Monthly Archives: May 2015
The Norfolk Broads is a network of rivers and lakes (or Broads) is not, in Eastern Norfolk and Southern Suffolk. The labyrinth of 125 miles of navigable waterways provides hosts of possibilities for visitors, on both land and water. Boating holidays are a popular way to explore the peaceful Norfolk countryside.
Hire a Boat for a Week’s Holiday
Spend a week exploring the Broads by sailing from village to village. Moor overnight and enjoy the hospitality of the village pub or visit the historic local church before moving on. Enjoy the sight of wildlife in nature reserves that are inaccessible by road. For those with less time boats can be hired by the day or take a guided short trip from Wroxham or Horning. There are numerous opportunities for water sports including sailing, canoeing, kayaking and windsurfing.
There is also plenty to do on dry land. The Broads lie between the historic city of Norwich and the seaside resort of Great Yarmouth, both places have a wide range of attractions for all the family. Norfolk is a county packed with things to do from steam railways to historic gardens and from zoos to the Queen’s Sandringham Home, there is something for everyone and most of it can be reached in an hour’s drive from the Broads.
Excellent Facilities for Walkers and Cyclists
Activity holidays, such as walking and cycling are popular in the Broads. The flat Norfolk countryside has a host of peaceful country lanes, footpaths and nature trails that can be explored. Enjoy scenic views of Norfolk’s village churches and windmills.
There is a wide range of accommodation on offer including boats, self-catering accommodation, holiday parks, campsites, hotels, guest houses and bed and breakfasts.
Somewhere to eat out is never far away. A hired boat has full cooking and kitchen facilities but there are a host of country pubs, traditional tea rooms and elegant restaurants for when the idea of cooking gets too much.
The relatively flat landscape makes The Norfolk Broads an ideal holiday choice for families with pushchairs or visitors with mobility difficulties. Many attractions cater for disabled visitors but it is best to confirm this before going.
Getting to the Norfolk Broads
From London and the South take either the A11 or A140 towards Norwich or the A12 toward Great Yarmouth.
From Birmingham and the North take the A47 towards Norwich or Great Yarmouth
Regular train services connect Norwich with London, Ipswich, Birmingham, Peterborough, Sheffield , Manchester and Liverpool
St Mary’s Lighthouse at Whitley Bay stands on a small island, but can be reached on foot from the mainland at low tide. Access is via a causeway and tide tables are on display in the car park advising when crossing is possible.
St. Mary’s was built in 1898 and was a working lighthouse until 1984. When it stopped working, local people got together and persuaded North Tyneside Council to buy it from Trinity House; ensuring that the public would continue to have the right of access to one of North East England’s more unusual attractions. The seas around Whitley Bay can be treacherous and shipwrecks on the rocks were common place before the lighthouse was built.
Before the Lighthouse there were many Shipwrecks
In the Laing Art Gallery, in Newcastle there is a painting by John Charlton entitled “The Women” celebrates the bravery of the women of nearby Cullercoats, in 1861. On New Year’s Day in a blizzard, “The Lovely Nelly” ran aground on rocks. The local women helped drag the lifeboat for almost two miles and all the crew, with the exception of a young cabin boy were saved.
30 years later, on a foggy June day, a Canadian ship “The Gothenburg City” floundered on rocks to the north of the island. No lives were lost on board, but the ship’s cargo of wood and coal were flung overboard in a vain attempt to refloat the ship, providing an unexpected source of fuel for local people.
Climb 137 Steps to the Top of the Lighthouse
The lighthouse has 137 spiral steps from ground level to the lantern room. From the top of the tower, there are sensational views of the Northumberland Coast and the River Tyne. There is a live video streaming from the top of the tower to ground level, enabling anyone unable to climb the tower to experience the view.
