When visiting an area of the UK, particularly for the first time, it’s a bonus to experience something meaningful or memorable locally. The options can be either overwhelming or, indeed, elusive. Either way, enriching adventures aren’t always found in the most obvious places.
Superstars in horseracing history, Suffolk
Palace House in Newmarket – opened in September 2016 by Queen Elizabeth II – is a fascinating museum looking at the history of horseracing and the development of the thoroughbred horse. In the Rothschild Yard you’ll actually meet former champion racehorses – some of whom are being retrained for a career beyond racing – and enjoy demonstrations including eventing, dressage and polo. Palace House, situated in the remains of King Charles II’s sporting palace and stables, also houses a National Art Gallery of British Sporting Art – beguiling browsing after a leisurely lunch in The Tack Room or, if it’s sunny, on its umbrella-covered terrace.
Stay at: The Swan at Lavenham (approximately 40 minutes away)
Quay-to-counter fish market, Tyne and Wear
The Fish Quay in North Shields, just south of Newcastle, dates back to the 13th century yet is positively up-and-coming right now. It’s a hive of high spirits and hard work, with colourful characters aplenty. To witness the action, and to ensure you get the cream of the catch, hit the daily fish market early in the morning. Fresh from the quay to the counter, you’ll find langoustines and Lindisfarne oysters, swordfish and all sorts of sole, brill and sea bass, to name but a few – all courtesy of the North Sea fishing grounds, and subject to seasonality, of course. The Hairy Bikers come here to get their fish; can’t be bad.
Stay at: Seaham Hall (approximately 30 minutes away)
By tractor to a tidal island, Devon
Twice a day Burgh Island is cut off from the mainland and, naturally, this is exactly when you want to go there. Consult the tide table, form an informal queue on the beach at Bigbury-on-Sea, and board the sea tractor. It looks like something a child might have designed – an open-air, hydraulic cage for humans, elevated above four enormous tyres. On arrival, head to the tiny Pilchard Inn for a glass of wine and a fresh crab baguette. You can either walk back across the spit, once the seas have parted or, if you’re in no hurry, sit tight, stay well watered and wait for the tractor to return.
Stay at: Buckland Tout-Saints (approximately 25 minutes away)
Morality play amidst temples, Buckinghamshire
The gardens at Stowe, near Buckingham, are brimming with hidden meaning. Their creator, Viscount Cobham, had an enormously influential network of political connections. From 1717 he landscaped the gardens in the grounds of his family home to disclose his thoughts on the politics and morality of the era. There are three paths for visitors to choose from: Vice leads you to the garden of love where the temples portray flirtatious female figures and hedonistic behaviour; Virtue, where the Temple of British Worthies stands, and where there are many bridges to cross (not an easy path to take, metaphorically-speaking at least); and Liberty, the longest and hardest of the three walks, lined with temples representing Britain’s influence in the 18th century.
Stay at: Hartwell House & Spa (approximately 40 minutes away)
By Mischa Mack