1. Rolling Scones at London Hilton on Park Lane
Celebrating its own 50th anniversary this year as well as that of the Rolling Stones (who played host to two sell-out Rolling Stones concerts in Hyde Park this month), the London Hilton on Park Lane has created the Rolling Scones afternoon tea. Inspired by best-selling albums, songs and other iconic symbols associated with the band, the music-themed treats come served on an edible chocolate plate and include cherry flavoured biscuit lips; a 1978-inspired rainbow lolly; chocolate button cake; cheese cake with a tattoo twist; and tumbling dice based on the band’s top 10 hit.
2. Tea and politics at the Houses of Parliament, London
As an optional add-on to the popular ‘Blue Badge’ guided tours of the Houses of Parliament, afternoon tea is now being served in the elegant surroundings of the historic Pugin Room in the House of Commons. The tea, available on Saturdays until 24 August and on the first four Thursdays and Fridays in August, serves up treats such as citrus-marinated Scottish salmon with cream cheese, lemon curd and chive on a mini bagel and Valronha chocolate delice.
3. Fashion tea at The Berkeley, Knightsbridge, London
Strawberry compotes, chocolate biscuits and fancy panna cotta are all set for the annual couture makeover inspired by the world’s top fashion designers, as The Berkeley in Knightsbridge launches its new Spring/Summer 2013 Prêt-à-Portea collection. Designed to add a creative twist to the classic elements of the traditional English afternoon tea with cakes and pastries resembling the latest catwalk designs for the style conscious. In addition, the Berkeley has forged links with Wedgewood who have produced a bespoke collection of fine-bone china for Pret-a-Portea this season.
4. Wonka’s delight at The Chesterfield Mayfair Hotel
Inspired by Roald Dahl’s much loved book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which opened as a new stage musical at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in June, The Chesterfield Mayfair has launched its Charlie and the Chesterfield afternoon tea, available until September. Creative treats include a Fizzy Lifting drink, a special Willy Wonka tea, the Oompa Loompa Cupcake, the famous Wonka Bar as well as a selection of scrumdiddlyumtious finger sandwiches and fruit scones, plus an everlasting gobstopper, candy cane and lollipop.
The new afternoon tea is available this summer from May to September, and is available daily at the hotel's Butlers Restaurant.
5. Downton Abbey style at The Cadogan, London
Fans of Downton Abbey can gain an exclusive insight into the show, its cast and characters at special afternoon teas on Mondays throughout the summer at The Cadogan hotel, hosted by Jessica Fellowes, the niece of the show’s creator. Jessica, who has written two worldwide best-selling books on the series, The World of Downton Abbey, and The Chronicles of Downton Abbey, will give a talk providing insight into the real-life inspirations for the characters as well as behind-the-scenes secrets, and take questions from guests.
6. Very high tea at the Paramount, Centre Point, London
High tea really is high tea at Paramount, the restaurant and bar at the tip of Centre Point. For the tea at the tallest point in London head up 32 floors and enjoy 360° views over the capital, while sipping on the restaurant’s extensive range of teas and coffees, including Jasmine Pearls – hand-rolled and scented with fresh jasmine flowers for a rich, round taste – and Organic Bohea Lapsang.
7. Thai Tea at Nipa, London
Created by the award-winning all-lady kitchen brigade at Nipa, London’s first Thai afternoon tea includes Thai style sandwiches, savouries, scones and pastries. The Thai Afternoon Tea will be served from 2pm until 4pm from Friday to Sunday. It is priced at £22 per person, £31 with a glass of Champagne – or for those in a celebratory mood, £32 with a glass of pink Champagne.
8. Endorsed by the Tea Guild at The Angel Hotel, Abergavenny, Wales
Enjoy freshly prepared sandwiches, savouries, cakes and scones at Abergavenny’s Angel Hotel, members of the prestigious UK Tea Guild and recipients of The Tea Guild’s top national award in 2011. Build up your appetite for the delicious tea in the Brecon Beacons National Park; the hotel lies on its edge in the historic market town of Abergavenny, just 45 minutes’ drive from the Welsh capital of Cardiff.
9. Tea on a steam train on the Bo’ness & Kinneil Railway near Edinburgh, Scotland
With seats available on the newly restored buffet car dating back to the 1960s, visitors on board a lovingly-restored steam locomotive can indulge in afternoon tea. The journey lasts just over an hour and ten minutes and there is much more to see at the site including Scotland’s largest railway museum, less than an hour’s drive from Edinburgh and Glasgow.
10. Gin in a teacup at The Carlton Hotel Prestwick, Ayrshire, Scotland
It’s not just tea that’s served at afternoon tea at the Carlton Hotel Prestwick, a 45-minute drive from Glasgow. The hotel has introduced some afternoon style with Afternoon Teas with Cocktails. Making it a truly local affair is the gin used in the cocktails is supplied by Hendriks, a small-batch gin hand-crafted in Scotland.
Walk on the wild side at Longleat Safari & Adventure Park, Wiltshire, west England
Did you know that Longleat, just 80 minutes by train from London, was the first safari park outside Africa? One of Britain’s top animal attractions for more than 40 years, this country estate is home to more than 100 species – from monkeys to meerkats, lions to lorikeets and wildebeest to warthogs. Take a Jungle Cruise past the Gorilla Colony, witness the fastest animal on land in the drive-through Cheetah Kingdom, and feed the giraffes in the African Village. Visitors can also brush up on British history at Longleat House (www.longleat.co.uk).
Feed the red kites at Bwlch Nant yr Arian Forest Visitor Centre, Ceredigion, west Wales
Help conserve the national bird of Wales, the red kite, by joining a daily feeding session at the Bwlch Nant yr Arian Forest Visitor Centre in Ceredigion. Three hours by train from Birmingham, this expanse of woodland also features gentle walking trails. Kite-feeding sessions are free (www.forestry.gov.uk/bwlchnantyrarian). Nearby, the National Showcaves Centre for Wales offers great value, with entry to ten attractions with one ticket (www.showcaves.co.uk).
