‘Wow factor’: Britain’s best holiday let named – ‘fantastic place’ | Travel News | Travel

The best holiday let in Britain has been found. Sykes Holiday Cottages went on a nationwide search for the best place Britons can book for their holiday, and they’ve found a two-bedroom Highlands retreat that ticked all the right boxes.

The Sheiling was named the best British holiday let and the holiday let with the best view.

The circular two-bedroom luxury wooden lodge has only been up and running for six months.

On the edge of its own loch in a secluded location, the property is close to the village of Plockton and has a circular grass-topped roof, a hot tub, a wrap-around deck and a private pier with a small rowing boat.

Martin Matheson, owner of The Sheiling, said: “Taking on the project to purchase and build on Loch Lundie was a big decision, but we are so proud of what we’ve achieved.

READ MORE: ‘Glorious’ harbour town named one of the most beautiful in Cornwall

“The round design in particular took a lot of careful planning to get right, and executing those plans was a whole other challenge that took time and perseverance.

“We were booked out over the past summer and 2022 is already filling up fast – with the staycation boom helping to really make this investment pay off for us.

“Winning an award like this, alongside lovely feedback from our guests, also helps to make it all so worth it.”

Reviewers on Cottages.com only had good things to say about the holiday let.


Stevie wrote: “Amazing lodge to stay!! Stunning location with incredible views over the Loch! Furnished to a very high standard! Magic to have your own wee rowing boat! Spacious deck with hot tub and fire pit! Barbecue also! Fantastic place to relax and chill out!”

David wrote: “Fantastic place. If you’re a water lover, you effectively have your own private loch. Large outside deck with great bbq and hot tub. Would definitely go back.”

And Hillary said: “We booked our holiday before the property was completed and we weren’t disappointed.

“From the first view through the trees, the wonderful peace and clear air, the wow factor as we walked into the main room, through the quality of the build, the equipment, the hot tub (from which we stargazed), the rowing boat (a bit windy for rowing novices!) to its location which allowed easy visits to Skye, Plockton and other local places including wonderful walks from the front door, we could not have experienced a better holiday.”

The awards also included other categories, such as Best Renovation, Best Quirky Holiday Let, Best Sustainable Holiday Let and Best Interior Design.

Graham Donoghue, CEO at Sykes Holiday Cottages, said: “These awards don’t just showcase the very best of Britain’s holiday lets, they also highlight the hard work that goes into holiday letting across the UK to make Britain’s staycation market the success it is today.

“We’ve witnessed more holidaymakers than ever before opt for UK holidays over the past year – helped by the pandemic but also because Brits appear to have rediscovered their love of a Great British Staycation.”

Britain’s Best Holiday Let and Best View
The Sheiling, Loch Lundie – Scottish Highlands
Property details: two bedrooms, sleeps four

Best Interior Design
The Rookery, Roughlee – Lancashire
Property details: three bedrooms, sleeps six

Best Quirky Holiday Let
The Carriage at High Barn, Halsted – Essex
Property details: 1880’s railway carriage – one bedroom, sleeps two

Best Renovation
Tithe Barn, Malltraeth – Anglesey
Property details: rustic barn – four bedrooms, sleeps eight

Best Sustainable Holiday Let
Balvaig, Pitlochry – Perthshire
Property details: four bedrooms, sleeps seven

Sykes Holiday Cottages

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Winter sun: Britain’s sunniest city named – ‘it all happens here!’ | Travel News | Travel

Britain’s weather may be one of the country’s favourite topics of discussion, but it’s rare to be positive. However, the grey skies and cold and wet weather could be nothing more than clichés.

A new study has named the sunniest cities in Britain, and they could be the perfect winter sun escapes for Britons in need of some rays.

Smart Energy GB partnered with climate activist and Springwatch star Chris Packham to commission a report compiled by Dr Tim Forman of the University of Cambridge.

The sunniest area of Britain was Southwest England, while the least sunny British area was Northwest Scotland.

The UK’s sunniest city was Plymouth.

Chris said: “Britain is blessed with four distinct seasons with clear changes in the weather, which is full of energy, notably the wind and – although it feels rare – the sunshine.”

READ MORE: British expats in Spain: Christmas food warning

The Devon waterfront city of Plymouth could be the best bet for Britons in search of UK winter sun.

In Plymouth, holidaymakers can go to the beach at Wembury or explore the largest park in the city, Central Park.

History lovers will want to go to the Mayflower Steps, the departure point of Sir Francis Drake and the 102 pilgrims who sailed for North America in 1620.

On Tripadvisor, Steve and Andie said: “Good to see this area has been refurbished and keeping history alive.

“It may not have been the original site where the Mayflower set off from but very close to it, that being situated in the ladies loo of the nearby pub!”


Other points of interest in the city include Smeatons Tower, a lighthouse built in 1759 by John Smeaton, and the Barbican and Sutton Harbour area.

