Britain has so much to offer the casual historian in terms of days out and excursions that the choice can be a little overwhelming. Whether it’s castles or museums that whet your appetite for learning about the past, we’ve shortlisted five of the best historical destinations that are guaranteed to excite, inform and entertain.
AMBERLEY MUSEUM & HERITAGE CENTRE
Located between the Sussex towns of Arundel and Storrington, Amberley Museum is dedicated to local industrial heritage. Exhibits include the telecommunications hall, electricity hall, working printshop, road steam engines and more. The museum is home to traditional craftspeople such as the wheelwrights and blacksmith, with a cafe, gift shop, nature trails and picnic areas. The museum hosts more than 50 events ranging from children’s activity days to classic vehicle shows. February half term events include Opening Weekend on 13-14 February, Toddler Tuesday on the 16th and Electric Amberley Activity Day on the 17th.
All events are listed on the museum’s website and Facebook page. After half term the museum is open from March to October, seven days a week during Sussex school holidays and on Bank Holidays, otherwise Wednesday to Sunday.
HEVER CASTLE & GARDENS
Experience 700 years of history at the castle once the childhood home of Anne Boleyn and also home to Anne of Cleves. Set in the beautiful Kent countryside, the original Medieval castle with its gatehouse and walled bailey was built in 1270, with the Tudor dwelling added by the Boleyn family.
The splendid panelled rooms contain fine furniture, tapestries, antiques and an important collection of Tudor portraits. Two prayer books that belonged to Anne Boleyn are on display – one is believed to be the prayer book she took to her execution at the Tower. Despite its splendour, Hever Castle also houses lots of armour and gruesome torture devices. A permanent exhibition brings the 16th century to life with costumed figures illustrating key events in Anne’s life at the castle.
THE NATIONAL MEMORIAL TO THE FEW AT THE WING
The bravery and sacrifice of the aircrew who took part in the Battle of Britain in 1940 continues to inspire us more than 75 years after it happened. The story of how fewer than 3,000 men took to the sky to defeat the Luftwaffe and end Hitler’s plans to invade this country is brilliantly told in the new Spitfire-shaped Wing building at the National Memorial to the Few. Situated on Kent’s famous white cliffs at Capel-le-Ferne near Folkestone, the multimedia Scramble Experience gives a sense of what it must have been like to take part in possibly the most important battle this country has ever won.
The memorial itself is an inspirational stone carving of an airman gazing reflectively out over the Channel, while the site is also home to a replica Hurricane and Spitfire and the Christopher Foxley- Norris Memorial Wall, where the names of those who took part are listed.
THE JORVIK GROUP
Exploring the history of a city like York can be an expensive day out or short break. Luckily the JORVIK Group offer the Pastport – allowing access to five of the best city-centre attractions throughout the year for one great, discounted price. Discover a Medieval townhouse, once hidden behind a modern facade and now restored to its former glory at Barley Hall.
Explore the bloody impact of the Wars of the Roses on York at the Richard III & Henry VII Experiences on the famous city walls. Experience hands-on archaeology at DIG – An Archaeological Adventure. Unfortunately following the floods in York over the Christmas period, JORVIK Viking Centre will be closed until further notice but any Pastports purchased during this time will be valid for 24 months, allowing you to re-visit York and re-discover the Viking Age at JORVIK!
TOUR THE THAMES: CRIME, DEATH AND MYTHS
Saturday 20 February, 1-4.30pm
Take a boat trip down the Thames and immerse yourself in the myths of the river and dark stories of crime and death from Execution Dock to the Great Stink. Join experts Scott Wood, author of London Urban Legends: The Corpse On The Tube and a regular contributor to Londonist, and Julie Chandler, a Blue Badge Guide and founder of London Town Tours, as they narrate the stories of the river.
The tour goes from Westminster Pier to the 02 and back again, passing by the famous landmarks of the city including London’s iconic bridges, the London Eye, the Tower of London, London’s Docklands and Greenwich. Book now for £38 by calling 020 7001 9844.