Top 6 royal childhood residences

The world responded with joy this morning as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan, announced they’re expecting a baby in spring 2019. To celebrate the news, here are six places to visit in the UK where generations of royal children spent their childhood.

Kensington Palace, London

Closely associated with the late Diana Princess of Wales, Kensington Palace is now the home of her grandchildren Prince George, Prince Louis and Princess Charlotte. Enjoy the intimate gardens surrounding the palace, and allow your inner child to be in awe of the arched tree walk and ornamental pond and gorgeous fountains.  

Sandringham Estate, Norfolk
The Queen’s favourite retreat was also the birthplace of late Princess Diana who was born in a cottage on the estate. Tour the impressive gardens and pop into the museum to see artefacts from Sandringham’s history. Finish your visit with a cup of tea and cake in the Stables Tearoom and enjoy the beautiful views of the gardens. Sandringham is open to the public from April to November.

Buckingham Palace, London

Prince Charles and Prince Andrew were both born at the most well-known castle on our list, Buckingham Palace. Notices of royal births and deaths are still attached to the railings for the public to read, even though you’ll probably read them on Facebook or Twitter first. The palace is open to the public during the summer, and there are also limited tours in December, January and Easter.

Glamis Castle, Angus
With a history dating back to 1034, Glamis Castle has a rich royal legacy. The former childhood home of the Queen is also where her mother, the late Queen Mother and her sister, the late Princess Margaret, were born. Learn about the castle’s lengthy history with a guided tour of the castle or enjoy one of the many nature walks around the grounds.

Pembroke Castle, Pembrokeshire

Go further back in history and explore Pembroke Castle, the birthplace of King Henry VII, the first Tudor king. There’s plenty to keep you busy at Pembroke including exhibitions depicting life in medieval times. Wogan Cavern situated beneath the palace is well worth a visit as its home to special residents of a different sort, pipistrelle bats!

Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh

Perched on an extinct volcano overlooking the city, Edinburgh Castle was the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots’ only child, King James VI.  Forget baby bonnets, at the castle you’ll find the Scottish crown jewels worn by Mary when she was crowned at 9-months-old and James when he was 13-months-old.

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

With more than 790 offshore islands (around 95 are inhabited), Scotland is a perfect destination for island hopping. We show you why those islands should be on your must-visit list this autumn and winter.

  1. Incredible scenery

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

  1. One word – whisky

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

  1. Cultural highlights

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

  1. Captivating castles

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

  1. Witness winter solstice

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

  1. Encounter even more Neolithic wonders

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

  1. Wildlife wonders

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

  1. Awesome adventures

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

  1. You’ll avoid the crowds

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

Getting there:

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

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

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

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

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

 

Six of the best free things to do in Edinburgh this winter

Planning to visit the Scottish capital for Hogmanay celebrations on 31 December? Why not come earlier and spend more time in Edinburgh exploring its fantastic array of free attractions this winter? Plus, what is already a beautiful city is even more alluring when bathed in winter sunshine, dusted with frost and buzzing with festive spirit.

National Galleries of Scotland

Not one, not two, not even three but FOUR buildings across Edinburgh house an astounding collection of art and are all well worth a visit. And, aside from certain paid-for exhibitions, they’re all free admission. Princes Street in the city centre is where you head to see iconic works from the Masters of 14th – 18th century European art at the National; then stroll over to the National Portrait Gallery nearby, before ending the day at the Modern gallery, which is set across two buildings in a magnificent sculpture park.

Why go this winter? Obviously for the art…but there’s also free live music ranging from Gaelic to opera on certain dates in November at the National; drop-in easel sketching workshops at the Portrait; or lectures and talks on subjects such as surrealism at the Modern.

The National Museum of Scotland

Seven levels of spectacular exhibitions await you at this fascinating free attraction in Edinburgh’s picturesque Old Town. The museum is packed with intriguing displays and insights into science and technology, fashion, the natural world and art and design that will keep you busy all day. Gain a wonderful insight into Scotland from prehistory to the present day in its must-visit Scottish Galleries.

Why go this winter? Fascinated by science? Every Saturday between 13 October – 26 January 2019 is Science Saturday, meaning specialist talks, hands-on activities and science demonstrations. Music fans should investigate its Rip It Up – The Story of Scottish Pop exhibition until 25 November and put its new exhibition Robots, launching on 18 January, in the diary.

Royal Botanic Gardens

Proving that gardens are not just for summer, visitors can appreciate the gorgeous winter landscape of these gardens, which are split across three themes and stretch across an impressive 70 acres. Discover seasonal flora and fauna as well as modern sculptures and installations dotted throughout. There is a fee for the Victorian glass houses but if you don’t want to spend any money, you can still admire the exterior of this stunning piece of architecture.

Why go this winter? Check out the fascinating Botanic Cottage on one of its Open Doors Days for an insight into its history and usage (5 October – 7 December). Travelling with your family? Bring them along to a weekend of nature discovery and grow young ones’ understanding of the environment (8 – 9 December).

Stand Up Comedy Club

Edinburgh is a world leader on the comedy stage, thanks to its brilliant Fringe Festival that takes place every August, which hosts plenty of comedy shows that won’t break the bank. But you can still get laughs aplenty – and find free events – throughout the year at the excellent Stand Up Comedy Club.

Why go this winter? Head to the club on a Sunday through November and December to enjoy its long-running, improvised comedy show – and it won’t cost you a penny! Resident comedians Stu and Garry take on the audiences’ suggestions and create comedy, so the show is very much for everyone.