Tracey G said: “When you think of Plymouth you think of the lighthouse – apart from The Mayflower, Francis Drake, The Spanish Armada, Francis Chichester. Wow! It all happens here!”

There are over 200 listed buildings lining the cobbled streets of the Barbican and Sutton Harbour, as well as Elizabethan Gardens.

Not far from the city, Saltram is a National Trust country estate with 500 acres of grounds and the garden is currently open.

Britons can also head to Drake’s Island on a guided tour or sample the gins at Plymouth Gin.

Tony W said: “Having for many years viewed Drakes Island from Plymouth, it was an experience to see it from the other side and learn about the history and possible future of the island.”

Trevor H wrote: “I have lived or worked in Plymouth for nearly 35 years and had not set foot on the Island, my wife however, had been on one of the adventure weeks there whilst in the 6th Form at school ‘quite a few years ago!’

“The trip is suitable for all ages who can manage steps and uneven terrain as the island’s vegetation, pathways are just being brought under control after being left for many years.

“The plans for what is to happen are fantastic and I await their completion before my next visit which is hopefully within the next seven to 10 years.”

Britain’s sunniest cities


2. Exeter

3. London

4. Norwich

5. Oxford

6. Huddersfield

7. Liverpool

8. Manchester

9. Bristol

10. Sunderland


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Only two in five support raising taxes to reduce Britain’s carbon emissions, but most in favour of hiking cost of air travel – Sky News poll | Climate News

Only two in five people would support increasing taxes as part of efforts to reduce Britain’s carbon emissions – but a majority are in favour of hiking the cost of air travel and banning petrol and diesel cars from city centres, new polling suggests.

In a YouGov poll for Sky News, more than three-quarters of respondents (76%) said they believed the world’s climate was changing as a result of human activity.

This compared to one in 10 (11%) who agreed the world’s climate was changing but disagreed it was because of human activity, while only 2% said the world’s climate was not changing.

More than half (52%) thought the cost of and upheaval caused by climate change, if Britain does not reduce carbon emissions, would be worse than the cost and upheaval required to reduce the country’s carbon emissions. This compared to 23% who thought the opposite and 25% who weren’t sure.

YouGov/Sky News poll 9-10 November 2021
YouGov/Sky News poll, 9-10 November 2021

However, despite an overwhelming majority accepting man-made climate change, those who responded to the survey were split over how the issue should be tackled.

Two in five (40%) said they would support taxes being increased to help pay the costs of reducing Britain’s carbon emissions, with a greater proportion (44%) opposed.

There was majority support for increasing the cost of air travel (59% in support compared to 32% opposed), as well for banning petrol and diesel cars from city centres from 2030 (54% in support, 37% opposed).

But most respondents did not support increasing the cost of gas and electricity (78% opposed, 14% in support), increasing the cost of petrol or diesel (60% opposed, 32% in support), or increasing the cost of meat and dairy products (61% opposed, 31% in support).

One in five (22%) said they were most likely to purchase an electric car when they next buy a car, compared to 17% who said they would buy a petrol car and 7% who said they would buy a diesel car.

Two-thirds (66%) who said they would buy a petrol or diesel car said this was, among other reasons, because an electric car would be too expensive.

YouGov/Sky News poll 9-10 November 2021
YouGov/Sky News poll, 9-10 November 2021

When asked how energy efficient their current home is, 62% said it was efficient while 28% said it was not.

Of those who believed their current home was not very energy efficient, 38% said improving its energy efficiency would be too expensive, among other reasons.

The YouGov poll of 1,729 British adults was conducted on 9 and 10 November and prior to the conclusion of the COP26 international climate change conference in Glasgow.

More than three in five (62%) said they had not been paying much attention, or no attention at all, to the Glasgow summit, while nearly two in five (39%) said they had been taking notice.

YouGov/Sky News poll 9-10 November 2021
YouGov/Sky News poll, 9-10 November 2021

More than two-thirds (68%) were pessimistic that the world would make the necessary changes to limit the impact of climate change, with less than one-fifth (17%) optimistic.

Boris Johnson used the COP26 conference to urge world leaders to commit to action on reducing global warming.

But more than half (55%) of those surveyed believed the prime minister had done badly on providing global leadership on climate change, with less than a quarter (22%) thinking Mr Johnson had done well.

Prior to the conclusion of the Glasgow summit, less than one in 10 (9%) thought COP26 had been a success with more than one-fifth (42%) thinking it had not been one, although nearly half (49%) said they did not know.

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Commenting on the findings of the poll, YouGov’s director of political research Anthony Wells said: “All in all, people believe in climate change and say we should address it, but are far less willing to pay for it.”

The full results of the YouGov survey can be found here.

