Category Archives for "United Kingdom"

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

5 U.K Places Where You’ll Feel Majestic

1) Ickworth – Suffolk


The library in the Italianate rotunda at Ickworth


In the 18th century, a ‘Grand Tour’ of Europe was a rite of passage for any self-respecting young aristocrat. After being ordained in 1754, Frederick Augustus Hervey, the 4th Earl of Bristol, did just that, returning to his family’s Suffolk home with grand designs for bringing it up to a standard that better reflected their social standing.

Although Frederick didn’t live to see the results, the house was completed by 1830 and included two palatial wings, landscaped gardens and an Italianate rotunda – the first of its kind in Britain, albeit one dubbed a stupendous monument of folly” by some.

Sold in 1996 and opened as a hotel, Ickworth has lost none of its neoclassical grandeur, with ornate chandeliers, marble floors and views across the 1,800-acre estate.

2) Luton Hoo – Bedfordshire


The 18th-century Luton Hoo’s regal lounge


For sheer indulgence, this 18th-century stately home-turned-hotel is hard to beat. Just 30 miles from central London, the Grade I listed building’s interior was redesigned in 1903 by Charles Mewes and Arthur Davis, architects of The Ritz. Luton Hoo was a private residence at the time: HM The Queen and Prince Philip spent part of their honeymoon here, something the royal couple made into an annual tradition.

The neoclassical house was built for the 3rd Earl of Bute following his year-long stint as Prime Minister in 1762, developed further during the 19th century, and re-opened as a 228-room hotel in 2007. Vintage chandeliers and Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown-designed gardens all add to the winning blend of country splendour and urban luxury.

3) Bradley House – Wiltshire


Henry VIII was so desperate for a male heir that he divorced his first wife and beheaded the second. When third wife Jane Seymour eventually gave birth to a son, Edward, the Tudor king was evidently so grateful he later granted this particular corner of Wiltshire to his eldest brother-in-law in 1547 and anointed him the 1st Duke of Somerset.

It was almost 200 years before the family built the house, which they later reduced in size in 1821. It lost nothing of its aristocratic atmosphere in the process, not least since Henry and Jane’s four-poster bed was relocated here from Wolf Hall. Currently home to the 19th Duke of Somerset, the house boasts 12 guest bedrooms and, while they can’t be individually booked, this is an ideal location for weddings or events.

4) Scone Palace – Perthshire

The vaulted Long Gallery at Scone Palace, said to be the longest room in Scotland

The vaulted Long Gallery at Scone Palace, said to be the longest room in Scotland


Far from just a seat for Scottish nobility, Scone Palace played a pivotal role in the country’s history. The first true King of Scots, Kenneth MacAlpin welcomed the Picts here in the 9th century, while Macbeth and Robert the Bruce were among the many to be crowned here on the Stone of Scone, a coronation seat that currently resides in Edinburgh Castle while a replica can still be found in the grounds of the palace’s chapel.

The modern Scone Palace (pronounced “Scoon”) was completed in 1812 and home to William David Murray, the 8th Earl of Mansfield. Visitors can enjoy five-star accommodation in the Balvaird wing apartment with three en-suite bedrooms, using this as a base for fishing on the River Tay and exploring the staterooms.

5) Belvoir – Leicestershire


Belvoir Castle’s Chinese Room, which takes its name from the ornate wallpaper


Few noble British families welcome overnight guests to their estates and many of those that do prefer to restrict accommodation to separate lodgings away from the main house. With this in mind, a stay at the Duke and Duchess of Rutland’s Grade I listed Belvoir Castle is rare indeed. Guests can stay in one of 14 bedrooms designed by the Duchess (a minimum occupancy of five rooms applies), while drinks are served in the Duke’s own private library.

Opt for the Tapestry room, featured in the movie, Young Victoria, or the Nurse Griffiths room, decorated with peacock motifs based upon the family crest. No stay is complete without a walk around the gardens, opened last year yet based on unrealized 1780 plans drawn up by Capability Brown.

The Jewel of England’s South Coast – Bournemouth, U.K

With seven miles of golden sands and sparkling sea, the vibrant cosmopolitan town of Bournemouth has it all. Explore a vast variety of shops, restaurants and holiday accommodation, seafront hotels, quality B&Bs, a rich history and endless countryside with beautiful, award-winning gardens.

Much acclaimed in the Victorian era for its pine-scented air and medicinal seawater, Bournemouth established its reputation in the 19th-century as a rejuvenating destination. Investment and regeneration mean that it remains the quintessential British resort town, complete with the historic pier, the promenade with 2,000 beach huts – including England’s first – and more Blue Flag beaches than any other.

The history and culture of Bournemouth is still prevalent to this day and the beautifully landscaped gardens that run from the town centre to the beach still bloom with Victorian-themed plants and trees throughout.


The Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum

The Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum sits proudly on the clifftop – showcasing a fascinating chapter in Bournemouth’s history via a world-class array of paintings and sculpture. The Bournemouth International Centre and Pavilion Theatre also ensure a choice of top-quality concerts, exhibitions and West End theatre productions during your stay.

Bournemouth also makes the perfect base for discovering the riches that the area has to offer. The town’s perfect seafront location in picturesque Dorset means that it has both the New Forest and the Jurassic coastline on its doorstep. It also provides the perfect backdrop for a wide range of major events and festivals, including the multi-disciplinary Bournemouth Arts by the Sea Festival (14-21 October) and the 10th Bournemouth Air Festival (31 August to 3 September), complete with pyrotechnics.


