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It’s High Time to Visit the Highlands and Islands: VisitScotland showcases the unmissable sights

Today Lonely Planet announces the Scottish Highlands and Islands* as one of the top regions in the world to go in 2019, leaving no reason to delay a visit. With impressive scenery, world class dining experiences and an outstanding accommodation offering it’s no wonder this exceptional corner of the globe has scooped up such an impressive accolade.

In light of Lonely Planet’s declaration of the region as a “must-see destination” for the coming year, VisitScotland offers just some of the top reasons for travel-lovers to bump the Highlands and Islands up to the top of their bucket list in 2019.

 

Fabulous fare:

Scotland’s variety and quality of distilleries to explore is unmatched and the Highlands and Islands have plenty to offer, from the chance to stay in the first legal whisky distillery on the Isle of Raasay to a visit to Harris Distillery to pick up a bottle of Isle of Harris Gin, which is only available for purchase from the island. Try out the region’s foodie experiences, including the new Mac & Wild at Falls of Shin, which offers a range of Scottish dishes and is positioned scenically close to the falls where guests can view salmon leaping in the summer months, before enjoying a taste of it in the restaurant. Alternatively, head to Alladale Wilderness Reserve for the chance to fish and forage for food, including herbs, mushrooms and plants with a ranger before having a professional chef to prepare and cook them.

 

Wonderful wildlife:

Boat trips are great way to explore the coastline and discover Scotland’s marine wildlife, Hebridean Whale Cruises operate from Gairloch, giving visitors the chance to get a close up look at Orcas, dolphins and sharks. A stop at John O’Groats while travelling along the North Coast 500 offers wildlife spotting opportunities including seals, orcas, oystercatchers, guillemots and, at certain times of year, puffins. Visitors seeking out the latest wildlife adventure may want to explore the Hebridean Whale Trail, set to launch in 2019. For those who prefer to explore on dry land Beinn Eighe nature reserve in Wester Ross, famous for its ancient pinewoods, is an ideal location for spotting wildlife; come here to see soaring golden eagles or red deer.

 

Beautiful views:

For stunning views over open sea walk the Waternish peninsula loop, a beautiful and less frequently explored part of Skye. The Highlands also offer autumn and winter visitors the opportunity to see the incredible northern lights; places with the best conditions of low light pollution include the far North West of Scotland and the Outer Hebrides. Visitors taking in the Northern Lights will be in an ideal location to enjoy a landscape so outstanding that it has been designated as a UNESCO Global Geopark at Knockan Crag National Nature Reserve.

 

Fascinating history:

Discover the site of one of the most famous and dramatic battles in Scottish history at the interactive Culloden Visitor Centre, catch one of the regular ‘living history’ re-enactments of the fray which marked the end of the 1745 Jacobite Rising. Visitors looking to combine hiking in outstanding scenery with fascinating history can head to Glencoe to learn about the tragic and infamous massacre which took place there. Glencoe’s award-winning, eco-friendly visitor centre is a brilliant place to learn about the landscape and soak up the sights.

 

Exceptional accommodation:

There is something for everyone ranging from camping at idyllic and well-equipped spots such as Talla Na Mara in Harris to luxury in a stunning setting at Inverlochy Castle, which boasts views of the surrounding mountains and furnishings gifted to the castle by the King of Norway. Discover unique places to sleep such as Blacksheep House, a contemporary renovation of a traditional Hebridean Blackhouse or The Broch at Borve Lodge Estate, believed to be the first broch** built in the UK since the Roman era. For art-lovers The Lime Tree in Fort William is unmissable, offering guests a chance to stay in a hotel which is also a working studio for artist David Wilson with an attached art gallery on site, housing a permanent collection of this Highland artist’s works.

 

Scotland on the Silver Screen:

The Highlands provide a naturally stunning setting for film-makers and visitors can see iconic locations from their favourite films, including the peak of Suilven, the 731m tall mountain in Sutherland climbed by Edie on her life-affirming journey, or the sweeping cinematic scenery of Harry Potter on board the Jacobite Steam Train, widely regarded as the real life Hogwarts Express. For Bond fans a drive through the atmospheric highland scenery and past the striking Buachallie Etive Mor on the way to Glencoe will set them on the same road as 007 (Daniel Craig) and M (Judy Dench) making their way to Bond’s childhood home in Skyfall.

 

Off the beaten track:

For those looking to Skye for their next adventure consider a trip to Raasay; a peaceful paradise for walkers and nature lovers, the island also offers a chance to visit one of the stops on the new Hebridean Whisky Trail. Or head to Sutherland and Caithness which boast unspoilt, dramatic scenery in some of the most remote parts of Scotland; these areas are the perfect place to explore while enjoying true peace and quiet on the extreme edge of Europe.

 

 

To discover more about the Highlands and Islands visit: www.visitscotland.com.

 

*Lonely Planet defines the Highlands in the book as the area above the Highland Boundary Fault - the topographical feature that divides the Lowlands and the Highlands and which goes diagonally from Helensburgh in the west to just above Stonehaven in the east coast. The ‘Islands’ in this case refers to the Outer Hebrides.

 

**A broch is a prehistoric circular stone tower found in north Scotland and adjacent islands.

 

ENDS

 

Accommodation Update - December 2018

Whether you’re looking for a boutique luxury hotel in leafy Kent or affordable accommodation in the heart of Glasgow, our round-up of the UK’s newest hotels offers something for every traveller. Discover our top picks below.

Recently refurbished

London

The Marylebone, Marylebone

Situated in the heart of central London a short walk from Bond Street, The Marylebone is a recently renovated boutique hotel boasting new facilities. These include The Cocktail Bar, which combines 4 adjoining spaces themed around the seasons, from the cosy winter lounge complete with a roaring fire to the outdoor terrace that’s perfect for summer socialising. Other additions include The Marylebone Rooms and Number Six – a series of stylish private event rooms designed in the hotel’s signature art deco style by the award-winning Michaelis Boyd studio. There is also a range of newly refurbished luxury rooms and suites to choose from.

Recently opened

Scotland

The Grandtully Hotel, Perthshire

Dedicated to delivering exceptional Scottish food and drink to its guests, the newly renovated The Grandtully Hotel by Ballintaggart offers luxurious culinary experiences in equally luxurious settings. With just eight bedrooms, this boutique property has been lovingly restored and features a careful blend of traditional features and contemporary design. Facilities include a 30-cover restaurant serving fine local produce, a bar, a private dining area and an outdoor terrace. 

Citi Hotel, Aberdeen

City Hotel in Aberdeen prides itself on offering affordable stays in the heart of the city. Based on the former site of The Royal Hotel, the property underwent a £500,000 refurbishment over 12 months and reopened at the start of November.  The self-dubbed ‘poshtel’ boasts a new reception area, newly fitted bathroom suites, refined décor and 42 bedrooms starting from just £35 per night.  

Opening soon

London

The Bedford, Balham

Opening December 2018

Beloved by musicians including Ed Sheeran, London’s famous The Bedford pub is undergoing a multi-million-pound refurbishment. Scheduled to reopen this December, the Grade II-listed building will boast five bars, a ballroom, four private rooms and a 250-capacity live music venue hosting a range of events, from comedy to burlesque. There are also 15 ensuite bedrooms to choose from, each designed around the pub’s distinctive medley of art deco and 1970s style.

The Standard, St Pancras

Opening in spring 2019

The boutique Standard Hotel chain will soon be celebrating the opening of its first international hotel in London. Scheduled to open in early 2019, the hotel will be the newest addition to the chain’s properties in New York, Miami and L.A. Located within the Camden Town Hall Annex, one of the city’s best-known examples of 1970s brutalist architecture, the hotel promises to embody the quirky culture and history of the local area while serving as a luxury base from which to explore King’s Cross and the surrounding area.

 

South-east England

Lion Lodge, Port Lympne, Kent  

Opening in spring 2019

The luxurious Lion Lodge will give guests the chance to stay in close proximity to Port Lympne’s lion pride. Set within the lions’ enclosure, the loft-style lodge features floor-to-ceiling windows in the open plan living space and master bedroom, an open fire, underfloor heating and a monsoon shower and wet room. Designed to sleep four, the master bedroom offers incredible views of the lions at rest and play, with the mezzanine level offering two additional beds accessed by spiral staircase. Guests can also enjoy the Scandinavian outdoor bath, built on a platform overlooking the sea and the 600-acre wildlife reserve.