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COP26 in Glasgow shines light on Britain’s sustainable travel experiences

Ahead of COP26, VisitBritain has launched a global sustainable tourism content ‘hub’ for visitors with itineraries, activities and experiences to enjoy a sustainable stay in Britain.

VisitBritain Executive Vice President, The Americas Gavin Landry said:

“The COP26 Summit and accompanying media exposure gives us a timely and valuable opportunity to highlight how visitors can enjoy a sustainable and responsible stay in Britain, from eco-friendly accommodation to dark sky reserves, sustainable fashion and locally sourced food and drink to epic train journeys and cycling routes.

“Many businesses and organizations in our sector are already putting sustainability at the heart of what they do and we want to support visitors and our global travel trade partners to find products and experiences that will enrich their stay. We hope people will then stay longer, travel more widely using low-carbon transport and explore out of season.”

Follow these links for terrific ideas on exploring Britain sustainably:

VisitBritain has set out its priorities to aid the recovery of both domestic and international tourism, including rebuilding a more resilient, sustainable and accessible industry supporting the UK Government’s ambitions set out in the Tourism Recovery Plan. Its recently published Sustainable Tourism discussion paper sets out its approach, from championing regional dispersal and low carbon transport, sharing resources and best practice with businesses to working with the trade on itineraries that support sustainable and responsible tourism. 

COP26 is the next in a series of major events to be held in Britain. Next year, significant global tourism draws will include HM The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and ‘UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK’ 2022 – promoting the UK’s creativity and innovation to the world.

Tourism is a critical industry for the UK, usually worth £127 billion annually to the economy. VisitBritain continues to work with the industry to spread the economic and social benefits of tourism more widely, driving visits right across the year and across the nations and regions, supporting local economies.

Press contacts:

  • Julia Gordin, VisitBritain Senior Communications Manager, USA
    M: 347.598.4046; E: [email protected]
  • Erica Roney, VisitBritain Communications Manager, USA
    M: 646.988.9105; E: [email protected]

SOURCE VisitBritain

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10 of Britain’s best small museums, chosen by readers | Day trips

Winning tip: When king coal ruled Somerset

Somerset is saddled with stereotypes: cider, cheddar cheese and yokels who say ooh-arhh a lot. Few people know that for more than 250 years it was the centre of an advanced and highly mechanised coal industry covering an area greater than the Levels. The industry, its technology, characters, tragedies and distinctive way of life are on show at the superlative Radstock Museum. It’s a beautifully laid-out, informative, often poignant gem barely 10 miles from Bath, and much less predictable than that city’s museum offerings.
Reopens 2 June, 2pm-5pm Wed, 11am-5pm Sat, 2pm-5pm Sun; then from 6 July 2-5pm Tues-Sun and 11am-5pm Sat, free entry until end of August, donations encouraged
Christopher Inge

Beauty and the beach, Bournemouth

The Russell Cotes Museum and Art Gallery gardens
Art nouveau and pre-Raphaelite art both feature at the Russell-Cotes. Photograph: Gregory Davies/Alamy

The Russell-Cotes art gallery is beckoning our family back if we go to Bournemouth after it all reopens. It may be the nearest museum and gallery to a beach in the UK, as we discovered last summer, when we chanced upon it 200 metres from the sea and pier after a hot day sunbathing and swimming. It was so good we spent several hours wandering around the beautiful building, enjoying art nouveau tiled ceilings and pre-Raphaelite paintings. It’s an elegant, lovingly maintained old Victorian house. We want to spend time on the tea terrace with sea views to complete a sensual, arty afternoon.
Reopens 18 May, 10am-5pm Tue-Sun, adult £7.50, 5-17s £4
Nigel Cox


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Something Specials, Coventry

Reminders of 2 tone – singer Pauline Black of The Selecter.
Reminders of 2 tone: singer Pauline Black of The Selecter. Photograph: Lynn Goldsmith/Getty Images

Coventry Music Museum will take you back
To 2 Tone gigs of white and black
And Top of the Pops on Thursday nights
Pork pie hats and tonic suits
Reggae dancing, Doc Marten boots
The best three quid you’ll ever spend
The museum’s Ghost Town to Host Town exhibition opens on 20 May (£4, £2 kids and concessions, open Thur-Sun), phone ahead (0797 117 1441) to book
Nick Knibb

Knit wits, Nottinghamshire

The sock knitting room at the Framework Knitters Museum
The sock knitting room at the Framework Knitters Museum. Photograph: lowefoto/Alamy

I know, I know, a museum about knitting? (Stifled yawn). But Framework Knitters Museumin Ruddington is so much more – from interactive videos such as “Breaking The Frame”– to find out if you would have supported the Framebreakers – to the history of Ned Ludd and the Luddite movement and even a pair of Queen Victoria’s stockings! The museum is attached to a cottage where you can see how the workers would have lived and get an idea of their working conditions. There are regular displays of working “frames”, an art gallery and wonderful tea and cakes.
Behind the Scenes days 6-12 June for pre-booked groups, full reopening late summer, with new shop and exhibition space and more cottage rooms, adult £5, 5-15 years £2