Calton Hill

Pack your camera because a walk up Calton Hill, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, will result in some of the best views of Edinburgh. Aside from the remarkable vistas over the city, this is also where you’ll find some of Scotland’s legendary monuments, including Nelson’s Monument and the National Monument. It’s also home to the Royal Observatory, which has a visitor centre to explore and which also hosts public events such as astronomy evenings.

Why go this winter? Catch the sunrise from its summit too – the beauty of a winter sunrise is it is a little later, which means not such an early start to the day!

Window shopping

Even if you don’t want to splurge the cash, Edinburgh’s lovely shops and markets are worth exploring just for a spot of window shopping. From Princes Street to the Farmers’ Market, the pretty boutiques and uniquely Scottish stores, there’s plenty to explore to gather inspiration for your wish list.

Why go this winter? Come 16 November (until 5 January 2019) the East Princes Street Gardens will be alive with festive stalls, twinkling lights and delicious food as the annual Christmas Market gets underway. Be there for 18 November for Light Night, where choirs from across Scotland will perform and the Christmas Tree on the Mound will be lit as part of the Light Night switch on.

Road trip – England’s North West

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

Journey length: 120 miles

DAY ONE

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

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

Drive 45 minutes from Manchester to…Samlesbury Hall

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

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

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

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

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

DAY TWO

Drive 45 minutes from Downham to Haworth

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

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

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

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

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

DAY THREE

Drive 45 minutes from Austwick to the city of Lancaster.

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

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

Drive 45 minutes from Lancaster to Cartmel

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

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

DAY FOUR

Drive 30 minutes from Cartmel to Bowness on Windermere

You’re now in the heart of the Lake District National Park at the towns of Windermere and Bowness and gorgeous lakes scenery. Catch those bright autumn colours from the water itself aboard Windermere Lake Cruises’ steamers. Children’s author and illustrator Beatrix Potter was one of the Lakes’ most famous residents and all ages can enjoy the World of Beatrix Potter Attraction.

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

Drive 45 minutes from Bowness-on-Windermere to Keswick

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

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

DAY FIVE

Travel 45 minutes from Keswick to Carlisle

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

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

48 Hours in…Chester and Cheshire

With an enchanting mix of historic market towns, quaint village squares and picturesque landscapes, not to mention an impressive collection of stately homes and formal gardens, there are few places more quintessentially English than Cheshire. At the heart of the county is the compact Roman city of Chester; bewitching in its beauty and quietly making a name for itself as one of the UK’s most enriching short break destinations.

 

GET YOUR BEARINGS

One of several counties in the north of England, Cheshire is within easy distance of a number of key cities, locations and tourism hubs, including Liverpool, Manchester, The Peak District, Staffordshire and North Wales. Due to Manchester Airport’s southern location within Greater Manchester, it is possible to travel into northern parts of Cheshire within minutes of leaving the airport, whilst a journey from the airport to Chester takes around 45 minutes by car.

 

TIME TO CHECK IN

If you’re setting up base camp in Chester, there are few hotels as impressive as The Chester Grosvenor. Overlooking the famous Eastgate Clock, The Grosvenor has been welcoming guests for over 150 years and was recently bestowed the title of ‘World’s Best Classic Hotel’ at the Boutique Hotel Awards. Similarly impressive but with a much more idiosyncratic style is the achingly-cool Oddfellows Chester, an Instagrammers dream hotel, and if you’re arriving on a late flight (or have an early departure) from Manchester Airport its sister property, Oddfellows On The Park, is equally charming. Of course, with so much beautiful countryside, Cheshire itself isn’t short of country-piles-turned-hotels and standout options include Peckforton Castle, The Mere, Mottram Hall and brand new opening in Knutsford, The Courthouse.

 

 

DAY ONE

 

10:00 – FIND YOUR FEET

Founded by the Romans in AD79, Chester has a long and fascinating history. Take a brisk morning stroll to discover the most complete City Walls in Britain; Eastgate Clock, said to be the most photographed clock in England after Big Ben; the River Dee; the largest Roman Amphitheatre; the oldest racecourse in Britain; and the city’s stunning Cathedral. There are plenty of great walking tours available, but for a tour with a difference, book a Chester Running Tour and whizz around the sites on 5k or 10k routes. Just make sure that you backtrack to Chester Cross for midday to see the Town Crier’s daily proclamation.

 

12:30 – HAVE A STICKY LUNCH

Take a five-minute taxi ride or 30 minute walk to Hoole where you’ll find a quaint high street and a small restaurant with big ambitions. Sticky Walnut is the acclaimed neighbourhood restaurant from local restauranteur Gary Usher offering delicious British cuisine and a great value three-course lunch. It’s one of several restaurants across the north west that serial crowdfunder Usher has opened, drawing diners into small towns and suburbs such as Heswall in Merseyside where people flock to Burnt Truffle, Didsbury in Greater Manchester where he opened Hispi in 2016, and Prescott in Merseyside where Pinion is coming soon. There’s also Wreckfish in Liverpool and Kala, due to open in Manchester in 2019.

 

14:00 – A HIT OF HERITAGE

Take your pick for an afternoon of unique heritage attractions and experiences. Chester Castle reopened to the public last year and features the 12th-century Agricola Tower, the first stone gateway to Chester Castle, which had been founded by William the Conqueror in 1070 in the south west part of the city. Open during the summer months, you can soak up views across the city from the tower and then head over to the Grosvenor Museum or St. Michaels Church on Bridge Street, where plans are well underway for a brand new heritage attraction – watch this space! Heading out of town, The Lion Salt Works Museum is a restored historic open-pan salt making site where you can find out about the curious impact of salt on mid-Cheshire’s people, economy and landscape. Or for something completely different, try theAmazing Women by Rail trail which invites visitors to explore the fascinating and often hidden histories of women who lived and worked in areas along the Mid Cheshire and Calder Valley railway lines; from writers, artists and sportswomen to campaigners, suffragettes and politicians.

