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JULY/AUGUST 2013 £3.95



Explore the country with our favourite days out

W a ho I N

l id the Isleay in so S c i l ly f





for nine days

The true story of Lady Jane Grey

LANDMARKS TO LITERATURE A new twist on some treasured traditions


CHESHIRE Roman towns and rolling countryside in gentle England

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Summer has arrived and this issue we’re heading to the seaside. For our Wonderful Weekends feature (page 42) I visited the beautiful coastline of Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire – these Welsh westerly outposts offer some of the most fabulous views in the whole of Britain. And we take a look around the pretty, bohemian town of Whitstable on the north Kent coast (page 86), which hosts an annual Oyster Festival at the end of July. London is a vibrant and energetic city to visit at any time of year, but it really comes alive when the sun is shining. After the extravaganzas of the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympic Games last year, Londoners are keen for more to celebrate – our London Special Brit List (page 15) looks at the best ways to enjoy the capital this summer. And of course we find out how Her Majesty The Queen will mark the 60th anniversary of her coronation. We also start a new series this issue, kicking off with 12 of the Best British Experiences (page 33) where we choose our favourite days out from across the country – from Stratford-upon-Avon to Windsor. Jessica Tooze, Editor




Tenby lies on the beautiful Pembrokeshire coastline in south-west Wales





Explore the country with our favourite days out



JULY/AUGUST 2013 £3.95








a holiday the Isle in s of Scilly



for nine days

The true story of Lady Jane Grey

A new twist on some treasured traditions


CHESHIRE Roman towns and rolling countryside in gentle England

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23/05/2013 16:35

Cover image: Mary Arden's House, Stratford-upon-Avon © Kathy Collins/Corbis

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The appeal of this beautiful corner of England lies not only in its county town but also in the bucolic landscape that surrounds it.









In their iconic scarlet frock coats the Chelsea Pensioners are a British institution. We visit their home, the grand Royal Hospital Chelsea. From scaling the summit of Mount Snowdon to taking the waters at Bath, we bring you 12 of our favourite days out in Britain.


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For the fourth in our Wonderful Weekends series, we explore the stunning coastline of the south-west coast of Wales. Lady Jane Grey is one of history's most interesting, enigmatic and tragic figures. We look back at her short life and visit some of the fascinating places she called home. BRITAIN 3


FEATURES 59 71 79 86









This summer sees London come alive with exhibitions and theatre, not to mention The Queen's coronation celebrations.



We explore Portsmouth's rich naval heritage, taking in famous battleships, memorials, monuments and museums.

BRITISH ICONS From Sean Connery to Savile Row, stately homes to star chefs, we look at how classic British culture continues to be updated.

FABULOUS FOLLIES They were originally nonsense buildings, created as shows of extravagance, but many of our follies have been transformed into unique places to stay.

SEASIDE CELEBRATIONS We visit Whitstable on the north Kent coast, which is famous for its native oysters and celebrates each summer with a dedicated festival.


Editor Jessica Tooze Acting Deputy Editor Martha Alexander Art Editor Rhian Colley Designer Alicia Fernandes Digital Publisher Simon Temlett Digital Product Manager Oliver Morley-Norris Group Sales Manager Julian Strutt Sales Executives Sam Whiteside, Natasha Syed Group Digital Sales Manager Matt Rayner Managing Director Paul Dobson Deputy Managing Director Steve Ross Commercial Director Vicki Gavin Subscriptions Manager William Delmont Associate Publisher Holly Thacker For VisitBritain Iris Buckley Printed in England by Wyndeham Heron, Maldon, Essex Production All Points Media Subscriptions and back issues UK/Rest of World: BRITAIN, Subscriptions Department, 800 Guillat Avenue, Kent Science Park, Sittingbourne, Kent ME9 8GU Tel: 01795 419839 Email: North America: USA: BRITAIN, PO Box 569, Selmer, TN 38375, USA Tel: 888 321 6378 (toll free) Email: Canada: BRITAIN, 1415 Janette Avenue, Windsor, Ontario N8X 1Z1, Canada Tel: 888 321 6378 (toll free) Email: Australia and New Zealand: BRITAIN, Locked Bag 1239, North Melbourne, VIC 3051, Australia. Tel: 002 8877 0373 Email:

Do get in touch and tell us about your experiences in Britain or let us know what you think of the magazine. Win a luxury holiday to the Isles of Scilly courtesy of Hell Bay hotel. The Director of the Landmark Trust, Dr Anna Keay, shares the British passions that are close to her heart.


BRITAIN is the official magazine of VisitBritain, the national tourism agency. BRITAIN is published by The Chelsea Magazine Company Ltd, Jubilee House, 2 Jubilee Place, London SW3 3TQ Tel: 020 7349 3700 Fax: 020 7901 3701 Email:

News distribution USA and Canada: CMG, LLC/155 Village Blvd/3rd Floor/Princeton, NJ 08540 USA UK and Rest of World: COMAG, Tavistock Road, West Drayton UB7 7QE. Tel: 01895 444055 Fax:01858 445255 BRITAIN (ISSN 0019-3143) (USPS 004-335) is published bi-monthly by The Chelsea Magazine Company, Jubilee House, 2 Jubilee Place, London SW3 3TQ , UK Distributed in the US by Circulation Specialists Inc, 2 Corporate Drive, Suite 945, Shelton, CT 06484 Tel: 203 945 2047 POSTMASTER: Send address changes to BRITAIN, PO Box 569, Selmer, TN 38375-0569 Publications Mail Agreement Number 41599077, 1415 Janette Ave, Windsor, ON N8X 1Z1. Canadian GST Registered Number 834045627 RT0001




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TENBY, p42 LONDON, p15




Standedge Tunnel & Visitor Centre

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Beautiful green countryside, a fascinating ancient city, grand stately homes and crumbling castles – Cheshire has it all. We take a tour through a county rich in history and heritage





Village of Rainow in the Peak District National Park, Cheshire



Opposite: Timber framed cottages on Smithy Lane, Great Budworth Village. Below: View of the Cheshire plain from Shining Tor



Cheshire’s peaceful plain, bounded by Delamere Forest to the south and dotted with towns and villages. On a clear day one can see to North Wales and even Snowdonia. Cheshire’s past is as rich and gentle as its countryside, yet while it lacks the drama of some of its northern neighbours, there are a few bloodcurdling events to spice things up a bit. Take one of the earliest archaeologically significant finds in the region, that of a ‘bog body’ at Lindow Moss, near Wilmslow. Now preserved as a site of great scientific interest, the peat bog would have been a desolate place, haunted by spirits and gods, the perfect place for Lindow Man to meet his sacrificial end. Nicknamed ‘Pete Marsh’, the body is thought to be that of a warrior or another important person from the 1st century AD, due to his manicured hands and other signs of well-being. He was to be a ritual victim of a preChristian cult; after consuming a last supper of charred bread, he was garrotted, hit on the head and had his throat cut, and was then placed face down in the Moss, naked except for a fox-fur armband. His chilling end is still an important source of information about the tribes living in Cheshire, and Britain, at the time. Perhaps the most famous historical incursion into Cheshire is that of the Romans. According to Ptolemy, by AD 70 the incomers had founded Deva Victrix (now Chester), the largest Roman fort in Britain. As a result the city of Chester is a must-visit for Roman-period buffs and general history enthusiasts alike. Pick up a free map from the tourist office and start by walking the city’s ancient walls for some incredible views. The next flash of drama in Cheshire’s history is that of the Norman invasion, which was fiercely resisted by the region’s Saxon population. This is shown by the many references to ‘wasta’, or wastelands, in the county’s entry for the Domesday Book, probably destroyed by fighting during 1066 and thereafter. Chester, as a place of immense strategic importance, was especially badly affected, with much of the



heshire,” said Celia Fiennes, doyenne of 17th-century lady travellers, “is pretty rich country”. Pretty indeed, with gently rolling countryside studded with picturesque villages; and wealthy too, with fertile pastureland perfect for crops and dairy farming (producing all that famous Cheshire cheese). This is the county after all, whose symbol is a cat grinning with self-satisfied contentment. Perhaps the best place to get a feel for Cheshire’s green and pleasant land is the wonderful view from Shining Tor, one of the highest points in a generally serenely level county (the Tor is located in the east of the county, in Cheshire’s share of the Peak District). From here, one can see the industrial cityscape of Manchester. In Victorian times wealth seeped from the city as magnates flush with the success of ‘King Cotton’ built imposing villas in the Cheshire countryside, far away from the dirt of the industrial revolution. The panorama takes in







photoS: © alamy/alan novelli/june cooper/viSitbritain

Cheshire’s medieval period saw the building of castles, the most notable being Beeston Castle, its strategic hilltop vantage point gazing towards the Welsh borders post-Roman city sacked and destroyed. To control the fractious county William I built a castle on the River Dee and set about repairing the old Roman walls, making Chester one of the strongest cities in the whole of England. From here, Cheshire was ruled by the newly-made Earl of Chester, Hugh d’Avranches, or Hugh the Wolf as he was known, and his near-complete autonomy from the throne led to the county being declared a Palatinate from this time forward, a title it still holds today. The medieval period saw the flowering of many of Cheshire’s pretty market towns. Frodsham, for example, dates from the 13th century and still holds a market to this day. The town also lies at the start of the 30-mile Sandstone Trail, a fine long-distance walk. Another major Cheshire export at the time was salt; with Britain’s only working salt mine still to be found at Winsford. The white stuff has been valued since Roman times, and Nantwich, one of Cheshire’s ‘three Wichs’ or salt towns, had its importance recognised in 1283 when King Edward I granted it the right to hold an annual fair around St Bartholomew’s Day. Today, Nantwich’s streets are lined with Elizabethan houses and the spirit of the medieval fair has transmuted into a passion for festivals, with events devoted to poetry, jazz, beer, food and drink and the International Cheese Show all being calendar highlights. Cheshire’s medieval period also saw the building of castles, most notable being Beeston Castle, its strategic hilltop vantage point gazing towards the Welsh borders. Traces of an Iron Age hill fort have been all but obliterated by the 13th-century ruins that now occupy the site. After a period of neglect, the castle came into its own during the Civil War. It was occupied by Parliamentary troops and then taken by the Royalists, who (with the help of an insider) sent nine covert troops to steal inside the bailey one night, taking the entire castle by surprise. A wander around these atmospheric ruins, with sheer walls and a deep moat to repel invaders, conjures up images of those desperate times. A near 400ft well in the upper bailey is the source of the castle’s most enduring legend, which claims that Richard II hid valuable treasure deep within. Searches for the hoard were made in 1842 and 1935 but no treasure has ever been found – yet. Close by is Peckforton, at 19th-century imitation of a medieval fortress. It is worth a visit for its even more stunning views, and while not being the genuine article like Beeston, it has a fair stab at recreating medieval life. Tudor times were a relatively serene stretch in Cheshire’s history. This allowed for the building of many of the iconic black-and-white timbered houses which are so emblematic of the period. Perhaps the best of these is Little Moreton Hall in Congleton. This fairytale house is a charmingly hotchpotch assortment of crooked beams and cobbled courtyards. Many old shoes and boots were found secreted in the structure of the building, thought to have been placed there to ward off ghosts and demons. Another fine Tudor relic is that of Alan Garner’s Toad Hall. The name is thought to be a corruption of The Old

Hall and, while more ramshackle than Little Moreton Hall, there is much to fascinate in this restoration, with its adjoining Old Medicine House. Garner is also particularly admired as an author for both children and adults and is a passionate advocate of Cheshire and its rural traditions. Our tour through history moves forward to the 19th century in the pretty town of Knutsford, famed as the inspiration for Mrs Gaskell’s Cranford, where memorable scenes of small town Victorian life are captured with the author’s gentle humour and affection. Mrs Gaskell would have cast her novelist’s eye along the bustling main thoroughfares, Princes Street and King Street (known locally as ‘Top’ and ‘Bottom’) as well as Legh Road, which has garnered the nickname of ‘millionaire’s row’ for the wealth of its residents. Although she was not alive to see them built, Mrs Gaskell would have no doubt been entertained by the flurry of Italianate buildings to be found on this charming road, each one designed by Richard Harding Watt, who drew inspiration from his travels around the Mediterranean. Perhaps she would have agreed with


J Chester is one of Cheshire’s big draws, and no wonder, with its mix of historical significance and quaint pubs and eateries. Look out for the metal plaques on the walls, which bring history to life as you wander the roman walls or medieval streets. J A highlight is Chester Cathedral, which has existed in one form or another for over 1,000 years. Originally the site was a saxon minster and shrine to st Werburgh, who gained her status as the patroness of Chester after the miraculous withdrawal of the Welsh King Gruffudd ap Llewellyn from his siege of the city. the cathedral has an altogether more peaceful air now, but remains of the shrine can still be seen in the Lady Chapel, as well as some glorious 14th-century carvings. J Military enthusiasts will find much of interest in Chester Castle’s Military Museum. Displays concentrate on how local soldiers found themselves in conflicts across the world, especially those of the Cheshire regiment, which was established in an effort to resist James II’s attempt to regain his throne. J Chester also has an array of tempting shops in the charming medieval shopping arcades of the rows, while children will enjoy the Blue Planet Aquarium and nearby Chester Zoo.

