100 reasons 2012 is a GREAT year to visit Britain

  • 16 Apr 2012

It’s the year of some GREAT anniversaries

1. Queen Elizabeth II celebrates 60 years on the throne and so does the whole country. All the information about what’s going on can be found in the Visit Britain tookit

2. Bond is 50 – he might not look it, but Britain’s most dashing secret agent makes it to half a century this October, with a new film Skyfall to be released. Information will be available on the Online Media Centre when available. A new exhibition in July marks the occasion.

3. Dickens is 200 and the Museum of London recreates Victorian London to celebrate

4. Shakespeare is 400. Double the age of Dickens, and double the fanfare. Britain is going Bard-crazy, with the World Shakespeare Festival inviting over 60 theatre companies to perform in a myriad different languages; Globe to Globe presents 37 plays over 37 days in 37 languages.

5. The Sandwich is 250. It was invented in Britain.

6. Titanic sank, 100 years ago in April this year. Belfast’s new museum has been the toast of the town, with excellent interactive displays and a breathtaking recreation of the ship’s dining room.

7. The Beatles released their first single 50 years ago, conquering the music world and making Liverpool proud.

8. The craziest take on the Olympics, the Cotswold Olympicks began the same year that Shakespeare was born, 1612. Madcap sporting events and music make it one of Britain’s quirkier attractions.

9. The Science Museum celebrates the 100th anniversary of the birth of Alan Turing, a pioneering computer scientist, with a year-long fascinating exhibition.

10. 40 years ago the musical Grease opened on Broadway – what’s that got to do with Britain? Leed’s Castle, one of the country’s most majestic attractions, will screen the hit 50s film as part of its Diamond Jubilee festivities.

Britain has the world’s best pubs

11. Marble Arch, Manchester, England. For visitors searching for a truly traditional and off the beaten path pub, the Marble Arch won’t disappoint. This 120 year old pub brews its own selection of Marble beers. While it is a bit tricky to find, it is busy all day proving that over 120 years of tradition equals good beers and a good atmosphere.

12. Hard Days Night Hotel, Liverpool, England. For visitors who fancy a Honey Can’t Buy Me Love or Rocky Raspberry Raccoon, then the Fab Four themed cocktails at the bar of the Beatles-inspired Hard Days Night Hotel in Liverpool won’t disappoint. The wood paneled walls, luxury leather arm chairs and Italian marble add a sense of pure class. Visitors should keep an eye out for the large artworks by Paul Ygartua who attended Liverpool Art College with John Lennon.

13. No Sign Wine Bar, Swansea, Wales. A must for fans of Dylan Thomas, the No Sign Wine Bar was a favorite with the poet who used to drink here in the 1930s. It appears as the ‘Wine Vaults’ in his story The Followers and retains much of its period charm. In addition to a vast selection of wines, No Sign Wine Bar also serves excellent ale.

14. The Pen & Wig, Cardiff, Wales. This old-style pub is tucked-away making it the ideal spot for a perfect pint. Popular with the locals, The Pen & Wig offers a delicious menu including Sunday Roasts, has a pool table and even boasts a large patio garden out back. The friendly atmosphere, welcoming staff and refreshing drinks make this a must-try pub.

15. Bar Ten, Glasgow, Scotland. Fitted out by Ben Kelly in 1991, designer of the legendary Hacienda Club in Manchester, the original Glasgow style bar continues to be one of the coolest in the city. After the Hacienda Club closed in 1997, Bar Ten remains one of the only places visitors can get a taste of Kelly’s timeless designs for nightlife spaces. The slick interior with black marble, tubular steel and industrial details is as cool and satisfying as the drinks.

16. Café Royal, Edinburgh, Scotland
Opened in 1863, Edinburgh’s Café Royal is a listed bar and restaurant whose period features make drinking here a treat. Visitors can have a wee dram of whisky and enjoy an oyster or two amid elaborate Victorian plasterwork, stained glass and unique Doulton ceramic murals, which depict scenes from science and industry.

17. The Ship Inn, Devon, England. Scrumptiously set in one of the prettiest villages in Devon, The Ship Inn at Noss Mayo’s garden sits surveying the town quay with excellent food and well-kept beers. Visitors can relax and take in the views of bobbing boats, hungrily circling seagulls and a gentle estuary bordered by forested hilltops. Visitors arriving by boat can tie up outside.

