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ST MICHAEL’S MOUNT Meet Lord St Levan in his Cornwall island home

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n luxury L-day on holiday don


12 OF THE BEST BRITISH VIEWS LASTING LEGACY The fascinating story of Sissinghurst's gardens

The Seven Sisters on the south coast makes for one of the most magnificent views in Britain

EDITOR'S LETTER Amazing it may seem, but as I write this here in Britain we are in the middle of a heatwave. London’s lidos are filled with people, deckchairs abound around the Serpentine in Hyde Park and hot holidaymakers stand bewildered before Buckingham Palace, wondering where the famously unpredictable English weather has gone. So this issue has taken on a rather summery feel as well, as we visit the golden beaches of the Isle of Wight (p6), explore the colourful gardens of Sissinghurst (p48) and discover the magical island home of Lord St Levan at St Michael’s Mount (p84). I’m also very pleased to bring you a fascinating feature on the city of Derry~Londonderry in Northern Ireland, which is this year’s Capital of Culture (p77). And of course we have been caught up in the excitement of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s happy news. We had great fun putting together a special Baby Brit List (p23) and subscribers to BRITAIN can also enjoy our exclusive souvenir supplement, Prince George of Cambridge, by visiting













Jessica Tooze, Editor





ST MICHAEL’S MOUNT Meet Lord St Levan in his Cornwall island home

a ten-da y luxury Lon holiday don


12 OF THE BEST BRITISH VIEWS LASTING LEGACY The fascinating story of Sissinghurst's gardens

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29/07/2013 11:23

Cover image: St Michael's Mount, Cornwall © Patrick Frilet/Hemis/Alamy

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One of Britain's prettiest places to visit, the Isle of Wight offers bucolic landscapes, sandy beaches and royal residences. We explore Greenwich, where elegance meets history amongst magnificent architecture and sprawling green parkland. We look at an extraordinary British custom that sees village wells and water sources adorned with elaborate floral decoration.


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From the loveliness of the Lake District to the beauty of the Gower Peninsular, we bring you some breathtaking British views. Peppered with castles and abbeys, the landscape that joins England to Scotland is suffused with captivating history. BRITAIN 3










To mark the royal birth we celebrate with gorgeous baby buys fit for a prince.

Once a pig farm, Sissinghurst is now famed for Vita Sackville-West's beautiful garden.

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:











From Michelin stars to rustic simplicity, we bring you ten places to stay where food is the focus.

Editor Jessica Tooze Acting Deputy Editor Martha Alexander Art Editor Rhian Colley Designer Alicia Fernandes Publisher Simon Temlett Digital Marketing Manager Helena Martins Digital Product Manager Oliver Morley-Norris

We explain how British titles evolved and clarify the all-important pecking order. ‘LEGENDERRY' TRANSFORMATION Despite its troubled history, Derry~Londonderry is now emerging as an exciting cultural hub.

Sales Executives James Darnborough, Natasha Syed Group Digital Sales Manager Matt Rayner

BRITAIN MEETS... Marooned off Marazion on the Cornish coast, St Michael's Mount is home to Lord St Levan.

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


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Do get in touch to tell us about your experiences in Britain or let us know what you think of the magazine. Win a ten-night stay in a stylish apartment in the capital, with your own butler. Designer and creator of the world's most expensive perfume, Clive Christian OBE tells us about his favourite British traditions.


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A REFLECTION OF YOUR STYLE INTRODUCING THE STERLING COLLECTION Luxury Leather Goods and Accessories Hand Crafted in the United Kingdom

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Sunset over The Needles, viewed from Alum Bay



Isle of Wight

A LITTLE Picture-perfect thatched villages, golden sandy beaches, rolling countryside and royal residences – the Isle of Wight is an idyllic holiday destination WORDS MARI NICHOLSON





photoS: © adrian Sherratt/alamy/ illuStration: Scott jeSSop


exceptional remains including exquisite floor mosaics; the t has been variously called The Diamond in The Saxons left reminders of their presence in buried coins, Solent, England in Miniature, and The Gem of the brooches and buckles and in two Anglo-Saxon churches South, but for many regular visitors to the Isle of (All Saints at Freshwater and St George’s at Arreton); and Wight, it is the words of philosopher Karl Marx that the Normans left many architecturally rich churches. best sum up its charms: “This island is a little paradise”. The island is of course also well known for its royal Lying about six miles off the coast of south-east England, connections – perhaps the most fascinating royal personage the island has no commercial air connections, but boats and to have lived here was King Charles I who was a prisoner at hovercraft from the mainland whisk cars and foot Carisbrooke Castle before his beheading in London in 1649. passengers across The Solent to the entry ports of Ryde, Today, the grey granite fortress is far Yarmouth and Cowes (famous for its less forbidding a place and visitors can yearly hosting of the world’s largest Festival island play boules on the manicured green sailing regatta, Cowes Week). lawns, visit the donkeys that draw the Covering 147 square miles in total, water from the well, and wander the island is blessed with a wide through the king’s rooms. variety of landscapes, from sheltered Royals returned in the 19th century river valleys to wild, windswept when Queen Victoria and Prince headlands and golden sandy beaches Albert built Osborne House, their to forests and picturesque villages. Italianate villa at Cowes, where they Its soft light has attracted artists to its and their nine children lived a quiet shores since the 19th century, while family life away from the London the sub-tropical climate is ideal for Court. Today it is the most popular viniculture to flourish and allows attraction on the island. exotic plants to grow in sheltered In Victoria’s wake and with the south-facing gardens. The Isle of Wight is also known as advent of the railways came artists, The island also has a rich historic Festival Island due to the number of poets and writers. Alfred, Lord past that dates back more than 125 important festivals held here every year, Tennyson bought Farringford House at million years when it was home to a among them the Pop Festival in June, Freshwater, Julia Margaret Cameron terrifying range of predators – recent which has featured big names including the pioneer photographer resided finds have reinforced its standing as The Rolling Stones and Bruce nearby at Dimbola Lodge, and Charles the number one hotspot for fossil Springsteen performing live over three Dickens rented a house at the little hunting. Dinosaur bones are regularly days; Bestival in September; a Jazz & hamlet of Bonchurch with its pretty found along the island’s shores and at Blues Festival; and three literary festivals. village pond where ducks and ducklings low tide there are often parties of The three-day Garlic Festival in August still paddle among the reeds as they did people out searching for the fossil is one of south-east England’s most when he took his walks here. that will make them famous. unusual events and attracts visitors East Wight is more densely Centuries of human civilisations have from all over Europe to sample all things populated than West Wight and it is made their mark too. The Romans left garlic including ice-cream and beer! along these miles of golden sandy villas at Brading and Newport with

Isle of Wight Wild flowers above the golden sands of Brook Beach



Above: Thatched cottages on Church Hill in the pretty village of Godshill



beaches that the seaside resorts of Sandown, Shanklin and Ventnor grew up. Sandown High Street and the gently sloping beach run parallel making shopping and beach relaxation an easy combination, and for the occasional rainy day – for it is still England after all – the state-of-theart Dinosaur Museum and Sandown Zoo with its collection of big cats are just along the seafront. It is worth taking a stroll along Sandown’s pier to look back towards the prominent white headland of Culver and the 73 million-year-old chalk cliffs of Bembridge that were once connected to the South Downs on the mainland. A walk or a drive to the summit of this headland offers spectacular views of the English Channel and is one of the best things to do on a sunny day, while in winter it is exhilarating to feel the wind in your hair as you watch the boats pitching and yawing on the waters below. Of interest to military history buffs, the headland is home to the remains of 19th-century and WWI fortifications and gun emplacements. Built in 1867 as part of The Solent’s extensive defence system to repel a predicted invasion by the forces of Napoleon III (which never happened) the fort was briefly occupied by a cavalry unit and housed heavy artillery during WWI. In WWII shots were fired against an altogether different enemy – the Nazis. The beach at Sandown continues along to Shanklin with its famous Old Village of thatched cottages and The Chine, a naturally beautiful historic gorge formed over 10,000 years by water cutting through soft sandstone. Deep inside the gorge, which runs down to the sea, you will see the remaining 65 yards of the pipe that was PLUTO (Pipe Line Under the Ocean), used to transport

petrol to France for the invasion of Normandy, one of WWII’s great successes. The pipe initially ran for 70 miles along the Channel seabed to Cherbourg in France and delivered 56,000 gallons a day at its most active. Away from the coast are Georgian market towns such as Newport, centred on two elegant squares with architecture from Georgian and Victorian periods. At the town quay in the 19th century, boats moored to unload their goods after they had sailed up the River Medina from Cowes. Away from the coast also are some of the best preserved and prettiest villages in the UK. Thatched cottages set in country gardens and welcoming ‘olde worlde’ pubs such as The Crab in Shanklin, the New Inn at Shalfleet and The Hare and Hounds at Arreton are picture perfect. Driving, cycling, walking or taking the local bus is an ideal way to see the villages; one of the best routes is the journey from Carisbrooke to Freshwater. Winding along lanes dappled with sunlight penetrating the green canopy of overhead branches, passing honeysuckle-clad cottages, old churches and pubs with flower-filled gardens, this offers glimpses of an alternative Wight. Brightstone, with its quaint little cottage museum displaying the life of the 19th-century village, and Mottistone, with its lovely manor and exquisite gardens of shrub-filled banks, hidden pathways and blossom-laden trees, are some of the best. The village of Godshill perhaps trumps them all though, and is one of the most photographed in England for its wonderfully whimsical buildings. On top of the hill stands the 15th-century church, flanked by thatched cottages covered with wisteria, clematis and roses. On the winding main street you will find a cider barn selling locally

Isle of Wight

The island is blessed with a wide variety of landscapes, from sheltered river valleys to wild, windswept headlands

photoS: Š Steven SheppardSon/SuperStock/patrick eden/kim kaminSki/iStock/

Clockwise from top left: Osborne House; Steephill Cove, Ventnor; Woodside Bay on the island's north-east coast; Bembridge Windmill, owned by the National Trust; Old Thatch Teashop in Shanklin; Carisbrooke Castle has dominated the centre of the island for 800 years



photoS: © corbiS/aShley cooper/viSitbritain

Isle of Wight


J Steephill Cove near Ventnor is one of the prettiest places on the island – an unspoilt little fishing cove that was once a smugglers’ haven. There’s no access by motor vehicle, which adds to the solitary feeling one gets here. The freshest crab and lobster can be sampled at the Boathouse Restaurant which overlooks the beach and you can sit and watch the fishermen bringing in the daily catch. J Walk along the Medina River or by Parkhurst Forest from Newport to Cowes, watching the swans dodge between the canoes and kayaks on the water. J Spend a day fossil hunting at Compton Bay when the tide is out – best with a group led by one of the island’s experts. Tourist offices provide information on the times of tides. J Mess about in the rock-pools at Bembridge on the easternmost point of the island and relax in the old-fashioned deck chairs for a dose of pure nostalgia. J Visit the Farmers’ Market in Newport, loading up with island produce – artisan breads, honey, chutneys and cheeses – and fragrant products from the Lavender Farm. Isle of Wight cheese makes a delightful present as does damson gin and cider from the Cider Barn at Godshill, nicely packaged in stone bottles.



brewed cider, great food at The Taverners pub and delicious home-made cakes at The Old Smithy tea rooms. Walk down Winkle Street in Calbourne, a village with a working water mill that still provides flour for bakeries on the island, and it’s as if you’ve strolled back in time. Facing the attractive row of thatched cottages is a stream that meanders towards the 17th-century mill, and nearby is the village green on which cricket is played most weekends. The small hamlet of Newtown was once a harbour and 180 species of bird have been sighted at its nature reserve. Looking at the grassy lanes, hay meadows and salt marshes today it takes a leap of the imagination to see Newtown as it once was – a medieval port with tall, masted ships crowding the quayside. The unspoilt scenery on the Isle of Wight (over 50 per cent of the island has been designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) and the 500 miles of well-maintained public footpaths make walking the island a never-ending delight. Nine species of orchid grow on West High Down where Adonis Blue and Chalkhill Blue butterflies can be seen in the summer. The Walking Festival held yearly in early summer attracts people from all over the world for guided walks catering to all ages and abilities; there is even a gentle one-mile stroll for the early risers to listen to the dawn chorus in Newtown. The island sets this spectacular scenery and its varied history against everyday events such as carnivals and farmers’ markets, enriching life for those who live here and those who come to visit – and few visit only once. To quote Shakespeare, “the isle is full of sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight”. In other words, it’s magical.

Above: Looking over green fields towards Culver Down. Left: Yarmouth Old Gaffers Festival, when the harbour is filled with gaff-rigged boats

 For more information on what to do and see on the Isle of Wight please go to or visit the BRITAIN website at

holiday cottages on the Isle of Wight 

150+ properties from simple to sumptuous

Coastal & Rural holiday cottages island wide

Enjoy England quality inspected


With expertise in prime locations across the Island, including Seaview, Bembridge, and Yarmouth

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See some of the best preserved Roman mosaics in Europe! Award-winning visitor centre & museum licensed cafe, shop, meadow trail & garden. Open daily 9.30am - 5pm Morton Old Road, Brading, Isle of Wight, PO36 0PH 01983 406223



Tel: 01983 520052 or visit

britain 13

for sights you’ll never forget it’s time to visit Greenwich

Discover royalty at the beautiful Old Royal Naval College. See stars at the Royal Observatory. Take an exhilarating walk over The O2.

Telephone 0870 608 2000

Fly across the river on the Emirates Air Line. Browse designer-maker shops and stalls in bustling Greenwich Market.

Getting here is easy - choose from Docklands Light Railway, riverboat, train or the Emirates Air Line.

