Category Archives: United Kingdom

UK Summer Food Festivals

The English Summer and its new season of produce is upon us, which spells one thing; a fresh crop of brilliant food festivals popping up across the country. From all-out foodie extravaganzas including music and banquets at Port Eliot and Big Feastival, to niche, relaxed fare at the Isle of Wight’s Garlic Festival, whatever your gastronomic preference, Britain has it covered…

Pommery Dorset Seafood Festival – Dorset, South-West England
8 – 9 July 2017

Brits know how to put on a fantastic seafood festival and the award-winning Dorset Seafood Festival is a fine example – the largest seafood festival in the country and free to attend. Taking place in Weybridge Harbour, this year it has a focus on cuttlefish and how to cook them. There’s a brilliant range of events and tastings, and talks from everyone from Mitch Tonks to Pete Murt, head chef at Rick Stein. There will also be a lobster and champagne pop-up, demo theatres and stages made from upturned boats!
Getting there: Weymouth in southern England, a two-hour and 45-minute train journey from London – or why not stop by the festival on our Discover South West England rail itinerary?

Port Eliot – Cornwall, south-west England
27 – 30 July 2017

Port Eliot  is the sort of festival that feels like the world’s most magical secret garden party. Set in the rolling Cornish countryside, within the grounds of the quintessentially British Port Eliot House and Gardens, it’s so pretty that Napoleon once claimed it ‘the most beautiful place in England’. The festival is also renowned as a foodie lovers’ favourite with a long list of celebrated chefs attending every year. Taste some of the freshest just-caught fish from the atmospheric fairy-lit Oyster Shack in the walled garden.
Getting there: St. Germans is in Cornwall, south-west England, a three-hour and 40-minute journey from London.

Isle of Wight Garlic Festival, southern England
19 – 20 August 2017

If there ever was a niche food festival, then the Isle of Wight Garlic Festival is it. Celebrating the endless versatility of the little white allium, the Great British Bake Off’s TV star baker Jane Beedle will be among the chefs giving cooking demonstrations and signing books. Of course, it’s not just garlic, there’ll be other delicious local produce on offer, like meats, cheeses, honey and cider. Don’t miss the chance to tickle your taste buds and try some garlic fudge!
Getting there: The Isle of Wight sits four miles off the coast of Hampshire. Portsmouth in Hampshire is an hour and 40-minute train journey from London. Regular ferries run between Portsmouth Harbour and the Isle of Wight.

Big Feastival – Cotswolds, south central England
25 – 27 August 2017

Every year, Blur’s bassist-turned-cheesemaker Alex James opens up his farm in the Cotswolds for the Big Feastival. The aptly named festival really is a feast for all the senses, as up on the bill of celebrity chefs are Rick and Jack Stein, Antonio Carluccio, Nathan Outlaw, Neil Rankin, Romy Gill and Gizzi Erskine. There’ll be feasts and banquets, a food and drink market, street food, table sessions, a ‘cookaholics’ cookery school and Alex James’ famous double-decker cheese hub.
Getting there: Kingham is in the Cotswolds, an hour and 25-minute train journey from London, or you can visit the beautiful area on our Cotswolds & West Country rail itinerary.

History and Scenery in the Lakes District

Northern England is the home to dramatic landscapes, deep lakes, Roman ruins, the Beatles and many famous train lines. And what better way to see everything it has to offer than on one of our new rail itineraries encompassing the beautiful Lakes District and beyond?

In such a spectacular part of the world, no other form of travel provides you with quite the same opportunity to feast your eyes on the sights before you. Each flexible itinerary incorporates one of the famous train journeys of the UK: from the astounding beauty of the Cambrian Coast Line with its misty cloud formations over the sea and the abundance of wildlife; to the Trans-Pennine Express, through the dramatic green mountain range, known for its magnificent views.

Long before rail travel was possible, the North of England was a hive of Roman activity. Here in 120 CE, Emperor Hadrian feared the ‘savages’ of the North and to preserve his empire ordered the construction of a wall, spanning the width of the land. If this sounds a bit like the popular contemporary TV series, Game of Thrones, remember that life can sometimes be stranger than fiction. Today, abundant ruins of this engineering feat remain and the wild men ‘Beyond the Wall’ are England’s Scottish neighbours.

On our Magical Lakes & Liverpool itinerary, travellers are based out of Preston with five days of exploration before them. It is a short rail journey to the City of Lakes, Carlisle, the once centre of Roman power by the Wall. In the shadows of the stone World Heritage ruins, the English/Scottish border lies.

