Shin Kicking, Paradise, Don Giovanni and a Hidden Gem | TravelResearchOnline

Shin Kicking, Paradise, Don Giovanni and a Hidden Gem

Every year, at the end of January, some of England’s attractions come together to showcase what they have to offer during the forthcoming season and I’m always on the lookout for bright ideas for you to offer independent travellers and small groups cruising or flying in or out of London. Most of them are in the southern and central regions of the country, and this week I’m highlighting an opening selection with more to follow in 2 weeks’ time. Don’t forget, if something catches your eye, I have nearly 40 years’ experience in matching it to suit your client’s interest, time frame and budget. Here are 10 suggestions that will give you a more imaginative perspective on your old friend Britain.

Cotswolds Curiosities

If this lovely corner of England is on your radar, let me introduce you to a fascinating week at the end of May when you can experience a traditional cheese rolling event (dates back to the early 1800s) the annual Tetbury Woolsack Races, a long-standing traditional display of strength, and finish with the Olimpick Games, first staged in Chipping Campden in 1612.

A Living Picture Of Paradise

Created in the late 18th century, Painshill Park just south of London was designed as a Living Work of Art. Today, your stroll through a series of unfolding vistas will reveal the crystal Grotto, Gothic Temple, Ruined Abbey, Turkish Tent and the John Bartram Collection of North American trees and shrubs. A Hermitage is hidden in the woods and if you climb the 99 steps to the top of the Gothic Tower, on a clear day not only will you see as far as Canary Wharf, London and Windsor Castle but you’ll have also earned a tasting of Painshill’s very own sparkling wine.

D Day 75th Anniversary in Portsmouth

75 years ago, the forces of 13 Allied countries gathered in Britain before launching the historic D Day operation to liberate Europe. Portsmouth, the embarkation point for much of the 1944 landing force, will be the focal point of the UK commemorations on 5th June. It will include a military parade, military band performances, readings by VIPs and a flypast featuring period aircraft.

Kings and Scribes

In 2019, Winchester Cathedral will be transformed by Kings and Scribes, a spectacular new exhibition experience in the South Transept. Three galleries will tell the story of Winchester’s role as England’s ancient capital and Winchester Cathedral’s captivating history, including The Scribe’s Tale, Decoding the Stones and Birth of a Nation. Thanks to funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, this stunning three-level exhibition space will showcase some of Winchester Cathedral’s most precious treasures, including all four volumes of the exquisite 12th-century Winchester Bible.

Don Giovanni in The Cotswolds

Running between 5th June and 3rd August, the internationally renowned Longborough Festival Opera is performed in an intimate 500-seat theatre set amidst the glorious rolling hills of the Cotswolds. The exciting 2019 programme includes four new productions: Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, and Cavalli’s rarely-performed La Calisto, along with Wagner’s Das Rheingold. It’s their first step to a new Ring cycle.

Romantic Pashley Manor

Sweeping herbaceous borders, elegant rose and historic walled gardens and enchanting woodland paths. Welcome to this superb, award-winning garden on the Kent/Sussex border. In addition to private garden tours, time your visit to include their annual Tulip Festival (22nd April – 7th May), their Sculpture in Particular Exhibition displayed throughout the garden (25th May-1st June) and their Special Rose Week 7th-15th June).

Borde Hill

This beautiful award-winning garden combines outstanding vistas with tranquil outdoor garden rooms including the delightful Azalea Ring and Rhododendron Gardens, Rose Garden and scenic Italian Garden. Between 10th May – 30th Sept, the garden will be transformed into an outdoor gallery with an enticing collection of sculpture. Between 17th-28th June, the afternoon air is thick with a heady scent during their annual Rose Celebrations.

A Hidden Gem

As England’s smallest and arguably prettiest county, Rutland certainly lives up to its motto, Multum in Parvo (much in little). It is peppered with attractive villages, privately owned stately homes, castles and beautiful gardens, all set in wonderful English countryside with picture-postcard cottages and traditional country inns serving real ales and the best local produce. It also has one of Europe’s finest alfresco theatres at Tolethorpe. Rutland has not been taken over by large hotel chains making it ideal for FITs and small groups as the accommodation available is in independent, historic properties that give a great sense of experiencing the real England.

The Wonderful World of Wedgwood

Just 1 hour south of the Manchester Gateway, start a short shop ‘n’ ship trip to the World Capital of Ceramics with a close encounter with the master craftsmen and women at the World of Wedgwood. Browse in their Flagship Store, enjoy morning coffee served in the finest Wedgwood china and discover the Wedgwood Collection in their Museum, now owned by the V&A.

Mary Queen of Scots

Nominated for 3 BAFTA awards, the brand-new film provides a very good framework for an imaginatively themed, customised tour of Scotland. It includes visits to locations used in the filming, a visit to her birthplace at Linlithgow, Stirling Castle where she was crowned Queen of Scots, Inchmahome Priory, a place of refuge and other places associated with this ill-starred Queen.

Paull Tickner, owner of U.K.-based Custom GB, is known for his expertise in creating and operating imaginative, value-added tours of Great Britain and Ireland. Visit his website at or email him at

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