Leeds Castle

July 11, 2012 at 10:03 am | Posted in General, Out and About, Travel, UK, Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Take a day trip out of London and go visit Leeds Castle (and you don’t need to go to Leeds to get there).
Leeds Castle (73) Leeds Castle (87)

The castle is actually in south-east England, in Maidstone Kent and is relatively easy to get to. Although you will have to time it with the coaches that will get you there and back again.
Leeds Castle (90) Leeds Castle (78)

It is very easy to spend a day here walking through the grounds or taking in bird shows

Leeds Castle (41) Leeds Castle (62)

If you’re here during a medieval showcase you may see some jousting!

Leeds Castle (2) Leeds Castle (91)

You can also do a host of other activities like falconry and segwway tours (sadly not together) or maybe just sit around and have a picnic.
Leeds Castle (95) Leeds Castle (69)

Much of the castle was modernised during the 1920s so you’ll get a taste of the glamour of that period but you’ll also have opportunities to see other areas which highlight the 1000 year history of the castle.

There’s also a maze!
Leeds Castle (48)

It really is a lovely estate and one I’d suggest you try and get to.

Photos at Flickr

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Leamington Spa & Kenilworth

July 10, 2012 at 10:01 am | Posted in General, Out and About, Travel, UK, Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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The final part of my west midlands tour from a year ago was visiting Leamington Spa and Kenilworth. I stayed at a central but less than great Travelodge (for the price should I really make my own bed?), although this was a year ago so perhaps it has improved.
Leamington Spa (6)

Leamington itself, while showing signs of recession was a good central base for the surrounding area and was quiet and pleasant to walk without ever feeling dangerous. What’re the main things to do:

Royal Pump Rooms – The main museum for the town, showcasing it’s history as a resort town famous for it’s waters (and being popular with Queen Victoria)

Jephson Gardens – A set of gardens (shocking I know) near the pump rooms. Nice for a walk around.
Leamington Spa (26) Leamington Spa (15)

Kenilworth Castle – this was undoubtedly the highlight of my time in the west midlands. A big call I know. Perhaps it was because I’d only heard of the castle in passing, that it took a bus ride and a walk to find or maybe the other sites from the region had tempered my expectations. The Castle, like so much in Britain has a storied history, particularly as home to Robert Dudley the love of Elizabeth I.
Kenilworth Castle (123) Kenilworth Castle (119)

Most of the Castle is now in ruins and that’s what gives this site its power for me. For once British weather was only overcast and windy but lacked rain. Venturing through the collapsed walls with nothing but fields surrounding you, with the air whipping around provided an excellent atmosphere. Dare I say even a romantic one?
Kenilworth Castle (111) Kenilworth Castle (103)

Make sure to pick up the audio tour and take in the ornate gardens.
Kenilworth Castle (108) Kenilworth Castle (75)

I realise my in-depth descriptions may make Leamington Spa sound quite dull. Perhaps it is but sometimes you need a bit of a break and Leamington offers just enough stuff (or access to stuff) to make a weekend of it. Or if you feel like it a day trip.

Photos at Flickr

Map at Google

Warwick

July 9, 2012 at 10:00 am | Posted in General, Out and About, Tourism, Travel, UK, Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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While continuing my recap of adventures had a year ago, here is round up of what Warwick has to offer.

Warwick Castle – It’s apparently Britain’s ultimate castle and does quite feel like it. There are some extensive grounds to picnic or stroll around, although you do have to share it with some peacocks. The history of the castle and its place in broader British history is interesting, such as its involvement in the civil war and even attempts at modernising its power supply offer something for everyone. Oh wait you don’t think that’s enough? OK well there are trebuchet, knights and archery displays too.
Warick Castle (58) Warick Castle (52)

You’ll have to pay additional charges if you want to do the Merlin (as in the tv show) tower and dungeon shows. Both of which I did do and they have high snark/campiness values but if you can put that aside you might have a laugh. I only smiled wryly. Warwick Castle is the primary attraction hence all the time spent on it here. It is silly and over the top but there is something slightly endearing about it especially on a nice day and when you get to the top of the battlements and have a view over the surrounding area. It is possible to spend a good chunk of the day here but also have enough time to check out Warwick’s other sites.
Warick Castle (39) Warick Castle (42)

Warwickshire museum – a mid sized museum with some interesting displays covering the geology, dinosaurs, neolithic, Roman, medieval and modern history of the area. A good overall view.