 

18:00 – ENJOY INDEPENDENT EATS

Chester’s bar and restaurant scene is booming at the moment, with independents at the heart of the scene. Book an early dinner at The Chef’s Table and let the small but passionate team look after you or Porta, a low-key, high-demand Spanish joint run by brothers Ben & Joe Wright. Alternatively, make the a pilgrimage to Stockport to sample culinary storytelling via a blind-tasting menu put together by one of the UK’s most exciting young chefs, Sam Buckley at Where the Light Gets In. You’ll need to book well in advance for the latter, however, given the perfect 10 score from Guardian reviewer Marina O’Loughlin last year.

 

19:30 – STORYTIME

Opened in May 2017, and then formally opened in June 2018 by The Queen and The Duchess of Sussex, Storyhouse is a sprawling multi-arts centre incorporating a library, theatre and cinema. It’s one of the country’s most successful cultural buildings, welcoming one million customers in its first year and is the perfect place to while away your first night in Chester. During the summer months look out for moonlight cinema screenings and open air theatre events in Grosvenor Park run by the Storyhouse team.

 

 

 

DAY TWO

 

10:30 – HAVE A MONKEY OF A TIME

Your second day needs to be all about exploring the tourism attractions of wider Cheshire and no visit to county is complete without a visit to Chester Zoo. The UK’s most popular zoo with over 21,000 animals and 500 species, it’s been the subject of several high profile TV series’ including the BBC drama Our Zoo, which chronicled the inspiring story of founder George Mottershead and his family in the 1930s. Major recent developments at the zoo include ‘Islands’, which showcases the tropical environments of six South East Asian microclimates with immersive and interactive experiences throughout, plus a newly-expanded nature reserve, located on the zoo’s doorstep which is free to enter. A must-see event during winter isThe Lanterns, a light festival which turns the zoo into a magical festival wonderland featuring colourful, over-sized animal illuminations.

OR

10:30 – GET YOUR GEEK ON

For over 50 years, the giant Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank has been a familiar feature of the Cheshire landscape and an internationally-renowned landmark in the world of astronomy. It’s now firmly establishing itself as a tourism destination too after the UK government nominated it for UNESCO World Heritage status earlier this year. There’s the telescope itself but also several pavilions exploring in great detail our understanding of space, stars and planets so far. Taking afternoon tea at the onsite café with the telescope and rolling hills of Cheshire as a backdrop is surely one of the most unique and unusual experiences you can have in the country. And if you want to see Jodrell Bank at its best, visit during the annual Blue Dot which offers a boutique festival combining music, art and science.

OR

10:30 – EXPLORE A COUNTRY ESTATE

Tatton Park is perhaps the best known of Cheshire’s country estates and is indeed one of the most loved historical sites in the UK. It houses a neo-classical mansion, acres of landscape gardens, a huge deer park and a Tudor Old Hall. The park is alsor home to a rare breed farm, which has recently been reworked as the ‘Field to Fork’ story, explaining in honest terms where food comes from by bringing to life Cheshire’s farming history with costumed actors. Not one for vegetarians or vegans perhaps, but an essential education piece for children, it’s also possible to get hands-on with workshops and agricultural skills classes such as cheese-making and bee-keeping.

 

16:00 – BRAIN FREEZE!

Whichever activity you choose, a crucial stop on your way back to Chester has to be The Ice Cream Farm at Tattenhall. Primarily an adventure park for kids, it also features what is considered to be ‘World’s Largest Purpose Built Ice Cream Parlour’ housing all manner of award-winning ice cream flavours. It’s probably no surprise that The Ice Cream Farm made it into the top 20 visitor attractions in Britain in 2017. However, if ice cream’s not your thing, back in Chester make a beeline for The Cheese Shop which stocks over 200 varieties including the iconic Cheshire cheese. We also recommend stocking up on Pant Glas Bach Preserves’ award-winning marmalade and other local treats at Hawarden Estate Farm Shop.

 

19:00 – SECRET STOP OFF

It’s a relatively little-known fact that much of the hit show Peaky Blinders was actually shot on location in Cheshire, including in particular, Arley Hall which stands in as anti-hero Thomas Shelby’s country home. Mark this connection with a visit to hidden speakeasy Prohibition where you can enjoy cocktails and jazz music, then head off to Simon Radley at the Chester Grosvenor for an exquisite dinner that Mr Shelby would certainly approve. Remarkably, the restaurant has held a Michelin start since 1990 and also has four AA Rosettes and an AA Notable Wine List Award.

48 hours in … Cardiff

Europe’s youngest capital city, Cardiff is also one of the easiest to enjoy. The old docks are now a striking waterfront and the compact city centre is packed with museums and concert halls, energetic nightlife, great food, some of the best shopping in western Britain and a vibrant cultural scene. It’s also home to world-class sports stadium, and with Cardiff City FC joining the Premier League this season - for only the second time in the Club’s 199 year history - there’s never been a better time to visit.

