Far too many travel planners think that the only way of getting to the UK is through London Heathrow and Gatwick. This is certainly the case for clients wanting to visit London only or the south and south west of England but for those who can access Newark, there’s a very good non-stop service into Birmingham which is right in the heart of England.
But for those seeking the source of inspiration for the Brontes and David Hockney, the great heritage cities of Chester, York, Durham and Carlisle, Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter in the Lake District and the majestic 12th century castle in North Wales, the Manchester gateway is by far your best bet with the return flight perhaps from London.
It’s also the quickest way of getting to today’s featured areas which include Stoke on Trent, Britain’s ceramics capital, Stourbridge, THE place for glass, medieval murders with Brother Cadfael, and Lincoln for the 800th anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta in 2015.
Britain’s Ceramic’s Capital
If Girl’s Getaways are on your agenda, you should take a serious look at Stoke on Trent, Britain’s undisputed ceramics capital. Easily accessible through nonstop flights to the north of England gateway of Manchester from Atlanta, Chicago, Newark, JFK, Philadelphia and DC, you’ll be curbside in no time at all and less than one hour later you’ll be banging on Wedgwood’s door. You can then shop and ship to your heart’s content at the factory outlets of your choice.
For a small group, Wedgwood also offer a Discovery Day at their state-of-the-art museum which includes a personal welcome and refreshments, a themed talk, a private guided tour, a handling session, and access to archive materials.
Masterpieces in the Making
Having flown all that way, add two more nights so that you can discover treasure-filled Chatsworth, the Palace of the Peak District, a Well Dressing ceremony, Notty Hornblower’s amazing Costume Museum, a visit to a private garden that rarely opens to the general public and a factory tour of Royal Crown Derby, the venerable bone-china manufacturer favored by George III and Queen Victoria where you will see at close quarters highly skilled craftsmen and women at work. Retail therapy will be satisfied by an hour or so in their shop! You might even consider timing it to coincide with one of the huge International Antiques and Collectors Fairs nearby Newark.
A Glass Act
A few short miles southwest of Britain’s Ceramics Capital, you’ll find the Stourbridge Glass Quarter which has been home to British glassmaking for over 400 years. There you will find one of the world’s finest collections at the Broadfield House Glass Museum and discover a thriving community of craftspeople at the Ruskin Glass Centre. To get a proper understanding for what life was like in this area of the West Midlands, your itinerary should include the Black Country Open Air Living Museum. Allow plenty of time for the visit, as there’s great deal to see and lots of people to meet.
In the Footsteps of Brother Cadfael
A few years ago, Masterpiece Theatre screened Ellis Peter’s medieval whodunit mysteries about Brother Cadfael, the crusader turned herbalist monk detective who lived in the Welsh border county of Shropshire. There will still be plenty of fans out there (myself included) who will be pleased to know that there are three circular tours which pass through picturesque villages and towns mentioned in the chronicles. Untouched by progress, you can now step back in time and explore the castles and abbeys that capture Brother Cadfael’s life and times.
Magna Carta Returns to the USA
Next year’s 800th anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta makes a wonderful excuse for a customised UK tour or pre/post cruise extension.
Five original copies are still in existence and the one from Lincoln, England will be the centrerpiece for a touring exhibition that starts at the Museum of Fine Art, Boston between July 2-Sept.1. It then moves to the Sterling and Francine Clark Institute in Williamstown, MA before concluding at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. between Nov.6-Jan.19.
For details of a special ‘Magna Carta Salutes America’ tour email [email protected]
Transforming the Imperial War Museum London
To mark the centenary of the First World War, a transformed IWM London will reopen with ground-breaking new First World War Galleries and a newly configured atrium displaying their iconic large objects. The transformation is well under way and the museum is closed until July 19. Their research facilities remain fully open.