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Archive for england

Hiding Places in Worcestershire

By Linda Tancs

It was no easy task to be a Catholic priest in Elizabethan England, especially after Elizabeth I lost her tolerance for the “old faith.” As a result, a number of safe houses sprung up. One of them was Harvington Hall, a moated manor house in Worcestershire. The grand estate boasts the largest number of priest hides in the country, including an entire concealed chapel. A false fireplace leading to an attic, trapdoors and crawl spaces behind beams or under stairs are among its secret spaces intended to foil priest hunters. You can reach the locale via train from London Euston to Kidderminster, which is about three miles away from the manor. Take bus line 42 or a taxi from there.

Intrigue at the Palace

By Linda Tancs

Who doesn’t love a good story? The walls of Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire, England, are filled with them. At the Great Hall, for example, Edward II was forced to abdicate in 1327 upon rising tensions with his French wife. Centuries later, Robert Dudley (Earl of Leicester) laid out the iconic tower and a formal privy garden in a final attempt to gain the hand of Elizabeth I, who stayed at the castle several times. Those gardens have been reconstructed, along with a staircase leading to Elizabeth’s chambers. One of the best castle ruins in the country, its view across the fields is one of the most famous landscapes painted by English Romantic painter J.M.W. Turner.

Undercover in London

By Linda Tancs

Ever wonder what it was like being a Cold War spy in London? You can catch a glimpse into the world of espionage with a spy and espionage tour conducted by an expert in the subject. A three-hour bus tour visits real-life sites used by British Intelligence as well as sites where secrets were exchanged, even by double agents. The tour ends at St. Ermin’s Hotel, former headquarters of MI6, where a very James Bond-like vodka martini awaits you.

A Bit of Everything in Tresco

By Linda Tancs

St. Mary’s is the largest island in England’s enchanted archipelago, Isles of Scilly, but Tresco is the only one that’s privately owned. That won’t stop you from experiencing the world renowned Abbey Garden, though. Established in the 1830s by Augustus Smith (an ancestor of the family responsible for the island), it hosts a spectacular collection of more than 20,000 exotic plants from 80 temperate coastal regions around the world. Smith also founded Valhalla Museum in a far corner of the garden, which displays figureheads salvaged from the islands’ shipwrecks in the 19th century. The garden is open daily. Fly to St. Mary’s with Skybus from Land’s End, Newquay or Exeter, or sail aboard Scillonian III from Penzance. Boat services from there will bring you to Tresco.

South Downs Way

By Linda Tancs

South Downs National Park is England’s newest national park (as of this writing), established in 2010. Spreading across Sussex and Hampshire, it covers an area of 627 square miles boasting fragile chalk and clay landscapes, woodlands and river valleys that earned it a previous designation as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The park is also home to the South Downs Way, one of 15 national trails in England and Wales (as well as the first bridleway national trail in England) and the only one to lie entirely within a national park. The nearly 100-mile route extends from Winchester in the west to Eastbourne in the east. Download a walking map or details of connecting bus services to your phone and get on the Way.

Heights of Abraham

By Linda Tancs

Spanning 555 square miles and covering parts of the counties of Derbyshire, Yorkshire, Staffordshire and Cheshire, Peak District National Park is the UK’s oldest national park. One of its most appealing destinations is the Heights of Abraham, a hilltop park in Derbyshire reached by cable car, providing spectacular views across the Derwent Valley. And you’ll likely not miss the park’s iconic symbol, the millstone, produced in Derbyshire as early as medieval times. Hundreds of them still lie scattered across parts of the park.

Inspiration for Ivanhoe

By Linda Tancs

England’s Conisbrough Castle reputedly inspired Sir Walter Scott’s novel, Ivanhoe. The iconic, medieval stone castle is near Doncaster in historic Conisbrough. Strategically located on a large knoll, its most stunning feature is perhaps the massive, four-story limestone keep with six wedge-shaped buttresses. “Conisbrough” derives from the Anglo-Saxon word “Cyningesburh,” meaning “the king’s borough.” However, little is known of the site until after the Norman Conquest, when an earthwork fortification was likely built by the castle’s original owner.

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