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UK Destinations - a personal selection


Like the wildlife page this is a huge topic so these are just a few personal suggestions.  I've avoided the tourist towns like Canterbury, York, Warwick, and the big organisations like the National Trust and the National Gardens Scheme but have included a bit about Stratford because it's on our doorstep.  Our own preferences are for non-urban experiences often out of season and these choices tend to reflect that. All photos Neill / Dilys King unless otherwise credited individually.

BritStops:  A great new British scheme along the lines of France Passion!  Well you'll want somewhere to stay won't you? ... Most UK 'stopovers' seem to be based on pubs and while this is quite valid, not all of us want to stay at pubs night after night. Britstops is different in that it also includes farm shops, breweries, vineyards, restaurants, hotels, seafood cafes, and even motorhome businesses, as well as quality pubs. The scheme is still quite young so there aren't yet huge numbers of overnight stops, around 150 at the time of writing, but I have to say the quality is very high - the best of all UK schemes in my opinion.  The idea is that your 'hosts' allow you to stay overnight on the premises free of charge in anticipation of your interest in their offerings!  There is no compulsion but I have to say the ideal deal - where we stopped behind the barn at a delightful rural farm shop and spent 30 on shopping we needed anyway - really does work well on both sides. True the Norfolk marmalade and specialist ice creams were dearer than Tesco but other things including the fruit and veg were cheaper!  Now do I want to give a big company trading as a campsite my 20-30 to park or would I rather eat it and park for free, cripes that's a hard one isn't it?!  As yet not all the hosts can provide all the resources you'd like, they're not campsites after all, but many do offer water and some even have a full service point, I guess the more we use them, and spend money with them, all the more will invest in suitable facilities.  Is there a membership fee?  Yes it does cost to join but frequent users will get their money back in no time at all. You can even get a free year of membership by successfully recommending a new host.  www.britstops.com - tell them you read about it here!

Lincoln Christmas Market:  I've been floating the idea of going to one of the great European Christmas markets for some time but we never seemed to get it together - always too much else going on about then. This year with the credit crunch upon us it seemed more sensible to be looking at short UK trips and a little research soon revealed that we have some really good Christmas markets here in Britain too. I'd thought they were only in big cities like Birmingham and Manchester and big cities are not really our thing but it seems they're in Bath, York, Winchester, and Lincoln too. Now there's a thought, Lincoln, back to Google then to discover "One of Britain's oldest ... more than 350 stall holders ... It can get very crowded but the crowds are in such good spirits that nobody minds ... German flavour ... a fairy tale quality ...  ... Not Just About Shopping ... The whole festive atmosphere is what makes this market so special. ... Victorian costumes ... roasted chestnuts, hot mulled wine and mince pies ... Hand bell ringers and local choirs perform by candlelight. ... street theatre and you can take a time out at services in Lincoln's spectacular Cathedral". Sounds good to me!

I won't bore you with extensive detail but I can say it was a most enjoyable afternoon and early evening with the roasted chestnuts and gluwein becoming particular favourites!  I wasn't much into the shopping but if you are looking for Christmas presents that are a bit out of the ordinary - do bring plenty of dosh (and so avoid the long cashpoint queues)!  It's a fair old haul to get round everything and there are one-way zones in places to make sure everyone can keep moving so do come in good walking shoes, well wrapped up and ready to join in. Some street entertainment and the stage in particular offer opportunities to enjoy the festivities and to take a well earned break. One thing is for sure wherever you pause you won't starve!  The Lincoln official city website gives Christmas market info but googling will find dozens of sites with information about the previous and next market click for Lincoln.gov website - market link. You can't really park in the city while the event is on but there is a huge temporary park and ride out at the showground on the A15 north of the city, they allocated a special high ground area for motorhomes when we were there. The ride bit was interesting, it was the first time I've been on a double decker for years especially out of town and the experience reminded me why I don't go on buses by choice!!  Places to stay get booked up well in advance so we stayed well outside the city on a CC CL and were charged 9 against an advertised 7, almost as ever with the Caravan Club we felt we'd been overcharged for what we needed, that's a lot of money just to park in a corner. 

Ludlow Food Festival:  "Ludlow Marches Food and Drink Festival, held this year (2005) from Friday 9th to Sunday 11th September, is the foremost food and drink festival in Britain. It's packed with events to suit everyone from gourmets to sausage and beer lovers - and there's a great atmosphere throughout our town during the weekend and beyond".  Featuring top-quality food and drink from more than 120 small producers and suppliers in Ludlow and the Marches, the English-Welsh border country - plus an amazing range of events that enable you to rediscover real food and drink whilst exploring Ludlow, rich in history and architecture. And of course, you could stay a little longer to see some of the wonderful, unspoilt, hilly countryside and castles of the Marches. Pictures from www.foodfestival.co.uk by Stewart Writtle.

