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Hullensians Celebrate Culture

By Linda Tancs

The Yorkshire city of Hull is the UK City of Culture 2017, an award given every four years to a city that demonstrates a belief in the transformational power of culture. Hullensians (as locals are called) are certainly an independent, spirited bunch—it’s the only city in the UK with cream-colored phone boxes. It also sports the world’s largest Yorkshire pudding factory. As for arts and culture, you’ll find no lack. The Freedom Festival offers an incredible program each year on theatre, music, comedy and poetry. The city also hosts the region’s leading visual art space, the Ferens Art Gallery, as well as a new contemporary art space, Humber Street Gallery. Getting to this vibrant port city couldn’t be easier: Hull has its own rail link to the capital, and coaches run from all over the country.

A Lone Survivor in Belfast

By Linda Tancs

The only major naval surface engagement of World War I, the Battle of Jutland was fought by the British Royal Navy’s Grand Fleet against the Imperial German Navy’s High Seas Fleet. Although both sides claimed victory in this indecisive battle celebrating its centenary this year, the spoils clearly go to the British as they lay claim to the lone surviving ship from the skirmish. Now open as a visitor attraction in Titanic Quarter, Belfast, HMS Caroline has undergone extensive restoration to enable visitors to experience life at sea through state-of-the-art special effects and hands-on interactive exhibits. The historic vessel rounds out the maritime experience in Northern Ireland’s capital city, which includes Titanic Belfast, located in the heart of Titanic Quarter. The world’s largest Titanic visitor experience, it tells the story of the Titanic, from her conception in Belfast in the early 1900s through her construction and maiden voyage and subsequent place in history.

Over the Welsh Hills

By Linda Tancs

Looking for a pleasant respite from the business of everyday life? You’ll find it at Wirral Peninsula in northwest England. Located between the cities of Chester and Liverpool and bounded by the River Dee on one side and the River Mersey on the other, you’ll enjoy stunning views of the Welsh Hills as well as 22 miles of coastline and 50 miles of walking trails (including the Wirral Way). The area boasts a 19th century model village known as Port Sunlight, created by William Hesketh Lever for his soap factory workers. Another gem is North Wirral Coastal Park on the peninsula’s eastern side, home to Leasowe Lighthouse, Britain’s oldest brick lighthouse. This getaway is just 45 minutes from both Liverpool John Lennon and Manchester airports. A local rail network connects Wirral to the national rail network via Liverpool Lime Street station.

Edinburgh of the Seven Seas

By Linda Tancs

The world’s remotest inhabited island, Tristan da Cunha in the South Atlantic (a U.K. overseas territory) has only one village—the aptly-enough named Edinburgh of the Seven Seas. Arguably as far from the madding crowd as one can get, it’s home to less than 300 citizens. An active volcanic island with rare wildlife, the nearest mainland city is Cape Town, South Africa, from which about nine ships depart for the island each year.

Pomp in Edinburgh

By Linda Tancs

From its early days, The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo has been an international favorite, with 70 percent of its attendants coming from outside Scotland and half of that percentage from overseas. The word “tattoo” comes from the closing-time cry in the inns in the Low Countries during the 17th and 18th centuries—“Doe den tap toe” (“Turn off the taps”). The event is a musical extravaganza set amidst the backdrop of Scotland’s Edinburgh Castle. From the bleacher seats you’ll experience the sights and sounds of dragoon guards, cavalry bands, royal regiments and international dancers and drum corps. This year’s event takes place from August 5 to August 27.

Britain’s Daily Tot

By Linda Tancs

For over 300 years and until its demise on July 31, 1970, the crews of Great Britain’s Royal Navy were issued a daily “tot” of Pusser’s Rum. The keeper of the ship’s spirits was the purser, who came to be known as the ship’s pusser. One of the longest and unbroken traditions in seafaring history, the anniversary day of the last ration is known as Black Tot Day. In celebration of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s 90th birthday this year, Black Tot Day events are expected to abound. The occasion is further marked by a new “gunpowder proof” edition of the spirit acclaimed as the single malt of rum. The moniker for this edition owes to the purser’s mixing of a few grains of gunpowder to the rum to see if it would burn. If the mixture ignited, the rum was “at proof,” dismissing any claims that the libation had been watered down. It’s produced at original Admiralty strength and in accordance with the Admiralty’s blending recipe last used when the Royal Navy discontinued its daily ration in 1970.

The Island of 20,000 Saints

By Linda Tancs

Just a short boat ride west of the Llŷn Peninsula in North Wales is a place of pilgrimage since the early years of Christianity. That’s Bardsey Island, a wisp of a place that became a focal point for the Celtic Christian Church. Its moniker, Island of 20,000 Saints, dates from the early Middle Ages, when three pilgrimages to Bardsey were said to equal one to Rome. Although day trips are limited to around 3 ½ hours, visitors who want to stay longer can choose from nine self-catering houses managed by the island’s trust. The renting week is from Saturday to Saturday, April to October. The island is designated a National Nature Reserve, a Site of Special Scientific Interest and is in the Llŷn Peninsula Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

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