Bristol: City thrills at a gentle pace

Bristol: City thrills at a gentle pace

Britain's best football stadium tours

Manchester City Stadium
Britain's best football stadium tours

Best annual events in Britain in 2019

Best annual events in Britain in 2019

B-roll Download

B-roll Download

60 minutes from…Belfast

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

Birdwatch at Castle Espie

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

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

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

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

Boat on Lough Neagh

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

Go full-steam ahead in Whitehead

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

Uncover the beauty of Lisburn

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

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

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

Discover the mesmerising Mourne Mountains

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

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

Traditional Scottish inns

Traditional Scottish inns

48 Hours in Birmingham

Time to check in

As befits a city of its size, Birmingham has a multitude of hotels, ranging from budget chains to luxury properties and everything in between. The seven-storey, 131-bedroom Pentahotel is one of the city’s coolest properties – its bar, restaurant and lounge being a particular draw thanks to its funky décor – and is only a ten-minute walk from the train station, and just five from the city’s must-visit Bullring Shopping Centre. For boutique-style accommodation set within Victorian architecture, The Edgbaston – located in the Edgbaston neighbourhood of Birmingham, the famous home of cricket – has just expanded to offer 20 contemporary, individually styled bedrooms. You’ll find four-star luxury at the Genting Hotel, situated right at the heart of leisure and entertainment complex Resorts World Birmingham and, come early 2019, The Grand, a luxury, 180-room hotel with a restaurant and bar, a spa and a rooftop infinity pool, is due to open in one of the city’s best-known, Grade II-listed buildings.

DAY ONE

09:00 Did you know that Birmingham has more miles of canals than Venice, all of which are lined with beautifully restored industrial heritage landmarks or striking contemporary buildings? Embarking on a canal boat tour is one of the best ways to explore the city’s heritage. There are several routes to choose from, ranging from tours of the more modern developments of Birmingham to the city’s pretty suburbs and out further into the countryside.

11:00 Discover adventure in the heart of a city as you test your mental and physical abilities at Birmingham’s recently opened Bear Grylls Adventure, the TV presenter’s eponymous activities venue. Choose from thrilling climbing challenges, tackle extreme high-ropes courses, experience unadulterated joy as you free fall at indoor skydiving, or take a deep breath as you submerge for the underwater challenges. The adrenaline rush will set you up for the day ahead!

13:00 How about a botanical-inspired cocktail – think poppy and pomegranate martini or a sage and rhubarb spritz – created from greenhouse herbs grown on-site to accompany a hearty lunch in a charming venue? The Botanist evokes a secret garden atmosphere, its décor embellished with various knick-knacks and ornaments. The restaurant serves up BBQ, deli and rotisserie-based dishes such as its Famous Hanging Kebabs, ranging from Tandoori cod and king prawn to lamb kofta with harissa jam.

15:00 One of Britain’s most famous confectionary brands, Cadbury, was born and bred in Birmingham. Discover its story – as well as feast on as much chocolate as you can eat – at Cadbury World, 20 minutes from the city centre. You’ll find out how chocolate is made, explore the 4D Chocolate Adventure zone and the 4D cinema experiences and watch the chocolatiers at work. And don’t forget to stock up on treats at the world’s largest Cadbury shop on-site!

17:00 Make your way over to the Custard Factory, the city’s creative quarter, and enjoy a round of crazy golf against a backdrop of graffiti art and cool music at Ghetto Golf. After you’ve hit 18 holes sip a cocktail or two at its stylish bar.

19:00 Head back into the city centre for a meal at one of Birmingham’s newest dining experiences, Pint Shop. Located in a listed building dating back to 1860 in Birmingham’s former financial quarter, Bennett’s Hill, the restaurant focuses on a menu of seasonal British produce and local and national beers.

DAY TWO

09:00 Gain a genuine insight into what life was like in the Black Country (just west of Birmingham) as the region grew into one of the world’s first industrial landscapes at the Black Country Living Museum. This fascinating open-air museum is packed with original period shops, houses and villages, with costumed characters to relate stories of what it was like to live and work in the region in the mid-19th century. Plans are also under way to create a new town centre telling the story of the Black Country from the 1940s to the 1960s.