TIME TO CHECK IN

With the rapid expansion of tourism in recent years, Cardiff offers plenty of choice for places to crash, but few are as impressive as The Exchange. Housed in one of Cardiff’s most significant historical buildings, this 200-room luxury hotel was once the headquarters of the global coaling industry and where the first £1 million business deal was made in 1904. Another luxury option is the glass-fronted St. David’s Hotel, recently taken over by the achingly-cool Principal hotel group and located on Cardiff Bay. However, if boutique is more your style, The Pontcanna Inn offer just ten wholly Instagrammable rooms, whilst Hotel Indigo has recently expanded into the city with the addition of an impressive roof terrace that offers spectacular views of Cardiff Castle and the surrounds.

DAY ONE

10:30 – FEED YOUR CURIOSITY

Arguably the best way to plunge straight into the vibrant life of Cardiff – and get talking to its people – is to take a culinary tour of the capital’s thriving food scene with a local guide from Loving Welsh Food. Cardiff Tasting Tours will take you all over the city centre, calling in at specialist food producers, retailers and the famous indoor market. Six delicious food and drink tastings include continental meats, cheeses, cockles, laverbread and Welsh beers and ciders, plus along the way you’ll pass beautiful parks, majestic buildings and landmarks including Cardiff Castle and the Principality Stadium.

14:00 – VISIT THE DRAGON’S LAIR

Whilst Cardiff City FC may be joining the Premier League, if you want to really understand the soul of the Welsh people, back track to the Principality Stadium and partake in a tour of perhaps one of the world’s most enjoyable sporting arenas, home to the fierce Welsh Rugby Team – and host stadium for the UEFA Champions League Final 2017. Experience the build-up before the match in the Dragon’s Lair, Wales’ team dressing room and hear the spine-tingling roar of 74,500 fans as you walk down the players’ tunnel towards the hallowed turf.

OR

14:00 – EMBRACE AN ADRENALINE RUSH

Wales has no shortage of rapids on its rivers, but the Olympic-standard ones at Cardiff International White Water roar and tumble through this man-made white water course right in the heart Cardiff Bay. Two-hour coached sessions of exhilarating whitewater rafting are suitable for complete beginners and seasoned experts, and if rafting’s not your bag, you can opt for canoeing, kayaking, stand up paddleboarding, “hotdogging” in inflatable kayaks or bodyboarding. If you still want more once you’ve finished on the waves, you can strap on a harness and cross the high ropes timber structure towering above the white water course – before tackling the Burma Bridge, Monkey Swing, Barrel Crawl and Zip Wire.

16:00 – EXPLORE THE CITY OF ARCADES

It’s 160 years since the first of seven Cardiff arcades – The Royal Arcade – opened, and there has been a recent push to celebrate the collective glory of the city’s “crown jewels”. With over 100 local eateries and independent retailers, the arcades allow for a shopping experience peppered with character, eclecticism, stories and history; all brought together under a roof of classic Victorian and Edwardian architecture. Don’t miss Gin and Juice, the only cocktail-come-salad bar in the city; tattoo and barber shop Sleep When your Dead; and the world’s oldest record store, Spiller Records.

19:30 – GET STUFFED ON COWBRIDGE ROAD

Home to a mind-boggling array of independent eateries, the long stretch from Victoria Park to the River Taff is the perfect place to take evening stroll and decide on where to eat. From pizza at The Dough Thrower to nouvelle Indian cuisine at Purple Poppadom, build-your-own burgers at Time and Beef or delicious Lebanese takeaway at Falafel Wales; this is authentic foodie heaven. If you prefer your dinner with a local flavour, make a beeline for new Pontcanna bistro Milkwood, where you can chow down on dishes like Sewin (Welsh sea trout) with leeks and brown shrimp.

22:00 – ENJOY BEER AND BLUES

Cardiff is one of the best places in the UK to sample the taste bud-teasing pleasures of craft beer. At Porter’s, which contains Wales’ first pub theatre (and has no sign over the door) they serve a honey beer called Hiver and a seaweed ale that goes by the name of Kelpie. It’s also one of many venues offering jazz night’s – albeit more dancing than placid – across the city which also includes industrial-styled Tiny Rebel, Americana speakeasy Bootlegger and the aptly named Café Jazz. Visit in October for Sŵn festival which transforms the city into a musical adventure playground.

LATE – SNACKS AND STORIES ON CHIPPY LANE

When the night is done you might be tempted to grab some late night grub, and where better to visit than Chippy Lane, technically Caroline Street, which is considered to be first place that the eponymous fish and chips were sold in Cardiff in the 19th century.

 

DAY TWO

10:30 – BRUNCH BEAUTIFULLY AT ANNA LOKA

Not the name of the owner, Anna Loka roughly translates to ‘Earth Food’ in Sanskrit, and at this restaurant you’ll find exactly that: a plant-based menu where you can load up on a full vegan breakfast with peanut butter and coffee pancakes on the side. If you’re hankering for a more traditional brunch menu try The Early Bird for must-have French toast or proper café Garlands where you can enjoy a “Good Morning Mumbles” breakfast which includes Welsh Rarebit, laverbread and cockles. For something completely different try the Indian breakfast at Milgi.

12:00 – BREW UP ON A CRAFT BEER TOUR

Explore the art, science and culture of brewing a Cardiff Craft Beer Tour by Brewerism Brewery Tours. Over the course of three to four hours you’ll have the chance to see the full brewing process at Crafty Devil Brewery before hitting 3-4 stops – from trendy taprooms to marvellous micropubs – all within about a 15 minute walk around the hip Canton area of the city.

OR

12:00 - DISCOVER PROPER WELSH HISTORY

Few places define Welsh identity as profoundly as St Fagans, which opened in 1948 in the grounds of a 16th-century manor house as the very first national open-air museum in the UK. Since then more than 40 original Welsh buildings from different historic periods have been rebuilt piece by piece in the 100-acre park including houses, a farm, a school and a splendid workmen’s institute. Get out of town to visit this glorious architectural treasure house which is deservedly the most popular heritage attraction in Wales.