There are also displays outlining the history of the lighthouse and the island. There is a small charge to climb the lighthouse but the gift shop can be visited free of charge. There is no cafe on the island, but there are vending machines at the lighthouse selling drinks and snacks. On a nice day the best idea may be to pack a picnic.
Away from the lighthouse, the rest of the island is a nature reserve providing a home to a wide range of marine life and birds with rock pools, freshwater ponds, cliff tops and a beach.
Opening Hours Depend on the Tides
Given the unusual location, the opening hours are dependent on the tides. A local guide to the tides are available online , but this is only guidance and more up to date information can be obtained by phoning the Friends of St Mary’s Lighthouse on 0191 200 8650
The island is off the A193, Whitley Bay to Blyth Road, just over 2 miles north of Whitley Bay.
The 308 Bus to Blyth runs every 15 minutes (30 minutes on Sundays) from Newcastle Haymarket Bus Station and Whitley Bay.
Take the Tyne and Wear Metro to Whitley Bay then take the bus.
A train trip on the Cambrian Coast offers an ideal opportunity to explore Mid Wales without a car. There are stops along the line providing access to some of the best known tourist attractions in Wales.
Trains leave Shrewsbury regularly, running through gentle lowlands around Welshpool and Newtown before cutting through the spectacular Cambrian Mountains. It is a leisurely stroll from Welshpool station to Powis Castle and Gardens, just over a mile away.
The journey to Machynlleth takes less than 90 minutes; alight at Machynlleth to visit The Centre for Alternative Technology or King Arthur’s Labyrinth. After Machynlleth, the line splits with alternate trains heading for Aberystwyth and Pwllheli.
Seaside Resort and Castle at Aberystwyth
Aberystwyth, the largest town on the Cambrian Coast, set in a bay in the shade of three hills. Visit the ruins of Aberystwyth Castle, take a ride on Britain’s longest electric cliff tramway or change trains and take the steam hauled Vale of Rheidol Railway to Devil’s Bridge from Aberystwyth station.
The line to Pwllheli runs along a coastline renowned for castles, narrow gauge railways and Welsh tradition, offering a great selection of Welsh days out . Connections with steam trains can be made with the Talyllyn at Tywyn and the Fairbourne Steam Railway at Fairbourne. Leaving Fairbourne, the line crosses the sandy Mawddach Estuary as it enters Barmouth. Porthmadog is the terminus for the famous Ffestiniog Railway, though easier connections with the Cambrian Coast Line are made by changing at Minfordd. Portmerion the Italianate resort village, made famous by the TV series The Prisoner, is less than a mile’s walk from Minfordd station.
Pwllheli has one of Britain’s Busiest Markets
In the 13th century, the area was the heart of local resistance to attempts by Edward I to conquer Wales. Two major castles remain from this period. Harlech Castle was built by Edward as part of his ring of castles in North West Wales and Criccieth was built by the Welsh but was later captured by the English.
Every Wednesday, Pwllheli hosts one of Britain’s busiest markets. Situated at the head of the Llyn Peninsula and edge of the Snowdonia National Park, Pwllheli is an ideal base for touring.
The service is operated by Arriva Trains Wales, who offer a range of discounted fares. There are regular direct services to Shrewsbury from Manchester, Cardiff and Birmingham. The journey time from London Euston is less than three hours, changing at either Birmingham or Crewe.
The historic City of York dates back to Roman times and attracts visitors all year round. It is also an ideal base for touring Yorkshire, with The Yorkshire Dales, The North York Moors and The Yorkshire Coast all less than an hour away.
Step out of York railway station and you immediately start to experience the city’s history. Opposite the entrance runs part of the longest surviving city walls in Britain. The walls are open to the public daily and still virtually circle the city, walking round provides a free and interesting way of discovering what York has to offer:
Victorian cobbled streets, old shops and prison cells are part of a six hundred year tour British life. York Castle Museum is a museum of everyday life, displaying thousands of household objects including historic toys, fashion, armour, weapons, tools, printing presses, cooking utensils, farming equipment. Rooms, shops, streets – and even prison cells are recreated and modern sound and lighting effects are used to create a realistic atmosphere.