On our Discover Lakes, Liverpool & Leeds itinerary, explore Chester with the most intact Roman Cavalry Fort in Britain. As one wanders through the well preserved ruins, it’s not hard to imagine you can hear the jovial laughter from the officers quarters or the clang of sword against sword from the practice yard; smell the faint aroma of sweat and the horses outside overlaid with sweet perfumes from the bath house; or even see a glimpse of a rough-hewn tunic forever swishing around the corner in front of you.

For more contemporary history, Liverpool is the home of the Beatles and a significant trade port since the 1700s. Shaking away the shackles of an insalubrious past, Liverpool is a significant cosmopolitan city with many hip cafes, bars and restaurants, as well as High Street shopping and small boutiques.

The train out to Windermere from either Manchester or Preston is a picturesque journey, taking travellers into the heart of the Lakes District and the largest lake in England. Travellers can enjoy a cruise on the lake or visit some of the most quaint lakeside villages, popular tourist destinations since the train line opened in the 1800s.

Our new Tempo Superbreaks give travellers the chance to soak up regional Britain at their leisure and see scenery inaccessible by car, while indulging in the nostalgia inherent on any railway journey.

Exploring the Yorkshire Dales

 

Yorkshire is known for its sweeping, dramatic landscapes and the Dales are a prime example of this. Lush green valleys and many a babbling brook that converges into a rushing river, history bequeaths every dale with a rich story of early occupation by Danes, Norseman and Romans. Interestingly, dale comes from dael the old English word meaning valley, derived from Nordic language.

Due to the high rainfall of the area, the land looks perpetually dressed in verdant greenery, punctuated in the spring to summer with a smattering of wildflowers in purples, yellows and whites. In the spring, scents of wild garlic fills the air as you wander, while seeing delicate wild orchids bravely opening themselves to the sun’s rays is not at all uncommon. And while you certainly don’t go to the Dales expecting temperate weather, the long summer days are perfect for a hilltop hike where you can’t help but feel as though it is just you and the wildflowers – even as down below the roads are busy with your fellow tourists.

In winter, the snow cloaks the fields with unblemished and pristine consistency. Small towns can be found dotted around and throughout the National Park – towns with strong heritage as medieval trade ports or strategic strongholds in long ago skirmishes.

Charming Skipton

The market town of Skipton is a great place from which to explore the Dales, and also holds a few attractions itself. This charming town, 2014’s best town to live, is home to the most complete and best preserved medieval castle in England that is open to the public. A castle was first built on this site in 1090 by Robert de Romille, a Norman Baron, but the timber ramparts did little to stop the invading Scots. This was quickly replaced with a stone fortress that was then fortified and considerably extended in the 12th century when King Edward II granted the lands to the Clifford family.

Visitors can explore the Banqueting Hall, the Kitchen, the Bedchamber and Privy and even climb from the depths of the Dungeon to the top storey of the Watch Tower.

Skipton rose to prominence as a market town with a strong trade in woollen goods and sheep as it was well connected to Leeds and Liverpool by a canal. Today, it’s lovely to walk around the original market to pick yourself up something special and then find a quiet spot by the canal to watch the boats chug past.

Wander your way over hill and dale

Often known as the gateway to the Yorkshire Dales, Grassington National Park Centre near Skipton is the starting point of many scenic trails, varying in difficulty and length for people of all fitness and experience levels. Other scenic walks in the Dales include the lovely Malham village walk down to the cove on famous limestone pavement or the enchanting Asygarth waterfalls further north. Anywhere you go in this area though, you are bound to be struck by the beautiful scenes, whether it is a well frequented viewing spot or somewhere you simply stumble upon.

Grassington is also home to a two week summer arts and culture festival that showcases great music and art in the beautiful Dales setting. Skipton’s premier festival is the Skipton Sheep Festival on the first Sunday in July where the heritage of the Dales and the market town are on show with demonstrations, stalls, entertainment and classic Yorkshire fare on offer.


Incorporate an exploration of the Yorkshire Dales into one of our Tempo Superbreaks. Our Northern Coast & Country Package out of York can be extended to further explore the county of Yorkshire or visit the Dales from Skipton on our Discover Yorkshire itinerary.

Pirates, flowers & the seaside in Britain’s Southwest

Relive the rail travel of old in regional England! Rail networks have been essential to the survival of the nation for the past centuries and are a wonderful way to see the beauty of England’s rural heart. Our new four to six day Tempo Superbreaks throughout regional Britain are an easy way for travellers to explore, full steam ahead.

Picture this: a young man falls in love as he finishes his apprenticeship to a band of jovial pirates in his 21st year. However, he discovers his birthday is actually on the 29th of February and so he only has a birthday every leap year. Duty-bound, he must remain with the pirates until his 21st birthday at the grand old age of 84. His love, faithfully and tragically, agrees to wait for him.

