Happy New Year! And what an exciting one we hope it will be.
Right now, it’s hard to move for the crowd of new year resolution conversations, questions, promises, doubts and early triumphs. And there’s definitely no shortage of travel resolutions – out with the bucket list concept and in with resolutions of the travel variety.
And so here are some of our suggestions for seeing more of the UK in 2016 and coming out the other side with a whole heap more love for this beautiful land.
See something new
As part of Scotland’s Year of Innovation Architecture and Design you’ll find a myriad of events across Scotland that celebrate the country’s architecture through the ages. BUILD IT – Adventures with LEGO® bricks opens 29 January.
Get yourself to the National Museum of Scotland in Chambers Street, Edinburgh to play with Lego on a grand scale. See how the pros do it and appreciate the foundations of architectural skills that this most loved of children’s toys brings. What might be an expensive obsession if your kids love the stuff, could prove to be the making of the UK’s next generation of master architects. Or not. But if it helps to cushion the blow at the till next time, stick with it.
Step outside your comfort zone
February is the month of love and the month of half term. But whether you’re looking to escape from the kids with your other half or find somewhere to go with your entourage, make this month’s resolution one to fill your boots with experiences off your usual radar.
Valentine’s Day breaks
If you’re an urbanite, borrow some wellies for you and your beloved and head to the countryside. We’re thinking a weekend break in the Cotswolds, or perhaps a really rural retreat on Dartmoor – just you, the local wildlife and acres of countryside. For the country bumpkins, it’s time to hit the town for a city break. If celeb spotting floats your boat head for London Fashion Week (19-23 February) or at the other end of the cultural spectrum and a quieter introduction to city life, the Bath Literature Festival starts on 26 February.
February half term
If you’ve got the kids in tow, the Jorvik Viking Festival in York (15-27 February) will not only provide a history lesson they’re unlikely to get in school but also deliver it in a fun, interactive and 3D fashion.
Mould your Easter holiday around Great British tourism not just chocolate
March is the month of English Tourism Week (5-13 March) and Scottish Tourism Week (11-18 March), perfectly timed with the arrival of spring (we hope). And while the daffs will be long gone this year, come the calendrical arrival of spring, March also brings us Easter (25-28 March). So there’s really nothing else for it than to ring in this annual chocolate festival with an Easter holiday in the UK. We don’t need to tell you where to look for your Easter holiday cottage. But while you’re enjoying your break from school routine you’ll need something to entertain the troops.
So on the subject of Great Britain, we come to Great Britons and the UK’s most feted landscape gardener: Capability Brown. 2016 marks 300 years since Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown was born, which naturally must be celebrated with public access to his most renowned achievements. Factoid: he’s thought to have contributed to some 260 landscapes across England and Wales during his lifetime. And thanks to the National Trust and the Royal Horticultural Society, you can visit up to 150 of those sites during 2016.
Off you go then. We’ll award an out of date Easter egg to the person or family who can prove they visited the most Capability Brown sites in the year. Although come end of December, next year’s Easter eggs will probably already on the shelves. On your marks, get set, go!
Rethink what you thought about Shakespeare
A little bit of history trivia to start with: true or false, William Shakespeare died on his birthday? The history books tell us it’s true and 23 April 2016 marks the 400th anniversary of his death.
Naturally we’re heading to Stratford-upon-Avon with this one, Shakespeare’s birthplace, because the RSC is opening a new Shakespeare exhibition and a new theatre as part of their anniversary tributes to the literary legend.
While you might think this is all much ado about nothing (sorry!), even if Stratford is just a day trip on your visit to Warwickshire, it’s well worth it.
Elsewhere in the shire, the rustic ruins of Kenilworth Castle struggle to compete with the commercial enterprise that is Warwick Castle but both sites will stir the imagination and spur an historical curiosity. There is an abundance of holiday cottages in Shakespeare country, so make yourselves at home. And if the Bard’s turn of phrase proves too much there’s always Baz Luhrman’s interpretation of his prose to explain the plot and we bet there’s more than a few copies of the DVD sold in the local shops if not lurking on the shelves of your holiday home.
Find your beat
Whether you’re a muso or not, you’ll know what music you like and what music you don’t. But leave your music hang-ups at the door, this is the month to discover something new.
Jazz is often a marmite topic, but you can’t hate it without hearing great jazz musicians do it justice. Keswick Jazz Festival (12-15 May) could be right up your street as part of a Cumbrian holiday – a county that really needs our love and our footfall in 2016.
For a broader musical repertoire Bath International Music Festival (20-30 May) will likely feed your fancy but also open your musical horizons. It overlaps with Bath Fringe Festival (27 May-12 June) for a wider cultural line of shows.
You’ll be swaying or toe-tapping your way through the month while adding artists to your playlists that you’d never even heard of in 2015.
Play, watch, discover sport
It would be tough to ignore Euro2016 taking place in France this month, but here on home soil we’ve got our own fair share of sporting events to experience for the first time.
If you want to do the great British thing of queuing get yourself down to Wimbledon (27 June-10 July). With a spot of patience (more effective than luck in these scenarios) you could find yourself on Centre Court (or maybe just Murray Mound).
Alternatively, marvel at the fashion blunders while you attempt to decipher the odds at Royal Ascot (14-18 June). Make a day of it as part of a short break in Windsor. Just pack your posh frock and a wow headpiece – you’ll be front page news before your odds-on favourite is on the starting line.
