by Dawn Emery, The Independent, March 30, 2017
It’s Visit England week at the moment, and if you're concerned about Brexit-related currency fluctuations, you'll be relieved to know there's a lot going on this year for those taking a staycation. From the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen's death to a new aerospace museum and a magical Harry Potter exhibition, it’s all happening at home this year.
The gallery: Tate St Ives
After 18 months and a £20m refurbishment the new-look Tate will open in St Ives 31 March. The gallery will have double the exhibition space, allowing for larger artworks and installations to be displayed. It will open with its first semi-permanent display, dedicated to the artists who flocked to the town from the 1920s onwards, including works by Barbara Hepworth and Naum Gabo. The second phase of the project, a new extension, opens in October.
The day out: Aerospace Bristol
The Concorde 216 – the last of its kind to be built and flown – is the centrepiece at the new industrial heritage museum in north Bristol, which celebrates the South West’s world-class aerospace industry when it opens this summer. The plane was built in Bristol, and this new centre examines over 100 years of aviation history and British innovation. Other historic aircraft on display includes the Bristol Scout, Bristol Fighter and a WWII Bristol Bolingbroke bomber, which has taken a few years to restore. There’s also a 150-seat lecture theatre, play and picnic areas, a café and shop. And even if you can’t fly on Concorde anymore, you can enjoy a three-course meal or drinks reception beneath its wings.
The anniversary: Jane Austen 200 – A Life in Hampshire
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen is one of England’s most acclaimed writers, and Jane Austen 200 – A Life in Hampshire will mark the 200th anniversary of her death with special events, walks, performances, writing competitions, and a dedicated Regency week. The exhibitions kick off with The Mysterious Miss Austen at Winchester Discovery Centre, (13 May – 24 July) which looks at her life, work and relationship with her home county. There will be five portraits of Jane on display for the very first time – one of which hasn’t been seen in public for more than 40 years. Visitors can also see various belongings including a silk pelisse coat, purse and an alternative ending to Persuasion written in her own handwriting.
The adventure: Valley Survivor
Those who are scared of heights need not apply. New opening Valley Survivor, near Whitby, describes itself as an “aerial adventure” where guests travel through the forest along the treetops, gaining survival skills along the way. Experts are on hand to teach budding Bear Grylls about shelter building, fire lighting and cooking in the great outdoors.
The history lesson: Hadrian’s Cavalry
Nothing quite like this has been attempted before: the Hadrian’s Cavalry exhibition will be shown across 10 museums spanning the length of Hadrian’s Wall, starting 8 April and running until 10 September, and celebrating the Roman regiments that guarded this fortification. The exhibition includes artefacts such as cavalry helmets and ornate armour. On 1 and 2 July, the largest ever Roman cavalry re-enactment will take place at Bitts Park in Carlisle, with the troop carrying out training exercises described by Hadrian 2,000 years ago.
The beach retreat: Bournemouth Beach Lodges
Bournemouth beach will soon have the addition of 15 eco-friendly, timber-framed each huts. Built by woodcraftsmen in the New Forest, these luxury lodges will be the first ever overnight huts the beach. Each has central heating, a living area, fully equipped galley kitchen, and an extra bedroom on the mezzanine level, meaning they sleep four adults and two children. You'll pay for the privilege of sleeping on the water, though; huts start at £150 a night, with a minimum three-night booking.
The foodie destination: Teign Estuary
Eating and drink feels a little bit better when you’ve walked some of it off. The brand new Taste of the Teign Food & Drink Trail is a self-guided walk around the Teign Estuary where you can stop at sites including Old Walls, the steepest vineyard in England, then have more booze at Red Rock Brewery, which has hand-brewed beer, and then pick your own strawberries at Shute Fruit and Produce. The Teign Estuary is also home to world-renowned mussel and oyster beds, while Teignmouth Harbour is where local restaurants source their fish. The trail is part of the Taste of the Teign food and drink festival, running 25 September to 1 October.
The exhibition: Harry Potter: A History of Magic
“I’ve got to go to the library!” said Hermione Granger in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. And Potter fans really should go too. To mark the 20th anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the British Library will run this spellbinding exhibition inspired by subjects studied at fictional school Hogwarts, such as potions, herbology and care of magical creatures. Harry Potter: A History of Magic will also include original material from centuries-old material from the library as well as Bloomsbury’s and J.K.Rowlings archives. It opens 20 October but tickets are expected to sell quickly - they're available from 3 April.
The hotel: Another Place, The Lake, Cumbria
Situated on the shores of Ullswater, England’s second largest lake, Another Place will be the place to go when it opens in August. A £3.5million investment has transformed this 18th-century building into a 40-room hotel, with an indoor infinity pool, spa family suites and dog-friendly rooms. It’s one for nature lovers – situated on 18 acres it offers activities including open-water swimming, cycling, sailing and paddle boarding (you’ll have to carry your paddle boards past a field full of sheep). The hotel has its own vegetable patch and herb garden, from where the hotel restaurant sources much of its food.
The Nature Experience: Dark Skies Pods
If you want to lie under the stars, then head to the award-winning Kielder Waterside Park. They’ve built five new five-star lodges, which come complete with their own stargazing pods, as well as hot tubs, barbeque huts, a deck area and underfloor heating. Kielder is the world’s fourth largest Dark Sky Park (the clear skies and low light pollution make them good star-spotting spots) and they have expert astromomers too. And while watching the night sky is perfect for a romantic trip for two, the lodges fit up to six guests. From £415 for three nights.