More than



From an ancient history marred by murder and mayhem, the Royal Borough of Greenwich has risen from the ashes to become the most elegant area of south-east London, straddling the world’s hemispheres with glorious architecture and green open space Words Chris Fautley



amuel Johnson was moved to prose here: “On Thames’s banks, in silent thought we stood, Where Greenwich smiles upon the silver flood...” And Dickens was inclined to rather overindulge: “There is no next morning hangover like that which follows a Greenwich dinner.” Greenwich is many things to many people – time’s home, World Heritage Site, royal borough – and it has a history spanning more than 1,000 years. We start in AD1011 when Alfege, Archbishop of Canterbury, was brought here as a hostage by Danish invaders. An enormous ransom was demanded, but Alfege refused to let his people pay; his captors murdered him on Easter Day the following year. History does not record precisely when a church marking his martyrdom first appeared in Greenwich – the present church of St Alfege, by Sir Nicholas Hawksmoor (Wren’s apprentice), was consecrated in 1718 and a slab before the sanctuary marks where the saint fell. Others associated with the church include General Gordon, of Khartoum fame, who was christened here. It is also the burial place of General Wolfe, who led the attack on Quebec in 1759. Dark times, however, were to return to Greenwich – and the church in particular: in 1941, St Alfege’s fell prey to German

really sing Greenwich’s praises and provide a wonderful view from both the river and Greenwich Park. Within the college lies the Painted Hall, where Nelson lay in state. At more than 28,000 sq ft, it is one of Britain’s largest painted interiors. The highlight is Sir James Thornhill’s soaring ceiling, which, together with the walls, took him almost 19 years to complete. It is as if the roof has peeled back to reveal the heavens above. The breath-snatching beauty of the college chapel, meanwhile, has a maritime theme throughout. The college story starts in 1706 when it opened as the Royal Hospital for Seamen. It was more of a convalescent home than a hospital and in its prime was home to almost 3,000 seafarers. But during the mid-19th century the requirement for such an institution diminished, and by 1869 the last resident had left. In 1873, the hospital took on a new function as the Royal Naval College, a role it continued to perform until 1998. It now serves as home to the University of Greenwich. The grounds run almost to the shoreline where a narrow public path separates them from the river. It is known as Five-Foot Walk, a reflection of its precise width. The Naval College is in effect four buildings. This is not a consequence of some sort of architectural whim, rather the

incendiary bombs. The roof collapsed, the heat being so extreme that the lead melted. Yet by 1953, it had been rebuilt. Even so, Vulcan’s fiery hand hadn’t quite finished with Greenwich. The three-masted clipper Cutty Sark was built in 1869, specially designed for carrying tea from China to London. Retired in 1922, she was brought to a purpose-built dry dock at Greenwich in 1954, where she became one of its most popular attractions. But on 21 May 2007, tragedy struck: fire. Fortunately, the interior artefacts had been removed – a precursor to planned conservation work. Nevertheless, much of the vessel’s structure was devoured by flames; it was to be almost five years before Cutty Sark was again able to welcome visitors aboard. The waterfront Old Royal Naval College is the jewel in the royal borough’s crown. It is largely the work of Sir Christopher Wren, with later contributions by Hawksmoor and Vanbrugh. But it is the twin domes – smart, upright sentries guarding the Thames – that



insistence of the owner of an older building whose river views would have been blocked had the college been built as one. Thus it is as if some Brobdingnagian hand has gently parted the constituent halves of the college along the river bank to reveal, set back between them, the magnificent Queen’s House. It dates from 1616 when Inigo Jones was commissioned to build a home for Anne of Denmark, wife of King James I. She died shortly after work started, subsequent to which little interest was shown in the building. In 1629 King Charles I gifted it to his queen, Henrietta. Inigo Jones was again commissioned to complete the work, a task that took a further six years. If its style is largely Palladian, its surprises are principally mathematical. The Great Hall is a perfect 40ft x 40ft cube; its black and white marble-tiled floor is laid out in bold geometric patterns of circles, triangles and squares. In geometric form the ceiling is a perfect mirror image, albeit the shapes are filled with artwork by

photoS: © Alex hAre/loop ImAgeS/SuperStock/vISItgreenwIch

Previous page: A view of Canary Wharf from Greenwich Park and the Royal Observatory. Above: The O2 Arena. Facing page: Greenwich Maritime Museum


Queen's House is now part of the National Maritime Museum, one of the largest of its kind in the world




This image: View of the Cutty Sark, seen from below. Facing page: The Old Royal Observatory houses Britain's largest telescope


photoS: © photononStop/SuperStock/fan muSeum/viSitgreenwich

Italian painter Orazio Gentileschi. Similar geometric perfection is found in the form of the finely spiralled Tulip Stairs. Over the years, Queen’s House fell into the ownership of various queens – including Mary of Modena, wife of James II. But it was Mary II, wife of William III, who insisted the riverside views should not be compromised by the Naval College. During the early 19th century, Queen’s House became a school for seafarers’ children. This closed in 1933, subsequent to which it became part of the National Maritime Museum, one of the largest of its kind in the world. Greenwich was once very much de rigeur in royal circles (although residentially it fell from royal favour during the 18th century). Greenwich Palace, on whose site the Royal Naval College was erected, was the birthplace of both Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. These royal connections were commemorated in 2012, when Greenwich was made a royal borough to mark The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. It is only the third London borough to receive this accolade. Henry VIII particularly enjoyed sporting in Greenwich Park, which, dating back to 1427, is the oldest enclosed royal park. Queen Elizabeth I, meanwhile, is said to have picnicked inside the trunk of a 12th-century oak, the Elizabeth Oak. Although it died during the 19th century, its fallen remains may still be seen. If Greenwich, above all else, is synonymous with time, it’s a steep climb up through the park to find it at the Old Royal Observatory. The principal building, Flamsteed House (named after John Flamsteed, the first Astronomer Royal), was designed by Wren. But it was not time that exercised the mind of King Charles II, who commissioned it in 1675: rather, it was the pressing issue of longitude. Flamsteed’s instructions were to remedy the difficulty that at sea it was impossible to calculate a precise position east or west – with potentially dire consequences. However, it was an horologist, John Harrison, who cracked the problem – but not until 1759 when he perfected the Impossible Clock, an instrument which, once set at an identified longitude, reliably kept time at sea. By comparing this with local time,

calculable from the stars, mariners could establish their precise longitude. Thus was the link between Greenwich and time forged. The Old Observatory houses astronomic and horological collections, including Harrison’s timepieces, as well as a 28-inch refracting telescope, Britain’s largest. It weighs 1.5 tonnes. A red time ball is just one of many means by which visitors may set their watches. Each day a large, red ball is hoisted to the top of a rooftop mast and lowered at 13.00 Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) precisely. This procedure dates from 1833 when anchored ships on the Thames set their chronometers by it. The line of zero degrees longitude is marked in the Meridian Courtyard. Straddle it and you are in two places simultaneously, the eastern and western hemispheres. Or, if you prefer, 51º 28’ 38” north, 0º 0’ 0” east. The exact spot is marked by the cross-hairs of the Transit Circle Telescope in the Meridian Building. In this home of observation, one person has done better than most: General Wolfe, or rather his statue adjacent to the observatory. He has the best view in Greenwich: out through the park, over Queen’s House and the Naval College, and across the river to the Isle of Dogs. A second stupendous view may be had via one of London’s great secret adventures – the Greenwich foot tunnel. Opened in 1902, it was built to allow easy access to London’s docks from south of the river. Lined with 200,000 glazed white tiles and 53 feet below high water, it emerges a quarter of a mile later on the Isle of Dogs where the exact reverse view to General Wolfe’s may be enjoyed. It was a scene much appreciated by Wren. This, he proclaimed, was the finest place from which to admire the view of the Royal Hospital. In 1750-52, the vista was captured by Venetian artist Antonio Canaletto, who thus produced one of the all-time classic paintings of London. The outlook from here is nothing less than timeless: a scene that both Canaletto and Wren would surely still recognise.

 For more information on the Greenwich attractions mentioned in this feature, please visit the BRITAIN website:

Editor’s pick J the Fan Museum in crooms Hill has some 4,000 largely antique fans and runs varying exhibitions throughout the year. perfect for a hot day! J there are fine views of Greenwich from the river. Greenwich pier is served by river buses from thames-side London, including Westminster and canary Wharf. J the Emirates Air Line is a vertiginous cross-river cable car from the royal docks. it ‘touches down’ in North Greenwich, a short bus ride from the town centre.

J the ranger's House is in the south-west corner of the park. this Georgian villa houses more than 600 works of art – including jewellery, paintings and porcelain. J Greenwich Market, established in 1830, specialises in arts, crafts, collectibles, food and antiques. J the o2 Arena, formerly the Millennium dome, was London's tribute to the new millennium. it is now home to cinemas and a concert and exhibition venue. You can climb up over the roof for bird's-eye views of London.



Kew Gardens Explore London’s most beautiful garden Kew Gardens Only 30 mins from Leicester Square

British Traditions

Well dressed Pagan offering turned twee tradition – Derbyshire's wells are a sight to behold if you're lucky enough to find them at the right time Words Neil JoNes

photoS: © AlAmy/cheSter viSitr informAtion centre


ike all Great British traditions, well dressing in and around Derbyshire is a rich mix of mystery, pageant and beauty. Travel through the area in summer and you’ll come across vibrant collages handcrafted from flowers and foliage, as some 70 towns and villages decorate their wells and water pumps. No one knows exactly how the custom began, but it likely originated in pagan water worship when our ancient forebears placed floral offerings beside springs to please the spirits that dwelt there, ensuring the water kept flowing. Although early Christians forbade the practice, it never lost its appeal. Tissington village, having miraculously escaped the Black Death that wiped out nearly half of Britain, revived well dressing in 1349 to give thanks for the life-saving purity of its water. Barlow, it’s claimed, dressed wells in Elizabethan times, while places like Tideswell began ‘tap dressing’ when piped water first arrived. Dressings, set in huge wooden trays, often depict stories from the Bible, although some celebrate modern themes. Natural materials – berries, cones, petals, seeds, leaves – are used to create intricate works of art, and each can take a team of volunteers a week to do. Typically, the wooden tray is soaked in the local pond or river, before being filled with moist clay. The design, drawn on thin paper, is placed over the clay and the outline transferred: by pricking through the paper and joining the dots, perhaps with alder cones, or making cuts along each line and pushing small pieces of wood into the

clay – called ‘barking’. The picture is coloured in by ‘petalling’ or ‘flowering’, depending on whether petals or whole flower heads are used. Installation of the elaborate collages may be accompanied by a church service of thanksgiving, procession and blessing of wells. Sometimes this will be the first the outside world has seen of the picture, but many locals allow visitors to watch construction in the week preceding display. You can do so at Chesterfield, for example, where two dressings, on the town pump in the Market Place and in the ‘Crooked Spire’ Church porch, are among the last in the calendar, this year from 7–14 September. “We like to choose themes for pictures that celebrate anniversaries,” says Alyson Barnes, who has helped to create dressings for Chesterfield’s town pump for 22 years. “This year it’s the 50th birthday of [tv series] Dr Who; last year we marked The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. We used eggshells to create The Queen’s face, and thistle seed heads and clematis seed heads for her grey hair. We sent Her Majesty a picture and received a letter of appreciation for our efforts. “Well dressing is a very ancient Derbyshire custom and it’s a beautiful art form,” Alyson concludes. “Part of that beauty is that it’s ephemeral: it’s there for a week before it fades and is gone forever.” Catch it while you can!

 To check dates and locations for Derbyshire’s well dressing, see For more information please visit

Above left: Noah-themed well dressing at Tissington, Derbyshire. Above right: Chesterfield Market's 2012 well dressing featuring The Queen



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What to do ● Where to go ● What to buy

In a royal baby special this issue, we're celebrating the birth of Prince george with our pick of the best baby buys and adorable souvenirs

a little prince The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were all smiles on 23 July as they left St Mary’s Hospital in London with their newborn son, Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge, to applause from well-wishers. The couple described the birth as an “emotional time” and William commented that his son had “thankfully” inherited Catherine’s looks.



home, sweet home Kensington Palace: what a fabulous place to grow up. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and their new arrival, will live in an apartment in the palace, which was also William’s childhood home. Areas of the palace are open to visitors, and you can explore the State Apartments or stroll through the gardens. £15.



BABY WhAt to do ● Where to go ● WhAt to BuY

suite dreams grosvenor house hotel in London has created a nursery suite for a family stay, with royal nursery designers dragons of Walton Street The nursery suite features bespoke, handcrafted furniture and a luxury stay here includes a private tour of Buckingham Palace, a Harrods personal shopper and a dedicated baby concierge. Rates start from £1,651 per night.

baby steps the patter of tiny feet will be made all the more adorable in these highgrove union Jack booties Made from soft, vegetable-dyed leather, these flag-themed booties have anti-slip soles that are perfect for a tiny tot’s first steps – and they can be stylishly gift wrapped. £22.50. www.

plate it up

photo: © Steve vidLer/ALAmY/reBeccA honeYWeLL

harrods' royal Baby commemorative plate brings a touch of the historic occasion to the breakfast table. Lovingly made with fine bone english china, gold-tone detail and dotted with whimsical crowns, toys and prams, it's simply irresistable. £29.95.

spoonful of sugar Engraved, silver-plated dessert spoons from The Cutlery Commission. £16.99. www.

editor'S pick – BiScuitY treAtS We love the Royal baby biscuit tin from Biscuiteers. the limited edition tin features traditional silver spoons, regal rattles, little booties and a royal pram – all in biscuit form

of course. the delectable collection is iced using fresh vanilla pods. You can give the sweet treats as a gift with a personal touch of an iced message (an additional £3.50) – or just keep them for your

own little prince or princess. £40. www. Honeywell bakes has a two-layer gift set containing six delicious handpiped vanilla biscuits: two crowns , a champagne flute,

two booties and a babygrow. All biscuits are handmade. £23.50 the Royal baby Gingerbread biscuit box from John Lewis

features hand-decorated gingerbread biscuits from cute food company image on Food. the selection of gingerbread treats costs £12.50 from www. britain



LOLLIPOP DELIGHTS Who needs flowers when you can deliver this quirky set of chocolate lollipops to the door of a new arrival? Award-winning Hampshire-based chocolatiers, Sent With a Loving Kiss, use ethically sourced ingredients for all their delicate treats. Springing out of a decorative keepsake tin, the Dazzling Dots & Swirls bundle of milk, white and dark chocolates are melted, moulded and embellished by hand with carefully crafted designs. £29.99 plus p&p.

AFTERNOON TEA FIT FOR A PRINCESS Mums-to-be can enjoy ‘The Royal' Baby Shower Afternoon Tea The fine-tiered selection of cakes and delicacies, courtesy of award-winning executive chef William Drabble at St James’s Hotel and Club, includes heartshaped macaroons and crystallised rose petals. It costs £89 per person, including an £85 gift from the Ralph Lauren Baby store on Bond Street and a pregnancy treatment at the Spa Illuminata in Mayfair.