Sound familiar? This is the classic Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera, The Pirates of Penzance that debuted in 1879 to grand success. And it is set, as the name suggests in Penzance, a lovely seaside town on the South West coast of England. Penzance is set on Mount’s Bay, a body of water dominated by the splendour the medieval tidal island abbey of St Michael’s Mount.

In a sheltered position close to the sea and just 10 miles from Land’s End, Penzance enjoys the most temperate climate of the UK – expect to see some sunshine! Home of pirates, smugglers, beautiful churches, Victorian markets and UNESCO Heritage Listed Roman baths, our Discover Southwest England itinerary based out of Exeter is the perfect way to see this quaint part of the world.

Travellers begin with the Tarka line to Barnstaple, Britain’s most scenic train journey through lush green fields and imposing pine forests with sandy beached coastal views. In Barnstaple, visitors will experience the trade of a time immemorial in the Victorian Market Hall with its high vaulted glass and timber ceiling supported by iron columns. A stroll around the this once trade town allows you to recreate in your mind’s eye the bustle of a trade town, while the port still shows signs of its 17th century origin.

This new package also incorporates one of the original great lines of the UK, the Great Western Railway founded in 1833, taking travellers to Penzance. This has a turbulent history of both public and private ownership but since 2015 has been restored to its former glory, taking in deliciously scenic views along the route.

Last but not least is the gorgeous limestone Bath. Bath is set in the rolling countryside of southwest England, known for its hot springs and stunning architecture. It is home to rows upon rows of Georgian style buildings and the Roman Bath Museum is a must-see, containing the original mineral springs that have proved so healing throughout the ages. If you feel so inclined, you can even have a dip! Next stop at Bath Abbey, a truly magnificent building with its fan-vaulting, tower and large stained-glass windows.


Enjoy flexible itineraries, comfortable accommodation and scenic views on one of our new Tempo Superbreak itineraries to explore the Southwest and beyond. Contact one of our agents to book,

The Charming Cotswolds

Hark back to the romantic era of train travel in stylish comfort to explore regional Britain. Bustling London is exciting, modern and cosmopolitan but there is so much more beyond into the very heart of England. Explore its rural core, based out of regional cities, with our new Tempo Superbreaks – a new range of rail packages to take advantage of the UK’s extensive rail network.

Our Cotswolds and West Country Itinerary combines the very best of modern UK with the rustic England of old.

Charming in any season, the Cotswolds are a haven of rolling golden hills, the wolds, punctuated by copses of trees and wildflowers, alongside ancient manor houses with beautifully manicured gardens. The towns were largely developed during the fabric trade boom from the 14th to 16th century and still retain their old school charm, somehow missing the Industrial Revolution and providing a slice of rural English life of old. With countless teahouses, thatched roofed cottages and exquisitely carved limestone handicrafts, a visit to the Cotswolds captures the heart and soul of England.

Over four nights with accommodation in Bristol, travellers can make the most of the rail network, visiting local cities and picture-book towns, rolling through the gorgeous farmland, woodland and meadows of wildflowers. Experience Cheltenham as it goes through a New York Times labelled ‘cultural renaissance’; admire the beauty of Worcester Cathedral or indulge in a little high street shopping; and, admire the original Roman bathhouse of Bath, with turquoise waters that still retain their healing properties.

Glimpsing honey-hued houses and rolling limestone hills framed by a train window somehow seems more romantic and idyllic, the Cotswolds at their very best. Train travel is not just a means of transportation but an experience in itself – and a flexible experience at that. With Tempo Holidays now offering a number of regional train travel Superbreaks, it is easy for us to tailor-make itineraries that incorporate a number of regional hotspots to make a more complete Britain itinerary.

Exploring the Legend of King Arthur

With the release of Guy Ritchie’s film King Arthur: Legend of the Sword in mid May, there is no better way to be swept up in the fantasy than to explore regional United Kingdom and the locations where the myth was born.

King Arthur was the boy who pulled the sword from the stone and became the stuff of legends, with his knights of the round table and his kingdom of Camelot. The story goes that King Arthur and his knights thwarted a Saxon invasion of modern day Wales in the early sixth century although there appears no timely mention of him. Whether he was a real king or not, his story took on magical elements in its recounting in the 12th century in “History of the Kings of Britain” by Geoffrey of Monmouth, with his magical sword Excalibur, his trusted adviser Merlin and Queen Guinevere and the legend has been growing and developing ever since.

But where in the UK are these legendary locations?

Tintagel Castle, Cornwall

The number one place for any King Arthur fans, Tintagel Castle is a history soaked outpost, half on the mainland and half on a headland on the Cornish Sea. The site was first linked to King Arthur by Geoffrey of Monmouth and said to be where he was conceived. These legends of the great warrior king have been speculated as being what prompted Richard, the Earl of Cornwall, to first build a castle on these grounds in 1230.

