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Archive for england

The Great North Road

By Linda Tancs

You might think of the U.K.’s Great North Road as the nation’s version of iconic Route 66 in the United States—only with a lot more history attached. It was the only way of traveling the 409 miles between London and Edinburgh for centuries until it was subsumed into the A1 (the longest numbered road in Britain) and other motorways of today. In prehistoric times it comprised part of the network of Roman roads: Ermine Street led from London to York, and Dere Street from York to Edinburgh. The ancient route is lined today with rusting mile markers; its cultural significance is marked by literary giants like Charles Dickens, a frequent traveler who gave it a nod in The Pickwick Papers. There’s even an old street sign inside the rock at Gibraltar where a vehicle tunnel was dug.

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The Dark Side of Victorian London

By Linda Tancs

Perhaps no story in the history of East London in Victorian times is as gripping as Jack the Ripper. At the Jack the Ripper Museum on Cable Street, six floors recreate scenes from the time, such as the murder scene in Mitre Square, the Whitechapel police station, Mary Jane Kelly’s bedroom, the mortuary and more. The museum explores East London during Victorian times, exploring the crimes within the social context of the period. The facility is just seven minutes away from Tower Hill Station.

Britain’s Oldest Cliff Lift

By Linda Tancs

A fashionable resort in Victorian times, Saltburn-by-the-Sea in North Yorkshire has everything one might expect of a seaside destination: sweeping beaches, cliffs, big skies, surf and seabirds. Yet one thing distinguishes it from other beachy hangouts—the Cliff Lift, Britain’s oldest working water-balanced cliff tramway. Linking the town with the pier 120 feet below, each of two trams runs on a parallel track and is fitted underneath with a water tank that performs the operation of balance and gravity as the car makes its way down the incline. The trip takes 55 seconds. The tram is open on weekends from March to October and daily during peak season.

Britain’s Longest Ancient Monument

By Linda Tancs

Offa of Mercia was one of the most remarkable kings to have ruled much of Anglo-Saxon England. At his command, an earthwork covering a distance of more than 80 miles was built along the border between England and Wales in the eighth century to separate his kingdom from rivals in present-day Wales. This earth ditch-and-bank is reportedly the longest ancient monument in Britain. A long distance trail covering 177 miles, Offa’s Dyke Path, follows much of the ancient course. The trail links Sedbury Cliffs near Chepstow on the banks of the Severn estuary with the coastal town of Prestatyn on the shores of the Irish sea and crosses the border between England and Wales over 20 times. You’ll encounter stunning landscapes boasting castles, country churches, hillforts, riverside meadows and rolling hills. Similar to Camino de Santiago, you can purchase a trail passport (or download it from the site) and get it stamped along your journey to enter the path’s Hall of Fame. Expect it to take up to two weeks to complete the whole trail.

Steaming the Lake District

By Linda Tancs

Prized as one of the most beautiful of the English lakes, Ullswater boasts stunning mountain scenery to its south and an enviable display of Wordsworth’s daffodils on the west shore in spring. So it’s no wonder that Ullswater Steamers is such a popular attraction for cruising the second largest lake in the Lake District. Their five heritage vessels (one, dating to 1877, believed to be the oldest working passenger vessel in the world) ply eight of the nine miles’ length of the lake, stopping at four piers. Operating year round, cruise times vary from 20 to 120 minutes.

A Heavenly Estate in the Forest of Dean

By Linda Tancs

Best known for its gardens and Roman temple complex, Lydney Park is a 17th-century country estate surrounding Lydney House, located at Lydney in the Forest of Dean district in Gloucestershire, England. You might call it a heavenly place, given that its ownership descends from William Bathurst, a composer of church hymns. Open only from April to June (and some select days thereafter), the spring gardens are abloom with flowering cherries, magnolias, scented spring flowering shrubs, azaleas and rhododendrons, to name a few. Excavation on the estate in 1805 also exposed evidence of settlements dating back to 100 B.C., a Norman castle and extensive ruins of a Roman camp including a temple.

Home of the Pencil

By Linda Tancs

England’s Lake District might be best known for its inspiring vistas, but it’s also the home of the world’s first pencil. The North Lakes region, in particular, boasted a graphite mine in Keswick which would have served as the source of the pencil industry over three centuries ago. Nowadays you can enter a replica of that mine to visit the Derwent Pencil Museum. Inside you’ll find gems like secret WWII pencils with hidden maps, the Guinness World Record for the largest color pencil (measuring almost 26 feet), the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee pencil and miniature pencil sculptures.

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