15:00 – INDULGE YOUR SWEET SIDE

Extraordinary cakes and pastries are worth making the journey north to the Maindy area of the city where Cocorico Patisserie can be found. This is Instagram heaven featuring creative creations including the Banana in Pyjama (banana mousse, pineapple cremeux, mango jelly and coconut dacquoise), Praline Spinner (vanilla dipomate, Gianduju crumbs, salted caramel with Dulcey and Gianduju whipped ganache), and a spectacular array of colourful macarons!

16:00 – PHOTOGRAPH SOME FURRY FRIENDS

Besides the grand splendour of Cardiff Castle, one odd quirk to take note of whilst enjoying a stroll around its exterior is The Animal Wall. Designed by architect William Burges for the 3rd Marquess of Bute, the much-loved wall features models of animals including moneys and lions, a seal, pelican and many more, poking out ready to be snapped.

18:00 – DINE WITH DIFFERENCE

Based at Her Majesty’s Prison Cardiff, The Clink is a fine-dining venue run by prison inmates serving organic Welsh produce has been voted one of the best restaurants in the UK. Taste the very best of Wales while giving a helping hand to those who deserve a second chance in life.

19:30 – CATCH A SHOW

Finish your weekend by taking in a show at the incredible Wales Millennium Centre on Cardiff Bay. This architectural marvel is also a globally significant cultural landmark – a performing arts centre with a mission to “inspire our nation and impress the world”. Home of the Welsh National Opera and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, it also stages musicals, stand-up comedy and art exhibitions.

48 Hours in… Dundee

Dundee is one of the best destinations in Europe to visit in 2018 according to Lonely Planet and there are myriad of reasons why this Scottish city – just over an hour by train from Edinburgh on Scotland’s east coast – deserves this accolade. Its ever-growing cultural scene, the redevelopment of its historic waterfront, the stunning V&A Dundee due to open this September, a variety of art and design galleries, a diverse range of bars and restaurants, a thrilling music and events scene and the fact it was named as the UK’s first UNESCO City of Design… the list goes on!

 

Time to check in

From boutique to budget, the range of accommodation in Dundee is expanding, with more than 1,200 hotel beds expected to be ready by the end of 2018.

Joining hotels such as Malmaison, APEX, Holiday Inn Express and the recently opened Hampton by Hilton is a new Hotel Indigo, which will reopen in a former jute mill. This 102-bedroom hotel with 12 junior suites is scheduled to open in August. Dundee’s new train station is also due to open this summer following a £14m renovation, with a 120-bed Sleeperz hotel above it, opening on 9 July. Close to the station on the waterfront, the refurbished Premier Inn has also reopened with an additional 60 bedrooms.

 

Day One

09:00 BE THE FIRST TO VISIT A WORLD-CLASS ATTRACTION

One of the world’s most anticipated cultural attractions will open its doors to the public on 15 September. The magnificent Kengo Kuma-designed V&A Dundee is Scotland’s first design museum and will be home to the country’s design heritage, fascinating exhibitions, as well as permanent galleries and exciting features. The opening exhibition will be Ocean Liners: Speed and Style, which will delve into the history of these powerful steamships.

 

11:00 CHANNEL YOUR INNER PIRATE

Head out onto the River Tay with Pirate Boats and join an exhilarating one-hour boat trip that brings the history of the city to life. You’ll board in beautiful Broughty Ferry, just a ten-minute drive from the city centre, and take in sights along the revamped waterfront, including Broughty Castle and the new V&A building. If you’re there between May and September, you may also be joined for the ride by some dolphins.

 

13:00 LUNCH WITH COCKTAILS ON THE SIDE

Did you know that Dundee is the original home of marmalade (a citrus fruit preserve, commonly made from oranges)? It seems only fitting that you head to independent café Avery & Co and order a Marmalade Mojito served in a Mackays Dundee marmalade jar to go with lunch. This eaterie has an excellent vegan menu alongside meat feasts such as Korean pulled pork and homemade burgers with roast garlic mayo.

 

15:00 EXPLORE THE CITY’S SOCIAL HERITAGE

Head to the Verdant Works – a refurbished jute mill (jute is a natural fibre) – to discover the absorbing story of Dundee’s industrial textile heritage and social history. Within is the Jute Museum and its range of interactive hands-on activities, and then head to High Mill, which was recently restored and now houses an original and working Boulton & Watt steam engine. It’s then worth jumping in a taxi for the five-minute drive to RRS Discovery at Discovery Point to experience what life was like in the Antarctic with Captain Scott and his crew.

 

17:00 TASTE THE LOCAL SPIRITS
Time for a gin and tonic! Local distiller Verdant Spirits, the first distillery in Dundee for 200 years, and which won Scottish Gin of the Year in 2017, has plans to open a gin school and visitor centre ready for summer 2018.

 

19:30 DINE AT THE HOTTEST NEW RESTAURANT

Brassica restaurant, bar and bakery only threw open its doors to customers in June, so it’s one of the hottest eateries in town. The restaurant has taken over one of the old vault spaces in the ground of the city’s historic Caird Hall building, overlooking the waterfront, and all its produce is sourced within a 50-mile radius of Dundee. Make sure you check out its Champagne and Gin Menu, which lists many local Scottish gins.

 

21:00 BE SPOOKED WITH SPINE-CHILLING TALES

Be brave… and listen to spooky tales of the city’s sometimes gruesome past on a tour with Dark Dundee. These walking tours take you through stories of the city’s past, via places such as HM Frigate Unicorn, and The Howff, a 16th-century graveyard in the city centre.