18. Square and Compass, Dorset, England. For sheer English eccentricity, this one's hard to beat. The Square and Compass has its own fossil museum and holds events from pumpkin carving festivals to stone masonry workshops. It was a local quarrymen's pub and still retains an odd assortment of roughly hewn stones, some of which act as seating in the sunny garden. From here a grassy slope descends to the village and down to the sea beyond making it a lovely setting for visitors to sip a homemade cider.

19. Kings Head Wadenhoe, Northamptonshire, England. The stone-built King's Head is a 16th-century inn in a wonderful spot with seating in a grassy paddock sloping gently towards the River Nene. Serious ale fans won't be disappointed with the fine cask-conditioned beers including their own King's Head Bitter. Visitors are welcome to grab a seat under the shade of a willow and watch the Nene slide lazily by. Visitors arriving by boat can moor for free.

20. Applecross Inn, Wester Ross, Scotland. This remote, waterside pub boasts outstanding views across to the Isle of Skye. To get there, visitors will take in some terrific scenery either over the hair-raising Pass of the Cattle (Beallach na Ba) or along the single-track lane winding around the coast from just south of Shieldaig. The Applecross Inn serves excellent seafood. Visitors can devour oysters or lobster, drink in the view of Skye's jagged Cuillin Hills and wash it all down with a warming whisky.

You can let your hair down at 10 GREAT music festivals
Glastonbury, the UKs best-known music festival is taking 2012 off. But there are plenty of other outdoor events for the music fan…

21. Download, 8 - 10 June 2012, Donington Park, Leicestershire. Now in its 10th year, none come heavier than this Heavy Metal Heaven. Confirmed headliners are Black Sabbath, Metallica and the Prodigy.

22. Isle Of Wight, 22 - 24 June 2012. A grand tradition stretching back to Bob Dylan (1969) and Jimi Hendrix (1970), this year has Bruce Springsteen & the E. Street Band headlining, plus, Elbow, Noel Gallagher, Jessie J and Tinie Tempah.

23. Hop Farm Festival, 29 June - 1 July 2012, The Hop farm, Paddock Wood, Kent “No sponsorship, no branding, no VIPs” boasts this festival aimed at the more… mature festival goer. Last year the Eagles, Lou Reed, Iggy & the Stooges appeared.

24. Wireless, 7 - 8 July 2012, Hyde Park, London. Rihanna, Jessie J, Drake and Professor Green have been confirmed. The Bruce Springsteen Hard Rock Calling gig in Hyde Park 13 - 15 July is SOLD OUT.

25. T In The Park, 6 - 8 July 2012, Balado, Kinross, Ayrshire. The Stone Roses have been confirmed as headliners. Last year saw equally big hitters Muse, Coldplay, Kasabian and the Arctic Monkeys.

26. Wakestock, 6 - 8 July 2012, Llyn Peninsula, North Wales. Confirmed headliners are Ed Sheerhan, Dizzee Rascal and Calvin Harris

27. Latitude, 12 - 15 July 2012, Henham Park, Southwold, Suffolk. Regularly voted one of the best family festivals, no names have yet been confirmed, but Mumford & Sons and Radiohead have been rumoured.

28. Cambridge Folk Festival, 26 - 29 July 2012, Cherry Hinton, Cambridge. Names confirmed for 2012 at the time of going to press include Clannad, Joan Armatrading, June Tabor and the Proclaimers. Recent acts have included folk legends Richard Thompson, Home Service and Kate Rusby as well as non-folkies such as Rumer, Lucinda Williams and Seasick Steve.

29. V Festival, 18 - 19 August 2012, Hylands Park, Chelmsford and Weston Park, Staffordshire. One of the year’s most popular events and always attracting big names. Just confirmed that this year the Stone Roses will be appearing Also set are the Killers and Happy Mondays.

30. Creamfields, 24 - 26 August 2012, Daresbury Estate, Halton, Cheshire. The UKs biggest dance festival, going strong since 1998, recently received the prestigious Music Week Best Festival of the Year award. No names confirmed at time of going to press.

