United Kingdom

Must see locations, events and places to travel and enjoy in the United Kingdom.

london

Secret Sights

Visit secret spaces, from the hospital that performed the world’s first successful Caesarean to the city’s only Roman baths

Admiralty Arch. During a royal coronation, wedding or funeral, you will often see a procession pass under Admiralty Arch. The Grade l-listed building, completed in 1912, is at the opposite end of Buckingham Palace. Look closely at the inside of the northernmost arch and you will see a curious thing: a nose poking out of the wall. Rumour had it that it was put there in honour of the Duke of Wellington, who was known to have a large nose. In fact, it was created by artist Rick Buckley to complain about the country becoming a nosy, CCTV-reliant society.

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Admiralty Arch

‘Nazi Dog’ Burial Place. There is only one memorial to a Nazi in the country: Giro the dog’s grave. German ambassador Leopold von Hoesch lived in Carlton House, just off The Mall. In 1934, his dog, an Alsatian, was accidentally electrocuted. Hoesch buried his beloved pet in the back garden, and the grave can be peered at by visitors. The epitaph reads: ‘A faithful companion.’

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‘Nazi Dog’ Burial Place

helvellyn

Lake District – Classic Ridge

Helvellyn’s Striding Edge offers stunning grade one scrambling

Early on a perfect mid­summer morning, mist was lifting above the still waters of Ullswater. All was calm. Helvellyn was our target, via the classic ridge-top scramble of Striding Edge and back down via Swirral Edge.

Up along Greenside Road, we turned left for Gillside Farm, where the campers were just stirring. We heaved up Mires Beck along the good but steep path, to finally reach Birkhouse Moor peak (718m). It was about 9am and the mountain was ours. The views here are sublime and Ullswater curved away, a glimmering ribbon to the north.

With most of the day ahead of us, we took the scramble along Striding Edge nice and steady, the sun on our backs. It’s all grade one scrambling, and there’s also an easier path along the side for most of the way.

The top of Helvellyn was equally enchanting. These are some of the best views in the Lakes, and we were the only ones there. We lingered a while with our sandwiches and then descended via Swirral Edge to Red Tarn for a welcome dip. It was then a quick romp down along Red Tarn Beck to old Greenside mine workings. Until it closed in 1962, this was one of the most successful mines in the Lake District, producing 2.4 million tons of lead and two million ounces of silver. With a bit of time to spare we looked around the hillside, finding various ruined buildings and dams, an old tramway and the intriguing remains of high-pressure pipe works that must have once powered the shafts. It’s good to be reminded that this has always been a working land.

Stay there: Stay high up in Glenridding mines at YHA Helvellyn (private rooms, camping and dorms) or at Gillside Farm on the route (camping and bunkhouse). But our favourite is Side farm campsite on the lake below, with a beach, canoeing and sunset views over the mountains.

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The Highlands – Terrific Torridon

Torridon is a gloriously remote slither of the Highlands

Out on its lonesome in Wester Ross, Torridon is a gloriously forgotten slither of the Northwest Highlands. Its remoteness and raw wilderness makes this one of Scotland’s finest off-the-radar adventures, with Inverness being the nearest access point, 60 miles east. The lanes are single track and sheep-patrolled, the trails are little trodden and wildlife abounds – deer are prolific and sightings of golden eagles, otters and snow-white mountain hares are not uncommon.

Though little known to many, Torridon wields serious pulling power with hikers and mountaineers, who adore its spectacularly buckled and contorted peaks. When it comes to Munro bagging in Scotland, this is as good as it gets – many of the region’s peaks hover around the 1,000m mark but they feel significantly higher, rising sheer and rugged above frigid sea lochs. Sitting above some of the oldest rock in the world, Lewisian gneiss, these denuded, reddish brown mountains lay bare starkly eroded slopes with near-­horizontal strata. This makes for some rough terrain and exhilarating scrambles among boulders and scree in gullies and along vertiginous ridges.

During the months I lived in Torridon this spring, we devoted the clear days to hiking the Holy Trinity of Munros. Snow still frosted the highest peaks when I tackled the steady, zigzagging ascent up to Beinn Alligin’s lesser summit, 922m Tom na Gruagaich. Here the views are something else, reaching up to the 1,110m dome of Sgiirr Mor and over to the dark mountains of Skye and shimmering sea to the Outer Hebrides. Equally dramatic and challenging is the trek up to 993m Spidean Coire nan Clach atop bulky Ben Eighe. Perhaps even tougher and more rewarding is the stiff ascent of Liatach, which translates as ‘the grey one’ in Gaelic. We’ll never forget cresting the knife-edge ridge to the top and descending as a fiery sunset burnished the tops of the Munros.munros

Stay There: Torridon has basic campsite, a youth hostel and, at the other end of the scale, the plush Torridon Hotel. Holiday cottages are also available.