 

DAY TWO

09:00 EMBARK ON AN ARTISTIC TRAIL

Wander through eight open-gallery spaces that are home to art, history and environment exhibitions at The McManus: Dundee’s Art Gallery and Museum. In addition to the permanent displays, there is a changing programme of exhibitions and events throughout the year. New exhibition Bash Street’s Back, celebrating the iconic comic Beano’s 80th birthday and charting Dundee’s role in comic book history, is open until October – it’s a fantastic example of British popular culture through the decades.

 

11:00 For an example of the city’s contemporary art inventory, head to the DCA (Dundee Contemporary Arts). Converted from an old brick warehouse it combines art galleries, print studio, two cinemas, and a shop with a café and restaurant. If you’re in town before the end of the summer, catch the first major European show of work by acclaimed American artist Eve Fowler. Entitled what a slight. what a sound. what a universal shudder, it’s at DCA until 26 August.

 

13:00 DINE AMONG ARTWORKS

After a morning filled with artistic experiences, where better to stop for lunch than Gallery 48, a contemporary art gallery space with a tapas restaurant and gin bar that showcases art work, often from the neighbouring University of Dundee’s Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design.

 

15:00 TAKE A GUIDED CULTURAL TOUR

Behind the Scenes Dundee is a guided walking tour developed by Creative Dundee and Dundee Contemporary Arts, which takes you backstage to see how the city’s cultural venues work. You’ll also visit public art, creative studios and independent shops. An alternative way to see the city is with Run the Sights. Combine a run with a guided exploration of some of the city’s most interesting and beautiful locations.

 

17:00 EXPERIENCE A UNIQUE ART TRAIL

Dundee’s first street-art project covers the city’s hidden lanes and corners; the idea is to encourage people to explore parts of the city that wouldn’t feature on a usual walking trail. It has matched up unloved doorways with street artists, who have then created a unique piece of street art in a forgotten place. Called Open Close, the trail is available to download online.

 

19:30 FINE-DINING FEAST

Contemporary Scottish food is served up alongside gorgeous views over the sand dunes to Tentsmuir Forest at fine-dining restaurant The Tayberry, in the area of Broughty Ferry. Award-winning chef-proprietor Adam Newth has created an innovative and mouth-watering menu comprising delicacies such as risotto of brown crab with avocado ice-cream and pan-roast cod with sweetcorn bhajis.

 

21:00 HIT THE NIGHTLIFE

Dundee has some fantastic bars to end the evening in. New to the bar scene is King of Islington on Union Street, fast gaining a reputation for quality cocktails and a huge selection of rum; or try out Draffens, Dundee’s speakeasy bar located inside a former department store on Couttie’s Wynd, one of Dundee’s old cobbled lanes.

 

Getting there: Dundee is just under 1.5 hours by train from Edinburgh, 1 ¾ hours from Glasgow and you can take the Caledonian Sleeper train from London overnight (it takes just under seven hours).

Day trips from London – must-do experiences in Hastings, Battle & Rye

Jump on a train heading south-east from London and in under 1.5 hours you’re in what is known as ‘1066 Country’ (due to its connections with the famous Battle of Hastings in 1066), in the towns of Hastings, Battle and Rye. Visit for a day of unique heritage, seaside experiences, festivals and much more!

 

3 MUST-DO EXPERIENCES – HASTINGS

Not only is the Jerwood Gallery set in a stunning glass building on the Old Town’s fishing beach it’s also at forefront of contemporary art with changing exhibitions and home to a fabulous collection of 20th- and 21st-century British art.

Head down to St Clements Caves and embark on a Smugglers’ Adventure. You’ll join notorious smuggler ‘Hairy Jack’ through underground tunnels and caverns on this interactive experience that tells the tales of smugglers through the ages. You can also enter the attraction via the original West Hill funicular railway, which retains its original Victorian wooden carriages.

Stroll around the picturesque Old Town, a bustling haven of cobbled streets, ‘twittens’ (narrow passageways) and a flourishing arts community, which you can explore through its myriad of antique stores and independent art shops. Alternatively, explore off-the-beaten track at the America Ground and White Rock area of Hastings. This cool, creative neighbourhood has a fascinating history and is now home to independent restaurants, cafés and shops, funky clubs and bars, as well as Source BMX Park, the biggest underground BMX park in Europe, which runs its own ‘Battle of Hastings’ in September.

 

Where can I eat?

Fresh fish lands on Hastings’ beaches every day, serving the town’s restaurants and cafés. Head down to The Stade area, the town’s fishing and cultural quarter, and dine on smoked fish and fresh cockles at Rock-a-Nore Kitchen, or admire the views of the seafront while munching oysters and other delicacies from the sea at the Old Custom House Restaurant. Round off your lunch with a luscious homemade ice cream from Di Polas ice cream parlour, where flavours range from sea salt caramel to apple and ginger.

 

And if you do want to stay overnight…

Hastings has some genuinely charming B&Bs to choose from. Among them is The Laindons, a pretty guesthouse with five rooms located in the Old Town within a Georgian Grade II-listed building. It’s kept so much of its original character and comes with fabulous views of Hastings Old Town. The Old Rectory boutique B&B is also housed in a historic building and is beautifully designed within, showcasing work by local artists and designers. For hotel choices, check out The White Rock Hotel, a stylish seafront property with contemporary, comfortable rooms and a terrace café/bar, perfect for a meal or drinks while overlooking the coastal view. 