Facing page, clockwise from top left: Little Moreton Hall; Beeston Castle; view from the bank of the River Dee. Box: Chester's distinctive Rows britain


photoS: © corbiS/aShley cooper/viSitbritain



J A charming old cheshire tradition is that of the Gooseberry Shows, held at various locations in July and August. Other more mainstream shows such as the RHS Flower Show are also held at Tatton park and the cheshire Show is held at Tabley near knutsford. J There are miles of canals in cheshire, a legacy of the industrial period. The Anderton Boat Lift is a 50ft vertical lift built in 1871 to transport cargo boats from the River Weaver to the Trent & Mersey canal and the last of its kind in the world. J For a taste of the local cheese, head to The cheese Shop in chester which has been in operation for over 20 years; or H S Bourne in Malpas, which has been hand-making cheese since 1930. J Many will remember the magic of Alan Garner’s novels, which draw on cheshire myth and legends for their otherworldly mood. To recreate the atmosphere from his best-loved novel, The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, visit Alderley Edge. A walk through the Edge itself reveals the caves so central to the novel, in which it is said the Wizard of the Edge guards a cave of sleeping warriors, ready to rise up and fight for England in her gravest hour. J chester is rightly famous for its races and the racecourse (known as the Roodee) is the oldest still in use in England.

Pevsner, who dubbed this stretch of Legh Road ‘the maddest sequence of villas in all England’. Handily located on Knutsford’s doorstep is Tatton Park, a wonderful assortment of parkland, gardens and stately home. The original Old Hall was built by the notorious Stanley family and ownership of the estate passed to the Egerton family in 1598, when it was purchased by the Lord Chancellor of England. Approached through parkland teeming with deer, the imposing neoclassical mansion houses a magnificent collection of furniture, ceramics and masterpieces by Guercino and Canaletto. The cellars and kitchens reveal the behind-the-scenes toil that went into keeping the splendid facade alive, while Home Farm provides an even earthier introduction into how the needs of the big house were supplied. The jewel in the crown is the famous Japanese Garden which provides a haven of tranquillity. Literary fans can get a final hit at Lyme Park, near the village of Disley. This Grade I-listed building is Cheshire’s largest stately home and was the setting for the exteriors of Pemberley in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, most memorable for Mr Darcy’s impromptu lake swim. Even those who do not swoon at the thought of a dripping Colin Firth will find plenty to admire in this beautiful house with its Dutch garden, romantic orangery and 550-hectare deer park. Back on Shining Tor, surveying the Cheshire Plain, the eye is drawn to an unusual white disc. This is the Lovell Radio Telescope at Jodrell Bank Observatory – the third largest telescope of its kind in the world. Amending Ms Fiennes then, Cheshire is rich land, yes, but one with a surprise up its sleeve, wherever you look.

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Above: Lovell Radio Telescope, Jodrell Bank Observatory. Left: The gardens at Tatton Park

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the What to do ● Where to go ● What to buy

In a London special this issue, we bring you our pick of upcoming events, from exhibitions to theatre shows and coronation celebrations

regal restoration As it prepares to open its doors for the first time this July, the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is offering ‘park in progress’ tours of the renovations. Harnessing the positivity of 2012’s Olympic and Paralympic Games, the £292 million project promises to create a cultural hub like no other.

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QUEEN'S CORONATION To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the coronation of The Queen a range of garments worn by the royal party, as well as wonderful photographs, will be exhibited in the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace between 27 July and 29 September. WWW.ROYALCOLLECTION.ORG.UK



THE WHaT To do ● WHErE To go ● WHaT To buy

flying high It has been a year since the uK's first urban cable cars launched and they have now carried two million people across the Thames The Emirates Air Line cable cars are a delight for visitors and local commuters alike. Surprisingly knee-trembling when you first climb into the air, the 1km journey takes you from Greenwich to the Royal Docks or vice versa, offering brilliant views of the river.

we will always love the bodyguard

in the wings

PHoTo: © THE royaL coLLEcTIoN TruST/JoHN STurrocK

until 15 September, the Natural History Museum hosts the Sensational butterflies exhibition, where hundreds of these beautiful creatures are on display in a live tropical butterfly house and garden. Visitors can witness the full life cycle, from fuzzy caterpillar to vibrant-winged insect. With species from all over the world, including the blue Morpho, this is not to be missed.

Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston made hit film The Bodyguard over 20 years ago, but now the story has been transformed into a West End musical. The award-winning show stars Heather Headley as Rachel Marron, a glamorous diva under threat from an unknown stalker, and Lloyd Owen as Frank Farmer, her bodyguard. The show, at the Adelphi Theatre, features the classic song I Will Always Love You amongst others that were made famous by the original film.

EdITor'S PIcK – HaMPErS There is nothing more celebratory than a sumptuous picnic packed up in a hamper. The Coronation Hamper from black Mountains Smokery is packed full of the finest Welsh produce including smoked salmon, smoked Welsh dragon pork sausage and a range of

condiments such as dill sauce. The gourmet hamper, which will feed at least ten people, also comes with festive union Jack bunting, so you can celebrate Her Majesty's

anniversary in suitably patriotic style. www. For those with a sweet tooth and a taste for the nostalgic, the Sherbet Pip Mega Retro Hamper is a

dream come true. Packed into a sturdy willow wicker basket are a multitude of childhood favourite sweets including rainbow

drops, drumsticks, alphabet Letters, gobstoppers and five white mice. To complete the journey back to your childhood, a Beano comic book and a toy glider are included. www. britain


Discover Wirral this weekend With 50 miles of beautiful rural walks, 22 miles of breathtaking coastline, award-winning accommodation and fantastic places to eat including our very own Michelin star restaurant discover it all in Wirral this weekend! For your chance to win an unforgettable stay: (Terms and conditions apply)

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SPIRITUAL SPLENDOUR All 42 of England's cathedrals are to be gathered together in what promises to be a fabulous east-London exhibition. The English Cathedral at The Wapping Project Bankside features images of some of Britain's most spectacular architectural feats, all taken from the critically-acclaimed, beautiful book of the same name by Magnum photographer Peter Marlow. The exhibition runs from 24 July to 24 August.

A MAGICAL NIGHT OF THEATRE IN REGENT'S PARK Classic stories are performed in unforgettable surroundings Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre is staging a range of unique shows this season including The Sound of Music, Pride and Prejudice and The Winter’s Tale. The auditorium seats over 1,200 people and yet with the surroundings of one of London’s most beautiful parks, fairy lights twinkling in the trees, this still feels like an intimate venue.


A new exhibition in one of the city's famous landmarks brings to life illustrations of London from a classic children's book When, in 1959, Miroslav Sasek's This is London was first published, a perfect children's story was born. Featuring larger-than-life busbies and bustling Tube platforms, each image shows the capital through the eyes of a child. Now the charming illustrations are being exhibited in the iconic Tower Bridge.

SUMMER SCENTS Stocked in London in Fortnum & Mason and Cologne & Cotton, Cath Collins’ new fragrances are wonderfully fresh.




THE CITY BY BOAT Londoner Steffan Meyric Hughes is the first sailor to navigate his way around the capital's waterways in a small boat. From Limehouse Basin to Greenwich Yacht Club, Camden Lock and Regent's Canal, Circle Line details the author's unique adventure in the form of charming anecdotes punctuated by amusing quotes and plentiful little snippets of London's history. This funny and engaging narrative truly brings Meyric Hughes' journey to life and shows London as we have never seen it before.

MUSICAL SHOWS WHO'S STILL ON TOP One of the world's most popular musicals returns to the capital West Side Story comes to Sadler’s Wells on 7 August, following a tour that has seen choreographer Joey McNeely’s breathtaking production receive rave reviews. The show, which is based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, will tour the UK until 14 June 2014, promising to stun audiences with vivid costumes, world-class dancing and songs including I Feel Pretty.



One of the ways that Westminster Abbey will celebrate the 60th anniversary of The Queen's coronation is with a stunning photographic exhibition. The photographs, many of them natural, unposed shots, beautifully revisit the excitement and anticipation felt by the nation six decades ago as it prepared to welcome its new monarch. The display is comprised of more than 40 black-and-white images including some by renowned press photographer Bert Hardy. All have been blown up to many times their original size and placed in specially-lit display cases. The exhibition also details how the abbey was totally transformed in the six months before Coronation Day. The show takes place in the Chapter House at Westminster Abbey until 27 September.

EDITOR'S PICK – ROYAL WARRANT HOLDERS The Coronation Festival at Buckingham Palace from 11 to 14 July promises to be nothing short of magnificent, not least because it will showcase over 200 of the most

fabulous of Britain's Royal Warrant Holders. Prestat Finest Chocolates & Truffles, whose rich, luxurious and flamboyantlypackaged confections were favoured by

Roald Dahl, will be exhibiting in the dedicated Food & Drink area, giving guests the opportunity to taste what this artisan maker has to offer.

If calling Britain from overseas, dial your international code, then 44, and drop the first zero

Roberts Radio Limited have long set the pace when it comes to radio manufacturing and innovation in Great Britain, and can be found in the Design & Technology section. The

distinctively-shaped Revival radio mixes a vintage aesthetic with modern digital technology. There are also plenty of colours to choose from, including the patriotic Union Jack, which is the fitting choice for this very British occasion. BRITAIN


BRINGING YOU THE BEST OF LONDON THEATRE FOR LESS THIS SUMMER TKTS THEATRELAND’S VERY OWN TICKET BOOTH Grab a bargain at the only theatre ticket booth run by the industry, offering tickets on-the-day and up to a week in advance, with many at a discount. Head to the Clocktower in Leicester Square.

KIDS WEEK KIDS GO FREE TO TOP LONDON SHOWS During the month of August, any child aged 16 or under can go FREE to selected shows when accompanied by an adult paying full price. You can also purchase up to two extra children’s tickets at half price. In addition to free kid’s tickets there will also be some fabulous free activities. Visit the website for full details. Latest News & Show Information | Theatre Tickets | Special Offers & Competitions

A dv e r t i s e m e n t f e At u r e

competition WIN £50 OF THEATRE TOKENS theatre tokens are unique gift vouchers that can be used at more than 240 theatres nationwide, including all of London’s West end. Whether you want to treat yourself or give the gift of theatre to a loved one, answer the question below for your chance to win. Where is the tKtS booth? a) on the thames b) the clocktower, Leicester Square c) oxford Street email your name and answer to competition@ before 30 September. to pLAn YouR peRfect theAtRe tRip, viSit

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Discover the magic

of theAtrelAnd If you’re visiting London for the first time or you’re a regular theatregoer, Official London Theatre can help you get the best deals to the West End’s top shows PlAnning A triP? Whether you’re an avid theatre fan or merely enjoy seeing a show during an annual trip to London there is no better place to keep up to date with all things theatre than Run by the Society of London theatre, official London theatre is the only industry-run hub for the latest news, features and interviews, plus a special offer or two! take a glimpse backstage with exclusive behind the scenes insights and Q&As with the most exciting talent the stage has to offer. You can even use the site to plan your visit with handy travel tips, interactive maps and discounts on hotels and restaurants. What’s more, you can buy your theatre tickets through the site, making your perfect theatre trip just a few clicks away.

looking for A bArgAin? if you’re looking for a great deal you need to head directly to tKtS, theatreland’s very own ticket booth, based at the clocktower in the centre of Leicester Square. the only booth run by the Society of London theatre, you can buy tickets safe in the knowledge that you’ll never pay more than at the theatre box office. it offers tickets to the best shows in London on the day and up to a week in advance, with many at a dazzling discount. the award-winning team of theatre specialists can help you choose a theatre experience that’s perfect for you and at a bargain price. You can find a full list of what’s available on the website at or displayed outside the booth itself. And at tKtS the price you see listed is the price you will pay – with no surprise extras.

tAking the fAmily? this August, official London theatre is celebrating the summer through its annual Kids Week promotion and treating children to a top London show, for free! from 1 to 31 August, any child aged 16 or under can go absolutely free to a selected number of London shows when accompanied by an adult paying full price. You can also purchase up to two extra children’s tickets at half price. to make the trip even easier they're offering special deals at family-friendly restaurants, 50 per cent off parking at participating Q-park car parks in Westminster and discounted train travel with a third off adult fares and 60 per cent off children’s fares. Booking opens on 18 June; visit for full details. britain



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In their scarlet frock coats and black tricorn hats the Chelsea Pensioners are easy to spot as they go about their business in one of London’s smartest areas. We tour their home, the Royal Hospital Chelsea, and discover a history and tradition that stretches back to 1681 WORDS MARTHA ALEXANDER



Previous page: The gilded statue of the Royal Hospital Chelsea's founder King Charles II stands in the centre of Figure Court. Above: Founder's Day


ituated on the banks of the River Thames in London, the Royal Hospital Chelsea comprises a sprawling 66 acres of glorious gardens, immaculate courtyards and beautiful buildings. At the heart of it all is a gilded statue of King Charles II. It was Charles who founded the hospital in 1681, so that the men who had fought for their country could have somewhere appropriate to retire and be cared for. The king had seen a similar set-up in France, devised by Louis XIV, and wanted the same for his own army. He commissioned the famous architect Sir Christopher Wren – who designed St Paul’s Cathedral – to build his Royal Hospital. The site was no stranger to royalty; it was James I who initially bought 27 acres of land here to build a college in 1610. The foundations remain and the large courtyard near the Chelsea Gate entrance of the Hospital is known as College Court. The Royal Hospital is still fulfilling its founder’s vision. Just fewer than 300 men and six women all over the age of 65 who have no dependents and have surrendered their army and war disability pensions live here, in what is surely one of the most extraordinary care homes in the world. They spend their days in an active, structured community with strong traces of their army days. “For most old soldiers life at the Royal Hospital is something they can slip into very easily,” says the Royal