Bournemouth Air Festival 2014

Steeped in history, Bournemouth is a cosmopolitan town that is constantly reinventing itself. With something for every taste, it is a destination not to be missed.

A Wistfully Medieval Relic: Bodiam Castle – East Sussex, England, U.K


Rising like a ghost ship from its watery home, Bodiam is one of the most wistfully beautiful castles in Britain – a familiar sight from chocolate boxes and calendars or possibly, to some, from the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail about the legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. The film is a spoof, of course, but Bodiam was, in fact, built in 1385 for a knight, Sir Edward Dalyngrigge, a supporter of Edward III, that most chivalric of kings, though he acquired permission to build a castle – a licence to “crenellate”, as it was known – from Edward’s successor Richard II.

This was no small matter – and the wording of the grant gives a sense of the favour being bestowed: “Know that of our special grace we have granted and given licence on behalf of ourselves and our heirs, so far as in us lies, to our beloved and faithful Edward Dalyngrigge Knight, that he may strengthen with a wall of stone and lime, and crenellate and may construct and make into a Castle his manor house of Bodyham [sic], near the sea, in the County of Sussex, for the defence of the adjacent country, and the resistance to our enemies.”


The wooden walkway across the moat at Bodiam Castle

Rebels and mercenaries

The enemy in question at the time was France – and Bodiam, positioned on the River Rother in East Sussex, not far from the English Channel, was in a reasonably strong defensive position. Dalyngrigge built the castle on a fresh site rather than fortifying the manor.

At the time, the Hundred Years War had been going on for almost 50 years (the name is misleading – it lasted from 1337 to 1453). The conflict began when the death of Charles IV of France in 1328 brought the direct line of the Capetian dynasty to an end. England’s Edward III, who had a claim to the throne through his mother, Isabella of France, declared his intentions in 1337 and secured the territories of Aquitaine and Calais.


King Edward III

The king was supported in his mission by the likes of Dalyngrigge, Englishmen who travelled to France to seek their fortune as the members of free companies, essentially armies of mercenaries. After travelling with Lionel, Duke of Clarence, Edward III’s son, and fighting under the Earl of Arundel, Dalyngrigge joined the company of Sir Robert Knolles, a notorious plunderer who was reputed to have made 100,000 gold crowns from his pillaging, leaving burning buildings, with charred gables (or roof peaks) known as “Knolly’s mitres”, in his wake.

In such a fashion, Dalyngrigge, who as a younger son missed out on the family fortune, raised the money to build Bodiam Castle, where the postern tower (the secondary entrance) features Knolles’s coat of arms in a gesture of loyalty.

Following Dalyngrigge’s return to England in 1377 – an eventful year which also saw the death of Edward III and the accession to the throne of Richard II – his fortuitous marriage to a Sussex heiress brought the moated manor of Bodiam into his possession.


An illustration depicting Richard II marrying seven-year-old Isabella of France from Froissart’s Chronicles

Around the same time, the Treaty of Bruges of 1375, which had ensured peace for two years, expired, meaning resumed conflict between England and France. Internal clashes added to the pressure of external threats, and Dalyngrigge was involved in suppressing the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381, the greatest triumph of Richard II, who rode out virtually alone to meet the rebels, though he reneged on his promise to them later with the infamous words, “Rustics you were and rustics you are still. You will remain in bondage, not as before but incomparably harsher.”


The East Range at Bodiam Castle, where the Lord and Lady’s apartments were situated

In such an atmosphere of anxiety and unrest, Bodiam was built quickly. Often cited as the perfect incarnation of a moated medieval castle, it is quadrangular in shape, with a central courtyard, buildings against the curtain walls and no keep.

Circular towers mark each of its four corners, with square equivalents on the south, east and west walls and the imposing gatehouse dominating the north side of the castle. Yet in landscaping and design, not least the artificial watery landscape in which it stands, Bodiamwas clearly built with display inmind as much as defence.

A rare treasure

This latter question has been a particular point of debate for historians – essentially was Bodiambuilt

for militaristic or social purposes? In the case of the former, the castle’s imposing gatehouse boasts the original wooden portcullis, which was made of such stern stuff that it endures to this day as one of the oldest in the country. Nor do arrow slits in the towers or “murder holes” in the gatehouse, through which boiling oil and water could be poured on to the heads of approaching enemies, suggest a genteel welcome.


The original portcullis made from oak with steel covering

Nevertheless, some have argued that Bodiamwas, in fact, too far inland from the English Channel to be in the perfect position for defending against the French and that the broadmoat serves tomake the castle appear bigger and grander rather than more secure, while some of its larger windows weaken its defences. Certainly the character of the impetuous Dalyngrigge might indicate honour and display were just as important as defence – in a high-profile legal dispute with the Duke of Lancaster he threw down the gauntlet not once, but twice, in court.

Following Dalyngrigge’s demise, the occupants of Bodiamhad a habit of challenging authority – or being on the wrong side of history. After passing through several generations of Dalyngrigges, the castle came, via marriage, into the possession of the Lewknor family, who during theWars of the Roses supported the House of Lancaster – which became difficult when Richard III of the House of York became king in 1483.