 

3 MUST-DO EXPERIENCES – BATTLE

Re-live the atmosphere and tension of more than 600 soldiers clashing at the annual battle re-enactment of the Battle of Hastings. Held every October (13-14 in 2018), visitors can expect a day being immersed in medieval life and discovering what it was like on this famous date that changed history.

The market town of Battle grew up around Battle Abbey, built by William the Conqueror following the Battle of Hastings as a penance ordered by the Pope. Now looked after by English Heritage, along with the battle site, you can explore the abbey ruins and even stand on the spot where King Harold was said to have perished.

The town of Battle that subsequently spread beyond the Abbey walls is now a charming town to explore and offers cultural gems during the year. Throughout October is the Battle Arts & Music Festival, featuring events ranging from classical recitals, contemporary dance, author events and a range of artistic masterclasses and demonstrations.

 

Where can I eat?

For a light meal of sandwiches, cream teas and homemade cakes, Lavender Abbey Tea Rooms – with its cosy log burner to warm up against during the cooler months – is a popular choice and runs an interesting programme of evening events. A picturesque option is The Orangery at Ashburnham Place, where you can have lunch and afternoon tea in a Lancelot Capability Brown-designed building, which is home to many delicate plants including the oldest camellia in the country. Or stop by The Bull Inn Pub & Restaurant – a 17th-century coaching inn – for English pub classics such as pies, fish and chips, and steaks.

 

And if you do want to stay overnight…

Once a gunpowder owner’s residence, on the site of an 18th-century gunpowder works, the PowderMills is now a gorgeous country hotel in Battle, set in 150 acres of parkland and lakes. Just outside of Battle, overlooking the tranquil village green of Sedlescombe, is the family run Brickwall Hotel, which was built at the end of 16th century for the local ironmaster. And, for a luxury B&B stay, try Boreham House, around a ten-minute drive from Battle and situated in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This Grade II-listed Georgian house, originally the home of the local apothecary, also offers a converted self-catering cottage in what was the house’s original stables and coach house.

 

3 MUST-DO EXPERIENCES – RYE

Made up of attractive cobbled streets and a gamut of narrow passageways, the medieval town of Rye is made for exploring. It’s like stepping back in time as you discover buildings dating back to the medieval, Tudor and Georgian eras. It’s quaint and quirky – Mermaid Street, for example, is home to ancient buildings with unique names such as ‘The House Opposite’ or ‘The House with the Seat’.

Close to town is Great Dixter, the birthplace and home of renowned gardener and writer, the late Christopher Lloyd, and is well worth a visit for its glorious gardens – incorporating a walled garden, the sunk garden and the peacock garden – and for its horticultural events that run throughout the year.

For a true taste of Rye’s countryside, head to the award-winning, 850-acre Oxney Organic Estate, around six miles from the town, for a guided tour of its vineyard, and enjoy a tasting of its organic still and sparking wines, which only use the vineyard’s grapes and follow a natural winemaking ethos. It also has holiday cottages on site and recently introduced renovated vintage shepherds’ huts to stay in.

 

Where can I eat?

A pretty little clapperboard pub on the outskirts of Rye where the Military Canal meets the River Rother, The Globe Inn Marsh has a fantastic menu of locally sourced fish and other local ingredients, plus a bar that stocks more than 40 gins.

Another great fish restaurant is Webbe’s at the Fish Café, located in a listed building near the Landgate Arch in Rye, and was the first completely fire-proof building of its kind in the UK when it was built in 1907. It’s all about fresh local fish here, brought in from the ports of Rye and Hastings,  

Ten minutes from Rye is restaurant with rooms, The Gallivant Hotel, with a superb bistro that overlooks the beautiful sandy dunes at Camber Sands. It’s passionate about using local produce across its menu, with a daily changing menu highlighting the season’s best, and boasts a large list of English wines.

 

And if you do want to stay overnight…

Sloping ceilings, creaky floorboards and a diverting history encompassing 18th-century smugglers make the Mermaid Inn a special place to stay in Rye. History oozes out of every corner – its cellars date back to 1156 and the building itself was rebuilt in 1420 – although you’ll find a very contemporary welcome.

Another fine example of a historic inn is The George on Rye’s High Street, which dates back to 1575. A luxury hotel, each room is designed with its own bespoke furniture and colour theme. Dine at its in-house restaurant and enjoy a drink in its own pub, The George Tap.

Looking for more of a glamping experience? A ten-minute drive from Rye and you’ll find yourself in the village of Beckley, and at Swallowtail Hill, a farm, meadow and woodland where you can stay in either of its charming cottages – the Woodcutter’s Cottage or the Meadow Keeper’s Cottage – or its two cosy wood cabins. It’s a great place for a full digital detox.

 

Getting there: Hastings, Battle and Rye are located in the county of East Sussex on England’s south coast. Trains leave from either London St Pancras or London Charing Cross (depending on your destination) and take around 1.5 hours.

Six of the best English country gardens

An English country garden is a sight to behold and there are plenty within an hour’s journey of central London that can easily be visited on a day trip. Here are just a few suggestions of some of the best late summer season gardens to visit before autumn sets in.

 

RHS Wisley, Surrey

The Royal Horticultural Society has a wonderful gem in the heart of Surrey with its gardens at Wisley – there’s a rich variety of areas to visit and it’s a garden that continues to evolve. Last year saw the opening of its new Exotic Garden, a beautiful showcase of plants with a tropical look but which can grow well outdoors in a typical British summer climate. You’ll find a dazzling array of flowers, palms and dahlias, which look their very best up until late summer. Discover pretty mixed summer borders, as well as visit the exciting, vibrant displays at the Trials Field, designed to inspire visitors and demonstrate good environmental practice. The many roses at Wisley are in stunning bloom and August is also a great month to view the vivid blues of Agapanthus. Garden lovers should put the 4-9 September in their diaries for the RHS Wisley Flower Show; expect to see a Flower Bus, Anita Nowinska’s exhibition of floral artwork and more than 100 dahlia exhibitors.