Step back in time at Housesteads Roman Fort, Northumberland, north-east England
Situated in one of Britain’s most historic locations – Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site – Housesteads Roman Fort is just over two hours’ drive from Edinburgh. In this dramatic hilltop setting with panoramic views, visitors can explore the remains of the centurions’ barracks – including the oldest toilets in Britain. The recently reopened museum houses a collection of Roman artefacts and uses 3-D models, film and illustrations to bring the past to life (www.english-heritage.org.uk).
Test your agility at iSurvive, Cheshire, north-west England
Kids and adults alike will love the scramble nets, rope swings, tunnels and climbing frames on the Confidence Course at iSurvive in the Chester Lakes, a one-hour drive from Manchester. Take the fresh-air fitness challenge: jump ditches and overcome obstacles on this one-kilometre route through the woods. Suitable for children from seven years old (www.i-survive.co.uk).
Explore Sherwood Forest on two wheels, Nottinghamshire, central England
Three hours from London by train is Sherwood Forest Country Park, the largest area of woodland in the east Midlands. Hire bikes at the visitor centre and choose from the two family routes through this historic forest park, once the domain of the mythical Robin Hood and his Merry Men. Its 3,300 acres are also home to Robin Hood’s hideout and adventure playgrounds (www.sherwoodpinescycles.co.uk, www.forestry.gov.uk).
Hug a hedgehog in Powys, Wales
Good Day Out organises a range of fun, educational activities that raise money for local causes such as wildlife sanctuaries and rescue centres. Spend a morning at Howey Hedgehog Sanctuary, a 90-minute drive from Cardiff, where you will clean, feed, bathe – and even exercise – orphaned hoglets (hedgehog babies). Hedgehog Helper Mornings take place on dates throughout spring (www.gooddayout.co.uk).
Design your own tourist trail, Belfast, Northern Ireland
What better way to travel than at your own pace? Pick up a Bunk Camper in Belfast, pack in the family and set off to explore the rugged coastline of Northern Ireland. Stop where you choose and wake up to stunning views. Bunk Campers come fully equipped with gas hobs, sinks, dining area, cooking utensils, beds, heating and electricity and showers/toilets in some vehicles (www.bunkcampers.com).
Discover the dinosaur capital of Britain, the Isle of Wight, off the south coast of England
A short ferry ride from Portsmouth, just 90 minutes from London by train, will bring you to the Isle of Wight, the best place in Europe to follow in the footsteps of the dinosaurs that once ruled the Earth. Named by London’s eminent Natural History Museum as Britain’s ‘Dinosaur Capital’, this island offers opportunities for visitors to try hunting for fossils along its sandy beaches themselves, or to join an organised tour led by an expert who will identify any discoveries (www.islandbreaks.co.uk/attractions/dinosaurs).
Experience unspoilt natural beauty, Argyll Forest Park, western Scotland
Book a short break with Forest Holidays in Argyll, just 45 minutes’ drive from Glasgow, and you’ll be on the doorstep of 720 square miles of lochs, mountains and forests. In the heart of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, its new timber and glass cabins (most with outdoor hot tubs) offer breathtaking views of Loch Long and the Arrochar Alps. Family-friendly activities include mountain biking, archery, canoeing, rock climbing, gorge walking and Forest Ranger-led walks (www.forestholidays.co.uk).
Take to the treetops in the rainforest canopy, Cornwall, south-west England
In our most southerly county, four hours by train from London, is one of Britain’s top attractions. The Eden Project’s two huge adjoining domes house thousands of plant species. The world’s largest rainforest in captivity features steamy jungles and waterfalls and a fully accessible Rainforest Aerial Walkway, with amazing views across the Rainforest Biome (www.edenproject.com).
Exactly what they say they are, AONB are landscapes whose distinctive character and natural beauty are so precious that it is in the nation's interest to safeguard them. Visit them all to experience Britain's most luscious, living, working landscapes.
Dramatic coast - Causeway Coast, County Antrim, Northern Ireland
Eighteen miles of spectacular coastal scenery with dramatic cliffs, sandy beaches and dark volcanic rocks aren't even the most memorable part of Northern Ireland's Causeway Coast. The area is also home to the Giant's Causeway (Northern Ireland's only UNESCO World Heritage Site) - a place where geology, history and old Irish legends merge - and whose dramatic landscape made it the perfect location for filming of popular TV series Game of Thrones . Discover small harbours, fisheries and farms along the coastline on a road trip of a lifetime, stopping off along the way to spot wildlife on the offshore islands and rocks. www.causewaycoastandglens.com
Getting there: Belfast is approximately 1.5 hours by car.
Where to stay: Luxury four-star boutique hotel, The Bushmills Inn, is a great base from which to explore gorgeous beaches, hike in unspoilt countryside or play golf on some of Ireland's finest courses before relaxing in front of an open fire. www.bushmillsinn.com
Adventure seekers' dream - Mourne Mountains, County Down, Northern Ireland
Twelve glorious peaks, including Northern Ireland's highest mountain, the 850 metre high Slieve Donard, combine to make the Mourne Mountains the mountain biking capital of Ireland. Boasting two national mountain biking centres and excellent cycling trails encompassing famous lakes, a stunning Victorian Castle, incredible panoramic views and flowing singletracks make it a must-visit for mountain bikers of all ages and abilities. Walkers, climbers and horse-riders also love exploring the area's rivers, lakes and reservoirs, while at the top of the adventure scale the Life multi-activity centre offers bouldering, canoeing, kayaking, climbing walls, archery and laser clay pigeon shooting.
Getting there: The Mourne Mountains are in County Down, only an hour's drive from Belfast.
Where to stay: Mountain biking groups will love the comfort of a self-catering cottage after an energetic day cycling the Rostrevor Mountain Bike Trails. Choose from child- (and dog!) friendly cottages in varying sizes - all with added Irish charm. www.rostrevorholidays.com
Wildlife watchers - Strangford and Lecale, Northern Ireland
One of Europe's most important wildlife sites and representing the largest sea lough (lake) in the United Kingdom and Ireland, Strangford is known for its exposed coast and sheltered bays - a natural haven for its rich variety of species. The coastal area extends inland by Quoile River, dominated by the historical town of Downpatrick, and then south along the shore of the Irish Sea. Surrounded by picturesque towns, pretty villages and historic sites, the contrast between the expansive open waters and the surrounding hills is an experience never to be forgotten.