PRETTY IN PINK (OR BLUE) These limited edition ‘mother baby' bracelets from Gina Stewart Cox make the perfect present for any new mum and her little one These gorgeous bracelets are available in baby pink or blue and feature a sterling silver heart charm. They are adjustable to fit both mother and baby. £30

BEDTIME READING Kate has become an instant style icon – read about her fashion flair in Kate’s Style. RRP £19.99. www.carltonbooks. Shhh! Don’t Wake the Royal Baby guarantees a giggle before bedtime. £6.99.

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WINTER WARMERS We just adore this heart and crown embroidered sleepsuit from JoJo Maman Bébé, which comes in pink, blue or silver, complete with scratch mitts to keep tiny fingers at bay. Sizes range from newborn to six to 12 months. £14 . Soft-to-the-touch fleece blankets are also perfect for beds, to keep your little one warm in the pram or to snuggle up on the sofa. £12.

CRÈME DE LA CRÈME £10,000 Sudocrem pot charm British jewellery designer Theo Fennell has created a miniature, jewel-encrusted 18ct white gold Sudocrem pot bracelet charm for The Duchess of Cambridge as a bespoke gift.



Create your very own cushion cover with Emily Peacock's contemporary king and queen needlework kits, with Appleton Brothers wool. From £55.

Over the years, canine friends have been a big part of the Royal Family, from pugs and greyhounds to King Charles Spaniels – and some have even starred in their own portraits. But we all know that The Queen is never far from her corgis. You can take your own lovable corgi home from The Royal Collection Trust, complete with a gold-coloured medallion stamped with ‘Buckingham Palace'. £15.99.

EDITOR'S PICK – TEA TIME The Royal Baby Fine Bone China Children’s Mug from Milly Green brings a bit of the nursery to the kitchen. The hand-decorated Royal Rocking Horse mug has

been specially designed to commemorate the royal birth with a little Royal Bear peeking out at you while you drink. £8.99. www.

Sophie Allport’s delicate illustrations of hearts, Union Jack bunting, ‘crown’ mobiles, babygrows, fairies, teddies and first little outfi ts adorn

this pretty, fine bone china commemorative mug. The hand-decorated piece joins the collection of Royal Wedding, Diamond Jubilee and

coronation anniversary mugs, as well as those celebrating the London 2012 Olympics. A personalised message in Sophie’s distinctive handwriting makes this mug all the more special as a keepsake. £9. BRITAIN


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

Exploring Britain


SEVEN SISTERS, EAST SUSSEX Situated on the edge of southern England's South Downs National Park, the shining Seven Sisters cliffs blaze almost blindingly white on a sunny day, a welcome sight from out at sea. A sequence of chalk cliffs that stretch between Eastbourne and Seaford, their white rock has been revealed thanks to natural erosion. They are characterised by individually named peaks and dips starting with Haven Brow near Cuckmere Haven and moving east until Went Hill Brow. This remarkable coastline is almost completely undeveloped so it’s a joy to behold – there are only walkers, picnickers or a few brave swimmers to be seen. The Birling Gap is a good place to start or finish an exploration of the area. This point affords fantastic views of the Seven Sisters and the marine nature reserve of the shingle beach beneath them.

The symbol for its home city of Bristol, the Clifton Suspension Bridge opened in 1864, spanning the Avon Gorge and the River Avon. Designed for light horse-drawn traffic, it still meets today's demands with thousands of vehicles crossing it every day. It is a practical, integral part of the city, but is also Grade I-listed and provides one of the most stunning vistas in Britain. The bridge was designed by the great Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, although he didn’t live to see it finally finished. Best viewed from the observatory on Clifton Down, it is an elegant, graceful masterpiece of engineering, with breathtaking backdrops on either side. Leigh Woods to the west offers lush thick greenery that surrounds the base of one of the bridge towers, while across the Avon you have views of one of the smartest parts of Bristol, Clifton, from where the bridge gets its name.

peak diStriCt, derbyShire The Peak District National Park offers over 202 square miles filled with accessible vantage points for visitors to take in this grand unspoilt rural scenery. The Iron Tors in Wolfscote Dale are best viewed from the base of the valley. A narrow, gentle brook meanders on to Dovedale and the village of Dove Holes, famous for extraordinary mossy caves that just beg to be explored. Mam Tor (meaning ‘Mother Hill’ because of the smaller mounds that are created beneath her and also known as the Shivering Mountain) is found at the west of Hope Valley. At the summit, you’re treated to interesting views of the Peak District hills thanks to periodic landslides, thought to have begun in pre-historic times, that have left the landscape dramatically exposed in places. Chatsworth House is one of the area's highlights. The woods near the village of Beeley sit high above the estate, offering one of the best places to admire the architecture and gardens of the Duke of Devonshire’s family seat.



photoS: © Sean Gladwell/alamy/alan novelliaviSta/iStock/look die BildaGentur der FotoGraFen GmBh

Clifton SuSpenSion bridge, briStol

Exploring Britain Westbury Horse, WiltsHire Wiltshire is horse country, or more specifically, chalk horse country – there are or were at least 24 of these hill figures in Britain, with no fewer than 13 in Wiltshire. The county’s chalk downs mean the figures are easy to make, although only eight are still visible – the others have either been lost completely, or are still there, under the turf. The oldest of the White Horses of Wiltshire, the Westbury Horse was re-cut in 1778 on a very steep slope on the edge of Bratton Downs. Some historians believe an original Saxon horse was there first and then revised in the 18th century, when the white horse was a symbol associated with the new British Royal Family, the House of Hanover, and carved as a symbol of loyalty to the monarchy. You can climb to the summit above the ‘back’ of the horse, where the views over the countryside are utterly resplendent.

lake District, cumbria This beautiful region is one of the most visited in Britain – with good reason. The shimmering expanse of Lake Windermere is perhaps the most popular destination, but you are truly spoilt for choice in this Cumbrian landscape. From the shores of Buttermere you have a splendid view of Haystacks, the hill that was made famous by the writer Alfred Wainwright, who loved this fell so much he had his ashes scattered here. Climbing to the top of Haystacks you’ll find a number of small tarns and obscure rock formations. Close by is Sour Milk Ghyll, a tumbling waterfall a short walk from Grasmere through velvety green meadows. Views of Wastwater, with the formidable Scafell Pike in the distance, are also stunning – the gentle waters leading your eye into the more rugged, wild terrain of the mountains.



Great Historic Houses & Gardens...

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01483 444333

Exploring Britain

the Shard, London Redefining London’s already iconic skyline, this 72-storey glass skyscraper is not simply a marvel to look at from below; its uppermost floors afford visitors the most spectacular panoramas of the capital. Aptly named The View, the top four floors provide 360-degree vistas of London – knee-tremblingly high above the city you can see the icons and arteries of this sprawling metropolis unfolding for 40 miles around. The gleaming giants of The City are immediately across the River Thames and the once imposing Tower of London seems diminutive backed by these shining glass edifices. The Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, the BT Tower and Battersea Power Station are clearly visible and there are special digital telescopes that allow visitors to get close ups of every highlight. At 310 metres, this is the tallest building in Western Europe and the viewing platform is almost double the height of any other in the city. The 72nd floor is the final stop, open to the sky above. What could be more dramatic?

durdLe door, dorSet A natural delight found on the Jurassic Coast in Dorset, Durdle Door is a limestone arch between two pretty beaches, St Oswald's Bay and Man O'War Cove. Here the layers of soft and hard rock have been pounded by years of waves, yielding to create interesting caves and of course the Durdle Door. To get to the beaches you need to climb down several hundred steps in the cliff, but the best vantage point to take in their rare beauty can be found on the chalk cliffs at the top of the comically named Scratchy Bottom Valley. It is also worth exploring this geological wonder close up, however, as the rock strata is intricate and rather beautiful, especially near to the top of the arch where some dark circular cavities are the remnants of a fossil forest.

photoS: © iviewfromtheShardtrevor SmitherS/arpS/alamy/

richmond hiLL, London If you had to guess the location of the only view in England that’s protected by an Act of Parliament, somewhere in a National Park might spring to mind – Dartmoor or Exmoor perhaps. But this view, protected by an Open Spaces Act passed in 1902, is in the leafy London Borough of Richmond upon Thames. It really is a view to be cherished. From the summit of Richmond Hill, on the terrace outside The Roebuck pub, a pretty wildflower meadow slopes down towards the bank of the Thames, with tiny Glover’s Island splitting the river in two, and the hulking edifice of Twickenham Stadium rising in the distance. Some of Britain’s most famous landscape painters including Reynolds and Turner (who lived nearby and painted the scene many times) have been inspired by this spot, and it has been referenced in a variety of literature, such as William Wordsworth’s sonnet June 1820.




Why not not stay stay the the night? night? We We can can offer offer you you and and your Why your family a unique opportunity to relax and unwind in familynot a unique opportunity in Why stay the night? We to canrelax offerand youunwind and your one of our holiday cottages set in the heart of some one ofaour holiday cottages set in theand heart of some family unique opportunity to relax unwind in of England’s England’s most most historic historic sites. sites. of one of our holiday cottages set in the heart of some After the crowds crowds of gone you you will be be free free to to explore explore the of England’s mostof historic sites. After the gone will the gardens and grounds, enjoy stunning views or simply soak gardens grounds, ortosimply soak After theand crowds haveenjoy gonestunning you will views be free explore up the atmosphere. up atmosphere. thethe gardens and grounds, enjoy stunning views or simply soak up the atmosphere.

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Exploring Britain

photoS: © Billy Stock/RoBeRt haRding WoRld imageRy/coRBiS/Bl imageS ltd/Sean gladWell/eye35.pix

three Cliffs bay, the Gower The Gower Peninsula boasts some of the most spectacular beaches in Wales but Three Cliffs Bay on the south coast not far from Swansea affords some of the most beautiful beach scenery. Approaching from the north-west you can follow a footpath down through the woods, which disperse all of a sudden to reveal the most breathtaking view of miles of golden beach, calm sea and the iconic ‘three cliffs’ that jut out onto the sand. From the beach you can follow the path of Pennard Pill, a large stream that flows into the sea through the middle of the bay in a wide, looping course. And on the high ground overlooking all of this is the windswept ruin of Pennard Castle, which is often associated with legends of fairies. Sit in this romantic spot and take in the marsh below, the horses cantering across the beach, and the sea splashing into dark caves along the cliffs and you could believe yourself in any time or place, where the existence of fairies doesn’t seem so fantastical after all.

the three GraCes, liverpool Three majestic buildings known as The Three Graces – the Royal Liver Building, the Cunard Building and the Port of Liverpool Building – have stood proudly for almost a century on Liverpool’s Pier Head. They were constructed as symbols to proclaim Liverpool as one of Britain’s most important maritime cities. Visitors approaching the Graces from the water will find the Royal Liver Building to the left with two domed clock towers (each larger than Big Ben and guarded by fictional ‘liver’ birds); the Cunard Building in the centre, built between 1914 and 1917 as the headquarters of the famous Cunard Line shipping company; and the former office of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board, built between 1903 and 1907, on the right.



Exploring Britain Devil’s Dyke, sussex The longest, deepest and widest dry valley in the UK was dug by the Devil to drown the parishioners of the Weald. Or so the legend goes. Scientists, however, believe that it was formed over 10,000 years ago during the last ice age. But for something with such a sinister name, Devil’s Dyke is spectacularly beautiful. Five miles north of Brighton, this Sussex beauty spot has charm in spades. At first, its superficial delights will engage you: the green slopes offering vivid clusters of wild flowers towards the dramatic curve at the base of the valley. Not for nothing did John Constable describe Devil’s Dyke as the ”grandest view in the world’“. However, there is more to discover if you look hard enough. The wall of an Iron Age hill fort can still be found and, most unusually, the remains of a Victorian funfair endure, embedding the scenery with an extraordinarily rich and tangible history.

OlD Man Of stOrr, isle Of skye The Storr is a collection of rocks that crown the Trotternish peninsula in the Isle of Skye, an otherworldly terrain featuring a selection of ancient landslip remnants in an area known as the Sanctuary. The most prominent of these rocky pinnacles – in size and reputation – is known as the Old Man of Storr. It’s worth exploring the whole of the Storr, to get the best view of the pinnacles from above, or heading across to the neighbouring Isle of Raasay. Making a beeline for the Old Man of Storr directly via a steep, dense forest path is also possible, an intense reminder of Scotland’s remote beauty.