Britain is home to GREAT beaches

31. Bamburgh, Seahouses, Northumberland: the most open of beachscapes, dominated from a distance by the magnificent Bamburgh Castle (01289 330733,

32. Bedruthan Steps, Newquay, Cornwall: no swimming because the water can be treacherous, but a wonderful beach for sunbathing and taking in the views (01637 860563,

33. Botany Bay, Broadstairs, Kent: golden sand, white cliffs and fascinating rock pools — the perfect seaside (0870 264 6111,

34. Brancaster, Burnham Market, Norfolk: wide sand, wide skies and a great sense of freedom (01485 210256,

35. Danes Dyke, Bridlington, Yorkshire: a dramatic, stony beach with lots of fossils, lots of seabirds and great views (01262 673474,

36. Dawlish Warren, Dawlish, Dorset: a fantastic 1 mile (2 kilometres) of sand jutting out across the wide mouth of a river estuary on the south coast; also a designated nature reserve, it attracts a great range of birds, including grebes, cormorants, herons and swans (01626 215665,

37. Formby, Southport, Lancashire: a big unspoilt expanse of sand with wonderful dunes, and home to natterjack toads (0151 707 0986,

38. Lunan Bay, Montrose, Scotland: 2 miles (3 kilometres) of lovely sand and beautiful dunes; equally good for surfing and bird-watching (01674, 673232,

39. Saundersfoot, Pembrokeshire, Wales: a bay filled with beaches and a perfect spot for sun and surf (01834 813672,

40. West Wittering, Chichester, West Sussex: an unbeatable beach, great swimming and a huge dune area where you can escape the summer crowds (01243 775888,

Discover GREAT British fashion designers (London flagship store address book)

41. Alexander McQueen. Designer Sarah Burton created Kate Middleton’s Alexander McQueen wedding dress and the label shot to worldwide fame. 4-5 Old Bond Street

42. Aquascutum
The flagship store has housed the boutique since 1920 and its interior is as much of a spectacle as the clothing. The brand is as British as they come. 100 Regent St

43. Burberry Famous for its iconic check-print and trench coats worn by celebrities, with brooding, chiselled actors featuring in its ad campaigns. 165 Regent St

44. Temperley Temperley dresses are regularly worn by the Middleton sisters and the shopfront features a painted Union Flag. A quintessentially British brand. 2-10 Colville Mews London

45. Victoria Beckham A GREAT ambassador and fashion icon. Victoria Beckham’s recently created designer label, and diffusion line ‘Victoria, Victoria Beckham’ are available at Selfridges and Harrods.

46. Vivienne Westwood. A living icon, Vivienne Westwood represents Britain’s eccentric and subversive side. Her store has creative window displays and is a spectacle in itself. 44 Conduit St, London.

47. Paul Smith The famous British designer uses Union Flags in ad campaigns and iconic coloured stripes in his designs. He’s best known for his floral printed shirts and high quality suits with surprising printed linings. The Covent Garden store has art objects interspersed with clothing items. 40-44 Floral Street, Covent Garden

48. Timothy Everest Quintessential British tailor who trained on Savile Row, and whose designs are worn by celebrities such as David Beckham; he was ‘Official Tailor to the England football team’ at the South Africa World cup. His store is located in the lively and edgy Spitalfields of London, a fun area in itself to visit. 32 Elder St, Liverpool St tube

49. Reiss The British brand is often worn by Kate Middleton, with affordable very high quality fashion. Reiss is the epitome of British elegance, available to all. 172 Regent St.

50. Simon Carter British designer Simon Carter began his career making men’s jewellery and has expanded into other accessories, such as ties, gloves, scarves and cufflinks as well as colourful, well-made shirts with distinctive prints. The Bloomsbury store is on a pretty, very English street full of independent boutiques and charming cafés, close to the British Museum.

The London 2012 festival is set to make it a GREAT year for culture. Here’s why:

51. 1000 events

52. 10 million free opportunities to get involved

53. The festival opens on Midsummer’s Day, 21 June – when there will be more hours of daylight than almost any other (20th June is the longest day) For example in Edinburgh on 21st June there will be over 17.5 hours of daylight! More time to watch the best of culture!