Getting there: Take the train from London Waterloo to Effingham Junction (45 minutes) then a taxi to Wisley (ten minutes).

 

National Trust Cliveden, Berkshire

The numerous, magnificent gardens of Cliveden – ranging from the Water Garden, Walled Garden, Round Garden, the Long Garden, the Parterre and all the spectacular garden sculptures – are maintained by the National Trust and are as glorious to visit in the late summer months as they are early in the season. All summer long there’s a riot of colour and scents from its Rose Garden, where more than 900 roses bloom until September. The Rose Garden was recreated just four years ago, based on an original 1950s design by famed garden designer Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe, and include various elements of the gardens’ original 18th-century wilderness landscape. A lovely way to top off a trip to Cliveden’s gardens is by booking tickets to an event in its formal gardens. Bring a picnic hamper and enjoy performances ranging from a new adaptation of a David Walliams novel to a reworking of a classic Sherlock Holmes case. And while the historic Cliveden House, on the wider estate, is now a luxury hotel, you can buy a ticket for a short-guided tour available three afternoons a week until the end of October.

Getting there: Take the train from London Paddington to Bourne End, (50 minutes) then walk a pleasant two miles through countryside to Cliveden.

 

Hatfield House & Gardens, Hertfordshire

History emanates from every corner of Hatfield House, the home of the seventh Marquess and Marchioness of Salisbury and their family; the estate has been in the Cecil family for 400 years. As well as the chance to see some of the finest examples of 17th-century architecture in the country, visitors will find Hatfield’s gardens just as impressive. Explore the roses and herbaceous plants in the West Garden, designed more than 100 years ago, and the Sundial Garden that was commissioned to mark Hatfield’s 400th anniversary in 2011. It’s also a wonderful place to discover contemporary sculpture set within the gardens – the new ‘Renaissance’ water sculpture by renowned sculptor Angela Connor, sits on the North Front of the House – as well as attend performances during its summer Theatre in the Park programme. Look out for the unique event on 1 September when the Urban Soul Orchestra performs classic Ibiza anthems in this gorgeous setting.

Getting there: Take the fast train from London Kings Cross to Hatfield, (20 minutes) and walk 15 minutes from the station to Hatfield House.

 

Leeds Castle, Kent

Leeds Castle is perhaps one of the most attractive castles in England – and its gardens are just as spectacular; there’s more than 500 acres of stunning parkland and formal gardens. Its Culpeper Garden – named after the 17th-century owners of the castle – is a fine example of an English country garden, an informal layout with roses, poppies and lupins creating a wonderful colourful display. Its Woodland Garden runs alongside the River Len and is currently being redeveloped to create six magnificent individual gardens to explore. Visit in September (15-20) for its Festival of Flowers; discover floral displays inside the castle and around the rest of the grounds, all themed around ‘Ladies Day’ in 2018. Admire the creativity of award-winning floral designers, participate in floral workshops and watch specialist talks and demonstrations. Fortunately, if you like what you see, your admission ticket allows you to visit as many times as you like over 12 months, so it’s worth returning to admire the gardens in different seasons.

Getting there: Take the train from London Victoria to Bearsted (one hour) and take the coach shuttle service from the station to the castle, which runs between April and September.

 

Eltham Palace & Gardens, south-east London

Eltham Palace has an illustrious history; starting life as a medieval palace, it became a Tudor royal residence and was turned into an Art Deco mansion created by millionaires Stephen and Virginia Courtauld in the 1930s. The palace is a must-visit, yet so are its 19 acres of historic gardens, which, like the home, boast a mix of medieval features in its landscape. Late summer is all about its long herbaceous border that encircles the medieval palace, which becomes a riot of purples, yellows, blues and coppers. It’s also home to 18 different varieties of oriental poppy plus a huge assortment of peonies and clematis. Wonderful scents arise from the plentiful roses in the Rose Garden and the Rose Quadrant, which include several historic rose varieties; late summer is also the perfect time to see the wildflower meadows and colourful dahlias.

Getting there: Take the train from London Charing Cross to Mottingham (25 minutes) and then walk to the palace (ten minutes).

 

RHS Garden Hyde Hall, Essex

Set in 360 acres of land, RHS Garden Hyde Hall was donated to the RHS in 1993 by renowned gardeners Helen and Dick Robinson and is in one of the driest parts of the UK, with an average rainfall of just 600mm. Hyde Hall's Clover Hill is a patchwork of colour, with vast swathes of grasses and herbaceous perennials flowing through its landscape. There are plenty of horticultural highlights; Hyde Hall holds the national plant collection of Viburnum, numbering around 250 accessions; the Dry Garden is one of breathtaking beauty even where there is very little rainfall. Don’t forget to visit the Global Growth Vegetable Garden, which opened last summer and features unusual fruit and vegetables from around the world. Plans for next year include the Big Sky Meadows, an ambitious planting project to create up to 50 acres of perennial meadowland.

Getting there: Take the train from London Liverpool Street to Chelmsford (30 minutes) and take a taxi or bus to Hyde Hall (20 minutes).

Bristol: England’s urban art capital

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

 

What to…See

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

 

What to…Do

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

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

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

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

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

 

Where to…Stay

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