Vikings, Medieval Mystery Plays, and a Cockpit-In-Court Masterpiece | Travel Research Online


Vikings, Medieval Mystery Plays, and a Cockpit-In-Court Masterpiece

I’m always on the lookout for living history experiences and new attractions that can add bubble, fizz and pleasant surprises to UK tours. This week, I’m introducing you to six of them that fit that requirement.

York’s annual Viking Festival has been moved from February to June, which means that many more of us can enjoy this mighty celebration of the city’s Nordic origins. This is then followed by the staging of the medieval Mystery Plays, a once in every four years event. In Manchester, the Royal Horticultural Society’s Bridgewater Garden is fast becoming one of the UK’s must-see gardens which, when coupled with the stunning estates in Cheshire and North Wales, will be of great interest to green-fingered customers. Meanwhile, in Liverpool, the brand-new theatre modelled on Inigo Jones’ cockpit-in-court 17th century masterpiece will throw open its doors in the summer.

Read on and let’s be creative about what you offer your UK-bound clients this spring and summer.

The Shakespeare North Playhouse

Opening in the summer of 2022, it will host a wide variety of work including high profile Shakespearean drama, comedy, music, and many other genres of performance. Endorsed by the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford upon Avon, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the iconic building, currently under construction, will be home to an extraordinary timber-framed theatre, modelled on the Inigo Jones cockpit-in-court masterpiece of the 17th Century. Start thinking about a theatre tour that includes the Globe Theatre in London, the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford upon Avon, The Shakespeare North Playhouse in Liverpool and theatre in the round at Manchester’s Royal Exchange (see image).



Discover The Real World Of All Creatures Great And Small

First screened on Sunday January 9th, many of your customers, yourself include perhaps, will have watched every episode of this feel-good TV series on PBS. Let’s explore the idea of a two-three-night tour that reveals the locations used in the Yorkshire Dales for themselves. The story begins at his former home, and now the award-winning World of James Herriot in Thirsk before visiting some of the villages and market towns that he knew and loved. Expand the itinerary to include locations used in the filming of Victoria and discover Castle Howard’s links with Brideshead Revisited. Complete the programme with a couple of nights in the great heritage city of York.



The Vikings Return to York

The Vikings will once again be pitching their tents in central York in May with the welcome return of the engaging, re-enactment of the JORVIK Viking Festival. The final schedule still has to be confirmed, but popular events including the living history encampment, Strongest Viking Competition, Best Beard contest, have-a-go activities and the Traders Market will return. The Battle Spectacular will take place on the evening of Saturday 28 May and the ‘March to Coppergate’ will also take place on that date, and the Viking Banquet is scheduled for the evening of Wednesday 1 June. The itinerary kicks off with a scene setting visit to the award-winning Jorvik Viking Centre.



Wagons Roll!

Once again, the Guilds of York are the driving force behind the York Mystery Plays on 19th and 26th June this year, marking over 25 years of bringing the York Plays to the City streets. Building on the success of productions since 1998, and following the medieval custom, the Plays will again be presented on Pageant wagons. Originally a set of 48 plays performed by the Guilds of York, they illustrate the Christian history of the world from the Creation to the Last Judgement. Pushed by the residents of York and accompanied by musicians, eight wagons will process through the city’s streets to perform their Play at four different locations.



The Royal Horticultural Society Bridgewater Garden

In May 2021, the RHS opened its most recent garden at Bridgewater, Manchester. Set within 154 acres, the $47 million project has transformed the former site of Worsley New Hall, restoring the historic walled garden, lake and surviving buildings. Originally built in the mid-19th century, Worsley New Hall was a grand Gothic-style mansion, complete with glorious, formal landscaped gardens. The site’s jewel in the crown is the magnificent 11-acre Weston Walled Garden, one of the UK’s largest Victorian walled gardens, showcasing a range of growing techniques and edible plants. There’s also the spectacular Paradise Garden, featuring exotic planting inspired by Asiatic and Mediterranean gardens. RHS Bridgewater is now one of UK’s must-see gardens.


Bridgewater garden in Worsley Gtr Manchester RHS / Mark Waugh.


Gardens of Distinction and 12th Century North Wales Castles

To expand the potential for your green-fingered customers, spend a couple of nights in the nearby ancient Roman city of Chester—where its surrounding county is packed with quintessentially English gardens, secret and privately-owned properties that open rarely and then only when at their best. Then head into North Wales for visits to world-renowned gardens at Bodnant, Plas Brondanw and Portmeirion, a ride on one of the Great Little Trains, the magnificent 12th century castles at Conwy and Caernarfon, and watch a Welsh Male Voice Choir in rehearsal. This corner of northwest England and North Wales produces a kaleidoscope of colour your horticultural contacts won’t have been offered before.



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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