Eat & Drink: Torridon Stores is a good pit-stop for toasties, homemade cakes and groceries. The Torridon Hotel has an inn serving decent pub grub and a fine-dining restaurant. Better still is lochside Gille Brighde in Diabaig.

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Lake District – Family Hiking

Holme Fell in the Lake District offers a sense of adventure that belies its easy climb – great for young families!

With two young families in tow, we were looking for a simple yet wild adventure. Holme Fell is a lovely, low (317m), family-friendly fell with a heather-clad top and huge views down over Coniston Water, out of all proportion to the effort required to the scale the peak. The path starts from the southeast corner of the exciting flooded quarry of Hodge Close, a deep, seemingly inaccessible azure amphitheatre with a waterfall, several huge caverns and an old railway down at water level. We kept the kids under close supervision around the edge, and wondered if it was possible to get to the bottom.

Moving on, we gently headed up into the woods reaching some mine ruins at 300m, then kept climbing to a delightful little lake where we had a swim. This is an old reservoir that warms up nicely in the sunshine. From here we bushwhacked up towards the fell, keeping to the right, and eventually finding the faint path that curves to the summit and cairn. Even on a Sunday in August we saw no one, but the downside is that the paths are vague, and you may meet some boggy bits. Try to pick a route that follows the rocky outcrops.

The route down took us through the ancient oaks of Harry Guard’s Wood, and then back above Yew Tree Tarn and along the lane near High Yewdale. On returning to our cars we eventually found a way down to the quarry lake. There is a secret wooded path into Parrock Quarry behind (to the north east – follow the lane to the cottages and take the footpath to the right). Descending into a lost world of tangled trees and vines, the path eventually brought us to the huge caverns and the shore. Amazing!

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Scotland’s West Coast – The Cool Cuillin

Skye’s Cuillin ridge is the UK’s answer to the Alps

The extremely rocky Black Cuil­lin on Scotland’s Isle of Skye is a group of mountains (including 12 Munros) that offers some of the best scrambling and climbing opportunities in the United King­dom. The peaks are often described as Britain’s answer to the European Alps and there’s certainly nowhere else in the UK of such a serious mountaineering nature, with sustained difficulties on many peaks needing to be overcome before you can reach the summits.

We’ve a chequered history of success on the Cuillin ridge. It’s not due to effort – We’ve climbed Sgurr nan Eag twice, Bruache na Frithe three times and Bla Bheinn five times (the north-west ridge on Bruache na Frithe, a grade two scramble, and the amazing Clach Glas-Bla Bheinn traverse, a Moderate rock climb, being the highlights). These though are the easier Munros, with minimal exposure (the latter rock climbing route excepted). When it has came to the test, we’ve bailed just feet from the top on Sgurr na Gillean’s ‘tourist route’ due to the exposure and balked at the descent of the 3m high ‘bad step’ on the only route feasible for non-climbers up Am Basteir.

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Windsor, Great Britain

Castle gazing, park walking and river roaming – Windsor is a princely place for a weekend

Like the Queen herself, Windsor oozes pageantry but has also embraced modern Britain. The riverside town is a mix of designer shops and sprawling deer-grazed parkland, where history lurks around many a cobbled corner then whacks you full in the face in the form of the chilly grey walls and turreted towers of Windsor Castle.

A fort and royal residence has dominated this spot since 1070, when William the Conqueror chose the site for its advantageous position: a day’s march from the Tower of London; right by the Thames; commanding views of the western approach to the capital. Windsor Castle has been continuously inhabited ever since, and extended and refurbished by almost every subsequent sovereign. This makes it the largest and oldest occupied castle in the world.

Originally built as a fort, the first monarch to use it as a house was Henry I in 1110; his grandson, Henry II converted it into a palace. In 1215, King John rode out from Windsor to sign the Magna Carta at nearby Runnymede. In 1642, Oliver Cromwell used it as a prison; during the Restoration, Charles II made it more magnificent than ever, adding a new set of State Apartments. When Queen Victoria made the castle her official residence, Windsor became the centre of the British Empire. Having survived the Second World War and a terrible fire in 1992, the castle remains the town’s crowning glory.