Enjoy panoramic views of the city and the surrounding countryside from the top of the tower, built by William the Conqueror to subdue the rebellious north and rebuilt by Henry III in the 13th century
Jorvik Viking Centre
Set on the site where the remains of the City of Jorvik were discovered, the museum recreates life at the end of the first millennium. Viking towns are recreated and over 800 original Viking items, discovered on the site are displayed.
National Railway Museum
Discover the history of the train at the world’s largest Railway Museum. Royal trains, the record breaking Mallard, a replica of Stephenson’s Rocket, and the Japanese Bullet Train are just a few of the exhibits. Admission is free of charge.
Richard III Experience and Henry VII Experience
Despite his remains being found and buried in Leicester, York still has a strong association with Richard III and the Richard III Experience at Monk Bar relives the controversial and turbulent reign of England’s last Plantagenet monarch.
The exhibition presents the story of Richard III, in the form of a ‘trial’. Visitors give their verdict when Richard is charged with the murders of the Princes in the Tower. Monk Bar boasts a Medieval Gatehouse which has a rare example of a working portcullis, last lowered in 1953.
At nearby, Micklegate Bar the Henry VII Experience tells the story of Henry who defeated Richard at Bosworth Fields to become the first Tudor King of England. Joint tickets can be bought for both attractions, offering savings on the price of two separate tickets.
Take a trip by boat down the River Ouse, regular trips sail three miles downstream, as far as the Archbishop of York’s residence at Bishopthorpe.
First mentioned in the Domesday Book, The Shambles is a narrow street crammed with gift shops and cafes. The current street, referred to as “Europe’s best preserved medieval street, dates from the Elizabethan period.”, and is so narrow, in places, that it is possible to touch buildings on both sides with outstretched arms.
A medieval town house in the shadow of York Minister, where the ghosts of a Roman legion are said to haunt the cellars. Four centuries of history, including a model ship made from bones, are displayed.
An underground tour that recalls some of York’s most notorious characters; including Guy Fawkes and highwayman Dick Turpin. See witches burned at the stake and discover why York is regarded as the most haunted city in Britain. Not for the faint hearted..
York is second only to Canterbury in the Church of England hierarchy and the splendour of the Minster reflects this. Stained glass windows up to 800 years old are found in the largest Medieval Gothic cathedral north of the Alps. Open daily subject to services.
The Railway Museum and The Shambles are free of charge, a York Pass offers free or discounted admission to many attractions in York and the surrounding area. Prices range from £36 for a one day pass to £44 for a three day pass.
York is easily reached by road and rail. Regular direct train services arrive in York from all part58s of the country. Parking in York centre is difficult, but well signposted Park and Ride services are available from the outskirts of the city on all major approaches.
Visit York tourist information
100 Days Out in Yorkshire for other Yorkshire ideas
For the last forty years, young boys in Britain have lacked the ambition of their fathers and grandfathers. Premiership footballer, pop singer or movie star are common aspirations among ten-year-old boys today; but the strong desire of previous generations is lacking– to be a train driver!
For over a century, the railway was king. In the nineteenth century, small independent railway companies sprang up, linking major cities and serving smaller communities that lay on their route. Competition was fierce and services uncoordinated, gradually companies merged until by the end of World War II there were just four regional companies covering the whole country.
In 1948, the government nationalised the rail network and British Rail was born. The next 20 years saw unprecedented changes. Diesel and electric traction gradually replaced steam-hauled services and smaller branch lines closed on economic grounds. In the early 1960s, the Beeching Report recommended massive cuts to the network, and in 1968, British Rail’s last steam hauled service ran.