The Albion Rooms, Margate

Opening date to be confirmed

Owned and developed by The Libertines rock band, The Albion Rooms is located on the seafront of Margate, a classic British seaside town with a strong artistic heritage. The development will comprise both a studio – scheduled to be finished in February 2019 - and bar within the five-storey Victorian building, in addition to 10 guest bedrooms individually designed by the band. The official opening date is still to be confirmed, but future guests can track the development’s progress here.

The Pig at Bridge Place, Canterbury

Opening in spring 2019

The Pig at Bridge Place is the latest hotel to be developed by the popular Pig Hotel chain. Opening its doors in spring 2019, the hotel is located in the former Bridge Place Country Club, a delightful 16th-century manor just outside Canterbury in historic Bridge village. In addition to the main building, guests can choose to stay in one of 12 bedrooms in the Coach House or 2 in the newly renovated gate lodge. Alternatively, there’s the option to choose from 7 ‘hop picker’ huts, for those looking for a more romantic getaway.

 

North-west England

Whitworth Locke, Manchester

Opening in December 2018

Due to open next month, Whitworth Locke is an 160-unit aparthotel offering a choice of one-bedroom suites or 24-sq metre studios overlooking Rochdale Canal. Designed by architects Grzywinski + Pons, this stylish residence and former cotton mill will offer the services and facilities of hotel living with the autonomy of a private apartment.

 

Hotel Indigo, Manchester

Opening in December 2018

Located in the city’s Northern Quarter opposite Victoria Station, Hotel Indigo embodies the style and originality that typifies the former industrial heart of the city - now a mecca for hipsters, musicians and the achingly cool. The hotel offers 187 bedrooms, all of which have been carefully renovated to reflect the cultural history of the area, and combines original Victorian features with modern facilities including an on-site gym, bar and restaurant.

 

London Warehouse, Manchester

Opening in spring 2019

The newly renovated London Warehouse hotel will open in spring 2019. Located in the Victorian railway warehouse formerly occupied by The Place Aparthotel, this luxurious 166-bed four-star aparthotel will offer facilities including a gym created by fitness brand BLOK. Other highlights include an all-day hangout space and a mini cinema, restaurant, bar and lounge managed by Bistrotheque restaurant.

 

Dakota Hotel, Manchester

Opening in spring 2019

Work has now begun on the £25 million pound development of Dakota Deluxe design hotel in Manchester. Scheduled to open in spring 2019, the hotel is located close to Piccadilly Station and promises to deliver the same elegant style, tasteful décor and luxurious facilities as its sister properties in Leeds and Glasgow.

 

Stock Exchange Hotel

Opening in spring 2019

Manchester’s historic Stock Exchange building is being redeveloped into a luxurious five-star boutique hotel courtesy of former Manchester United football stars Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs (GG Hospitality). Due to open in spring 2019, the Edwardian Baroque building – with its impressive central dome – is located in Norfolk Street. In addition to 40 bedrooms and suites, two luxurious presidential suites and two fine dining restaurants, the hotel will offer private dining in the wine cellars.

Ten cool hotels to have on your radar in 2019

Suitcases at the ready – some fabulously cool hotels are set to open in Britain next year, each bringing their own unique vibe as they set to join the ‘hottest properties to stay at’ lists.

The Hard Rock Hotel, London

Get ready to rock – located on the corner of Oxford Street and Park Lane in the conversion of the existing Cumberland Hotel, the legendary Hard Rock Hotel is scheduled to open its new London property in Spring next year. With 1,000 rooms and suites, together with two bars and a Hard Rock Cafe®, Hard Rock Hotel London will pay tribute in its memorabilia collection to former residents such as Jimi Hendrix, Diana Ross, Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder and Madonna. The lobby will house its world-famous Rock Shop® featuring Hard Rock merchandise, and guests seeking the ultimate experience will have the opportunity to elevate their status and become Rock Royalty®. These luxurious Rock Royalty rooms and suites will offer extra perks including a personal concierge and access to a lavish lounge.

The DogHouse, Aberdeenshire, north Scotland

Beer lovers rejoice; independent craft brewer BrewDog has announced plans to build the world’s first craft beer hotel – wittily called The DogHouse – and will launch this immersive craft beer hotel and brewery expansion at its headquarters in Aberdeenshire, north Scotland. Set to welcome guests in the first half of 2019, the 26-room hotel will feature beer taps in the rooms, a built-in shower beer fridge, while the rooms will overlook the brewery itself. Guests will also be able to watch brewers at work from rooms overlooking the new facility.

Vineyard hotel at Denbies Wine Estate, Surrey, south-east England

If wine is more your favourite tipple, look no further than England’s largest single estate vineyard, which, come Spring 2019, will have converted its existing farmhouse accommodation into what is being billed as the UK’s first vineyard hotel. Set on the Denbies estate in the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and offering panoramic views across the vineyard and North Downs Way, the new hotel will have 17 en-suite bedrooms, an Orangery-style garden restaurant, outdoor dining cabanas and its own ‘Enomatic™ wine dispensing machine’ – meaning guests can taste and purchase Denbies wine by the glass. Plus, there’ll be complimentary wine tasting tutorials. Cheers to that!

art'otel Hoxton, London

What could be cooler than staying in a hotel with its own art gallery? art’otel plans to open its first property in London in the neighbourhood of Hoxton, which will be an 18-storey, 350-bedroom contemporary hotel. As well as an art gallery located in the publicly accessible arts centre, plans are said to include a top-floor restaurant and bar and luxury spa. Another art’otel property to have on your radar is the one the hotel group is said to be opening near the historic Battersea Power Station in the new Nine Elms district, south London.

Grantley Hall, Yorkshire Dales, north England

When Spring rolls round, the doors are set to open on a new five-star luxury country resort hotel and spa, set in a grand 17th-century house on its own island! Situated between the elegant Yorkshire towns of Ripon and Harrogate, Grantley Hall is being restored to its former early 20th-century glory and guests will be able to choose from 47 rooms and suites, four restaurants, three bars, a private members club, a spa pool, state-of-the-art gym and elite performance centre. The elegance continues outside; explore gorgeous landscaped gardens, which including a 1910 Japanese Garden that features on Historic England’s National Heritage List.

Stock Exchange Hotel, Manchester, north-west England

If you’re a football fan, the newest hotel owned by Manchester United legends Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville should be on your hotel hot list. The former footballers-turned-hoteliers are transforming Manchester’s beautiful old Stock Exchange building into a five-star boutique hotel, with 40 bedrooms, two presidential suites, two restaurants and private dining in the wine cellars for up to 100 people. The hotel is due to open in Spring 2019.

The Pig at Bridge Place, Kent, south-east England

Joining the litter of Pig Hotels, The Pig at Bridge Place in Kent is due to open in Spring. Its home is within a 17th-century manor house that may once have been the refined Bridge Place Country Club but was also host to some legendary parties and gigs in its time – Led Zeppelin even played here in the 1970s. Its 28 bedrooms will be enhanced by period features such as large fireplaces, secret stairways and panelled rooms, and there’ll be a further 12 bedrooms in its new Coach House. As with all Pigs, the kitchen garden and restaurant will be at the heart of this new property, and anything that can’t be supplied by the gardens will be sourced from the best producers within a 25-mile (40-km) radius. Also keep an eye out for another Pig opening towards the end of 2019; The Pig at Harlyn Bay, Cornwall, south-west England.

Market Street Hotel, Edinburgh, Scotland

Early 2019 will see Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh, welcome a property from the Carlton House Collection, called Market Street Hotel. Situated on the edge of Edinburgh’s gorgeous Old Town, the historic nature of the building means lovely high ceilings and plenty of historic references, although the 98 bedrooms will be contemporary, urban-styled rooms with ante-room bathrooms. Its top floor is intriguingly being described as a ‘Champagne city residence’ and will offer wonderful vistas across the city.

The Crescent, Buxton, Derbyshire, north-west England

Get ready for some serious indulgence as the historic spa town of Buxton, Derbyshire, welcomes an 80-bedroom, five-star spa hotel to the Grade I-listed architectural masterpiece The Crescent. The hotel will be part of the overall transformation of The Crescent – which originally opened in 1789 and is one of the most architecturally significant buildings in Britain – and guests will also have access to the splendid Assembly Rooms, a thermal natural mineral water spa in the Natural Baths plus to the six prestigious retail premises along the front ground façade.