Steaming ahead, Wiltshire

The pump house at Crofton Beam Engines, Kennet and Avon Canal.
The pump house at Crofton Beam Engines, Kennet and Avon Canal. Photograph: Christine Strover/Alamy

Set beside the beautiful Kennet and Avon canal south of Marlborough, Crofton Beam Engines are an awe-inspiring triumph of industrial engineering from the age of steam. The huge iron pumps kept water levels topped up at the highest point of the canal linking London to Bristol. I love the contrast between the tranquility of the surroundings and the reminder of the power of the Industrial Revolution. If you can, visit on a steaming day and see these monoliths in action.
Reopens 22 May, Tues-Sun 10.30am-4.30pm, self-guided tour £5 adult, under-16 free

West African society and the horrors of slavery, Liverpool

International Slavery Museum in Liverpool
The slavery museum not only explores slave trade history but the sophistication of West African society before the arrival of Europeans. Photograph: Ed Rooney/Alamy

Interest in transatlantic slavery is running high, so staycationers are advised to book early for the International Slavery Museum. Some displays remain closed but multimedia exhibits in the Middle Passage gallery will leave patrons open-mouthed at the horrors endured. (Tip: don’t bypass the window overlooking the graving docks.) The Life in West Africa and Legacy galleries do more: they will open minds to the sophistication of West African society prior to the landing of Europeans, and Black achievement notwithstanding contemporary discrimination.
Reopens 18 May, 10am to 6pm Tues-Sun, free but donations requested
Lee P Ruddin

Bagpuss at the Beaney, Canterbury

Artefacts from pilgrims are among the attractions at Beaney House, Canterbury.
Artefacts from pilgrims are among the attractions at Beaney House, Canterbury. Photograph: Tim Stubbings/Alamy

The original Bagpuss, “saggy old cloth cat” and beloved title character of the 1970s children’s TV show, is just one highlight of the Beaney House of Art and Knowledge. Bagpuss resided in a shop for lost items, with each episode exploring the story of a different object. The Beaney, a striking Tudor revival building, is a place to explore the stories of a range of exhibits, from paintings to pilgrim badges, old and new artefacts from Canterbury and beyond, and has something to interest all ages of visitor.
Reopens 18 May, 10am-4.30pm Mon-Fri, 10am-4pm Sat, free but book timed entry in advance
Sharon Pinner

Croft story, Orkney

Cra’as Nest crofting museum, Orkney
A dresser and other ancient furnishings in the restored croft on Hoy. Photograph: Paul Kirkwood

The Cra’as Nest Museum at Rackwick on Hoy in the Orkney Islands is in a restored 18th-century croft, complete with dresser and two box beds as well as a byre and barn with a kiln for drying oats. The museum tells the unlikely story of two tailors, both sons of Hoy crofters, who invented the suspender clasp based on a device originally used to hold up baggy farm dungarees. They patented their idea of a clasp in the US because of the outrage that would’ve be caused by such a concept in their tight-knit Victorian community.
Open daily, free
Paul Kirkwood

Back before Broadchurch, Dorset

West Bay Discovery Centre, Dorset
Storms, shipwrecks, Victorian resort history are among subjects brought to live in West Bay’s museum. Photograph: Karen Heaney

West Bay Discovery Centre is so close to the beach you can hear the surf pounding on the shingle. Run by super-helpful volunteers, this small, child-friendly museum punches way above its weight. Through a fantastic collection of artefacts and archive photographs, it provides a fascinating insight into West Bay’s past, from its shipbuilding heyday, through its reinvention as a Victorian resort, to recent fame as the location for the TV series Broadchurch. It’s strong on natural history too, with interactive exhibits about the geology and wildlife of the Jurassic Coast, its storms and shipwrecks.
Reopens 18 May, 11am-4pm Tues-Sun, free
Karen Heaney

Town and country, Reading

Main exhibition space at the Museum of English Rural Life, Reading.
Main exhibition space at the Museum of English Rural Life, Reading. Photograph: Edmund Sumner/Alamy

The Museum of English Rural Life, part of Reading University, has a vast and fascinating collection chronicling the changes in countryside life since 1750. Everyone will find their own favourite objects and insights among the diverse displays. Unexpectedly, I loved the collection of farm wagons, whose distinctive designs reveal their region of origin. Visitors are greeted by a wonderfully meditative animation, showing a rural landscape shifting through the seasons. Upstairs, you can peek behind the scenes, and browse rows of meticulously labelled objects in open storage. The nostalgia extends to books: the museum has an impressive collection of Ladybird books on display.
Reopens 18 May, 9am-5pm Tues-Fri, 10am-5pm Sat, Sun, free but donation recommended

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Britain’s new travel restrictions for Turkey casts doubt on race · RaceFans

In the round-up: Formula 1’s recently-announced race at Istanbul Park in June has been put in doubt after Britain revised its travel restrictions for the country.