Photo of The Bodiam Castle taken by drone

Worse was to come: by the era of the English Civil War in the 17th century, Bodiam was owned by 2nd Earl of Thanet, a Royalist who was forced to sell the castle to pay fines levied against him by parliament. Bodiam was subsequently slighted, with the destruction of the barbican, the bridges and the buildings inside the castle, and left as a picturesque ruin In the 19th and 20th centuries, restoration work was undertaken by various owners, the most notable being Lord Curzon who bought the castle in 1917 and later bequeathed it to the National Trust, claiming “so rare a treasure should neither be lost to our country nor desecrated by irreverent hands”.

Sadly, by the time he came along it was too late for the ruined interior, though it survives in sufficient detail to give a vivid impression of castle life, with 33 fireplaces, for example, and access to glorious views up the vertiginous spiral staircases. From the outside, however, Bodiam looks much as it did in the age of chivalry, standing in a league of its own.

The Story Behind the Door – The Ritz Hotel, London

We met Michael O’Dowdall, a doorman at The Ritz

The Ritz was always this mythical place,” recalls Michael O’Dowdall, who has been a doorman at the iconic London hotel for just over 10 years. “It was somewhere special for special people to go to – I never dreamed I’d be part of it.”

Michael is a born-and-bred Londoner and counts himself as a Cockney. “Cockney folklore says you have to born within the sound of Bow Bells,” he explains. “Growing up, I had the usual ambitions of wanting to be a footballer or an astronaut, but I’ve always been an outgoing kind of chap, so doing something that lets me meet different people every day suits me perfectly. Michael has been working doors since the late 1980s.

“My cousin’s husband worked at the casino in Marble Arch, and he told me about it when we were studying ‘The Knowledge’ [a test all London black cab drivers must take] together – I’m a taxi driver too. He left to drive full time, and then a British family bought The Ritz casino and hotel, so I applied to be a doorman.”

Michael’s advanced knowledge of London streets comes in handy, as “giving good directions is definitely part of the job, along with knowing when restaurants open or the best way to get to the airport. I’m a walking map, dictionary and timetable. Once people hear the London accent they’re reassured, because they know it’s my town.”

The Ritz’s central location is an ideal base for tourists according to Michael. “You can go via Green Park to Buckingham Palace, St James’s Park to Westminster, up the Mall to Trafalgar Square, or shopping on New Bond Street.” A popular request is a good curry. “I send them up to Brick Lane. And if visitors want a great view of London, I recommend a river boat trip down to Greenwich – you see all the buildings and get a sense of just how big London is.”

The Ritz is a 24/7 operation, so doormen work eight-hour shifts, with two days off a week. Michael enjoys the rhythm of the days, with people checking in and leaving in the mornings, “then it’s luncheons, suppers and tea settings, or big functions like weddings and birthday parties. For weddings we make sure there’s a space for the bride’s car and coordinate guests arriving, often on the old Routemaster double-decker buses.”


The Ritz Hotel at night – London, U.K

Michael loves the “full spectrum” of visitors that can be found at The Ritz on any given day, “everyone from the sweet old girl who saved up for months to go to tea with her friends through to royalty – it’s a proper London melting pot.

“Afternoon tea vouchers are sold as presents, and so you see people coming around the corner clutching them, eyes wide with amazement. We make sure to put them at ease and make them feel welcome – there’s no snootiness here.”

Guests often ask Michael about the history of the hotel, which first opened its doors in 1906; David Lloyd George is said to have held secrets meetings there during the First World War, and Noël Coward was a regular visitor in the 1920s and 1930s. Visitors also admire the neoclassical building and its stunning décor – “there’s no expense spared maintaining everything to the highest standard,” says Michael.

The doormen’s attire reflects that attention to detail, with a top hat, waistcoat, trousers with a yellow stripe and a distinctive coat. “It’s smart but practical, as we’re often moving luggage or helping people in and out of cars. Because we’re recognisable, we do get a lot of requests for pictures – there probably isn’t a country in the world our photograph isn’t in. It’s lovely to know you’re making someone’s day.” The reverse is true too, with Michael getting to meet numerous high-profile guests.

“They say never meet your heroes, but I’ve met them and they’re still my heroes. I’m just a working class boy so I have to pinch myself sometimes.”


Rolls Royce Phantom painted in Blue-Ritz colour

But perhaps the best perk is getting to drive a very special car. “In 2006, Rolls-Royce produced a special one-off Phantom in Ritz Blue for the hotel’s centenary. People often save up to take a trip in it for a birthday treat, so I get to drive them around London in style – I teach them how to do the royal wave. It’s that kind of thing that makes this such a special place to work – there’s really nothing like it.

London’s Liquid Lifeblood – Thames, U.K

The opening lines of Rudyard Kipling’s The River’s Tale set out unambiguously the poet’s love of the Thames: Twenty bridges from Tower to Kew Wanted to know what the river knew, Twenty bridges or twenty-two, For they were young, and the Thames was old And this is the tale that the river told.

More than a century later and it is impossible not to concur. The River Thames is London’s liquid lifeblood; the artery that snakes its way through the city and bisects it into a north-south divide has forever quietly served the capital, despite its own fluctuating fortunes. In the Middle Ages, the Thames brought fresh water and fish; by the 19th century, it was little more than an open sewer. Today, the vibrant embankments and glass-topped clippers allow tourists to gain a transformative perspective on proceedings. And for visitors to London, it is well worth exploring beyond the stretch from Embankment to Borough, which takes in the London Eye through to the Tate Modern. The Thames, like the city it pumps through, harbours a wealth of historic treasures. For an alternative view of the river, there is no better place to start than in the southwest of the city. Eel Pie Island in the Borough of Richmond is an intriguing place to kick off explorations – and for fans of rock’n’roll, an area worthy of pilgrimage. For a tiny landmass, it is curiously big on legend.