Hospital’s Lieutenant Governor, Major General Peter Currie. “Often, they will have been away with their friends on operations and the bonds of friendship and comradeship they forged then are something they treasure for the rest of their lives. For them the Royal Hospital is very much a familiar home.” Despite the Royal Hospital being a place for exservicemen to retire, and the average age of residents being 82, most of the pensioners here are old in age only and many need no encouragement to be fit as fiddles. The eldest resident, Joe Britton, who is 103 this year, never uses the lift, and, according to cheeky visitor guide and fellow pensioner, Paddy Fox, “loves to nip down to the bookies in the morning”. Founder’s Day – held on a day as close to Charles II’s birthday on 29 May as is possible each year – is the biggest day in the Royal Hospital’s calendar. The parade is always overseen by a member of the Royal Family, and is attended by over 3,000 other guests and a full military band. The statue of Charles II in Figure Court is adorned with oak leaves in memory of the monarch who, when hiding from the Roundheads in 1651 during the Civil War, hid in an English oak tree. The pensioners also wear the leaves. The statue was gold for 150 years, then it was bronzed until the Golden Jubilee when a generous benefactor paid for it to be re-gilded. Figure Court is the heart of the Royal Hospital and is open on the south side, nearest the

King Charles II founded the hospital in 1681, so that the men who had fought for their country could have somewhere appropriate to retire



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The statue of Charles II is adorned with oak leaves in memory of the monarch who hid in an English oak tree

photoS: Š royal hoSpital chelSea/Nick paNagakiS/alamy/jeff gilbert/guy bell/corbiS

Clockwise from top left: Prince Harry meets some of the Chelsea Pensioners; an aerial view of the Royal Hospital; The Chelsea Pensioner pub in the Royal Hospital grounds; part of the pensioners' distinctive uniform; the main facade of the Royal Hospital makes up the northern stretch of Figure Court; the gilded statue of King Charles II






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An Antonio Verrio mural hangs at one end of the Great Hall and a whole host of old flags fly from the walls – including French and, unusually, American Opposite: The Wren Chapel with its domed mural by Sebastiano Ricci. Above left: The Great Hall. Above right: Pensioners Walter, Marjorie and Ron in their scarlet frock coats. Below: Pensioner Paddy Fox in his allotment

Thames. The east and west wings that surround the court contain the pensioners’ berths. The north side, which connects the wings, contains the Great Hall and Wren Chapel. The wind whistles along the colonnades here, which is why it has been nicknamed ‘Pneumonia Alley’ by the pensioners, who as a group have nothing if not a collective sense of humour. Above the colonnades in Latin is inscribed: ‘For the succour and relief of veterans broken by Age and War founded by Charles II enlarged by James II and completed by William and Mary in the Year of our Lord 1692’. There are memorial boards for servicemen underneath the colonnades – including one for the hundreds of soldiers who were drowned when in 1852 HMS Birkenhead ran aground. This disaster is apparently where the emergency cry ‘women and children first’ came from, as efforts were demonstrably made to save them first. The long east and west wings are punctuated by 18 windows on all the four floors, each indicating a separate

berth. However the nine-by-nine-foot berths themselves are small cabins that have no windows, but hatches that can be opened, enabling views across an indoor corridor to a corresponding window and out into the world beyond. “Shut the hatch up, shut the world out,” says Paddy Fox of the dwellings, which are all cleaned and tidied to an immaculate standard that only army training can ensure. The windows run along a communal corridor, which is an essential community space where there are tables and armchairs and residents can read, write or gossip. There is, however, a programme to upgrade the accommodation that is already well underway, providing bigger rooms each with a window and small en-suite facility. This has allowed the Royal Hospital to take its first female ‘InPensioners’, of whom there are now six. The pensioners do have to abide by some rules, but as military men and women, this isn’t difficult for them. They must stick to a dress code, details of which are pinned up on notice boards and on the back of doors all over the site.



didn’t kiss the blarney stone I swallowed it,” says Chelsea Pensioner, Paddy Fox, whose tendencies as a chatterbox make him the perfect guide for visitors to the Royal Hospital Chelsea. Paddy has been a resident here for 12 years. He served for 35 years in the 15th/19th Hussars regiment, winning a selection of medals during his time in the army. He says he knew he wanted to live here after a visit he made back in 1968 when he met a pensioner who joined his own regiment in 1892. “He had drunk with men who were in the charge of the Light Brigade," says Paddy. Paddy has two allotments, leads informative and friendly guided tours of the Royal Hospital, works in the

Chapel on Sundays and is one part of the Chelsea Pensioners band, who released the Men in Scarlet album – which became a top 20 hit in 2010. “I work to keep my brain going,” he says of his busy days, which start with his 5:30am mission to Sloane Square Tube Station to gather a hefty batch of Metro newspapers, cart them back to the Royal Hospital and distribute them to his bedridden comrades in the infirmary. “But no days are the same.” Paddy is a popular figure, always ready with a smile and wave. He is also full of jokes and keen on his own versions of well-worn acronyms: RAMC is apparently 'Run Away, Matron Coming'!



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The pensioners are an integral part of the Chelsea Flower Show, which is held every year in the grounds of the Royal Hospital The pensioners have different uniforms: a navy blue one – the undress, which can be worn within a three-mile radius of the Royal Hospital; the scarlet coats must be worn when a pensioner goes further afield than that; and the tricorn hats are to be worn at ceremonial events, such as Founder’s Day. The uniform rule is important, stresses Major General Currie, because “it epitomises the military culture that is central to the life of the Hospital”. The Great Hall, where the pensioners have their meals, is reminiscent of the Hogwarts’ refectory if you’re a Harry Potter fan. There are paintings of the Royal Family all around, and there is an Antonio Verrio mural at one end – he was a friend of Charles II – with a whole host of old flags flying from the walls, including French and, unusually, American flags captured in battle. The Chapel is fully functioning with services every Sunday. It was the late Baroness Thatcher’s place of worship and welcomes a large congregation each Sunday. The organ was installed in 1693, and it is still the original frame. There are lots of interesting things to look out for in this long, elegant room. There are motifs of the shamrock, the rose, the thistle and the daffodil on the prayer cushions and you’ll be challenged to find a small

carving of an open pea pod. It’s almost impossible to find. The painting on the half-dome above the altar is by Sebastiano Ricci and his nephew. It was painted for Queen Anne, who lost 17 babies, all of whom are depicted in this mural, safely in heaven with Jesus. The pensioners are invited to all sorts of events, with representatives attending the Chelsea FC home matches in the winter or Wimbledon in the summer. They go to Crufts dog show. They go to the theatre. They are an integral part of the Chelsea Flower Show, which is held every year in the grounds of the Royal Hospital. Paddy will this summer represent the Royal Hospital on a visit to Texas, where he will march with US army veterans. “We are a complete village here,” says Paddy of his home. “We have a fantastic club, a library, a post office and allotments. There is nothing we would need to go out for really, and yet we are invited out all the time. And I am very proud to go out in my scarlet coat. People say I’ve got scarlet fever because I’m always in it.”

Top: A group of Chelsea Pensioners sit under the colonnades of Figure Court. Above left and right: Exhibits from the Chelsea Flower Show

 BRITAIN readers can visit the Royal Hospital Chelsea for free – please call 020 7881 5516 to make a booking or visit the BRITAIN website at for more information. britain


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Exploring Britain


1 WALK ALONG HADRIAN’S WALL Built by Roman Emperor Hadrian from AD122 this iconic wall was erected to defend his empire against the 'barbarians' of northern Britain. Now a World Heritage Site, the 73-mile wall stretches from Bowness-on-Solway on the Cumbrian coast to Wallsend near Newcastle upon Tyne, snaking through some of Britain's most unspoilt and beautiful countryside. A firm favourite with walkers, any section offers spectacular vistas. But if you're

feeling up to it it's well worth attempting to follow the whole length of the wall via the Hadrian's Wall Path National Trail over a number of days. The wall is punctuated not only by hills, valleys, rivers and great expanses of rugged green plains, but also by museums such as that at Vindolanda, a Roman fort and one of the world's most important archaeological sites.


tour the Queen’s home at Windsor Castle

The splendour of Windsor Castle must be seen to be believed. The official residence of Her Majesty The Queen is also the world's oldest inhabited castle, dating back almost 1,000 years. Not only can you tour the beautifully furnished State Apartments, containing all sorts of treasures from the Royal Collection, but you can visit St George's Chapel, a fully functioning centre of worship and the final resting place of ten monarchs – including Henry VIII. One of the top attractions is Queen Mary's Dolls' House, an extraordinary miniature triumph that cannot fail to delight.



Exploring Britain

photoS: © viSitbritain/rod edwardS/john Spaull/alamy peter phipp/loop imageS/pawel libera


enjoy a day by the seaside at blackpool

Holidaymakers have flocked to Blackpool, one of Britain's most famous seaside towns, since 1879, when the magical spectacle of its lights illuminating the resort were first described as 'artificial sunshine'. With three million visitors each year, Blackpool continues to be enduringly popular – an old-fashioned holiday experience featuring sand castles, ice cream and fairground rides. The Illuminations consist of lasers, neon, fibre optics and threedimensional lit-up scenes. This year, the Lancashire pleasure resort will be illuminated from 30 August to 10 November, so that the town will be filled with light long after the nights start to draw in and summer is over.

in the thermal spring at bath 4 relax Britain's only natural thermal spa – Thermae Bath Spa – is a truly unique and special place. It was the Romans who discovered Bath's thermal properties and so it's exciting to be able to share exactly the same experience as they would have had thousands of years ago. The lovely thing about the spa is that history blends with the contemporary features, giving visitors the promise of the old, with the freshness of the new – the best of both worlds. Visitors can choose to go to the Cross Bath, which is a small pool in a Georgian listed building on the site of the sacred Cross Spring site, or the open-air roof-top pool in the New Royal Bath, which has panoramic views of this incredibly pretty city. Both offer wonderfully relaxing experiences.


ride on the west highlands railway

Often voted the top rail journey in the world, this famous railway line hugs the west coast of Scotland – showcasing the glorious countryside that lies between Glasgow and Fort William, and beyond. The journey takes in Britain's highest and hardest-to-reach train station, Corrour, and travels through breathtaking and varied scenery, skirting lochs and crossing the spectacular 21-arch viaduct at Glenfinnan, featured in the Harry Potter films.

6Take a Trip on The London eye Whether you visit at night, when the city is illuminated by sparkling lights, or in the daytime, when you can see as far as Windsor Castle in clear conditions, the London Eye is an attraction like no other. Each rotation takes 30 minutes, meaning that visitors can really absorb their surroundings – from the Shard to Westminster Palace. Private capsules are available for special occasions.

photoS: Š iStock/Ferad Zyulkyarov/corbiS/chriStophe boiSvieux/viSitbritain

7 punT on The river cam

Punting was started by female students of Girton College as a means of showing off their ankles, but these days there is no better way to explore Cambridge. Whether you choose to punt yourself or have a guided tour, you can travel between the quiet village of Grantchester and Jesus Lock. It's a glorious route that takes you around the back of some of the older and more attractive colleges in this famous university city, such as King's and Queens', as well as under Mathematical Bridge.

8see The saiLing aT cowes week

The largest sailing regatta of its kind in the world, Cowes Week on the Isle of Wight is a highlight of the British summer season, for competitors and 100,000 spectators alike. Founded in 1826, Cowes Week has grown into an extraordinarily glamorous and exciting sporting event, featuring 40 races a day for around 1,000 boats. Cowes is also the perfect destination for first-time sailors, boasting specialist sailing schools all over the harbour.

Exploring Britain


rediscover shakespeare in stratford-upon-avon

Shakespeare's birthplace is steeped in the bard's fascinating history, and is also one of the prettiest places to visit in the UK. Stratford-uponAvon is home to Shakespeare's wife Anne Hathaway's immaculate thatched Tudor farmhouse and gardens where you can experience the surroundings in which he courted his sweetheart. You can also visit his mother Mary Arden's childhood home and see exactly how a farm and kitchen worked in the 1570s.

in a traditional afternoon tea 10 indulge There is nothing more quintessentially British than afternoon tea. The popularity of taking tea in the afternoon was introduced in the mid-19th century, when it was usual to have tea rather than lunch to bridge the long gap between breakfast and dinner. Bettys in Harrogate and York and The Ritz in London do classic spreads, offering sandwiches, scones, clotted cream and mouth-watering cakes.,

to the top of mount snowdon 11 climb Reaching the top of the highest mountain in the British Isles outside of Scotland is not only an athletic feat, but you will also be rewarded richly with astonishing views of Snowdonia National Park when you reach the summit, over 1,000 metres above sea level. Or, you can catch the train, for the same views and less of a walk.



The Proms is a British musical institution: an eight-week season of daily orchestral music over the summer months that runs throughout the country, but most famously at the Royal Albert Hall. The name is derived from 'promenade', which relates to the audiences standing rather than sitting. The Proms was the brainchild of Mr Robert Newman, manager of the Queen's Hall in London in the late 19th century, who wanted to educate people about classical music. His first 'Promenade Concert' was held in August 1895, featuring pieces meant to engage and challenge audiences. These days, during Prom

Exploring Britain

season, the Royal Albert Hall has live concerts every day, with 1,400 standing spaces available at each. This year (12 July to 7 September) the Proms makes history, with the first ever female conductor Marin Alsop taking the baton for the show's final and most spectacular evening – The Last Night of the Proms.

8 There are hundreds of wonderful days out to be found all over Britain. For more of our favourites visit the BRITAIN website at




Experience the magic inside this extraordinary entertainment venue by joining our engaging guides for one of our fascinating tours.