In brief

Turkish travel restriction casts doubt on race

Britain, which is home to the majority of F1 teams, announced on Friday that Turkey has been added to its “red list” of countries which “should not be visited except in the most extreme circumstances”. While F1 has previously raced in countries where lockdowns were in force due to the pandemic, it remains to be seen whether this development will put the Turkish Grand Prix under threat.

The race was added to the calendar last month in place of the cancelled Canadian Grand Prix.

A Formula 1 spokesperson said the championship is “aware of the announcement made by the UK government regarding travel restrictions for Turkey and are assessing the situation and will provide more details in the coming days.”

Sainz having to learn at Ferrari what he “understood perfectly” at McLaren

Carlos Sainz Jnr, Ferrari, Circuit de Catalunya, 2021
Sainz isn’t in tune with the tyres yet as he was at McLaren

Carlos Sainz Jnr says part of the reason for his disappointing performance in the Portuguese Grand Prix, where he fell out of the points on dying tyres in the final laps, was because he doesn’t understand his car’s behaviour as well as he did at McLaren.

“We cannot blame it all on strategy, for sure,” said the Ferrari driver. “We could have done things better. But our tyre understanding before the race wasn’t ideal.

“Also, we didn’t know that the medium was going to be so poor. We didn’t know that the graining was going to be so obvious as it was in the race. We basically didn’t know many things before the race. And we want to to be better at that, better arriving to a race a bit better prepared.

“I’m going to get better at it as the races go on, knowing what the tyres do in the race. This is something that in McLaren, I perfectly knew how the tyre was is going to develop into a race, how the car is going to behave in the race. And maybe I’m still lacking this experience and this this memory this predictability of the car and the tyres in this car in Ferrari.”

Hauger takes pole for opening F3 race

Hauger took pole yesterday and will start there tomorrow

Dennis Hauger beat Jack Doohan for pole position at F3’s first round this year. The two were separated by just six thousandths of a second, after an extremely competitive qualifying session.

Because of Formula 3’s new, three-race weekend format, Hauger will not actually assume his pole position until Sunday’s race, with the top 12 being reversed to start tomorrow’s first of three races.

Until then, making up positions in Saturday’s races is “not that easy”, Hauger admitted. “Even with the new turn 10, it’s not that much easier. Obviously when the tyres degrade at the end of the race I think we’ll get more opportunities. Starting P12 with the new format is going to be interesting, we just have to survive race one, try and get some points and take as many opportunities as we can.”

Juan Manuel Correa, in his return to racing since suffering horrific injuries in the 2019 Spa Formula 2 crash which claimed the life of Anthoine Hubert at Spa, qualified 13th in the 30-strong field.

Hamilton impressed by midfield success

Lewis Hamilton praised the progress midfield teams are making in closing the gap to Mercedes and Red Bull.

“It’s amazing to see the progress that Ferrari and McLarexn are making and even Alpine,” he said. “It’s fantastic to see them so strong. So that applies pressure to us also.”

AlphaTauri trying to improve low-speed cornering

Speaking after Friday’s first practice session, AlphaTauri team principal Franz Tost described how the team is working to address the slow-speed cornering deficit which the Portuguese Grand Prix exposed.

“Today we had, in the slow-speed corners, some smaller problems but I think we can get rid of it. Yuki [Tsunoda] had a bit too much understeer in slow-speed and mid-speed corners but no major problems,

“Pierre [Gasly] was, with the soft tyres, quite satisfied. With the hard tyres, he said the car was a little bit too disconnected. The engineers are sitting [down] together to find out hopefully a proper set-up.”

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Britain’s hotspots almost fully booked amid staycation boom

Demand for UK holidays has skyrocketed this week, as England enters phase two of the roadmap to ease lockdown restrictions.

Following the reopening of self-catered accommodation, campsites and beer gardens on Monday April 12, parts of Britain are close to fully booked.

A report by the Rest Easy Group confirmed 98 per cent of properties in Cornwall across its platforms are booked this week – with Devon and Yorkshire also close to full capacity.

“Only 3 per cent of properties in Devon are now available to book, followed by 5 per cent in Yorkshire and 2 per cent in Cornwall,” said Matt Fox, CEO of Rest Easy Group, which is a marketplace for UK holiday rentals.

Calendars are also brimming with bookings in other popular destinations, as the future of international holidays remains uncertain.

“We are still seeing the staycation market boom, with both Silverlake, Dorset and Lower Mill Estate, Cotswolds, fully booked today [Monday] and at 90 per cent capacity next weekend. We expect to see this increase in demand continue long into summer whilst international travel is still uncertain,” said Red Paxton, director at Habitat Escapes, which offers lakeside self-catering properties in The Cotswolds and Dorset.

