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Discover British Treasures in 2012!
If you’re a keen watcher of British royalty you will know that as part of the buildup to the Diamond Jubilee in June, this week we’re marking the 60th anniversary of Her Majesty the Queen’s accession to the throne in 1952. This event, the Olympic Games and a decent exchange rate are boosting interest in travel to Britain, and to help you create bespoke itineraries that set you apart from your competitors, I came across a gold mine of a booklet called “Little Treasures of Britain” at the recent Excursions trade show in London.
The booklet features a collection of Britain’s smaller attractions and festivals and includes the unexpected and the enchanting, ranging from transport, military history and intriguing private collections to examples of industrial ingenuity and the haunts of the rich, famous and creative. There are also picturesque rural landscapes, remarkable gardens and a great selection of places that produce traditional food and drink.
The list includes less well-known places such as: the sights, sounds and smells of 14th century Wales at the Medieval Village at Comeston in South Glamorgan; the 1642 Living History Village at Little Woodham near Portsmouth; the Abbotsbury Swannery on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast; the “Hanging Court,” Old Cells and Drop Room at Lancaster Castle; and the Handel House Museum in London and the Beatles Houses in Liverpool.
At the same event, I also found a number of other little gems that might interest you. In the southeast of England, it’s happy 40th anniversary to Richard and Katrina Burnett, owners of the Finchcocks Musical Museum, one of the world’s most important collections of period keyboard instruments with most of them in fully working order.
In this same area and near the cathedral city of Canterbury you’ll find Shepherd Neame, Britain’s oldest and arguably the best brewery in the picturesque market town of Faversham. It makes a great base for leisurely visits to lovely privately owned gardens like Mount Ephraim, Goodnestone Park (associated with Jane Austen), Doddington Place and my latest find at Beech Court. A few short miles away you’ll find the Jekyll and Lutyens Secret Gardens at Sandwich, now fully restored to their former glory. Heading westward, at the Beaulieu National Motor Museum, 50 iconic vehicles make up the new Bond in Motion Exhibition, which marks 50 years since the appearance of “Dr No,” the first James Bond movie.
If value-added garden tours are on your agenda, in Buckinghamshire you have treasure-filled Waddesdon Manor (home of the Rothschild family), the historic gardens at Waterperry, award winning Chenies Manor, the restored 18th century landscaped gardens at Stowe, and the delightful Old Thatch, the former home of children’s author Enid Blyton. Partner these outstanding attractions with others in the adjacent Oxfordshire Cotswolds and the Chelsea or Hampton Court Flower Shows and you may be on to a winning itinerary.
A bit further north, the Hidden England group of privately owned stately homes, castles and gardens are offering some very interesting special access tours of the Elizabethan masterpiece at Burghley House, Belvoir Castle, the family home of the Duke and Duchess of Rutland,16th century Doddington Hall, and the imposing castles at Grimsthorpe and Rockingham.
To commemorate the 150th year of the Royal ownership of the Sandringham Estate in Norfolk, the 2012 Faithful Companions Exhibition celebrates Her Majesty the Queen and her great grandmother Queen Alexandra’s attachment to their dogs. Near Windsor Castle, the Savill Garden is offering groups a Royal Garden Party with a Diamond Jubilee Afternoon Tea.
Back in London, some front stage and backstage tours that have caught my eye include the London Colliseum, which is home to the English National Ballet, The Velvet, Gilt and Glamour tour of the Royal Opera House, and at the Royal Albert Hall, tales of famous conductors, orchestras and talented musicians will be told from the comfort of your own private box.
In this year of royal celebrations, one London attraction that should be added to your clients’ “must see” list is the Household Cavalry Museum. Located at Horseguards in Whitehall, it offers an intriguing insight into the ceremonial and operational role of the British army’s two senior regiments, the Life Guards and the Blues and Royals.
As to when you might time your visit to coincide with some of our strange and eccentric annual events, my “Little Treasures of Britain” booklet suggests the Maldon Mud Race in April and the Festival of Fools, Cheese Rolling and the Sweeps Festival in May. In June, you can choose from the 400th anniversary of the Robert Dover’s Olimpick Games (note the spelling) and the World Toe Wresting Championships. In July, there’s the World Snail Racing Championships. And there’s a whole lot more beyond that!
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