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romAnce of the rAilwAys Explore some of the most beautiful areas of Britain by train, on journeys that suit you


have seldom heard a train go by and not wished I was on it," wrote Paul Theroux at the beginning of his 1975 classic travelogue The Great Railway Bazaar. Commuters joining the packed services into London may disagree, but there is a growing sense of romance in the idea of travelling around the UK by rail. In 1963, Dr Richard Beeching wrote an infamous report about Britain’s railway system which resulted in the closure of thousands of rail lines and stations across the country. Now, 50 years on, rail travel is becoming more and more popular in the UK as travellers look for a relaxed, scenic and ecologically friendly way to explore new places. Currently celebrating their tenth anniversary, Railbookers offers tailor made city breaks and holidays by rail in Britain and throughout Europe. Their friendly and experienced consultants have an expert knowledge of the rail network and can suggest the best routes along the way to fit in with your requirements. They have also seen the hotels featured on the website and can make recommendations to suit you and your own personal preferences. With offices in London, Sydney and Los

Angeles, Railbookers can offer a tailor made service to customers around the globe. Why not take a journey from London up the East Coast Main Line to Edinburgh? The last section of the journey from Newcastle is considered to be one of the country’s most scenic as the train line hugs the rugged Northumberland coast, passing Lindisfarne before reaching Berwick-upon-Tweed and continuing

Rail travel is becoming more and more popular in the UK as travellers look for a relaxed way to explore new places up into Scotland. Alternatively, gain an insight into the history of Britain with a holiday to Bath, Cardiff, Chester and York or catch a train along the North Wales coast to Holyhead for a ferry crossing to Ireland. Re-discover the golden age of rail travel with a daytrip aboard the historic British Pullman from London Victoria or head north and catch the stunning Royal Scotsman for a luxurious journey through the

dramatic scenery of the Scottish Highlands. Tailor made travel allows you to choose a holiday that not only fits in with your available time and budget, but also gives you the scope to plot your own course and get exactly you want from your journey. Start in one place and return from another, enjoy a round trip taking in your own personal list of must see places, head straight for the coast, or take the slow route and incorporate some fantastic scenery along the way. And if you’d like to head beyond the UK, we can help there too, with hand-picked hotels all over Europe and beyond. Travel from London to Istanbul with stops in Budapest and Bucharest or head across the Straits of Gibraltar to discover the cities and countryside of Morocco. Once you have your perfect holiday or city break planned, you can just sit back and relax, safe in the knowledge that everything is being arranged – just for you. Make the journey an integral part of your holiday to Great Britain in 2013 with Railbookers.

 for more information please visit www.railbookers. com or call 1 888 829 3040 from the us, 1300 938 534 from Australia and 020 3327 3550 from the uK.



The postcard-pretty harbour town of Tenby



Wonderful Weekends


Turquoise seas, golden beaches and emerald countryside make south-west Wales an idyllic yet often overlooked holiday destination. We set out to bring you the best bits of this remote corner of the country WORDS JESSICA TOOZE





Lying on the estuary of the River Taf in Carmarthenshire, Laugharne offers spectacular views in a wonderfully peaceful and tranquil location. Thomas’ house, the Boathouse, sits snugly against a cliff above the water and mud flats, and his writing shed is a little further along, both with the spectacular views that inspired his prose. Today the writing shed remains much as he might have left it when taking a break to walk along the coast path (or slip to the pub). A table, chair and small stove remain, a jacket flung carelessly over the seat, and discarded drafts litter the floor. The house is now a museum containing original furnishings, memorabilia and a bookshop, and there is a pretty café where you can sit on the terrace and enjoy the view. Perhaps the best way to immerse yourself in Thomas’ poetry, however, is to set out on one of his favourite walks. From the Boathouse, head towards the imposing remains of Laugharne Castle. Thomas spent a great deal of time here in the 1940s,

photoS: © CW ImageS/alamy/SebaStIan WaSek/peter horree/the grove/the Corran


ross over the magnificent Severn Bridge and into Wales and it’s immediately evident that you are leaving England and entering quite a different land. Of course, road signs are written in Welsh, but it is the alteration in general appearance and culture that becomes obvious. With its rocky hills, plunging cliffs and lush valleys, physically the country shares similar characteristics with other Celtic lands – Ireland, Cornwall, Scotland and Brittany – as well as a love of folklore and legend. From the earliest mentions of King Arthur to the legacy of the druids, Wales is steeped in the tales and mythologies of old. One of Wales’ greatest raconteurs from more recent times is of course Dylan Thomas. It is in the town of Laugharne (pronounced Larne), where he lived from 1949 until his death in 1953, that we begin our journey. Laugharne has embraced the local poet, and references to Thomas can be located everywhere – just as the town can be found in his writing.

Wonderful Weekends

with his friend the author Richard Hughes, in the gazebo of the castle’s formal gardens. It’s a truly beautiful spot and at the foot of the castle walls a stream ripples under a low bridge and past a picturesque picnic lawn. From the castle a flower-lined path winds upwards into the woodland, signposted Dylan’s Birthday Walk; the trail inspired a poem Thomas wrote on his 30th birthday – A Poem in October – which describes the very views you can see today. The route is steep in places, but benches along the path offer the perfect points to stop for a breather – each is inscribed with phrases from the poem. Once you emerge from the trees the views are quite stunning. A few miles further inland and you will come to The Corran Resort & Spa, incongruously huddled amidst the wild marshlands, its neighbours a few scattered farms and herds of hardy sheep. Here you will find a relaxing retreat – a welcome slice of luxury amidst rural Wales. The standout features are the rooms – we stayed in the striking

Penthouse suite in the main house, which is huge and dramatic with its red and black colour scheme, and yet still welcoming and homely. The dining room is spectacular, too, a clever mix of old and new décor with views over the walled garden from the floor-to-ceiling windows. We leave Carmarthenshire behind now and travel westward to Pembrokeshire, home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Britain, not to mention a National Park. The first town you’ll come across is Narberth, which appeals mainly due to its high street of boutique-style shops. This is the capital of the Landsker Borderlands, referring to the division between Cymric (Welsh) north Pembrokeshire and the anglicised south. The area is also home to the wonderfully bleak Carew Castle – its grey stone rises up from a large millpond in desolate splendour, like Charlotte Brontë’s Thornfield Hall in Jane Eyre, after the fire. The smartest hotel nearby is undoubtedly The Grove, an elegant

Facing page, clockwise from top left: Wild flowers cling to the Pembrokeshire coastline; Laugharne Castle; The Corran Resort & Spa Above: St Govan's Chapel, built in the 14th century. Left: The Grove Hotel



An adventure waiting to happen...

Marloes Sands

Come and try our great outdoors. Explore the Coast Path, stroll on golden sands or simply find a spot to sit, relax and enjoy the view. Pembrokeshire Coast National Park

Wonderful Weekends

spectacular 186-mile coastal path that traces the county’s edges. Here you will discover some fascinating historical sites, including the Norman baronial castle at Manorbier and the tiny St Govan’s Chapel near Bosherston, which is wedged into a rock halfway up a cliff face just above the crash of the waves. The appealing seaside towns of Tenby and Saundersfoot are good places to start – Tenby in particular is a picture-perfect coastal resort, with pretty pastel houses peering down behind medieval town walls, all perched on top of steep cliffs over a sweeping stretch of bay and a colourful harbour. In Welsh, Tenby means ‘little fortress of the fish’, and tiny St Catherine’s Island, linked to the mainline at low tide, is home to St Catherine’s Fort. Built during the Victorian period due to concerns about the strength of the French Navy, today the fort is deserted – although children adore the island’s secret caves and poke around in the rock pools left by the retreating tide.

PLACES TO STAY the corran Rooms start from £150 in the week and £175 at the weekend for bed and breakfast and use of the spa. the Grove A classic room starts from £150. It is well worth booking dinner too – the dining room has a hushed and reverential atmosphere, which suits the fine-dining cuisine, but the staff are friendly and it’s not overly stuffy. St brideS Spa hotel Rooms without a sea view start from just £150 including breakfast and a 90-minute session in the thermal suite. These rates range up to £290 for rooms with a wonderful sea view and a large balcony.

Above, from left: Pembrokeshire is home to the largest colony of puffins in southern Britain; a tempting invitation, Saundersfoot; Tenby lifeboat station. Left: The infinity pool at St Brides Spa Hotel. Below: The coast path

photoS: © BonkerSABoutWAleS/AlAmy/iStock/rupert Bryce-morriS

country house set in the heart of Pembrokeshire’s quiet and picturesque countryside. Sweeping lawns swathed in colourful spring bulbs lead up to the Georgian mansion that sits alongside four cottages and a 15th-century long house. Inside, you will find a refined blend of country charm and contemporary luxury. The rooms are stylish and comfortable, a careful combination of cast-iron baths, traditional florals and tasteful fittings, and there is a cosy library and games room that one imagines every wealthy British country dweller must own. The standout feature is the food. And when it’s this good, you hardly notice much more than the delicate presentation of each dish, the melt-in-your-mouth sirloin of Welsh beef or perfectly pink loin of Brecon red deer, and the bounteous wine list. If you can tear yourself away from The Grove, you cannot visit Pembrokeshire without making the most of its incredible coastline, which is itself a National Park – one of the main draws of this region is the



Wonderful Weekends

Manorbier Castle

be St Brides Spa Hotel. Perched high above Saundersfoot harbour the hotel is light and modern and has a wonderful restaurant with menus featuring locally-sourced seafood and stunning views across the harbour, beach and coastline. Make sure you book one of the seafront rooms, many of which have large balconies where you can sit and take it all in. The real draw of this hotel though is the spa – and in particular its salt-water infinity pool, which appears to drop off into the sea far below. When we visited there was a light drizzle, but it was strangely pleasant to luxuriate in the warm water and watch the swooping seagulls that flew within touching distance in the mist as the rain fell.

The coast corkscrews either side of Tenby revealing beguiling bays



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bosherston LiLy Ponds are best in late spring and throughout the summer, when the lilies are in flower. Broadhaven South is a safe family bathing beach within easy walking distance from the foot of the lakes. There is a tearoom at Stackpole Quay. Carew CastLe displays 2,000 years of development from a Norman fortification to an Elizabethan country house. It is open from March to October and costs £4.75 for adults.

the dyLan thomas boathouse is open from May to October and Easter weekend and costs £4 for adults. Laugharne CastLe costs £3.80 for adults and is open from March to October. laugharnecastle manorbier CastLe costs £5 for admission and is open from March until the end of September. The house within the castle walls is available for holiday stays all year round.

photoS: © corbiS/peter barritt/alamy

The coast corkscrews either side of Tenby revealing beguiling bays such as Barafundle, a pale expanse of sheltered sand that can most quickly be reached with a good trek over the dunes from Stackpole Quay. Continue your walk westwards and a spectacular stretch of the coastal path leads along cragged cliffs topped by windswept farmland where pretty long-maned Welsh ponies graze to Bosherston Lily Ponds, owned by the National Trust. Created in the 18th century for fishing, these large ponds are a wildlife-lover’s paradise – on our walk in late April the lilies weren’t yet out but we spotted all manner of birds including a fearless cormorant that seemed to pose for pictures as we passed. If you are patient enough, you may even spot the otters that live here. One of the best bases from which to explore this stretch of the coast has to

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British History


In one of history's most poignant tales, we uncover the true story of Lady Jane Grey and ask who she was, how she came to be thrust onto the English throne and why she was deposed WORDS NEIL JONES




here’s a famous 19th-century painting by Paul Delaroche in London’s National Gallery depicting The Execution of Lady Jane Grey. A young, blindfolded woman is shown being guided to the waiting block; an executioner stands by; two ladies in attendance turn away in grief. Although painted more than 270 years after the actual beheading of Lady Jane in 1554, it is the iconic image of how we recall that poignant chapter of Tudor history in which a 16-year-old child was sacrificed at the altar of others’ ambitions. The story of Lady Jane, ‘the Nine Days Queen’, is an often overlooked turn of the page between the reigns of King Edward VI and his half-sister Queen Mary I. Proclaimed queen on 10 July 1553, in a bid to continue the Protestant faith in England rather than accept rule by the Catholic Mary, Jane was briskly deposed on 19 July. Hers was one of the shortest, most surprising reigns in the country’s history. She has been cast as a helpless pawn, yet closer inspection reveals Jane to have been a vibrant young woman who was highly educated and with a mind of her own – not entirely the meek child manipulated by scheming powers. The seeds for Jane’s tragedy were first sown by the will of Henry VIII. In the event of the death of his children

(Edward, Mary and Elizabeth) without heirs he settled the crown on the descendants of his younger sister Mary. Any likelihood that Jane – through her mother Frances she was Mary’s granddaughter – would ever wear the crown must have seemed remote. But curious events unfold in English history, particularly when it’s royal. Jane was born in October 1537, the same month as Henry’s long-awaited son, Edward. Visit beautiful Bradgate Park in Leicestershire and you can still explore the extensive brick ruins of the magnificent Tudor house that was the Grey family home. Jane’s father Henry Grey, Marquess of Dorset (later Duke of Suffolk), was “neither misliked nor much regarded” by his peers, though he was vain and would become dangerously obsessed with his family’s royal connections. Her mother, Frances, became Lady of the Privy Chamber to Henry VIII’s sixth wife, Catherine Parr, and is credited with formidable social ambitions. Both parents supported the new Protestant faith that Henry’s reformation had brought to England and they raised Jane and her two younger sisters, Katherine and Mary, accordingly. Around the time that Prince Edward succeeded to the throne in 1547, it was decided, as was custom, that Jane