Popular destinations in Scotland are primed for a booking surge, as Nicola Sturgeon confirms restrictions on cross-border travel between Scotland and other parts of the UK will be lifted on April 26, when self-catering accommodation will also be allowed to reopen.

A report by Tripadvisor found that Kinloch Rannoch, a popular holiday village in Perth and Kinross, is the most popular destination for staycationers planning an escape for the early May Bank holiday, having seen the biggest month-on-month increase in searches.

Scroll down for today’s updates.

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10 of Britain’s most eccentric villages: chosen by readers | United Kingdom holidays

Winning tip: Staffordshire Alps

Ilam, Staffordshire, is a surprise. Although there has been a settlement here since Saxon times, the current buildings are all in the style of a Swiss village. It was built in the early 1800s by a wealthy local landowner, Jesse Watts-Russell, purely because the surrounding Peak District area reminded him of Switzerland. Unlike some wealthy landowners, he seems to have been something of a philanthropist – he built and funded a school before education was compulsory.

Rocket science, Outer Hebrides

Remains of the abandoned settlement on the island of Scarp.
Remains of the abandoned settlement on the island of Scarp. Photograph: Lynne Evans/Alamy

Scarp village on the Isle of Scarp was once home to 200 people following the clearances from the Isle of Harris. Life here was hard: the soil was poor, and there was no harbour, so families were unable to thrive. Both the village and island were deserted in 1971. The township was immortalised in a film (2004’s The Rocket Post) thanks to an unsuccessful 1934 experiment to deliver mail by rocket by a German engineer, Gerhard Zucker, who was later deported but continued to pursue his mail rocket dreams long after the second world war. More than 4,000 letters were scattered, singed, across the beach as the missile failed. Today, the deserted village can be seen from Traigh Mheilein beach on Harris; the bright red phone box still visible on the shoreline.
Vanessa Wright

Elizabethan connection, Cotswolds

One of the seven wells in the Cotswold village of Bisley decorated for the Ascension Day ceremony of blessing the wells. Image shot 2008. Exact date unknown.B5JCFK One of the seven wells in the Cotswold village of Bisley decorated for the Ascension Day ceremony of blessing the wells. Image shot 2008. Exact date unknown.
Bisley’s wells are decorated with flowers on Ascension Day. Photograph: Cotswolds Photo Library/Alamy

Bisley is a picturesque village in Gloucestershire. Legend goes that in 1542, Elizabeth I died there while visiting as a child. Her guardians, fearing for their lives, replaced her with a local boy – the Bisley Boy. This is thought to explain why the queen never married. It is said that an unmarked grave of a child was discovered years later in the grounds of the house where Elizabeth stayed. Rumours still abound that her ghost stalks the village. Bisley also has a peculiar pagan celebration for Ascension Day, which usually falls in May. To this day, children in 18th-century school uniforms march through the village to the sound of a brass band and decorate the wells with flowers.


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Beautiful views, ugly history, Isle of Skye

Elgol, Isle of Skye
Photograph: Andrew Hopkins/Alamy

Whether it is because Bonnie Prince Charlie hid nearby as he made his escape, or for the fabulous views of the Cuillins or the fact that its name preceded Gaelic and had its origins in the Norse language, the village of Ergol/Elgol on the Isle of Skye is worth visiting. But for me it’s the layout and form of the village that is its most poignant feature. For this village was built by local landowners in the early 19th century in order to force their tenants off the land to make way for more-productive sheep. Among them, my ancestor and namesake. The houses reflect the regimented crofts but today there is no trace of the poverty and hardship that is the real defining feature of the settlement.
Lachlan Robertson

4,000 years of history, Derbyshire

Cyclists in the Peak National Park near Monyash
The Monyash area has well preserved patterns of medieval strip fields. Photograph: Don Mcphee/The Guardian

A pretty limestone palette of tans, greys and yellows define the Peak District village of Monyash, with its well-preserved patterns of medieval strip fields and drystone walls. Monyash boasts its own “stonehenge” – the nearby Arbor Low, built by villagers before 2000BC. From Roman lead mining to Quaker stronghold, this little village packs historic punch. Then there’s Monyash’s role in international politics and the cold war: in the 1980s, an early warning system was installed at the Bull’s Head pub.