St John’s House – a larger museum offering a social history of the area, covering everything from home life to the military. I got here quite late in the day so had to rush around in about 20 minutes but if you can spare 30-40 you should get a decent idea.
Warick (1)

Lord Leycester Hospital – is a 16th century building that’s primarily a home for retired servicemen but given its age is also home to a museum and also permits tours of its chapel (apparently Tolkein got married there) and gardens. The staff were quite friendly and it was a pleasant wander although the military history didn’t really engage me (I put that down to fatigue). NB the link is to Wikipedia as their main site doesn’t appear to be working.
Warick (34) Warick (23)

After all of that I don’t really know if ‘adventures’ was the right term. Nonetheless it was pretty interesting if a touch commercial, although the castle offers a lot for families.

Photos at Flickr

Map at Google

Stratford-upon-Avon

July 8, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Posted in General, Out and About, Travel, UK, Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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About a year ago I visited Stratford-upon-Avon, most famous for being the birthplace of Shakespeare and home to the Royal Shakespeare Company. So, what can you see and do in Stratford-upon-Avon (not to be confused with Olympic hosting Stratford), well:

Royal Shakespeare Company and RSC tower – you can visit the RSC to take in-person tours, an audio tour and go up the tower to take in the view. The tours and tower were booked out for the day I visited and the audio tour was not working. I’d recommend you download the tour before you come (I tried to do it on my old HTC Desire but was unable to play it). Unfortunately a year later this link (and service?) no longer seems to be available. You can also take in a performance if you have time.
Stratford upon Avon (58)

Bancroft Gardens – These gardens are located by the river and and the RSC and are an excellent way to sit back and watch the world unfold. Very relaxing.
Stratford upon Avon (60) Stratford upon Avon (32)

Holy Trinity Church – A small church near the banks of the river, which is worth a look for its architecture, grounds and as the place where Shakespeare is buried.
Stratford upon Avon (29)

Shakespeare Birthplace – This really should be your first stop as it provides more than just the place Shakespeare was born but also a broad context of his life and the importance of his works. You will probably have to contend with a fair few tourists here though.You can also buy the multi-pass for the other buildings they manage.
Stratford upon Avon (72)

Halls Croft and Nash’s House – the other two trust properties in town offer more historical context and background to the archaeological process. Neither take a particularly long to do and are worth a quick look. The trust runs a couple of other properties but they’re not as accessible, especially on a day trip.
Stratford upon Avon (16) Stratford upon Avon (5)

Farmers Market – Depending on when you visit you may come across the farmers market between the station and all the Shakespeare stuff.
Stratford upon Avon (73)

On the whole Stratford-upon-Avon is interesting and worth a visit. Personally though I’d probably only spend a day (or less here).

Photos at Flickr.

Map at Google.

Eltham Palace

April 14, 2012 at 11:40 am | Posted in London, Out and About, Tourism, Travel, UK | 1 Comment
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Want gardens, medieval history and art deco glamour? Then Eltham Palace is the place for you.
Eltham Palace (69)

It’s not exactly a palace though. It used to be but much of it was destroyed though there is still the impressive medieval hall with its high ceiling to look at.
Eltham Palace (65) Eltham Palace (64)

The more interesting element is the 1930s mansion that was built next to the medieval hall with its art deco opulence. Seeing these two sit side by side and imagining the lifestyle (assuming you don’t currently live in gold plated luxury) is the main reason to visit Eltham Palace.
Eltham Palace (59) Eltham Palace (53)

Although the rooms showcasing the army dorms, which the building was used for after the family left are a touch less stylish.

Do remember to pick up the audio guide!

Surrounding the mansion and hall are some extensive gardens. Having a wander through them is quite relaxing.
Eltham Palace (48) Eltham Palace (44)

If you can make it to Eltham in south east London then I would recommend going to the palace.
Eltham Palace (36) Eltham Palace (62)

Photos at Flickr! (Note: no photos can be taken inside)

Google maps.

