image ©Britainonview / Sheradon Dublin
As St George’s Day looms, JAMES ELLIS has been out and about sampling the best the eccentric English have to offer – finding those quirky corners and arcane activities that simply couldn’t exist elsewhere. So stiffen that upper lip, chuck a hankie on your head and get out and about to sample the best of beautiful England.
AS well as being St George’s Day, April 23 is Shakespeare’s birthday and his home town of Stratford-upon-Avon will be celebrating with a host of events from April 22 to 25.
Fun will include traditional processions, morris dancers and Shakespearean performers — as well as belly-dancing and skateboarding. For details, see shakespeare.org.uk/birthday.
BE served by bumbling Spanish waiter Manuel and meet Basil Fawlty and his wife, Sybil, from the classic TV show Fawlty Towers. Breaks, which include hotel stays and a dinner with the Laugh Lines comedy troupe, are held around the country. See superbreak.com.
FORGET taking the ferry across the Mersey, walking under the famous Liverpudlian river is the cool way to do it. The Queensway Tunnel is a fascinating gateway to local engineering history. Tours are Tues/Wed/Thur at 5pm, 10am Saturdays, and cost £5. Check out merseytunnels.co.uk.
Go to ghost city
AS home to more than 500 ghosts (I wonder who counted them), York claims to be the nation’s most haunted city. On the Ghost Hunt Of York (ghosthunt.co.uk), you’re led around by a spooky Victorian undertaker.
To pee or not to pee
THE world’s littlest theatre, The Theatre of Small Convenience is just that — a theatre in a converted gents’ toilet. The Victorian building in Great Malvern, Worcs, was turned into the 12-seat theatre by Dennis Neale who regularly hosts plays, puppet shows and even operas. Performances are on Saturdays on demand and entrance is £2.50 — £1.50 for children (wctheatre.co.uk).
JUST outside Whitby, N Yorks, La Rosa campsite (larosa.co.uk) has to be one of the strangest in the world. You stay in a gipsy caravan, and the toilet is an old shepherd’s hut on top of a compost heap. All the interiors are made of reclaimed items meaning this Aladdin’s Cave of a campsite also has great green credentials. Rooms are £28 per person, or £26 if you use public transport, and the price includes bedding, gas, candles and firewood. You’re advised to take a torch, food supplies, a towel, wellies and a swimsuit — for the outside bath.
A lonely pint
HEAD to Lundy Island, off the north Devon coast, for a pint of Old Lundy Ale at the Marisco Tavern. The Marisco is one of only 23 buildings on Lundy, a rocky outcrop that is three miles long by half a mile wide. The island’s 28 resident people are joined by species such as the grey seal, sika deer, pygmy shrews and feral goats. Find out more at lundyisland.co.uk.
IN Northumberland, the elusive predators are so plentiful you can even go on an otter safari to seek them out. There’s also the chance to see another native mammal that’s now sadly rare, the red squirrel. Tours start from £30 (northernexperiencewildlifetours.co.uk).
Time for tea
WHAT could be more English than celebrating with a good old English cuppa? Thanks to the Tea Guild, we know where to go to get the best char. They announced their award winners yesterday. The Black Swan Tearoom, Helmsley, North Yorkshire took top spot -the traditional inn has some fab boutique bedrooms too. See blackswanhelmsley.co.uk. The top London afternoon tea venue award went to Langham Hotel with its fabulous Palm Court. The Manor House Hotel, Castle Combe, Wiltshire took the top City and Country Hotel Tea prize.
Falls in love
Stay at The George & Dragon Inn, Aysgarth, North Yorkshire. In the heart of the stunning Yorkshire Dales and near the spectacular Aysgarth falls, the Inn has welcomed travellers for nearly 300 years. Relax in front of a log fire or soak up the glorious views across Wensleydale from the patio. Find out more at georgeanddragonaysgarth.co.uk.
Climb Big Ben
WHILE touring the Houses of Parliament in London is just a matter of booking a ticket, getting the chance to climb St Stephen’s Tower to see the Big Ben bell is a different matter. Climbs have to be booked by contacting your local MP and it may be best to do so after the election — it takes three months for them to get you permission. Then you get to take the 334-step climb with a guide who outlines the history of the world’s most famous clock on the way. Take ear plugs — Big Ben is almost certain to chime on the tour. See parliament.uk/visiting/.
Test out Fat Duck
HESTON BLUMENTHAL’S Fat Duck restaurant in Bray, Berks, doesn’t come cheap (the taster menu is £150) but the chef’s mad “molecular gastronomy” is said to be worth every penny. Visit fatduck.co.uk.
For more ideas on things to do see enjoyengland.com