So, you’re in the UK and you have a list of things to see. I’m guessing it includes a few spots in London, Edinburgh, Oxford or Cambridge and, if you can just figure out how, a little bit of Stonehenge. Am I right?
These are all things worth seeing, BUT–you aren’t just tourists breezing through! You’ve got some TIME to spend on our weird little island, and I really want you to make the most of it. It would also be great if you all got some practice in at writing up your experiences, not just to tell people at home what you’re up to, but so that you have something to look back on when all this crazy madness is over.
That’s why I’m launching a blog series called And Now For Something Completely Different… (that’s a straight forward steal from the surreal joy which is Monty Python). Below you’ll find a list–just for starters!–of some places I’d love to see covered. If you’re a blogger and you’re up for the challenge, let me know which of these you’d like to cover and I’ll tell you anything else you need to know to get going.
Stoke Newington, Abney Park Cemetery: Stoke Newington sometimes gets overlooked because it isn’t on the tube, but go to Kings Cross and hop on a bus and suddenly you’re in a lovely villagey haven of pubs, bakeries and green space. The cemetery is incredible–though you’re not far from the City, step inside and you’ll feel you’re back in the Victorian era as the thick undergrowth screens out all the traffic noise (and occasionally the light). There are some amazing stories amongst them there gravestones for those who care to research…
Columbia Flower Market: There’s nothing that lifts the heart more than a double-hard Cockney man shouting ‘Get yooor petooooonias ‘ere! Just a fiver they’re laaaaaaahvely!’. A market surrounded by lovely pubs and restaurants in the so-trendy-it-hurts East End of London.
Vauxhall: Every Thursday from 7pm, the church in Vauxhall gets taken over by Five Rhythms, a kind of free thinking dance class where everyone is so accepting that even if you’ve got two left feet–hell if you’ve got several!—it’s all good. An amazing atmosphere and a pretty good work out to boot. Leave your judgemental face at home, don something loose and comfortable and come on down…
SOUTH/ SOUTH-WEST ENGLAND & WALES
Margate: In its heyday, the place everyone in England went for their seaside holiday. Now, a slightly spooky but rejuvenating area full of stunning Modernist architecture, a brand new art gallery, an amusement park called Dreamland and… some slightly rough parts of town you might wish to avoid.
Henley: A lovely market town on the River Thames, home of the famous Henley Regatta, a boat race (and a good excuse to put on some posh clothes and drink a lot of champagne). They have a cracking Christmas market if you fancy a trip in December.
Blenheim Palace: Once the home of Winston Churchill and an absolute stunner if you’re into stately homes. Tucked away in Oxfordshire, it’s a bit of a trek but if you make a day of it then you’ll get a great slice of English heritage.
EAST ANGLIA, MIDLANDS AND NORTH OF ENGLAND
Southwold: If you do like to be beside the seaside, there’s nowhere nicer than Southwold. A lovely little village with a pier full of Victorian amusement games, a Sailor’s Reading Room, cosy pubs, brightly coloured huts, a beautiful clean beach, a big white lighthouse and a brewery which makes the finest beer in Britain (if you ask me). A lovely place for a weekend.
Liverpool: Liverpool is a port which has been shaped by its many interesting incomers (the first ever Black Britons brought over from the Caribbean and people of every nation, culture and faith you can care to think of for hundreds of years since) and exiles (The Beatles Liverpool’s most famous sons). A working city with a creative spirit, where everyone is a musician or an activist or at least wants to give you their opinion while they wait for the bus home. And the accent is something ELSE! The Beatles tourism is a lot of fun, the cathedrals are insane and there’s a great museum about Empire and slavery which you have to see. AND
Manchester: Gritty and glamorous in equal measures, Manchester is truly England’s second city with a thriving cultural life and a dedication to partying which has to be seen to be believed (particularly the gay scene). If you haven’t experienced The North then you haven’t really seen in England and Manchester (arguably) is its capital.
Durham- A castle! A cathedral! Lovely places for tea! Epic surroundings and on your way to/ from Edinburgh/London.
York- Two words: Jorvik Centre. If you like Vikings and don’t mind historical exhibits which smell a bit peculiar, this is for you. Also a stunning cathedral (technically Minster) and the famous Betty’s Tea Shop. Save me a bit of Fat Rascal would you?
Haworth Parsonage: Home of everyone’s favourite loopy literary sisters, the Brontes! Pack your copy of Jane Eyre and start practicing your rendition of Wuthering Heights now!
Stratford-upon-Avon: Okay so this one is hardly off the beaten track for tourists, but it’s still well worth a mention. Shakespeare’s birthplace is a lovely town on the River Avon which boasts Tudor architecture, some excellent Shakespeare fanboy/girl sites and an excellent theatre.
St. Ives: Very very far west, but very very worth it I’ve heard. Boats, harbours, artists, sailors with tales to tell (I imagine). Great scenery on the train too.