Leeds

February 19, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Posted in Travel, UK, Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Visited Leeds in 2012.

Some things I did:

  • Royal Armouries Museum – want to know about weapons? Here’s the place! From medieval to modern, there’s a lot to see here and it will take several hours to go through all of the exhibits
  • Leeds Museum – Eclectic mix, one of the sections that was particularly useful was the development of the city especially the impact of the industrial revolution on it and its citizens
  • Leeds Art Gallery – Collection of art, what more would you need to know?

Take a walk around town, if you like shopping there’re lots of options and pedestrian malls. Many of the buildings are impressive as well.

Probably did some other things but my photo set is incomplete so my memory isn’t getting jogged.

Some photos at Flickr.

York

February 19, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Posted in Travel, UK, Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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In 2012 I went up to York during a particularly snowy winter.

Some of the things to do:

  • York Minster – York’s impressive cathedral, take a walk around and soak it in
  • Clifford’s Tower – on the other side of the city from the Minster (but easy to get to), at the top of the tower you can get great views of the surrounding area
  • Yorkshire Museum – not overly impressive (though I’m biased after having access to London) but covers a number of topics so something for everyone
  • JORVIK – when I mentioned I was coming to York people recommended JORVIK, it’s a Viking centre which covers the period when the Viking were in charge of the area. Part museum, part ride where you take a vehicle on rails seeing and smelling the activities of the time.
  • Betty’s – As well as JORVIK the other must do people recommended was Betty’s. A tea room in the heart of York offering teas and cakes and a very pleasant atmosphere.

Other:

  • Yorkshire pudding – You’re in York why not have one of them!
  • alleys and walking – The city is well known for it’s crooked and narrow streets and alleys, make sure you walk around
  • The city walls – much of the city walls can still be walked on so give that a go. They were closed when I was there due to the ice.

Photos at Flickr.

Dover

February 19, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Posted in Travel, UK, Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Ages ago now I went to Dover. Quite possibly nothing is still relevant but hey let’s give it a go.

While I didn’t go to the cliffs I did take the day to explore the fascinating Dover Castle.

It’s walkable from the station on the way you can visit the Dover Museum (notably the bronze age boat) as well!

The castle complex is large and easy to wander around where you’ll learn about the different periods (from medieval to world war two).

There are some interesting exhibits, particularly the new (at the time) ones dealing with Operation Dynamo and the evacuation of Dunkirk. The downside is that due to space restrictions if mis timed with the arrival of a tour bus(es) you may find getting into some of these exhibits more of a challenge.

Otherwise a great day out and recommended!

Photos at Flickr.

Halifax

February 19, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Posted in Travel, UK, Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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In 2011 I went to Halifax for a wedding, which was great and I did a tiny bit of sightseeing as well.

The main place, other than just wandering around was Shibden Hall. Bit of a walk to get to but not unmanageable and if you have a car it’s very easy.

It’s a historic building (first constructed in the 1400s) set amongst large gardens that are perfect for walking around or sitting in and enjoying the day. Take the opportunity to walk through the house and learn about its stories and the people and work undertaken there over the hundred of years.

Photos at Flickr

Florence Nightingale Museum

May 3, 2011 at 7:00 pm | Posted in General, London, museum, Out and About, Tourism, Travel, UK | Leave a comment
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Not suprisingly this London museum is devoted to Florence Nightingale (1820 -1910). It covers her upbringing, early work in medicine, time during the Crimean war and her later years until her death.

The materials are all presented very well (given a relatively small space) with different “environments” for each period. For example her early life is set in a garden with a hedge row and the display cases are set within the “hedge”.

There is an audio tour that you can (and should use) but with a slight twist. The curators have dispensed with the traditional walk around headset and opted for a stethoscopes that you place on spots around the museum to hear commentary. I assume they’re all thoroughly washed afterwards! One of these includes an actual recording of Florence.

All in all it was a fascinating museum and it detailed the life of this remarkable woman well.

Situated in the grounds of St Thomas Hospital near Westminster bridge and the London Eye. It’s on the ground floor near the car park so you may need to go down a level if you walk across the road from the bridge.

I spent about 90 minutes there and if costs £5.80 for an adult.

I would have included some photos but my phone’s SD card died.

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