I asked for some motorhome relevant info and got this in reply: "We run a park and ride scheme just outside of town and this is well signed on all approaches into Ludlow (SE of A49 I understand). We have had requests this year from several people wanting to stay on the field overnight, we can't see a problem with that BUT there are NO facilities ie toilets / showers etc as this is simply a farmers field who is kind enough to lend it to us during the festival. The roads in town are very narrow and we have had stuck buses and all sorts of problems so G45s1a1aI would advise people not to drive into the town itself but park on the outskirts and walk in if they're coming into town after the park and ride has finished (5pm!). There are no specific restrictions but just be aware that Ludlow gets very overcrowded on weekend of the festival so there will probably be no spaces for larger vehicles in town over the weekend as they are hard to come by for 'little' cars as it is! The number for the tourist info is 01584 875053 and they will be able to advise on campsites designed for you. The field based park and ride is on the Shrewsbury side of the A49 (near Greete I think!) - very well signed as you come into town though! We have buses running though the day until 5 pm. The Park & Ride is in the middle of nowhere and not within walking distance of anything at all! Taxi number 0800 1088787 / 01584 878787. This field can get in a real state if it has been raining and last year we had to pull people off with a tractor but fingers crossed the sun will be shining this year!"  Sounds like fun!


Yorkshire Dales:  One of our all time favourite locations.  From Tan Hill the highest inn in England to the north west and stone barn laden Swaledale in the north east to the great limestone areas around Ribblesdale and Langstrothdale and the gentler landscapes of the south east around Grassington and Bolton Abbey, all are inspirational landscapes.  There aren't any of the massive peaks and great expanses of water of the lake district but the landscape with its many hills, streams and waterfalls is more accessible and the centres are much less crowded too.  A picnic parked up alongside the Langstrothdale limestone pavement stream in spring or autumn is an absolute delight - as are the drives in and out of the dale.  Red Grouse occupy many areas of moorland and can be seen displaying at dawn in April.  Later in the year you might see golden plover and lots of grouse and lapwing chicks and perhaps even a peregrine chasing them.  We tend to avoid the place just after the shooting season starts on the 12th August though.  There's something here for everyone; quite apart from the stunning views there's architecture, history, industrial relics, wildlife, gentle or strenuous walking, great people and great pubs and even TV celebrity since All Creatures Great and Small was filmed here, the surgery is still recognisable in Askrigg.  Many of the lanes are quite small but most are passable in a motorhome if you're a bit adventurous, especially since there isn't much traffic most of the time.  The are a number of CS/CLs and a few campsites scattered about many of which are quite small, it would be unfair to single one out here.
Eden Project:  Just amazing. if you haven't been yet you should go as soon as you can.  The story is fantastic, the scope and scale of the domes astonishing and yet the whole place has a friendly and welcoming feel more typical of a small venture.  Parking is no problem at all, they even have special parking for oversize vehicles like motorhomes in the 'banana' car park; don't worry if that's full though it's not really a problem elsewhere anyway.  There are two really distinct climate zones to walk round with (minimal) info on display as you discover new plants or old favourites in new ways.  Part of their philosophy is "not to ram the educational stuff down your throat" so if you're interested in the detail do buy a guide book.  If you want to stay a few days or return soon take passport photos with you and get an extended pass, it's good value.  Lots of camping around especially to the south which is a holiday area.  The Lost Gardens of Helligan are nearby too.
South West Highlands:  A huge area but one well worth exploring by turning left just north of Loch Lomond instead of carrying on up to Loch Ness and beyond.  Lochs Long, Goil, Fyne and Awe all have many delights as you travel out to the coast with its magical sunsets over Mull and the many smaller islands around.  Seafood addicts will head for the Loch Fyne Oyster Bar, Ghouls to Inverary Gaol, Whisky buffs might even want to get the ferry out to Islay, famous for its peaty malts and excellent wildlife including vast numbers of wintering barnacle geese.  Crinan beckons on the coast as do the Kyles of Bute and The Mull of Kintyre.  Further north the road to the isles takes you to Glenorchy, Ben Nevis, Loch Eil and more.
Zoos & Farm Parks:  The rural versions tend to suit us best so zoos like Whipsnade and Chester are our favourites.  Day visits with our grand-daughter can be a great pleasure especially with all the resources of the motorhome to hand.  At the Cotswold Wildlife Park it's often possible to park right next to open grassy areas where we've set out tables and chairs for the whole extended family for a leisurely lunch between forays, all very civilised!  Shorter visits might take you to one of the butterfly houses like the one at Stratford upon Avon, a great place to go if the weather is poor and you fancy a warm!!  Butterflies from many continents are displayed some quite amazing but British species are usually included in the summer months.  Many are exhibiting spiders and reptiles too, though you'll be pleased to know that these don't roam free with the butterflies!