Stations were closed, tracks lifted and locomotives scrapped. Homes, offices and supermarkets were built on railway land. Motorways soon covered the countryside, car ownership increased and more goods were transported by road. Traditional industries, like coal and steel, declined depriving the railways of vital revenue. The railway was no longer king.
Enthusiasts soon had the idea of heritage railways. They formed independent companies and charitable trusts, overcoming numerous legal and financial hurdles. Eventually, an army of willing volunteers bought land, laid tracks, rebuilt stations; while lovingly restoring locomotives and rolling stock from a state of disrepair.
Slowly, routes reopened. Today, there are over two hundred lines each with a unique character. In Yorkshire alone, there are many alternatives providing vital tourist revenues to local economies. Enthusiasts operate lines under a mile long run each weekend, while professionally operated services daily serve rural communities.
Narrow gauge railways also run steam hauled services. These are mainly long established independent services, which were outside the control of British Rail. Originally, the nine “Great Little Trains of Wales” carried slate from local quarries to the sea, while the fifteen inch gauge Romney Hythe and Dymchurch Railway in Kent was “the smallest railway in world” when it opened in 1927.
Special events like Victorian days or 1940s weekends recreate a bygone era, special dining trains restore some style and glamour while visits of Thomas the Tank Engine and Santa Claus attract the younger generation.
Some lines even offer the chance to be a train driver for a day – allowing middle-aged men to fulfil their boyhood dreams.
Once again in May, Twitter has shared hundreds of photos from tourist attractions highlighting the very best of what the UK has to offer. We have decided to make our Twitter Picture Profile a monthly feature where we share our favourite pictures we have found on Twitter in the past month. We thank all the photographers for sharing their wonderful images.
Leeds is a modern, thriving city with superb shopping and an active nightlife. The exclusive Victoria Quarter hosts top name designer brands and is home to the first Harvey Nichols to be opened outside London. Leeds is an ideal base for touring Yorkshire with The Yorkshire Dales and Bronte Country within easy reach. There is also plenty to do in Leeds away from the shopping centre. All the pictured attractions are easily reached from Leeds city centre.
For ideas for days out across Yorkshire visit 100 Days Out in Yorkshire
Margam Country Park is set in over 1000 acres of parkland, just east of Port Talbot. Visitors can enjoy a free day out , there are no charges except for parking, the train ride and crazy golf.
The park is based round the Tudor Gothic Style Mansion House built by former Glamorgan MP Christopher Rice Mansel Talbot in 1827. Talbot was responsible for much of the industrial development of South Wales in the early 19th century and was widely believed to be the wealthiest commoner in the land.
A day at Margam Park has something for all the family including:
The Castle Courtyard contains the visitor centre, café and gift shop and is the starting point for walks round the park. The café is open between 10am and 5pm and light lunches are available between 12 and 2pm. The gift shop is closed in winter.
Part of the wealthiest, and largest, Cistercian Abbey in Wales the monastic ruins dating back to 1147 is located near the orangery and stunning gardens.
18th Century Orangery and Gardens
The longest Orangery in Britain stretches for 275 feet is the central feature of the internationally famous gardens. Three ornate fountains designed with entwined dolphins and scallop shells dominate the terrace to the front of the building.
This 19th Century Tudor Gothic Mansion , designed for Christopher Rice Mansel Talbot, is often referred to as “The Castle”; Talbot had the grade I listed building built in the 1830’s at a cost of £50000 and much of it has been restored following a fire in 1977. Public access is now restricted to the outbuildings housing the Visitor Centre and the Great Hallway, which is open during the summer months.
Narrow Gauge Railway
“Monty the Margam Train” links the Car Park to the Castle, the winding route includes stunning views of the castle and surrounding area. The route takes you through the wonderful Margam Park historic landscape. The diesel hauled 24″ gauge railway has two covered carriages, each holding 24 people, with facilities for disabled passengers. A single ticket costs £1.50 for Adults and £1.00 for Children/OAP. Two adults and two children can buy a family ticket for £4.00. The train only runs during the summer months, with a limited service during school term time.
