1. Tick-tock of the town
Big Ben, London. 157 years’ young, Big Ben is one of Britain’s most iconic landmarks. And it’s also the nation’s #1 most photographed place, tagged almost three million times last year alone. Not many people know that the tower has its own prison (unused since 1880). Or that like its Italian counterpart the Tower of Pisa, it leans, by about 0.22 metres northwest. And in 1949, it slowed down by four-and-a-half minutes when a flock of starlings all sat on one of the minute hands.
It also has its own unofficial Twitter account. A sample of a few of its recent tweets: “BONG”, “BONG BONG”, and “BONG BONG BONG”.
Westminster and the Southbank are available from Jubilee Lodge.
2. You’re laking me crazy
Lake Windermere, The Lake District. With its picturesque landscapes, calming lake views and mountain scenery, it’s no surprise this miracle of nature (over two million years of glaciations in the making) is one of our most treasured photo spots. Last year, the UN declared the Lake District a World Heritage site, placing it in the ranks of Venice and the Taj Mahal. Easy to see why 18 million people come to see (and snap!) the Lake District each year.
‘Windermere’ is Old Norse meaning ‘Vinandr’s lake’. We don’t know who Vinandr was, but they must’ve been a really big deal!
Lake Windermere is available from Sandpipers.
3. A stone’s throw away
Stonehenge, Wiltshire. Europe’s most famous prehistoric monument attracts so many visitors in part because of its mystery: What was it for? And how was it built? Was it a sacred burial ground?A Neolithic team-building exercise? An observatory? An alien DIY project?
Entertaining speculation abounds. It is also a mind-boggling feat of engineering, a 1500-year project taking an estimated 30 million hours of labor to achieve. As Bill Bryson put it: “Can you imagine trying to talk 600 people into helping you drag a fifty-ton stone eighteen miles across the countryside and muscle it into an upright position, and then saying, ‘Right, lads! Another twenty like that!”
Stonehenge is available from Netley Waterside House.
4. Wood you beleaf it
The New Forest, Bournemouth. Though these photogenic woodlands are now renowned for their tranquil beauty, William the Conquerer created the forest in 1079 as his royal hunting ground. The Norman King’s third son William Rufus was killed by an arrow in the Forest, and his body now rests in Winchester Cathedral.
More chilled out than their human contemporaries, the New Forest also has the highest concentration of ancient trees in Western Europe. These perennial granddaddies of the Forest have seen it all – some Yew trees are believed to be over 1,000 years old. Not to mention the Forest’s most famous locals, its 5,000 wild ponies!
The New Forest and Winchester Cathedral are available from Netley Waterside House.