Small for her age, ten-year-old Jane was full of promise. She had a passionate nature and reddish hair, and she excelled academically



photoS:©LooK Die BiLDagentur Der FotograFen gmB/aLamy/xanDer caSey/wiKipeDia

British History

would be ‘placed out’ with another noble family: to be educated and learn the virtuous manners expected of her rank. Already she was a focus for power-mongers, notably Sir Thomas Seymour, uncle to the new king. Wily Seymour, who married the Queen Dowager Catherine Parr, persuaded the Greys to grant him wardship of Jane, saying he would engineer a match between their eldest daughter and King Edward. Small for her age, ten-year-old Jane was full of promise. She had a passionate nature and reddish hair, and she excelled academically, pursuing her studies – Greek, modern languages and Latin – with determination. She also soaked up Catherine’s evangelical Lutheranism. It was one of the happiest periods of her life. When Catherine retreated from London for the peace of Seymour’s Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire, to give birth to their daughter in 1548, Lady Jane was among the vast retinue. Here today in the White Garden you will see two topiaried ivy figures – representations of Catherine and Jane on the walk they took from Catherine’s apartments to St Mary’s Church for daily prayers. The rose-filled Queens’ Garden, sited on the original Tudor parterre and flanked by yew trees, is so named because the royal pair promenaded here – as did the queens Anne Boleyn and her daughter Elizabeth I at different times. But Jane’s summer idyll was short-lived. Catherine died of puerperal fever following childbirth and Lady Jane

officiated as chief mourner as the queen dowager was buried in St Mary’s Church in the grounds of Sudeley. Meanwhile, Seymour had made no progress with his marriage plans for Jane and Edward, and in any case he was beheaded for treason in 1549. Jane returned to Bradgate Park, where she famously preferred reading Plato to going hunting with her family – red and fallow deer wander the historic park to this day. A visit Jane made to her Catholic cousin Princess Mary’s palace at Beaulieu in Essex (now the independent Catholic New Hall School) also reveals her incredibly fervent religious convictions. On seeing a servant curtsey to the consecrated Host in the chapel, Jane asked in annoyance why she did it. The servant replied that she curtsied “to Him that made us all”. Jane, for whom the belief in the Host as the transformed body of Christ amounted to idolatrous worship of a piece of bread, replied tartly: “Why, how can that be, when the baker made him?” By now, Jane was in enthusiastic correspondence with noted Continental religious reformers, who greatly

Opening page: The Execution of Lady Jane Grey, painted by Paul Delaroche. Facing page, from top: Portrait of Lady Jane Grey, from an engraving by W Holl; portrait of Edward VI Clockwise from main: The Queens' Garden at Sudeley Castle; Catherine Parr's tomb; a crown entwined with flowers recalls Sudeley's royal connections



photoS:©holmeS Garden photoS/alamy/viSitbritain/rod edwardS

British History

praised her academic skills and no doubt hoped she might become a royal bride who would further their cause in England. In fact, Edward’s advisors had been looking to France for a dynastic match. More alarming, Edward’s health was beginning to fail, raising the spectre of the succession and the possibility that if his half-sister Mary ruled, she would reverse the young king’s Protestant reforms following on from his father Henry VIII’s break with Rome. The Duke of Northumberland, who had gradually assumed the role if not the title of Protector of the Realm during Edward’s minority, moved swiftly. Firstly, he arranged for Jane to marry his teenage son, Lord Guildford Dudley, in May 1553. The king was then encouraged to set aside both his sisters’ claims to the throne and nominate Jane as his heir. Edward complied, just a few weeks before his death at Greenwich Palace on 6 July 1553. Jane was reluctant but was eventually persuaded it was right for her to be queen, and she was conveyed with Guildford to take formal possession of the Tower of London on 10 July. In her green velvet gown, jewelled headdress and corkplatformed shoes specially designed to add to her height, the diminutive 15-year-old appeared “a gracious and lively figure”, her eyes “sparkling and reddish-brown in colour”. Guildford was “a very tall, strong boy with light hair who paid her much attention.”

But neither the common people nor many of the nobility, suspicious of Northumberland’s motives, liked this sudden turn of events. Forces in support of Princess Mary – who had declared herself rightful queen – gathered quickly around her at Framlingham Castle in Suffolk. Jane, however, now seemed to rise to her task. She rebuffed the suggestion that Guildford, whom she didn’t particularly like, would be her co-ruler, saying she would make him “a duke, but not a King”. Northumberland would not be pulling strings through his son as he might have hoped. No one knows how Jane’s assertion of personal authority might have continued because within nine days Mary’s forces had wrested control. Jane was imprisoned in No 5 Tower Green next to the Queen’s House and

Main picture: Bradgate House, Leicestershire. Inset: Framlingham Castle in Suffolk

Forces in support of Princess Mary – who had declared herself rightful queen – gathered quickly around her at Framlingham Castle



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British History

Guildford was held in the Beauchamp Tower, where he carved her name – still to be seen. Northumberland, perceived ringleader of the debacle, was executed. Jane promptly wrote to Mary asking for clemency, “For whereas I might take upon me that of which I was not worthy, yet no one can ever say either that I sought it as my own, or that I was pleased with it”. Queen Mary responded with leniency – until Jane’s father wrecked her chances by joining Sir Thomas Wyatt’s rebellion the following year. He was captured while hiding in a hollow oak tree at another Grey home, Astley Castle in Warwickshire, and was later beheaded. Today, Astley Castle is let as holiday accommodation by The Landmark Trust: a truly evocative moated site. Mary now knew it was too dangerous to allow Jane and Guildford to live, forever figureheads for potential future revolts. For her part, Jane was fully prepared to go to the scaffold as a Protestant martyr and wrote letters to her family asking them to rejoice, “for I am assured that I shall for losing a mortal life find an immortal felicity”. On 12 February 1554, peering from her window the erstwhile queen had the unnerving sight of her husband’s decapitated body being brought back from the scaffold. Then, carrying an open prayer book, she proceeded to Tower Green. She kept her composure until, blindfolded, she panicked as she fumbled to find the executioner’s block, and cried out: “What shall I do? Where is it?” A hand guided her and there was one swift blow of the axe.



Legend claims that foresters miles away at Bradgate ‘beheaded’ oaks in the park as a mark of respect, and pollarded (pruned) oaks of great age still grow there today. Lady Jane is buried beneath the altar of the Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula in the Tower of London and, over the years, it is said her ghost has occasionally been seen on the anniversary of her execution, appearing as a white shape on the Tower’s battlements. How her reign might have unfolded remains a fascinating, unanswerable question. Instead, her brief moment in the spotlight is focused on her as an expendable victim in the breathless Tudor romp from the turbulent times of Edward and Mary to the golden age of Elizabeth I. Yet her small, determined voice may still be heard in the words – her epitaph – she wrote in her prayer book: “If my faults deserve punishment, my youth at least and my imprudence were worthy of excuse. God and posterity will show me favour.”

photoS:©AStley cAStle/jeremy edwArdS/iStock

Mary now knew it was too dangerous to allow Jane and Guildford to live, forever figureheads for potential future revolts. Jane was fully prepared to go to the scaffold

Main images: The ruins of Astley Castle in north Warwickshire. Above: The Tower of London

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History on the



From Tudor ship to 170-metre landmark tower: we take a tour around the 'city island' of Portsmouth and soak up the abundance of naval heritage WOrDS PETER WILLIS



Previous page: HMS Warrior in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. This page: Spinnaker Tower


he best way to appreciate Portsmouth is to take a stroll along the seafront, starting from Southsea Castle – where Henry VIII once watched in horror as his flagship Mary Rose sank a little more than a mile offshore – and finishing at the Historic Dockyard with its three great ships: Victory, Warrior and the Mary Rose herself in her brand new £35 million museum. It’s quite possibly the most historic couple of miles of coastline anywhere in the UK. On your left, the Solent, protected by the Isle of Wight, is dotted with the granite sea forts recommended by Lord Palmerston in 1860. Inland, the city is encircled by Portsdown Hill, itself used as a strategic defence with several historic forts and still bristling with modern military systems. Closer at hand is a delicate little wroughtiron bandstand and the beginning of Southsea Common. Built, like much else in this island city on reclaimed marshland, this glorious sea-facing green space was originally a parade ground and recreational space for army officers. For Portsmouth’s history is intimately tied up with the defence of the realm. One of the first things to catch your eye will be the tall Naval Memorial, commemorating the dead of two world wars. It was built as a seamark, and it’s worth a short detour to visit the garden behind the obelisk to admire the sculptures of seafarers incorporated into the design. In fact there are many memorials along this beach – small ones, to disasters that befell individual ships – and then a huge anchor, atop a plinth. It’s the Victory’s, and purports to mark the spot where Nelson embarked in a boat to join his ship before the Battle of Trafalgar. But actually, it doesn’t. The memorial was moved here in 1885 by the borough engineer and the actual spot is about 400 yards away, beyond the funfair. Nelson, to avoid the throng of crowds in the High Street outside the George Hotel, left by a back door and made his way across the Garrison and through an exit in the Long Curtain Wall (still there), to the Redoubt Point. By now we’re approaching the narrow entrance to Portsmouth Harbour and its defensive ramparts. The

Start your stroll from Southsea Castle, where King Henry VIII once watched in horror as his flagship the Mary Rose sank a little more than a mile offshore



photoS: Š alamy/peter lane/corbiS/alan copSon




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photoS: © viSitbritain/britain on view/Mary roSe MuSeuM/portSMouth city council


This page, clockwise from above: The Round Tower on Broad Street; The Mary Rose Museum; Portsmouth International Kite Festival on Southsea Common

Square Tower, built in 1494, has, high up on its landward face, a gold bust of Charles I, added by the king in gratitude for his safety when he returned to the city from France. Then there is the Round Tower (1420), with the capstan next to it used to raise a mighty chain of iron across the harbour mouth when under attack. Close by is a distinctive house, built on the shore, with a square cupola on its top. This is Tower House, formerly the home of WL Wyllie, one of Britain’s great marine artists. His huge panorama of the Battle of Trafalgar features in the Royal Naval Museum in the Dockyard. At about this point too, we pass beyond the ancient city walls, into the part of Old Portsmouth known as Point, or Spice Island. It was once a disreputable district catering for the wants of sailors on shore-leave, but now is a good place to pause for refreshment at one of the historic pubs or admire the views of the harbour from its head. Our route next skirts the Camber Dock, still a busy small-scale fishing port, and, passing the vibrant Gunwharf Quays complex of designer outlet shops and waterfront eateries, brings us to the Historic Dockyard.

Founded in 1495 by Henry VII, the dockyard has become home to a range of pleasing architecture (mostly Georgian), shops and picnic areas. Its main attraction nowadays though lies in the three great ships it hosts. They are best viewed in chronological order, starting with the Mary Rose. When she heeled over and sank in 1545, half her hull settled into the silt of the Solent, and was preserved for over 400 years, until she was rediscovered and raised in 1982. The half-hull – which looks like a cutaway drawing, exposing the decks and timbers of the ship – came back to the dry dock just yards from where it was built, and an elaborate process of conservation, which is still going on, was started.

Editor’s pick J spinnaker tower stands at 170m (560ft) tall with views of the harbour and, on a clear day, the isle of Wight. J Harbour tours from the modern dockyard to the medieval portchester castle are available. J portsmouth Greeters, local people who are knowledgeable and passionate about their city, will show you around free of charge. Book in advance via Visitor information services.

J the kings theatre is a perfectly

preserved Victorian auditorium by designer Frank Matcham, who also worked on the nearby theatre royal. J Frequent events are put on at southsea common, including concerts at the pretty bandstand near southsea castle and a kite festival. J the d-day Museum commemorates the part portsmouth played in the Normandy Landings of World War ii.

J Fort Nelson atop portsdown Hill (more spectacular views) is one of five palmerston forts, and now houses the royal Armouries Museum. J portsmouth is Britain’s bestconnected cruise and ferry port, with more destinations than any other Uk port. portsmouth will welcome 45 cruise ships this year, including classic ships, tall-masted sailboats and expedition vessels.




A delicate wrought-iron bandstand can be found near Southsea Common, a glorious sea-facing green space that was originally a parade ground literary residents

J Charles Dickens is the city’s most famous literary son, born here in 1812. His birthplace, a modest Regency house in Old Commercial Road, is now a museum. Sadly, Dickens himself couldn’t find the house when he came to look for it in later life. J Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created Sherlock Holmes while living in Portsmouth. A Study in Sherlock at the City Museum is an award-winning exhibition based on an extensive collection of memorabilia, including photographs, film posters and letters. The exhibition also includes a narration by actor Stephen Fry. J Nevil Shute, author and aero engineer, located his pre-war Airspeed aircraft factory at Portsmouth Aerodrome (now an industrial estate, with some commemorative road names). He lived at 14 Helena Road, near the Canoe Lake, from 1936-40 and set several of his novels hereabouts.