Young children will love Fairytale Land, which is only open during the summer months, with Sleeping Beauty, Pinochio, The Baker Man, Jack and the Beanstalk and Tom Thumb.
Children’s Adventure Playground
Up to 100 children can explore a Castle, a sky run and an elevated walkway while mum and dad have a coffee.
The castle themed playground has four towers, a central keep and mock moat as well as slides, an aerial runway and a rope bridge. The top of the castle can be reached by stepping logs and climbing ladders and there are specially designed pieces of equipment for disabled children including a double width drawbridge, bumpy walkway, slide and ramp.
The adventure playground is suitable for 6 to 12 year olds and adults are only admitted if accompanied by a child.
A deer herd, dating back to Norman times, roams over 500 acres of parkland. Since 1990, Red Deer and Pierre David Deer have been added to the traditional Fallow Deer and there are now over 300 animals in the herd.
There is a 9 hole crazy golf course near to Fairytale Land, this is open on weekends and school holidays. The cost for this is £2.50 for adults and £1.50 for children.
Wander the Farm Trail and meet Glamorgan cattle, Shetland ponies, Highland cows, lambs and sheep, donkeys, ducks and geese. Halfway round is Pet’s Corner with rabbits, goats, chickens and ducks.
Explore the park’s 800 acres or take one of the four colour coded self guided trails that start from Visitor Centre. These vary in difficulty and distance, with the shortest being 1.5 miles and the longest 3.5 miles. For the very energetic, the park is the starting point for two long distance walks. The Ogwr Ridgeway Walk is a 13 mile walk to Mynydd y Gaer and The Coed Morgannwg Way is a 36 mile, 16 hour, to Aberdare and The Afan Forest Park Country Park near Merthyr.
Picnickers are welcome and barbeque equipment is available to hire by prior arrangement with the park office.
There is a steep climb from the orangery to the mansion, the public car parks (which charge £3) are at the bottom of the hill near the orangery but disabled badge holders can park at the top of the hill behind the mansion. The parking charge applies to disabled visitors.
The Park is half a mile from Junction 38 on the M4 and is clearly signposted.
The First Cymru X1 service from Swansea to Bridgend via Port Talbot stops at the park gates. On weekdays and Saturdays buses run every 30 minutes between Bridgend and Port Talbot with one bus an hour to and from Swansea. On Sundays there are just four journeys a day between SwansSpecial Eventsea and Bridgend.
The X1 bus services stops outside Port Talbot Parkway railway station which has regular services to and from London, Cardiff and Swansea.
Occasionally the park is closed to the public due to special event, for more details visit the Margam Park website or contact the Park Office on 01639 881635
Norwich is a city offering the very best shopping experiences. Modern shopping malls, historic shopping streets and open air markets combine to make Norwich, the largest city in Norfolk, one of England’s most popular cities for shoppers.
Norwich Market is the Largest in England
Norwich Market is the largest daily open market in England. Standing in the city centre, in the shadow of Norwich Castle, there are over 200 stalls selling everything from fresh food to clothing.
Historic Shops include Tudor Streets and Victorian Arcades
Norwich rivals York and Chester for the range of speciality shops in historic premises. The centre of the city is a maze of alleys and back streets, with independent shops selling a wide range of specialist items. Antiques, designer clothes, second hand books and teddy bears are just some of the things on sale.
The Royal Arcade, in the shadow of castle, is an art nouveau design built in 1899. Visit Colman’s Mustard Shop , a Victorian styled store, selling one of the city’s most famous products. From the Royal Arcade, Norwich Lanes, London Street and Timberhill are linked by a pedestrianised zone.
Upper St Giles host a stylish range of, delis, cafes, restaurants and antique shops and St Benedicts claims to have the most varied range of shops of any street in Norwich. This includes a boating specialist, a fancy dress hire shop, a bridal shop and a musical instrument shops.