The Grand, Birmingham, central England

The chance to stay in hotels housed in some of Britain’s most iconic architectural sights continues in Birmingham, where one of the city’s best-known, Grade II-listed buildings is to be redeveloped into a luxury, 180-room hotel with a restaurant and bar, a spa and a rooftop infinity pool. While the hotel is scheduled to open in early 2019, several lovely bars and cafés have already set up home in the development - The Alchemist, Gusto and 200 Degrees cafe – that hotel guests will have easy access to.

19 fabulous things to do in Britain in 2019

  1. Channel your inner Formula 1 driver

When the Silverstone Heritage Experience opens in Spring at the home of British Motor Racing, this thrilling new visitor attraction – which will use state-of-the-art interactive displays to tell the story of motor racing in a permanent exhibition – culminates in an immersive show dome finale where you can experience what it’s like to zip around the track alongside your racing heroes.

 

  1. Watch the world premiere of an Idris Elba production

As part of the Manchester International Festival – the world’s first festival of original, new work and special events and the biggest event on Manchester’s cultural calendar that takes place every two years – film and TV star Idris Elba joins forces with London’s Young Vic artistic director Kwame Kwei-Armah, for the thrilling production of Tree. This, among many other cultural events, will take place at venues all over the city between 4 – 21 July.

 

  1. Surf inland in England’s south west

Pull on a wetsuit and hit the waves…in the city of Bristol. Set to open in the autumn, new inland surfing lake The Wave Bristol will be powered by the latest wave-making technology and generate up to 1,000 quality waves per hour. There’ll be three surf zones for different abilities and a high-performance surf centre for elite athletes and aspiring pros.

  1. Book tickets to one of Britain’s youngest music festivals

Following on from the success of last year’s launch, the RiZE Festival is one of the newest multi-genre music festivals to arrive in the UK. This is a party for everyone; the music genres range from indie and pop to dance and urban and takes places in Chelmsford, Essex, in south-east England between 16 – 17 August.
 

  1. Explore a world-class medicine collection

Following a £24 million investment, the entire first floor of London’s Science Museum will be given over to one of the most significant medicine collections in the world at the museum’s new Medicine Galleries. Due to open in 2019, the extraordinary collections of the pharmaceutical entrepreneur Henry Wellcome and the Science Museum will be on display, telling the stories of how our lives have been transformed by changes in medicine and health over the last 400 years.
 

  1. Party like a dancing queen

Opening its doors at London’s The O2 in summer 2019 is the must-visit event from Stockholm – Mamma Mia! The Party. Guests will be transported to Nikos’ Taverna on an exotic Greek island, where they’ll be served Mediterranean food and drink and sing and dance along to ABBA songs. The perfect event for anyone who loves to party.
 

  1. See sporting legends make history

Britain has been crazy about cricket for centuries, making it a fantastic destination for the ICC Cricket World Cup

 

  1. Join a ‘Carnival of History’

2019 will see Leeds Castle in Kent, south-east England, celebrate its incredible 900-year anniversary, with events taking place over the entire 12 months. Put the 27 – 28 July in your diary in particular as it will host an amazing ‘Carnival of History’, a colourful procession that will culminate in an impressive finale set against the backdrop of this stunning castle.
 

  1. Discover why Van Gogh loved London

​​​​​​​Tate Britain has announced the largest exhibition of Vincent van Gogh’s work in the UK for nearly a decade (27 March – 11 August). Van Gogh and Britain will bring together 40 paintings of the artist’s most famous works, including one of the Sunflowers paintings and will examine Van Gogh’s relationship with Britain – he lived in London in his early 20s – and the British art, literature and culture he was inspired by.
 

  1. Watch the world’s best golfers battle to win one of golf’s most prestigious cups

The biggest event in women’s golf, the Solheim Cup, comes to the celebrated Gleneagles Golf Course in Perthshire, Scotland, between 9 – 15 September. Teams of 12 players representing Europe and the United States will hit the world-renowned golf course, with more than 100,000 spectators expected to attend from around the world. Will one of them be you?
 

  1. Gain cultural kudos at Britain’s largest sculpture festival

​​​​​​​Head to the county of Yorkshire in north England next year for the first-ever Yorkshire Sculpture International, a free, 100-day festival that will be presented by four world-renowned cultural institutions based in Leeds and Wakefield: the Henry Moore Institute, Leeds Art Gallery, The Hepworth Wakefield and Yorkshire Sculpture Park. The festival will build upon Yorkshire’s rich history as the birthplace of pioneering sculptors, and as the home of this unique consortium of galleries and celebrated sculpture collections.
 

  1. Cheer on your country

​​​​​​​The competitive world of netball comes to Liverpool, north-west England, between 12 – 21 July, as the city hosts the Netball World Cup. Sixteen international teams will be arriving in Liverpool, with host nation England placed at second seeds, following their Commonwealth Games gold medal earlier this year. Who will you be supporting?
 

  1. Celebrate a British icon’s birthday

​​​​​​​The legendary Mini turns 60 next year and, for the first time in five years, the International Mini Meet will take place in the UK. Washingpool Farm near Bristol in south-west England will be the host (8 – 12 August), welcoming Mini owners from all over the world and celebrating with a huge birthday party. Also head to the British Motor Museum in Warwick, south-west England, where a two-day show between 3 – 4 August will mark the landmark birthday with a series of Mini-themed activities.
 

  1. Witness the return of Girl Power

​​​​​​​We’re sure you’ve heard…but British super-group The Spice Girls will be setting out on a reunion tour in June 2019 as a four-piece (minus Victoria Beckham) at various stadia across Britain. Will you be among the lucky ones to get tickets?
 

  1. Set your eyes on fabulous fashion

​​​​​​​A must-see for anyone who follows fashion are two fantastic exhibitions coming to London’s V&A Museum in 2019. Opening in February is Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams while April sees the launch of an exhibition dedicated to 1960s fashion revolutionary Mary Quant.
 

  1. Embrace your love for literature

​​​​​​​2019 will see cultural leaders from 28 countries come to Britain in May for a global gathering of the UNESCO Cities of Literature, the first time the event will take place in the UK. Dubbed Nottwich 2019 – as its gathering of writers and programme of cultural events will take place in Norwich and Nottingham in east England, two of Britain’s Cities of Literature – look out for a literary programme that will challenge your mind.
 

  1. Party like it’s 2019

​​​​​​​Celebrate with the people of London’s first-ever Borough of Culture – an initiative launched by London Mayor Sadiq Khan – as Waltham Forest in north-east London, kicks off its year-long cultural programme between 11 – 13 January with a huge party called Welcome to the Forest. Expect a magnificent visual and audio show, carnivals and light installations all telling the stories of the local people and area.
 

  1. Reserve a table at one of London’s hottest new restaurants

​​​​​​​Slated to open in January, chef Leonardo Pereira – who spent five years working at Noma in Copenhagen, one of the world’s most famous restaurants – is opening a Covent Garden-based restaurant called Nutshell, which will feature Iranian cuisine created from British produce.
 

  1. Book to see a new West End show

​​​​​​​London’s West End will welcome a host of fabulous new shows in 2019, including the hit musical Waitress, which comes to the Adelphi Theatre in Spring, while Mary Poppins makes a welcome return to the stage in Autumn at the Prince Edward Theatre.

48 Hours in the Peak District & Derbyshire

Spend two days combining city style with country walks, first-class restaurants with cultural treasures, all of which you’ll find in and around the UK’s first-ever national park, the Peak District, and the surrounding county of Derbyshire in north-west England. The area boasts show-stopping attractions, such as the stately home of Chatsworth and the fascinating World of Wedgwood, but look a little deeper and you’ll encounter a whole raft of must-do experiences.

DAY ONE

09:00 GO UNDERGROUND

Part of the Peak District’s charm is its enviable landscapes and stunning geological make-up. Discover this is more depth by heading into Poole’s Cavern, an ancient natural limestone cavern with colossal illuminated rock-sculpted galleries to explore. Book onto a guided tour to understand the history of this magnificent underground scenery.