11:00 In addition to its well-documented industrial heritage, Birmingham is renowned for its jewellery and metalworking heritage. Head to the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter in the Jewellery Quarter to discover more – the museum is a perfect time capsule, built around a preserved jewellery workshop. Take a guided tour, explore the galleries and watch live jewellery-making demonstrations before exploring the Jewellery Quarter itself which, as well as the ideal place to search for a new bracelet or earrings, boasts a thriving arts scene.

13:00 Stop for a quick bite to eat at the Jewellery Quarter-based Rose Villa Tavern. Described as a ‘vintage Victorian mecca’ it’s a highly decorative venue (think antler chandeliers and artistic tiles), creating a lovely atmosphere in which to enjoy classic diner-style food, craft beers and maybe a sample of one of the 100 vodkas it stocks.

15:00 Birmingham has long been a magnet for TV and film producers; one of the biggest hits recently filmed here is Peaky Blinders, a show set in the city during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Discover Birmingham’s darker past on a Peaky Blinders-inspired walking tour. There are several tour companies offering such tours, as well as a host of other walking routes. BrumTours, for example, also runs a BrumPubs tour, a Birth of Birmingham tour and a Thousand Trades tour, as an homage to the city’s rich trading and manufacturing past.

17:00 Head to the neighbourhood of Digbeth, a cool, creative hub where street and graffiti artists have changed the outlook of the area’s classic red brick walls. Order a drink in one of the newest bars in the area, The Ruin, which also recently unveiled a mural-style map featuring 12 independent and unique neighbours, together called ‘The Digbeth Dozen’. Created by Birmingham graffiti artist Title (Andy Mills) it features venues such as the street-food focused Digbeth Dining Club, where you can stop by for a bite to eat on Fridays and Saturdays.

19:00 Birmingham is one of England’s cultural hubs, and an evening can be spent enjoying a production at one of its theatres. Check out the Birmingham Repertory Theatre for classic and contemporary theatre, the New Alexandra Theatre for its mix of musicals, comedy, drama and concerts, or the Midlands Arts Centre (MAC), which boasts four performance auditoria presenting a wide range of contemporary work across a variety of genres.

Getting there: Birmingham has its own international airport and can also be reached by train from both London and Manchester in 90 minutes.

10 Brilliant British Winter Vacation Ideas

Traveling in December to Britain is magical. With twinkling lights, mulled wine and holiday cheer in the air everywhere you go, the very best of Britain’s Christmas markets and holiday celebrations are back this year– bigger and better than ever before.

Where can you go to find that holiday feeling this year?

We’ve put together some of Britain’s most atmospheric holiday experiences to get you in the spirit…

ENGLAND

Christmas at Kew Gardens

What: The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew is transformed into an illuminated magical, mythical place with more than a million twinkling lights, during Christmas at Kew. The festive-inspired trail takes you along the Treetop Walkway to see enchanting sights, from enchanting optics to the flickering Fire Garden. (Father Christmas and his elves make a guest appearance occasionally, as well!)

Where: Kew Gardens is located in Richmond, London – approximately one hour by tube from Central London

When: 20 November - 5 January

 

Iconic Lights & Sights in Central London

What: Revel in the full beauty of London’s Christmas lights snuggled up on an open bus sightseeing tour – at night, for the full effect. Take in all the iconic sights including the Tower of LondonHarrods and Piccadilly, all dressed up in their Christmas best. Or, admire light displays by foot and head to Oxford StreetRegent Street and Carnaby Street for dazzling illuminations.

Where: all across London

When: November-January (varies)

 

See Claridge’s Designer Christmas Tree

What: Claridge’s much anticipated annual Christmas Tree is designed by a different icon each year. Fashion star Diane von Furstenberg created “The Tree of Love” for 2018 featuring 8,000 iridescent hand-painted silver-leafed leaves. Karl Lagerfeld and Dolce & Gabbana are among the other famous names to have provided some artistic flair since Claridge’s introduced the Christmas Tree in 2009.

Where: Claridge’s is located in London – a short walk from the Bond Street Underground station

When: From late November

 

Christmas Lights Tour of London

What: Tour the dazzling Christmas Lights of London. Be transported through London with friends and family during the 'Most Wonderful time of year', and see how the city comes alive with festive cheer!

Where: Departing from Leicester Square, the tour takes you past the iconic Christmas Tree in Trafalgar Square, Oxford Street, Regent Street and many more of London's famous streets.

When: Tours run from mid-November to late December.