Getting there: Strangford and Lecale are in County Down, Northern Ireland, easily accessible by bus from Belfast.
Where to stay: Anna's House bed and breakfast is a spacious, eco-friendly country house set in gardens with views over a lake from a glass-walled extension. Warm hospitality and home baked bread add to its charm. www.annashouse.com
Romantic riverside retreat - Wye Valley, Monmouthshire, south-east Wales
William Wordsworth sighed over its "steep woods, lofty cliffs and green pastoral landscape", while JMW Turner immortalised it in his paintings. Over two centuries later, the Wye Valley is still as enchanting as ever. Particularly beautiful in spring as buds are beginning to bloom, and unforgettable for the rich colours of ash, beech and oak come autumn, Wye Valley is one of Britain's finest riverside landscapes. Attracting canoeists, climbers and riders, the stretch of the River Wye between Monmouth and Tintern is serenely romantic with mist rising over the water on crisp autumn mornings.
Getting there: Lying on the border between Monmouthshire, Herefordshire and Gloucestershire, Wye Valley is approximately 1.5 hours' drive from Birmingham and three hours from London.
Where to stay: Hafod Glan Gwy (meaning summer house by the river) is a stylish cabin complete with faux fur throws, a wood burning stove, floor to ceiling windows and private patio by the River Wye. www.sheepskinlife.com
Sun, surf and salty air - Gower, south Wales
With cliffs and woodlands ringed by sparkling beaches, Gower is adored by walkers, birdwatchers, sunbathers and surfers. Rhossili, a three-mile stretch of gleaming white sand, is the pride of the Gower Peninsula and - when conditions are right - you'll find some of the best surf in Wales off Gower's beaches and bays. Looping network of lanes, cycle routes and footpaths lead through breezy coastal landscapes scented with bracken, sea salt and wild garlic, while hours can be spent spotting blackcaps, warblers and goldcrests in the woodlands.
Getting there: Within easy reach of the busy urban areas around Llanelli and Port Talbot, Gower is only five miles from Swansea city centre, 3.5 hours by train from London.
Where to stay: Self-catering with style, The Towers (the lodge at the gates to Penrice Castle above Oxwich Bay) has a turreted bedroom and access to acres of parkland. www.penricecastle.co.uk
Family fun - Llŷn Peninsula, north-west Wales
Tucked away beyond Snowdonia's craggiest peaks with the Irish Sea on one side and Cardigan Bay on the other, the Llŷn has a distinctive, unspoilt character. The AONB protects around a quarter of the area, including wild stretches of coast, long-extinct volcanic peaks and grassy hillsides dotted with Iron Age forts. Its sunny southern coast draws walkers and wakeboarders but it's the Llŷn's family-friendly resorts and laidback beaches that draw visitors every summer. Pwllheli and Abersoch are both busy sailing towns, which host Wakestock every July, a youth-friendly festival of wakeboarding and pop music, and an annual Regatta in August complete with dinghy races, crab-catching, sandcastle-building and beachhut-decorating.
Getting there: Llŷn Peninsula is in north-west Wales. The A55 road provides a quick and easy route along the north Wales coast from Chester to Bangor and the M54 and A5 roads through the scenic heartland of North Wales give the best route from Midlands and southern England. Manchester, in the north-west of England is approximately 2.5 hours by car.
Where to stay: A good budget option for families, the Glan Morfa Ganol converted stable and barn cottages are located on a working farm in Pwellheli and has a children's play area plus easy access to the beach. www.stayinwales.co.uk
Picturesque villages - The Chiltern Hills, south-east England
Gentle rolling chalk hills dotted with agriculture woodlands, hedgerows and small traditional English towns and villages make the Chilterns the perfect place to unwind in picture-postcard surroundings. Explore the region's pretty villages on foot, stopping along the way in a traditional English pub after an amble through woodlands dotted with bluebells. Be sure to visit the beautiful village of Turville, home to the windmill in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and explore castle remains, manor houses and gardens along the way.
Getting there: The Chilterns fall within four of the central-southern English counties: Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Oxfordshire, and are approximately two hours by train from London.
Where to stay: For a good mid-price option, check in to the Stag & Huntsman B&B in Hambleden, a lovely pub in the heart of one of the prettiest villages in Britain that has good-value double rooms within staggering distance after indulging in too much hearty pub grub. www.thestagandhuntsman.co.uk
Quirky and remote - Northumberland Coast, north-east England
This bright, wild, lonely coast sweeps along some of Britain's finest beaches and is internationally noted for its wildlife. The AONB, a narrow coastal strip, stretches from Berwick-upon-Tweed to Amble and is the perfect spot to explore miles of beautiful beaches and dunes. Explore Lindisfarne and its treacherous inter-tidal flats, the small islands and rocks of the Farne Islands and the protected sea bird sanctuary further out from the coast, as well as the dramatic setting for Bamburgh and Dunstanburgh Castles, before dining on fresh potted crab from the harbour village of Craster.
Getting there: Northumberland is located in north-east England, with the nearest major city being Newcastle upon Tyne, approximately two hours by train from Edinburgh and three hours from London.
Where to stay: For something a little different to camping, get comfortable in a wigwam on a camping site just over half a mile from the sea and a mile from the village of Seahouses. Including all the mod-cons, the wooden holiday homes are inspired by the upturned boat sheds at nearby Holy Island and offer a novel way to enjoy a seaside holiday. www.springhill-farm.co.uk
Luxury lodging in a celebrity hideout - The Cotswolds, south-west England
With its honey coloured cottages, sleepy country pubs, and gently sloping green hills, The Cotswolds is Britain's largest designated area of natural beauty. A world away from the hustle and bustle of London, it is a favourite rural retreat of celebrities including supermodel Kate Moss and her friend fashion designer Stella McCartney, film stars Hugh Grant and Liz Hurley and artist Damien Hirst.
Getting there: Motorways make the Cotswolds, in the south-west of England, accessible to visitors from Bristol, London and the West Midlands (central England). Trains from London run regularly to Cotswold stations with most journeys taking between one to two hours.
