This Sunday 23rd April is the celebration of England’s Patron Saint and to help you mark this special annual event here are some very English things to do
Bathe like the Romans used to do with a sunset dip at Thermae Bath Spa
If you took a trip back in time 2,000 years you’d probably still want to visit Bath. The Celts and Romans came here to take a dip in Britain’s only naturally heated thermal spa. Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, this elegant city houses state-of-the-art spa facilities in Thermae Bath Spa. As well as soaking in the mineral-rich thermal springs, you can luxuriate in the spa’s rooftop pool looking out over the spires, rooftops and chimney stacks of this honey-hued, Roman-meets-Regency city and indulge in the health and beauty treatments. As health and fitness go, feeling refreshed and invigorated is just as important as feeling the burn so just lie back and relax. It’s all good for you.
Drink gin at a tasting at Bombay Sapphire Distillery, Hampshire
Drink up the authentic English gin experience and discover the artistry and heritage behind Bombay Sapphire at this state-of-the-art distillery, set astride the banks of the crystal clear River Test. Learn how they infuse ten exotic botanicals from around the world into gin as you go behind the scenes with one of their distillery hosts, who will be on hand to answer any questions and guide you through the site. A 1½ – 2 hours tour costs £25. Alternatively, try the self-discovery experience for £15. And if that still hasn’t quenched your thirst for the crisp juniper berry-infused beverage, there are plenty of gin cocktails to sample during the Gin Cocktail Masterclass, £35.
Have a novel escape at Jane Austen’s House Museum in her bicentenary year, Chawton
The house at Chawton is where Jane Austen spent the last eight years of her life. Restored to the rural Hampshire she loved, Jane turned again to writing and it was in this house that she produced all her novels, revising all previous drafts, including Pride and Prejudice, and writing her three later novels, including Emma, in their entirety. The Museum tells the story of Jane and her family and has on display Austen family portraits and memorabilia, original manuscripts and first editions of her novels. Visitors can stand behind the modest occasional table at which Austen wrote, or spend time in the pretty garden the Austen women so enjoyed.
Banksy walking tour in his home town of Bristol
The world’s most notorious graffiti artist might have made his satirical graffiti mark all over the world but Bristol is where it all began. Banksy’s native city has been transformed into one big bold urban gallery. Some of Banksy’s most famous Bristol works make for a great self-guided walking tour of the city. With plenty of stops to sample some of the bars, cafés and restaurants the city has to offer, it’s a day of culture, Bristol fashion. To really get under the skin of Banksy and the city’s street art scene you’ll need to head out of the centre. Stoke’s Croft, the heart of Bristol’s cultural quarter and home to Banksy’s Mild Mild West mural, is a good place to start, but it’s Easton that’s a real mecca for street art fans. Here you’ll find some of his earliest works. Watch out for the Cat and Dog on Foster Street and the famous Masked Gorilla on Fishponds Road. Cameras at the ready!
In the 200th anniversary year of the bicycle, follow the cycle route of Le Tour de Yorkshire (with various ability level options!) through the heart of the Yorkshire Coast and North York Moors
Taking in Yorkshire’s two UNESCO World Heritage Sites at Fountains Abbey and Saltaire, the Tour de Yorkshire route will this year will start in Bridlington and end in Fox Valley, encompassing all four corners of the county.
What better time (and excuse) to try a broomstick training session at Alnwick Castle than in the 20th anniversary year of the first Harry Potter novel, Northumberland
Get your wizarding hats on and wands out in the magnificent Alnwick Castle, now immortalised as Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films. Join the resident wizarding professors and take part in a broomstick training session, on the very spot where Harry had his first flying lesson in the film production of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Master your broomstick and don’t forget to take a picture of your take-off to amaze your friends!
Have a truly English cuppa in Cornwall
Holidaymakers in India and Sri Lanka visit tea plantations in their hoards, but a good hot cuppa is an English institution and they do it to perfection at Tregothnan. Home to the Boscawen family since 1335, this historic estate has been supplying England’s first and only tea since 2005, though it is thought to have been growing the Camellia sinensis bush ornamentally for 200 years. Its placid climate, thanks to the cooling breath of the Atlantic Ocean, creates optimum conditions for the plant to thrive, producing some of the world’s most delicious teas. Try it for yourself at Tregothnan’s Tea Bar, selling everything from their bold and full-bodied Classic Tea to the refreshing Afternoon Tea and healthsome Manuka honey and herbal infusions range.
Explore stories of England’s great legend King Arthur (ahead of the new film release on 19 May), Tintagel Castle
Oozing an inimitable mythical charm, these ancient ruins are magnificently poised in a breath taking position looking out to sea, and lay claim to being on the site where Arthur was conceived. English Heritage has honoured the legend with an outdoor exhibition at the castle taking visitors on a journey of discovery. The new blockbuster film King Arthur: Legend of the Sword directed by Guy Ritchie hits UK cinemas in May 2017. It stars Charlie ‘Sons of Anarchy’ Hunnam, as the protagonist, alongside Jude Law, Eric Bana and David Beckham.
Punt along The Backs 24, Cambridge
The golden buildings of Cambridge’s world-famous historic colleges are beguiling enough from the city’s winding cobbled streets, but hop on board a punt to view The Backs in time-honoured tradition from the River Cam. You’ll drift past King’s College Chapel, the Wren Library at Trinity College, the wooden Mathematical Bridge and the Bridge of Sighs at St John’s. Just remember to duck for the bridges! If you’re worried about falling in – it does happen – hire a guide to do the punting while you watch the world go by. Pack a picnic to have in the punt or spread out for a snooze beneath the trees that line the river bank, with your straw boater hat dipped lazily over your eyes. Try one of the numerous punt hire companies in Cambridge.
Celebrate England’s literary heroes with a Beatrix Beyond Hill Top tour, Ambleside, Cumbria
This new tour takes you beyond the familiar Hill Top setting, Beatrix Potter’s 17th-century farmhouse that helped inspire many of her tales, to see the whole of Beatrix Potter’s legacy in the village of Near Sawrey. Discover how modern day Sawrey still retains many of the views Beatrix was determined to preserve and find out how those living in the village today, inspired by Beatrix, are finding new ways to make a living from farming and from the fleece of Herdwick sheep descended from Beatrix Potter’s own flocks. Priced at £25 per adult, including entry to Hill Top and exclusive access to the farmyard and Castle Cottage.
Relive history at the newly reopened Jorvik Viking Centre, York
After the severe floods that struck it in December 2015, Jorvik Viking Centre has reopened and visitors can once again rediscover the 10th century city of Jorvik beneath the pavement of Coppergate, with the re-opening of a ‘re-imagined’ JORVIK Viking Centre. The designers have not only updated displays with the latest animatronic technology and Norse research, but also restructured parts of the attraction to encourage visitors to stay a while longer amidst its Viking charms! The recreation features the sights, sounds and (famously) smells of the Viking age, making JORVIK possibly the smelliest attraction in the world. Familiar odours – including fish, the river and the cesspit return, alongside new aromas specially created for the attraction’s re-opening.
For destination inspiration go to www.visitengland.org