Monday, February 23, 2009


Monday, February 23, 2009 0
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There are marvellous experiences you never knew you could do, such as helping the Yeoman Warders lock the Tower of London up at night in the Ceremony of the Keys (free) or actually being inside Stonehenge (just £12.70). Britain also hosts unusual events that take place only once a year and there are some world-famous occasions that only happen here, as well as our popular Premier League football matches.

• Burns Night, 25 Jan
• Chinese New Year celebrations, 26 Jan
• Six Nations Rugby, from 7 Feb
• Olney Pancake Race, Buckinghamshire – 24 Feb
• Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race, 29 Mar
• World Pooh Sticks Championships – 29 Mar
• Grand National, 2 Apr

If you’ve never been, or have been putting off a trip because of the expense, now is the time to think again about Britain.

Note: Editors are welcome to print, broadcast or download this material in any reasonable way. Images available to download from the Britain on View photolibrary,


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Need a souvenir? No problem. Britons love to shop almost as much as they love talking about the weather. Clothes stores such as Primark and Topshop are a favourite with Britain’s fashion forward teens – even more so since Kate Moss designed a range for the latter – but for something more memorable, scour markets such as Portobello Road ( in London or shopping districts like the Jewellery Quarter ( in Birmingham. Antiques, arts and crafts, vintage clothes – just as every cloud has a silver lining, every high street has a bargain. And remember, foreign visitors can claim back the VAT (value added tax – currently 15%) charged on most goods; just ask for a VAT refund form in the store.


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International restaurants have long been the source of good cheap eats in the UK – choose from Indian and Chinese to Thai, Turkish and everything in between. But in the last few years British cuisine has undergone a revolution, led by good quality pubs – ‘gastropubs’ – with a focus on simple, traditional dishes done well. It’s great news for visitors: sensibly priced food in the classic setting of the British pub. Look out especially for lunch set menus, which offer a fixed price of around £10-11 for two courses.
Fish and chips, of course, should not be missed; every town will have at least one ‘chippy’ – check out ( for local recommendations – but the best are usually on the coast.

Pre-Theatre dining offers tasty, affordable, early evening set-menus. Examples include St Alban ( (two courses for £15.50) and Michelin-starred Arbutus ( (three courses for £17.50). Visit Top Table ( for hundreds of restaurant offers.

Top restaurants also offer fantastic deals at lunchtime, for example three courses at Angela Hartnett’s acclaimed new Murano, in London, for £25; or Edinburgh’s Restaurant Martin Wishart for £22.50


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A number of major exhibitions and installations are closing or going back into the vaults soon and may not been seen again for a while.

• Turner Watercolours in Edinburgh, to 31 January (only displayed every January)
• Byzantium at the Royal Academy to 22 March 2009
• Anish Kapoor at the Brighton Festival May 2009
• Le Corbusier at The Barbican Feb – May 2009
• Gerhard Richter’s Portraits at the National Portrait Gallery Feb-May 2009
• Constable Portraits at Compton Verney June – September 09
• 2009 emphasis on Indian art and culture with Indian Highway at the Serpentine Gallery, Indian Summer at the British Museum and Maharaja: the Splendour of India's Royal Courts at the V&A


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Entry to most of Britain’s top museums and galleries is entirely free. From the best modern art at the Tate Modern, design and fashion through the ages at the V&A, Old Masters at the National Gallery, historic trains at the National Railway Museum in York - and all of the City of Glasgow’s 13 museums.


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If history is your thing, the Great British Heritage Pass ( is a sound investment. A four-day Great British Heritage Pass is £32 and allows you to take your pick of 580 heritage attractions absolutely free. Base yourself in London and in a long weekend you could pack in an itinerary that includes Blenheim Palace near Oxford; Hampton Court Palace; Eltham Palace, the boyhood home of Henry VIII; Leeds Castle, the ‘loveliest castle in the world; Dover Castle and the Secret Wartime Tunnels; Sissinghurst Castle in Kent; Bodiam Castle in East Sussex; Hever Castle and Gardens, the childhood home of Anne Boleyn and Arundel Castle, a stunning ancient castle and stately home containing priceless treasures, a medieval keep, grounds and organic gardens.