11:00 TREAT YOURSELF TO A SPA

Head into the historic spa town of Buxton, where healing waters have been attracting visitors for centuries, and book in for an indulgent spa treatment. For contemporary treatments in a historic setting, try out The Devonshire Spa retreat, part of the resplendent Devonshire Dome (a Grade II-listed building dating back to 1779). Elsewhere, the town’s Palace Hotel is a fine example of Victorian architecture yet one that houses modern-day spa facilities. And, come summer 2019, there will also be the choice of The Buxton Spa, in Buxton Natural Baths, which is being redeveloped as part of the Crescent Restoration project.

13:00 ENJOY A TASTE OF THE PEAK DISTRICT

Book in for lunch at the Columbine Restaurant, situated close to the Buxton Opera House, for delicious dishes created using produce from small local suppliers in the area; the provenance of ingredients is easily traceable. You’ll enjoy creations such as fish crumble tart and a variety of English cheese from its cheese board.

14:00 HIKE THROUGH GORGEOUS COUNTRYSIDE

Drive 30 minutes from Buxton into the Peak District National Park to the village of Hathersage in the Hope Valley, and, from there, hike nine miles north to Stanage Edge. The gritstone edge stretches out to around four miles and delivers impressive views of the Dark Peak moorlands and across the valley. You may also recognise it from a scene in Pride & Prejudice, featuring Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet.

17:00 DINE IN A HISTORIC PUB

Return to Hathersage and enjoy an early evening meal at The Plough Inn, a 16th-century inn located on the banks of the River Derwent. Feast on dishes such as feuilette of wood pigeon and pear or seared scallops, while vegans are well catered for with dishes such as kachoris (spiced lentil parcels) with kachumber salad.

20:00 MARVEL AT THE DARK SKIES

Just above Hathersage is one of the national park’s most magnificent viewpoints – the charmingly named Surprise View. While it’s a great spot to watch the sun set, it’s also one of the official ‘Dark Skies’ stargazing spots, meaning on a clear night you can witness the Peak District skies lit up by millions of twinkling stars.

TIME TO CHECK IN

There are a number of bed and breakfast options in the Hathersage area and you can also stay at The Plough Inn, which offers guests a choice of seven bedrooms and two shepherd huts. Equally charming is The George Hotel, a three-star hotel in Hathersage situated in an old coaching inn that dates back 500 years, and The Old Hall Hotel in Hope, five minutes from Hathersage, once a 16th-century coaching inn and now a cosy B&B.

 

DAY TWO

09:00 STEP BACK 500 YEARS

You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to fabulous stately homes to visit in the Peak District and Derbyshire. A little outside the national park is Hardwick Hall, a National Trust-owned property that was created in the 1500s by one of the most powerful women of Elizabethan England, the remarkable ‘Bess of Hardwick’, and added to over the centuries by her descendants. It’s a house that was built to impress and is said to have ‘more glass than wall.’ Its surrounding estate is also open every day for walks through glorious gardens and woodland trails.

11:00 CLIMB DIZZYING HEIGHTS

Journey just 30 minutes from Hardwick Hall and board an alpine-style cable car to take you to the Heights of Abraham. These observation cars give you the opportunity to admire the breathtaking vistas of the Peak District and the Derwent Valley.

13:00 SAMPLE LOCAL DELICACIES

Head back into the Peak District National Park to the pretty town of Bakewell for a spot of lunch at the quirkily decorated Lavender Tea Rooms. Charming period décor is enhanced by cute, mismatched traditional crockery, on which a range of sandwiches and cakes are served. But don’t forget to leave room for the sweet treat the town is renowned for – Bakewell pudding. Plenty of places sell it but try The Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop – it also offers pudding-making experiences.

15:00 EXPLORE THE NATIONAL PARK

There are a myriad of wonderful walks you can do in the Peak District (and it’s a great way to walk off those pudding calories!), one of which is a walk around the Ladybower Reservoir. Here you’ll experience some of the most perfect countryside views, a mix of moorland and woodland with a stunning body of water. Bamford Edge is a good place to head to for beautiful vistas and the Y-shape of the reservoir means there are plenty of circular walking and cycling routes to choose from.

17:00 DISCOVER THE ‘PLAGUE’ VILLAGE

Row upon row of pretty stone cottages adorned by beautiful gardens make up the picturesque village of Eyam. But what makes this Peak District village profoundly fascinating is its history as the ‘plague village’. When the plague struck the village in the 17th century, the disease spread rapidly and Eyam was put under quarantine for 14 months. A stroll around this picture-prefect English village will lead you to discover the plaques outside houses that state who died there during this terrible time, as well as the ‘Boundary Stone’. This had been set up to transport food and medicine into Eyam safely from the nearby uninfected village of Stoney Middleton.

20:00 FEAST ON FIRST-CLASS FOOD

A short drive from Eyam is Baslow Hall, a gorgeous 100-year-old Grade II listed manor house. Within is the fine-dining restaurant Fischer’s at Baslow Hall, where Head Chef Rupert Rowley creates classical dishes using seasonal, British ingredients. Dine on produce such as Devon crab or Derbyshire pork jowl, hand-dived scallops or Creedy Carver duck from Devon.

TIME TO CHECK IN

Once you’ve finished your meal at Fischer’s you can book in to stay at the luxury Baslow Hall, which offers 11 beautiful bedrooms; the Garden Rooms look out onto their own private walled courtyard garden, while there is also a romantic, secluded cottage close by, Cruck Barn. Also within the area is elegant The Peacock at Rowsley, which also boasts a fine-dining restaurant, and the Losehill Hotel & Spa, a high-end boutique hotel offering spa facilities with Peak District views.

Getting there: The Peak District lies less than an hour from the cities of Manchester and Leeds (both around two hours by train from London), and around half an hour from Sheffield (also two hours by train from the capital).

48 Hours in Inverness and Loch Ness

The ‘capital of the Highlands’, Inverness in north Scotland is a vibrant city that has recently welcomed new attractions and restaurants, but which also sits in an enviable location close to some of Scotland’s most beguiling scenery and tranquil countryside. A trip here allows you to enjoy all the attractive elements of city life while simultaneously experiencing the best nature has to offer.

Time to check in

Whether you stay in heart of Inverness or on the shores of Loch Ness, it’s easy to reach the other within 20 minutes to an hour, depending on which area around the Loch you are visiting/staying in. It also means a lovely choice of accommodation, whether that’s cosy B&Bs, elegant hotels or luxurious lodges. In Inverness itself, set on the tree-lined banks of the River Ness, are the four-star, boutique Glenmoriston Town House Hotel and the three-star Inverness Palace Hotel & Spa. Ten minutes from town is the Kingsmills Hotel & Spa, a four-star contemporary hotel built within stunning 18th-century architecture. A little further out is the luxurious Achnagairn Castle, with its own spa and restaurant, while close to the southern tip of Loch Ness, The Lovat Loch Ness is a 30-bedroom independent hotel combining an eco-ethos with elegant interiors and 3 AA rosette fine dining.

DAY ONE

09:00 DELVE INTO THE CITY’S PAST

A great place to gain an in-depth insight and understanding of the history, heritage and art of the Highlands is at the Inverness Museum & Art Gallery. An ever-changing programme of temporary exhibitions feature all year-round at the art gallery, while the museum includes a number of fascinating collections, including Highland weapons and costumes.

11:00 STEP INTO A TROPICAL PARADISE

A beautiful gem in the heart of a city, the Inverness Botanic Gardens are wonderful to explore any time of year, with a broad variety of plants blooming every new season. Explore the glasshouses for plants from deserts and tropical rainforests, as well as hundreds of species of cacti and a waterfall surrounded by orchids and bougainvillea.

13:00 DINE WHERE MUSIC HISTORY WAS MADE

Stop for a bite to eat at the Rendezvous Café, a quirky vintage cinema café that is also the site where The Beatles – known then as the Silver Beetles – played on their first-ever tour as a support act in 1960. Feast on warming homemade soups, tasty baguettes and generous wedges of sticky toffee pudding or chocolate fudge cake.

15:00 TAKE IN A BIRD’S EYE VIEW OF THE CITY

Close to the café is one of the city’s must-visits; its newest attraction, Castle Viewpoint. Not only will you learn about Inverness’ fascinating past, you’ll also be rewarded at the top of the viewing platform with magnificent panoramic views.