The musical Eel Pie Island is now privately owned

The 19th-century Eel Pie Island Hotel stood on this site, famous for its ballroom dancing after the First World War, and later, in the 1950s, for hosting famous jazz acts, including The Grove Jazz Band.



Richmond Bridge, the oldest surviving span over the Thames in Greater London

But it wasn’t until the 1960s that future rock superstars moved in on the leafy island: The Rolling Stones and The Who were among a plethora of legends to rock the hotel’s dancehall before it burnt down in 1971 in mysterious circumstances. Today the island is privately owned and has around 120 residents, but visitors can gain access by a main pathway from the bridge. On certain dates in June and December, Eel Pie Island Art Studios – once owned by Pete Townshend of The Who – is open to the public. For the traditionalist who prefers their history centuries rather than decades old, this stretch of the river is more than equal to the task. Less than 20 minutes’ walk away sits the resplendent Marble Hill House, all gleaming white Palladian lines and perfect proportions.


View across the Thames to Marble Hill House

Set in 66 acres, it was built by Henrietta Howard, Countess of Suffolk, to escape from court life and entertain a circle of friends including Gulliver’s Travels author Jonathan Swift.

Howard, mistress of King George II and part of a formidably intellectual set, commissioned architect Roger Morris, who modelled the design on Palladio’s Villa Cornaro near Venice. In turn, modish Georgian society fashioned their villas after this new standard ideal. To wind the clock back yet a further century, river explorers should hop on the long-serving Hammerton’s Ferry that links Marble Hill House on the northern bank with Ham House on the southern.


The north front of Ham House

Built in 1610, the National Trust makes claims for Ham House as “unique in Europe as the most complete survival of 17th century fashion and power”, and its red bricks make it an exemplar of the Stuart mansion. Built by Thomas Vavasour, Knight Marshal to King James I, it later became the home of William Murray, the Earl of Dysart, and his daughter, the Duchess of Lauderdale. Bestowed upon him by his childhood friend King Charles I, the gift was at least in some part given in gratitude for Murray’s role as a literal whipping boy for the then-prince in their youth.

Barely sooner than the unfortunate Murray had taken up residence at HamHouse than Civil War had broken out, inwhich he loyally fought on the king’s behalf against Oliver Cromwell’s Parliamentarians.

The reason, however, that the house did not fall victim to the war was that his daughter cleverly maintained good relations with Cromwell while sending secret missives to the exiled Charles II (who would later return and take vengeance on those who had fought, defeated and ultimately beheaded his father).

It was Elizabeth who continued to live in the house with her husband, JohnMaitland, Duke of Lauderdale, and made it the exquisite repository of treasures it is today. A 10-minute walk along river delivers the ambler to Petersham, where today’s fashionable set know only one pitstop: Petersham Nurseries. Cars jostle for spaces along the picturesque River Lane, but the canny visitor arrives on foot to the rustic sheds that house some of the hottest tables in town. The resident Boglione family owns the nursery, which, for the uninitiated, is considerably more than just a place to buy plants. Grab a table for a light lunch or slice of cake; for a more lavish repast, be sure to book ahead – the restaurant here has, at various times, held Michelin stars. Wellies and dogs are as acceptable at this most casual of hotspots as towering heels.

For more horticultural and culinary views, the dazzling and unparalleled Kew Gardens is less than 15 minutes’ drive away.



View from a glasshouse at Kew Gardens – London

Established in 1759, it houses some 30,000 species of living plant, while its herbarium contains more than seven million preserved specimens. While it is a place of serious academic study and a world leader in botanic research, it is an ever-popular public park, where picnicking is the only sensible way to drink in the beauty of the surrounds. Visit its glasshouses, the most famous of which is the Palm House, a curvaceous structure built in the 1840s, where the palm species thrive.

If you are still not sated with parkland and the historic houses that preside over them, then hop in a taxi to Brentford, where a long drive – suggestive of the grand entrances to estates depicted in Jane Austen’s novels – sweeps visitors up to Syon House. The current London home of the Duke of Northumberland, it was built in the 16th century by the 1st Duke of Somerset, when it was no stranger to famous – and infamous – guests. King Henry VIII’s fifth wife, Catherine Howard, spent her long imprisonment at Syon before being executed at the Tower of London in 1542.

Since 1594, however, it has been in the hands of the Earls of Northumberland – generations of whom have made their own improvements, not least of which, in the 18th century, was the landscaping of the gardens by the inimitable Lancelot “Capability” Brown and work to the interior of the house by Robert Adam.

Do ensure to visit the Great Conservatory in the gardens, and, if inclined to linger, stay at the Hilton London Syon Park in the grounds.


The Great Conservatory at Syon House

For a final stop on this south-western river odyssey, head for Putney Bridge, where a short walk from the tube will find you at Bishop’s Park, so called because it was where the bishops of London resided in palaces, in order to have easy access to the courts, but enabling them some distance from the thick of the city.

It is here that you’ll find the grand, Grade I listed Fulham Palace, which has an atmosphere that’s half Oxbridge college, half monastic retreat, and complete with a moat bridge, a walled garden and a plethora of nooks and crannies in which to get lost.


the Tudor entrance to Fulham Palace

Unsurprisingly, it’s popular with wedding receptions and photo shoots, thanks to its stunning grounds, which include a botanic garden. Kipling’s poem speaks as much to us today as it would have done to an Edwardian audience; there is, after all, an immutable quality to the Thames and its flowing majesty that continues to enrapture us.