54. Mark Rylance, the hottest actor in London theatre (fans queued overnight to get tickets for his play “Jerusalem”) will be giving pop-up performances of Shakespeare’s sonnets all around the capital

55. Hip-hop Shakespeare anyone? Tickets have been selling fast for this take on Shakespeare’s Othello by a Chicago based theatre company, one of 37 performances in 37 languages.. There’s a performance in Maori, including a haka, a war dance normally seen on a rugby pitch; and the World Shakespeare Festival also includes performances in Stratford-upon-Avon, Brighton, Edinburgh, Newcastle and other parts of the country.

56. Every year is a good year for the BBC Proms – two months of nightly or twice-nightly concerts by orchestras and soloists from around the world in the grand surroundings of the Royal Albert Hall. But this year they include world-leading conductor Daniel Barenboim and the East-West Divan Orchestra performing all of Beethoven symphonies, with the glorious 9th symphony on 27th July – the same night as the opening ceremony of the Games (full details of the Proms will be announced here

57. Iconic landmarks such as Stonehenge, Hadrian’s Wall, the Ironbridge Gorge and Arthur’s Seat are being transformed in a once-in-a –lifetime event

58. A 10m tall puppet of Lady Godiva, Coventry’s most famous resident (from medieval times) will be the centrepiece of a carnival in Coventry, before she sets off down the A5, seated on a horse propelled by 100 cyclists, reaching London and the Olympics a week later, as the West Midlands contribution to the Cultural Olympiad. Too big to fit under any of the road bridges , her throne and steed have been designed to squash down to a travelling height, and then rise up when she arrives at an overnight stop.

59. Handspring Puppet Company, the geniuses behind the National Theatre’s production of War Horse (just released as a film) will present the world premiere of a show based on poet Ted Hughes’ Crow poems for the Greenwich and Docklands International Festival

60. Big Dance is the world’s largest and most influential dance initiative, and the celebrations will expand in 2012 to reach across the whole of the UK, involving over 5 million people. Highlights will include a cast of over 1000 dances in Trafalgar Square on 14 July as part of the Big Street Dance Day

There are hundreds of GREAT free things to do. Here are 10:

61. Changing of the Guard, Buckingham Palace One of Britain’s greatest traditions and attractions is the heritage of the British Monarchy. From May to July the Changing of the Guard happens daily at 11 a.m. (10 a.m. on Sundays) and lasts approximately 1 hour. The process is the changing of the old guard from Buckingham Palace with a new guard from St. James’s Palace. The guards are from one of five regiments: the Scots Guards, the Irish Guards, the Welsh Guards, the Grenadier Guards and the Coldstream Guards.

62. Art Galleries Tate Britain, Tate Modern, National Gallery London has some great art galleries and what’s even better is they are free! Tate Britain, situated in Millbank, and Tate Modern, situated in Bankside, are home to artwork from 1500 to the present day. Along with these two museums, the famous National Gallery, situated to the north of Trafalgar Square, boasts an impressive collection of Western European artwork from the early 20th century to present / /

63. Primrose Hill Primrose Hill, situated on the north side of Regent’s Park, offers remarkable views over London’s skyline, especially at sunset. The park, which is 410 acres, was designed in 1811 by John Nash, a renowned architect. The park has its own soccer, softball, rugby and cricket pitches in addition to a boating lake, bandstand, and a beautiful rose garden. The region is full of pubs, cafes, restaurants and celebrities. Primrose Hill is the ideal location for visitors to take a picnic and do some celebrity spotting.

64. The British Museum Not only are art galleries free, but most museums are also free in London. The British Museum, founded in 1753 by Act of Parliament, is home to nearly 2 million objects making it a fascinating experience. Visitors can take a guided tour to discover Ancient Egypt or how the Romans lived. The British Museum offers a wealth of artifacts from around the world in one

65. Covent Garden Covent Garden is always full of hustle and bustle. Visitors can watch the street entertainers, dine in a fine restaurant or shop in the boutique stores. Covent Garden is a place that will charm travelers of all

66. The Royal Parks. Kensington Gardens The Royal Parks are the perfect escape from the busy city with green open spaces and plenty of events the whole family can enjoy. Parents and children alike will enjoy the Princess of Wales Memorial Playground in Kensington Gardens that is inspired by Peter Pan. With the pirate ship surrounded by sand and nearby Notting Hill, the delightful area is perfect for a Sunday afternoon stroll.