Where to stay: Dormy House boutique hotel is a 17th-century farmhouse given a 21st-century twist with retro-chic rooms reflecting the hotel's cosmopolitan clientele. Enjoy the nearby Broadway Golf Club and the locally lauded country pub. www.dormyhouse.co.uk
Eco-retreat - Dumfries & Galloway, south-west Scotland
Dumfries and Galloway is home to three of Scotland's National Scenic Areas (the Scottish equivalent of an AONB) including the Nith Estuary, the East Stewartry Coast and the Fleet Valley. Experience the history, wildlife, farmland and views of the varied landscape, with land rising gently from the coast, through the narrow wooded valley, to the open heather clad hills. With so much to explore, there's no chance of getting bored.
Getting there: Dumfries And Galloway is in the south-western corner of Scotland, approximately one hour's drive from central Glasgow and about 1.5 hours from Edinburgh.
Where to stay: 3Glens is an eco-friendly B&B with a wall of windows that open on to spectacular views across the three glens (hence the name!) of Dla What, Castlefern and Craigdarroch. Expect full Scottish breakfast and luxurious bedrooms. www.3glens.com
Magnificent mountains - Ben Nevis, Scottish Highlands
The highest mountain in the British Isles, Ben Nevis stands 1,344 metres above sea level in the Scottish Highlands, close to the town of Fort William. Popular with walkers (though the mountain's quickly changing climate means the mountain is intolerant of inexperienced or ill-prepared walkers), it provides a dramatic backdrop to the small Highland town community of Fort William - the perfect place for tea and cake after a long day's walking in the shadow of the mountain.
Getting there: Fort William is 100 miles from Glasgow airport and 145 miles from Edinburgh.
Where to stay: Lochy Holiday Camping and Touring Park in Fort William provides a peaceful riverside location with great views of Ben Nevis and separate pitches for tents, touring caravans and motorhomes. www.lochy-holiday-park.co.ukRead more
1. Many British museums and galleries offer free entry. Try former brewery The Tetley for modern art in Leeds, northern England or, for something tangier, Colman's Mustard Museum in Norwich, eastern England. There's also the British Museum, National Gallery, Tate Britain, Tate Modern in London, Tate Liverpool in... Liverpool (unsurprisingly) and hundreds more. http://thetetley.org, www.mustardshopnorwich.co.uk
2. Similarly, few of Britain's famous churches levy visitors. Consider the Romanesque splendour of Durham Cathedral in northeastern England, or, in December, King's College Chapel's famous Christmas Eve carol service in Cambridge, an hour above London via train. Start queuing before 9am to guarantee entry. www.durhamcathedral.co.uk, www.kings.cam.ac.uk
3. While paid-for boat trips out into southwestern Wales' Cardigan Bay give visitors the best chance of watching dolphins, climbing to the overlooking village of Mwnt makes an ace budget alternative. www.discoverceredigion.co.uk
4. Tickets to many BBC shows in London, Sheffield, Birmingham, Belfast and other cities aren't priced; check www.bbc.co.uk/showsandtours/tickets/index.html for the latest availability.
5. Peckish? Entry to August's Clitheroe Food Festival in northwestern England is gratis, as are its demos and near-limitless sampling nibbles. clitheroefoodfestival.com
6. There's no charge for staring at the Cerne Abbas Giant, a huge chalk sculpture in Dorset, southern England, and one of Britain's finest man-made landmarks. Nor at Hadrian's Wall, which spans the length of far northern England. www.nationaltrust.org.uk, www.visitnorthumberland.com
7. A true Northern Irish landmark, the 125ft-high Scrabo Tower has wondrous views over Strangford Lough, just south-east of Belfast. No disbursement is needed to climb up. www.discovernorthernireland.com
8. Or there are complimentary natural wonders. Up in Scotland, Ben Nevis is the UK's highest mountain, but can be climbed in four hours. Ninety minutes' drive west of Cardiff, Wales's Rhossili Bay is a regular in charts of the world's best beaches. http://ben-nevis.com, www.visitswanseabay.com
9. Look out for Common Blues and rare Marsh Fritillaries for no cost at Dunsdon Nature Reserve in south-western England: the marshy meadows attract hosts of butterflies, particularly in May and June. www.devonwildlifetrust.org
10. One of the Northern Irish capital's grandest buildings, Belfast City Hall offers free, one-hour tours (Monday-Friday, 11am, 2pm & 3pm; Saturdays 2pm & 3pm) on a first-come, first-served basis. www.belfastcity.gov.uk
11. A fun, modern form of treasure-hunting, geocaching necessitates only a GPS device (i.e. your phone) and some common sense. Themed trails can act as an introduction to scenic British spots - for example, the Brecon Beacons Collection in eastern Wales. www.geocaching.com
12. When a major auction house - Christie's in London, say, or Birmingham's Fellows - has a big sale, why not go and view the lots, posing as a would-be buyer? No dues are required to do so. www.christies.com, www.fellows.co.uk
13. While some Banksy works sell for millions, others by the mysterious graffiti artist remain open to all. Follow a Banksy Walking Tour around Bristol to spy some of the best-remaining pieces, beginning with The Grim Reaper on a harbourside houseboat. http://visitbristol.co.uk.