Tar barrels and Daleks, Northumberland

Flaming tar festival, Allendale Town.
Flaming tar festival, Allendale Town. Photograph: Nigel Roddis/EPA

At first glance, Allendale Town in the North Pennine Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is a normal village inhabited mostly by older people and dog walkers. But would you believe a village like this has a science fiction museum with a real-life Dalek? That it has three pubs, just metres apart? That every New Year’s Eve, dozens of villagers put on fancy dress and carry flaming tar barrels around the village? This is a spectacular occasion that attracts thousands of visitors every year. There is even a song written about it, Tar Barrel in Dale, recorded by the Unthanks. Give it a listen and learn about this wonderfully weird village.
Charlea Harrison

Miser’s curse, Hampshire

A recent Tichborne dole.
A recent ‘Tichborne dole’ celebration. Photograph: imageimage/Alamy

In the 12th century, on her deathbed, Lady Tichborne requested of her miserly husband that he compensate the workers on their estate in the village of the same name east of Winchester. Her husband agreed, provided she could crawl around the estate and visit all the households before a log placed on the fire burned out (an area still referred to as The Crawls). She was successful and Lord Tichborne agreed to provide an annual “dole” of flour to each resident. Lady Tichborne ensured that the dole would continue beyond her death by placing a curse on the Tichbornes whereby the family line would die out if the dole was abandoned. This almost happened several times in the 19th century, but the line didn’t actually die out until the 1960s. In pre-pandemic times there was still a Tichborne Dole festival each March.
Melinda Burns

Wakefield’s ‘millionaires’ row’

Mansion in Heath, near Wakefield
Photograph: Paul Kirkwood

Heath, the “village of the mansions”, is just a stone’s throw from Wakefield but feels like a world away. The green is vast and, unusually, there is no church. Instead the eye is drawn towards the numerous 200-year-old mansions around the edge of the green, rather than hidden away down long drives as is customary. The original residents – merchants and businessmen – wanted their wealth to be apparent. Heath became a sort of latterday equivalent of a millionaires’ row, a place to be seen and, as it’s on top of a hill, to look out from. The Kings Arms (with large beer garden) is recommended after a wander.
Paul Kirkwood

Pilgrims and lepers, Kent

St Nicholas Church Harbledown Village
Photograph: Bax Walker/Alamy

Between rolling orchards and the outskirts of Canterbury, Harbledown is a small village with a lot of history. Chaucer’s pilgrims are supposed to have passed through here: in the Canterbury Tales it is referred to as “a litel toun” called “Bob-up-and-down”. The Black Prince’s Well, framed by an arch of Kentish ragstone, was believed to cure leprosy, which is why Archbishop Lanfranc ordered a leper’s hospital to be built here in 1085. The hospital and well can still be seen, and are the cause of Harbledown’s most unusual feature. Although it is only a tiny village there are two churches on opposite sides of the road – one for the general population, and the other for the infectious hospital patients.
Alexandra McLanaghan

Another Middle-earth, Devon

Haytor. Photograph: paulafrench/Getty Images

You can drive past the turning to Haytor Vale on the road to Widecombe and never know this charming village is there. Haytor Vale nestles in a valley under Haytor Rocks on Dartmoor, it was a reputed holiday venue for JRR Tolkien, near magical woodland walks with a stream running through, reminiscent of areas of Middle-earth. Other visitors include Dame Christabel Pankhurst, who stayed regularly in the village. The Rock Inn and the cottages nearby were built for the workers on the Templer Way, by which granite was transported via the unique granite tramway and Stover Canal to the coast.
Maureen Williams

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The forgotten story of New Brighton Tower, once Britain’s tallest building

Being a country’s tallest building, even for a short space of time, is the sort of literally high achievement that normally guarantees a prominent place in history, as well as the record books. Particularly in a Britain that, until the spate of skyscraper-building in London that has given birth to One Canada Square and The Shard, was rarely known for its ventures into gargantuan architecture.

True, Lincoln Cathedral was (probably) the loftiest edifice on the planet from 1311 to 1548 – until a storm removed the top section of a spire that had grown to 525ft (160m). But for the main part, structures that push way up into the firmament, far beyond the averages of their era, have not tended to be a British thing. Much better a stately palace or an elegant mansion than the Tower of Babel reborn.

It is this relative restraint which makes the story of the New Brighton Tower so unusual. For here was a project which not only abandoned any sense of moderation; it did so, not in a major capital or a cathedral city – but on a windy promontory on the “other” side of the River Mersey. And it vanished almost as soon as it arrived, “enjoying” an existence of barely two decades before it disappeared into the footnotes of the First World War. It has been gone, this year, for an exact century – and little remains of it but faded photographs.

The tale begins in 1830, when Liverpudlian merchant James Atherton bought a 170-acre parcel of land at Rock Point, in the town of Wallasey – the tip of the Wirral Peninsula, which juts upwards, across from Liverpool, on the west side of the Mersey estuary. The Victorian tourism boom that would sweep the coastline of the country was still 30 years away – it would not really gather momentum until the 1860s – but Atherton has his eye on turning an area best known for smuggling and wrecking into a desirable destination. His  plan even came with an upbeat name – “New Brighton”, in reference to the East Sussex resort, which had already established a reputation as a holiday hotspot for the wealthy, thanks to the regular visits of George IV during the Regency and later Georgian periods.