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Wonderful Weekends

Break for the Borders

Sandwiched between the Cheviot Hills on the english border and the ranges to the south of edinburgh, the Scottish Borders offers compelling attractions, beautiful countryside and a wild, violent history pHotoS: © travel piCtureS/alamy/Bl imageS/pHil Seale/joHn mCkenna illuStration: SCott jeSSop

Words jessica tooze


hen the Tudors reigned in England and the Stuart monarchs ruled Scotland, the border area between these two countries was a ferocious, lawless place. The families who lived here were known as the Border Reivers, from the old English word for ‘to rob’, and from the late 13th century to the beginning of the 17th century English and Scottish riders on hardy horses raided both sides of the border, carrying off livestock, valuables and even human hostages. Today the Borders still has a culture and an atmosphere that is quite its own – the legacy of these dangerous, daring people whose

Facing page, clockwise from top left: The River Tweed; Abbotsford House; the pretty Borders town of Jedburgh; Melrose Abbey

affinity with the land and the horse has shaped the region. And indeed the highlights of each year here are the Common Ridings, festivals with roots that go back to the days when the men of the town rode the boundaries of the surrounding common land to scour for signs of attackers and check defences. The Borders bills itself as Scotland’s leading short break destination, and if you are travelling from London it is surprisingly easy to get a taste of the region in a long weekend. If you go up on the sleeper train you can spend all the travelling time dozing peacefully (with earplugs provided) in your own private cabin with cosy bed, woken

on arrival in Edinburgh with breakfast brought right to your door. It’s said that the Reivers raided as far as Edinburgh but you need to head south from here to get deep into Borders country. At the head of the River Tyne, a winding lane through rolling fields and past postcardperfect stone villages will lead you to the remains of Crichton Castle, standing in splendid isolation overlooking the valley. A noble residence for some 200 years, from the late 14th century through to the close of the 16th century, the castle now rests in its sleepy corner of Midlothian and is a peaceful, picturesque place to visit. britain


photoS: © Dmitry GuSkov/AlAmy/trAvel pictureS/roxburGhe eStAte

Wonderful Weekends

PLACES TO STAY the roxburghe hotel & golf Course Dinner, bed and breakfast prices start from a very good value £177 and dogs are permitted in the courtyard rooms but not the main house. Clay pigeon shooting on the grounds, excellent golfing, access to the estate’s four fishing beats on the River Tweed and River Teviot, and lessons or hacks at Nenthorn Equestrian Centre just 15 minutes from the hotel can all be arranged. abbotsford house The Hope Scott Wing at Sir Walter Scott’s former home has been transformed into fine-looking luxury accommodation, featuring seven bedrooms, a formal dining room with lovely views, fully equipped kitchen, billiard room, private courtyard and patio garden, all within the spectacular setting of the Abbotsford Estate. staying-at-abbotsford



Above: The Roxburghe Hotel offers a warm welcome, excellent food and a rather good selection of whisky. Below left: The hotel's exterior. Facing page (top): Leaderfoot viaduct and (bottom): the grand Floors Castle

South of Lauder you’ll come across the majestic Leaderfoot viaduct. Described as “immense” by Queen Victoria, its 19 elegant arches are built of brick and rustic-faced red sandstone and have spanned the Tweed since 1863, although it is no longer in use. In the lush Tweed valley that lies between Melrose and Peebles all is serene and green – the emerald colour of the grass reflects the amount of rainfall, as of course this country isn’t known for its sunny weather. But if you’re caught in a wet spell it only adds to the romantic feel of the

who once rode at their peril on audacious raids. Fishing is also hugely popular here and the beautiful River Tweed and other Borders rivers slice through the hilly landscape, water shining with the leap of trout and salmon. Some huge fish have been caught here, not least the 58.25lb monster on display in the 10th Duke of Roxburghe’s sporting room at Floors Castle. The largest inhabited castle in Scotland, Floors is a family home that was built for the 1st Duke of Roxburghe in 1721 and has gorgeous sloping views down to the Tweed. For the past 40 years a section of the castle has been open to the public; you can explore the spectacular state rooms that are strewn with photos of the Duke and his family and packed with a range of priceless treasures. Foodies and shopaholics are also well catered for at Floors, with a choice of two simple but good eateries (the Courtyard Restaurant and Terrace Café) and a great variety of souvenirs to take home. You can even buy delicious castle kitchen produce, including kedgeree, local game pie and tempting terrines. Part of the Roxburghe Estate and about four miles from the castle, The

Fishing is hugely popular here and the River Tweed slices through the hilly landscape, shining with salmon countryside, and the sporting pursuits that the region is famous for are enjoyable come rain or shine. If it’s riding and horse events you’re interested in, the Borders is the perfect place to visit. I try out one of the many riding stables in the area – Nenthorn Equestrian Centre near Kelso – where the quality of horses is excellent. The lush countryside with its peaks and troughs offers exhilarating scenery to ride through, and it is easy to imagine the adrenaline and excitement of those

Wonderful Weekends



190 extraordinary places to stay

Since 1965 the Landmark Trust, a heritage charity, has been saving extraordinary buildings and giving them a sustainable future as venues for truly memorable holidays. By booking a break with us you are helping to give history a future. Registered Charity in England & Wales 243312 and Scotland SC039205

Wonderful Weekends The town of Kelso on the River Tweed . Below: The remains of Jedburgh Abbey

Roxburghe Hotel & Golf Course is the perfect base from which to explore all the surrounding area has to offer. A cosy country house, with 22 bedrooms, The Roxburghe is all about making guests feel as relaxed as possible. My pleasantly flowery bedroom has a balcony overlooking the gardens for when the sun comes out and a log fire ready-laid in case a chill sets in. The food here is also a real highlight,

photoS: © ViSitBritain/Britain on View/traVel pictureS


J Make the best use of your time by travelling on the Caledonian Sleeper between London and Edinburgh for as little as £58.90. www. J FloorS CaStle is open from May to October and admission to the castle, grounds and gardens costs £8.50 (free to those staying at The Roxburghe). J nenthorn equeStrian Centre offers private or group lessons from £25.

J abbotSFord is open all

year except Christmas and New Year and admission to the house and gardens costs £8.75. Admission to the visitor centre is free and there is a restaurant. J MelroSe, KelSo, dryburgh and Jedburgh abbeyS are run by Historic Scotland and all except Kelso require an entrance fee. J Maps of the borderS abbeyS Way are on the Scottish Borders Council website:

Northumberland region. Kelso is the closest town, where the typical Borders’ honey-grey stone buildings surround a large cobbled market square edged by traditional family-run shops such as A Hume gentlemen’s outfitters, which opened in 1929. The town’s abbey is one of four in the Borders, along with Dryburgh, Jedburgh and the magnificent Melrose, founded during

Kelso's abbey is one of four in the Borders, along with Dryburgh, Jedburgh and Melrose with beautifully presented dishes yet good-sized portions, and a satisfying range of locally sourced ingredients. Setting off to explore the grounds I come across a trout pond, nestled under a yellow wisteria tree and wriggling with fat tadpoles, and, further on, signposted trails into woodland bursting with purple azaleas. There is also a beautiful golf course here (the Roxburghe Championship Golf Course), said to be one of the best golfing experiences in the Borders and

the reign of the pious King David I in the 12th century. The 64.5-mile Borders Abbeys Way footpath was developed around these four as well as the location of an even earlier but short lived Tironsian Abbey in Selkirk. Although all are now ruins they are beautiful monuments to the many Cistercian and Augustinian monks who lived here. Melrose Abbey is particularly worth visiting – although destroyed by Richard II of England in 1385, britain


photoS: © the AbbotSford truSt.

Wonderful Weekends

what now exists is the 15th-century Gothic abbey that replaced the earlier monastery. It is purported to be the burial place of the heart of Scottish king Robert the Bruce. You can climb the 74 steps to the top of the bell tower for wonderful views of the abbey, the pretty town of Melrose with its yellow bunting flying in the breeze, and the unmistakable hulking triple peaks of the Eildon Hills looming beyond. The area around Melrose has been inhabited for thousands of years. The Roman army arrived in AD79 or 80 and built a major fort nearby named Trimontium, or ‘Place of the Three Hills’. A shrine or possible signal station was built on the summit of the northernmost hill. Today the small Three Hills Roman Heritage Centre in the heart of Melrose houses the Trimontium Museum, which is dedicated to Roman life in Scotland and features a Roman kitchen and pottery amongst other exhibits.



Above, clockwise from top left: Colourful planting in the Abbotsford walled garden; the Chinese Drawing Room; Walter Scott's study

Long after they were gone, the most legendary Border Reivers were immortalised in folk song and ballads. And they were romanticised by writers such as Sir Walter Scott, himself a native of the Borders. Scott’s house, Abbotsford, has recently undergone a huge restoration. Her Majesty The Queen visited in July to celebrate the re-opening of what is

Scott liked to collect, including the Marquis of Montrose’s Sword, Scottish outlaw Rob Roy’s gun and a lock of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s hair. Visitors will see Scott’s study where he wrote many of his novels, and his library, which contains over 9,000 rare volumes – probably the house’s greatest treasure. A drawing room decorated with original Chinese hand-painted wallpaper was designed for Scott’s wife, whereas the imposing entrance hall is covered with armour and weapons from all over the world. Abbotsford sits between Selkirk and Melrose on the Borders Abbeys Way, so you can always choose a direction to strike off on foot and lose yourself in Borders country.

The Queen visited Abbotsford to celebrate the re-opening of one of Scotland’s most important cultural landmarks now one of Scotland’s most important cultural landmarks. Abbotsford is a fascinating place to explore – with walled gardens bursting with colour, views down to the river and a new state-of-the-art visitor’s centre and exhibition space you can easily spend a day here. The house is the highlight though, with rooms crammed full of the curiosities

 For more on the Borders visit the BRITAIN website at

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A labour of

Sissinghurst Castle has been home to pigs and paupers, hosted royalty and nobility, and welcomed thousands of visitors – all of whom are charmed by the romantic legacy bound up in the legendary gardens WORDS MARTHA ALEXANDER



“ S

Previous page: View of Vita's tower from the Rose Garden. Top: Aerial view of the Rose Garden and beyond. Above: Portrait of Vita Sackville-West by Philip de László



issinghurst Castle in Kent is at the heart of ‘the Garden of England’, and indeed it boasts one of the very best gardens in the county, thanks to the horticultural vision and dedication of celebrated writer and poet Vita Sackville-West and her diplomat husband Harold Nicolson. More than 188,000 visitors flock here each year to marvel at the rambling roses buzzing with bees, admire the scented thyme lawns, enjoy the dreamy white-flower garden, and explore the traditional English nuttery. But Sissinghurst has had mixed fortunes over the years. Before the couple discovered the estate and transformed its gardens, it had gone from pig farm to Tudor castle to dilapidated ruin in a long and fascinating history. Of these less than glamorous beginnings as a Saxon farm (owned by John de Saxingherste around 1235), and later manor house, only part of the moat that protected it still exists today. By 1490, Sissinghurst belonged to the Baker family. Wealthy Sir John Baker held various important appointments, including Chancellor of the Exchequer, under the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI and Queen Mary. It was he who turned the estate into a castle, building the prospect tower and the courtyard house. The magnificent red brick, dual-turreted tower that rises at the centre of the gardens remains as a reminder of

this period of Tudor grandeur – a time when even Queen Elizabeth I stayed at the estate, from 15-17 August 1573. However, by 1752 Sissinghurst was in a very dilapidated condition. During the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763), the house was used as a prison for over 1,000 French sailors who gave it the name Chateau de Sissingherst. The Anglicised version of the name of course became the estate’s moniker. In 1763 the house was destroyed completely and even the foundations were carted away. The adjoining farm became a poorhouse in the late 18th century, offering employment and living quarters for around 100 men. When Vita and Harold first saw Sissinghurst it was a ruin. Fortunately they fell in love with the bare bones of the place and its chequered heritage, seeing the potential in a rather bleak, soggy wreck that had no electricity, no drains and seemingly few redeeming features. It was bought for £12,375 in 1930. In a list that Harold made about the pros and cons of buying the castle he concluded simply: “we like it”. For Vita, moving to this 400-acre estate was something of a homecoming. She had been unable to inherit her childhood home of Knole – a splendid Tudor house once gifted to King Henry VIII – due to primogeniture, but she found out she was in fact related to Thomas Sackville who was son-in-law to a previous owner of Sissinghurst.


From the start Harold and Vita (who had a gardening column in The Observer newspaper) were engrossed in the creation of the garden. Harold had a classical approach; he loved Greek architecture, with all of its straight lines and perfect circles, and designed the gardens with these shapes in mind. The spaces he made, Vita filled with flowers. “Cram, cram, cram into every chink and cranny,” said Vita in her column. She never wanted exposed soil in her flowerbeds – a wish that continues to be granted in the overflowing displays today. “Around a third of the plants that you see today are from Vita’s time,” says Sissinghurst’s head gardener Troy Smith. “She designed the garden so that each area would have its moments. She wanted to make sure there was always an area of interest at any time, without diminishing the main climax.” Troy heads a team of ten gardeners. As you wander around you might find one up a ladder in a walled garden deadheading tea roses, or another mowing a lawn. Occasionally a wheelbarrow will stand unattended, filled with rakes, hoes and gloves – a reminder that this is always a working garden, alive with effort and elbow grease. The best place to begin exploring Sissinghurst is Vita’s tower. Built in the 1560s, it contains her study – a cocoon

of books, collections of glass and freshly cut flowers that must have made for one of the most wonderful working environments. In the room above is the Hogarth printing press that was given to Vita by her close friend Virginia Woolf (whose book Orlando is based on Vita). Currently, the tower also boasts an exhibition about how Harold and Vita created Sissinghurst gardens – complete with images and letters between the couple, who were said to write to each other almost every day. At the top of the tower, accessed by a narrow winding staircase of 78 steps, a weather vane marks the highest point. From here you will see the most spectacular aerial view of the land below. The garden is divided into separate ‘rooms’, each with a function or colour theme, as devised by Vita. The Top Courtyard at the north-west of the garden can be seen as an entrance hall, with packed flowerbeds, including the purple border, surrounding beautiful and freshly mown lawns. Through a low wooden door into the south-west corner of the garden is the walled Rose Garden, boasting not only roses but also irises of extraordinary hue – deep indigo velvety tongues dashed with mustardy streaks. Puffs of peach-coloured poppies shoot up amongst the

Above left: The archway in the Top Courtyard. Above right: The Rose Garden. Top right: Some of Sissinghurst's beautiful flower specimens

Sissinghurst has gone from pig farm to Tudor castle to dilapidated ruin in a long and fascinating history



all photoS: © NatioNal truSt imageS/joNathaN buckley


perfectly balanced rose bushes that release a sweet, sugary fragrance. Honeysuckle scales the walls in thick clusters of colour and perfume. The Rose Garden is divided not only by paved pathways and different beds, but also by the rondel, a completely round lawn enclosed by high hedges and ‘corridors’ that lead off to other areas. Nearby, Harold’s Lime Walk leads into The Nuttery, a shady dell packed with trees bearing Kentish cobnuts and hazelnuts. Parallel to this is the Moat Walk, which sees visitors walking on top of where one arm of the moat used to be (the others are still filled with water). The Herb Garden is surprisingly far from the kitchen in the south-west of the garden (“Vita was more interested in herbs for their historical and literary connotations rather than for cooking with,” explains Troy), and is a delightfully fragrant pocket of the estate that offers a more subtle beauty than the riot of colours elsewhere. The living arrangements when Vita and Harold were in residence were rather unusual: they slept in the South Cottage, but ate in the Priest’s House in the north. They entertained guests in the library – a fort of literature boasting floor-to-ceiling cloth-lined hardbacks. The South Cottage boasts a garden that Vita and Harold hoped would convey the intimacy, sanctity and homeliness of a bedroom. Although Vita believed in letting flowers and plants be as free as possible – she did not want a rigid

environment that was too manicured or orderly – the Cottage Garden has perhaps the most liberated of all the flowerbeds with pops of yellows and flares of red. Against the wall of the cottage is the beautiful white Madame Alfred Carriere rose, which was the first thing that Vita and Harold planted at Sissinghurst, on the day they bought the estate. In contrast, the White Garden next to the Priest’s House is at the other end of the spectrum, with carefully controlled planting. This is said to be the most popular garden and features flowers of exclusively white, silver or green hues. Although Vita was predominantly in charge of the planting, it was Harold who found many of the flowers that were first planted in the White Garden in the early 1950s. At the centre is a domed gazebo derived from a design by Harold and Vita’s son Nigel Nicolson out of a paperclip maquette. A rambling white rose snakes around the metal work so that when the flower is in full bloom it creates a dreamy floral igloo. The Priest’s House is available as a holiday home and, almost needless to say, it enjoys much popularity and is booked up long in advance. The majority of the garden is orchard: a meadow of wild grass, peppered with clover and buttercups. A dovecote and a Greek altar stand amongst the plentiful apple trees – each of which has roses wrapped around the trunk.