The Somerset House Has Opened Its Doors – London, U.K

Tudor palace, art academy, chemistry lab, open-air cinema – the grandiose Somerset House has evolved with the times

In those rare pockets of sunshine stitched into the lining of a typical English summertime, there is no finer place to while away the hours than the grand, neoclassical courtyard of Somerset House. As children drench themselves in the 55 jets of the Edmond J Safra Fountain Court, elderly couples sip tea on the al fresco seats of the various cafés, and 30-something culture-vultures dip in and out of the many galleries that line the courtyard, it is easy to imagine that all of London life is here.


The Edmond J Safra Fountain Court at Somerset House

In truth, it has always been so. The four sides of the courtyard have provided a welcoming architectural embrace to all manner of different people, projects and institutions over the years. After Sir William Chambers was commissioned to design the current Somerset House in 1775, The Royal Academy of Arts became the building’s first resident, hosting annual exhibitions in what is now the North Wing. (Look out for a bust of Italian Renaissance man Michelangelo – “the first of the artists” – above a doorway in the North Wing’s vestibule as you enter from The Strand.)


A Grade I listed bronze statue of King George III in the main quadrangle

In 1789, the Navy Board had joined them, meaning that Viscount Nelson worked here for a time in between various excursions as part of the Napoleonic Wars. Interestingly, the busy traffic thoroughfare that is the Victoria Embankment didn’t exist at that time, so the walls of Somerset House rather appropriately butted up against the lapping waters of the Thames itself. In fact, the Great Arch on the Embankment side of the building was once used as an access point for river vessels approaching such as the Navy Commissioner’s barge.

By the 19th century, the Board of Taxes (later the Inland Revenue), the Society of Antiquaries and the General Register Office, responsible for births, deaths and marriages, were all stationed at Somerset House. Chemist George Philips even ran a laboratory here, primarily working for the Inland Revenue to test the “adulteration” of tobacco, and later food, beer and spirits. Back in the Tudor era, meanwhile, the original Somerset House building was even home to the young Princess Elizabeth prior to her coronation in 1558.

The Tudor king Charles I and his wife Henrietta Maria would later hold lavish ‘masques’ (a sort of elaborately staged form of court entertainment popular in the 16th and 17th century) at the original venue too.

Royals would don costumes and celebrate their perceived divine right to rule, with festivities known to last up to 12 hours. Today the venue’s focus is more culture and entertainment than it is governmental or royal business, but the sheer range of events and uses is no less impressive.


Edouard Manet’s A bar at the Folies-Bergere, a highlight of the Courtland Gallery’s permanent collection

The Courtauld Gallery stages important exhibitions of modern and Old Master artworks, while the courtyard is home to open-air cinema and concerts in the summer (singers Amy Winehouse and Adele have previously graced the temporary stage), as well as an ice rink, Skate, in the winter. Many of these popular activities have been made possible thanks to the Somerset House Trust, which was established in 1997.

“At the heart of Somerset House’s ethos lies preserving and renewing one of London’s most historic buildings and opening the space up for the public to enjoy,” explains the Trust’s deputy director, Diana Spiegelberg. “A key focus has been to open up the New Wing, the last part of the site to come back to us from the Inland Revenue. Last October we opened Somerset House Studios as a new home to some of the UK’s most exciting artists, makers and thinkers.”

While making Somerset House a more appealing place to visit, such ventures are also key to the venue’s long-term viability too. “Unusually for a large-scale cultural centre, Somerset House receives no public funding,” explains Spiegelberg. “Investing in the preservation and development of the building relies on self-generated funds and the generosity of our supporters.” What a comfort to think that a visit to this historic venue is not only an enjoyable day out, but also helping to safeguard the institution for future generations.


Old Somerset House from the River Thames, c.1746-50, by Italian artist Canaletto

Wandering through London On The Perfect Music – United Kingdom

50 years after London was named the hippest hangout in the world, Florence Sheward finds the spirit of 1967 is alive and well in the capital London in the 1960s was a heady time to be alive. After the buttoned-down austerity of the previous decade, the economy was booming and a cultural revolution took place in fashion, art, music and more. There was a shift from old to new, as the focus turned to youth. Helped by a post-war baby boom and the end of compulsory National Service, this was the era of the teenager, free to do as they wished – and where better to come than the nation’s capital?

By 1967, London was at its peak cultural influence on the international stage. While the Summer of Love in San Francisco saw everyone turn on, tune in and drop out, the English capital buzzed with the possibilities of youth. The previous year, Time magazine had christened it “The Swinging City” and noted that, “in a decade dominated by youth, London has burst into bloom”.

This was the year of The Kinks’ Waterloo Sunset and Small Faces’ Itchycoo Park, and London-set films like Bedazzled, Blow-Up and the Sidney Poitier-starring To Sir, With Love. The Queen Elizabeth Hall, an international music venue on London’s Southbank, opened in the spring, while The Beatles, flushed from the success of their 1967 masterpiece Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, embarked on their short-lived Apple boutique at 94 Baker Street, opening the doors of the psychedelically-painted building to the public on 7 December.


The Beatles’ short-lived Apple boutique on Baker Street

In the process, the city became a playground for many of the era’s cultural icons, from The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix, to Twiggy and Michael Caine.