Guided city walks are also excellent value: learn about Secret London (, the ghosts of York ( or
Inspector Morse’s Oxford.( haunts, for around £7.


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Pick up a BritRail pass for unlimited and flexible rail travel and enjoy discounts for families, groups travelling together, seniors, younger people and off-peak seasonal travel. Travel with British friends or relatives and they get 50 per cent off too.
Eurostar ( is currently offering more than 25,000 return tickets for 77€ per person in standard class to encourage visitors to come to London during the January Sales.
Enjoy Britain’s heritage on your journey – take a Harry Potter route over the Glenfinnan Railway viaduct in the West Highlands of Scotland, stop off at Carnforth station in Lancashire made famous in the film Brief Encounter, enjoy the scenery of one of our most beautiful landscapes on the Settle to Carlisle railway, travel through the high peaks of Snowdonia on the Llandudno to Blaenau Ffestiniog line. All are covered by your discounted BritRail pass.

Buses are a good way to cover long distances and usually cheaper than the train. National Express ( and Megabus ( offer fares from £1 if booked in advance, and serve heritage destinations such as Bath, Stratford-upon-Avon, Oxford and Cambridge, as well as the great outdoors – National Parks such as Brecon Beacons and Snowdonia in Wales, the Lake District in England and the Cairngorms in the Scottish Highlands.

But if you prefer to have your own wheels, consider hiring a car. Easycar ( and 1Car1 ( have competitive rates and this can be a great way to get off the beaten track.


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Budget hotel options have improved in the last few years and chains including Premier Inn, Travelodge and Express by Holiday Inn have properties all over England, Scotland and Wales with rooms from around £30 a night. For a similar price, check into a very British B&B and get some great local tips along with your breakfast. Once the preserve of business travellers, serviced apartments have had a makeover with the introduction of boutique apartments such as Staying Cool (, in Manchester, Birmingham and Devon, with apartments from £50 per person per night.


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Oil prices have fallen, so many airlines are reducing their fuel surcharges and airfares are dropping. National flag carriers and low-cost airlines are all offering discounts, for example British Airways are offering return flights from Australia to Britain from just $1999 (Australian).

3.5 million people discovered Liverpool – European Capital of Culture – for the first time last year, cementing the reputation of city destinations around Britain. Newcastle, Birmingham, Cardiff, Glasgow, Manchester, Bristol, Oxford and Cambridge all welcome thousands of international visitors every year thanks to low-cost routes into regional airports – over 4500 routes from Europe alone.


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Every cloud has a silver lining – or so the Brits are fond of saying. But as the pound takes a tumble against the dollar and the Euro, the benefits are clear for inbound visitors: Britain is now 25% cheaper for American travellers than it was a few years ago and 15% cheaper for anyone in the Eurozone. So what are you waiting for? Britain is back on the menu for bargain hunters.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

British Airways London Eye

Thursday, February 12, 2009 0
Sphere: Related Content At 135 meters high, the British Airways London Eye is the world's highest observation wheel and provides a 30-minute slow-moving flight over London. Designed to reflect the elements - air, water, earth and time - the central theme is a circle of white light from within the rim which sweeps the skyline.

Admission: £9 for adults and £5 for children. From 1 July-30 September admission is £9.50 for adults. To book tickets call 0870 5000 600.

Opening hours: daily from 10.30am-8pm. From 26 May - 9 September, it's open 10am-10pm.

Getting there: It's in Jubilee Gardens on the South Bank and the nearest underground station is Waterloo.

Jubilee Gardens South Bank,
London, SE1
Tel: 0870 5000 600

Hyde Park

Sphere: Related Content Hyde Park is the largest of the Royal Parks stretching from Kensington Gardens in the west to Hyde Park Corner in the East. It came into existence in 1536 when the land was acquired for hunting. It has developed over the years in response to the wishes of the Crown and the public and has a tradition of events and public spectacles. There are links with the military through the presence of Knightsbridge barracks on its boundary and the continuing practice of firing Gun Salutes from the Parade Ground. Among its features include Speakers Corner, the Serpentine (a lake of some 11.34 hectares used for swimming, boating and fishing ), Marble Arch and Rotten Row, the world famous riding track, which celebrated its tercentenary in 1990 and was the first public road to be lit at night in this country. Despite its heavy use the Park manages to convey an air of rural tranquillity much valued by both tourists and local users.