Above: Interior of Vita's cosy study in the tower

The herb garden is a delightfully fragrant pocket of the estate and offers a more subtle beauty than the riot of colours elsewhere




Vita wanted to ensure there was a double bloom – with apple blossom in spring giving way to the flowering roses in summer. Paths have been mown allowing visitors to move easily through the orchard – at the most easterly point the view of Vita’s tower through the trees in the distance is like a scene from a romantic fairytale. Two arms of the moat meet in the north-east corner of the garden, a point also marked by a gazebo gifted to Harold by his and Vita’s sons – Benedict and Nigel – and is a lovely reminder of the family life for which Sissinghurst was a perfect backdrop. Vita passed away in 1962 and Harold in 1968 but now two of Vita’s grandchildren live at Sissinghurst, while it is owned and maintained by the National Trust. Beyond the main garden there is a busy organic vegetable patch (providing fresh produce for the estate’s restaurant), two lakes built by Harold, and working farmland with animals. In the Oast House – a building originally used for drying hops – is an exhibition to celebrate the centenary of Harold and Vita’s marriage.



It tells the story of the couple through photographs, diary entries and newspaper clippings. It also includes part of Vita’s wedding dress and a rather exotic velveteen coat that she took on her honeymoon to Egypt. Vita was an 18-year-old debutante when she met Harold Nicolson in London in 1910. Harold was considered Vita’s social inferior and they kept their engagement quiet. Their relationship was unconventional – with plenty of affairs on either side – but despite all of it they remained together at Sissinghurst, bound by their marriage, their friendship, their children and, of course, their beloved garden. “The true love that has survived is mine for you, and yours for me,” wrote Vita to her husband. As the Rose Garden bursts into bloom, there was never a better metaphor for their romance than this perfect space that continues to flourish.

Above: The Nuttery. Left: The Rose Garden overflows with colour

 For more Sissinghurst information and images please visit the BRITAIN website at

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Places To Stay


Taking a break to enjoy a new area of Britain is always a treat, but never more so than if you’re a foodie focused on the culinary aspects of your stay WORDS Martha alexander

The Lake District


ritain’s huge range of places to stay offers something for everyone, but indulging in a spot of gastronomic gluttony is a treat we all enjoy. There are increasing numbers of small hotels, restaurants and pubs where you can experience delicious food and then retire afterwards to the sanctuary of your own room. Whether you’re looking for Michelin-starred perfection or rustic splendour using locally sourced ingredients, Britain has a growing reputation for serving delectable food and teaming it with

excellent accommodation. Read on for some foodie favourites we’ve discovered across the country. No list of British gourmet getaways would be complete without the inclusion of Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Raymond Blanc’s Oxfordshire haven. A fantastically pretty manor house of honey-coloured stone surrounded by luscious gardens, Le Manoir has earned and kept two Michelin stars for a staggering 29 years, and it’s not hard to see how. All of the food is carefully sourced and the gardens are full of produce – britain



2 Top: Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons and its tranquil garden. Above left: The terrace outside L'Enclume in Cartmel, Cumbria. Above right: Bay crab, kohlrabi, radish and rye crouton served at L'Enclume



70 varieties of herb grow here and 90 different types of vegetable (there is even a dedicated mushroom garden). Visitors are free to wander around the grounds – straying from paths bordered by vivid purple lavender into the wilder orchards or the Japanese Water Garden. The menu changes seasonally, but there are always exciting ‘taster’ options such as risotto of summer vegetables from the garden, assiette of Cornish lamb and ‘A theme on strawberry’, which celebrates the most British of fruits with an assortment of sorbets, toffees and sauces. The 32 bedrooms are the epitome of luxury – each individually styled and scented. You are

greeted with bowls of garden fruits and beds so comfortable that only the promise of a worldclass breakfast will lure you out. Tucked away in the medieval village of Cartmel in the Lake District is L’Enclume (2), a restaurant with 18 individually furnished rooms that also holds two Michelin stars. L’Enclume operates its own six-acre farm nearby, meaning ingredients give a true taste of the area. There is no set menu to speak of, instead each individual table will have slightly different dishes depending on what is available to the kitchen at the time. Expect to find flowers and herbs you have never even heard of flavouring meat, eggs and puddings. The restaurant is owned and headed-up by the inventive chef Simon Rogan, whose dessert course won the coveted Great British Menu prize in 2012. The restaurant design is a gorgeous mixture of old and new. The building used to be a forge and the typically Cumbrian exterior houses a fresh modern restaurant with whitewashed walls that allow exposed brickwork to peek through in parts, complemented by jewel-coloured glassware. While some of the rooms are situated in the same building as the restaurant, others are dotted around the village in the cocoon of the Cumbrian hills, allowing guests to take a stroll after their feast. The Pig (3) near Brockenhurst is a hub of understated extravagance. From the charmingly mismatched crockery and cutlery to the larders

Places To Stay in each bedroom, this Georgian country house situated in the heart of the New Forest makes for an idyllic rural retreat. You can also stay in its sister residence, The Pig in the Wall in Southampton, where the rooms are just as beautiful and from where you are driven for dinner at The Pig via Landrover in a matter of 20 minutes. A standout feature of the naturally pork-heavy menu is the Bath Chap (a pig’s head complete with teeth), which is delicious. If you’re not sure about a pig on your plate, however, there is plenty more to choose from. The menu is inspired by what the forager can find in the gardens. Breakfast is as enjoyable as any other meal. The granola bars are worth shouting about and


the self-service egg boiler is a quaint addition and adds to the relaxed homely environment at both The Pig and The Pig in the Wall. Afternoons can be whiled away playing Scrabble, sipping red wine and tucking into the scratchings, rolls and pies that make up the famous ‘Piggy Bits’ canapés. Overlooking the picturesque Tweed valley with views of Traquair and Elibank forests, Windlestraw Lodge (4) in the Scottish Borders is as grand as it is romantic. Dinner menus typically start with something small, light and unusual, such as the sumptous Eyemouth smoked haddock and Mull cheddar espresso, and continue in this inventive, sophisticated style. Scottish smoked salmon, Borders lamb and Kintyre brie are likely to feature, making the menu comfortingly local. The entire house – with all six immaculately designed bedrooms – can even be hired for parties of 12 people for an entire weekend of private gastronomic bliss. Tuddenham Mill (5) near Newmarket in Suffolk offers a distinctly contemporary stay in a traditional watermill. Serving modern British cuisine, head chef Paul Foster was the 2011 winner of the Observer Food Monthly’s ‘Young Chef of the Year’. The lunch taster menu is a great introduction to the scrumptious dishes on offer. This is a seven-course miniature feast which may include pea mousse with lemon, Goosnargh duck, and a raspberry, white chocolate and celery sorbet. Dinner is just as interesting and adventurous

4 Above: The drawing room at Windlestraw Lodge in the Scottish Borders. Left: The Pig, Brockenhurst. Below: The Pig's light and airy conservatory dining room



Burford House

AA 5 Star Highly Commended Guest Accommodation

A 17th Century landmark on the high street in Burford, Oxfordshire. Burford House has become one of the most highly regarded small hotels in the lovely Cotswolds, one of Britain’s most outstandingly beautiful areas.

Wednesday to Saturday evenings, all the meals are prepared in house and freshly cooked using the finest fresh organic vegetables, meats and poultry and sourced locally wherever possible.

Ian Hawkins heads up a small team of enthusiastic and caring local staff to create a warm and welcoming atmosphere, excellent bedrooms and bathrooms and the best breakfasts, lunches, afternoon teas and dinners in the region.

Each of the eight bedrooms are individual and are decorated with carefully chosen traditional Farrow & Ball paints. Some have four poster or king size beds, some overlook the courtyard garden and some the evocative high street.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served in the elegant dining room, aptly named ‘Centre Stage’, with its colourful collection of original Theatre Posters and Artworks, is a special occasion everyday. Morning coffee and afternoon teas are served in one of the two sitting rooms.

A full range of drinks are served either in the sitting rooms or in the privacy of your bedroom. What better way to enjoy a glass of wine or Champagne than soaking in a bubble filled tub!

Whether its lunch, served Sunday to Saturday; or dinner served

Burford House 99 High Street, Burford Oxfordshire, OX18 4QA T: 01993 823151 W:

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

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8/2/10 09:25:57

Places To Stay


7 with a menu that includes fallow deer with broad beans, apple and delicious beer noisette from the local Denham Estate. Rooms are available in the main part of the mill, but also by the water meadow, the mill stream and in the loft. Each has a chic decor but the double-ended stone baths are particularly opulent, especially when in the bedroom itself. The Orange (6) is a stone’s throw from the bustling south-west London hub of Victoria and a short walk to Buckingham Palace but it feels more like a relaxed country house than a city gastropub. French windows open onto the street, distressed walls and oak furniture complement a modern bar area, and four rustic-style bedrooms can be found on the top floor.


The upstairs restaurant is a little quieter than the buzzing downstairs, with a breezy, comforting atmosphere, and the food is sublime. Whether you fancy a wood-fired pizza, an inventive salad of seared beef and broccoli or a mouth-watering Earl Grey custard tart, the menu has something for every mood. The breakfast is highly recommended too – try the goats cheese and avocado on rye bread. The Sun Inn (7) in Dedham, Essex is brilliantly located for guests to explore Constable Country. The buttercup-coloured building in the middle of the village is as inviting as the menu. Everything is prepared fresh – from the breakfast bread to the mouth-watering confections on offer at afternoon tea, including scones and strawberry and almond tart. Thanks to the heritage of head chef Ugo Simonelli the menu has a strong Italian influence but uses locally sourced British produce – the leg of salt marsh lamb, with aubergines, pinenuts, tomatoes and basil, is just one delicious example. From adventurous duck hearts to comforting pastas, the food at this beautiful little pub is an indulgent treat. The bar has a low, beamed ceiling and window nooks, giving it a cosy ambiance and allowing guests to curl up with a good book and a glass of wine. The Greyhound on the Test (8) in Stockbridge, Hampshire, perches on the

Clockwise from above left: Tuddenham Mill in Suffolk; hot smoked salmon, beluga lentils, Lord of the Hundreds cheese and watercress salad from The Orange in London's Belgravia; The Sun Inn in Dedham, Essex



Places To Stay

8 Above, left: A room at The Greyhound on the Test. Above, right: The Wensleydale Heifer in North Yorkshire was once a 17th-century coaching inn. Below: Scallops, cauliflower pannacotta and Carmarthen ham at Plas Bodegroes



9 banks of the most famous fly fishing river in the world. There’s a generous amount of fish and shellfish on the menu, including oysters, potted shrimps and braised cod cheek. The inn’s ‘on toast’ menu is a lovely touch, offering toppings of mushroom, Dorset crab and mackerel and horseradish, adding a simple but no less appetising option to what is an already impressive and thoughtful menu. The seven bedrooms are decorated with bright throws and thick, cosy curtains. There’s an honesty bar adding to the friendly feel. Try your hand at fishing on the inn’s own private beat, home to grayling, Atlantic salmon and sea trout. You can even have lunch served in the fishermen’s hut right on the riverbank. Situated in the rugged Yorkshire Dales, The Wensleydale Heifer (9) was once a 17th-century coaching inn. The restaurant is renowned for its seafood: all caught and delivered at the crack of dawn. Owner and head chef David Moss is as generous with his helpings as he is creative with his menu. The ‘banana leaf’ sea bass fillets incorporate Whitby crab and Thai yellow curry in an unexpectedly delicious way. Some of the more simple choices are just as impressive: the fish and chips are not to be missed: the former battered in Yorkshire Black Sheep beer, the latter fried in goose fat. The accommodation is rather jolly: you can opt for a room filled with chocolate or another stocked with champagne. However, for an authentically British stay, you might request the Shooting Room or the Four Poster Room. The Heifer’s secret weapon is the staff who extend typically Yorkshire traits of charm and straightforward efficiency.

Lastly, Plas Bodegroes (10), a beautiful Grade II listed manor house within its own grounds, is a mile from the beach on the Llyn Peninsula, in the far north-west of Wales. The area is it is steeped in early Celtic Christian history and was once a stopping point for pilgrims. It’s easy to see why, given the stunning coastline. Although the menu changes daily, there are some popular delights that are regularly included. Scallops are sourced from nearby Cardigan and Nefyn bays and might typically be served with Carmarthen ham and cauliflower pannacotta. After dinner, be sure to indulge in a platter of Welsh cheeses – you certainly won’t be disappointed.

 For addresses and contact details for all the places mentioned in this feature visit the BRITAIN magazine website at


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


OUR FAVOURITE LETTER I visit London fairly regularly and living so close to the capital I have always done so, but on spotting your magazine I was fascinated by the feature on 12 of the best British experiences (Vol 81 Issue 4). What beautiful pictures showing the diversity of our country! I have now resolved to follow your ‘bucket list’ as it were and on my last trip to London I became a true tourist and rode on the London Eye (wonderful – I would like to go again at nighttime). I also whiled away an absorbing few hours in Tate Modern, had a cup of tea by The Globe theatre and even took a river boat, which I have never done before. As a local(ish) it’s easy to forget that London can be seen in many ways. Next on my list is a trip to Windsor Castle, and then hopefully Stratford-uponAvon – thank you for inspiring me to get out and see my beautiful country with new eyes! Amy Spross, Surrey, UK • Our favourite letter wins this luxury gift set from

Otis Batterbee, worth £165. The company’s smart travel accessories are handmade in England using traditional techniques.

