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.
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!
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!
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
click for Lincoln.gov website - market link.
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.
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
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!
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.
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!
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.
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 10½ 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!
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!
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.
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