For something a little more laidback, yet iconically British, Henley Women’s Regatta showcases the very best of amateur female rowing and is a casual warm up to next month’s society diary favourite Henley Royal Regatta.
And for somewhere to get sporty yourselves, May sees the reopening of the art deco Penzance Jubilee Pool, a seawater lido (Britain’s largest, in fact). So once the hubbub of its reopening in May is over, June looks like the perfect time for day trip dip from your Cornwall holiday home.
Try an inland British holiday
Keep the family entertained through the school summer holidays across the country with events and experiences tied to celebrations of national greatness and pride.
Snowdonia is home to activity and adrenalin junkies all year round – obviously there’s mountain climbing (apparently it’s a pretty high mountain too), then there’s a mile long zipwire (Europe’s longest, they say) at Penrhyn Slate Quarry. But this summer in Snowdonia you’ll be hard pressed to miss activities and tours associated with the release of Knights of the Roundtable, Guy Ritchie’s latest movie extravaganza that was shot largely in the region. Just imagine if that movie does for Wales what Lord of the Rings did for tourism in New Zealand. Watch this space…
And one for the adults: book tickets to see Kynren in Bishop Auckland (2 July-17 September) an open-air production exploring 2,000 years of English history. Bishop Auckland is one of County Durham’s modest cities that should be shouting about its grandeur from its castle’s towers. It’s position on the edge of the North Pennines makes it a haven for ramblers and history buffs alike.
Revel in the great British seaside holiday
Let’s for a moment just imagine an idyllic British summer with warm sunny days, more parasols than windbreakers, more sunscreen than cagoules. But if it’s the other way round, so be it. This is the UK.
This month, our resolution is to savour what’s great about our summer (rain or shine). Our beaches are clean, we have some amazing surf, rockpooling doesn’t get any better and where else in the world is it fun to sit on the harbour wall with a bucket of bacon and a crabbing line (and a not so full bucket of crabs). Throw in a pot of cockles, a donkey ride and a penny or two in the amusement arcade, and we’ll certainly have a nostalgic smile on our faces.
Even if you’re heading to the Peak District for your holiday, resolve to take one summer’s day to hit your nearest beach. After all, summer isn’t summer without sand in your sandwiches.
Read a great British author
It’s back to school for the kids and a month to celebrate some of Britain’s greatest fiction writers of more recent times. 2016 is both the 40th anniversary of the death of Agatha Christie and the 100th anniversary of the birth of Roald Dahl. It’s also the Jane Austen Festival in Bath (9-18 September).
The Celebrating Agatha Christie Weekend (9-11 September) takes place in Wallingford and Cholsey, the two villages either side of the small settlement of Winterbrook where she lived and died. This pretty corner of south Oxfordshire is also the perfect base for exploring the Thames Path as well as nearby Henley on Thames and Oxford.
Roald Dahl was born in Llandaff and so Wales is bringing Dahl’s work to life across the country throughout 2016 culminating in City of the Unexpected in Cardiff (17-18 September). By then you’ll have had chance to devour Steven Spielberg’s take on The BFG when it hits the big screen in July. If you’re not heading towards south Wales, The Roald Dahl Museum in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, where he lived for over 30 years, will also be celebrating his life’s work throughout the year.
Taste something new
Fill your October holiday with taste experiences, whether it’s making new recipies in your cottage kitchen or visiting one of these food festivals while on your cottage holiday. Wherever you are in the country, you can’t avoid this resolution – the temptation is just too great!
The famous Lincolnshire sausage finally has its own stage: Lincoln Sausage Festival (22 October) and they’ve got your day sorted, so that you can eat sausage until it’s coming out your ears and even the kids have their own entertainment marquee.
You’ll need to keep an eye out for dates of the Made in North Somerset Festival but you’ll be blown away by the producers of just part of this county and just how many of them there are. You won’t go home hungry, that’s for sure.
In a similar vein, if you’re in the Forest of Dean, the Forest Showcase Food & Drink Festival (2 October) will introduce you to locally brewed beers and farmhouse ciders, or award winning preserves to spread on artisan bread.
Yum, yum, yum…
See the country in a different light
You guessed it, this one’s all about light and illumination festivals. Once so few, now so many, where to start. One thing’s for sure, they’ll be one on your doorstep.
Leicester’s Festival of Light is probably one of the most spectacular, particularly its November Diwali Day celebrations.
For fans of Longleat, come after dark for a chance to see the stunning light structures and displays before heading back to your cosy cottage for hot chocolates and marshmallows toasted on the log fire.
Or for something a little different, over in East Anglia Lynn Lumiere illuminates some of King’s Lynn’s most iconic buildings every evening from twilight.
Buy British for Christmas
You know that we love local, but local doesn’t just have to be within 20 miles. Sometimes it’s simply about supporting British producers.
We’d certainly point you towards the artisan tea providers and coffee shops we’ve written about, also the mouthwatering chocolate makers and more recently we got our tummies rumbling talking about farmshops. While all of these are places to visit as part of your next cottage holiday, they are also great sources of gifts for birthdays, anniversaries and Christmases. Sometimes the great stuff is right there under our noses.
Wishing you all a happy, fun filled and discovery fuelled 2016!