Elm Hill is possibly the best known, and most photographed, street in Norwich. Original Tudor buildings on a narrow cobbled street are home to a wide range of specialist shops including antiques, crafts, toys, stamps and coins, linen, lace, teddy bears, jewellery and silverware.
More Department Stores than other Cities
It is said there are more department stores in Norwich than in any other British city, outside London. John Lewis, House of Fraser, Marks c& Spencer’s, BHS and Debenhams are all to be found in the city centre. Around the corner from the market in London Street, Jarrold’s department store has been serving local people since 1823. The store has five sales floors and three restaurants and sells everything from fashion and cosmetics to stationery and computers.
Modern Malls near Historic Castles
Despite all the history, Norwich is a modern city with two modern shopping centres. The Mall, which stands next to the ancient castle , has a host of top name stores spread over 5 levels.
Across the city, Chapelfield is the latest addition to Norwich’s selection of shops. Over 80 shops including House of Fraser and Disney Store can be visited before relaxing in one of 15 cafes and restaurants.
Parking in Norwich is not easy, but there is an excellent park and ride service from Monday to Saturday. There are six routes covering all major routes into the city with regular services.
Beamish is a world famous open air museum. It tells the story of the people of North East England at two important points of their history – 1825 and 1913. In 1825 the region was rural and thinly populated. The industrial revolution, especially the coming of the railways, accelerated change. By 1913 the region’s heavy industries were at their peak.
The Town of Beamish
The town in Beamish has been recreated from real buildings from across North East England that have been dismantled and rebuilt at Beamish.
Trams bring visitors from the museum entrance to the cobbled streets of 1913. Shops, houses, banks and parks help recreate the experience of life just before the First World War.
Some of the shops are open for business. The printers and stationers sell cards and posters, the sweet shop sells traditional boiled sweets and the Sun Inn serves beer and food. The only concession to 21st century Britain is the cost!
Other exhibits include a bank, a dental surgery, stables, the Co-op, a motor cycle store and the Masonic Hall.
Home Farm shows rural life in 1913. Farm buildings include the stables, a bull pen, blacksmith’s forge, a cart shed and the farmhouse kitchen with coal fire where the farmer’s wife goes about her routine. The farm is still a working farm keeping pigs, cattle, sheep and poultry.
The Colliery Village
Coal mining played a big part in the industrial development of North East England. The colliery village recreates the conditions
a typical mining family would experience.
Pit cottages, from nearby Hetton-le-Hole, show the cramped conditions and poor sanitation that miners regarded as normal.
The school has three classrooms where up to 200 children between 5 and 11 would learn to read and write.
The Methodist Chapel would have been a central feature of village life. Visitors can see inside the church and local churches sometimes help recreate the atmosphere with choir recitals and traditional services such as the Sunday School Anniversary and Harvest Festival.
The Engine Shed and railway sidings show how the coal mined was transported from the pit to local towns and cities. Beamish is built on the site of a Mahogany Drift Mine, which was a working pit from 1855 to 1958. Underground guided tours allow visitors to get a better idea of how coal was mined and the working conditions of the miners.
The Railway Station
The railway station is next to the town. This is a typical early 20th century suburban station which originally was built at Rowley, near Consett. There are two platforms connected by a wrought iron footbridge, a signal box, a goods yard and a selection of rolling stock. There are no regular train services, but occasionally there may be visiting steam locomotives.
Pockerley Manor recreates the life of a wealthy farmer in the early 19th century. The two storey house has a number of rooms including a parlour and a stone flagged kitchen. The house was built in its current location in the 12th century and demonstrations of traditional skills such as candle making, wool carding and baking oatcakes are often held.
Sample rail travel in the early 1800’s on the Pockerley Waggonway. Three working replica models, including George Stephenson’s Locomotion, and a set of recreated carriages carry visitors on a one kilometre trip.