Downing Street - the Prime Minister's residence

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England Travel Directory

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Annual Ceremonies

Sphere: Related Content Royal Epiphany Gifts Service
January 6
Officers of the royal household give gold, frankincense and myrrh in the Chapel Royal at St James Palace. The gold is changed for coin which is given to charity.

Old Bailey opening
early January
The Lord Mayor leads a procession from Mansion House to the Central Criminal Court to open the new session.

Court of Common Council Service
The Lord Mayor and his officers walk from the Guildhall to St Lawrence Jewry for church service prior to the sitting of the new Court of Common Council.

Charles I Commemoration Ceremony
January 30
Procession from St Martin-in-the-Fields to Trafalgar Square commemorates the anniversary of the execution of Charles I. The procession is led by members of the Royal Stuart Society and the Society of King Charles the Martyr.

Blessing the Throats
February 3
Service at the Church of St Ethelreda (Holborn) attended by throat sufferers, remembers St Blaise, who saved a child with a fishbone stuck in his throat.

Scout & Guide Founder's Day Service
Saturday closest to Feb. 22
Scouts and Guides congregate at Westminster Abbey to remember Lord Baden-Powell, founder of the movements, on his birthday.

Cakes and Ales Sermon
Ash Wednesday
Members of the Worshipful Company of Stationers walk from Stationers Hall to St Paul's Cathedral to hear a sermon. Cakes and ale are dispensed either before or after the sermon.

Oranges and Lemon's Children's Service
March 28
A church service of thanks for the restoration of the bells of St Clement Dane of nursery rhyme fame. Children of the St Clement's Dane Primary School receive an orange and a lemon each.

Hot-Cross Buns Service
Good Friday
In a ceremony that dates back hundreds of years, 21 widows are given money and hot-cross buns after a church service at St Bartholomew-the-Great in Smithfield.

Spital Sermon Procession
second Wednesday following Easter
The Lord Mayor and other city notables walk from the Guildhall to St Lawrence Jewry to hear a sermon. These Easter sermons were preached at Old St Paul's Cathedral before it burned in the Great Fire.

John Stow's Quill Pen Ceremony
April 5
John Stow wrote The Survey of London in 1598. This memorial service, attended by the Lord Mayor, takes place at St Andrew's Undershaft. As part of the service, the Lord Mayor places a quill in the hand of Stow's statue.

Queen's Birthday Gun Salute
April 21
Hyde Park and Tower of London. A 41-gun salute to mark the actual (not the official) birthday of The Queen, fired by the King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery in Hyde Park (opposite the Dorchester Hotel), and a 62-gun royal salute fired by the Honourable Artillery Company at the Tower of London (on London Wharf).

Scottish Military Tattoo
April 21 (2002) dates may vary
Royal Albert Hall. The story of some of Scotland's heroes is inerwoven with the best of Scottish (& Irish) music, song and dance. The massed pipes and drums are led by the pipes and drums of the London Regiment. website:

Lilies and Roses
May 21
Henry VI founded both Eton College and King's College Cambridge. Every year on the anniversary of Henry's murder in the Tower of London, delegates from the schools place flowers on the spot of the king's death - lilies from Eton and roses from King's.

Oak Apple Day
May 29
The Chelsea Pensioners honour Charles II, founder of the Royal Hospital in Chelsea, on the anniversary of Charles II's escape after the Battle of Worcester. The king's statue is decorated with oak leaves in memory of the fact that Charles hid in an oak tree to escape his pursuers.

The Queen's Birthday Parade
2nd week June
Horse Guards Parade. SW1.
Trooping the Colour ceremony by the Massed Bands and Troops of the Household Division to mark the Queen's official birthday. The Queen leaves Buckingham Palace at 1040 and progresses down The Mall to Horse Guards Parade, arriving at 1100.