14. Alternatively, head to Crosby Beach, near Liverpool, to see the Another Place installation: 100 ghostly, life-size iron figures by sculptor Antony Gormley, sprawling almost one kilometre out to sea. www.visitliverpool.com
15. Free guided walks, taking in the iconic Royal Crescent, are available in Bath, southwestern England. Further north, choose between culture and architecture by downloading the no-cost Manchester Walking Tours app to your iPhone. www.bathguides.org.uk, https://itunes.apple.com
16. Every August, Edinburgh's Fringe Festival incorporates thousands of freebie arts shows - drama, comedy, cabaret, spoken word and so on. Wander the city's cobbled Royal Mile to collect flyer invitations. www.edfringe.com
17. Other than the expenditure of hiring a two-wheeler, Britain's bicycle routes are free to enjoy. An hour from London, the Crab & Winkle Way is a leafy, seven-mile former railway line linking cathedral city Canterbury with the oyster-fishing hub of Whitstable. www.sustrans.org.uk
18. How about a free festival? There's London's famous Notting Hill Carnival on the August Bank Holiday weekend, or the Cardiff Summer Festival, a blur of street theatre, music and funfair rides. http://thenottinghillcarnival.com, www.cardiff-festival.com
19. City farms will delight small children, with pattable horses, mucky pigs and cuddly little lambs. There's one within Birmingham's Sheldon Country Park and also Rice Lane in Liverpool; entry to both is on the house. http://birmingham.gov.uk, http://ricelanecityfarm.org.uk
20. While Stonehenge charges visitors, Northern Ireland's equivalent does not. The seven Beaghmore Stone Circles, a 90-minute drive west from Belfast, are wild and atmospheric; one, known as Dragon's Teeth, boasts some 800 separate slabs. www.discovernorthernireland.com
21. One of Britain's classic royal spectacles, Changing of the Guard ceremonies outside London's Buckingham Palace don't cost a penny to view. www.changing-the-guard.com
22. Just up the Norfolk coast is Britain's best seal hotspot. Take a long-lens camera to Blakeney Point's saltmarshes in December and you'll get to see hundreds of cute grey seal pups. www.nationaltrust.org.uk
23. During September weekends in Scotland, Doors Open Days scheme enables complimentary access to a variety of heritage sites, buildings, farms and more. Last year's highlights included Glasgow Cathedral and creative offices at Dundee's waterfront District 10 development. www.doorsopendays.org.uk
24. Sure, some of Wales' 400 castles impose an entry tariff; but not the little-known Dryslwyn - despite the fabulous Towy Valley views from its regal hilltop perch. http://cadw.wales.gov.ukRead more
Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, which stretches for 720 square miles and lies within an hour's drive of Scotland's two biggest cities, Glasgow and Edinburgh, has added the final installation of its four architecturally designed viewpoints for visitors to enjoy its iconic landscapes of lochs, mountains, forests and glens in a new way.
Launched by Scotland's Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and the Environment, Richard Lochhead, ‘An Ceann Mòr' - Gaelic meaning large headland - is the fourth and final installation in the National Park as part of Scotland's £1.5million Scenic Routes pilot project, which aims to encourage visitors travelling along the country's tourist routes to stop and see views.
The eight-metre high, pyramid-shaped structure occupies a secluded spot at Inveruglas on the east bank of Loch Lomond, with spectacular views down the loch and over to the Arrochar Alps and Ben Lomond in the middle distance. With 31 steps, the iconic landmark offers elevated views and there is also a tunnel through the centre of the pyramid that opens up to reveal the same vista.
Designs for An Ceann Mòr were among 100 entries submitted to an architectural competition to find young architects, practicing for up to five years, to create four distinct installations in four geographically spread locations around Scotland's first National Park.
The other three viewpoints were realised in 2014 at the thundering Falls of Falloch, Balquihidder in the heart of Rob Roy country and Loch Lubnaig near Strathyre.
The next stage of the Scottish Scenic Routes pilot, which is already underway, will see installations added in Scotland's other National Park - Cairngorms - and at sites across Scotland identified by Scottish Canals.
An Ceann Mòr joins ‘Woven Sound' at Falls of Falloch, ‘LookOut' at Balquihidder and ‘Sloc nan Sìtheanach' (‘Faerie Hollow') at Loch Lubnaig.
Other new developments
Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park has also expanded its waterbus services, meaning there are further opportunities for ‘boat and bike' experiences. Balloch train station - only 50 minutes by train from Glasgow - is the southern gateway to the National Park. Visitors can hire bikes at Loch Lomond Shores, cycle 11 miles along the Cycle Path that follows the length of Loch Lomond to the picturesque village of Luss and take the waterbus back from there to Balloch.
The waterbus also opens up new options for walkers. A new service between Ardlui and Ardleish provides new access points to the West Highland Way. In addition, there's increased frequency of the service between Luss and Balmaha with Conic Hill, the Millennium Trail, Hidden Treasures Path and the West Highland Way - all popular walking options - or from Luss take a waterbus trip to Inchcailloch one of the many islands on Loch Lomond.
For those who prefer a more leisurely pace, cruises depart regularly for the first time from Loch Lomond Shores. Loch Lomond Shores also offers shops, cafés, restaurants and attractions including a Sea Life Centre, Bird of Prey Centre and new TreeZone Aerial Adventure Course. It is also the setting for the Loch Lomond Food and Drink Festival between 5 - 6 September.Read more
With a sporting heritage as long and robust as Britain's, try out one of these classic sporting experiences; whether you follow in the footsteps of revered mountaineers or paddleboard in a bustling port city, you won't find anything quite like these experiences anywhere else in the world.
Climb England's highest peak, Scafell Pike
The Lake District in north-west England is prime walking country and at its heart is Scafell Pike, England's highest peak at 3208ft/978m. From the top, you can see incredible views, responsible for sparking the imaginations of countless poets, painters and climbers: a sweeping panorama that stretches to Scotland, Wales, Ireland and the Isle of Man. It's not an easy climb, but well worth the effort! www.golakes.co.uk
Getting there: Penrith and Oxenholme stations are both about three hours north of London by train, then take public transport or drive to your chosen starting point.
Speed around Silverstone racing track
This is about as close as most of us will ever get to being a racing car driver. Silverstone has been the home of British motor racing since 1948, and even King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II have graced it with their presence. The Formula Silverstone Racing Car single seater experience puts you in the driving seat. Go from 0 to 60mph in under five seconds, as you sit inches above the tarmac of this hallowed track. www.silverstone.co.uk
Getting there: Silverstone is easy to reach by car, approximately 90 minutes north of central London and one hour south of Birmingham.
Climb in the handholds of Sir Edmund Hillary
At 1,112m/3,650ft, Snowdon is a mere hillock compared to Everest. But it's the spiritual home of the expedition team that first conquered the world's highest mountain in 1953. They used Snowdon and nearby peaks as a testing ground for high-altitude boots and carrying oxygen gear. Despite the comparative lack of altitude, the sheer rock faces, treacherous screes and tricky traverses are some of the most challenging in Britain. www.pyg.co.uk
Getting there: Betws-y-Coed station, nine miles/14km from PYG, is about five hours north of Cardiff and under three hours from Liverpool by train.