67. London at Night Walk by the houses of Parliament after dark and walk south across Westminster Bridge. Here you will find a remarkable view of the London Eye. Once you reach St. Thomas Hospital, turn around to take in the view. The lights of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben glistening in the River Thames is an incredible view that no visitor should miss.

68. Chinatown on a Sunday Chinatown on a Sunday is alive with entertainment, busy supermarkets and restaurants. Visitors will enjoy the array of entertainment and 78 restaurants that make up this vibrant

69. Sunday UpMarket and Backyard Market, Brick Lane The Sunday UpMarket and Backyard Market are for the fashion lovers who fancy getting off the beaten track and want to experience local markets. With both markets being in hidden hotspots, only locals shop at them. They are both very unique. Backyard Market has an array of garments from up and coming fashion designers with many arts and crafts deals to be had. Sunday UpMarket has many food delights such as cupcakes, Moroccan and Spanish paella - with free

70. City Farms London has many city farms that are free to visit. Vauxhall City Farm offers pony care classes and donkey rides, while MudChute Park and Farm is the largest urban farm in London sitting on 34 acres. Many of the farms also host children’s playgrounds and fresh farm shops. Visitors won’t want to miss the unique experience of visiting a city farm while in London. /

It’s the site of some GREAT onscreen romance

71. Edinburgh was one of the stars in the recent “One Day” where, after spending the night together after their college graduation Dexter and Em are shown each year on the same date to see where they are in their lives. They are sometimes together, sometimes not, on that day. The opening and closing scenes were filmed in Edinburgh

72. Will Lady Mary marry Matthew Crawley? Will Matthew even survive World War One? Millions were glued to their televisions to watch the first series of Downton Abbey, broadcast all around the world. Downton was filmed at Highclere Castle, near Newbury, Berkshire.

73. Carnforth railway station in Lancashire was the setting for Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson’s chance meeting in the very British, stiff-upper-lip classic “Brief Encounter”.

74. Hugh Grant and Andie McDowell became much better acquainted in a bedroom at the Crown Hotel in Amersham, in Four Weddings and a Funeral (other locations include St Bartholomew the Great church in London, for the final dramatic wedding scene, and Luton Hoo, in Bedfordshire, now a hotel, where Hugh Grant was stuck in a cupboard while two other wedding guests got to know each other better in the bedroom…)

75. Beatrix Potter is best known for Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddleduck Mrs Tiggywinkle, and other animals, which featured in her childrens’ books, but her doomed love for publisher Norman Warne, played by Ewan McGregor, was the theme of Miss Potter. The author played by Renee Zellweger, and the countryside of the Lake District the stunning backdrop.

76. Colin Firth dived into the lake at Lyme Park in Cheshire and thousands of women swooned, in the classic 1990s TV series of Pride and Prejudice, in which he played Mr Darcy. Visitor numbers to the property rocketed the following year.

77. Chatsworth in the Peak District was Pemberley in the 2005 Pride and Prejudice film, where Elizabeth Bennet (Keira Knightley) unexpectedly encountered Mr Darcy ….

78. Haddon Hall in the Peak District has stood in for Mr Rochester’s home, Thornfield, in three film and TV adaptations of Jane Eyre, including the 2011 film.

79. C .S. Lewis, a world-renowned writer and professor, and author of the Narnia books, leads a passionless life until he meets spirited poet Joy Gresham. The dreaming spires of Oxford were the setting for their real-life romance, portrayed in Shadowlands – with an ending that left not a dry eye in the house. ..

80. Buttoned-up butler Anthony Hopkins is attracted to housekeeper Emma Thompson in Remains of the Day, which mixed politics on the eve of World War Two with life in a stately home, and was filmed at Dyrham Park near Bath.

There’s never been a better year for GREAT sport – and there’s more to come

81. Even if you haven’t got a ticket for the Olympics, you can soak up the atmosphere all over Britain at one of the Live Sites – with live information, video, news and events at each one.