CAN YOU NAME THIS BUILDING? VOTE FOR US! I’m hoping someone can help me identify this castle/ house. It is a scan of a picture I took in 1988 when my dad and I were touring England and Scotland after I had graduated from high school. We visited this castle, but I can’t recall its name. Judging from the order of the pictures I took on that trip (back when we still used film!), I’ve narrowed down that it must be somewhere between Chatsworth House in Derbyshire and Hexham near Hadrian’s Wall. I will be travelling to Britain later this month and was hoping I might be able to revisit some of the places we saw before. Any assistance you could give me in identifying this building would be greatly appreciated. The magazine continues to be outstanding. George Spragens, Kentucky, USA

BRITAIN REPLIES: We posted your picture on our Facebook and Twitter pages as we didn’t immediately recognise the castle. Happily one of our knowledgeable followers did and identified it as Thirlestane Castle in Lauder in the Scottish Borders. We hope our Borders feature on page 40 of this issue helps you plan your trip if you do visit the area.

BRITAIN has been shortlisted for ‘Best Holiday Magazine’ in the British Travel Awards, and if you vote there are some fabulous prizes to be won, including a two-night stay at the historic Great Fosters Hotel in Surrey. 8 COMPETITION WINNER Congratulations to Barbara Hargreaves of Scarborough who wins a wonderful holiday to the Channel Islands of Guernsey and Alderney, courtesy of Vista Hotels.



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FOOTSTEPS OF THE TEMPLARS Hello – I have just finished enjoying Vol 81 Issue 3 of BRITAIN. Having read the article ‘On the trail of the Knights Templar’, I wanted to question a couple of points. The writer states the knights were ‘ultimately brought down by a jealous French king’... This may have been the final act, but my understanding of the Templars is that they brought themselves down long before this, by their violence, greed and corruption – although they began the Order with good intentions, which then fell by the wayside. And secondly, the article’s writer refers to the design on the Templar seal – two knights on one horse – as representing their vow of poverty (implying they could only afford the one horse?). My understanding, having seen this design on a monument outside Temple Church in London, is that it was to show the caring nature of the knights, with one helping to carry a colleague on his own horse – if I recall, the knight being carried was either wounded or ill. I don’t recall the design as anything to do with poverty. Pamela Newland, via email


BRITAIN REPLIES: We asked the feature’s writer, Bob Barton, for his response: “You are right to say that the Templars were violent, greedy and corrupt – at least they were in part. They were a huge multinational organisation after all. Nevertheless King Philip IV of France, whose state was almost bankrupt, coveted the Order’s wealth. There is little doubt that he pressured the Pope to denounce the organisation, also that the Templars’ trial made use of falsified documents and confessions extracted under torture. Historian and author Evelyn Lord in her book The Knights Templar in Britain states: ‘The legendary poverty of the Order has been assumed from them calling themselves poor knights, and from their seal, which represents two knights on one horse.’ She goes on to say it may represent fellowship rather than poverty.”



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A medieval brotherhood of soldier monks who fought bravely in the Crusades became a powerful but clandestine order that was ultimately brought down by a jealous French king 700 years ago. We follow a trail of chivalry and secrecy to uncover the legacy of the Templars WORDS BOB BARTON

I was interested to read about the Chelsea Pensioners in Vol 81 Issue 4 of BRITAIN. Although they are national icons and their uniforms recognisable to me, I’m ashamed of how little I knew about the history of Royal Hospital Chelsea and the day-to-day lives of those who live there. What a lovely place for veterans to retire – imagine living in a Sir Christopher Wren building! – surrounded not only by their friends and comrades, but also by beautiful paintings and furniture. Paddy Fox sounds like a real character – I hope he’ll show us around when we visit London in the autumn. We always like to go somewhere new – I’m just surprised it’s taken so long for us to visit Royal Hospital, we’ve only been coming to London for 17 years! P Francis, Oban, UK

BRITAIN REPLIES: We’re pleased you’ve been inspired. Visitors are welcome at Royal Hospital Chelsea, with organised tours available for groups of ten or more. Let us know how it goes! Above: The interior nave of Temple Church in the City of London, the Templars' former headquarters in England. Inset: The seal of the Knights Templar


even hundred years ago, on 18 March 1314, a huge crowd gathered beside the Seine, near Notre Dame Cathedral, and watched in stunned silence as two elderly men were burned at the stake. They were James of Molay and Geoffrey of Charnay, the last two senior figures – the Grand Master and Master of Normandy respectively – of a once powerful religious order. This was the final death-knell for the Knights Templar, who had been at the heart of the Crusades and prospered for 200 years. Taking vows of chastity, poverty and obedience, and owing allegiance only

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British History


I thought you might be interested in an addition to the places you mentioned that were connected to the Knights Templar. There is a building in Leicestershire called Rothley Court (now a hotel). On the staircase in this building are two stained glass windows, one of which depicts two knights on one horse, and attached to Rothley Court is an old Temple built to serve the Knights Templar. I know this because I worked at the hotel some 45 years ago and re-visited it for a stay only last year. The Rothley Court Hotel is in a village called Rothley about seven miles from Leicester on the Loughborough road and is well worth a visit. Rosemary Sprenger, Norfolk, UK

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

to the Pope, the brothers made up the first uniformed standing army since the Roman Empire. Kings and princes were among their number, they were experts in commerce and became the first international bankers. The Templars had one of their three headquarters in London – the others were Jerusalem and Paris – and, despite the passage of time, have left their mark on British landscapes and literature. Churches carved with mysterious symbols, castles and the sites of preceptories remain. Towns, localities and farms with ‘temple’ in their name – such as Templecombe and Templeton – are clues BRITAIN


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:

20/03/2013 12:53

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‘Australia’s most treasured art comes to London for the biggest show yet seen in UK’ The Guardian

Australia 21 September – 8 December 2013 Friends of the RA go free Sidney Nolan, Ned Kelly (detail), 1946. Enamel on composition board, 90.8 x 121.5 cm. National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. Gift of Sunday Reed 1977.

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British Peerage

A PECKING ORDER OF PEERS Duke, marquess, earl, viscount, baron – which is the most highly ranked, where did the titles come from, and who are the ancestors of today’s peers?



Above: Alnwick Castle, home to The Duke of Northumberland. Above, right: The Great Seal of William the Conqueror


n the English nobility the oldest title is that of earl, dating back to Anglo-Saxon times. The ealdormen, later earls, were provincial governors appointed by the king – important and powerful people who oversaw their own regions and sat in judgement in provincial courts. They collected fines and taxes on behalf of the king, and in return received a ‘third penny’, one-third of the money they collected. In wartime they led the king’s armies. Power struggles and intrigue were rife, however, and these earls were both support and threat to the monarch. Godwin, Earl of Wessex (an area then covering roughly the southernmost third of England), was one of the most dominant figures in the country. During the power struggle following the death of King Cnut in 1035, it was Godwin who

helped to decide the outcome by capturing or betraying Alfred Ætheling when he came to lay claim to the throne. Prince Alfred died shortly after at Ely. Later, Godwin’s son, who succeeded him as Earl of Wessex, became King Harold II. After King William I ‘the Conqueror’ took the throne he tried to rule England using the traditional Anglo-Saxon system of a few large earldoms, but it proved unworkable. New earls of smaller territories were created, such as those of Herefordshire, Shropshire and Cheshire; their power was deliberately limited in the same manner of Norman counts across the Channel. Before long shires became known as ‘counties’ and the earls no longer made judicial decisions. William I was more successful in promoting the feudal system in England, and his was a harsh rule. Under this BRITAIN


system, which declared that all land was owned by the king, he announced ‘baron’ as a rank to mark out those men who had pledged their personal loyalty to him. He granted them parcels of land ‘in chief of the king’, that is with the king as their immediate overlord, in return for performing an annual military service and attending the King’s Council. At first all of these noblemen bore the title of baron, which is the one point that unites all members of the ancient baronage as peers or equals of one another. But before long the greater barons were parcelling out some of their land and manors amongst their followers in return for oaths of loyalty and military service. By the middle of the 12th century the practice had arisen of sending to each greater baron a personal summons demanding his attendance at the King’s Council, which evolved into the Parliament and later into the House of Lords. The Magna Carta of 1215 stated that the lesser barons of each county would receive a single summons as a group through the Sheriff, and they would elect representatives to attend on behalf of that group. These representatives developed into the Knights of the Shire, who themselves formed the precursor of the House of Commons. Thus there appeared a definite distinction, which eventually had the effect of restricting to the greater barons alone the privileges and duties of peerage. In 1337 Edward III created the first English dukedom by naming his eldest son, Edward, as Duke of Cornwall.

Despite the best efforts of the Crown to prevent any subject from becoming overmighty, several landed families grew to increasing prominence

Popularly known as ‘the Black Prince’ for the black battle armour he wore, he died one year before his father, becoming the first English Prince of Wales not to become king. Further dukedoms were created, mostly for the Plantagenet descendants of King Edward III. By the end of the 15th century 32 dukedoms had been created, of which only three survive: Cornwall, Lancaster, and Norfolk. The first two of these are also duchies: the Duchy of Cornwall is reserved as a title and source of income for the eldest son of the sovereign, and the Duchy of Lancaster is now held by the sovereign to fund his or her Privy Purse. Following on from Edward III, King Richard II, son of the Black Prince, introduced the rank of Marquess in 1385, a version of the German ‘Margrave’. Perhaps the best-known of the marquesses today is Lord Bath, whose family seat is at Longleat in Wiltshire. Meanwhile, the title of viscount, originally a sheriff of a county and thus a




British Peerage deputy of a count or earl, was first used as a peer in 1440. Despite the best efforts of the Crown to prevent any subject from becoming over-mighty, several great landed families grew to increasing prominence. Their castles dominated the local surroundings and they were able to raise what were in effect private armies from their lands. The Percy family built Alnwick Castle (of present-day Hogwarts fame), the Cliffords Skipton Castle, the Beauchamps Warwick Castle, the Fitzalans Arundel Castle, the Berkeleys Berkeley Castle, and the Vernons Haddon Hall, all of which still stand and bear testament to the power of these medieval magnates. However the bloody feud between the Houses of Lancaster and York, known as the Wars of the Roses, proved fateful for many noble families. After each battle the peers and their heirs who had fought on the losing side were comprehensively slaughtered. The Tudor period proved better for the English peerage. The enclosure by landlords of open fields and commons saw many

Other ‘court’ families did equally well out of the redistribution of monastic property. The Percys were able to build a southern home for themselves at Syon Abbey, near London, and the Cecil family, descendants of Queen Elizabeth I’s adviser Lord Burghley, split into two branches: the Earls of Exeter, later Marquesses of Exeter, lived at Burghley House near Stamford, Lincolnshire, and the Earls of Salisbury, later Marquesses of Salisbury, created the wonder that is Hatfield House just north of London. Both Scotland and Ireland each had their own peerages, completely distinct from the peerage of England and from each other. As the English peerage developed from the Anglo-Saxon ealdormen, so the Scottish peerage developed from the ‘mormaers’ or regional chiefs. The first Scottish dukedom, Rothesay, was created in 1398 and has always been held by the eldest son of the sovereign. There were no further creations in the Peerage of Scotland following the 1707 Act of Union. Between

ordinary labourers thrown off crop-growing land in favour of turning it to far more lucrative sheep rearing. Families such as the Spencers of Althorp in Northamptonshire, created Barons Spencer in 1603, profited from this, and the family rose to wealth and prominence. The late Princess Diana has been the most famous among their modern day descendants. Through the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Henry VIII appropriated vast amounts of property, which he and his successor, Edward VI, could use to reward their favourites, the ‘new men’ of the Tudor court. For example, Sir John Russell was created Baron Russell in 1539: between 1540 and 1552 he obtained substantial grants from the Crown of properties formerly belonging to Tavistock, Woburn, St Albans, and Thorney Abbeys, and a certain convent in Long Acre, Middlesex. He was created Earl of Bedford in 1550, and his descendants became Dukes of Bedford in 1694; they still live at Woburn Abbey in Bedfordshire.

1707 and 1963 the Scottish peers elected 16 representative peers to sit in the House of Lords at Westminster for one parliament. Under the Peerage Act 1963 all Scottish peers were given a seat in the House of Lords as of right. Both before and after the Union with Great Britain in 1801, Irish peerages were often used as a way of creating titles that did not grant a seat in the English House of Lords and so allowed the grantee (such as Clive of India) to sit in the House of Commons. As a consequence, many Irish peers had little or no connection to Ireland, and indeed the names of some Irish peerages refer to places in Great Britain (for example, the Earldoms of Mexborough and Ranfurly). Our present Queen’s coronation in 1953 was the last time, outside the annual State Opening of Parliament, that the peerage gathered en masse. But people were becoming increasingly uneasy about the automatic right of peers to

Facing page, from left: Hatfield House, built by the 1st Earl of Salisbury; Warwick Castle was developed from an original structure by William the Conqueror. Below, left to right: Edward, the Black Prince (1330-1376) ; Arundel Castle, the seat of the Dukes of Norfolk; after Hastings in 1066 William I introduced baronies



British Peerage

The appointments are considered desirable on the basis that life peers will have some particular expertise or experience that will be valuable to the chamber



of earls and any child of a viscount or baron may put ‘Hon.’ (short for ‘the Honourable’). It is a moot point whether peers still have an important role in 21st-century Britain. Certainly a life peerage is a fitting cap to a life of public service for many individuals, but one advantage of the mostly abandoned hereditary system as regards the House of Lords is that it ensured a spread of age and experience there. One thing is certain though, the young royal peers (although they don’t sit in the House of Lords) are only growing in popularity, ensuring new generations of the British nobility and delighting fans around the world.

