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Travel to England
England shows many different faces: pulsing city life and lonely landscapes, old-fashioned customs and avant-garde culture, lovely beaches and rough mountains. For cultural sightseeing as for nightlife, London is ceaselessly thriving, and inevitably, it is the one place that features on everyone's itinerary. It is not only Europe's biggest city (with a population of over seven million) and capital of the United Kingdom, but also the place where the country's news, politics and money are made. Within the southeast of England, along the coastline, Canterbury, the bishopric seat of Thomas Becket, offers contrasting diversions. This is the richest part of the country due to its agricultural wealth and proximity to the capital. The southwest of England with the rugged moorlands of Devon and the rocky coastline of Cornwall is another spot worth discovering. Salisbury, where they say the West Country starts, is dominated by the elegant spire of its cathedral.
If you’re after an exciting weekend break or simply an exhilarating day out, then look no further… England's cities are buzzing every day of the week and at every hour! From unique to chic, jaw dropping architecture to boutique shopping, luxurious accommodation and delicious dining, England cities have it all.
England's cities read like a timeline of the nation's long and eventful history, each with their own collection of architectural treasures. Picking a trail between these monuments provides fascinating insights into the rich culture and inherited quirks of the English.
Roman and Viking relics exist side-by-side in York, whose cobbled streets and timbered houses are also a showpiece of medieval architecture. York comes into its own during the annual Jorvik Viking Festival, when all things Viking are the rage. Be prepared for savage, hand-to-hand combat to the death (mock death, that is). To keep things in balance, the festival’s grand finale is a Viking wedding, held at York Minster. Throughout the year, the Jorvik Viking Centre provides the complete rundown on day-to-day life back in the 9th century (complete with authentic sounds and smells).
For a glimpse of the entire cross-section of York's 2000-year history, get your hands dirty at the Hungate Dig, an ambitious, ongoing archaeological project within the city. Participating in archaeological digs is possible in various other places across England, including Arbeia, a fort on the edge of Newcastle that is revolutionizing our understanding of Roman England. An Earthwatch project enables volunteers, inexperienced or otherwise, to get stuck in.
Get your walking boots on and head just west of Newcastle to Segedunum Roman Fort, which marks the most easterly outpost of Hadrian's Wall – once the northern frontier of the Roman Empire and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Other prominent World Heritage Sites include Durham Castle and Cathedral (arguably the world's finest examples of Norman architecture) and the entire city centre of Bath, where a stunning ensemble of honey-toned Georgian terraces converge on England's most outstanding Roman site, the Baths and Pump Room.
For industrial heritage, the Silk Mill in Derby makes a fascinating destination. When it opened in 1721, the mill became the world's first factory. Today it tells the story of the region's role in the birth of the Industrial Revolution. Running north of Derby is the Derwent Valley, a World Heritage Site that combines a quintessential English setting with an industrial heritage of international importance. Pay homage at Belper North Mill, a pioneering building acknowledged as the forerunner of the modern skyscraper.
Bradford and Birmingham also have their fair share of industrial heritage, with a World Heritage Site apiece on their doorsteps. Jump back in time to the Victorian age at Saltaire, a "model" industrial village, purpose built on the edge of Bradford in 1853.
Meanwhile, west of Birmingham, the beautiful Ironbridge Gorge features ten museums and the world's first iron bridge, built in 1779. This deep, forested valley carved into the land by the River Severn once thrummed with activity; nowadays it is a beautiful place for walking.
In past centuries many aristocrats built their dream homes within striking distance of England's cities. These homes now form a vital part of the nation's architectural heritage.
Track down a giant foot from Ancient Greece, the fan of a Rolls Royce jet engine, and a unique illusionist painting of a violin hanging on a door – just three of the many curiosities to be found at Chatsworth, England's finest stately home, not far from Sheffield. Close by are Haddon Hall and Wingfield Manor. The former is most perfect home to have survived since the Middle Ages – little wonder it has featured in so many films and period dramas. At Wingfield Manor, climb the northeast tower and gaze out on the same view enjoyed by Mary Queen of Scots (who was imprisoned here after suffering "grief of the spleen" in the harsher conditions of Bolton Castle).
England's religious architecture, too, forms an important part of its heritage. In their day, the magnificent cathedrals and churches of our cities pushed the limits of design and construction. Get a sense of its ancestors' achievements by visiting Lincoln Cathedral, held by some to be the most precious piece of architecture in the British Isles. (Once inside, be sure to track down the Bishop's Eye window, the Angel Choir and the notorious Lincoln imp!) Others might point to the cathedrals of Norwich and Canterbury, the chapels of Oxford and Cambridge, or the works of Sir Christopher Wren – notably his pencil-sharp spires dotted about London and centered on the magnificent dome of St Paul's.
The arts are thriving like never before in England's cities. As Liverpool gears up for its role as European Capital of Culture 2008, the spotlight falls on the country's diverse range of cultural offerings, from world-beating museums and galleries, to old industrial spaces reborn as centers for the arts.
There's plenty to cheer about in Liverpool this year, with 2007 marking the city's 800th birthday. Join the party and choose from a string of festivals, celebrations and cultural events in the build-up to 2008 – among them the Turner Prize, which will be exhibited at Tate Liverpool on the Albert Dock (the first time the event has been staged outside London since its launch back in 1984).
Tate Liverpool is one of a growing number of arts-based regeneration projects across England's cities, from the iconic Tate Modern in London, to the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead – the biggest gallery of its kind in the world, housed in a landmark industrial building on the banks of the Tyne.
Other worthy waterfront developments worth exploring are the Quays at Salford (a futuristic arts and museums complex on the edge of Manchester); the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard (home to the Mary Rose and HMS Victory); and Hull's new Museums Quarter, its skyline dominated by the startling architecture of 'The Deep', a vast aquarium populated by sharks and dedicated to marine conservation.
Getting active with friends is easy as pie in England's cities. Hone your snowboarding skills at Sheffield Ski Village, Europe's largest dry ski slope. A range of slopes caters for all abilities, from tricky mogul fields to shallow-gradient nursery slopes – and the après ski isn't bad either. For boarding skills of another kind, make for Seaburn Beach near Sunderland – a sandy stretch renowned for its great surf.
There are a lot of interesting activities you can choose from when you go to England. You just have to look for them and you will surely find something that would suit your tastes. So, enjoy a country with a rich history, with pleasant sites and with a lot of things to offer.
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