Now a new museum has been built around it and galleries ‘mirror’ the hull at each deck level, showing some of the larger artefacts recovered with the ship, such as cannon, in their proper places. Many of the other 19,000 items recovered, including longbows, early musical instruments and personal items such as clothing, nit combs and even 500-year-old peppercorns, give the most complete picture of Tudor life ever assembled. ‘Britain’s Pompeii’ is an accurate description. HMS Victory, Nelson’s flagship at Trafalgar, was built about 250 years after the Mary Rose and is about half as long again. But sailors and gunners from the Mary Rose would have had little difficulty in adapting to the equipment they found on board. Not so with the Warrior, built in 1860, only 55 years after the Battle of Trafalgar. Nearly two and a half times as long as the Victory, built of iron and propelled by huge steam engines as well as sail, she is thoroughly Victorian. Her spacious captain’s cabin, with its sofa, armchairs and a tiled stove contrasts strongly with the narrow accommodation on board the Victory. Portsmouth’s pride in its naval heritage is palpable, but there’s plenty more to explore and enjoy in this historic city and its sister seaside resort of Southsea. Stay for a few days and start out along the seafront in the other direction from the castle for a new journey of discovery.

above: Southsea bandstand. left: Charles Dickens' Birthplace Museum

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Over To You


Do get in touch with your views about the country, your travels and the magazine

Volume 81 Issue 3 of BRITAIN arrived this week and I just about read the whole issue in one sitting – the various articles brought back so many memories! First a week based in Gairloch, Scotland in May of 2004 and a visit to Inverewe Garden. Then the Lake District which is a must on every visit I make home to England. In 2008 my aunt and I went in search of places associated with Beatrix Potter starting with The World of Beatrix Potter in Bowness-on-Windermere. The visit begins with a five-minute film about the Tales of Beatrix Potter, where there are 3D recreations of her tales depicted in a walk through the countryside ‘complete with sights, sound and even smells!’ to quote the brochure. There is also a tea shop with indoor and outdoor seating which includes a lovely sculpture capturing the characters from Potter’s stories. Our next stop was Hill Top. Having read all the



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Beatrix Potter books as a child I remember many of the pictures. While touring Hill Top, it was interesting to see the rooms and furnishings that inspired the drawings. Then it was on to Hawkshead where we visited the Gallery, the school and the church on the hill. The views of the fells and countryside from the top of the cemetery were beautiful. As if that wasn’t enough to pique my interest in this issue, the article ‘On the trail of the Knights Templar’ reminded me of a trip to Malta where I learned about their ‘rival’ medieval Crusading order, the Knights Hospitaller, or Order of St John. And the final memory was on the ‘Best of British’ page featuring Castle Howard and the present owner’s best bits of Britain. I have been a huge fan of the original Brideshead Revisited and went to Castle Howard with an aunt and cousin in 2004 where we saw a display about the filming of the series. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed the trip down memory lane this issue provided for me! Denise Bridge, Saskatchewan, Canada • Our favourite letter

wins a rather apt prize this issue, with a £100 gift voucher from bespoke stationers Honey Tree.


This is a belated thank you for your magazine’s part in a great visit to Britain this last fall. When we were deciding where to go, I remembered your article on Rye and the Cinque Ports from Vol 79 Issue 3. The location was new and interesting, and the photos and description were intriguing. So, we found a self-catered cottage in Rye and my brave daughter herded me and two of my cousins (78, 79 and 82) all the way to Rye. We loved its tearooms and pubs and took various day trips – a wonderful holiday! Carolyn Doyle, Missouri, USA

WELL TRAVELLED I recently subscribed to BRITAIN magazine and just received my first copy, which I enjoyed immensely. It brought back many memories of my association with Great Britain. I have been to just about all of the commonwealth countries, over the years, beginning with my first visit to England in January 1965. I have now been to England many times and it is my favourite place in the world, particularly London – “When a man grows tired of London he grows tired of life”. I am looking forward to the next edition. Bob Martin, Florida, USA

BRITAIN REPLIES: We’re very glad you enjoyed your first issue of the magazine Bob – do write and tell us what you think of this one! 8 COMPETITION WINNER Congratulations to Mrs Lesley Radford from Chingford in London who has won a family holiday in Scotland. She will be going on a four-day trip to Royal Deeside with the National Trust for Scotland.



Over To You

BAH HOMBURG As with everything you present with each issue, I enjoyed the article ‘Hats of History’ (Vol 81 Issue 2). However, I looked in vain for the story behind one famous hat style, the homburg. This was probably because, although totally tied to Britain, it was not developed there. When the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, was visiting the hot springs health resort at Bad Homburg (Bad meaning ‘bath’) he sometimes met (and probably hunted with) his nephew, Wilhelm, son of Edward’s sister, Victoria, Princess Royal, eldest daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert; this nephew became Kaiser Wilhelm II, later notorious in Britain as ‘Kaiser Bill’. Wilhelm wore hunting garb, which included a green hat with a centre crease and rolled brim. The story is that the very style-conscious Edward liked

this hat, and during a visit to a textile company in Homburg had a similar hat made up in elegant grey felt. This was a hit, as can be seen in a photograph of Edward attending a christening in Homburg in 1890; he is among seven ‘celebrated guests’, five of whom are wearing homburgs, with the dapper Edward centre front. A few years ago I visited Bad Homburg (very near Frankfurt), and found this story in its delightful hat museum in the Gotisches Haus (Gothic House). This connects to our treasured Jane Austen, who mocked the craze for things ‘Gothic’ in Northanger Abbey. One record says it was designed by a British architect and built as a hunting seat for the marriage in 1818 of Prince Frederick of Hesse-Homburg to Princess Elizabeth, daughter of George III and Queen Charlotte. Mary Humphries, Nova Scotia, Canada

QUEST FOR KINGS I have just read your article about Westminster Palace (Vol 81 Issue 2). I am prompted to write as I have been on a ‘quest’ to find out about London residences of Anglo Saxon kings before Canute. Recently I have read two lengthy biographies of Edward the Confessor. They barely hint at possible residences of Canute or earlier kings. My questions is: where did Ethelred and his predecessors reside when in London? Sandra Hagberg, via email

BRITAIN REPLIES: It’s a good question Sandra. We asked our historical expert, Neil Jones, for his thoughts...“Of course, Anglo Saxon building was largely of wood and much of their handiwork has succumbed to time leaving little trace (though there are some great stone-built churches). As regards references to royal residences in London, The Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms by Leonard Dutton reports on the code of laws issued by the Kentish kings Hlothere and Eadric, which contain special provisions relating to London, such as the king’s hall in the town and the king’s town reeve: ‘This document shows that they had moved in and taken over the city of London.’ A footnote to the reference cites the source as Dorothy Whitelock’s English Historical Documents. Maybe if Sandra delves into the latter documents, she may find further information.” BRITAIN



I was pleased to read that you included the longest pier in the world at Southend-on-Sea in your feature on interesting places to visit that are less than an hour by train from London (Vol 81 Issue 2). As an avid reader of BRITAIN and proud to be British, I believe piers are to be admired as glorious monuments of our architectural heritage. In their heyday piers were the pride of the British and today still continue to rule the waves. Defying the elements, piers give visitors the opportunity to admire British design and engineering. Offering a glimpse of yesteryear, the pier at Southend-on-Sea was built in the 19th century and was popular with its Victorian visitors. As Sir John Betjeman said, piers “provide a walk on the sea without the disadvantage of being seasick”. The pier at Southendon-Sea is definitely worth a visit. Jackie Patrick, Hayling Island, UK HOW TO WRITE TO US By post to: Letters, BRITAIN, Chelsea Magazines, Jubilee House, 2 Jubilee Place, London SW3 3TQ; or to: Letters, BRITAIN, Circulation Specialists Inc, 2 Corporate Drive, Suite 945, Shelton, CT 06484, USA Or email the editor:

St Chad’S College St Chad’s College is set on a dramatic site in the shadow of Durham Cathedral in the centre of medieval Durham.

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British Style


I CO N S From tweed to tea and literature to landmarks, Britain is constantly reinventing its cultural traditions, blending the old and the new WORDS GRAHAM PARKER



– creating uniforms for the army at Waterloo, couture for royalty, threads for Hollywood’s dandies and coronation robes for the nobility. The term ‘bespoke’ originated here, as a suit was said to ‘be spoken for’ by a customer. While traditional tailors still cut and pin in the basement workshops on the Row as they have for generations, it was Tommy Nutter that started to revolutionise it in the 1960s. Since then, a raft of new names have appeared who respect the traditions of tailoring but attract a new clientele. Today, some of the shops have the ambience of stylish bars, complete with espresso machines and barbers. Before all this though, the UK’s fortunes were built on textiles. We’ve been prodigious wool producers from Roman times onwards (during the 1560s, sheep numbered people two to one). We produced vast quantities of worsted and wool, gabardine and tartan, leather and cotton, lace and silk. And some of our oldest existing brands are textile companies: Wolsey (1755), John Smedley (1784) and Johnstons of Elgin (1797) all started in the first flush of the Industrial Revolution. But the one fabric that has become iconically British is tweed, the rough woollen cloth

it's a testament to a little island that has been uniquely productive It’s a potent symbol for 21st-century Britain: a place where tradition meets change. A less glamorous emblem of this concept is the Boris bike (officially Barclays Cycle Hire, but the London Mayor’s name stuck). The red bus, black taxi and the Tube; barges, punts and pedaloes are all instantly recognisable symbols of Britain but it’s these blue bikes that became immediate beacons of green living when they were introduced in 2010. One enthusiast even rode for the whole of his 24-hour hire period, covering 205 miles. As the Mayor himself said, “In 1904, 20 per cent of journeys were made by bicycle in London – I want to see a figure like that again.” In this case, we’re moving forward to the past. The same can be said of British fashion, which continually returns to past classics for inspiration. A major force in worldwide style, Britain invented the Mackintosh and the mini, plus fours and punk, the tuxedo and twin set. But it’s the well-cut lounge suit that stands out. Naturally, it’s Savile Row that’s the last word in best-dressed – and has been for over 200 years



hand-woven on the isles of Harris, Lewis, Uist and Barra in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. Today, you’re as likely to see a style-conscious 20-something from the fashionable London neighbourhood of Shoreditch wearing top-to-toe tweed as you are Miss Marple in a Home Counties village. The great runway designers from Karl Lagerfeld to Vivienne Westwood are all having a tweed moment; while dapper chaps and chapesses don it for the annual Tweed Run, where participants wear traditional garb and gallivant on bicycles through London. Traditionally, as far as culinary matters are concerned, Britain has not always come out on top. The old joke goes: “Hell is a place where all the cooks are British and the waiters are French”. It’s true: we have given the world such delicacies as fish and chips, haggis, the pork pie, bangers and mash, and the full English breakfast, but British fare has upped its game over the past couple of decades. Star chefs Heston Blumenthal and Gordon Ramsay are reinventing our classic dishes – but we’re still using lashings of Marmite, Branston

photos: © istock/georgio magini/urbancow/maciej feodorow/visitbritain/joanna henderson/kiyoshi sakasai/jack barnes/chris renton/britain on view/david shepherd/juliet white/corbis/john springer collection/paul cunningham/alamy/steve vidler/interfoto/linus lucas/alexandra constantinides


ritain’s iconic buildings, figures and products define who we are, how we live and what others think of us. They capture a moment, embody an age, or sum up the feelings of a nation. You can rattle off Britain’s typical cultural depictions without pausing for breath. Tower Bridge and Stonehenge, red pillar-boxes and Bobbies, village greens with cricket matches and afternoon tea from tinkling bone china. The Beatles, Margaret Thatcher, wellies, M&S… They are all a testament to a little island that has been uniquely productive, and spread its influence to all the corners of the globe. But beyond the traditional image of halftimbered cottages smothered in wisteria and gentlemen in bowler hats carrying umbrellas, there’s been a quiet revolution going on. We’ve taken the old and reinvented it, adding an inspirational swathe of new instantly recognisable images to the British pantheon. Take James Bond, for example. While Sean Connery used to be the suave, debonair, martini-swilling smoothy, smouldering in his lair, Daniel Craig has shaken up the franchise. And he’s emerged as a pistol-parading action hero, explosions and all.

British Style

Tower Bridge illuminated during the London 2012 Olympic Games



British Style

Pickle, Oxo and HP sauce. Also, the Guinness World Records book cites Lyle’s Golden Syrup as Britain’s oldest brand, with its packaging almost unchanged since 1885. Tea, though, we have always been good at. When Thomas Twining opened his shop on the Strand in 1706, the gentry rushed to try the new beverage, and all soon adopted it. There’s something especially British about enjoying a cuppa – whether it’s high tea at The Ritz or ‘builder’s tea’ in a mug. As the great Noël Coward

original sets, costumes, props and effects. Rowling herself sounded a bit bewildered by the fuss, commenting, “All I ever wanted was for somebody to publish Harry so I could go to bookshops and see it.” Architecturally, Britain has always been heroic. Britain’s hundreds of great country houses are beacons of stability and privilege. But many are breathing new life into their draughty corridors. You can stay at Cliveden, Bowood House and Luton Hoo; see opera at Glyndebourne and

THERE’S SOMETHING ESPECIALLY BRITISH ABOUT ENJOYING A CUPPA said in all seriousness, “Wouldn’t it be dreadful to live in a country where they didn’t have tea?” When it comes to literary fiction, a little boy with a prominent birthmark has displaced Sherlock Holmes, Gandalf and Oliver Twist as the greatest British fictional icon. Harry Potter creator, J K Rowling published the first of her seven fantasy novels in 1997, and spawned a massive wizardry industry, selling more than 450 million copies. The movie series that followed was joined by a Warner Brothers theme park near Watford, allowing visitors to see the



motor racing at Goodwood; and drive through the safari parks of Woburn Abbey and Longleat. Then there’s Chatsworth, which holds an ongoing programme of modern sculpture exhibitions in the glorious gardens. Bold, colourful and experimental, the events have brought together leading British sculptors including Damien Hirst and Elisabeth Frink. Inspiring works in an inspiring environment.