82. Live like a local and get some exercise by taking up the Barclays Cycle Hire scheme. Routes have been extended to cover even more of the capital…

83. …which is good training for 2013, the inaugural year of the London Cycling Festival. Set to be an annual event, the event will take place over two days in August, and will include 70,000 cyclists taking in London’s streets and iconic landmarks on the first day.

84. Much Wenlock in Shropshire is the birthplace of the modern Olympic Games; Dr William Penny Brookes set up the Wenlock Olympian Games in 1850. Visit the town and learn about its Olympic heritage

85. A Scotsman introduced football to Brazil. Charles William Miller, the son of a Scottish railway engineer and Brazilian mother, played football during his school days for what is now Southampton FC, and then headed back to Brazil in 1894 with two footballs and a set of Hampshire FA rules in his suitcase: he kick-started a phenomenon. Next year, football mania will take over Britain as the FA marks its 150th anniversary, and the UEFA Champions League Final is played at Wembley Stadium.

86. Stoke Mandeville in Buckinghamshire held its first Stoke Mandeville Games in 1948 as a competition involving World War II veterans; the annual event inspired the inception of the Paralympic Games, held in 1960 following that year’s Olympic Games in Rome.

87. One of the very first women in the world to regularly play golf was Mary Queen of Scots, better known for her turbulent life and eventual execution for treason in 1587. The Scots also introduced the term ‘caddy’ based on the French practice of using military cadets to carry golf clubs. The Scots will be at the forefront of golf once more in 2014, as host country of the Ryder Cup

88. …Scotland is also gearing up to host the Commonwealth Games in 2014, in the city of Glasgow. It’s a great time to visit Hampden Park, the home of Scotland’s national football team, which is going to be transformed into an athletics stadium.

89. Walkers will be happy in Wales: the country is very soon to become the first country in the world whose entire boundary can be walked. The Wales Coast Path, due for completion in May 2012, includes 70 sweeping beaches, 15 picturesque ports and innumerable secret coves; it meets Offa’s Dyke National Trail in Prestatyn, allowing walkers to do a full loop of the country.

90. Wimbledon. The most British event of them all: strawberries, cream, champagne and celebrity/royal spots in the audience. Olympics? What Olympics?

And finally – 10 GREAT little facts you might not have known about Britain

91. At any one time, at least 18 ½ million barrels of whisky are maturing in warehouses throughout Scotland.

92. The British drink 165 million cups of tea per day!

93. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. A year-long series of events and the launch of a new ‘Titanic Quarter’ in Belfast mark the occasion, as does the invention of a new term for maritime enthusiasts: “titanorak”

94. …speaking of new words, Charles Dickens, who would have turned 200 this year, is credited with introducing 265 words and phrases to the English language, including ‘boredom’, ‘butter-fingers’, ‘fairy story’ and ‘squashed.’

95. 50% of the world’s schoolchildren study Shakespeare. The Bard was born 400 years ago on April 23rd, and was the biggest word-inventor of them all. In all of his work – plays, sonnets and poems – he used 17,677 words: of those, he invented 1,700.

96. Buckingham Palace has 775 rooms. These include 52 Royal and guest bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices and 78 bathrooms

97. James Bond and The Beatles share the same birthday. The same week the Beatles released their debut single ‘Love Me Do’ in October 1962 also saw the premiere of the first James Bond film, Dr. No. Ironically, 007 was no Fab fan: in his third screen adventure, Goldfinger, Bond remarks that drinking unchilled champagne ‘would be like listening to the Beatles without earmuffs!’

98. John Lewis Stratford City (one of the flagship stores in Westfield Stratford, Europe’s largest shopping centre) anticipates selling one official London 2012 pinbadge every 3 seconds this summer.

99. The Tube’s most popular tourist route is from Leicester Square to Covent Garden, though it is actually quicker to cover the distance on foot.

100. Elizabeth II has worn more than 5000 hats since becoming Queen in 1952. James Lock & Co often provides headwear to the Royal Family. The company has been synonymous with hats since its establishment in 1676; a postcard addressed to ‘The best hatters in the world, London’ sent from abroad was once delivered there.

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