Fifty years on and there are plenty of ways to celebrate the spirit of ’67. This summer sees the Victoria and Albert Museum stage The Pink Floyd Exhibition: Their Mortal Remains (13 May to 1 October), a tribute to the British band that has chalked up more than 200 million record sales worldwide. Exploring art, design and performance, this retrospective will follow on from the museum’s record-breaking David Bowie Is exhibition in 2013, which welcomed around 312,000 visitors in London before embarking on a world tour.

The Pink Floyd exhibition is timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of not only the release of the band’s first single, Arnold Layne, but also their ‘Games for May’ concert at the newly opened Queen Elizabeth Hall. Billed as “space-age relaxation for the climax of Spring – electronic compositions, colour and image projections, girls and THE PINK FLOYD” [sic], the event took place on Friday 12 May 1967 and featured bubble machines, daffodils and various band members chopped up wood on stage or throwing potatoes at a gong to create unusual sounds.


Two of 1967’s most iconic albums, Pink Floyd’s The Piper at the Gates of Dawn and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles

One of the audio highlights of the concert was the use of the Azimuth Co-ordinator, a specially made quadrophonic speaker system complete with joystick controls that allowed the band to swirl pre-recorded sound effects around the room. This rudimentary surround sound system will be on display at the V&A this summer alongside more than 350 other Pink Floyd-related items and artefacts, including posters, instruments, hand-written lyric sheets and stage props from some of the pioneering band’s equally ambitious later tours.

There will also be unseen concert footage and light displays to recapture the atmosphere of a late 1960s happening as well.

Another counterculture icon who left his mark on Swinging London was the influential guitarist Jimi Hendrix. As well as releasing his first two albums in the UK in 1967, Are You Experienced and Axis:

Bold As Love, he also played at least six gigs in London (including two in support of Cat Stevens) and settled in a flat at 23 Brook Street with his girlfriend Kathy Etchingham the following summer. The musician helped Kathy decorate and furnish the flat, which is today the world’s only officially recognised Hendrix residence.

It opened to the public permanently last year and offers visitors the chance to rifle through his record collection, view Hendix’s vintage clothes and admire the hippy-chic interiors that provided the backdrop to many Hendrix photo shoots.

The flat’s volunteer minders have an encyclopaedic knowledge of Jimi trivia too. The 18th-century composer George Frideric Handel spent 36 years at 25 Brook Street and it is the Handel Trust that owns and operates the two adjacent venues.


Jimi Hendrix’s Brook Street flat in the 1960s and now

While respectful of the building’s heritage, the Hendrix flat also allows visitors to join in a number of events, including regular guitar lessons with tutor Nigel Jones. Look out for occasional parties that open up the other parts of the flat, including the guest room in which George Harrison once slept. Fab Four fans should head to Proud Galleries in Chelsea for The Beatles Unseen: Photographs by David Magnus (16 March to 14 May), a selection of rare images of the band including exclusive shots from the BBC live broadcast of All You Need Is Love in June 1967, and also make a date for It Was Fifty Years Ago Today (1 June), a celebration of Sgt. Pepper’s at the Royal Albert Hall with the album played live in its entirely by The Bootleg Beatles tribute band and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.


The Beatles at London’s Abbey Road Studios in June 1967

The Royal Albert Hall will also stage Summer of Love: Revisited (1 May to 5 July), a season of 1967-inspired music films which opens with the Pink Floyd-soundtracked counterculture documentary, Tonite Let’s All Make Love in London.


The poster for Tonite Let’s All Make Love in London

With a generation of musicians preaching peace, love and understanding, 1967 was a year of anti-war protests in London. The Imperial War Museum celebrates the spirit of the age with People Power: Fighting for Peace (23 March to 28 August), exploring how marches and conscientious objectors shaped our perceptions of war and conflict. While the exhibition stretches from the First World War to the present day, the section on the Cold War is packed with 1960s memorabilia, including posters, pin badges, placards and photographs.


Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) badges

Shakespeare’s Globe may appear an unlikely destination for a Swinging Sixties tribute, but Emma Rice’s final season as the theatre’s artistic director has been dubbed Summer of Love. Opening on 22 April, the summer season features new twists on the Bard’s most romantic plays, including an energetic Romeo & Juliet (22 April to 9 July), Kneehigh’s take on Tristan&Yseult (13-24 June) and a Latin-tinged Much Ado About Nothing (14 July to 15 October). Star-crossed lovers in search of yet more romance should look out for three ‘midnight matinees’ that will see the acting begin at 11.59pm in the historic open-air theatre.

The language in every performance might be Elizabethan, but the energy and colour is purely in keeping with the spirit of the Swinging City.

What’s New in London – United Kingdom



Sir John Soane’s Museum has housed a collection of the architect’s books, drawings, antiques and other personal artefacts in his former home since the early 19th century. And now the culmination of a seven-year restoration programme has returned the museum to its founder’s former specifications.

The final stage of the £7 million Opening Up the Soane project has seen the lobby opened out, the catacombs restored and the former butler’s pantry incorporated into an exhibition space that now allows a larger part of the architect’s original 1837 collection to be displayed. To celebrate, Marc Quinn’s Drawn from Life exhibition (28 March to 23 September) sees contemporary sculpture placed alongside Soane’s ancient artefacts.



Jez Butterworth’s Jerusalem was one of the must-see plays of the last decade, a Mark Rylancestarring state-of-the-nation play that sold out in London before transferring to Broadway. After a limited run for his theatrical follow-up, 2012’s The River, and work on several Hollywood blockbusters (including James Bond’s Spectre), Butterworth returns with The Ferryman, a family epic set in rural Northern Ireland. Directed by Sam Mendes and starring Paddy Considine, the initial run at the Royal Court sold out in 24 hours, so expect tickets to fly for additional 16-week West End run at the Gielgud Theatre, which runs from 20 June to 7 October.



