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The Roman Empire stretched across Europe and Africa, and is often credited with bringing civilisation as we know it to the British Isles – this was a process which included the introduction of regular washing and water treatments in bathhouses across the country, notably in Bath where natural hot springs were (and still are) located.
The Roman baths in Bath aren’t from the period (those buildings were lost at some point in the 6th century), but were built on the same hot springs site in the late 1800s by John Wood, the Elder and John Wood, the Younger. Though the water isn’t safe to bath in, drink or even touch, the modern spa next door uses the same water, and visitors can enter the museum which houses a number of genuine Roman artefacts found during excavation and building work on the site over the centuries. The baths and museum are a major tourist attraction, receiving over a million visits per year.
An endlessly fascinating mystery that endures to this day, Stonehenge has been the subject of discussion and speculation for centuries. Some think that the instantly recognisable circle of standing stones on Salisbury Plain were erected as a Neolithic burial monument, while more recent theories have asserted that Stonehenge was a place of healing (like Lourdes) or a symbol of cultural unification. Today it endures as a general symbol of paganism or druidism, and attracts hundreds of local and international revellers at the winter and summer solstices.
A new Visitors Centre designed by Denton Corker Marshall, was opened to much fanfare in 2013 – located a mile and a half from the stones, it serves as a base for visitors travelling to Stonehenge via public transport or using their own cars. The Stonehenge Visitors Centre features interactive and technologically-advanced exhibitions (both inside and outside), a café and a trail that leads to the monument and back again, as well as a shuttle service for those who would rather forgo the walk.
The Royal Mile, which connects Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace, is arguably Edinburgh’s busiest and most interesting street, though Princes Street on the other side of Edinburgh Waverley station might beg to differ. Littered with shops, restaurants and pubs, there is always somewhere to go and something to do whenever you visit the Royal Mile, whether you’re interested in cashmere, whisky, haggis or something a little more off the beaten track. The Writers’ Museum, for instance, houses rare manuscripts and personal effects from Robert Burns, Robert Louis Stevenson and Sir Walter Scott, and is well worth visiting even if you’re not a particularly fervent bookworm.
One of the most exciting times to visit Edinburgh, and the Royal Mile in particular, is during the Edinburgh Festival in August. The city is flooded with performers and audience members and positively crackles with energy and creativity, though you may need to be prepared to pay over the normal odds for certain things and deal with reduced opening times for attractions. Finding that gem of a comedian or show will make it all worthwhile, though.
The theatre’s own Swan Restaurant; Pizza Express next door.
The Grange St. Paul’s Hotel; located next to the Cathedral and a ten-minute walk across Millennium Bridge from the theatre.
£5 to stand in the yard, up to £43 to sit in the galleries; for the Theatre Tour and Exhibition, adults are charged £13.50 while seniors over 60 are charged £12.
In a city awash with things to do and see, Shakespeare’s Globe stands unassumingly on London’s South Bank, looking as though it has survived for centuries in perfect condition – in fact, it is a modern reconstruction of the original using the same materials and in practically the same spot on which it stood in the 1600s. It is also the best place to see Shakespearean plays performed traditionally anywhere in the world.
The Globe’s summer season runs from the end of April to the middle of September, with five to seven productions running in rep – in recent years, it has attracted the likes of Mark Rylance (the theatre’s former artistic director), Eve Best, Stephen Fry, Jonathan Pryce and Gemma Arterton. While seats aren’t particularly expensive, the best experience can be had standing in the yard as a groundling, which is fantastic value as long as your back can handle it. Winter visitors can take in a play at the indoor Jacobean-influenced Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, which opened in the same building complex in 2013 to house productions lit entirely by candles during the months when poor weather makes it unrealistic to use the Globe’s main stage.
One of the hidden gems of the northern English coastline, Whitby is a name that might be familiar to fans of Bram Stoker’s seminal horror novel Dracula, but probably not to anyone else. Stoker holidayed in Whitby and used the town as the location for Count Dracula’s arrival in England – when the Russian ship Demeter runs aground, a large black dog is seen leaping ashore and running to the ruins of Whitby Abbey.
The Abbey itself is a ruined Gothic masterpiece that fell into disrepair following Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries in the sixteenth century, and is now maintained and managed by English Heritage. Whitby’s other attractions include the Church of St. Mary, located on the town’s east cliff and whose windswept graveyard was immortalised in Francis Ford Coppola’s film adaptation of Dracula, and the harbour from which boats can be chartered. Golf, hiking and other leisurely sporting pursuits are also available to partake in.
Some of the most spectacular countryside in England is located in Yorkshire, and it’s easy to see how the desolate beauty of the moors influenced the impressionable Brontë sisters in their novels, most notably Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. The village of Haworth, where the family lived, is a particularly popular tourist attraction for Brontë fans in the summer when the weather is favourable.
The Brontë Parsonage Museum is Haworth’s predominant tourist attraction – the sisters wrote their famous works and lived here for most of their lives – as is the Brontë Way, a walking route across the moors via Top Withens, a ruined farmhouse said to be the inspiration for the Wuthering Heights farm. The trail takes about four days to walk, so a proper plan should be made before setting off (the moors can be extremely unforgiving to the unprepared), though Top Withens can easily be walked to and from in a day. Steam train enthusiasts can also take a trip on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, a heritage, preserved steam train line.