Clockwise from bottom left: The Lords Chamber in the Palace of Westminster; The Duchess of Cambridge; The Prince of Wales includes Duke of Rothesay among his titles

8 For more information on the British peerage please visit the BRITAIN website at


sit in the Upper House. Life peers, appointed by the government for life rather than on a hereditary basis (and not passed on to their children) were created by The Life Peerages Act of 1958. It was hoped that life peers would have some particular expertise that would be valuable to the House, and The Queen formally appoints them on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. The process of change continued with the House of Lords Act 1999, which removed the centuries-old automatic right of every hereditary peer to sit in the House of Lords. Instead the remaining hereditary peers elect 90 of their number to sit in the House of Lords for life. The act granted the Duke of Norfolk, as hereditary Earl Marshal, and the Marquess of Cholmondeley, as hereditary Lord Great Chamberlain, seats in the House as well. The ranking of peers (in descending order duke, marquess, earl, viscount and baron) has been fixed since Tudor times – and there is no easy explanation as to why they rank as they do, other than that the hierarchy evolved over centuries. The courtesy titles allowed to the children of peers are a little confusing: younger sons of dukes and marquesses may put ‘Lord’ before their Christian name, daughters of dukes, marquesses and earls may put ‘Lady’, and the sons

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LONDON LUXURY We’ve teamed up with Deep Blue Apartments to offer one lucky winner and a guest the chance to win an incredible ten-night stay in a luxury serviced apartment, with your own ‘Flying Butler’


ondon is one of the top holiday destinations in the world, steeped in history, packed with iconic landmarks, and host city of the hugely successful London 2012 Olympic Games. With ten nights in this unique, cosmopolitan capital, you will be able to visit many of the city’s highlights, including Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, Madame Tussauds and the Tower of London. You’ll be staying in a luxury apartment, just a short walk from buzzing shopping streets and a range of restaurants and bars. BRITAIN magazine has teamed up with Deep Blue Apartments to bring you all this and more. One lucky winner and guest will enjoy a stay in one of Deep Blue’s newly launched Flying Butler© Apartments. These are high quality, well-priced, exclusive apartments offering boutique-style elegance, spacious living, fully fitted kitchens and an open plan layout – some even have private balconies or gardens. What makes them unique is that they include a Flying Butler© service, bespoke to each guest’s own requirements. There’s a range of concierge facilities, including transfers to and from any London airport or station, personal meet and greet, tickets for shows, additional housekeeping, a dry cleaning service and grocery deliveries. During your stay, you’ll have time to immerse yourself in the treasures of the capital’s galleries and museums, browse to your heart’s content in stores such as Selfridges and Harrods, and take in a host of shows in London’s famous West End, while the Flying Butler © caters to your every need.

Whether you’re visiting London for business or pleasure, travellers can benefit from this alternative to expensive hotel accommodation. Incorporating the flexibility of a hotel, serviced apartments have three times the space, yet are ten to 35 per cent less expensive than equivalent hotel rooms. Deep Blue’s own-brand Flying Butler © Apartments were launched earlier this year.


To book a stay at a Flying Butler© apartment and experience it for yourself, visit:, call: 0370 770 0778 or send an email to: TERMS AND CONDITIONS

To be in with a chance of winning this fabulous competition, simply answer the question below, complete the coupon and send to the address provided. Alternatively, enter via the BRITAIN website, The closing date is 8 November 2013.

T&Cs: Includes 10 nights in a two-bedroom apartment in a central London location, including personalised Flying Butler service. Prize is nontransferable. Location is subject to availability and holiday periods may be limited. The winner must allow a month’s notice when booking their stay. Prize will include early check-in and late check-out.

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‘Legenderry’ transformation This city of many names has endured centuries of upheaval in its long history. But today Derry~Londonderry, the second largest city in Northern Ireland, is shaking off the shackles of the past and reinventing itself as a thriving capital of culture Words Linda MccorMick

Peace Bridge over the river Foyle, opened in June 2011





photoS: Š AlAmy/AlAn novelli/tony Smith illuStrAtion: JAne WebSter


Facing page, clockwise from top left: A sign welcomes visitors to Derry; peace mural painted on a house in the Bogside area of the city; Derry is famous for its ancient walls; Hands Across the Divide, a sculpture by Maurice Harron. Above: St Columb's Cathedral


liding upriver, a fire-breathing monster seeks revenge on St Colmcille, the founder of Derry, for banishing it to the depths of Loch Ness 1,500 years previously. A dramatic confrontation ensues on the River Foyle as monster and monk battle it out once more, culminating in an explosive fireworks display marking the end of The Return of Colmcille festival. This epic event, masterminded by director Danny Boyle (the man responsible for the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games), was a highlight of Derry~Londonderry’s City of Culture festivities. Christened Derry~Londonderry since its inauguration as the UK City of Culture 2013, the city with many names was originally called Doire (pronounced Dth-ra, in local Gaelic), meaning ‘Oak Grove’, particularly one on an island surrounded by water or peat bog. The name described its environs perfectly. One of the channels crossing a marshy, boggy area at the base of the island of Doire eventually dried out and became known as the Bogside, an area now synonymous with the city. Doire acquired the name Doire-Colmcille in the 10th century when Colmcille, or St Columba, who set up a monastery here around AD549, became its patron saint. The monastic settlement enjoyed relative peace until the 14th century, when the Normans took over the city, resulting in Richard de Burgh becoming the Earl of Ulster. At this time, Ulster was still not under the English crown. But in 1607 the Gaelic earls finally fled leaving Ulster leaderless and effectively paving the way for ‘The Plantation’ of the province.

In an effort to claim Ulster, King James I of England/ VI of Scotland invited merchants from various London corporations, or guilds, to ‘plant’ loyal followers in the city – mainly Presbyterians. The city of Derry, a shining example of a plantation city, was granted a royal charter by James and given the prefix London – to show its association with the crown. The planters laid a new town plan, which included building walls around the city to defend it from possible reclamation. Londonderry was the last walled city to be built in Europe, and is one of the finest examples of a complete walled city still standing. Martin McCrossan, who has been running guided tours of the city for 20 years, says, “The favourite part of the tour for most visitors is being able to walk along the well-preserved walls, which are now 400 years old.” He is certain that City of Culture status has stimulated people’s interest in Derryy~Londonderry and the tours: “Last year, we had over 54,000 people on our tours, this year already we have seen a notable increase of around 30 per cent.” Indeed ‘Walls 400!’ – an event to mark the 400th anniversary of the walls – is set to draw even more crowds to the city. One of the most significant events in the city’s history began in 1688, when troops of the ousted Catholic King James II of England attempted to take control of the garrison. James hoped to launch a campaign from Ireland to regain his crown from William of Orange. But Derry’s Protestant inhabitants were fearful of a massacre and a group of 13 apprentice boys closed the britain


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Right: Beech Hill Country House Hotel. Below: A tranquil spot behind the Guildhall and the Exchange Building


photoS: © AlAmy/joe fox/reAlimAge/SuperStock/chriS hill/NAtioNAl geogrAphic/dvcb

gates on the attacking army, heralding the start of the Siege of Derry. For 105 days, the people of Londonderry fought against canon fire and mortar bombs, with both sides existing in quite appalling conditions. On 18 April 1689, King James, frustrated that the city wasn’t already taken, arrived at the gates demanding the city submit to the crown. Cries of “No surrender” went up; a slogan that continues to be used by the loyalist population today. Around 7,000 people were lost in the Siege of Derry, and today the same canons used in the crossfire stand sentinel on walls that have never been breached, giving Derry the nickname ‘The Maiden City’. During the 18th and 19th centuries, Derry became a popular emigration port for those seeking a better life in America, mainly from the introduction of Penal Laws preventing Catholics and Presbyterians from extending their areas of worship, but also due to the Great Famine, which caused a huge reduction in population across Ireland. In World War II, the position of the city on the edge of the Atlantic saw it play a key role in the war effort. The first US naval base in Europe was set up at Beech Hill Estate, only a few miles from the city centre. After the end of the war, Derry became a leader in the textile industry, with many employed in the shirt factories. In the 1970s though mass unemployment caused much civil unrest and it was during this decade that ‘The Troubles’ began. Unionists and loyalists, who mostly came from the Protestant community, wanted Northern

beech hill country house hotel Just two miles from the city centre, this luxurious country house surrounded by thick woodlands dates back to 1622, before the Siege of Derry. The existing house was built in 1793 to replace the previously burnt out mansion and is most famous for being the first US naval base in Europe during WWII. troy hall Built in the 1890s, Troy Hall is a five-star bed and breakfast, located just five minutes from the city centre. This grand, red-bricked Victorian manor was once part of a larger estate, but now only the main house remains. the coach house Set in the grounds of Learmount Castle and Forest Park, 15 miles from the city, The Coach House offers luxurious 5 star accommodation in a wonderfully tranquil location.




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Below: A fireworks display marks the opening of the Peace Bridge. Box, top: Fountains in front of the Guildhall; bottom: The Craft Village


the Guildhall Standing near the banks of the River Foyle, this impressive red-brick building was erected by the City & Guilds of London and houses the Derry City Council. It reopened recently after extensive renovations and depicts the history of the city within its magnificent stained glass windows. the tower MuseuM This museum contains two separate exhibitions, The Story of Derry and An Armada Shipwreck, La Trinidad Valencera, which was one of the largest ships in the Armada fleet sent to Ireland in 1588. It sunk after a storm in nearby Kinnagoe Bay, Co. Donegal, and was only discovered in 1971. MuseuM of free derry Retelling the story of the Civil Rights Movement in the late 1960s and Troubles of the 1970s, this little museum in the Bogside is earmarked for redevelopment later in the year. st ColuMb’s Cathedral Sitting high on a hill in the middle of the walled city, the Planter’s Gothic style St Columb’s Cathedral is remarkably well preserved. It houses the original keys to the city

and a number of documents dating back to the 1600s. st euGene’s Cathedral Following the Catholic Emancipation of 1829, many restrictions on Catholics were eased, allowing them greater freedom to practise. It took another 40 years for the go-ahead to build a Roman Catholic cathedral in the city. St Eugene’s was opened by the Bishop of Derry in 1873. workhouse MuseuM Opened in 1840, the Workhouse was built in the Waterside area of the city and catered for the poverty- and famine-stricken population until its closure in 1948, when it became a hospital. Original artefacts and archives are now on display, showing what life was like in this strict existence. Craft VillaGe Step back in time in this reconstructed village that melds an 18th-century street with a 19th-century square, hidden behind the Georgian shop fronts of Shipquay Street. It is a quiet retreat from the busy city streets where people can relax and enjoy a pot of tea or a pint.

photoS: © SuperStock/the IrISh Image collectIon/alamy/chrIS hIll/natIonal geographIc Image collectIon/matthew logue

Ireland to remain within the United Kingdom. Irish nationalists and republicans, from the Catholic community, generally wanted it to leave the UK and join a united Ireland. The Battle of the Bogside riot in 1969 revealed tensions in the city to be at an all-time high. In January 1972, an anti-internment march descended into chaos until the army fired live rounds into the crowds, killing 14 people. This was Bloody Sunday. Since this tragedy, Derry has been closely linked to The Troubles, but it is an image the people of the city are now successfully moving on from. The majority of Northern Ireland wants lasting peace. In June 2011, the Peace Bridge was opened, in a move to improve relations between the Protestant and Catholic communities. The old Ebrington Barracks used by the army for many years has been turned into a community space, and this plays host to many UK City of Culture events including a music festival run by BBC Radio 1. Derry’s music and art scene is positively thriving, with the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in August – the biggest festival of Irish culture in the world – drawing crowds of up to 300,000 people and 20,000 musicians to the city. Galleries like the CCA, Void Gallery and London Gallery are hosting exhibitions all year round, with Derry being this year’s city to host the prestigious Turner Prize. Walking across the Peace Bridge to the newly refurbished Ebrington Square, the excitement in the air is almost palpable. The next generation isn’t focusing on Derry’s troubled past; it is only looking forward, keen to embrace new technologies, new times, a new beginning.




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LORD ST LEVAN AT ST MICHAEL’S MOUNT Marooned out at sea at high tide and accessed by a narrow cobbled causeway when it recedes – St Michael’s Mount off the south coast of Cornwall is one of the most extraordinary places in Britain WORDS MARTHA ALEXANDER



Britain Meets Right: The chapel at the summit of St Michael's Mount. This image : A view of the island from the beach at Marazion

all photoS: © St aubyn eStateS/alamy/jane hallin


et high up on the rocky summit of an iconic Cornish island, surrounded by dense clusters of trees, craggy rocks and golden beaches, is an imposing castle. Part Norman abbey and part Victorian house, it’s a formidable, romantic spectacle worthy of a fairytale. But St Michael’s Mount is very real, as its permanent resident Lord St Levan can readily attest. He has only recently inherited the title from his late uncle, who passed away in April, and had no children of his own. However, St Levan, whose family name is St Aubyn, has lived at St Michael’s Mount since 2003 and recalls summers and the occasional Christmas spent here as a child, meaning the island has always been an integral part of his life. The Mount’s history is overwhelming in its complexity, not least because discoveries are still being made today that bring more of its past to life. A recent unearthing of Bronze Age artefacts on the island has cemented beliefs that it was a hub of trade during that period. Later, during the Dark Ages when sites dedicated to St Michael began to spring up across Europe, it is thought that the island became a Christian centre. St Michael was believed to have been a mediator between man and God, hence buildings dedicated to him were often built in elevated places. Around 1070 the island was granted to the Benedictine monks of Mont St Michel in France and a church at the summit was completed and consecrated in 1144. The island has always played an important part in times of war. By 1385, Richard Auncell of Tavistock was made prior at the Mount by King Richard II, indicating that the control Mont St Michel had over its English counterpart was on the wane, thanks to the Hundred Years’ War with France. Then, during the Wars of the Roses, the Mount became the subject of multiple ownership battles between Yorkist Edward IV and Lancastrian Henry VI. It was from the Mount that the Spanish Armada was first spotted in 1588, and the beacon lit here was the first of a chain started britain




all photoS: © St aubyn eStateS/SuperStock

along the south coast to warn of the threatened invasion. In 1659 Colonel John St Aubyn purchased the island, and it has remained in the family ever since, although it is now owned mainly by the National Trust and managed by Lord St Levan and his family. The only way to access the island on foot is via the causeway, but when the tide is high the island’s residents must take boats. St Levan keeps a book of tide timings by his bed so he can prepare for the coming days and weeks. The smell as you cross the causeway carries a strong tang of sulphur and salt, knots of seaweed gather on the rocks on either side and gulls cry overhead. Once across – a blustery experience even on the sunniest of days – it feels warmer, as the island seems to enjoy a peculiar microclimate. The Change House is the first building on the left as you arrive onto the island. You’d be forgiven for thinking its name was something to do with the tide changes – but in fact it is so called because it was formerly a changing room for bathers. This north side of the island is also home to around 30 people who live in cottages overlooking a harbour of small boats – with at least one person from each household working on the island in the gardens, the house or on the water. The private part of the island is on the east half: a path runs steeply upwards and there’s thick foliage on either side. Before long you come across a sturdy, arched door flanked by terracotta flowerpots and a pair of Wellington boots. “This is the Victorian part,” explains Lord St Levan as we begin the ascent up a stone spiral staircase that takes us through his east wing living quarters. There are photographs of his children and wife, Mary, in each of the windows. On the penultimate floor we reach the point at which the building is open to the public. “Before I came here I thought it might be quite a struggle but we are tucked away and are lucky enough to have an unusual relationship with the National Trust whereby we keep the licence to run the business,” he explains.