Take a stand-up paddleboard through Bristol
Bristol isn't your average port city. The infamous pirate Captain Blackbeard and offbeat graffiti artist Banksy both hail from here, so it seems only right to see the sights of south-west England's biggest city in a suitably offbeat manner: stand-up paddleboarding! Join a tour and drift in the shadow of ss Great Britain, the world's first large transatlantic passenger ship, and paddle across Bristol's beating heart, the floating harbour built in 1809. www.supbristol.com
Getting there: Bristol is less than two hours by train from London.
Go horse-riding in the New Forest National Park
There's something so right about travelling here by horseback. New Forest ponies have lived here since before the last Ice Age and still roam freely; in fact, the animals have the right of way and the park is riddled with sun-dappled open-access bridleways. Try Ford Farm Stables in Brockenhurst for serene rides in the heart of the forest. www.nfed.co.uk/fordfarm
Getting there: It takes 90 minutes by train from London to Brockenhurst.
Have a spin at the National Cycling Centre
Manchester's National Cycling Centre has a comprehensive range of activities suitable for everyone from complete novices to elite athletes, but start with a taster session and find out what it feels like to ride around a 42.5° banked velodrome. www.nationalcyclingcentre.com
Getting there: Easy to reach by public transport, car or the traffic-free cycle route from Manchester city centre.
Learn to surf in Newquay
This rugged spot on the north coast of Cornwall, Britain's most southern county, has around ten surf beaches and a vibrant surf community. Try Fistral Beach Surf School's group and private lessons, or just hire a board. They can also arrange accommodation on Tolcarne Beach - known for its consistent surf conditions - in surf shacks, beach cabins and luxury apartments, in the middle of the surfing and nightlife action. http://fistralbeach.co.uk
Getting there: Newquay is five hours by train from London.
Tour Game of Thrones set locations by bike
One of the best ways to see key Game of Thrones filming locations around Winterfell, aka Castle Ward in County Down is on two wheels! Pick up your ‘Stark Sack' so you can protect yourself as you pedal deep into the world of Westeros: to the tree branch below where Brienne confronts the Starkmen, where Bran falls from the castle, and the waters that brought Jamie Lannister ashore in a canoe. Then try your hand at archery in a replica of the Winterfell Archery Range in the very spot that filming took place. www.gameofthrones-winterfelltours.com
Getting there: Castle Ward is one hour south of Belfast by car.
Trek the world's first uninterrupted route along a national coast
The Wales Coast Path runs for 870 miles/1,400km. It goes through one GeoPark, two National Parks, three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, 11 National Nature Reserves, 14 Heritage Coasts and 23 sites on the Register of Historic Landscapes. In other words, it's one very long walk. If that sounds like too much work, there are plenty of shorter sections to choose from. The Dylan Thomas Walk goes past the boathouse where Thomas wrote Under Milk Wood, while the seven mile/11km section from Manobier to Tenby packs in thousands of years of history. And there are always those breathtaking sea views. www.walescoastpath.gov.ukRead more
There are hundreds of smaller heritage sites in Britain that are free to visit, plus plenty of passes, vouchers and schemes to ensure you can enjoy the very best of Britain's heritage, and still stretch to tea and cake at the end of a visit - an essential part of a heritage day out!
1. Lesser-visited London
In London, as well as most of the major museums being free to enter, there are a number of smaller, quirkier properties that give a fascinating insight into the history of the city. Visit Hogarth's House in Chiswick, former country home of the renowned artist William Hogarth and filled with his prints and engravings (nearest underground: Turnham Green). For something really quirky, discover Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge, deep in Epping Forest. Originally built in 1543 for Henry VIII, visitors can explore the Tudor kitchen, kids can try brass rubbing and dressing up in Tudor clothes, and see the staircase which - so legend has it - Queen Elizabeth rode her horse up. The Lodge is around 15 minutes' walk from Chingford Station, 25 minutes from Liverpool Street Station.
2. Pick a pass
If you're planning to see some of Britain's most iconic heritage sites, it's worth buying a ‘heritage pass', offered by the National Trust, English Heritage and Historic Scotland. But it's important to remember which sites are owned by which organisation; a nine-day English Heritage Overseas Visitor Pass (£30) gives free entry to more than 100 sites, including Stonehenge, Dover Castle in Kent and Hadrian's Wall in north England. Buy a seven-day National Trust Touring Pass (£26) and you can visit any of the Trust's 300 historic houses and gardens, including Chartwell, former home of Winston Churchill.
3. Take the train
Travelling by rail? Many train companies offer 2-for-1 deals on entry to heritage sites, when you present your rail ticket and a downloadable voucher. Scotrail, for example, offers 2-for-1 entry to a variety of sites, including Gladstone's Land, the 17th-century home of merchant Thomas Gledstanes, on Edinburgh's Royal Mile. Or head to the Highlands to visit the Glenfinnan Monument, marking the spot where the final Jacobite rising took place in 1745 and Bonnie Prince Charlie raised his standard on Loch Shiel's shores.
4. Discover Heritage Open Days
There's no better time for history lovers to visit Britain than in September, when the annual Heritage Open Days festival takes place. Separate festivals take place in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and London, but all are dedicated to opening up historic buildings that aren't normally accessible to the public - private homes, offices, cellars, hidden rooms and tunnels. Historic buildings that are normally open put on special events. Cinemas and theatres offer backstage tours, museums open up their archives and towns and villages around the country hold programmes of walks, talks, and history-themed events. Every event is completely free, including access to more than 150 National Trust properties and iconic buildings such as the Oxford and Cambridge colleges.
5. Secret Wales
Wales has more than 100 smaller sites that are free to visit. One of the most charming is Usk castle, (around an hour's drive from Cardiff) where the only gatekeepers are two large geese, and each visitors is asked to put a pebble into the large stone pot, so numbers can be counted at the end of each day. Or visit the ruined hilltop castle and village at Dryslwyn, which has stunning views over the Towy Valley (around one hour's drive from Cardiff) In addition, on St David's Day (1 March), some of the most iconic castles waive their entrance fee, including Tintern Abbey in the beautiful Wye Valley (around one hour's drive from Cardiff) and the fairy-tale Castel Coch (20 minutes' drive from Cardiff).
