by Penny Walker from The Telegraph, February 23, 2018
VisitEngland recently announced the winners of its 2017 ‘attraction accolades’. A bumper crop of 86 awards were handed out for everything from best food to warmest welcome and most imaginative storytelling to best overall experience. The list also included a handful of lesser-known ‘hidden gems’ – some of which we’re willing to bet you’ve never heard of.
“These attractions rightly deserve these accolades,” said VisitEngland Director Andrew Stokes. “They provide visitors with amazing experiences and create reasons to travel the length and breadth of the country.”
Infrastructure Learning Hub, London
London's Science Museum may have to watch its back. The Institution of Civil Engineers’ (ICE) Infrastructure Learning Hub (ILH) is a surprisingly engaging experience that's packed with technology. Here, you can learn about engineering projects that have changed – and will change – the world.
Set within the ICE’s library at One Great George Street in central London, the ILH’s current exhibit, Invisible Superheroes, features civil engineers as the unsung heroes of the modern world. Brought to life in cartoon superhero form, the exhibit shows these engineers saving the planet from climate change, flooding and the spread of disease. While the aim is, in part, to encourage young people to consider a career in the profession, there's also plenty of fun to be had with VR, AR and model building.
Liverpool Cycle Tours
Like much of England’s north, Liverpool is packed with history and has been undergoing a little bit of a facelift in recent years. The famous Chinese Terracotta Warriors arrived at its World Museum in February and will remain there until October, drawing crowds. 2018 also marks the tenth year since the city held the crown of the European Capital for Culture, and the home of the Beatles has come a long way since.
Heading out on a Liverpool Cycle Tour is a great way to see the city in all its glory. The aim is to not only point out famous landmarks and lesser-known sights, but to provide an insight into Liverpool’s many parks and suburbs. If you’re not confident on your fitness levels, there are electric bikes on offer as well as walking tours. A big plus is that there are no minimum numbers, so if you’re travelling solo, you could end up enjoying your own personal journey along the bicycle paths of Liverpool.
Bransby Horses, Lincoln
Founded in 1968, this year Bransby Horses celebrates its 50th anniversary and it’s safe to say that this is one of the UK’s quirkier attractions. Established as an equine rescue and welfare centre, the charity covers 600 acres and is home to 425 animals.
While the horses, donkeys and mules that reside here are the main attraction, there’s plenty to discover on a family day out. Calendar events include adoption days, pony grooming, parades and children’s crafts. There’s also a cafe, gift shop, play park, picnic area and a Horse Sense Room where guided tours offer guests an educational experience.
The Green Howards Museum, Richmond, North Yorkshire
For those that aren’t up on their northern military history, The Green Howards were an infantry regiment, raised in November 1688. The North Yorkshire regiment served for 318 years before being amalgamated with the Prince of Wales’ Own Regiment of Yorkshire and the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment to form The Yorkshire Regiment in 2006.
This fascinating museum documents the history of The Green Howards with a range of collections including personal items that belonged to its infantry. The regiment was present at the Battle of the Boyne (1690), American War of Independence (1775), Crimean War (1854–1856), Boer War (1899–1902), First World War (1914–1918) and Second World War (1939–1945). The museum houses almost 4000 medals won during this time, including 18 Victoria Crosses and three George Crosses, as well as uniforms, weaponry and artworks.
Spetchley Park Gardens, Worcestershire
Too far north to be part of the Cotswolds and too far east to fall into the Malvern Hills, Spetchley Park Gardens may have lived its life in obscurity just by being overshadowed by these nearby Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Burnt down in 1651 by Scottish Presbyterians, the mansion that the gardens surround was re-built in 1811. The land has been in the hands of the Berkeley family for over 400 years and the beautiful gardens are filled with rare plants, shrubs and trees, while the countryside beyond is home to lakes, deer parks and ancient woodland. Visitors can enjoy afternoon tea at The Old Laundry Tea Room, wander through the gift shop and explore the Heritage Learning and Interpretation Centre.
Wychwood Brewery Tours, Witney
If the name of the Wychwood Brewery sounds familiar but you can’t quite place it, you’re likely to recognise its distinctive fantasy-style cartoon labels and its world-renowned beers – Hobgoblin (Ruby, Gold, King Goblin and a brand new IPA), King Star, Black Wych, Dr. Thirsty’s and Arrowaine to name a few.
Found in the Oxfordshire village of Witney, the brewery gained its name (and its imaginative approach to marketing) in 1990 when the Eagle Brewery was re-named after the ancient medieval Wychwood Forest that borders the village. With its highly-distinctive label, Hobgoblin hit the shelves a few years later in 1996 and has since become the third best selling bottled ale in the UK. The tour takes around two hours and takes you behind the scenes of the brewery, showing you the Copper, Mash Tun and Brakspear’s double-drop system.