A car horn, a market trader, an urban fox, a street busker… London is awash with vivid noises that shape our experience of the city and it is precisely this patchwork of sounds that has inspired The Prize for Illustration 2017. Held at the London Transport Museum and organised in partnership with the Association of Illustrators, the theme of this year’s exhibition is “Sounds of the City”.

A panel of judges selected 100 top entries to exhibit and the overall winning artwork will be displayed at tube stations across the capital. Sounds of the City runs from 19 May to 3 September.



King George III was a cultured sort, founding the Royal Academy of Arts and amassing thousands of books that now reside in the British Library. In 1762, just two years into his reign, the young monarch also bought almost the entire art collection of Venetian dealer Joseph Smith. In doing so, he secured for the nation an unrivalled portfolio of late Renaissance art, complete with dozens of vedute (or city scenes) by Italian painter Canaletto.

Key works from the Royal Collection [including Rosalba Carriera’s Winter, above] feature in Canaletto and the Art of Venice, which runs from 19 May to 12 November at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace.



The RHS Chelsea Flower Show is the highlight of the British horticultural calendar, as more than 150,000 greenfingered gardeners descend upon this 11-acre corner of central London. Held every year since 1913, the event provides the world’s best garden designers with the chance to showcase their skills on a series of ambitious and daring temporary plots in the hopes of winning a coveted RHS Gold Medal.

Highlight of this year’s show, which runs from 23-27 May, will include the Centenary Garden [pictured above], created to celebrate 100 years since the foundation of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Into The Wilds of Scotland – United Kingdom

In the wilderness areas of Scotland, an eclectic collection of basic accommodation has grown into what is now a well-established network of mountain huts, known as ‘bothies’. The term comes from the Gaelic bothan (via the Old Irish both) meaning ‘hut’, and originally described rudimentary accommodation provided by landowners for bachelor farm labourers or estate workers who tended crops or livestock.

In recent times, a bothy has come to mean a shelter that is freely available for anyone to stay the night or use as a lunch stop. The vast majority are single-storey crofts, farmsteads or estate houses that were abandoned, then saved from ruin and renovated. The network was formalised by the Mountain Bothies Association (MBA), which now maintains 81 properties with the agreement and support of the landowners and estates that own them.

As well as their historical associations, bothies differ from other systems of mountain huts and refuges around the world, in that very few are purpose built and the locations of the majority are not the result of strategic planning, so they may not necessarily lie close to a particular peak or along a recognized long- distance trail. Neither are bothies attached to particular national parks: they are randomly scattered across Scotland, some in very remote places that are rarely visited.

Another distinctive aspect of the culture which sets bothies apart is the concept of ‘bothying’, an eccentric ethos that revolves around purely going to a bothy for its own sake, without any other objective in mind, some regulars adopting a particular bothy as a home from home.

Many of the properties now used as open shelters were originally built to house shepherds and ghillies in the decades after the forced evictions known the Highland Clearances – events that occurred in the aftermath of a failed Scottish uprising in 1745 against the ruling Protestant government of George II.

Although there are no formal rules, there is a bothy code formulated by the MBA and posted at every property the association maintains. Put simply, it is the common-sense philosophy of treating others with respect, and leaving a bothy in the condition you would wish to find it in. Most importantly, no one has an exclusive right to a bothy and the concept of “first come, first served” does not exist.

Bothies are open shelters, available to all, and the overriding ethos is that, however full, there is always room for one more.

Shenavall, Northern Highlands


Latitude/Longitude: 57.7768, -5.2541

A flagship MBA bothy, Shenavall is one of the best known and busiest in Scotland and a visit is the perfect introduction to the delights of bothying. Spectacularly located on the edge of the Fisherfield Forest and close to an area of peaks described by Alfred Wainwright as “the Great Wilderness”, it has been a magnet for walkers for over a century. You can read a wealth of background material from accounts by the people who lived there, to entries in journals and bothy books, including vivid passages in Ken Wilson and Richard Gilbert’s classics, The Big Walks and Wild Walks.

Renowned author and mountaineer WH Murray visited in the 1950s, and HRH Prince Charles also hiked out here while still a pupil at Gordonstoun. Unless you are visiting out of season you are unlikely to have the place to yourself, but this region is one of the jewels of the Scottish Highlands.

Faindouran, Eastern Highlands


Latitude/Longitude: 57.1370, -3.5189

Lying beneath the looming presence of Beinn à Bhuird and the distinctive granite tors of Ben Avon, Faindouran bothy overlooks the crystal-clear waters once proclaimed the purest in all Scotland. This wild expanse of heather, moss and grit is one of the remotest corners of the Cairngorms National Park, and the bothy is certainly among the most isolated in the country.

A safe haven in bad weather, the bothy rose from the ruins of a former Victorian hunting lodge on the Glen Avon Estate and was one of the first projects the fledgling MBA took on in the late 1960s. Following extensive damage by extreme winds in 2013, the gable end was reconstructed, the replace blocked up, and a stove installed. The bothy’s structure occupies only the west gable end of the original footprint, and consists of a ground-floor room with an attic above, accessed by steep stairs.

The communal area is bright and airy, with whitewashed walls and a two-person sleeping platform to the right of the doorway.

