GENERAL OVERVIEW OF ENGLAND The London Bridge and Tower of London are world icons, and stories about the royal family seem to hold everyone’s interest. Well-preserved castles dot the countryside, as well as archaeological landmarks like Avebury and Stonehenge. The small country is highly concentrated with delightful towns, part of whose enchantment is the friendliness of the local pub.
LONDON Nine million people inhabit this city of famous landmarks, many of which can be viewed from a cruise on the Thames River. Westminster Abbey, London Bridge, the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and the Egyptian Obelisk swarm with tourists. Princess Diana’s former residence at Kensington, Harrods department store, Picadilly Circus, eateries and nightspots hum 24/7.
TRANSPORTATION TO AND AROUND LONDON The Chunnel crossing (in a rail car under the sea) between England and France is busy, as are Gatwick & Heathrow airports. Both bus and subway will get you into the city from there. The rail links are clearly marked and priced according to distance traveled. Traditional black taxis are fun, cycling is popular, and those who rent cars should learn to use traffic circles.
MANCHESTER Because of its recent major face-lift, many say that Manchester’s not the same place it was 20 years ago, or even 10 years ago. Contemporary design sits alongside spires and gargoyles of a bygone era. It was the IRA bombings in 1996 that launched a massive renovation project that changed the face of what was once a very industrial city. The charming downtown area is characterized by funky bars, restaurants and cafes and a modern convention center has also helped to change the face of the city. Manchester has seen several waves of immigration, from the influx of Irish and Jewish people in the 19th century, then Caribbean, and then Asian settlers more recently. It’s a mecca for smart shopping, housing designer icons and trendy boutiques along with traditional English favourites. A 15-minute tram journey from St Peter’s Square takes you to The Quays waterfront destination, once a busy inland port where leisure attractions and shopping are rejuvenating the city.
HOLLINGTON HOUSE & BISHOPSTROW HOUSE Located near Heathrow Airport and built in the early 1900’s as a fine Edwardian residence, Hollington House now serves as refined accommodation. Bishopstrow House in Warminster is also upscale with spa and salon amenities. England’s countryside is filled with charming B and B’s, with the requisite town pub serving fine ales and fish-n-chips.
DOVER & DOVER CASTLE Located in Kent in the south of England on the English Channel, the Port of Dover is a significant transportation hub, with all ferry, hovercraft and Chunnel traffic between England, France and Belgium passing through. Dover Castle is perched atop the White Cliffs of Dover, having served a strategic purpose for over 3500 years. The fortress was used until as recently as the 1960’s.
GREENWICH A fifteen minute train ride from Charing Cross in London, Greenwich is the home of the clipper, the Cutty Sark, and the Maritime Museum. Most visitors come to see the place that marks the meridian of zero degrees longitude which runs through the Royal Observatory, the line upon which all time zones are based.
STONEHENGE The origins of these prehistoric monuments are unknown, and have been dated back at least 5000 years. The stones are aligned to align with the summer and winter solstices, attracting mystery seekers and those that appreciate the spiritual significance. Bus tours make a visit to Stonehenge a day trip while campground nearby makes the site more easily accessible in the morning.
AVEBURY Silberry Hill is an ancient mound near Avebury, a village which is located in Marlborough in the middle of a prehistoric stone circle. The more than 180 stones have been there for almost 5000 years, while the village came much later. The town is accented with thatch-roofed buildings filled with unique shops sporting Celtic & New Age relics. Friendly old fashioned hospitality and good bus service round out the town’s attributes.
CANTERBURY Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” were inspired by this town located in Kent in the south of England. The Westgate Museum is housed in the Medieval Fortified Gatehouse, containing armery from the area’s military skirmishes throughout history. Canterbury Cathedral is the seat of the Archbishop of the Anglican Church and Palace Street thrums with shops and trendy cafés.
CHIDINGSTONE This enchanting village in Kent has a cute story. Owned by England’s National Trust, 16th and 17th century houses filled with important collections line its perfect streets. A large stone in town is allegedly a site where husbands were once encouraged to chain their nagging wives for the day!
CROP CIRCLES Drawings have been carved into the hillsides for centuries in Wessex. Here, the Barge Inn is sympathetic to modern day crop circle seekers, providing a place to discuss and chart sightings of the mysterious markings in the crops. When in Wiltshire, the best way to get a peek for yourself is to take a spin on an ultralight plane and view them from above.
GROOMSBRIDGE Groombridge Place dates back to the 17th century, complete with an Enchanted Forest and gardens that were started over 300 years ago. It’s a park full of whimsy, with gypsy caravans mingling with peacocks in a splendiferous garden setting.
ROCHESTER Situated on the banks of the Medway River, the cathedral city of Rochester has 2000 years of history. Old world pubs, markets and antique shops add to the town’s considerable appeal. Charles Dickens got his inspiration for his novel “Great Expectations” here, the place where he spent his childhood.
BED & BREAKFASTS IN ENGLAND To really see England, it’s best to get out of the cities and explore the gorgeous countryside. B and B’s such as Thruxted Oust in Chartham devote themselves to the absolute and supreme comfort of guests, with breakfasts created from produce grown in the yard where you are also invited to relax. B and B’s present a comparatively inexpensive accommodation choice.