotel’s dining room has views of the slipway where the Titanic was built, and art deco-inspired suites give impressive views of the Belfast Titanic building and the entire Titanic Quarter. There are also corporate and entertainment spaces available for events and conferences. PR contact: jane.williams@jcomms.co.uk

 

Long-lead

 

June 2018: Grand Central Hotel, Belfast  

Work is starting on what will be Belfast’s largest hotel development, the 304-bedroom Grand Central Hotel, Belfast.

 

June 2018:  George Best Hotel, Belfast

The developer of The Shankly Hotel in Liverpool (themed around Liverpool Football Club's legendary Scottish player and manager) is building a new 80-bedroom hotel in Belfast, named after and inspired by Manchester United and Northern Ireland football legend, George Best.