 

Glow Wild in West Sussex

What: The Glow Wild winter lantern festival is a spellbinding trail that takes place at Wakehurst, a beautiful botanic garden and country estate in southern England. The event brings trees, ponds and forest floors to life with hundreds of glowing lanterns, torches of fire and magical soundscapes.

Where: Wakehurst Estate is located in West Sussex – approximately one hour 15minutes from London by rail.

When: Thursday to Sunday, 21 November - 22 December, 4.30pm-8pm.

 

Epic Illumination in Oxfordshire

What: Oxfordshire has so much rich history and culture to offer, and will be bustling with all things Christmas this winter. At Blenheim Palace (the birthplace of Winston Churchill), the Illuminated Christmas Lights Trail will be brighter than ever before with lasers, projections, and thousands of pea-lights. From the delicate and twinkling to the grand and spectacular, the Formal Gardens will light up once again for a festive journey of exploration and wonder. The surrounds of the Palace will be transformed into a magical wonderland for Alice in the Palace, a festive indoor trail designed to leave you with a grin like a Cheshire Cat.

Where: Blenheim Palace is located in Oxfordshire – approximately one hour 30 minutes from London by rail.

When: 22 November - 5 January 

 

Enjoy a German Christmas Market in England’s Heartland

What: Not only is Birmingham's Frankfurt Christmas Market the UK’s largest outdoor market, but it also claims the title as the biggest authentic German Christmas Market outside of Germany and Austria! The festival takes over the city’s Victoria Square, offering up tasty German treats like schnitzels, bratwursts, and gluhwein and a variety of stalls selling traditional Christmas gifts. There’s also live music at the bandstand to get you in to the swing of the season’s festivities.

Where: Victoria Square is located in Birmingham – approximately one hour 20minutes from London by rail.

When: 7 November - 23 December (daily), 10am-9pm

SCOTLAND

Christmas Market Magic in Edinburgh

What: Tumble into a magical winter wonderland in the centre of a fairytale city. Edinburgh's Winter Festivals bring Edinburgh's Christmas and Edinburgh's Hogmanay together in a magical explosion of twinkling lights, enchanting sounds, mouth-watering flavours and lots of fun and laughter. At Edinburgh’s traditional Highland Christmas, you’ll find everything from Scottish produce and mulled wine to handcrafted Christmas gifts and goods.

Where: all across Edinburgh – approximately three hours 30minutes from Manchester and four hours 15 minutes from London by rail.

When: 16 November - 4 January

 

Be Joyful & Jolly in Glasgow

What: Glasgow is a lively, bustling city that’s full of character, striking architecture and fascinating museums (many of which are free!). Join the city as it celebrates the holiday season with Glasgow Loves Christmas, a series of events in the heart in the city that includes Christmas markets and festive entertainment ranging from films and live music to roller discos and cabaret!

Where: all across Glasgow – approximately 45 minutes from Edinburgh and three hours 10 minutes from Manchester by rail.
When: November 25th-December 23rd  

 

WALES

A Winter Walk in Southwest Wales

What: With 870 miles of coastline and three National Parks, Wales might be even more spectacular when dusted with snow, making it the ideal destination for wintery fun. Revive your senses with a brief and beautiful mile-long lakeside walk, then get into the Christmas spirit back at Tredegar House as it’s dressed up in traditional decorations and filled with music and merriment all throughout for a truly festive experience.

Where: Tredegar House is located in Newport – approximately one hour from Cardiff

When: Selected dates from late November.

7 amazing reasons to visit the Lake District this winter

7 amazing reasons to visit the Lake District this winter

7 of the most Instagrammable winter walks near London

Crisp, clean air, winter sun shining, frost crunching underfoot – it’s the perfect time of year to take an invigorating walk across one of these picture-perfect routes, all within a couple of hours reach of the capital.

Thames Path National Trail

Embarking on this long-distance walking route (184 miles/294km) is an excellent way to discover the gorgeous scenery alongside the River Thames but even dipping in and out of it delivers a raft of Instagrammable sights that look beautiful bathed in winter sunshine and silvery frost. Rural tranquillity welcomes you as the Thames Path National Trail starts at the very source of the river in the Cotswolds, before meandering through several of south-east England’s rural counties and lovely villages. The trail also passes by towns and cities such as Oxford, Windsor and Henley, bringing further photo opportunities (university colleges, ‘dreaming spires’ and a castle or two to name just a few!) before heading through the charming leafy boroughs of Richmond and Kew, with the trail culminating at London’s historic Docklands. This is a perfect winter walking route as there are plenty of places to stop off to warm up en route; in fact, the trail has teamed up with the Hop Kettle Brewery to produce the Trail Ale Liquid Highway, a bespoke ale sold along the trail with a donation made to its upkeep with every one sold.