To read more on iconic Britain, visit the BRITAIN website at

Awarded Johansens Small Hotel of the Year For a truly memorable day or stay, be sure to enjoy the magical beauty of this famous haunt. Rest and refresh yourself at La Sablonnerie Hotel and Tea Gardens, where a delicious Gourmet Luncheon or a superb Sark Cream Tea is served in this idyllic setting. Also, dine romantically by candlelight in the 16th Century restaurant, renowned for its excellent cuisine. The hotel is highly recommended by leading hotel guides for its comfort and good food. Own Horses and carriages for hire. La Sablonnerie was recently highlighted by the hotel guide Which? as “The place to stay in the Channel Islands”.

For further details and reservations contact Elizabeth Perrée on (01481) 832061 Fax (01481) 832408 • •

Don’t leave the Channel Islands without visiting Sark and Little Sark. ‘It will be an experience that will live with you forever’. La Sablonnerie FB17.indd 1

8/2/10 09:25:57



6 highly individual properties each exuding charm and character, recently restored and refurbished to provide a high standard of self-catering accommodation in fabulous locations.

Explore this wondrous Victorian Gothic structure and its labyrinth of gardens set in 300 acres... you won’t fail to be impressed!

House | Gardens | Visitor Centre Restaurant | Gift Shops Garden Centre | Tea Rooms Farm Shop | Fine Art Collection Contemporary Visual Arts Exhibition

Each house provides the perfect base from which to explore Mount Stuart and the Isle of Bute, and offers immaculate and comfortable living space for family holidays, corporate weekends, wedding parties and relaxing breaks.

Just 90 minutes from Glasgow city centre with frequent rail and ferry services daily to the most accessible Scottish island. Open Easter to October.

For further information regarding any of our delightful properties, please telephone or visit our website.

t: +44 (0) 1700 503877

t: +44 (0) 1700 503877



Mall Galleries Gladstone’s Library is the UK’s only residential library. Based in beautiful north Wales, yet close to the historic city of Chester, the Library is the perfect place for an affordable getaway. A unique place to stay for reading, writing, relaxing and visiting the area Gladstone’s Library also runs a variety of courses and events throughout the year on a wide range of topics. Call 01244 532350 E-mail We’re on Twitter @gladlib and Facebook

The Mall, near Trafalgar Square, SW1

Bar & Cafe

August 28 - 31 10am-5pm closing 4pm Sat. Entry: £3.

Packing & shipping.

Genuine Art & Antiques from 30 specialists. Paintings, Jewellery, Furniture, Sculpture Silver & Glass etc.








W IN a trIp to tHe

Scilly Isles We’ve teamed up with Hell Bay hotel to offer one lucky winner and a friend the chance to win a wonderful beach break on the remote Isles of Scilly Hell Bay is offering one lucky winner two nights half-board with return flights and transfers from Newquay or Lands End with Skybus. It offers spectacular views and on the approach to Scilly you have a bird’s eye view of the white sandy beaches and sparkling turquoise sea below.


how To book For more information on this holiday visit or call 01720 422947. To book Skybus flights call Isles of Scilly Travel on 0845 7105555 or visit

Terms and condiTions

To win a wonderful holiday to the Scilly Isles, simply answer the question below and send the coupon to the address provided. Alternatively, enter via the BRITAIN website: The closing date is 31 August 2013. Question: Which is the smallest Scilly island? a) Bryher b) St Agnes c) Tresco

Holiday must be taken before 31 December 2013 (school and bank holidays subject to availability) and is non refundable. Prize is for two return tickets on Skybus flights from land’s end or Newquay airports to St Mary’s, Isles of Scilly, two nights accommodation in Hell Bay hotel including,room (based on two adults sharing a standard double/ twin), dinner and breakfast. all tickets come under the standard terms and conditions as stated on By entering into the prize draw all participants will be deemed to have accepted and agree to be bound by these terms and conditions, which can be found at and agree to any publicity that may be required. Winner must hold a valid passport.

Hell Bay COMPeTITION eNTRy FORM SeND yOUR COUPON TO: Hell Bay Competition, BRITaIN magazine, The Chelsea Magazine Company, Jubilee House, 2 Jubilee Place, london SW3 3TQ , UK. Or to: Hell Bay Competition, BRITaIN magazine, Circulation Specialists Inc, 2 Corporate Drive, Suite 945, Shelton, CT 06484, USa. My answer: Name: address: Postcode:


ell Bay sits on the edge of the Atlantic on the rugged, beautiful island of Bryher. It is the smallest community in the Isles of Scilly, which are scattered off the south-western tip of the Cornish peninsula and renowned for vast skies, beaches and wildflower blooms. Accessible only by boat, it’s idyllically remote and offers the ideal escape. The hotel houses just 25 suites with a fresh New England design. Most boast a balcony or private patio with uninterrupted views towards the Bishop Rock lighthouse and the sea beyond. White sand beaches are just 75 yards from guests’ bedrooms, while seabirds, puffins and seals are the nearest neighbours. Hell Bay makes the a perfect place for a gourmet getaway; the three AA-Rosette restaurant was the first in the Scillies to be honoured with such a level of achievement. Head Chef Richard Kearsley serves up an imaginative menu using local produce, freshly caught Bryher seafood and ingredients from around the island. At certain times of year you can take to the beach with the hotel’s ‘Low Tide Break’, where you can ‘walk on water’ to the neighbouring island of Tresco with the help of a local guide. Then there’s the archaeology trip that explores the ancient sites of the island over four days, or for avid twitchers the Bird Watching Break is well known for the sighting of incredible rare birds as they make their migratory journeys. The hotel also features a heated outdoor pool, fully equipped gymnasium, a sauna and spa.

Tel no:


Terms and conditions apply. For full details go to Please tick here if you subscribe to BRITaIN Please tick here if you would prefer not to be contacted by BRITaIN , the competition providers , or carefully selected third parties .




It’s an enchanting adventure, a nostalgic journey and a great day out for the whole family Seven galleries • Over 50 vehicles Original enamel signs • Motoring curiosities TV’s superhero car, Brum Toy collection • Gift shop

• • • • •

Small cars Mercedes Minivans Multiseaters 9, 12 and 15 seaters

Family run self-drive hire business, offering top service for 30 years. Let us meet you at London airports. Hassle-free personal service. Large new fleet. Very low inclusive rates. Tel: +44 1483 574434 Email: Fax: +44 1483 534781

call 01451 821255 visit

Its back, weekly car rental from only £99.68 per week Minimum 7 day rental based on our group 1/MCMR sized car.

Car displayed is the new 2013 VW Golf 1.4 Group 3/CCMR

• • • • •

All cars newly registered Free “Meet & Greet” at most UK Airports Delivery to your hotel or contact address One Way Rentals & Travel to Europe Over 500 locations throughout the UK Family run business established in 1995

Telephone: +44 (0)208 764 6490 Fax: +44 (0)208 679 6869 E-mail: Web: 78 britain 34 Aldershot Road, Guildford GU2 8AF

Parkers Rent a Car




• Very Competitive Rates • Fully Comprehensive Insurance • Full AA Cover • Unlimited Mileage • Extensive Range of Vehicles • Manual and Automatics • Estates • 7 Seaters • Minibuses • Delivery/Collection Heathrow & Gatwick Airports & Local Rail Station Brochure by Return Air Mail or Fax


12 Bridge Road, Haywards Heath, West Sussex RH16 1VA

Tel: 01444 413672 Fax: 01444 417961 Email:

Places To Stay



Miniature castles, quirky summerhouses and distinctive retreats – traditionally follies were primarily nonsensical ornaments. Now you can enjoy luxury holidays in these beautiful pieces of history WORDS Martha alexander

The Lake District


he word ‘folly’ is defined as something silly, a mistake, a nonsense. So it follows that these buildings – created mainly for decoration or as a show of extravagance, that are fanciful in shape, or have elements of the foolish about them – should share the same name. Today, Britain has plenty of stunning examples of these extraordinary-looking buildings dotted throughout the countryside, most often part of great estates. Many of these were intended as ornaments, built at the whims of estate owners, but have now found a use as lovely places to stay.

1 Choosing to stay in a British folly is to embrace an absurd tradition and find yourself enjoying an experience as whimsical and romantic as the building itself was intended to be. One of the most famous follies in Britain can be found in Falkirk, Scotland. The distinctive shape of The Pineapple (1) is down to the visionary John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore. In 1770 Lord Dunmore left his estate in Falkirk for America, where he became the Governor of Virginia. In this southern climate, pineapples were used as a symbol of celebration and were placed outside the houses of returning sailors. britain


2 On his return home to Scotland, Lord Dunmore brought the tradition back with him, literally, and commissioned a vast 37-foot-high pineapple to be built atop an already existing pavilion in his garden. Perhaps the strangest place you will ever hope to stay, one side of this fruity building nowadays houses bedrooms and a bathroom, while the sitting room and kitchen are on the other; you will need to go outside to access either wing. The front gardens are open to the public, while the back is your own private space, to contemplate the tropical roof to your heart’s content. Sitting within the delightful Badger Dingle, Shropshire, The Temple (2) was designed in 1783 by architect James Wyatt for the duel purposes of ornament and teahouse. Accessed by a tree-lined drive, a stay at this Greek Doric folly is a true escape. The wonderful 40-acre estate surrounding is perfect to lose yourself in and includes a clever combination of ravines, chasms, brooks and



topography designed by a pupil of the famous landscape architect Capability Brown. The folly is also perfectly situated to take in the extraordinary views from the balcony. And furnished throughout with antiques, this two-storey treat is as smart as any five-star hotel. The fact that it only caters for two makes it extra special. Hadlow Tower (3), a 19th-century Grade I-listed Romantic Gothic folly in Kent, stands 210 feet tall in the grounds of the former castle of the same name. It is affectionately known as May’s Tower, after Walter Barton May, who, according to local legend, was a jealous man and built the tower so he could spy on his wife. Since those days, Hadlow Tower has been used as a vegetable store and vantage point during World War II. In 1951 Hadlow Castle was demolished, but the tower was spared the same fate thanks to portrait painter Bernard Hailstone stepped in and bought it. In 1976, the tower became a dwelling but was so battered by the

Places To Stay

photo: Š DaviD Dukesell


4 5





Affordable and comfortable selfcatering holiday apartments in a unique location in St. Katharine’s Marina adjacent to


Tower Bridge and the Tower of London


Rates from £96.66 p.wk. inc. VAT + ins. Manuals and Autos

Tel: HIRE‘N’HIRE Leigh, Lancs, WN7 2EA

+44 1942 676406 • Fax: +44 1942 677666 also in West Yorkshire • +44 1422 316060 •


Rates per person including cooked English breakfast & all taxes Single rooms from Twin / double rooms from Family (3 or 4) per person from

Low Season £46 to £55 £34 to £41 £32 to £40

High Season £55 to £75 £50 to £70 £38 to £48


Specialist providers of Self Catering COSY LIVING ROOMS



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Albro House Hotel

155 Sussex Gardens, Hyde Park, London W2 2RY Tel: +44 (0)20 7724 2931 / +44 (0)20 7706 8153 Fax: +44 (0)20 7262 2278 E-mail: Website: Located near Hyde Park, public transport and convenient for sightseeing and shopping. Comfortable rooms all with TV, private facilities, tea / coffee maker, phone, radio and hairdryer. Friendly efficient service. Quiet, relaxed atmosphere. Some parking. Families and small groups welcome. Tours booked. Luggage storage. Free WiFi

For a leaflet showing railways near your home or holiday destination contact: The Heritage Railway Association 10 Hurdeswell, Long Hanborough, Witney, Oxfordshire. OX29 8DH. Email:


Sleep up to 6 persons. Weekly letting, linen, towels, washer/dryer, TV, telephone, broadband etc. EARLY BOOKING RECOMMENDED!! For more information, contact Tel: +44 (0) 1462 678037 • Fax: +44 (0) 1462 679639 E-mail:

London Waterbus Trips


Cruises along the peaceful Regents Canal, through Regents Park, the Maida Hill tunnel and London Zoo. Trips on traditional canal boats, one way or return, with a stopover to shop in the lively bustle of Camden Lock or a picnic in the tranquil elegance of Little Venice, or trips with entry to London Zoo. Daily service April to September, weekends in winter. Discount fares for booked groups.

Tel: 020 7482 2550

Lionheart Tours Feel & Be Safe

Paul Treverton, retired “London Bobby” offers the best in custom made tours of England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and Europe, as well as the “Highlights of Britain” & “Highlights of Europe” & “Harry Potter” Tours. You will feel safe and be safe. E-mail: Telephone/Fax: 00-44-208-691-0997

Places To Stay


1. the pineapple

Falkirk, Scotland Sleeps four; dogs allowed. Tel: 01628 825925.

2. the temple

Badger, Shropshire Sleeps two; dogs allowed. Tel: 0845 090 0194.

3. hadlow tower

Hadlow, Kent Sleeps up to six; dogs allowed. Tel: 0845 090 0194.

4. the folly

Middleton Hall, Northumberland Sleeps two; no pets allowed. Tel: 01668 219 677.