17:00 ENJOY PRE-DINNER COCKTAILS

City centre bar The White House produces its own innovative in-house creations – check out its Breakfast Martini, made with Rock Rose gin, Cointreau, with elderflower liqueur, orange marmalade and homemade rosemary syrup – as well as the classics, all made with fresh ingredients.

20:00 FEAST ON HIGHLAND CLASSICS

Make sure you bring an appetite to Inverness newcomer, Prime, which serves up juicy, locally sourced steaks and succulent seafood at its riverside location. Try its large, shared dishes of meat cooked over charcoal or individual dishes such as wild Highland rabbit, and finish with a Scottish classic – Clootie dumpling (warm, steamed fruit cake) served with cranachan ice cream and Scottish honey.

 

DAY TWO

07:00 PADDLE AT SUNRISE

Head 30 minutes outside of Inverness for on an early morning canoe safari with activities company In Your Element. This is as close to nature as you can be; as the sun comes up look out for roe deer, badgers and otters as you paddle along the River Beauly and through the Aigas Gorge.

OR

07:00 WALK AROUND A WORLD-FAMOUS LOCH

You can now walk the entire way around Loch Ness on an uninterrupted trail – the Loch Ness 360°. This new complete pathway, which opened in summer 2018, loops around the entire circumference of this famous loch. While you won’t have time to do all of it in one day, you can walk through a good chunk of over six to seven hours in that time frame, or book to stay on longer than 48 hours and spend a few days completing the walk.

12:00 PICNIC ON LOCAL PRODUCE

If you opt for early morning canoeing, you’ll have built up an appetite; pick up fresh, local fare for a picnic lunch at Corner on the Square, a cute, award-winning delicatessen and café in the historic village of Beauly.

13:00 CRUISE AROUND LOCH NESS

Sail out onto the deep waters of Loch Ness on a Jacobite Cruises boat and take in the glorious surrounding forests and glens (and conduct a little Nessie-spotting of course), before stopping off to explore Urquhart Castle, which overlooks the mysterious loch. One thousand years of history await you as you explore its ruins and discover priceless artefacts and interactive displays at the visitor centre’s exhibition.  

16:00 HEAD OUT DOLPHIN SPOTTING

While you may not have found Nessie earlier in the day, you have the chance to spot magnificent bottlenose dolphins! Climb aboard one of the boats run by Dolphin Spirit, which will take you out into the Inner Moray Firth for potential sightings.

19:00 DRINK AT A CITY FAVOURITE

Head back into Inverness to try out one of MacGregors Bar’s set beer menus. Each order is set so that each drink compliments the next in its flavour profile, and all have been handpicked to represent the bar’s featured Scottish breweries.

20:00 DINE IN A FORMER CHURCH

Located within a converted church The Mustard Seed has retained many of the church’s original period features and boasts a double-height ceiling and a beautiful open log fire. Its top-floor terrace is perfect for picturesque views of the River Ness. As well as a la carte, Chef also produces daily specials, which may include treats such as seared eye fillet of Highland beef served with a malt whisky cream sauce.

22:00 PARTY THE NIGHT AWAY

The city is packed with brilliant live music options if you wish to continue your night out after dinner. Johnny Foxes & The Den is a traditional Scottish pub with live music every night and its wine bar and nightclub, The Den, offers live music alongside DJs and dancing until 3am. Award-winning Hootananny is a great place to go for a traditional Scottish folk music programme and weekly ceilidh parties (upstairs is its sister venue Mad Hatters, which specialises in live rock music). Elsewhere The Market Bar also hosts live folk music and Gellions Bar is home to one of longest-established Saturday Ceilidhs in Inverness city centre.

Getting there: Inverness has its own international airport; direct flights are daily from Heathrow and there are flights available year-round from London Gatwick, London Luton, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol and Belfast. Inverness Station receives direct, fast services from Glasgow Queen St, Edinburgh Waverley (both three-and-a-half hours) and London Euston (11.5 hours on the overnight Caledonian Sleeper service, which you can book up to 12 months in advance).

The World of Mr Banks

The world of ‘banks’ is at the very heart of the story of Mary Poppins; aside from the magical nanny herself, the main characters are the Banks family and Mr Banks is preoccupied with his work at a…you’ve guessed it, a bank! Britain itself has a long history of banking, with many branches once residing in the grandest buildings of a city that have now been transformed into elegant hotels and restaurants. As new feature film Mary Poppins Returns hits screens this winter it’s the perfect time to seek out your very own ‘Banks’ experience in Britain.

Stay

The Ned, London

A City of London landmark since 1925, the building now occupied by luxury hotel The Ned was once the headquarters of Britain’s Midland Bank, a striking building designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens – one of Britain’s greatest architects – that was the largest clearing house bank in the world at the time it was built. Now a five-star hotel, part of the Soho House & Co Group and Sydell Group, its banking legacy means guests stay in a super-stylish building dominated with high-vaulted ceilings and grand doors. Its rooms range from the cosy ‘Crash Pad’ to Grand Heritage suites on the Grade I-listed fifth floor, while its pièce de résistance is its spectacular restaurant hall. Eight restaurants, ranging in cuisine from Italian to British, American to French, sit within the former banking hall, each with its own space separated by 92 verdite columns and walnut banking counters.

The Old Bank Hotel, Oxford, central England

Surrounded by the impressive architecture of ancient Oxford University colleges as well as the Bodleian Library, The Old Bank Hotel still manages to stand out in Oxford thanks to its stunning design. It fully became a bank in 1808, and had strong links with the University, counting author of Alice in Wonderland Lewis Carroll as one of its customers. Now a five-star property with 42 bedrooms, many with gorgeous views of Oxford landmarks, The Old Bank Hotel has recently undergone a refurbishment, resulting in the creation of a rooftop bedroom and terrace overlooking Oxford’s ‘dreaming spires’ skyline.

Harbour Hotel & Spa, Bristol, south-west England

Situated in the heart of Bristol, the Harbour Hotel & Spa is housed in not one, but two former Lloyds Bank buildings. Designed by famed Victorian architect William Bruce Gingell, who was inspired by the 16th-century Venetian Library, the hotel has a stunning façade and beautiful interiors. The former banking hall is particularly grand and often hosts events, while what were once the bank vaults are now the hotel’s luxury spa. Indulge in a treatment or two or a dip in the hydrotherapy pool knowing that you’re relaxing in the location where a lot of money was once guarded!

Inn on the Mile, Edinburgh, Scotland

It may not be on the same grandiose scale as some buildings that were formerly bank headquarters, but this gem of a boutique hotel on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile has lovingly conserved many of the building’s original features from when it was the British Linen Bank, built in 1923. The hotel’s nine bedrooms include large sash windows, high ceilings and original cornicing, while its pub also nods to its banking heritage in its décor and style.

Hotel Gotham, Manchester, north-west England

Sir Edwin Lutyens left his mark in Manchester when he designed the building of a former bank that is now home to Hotel Gotham. The architecture is quite breathtaking and the luxury hotel pays homage throughout to the building’s original purpose, maintaining elaborate period touches such as the polished wooden counters so synonymous with banks from the last century. The five-star hotel offers 60 rooms, including five Inner Sanctum Suites – two of which are named ‘Bank Manager’s Suites’ – all of which are decadent in style. Guests (and members) have access to its VIP Club Brass lounge, which is accessed through two vault-like doors.

Eat

Old Bank of England, London

This pub and restaurant’s name sums up its past…it sits in the former Law Courts branch of the Bank of England, on the historic Fleet Street in the City of London. Stunningly renovated, the Old Bank of England has updated the ornate interior of the venue where the Bank of England traded from 1888 until 1975. When you’re enjoying your hearty British meals (think hand-made pies and fish and chips) you’ll be doing so surrounded by history; the basement still contains the original vaults used to store bullion and some of the Crown Jewels during the First World War. The two safes are now the venue’s cellars and kitchens.

The Corinthian Club, Glasgow, Scotland

Five floors of what was once a former bank and high court in the heart of Glasgow now house the restaurant, bar and event spaces of The Corinthian Club. One of the city’s most elaborate buildings, the Club has retained many of the original features of the Glasgow & Ship Bank (which was built in 1842) such as the impressive 26-foot glass dome and delicate, elegant plasterwork. Book into Teller’s Brasserie at the Club for a French-influenced dishes created using Scottish produce.