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Dungeness Is Britain’s Closest Thing to a Desert and This Is How You Can Visit

Jutting out from the Kentish coastline on the southeastern tip of England, Dungeness Nature Reserve has one of the strangest landscapes in all of Europe.

This 468-acre estate, which, although not officially classified as one, is considered Britain’s only desert due to its high aridity and its tough, prickly plants, and is notorious for what some describe as a post-apocalyptic atmosphere.

Two hulking nuclear power stations, one built in 1965 and now closed and the other still operating since 1983, fill the view inland with a never-ending plume of smoke emitting from the chimneys. Leading toward the ocean, often blown into a frenzy by violent Atlantic winds, is a covering of the largest shingle beach in the world: pink and yellow and green pebbles are piled together in their billions.

In between, there are towering lighthouses, abandoned rusting metal frames, collections of driftwood, and dozens of fisherman’s huts converted from 1920s railway coaches that have been painted black with tar to protect against the corrosive sea breeze. A vast array of biodiversity can be found in Dungeness, which is home to 600 species of plants—a third of Britain’s entire total—and crawling with furtive lizards, kestrels, and butterflies.

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1. A vast array of biodiversity can be found in Dungeness.Peter Yeung;

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Nicknamed by locals the “fifth quarter,” it’s a microclimate of extremes quite unlike anywhere else. As one writer for The New York Times once put it: “If Kent is the Garden of England, Dungeness is the back gate.”

But over the years, Dungeness has captured the imagination of many of those that have visited—its barren, often bleak vistas have come to be cherished rather than disparaged.

“I first visited Dungeness more than 30 years ago, just as a casual visitor,” says Niko Miaoulis, who runs The Pilot Inn Dungeness, a local pub, with his wife. “I fell in love with the place, with the solitude and the peace of it.”

Long before even the arrival of the power stations of modern times, there was a history of mythology and legend about the area, according to Miaoulis. Records show that Neolithic stone structures more than 4,000 years old were built here, and locals claim that Crispin and Crispinian, the twin Christian patron saints of shoemakers who became martyrs, were buried here around 285.

“This history dates back hundreds and thousands of years,” adds Miaoulis. “Back when the land was inundated by the sea, Dungeness was an island. Over the years, there’s been law and legend about smugglers and ghosts. It carries forward to even this day.”

Dungeness’ largest shingle beach in the world.Peter Yeung

One of the key moments in the recent history of Dungeness was the arrival of Derek Jarman, an avant-garde British filmmaker who came to fame with charged biopics of Italian Baroque painter Caravaggio and Austrian-British philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, and also music videos for likes of the Smiths, Pet Shop Boys, and the Sex Pistols. Jarman bought one of the Victorian-age fisherman’s huts in 1986 for £32,000 using inheritance money from his late father, and it was to be his home until his death in 1994.

As well as developing his films—including The Garden (1990), which starred a young Tilda Swinton and was shot in “The Ness” as he called it—at Prospect Cottage (the name of his hut) Jarman passed his time painting, writing books and poetry, making sculptures, and repurposing flotsam found on the beach. He also became a gardener.

But when Jarman, who was known to wear a hooded robe, began creating his famed garden on the otherworldly shingle expanse outside his wooden hut, local fishermen feared he was some kind of sorcerer. “People thought I was building a garden for magical purposes, a white witch out to get the nuclear power station,” he said at the time. Due to regulations in the protected nature reserve, most fences are forbidden, so Jarman’s postmodern garden was open for all to see: a blend of strange flowers including cotton lavender, red poppies, bluebells, and primal stone circles.

“There are no walls or fences,” he wrote in his acclaimed book, Modern Nature (1991), a diary documenting his life in Dungeness. “My garden’s boundaries are the horizon. In this desolate landscape the silence is only broken by the wind, and the gulls squabbling round the fishermen bringing in the afternoon catch.”

Howard Sooley, a photographer who befriended Jarman after the two met in 1991 for a magazine shoot, was himself drawn back to Dungeness numerous times after his first visit. “There’s an extraordinary wildness to it,” he says. “There are old gravel pits behind the cottages, wild orchids down there, forests of bonsai sloe trees. There are no boundaries, no fences, so you can just walk around. It’s a precious place.”

Prospect Cottage in Dungeness, originally home to Derek Jarman.Peter Yeung

That precious place, amid a stony desert along a supernatural coastal headland in England, will be preserved for now. Last April, a £3.5 million crowdfunding campaign by Art Fund saved Jarman’s cottage from being sold to private owners. Later this year, the interior of it will be opened up to visitors for the first time and there are plans to offer artists’ residences in Prospect Cottage itself.

“Dungeness is a wonderful and spiritual place,” says Paddy Hamilton, who has an artistic studio in the reserve. “The people who live here do so with respect and fortitude, as did Derek Jarman, who was another one of us living in a landscape larger and more powerful than we are.”

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