Cornwall’s Roseland Peninsula: London’s Secret Treasure

“The best beach destination in England” sounds like faint praise—but with nearly 300 miles of coast, water warmed by the Gulf Stream, and a variety of native palm trees, Cornwall holds its own as an idyllic seaside spot you’d want to wake up in on Saturday. Palms aside, Cornwall is more Cape Cod than Caribbean, especially on the Roseland Peninsula, a family-friendly, preppy-posh enclave of manicured gardens, whitewashed villages, and “summer people” in Breton stripes and white jeans who pack their Longchamps and make the five-hour-plus drive southwest from London. A dowdy hotel scene kept most others away until recently, when part-time locals David and Karen Richards redid two waterfront inns in St. Mawes, drawing international travelers on long summer weekends from London or road trippers cruising the coast. Here’s why you should be one of them.

GETTING THERE & AROUND – It’s best to drive from London, but you can take the train to Truro, or fly from Gat wick to Newquay. Then you’ll need to rent a car: St. Mawes is a 40-minute drive from Truro, 50 minutes from Newquay. There are bike paths on the peninsula, and rental shops in Truro and Falmouth.

WHERE TO DROP YOUR BAGS – The Idle Rocks and St. Mawes hotels each have a distinct vibe. The Idle Rocks is more polished, with 19 nautical rooms; a prix fixe restaurant with an a la carte “oyster menu”; its own sailboat, the Osprey; and new status as part of Relais & Chateaux. The seven unfussy rooms at the casual St. Mawes sit above a living room-like lounge serving stone-baked pizzas to as many locals as visitors.

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The Idle Rocks Hotel, St. Mawes

WHERE TO EAT WELL – On the Roseland, even pub grub is gourmet—the Kings Head serves Ruan duck and smoked haddock. For lunch on the sand, grab a Cornish pasty made with local steak at the Hidden Hut, which also does pop-up “Feast Night” dinners. Book ahead for haute fare at the Michelin-starred Driftwood, and take the ferry across to Falmouth for Sunday lunch at the revamped Star & Garter, where alums of Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen do a rib roast with all the trimmings.

HOW TO DO THE BEACHES – The Roseland s seas are reliably calm—swim in August, when the average water temp is a cool 66 degrees, or walk the sandy shores year-round. St. Mawes has pebbly, kid-friendly Summers Beach, and a 15-minute ferry to Place Creek brings you to five more coves reachable on foot by the South West Coast Path, including the isolated Porthboer. To get out to sea by boat, Cornish Day Sailing’s Olympus leaves Falmouth on day cruises and sunset trips.

glasgow-scotland

Glasgow, Scotland

Everyone is talking about Glasgow -and for once this is a good thing. For years the city was down at heel, an ex-industrial wasteland known more for its social problems than for its tourist attractions. But in 2014 Glasgow is the place to be, sitting pretty at the top of every ‘places to visit this year’ list and a non-negotiable fixture in many a travel itinerary thanks to the summer’s Commonwealth Games. Running from 23 July until 3 August, the Games will bring with them thousands of domestic and international visitors, not to mention the rash of new sports venues, hotels and restaurants already built. The city has been preparing itself to take centre stage for some time. In fact, ever since 1990, when Glasgow was named European City of Culture (now European Capital of Culture), this much-maligned Scottish hub has been on the up.

It happened quietly at first: a regeneration of the inner city, a clean up of the Clyde, a stealthy increase in the number of businesses. Then museums opened, residents returned to the city centre, and the Glasgow’s Miles Better campaign highlighted the famed friendliness of the people. By the time the city was awarded the Commonwealth Games in November 2007 it came as no surprise. And today, Glasgow is ready. There are museums and galleries with world-leading collections, independent boutiques selling one-off fashions, and jaw-dropping buildings designed by everyone from Charles Rennie Mackintosh to Zaha Hadid. Walk streets lined with grand Victorian buildings, drink freshly brewed coffee in sweeping squares and romp through rolling parkland just minutes from the city centre.

By night, take a table at one of the city’s contemporary restaurants and indulge in Scotland’s larder – fresh oysters, thick steaks, juicy scallops – before taking the city’s pulse with a visit to one of its stellar live music venues. Then, of course, there are the Commonwealth Games themselves. Over 12 days, 17 different sports will be contested at 14 different venues. From rugby at the Ibrox Stadium to track and field at Hampden Park, gymnastics at the SSE Hydro and cycling at the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome, the city will be alive with sport, not to mention the cultural programme that runs alongside it. But Glasgow’s best secret remains just how close it is to the Highlands. For a change of scenery, you can take a 30-minute drive out of the city to Loch Lomond, and get your boots muddy on the West Highland Way or take in the rolling views from Inchcailloch island.