The Wolseley, London

Situated on Piccadilly, The Wolseley is run in the style of the European Grand Café, serving everything from breakfast to lunch, afternoon teas to dinners – it’s also very much a place to see and be seen. As well as the food, people come for the prestigious surroundings of the building that started life as a car showroom – Wolseley Motors – in 1921 and became a branch of Barclays Bank in 1927. Architect William Curtis Green created an opulent building, with marble pillars and archways, later adding banking counter and managers offices, which now serve as the bar and tea salon. When it became The Wolseley many aspects of the original design, including the domed ceiling and marble flooring, were kept.

The Dome, Edinburgh, Scotland

Dine on traditional Scottish favourites at this Edinburgh restaurant, which was once one of the city’s most striking bank branches and its décor remains as opulent to this day. Located in Edinburgh’s New Town, an elegant Graeco-Roman façade and Corinthian Portico greet its guests. You can dine under the dome itself in the Grill Room, among wood-panelled walls and Art Deco-inspired mirrors in The Club or take afternoon tea under the crystal chandeliers of The Georgian Tea Room.

Potted Pig, Cardiff, south Wales

Modern British cuisine and French/American culinary influences are on the menu at Cardiff’s Potted Pig, situated in a former Lloyd’s Bank vault beneath the city. Regularly changing seasonal menus are served in this underground restaurant that has retained a raft of original features, such as cast-iron cage doors and shallow-arched ceilings. The exposed brickwork, wooden floors and comfy sofas of its Gin Lounge make it the perfect place to experience its huge range of bespoke gins.

Play

Bank of England Museum, London

The Bank of England itself may not be open to visitors but you can explore its fascinating museum in the City of London. Five different galleries will take you through economic history and that of the Bank of England, from the origins of paper money and examples of forged notes to explaining why modern banknotes are difficult to counterfeit.

Royal Mint Experience, Llantrisant, south Wales

The Royal Mint makes and distributes British coins and official medals for around 60 countries every year and its location in south Wales, 30 minutes’ drive from Cardiff, also offers a visitor experience. Take a guided tour of the manufacturing areas to discover how coins are created and the chance to strike your own coin. The experience concludes with an interactive exhibition divided into six zones, which include the history and origins of the Mint and the roles coins play in our lives.

Museum on the Mound, Edinburgh, Scotland

Close to Edinburgh’s Princes Street and Edinburgh Castle, the Museum on the Mound is located in the historic Bank of Scotland Head Office and takes visitors through the story of money. You’ll be able to see Scotland’s oldest banknote, come face-to-face with a million pounds, see how safes are cracked open and learn much more about the design, technology and security of money at this free museum.

London rocks!

Bohemian Rhapsody hits the big screen at the end of this month, telling the tale of rock band Queen’s meteoric rise and revolutionary sound, up until their appearance at Live Aid in 1985, as well the story of the life of their extraordinary frontman Freddie Mercury. Queen formed and lived in London, recorded their music and played legendary gigs in the capital. Let the film inspire you to visit the city to pay homage to your music heroes, whether that’s Queen or Bowie, Pink Floyd or Amy Winehouse, The Beatles or Oasis – London has been a home, and a muse, to them all. Here’s how to follow in their footsteps.

 

Tour

To mark Bohemian Rhapsody’s release, Queen fans can book onto a rock tour to get their fix of Freddie and the band. London Rock Tours runs a half-day tour in the capital that’s fully focused on Queen, taking you to the places where they were formed – such as the pub where Freddie first met Brian May and Roger Taylor – where they recorded and where they lived. You’ll visit the sites and locations that played a significant part in the band’s history, as well as where some of their videos were shot and the site of the last-ever Queen performance.

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

London is a must-visit on any music pilgrimage; London Rock tours also offer music adventures such as the Classic Rock & Beatles Tour and Punk and New Wave tour, plus many others; the Rock ‘n’ Roll London Tour takes you around the sites made famous by the likes of The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, The Sex Pistols, Blur and Oasis. Undiscovered London offers the Camden Markets and Music Legends Tour, where you’ll learn about the lives and music of Amy Winehouse, Pink Floyd and other artists who lived and worked in the north London neighbourhood of Camden; David Bowie fans should check out the David Bowie Musical Walking Tour around the artist’s home neighbourhood in south London, Brixton; or go time travelling in the Swinging 60s bus tour, which transports you back to the music-defining decade.

A simple stroll around the streets of London will reveal sites that British rock legends have made famous. Soho’s Berwick Street is the location for Oasis’ seminal album (What’s The Story) Morning Glory cover shot; download the Blue Plaques app to discover where eminent musicians, such as Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon, lived or played. Take a walk down Soho’s Denmark Street – affectionately known as Tin Pan Alley for its large number of musical instrument shops that have served famous customers over the decades. Visit the Handel & Hendrix Museum at 23 Brook Street, where you’ll learn about the lives of two very different musicians who lived at this address centuries apart. And you can’t come to England’s capital without recreating The Beatles’ legendary Abbey Road album cover – head up to the neighbourhood of St John’s Wood and pose on the zebra crossing they made famous (watch out for the traffic!). Which Beatle will you be?

 

Shop

Are you a fan of vinyl records? London is a haven for vinyl addicts. Flip through the albums at Rough Trade West (the original, which opened in 1976) near Portobello Road, or its UK flagship, Rough Trade East at the Old Truman Brewery (also home to live performances). Rekless Recordcs has been selling second-hand records for more than 40 years and has a huge vinyl – and CD – collection. Flashback Records has three stores across London – Shoreditch, Islington and Crouch End – bursting with second-hand vinyl as has Sister Ray Ace in Shoreditch, which also hosts live music performances. And if you’re in London for Record Store Day (13 April 2019) you can catch a huge range of free gigs at independent record shops.

 

Stay

Scheduled to open in Spring 2019, the Hard Rock Hotel, located on the corner of Oxford Street and Park Lane in the conversion of the existing Cumberland Hotel, will pay tribute in its memorabilia collection to former residents such as Jimi Hendrix, Diana Ross, Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder and Madonna. Hard Rock Hotel London will boast around 1,000 stylish rooms and suites, together with two vibrant bars and a lively Hard Rock Cafe®. In the lobby, the world-famous Rock Shop® will feature Hard Rock’s iconic merchandise.

K West Hotel & Spa may be a four-star retreat in west London but it also prides itself on its cutting-edge style and ambience. And that’s down to its location within former recording studios where legends such as The Kinks and Bob Marley laid down tracks. Its Studio Bar is all chic furnishings and chandeliers, playing host to a cool urban crowd at the weekends.

Notting Hill-based boutique property The Portobello Hotel has a 24-hour honesty bar, which may be one of the reasons behind why so many famous musicians and bands have stayed here. Book a room here and you’ll be in the company of guests that have included U2, Mick Jagger, Blur, Alice Cooper, Oasis and the Sex Pistols – although not all at the same time (now that would be some party!)

Karma Sanctum Soho invites you to ‘live the rock star life’ – and how can you not when it has a 24-hour bar and hot tub? Two Georgian townhouses were converted into 30 boutique hotel rooms and the hotel certainly nods to Soho’s artistic and avant-garde history. The likes of Motorhead are said to have checked in here.

 

Play

Fancy ordering a pint in the same venues your rock heroes drank in or played at? London is packed with pubs and bars where your favourites kickstarted their careers – head to The Dublin Castle pub in Camden, which has hosted The Killers, Blur and Amy Winehouse both as performers and customers! Check out the Camden Assembly, (formerly known as The Barfly), a bar where Oasis, Coldplay and Franz Ferdinand crafted their art, as well as The Good Mixer, still a live-music venue and a pub Amy Winehouse, Blur, Pulp and Oasis were regularly seen at. In Earl’s Court, The Troubadour is a historic music venue where Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix both played, while in Islington, pub The Hope & Anchor has played host to bands such as U2, The Police and The Stranglers while they were cutting their teeth in the music industry. Rolling Stones’ fans can grab a bite to eat at Bill Wyman’s Sticky Fingers restaurant in Kensington.