Before the advent of Arthur this was a significant site, particularly in the Dark Ages. From AD 450 until about AD 650 the headland, or almost island, was a significant strategic position in the competitive trading across the Mediterranean. It is believed to have been the secular stronghold of the Dark Age rulers of Dumnonia (Devon and Cornwall) at this time.

Whether you believe in the legends or not, this significant site in British history provides a fascinating day trip and you can’t help but feel a sense of wonder at the remaining ruins – whether that wonder is born from mystery alone or something a little more supernatural. Visit Cornwall on our Discover Southwest England Superbreak itinerary, based out of Exeter.

Cumbria

The two words ’round’ and ‘table’ will be forever associated with King Arthur and his knights. As with all stories that surround Arthur, there are a few places that claim to be the locations of this important meeting place – one of them is a neolithic round earthwork henge in Cumbria.  This monument dates back to BC 2000-1000 and is thought to have been the location that Arthur used for jousting contests.

Visit Cumbria on our Magical Lakes & Liverpool Itinerary based out of Preston or our Discover Northern England based out of Newcastle.

Hampshire

A more classic understanding of the Arthur’s round table – as a table where Arthur and his knights would confer – is on display in the Great Hall of Winchester in Hampshire. The table of legends was said to seat 150 knights and although impressive at 1,179kg and a diameter of 6m, the Round Table of Hampshire has space for only 24 knights. Nevertheless, this table is indeed ancient – it is thought to have been built by Edward I in 1290 to celebrate the betrothal of one of his daughters.  It was Henry VII who repurposed the table as Arthur’s, having his name and those of his 24 of knights painted around the edge of the table. From around 1348 to 1873, this table hung on the eastern wall of Winchester – since 1873, it has been on the west.

Chester

In more recent years, scholars have speculated that the round table was in fact a Roman Amphitheatre, used by Arthur as a forum. The amphitheatre of Chester would have had room for at least 1,000 knights who could have been arranged in complex hierarchical systems. Supporting this theory is Chester’s close proximity to several famous battle sites of Arthurian legends.

Regardless of whether Chester holds THE Round Table it is a charming city that is drenched in history dating back to Roman times, while also being home to a number of cosmopolitan cafes, shops and bars.

Stay in Chester on our Chester, Shrewsbury & North Wales Superbreak or visit for the day on our Discover Lakes, Liverpool & Leeds package based out of Manchester.

Snowdonia National Park

Snowdonia National Park is not only home to some incredible natural sites but is also significant in Arthurian Legends. Arthur’s magical sword, Excalibur, was said to have been given to him by the Lady of the Lake and upon his death, Lancelot returned this sword to the lake. There are at least three different lakes that claim to contain Excalibur – but luckily for you, they are all in the heart of the breathtaking Snowdonia National Park. The lakes of Llydaw, Dinas and Ogwen are all reasonably close together and beautiful natural spots to stop a while and dream of legends.

If something a little more challenging than a lakeside stroll piques your interest, how about climbing the summit of Mt Snowdon? The  rocks that mark the summit are said to have been put their by Arthur, after he killed a fearsome giant. The story goes that Rhitta the giant killed warriors and collected their beards to weave himself a magnificent cape. When he tried to steal Arthur’s beard, he was slain and Arthur buried him under those boulders.

See the stunning Snowdonia National Park on our Chester, Shrewsbury & North Wales itinerary based out of Chester.

Caerleon

There are a couple of locations that could have been the famous Camelot, the stronghold of Arthur and his court. Geoffrey of Monmouth claimed it was at Caerleon, where the remains of a Roman fortress stand today. Today, Caerleon is home to the National Roman Legion Museum, including Britain’s most complete amphitheatre and the only Roman Legionary barracks open to the public in Europe.  Even if it actually isn’t the site of Camelot, it is still an extremely interesting day trip.

Cadbury Castle

The most popular site believed to have been Camelot is in the hills of Somerset where archaeologists have found that hill fort  of Cadbury Castle was once a major stronghold in the 6th century. What’s more, this fort was held by a warrior chief by the name of Arthur, referred to as Camelot and it underwent many improvements in re-fortification under his rule.

The fort was built sometime during the Iron Age and was occupied until 1016 with the death of Ethelred the Unready. Legend says that Arthur and his knights did not die but rather rest below the surface in caves, ready to rise one day to the aid of Britain and once again drive out the invaders.


Whether the legends of Arthur are true or not, all of these locations hold a special element of mystical intrigue and are sure not to disappoint.

Let us incorporate these sites into a Superbreak package for you – or let’s build your perfect itinerary together from scratch!