Oban, Western Highlands


Latitude/Longitude: 56.9522, -5.5151

Sheltering above the uncharted chasm of Loch Morar, Oban bothy is one of the most remote MBA properties accessible on foot. You could easily run out of superlatives for this breathtaking spot, where the deepest lake in the UK is set amidst wild, isolated hills. Among seasoned bothy-goers, a pilgrimage to Oban has quietly earned a reputation as an unmissable experience. For a long time there was a real pressure to keep the shelter’s whereabouts under your hat, its location only passed on by word of mouth.

And up to the late 1990s, the bothy’s owners requested that the grid reference be withheld from the MBA membership book. Those days are gone, but access is now restricted by the estate, which chooses to close the bothy for up to six months from August.

Oban sits close to a small sandy inlet at the end of Loch Morar. Its Gaelic name means ‘white’ or ‘fair bay’. Small communities still existed here in the early 19th century, despite the pressures of the Clearances, and over at Kinlochmorar, the ruins of a township are visible.

The Lookout, Skye


Latitude/Longitude: 57.7013, -6.3444

The stunning 180-degree view from the bay window certainly gives this bothy its wow factor. This former coastguard watch station, positioned precariously close to the cliff top above Rubha Hunish, offers a panorama encompassing the entire Western Isles and, on a clear day, the profile of the mainland all the way to Cape Wrath. The bothy is also a fantastic spot for whale and dolphin watching: schools of migrating minkes pass through the Minch in the autumn, and various other sightings are recorded in the logbook.

The watch room was built in 1928 and the station operated until the 1970s when advances in radio technology superseded the need for a duty officer. The building was then adopted as an open shelter, but a violent storm in 2005 smashed the windows, damaging the interior and leaving its long-term

future in doubt. The MBA took on the renovation with support from the local community, following the design of the original structure as closely as possible.

The work was dedicated to the memory of David JJ Brown, an MBA stalwart, and a plaque in the bothy describes him as an “anti-materialist and wilderness lover”.

Greensykes, South Scotland


Latitude/Longitude: 55.2897, -3.0841

Concealed in a small clearing within the extensive Eskmuirdale forest, on the northern side of the picturesque Eskdale Valley, Greensykes is a great place to escape the relentless pace of the modern world for a while, much like its near neighbour the Samye Ling Tibetan monastery. Like so many remote outposts in the Borders, the bothy was originally a shepherd’s cottage, and much of its history can be found in the local parish records.

The earliest entry dated 1826 records the birth of Michael, son of James Anderson, and the youngest of seven children. The family lived in the farmstead for more than 70 years, before the Jacksons and then the Pringles took over the shepherding duties, remaining until the 1940s. Jamestown, at the road end, was originally built to accommodate miners who worked periodically at Antimony mine in nearby Glenshanna until 1921-’22.

There is also an information board and plaque commemorating the great civil engineer and surveyor Thomas Telford, who was born at Glendinning in 1757.

How Red Phones Become an iconic image of Britain

It’s hard to imagine a more potent symbol of Britain’s identity than the red telephone box. It feels as if they have always dotted the nation, a reminder of the stability of the establishment, their design obvious and unchallenged. But, in fact, the creation of the public phonebox (or, more correctly, ‘kiosk’) was rather more problematic, as Nigel Linge and Andy Sutton explain in their new book, The British Phonebox.

The early years of the phone network saw independent companies providing services locally, and it wasn’t until they were brought under the umbrella of the National Telephone Company in 1892 that a network of lines connecting cities was created. The first public call offices allowed access to non-subscribers for a small fee, along with free calls to the fire service and for medical emergencies, yet bore little resemblance to the red kiosks we know and love today.


And neither were they universally welcomed, with one Edinburgh subscriber grumbling

that: “Any person off the street may, for a trifling payment, ring up any subscriber and insist on holding a conversation with him.”

When the telephone service was taken into full public ownership under the Post Office (GPO) in 1912, it was time for a standardised design. The K1 (‘k’ for kiosk) was born, but was never able to win hearts. By 1923, competing designs were presented and, although none were accepted, the Royal Fine Arts Commission held a design competition in the following year. Three famous architects – Sir John Burnet, Sir Robert Lorimer and Giles Gilbert Scott – were invited to participate. Scott’s design with moulded columns, back-lit rectangular sign and a royal crown above was selected. Britain’s second standardized kiosk, K2, was too large and expensive for general use, yet still sparked our national obsession. Tweaked designs followed but the GPO still couldn’t settle on a truly universal design.

Luckily, George V’s Silver Jubilee in 1935 provided a high-profile opportunity to remedy this. Scott’s K6, known as the Jubilee kiosk, would become ubiquitous thanks to the Jubilee Concession Scheme, which provided a phonebox for every town and village that had a post office – more than 1,000 were installed across Britain.

Yet, at first, the K6 still wasn’t entirely embraced and the colour proved an issue. When the question was raised in the House of Lords in 1947, the Postmaster General gathered the Royal Fine Arts Commission and various councils together to examine six kiosks painted different colours and settle the matter once and for all. The verdict? The boxes would be Post Office red. The red box became part of the national sense of identity for decades. By the turn of the 21st century, mobile technology fundamentally changed the public’s relationship with telephones, yet Scott’s design lives on in the national consciousness and our nostalgia for an earlier iteration of Great Britain. Indeed, in many places, these landmarks have found second lives as tiny cafés, shops and libraries, and as enduring testament to the power of good design.