Above, left: The quaint harbour on the Mount. This image: An aerial view of the island

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It was from the Mount that the Spanish Armada was spotted – the beacon lit here was the first of a chain started along the coast as a warning






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We walk through the public entrance hall, where there is a picture of the very first Lord St Levan who built the east wing in the 1870s. One of the most splendid rooms is the large hall that would have been the monks’ refectory in Norman times. It’s named after the medieval hunting ballad, Chevy Chase, and also with reference to the 17th-century frieze running around the top of the ceiling that depicts a hunting scene. Look out for the depiction of an ostrich with a horseshoe in its mouth – “There used to be a popular myth about how they could digest iron,” explains Lord St Levan. Walking out onto the roof above the east wing gives stunning panoramic views of the village of Marazion, Penzance and far out to sea. It is more than a vantage platform, however, as the family host wonderful drinks parties here. The St Aubyn children even skateboard on the smooth spacious surfaces, says St Levan. Looking over the balustrades to the south, the drop is sheer but the view is spectacular, not only because of the rocks and sea, but also because of the subtropical gardens, which are designed to look glorious from above, too. Lord St Levan explains that the rocks release heat at nighttime, which means unexpected plants grow here – cactuses and other rare beauties sprout from the arid crags. There are three pillboxes on the island, used as bunkers for soldiers in the Second World War. St Levan recalls as a child how his grandparents lamented the pillboxes, dismissing them as eyesores, but now their roofs are covered with a carpet of mossy grass. Lord St Levan points out the best places to swim but he confesses that he’s much more interested in overseeing his lobster pots. They can be spotted bobbing about a fair distance out at sea. We visit the drawing rooms, vivid powder blue Regency affairs. The Queen came for lunch in May and sat in here while she signed the visitor’s book and there’s a picture of Prince Charles on a side table. These haven’t always been drawing rooms, however. Before this was a private residence, they were thought to have been the Lady

hotel Penzance is a pretty townhouse a stone’s throw from Penzance train station and offers spectacular views of st Michael’s Mount. With a heated swimming pool and sun loungers in the Mediterranean-style garden, it’s a lovely dose of luxury. however, the best bit is undoubtedly the food served at the Bay restaurant, which is part of the hotel. With homemade breads, Cornish mussels, and a fish of the day from the harbour – this is a true taste of the region. you can enjoy after-dinner cocktails on the candlelit terrace overlooking the garden and the harbour of Penzance beyond. the staff are incredibly friendly and helpful – you won’t have to lift a finger and they are all happy to give you advice about what to see and do in the area. From the hotel you can enjoy a brisk walk to Marazion, where the causeway to st Michael’s Mount begins – you’ll be there in just over half an hour and the journey along the coastal path is nothing short of glorious.


all photoS: © alamy/renato granieri/iStock/mark goddard

Above: One of the Blue Drawing Rooms. Above, right: Gun cannons once formed a defensive wall on the island. Box: The Hotel Penzance, which looks out on to St Michael's Mount


Above: Peering from the south side of St Michael's Mount. Above, right: View from the subtropical gardens to the Victorian east wing, private residence of Lord and Lady St Levan. Right: The cottages comprising the island's little village

Chapel. The main doors to the drawing rooms lead out to the north side of the castle, where you’ll find the entrance to the chapel. It’s not hard to see why this small but almost perfectly preserved place of worship is Lord St Levan’s favourite spot on the island. Part of it dates back to the 12th century but the stained glass windows are Victorian. In one pane the Mount appears in the background behind the Virgin and child. Underneath the chapel there’s a little room accessed by a steep narrow staircase. It is more of a cell than a room – there are no windows and the walls, ceiling and floors are all stone. It was perhaps the domain of a hermit – a role that was, amazingly, much coveted by monks in the past. Are there any other hidden rooms or passages on the Mount? “If there were I probably wouldn’t tell you,” laughs Lord St Levan. “But, truthfully, I don’t think so. There are certainly no long, secret passageways underground that lead back to the mainland.” There are, however, other dramatic and mysterious points of interest. The Murdering Hole can be found halfway down from the main entrance to the castle, built into what was once a defensive wall. Enemies trying to gain access to the castle wouldn’t get very far in the face of a musket being fired at them through the space. Meanwhile there are plentiful references to a great giant who was believed to have lived on the island. He wreaked havoc on the mainland by stealing cows and occasionally small children to satisfy his fearful greed. The legend says that a small boy called Jack eventually killed the giant but that his hard heart can still be found in the castle’s gardens. Rumour has it that if you stand on the correct stone you can still hear the giant’s heart beat. These romantic and important symbols of the legacy of St Michael’s Mount, myths that join a history shaped by religion and war, complete the vibrant picture of this most unusual of homes.

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photoS: © alamy/corbiS/aShley cooper/iStock/john gollop

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02/07/2013 17:28

© National Trust Images/NT. Registered Charity Number 205846.

Osterley Park and House

feeling like royalty

Imagine life as Lord and Lady of the manor in one of the last surviving country estates in London. Enclosed by gardens, park and farmland this spectacular Georgian mansion is a true urban oasis, perfect for picnics, strolls or exploring with the kids. Members and under 5s go free.

020 8232 5050


OPEN: Until 29th September 2013 OPEN: OPEN: 29th 29th March March –– 29th 29th September September 2013 2013 1st April-28th September 2014 Tuesdays to Sundays, plus bank Tuesdays to Sundays, plus bank holidays holidays seven in & Tuesdays Open to Sundays, plus bank Open seven days days in July Julyholidays & August August 5.30pm Open seven days in July11am & August 11am 11am - 5.30pm - 5.30pm 12 noon for (House(House opensopens 12 noon tours only) only) (House opens 12 for noon for tours tours only) Information Hotline: 0845 4504 068 Information Information Hotline: Hotline: 0845 0845 4504 4504 068 068

Newby Newby Hall Hall & Gardens & Gardens


Guided & Self Guided Walking Holidays. A family run company now in our 31st season. View our 2013 schedule of walks online.

Why not book a tour of the Royal Hospital Chelsea with a Chelsea Pensioner guide? Call us on 020 7881 5516

or visit our website for more information To book space call Natasha +44 (0)207 349 3732

BRITAIN’S CHOICE – take a tour and make the most of your holiday Hidden britain1-4 30/1/09 14:53 Page 1

Tours Through Time UK Short Breaks Just make your way to the hotel and then relax and let us take you on a journey of discovery

Our Tours Through Time programme is led by popular historian and author Julian Humphrys. These highly regarded short breaks usually feature:

• Introductory talk or subject lecture • Half board hotel accommodation (3 & 4*) • Professional guides • Executive coaching • Meticulously planned • Imaginative itineraries • The option to extend your hotel stay Discover towering castles, forts, churches and abbeys, historic battlefields, cultural cities, stately homes and some private properties not always open to the public. Brookland Travel also organise short breaks to The Isles of Scilly and Guernsey, UK garden tours and other themed breaks to explore our built and natural heritage.

Call 0845 1212863 for further information quoting Ref: VB12 Or visit our website(s) 7%B%0B)HEB[7%B%0B)HEB[3DJH Established since 1999

Jane Austen The Dancing Years

Explore Jane Austen’s early life with Hampshire Ambassador, Phil Howe. Discover the villages, churches, country houses and trace the people she describes in her letters. Tours can include a visit to the Jane Austen House Museum, and the village of Chawton. Enjoy lunch at a Hampshire country inn. An ideal half-day or one-day tour. A gift to share with friends and family. Trip Advisor Excellence Award

For more information Phone: +44 (0)1256 814222 e-mail: or visit

Private Small Group Tours Inside the most famous bridge in the world

England, Scotland and Ireland Experience up to 5,000 years of British history and culture including pre-history, castles, grand houses, battlefields, Roman Britain, architecture, industrial history, scenery, gardens, Shakespeare, Robert Burns, Cotswolds, Lake District, Whisky Tours and much more.

Enjoy breathtaking views of London from the Bridge’s Walkways. Experience the beautiful Victorian Engine Rooms. Enter and be amazed. Prices: Adults £8.00 Children £3.40 Concessions £5.60 Under 5s FREE Contact: 020 3627 2351 Tower Bridge is provided by the City of London Corporation - a uniquely diverse organisation in that it not only promotes and supports the city and provides it with a full range of services, but also provides wider services for London and for the nation as a whole.

Private tours arranged by an experienced and bonded tour guide, self-drive tours also available. Tel: +44 (0)141 638 5500 Website: Blog: Direct e-mail:




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Come back to...




Land Only . $460 Single Supp

“When a man is tired of London he is tired of life itself...”

Samuel Johnson

Join our famous “Off Season” Show & Shopping Tour

Price includes...


¬ Airport/Hotel transfers in London ¬ 6 nts Tavistock Hotel, with cont. b/fasts ¬ Panoramic Sight Seeing Tour with Blue Badge Guide on day of arrival ¬ 7 day London Travel Card, zones 1 & 2 ¬ 1 west end show & 3 course dinner ¬ all hotel taxes & service charges ¬ London maps and info package

rture D Nov 6 th, 1 ates Feb 19 3th, & 27th, 2 th & 2 6th, 20 013, 14

UNBEATABLE VALUE! Air Available from all US cities - ask us!

Contact DHTour for brochure...

Tour DH 1-888-597-3519


London London & & U.K. U.K.Specialists


313-2289 Fairview St, Burlington, ON L7R 2E3

1-888-597-3519 905-639-9954

TICO # 50012768

m a rt i n r a n d a l l t r av e l The






ABTA No.Y6050



A selection of tours in Britain Charles Dickens Talks and readings by Andrew Sanders, author of Charles Dickens’s London, throughout the tour. Stay in central London and on the seafront in Portsmouth • 5–9 April 2014

Great Houses of the East Country houses in East Anglia and the East Midlands, examples from the end of the Middle Ages to the Victorian era • 4–12 June 2014

Northumbria Wide-ranging exploration of the natural and man-made beauties of one of the most interesting but least visited regions of England • 18–26 June 2014

The Victorian Achievement Rochester, engraving 1896.

For more detailed information or a brochure: +44 (0)20 8742 3355

Studies the social history, industrial archaeology, architecture and art of the reign of Queen Victoria, a period when Great Britain led the world in trade, industry and ideas • 4–11 August 2014

Royal Residences Visits ten palaces and homes, half of which are still in use by the Royal Family • 19–23 August 2014

To book space call Natasha +44 (0)207 349 3732

My Britain

Clockwise from this picture: Changing of the Guard; Clive Christian OBE; The Palace of Westminster; The Grand National at Aintree

“The Palace of Westminster is the ultimate iconic London building, and unbelievably detailed as an example of Gothic architecture”

B EST OF BRITISH Clive Christian Creator of ‘the world’s most expensive perfume’, Clive Christian oBe shares his favourite British things CHILDHOOD MEMORY


I remember watching and waiting for a steam train to pass under the bridge I stood on and feeling the heat of the steam and that fantastic smell of power and energy as it powered by.

My hero would have to be Sir Winston Churchill – a stoic and solid man for the moment with an exceptional turn of phrase. He was what the country desperately needed, a man to rise to the occasion with the resolve and courage to propel others forward.

I think that the British Monarchy would be sorely missed if it no longer existed. Every ceremony from the coronation to the jubilees, Trooping the Colour and Changing the Guard, the National Honours, the Ceremony of the Keys is irreplaceable.




The Palace of Westminster is my favourite London building, more commonly referred to by the names of its tenants, the Houses of Parliament and Commons. Not only is it unbelievably detailed as an example of Gothic architecture, but it also supports Big Ben and the ‘mother of all parliaments’. As if it wasn’t already the ultimate iconic building for London, when the London Eye was built on the opposite side of the Thames it only served to underline the beauty and drama of this fantastic, historical building.

I admire a litany of creative individuals from Mackintosh to McQueen who have enjoyed the freedom and international reach of this country to express themselves freely. I am proud to have been honoured by The Queen as an OBE for my contribution to British Luxury Design and to be counted amongst these Great Brits.

GLAMOROUS INSTITUTION I love ‘The season’: racing at Royal Ascot, tennis at Wimbledon and rowing at the Henley Regatta – each and every occasion with a dress code and a sense of ceremony and celebration.



I enjoy going to Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, Scott’s or Le Caprice, and for a special occasion Harry’s Bar – not least because I would have to remember to wear a jacket and tie!

FAVOURITE DAY OUT I am always fond of the Grand National at Aintree – that is definitely my favourite day out. For more information about Clive Christian, his work and his worldfamous perfume, please go to or visit the BRITAIN website at

photos: © alamy/peter phipp/leo mason/markus keller


Tailor made holidays - just for you

Downton Abbey Holiday Travel in 1920s style from London to all the locations featured in the famous period drama Downton Abbey on a 2 night break including luxury hotel accommodation in the heart of Mayfair and a tour by private chauffeur.

Queen Elizabeth’s London Gain an insight into the history of the British Monarchy with a 3 night stay in London including visits to Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London. Then relax with afternoon tea at Fortnum & Mason.

Royal Holidays from Railbookers Currently celebrating ten years in the business, Railbookers is an independent travel company, specialising in tailor made holidays by rail throughout Europe and beyond. With offices in London, Los Angeles and Sydney, we can help put together the perfect holiday to suit you, whether you are looking for a short break in Paris, a beach getaway on the Amalfi Coast or a dream journey aboard the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express. Give us a call today and let us tailor make your perfect holiday by rail.

Royal London Palaces Visit the official residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on a 3 night break to London. You’ll also have the chance to explore Westminster Abbey, where the couple married in 2011 and the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace.

To speak to an experienced consultant please call or visit our website.

London 020 3327 3550 Sydney 1300 550 481 Los Angeles 1-888-753-5160

Your personal, spacious haven onboard Stretch out and unwind in privacy. Our dedicated crew will attend to your every request and even make up your bed whenever you decide to sleep. Discover more at

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BRITAIN Sep/oct 2013

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