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Dynamic, creative and ultra-friendly, this is a city with much to offer.

DAY 1 – ART ATTACK: Start by following the footsteps (or rather brushstrokes) of one of Glasgow’s most famous sons, architect and designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh. There is no better way to admire his art nouveau work than by taking a tour of the Glasgow School of Art on Renfrew Street (right): three tours daily; £9.75;lgsa.ac.uk[ Admire what is arguably the world’s first Modernist building (completed 1899), before taking the short walk to the Willow Tea Rooms. This traditional Scottish tearoom was designet by Mackintosh in 1905; he chose everything from the windows to the waitresses’ outfits. Drink in his elegant style along with a loose-leaf tea. Next, stroll east Merchant City, where the elegant sandstone buildings nod to the city’s successful industrial past.

This area was once home to tobacco lords and cotton kings; today it is the haunt of Glasgow’s new wave of exporters – the designers, artists and musicians who work in Glasgow’s creative industries. Explore the art galleries and boutiques around George Square before ducking into the Gallery of Modern Art (or GoMA) on Royal Exchange Square. Housed in a neoclassical building this free museum features works by Hockney, Warhol and Scottish artists John Bellany and Ken Currie. Just outside, check to see if the Duke of Wellington statue has its usual traffic cone hat, an unofficial addition that is said to represent the city’s light-hearted attitude to authority. End your first day with a wee dram (or two) in one of Merchant City’s many excellent bars.

Day 2- WESTWARD HO! Blow the cobwebs away this morning with a walk in Kelvingrove Park, an 85-acre green space straddling the River Kelvin in the city’s West End. This side of the city has emerged as the go-to destination for everything from art and culture to food and fashion, so plan to spend the day in this area. Allow at least two hours to explore the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum (free). There’s more Mackintosh here: the Mackintosh and the Glasgow Style gallery is dedicated to his graphic and decorative work. There’s an astonishingly wide selection of other exhibits (more than 8,000), ranging from Salvador Dali’s Christ of St John of the Cross to the RL Scott bequest, once one of the finest private collections of European arms and armour in the world.

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George Square, laid out in 1781, is Glasgow’s civic centre.

From here walk south into up-and-coming Finnieston. This was once the destination of choice for dockworkers seeking unsavoury entertainments but today has been revitalised by the brand new SSE Hydro arena (above) and an influx of designers and foodies attracted by the low rents and the community feel. Spend your time strolling along The Strip, poking your head into boutiques and bars and selecting whatever takes your fancy, whether that be cocktails in a windowside booth at Kelvingrove Cafe or a fish-and-chip supper at Old Salty’s. Quality here is high – and there’s not a deep-fried Mars bar in sight.

Day 3 – GO GREEN: Although Glasgow is Scotland’s largest urban area, it is also home to more than 90 parks and gardens. In fact, the city is said to have more green spaces per capita than any other in Europe. Get out and explore some of these today, starting at Pollok Park (above), 5km south of the city centre. At 360 acres, this park is the city’s biggest, so opt for a horse and cart ride to take in its vast scale. Stop off at the Category B-listed walled garden to see plants relocated from the Himalaya, and don’t miss a visit to the fold of Highland cattle – the most accessible herd in Scotland. Slightly further afield (a 30-minute drive) is Loch Lomond, the largest inland stretch of water in Britain.

You could spend several days exploring it, but one day is enough for the highlights. One of these is Inchcailloch, the largest island in the Loch Lomond National Nature Reserve and reached by waterbus service from the small village of Balmaha, on the loch’s eastern shore. This is a lovely place for a walk: the West Highland Way runs through here and from the village you can make the challenging climb up Conic Hill, with the path up and over its summit (part of the Highland Boundary Fault) offering views south over the rolling Lowlands and north into the Highlands. Recuperate with hearty traditional meal and a pint of local ale at Balmaha’s Oak Tree Inn.

Salisbury – United Kingdom

In 2015, Salisbury popped the champagne  for the 800th anniversary of its greatest treasure, the Magna Carta

Essential information:

Population: 45,000

Foreign visitors per year: 1 million

Language: English

Unit of currency: Pound sterling (£)

Cost index: pint of local ale £3.60 (US$5.90), double room £85 (US$140), afternoon tea with scones and cream £15 (US$24.70), cathedral tower tour £10 (US$16.50).