Queen's Official Birthday Gun Salute
June 16
41 gun salute to mark The Queen's official birthday. The salute is fired by the King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery in Green Park at 1252 (by Canada Gate), and by the Honourable Artillery Company at the Tower of London at 1300 (on London Wharf).

The Knollys Red Rose Rent
June 24
In the 14th century Sir Robert Knollys was fined for building an unauthorized footbridge across Seething Lane. In recognition of Knollys' noted military record the fine imposed was one red rose from his garden to be given to the Lord Mayor every Midsummer Day. Today a rose is carried by churchwardens of All-Hallows-by-the-Tower to Mansion House, were it is given to the Lord Mayor, along with a bouquet of roses for the lady mayoress.

Swan Upping
last Monday in July
The Dyers and Vintner's Companies have the right, established in medieval times, to keep swans on the Thames River. So, too, does the crown. Every year the Queen's Swan Keeper and Swan Markers from the two livery companies row in skiffs along the river to mark the cygnets (baby swans).

Doggett's Coat and Badge Race
late July or early August
Possibly the oldest rowing race in the world, this event was begun by Irish actor Thomas Dogett in 1715 to mark the crowning of George I. Six waterboatmen race against the tide from London Bridge to Albert Bridge. The prize is a scarlet livery with a large silver badge.

Admission of Sherriffs
September 28 or the Friday preceeding
The livery companies of the city elect two sheriffs on Midsummer Day. Today, the new sheriffs march from Mansion House to the Guildhall to be installed in office.

Election of the Lord Mayor
September 29
In a ceremony that dates from 1546, the Lord Mayor is selected at the Guildhall, then rides in state to Mansion House while the city bells ring out.

State Opening of Parliament
date varies, October/November
The Queen addresses both houses of Parliament from the Throne in the House of Lords. The State Opening takes place on the first day of the new parliamentary session, usually in October or November. Check current dates at

Quit-Rents Ceremony
late October
The City Solicitor pays the Queen's Rememberancer token rents for properties long ago leased - two knives, one blunt and one sharp, pay for land near Bridgnorth in Shropshire, and sixty-one nails and six horsehoes for a long-gone forge in the Strand. The origins of this ceremony go back so far they have been forgotten

Trafalgar Parade and Service
October 21 (or nearest Sunday)
A march to Trafalgar Square remembers the triumph of Nelson at Trafalgar in 1805. Wreaths are laid at the foot of Nelson's Column in the Square.

RAC Veteran Car Run
1st Sunday in November
In the very early years of the motor car, a man with a red flag had to walk in front of all cars. This event, also known as the London to Brighton Rally and only open to cars built between 1895 and 1904, commemorates the repeal of the "Red Flag Laws" in 1905.

Lord Mayor's Show
2nd Saturday in November
The new Lord Mayor takes up his post in a colourful procession to the Royal Courts of Justice in his State Coach, escorted by medieval-costumed bodyguards.

Installation of the Lord Mayor
November 8
Luncheon at Mansion House with the old and new Lord Mayors and representatives of the livery Companies, followed by a procession to the Guildhall for the official transfer of office.

Festival of St. Cecilia
November 22
Organ and choral music at St Sepulchres (Holborn) in memory of St Cecilia, patron saint of music.

Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree
about December 16
Every year Norway gives the gift of a huge Christmas tree to thank the people of Britain for their help in World War II. The tree is erected in Trasflagar Square and carol services are sung every evening beneath the tree until Christmas.

Do you know of a traditional event that should be added to our list? Let us know.

London Events

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Changing the Guard
Buckingham Palace
Daily in summer, and on alternate days in winter. 1130 AM. A new troop of the Queen's personal bodyguards, The Brigade of Guards, march from either Chelsea or Wellington Barracks to relieve the guard at Buckingham Palace.

Mounting the Guard
Horse Guards, Whitehall
1100 weekdays, 1000 Sundays, a new Household Cavalry detatchment relieves the old guard.

Ceremony of the Keys
Tower of London
Talk about precise! At 21:53 every night the Chief Warder of the Yeomen Warders of the Tower of London locks the outer gates of the Tower and delivers the keys to the Resident Governor at Queen's House. Attendance is limited, so apply in writing well ahead to the Resident Governor.
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