 

Top destination stories for 2019

Top Destination Stories For 2019

 

75th anniversary of the D-Day Landings

A significant moment in global history, 6 June 2019 marks the 75th anniversary of the D-Day Landings and the Battle of Normandy of the Second World War. Next year will see several important occasions to commemorate this historic anniversary. Britain’s Imperial War Museums (IWM), with five museums across the UK, will retell the story between 1 – 9 June through three of its historic sites: HMS Belfast, IWM Duxford and Churchill War Rooms, all of which played a significant role in D-Day. Elsewhere, Bristol in south-west England will be marking the anniversary; the Normandy landings were planned by Gen Omar Bradley at Clifton College in Bristol, the US Army’s command base in the city. General Bradley and others stayed in a building in the The Holmes, now part of the University of Bristol’s Botanic Gardens, while he was in the city. And Southsea in south England, is home to the D-Day Museum, is planning a major redevelopment ahead of the anniversary. Expect more events and commemorations to take place across the country.

Wales – Year of Discovery

Wales – Year of Discovery 2019 will build on the destination’s three previous themes (Year of the Sea, Year of Legends and Year of Adventure) and emphasise that Wales is alive with events and activities. 2019’s Year of Discovery will encourage visitors to not only discover Wales but also themselves through the wealth of attractions, adventures and experiences Wales has to offer.
The Wales Way will also remain a key focus for 2019. Launched towards the end of 2018, The Wales Way is a group of three national touring routes that cross the country’s most epic landscapes, showcasing its fascinating history, coastlines and attractions. The routes will help position Wales as a destination for experience-seeking travellers, willing to explore off-the-beaten track locations along The North Wales Way, The Cambrian Way and The Coastal Way, all year round.

London Borough of Culture – Waltham Forest

Inspired by the UK City and European Capital of Culture programmes, the London Borough of Culture is a major new initiative launched by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan in 2018, with the borough of Waltham Forest being the first to win the accolade for 2019. Designed to put culture at the heart of communities, it’s a fantastic opportunity to discover the character and diversity of different areas of London. Mercury Award-winning local musician Talvin Singh will lead a stellar cast of artists in a unique collaboration with Waltham Forest’s young people for a huge opening event, Welcome to the Forest, to celebrate the start of the neighbourhood’s tenure as London’s first Borough of Culture.

Britain on the big – and small – screen

Britain will, once again, play a starring role in several new major movie releases in 2019, as well as lead the way with some of television’s biggest hits.

Mary Queen of Scots – January 2019 (with early release in USA end of 2018)

Starring Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie as Mary Queen of Scots and her cousin Elizabeth I, Queen of England respectively, this biographical tale portrays Mary’s attempt to overthrow Elizabeth, before being condemned to years of imprisonment and finally facing execution. Glorious period sets and costumes are further enhanced by the British landscapes used as locations, including London, Oxford and Derbyshire in England and Edinburgh and Glencoe in Scotland. Visit Linlithgow Palace, an hour from Edinburgh, where Mary was born, Edinburgh Castle where she gave birth to her only child and the Mary Queen of Scots Visitor Centre in Jedburgh, Scottish Borders.

Downton Abbey movie – release date 2019 TBC

The rumour mill has certainly been in overdrive on this one…but an NBC Universal spokesman confirmed the studio is to put the highly anticipated movie into production in 2018. Nearly three years after its final television episode, Highclere Castle (Downton Abbey itself) has revealed the cast and crew will return there to film in the last quarter of 2018.

Bond 25 – release date 8 November 2019

Bond returns! The 25th instalment of the Bond movies will hit the big screen in 2019. No locations have been divulged yet but there’s plenty to see and do in Britain to get Bond-ready, whether that’s checking out props from the films at the London Film Museum in Covent Garden or enjoying a martini at Dukes Bar in London's Mayfair, where Bond author Ian Fleming regularly frequented.

Shaun the Sheep 2 – 2019 release date TBC

Everyone’s favourite woolly friend will be back on our screens next year in the Aardman production of Shaun the Sheep 2. The production company – the Oscar-winning animation studio that also created the award-winning Wallace and Gromit films, Shaun the Sheep Movie and Early Man – is famously based in Bristol, south-west England.

The Favourite – release date early January 2019 (earlier 2018 release in the US)

In early 18th century England, a frail Queen Anne occupies the throne and her close friend Lady Sarah governs the country in her stead. Starring British actors Olivia Coleman and Rachel Weisz, locations such as Hatfield House in Hertfordshire, one hour from London, were used.

The Secret Garden – release date Summer 2019 TBC

A new film adaptation of Frances Hodgson-Burnett’s classic children’s novel The Secret Garden is set for release in 2019. Directed by Marc Munden and starring Colin Firth and Julie Walters, the film tells the story of a young orphaned girl sent from India to live with her neglectful uncle in Yorkshire. Key locations for the film include Helmsley Walled Garden (the secret garden), Duncombe Park and Farndale in the North York Moors National Park, north England, and Iford Manor, Wiltshire, west England.

Untitled Richard Curtis/Danny Boyle release – 13 September 2019

The plot of a new film by Richard Curtis and Danny Boyle is being kept tightly under wraps, but it’s believed to be a Beatles-themed romantic comedy set in 1960s and/or 1970s Suffolk... Filming took place all over the county, including Halesworth, Dunwich, Shingle Street and Latitude Festival. It stars Lily James, Himesh Patel and Ana de Armas, and promises all sorts of cameos, including one by Ed Sheeran.

Peaky Blinders, season 5 – 2019 release date TBC

Tommy and the rest of the Peaky Blinders will return to our TV screens in 2019. Set and filmed in the central England city of Birmingham Peaky Blinders is set during the late 1800s and early 1900s. The show is also filmed in Liverpool, north-west England.

The Crown, season 3 – 2019 release date TBC

Filming has started Netflix’s The Crown third season, with Olivia Coleman and Tobias Menzies as Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip, and Helena Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret.

 

Manchester International Festival returns – and discover the city’s newest neighbourhood

Manchester International Festival (MIF) is the world’s first festival of original, new work and special events and the biggest event on Manchester’s cultural calendar. The festival is staged every two years – the next edition will take place 4 – 21 July 2019 at venues all over the city – and will be the last before the festival takes up permanent residence in the North of England’s flagship new cultural venue, The Factory. And St John’s is the name of an enormous masterplan to create a new neighbourhood for enterprise, culture and living in the city, which will sit on the former site of Granada Studios. Incorporating residenti­­al, hotels, work space, intimate streets and lively courtyards, the St John’s neighbourhood will retain many original buildings such as the iconic Bonded Warehouse as well as new-builds including Factory Manchester.  

 

Must-see exhibitions and museum updates

A host of British museums and galleries are welcoming new exhibitions and extensions in 2019.

In London, Tate Britain has announced the largest exhibition of Vincent van Gogh’s work in the UK for nearly a decade, and the Tate’s first Van Gogh exhibition since 1947 (27 March – 11 August) while the National Portrait Gallery will host the first major exhibition on Tudor and Jacobean portrait miniatures in the UK for over 35 years, Elizabethan Treasures: Miniatures by Hilliard and Oliver (21 February – 19 May). The new Medicine galleries at the Science Museum are due for completion in 2019 and will be one of the most significant medicine collections in the world, while The Geffrye has embarked on a major transformative scheme, Unlocking the Geffrye, to open up the museum and improve visitors’ experience, due for completion in 2019. The Cartoon Museum will open in a new central London location, bringing the “imagination of the world of cartoons into a physical space”.

In Bristol, south-west England, the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery will mark the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death with exhibition Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing (2 February – 2 May) while M-Shed hosts Tattoo: British Tattoo Art Revealed (16 March – 16 June) – the largest gathering of real objects and original tattoo artwork ever assembled in the UK – and On Set with Aardman: Making Early Man (6 July – 29 September), which will feature everything from drawings to the latest VR technology that went into making the animated feature film Early Man.

Turner Contemporary in Margate, on the Kent coast in south-east England will host the world-famous visual art prize, the Turner Prize. Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire will launch new exhibitions, events, historic restoration and conservation projects and new tours.  From 9 February – April, an exhibition of JMW Turner’s early architectural paintings and engravings will be on show and, new for 2019, are the Twizy Tours – a fun way to explore the Capability Brown landscaped parkland from the comfort of a two-seater, electric vehicle.