Why go ASAP?

magna-carta's 800th-anniversary-celebration

Magna Carta’s 800th anniversary celebration in Salisbury – United Kingdom

For too long travellers have considered Salisbury a short stop on the way to Stonehenge. But in 2015, Salisbury popped the champagne  for the 800th anniversary of its greatest treasure, the Magna Carta.

It would be hard to underestimate the impact of the ‘Great Charter’. Sworn and sealed on the banks of the Thames in 1215, the Magna Carta limited royal power and established the rights of common people. It became a bedrock of English law and inspired movements for justice and freedom worldwide.

The eighth centenary of this iconic parchment is igniting revelry across England – folk opera, calypso tributes and 13th-century ale-brewing have all been mooted as ways to mark the occasion. As home to the best-preserved original copy (the others are in London’s British Library and Lincoln Castle), Salisbury will be leading the charge.

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Salisbury Cathedral – Saqlisbury, United Kingdom

The lightning rod for the celebrations was Salisbury Cathedral, the neck-straining medieval masterpiece whose Chapter House holds the Magna Carta. The cathedral itself boasts a clutch of superlatives, with the tallest spire in Britain, the world’s oldest working clock and Britain’s largest cloister.

Festivals & Events:

Enjoy two smouldering weeks of contemporary sculpture, photography and installations at the Salisbury International Arts Festival, starting 23 May.

See Salisbury in bloom during Magna Flora, the enormous week-long flower festival.

Life-changing experiences:

Recall the days of wimpled maidens and warring kings by exploring the city’s medieval sights, starting with the stone-carved Poultry Cross in the market square.

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Poultry Cross in the market square of Salisbury – United Kingdom

A gilded lion and unicorn still glower down from the coat of arms crowning the North Gate, a stone archway thought to date to 1327. And the dark of heart won’t want to miss the Gothic Church of St Thomas Becket, harbouring apocalyptic murals that still elicit a thrill of fear.

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St Thomas Becket Church – Salisbury, United Kingdom

Who could conceive of bypassing the pubs? Salisbury’s nightlife has Purple Flag status, issued to impeccably polite and welcoming cities – an awfully British award, if ever there was one. Drink in views over the River Avon at the Old Mill, or bask in old-time ambiance at The Cloisters. Sup local ciders and ales (try Three Daggers) but look out for local wines too (a’Beckett’s Vineyard produces some very quaffable drops.

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The Old MIll Hotel – Salisbury, United Kingdom

Current craze :

Old Sarum isn’t simply an ancient fort, it’s also a place where adrenaline junkies can skydive or soar in small aircraft. Propeller-heads can also get their fix from the ground at the Boscombe Down Aviation Collection.

Random facts:

  • Wiltshire locals are nicknamed `moonrakers’, dating from when smugglers hid contraband in local ponds, fishing it out by night. If questioned, they’d claim to be raking the moon’s reflection to get cheese.

  • Are Salisbury’s historic properties rousing déjà vu? You may have seen them on screen. Stately Mompesson House was a film location for 1995’s Sense and Sensibility.

  • If you stumble leaving the pub, blame the local ghosts rather than an excess of ale. Several sites in Salisbury are thought to be haunted, from pubs to crossroads to Debenhams department store.

Classic restaurant experience:

You need not fear an empty belly in a region with a constellation of Michelin-starred restaurants and excellent pub food. For something truly special, family-run Charter 1227 restaurant serves up lip-smacking and locally sourced British cuisine. Think suckling pork belly that melts on the tongue, guinea fowl and unapologetically indulgent parfaits and terrines.

Most bizarre sight:

Crop circles appear near Salisbury every summer and the phenomenon is eagerly discussed in the local Crop Circle Information and Co-ordination Centre. Just look out for those little green men.

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Hazlitt’s – London

WHAT’S THE STORY BEHIND THE LOOK?

A discreet front door, even discreeter signage – if you didn’t already know that Hazlitt’s existed, you’re unlikely to spot it. And in one of the shoutiest parts of town, that’s exactly how it likes it. Entering the front door is to step into Georgian London, a welcoming cocoon of wonky, creaking floorboards and antiques tucked into strange nooks, with a fire crackling in the grate, a gin ready to be poured at the honesty bar, and a cat asleep in the lounge. Twenty-first-century Soho disappears when you cross the threshhold.

WHICH ROOMS ARE MOST MEMORABLE?

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All have the feel of a secret boudoir, individually decorated and equally memorable, but try the Jonathan Swift (pictured) for its marble fireplace and carved oak bed, ort he Teresa Cornelys, which has a separate lounge area, an enormously high bed and an eaves bathroom with a ‘period bathing machine’.