Balloon Festivals:  There are some very famous festivals like the ones at Bristol and Leeds Castle in Kent but smaller ones can be fun too, not least because you can get fairly close to the action including the 'night glows'.  This photograph was taken at the Northampton Balloon Festival held in August as is the one in Bristol.  There are several up and down the country just put balloon festival into a uk search engine like google.co.uk.  Flights take place at dawn and dusk when the air is calm, if you don't want to join the crush just check out the forecast wind direction, position yourself downwind, get the breakfast on and wait for the show. 
Portmeirion:  Amazing Italianate architecture, the set for The Prisoner, great surrounding countryside with easy access to both Snowdonia and Anglesey, what a wonderful spot.  Of course it does have some very Welsh weather too but that's what made this scene, the sunlit buildings against a brooding sky and there's a rainbow on the original too.  Its history is recent but none the less fascinating for that "Clough Williams-Ellis built Portmeirion from 1925 to 1975 on his own private peninsula on the coast of Snowdonia in Wales. He wanted to show that 'the development of a naturally beautiful site need not lead to its defilement'."  This is another all year round destination, the photo was taken in November.
Snowdonia & Anglesey:  Snowdonia is a very varied area with mountains, beaches, moorland, steam railways, forests, lakes, valleys, castles and celtic culture.  The railway up Snowdon is a real experience as is standing on the summit if you scramble up the last part of the path after you get off the train.  If you prefer something lower try camping at the excellent Forest Holidays (FC) site at Beddgellert.  There are walks into the woods straight out of the site one of which gives excellent views of Snowdon with all those mad people queuing to stand on the top!  The site is very motorhome friendly too, there's plenty of semi-hardstanding even though the pitches are among trees and there's a drive-on all-weather service point as well, excellent, I wish there were more like it.  There are plans to extend the steam railway lower down the valley right up through the woods - which should be good.  Caernarfon Castle is nearby and Anglesey is not far away with its fine beaches estuary birdlife and RSPB cliff-top wildlife including chough.  All this aside we do like Snowdonia in the snow, we camped in a bunkhouse car-park one fierce February in a real blizzard - wonderful!  
Stratford upon Avon:  Stratford is one of the big tourist destinations with a 10 month season.  We include it here because it's local to us and we can give you some useful parking information.  A lot of Stratford parking is height barriered and although you can park by the swimming pool (off the one way south of the centre) there is another less obvious spot. South of the river there's a recreation ground not far from the butterfly house that is a good place to park with access to 'the rec' and the riverside 'meadows' as you'd expect but there is also a passenger ferry across the river to the town - just turn right as you get off the ferry.  Follow the butterfly house signs off the roundabout by the bridge and then fork right following the recreation car park sign and go all the way to the end.  If you have children or grand-children the excellent 'rec' and surrounding meadows are great places to work off some energy as well as to be treated to an ice cream and to feed the ducks later.  The 'rec' is fenced and is well above average standard with good and interesting apparatus for a wide range of ages, plus a pool, plus a very large sandpit - complete with running water.  Take spare clothes and a towel!
Museums and Castles:  No not those stuffy town centre museums but the interactive or open air ones like The Black Country Museum complex around Iron Bridge south of Telford.  The best experience here is often at weekends when many volunteers add considerable atmosphere to the place.  There's a museum of Buildings at Bromsgrove, of Photography & TV in Bradford, even a Nuclear Bunker in Nantwich and another at St Andrews where you'll also find the Museum of Golf and just down the road at Anstruther there's the Scottish Fisheries Museum - to say nothing of the best fish & chip supper for miles around!  www.information-britain.co.uk is a good place to look for details or other locations.  Scottish castles like Eilean Donan pictured are impressive but the less well known castles can be very interesting too, and not all are piles of rubble - Castel Coch north of Cardiff is a fairytale style castle set on a wooded hillside and lavishly decorated and furnished in the Victorian Gothic style.  It's open most of the year closing in January and for the first half of February.
Local Events:  How about well dressing or cheese rolling or pooh sticks championships or Appleby Horse Fair or perhaps you'd prefer the camra real ale festival or the Ludlow food fair or even wassailing the apple tree?  All these and more take place round Britain every year.  The web will give you lots of information on dates and places by searching google or perhaps using sites like www.information-britain.co.uk or http://www.visitbritain.com/world/home5.asp

All material copyright Motorcaravanning.com and/or Neill & Dilys King 1999 - 2013 unless otherwise stated.