Time from central London: 2 hours to the start of the trail

Constable Country, Essex

The area of Dedham Vale and the Stour Valley has been attracting visitors keen to portray its beauty for centuries. One of Britain’s most famous painters, John Constable, depicted the stunning scenery here in several of his renowned works – it’s an area of pretty villages, picturesque meadows, ancient woodlands and a labyrinth of cute lanes. The Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Stour Valley area boasts many walking routes and, if you head to the National Trust at Flatford, you’ll see those very views, villages and hamlets that inspired Constable’s famous works, The Hay Wain and Flatford Mill, meaning you can capture the contemporary version.

Time from central London: 2 hours

Hampstead Heath Circular, north London

London and its suburbs are famous for their green spaces, so you can experience a stunning winter walk without travelling out too far from the capital’s centre. Hampstead Heath to the north of the capital is a popular place to stroll, with several trails available. If you’re on the circular route, you’ll have the chance to snap pictures of Victorian architecture dotted along Hampstead High Street, the famous Hampstead Ponds and the magnificent panoramic views across central London once you’ve climbed Parliament Hill. Heading back down from the Heath you can also take in the genteel Kenwood House, which houses important works of art, and the elegant Hampstead Grove.

Time from central London: 30 minutes

Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire

The grounds of the National Trust’s Waddesdon Manor are ideal for exploring at this time of year – the even come with their very own Winter Garden. The route around the Winter Gardens emphasises the country manor estate’s finest points, with views back to Flint House – a unique-looking building in the grounds that is used to accommodate academics and artists working with Waddesdon’s educational and artistic programme and which also won the RIBA House of the Year Award in 2015 – and highlights the remarkable bronze and black colours of the Winter Garden’s features. Take time to walk to the Aviary Glade and visit its exotic species of birds, stop for a picture with the amazing 3D plant sculptures or the awesome contemporary sculpture dotted throughout the gardens, before warming up again with a steaming mug of hot chocolate in its Stables Café.

Time from central London: 1 ¾ hours

Saxon Shore Way, Kent and East Sussex

It may well be a long-distance pathway – stretching from Gravesend in Kent, hugging the south-east England coastline and ending in Hastings, East Sussex 163 miles (262km) away, but joining any part of the Saxon Shore Way will have you reaching for your camera phone. It traverses through two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and a number of Nature Reserves where you’ll spot a multitude of birds, butterflies and mammals. Must-see panoramic views to capture digitally include the route along the cliffs from Folkestone to Rye as well as the vista you’re rewarded with as you walk along the sandstone cliffs of the High Weald at Hastings.

Time from central London: 2 hours

Leith Hill, Surrey

Close to the charming market town of Dorking is Leith Hill, looked after by the National Trust – endeavour to climb this hill and you’ll be rewarded with astounding views over the county of Surrey and the Surrey Hills. Come on a clear day and you may well be able to see London to the north and the coastline to the south too. With plenty of walking trails through open heathland or woodland you’ll get to experience different terrains but the pièce de résistance of views you’ll want to capture on camera is from the top of Leith Hill Tower – this is the highest point of south-east England and you’ll discover why this part of the landscape is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Time from central London: 1.5 hours

Coombe Hill & Chequers, Chiltern Hills

Ever wondered what the British Prime Minister’s grand country residence looked like? Embark on this 8.5-mile walk through countryside landscapes looked after by the National Trust, and you can find out! The route also includes the chance to climb to the Boer War Memorial at the top of Coombe Hill in the county of Buckinghamshire and, from here, you’ll experience the spectacular views across to the Cotswold and Aylesbury Vale and even catch a glimpse of distant landmarks via the toposcope located on top of the hill. That’s before you’ve walked through stunning woodlands, the pretty village of Ellesborough and the footpath that then leads you past the driveway entrance of Chequers, the Prime Minister’s country retreat.

Time from central London: 1.5 hours