We challenge you to find someone who can’t name a Shakespeare play. From Othello to Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet to A Winter’s Tale, his works are ceaselessly studied at school and performed by theatre companies around the UK. There’s no feeling like standing in the reconstructed playhouse that is Shakespeare’s Globe, where most of the Bard’s later works were performed. Included in your ticket is an informative half-hour guided tour of the theatre; during the summer season, if you visit in the afternoon, you’ll be taken on a tour of the Bankside area instead. There are plenty of affordable places to stay in the UK capital - search for UK holidays to select your pick of the bunch.
Kew Gardens is pretty in pink, blue, green… and an assortment of other colours too - home to floral beauties from around the globe. The Royal Botanic Gardens manages to be both a world leader in botanic research and an achingly beautiful public park. Themed tours of the gardens run daily, focusing on Kew’s history as well as its seasonal highlights.
Perched imposingly atop an extinct volcanic crag, Edinburgh Castle dominates not only the city, but the history of Scotland itself. Tours are run by experienced guides and set off at regular intervals throughout the day from the meeting point through the Portcullis Gate. For a trip back in time, this is the one to beat.
Head down a mine - if you dare - in the fascinating town of Blaenavon in Wales. Tours at the Big Pit National Coal Museum involve you being kitted out with a lamp, helmet and heavy battering pack, then lowered 300ft into the labyrinth of shafts and coalfaces. The guides - mostly ex-miners - lead you through explanations of the different types of coal mining.
The science-fiction domes of the Eden Project are a draw enough in themselves, even without the glorious profusion of plant life within. It’s a visionary celebration of environmental diversity, with plants from the Med, southern Africa and the southwestern USA. You’ll also find bamboo, tea, hemp and tobacco, interspersed with dazzling flowers. Private guided tours can be booked for the Rainforest Biome and the Mediterranean Biome, while there’s a ‘chocolate-flavoured’ rainforest tour for the chocoholics, too.
The fertile island of Islay is famous for one thing - single malt whisky. The smoky, peaty, pungent quality of Islay whisky is unique (we’ll let you in on a secret: that means it’s a strong and acquired taste - don’t be ashamed if you don’t like it!). Sample a wee dram and get behind the scenes at Islay’s fascinating whisky distilleries, which all offer guided tours that end with a generous tasting. Ardbeg, Bowmoreand Laphroaig are three of the best.
The handsome city of Durham is best known for its beautiful Norman cathedral - there’s a tremendous view of it as you approach the city by train from down south. The cathedral was founded in 1093 to house the shrine of St Cuthbert. Architecture buffs won’t be able to contain their excitement - the cathedral is considered a supreme example of the Norman-Romanesque style. Want to heckle a historian? Book onto one of the cathedral’s regular guided tours.
The Giant’s Causeway is one of the most popular sites in Northern Ireland - and for good reason, too. Its 40,000 basalt columns make for an eerie and magical scene. Though its strange formations – the Giant’s Boot and the Organ, for example – feature in local folklore, there’s geology behind it, too: learn more on a guided tour.
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