Stuck with what to do in England this summer? We've gathered the country's experts to inspire you with their favourite activities
TV presenter Bill Oddie reveals the best spot for watching wildlife: “There are just a few places that I would recommend to anyone and feel absolutely confident that they’d have an unforgettable experience. I have visited sea bird colonies all round the world but the Farne Islands are the best place to literally walk among terns, shags, kittiwakes and the endlessly entertaining puffins. I’d recommend visiting between April and early September, with June and July for maximum bird activity.”
Hop on a boat from Seahouses Harbour to discover one of Europe’s finest nature reserves. During the summer you can get up close to all sorts of seabirds, including around 37,000 pairs of loved-up puffins, and come autumn the cute factor is off the scale as over a thousand seal pups are born.
Tourist Information Centre, Seafield Car Park, Seafield Road NE68 7SW; www.nationaltrust.org.uk/farne-islands
Actress and novelist Clemency Burton-Hill explains why this is her favourite part of England's capital city: “Walking across Waterloo Bridge I can’t help but feel a deep sense of pride as I pass some of the finest architectural edifices ever created on route to the Southbank, which in my opinion is probably the greatest arts institution in the world. I don’t think there’s anything that you could be interested in that you won’t find on that stretch of the Thames.”
London’s neon-soaked Southbank is perfect for a splash of arts and culture with its cool gang of art galleries and theatres congregating along the River Thames. Shakespeare’s Globe, the imposing Tate Modern, the BFI, the National Theatre and much more will keep you busy for weeks.
Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road SE1 8XX; www.southbankcentre.co.uk
Award-winning chef Skye Gyngell on where to get the best grub: “Eating oysters in Whitstable has to be a favourite of mine. I love oysters, they really are one of my favourite treats, and growing up I remember reading books that Whitstable featured in. So I think the combination of the two – a food I really love to eat and a town I read about thousands of miles away – makes this a special choice for me.”
The chic and compact town of Whitstable is one of England’s coolest seaside hangouts and its oysters are to die for. Come July, the pebbled beach heaves with foodie fans indulging in freshly-caught oysters during the week-long Whitstable Oyster Festival.
Venues throughout Whitstable’s town centre, harbour and beaches; www.whitstableoysterfestival.co.uk
News presenter Sonali Shah likes to get outdoors: “I've chosen coasteering in Cornwall as my ultimate pick because it sounds like a super-charged version of something many of us will have tried as kids on a seaside holiday. The variety of activity – the sport involves swimming, jumping, diving, climbing and scrambling – would make it a totally adrenaline-packed experience. It's a unique way of exploring one of England's most stunning coastlines!”
Experienced guides are dotted along the coastline ready to take you on an adventure where the land greets the sea. Scaling cliffs and plunging into crystalline waters is an exhilarating and fun way to get to know the Cornish coast.
Numerous activity centres throughout Cornwall; www.visitcornwall.com
Yeoman Warder, Barney Chandler explains his historic pick: “I’ve chosen Tintagel Castle in Cornwall because these incredible ruins, perched on a cliff-top, are steeped in legend and mystery – they’re said to be the home of King Arthur. I remember visiting this beautiful village as a child and still recall the spectacular setting of the castle to this very day.”
Oozing an inimitable mythical charm, these ancient ruins are magnificently poised in a breathtaking position looking out to sea. Complete the trip with a visit to Merlin’s Cave nearby. Beautiful at any time of year, a summer sunset from these crumbling walls is something extra-special to behold.
Bossiney Road, Tintagel PL34 0HE; www.english-heritage.org.uk/tintagel-castle
English animated character Wallace is known for his love of cheese: “Gromit and I are delighted to announce none other than Cheese Rolling, of course. (Reminds me of the old joke, lad: “How do you make a cheese roll? Push it down a hill!”) This is one of the nation’s fastest growing sports and bound to be granted Olympic status soon, along with its spin-off games: Cheddar-Chucking and Wensleydale-Wanging. Awesome indeed, eh Gromit?”
Every year on the last Monday of May, a group of what can only be described as crazy people hurl themselves down a very steep hill in pursuit of a large 7-8lb Double Gloucester cheese. The tradition is centuries old and is apparently rooted in a pagan ritual celebrating the return of spring. There are three men’s races, and one ladies’, with the first cheese rolled at midday. Each race lasts about 30 seconds, if that, during which hundreds of competitors roll, bounce and slide down the 200m, 1:2 gradient slope. We’re not suggesting you take part – it really is a mad thing to do, as proven by the broken bones – but join the crowds to watch this awesome, unique and utterly English event.
Cooper’s Hill, Brockworth, Gloucestershire GL3; www.cheese-rolling.co.uk
See www.101thingstodoinengland.co.uk for the full checklist and to create your own bespoke “to-do” list.
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