Heading to the north of England, the Yorkshire Sculpture Triangle will host Yorkshire Sculpture International every three years, starting in 2019. The project will be characterised by collaborative artistic programming, talent and audience development, new outdoor commissions and international commissioning partnerships. Liverpool’s Tate Liverpool will host the first major UK exhibition of Keith Haring (14 June – 10 November), where more than 70 art works inspired by underground club culture, pop art and graffiti will be displayed. The city will also welcome an exhibition of works by Charles Rennie Mackintosh to the Walker Art Gallery (15 March – 26 August).

And good news for royal fans in 2019 as the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh hosts A Royal Wedding: The Duke and Duchess of Sussex (14 June – 6 October), when the wedding outfits of The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will go on display in a special exhibition.

 

Hot hotel openings

Book ahead for these exciting hotel openings in 2019.

London
Robert de Niro's is due to open his first London hotel in partnership with BD Hotels The Wellington, in Covent Garden. Planning permission has been granted for the scheme, which will include 83 bedrooms, two restaurants, a members' club, deli/café, spa and swimming pool.
The Hard Rock Hotel, located on the corner of Oxford Street and Park Lane in the conversion of the existing Cumberland Hotel, is scheduled to open its doors in Spring next year and boast around 1,000 rooms and suites, together with two bars and a Hard Rock Cafe®. And art’otel plans to open its first property in London in the neighbourhood of Hoxton, an 18-storey, 350-bedroom contemporary new hotel, the art'otel Hoxton

England
Work has now started on the development of a 137-bedroom Dakota Deluxe hotel in Manchester, north-west England, the third in the luxury Dakota Deluxe brand alongside properties in Glasgow and Leeds; the design-led hotel is set to open in spring 2019. And in January 2019, the Hotel Indigo Manchester – Victoria Station hotel is set to open with 187 contemporary rooms.
The Grand, one of Birmingham's most iconic buildings, is to be redeveloped into a luxury, 180-room hotel with a restaurant and bar, a spa and a rooftop infinity pool, due to open in early 2019. And The Crescent is due to open next year in the historic spa town of Buxton, Derbyshire, as the Grade I-listed Crescent is transformed into an 80-bedroom, five-star spa hotel.

Scotland
Yotel is to open its first hotel in Scotland in the first quarter of 2019 on Edinburgh’s Queen Street, featuring 280 cabins. Elsewhere, independent craft brewer BrewDog has announced plans to build the world’s first craft beer hotel, called The DogHouse, and will launch an immersive craft beer hotel and brewery expansion at its headquarters in Aberdeenshire, north Scotland.

Unmissable sporting events

Britain is world-renowned as a host of major sporting events and, in 2019, the following championships will take place.

European Athletics Indoor Championships, Glasgow, Scotland (1 – 3 March)

Glasgow will welcome more than 600 athletes from 50 nations to the tracks at the city’s Emirates Arena for the 35th European Athletics Indoor Championships.

RBS 6 Nations Rugby Union, across Britain (starts 23 February)

England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland join France and Italy in the clash of the rugby greats.

Gymnastics World Cup, Birmingham, central England (23 March)  

Held at Birmingham’s Genting Arena in March, gymnasts from across the globe will compete to win the prestigious title.

ICC Cricket World Cup (30 May – 15 July)   

This will be the 12th Cricket World Cup competition and, for the fifth time, will be held in England and Wales.

Dragon Ride L’Etape Wales (9 June)

Dragon Ride L’Etape Wales by Le Tour de France is one of the most iconic sportives in the UK and offers an inspiring Tour de France riding experience to UK cyclists.

Major League Baseball, London (29 – 30 June)

The first-ever Major League Baseball games to be held in Europe, the London Stadium in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park will host the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox.

Netball World Cup, Liverpool, north-west England (12 – 21 July)

England Netball and the City of Liverpool will host the 2019 Netball World Cup at ACC Liverpool.

Solheim Cup, Gleneagles, Scotland (9 – 15 September)

The Solheim Cup is the biggest event in women’s golf and more than 100,000 spectators are expected to attend from across the globe.

UCI Road World Championships, Yorkshire, north England (22 – 29 September)

One of the world’s most prestigious professional cycling events, the UCI Road World Championships will see 1,000 riders from 75 different countries complete in 12 races over eight days.

Fantastic new experiences launch

June will welcome a new Silverstone Heritage Experience at of the home of British Motor Racing, Silverstone, in Northamptonshire, central England. The permanent exhibition, housed in a refurbished World War II-hangar on the Silverstone circuit site, will use state-of-the-art interactive displays to tell the stories of people who have been involved in the site’s history, from medieval monks to modern racing drivers and engineers. The immersive show dome finale to the 2.5-hour experience will allow visitors to feel what it’s like to zoom around the track alongside their racing heroes.

In Bristol, south-west England, The Wave Bristol is set to open in the Autumn, a new inland surfing lake powered by the latest wave-making technology, capable of generating up to 1,000 quality waves per hour. The lake will have three surf zones for different abilities and a high-performance surf centre for elite athletes and aspiring pros. Set in beautiful sensory, healing and kitchen gardens on the edge of the city, The Wave will also have a swimming pool, café, education centre, camping accommodation and surf shop. As well as giving people easier access to surfing, the project aims to educate and inspire people on a range of topics from marine conservation to living healthier lifestyles.

New theatre for 2019

Yet another fantastic year is lined up in the world of London theatre.

Pinter At The Pinter: Party Time/Celebration at the Harold Pinter Theatre
From 4 January
Party Time is paired with Harold Pinter’s final play, Celebration, as part of the Pinter At The Pinter season, held at the Harold Pinter Theatre.

9 to 5 The Musical, Savoy Theatre
Previews from 28 January
Based on the cult film, 9 to 5 The Musical is coming to the West End and will feature a book by the movie’s original screenwriter Patricia Resnick with the score by the Queen of Country, Dolly Parton.

Notre Dame de Paris, London Coliseum
From 23 January
One of France’s most popular musicals, Notre Dame de Paris is based on Victor Hugo’s novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame with music by Riccardo Cocciante and book and lyrics by Luc Plamondon.

Come From Away, Phoenix Theatre
From 18 February
This Broadway musical by Irene Sankoff and David Hein is based on the events in the week following the 9/11 attacks on America, when 38 planes were ordered to land in the small Canadian town of Gander. 

When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other: Twelve Variations On Samuel Richardson's 'Pamela', National Theatre
From January
Directed by Katie Mitchell with a cast including Cate Blanchett and Stephen Dillane, Martin Crimp’s play breaks through the surface of contemporary debate to explore the messy nature of desire and the complicated roles men and women play.

Waitress, Adelphi Theatre
Spring 2019
Jenna, a waitress and expert pie maker, is in a loveless marriage in a small town. A baking contest in a nearby county offers her a chance at escape, leaving Jenna to weigh her commitments against a shot at freedom and recognition.

On Your Feet! London Coliseum, London
From 14 June
Gloria and Emilio Estefan’s smash-hit musical comes to London in 2019 direct from Broadway for a strictly limited season. It’s the true love story of Emilio and Gloria and follows their journey from its Cuban origins to the streets of Miami and to international superstardom.

Mary Poppins Prince Edward Theatre
Autumn 2019
Mary Poppins will return in the autumn of 2019 at the West End theatre where it premiered in 2004. Tickets for the production will go on sale in January.

Major anniversaries to commemorate

2019 will be a bumper year of significant anniversaries in Britain; this year will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Concorde’s first flight, when Club Concorde hopes to buy the Concorde currently on display at Le Bourget airport in Paris. If it is successful, the plane will be restored before resuming operation as a private heritage aircraft that will be flown at air displays as well as being available for charter. 2019 also marks 200 years since the birth of Queen Victoria at Kensington Palace, where she also spent her childhood. A permanent re-presentation of her rooms, telling the story of her fascinating life at the palace will open and a programme of performance, special events, tours and talks will also run throughout the year. Britain’s National Parks will celebrate their 70th anniversary next year – expect National Parks Week to be extra special. And Manchester, in north-west England, will mark the 200th anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre in 2019. On 16 August 1819 in St Peter's Fields, Manchester, armed cavalry charged a peaceful crowd of around 60,000 people gathered to listen to anti-poverty and pro-democracy speakers.