Cynics might say that Enjoy England’s Spare Day campaign is just another ploy to get us spending but getting to grips with England’s rich cultural, historical and natural heritage can be a truly enriching experience. Visiting England’s glorious gardens, woodlands and natural parks also helps to conserve them, with money raised from entry fees helping to keep them going. We’ve rounded up a few of our favourites to get you started.
Why go: The inspiration for Meryvn Peake’s novel, Gormenghast, the 11th century Arundel Castle has a long and bloody history that saw it host the Empress Matilda during the Cousin Wars [The Anarchy] and the execution of its owner, Thomas Howard the fourth Earl of Norfolk, for conspiring with Mary Queen of Scots in 1572. Today, the castle remains the principal seat of the dukes of Norfolk and contains one of the UK’s finest tapestry collections. If you fancy a bit of exercise, try climbing the 131 steps up to the brooding battlements for a spectacular view of the surrounding countryside.
Find out more: www.arundelcastle.org
The Royal Observatory
Why go: Straddling the famous Greenwich Meridian, the Royal Observatory is perfect for whiling away a few hours finding out more about the history of time. Built in the late 16th century, the Dome houses the Royal Observatory’s enormous telescope, which weighs over 90kg and has been helping astronomists’ understanding of the heavens for well over 100 years. Once you’ve seen enough of the Royal Observatory, the nearby Greenwich Maritime Museum is well worth a visit.
Find out more: www.nmm.ac.uk
The New Forest
Why go: Less than 70 miles from London is the New Forest, one of the UK’s oldest woodlands and home to a diverse range of flora and fauna. Created a royal forest by William the Conqueror in 1079, its rare mixture of deciduous woodland, valley bogs and heath land provide habitats to a number of endangered plant and animal species including the New Forest Cicada, adders, Hen Harriers and the famous New Forest pony.
Find out more: www.thenewforest.co.uk
Why go: Founded by the Anglo-Saxons, burnt down by the Vikings and rebuilt by the Normans, the 12th century Peterborough Cathedral is one of England’s most beautiful ecclesiastical buildings. A masterpiece of gothic architecture, its soaring spires, exquisite stained glass and extensive collection of historical treasures make spending a few hours getting to know it, a real pleasure. The cathedral is also the burial place of Henry VIII’s first queen, Catherine of Aragon; still remembered by locals and well-wishers who regularly leave fresh flowers on her tomb. The headless remains of Mary Queen of Scots were also interred in the cathedral but were later moved to Westminster on the orders of her son, King James I.
Find out more: www.peterborough-cathedral.org.uk
Why go: Set in 3000 acres of parkland, Woburn Abbey has been the seat of the dukes of Bedford for over 300 years. The park is a mixture of open grassland and native deciduous trees and is home to a herd of rare Pere David deer. The house and gardens have been fully restored by the current duke and his parents, and highlights include the stunning grotto with its mother-of-pearl walls, and Queen Victoria’s state bedroom. Nearby attractions include the picturesque Georgian village of Woburn, which has an excellent antiques market and variety of places to eat. The historic Black Horse pub on the high street serves delicious local produce and is the perfect place for a pit stop.
Find out more: www.woburn.co.uk
For more day trip ideas, go to www.enjoyengland.com
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