6. Walk into history
There are plenty of heritage sites to be found in the British countryside; and open access means there's never an admission charge. Take a walk along the iconic White Cliffs of Dover, around 90 minutes' drive from London, and pick up a leaflet at the Visitor Centre to learn about the significance of the coastline through the centuries. Or discover the colossal Iron Age fort of Maiden Castle, surrounded by the rolling Dorset countryside (around two hours' drive from London). In Northern Ireland, the iconic 'Giant's Causeway' - huge, basalt columns running alongside the sea - may be the country's biggest tourist draw, but it's still completely free.
Many historic properties that charge an entrance fee are surrounded by gorgeous grounds and gardens that are often free to enter. Petworth House in Sussex (around one hour's drive south of London) costs £15 to enter, but admission to the park is free, and offers the chance to see the beautiful house from the outside and stroll through the Capability Brown-designed gardens.
8. Churches and Cathedrals
Many of Britain's most beautiful cathedrals don't charge an entrance fee, offering the chance to explore the destination's religious heritage, while enjoying truly spectacular architecture. US author Bill Bryson called Durham "the best cathedral on planet earth"; dating back to the 11th century, visitors are free to explore the cloisters, undercroft and the beautifully vaulted main church. Durham is around three hours by train from London. Harry Potter fans should take advantage of the free access to Gloucester Cathedral, which featured in the movies as parts of Hogwarts School (there is a charge for Harry Potter tours).Read more
Sweeping across mile-long beaches, rolling hills and ancient remains, Britain's 46 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty showcase the destination's most spectacular landscapes. Here are some of the highlights.
The very first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, just outside the Welsh city of Swansea, has been protected since 1956. Rhossili Bay is regularly voted one of the world's best beaches. The 39-mile Gower Coastal Path highlights its joys and there are several campsites within it. Adventurous types can indulge in adrenaline-filled coasteering. www.visitswanseabay.com/destinations/gower-peninsula
Fifty years ago, the beauty of the Cotswolds was protected by being designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Punctuated by historic villages made from local honey-coloured stone, alongside meadows and rivers - including the start of the Thames - it's a quintessentially English landscape. There's a walking trail that covers the entire 90-mile length of the Cotswolds, starting in Chipping Camden in Oxfordshire and travelling to Bath, with plenty of pretty hotels and pubs to stay in en route. And holiday companies can transport your luggage for you as you walk. This year there are a series of events to commemorate the 50th anniversary. www.cotswoldsaonb.org.uk
Located just before the border with Scotland, things get rugged here. There are cliffs and sweeping beaches aplenty, studded with ancient forts such as Bamburgh. You'll also find the Farne Islands, home to thousands of grey seals, and Holy Island, which is linked to the mainland by a causeway that disappears as the tides rise. If you want to see it in comfort, you get a great view on the train between London and Edinburgh along the east coast. www.northumberlandcoastaonb.org
Isles of Scilly
These are a chain of small, almost other-worldly islands, surrounded by white sand beaches. As the most southerly part of the United Kingdom and part of Cornwall, spring arrives here first each year. There are five inhabited islands (mostly car-free) and over a hundred that aren't; you'll find a blissfully gentle way of life throughout the archipelago. Visit them via ferries from Penzance or flights from Newquay, Lands' End and Exeter. www.visitislesofscilly.com; www.ios-aonb.info
A hidden gem in the Midlands that even many British people don't know about - and beautifully unspoilt. With so few cars, it's great cycling country. Less than three hours north east from London by train, it has a strong Viking history. Stand on top of the aptly named Wolds Top and you'll have views across salt marshes and over to Lincoln Cathedral. www.visitlincolnshire.com/content/wolds
Next to the Cotswolds and south of Bristol and Bath - but with a dramatically different landscape - the Mendips Hills in Somerset take in steep gorges with staggering views and intricate cave systems (many of which can be explored). This is the home of both Cheddar Cheese and Glastonbury Tor, near the famous festival. It can be reached by train from London in about three hours. www.mendiphillsaonb.org.uk
Arnside & Silverdale
It's hard to pick out just one area of the Lake District for its beauty, but this part located near Morecambe Bay in Lancashire is worth searching out. To fully experience its stillness and serenity, visit one of its nature reserves. In spring you'll find wild daffodils, while summer brings butterflies, autumn red deer and migrating birds in winter. You can reach it in around three and a half hours from London. www.arnsidesilverdaleaonb.org.uk
Where Wales meets England, this is a 72-mile stretch of river between Chepstow and Hereford, studded with ancient woodland and wildlife. Head to Coppett Hill and you're likely to see peregrine falcons in the sky. Medieval monks built Tintern Abbey and its impressive ruins have attracted tourists from the 18th century onwards, while Wordsworth and the painter Turner came to be inspired. To get there, it takes around three hours by train from London. www.wyevalleyaonb.org.uk
The Giant's Causeway is the stuff of myth and legend. A series of dark, mostly hexagonal basalt columns, rising from the ground with the sea crashing against them - it's unlike any other landscape on earth. Caused by a volcanic eruption around 60 million years ago, the Causeway Coast is now mostly owned by the National Trust and about an hour's drive from Belfast. www.causewaycoastaonb.ccght.org
Lush farmland and gentle streams meandering towards the sea near Budleigh Salterton, this part of the Britain's Jurassic coastline is studded with fossils. In the West Country, around three hours by train from London, East Devon is famous for its thatched cottages and cream teas but also its small harbours and market towns. ww.eastdevonaonb.org.uk
Keyword: England,Cotswolds,Cumbria,Lake District,North East England,South West England,Northern Ireland,Causeway Coast & Glens,Wales,Pembrokeshire,Swansea Bay,Wye Valley and Vale of Usk,CountrysideRead more
Footballer, father and fashion icon, Beckham’s top tips reflect his interests and lifestyle with family friendly activities as well as sporty suggestions. Here are his exclusive tips:
1. Take a tour of Buckingham Palace.
Beckham says: “I've always been brought up to love the Royal Family and this year is a special year with the Queen's Jubilee. Buckingham Palace is in the heart of London and it’s been the scene of so many great moments in British history – none of us will ever forget the amazing wedding last year and best of all, it’s open for visitors during the summer so you can have a look around the State Apartments.”