5. the hunting tower

Chatsworth, Derbyshire Sleeps four (six with annexe); pets allowed. Tel: 01246 565379.

infamous storms of 1987 that its survival was in doubt. However, work to restore the tower to its former glory has just been completed. It now includes five storeys of accommodation – accessible by an awesome spiral staircase as well as a cleverly disguised lift. Sleeping six, with a beautifully decorated sitting room, bathrooms and access to the top of the tower and the panoramic views of the Kent countryside, this is a perfect escape. Marrying modern and traditional features, The Folly (4) at Middleton Hall in Northumberland is situated in the middle of the gardens of this glorious 30-acre estate, which boasts Victorian landscaping and two lakes. The three-storey structure is cosy and comfortable, with a balcony leading off from the bedroom overlooking the surrounding Italian Garden. Middleton Hall is close to the superb coastline that offers Bamburgh Beach and the Holy Island of Lindisfarne – so pack your walking boots. The Hunting Tower (5) at Chatsworth was thought to have been completed in 1582. This, too, has been variously used as a place for ladies to watch men hunting hounds through the parkland, as well as a teahouse and as a home for staff working on the estate.

Standing 400 feet above Chatsworth House, the views are out-of-this-world, especially as they take in the magnificent gardens of one of the most famous stately homes in the country. Decorated in a manner sympathetic to Chatsworth’s history, a double bedroom boasts a splendid four-poster bed. There are antlers mounted on the walls and other furniture that is guaranteed to take guests back in time. The Temple Folly (6), in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales National Park at Swinithwaite, was built in 1792 as a summerhouse. It was primarily used as an observatory for ladies to watch men as they hunted. Its name, however, originates from the nearby Temple Farm, which is built on the former site of an 11th-century preceptory of the Knights Templar Order. Sitting in a copse, this Grade II-listed folly is two storeys high, with a kitchen-cum-dining room and a shower room on the ground floor. A winding staircase takes you up through a trapdoor and outside again, climbing further up a now open-air staircase around the tower to the bedroom door. The double bedroom is beautifully decorated with a domed ceiling and windows on all sides with a stunning view of Bolton Castle to the north. britain


Places To Stay


6. the temple folly

Swinithwaite, North Yorkshire Sleeps two; no pets allowed. Tel: 01969 663096.

7. doyden castle

Port Quin, Cornwall Sleeps two; unsuitable for children due to proximity to cliff edge; no pets. Tel: 0844 800 2070.

8. the shooting folly

Cheswardine, Shropshire Sleeps two with room for a cot; no pets. Tel: 01747 828170.

9. brynkir tower

Garndolbenmaen, Wales Sleeps four; pets allowed. Tel: 01248 430258.

10. china tower

Bicton, Devon Sleeps four; pets allowed. Tel: 01628 825925.



Berry’s Farm Shop is within walking distance, meaning you can feast in style on local produce. Seated high up on the cliffs of Port Quin in Cornwall, the National Trust’s Doyden Castle (7) fulfils a fairytale fantasy. Despite its name, Doyden is not a true castle, but neither is it a true folly. It was built by Samuel Symons in about 1830 as a place to hold nights of excess in the form of feasting, drinking and gambling – a truth that seems at odds with its innocent beauty. The interiors are smart and pretty and this is the perfect place for couples to relax. With beaches within easy walking distance you can venture out and explore the rugged coast of Cornwall before retreating to the castle on the cliffs to curl up in front of an open fire. The Shooting Folly (8), situated in open farmland on the border that divides Shropshire and Staffordshire, is as unusual as it is pretty. Beautifully restored from ruins, with a mock church tower positioned at one end of the brick and timbered thatched cottage, this is a classic example of a folly. Our favourite touch is that a portable chicken coop is available on request, giving you

the chance to gather your own eggs during your stay. Along with the cosy furnishings, this is a gorgeous helping of country living. A six-storey holiday home, Brynkir Tower (9) in Snowdonia is a Gothic folly complete with battlements that was thought to have been built in 1823. It is elegant as well as being practical, with a wood-burning stove and a fully functioning kitchen. Where better than the fifth floor of this beautiful building to sink back in a roll-top bath and enjoy the views of one of the most glorious regions of Wales? Lastly, the China Tower (10) in Devon is the latest Landmark Trust property that is available to stay in. It was thought to have been used by Lady Rolle to display her china collection, but actually the folly was originally built as a present for her husband. Also known as the Bicton Belvedere, the Gothic tower is octagonal in shape and boasts unrivalled views of Bicton House and the sea beyond. It sleeps four and, surrounded by conifers, makes for the perfect, secluded escape.

 For more details of the follies in this feature visit the BRITAIN magazine website at

BRITISH HERITAGE – Railways to visit DIDCOT RAILWAY CENTRE Didcot, Oxfordshire OX11 7NJ 01235 817200

Steam trains recreating the golden age of the Great Western Railway in the surroundings of the original engine shed and a recreation of Brunel’s broad gauge railway. Open all weekends, daily from 25 May – 15 September and most school holidays For a programme of steamdays & events, please telephone or refer to our website Entrance at Didcot Parkway rail station Signed from M4 (Junction13) & A34 Registered Charity No 272616




Discover the excitement and nostalgia of steam travel with a journey back in time on the Bodmin & Wenford Railway, Cornwall’s only full size railway still regularly operated by steam locomotives.

An ideal way to relax and enjoy the beauty of North Wales • Steam Locos • Comfortable Carriages • Spectacular Scenery • • Train services and family-friendly events run throughout the year • • On-train toilets and refreshments service available on most trains • • Wide range of journey options to suit your day out in Snowdonia • Visit our website or contact our friendly Booking Office staff for helpful advice, train times and further information to assist you.

A great family attraction!

Bodmin PArkwAy – Bodmin GenerAl – BoSCArne junCtion Trains run throughout the year, daily 18 May to 13 October 2013 Special events & Special Trains luxury Dining Train • murder mystery Specials • Steam Beer & Jazz Special fares for families • Generous discounts for groups & parties free Parking • Refreshments • Giftshop


The perfect day out... whatever the weather!

Harbour Station, Porthmadog, Gwynedd, LL49 9NF

01766 516024

Bodmin General Station, Bodmin, Cornwall SP31 1AG 01208 73555 / 73666 •

Kent ’s Mainlirne e in Miniatu

EPPING ONGAR RAILWAY Closest Heritage Railway to London


Inclusive Heritage Buses from Epping

OPEN MOST WEEKENDS THROUGHOUT THE YEAR AND DAILY FROM MARCH TO OCTOBER. For train times, details of our Special Events or any other enquiries visit, call 01797 362353, email or visit our on-line shop at




Weddings & Special Celebrations Charter Trains & Carriage Hire Catering for all occasions Footplate Rides & Driver Experience Courses Group Bookings 1940’s Guided Tours


Take your seats in enclosed carriages, hauled by our World Famous Miniature Steam Locomotives on a nostalgic journey across the stunning Romney Marsh to the unique landscape of Dungeness.

01277 365200 @eorailway

Epping Ongar Railway

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SEASIDE CELEBRATIONS Famous for its native oysters, the charming seaside town of Whitstable celebrates the ocean's bounty each summer with a festival that marries ancient tradition and ongoing popularity WORDS MARTHA ALEXANDER



Whitstable Main image: A colourful Whitstable beach hut. Right, top to bottom: Bright signs welcome visitors to Whitstable; children enjoying the festival; local oysters

photoS: © AlAmy/penny AtkinSon/homer SykeS/george wilSon/cAnterbury city council/SuperStock

w Clockwise from top right: Whitstable's high street; an oyster seller at the festival; Whitstable harbour; part of the festival's opening parade



hitstable on the coast of north Kent has the vibrancy of a community in its prime. The high street has an adorable ‘toy town’ feel and each shop facade is immaculately painted in a rainbow of colours. Restaurants serving seafood and champagne line the beachfront and harbour. And the coastal path that stretches up past whitstable Castle to Tankerton is punctuated by tiers of bright beach huts, with appealing names such as ‘Jenny wren’s Nest’. Quaint it might look, but whitstable has as much substance as it has style. This stretch of coastline is famous for its native oysters, Ostrea edulis, which are celebrated at an annual festival that has been held here since 1985. The whitstable Oyster Festival has its roots in Norman times when fishermen held a service of thanksgiving around the feast day of St James of Compostella, considered the patron saint of oystermen.

But oyster-eating in whitstable dates back even further than this, to the time of Julius Caesar’s invasion of Britain. The Romans, who already had a taste for oysters and needed no excuse to devour masses of the molluscs at any feast, were so impressed with the Kentish natives that they would send them back home in snow-packed sacks. Oyster farming seems to have become obsolete after the Roman occupancy, but it was back and pretty well booming by the 15th century, which is when turf wars between dredgers were first documented. By 1793 the industry became regulated, and what began as a sort of fraternity, controlling dredging and looking after the fishermen of whitstable, is now known as The whitstable Oyster Fishery Company – set up by an Act of Parliament in 1897. By Victorian times, oysters were cheap and accessible – an astonishing fact given that these days they are enjoyed as a delicacy on a par with champagne and


considered an acquired taste. Back then there were stands selling oysters for pennies, making them a staple of many a working man’s diet. However, since then, the native oysters have been in decline; a combination of factors including the growth of the Pacific rock oysters mean the natives are now relatively rare. “The perception is that native oysters are plentiful,” says Richard Green of The Whitstable Oyster Fishery Company, which runs the oyster trade in Whitstable through restaurants, smacks (boats) and a purifying plant. “Whitstable and oysters have always had a lot of press, which is great for us because it makes us busy, but we used to have 80 boats whereas now we just have one. It was once a much bigger industry. As the native stocks ran down oysters from elsewhere were brought in.” In the summer months – the months without ‘R’s in them – the native oysters are spawning, so the festival was originally celebrating the oystermen’s holidays. The irony of Whitstable Oyster Festival now is that during the celebration no native oysters can be found here. Instead, Pacific rock oysters are farmed all year round – and it is these that are served during the festival. To taste the native oysters, visitors would need to come back between September and April.

Still, this doesn’t stop the festival crowds, swelling the town with what can be around 100,000 visitors. The seven-day celebration begins with the Landing of the Oysters – a town parade, which sees ‘the catch’ delivered to all of the local restaurants. Richard Green describes opening hundreds upon hundreds of oysters each day to meet demand. The restaurants are packed, but each sets up its own stall outside so that visitors can be served quickly. Underneath his simple restaurant in the original Royal Native Oyster Stores building in the harbour – a gorgeous rustic space filled with red gingham covered tables, vases of flowers, platters of oysters and candles flickering in scallop-shell holders – are large tanks that have been used to store oysters for years and come in handy for the festival. The proceedings are centred on food each day, with local chefs offering cooking demonstrations and visitors relaxing on the beach with half a dozen oysters and a glass of champagne. For more energetic gourmets and gluttons alike, there is an oyster-eating competition in the harbour. If you fancy getting out on the water yourself, the harbour is the departure point of the Greta Sailing Barge, which first launched 120 years ago as a working cargo barge, but now takes visitors on daily sailing trips.

Clockwise from above left: Wheelers Oyster Bar; a dredgerman; grotters illuminated to mark the end of the festival; beach huts line the shore

WHERE TO STAY the Marine hotel, tankerton The Marine Hotel offers large, spacious rooms and clear views all the way out across the sea to Essex. The rooms have also been newly refurbished and have a rustic and fresh seaside feel – pick one facing the beach and there is no better place to relax with a glass of wine than on the balcony, listening to the gulls and watching the world go by. the Front rooMs With crisp, white furnishings scoring full marks for style, The Front Rooms still

manages to be cosy and welcoming. In the heart of Whitstable, guests are perfectly placed to go cycling, walking or to the nearest oyster bar. Whitstable holiday hoMes From traditional fisherman's cottages to deluxe apartments and stunning beachfront homes, these self-catering properties offer something for all tastes and budgets. Book now if you'd like to stay during this year's Oyster Festival, which runs from 27 July to 2 August.




photoS: © AlAmy/Neil mcAlliSter/StuArt kelly/corbiS/StuArt blAck/mArthA AlexANder/

Children will lay out illuminated ‘grotters’, which are hollow, castle-like structures that they build out of oyster shells, a tradition thought to have originated in Victorian times

On the penultimate day of the festival, the Blessing of the Waters takes place, a religious ceremony attended by clergymen and choristers that traditionally keeps the waters and the produce within safe from harm. This is a lovely local ritual, which reminds visitors of the importance of the oyster business to the town. Locals – some of whom call themselves ‘the shellbacks’ in homage to their habitat – cheerfully refer to visitors from the capital as DFLs (Down From Londons) and call their home town ‘Islington-on-Sea’ in reference to how sophisticated this stretch of Kent coast has become. That said, some things never change. Wheelers Oyster Bar is impossible to miss. Its candy pink facade stands out even on a high street blooming with colour. It was established some 160 years ago by Richard ‘Leggy’ Wheeler, the skipper of a smack called Bubbles. It is now run by Delia Fitt who has lived in Whitstable all her life. She explains the difference between native and rock oysters – the natives are in a rather flat smooth shell and, inside, the oyster has a tendency to be meaty and thick. The rock oysters are encased in much deeper shells that have layers of ‘frills’ on the outside. Wheelers is tiny. It is comprised of just a fish bar at the front of the shop, while the restaurant itself is in the back. It heaves with business, especially during festival time. But the festival is not just about food; there are arts and culture events too. The end is marked by a fireworks display over the sea.



Children lay out illuminated ‘grotters’, which are hollow, castle-like structures that they build out of oyster shells, a tradition thought to have originated in Victorian times. Candles are lit inside each one, so that when gathered together, the beach glows – a dreamlike end to a week of lively luxury.

 For more on Whitstable visit

Top: The Whitstable Oyster Fisheries Company in Whitstable harbour. Left: An oyster stand selling both native and rock oysters


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