Top 10 travel tips - Hidden Gems Around England
15:44 01 May 2014
Randomly stick a pin into a map of the England and chances are you will hit on somewhere, or something of interest. Our little Island nation is steeped in history and choc-full of treasures. Here are 10 hidden gems from our personal favourites list.
LARK HILL PLACE: Salford, Lancashire.
Not too far from Media City - Manchester’s waterfront setting for the digital age - you can step back in time and stroll down the cobbles of a typical northern street during Victorian times. A nostalgic recreation allows visitors to peek into shops and houses, pubs and parlors, to find out more about Victorian life - from the use of leeches as a cure all to the roll of a ‘knocker-upper’ - add in a printing press, chemist, forge and a victorian music shop, and you have a gas-light glimpse into northern life light years away from the metro link and state of the art film studios.
SAINT GILES: Cheadle, Staffordshire.
Fans of 19th century Gothic Revival are in for a treat at this jewel of a church by renowned architect and designer Augustus Pugin. Enter through the west doors at the base of the tower into a decorated delight. Magnificent arches, piers and entire walls are covered with layers of stenciling, and corbels - in the shape of angels - support scissor roof trusses adorned with intricate silver lamps. Stained glass, elaborate ironwork and floor tiles by Minton complete the picture. Pugin, largely responsible for the interiors of the Houses of Parliament, referred to St Giles Church as his ‘little gem’. Be sure to take a10p coins to turn on the lights.
BRONZE AGE BOAT: Dover, Kent.
Tucked off the market square in a custom glass showcase, lies the worlds’s oldest known seagoing boat. The Dover Bronze Boat, discovered by a construction crew in 1992, is now thought to date back some 4,000 years. Made from oak planks sewn together with yew lashings, Dover Museum devotes an entire floor to all things bronze age - and, offers a short video that takes visitors through unearthing the boat, how it was built and how it was preserved by the Mary Rose Trust - there’s even a small scale replica.
JANE AUSTEN’S HOME: Chawton, Hampshire.
One of England’s most celebrated authors, Austen’s work appears in print, on the silver screen and even features on Royal Mail postage stamps. The pretty red brick house where Jane spent the last years of her life presents an interesting collection, from her writing table overlooking the street, to family jewelry, needlework and a controversial portrait of Jane. No need to wear your best bonnet, or carry a ruffled umbrella when you visit, the atmosphere is relaxed and visitors are invited to play
the period piano in the sitting room - you can round-off your trip with a visit to the lovely village pub across the way.
TITHE BARN: Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire.
Down a narrow country lane, on the edge of the picturesque market town, survives England’s best example of a14th century monastic stone barn - with a massive cruck roof, that’s worth craning your neck to see. Extend your visit by taking a short river walk and then wander back into the unspoilt town, over the old stone bridge spanning the river Avon, call in at the single cell jail before exploring the narrow streets lined with shops, cafe’s, and restaurants, bob your head into the saxon church and pick up supplies at the sunday farmers market.
SULGRAVE MANOR: Sulgrave, Oxfordshire.
A warm welcome awaits at the home of George Washington’s English ancestors. Nestled in a pretty village of stone cottages and thatched roofs, the manor house was built at the time of Henry V111. With authentic Tudor furniture, Elizabethan embroideries and a Georgian kitchen, your visit is a walk through the ages - with links to America woven throughout - including a familiar portrait of the U.S. President depicted on the U.S. Dollar Bill - and the coat of arms carved above the entrance door comprising of stars and stripes is said to have formed the design of the American lag.
Quaint brick and flint cottages, half timbered homes, a 13th century church, 15th century pub, and windmills on the hillside - this sleepy village tucked in the Chiltern hills is a picture perfect location for filming - from Midsomer Murders, The Vicar of Dibley and Little Britain, to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Goodnight Mr Tom and an old classic, Went the Day Well. Break-out your hiking boots and head out on the Chiltern Way that runs at the back of the aptly named Sleepy Cottage, or relax over a pub lunch and savor the picturesque setting.
GAINSBOROUGH’S HOUSE: Sudbury, Suffolk.
The childhood home of one of England’s greatest painters displays a large collection of his work and memorabilia. A favorite of royalty and celebs of the day, the artist was known for working quickly and producing paintings in the style of Van Dyke. The market-town collection displays many of his best loved work, from oils on canvass to sketches on paper - plus personal items including his pocket-watch,
taken by Highwaymen and returned in 1775. The small walled garden is ideal for taking tea and reflecting on the highlights or, contemplating Gainsborough’s dying words “Van Dyke was right”
MAYFLOWER TIMBERS: Jordans Buckinghamshire.
Most school children in England and America know something about the Pilgrims voyage aboard the Mayflower. At the Quaker Meeting House, set on the edge of this rural village, an exhibition sheds light on the settlers and their adventure to the new world. Grave stones mark the place where William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania, and his family are buried - and a small path leads to the Mayflower Barn - a private home said to be built with the timbers of the very ship that carried settlers to a new
life in America.
The pretty living village on the southern edge of the Cotswolds dates from the 13th century, owned and maintained by the National Trust. A delightful mix of half-timbered buildings, stone cottages, thatched roofs... and a refreshing lack of TV aerials and yellow road markings - it is frequently used as a backdrop by film crews - the BBC’s Pride & Predudice, Cranford and a Harry Potter movie to name a few. Add an Abbey founded in the reign of King John, a medieval church, 14th century tithe barn and a 15th century Inn with a resident ghost... and it’s easy to understand why Lacock is so popular with visitors from home and abroad.
Look out for more top 10 travel tips in our regular Boomerland column.
To read more about these gems and our travels around the world - or to find out what a boomerʼis - visit us at www.boomerlandtraveltips.com