2. Experience some real East London food at Tony Lane’s Pie & Mash shop.
Beckham says: “And here’s an insiders tip for a real East London food experience– you’ve got to try Pie & Mash (Tony Lane's Pie & Mash shop in Waltham Abbey is a favourite)”
Beckham says: “I've been fortunate to play in The Premier League, one of the greatest football leagues in the world, and you can’t beat the atmosphere of being there for a game. If you can’t catch a Game across the country then check out the fantastic stadium tours at places like Old Trafford, Anfield and Stamford Bridge, and of course, Wembley”
4. Grab some fresh air at one of the Royal Parks like Hyde, The Regent’s or Richmond.
Beckham says: “Families can get out in the fresh air at one of the London’s Royal Parks with the kids – Hyde and Regents Park are like an oasis in the Central London. Or get away from it all in Richmond Park where you can see wild deer, horse ride and amazing views across London.”
5. Play a round of golf at St Andrews.
Beckham says: “It seems like many sports in the world have their origins in Britain and Scotland is the home of Golf. It's where the game was invented and where you’ll find some of the most beautiful and challenging courses in the world. If you love the game, make your way to the Old Course at St Andrews Links.”
Beckham says: “Britain leads the world in fashion and has some of the best shopping experiences in the world. Manchester’s designer stores around the Northern Quarter are a match for anything in London, but if you don’t have time to leave the capital then you will be spoilt for choice around town and some fantastic markets like Camden, Portobello and Spitalfields.”
Beckham says: “Kids can’t get enough of theme parks as I know being a father of four. You're never far away from one in Britain: Alton Towers is close to Stoke and just outside London you’ll find Thorpe Park. New in town is the Warner Bros. Studio Tour where you can see the making of Harry Potter movies.”
8. Don’t miss London’s theatre scene and plays like War Horse or Jersey Boys;
Beckham says: “If there’s one thing you can’t miss when you’re in London, its Theatre land, I love going out with the family to a show. The West End is famous for musicals and shows and they are great for a night out or a family matinee. Young and old will love the Lion King or Matilda, and there’s always something to see when I’m back in London like like War Horse, or Jersey Boys.”
Beckham says: “You can get great food from all over the world in Britain and some of the best restaurants in the world can be found in London. Whether it’s a special night out at the Ivy, Ceconnis or Nobu, somewhere new like the Bread St Kitchen or Nopi in London.”
10. Go for a walk in the countryside and stop off at a pub along the way.
Beckham says: “Britain is famous for its countryside, and where better to end a bracing walk than sat by a log fire in one of our beautiful country pubs. The best places will always welcome kids and serve great local food.”
See the world's largest horses in Scotland
Inspired by the contribution horses have made to Britain's industrial heritage, and the shape-shifting creature of Scottish mythology, the giant steel sculptures named ‘The Kelpies' stand as towering gateways to the Helix, the Forth & Clyde canal, and Scotland itself. See the 30metre high equine sculptures as part of a tour, and learn about the complex engineering involved creating the figures, as well as the local history, and the story of working horses.
Getting there: The Kelpies are about an hour by car from Edinburgh
Gaze up to the castle in the clouds, Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle sits atop the capital city's own sleeping giant, the 700 million-year-old extinct volcano called Castle Rock. Dominating the skyline, the castle has a rich history and is open for exploration to the public. The castle has been called home by many kings and queens, including Queen Margaret and Mary Queen of Scots, and in its long history has bared witness to many sieges, battles and changes in allegiance between the Scottish and English. On your visit, see the gigantic expanse of towers and castle walls, the crown jewels, the ‘Stone of Destiny', the crown room and the Great Hall.
Getting there: Edinburgh is Scotland's capital city, and has its own international airport.
One of England's most iconic landmarks is London's clock tower, affectionately nicknamed ‘Big Ben' which forms part of the Houses of Parliament in Westminster. Officially named the Elizabeth Tower, the clock tower is the second largest in the world, and the largest in Europe.
Getting there: the nearest London Underground station to Big Ben is Westminster
Venture across England's largest lake, Lake Windermere
Located in one of England's National Parks, Lake Windermere can be found in Cumbria's Lake District in the north west of England. The beautiful landscape's jewel is the almost 11-mile (18.08km) long ribbon lake, which surrounds 18 small islands. Cumbria and the Lake District boast dramatic skylines filled with mountains and continuous views of England's green landscape.
Getting there: Lake Windermere can be found in the Lake District in north-west England. The nearest station is Oxenholme, 90 minutes by train from Manchester.
See the highest mountain in Snowdonia
See the giant Mount Snowdon, which is the highest mountain in Wales and the highest point in the British Isles outside of the Scottish Highlands. Visit the national nature reserve and feel microscopic against the national park's breath taking skyline. While there enjoy the scenery, take a boat trip, see an ancient cottage or even ride of the railway.
Getting there: Snowdonia National Park is in north Wales, just under a three-hour journey from Cardiff.
Be entertained in a huge theatre
The iconic Wales Millennium Centre is clad with a bronze-coloured dome and covers a 4.7 acre site with a total of eight arts organisations in residence. This huge site has one large theatre where opera, ballet, performance, dance and musicals can be enjoyed, as well as two smaller halls filled with shops bars and restaurants.
Getting there: The Wales Millennium Centre is a five-minute walk from Cardiff Bay Station, in the Welsh capital.
See the causeway built by giants in Northern Ireland
The world heritage site has been voted one of the greatest natural wonders of the United Kingdom, and is a perfect location to immerse yourself in giant myths and legend. One of the stories goes that Northern Ireland's iconic causeway was built by the Irish giant Fionn man Curnhaill when challenged to a fight by the Scottish giant Benandonne. The hexagonal basalt columns are the result of an ancient volcanic eruption and is one of Northern Ireland's most popular attractions.
Getting there: the Giant's Causeway is on the north coast of Northern Ireland, and is just over an hour's journey from Belfast.Read more